Monday, 30 January 2012

Do You Really Need The Police To Do That?

I've been reading the comments on the BBC website on the subject of "What the police do?". I come away convinced that we are a nation of unthinking fools who expect far more than any public organisation can be expected to provide. Here's a few things I'd suggest police shouldn't be called upon to deal with. One, it's not our job to raise your children, so if you'd be so kind as to do that bit yourself I'd appreciate it. Two, just because somebody calls you a name on Facebook perhaps you could just be an adult rather than an overgrown child incapable of resolving minor issues. Three, if you could park your cars sensibly that would save us a lot of time, and if you do have a disagreement with another member of the great British public then you could try some polite conversation. Four, on a Saturday do you really want us to be knocking on your neighbours door asking them to turn down their music or would you rather we were tackling violent disorder and drug use in the city centre? Five, don't call us about dog shit. Call the council or find a shovel. Six, perhaps recognise that you, the public, are our eyes and our ears, and that together we both solve and prevent crime. The police cannot work in isolation given our dearth of psychic powers, so that means we need you on board. 
Seven, we are not relationship advisors and cannot provide ultimate solutions between you and your partner. And if you insist on remaining in a destructive relationship then understand that there's only so much we can do.
There's a theme developing here. Have you seen it? There would be no crime or disorder if people chose not to perpetrate it, so recognise that you, as a public citizen, have a responsibility to be decent and law abiding. The police spend so much time dealing with people's poor life choices, and so often if you would apply just a bit of common sense you'd see less crime and disorder quicker than you could say jack flash.
Now lastly, to the real victims of crime. To those burgled, assaulted, raped, defrauded, robbed; we want to walk with you and support you and do what we reasonably can to catch those responsible. On a personal level, most days my heart goes out to people who've been on the wrong end of other peoples malice and violence and greed. I genuinely want to help and I genuinely care, and the purpose of this blog is to plead that the public have realistic expectations of what the police, your police, can do to make your bad days better.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

As Time Goes By

Do blokes get better with age? Depends on the bloke. I'm only even thinking about this because Joy commented that men often become more attractive as they age, the process often being a little kinder to us than to the fairer sex.
I'm forty now, and not I'n bad nick if you don't mind my saying so. Everything still works, although like a diesel engine it might take a few seconds longer to warm up. Once the engines running though. . . . .
I'm about the right weight, give or take a pound or two. Own hair and teeth, and I'm not found wandering the streets late at night with a vacant look on my face. I also appear to have, for the most part, avoided a mid life crisis. I have no desire to change cars, or wives, and on the whole life's ebb and flow becomes more appealing to me as I age. I'm so passionate about truth, about transparency, and about being real. These are qualities I aspire to and value in others. I wouldn't for a second want to turn the clock back, and I consider every lesson learned as valuable. To me life is remarkable, our very existence astonishing. There are some people I'd like to shake just to remind them of this, to tell them that we're on the stage now and cannot know when we take our final bow. The more I learn about the cosmos the more incredible it get's, and conversely the more I learn about humanity the more I realise how much we have obstructed our own advancement. But anyway, I was rambling on about middle age, which thus far has proven the most interesting period in my life. I'm keen about growing as a man, a husband, a father, and a freethinker. And if I wanted to leave one contribution to those around me it would be that I made them think about things they'd normally gloss over. That's the risk with knowing a person like me; I do tend to draw others into the deep waters of reflection, which I know isn't to everyone's taste. But hey, I'm not trying to win a popularity contest; just trying to figure a coherent path through this tangled old web we call life. Apologies if I muddy the waters sometimes. By all means take a step back if you don't like getting splashed.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Is That A USB Drive In Your Pocket? Or Are You Just Pleased To See Me?

