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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

A Life Well Lived?

Last night I watched a movie about how we adapt to growing old, a transition we all have to make some day. It was called "The Best Exotic Hotel Marigold" and I'd rate it as one of the best, most thought provoking films I've ever watched. It got me thinking about age, about all that comes with it, and about how we make that journey. The face staring back at you today is going to change. The physical beauty will decline. Fight it if you must, but don't live in denial. The things that once came easy get harder, the road behind us longer than the one ahead. We're all heading towards the same vanishing point, and we must decide how we walk the path. As for me, I am 41 years of age, and whilst in generally good nick the grey is persistent, the stomach not as flat, along with other minor things that I notice from time to time. Now I'm as drawn to physical beauty as the next man, but I'm not so fooled that that I can't see beyond to what's really important. Our character, our true nature, the reality of who I am, who you are in the quiet moments away from prying eyes. Have I lived a good life? Have I been as kind as I could have been? As genuine? Am I even equipped to decide for myself? Such things press upon me, for I know at heart that I'm a man of extremes, as prone to goodness as I am to folly. My intentions aren't always pure, my motives mixed, and I've my fair share of skeletons. Don't be fooled by my laid back demeanour, it isn't as consistent as it could be, should be. I'm not even sure what I'm trying to say here, but it has something to do with wanting to grow old with genuineness and with a warm heart, not overshadowed by my failings but rather informed by them. Not embittered but better equipped. And not content in the best of ways, by which I mean always curious, always wanting to look beyond the obvious. I'm never going to be the easiest person to be around. I'm no good at being quiet when I perceive something as wrong, or as ridiculous. Being a friend to me is a bit like being on a tiny boat amidst a bucking, boisterous ocean. The boat could tip this way or that, and by the end you'll know you've been on a journey and you might feel a bit disoriented. But hey, you'll also go home thinking about it, and you'll remember it. I'm just one of those people who tends to leave an impression, be it good or bad. You know where the door is if you cannot live with that. And if you can, well come in, buckle up, and lets enjoy the journey together. That's a legacy that I can live with.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Smart Enough To Think Another Way?

I deal with drunk people all the time. All the time. It is one of the most wearing aspects of what I do, and you are paying for it. Through your taxes, I mean. Because trust me, the amount of time and money the emergency services waste dealing with the actions of drunk people far outweighs any other operational expense. Whether it is a drink filled domestic incident, a public order offence out on the streets, or a road traffic incident caused by excess alcohol, trust me when I say that if people could manage their alcohol intake, the lives of a lot of people would be so much easier. When I left school, and perhaps into my early 20’s I bought into the drink culture. I was out Friday and Saturday night and I often got rolling drunk. Fortunately, alcohol only made me more laid back than I am already, but even so I made some insane errors of judgement. I recall climbing 70ft floodlights, smoking various substances, and even walking from Buckingham to Padbury naked for reasons that I cannot recall. I know, mostly harmless, but I’d do none of the above sober. And how many people have done similar and not gotten away with it? How many young males have fallen from roofs, or overdosed, or tried to cheat the laws of physics and drive a vehicle through a solid object? What I’m trying to say is that if we could just reign it in a bit, if we could just stay the right side of the line we would all be the better for it. I’m no killjoy, and a drink with friends is one of life’s pleasures, but as a culture we seem uniquely able to forego clear thinking when it comes to the grog. And the thing is, whilst age is often a factor I also have a lot of dealings with folk who frankly should know better. And then there’s the other side of the coin, the countless victims on the rough end of our national idiocy. How many taxi drivers have had drunken fares do a runner, or vomit in the cab, or been threatened with violence? How many females have been the recipient of unwanted advances from men on the pull? How many cars have been keyed, or wing mirrors knocked off, the list is pretty much only constrained by your imagination. And the thing is the fix is so simple, so obvious, and so achievable. Drink less, know your limit, and perhaps change your definition of a good night out. The last amongst that list is the hardest; we’re a culture obsessed with getting drunk, and I honestly don’t know what it would take to change this. Higher alcohol prices? Education at a younger age? Your guess is as good as mine. All I know is that time could be saved, public money could be saved, and lives could be saved if we could just learn to think another way.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Snow!!!!! Death From Above!!!

