Friday, 30 August 2013

The Long And Winding Road

On a planet of seven billion people the law of averages dictates that at any given time a great many of us will be suffering. This is just the way it is, and it's right that we do all we can to alleviate suffering when we can. That said, there are times when to intervene is to court the risk of causing an even greater harm. For me, the issue of Syria was always a no brainer, and it has saddened me to see how shallow and impulsive the thinking of some people has been. Nobody denies that the genocide of so many is an unspeakable vileness. Nobody can fail to be moved when we see babies lain dead and wrapped in white linen, or people gasping as toxic nerve agents assail their respiratory system. These images are in our face, a grim reminder of what we are capable of doing to one another. For a few moments i want to ask you to put these to one side and expand your lens, however. Only when you do this will the potential cost of intervention become clear. Consider the potential risks, and then combine them with some recent historical facts. Has intervention in Iran and Afghanistan made the world a safer place? Has it reduced enmity and division? Reduced tensions? Improved relationships with the Arab world and helped to enhance trust? You know it hasn't. The West has killed a lot of innocents, and sadly done so on a platform that whilst morally sincere, was also fatally flawed and sincerely wrong. You may find this hard to believe but reformers do exist in the Middle East. People who are reaching out and trying to improve the human rights of their countrymen. Ask yourself, how hard do we make it for these internal advocates of democracy when we pursue military campaigns on foreign soil? Does it increase the likelihood that it decreases suspicion in our agenda? Does it help the reformers, those pioneers on the inside making a case for closer ties with the West? I argue that it does not. Now call me an idealist but I happen to think that many people currently denied freedoms actually desire them more than they are able to articulate. Many Arab women would love to seek higher education, or any education for that matter, without having to risk having acid thrown in their faces by male zealots. I also think Arabic children deserve a wider education than simply being farmed off to Islamic schools where they rock back and forth whilst learning the Koran all day long. This way isn't the path to enlightenment. This increases radicalisation and poisons minds and makes the world more dangerous. Combine this this with a perceived enemy in the West that they fear is seeking to undermine their way of life then it quickly becomes clear that military intervention is going to fail with any goal it intends, no matter how morally grounded. You see, morality is simply about the wellbeing of consciousness creatures. And there may be multiple pathways to achieve this. No religion has the final say on what morality is or isn't. Nor any despot. Morality is about the greatest good for the greatest number, and there is no perfect solution to many of the world's ills. But know this; no military crusade is going to make the road less rocky. It will simply add further obstacles, decrease trust, and increase tensions in a region which is already an absolute powder keg. And whatever changes that do occur will be longer lasting and more stable if they come from within. We cannot impose regime change, or enforce democracy from the outside in. It has to be the other way around. So support the reformers, support diplomacy and peaceable communications. And do so in the knowledge that this process is a winding and rocky road filled with potholes, and a journey likely to take decades.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Fifty Shades Of Reality