I received an unexpected visit on Wednesday. A kindly, ever so slightly eccentric older man by the name of Bob decided he wanted to come over for a cup of tea. Strange, since the last time we had crossed paths had been in the church I was once a member of. Naively, I thought little of it and assumed he was merely being sociable. Anyway's, around he pops, and tea and biscuits are consumed jovially enough. About midway through, however, he produces a USB hard drive from a pocket and tells me I should listen to its contents.
Ah, the penny drops. Evangelism. It doesn't happen much anymore; most know that I don't allow any leeway just because a person happens to be nice.
So we get talking, and I, as always, ask why my visitor actually believes as they do? You'd be surprised, perhaps alarmed at how many Christian's find this hard to answer. His first effort was to simply assert that the evidence was irrefutable. I suggested that this was not nearly good enough and cordially invited him to take a 2nd pass. This was to prompt the usual nonsense; the evidence for the resurrection, the testimony of the disciples, and various other snippets. But here's where it get's interesting, because Bob, a Christian of several decades, had absolutely no response when I pointed out the drearily well established fact that nobody knows who wrote the Gospels? Or when?  Or where? He was hideously unaware of facts that mainstream scholars take as read, and I found myself feeling saddened that someone could live that long under a blanket of such ignorance. Only it got worse, because I then enquired, as I always do, what material he had read which specifically challenged his way of thinking?
The answer? Are you ready? None.
And this, I fear, is a thing I encounter often. People of faith will spend years absorbing material that supports their existing  beliefs, but ask them to apply the same rigour to opposing viewpoints and suddenly the well dries up.
Why should I respect this laziness? Why should I play nice with people who aren't prepared to do the hard yards to establish if what they believe has the muscle to stand against reality?
No. I won't hold back. I won't respect your fringe, and might I venture maniacal beliefs. If you wish to come to my home and save my soul then I've no objection, but for fuck sake at least bring something half decent to the table.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

What To Do About The Scroungers?

I want to support those who are unable to work. I don't want to support those who are unwilling to work. I could stop right there and you'd know where I stand. Now here's an admission from yours truly; I don't mind paying tax. I like to contribute to the wellbeing of society and recognise my responsibility to do so. By the same token I think we should all expect our contributions to help build and sustain our communities, yet it seems to me that a fair percentage goes to those who I can only really describe as parasites. Why should I have to pay for Tracy Twelve-kids when she needs trainers for her kids? Why should I give money to Larry Layabout in order for him to get his sky TV dish installed?
Why, in short, am I required to support people who have no impediment to supporting themselves?
I read in a newspaper column yesterday that if our kids grow up in an environment where none of the adults work, why should we be surprised when they grow into people who've got palms outstretched waiting for people like you and me to pick up the tab?
No. Of course no. Always, no. A functioning society requires a contribution from all who are able to do so, and in this day and age most of us fall into this category. In many respects I'm a libertarian, but not when it comes to the debt we owe to each other. We're a team, a unit, and those who can play a part should absolutely do so. Yet this morning there are people watching that imbecile Jeremy Kyle and his car crash tv, and smoking and chilling out courtesy of the state. And by the way, the state means you and I, because make no mistake we're the one's picking up the bill?
Here's my suggestion, which some may find hard line. For those who choose to cheat society they should expect the absolute bare minimum in return. Also, I think we need to create a culture of shame where we truly disdain people who want to freeload. Remember how that worked with drink drivers? Sometimes the tough stance is the better one in order to achieve societal change. And no, I'm not for allowing the children of these layabouts to starve or suffer, but by doing nothing we are allowing our society to take a shape that is, in the end only going to cause further harm. Being very controversial, is there an argument for enforced family planning in some cases? Should those who cannot afford more children be allowed to have them? What do you think?
Come what may, the choices we make today have consequences tomorrow, so ask yourself whether you want to be a part of a nation that works together to overcome and innovate, or do you want to see us overtaken by emergent nations who have more grit, more determination, and an honest expectation from its citizens?

Monday, 23 January 2012

The Sun

I made a grave mistake today. During my lunch break I picked up a discarded copy of the Sun. I flicked through its pages, and was left no longer bemused as to why we are a nation of numpty's.
What a disgusting, mindless, empty headed excuse for a newspaper it is. It's all knee jerk and hyperbole, everything amplified yet only so it can appeal to the lowest common denominator. There was nothing within its greasy pages that made me want to think or reflect. It shouts at you constantly, a mindless barrage of over reaction and superficial reporting on issues that deserve a lot more. I understand that it manages a decent circulation, which suggests to me that a good proportion of the nation are into this drivel. Its banal beyond belief, and an affront to the pursuit of truth or the journalistic discipline.
I have made myself the following promise. Should anybody ever offer me a copy of this digest for meatheads again, I will politely tell them that I would rather walk into my local supermarket and remove my trousers in the fruit and veg aisle. I mean, it's just shocking to me that anyone, and I mean anyone would want to ingest this stuff. 
But perhaps I'm missing a trick, here? Perhaps News International are coining it big time and simply want to keep the old cash cow rumbling on. But if this is where people are getting their information from, and if this is a source that people are referring to in order to establish facts about the world, then get me on the first flight out!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Do I Still Care?

