Friday, 26 December 2014

Why Obesity Is Plain Self Harm

So, GP's are now required to report patients that are gaining excess weight. At least according to the Telegraph. At risk of inviting unpopularity, which incidentally is no risk at all because I have no fear of it, I actually agree with this idea.
Let's be clear; over eating is self harm. Self harm in the same way excessive alcohol is. The ramifications are so self evident; increased risk of diabetes and other health problems, reduced mobility, additional burden on an already overstretched NHS. People, please please learn to regard obesity as self harm. Assuming of course the weight gain isn't due to existing medical conditions. That's simply how it is, and until we face up to this with honesty and candour I don't think much will change.
So, as a former "Self Harmer", what would I suggest? Well sorry to be boring, but actually nothing new. Self accountability, self control, additional exercise, and above all recognition that you have a problem. Your are self harming. You are harming yourself, and quite possibly those who love you by seriously reducing your lifespan. Nobody is saying that food cannot be enjoyed, because I love it too. But as with all issues the solution starts with personal honesty, an acceptance that you have a problem and that you take ownership. Thing is, if you're anything like me taking responsibility is the highest hurdle, but only when we reach this point can we propel ourselves towards a solution. Another thing that occurs to me is the role true friends play in this enterprise. If we value those closest to us then don't we owe them some honesty when we see a person self harming? I suggest yes, and my inspiration for this is a little book written by my intellectual hero, Sam Harris. It's called simply "Lying" and it can be read in under an hour. If you really care about someone then I think we need to be prepared to be unpopular with them from time to time. To be otherwise is to be a coward, isn't it?
There will be Self Harmers reading this. You may be bristling at what I have to say. Well bristle away. I'd much rather you disliked me and were prompted to examine this matter. If I can add a few years to your life by being the pantomime villain today then I'll ride that wave. I'll do it gladly. You see, your wellbeing is more important than what you think of me. I wouldn't stand by and watch you cut yourself, or walk out in front of a car. So don't ask me to be quiet about this.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Another Taliban Acid Bath

In the West, we can generally live freely, with a fair degree of democracy and our rights to think freely preserved. Christianity has been rendered largely spineless in its power to influence policy, and we are required to curtail it only rarely. Not so with Islam, or rather the fanatical sub section of it that continues its murderous rampage wherever it's tendrils gain traction. 132 children are now corpses thanks to the latest act of divine inspiration, and the world reels in shock in its wake. Only we shouldn't, because these bearded goons have been doing this for many years, and the only difference with yesterday is one of scale. Now I recognise that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, thoughtful, and fine people, yet theirs isn't the voice being heard. And I think this needs to change. I think the moderates need to step up, to influence the disenfranchised youths before they mutate into the genocidal monsters capable of walking into a school and carrying out these acts. I'm under no illusion that this is a simple fix, nor a quick one, but any change for the better will come from the inside out. Successive western governments have lit the touch paper through our own acts of aggression, and whilst on occasion these may have been justified no such policy could succeed in the long run. No, to change hearts and minds it needs to happen before these young men and women reach the point of no return, because once you pass that the fundamentalist is usually there for good. What also seems obvious is that we must not prejudice the good and kindly Muslims whilst we watch the story unfold, because that would be perhaps as destructive as any course we could take. I dislike Christianity, and I dislike Islam, but I have a lot of time and warmth for many who count among their number. But then perhaps this is the difference; the majority of us will critique the ideas, but would never seek to cause harm. Wouldn't it be lovely if we could live in a world where the free exchange of ideas came without running the risk of violent repercussion? Where all genders, all races, all creeds could settle alongside each other and just get by? Is it really such a big ask? So beyond the realm?
I hope not. I guess we can only live by positive example, rejecting violence and embracing those values which enable society to grow together. Nobody expects people to agree all the time, but surely we can foster a society that's better than the one we have today?

