Tuesday, 8 April 2014

An Idiots Guide To Masculinity

I get a bit tired of stereotypes. If you feel you have to be a certain kind of man or a certain kind of women then I suggest that this says something horribly dreary about you. Better instead that you try to be the kind of guy or gal that you want to be rather than the kind that society expects you to be. I mean, do you really want to spend your life dancing to somebody else's tune? Never be afraid to live a life that is authentic, never desire the approval of those who would have you be something you are not. And never, and I mean holy fuck never live your life as some kind of tacit apology. It's too short, too unpredictable. On the subject of stereotypes one of my pet hates is the alpha male, the guy that, in one foul swoop manages to drag the true meaning of masculinity so far through the mud that it becomes something ugly and false and inane. Masculinity is about so much more than being physically imposing and verbose; in fact those two things have relatively little to do with being a man. I'm going to suggest that true strength is about presence of mind, of about being able to communicate and project ourselves without doing so at at the expense of others. Don't bore me with your temper and your threats of violence; if I want to see that I'll visit a pre-school. If you want to show yourself a real man learn to think around problems, learn to react creatively under pressure, and seek to avoid causing undue harm and distress. Oh yeah and another thing, masculinity has even less to do with the number of women you've slept with, or the way you do it. I'd suggest that true masculinity, sexually speaking, is about trying to learn what makes that other person tick. About getting inside their psychology and freeing them to be totally comfortable and open with you. In some cases that may actually require a degree of submission on your part. Don't fret it kiddo, just go with it and enjoy the proverbial ride. If you haven't detected the recurring theme yet you probably haven't understood masculinity, so for the slower learners among you I'm gonna spell it out. Learn to listen, and learn to be responsive, and make a real effort to engage with others in an authentic and real way. And here's the punch line; masculinity actually has an awful lot to do with vulnerability, with having the courage to step outside your own norms and learn to see the world, and think about the world in a different way. Boys, can I gently suggest that some of you have been doing this man thing all wrong. Wake up chaps, stretch those hairy arms and make an effort to relocate from that cave you've been living in. Trust me, much greater happiness and real knowledge isn't such a long trek away.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

A World Gone Soft

A couple of minor news stories have leapt out at me this week. The first was the 24 year old drug dealer who broke down in court upon receiving a life sentence for the murder of a pensioner whom he robbed in order to fund a drug habit. The 2nd comes courtesy of a 23 year old Irish alcoholic whom was left in a bus lane by police officers further to being off her head. Different stories, but with a theme running through both. Or rather, not so much a theme, but rather an absence of personal responsibility on the part of both. I don't care about either individual, and care even less about the claim that they have been somehow wronged. Perhaps those of a more liberal bent might suggest that these two may have had difficult childhoods, upbringings filled with abuse or an absence of love? And perhaps this may prove to be the case. I still wouldn't care.
Thing is, I genuinely don't care whether they had a rough childhood, because that doesn't mean they have to blame current behaviour or misdemeanours on a past they cannot change. There comes a time for us all when we have to stand as responsible citizens and accept the consequences of our personal choices. In the case of Mr and Mrs Cretin they've demonstrated amply that they've failed to do this. It doesn't matter how rough a ride you've had, nothing justifies the murder of an innocent, nor the failure to show even a trace of personal responsibility or self respect. I actively choose not to care about these buffoons because they've chosen not to care about themselves. For me it really is that simple. And you know what, I think we overdo the compassion when it comes to offenders these days. We try too hard to understand and mitigate abject behaviour, looking instead to find a rationale as to why they may be a certain way. I think we should stop this and work towards a culture where we are all encouraged to be self responsible and self aware. A culture where we do all we can to better ourselves rather than expect the state to sweep in and coddle us into competence. Now please note, I have said before and for clarity I will state again that I have all the time in the world for those who are struggling and who need some support and encouragement to get their lives back on track. We need to be a caring society and we need to help those in genuine need. But I reject all calls to bail out every low life and imbecile who makes no effort to treat others as they would hope to be treated themselves. Let the law judge them, let them wallow in their own indolence and lack of self respect. I don't care, and my energies will be spent supporting and walking alongside those who actually want to improve not only their own lives but those of their fellow man. We've been too lenient for too long. It's time to draw the line in the sand.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

No Plan "B"