From time to time I ask myself this question. It’s an important one for somebody in my line of work. My response will often give little clues as to where I’m at as a person, how well rested I am, and my general cheeriness.
On the way to work tonight I found myself acknowledging that yes, I do care about the people with whom I deal. I still want to make their bad days better, to give them a voice when they have been violated. And I still want to be the kind of colleague that those around me respect, or at least acknowledge as genuine and concerned about the wellbeing of others.
Why do I care? Well that’s another question, and I have to search a bit deeper. I suppose much of it is to do with the recognition that I could be one of those people on the end of the phone, a victim, a recipient of one of life’s many dud hands. This recognition should chasten anybody, and if it doesn’t then perhaps you’re due a fall. When I hear people in emotional or physical pain, or hear some awful story about child abuse I feel something deep in my bones. We’re all related, aren’t we? All share a common ancestor. These people, these unseen others come from all walks and each have a story. More than that, they have minds that think and perceive, and bodies that can hurt and recoil under duress. I regret to say there are days when I care more than others, again usually influenced by the amount of sleep I’ve pilfered or where I’m at on a personal level. Yet why should my bad day have a bearing on the way I treat another person? It really shouldn’t, and I try to remind myself always that I owe people at least a basic compassion.
The thing with my job though is that it also brings you into contact with people that drive you, for want of a better term, crazy. People with ridiculous ideas, unrealistic expectations, anger issues and deep rooted emotional immaturity. I try to allow for there foibles but some days it’s harder than others. Strangely, the people whom get under my skin the most are low level officials, councillors and the like who appear to have let what little power they have go to their head. I say head and not brain, because some of them appear not to possess the latter. I’ve enjoyed the rants of some jumped up egotistical fools during my time, and I continue to marvel at their ability to name drop and demand preferential treatment.
Aside from all that, the bottom line is yes, even on the bad days I retain a core compassion that gets me over the line. Not always easy, and I’m not always consistent, but when all is said and done I can look in the mirror and say, with absolute honesty, that I haven't lost what made me want to do this in the first place.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Islam Doesn't Like The Gays Much, Does It?

Kabir Ahmed, aged 28yrs, is an interesting fellow isn't he? Apparently his God inspired him to distribute leaflets prior to a gay pride rally in Derby in 2010. These contained an image of a mannequin hanging from a noose, along with the message that Homosexuals should be executed. His God also inspired four others to assist him in this endeavour, resulting in a court case currently underway at Derby Crown court.
Islam really is a super worldview isn't it? It truly is the religion of peace and tolerance, assuming you subscribe to its edicts. If you do not, then it appears perfectly capable of bearing its teeth and sinking them into dissenting flesh.
Consider the following; had Mr Ahmed been born into a non Muslim family, perhaps into a secular or nominally religious household in California, what chance do you think that his worldview would have evolved as it has?
I suggest that it is less the man, but more the actual religion that is the conduit of hate here. Pause for a moment, now, and read that last sentence again. On it hangs everything you need to know to recognise that without the teachings of his religion, Mr Ahmed would have nothing on which to base his convictions. Sure, he would still be a bigot and a fool, but he could annex no divine remit. The Bible and the Koran are quite clear that Homosexuality is a base and intolerable practice, and in the case of the Koran it does indeed call for the death of its practitioners. So irrespective of whether it's adherents are benign or malevolent, one cannot excuse the teachings themselves. It is Islam that provides the wellspring of hate in this instance. Islam that is the capstone of this unnecessary viciousness. I know several gay men and women, and I find them decent and amenable human beings. Like the rest of us they've flaws and nuances, but I cannot say that my observations have caused me to identify anything worthy of execution.
There are good Muslims and there are bad Muslims. I fear, however, that there is only one Islam. 

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Too Good To Be True?

