Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Dear Extremist, If It's All The Same To You. . . .

10 years ago,evil and religiously inspired idiocy formed a near perfect symbiosis, and 52 lives were wiped off the face of the earth. Meticulous, calculated, horribly clear minded. At least in the minds of the perpetrators. Today I walked past Northern Road in Aylesbury, where one Germaine Lindsay, carpet fitter and now infamous lunatic formerly lived. His brain, like so many others, warped and twisted and dehumanised by the insane preaching of extreme Islam. I wonder, is the world a safer place? A better place? I think not. What then, can simple folk such as you and I do in the face of such cretinous barbarism? Well for starters I'm going to walk the dog. Then I think I'll take my amazing wife for a pub lunch. After that I'll do the school run, pick up my daughters, and return to our little home. In short, I will continue with my way of life. I will do the simple things that make us human, and do as much as I can to show kindness and compassion and decency. This to me seems the only correct retort when faced with the extremists of this world. They wish you and I to change, to absorb us into some obscene Borg assimilation. No thank you, I respond with my standard chirpiness. I'll just carry on being me, living the British way of life and doing all the things you'd prohibit me from doing if you could. Dear extremist, you may yearn for your Caliphate, and wax lyrical for the day when the Crescent is flown across every capital on every continent. Whilst this may be your desire I really cannot sign up for it and feel somewhat compelled to refuse your kind offer of brainwashing and mental servitude. And I really think we all just need to keep being us, living out those democratic values which often cause us friction and disappointment, but those which we would be naked without. I love and cherish my freedom, my free mind, my right to live life by my own lights and not under the celestial guidance of a deity that, from the outside looking in, looks just a bit man made. So preach your hate, build your bombs, spew your venomous bile. It's white sound to me, and I'll be ignoring it, and playing my part in making this a world that is peaceable, democratic, and a place where we all have a voice.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

I Do Not Respect Your Religious Beliefs

I really don't. And to pretend otherwise would be a lie. I loathe how religions the world over make otherwise smart people believe abject silliness. I loathe how it can make otherwise loving parents disown and reject non believing children. And I loathe how it is used as a means of control and fear. To ask me to respect your religion is like asking me to look at a dog turd and pretend it's a steak pudding. It really isn't going to happen. But here's what I will do. I acknowledge your religious belief. I can do that, because it requires nothing of me other than to to sit back, raise a solitary eyebrow, and murmur under my breath, "You actually believe that?". That's the limit of my investment in your ridiculous worldview, the absolute closest thing to an olive branch I can extend. I can't respect you for believing bullshit any more than I can respect any example of poor reasoning. It just wouldn't do. And worse, it would tacitly extend a legitimacy to your view that I just don't want to loan out. Now of course you do not require my approval, which is just as well. But you should know that at no point will I take your abject beliefs seriously. And of course I speak of one who was snared by religious delusion for nigh on a decade before the forces of reason tugged me from my stupor. And hindsight always leaves me feeling just a bit embarrassed. A bit twitchy that I allowed myself to be so credulous, that I took so much on so little, that I wasted hour after fucking hour in Church buildings listening to well intentioned buffoons claim to know things that they cannot possibly know. Those days are almost a decade behind me now, and whilst my fondness for those whom remain hasn't dimmed, my sadness for them has sharpened. I know teachers, scientists, medical professionals; so capable in so many ways yet ultimately crippled and encumbered when it comes to knowing how the world really is. Where's this outburst come from, you might be wondering? You've not written about religion for years? To be honest this has been building and building for a while, and I've remained silent whilst the likes of ISIS spread its death cult across the Middle East, whilst the Church continued to oppose gay rights, and as it grapples over absurdities such as ordaining females into the senior clergy. Doesn't it all sound so backwards? So reminiscent of centuries old thinking that really should have gone the way of the Dodo. Now for those of a religious persuasion reading this blog please don't think I dislike you as an individual or wish to see you anything other than happy. It's just occasionally my bullshit detector goes into the red zone, a bit like a Geiger counter pinging to the right of the display, and it just becomes a case of better out than in. All this is to say that I dislike religion more today than ever, and I expect my dislike to deepen and my respect to diminish further. So in closing do not ask me to respect your beliefs, don't expect me to afford them legitimacy or anything even close to intellectual salience. Your religion is brain acid. Total brain acid. To acknowledge it is one thing, but to respect it is a bridge too far.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

True Blue?

I voted for the dark side last week. For the evil empire. For the end of civilisation, if you listen to some. Apparently this makes me uncaring, insular, infused only with self interest. Ok then, if you must paint with such broad brush strokes then that is your prerogative, but I absolutely reject your central premise. Now please note that I am not a political animal. I’m just a normal guy with a lovely family with an antiquated desire to work hard, pay my taxes, and do my bit to leave the planet in a better condition than when I found it. That’s it. That’s the master plan. And concerning my local MP, he is a fantastic guy with immense integrity whom happens to be Conservative. Fact is, this is Aylesbury. You could stick a blue rosette on a badger and it would be elected, but that is hardly the point. Getting back on track; I care about other’s, try to lead a good life, and aside from the occasional verbose outburst keep myself to myself. Yet, according to the Liberal left I am complicit in some great societal decay, greasing the engines of doom by daring to vote blue. Thing is, exactly who else was I meant to vote for? What kind of alternative utopian vision was out there demanding my attention? And concerning my own viewpoint, I want to see a society where we are all aware of both our rights and our responsibility’s. I want to see the demise of a culture of expectation and entitlement. Those who can work should work. Those who chose not to should not receive any support. For those in genuine need I want to support and empower them, to enable them to recover to a point where they can stand on their own two feet. And for those who, for genuine and demonstrable reasons, cannot do this, I feel strongly that we should offer financial and practical support. Simply put, I want to draw a clear distinction between those in genuine need and those whom simply choose to live off the toil of others. I think we need to get better at this, and that this message is writ large across society. The genuinely vulnerable are our responsibility, but the feckless and the lazy are not. At heart, I want to see a nation that aspires to be better, for people who ask what they can give before they demand what they can get. I see this as fair, as reasonable, and as worthy. Now I can already hear the cacophony of contempt such a post will inflame, and I am not blind to the past, present, and future failings of this Government. I’m not even going to defend them. I simply assert that on balance, they better fit where I come from in the marketplace of ideas. Do as you will with this.

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.