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Why I Won't Ever Strike

So, Police staff are being balloted for possible strike action. If you're tempted to buy into this idea you may want to consider the general success rates strike action yields. Clue; it's low. Abysmally, horribly, unnervingly low. Oh, but you want to make a point, I hear you say? Err no, that isn't going to work, either, by simple virtue of the fact that you're effectively punishing those with little or no power to change things for you. And let's get real, we are the Police; we are here to serve and protect. That's the prime directive, and I really don't see how we can do that when we're not actually doing the job. And let's go further and observe that if money is that important to you then a career in law and order probably wasn't the wisest career path you could have chosen. I accept that a 1% increase is miserly, and I accept that austerity has stripped us down to what some might argue are dangerous levels. We don't have a whole lot of resilience, and I think we could do a lot of things much better. But aside from the fact that strike action never works I really think those considering doing so need to ask what they are in this business for? Speaking personally, I like making peoples bad days a bit better. When I'm on form, and when those around me are engaged we really can make a positive difference. And for me that's a privilege, and despite being quite an immense arse for long periods I do genuinely feel that I have a duty of care. So with this thought foremost I have no intention of punishing the general public for the foibles of my elected government, and if there is a strike my arse will remain firmly in my seat, doing what I can, giving it my best. To close, punk rocker John Lydon, when asked on one occasion to described the Sex Pistols he referred to them crisply as, "Cunts trying"
I happen to think this describes me perfectly, and probably a few of my colleagues, too. So if the day comes when strike action occurs forgive me for not joining you on the picket line. I'll be at my desk, alone if I must, trying to do my job. For all my faults, this is what I choose to do, and under no circumstances will I risk the well being of others to make a political point.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Unlucky In Love?

Another day, another article on how people have unrealistic expectations of marriage. And once again, the key point is lost amidst a fog of inanity. I'm going to be blunt, how's about you, and yes I mean YOU spend more time trying the be "The One", and less time trying to find "The One", and see where that takes you?
I have seen so many lovely people flit from relationship to relationship entirely unaware that what they seek was probably achievable within the thing they left behind. And no, I'm not saying stay in a bad relationship, but I am suggesting that we expand our vision and see the potential with existing ones. You think I'm over simplifying? Think I'm being unkind? I'm really not, I'm just stating the tediously obvious fact that relationships have to be maintained and cultivated and pruned in order for them to be the best they can be. Why should it be otherwise? It's a living organism isn't it ? And have you seen what happens to living things when they aren't tended to? Well done Sherlock; they decay, they wither, and they die, and it's almost always ugly. How many times have I seen people wax lyrical about the amazing new partner they've met, and yet within weeks, or maybe months it's all down the plug hole and I hear them bemoan how the spark had gone, how the magic was lost.
Yes yes, I can feel your heckles rising. How dare I suggest that you could have done more. That you both could have done more. Or that you may just lack the vision to really kick on and make something astounding between each other. Yet it is possible, and I speak from experience. And I reached this understanding at the moment when I decided that in order to find the right partner I had to be the right partner. I had to develop a deep understanding of what causes my wife to feel loved and cherished and empowered. I had to commit to making a daily effort to ensure this was the rule rather than the exception. And here's what happened; my wife became happier, more fulfilled, and being the incredible and classy lady that she is she reciprocated, and our mutual commitment has taken us on a journey that has blown us both away. So I'm saying that a great relationship is perfectly achievable, but I'm equally certain that you won't achieve it without making every effort to find out what makes him or her tick. Will you still have challenging days? Oh yeah. Will life sometimes get in the way and put a spanner in the works? Certainly. But the crucial difference will be is that you've established an underlying commitment to wanting someone else's highest good, which I regard as love incarnate. Romantic feelings may ebb and flow along with sexual desire, but when two people both want to consistently discover knew things about each other I'm confident that we can take relationships to amazing places. And keep them there.
In the event you are feeling judged further to reading this, or a failure, I don't want to make an effort to appease you. You have to decide the kind of person you want to be, and if what you are now isn't bringing you contentment then it is for you to make the necessary changes. Sorry if you wanted softly softly, or for me to justify your lack of vision. But isn't that what made you dissatisfied in the first place?