You meet a charismatic stranger one day. He tells you that he is destined to return to judge the earth, and soon. He tells you that if you have a wife you should act as though you did not. If you have a career you should not pursue it, and you should also be giving everything away to others because someday, during your life time he will come for you in glory. And if you've believed in him he will sweep you away to paradise where all, we are assured, will be well. Imagine you trusted him, believed him, accepted his promises.
And then he didn't show.
I speak from history, by the way. Jesus said all these things, convinced many of his imminent return, and then failed to make good. A cursory read of the Gospels demonstrates this, and also the lengths that later Gospel writers went to in order to make sense of this. They'll tell you that the hour of Christ's return was unknown, and that he will come like a thief in the night when we least expect. In short, they ignore what Jesus himself said on the matter in order to square the proverbial circle.
What then, are we to make of this Jesus? Fraud? Phoney? Crook?
Well probably not. He was likely just another failed apocalyptic preacher one of many that roamed the middle east during this period in our history. And let's be honest, some of what he said was ok. The bits about forgiveness, about loving your neighbour and giving generously of oneself. All worthy of credit, even though all of this had already been said by others. With the historical Jesus I expect he genuinely believed he was whom he claimed to be, assuming you credit the Gospels with at least a modicum of historical accuracy.
The reason for this blog? Well I'm wondering about how we make our choices about what we believe, and why? Every day we're assailed by claims and propositions ranging from the guy in the phone shop to the kids in our home. Everybody making claims, promising more than they can deliver. Granted, you're average teenager, whilst they might act as if the world was custom built for them, doesn't generally mean it. If life's taught me anything it's that sometimes you have to glance beyond the patter and the gloss, and show just a bit of caution when people try to tell you things that sound too good to be true. 
Life after death is an attractive idea isn't it? And this paradise concept; more than a little appealing? I can even look beyond the fact that unlike Muslims I don't get the seventy two virgins, but perhaps I'm being greedy. And the brute fact is nobody knows what, if anything, happens after we go the way of the dodo. And anybody who deigns to suggest otherwise has bitten off more than they can chew. So with this in mind can I gently make the following suggestion? Let's concentrate on making this life really special, really meaningful, really good. We get one shot at this thing and there's an adventure to be had, a voyage to undertake. If religion helps you to make sense of some of life's harder quandary's then so be it. Just don't let it strangle you with fear. Don't let it choke the breath from your lungs, and don't ever listen when people who believe in God try to cast you as a sinner, as a wretch in need of salvation, a soul that can only be made complete if you believe in Jesus, or Allah, or Shiva, or whatever creed it is they've chosen to adopt for themselves.
Live a little, love a little, give a lot. And yes, I have used that line before.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Standing Back

I’m very careful not to impose my worldview onto my children. Sometimes this is very hard. Example; my eldest goes to a church group run by a lovely couple, and during one session the Genesis flood was discussed as though it were a historical event rather than one of many flood myths. Happily, Holly already has an understanding of how the world came to be, and whilst she remains open minded on the God question I sense she is already applying a good dose of critical thinking to her worldview. Not so with Lowenna, who at aged 7 is still something of a sponge. And this is the problem. I don’t want to deny her the opportunity to learn about religion; in fact I’m of the view that if we taught comparative religion to kids they would get to see just how many people believe mutually incompatible things about reality. Thing is, I do get a bit uneasy when I hear my kids being taught that Genesis has any contribution to make to history; why should they be victims of adult ignorance on this point? It seems unfair somehow, yet I have allowed it to pass. I guess I just need to trust that at some point they will keep asking the big questions and figure things out, but it does worry me that if kids are drenched in mistruth from an early age it takes on a credibility that it doesn’t have to those who have been more fortunate. I suppose childhood indoctrination is what helps to grease the wheels that sustain belief into adulthood. If you’re born and raised in this culture it becomes a very important part of who you are and how you see the world. And at the end of the day religion for most adults is a benign and largely positive influence, providing a lens through which to see the world and offering comfort when the storms of life blast through. And we’re never far from the next storm, are we?