People of Great Britain, this is a public service announcement. Snow is precipitation in the form of crystallised ice. It isn't very scary and it isn't going to harm you unless you go out of your way to be a muppet. It's common throughout the world, and civilisation has been managing it for a very long time. Why then, do you begin to dribble and lose control of your bodily functions at the thought of the stuff? Why do you empty the shelves at Tesco, bleat to your nearest and dearest about how awful and scary it is? I think I have the answer. It is because you've forgotten what it means to be a true Brit. You've traded your spine for a nice comfy cushion, and now when the slightest challenge comes your way you buckle like a stack of Jenga. These last few days have made me wince. Some of the rubbish I've had to listen to about how we're suffering due to these epic weather conditions has mad me gag. Really people, if something really bad happened how would you cope? Because if this weeks demonstration is anything to go by I fear you'd collapse into a foetal ball and cry out for mummy. People of Great Britain, you are toothless, spineless, and a disgrace to our heritage, a heritage built upon courage and fortitude and, dare I say it, a "Get on with it attitude." We don't send our kids to school because of health and safety concerns, we close airports and public infrastructure, when the rest of the world just rolls back its head and laughs. And so it should, because we've become a laughing stock. We roll over when faced with adversity, demand rights without responsibility, and in so doing sacrifice the very core of what put the "Great" into Britain. I'm ashamed of many of you. I think you are utterly weak and pathetic, and I think many of you need to take a long hard look at what you've become. If this makes you angry then perhaps there's hope; at least you've a little fire in your belly. Please please please, will you just grow a pair and man up (or wench up) if you're a feminist. I'm not interested in how many inches of snow you've got in your garden, or that you spent simply ages defrosting the car, or that your precious children were so upset at the prospect of going to school that you simply couldn't bare to let them. Pathetic. Pathetic. Pathetic. Fuck right off, and come back when you're mature enough to cope in the real world. God, that's feels so much better. . . .

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Better If He'd Never Been Born?

This is going to be controversial, and I write this as a thought experiment built upon something I've been thinking about for a while. Simply put, did Jimmy Savile make a net positive contribution to society? Here's my take; it is estimated that during the course of his life he raised in excess of £40 million for charity. His beneficiary's will be mostly people he never comes into contact with, rendering them safe from his diseased and predatory sexuality. Think about how much medical equipment his efforts raised, how many wards refurbished, projects funded? It is without question an impressive figure, and his work has improved the lives of countless thousands down the years. This of course assumes you never had the misfortune of being a minor, or vulnerable, and alone in his company. Now please note that I am not condoning his behaviour, nor seeking to accept it as some kind of twisted trade off to balance the moral books. I'm trying to get you to think about wellbeing in a way that is counter intuitive, disquieting, yet undeniably self evident. Jimmy Savile ruined lives, robbed vulnerable children of their childhood, and established a pattern of predatory behaviour that should have been exposed years before. But, and here's where the rubber hits the road, the fact remains that his charitable efforts improved the lives of many more people than his personal vices destroyed. So lets replay the tape of history. Based on everything we now know, would we let things play out the same again? Well no, he would be banged up quicker than you could say Jack Flash. But in so doing, know that you may have decreased the overall level of wellbeing for countless thousands. Perhaps those life saving machines would never have been delivered, or those wards not refurbished, or those rehabilitation centres never green lit? We will never know. But before you brand me heartless, or indifferent to the intimate suffering of his countless victims, just try to see wellbeing in the widest possible context. In this world many, if not most people employ regular double standards when it comes to our moral behaviour. This is part of the spectrum of human experience. With Saville, the swing was extreme; his remarkable charitable work being one aspect of his psyche, whilst the predatory sexual animal lurked in the shadows. Yin and Yang? Darkness and light? In an ideal world we would be charitable, moral, and devoid of such double standards, but unfortunately that world is one we are yet to reach.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Jesus And The Flintstones

