Monday, 30 July 2012

Man Haters

Recently I was in a situation where it was impossible not to overhear a conversation going on within earshot. There were three women, all different ages, each waxing lyrical about the deficiencies and general ineptitude of the men they had dated, divorced, and spent time with. The mood was was negative from start to finish, yet it wasn't that which I picked up on. With me it's the subtext I'm listening out for, some underlying principle or theme.
What I sensed, and what may annoy my female readers, was a consistent failure to acknowledge, or even mention, that each women may have played a part in why their relationships had not endured. Now let's be brutal here, if relationship after relationship continually goes wrong there's a reasonable chance that it isn't just the other partners fault. It seems to me sensible to take just a bit of personal ownership and to ask a few searching questions. Why do my relationships fail? What are the recurring themes? What can I do differently next time? Am I trying BE the right partner as much as I'm trying to FIND the right partner. This conversation I was overhearing made plain just how easy it is to project our angst and frustrations without having the bravery to take ownership of the issues at hand. It's often nightmarish when we have to be brutally honest with ourselves, but it can also be restorative, illuminating, and open up rich veins of personal insight. Don't waste time blaming the rest of the world for your woes, even if you have been hurt or deceived or damaged.
Ultimately, this three way bitch-fest was a near perfect example of why these particular women failed in their efforts. I felt that each had an underlying dislike of men, a suspicion and a lack of trust. I'm not denying that men can be appalling creatures, but I'm also going to fly the flag for those of us who think about the world, who work hard at relationships, and who confront our own deficiencies. I'm sorry ladies, I'm not perfect but I'm not prepared to carry the can for your failure to look closely at yourself. Perhaps instead of projecting your anger you might want to look a bit deeper and take ownership of your own life situation. See how far that gets you?

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Something Better, Something More

Somewhere in the UK is a young boy, a young girl. They are watching the television transfixed by the Olympics. They may or may not come from deprived backgrounds, and they may or may not have both parents to support and nurture them. Within those young genes is a person whom will one day run faster, leap further, swim harder, and fight smarter than anyone else. 
I say perhaps, because they will not achieve these goals in isolation. Success, for the most part is the result of a collective effort, a combined culture of effort and creativity and belief and sheer hard work. It doesn't come easy, and for most of us doesn't come in a hurry.
Let's leave our young child for a while and zoom outward, the entire UK flickering beneath our gaze. A nation of 60-70 million, a multi cultural milieu of life and passion and possibilities. What do we have to do to forge a culture where we all get to chase down our dreams? Where everybody actually believes that they have a fighting chance to be more than they are today?
The answer is the same. It will take collective effort, a combined culture of creativity and belief and sheer hard work. And one of the skins we have to shed along the way is any sense that we are automatically entitled to be successful, wealthy, or deserving. I think many of us tacitly hold this errant view, and in so many ways we have been hamstrung by it. When I think of the things I have achieved, those I'm proudest of have been the result of toil, bloody mindedness, a refusal to give in. I had been writing for two decades before I published a book; I'd spent years in every job I've ever had improving what I do and how I do it. Whilst in relationships I've learned from mistakes, listened to the needs of others and tried to adapt my behaviour when required. In short, nothing came easy. But come it did. Eventually. And I can look back and be proud, safe in the knowledge that no short cuts were taken. Nor did I ever feel I was owed a living, or happiness, or hope. These things we must forge through the sweat of our brow. In so many ways we have to believe we can be the answer to our own questions, and when we have a nation of people with such an outlook you are already half way towards nurturing a culture that's going to get better, stronger, more resilient.
There is a quite obvious contradiction in this blog, a call to both the individual and the collective. This is quite deliberate. We have to believe in ourselves and also empower others to belief in themselves. From these building blocks dreams are forged, hopes are realised, and nations changed.
In time.

Monday, 23 July 2012

An Open Apology To Rick Warren

Being wrong is never easy. It's a bit humbling, a bit awkward, and frankly something I could do without. Thing is, this blog is meant to be a thing of honesty, which means that sometimes I have to look hard at myself and have enough personal integrity to step up and accept brute facts when they stare me in the face.
The other day I ripped into Rick Warren, who I thought had blamed the Colorado shooting on evolution. It now emerges that his quote was not a comment on the shooting, but on something completely different.
I am amongst thousands who got the wrong end of the stick and ventured a severe critique of the man. Based on this new information I unreservedly offer a full and open apology for what was an error on my part. I got caught up in the hype, didn't wait for verification, which for someone who values truth and evidence a much as I do is a schoolboy error. Whilst I disagree with much of what Rick Warren stands for I'm not in the business of being unfair for the sake of cheap shots. I got this call wrong and the joke is on me. I offer no excuses and accept that I made a blunder. I feel it important to be up front on this because I do not wish to portray a false image of myself, and more important I do not wish to harm the reputation of another person when I have no good reason to do so.
No excuses. Mea Culpa, as they say in Italy.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

