Thursday, 9 April 2015

Re-Humanisingly Yours

I've just spent an hour reading about drug use and the influence it has on a society. I'd started reading it as a zero tolerance hard liner, albeit with a side dish of wanting to see cannabis legalised, but emerged acutely aware that my thinking has been all wrong on the matter. One hour; that's all it took for years of entrenched thinking to be cast into the wilderness. This makes me either one of two things. I'm either easily swayed and extremely credulous, or simply open to new information. It's the latter, in the event you were wondering. By the way, that isn't the subject of this blog, but during reading this inspirational piece I noticed a phrase which cut through me like a hot knife through butter. One of the contributors used the term "Re-humanising", and it hit me like a brick in the face. Ok, time to provide a context. I've been doing my job for eight years now. Eight years on the frontline, as the first point of contact in this nations efforts to maintain law and order. During this time I've undergone a widening schism, which has left me with compassion for the victims of crime, but none at all for those who perpetrate it. I'd annexed the two in my mind, and now I realise that I've been simply errant in this. And in doing so the dangerous nature of my thinking has been bought into stark relief. I have de-humanised a huge chunk of the society whom I promised to serve. I've allocated a worthy and unworthy status to whole chunks of the nation, making sweeping and clumsy generalisations as I crashed through a fog of self imposed ignorance. Now don't misunderstand me; I believe those who wrong society should be subject to correction, but I've equated the punishment of the guilty with some kind of levelling of the scales. Serve your time and let's move on. So simplistic that it actually beggars belief. I've failed to understand how those of us who seek to impose justice are actually net contributors to many of the issues we seek to resolve. Creating an us and them, making integration and connection and empathy so much more difficult. In short, I have been primitive, heavy minded, and quite often dismissive towards a huge swathe of society. Now do not misunderstand me; I will always be first and foremost an advocate of the victim, but I want to widen my lens and obtain a deeper understanding of those who walk darker paths. It's all common sense when you think about it, but it has been lost amidst the continual barrage of criminality I face during my working hours. I'm not saying that all persons are equally deserving of respect, because I happen to think that consistently behaving in a criminal fashion says something significant about an individual. What I do want to do is to factor in the deeper narrative, to paint in slightly less sweeping brush-strokes, and for reasons that are, strangely, quite selfish. I don't want to become too hardened. I don't want to sacrifice my own humanity in my rush to judge others. What a horrible sacrifice that would be. Oh, and if you're wondering if there is a take home message in today's blog then I can assure you that there is not. I'm doing this to blow away the cobwebs in my own thinking, to angst out loud. The message is from me and for me. If you find something in it that is useful to you then that's a bonus, but not the reason why I put these thoughts down.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Do I Even Understand What It Means?

Saturday afternoon. Weekend off. Family time. Here I am with so much in comparison to so many with so little, and just occasionally I find myself aware that much of the trivia that irritates me is utter bullshit. I can get wound up by such small things, make a mountain from a molehill, and pass it off as something that really matters. Only then I catch myself, and I realise that I'm being a fool. I’m doing some boring technical stuff on my PC, and had I tunes on shuffle. I’ve an eclectic taste in music, and the main theme from Saving Private Ryan filled my ears. God what a film. God what a tragedy that war was. As are all wars. None, not even the noble ones could ever be considered as anything other than a failure of the human condition. As the music drained me of my introspection I became aware that I’ve experienced nothing like war, nothing like the explosive misery that defined whole generations. And yet here I sit, sloth like in afterglow of tragedy past, wealthy and indolent, hardly bearing a moment to remember just how much my comfort cost those I shall never meet. And if I were to meet them I don’t think that I could look them in the eye. I think I would be ashamed of just how much I take for granted. But then don’t we all? How many of us sail blindly through existence not cherishing the important things, dwelling on the trivia, losing the meaningful amongst the banal? I hope I'm actually a better man than the one I sometimes allow myself to be. In fact it's a question I found myself asking during the early hours. Am I good man? Have a lived a good life? Have I done anything of value? Of course it's for others to decide upon that because I'm too close to the question itself. At my best I have passion; things matter to me and I fight alongside those who despise cruelty, injustice, abuses of power. But a good man? I genuinely don’t know. I’m not even sure I apprehend what that means?