Did Jesus have his own pet dinosaur? In some circles, if you assume a certain worldview, this is not an unreasonable question. I mean, if you believe the Bible then the age of the earth is 6000 years and dinosaurs lived alongside early man. That's right, we're talking Flinstones. Barney and Fred may not be such a tall story after all. Welcome to the whacky world of fundamentalism, a world where evolution never happened, where all the life we see around us came courtesy of the creatures that gambolled off of Noah's ark. Every penguin, every lion, every stick insect, they all lived happily alongside each other for months whilst God flooded the earth because the people on it were all sinful and yucky. I shit you not. It happened because it says so in the Bible, and if it says so in the Bible it's the gosh darn truth. Ok, I'm game for a little experiment. If you truly believe in every jot and tittle, then the next time your kids are cheeky be sure to kill them. The Bible says you should. And if you should marry, and you discover on your wedding night that your wife is not a virgin you best kill her, too. It says that in the clearest possible terms. And by the way, no more prawn salad, or tassels on your dresses. And don't work on the sabbath or else I'll have to go ninja on your ass and stone you to death. And all those nasty satellite pictures of the planet, those ones that show that its all round and curvy; photoshop I tell you. The earth is flat. Says so. And if it says so then that's the end of the matter. Dear modern Christian, we both know you don't believe any of the above. You are educated, sensible, and give or take the odd anomaly as rational as most other people. You've already dumped the majority of what's in the good book, and most of your morals come from the secular world rather than the biblical one. What are you clinging on to? All the Jesus stuff really isn't a whole lot more impressive, and frankly it makes you look a bit of a nonce. Today is Sunday, and less than 2% of the UK population will go to church and seek a personal relationship with. . . . . well actually the inside of their head. They will sing to the invisible, pray both in silence and aloud, and then think that they hear a response. And they would be right. They do. They get a response from inside their own brain, because that's as far as any relationship with God can go. It's in your head. It's been inside your head all your life. And all those lovely people you spend time with, so warm and generous and kindly, it is the same for them. You all have the same brain relationship with a work of fiction cobbled together by multiple authors, and then changed repeatedly over the ensuing centuries. I know it makes you feel better. I know it brings comfort and hope and some sense that you're part of a bigger picture. Thing is, you are not, and all the consolation you feel is false. If common sense should prevail and the penny drop, I'll be here ready to walk with you. I spent 13 years as an evangelical, I was deranged in the same way that you are deranged. Looking back into that world the lunacy astonishes me; I can't believe I ever took it aboard. If you've any self esteem, and any sense of self respect, and a real desire to know what is true about reality then wake up. Wake up from the delusion, from the wilful retardation of your otherwise stunning mind. Life is rich and beautiful and, whilst brief, still a thing of immense value. Live in the power of it. Live with intellectual integrity and face reality head on. Be brave and look through honest eyes, accepting that now is the hour, today is the day, and that every waking minute really counts.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Do Not Feed The Animals

I deal with a lot of anti social behaviour as part of my job. There are things I have learned that I feel are worth sharing. Specifically, I think there are some important rules to consider. First, I completely understand the urge most men feel when the local hooded morons pitch up and start giving it large. Whether they are kicking on your door, emptying your bins, or being verbally abusive, it is gut instinct to go out and engage them. I mean let’s face it; these Muppets tend to arrive en masse and wouldn’t be behaving as they do if they didn’t have an audience to play to. But herein is the gamble you take should you choose to respond alone. Aside from putting yourself at risk of harm, which usually isn’t worth it, what you will almost certainly achieve is to put an invisible red cross upon your door announcing to every local miscreant that you are a fantastically interesting target. What I mean to say is that these guys are more likely to descend upon you again because of the entertainment value you provided last time out. Let’s change the camera angle, and see how events play out through the eyes of the offender. Emerging from a house is an angry, very wound up human being with nostrils flaring and ready to rage. It makes for stupendous viewing, doesn’t it? And why have they come outside? Because of something you have done to them. Is this sinking in when seen from the other perspective? As the victim, what you do is provide the perfect evening’s entertainment for the group before you. What a result. You’ve lost control; you are probably shouting and swearing. In short, you’ve made everything the youths have done worthwhile. And trust me, once they get a sniff they’ll be back. Pack animals return to feed again, and they will go where pickings are rich. So by trying to resolve the matter yourself all you do is complicate it. You make it worse. Your entire ego and all your anger and all your pride have simply fanned the flames further. I am absolutely certain of this because I deal with it daily. So as hard as this may sound, and as emasculating as it may cause you to feel, this is when your brain needs to do the heavy lifting. Stay in your home; give nothing for your respective audience to feed off. And call the police. Perhaps you think they can do nothing, and perhaps there is no magic wand. That’s another discussion for another day, but this much I know. If you engage these gangs, you make the problem even greater, even more personal, and worse still you cease acting as a rational agent. And finally I want to say a word about courage. It isn’t always about being gung ho and all kicky punchy. It’s about making tough choices under tough conditions, and often keeping a very cool head when every ounce of you wants to lose it. Giving in to the latter is not courage. It’s stupidity. It’s you not thinking clearly, deeply, correctly. So if you have had, or are struggling with local anti social behaviour, you need to understand two very critical things. One, you will not resolve it by yourself. And two, if you try, you may just create a monster that you played an inadvertent part in making.