A Rant About Rick Warren

This blog is born of anger. Correction, it is born of contempt. Sheer contempt for a tweet issued by mega church pastor Rick Warren. The tweet blames evolution for the Colorado shootings, suggesting that if we teach people that they are animals they will act like animals.
Really? I mean, really? Is this the most salient, considered response we are going to get from America's leading evangelical? I wonder, what about all the billions of people who didn't go out an kill a group of strangers today? Should we credit evolution for their self control? No, and let me just clear this up for all concerned. Evolution is blind and without purpose, with natural selection winnowing out unfit organisms and favouring those with the required survival tools. It doesn't feel, doesn't think, doesn't consciously plan. It's a process billions of years in the making and it is unguided. Now with that out of the way, let's be honest about what has happened here. Some disenfranchised kid has lost the plot big time, a kid who probably had the lid screwed on too tight for too long. Make no mistake, his actions were planned and purposeful, from buying the weapons to the acquisition of ammo. Somewhere along the way his mind went wrong and he began to plan this horror. I note he was a churchgoer, but I wouldn't for a second attribute his actions to christianity. Why then does the good pastor Warren see fit to throw this carnage at the door of secularism?
The answer is quite simple. Rick Warren is an overweight idiot beguiled by his own delusions. And he has kindly decided to out his idiocy in the clearest possible terms. Nobody who reads or who hears of his tweet need ever doubt this man's credentials again. He has nailed his imbecility to the mast, he has dangled his intellectual genitalia in the wind and said "Hey, look at me"
The troubling thing is that Rick Warren is a heavy hitter in evangelical circles. His books sell by the millions, and Christians the world over appear often dazzled by his proclamations. Perhaps today will serve as an appropriate wake up call to those intoxicated by his cretinous warbling. Rick Warren is an intellectual midget, a lightweight so self evident that nobody need harbour any doubt. Those of you who respected him before are thus released from further obligation. He is a cretin. He is a weapons grade arse. And we should thank him for doing us the service of making this so crystalline clear.

No Guns, Less Dead People.

People without guns can't shoot each other, can they? Am I naive for looking at this from such a simple perspective? I mean, the law of averages suggest that the more guns out and about the higher the probability of shootings. I just don't think this is open to question.
There is much I admire about America. It's laxity of the control over firearms is not amongst the list. It seems plain bonkers to have a culture where owning a firearm is such a normative thing. Could such a way of life ever make the streets safer?
Once again the debate over gun ownership will rage. And once again the same old arguments will resonate. The right to bear arms will be front and centre, a philosophy deeply ingrained in the American psyche. With all we know about the harm such weaponry can inflict I can't help but wonder why this frontier mindset persists? Plenty of other nations have violent history's yet carry no such desire to brandish arms. What is it about America that makes it so unique amongst developed nations? I do not pretend to know, and I certainly do not pretend to understand. From my libertarian English perspective the thought of carrying a weapon of any kind makes me very uneasy. Heck, I'm even averse to sharp kitchen knives. Surely though, no guns on the streets would reduce the number of shootings? Is there even a discussion on this point?

Friday, 20 July 2012

A Black Night In Denver

As I write this, news is emerging of a mass shooting at a cinema in Denver. Whenever details of such horror come my way I am both surprised and unsurprised. Surprised because I cannot conceive how any human being could want to end the life of another one, and yet unsurprised because I know much about our origins. In so many ways we remain primitive beings, very much in the infancy of our development. Don't be fooled by the technology and the culture and all that we have achieved; inside us remains what Christopher Hitchens once described as the "hallmarks of our lowly origins".
Whether we like it or not we have evolved from more primitive ancestors. Ancestors that routinely  expressed violence as a simple survival tool. We come from hunter gatherer stock, and our ancient ancestors would have been violent on a scale barely comprehensible to us. We existed in small bands, distrusted strangers, and rarely looked beyond close kin. For many years that was the order of things, but as civilisation developed, and as we started to live together in larger groups we found ways to adapt. We began to trade, we began to develop agriculture, which meant we often remained in one place for longer and were surrounded by larger groups of fellow humans. Under these circumstances it made no sense to kill or maim a rival, and over time we see our behaviour, for the most part, moderated and refined.
It may come as a great surprise to some of you to learn that we are, in fact, statistically less violent than at any time in our history. All the pointers indicate this; although in the information age it is forgivable to think otherwise. Yes, I know that violence persists, but it's nowhere near the levels it once stood. Yet within us all remains those features that enabled our ancestors to survive and reproduce, a violent survival instinct that, whether we are comfortable to admit or not, played a huge part in ensuring that you and I are here to read this. Which is why when I hear cases like Denver I mourn in the knowledge that such instances are isolated and rare. From time to time our deep rooted instincts are going to surface. We all have the capacity for violence; we mostly manage to curb it and listen to those better voices in our head. That's the way mankind appears to be going, so don't be too despondent when we hear the occasional anomaly. The overall trend is in the right direction. That said, clearly our thoughts need to be with the bereaved and those that will survive this terrible ordeal. They will have experienced something nobody should have to and the trauma will run deep. At the end of the day none of us can legislate for the behaviour of other people. We can only take account for our own actions and seek to be better people, wiser people, kinder and warmer people. That's what I'm aiming for. Perhaps we should all do the same?