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Men From The Boys

Emma Watson is getting a lot of attention this week, and so she should. It isn't just that she's spoken out about feminism at the UN, but more to do with the style in which she did it. It was a virtuoso performance, full of humanity and common sense and devoid of the aggression that has so often blighted what has always been a worthy cause. Over the centuries women have been wronged by men. Horribly so. And men now have to recognise this and start acting like, well, frankly real men. And let's be blunt, there's a shortage of real men out there. You know, males who are self aware and capable of communicating and acting in ways that empower those around them rather than corrode. And believe it or not that last observation was gender neutral, because men have also been busy wronging other men. Many seem blighted by a form of insecurity that restricts them from being fully featured. By this I mean able to be strong and vulnerable and true to themselves as opposed to constantly seeking to conform to some vague stereotype. We've allowed ourselves to become conformist and bland, beholden to the macho bullshit that frankly the world could do without. Strength, and I mean real strength is about presence of mind, emotional intelligence. Dare I say it, about emotional availability. This is nothing to do with the idea of New Man, who to me seems frankly dour and insipid. No, I mean men able to bring all their positive qualities to bare on a world that has so often experienced only the worst. How much pointless violence, how much vengeful thirst have we been the cause of? How often have we forsaken reason for brute force? This isn't to say we cannot be masculine, and if you think that then you're missing the point, which is just to suggest that we are capable of so much more if we'd just allow ourselves to be vulnerable sometimes. If we'd allow our compassion to outweigh brute instinct. Men at our best are just bloody brilliant. Funny, hard working, creative, steadfast, and more. Yet we've denied ourselves access to our better selves, and in the process ridden roughshod over the opposite gender. Time to cut that out guys. Time to let women be amazing and to quit being threatened by that. As a man with two daughters and a wife whom I regard as my Queen I make no apology for wanting to see more women in the world empowered. We will all be the richer for it, which is why I encourage you all to sign up to the #HeforShe campaign, which Emma Watson so majestically bought to the attention of the United Nations last week. It's about mutual empowerment, shared self actualisation, about bringing the best of us to the party and seeing where together we roam. Be more, be real, and empower others to do similar. Do we not owe ourselves this?

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Riding The Wave

When I abandoned religious belief I embarked upon something of a quest to figure out how the world really was. I wanted answers, a narrative, and some additional understanding as to how I had come to get things so wrong. It's probably fair to say that I launched myself into this project with equal zeal as I had when I first came to faith at the age of 24. To know me is to know someone who doesn't do half measures. I'm an in for a penny, in for a pound kind of guy. Passionate, often zealous in my convictions, and I go full pelt. It's just who I am, how I'm wired. Or rather, it's how I formerly was. Thing is I've come to realise that the trouble with going full pelt is that it's a bit like excess speed. Sure, you might pass milestones a bit quicker, but the view along the way can get blurred. So I reached a point where I had to let the screaming locomotive otherwise known as my brain slow down, allow it to decelerate to a speed that actually enabled me to enjoy the journey. And let's face it the journey is a one way ticket; we are careening towards a terminus and none of us know the day or the hour. So then, what to do in the bit beforehand? Well, taking into account the fact that I appear to be a slow learner I just kind of decided that I wanted to enjoy the ride. And like most journeys there's a balancing act to be struck. Too slow and boredom sets in, too fast and you miss a lot of good stuff. So for me I'm into pacing it now. I want to have have fun, be authentic, and play some small part in making the lives of others better. I have a job that enables me to do that, and days like today really ram this home. Whether I'm dealing with a victim of domestic violence, a kidnap victim, or a confused elderly person I'm acutely aware that if I function to capacity I get to play a teeny part in making a persons bad day a little better. And when I'm not at work the same principle applies. Occasionally I can be quite amusing to be around. Ok, so mostly annoying, but amusing too. I can make you laugh, I can prompt you to think, and I do appear to have a special ability to coax people out of their shell. There's no window dressing, no veil to pull back. It's just me, just Rob. No agenda. Well actually, I guess we all have something of an agenda, so if pressed I simply say that I want to make each hour, each minute interesting. I want to experience the thrill of being alive, to treasure what I have even on the tough days, aware that the clock ticks callously on. This minute, these seconds, by the time you've finished this sentence they'll have gone forever. We're onto the next thing, in constant flux, caught upon the tidal flow of existence.
At the end of day I want to flourish and to enable others for flourish, too. I have no desire to seek eternal salvation because I do not think that there's a saviour out there. I think it's us, just you and I swimming in the oceans of existence. So like Doreen from Finding Nemo I'm going to just keep on swimming. Just keep on swimming, exploring the coral, the denizens, and trying to squeeze as much living as I can into whatever time my genetic code allows. I do not mourn eternity, nor find myself angst ridden because I lack a personal faith.
I am. I am now. This is enough for me. And I am grateful that I got the chance to ride these waves at all.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Checking In