Friday, 13 January 2012

Planet Facebook

Apparently Facebook is cited in one third of all divorces. This doesn't surprise me in the least. Was there ever a better forum for inappropriate behaviour?
The problem is that it allows a person to keep two sets of books, to coin a phrase. We have our real lives, which for most of us are generally sober affairs with occasional explosions of crazy, whilst with Facebook its entirely possible, and tempting to live another kind of life entirely. I've grown increasingly aware that there are risks, and I understand why some can become addicted.
It's a very peculiar thing, when you stop to think about it. Billions of people sharing little snippets of themselves; some more than others depending on various motivations. It's changed the way many of us interact, but not always for the better. How many of the people on your list are actually friends rather than just acquaintances? I bet the balance is pitched towards the latter. I love the fact I can reunite with friends from far away or from my distant past, and there's a glib immediacy which I do find appealing. I decided a couple of years back that I shouldn't take it seriously and confess that i've kept that promise and then some. To be honest, I've often gone out of my way to amp up the stupid, and I've created a semi fictitious character which bears only a passing resemblance to what I'm actually like. Its also interesting to see how others present on it, the variety of personality types playing out like the inmates of some virtual asylum. On the plus side I have got to know some people much better, whilst I've also got to know others just enough to know that I don't actually want to know them at all. I like my Facebook friends the way I like my real world one's; open and honest and prepared to be real. I'm not a fan of the in house passive aggressive's, the cryptic mixed message types. Seems to me they only drag their baggage from the real world into this one. But then perhaps we all do?

Is Wellbeing Good

Why is wellbeing good?
On the surface it sounds an odd, almost bizarre question, doesn’t it? Yet enter any discussion on morality with a believer and eventually you’ll be greeted with this challenge. You can expect to be asked why, without divine guidance, we should simply assume that wellbeing is good? Without God, how can we possibly know?
It’s an objection I’ve always found a bit creepy, but for the believer a lot rests upon its somewhat fragile shoulders. Let me explain.
Wellbeing is contingent on two things; events in the world and the existence of minds to act upon these events. Without one or the other the whole question is rendered mute. So then, with this in mind try the following thought experiment, because it will clear up a lot of unnecessary philosophical nonsense.
Imagine a world in which everyone is subject to the most intense suffering possible. Imagine what that kind of world might look like. Done? Ok, now try to imagine a world where there was even the slightest improvement for even one
person, no matter how tiny the change in their circumstance. If you can do this, what you’ve done is identified a continuum. You have admitted that from the worst conceivable suffering there exists a range of experience stretching from one end of this spectrum to the other. Assuming you are prepared to admit this, and let’s face it you can’t very well not, what you’re left with is what our brains do when faced with events in the world.
The rest as they say, is up for grabs. Moral uncertainties abound, and there may be numerous better or worse ways you can influence human wellbeing. What you can no longer say is that you’re ignorant of what wellbeing is, or why we should prefer it, because the second you acknowledge that a continuum exists and accept that our brains can act upon real world events you admit that there is something to be known about this. Yes, people can still make awful moral choices, but nobody can deploy the objection that we lack the ability to know at least something about the nature of wellbeing itself.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Pissing In The Wind

We picture them as monsters, as something sub human and so far removed from moral decency that their actions and motivations beggar belief. Yet once they were somebody's son, somebody's brother. Whatever they might have become, whatever deranged creed they have embraced, once upon a time they were, as we all once were , blank slates.
I'm talking about the dead Taliban fighters used as a lavatory by members of the US military, a disturbing and ill conceived episode which, whether true or false will have implications for the safety of Westerners in the days, weeks, and months to come. Remember, even if staged the symbolism remains, those American boys really were sending out an ugly confirmation of what many already suspect of them. To stand over a corpse and piss on it isn't just an error or a miscalculation; it can be no more than a wilful abdication of decency and moral conditioning that we, in the west, idiotically think we hold the keys to.
Imagine for a moment you are the mother or the father of one of the dead. Consider the raw emotion that you would feel should you be presented with the imagery of another human being emptying his bladder on your fallen child? Once again, put aside for a moment personal feelings you have about the Taliban and its deranged crusade; simply be the parent of one of the fallen and reflect on what you might feel? The moment you do so it becomes clear that the line has been not just been crossed,  but ethically disemboweled by the actions of these thoughtless young men. As well as dooming themselves to disciplinary measures and destroying career paths, they have endangered innocent people to possible reprisals. You can be sure that for each planned retaliation you'll also hear of other spontaneous episodes, probably taking place in obscure backwaters and most likely with no advance warning. These images are now winging a path around the globe more efficiently than any migratory bird, and when it comes home to roost what's left is a false but persuasive image of what the American military does to its foes.
When all's said and done, even our most reviled enemies are creatures such as ourselves. Dislike is one thing, but craving the humiliation of another human does nothing to enhance the wellbeing of humanity. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Stood Between Worlds