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Mullet Effect

If you sport a mullet you are making a very clear statement about yourself. You are, simply put, announcing to the world that you are the result of in breeding. You may just as well wear a t-shirt adorned with the slogan "I married my sister"
You see, a mullet makes plain that you lack self awareness. It means each time you look in the mirror you consciously ignore that you look like you've just emerged from some shack in the Florida Everglades. Even if you're not called "Bubba" or "Cletus" you would probably answer to either. The message you send is that you are incapable of realising you look like you've had a lobotomy, and that this mop of absurdity atop your freshly stitched skull was what theatre staff scooped off the floor post op.
If you doubt any of the above, consider the sad case of the head of G4S, responsible for the shambles now more commonly known as Olympic security.
I wonder; when bidding for the contract was it all done over the phone? Surely no self respecting MP could consider dealing with a person sporting a mullet? It would be as risky as telling Jeremy Kyle about your affair with Tracy Twelve-Kids and then expecting him not to reveal this on daytime television, or being a female employed by Bill Clinton and not expecting him at some point to be asking you for a blow job. Ain't gonna happen partner.
To conclude, mullets are one of natures warning signs. A bit like brightly coloured insects or Travellers in white transits. You can ignore these red flags if you want to, but it's not as though you haven't been warned.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Because I Choose To, Because I Can

Isaiah chapter 64, verse 6 informs me that "Our good deeds are as filthy rags" to God. Put simply, it states that without belief in God, trust in God, nothing that we do can be considered good.
Now I'm no angel, and I'm no moral leader, yet even to me that verse seems off kilter. Does it really mean what it says? Can nothing be good without first off doffing our caps to the Lord?
Many years ago I was in London with a friend who's name I won't venture. We were drunk, although I was marginally less so. Anyway's, courtesy of some dodgy pizza eaten in Camden town my buddy decided to show us what an extreme anaphylactic reaction looks like. His eyes turned to slits, his face bloated outward, and his windpipe began to constrict. Godless drunkard that i was i decided to stand in front of an oncoming bus, which kindly stopped. The driver took one look at my friend, let us aboard, and delivered us to the nearest hospital whereby treatment was administered and, without being too dramatic, a life was saved. Some years later I was at my parents house and My father, as only he could, decided to demonstrate how to choke on a piece of cooked chicken. He collapsed and was going into panic, so I stuck by fingers down his throat and retrieved the offending obstruction, leaving Dad to recover over the course of several minutes.
That's two lives saved. I seek no credit for either, but use each account by way of example. Two deeds which played a part in keeping two human beings alive. Do these sound like filthy rags to you? Am I really required to fawn and grovel at the feet of an imaginary bronze age thug in order that those two actions be deemed good? I do not think so. Rather, it seems to me that the choice to pursue goodness is available to us all, irrespective of what we believe. Surely the truth of our character is measured in the integrity of our character rather than decided by the simple practice of belief?
I won't always do the right thing. I won't always want to even though I know I should. Yet this much I know; on the rare occasions when I'm not acting like a barbarian, and when the better angels of my nature compel me to reach out with mercy and bravery and compassion, I will do so not because I'm seeking the approval of God, but because I choose to, and because I can.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Newsflash!! Females Loose In The UK Who Admit To Enjoying Sex!!!

If sales of the Mr Grey trilogy are anything to go by, females appear to quite enjoy sex. And not just conventional sex, but kinky and erotic fetish and domination games to boot. The Daily Mail appears to think this is news. I, on the other hand think this is about as newsworthy as leading with the story that the sky is blue.
I mean, what an overreaction. This isn't news. It's good old fashioned common sense and common knowledge to any man that's ever taken the time to listen to a partner speak candidly on issues of sexuality. So what if a women likes the idea of being dominated by an experienced male? Who cares whether a good dose of bondage is route one to orgasm central. This is quite possibly the least controversial piece of breaking news in years.
This whole sex thing still appears shrouded in a combination of hypocrisy and denial. There appears a continued awkwardness on the part of many that a good section of society might like to engage in role play or fantasy or the creative expression of sexuality. In a sense, sex can be considered as adults playing, so why shouldn't this be a rich and varied and creative process? Intimacy shared is a wonderful thing, and when partners commit to listening to each other and encouraging sexual openness I reckon even the sky doesn't have to be the limit. 
Let's stop being coy about the whole thing. This is the 21st century and sexuality is a fantastic part of being human. We still carry an awful lot of unnecessary baggage and I think it weighs us down more than it needs to. 
Perhaps you think me too candid? Too outspoken? Making too many assumptions? I just get tired of all the denial and the covering up of desires and compulsions that can potentially be avenues to a rich vein of human experience. And as I have said before, finding out what makes a person tick is such mischievous fun I think everybody should try it.
So there. Said it. It's ok to be sexual. To admit that your sexuality is unique and expansive and positive. So whether you're straight or gay, in a relationship or flying solo, just let yourself off the hook and get down to the business of enjoying who you are.