Sunday, 8 March 2015

If At First You Don't Succeed, Try Management

You will all be familiar with that quote, won't you? Google it and you'll find several books with that title. I wonder, did the authors find themselves besieged by throngs of irate managers demanding that the title be changed? That their sensibilities had been cruelly violated? Ok, let's try, "If At First You Don't Succeed, Try Owl Keeping". Is it probable that an equally massed throng of Owl Keepers, Hedwig perched disgruntled upon their forearms, descend with equal ferocity, demanding change and proclaiming feelings of deep insult? In truth, amongst the Managers and the Owl Keepers of this land there may exist a small percentage that do feel insulted, or somehow demeaned by such a title, but does this mean that such words should never be ventured? Are we expected to refrain from venturing a comment for fear that a tiny few may feel distress?
Not according to something known as the principle of harm, or the principle of offence, a benchmark philosophy ventured by John Stuart Mill, widely considered as an authority on matters of free speech. Put simply, and let us assume that no individual names nor organisations are specifically mentioned, nobody has the right to assert that we cannot say as we please. Now clearly there are limits of free speech, things that incite violence or personally defame, and I generally think society has a fairly good understanding of how to manage this.
Moving on, let's pick another phrase. How about "It Meets The Needs Of The Business". Now I've heard this at more than one company, and you"ll struggle to avoid it at most marketing/business seminars. It's a nebulous statement, Ill defined, able to mean everything and nothing. Hypothetically then, what if a person was to venture this one liner in the context of a group conversation on social media? What kind of person, or what kind or organisation would choose to take offence? And what would it consequently imply? Well if you're anything like me you've probably already drawn firm conclusions, none of which are likely to be favourable. Ok, let's get to the core; this is a post questioning what we should or should not be free to do in the context of social media, and for what it's worth here is my take. Anything which brings a named individual or an organisation or its policies into disrepute should be avoided, especially when so many organisations monitor social media usage. Specific insults, general defaming whether it is aimed towards the individual or to the organisation again may lead you to hot water. So tread carefully.
However, you will find, often through sheer lack of knowledge, that many do not understand the principle of harm nor the principle of offence, and will seek to tell you that some imaginary line in the sand has been transgressed when, in fact, no wrong has been done. My advice, my very strong advice is to fully study Mill's seminal observations in this area, because should the day come when you are challenged, you can refer to it and require those making the accusation to specifically point out where the principle has been violated. And here's a tip, if you have mentioned neither individuals nor persons you are on solid ground, and can legitimately insist that accusers either withdraw a complaint, or at least provide assurances that they will be better informed in future.
At present, I've had good reason to study John Stuart Mills very closely. It has helped me to decided whether to pursue a course of action which may result in an eventual change of personal circumstances. I can say no more at present, other than to suggest that should any of my readers be facing a similar scenario, and assuming you have defamed neither individual nor a specific organisation, you may also wish to take a similar path.

Monday, 23 February 2015

When Women Leave The Men They Love

Have just read an article concerning why women leave men they love. It's short, intriguing, and utterly obvious. It observes that a man can be a good provider, a good father, and a great many other positives, yet if they are not "present within the relationship" then all these count for nought. Yet what does it mean to be present?
By way of example the article cites men who fixate on hobbies and interests that remove the focus from their partner. Now we do need these; heck I need these, but if your primary focus is the next round of golf, visit to the pub, or gaming session then that might suggest your priorities are askew. It observes how you can be a great provider, a good father, a solid contributor to the house etc, yet still be distant, still disengaged.
It's all a bit obvious, isn't it? By way of example, I married Joy and not my Playstation 4, and whilst I love the latter, experience has taught me that it should never come at the expense of the former. I suspect most ladies respond positively to men who give them time, who listen, who engage and give of themselves in a real and authentic way. Should we be shocked if we find ourselves jettisoned when we treat our intimate partner as just another item in our inventory?
I am an offender here. I have form. Joy once said that I liked my life in little boxes. Boxes I could place on a shelf and bring down when I chose. Parent box, husband box, work box, leisure box. She was right; right in just about every way. Funny how sometimes it takes somebody else to point out a trait so obvious to all but the one who displays it. So yes, guilty as charged. But to my meagre credit I think I'm a reformed character; I hope I've got my priorities aligned now I'm into my 4th decade. More than that, I understand the value of putting effort into the right places. My Playstation 4 is many things, but it doesn't do anything deeper than distract me. Joy and I, aided and abetted by our fabulous girls have spent years building a life, a palace of memories and experiences. Moments to cherish, special and profound. We've lived, we've built, we've learned. So when I read articles such as the one earlier I kind of get it. It isn't rocket science; it's just common sense amplified. It's about putting the mileage in and seeing what life gives back. So I get why women leave men they love, especially if these men lack the awareness to see what really matters. It's a trap I've fallen into, a hard lesson learned. And I hope that by reading this, it might dissuade other guys from getting it so wrong before they finally get it right.

Friday, 20 February 2015

This. Here. Now.