Is it better to self deceive? 
I can't believe I'm even asking the question, but it's burning away at me so I don't have much choice. It's also got massive personal ramifications, and my previous answers have turned my whole life on its head.
I'm going to start by wondering whether truth is more important than comfort? I ask because truth doesn't necessarily lead to an increase in happiness. In fact, I would say in my case the opposite has proven true. Prior to 2006 I had a large number of very close friends, people that I truly loved and respected and would have died for. Actually I still would, but in every other way we're oceans apart. When I left Christianity it was not because it had wronged me, or demanded more than I could give. I left because I no longer believed it to be true, leaving behind a way of life, a culture, a support network.
I haven't rebuilt that circle of friendship. I genuinely don't think I ever shall. Even as I write this I'm welling up, which tells me just how deep some wounds still run. And this is why I ask about the truth vs comfort thing, because I can't have both. It really is one or the other. I cannot return to a religion that I believe to be built upon historical falsehood; I mean what kind of man would that make me? I can answer that, actually; It would make me a snake, a fraud, a parasite clinging onto something just because of what I could get from it. Now I have my flaws, but I won't do that. Yet sometimes I do, if I'm being truly honest, wish that I didn't know what I know. Perhaps ignorance is bliss?
This is so hard to write. I can feel myself unravelling. I sense an ocean of contradictions within me, a craving for friendship and community on the one hand, a desire for truth and honest enquiry on the other.
I'm ten times smarter than I was five years ago, but no happier. I feel a bit pathetic owning up to that. I can accrue new knowledge and use it to guide me in the world, yet I do so knowing that its come at a cost. And this is where the rubber hits the proverbial road; I made a life changing choice and my life changed. It's a bit late in the day to be surprised about this, isn't it? Oddly, I remain on the fringes of my past life because my wife and children continue to attend a Church. I try so hard not to influence my kids too much, yet to be a parent is to influence, either in one way or another. They have to reach their own conclusions about this and I won't, or at least I shall try not to sully their thought processes. 
So there it is. I stand between worlds. One foot on one side, and one in the other. I can miss the old yet cannot return, and yet also feel the strong pull of honest enquiry. In a sense I've chosen what I believe to be the truth over comfort, but I've no idea whether this makes me brave or naive?

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Changing My Mind On Iraq

I've never been clear how I felt about the war in Iraq until I read Christopher Hitchens masterful autobiography Hitch 22. I realise now just how mired in ignorance I was, how poorly informed of what life under a despot was actually like. A dictatorship seeks not only control of the body but also subservience of mind, the latter a grotesque affront to everything I believe in. Say what you like about regime change; argue that the cost  is too high, but do so in the knowledge that those you abandon become the victims of your indolence rather than beneficiaries of your restraint.
In the West our freedom is a remarkable victory over the forces of dogma, hard won over centuries and never quite as safe as we might think. In a country like Iraq however you can forget about many privileges we take for granted; the nation pilfered by its leader and his grotesque family. The masses live in poverty, cowed into surrender under pain of torture and death. In one mass grave alone three thousand bodies were unearthed, that site one of sixty two within a single province. And then there's the small matter of unleashing a cocktail of chemical weapons upon entire populations as he sought to impose himself on the North. Moving beyond those clearly despotic acts, imagine if you can living in such conditions? Risking your life should you ever stray from the party line. Imagine living in a climate where your thoughts were held captive? where intellectual freedom was routinely crushed under the heavy wheels of tyranny? What must this do to the life of the mind, let alone the health and wellbeing of a population? It's not existence, it's subsistence, a game of survival played out amidst a climate of anxiety and suspicion.
I am beginning to think that as a western liberal I bought too easily into the anti war rhetoric, preferring the equilibrium over the risks inherent in trying to democratise a failed state. Yet knowing what I know now I see inaction as an even greater malice upon the people of Iraq. For all the mistakes, for all the misjudgements and strategic errors that have been made over the last few years, I find myself now believing, albeit belatedly, that what we did remains morally the right thing to do.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