So the trial of the killers of Lee Rigby has concluded. Whole life sentences, and a comic book scuffle in the court room. Two guilty men, two tedious humans gullible and credulous and warped by their own particular brand of religious certainty. I wonder how many more like them we shall see? How many other gnat brained "Soldiers of Allah" are waiting in the wings for their fifteen seconds of fame? Somewhere out there are future victims, future bereaved mothers and fathers, siblings and children. Their sentences will also be whole life. How could it be any other way? These days I actively steer clear of religion in all it's forms; I've learned that it has a leech like quality, sucking the precious hours from our lives with its wearisome demands. Oh well, personal choice I suppose. And most believers are kindly and decent and generous and normal. It just saddens me that Rigby's killers pursued their own unique delusion to such an extent that the ramifications cost so many so much. Perhaps the lesson we should learn is that no matter our views, none of us has the right to impose ourselves on others to their detriment. Like I said, I've left religion to its own devices and I've no interest in rekindling my investigation into the issue. I'm done with it. I don't have a dog in that race. I'm content to let others live lives as they see fit. I only wish the extremists, whatever creed they follow, would do us the simple courtesy of taking a similar view? Only that's not how these things work, is it? They believe themselves right, and their opponents really wrong. Apparently some cannot simply live and let live, so I suppose we will never be able to lower our guard. There will be other Rigby's, and other atrocities. This will happen just as surely as the sun will rise. To which I can do no more than shrug, and commit myself to living a life of common decency, allowing those who disagree with me the space to do so. Perhaps that is the truest response to barbarism, to small minded delusion in whatever shape or form it takes. Perhaps we just need to offer a simple alternative, namely to live out our days with gentleness, compassion, an enquiring spirit and no small measure of humour.
It's the best I can offer. And I really don't have a plan B.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Creating A New Space To Play

Anybody who checks out my Facebook page will notice that from time to time I post things about relationships. You've probably also noticed that I'm a huge supporter of marriage and long term commitment. I confess that I've always found myself perplexed when I hear long term couples moan about one another. I'm in the habit now of just saying "Have you communicated that to them? Do they know you feel this way?". I mean seriously, it doesn't say a lot about your communication skills when you can't convey the important stuff to those closest to you. I can't actually think of a better way to shoot yourself in the foot. I get that relationships can be hard, and I get that people don't always find it easy. That said, isn't a relationship about actively trying to make another persons life better, richer, deeper? Isn't it meant to be about looking outward, looking for a level of connection that fuels warmth, affirmation, and above all, fun? Have I missed something? Have I misread the rule book?
Oh yeah, about that. Ain't no rule book. Ain't no right or wrong way to run the show. If I could give one piece of guidance to couples currently struggling it would be to suggest that you just find a recipe that works for you. And if that means being unconventional, creative, then so much the better. I actually suspect that many people get bogged done by should's and ought's, hamstrung by some unwritten social code. Bin it people. Seriously. If you want any relationship to flourish you have to actively seek to fill it with good things. And here's the crux, that's never going to happen unless you communicate what makes you tick. And it's probably also going to take you to places you may not have expected to go. From my perspective, through seeking to better understand my incredible wife I've discovered aspects of my own personality that I never knew existed until just a few months ago. Back then we made a conscious decision to create something that enabled us both to be as authentic and real and transparent as we could be. And with that shared commitment I found myself changing in ways I could never have foreseen. We made ourselves vulnerable, and more importantly we listened really closely to each other. Perhaps in a way we'd never done before. And because of this I'm confident we can say we've unlocked a whole new dynamism, a new way of being. And the best of it is that there's no pretence involved. We're totally one hundred percent ourselves having finally jettisoned a shed load of baggage that we didn't need. We're being totally true to who we are, and our love for each other has increased exponentially.
That person you live with, the one you're possibly sat near to as you read this, how about you make a renewed effort to communicate where you'd like your journey to go? Why don't you take time to see where they're at? Are either of you bringing as many good things to the table as you could? Is there uncharted territory, some undiscovered country you'd like to visit? The good news is that you don't need a passport to go there. Any the journey is half the fun. But you're probably going to have to make yourself vulnerable, and possibly even prepared for a few surprises. Negotiations might be extended, sometimes challenging, and perhaps progress might be slow. But people, it's worth the effort. It's worth going those extra miles to sure up the foundations. And once you've done that, well then you can add an extension, a few extra rooms, and create a new space to play.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Grow A Pair