Here's something I don't understand. Apparently most males climax between 3 and 5 minutes after beginning sex. Is this intercourse or foreplay? Well I can't imagine it's the latter, and frankly the former strikes me as a pretty poor show. This whole sex thing has always seemed to me to be at it's best when the imagination is doing the majority of the heavy lifting, and imagination needs time and space to evolve and flourish. Perhaps some of you can crack that nut in 3-5 minutes but my initial question is why on earth would you want to? If I'm missing something here do say so, because another issue I've got with the above statistic is how that factors in the needs, desires, and fantasies of the person you're with? I'm suspicious that such a short timescale may leave enough time for selfish satisfaction but not for a whole lot else. And for me intimacy is always about giving, always about putting the other person first. Perhaps that's not normal, but if normal means a straight sprint to orgasm then you're welcome to it. I cannot imagine making my own needs more important than my partner's. I cannot imagine curling up beside someone who isn't fulfilled. Previous blogs have already outlined my views on sex and creativity, so I don't need to parrot that again. It's just I don't have any inhibitions on the issue. I'm an open book and it's so cool when somebody trusts you enough to share the other side of themselves, the fantasy side, the risqué and unconventional side. Have you ever done that thing when you're in a crowd and you wonder what the people around you are into? No? Try it sometime. And do it with the certainty that you'll probably get it wrong most of the time. That's what I love about us. What you see isn't always what you get. The bus driver that drops you off every morning could be a sexual gigolo in the bedroom. That shy and understated cashier you smile at could have a sex toy collection the size of Wembley stadium. That emergency responder who breaks up the pub fight on a Saturday night might bring his girlfriend breakfast in bed the next morning and spend the entire day waiting on her hand and foot, possibly naked, and most likely loving every minute. And the nurse who spends her day alleviating pain may spend long evenings inflicting it on her compliant boyfriend. This is such an intriguing facet of human nature. These alter ego's, these hidden trails concealed in plain view. Anyway, what about you? Any hidden trails you'd like to explore? Any fantasies you've always flirted with but felt too shy or self conscious to share? My hope for you is that if you're in a trusting and stable relationship you will feel able to express yourself. And if you're still awaiting that special someone, I hope that when you meet the connection will be so complete that you get to express yourself in the fullest possible sense. There are no rules to this thing, people. And we only have so many years to our name. So don't let inhibition quieten who you are; don't subdue that inner vixen, or that Knight in shining armour. That would be a real big shame.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Running On The Right Fuel

I am not one for political correctness. I'm one of those who prefers to speak plainly, and learn if I'm incorrect about something so I can correct my thinking. I don't like it when it certain subject's are off limits, when the potato is deemed too hot. So what if we offend each other? Who cares if the occasional nose gets put out of joint? We're big boy's and girls aren't we? We'll recover. For example, I happen to think Christianity is a tedious waste of time which is practiced by people who haven't stood back and stepped outside their assumptions. I think Islam has an undercurrent of pernicious teaching that happily most Muslims ignore. I think travellers cause a disproportionate amount of crime compared to the numbers of them. And despite having all the respect in the world for single parents I maintain that a mother and a father offer the best frame work for raising kids, assuming the aforementioned parents are loving and committed and not otherwise screwed up. All the above mean I fall foul of the PC brigade, and this to me is bizarre. Tough subjects need to be discussed, chewed over. Horns need to be locked, rough edges in our thinking ground away. I'll sit down with any Christian, Muslim, single parent or traveller and listen to what they have to say. And I have the kind of mindset that changes when the facts change. That's the kind of man I want to be. I want it so much it hurts. As many of you know I was a Christian for over a decade. I learned many important things and met some of the best people I'll ever meet. But when it became obvious that the basic teachings were fabrications I had to act. I couldn't knowingly live a life when there's such overwhelming evidence that the whole thing was backward engineered, redacted, and cut and pasted from all manner of sources. So I left the fold. I followed the evidence. And to this day I am obsessive about ensuring that my opinions match reality, that my worldview is evidence based and driven by a voracious desire to get to the truth. It startles and saddens me how few people actually do this. It's a mystery I cannot apprehend. The other day I happened across a quote which said something along the following lines; "Knowledge isn't about knowing everything. It's about questioning everything you think you know." I adore this quote. This is my entire worldview bottled and distilled into one handy statement. So please forgive me if I struggle to understand people who don't think this way. Sorry if I remain puzzled by people who appear to actively seek to delude themselves. I am convinced that I am wrong about a great many things. And I'm equally sure that I've so much left to learn, and that the opinions I hold today will not be exactly the same in the future. Above all, please don't think that I'm a man that doesn't know his own mind. I know it just fine, thanks. I'm just keen to ensure I'm running it on the very best fuel.