A Heavenly Layabout

I think the argument from indifference is a good one. It gets down and dirty with some fairly specific quibbles, and raises interesting challenges for the believer.
Now I know that bad things happen all the time and to people of all ages. I would expect this on a planet of this kind inhabited by creatures like us.
I expect natural disasters, famine, disease, pestilence, tribal feuding, and a lot more mayhem besides. It’s just the way the world is, and when you take into account natural forces and the ebb and flow of existence there really is no mystery as to why this thing called evil appears to hold sway.
But wait; let’s introduce a God into the mix. Let’s make him all powerful, all knowing, eternal and perfectly good. Nothing that has happened or is yet to happen is unknown to him. He understands his creatures perfectly and has some kind of plan, a good plan that cannot be improved upon.
Ok then, I can run with that. Let’s consider some ingredients in this master strategy. Last night three infants were burnt to death in a house in Lancashire, presumably with the full consent of the Creator of the Universe. He knew this would happen, allowed it to happen, and presumably had his reasons for doing so. Now far be it from me to suspect the character of God, but here in the real world would anybody with such foreknowledge fold arms waiting for this event to pan out? I certainly wouldn’t, and neither would you. Yet this is precisely what God has done, and I think it’s appropriate to draw some tentative conclusions from this. Now the stock Christian defence to these kinds of horrors is that we have to accept suffering in order for good to be possible, or that the Lord respects our freewill so much he cannot intervene, or that these children were whisked straight off to paradise. Only Christians believe that the same God does intervene all the time, and in ways that appear underwhelming. I’ve heard believers give thanks for obtaining a parking space, for passing a driving test, for all manner of trite blessings. So he is an interventionist, yet not when one might reasonably expect him to be.
What I’m arguing for here is not to suggest that God is evil. I am venturing that he is most certainly indolent, a layabout, uncaring. I’ve only referred to one example, but you can be sure that in the time it takes to read this many more examples will unfold. And the Lord will watch. And do nothing. And if we’re to believe the devout at the same time he will be answering less dramatic prayers, too.
All sounds a bit arbitrary, don’t you think? Almost as if we’ve made the whole God thing up.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

A Quiet Taboo

A lot of people in the world hurt quietly, often for years on end, giving little or no clue as to what's going on inside. You pass them in the office, in the street, perhaps even in the home. You may exchange the occasional joke, or a kind word, or an inane aside. And then you move on. And the thing with these people is that what they're dealing with isn't huge or dramatic; just a prolonged ongoing feud with the great taboo known as human loneliness.
I've touched on this before, and I've wondered why it is people find it so difficult to admit to themselves, let alone to others, that they might be feeling isolated, detached, alone. We seem to foist the whole idea with some additional baggage; as if any acknowledgement of loneliness, of vulnerability is somehow an expression of weakness. 
Many people build successful and fulfilling single lives, but I think most of us want companionship in some form. We're social animals, we flourish in groups and I think deep inside we tacitly seek the approval and acceptance of others even if we find that hard to stomach. I've tried to fool myself into believing that I don't need approval or affirmation, but I find myself wondering whether I'm being truly authentic? When people do show kindness, or go out of their way, or just notice me I expect I appreciate it as much as the next person.
I genuinely feel for people who close their doors at night to an empty home, especially if that's not what they desire. There really are times when silence can be deafening, when the smallest place can seem cavernous. Funny thing is, I'm starting to suspect that many erect barricades in public; no obvious clue to suggest what's going on inside, no heart being worn on the proverbial sleeve. Perhaps that's just our natural armour, a kind of defence mechanism to stop the  melancholy. I also suspect that our ability to self deceive can sometimes get in the way of changing things, taking steps to make the world a less solitary place. As always, and perhaps with a boring predictability I cannot help but feel that the solution lies within. We have to make a decision to act, to swap out the life we've got with the one we desire. There's no assurance of success, but our chances increase if we take positive steps. So I guess, as with many things, it begins with a choice. A stark and simple choice to either accept the status quo or resolve to change. 
So what are you going to do? Are you happy? Are you where you want to be? What is it that you want to change?
Whatever it is, own it.  Because if you don't then you've left it all to chance. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Water Balloons and Crazy Moons