I'm not interested in being a good person. I'm not interested in being a bad person. I'm interested in being this person. This is to say that I just want to figure it out as I go, and give myself the space and permission to evolve beyond how society tells me to be. And so far I'm inclined to think that kindness trumps cruelty, honesty trumps deceit, and self awareness trumps self delusion. I spent too many years being blown like a reed in the wind, caught up in a quiet conspiracy between the should's and the ought's. I never appreciated the true freedom of free thinking; I never claimed the simple gift of being indifferent to how others perceive me. It's liberating, I can tell you. To walk into a room and to be simply indifferent to how people think of me, or how they judge me, or what they say when I'm not around. Say it, think it; it's all white sound to me. This isn't to say that there aren't a great many people that I value because there are, but I'm not going to call a boring person an interesting one, or a fearful person a lion heart. I've no interest in deceiving myself anymore than I have in deceiving you. This is course means I can be a challenge to be around, and I totally get why I may not be everyone's cup of tea. I don't want to be. I've shed that skin. My relationships come without expectations nor tacit clauses. I let them evolve, just honest and real and hopefully liberating. And I'm not wearing a mask when I'm in your company; I'm just me, with all the positives and negatives that entails. I do not look into the future with any particular game plan, nor with a huge desire to split the atom or make a name for myself. I've got too few years left on this planet to worry about my legacy. In fact I'm keeping it simple; I'm going to try to be a decent husband, an engaged father, and a servant of the general public through the course of my work. It's all a bit dreary isn't it? So mundane and devoid of ambition? Well for my part I simply see it as living in the moment, as taking enjoyment in the immediate. Plan for tomorrow if you wish, but keep a bit of yourself in the now. That's where the fun stuff happens, and when memories are sown.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Spiritually Yours

Spiritually for me comes with no expectation of either eternal reward or punishment. I see it as available to us all in those moments when we stop and reflect and listen to that which is around us. If I'm in the midst of a peaceful, tranquil natural landscape then it touches me deeply. Those places where you cannot hear a car or the typical noise pollution. Beside a babbling stream, in the heart of an ancient forest, or atop a hillside on a clear day. In those moments I often feel a sense of the past rather than contemplate the future; I imagine how early humans lived in a world with none of its present day condiments. A tree with gnarled roots, the fleeting sight of a deer dashing between trees. Or alternatively, those moments in good company when people really connect, when they see and hear each other. And above all for me, when I encounter someone who really makes me think, or compels me to see the world slightly differently from how I saw it before. These things to me are deeply spiritual, and require no Gods or Goddesses. And then there's a glimpse through the Hubble, those astonishing images when we really can stare into deep time, when we see the light of ancient stars that probably expired countless ages before their immensity reached us. Or last thing at night when I go into our small garden and look into the night sky. I feel light in my stomach as a write this. And yes, spiritual. For me no Holy book could even come close to compelling me to feel such things. And I say this as a person who was traditionally religious for a great many years. I assert that I'm more spiritual now, more self aware, more beguiled by the universe than I've ever been.

My whole interaction with the cosmos is a relationship.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Fifty Shades Of Common Sense

I've not read Fifty Shades Of Grey. I require no "BDSM for dummies" starter pack. And aside from EL James' remarkable capacity for bad prose, she has got people talking. Or at least, the people who weren't talking about creative sexual self expression anyway. Now whilst Christian Grey is probably not the best mascot for BDSM, I think people whom are so inclined can search the tens of thousands of Internet forums, or blogs written by both male and female dominants and sub-missives. A careful inspection of the more highly regarded ones will teach you that the same phrase repeatedly crops up. Safe, sane, and consensual. If you apply this mantra to any form of sexual activity then there is absolutely no reason, as far as I can see, that loving and emotionally self aware couples cannot enjoy an entire banquet of sexual creativity. Fantasy comes in many forms, and as unique individuals we should welcome this. And as a man who loves to please his lady I consider it essential that I make every effort to understand what makes her tick and learn ways to enhance the intimacy and levels of connection between us. As such, when I hear people simply assume that alternative forms of sexual expression are automatically perverse or damaging I just have to role my eyes. And I wonder to myself, are these people fully aware of how a loving and creative sexual relationship can bring new strength and illumination to a couples? Now of course partners must decide their own limits, and no person should ever feel compelled to partake in an activity which they feel is degrading or damaging to them. But let's be honest shall we, a large silent percentage of the population have and continue to engage in many of the activities described in Fifty Shades Of Grey. And as far as I'm concerned, just so long as the bedrock of their interaction remains safe, sane, and consensual then I hope they have a lovely time. Some people enjoy receiving pain, or seeing people respond to pain. Same goes for a thousand and one forms of sexual activity. My advice to all persons who read this, irrespective of gender, is never to let yourself be drawn into any activity you do not feel ok with. And if you're wavering as to whether something interests you or not then discuss it with your partner. You're on a journey together after all, and you'd be wiser and more likely to achieve mutual satisfaction if you share with honesty and candour your boundaries and expectations and fears.
This is just common sense. This is the beating heart of any positive relationship. And as you grow together the boundaries may shift, and things once inconceivable may become of greater interest. Keep an open mind, but more than that keep a warm heart. A heart of compassion; a heart motivated by a desire to love your partner, in whatever shape or form this may take.
This blog isn't about sex. It's about communication. And if you've had to wait for me to say it then that says something quite profound about you.