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Greatest Non Secret Of Them All

Some days are illuminating. Today's been one of them. A drive to Marlow, a bus to Henley, a pub lunch beside the Thames, before walking 8 miles back along the river to rendezvous with the car. Just a couple enjoying a day out. Like many other couples on any given day. Well yes, but also no. Joy and I aren't any other couple. We're us, and we've been doing this for 15 years now. I'm proud of that. About as proud of that as I am of anything. In a world where so many of us come and go from relationships I am going to celebrate the fact that we're working as hard today as we did from day one. Actually harder, because we're both so aware that to take each other for granted would be the most dumb ass, yet easiest mistake to make. For all our differences, and there's a truckload, there is a core of trust and resilience that everything else revolves around. We want this to work because we've invested so much in it, and because we've seen how damaging and traumatic divorce and separation can be for families. When Joy was a teacher couples would often come in, sit down and routinely explain how they were splitting up, whilst giving assurances that the children won't suffer. As statements go it borders on the delusional. Of course the children suffer. Always. And to just hand wave that away always seemed a real affront. That said, Joy and I would never stay together for the sake of the children. We're together because we've spent fifteen years building something awesome, and neither of us want to see that go up in flames. We know how we tick on so many levels, but we're also self aware and we know that you can't just keep recycling the same stuff. And we both want each other to grow. I want her to be everything she aspires to be; I want to give her the freedom and the support to do that. And neither of us want to stagnate, or become some stale old couple that just withers in a tired old marital decay, devoid of spark or energy. There's no secret to making relationships work. I don't think there ever was. It seems that we just have to step beyond ourselves and learn to speak the love language of the person we've chosen to walk with through this incredible thing called life. One tip I would like to share if you'll permit me, is that from a personal perspective I am at my least attractive when I am being selfish, when I cannot see beyond my own desires and wants. When I step beyond myself I'm just simply a better man, a more interesting man, a more responsive man. In an odd way it's just liberating. Look people, there's no secret to any of this. No magical formula or quick fix. Just time and investment and a bloody minded refusal to give in to the spirit of the times. I'm not going to walk away when things get hard, or if we stray into the mundane. I'm going to try and fix it, and make it right, and not pour a vintage wine down the drain. Joy and I work because Joy and I work at it. We confront the issues, confess our weak spots, then try to figure out how to make it better. That's the only recipe that works for us.

Friday, 2 August 2013

A Boy Called Daniel

Perhaps forgiveness is a good thing, but there are times when it has limits. Do any of you think that we should forgive the vile parents of Daniel Pelka after what they subjected him to? Systematic, prolonged, and pre-meditated torture. Imprisoned, beaten, starved, humiliated, forced to eat pure salt until he vomited. Caged inside a room with no inner door handle and with only an increasingly urine stained mattress to sleep on, his final hours spent alone as his emaciated body drained of life, a body incidentally that weighed approx. one and a half stone.
Don't talk to me about forgiveness. Don't seek to persuade me that it's better to forgive than to hold anger and rage in the heart. Perhaps nine times out of ten you would be right, but not here, not today, not further to the suffering this child has endured. A young boy, a beautiful life teeming with potential, brutalised and crushed under the shadows of what appears to be almost beyond evil.
The parents have been sentenced to thirty years. What Daniel would have given for such a life span. And please, no tedious talk of heaven and of Daniel walking in paradise with God. He's dead. He has been extinguished. His story is over. And do not talk to me about God or the useless nonsense that he allows us to do evil for reasons of free will. These are the arguments of intellectual midgets, pathetic and sickly and worthy of no reflection.
I do not forgive the parents of this child. I choose not to. I consciously elect to hate every fucking sinew in their bodies, and I wish nothing but suffering and torment for them. The legendary Christopher Hitchens often quipped that for some people he almost wished there was a Hell for them to go to. I'm with him on this. But in the absence of a real Hell it is my sincere hope that they suffer on Earth. That they know pain, that they know fear, that they are forced to cower in terror. I hope they die inside, I hope depression casts a perpetual cloud over their every waking minute. Can any of you honestly hope for their rehabilitation? Could it ever be right for them to be freed to enjoy life as we do?
They tortured a child. I have two children. I know in the very core of my being that what they have done is evil, unfathomable, despicable in every possible way. I want their last breaths to be filled with terror. I want them to gasp, their eyes to bulge, their bowels to evacuate. I want them to die in humiliating squalor. And then, and only then will I consider they have served their time.