Consider the following visual image. Picture your hands upon a water balloon, pushing it inwards from any given direction. What happens? One part of the balloon goes inwards, whilst another part, the part you're not holding bulges out. Now transpose that image and think about yourself, particularly the areas in your life with which you struggle. Do you ever find that just when you've got one issue under control another one appears from somewhere else? Perhaps something you'd assured yourself you'd dealt with?
My life is like that water balloon. I resolve one issue, another emerges. I plug one leak, another springs forth. 
I am, and have always been somewhat at war with myself. I'm reminded of how the apostle Paul bemoaned that the things he shouldn't do he did, whilst that which he should do he didn't. Well that's my story, that's my treadmill. You don't need to know the details, and if you know me well you'll know my issues already. Suffice to say that I've never really felt I'm at the helm of my own ship. It seems to get blown off course with an ease that sometimes freaks me out.
Ok, enough hand wringing. You're bored already. Thing is, I don't think I'm that different from you. I expect you've got your issues, your impulses, daily flaws you need to monitor and aspects of your personality you'd gladly trade in should chance allow. If I had a remedy for this I'd have taken it years ago, but I've discovered no magic formulae to date. I think I miss having close friends to keep me accountable, especially male friends. Sometimes it just helps to bounce ideas off other guys, see how they perceive issues. And yes ladies, men do talk, too. Probably not in the same way you do, and almost certainly not for so long, but it's not unheard of.
Anyway, I don't think I have a central theme in this blog other than to recognise, again, that I'm a flawed work. My imperfections often run riot and choke the quality stuff like creepers around a tree. I wish I was a better man, a nobler man, a wiser man. I'm working on it, trying to iron out the ugly aspects. I'm a bit angst ridden at the moment, and a bit bruised, but if I'm nothing else I'm not a quitter. I'll plod on, day by day, hour by hour if need be. It's the best I can manage.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Sexy From The Inside Out

What makes some people sexier than others? Chemistry? Visual appeal? The way they move or the things they say? And why is it that some people, even when they try, just somehow never quite manage it?
There's probably no single answer, but the more I reflect the more I become convinced that the brain is just the most incredible sexual organ. And it's because of this that I'm suggesting that almost everyone can tap into themselves and discover levels of sexual creativity and connectivity that they might not be aware of.
First though, and perhaps I'm alone in this, I really don't see anything particularly alluring about our conventional sexual ideals. What I mean to say is that the stock image of pretty young things tottering around at the weekend is one that strikes me as deadly dull. Window dressing, cappuccino sexuality, overt and clumsy and without a spark. You're welcome to it. For me, I'm more drawn to those who are genuinely interesting, genuinely open, self aware without being self obsessed. Women who strive for beauty or who fear it's passing have always seemed incredibly unsexy and insecure to me. If you think your looks are going to get you through then in the short term perhaps they might; but don't be surprised when the day comes when you can't cash in on that any more. I can honestly say that the sexiest people I've ever met are those that don't carry that kind of angst around with them, women of intelligence and confidence and those open to new experience. Regarding men, I can only hazard a few speculations as to what might beguile the average female. I'm guessing a sharp mind, a sense of humour, someone prepared to engage with their masculinity without being a moron. It seems to me, and always has, that females like a guy who can express themselves to a point, but they don't really want a new man. New man has always seemed a bit of a useless article to me, a kind of castrated half breed always trying too hard to be perfectly attentive. Well excuse me, but screw that. Even the women who say they want a new man don't actually mean it, and if we're too nice you lose all respect. I get that you want me to be sensitive on occasion, and prepared to listen, but if you're looking to remove the animal then the only one you rob is yourself. Guys, for the most part, need to retain at least a little of our raw masculinity, something mildly unpredictable. Domesticated men are like Roman eunuchs; great for certain practical purposes but not well designed to bend you over the kitchen table.
How crude of me? How presumptuous? Is there anything about me that suggests I'm concerned? Anyway, I started by claiming that the brain is our best sexual organ, and that's how I intend to end. Get connected with what makes you tick, and take time to find out what makes other's tick, too. Getting inside someone's mind is intoxicating, empowering, and a world of fun. But it takes honesty, candour, and a certain vulnerability. If you can manage this feat then I predict you'll enjoy better relationships, more enduring relationships, and one's with potential limited only by the willingness of those involved to continually search for new paths.