Sometimes, the amount of stupid in the world makes my brain bleed. Take David Milliband for example, and his declaration that the middle class are in crisis. Thing is, we're actually not. To call it a crisis would be to misunderstand what the word even means. So I may be less affluent, and my pension worth less, and I may even have to work a bit longer. I am, at worst, inconvenienced. Crisis is about being hungry, homeless, lonely and in poor health. Crisis is something dire and frightening. Crisis is not simply having less than you may have had before. When I hear people in authority belch out such sewage it alarms me. Where is the common sense, the honest candour, the methodical evaluation of evidence? Does everything have to be reducible to petty political points scoring and Kleenex grade soundbites? Apparently yes. So let me make a suggestion. Let's recognise how fortunate we are. Let's not assume that we are somehow deserving of some pre ordained standard of living. We're not. We never were. More than that, let's be just a bit grateful that we weren't born in the Sudan, or forced to live according to some bronze age religious creed. Despite having a little less we continue to enjoy levels of affluence and liberty alien to those born a generation or two before. And I fear that we have become so soft, so expectant and so belicose that we render ourselves unable to cope should a real trauma arrive. Once upon a time we British would have baulked at using words such as crisis with such feeble minded ease. We would have deemed such bleeting as absurd. Perhaps we should embrace a similar lack of tolerance towards those who speak so glibly, so weakly, and with such disregard for the meaning of real words. People of Great Britain, stand up, get a grip, and quite frankly grow a pair.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Status Update

Ok, I admit it. I'm out of the habit. Haven't really been writing much. Haven't actually been thinking much, to tell the truth. All to do with my commitment to spending less time thinking about life and more time just living it. I'd forgotten how to enjoy the art of simply going with the flow, and now I've remembered I'm finding that I quite like the peace that comes from thinking less. Last time I checked I had readers in over 50 countries, which I guess isn't too bad. But I never really did this for anybody's benefit but my own. In the event that anybody is remotely interested I'm doing just fine. Actually better than ever. I've become quite fond of living in the real world and I'm committed to spending most of my time here. I don't rail and moan about religion any more, because I actually don't give a damn. Let people believe what they want. I've flushed it from my system, and I'm the better for it. Family life is good, and my relationship with Joy has hit new heights. We've reached new levels of understanding and intimacy, and we are both focused on being everything we want each other to be. I'll never understand why some couples seem so willing to settle for second best, or become so bogged down in routine and convention that they starve each other of the very thing that made them strong in the first place. Big mistake, people. Huge. Are you really so happy to settle for less? Still, none of my business. Anyway, this isn't really a blog. It's more of an extended status update. Life's good, and I'm in a good place. I'm planning to keep at that way.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Choice When We Need It The Most

"I don't want people's sympathy - I want people's help"
These words require a context. They were made by Paul Lamb, paralysed in an accident 23 years ago, and forced to live in continual pain. His case is now being heard at the Supreme Court, and he is arguing for his right, and for the right of others to have medical assistance to end their lives when matters become too much to endure. Listening to him being interviewed on Channel 4 news I felt both sadness and anger. More than that, I felt perplexed that we have not managed to find a legal way to make this possible. Surely with the right safeguards in place we can extend dignity and autonomy to those facing years of pain and suffering? Surely we have reached a point where we can simply admit that whilst there will always be a risk of exploitation, there is a greater good to be achieved by passing a law allowing those facing extended suffering to end their lives peacefully and on their terms? The vast majority of carers would never countenance using this as a tool to exploit the vulnerable, and for those that would I argue that the percentage is so small that it should pose no hurdle to the majority whom seek only to offer love and support and mercy at the most difficult time of all. The end of our lives is a hard enough idea to countenance, and many cannot face this reality squarely. Yet surely how we deal with this says something profound about our shared humanity, our commitment to love and kindness, and our willingness to alleviate suffering as much as it is within our power. We would not allow an animal to suffer in the way that some humans have to. We spare them rather than heap indignity upon indignity. Has the time not come to take the brave step and do all that we can to provide end of life choice? We all desire personal dignity and a certain amount of autonomy, and indeed we take these things for granted when the skies are blue and all is plain sailing. Can we not find a means to extend it to those whom need it most? To those presently unable to choose when or how to bring their lives to a dignified end? Our failure to do this breaks my heart, and my sincere hope is that people such as Paul Lamb will be extended the right to make one of the most profound choices a human can make. The time to choose their passing.