I've probably changed a bit in the last year or so. More relaxed, less interested in those big questions that kept me awake for more years than I care to remember. It's too easy to succumb to the flow of other people's opinions and I just needed to figure out what belonged to me versus that which I'd filched from elsewhere. In a sense, I wanted to take time to figure out where the world ended and I began. Now I guess these lines are blurred for all of us, but I've settled on a few simple principles that appear by and large to work. For starters I've succeeded in thinking less, analysing less, which has just given me more mental bandwidth to focus on positives. I wanted to be an engaging and attentive husband, an entertaining and available father. And the free time I have I want to spend enjoying the natural world, the simple joys of good food, and exploring the geek side to my nature that loves movies, technology, innovation. I'm not out to conquer but I am out to flourish, and to enable those around me to do likewise. Professionally, I'm just turning up and doing my best to serve the public, increasingly aware that my employees are sliding ever more quickly into a quagmire of denial and corporate incompetence. It's an odd thing to see smart people refusing to listen to reason and often brute facts. It is also a little demoralising, but I console myself with the knowledge that I'm really darn good at what I do, and that I have a certain ability to get alongside people under pressure and to steady them somewhat. For those of you who've followed my blog for the last three years and enjoyed my rants against religion I have to warn you that my angry days are behind me. I choose not engage with the whole sideshow, although I would admit that the latest bunch of bearded goons from IS do occasionally make my nostrils flare. They of course are perfectly designed for failure, and the only real question is how much harm they cause before 21st century weaponry comes to a desert near them in the not too distance future to settle the matter.
Yeah I know, I'm leaping from topic to topic like a cat on a hot tin roof, and there's no depth to any of it. This blog was always meant to be intellectual Kleenex, effective and disposable. To that end mission accomplished. If you want depth take a philosophy class or read Winnie The Poo.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Does My Bum Look Big In This?

The question that no sane mane would ever ask. Or so goes the myth. Thing is, if you do happen to have an arse the size of a small African country wouldn’t you rather know? Or is denial preferable? You see I’m a big fan of honest communication, even though I’m only too aware that this will sometimes cause others pain or disappointment. In fact, spend long enough around me, well actually no more than 30 seconds then I can more or less promise to say or do something that will get your goat. Sorry people, but what I lack in airs and graces I more than make up for in genuineness. So whether you’ve an arse like a bouncy castle or an attitude that smacks of hypocrisy, double standard, or just plain nonsense then I think I owe it to you to be straight. For the record I can do sensitive, with sufficient written notice, but I’m not one for treading on eggshells nor patronising you. Why would I do that? More to the point why would you want me to do that? I don’t get it. Anyway, the point for me is just to ask how honest do we want our interactions to be? If you have a fat arse then perhaps you have to decide whether you’re comfortable with that. Or if there’s other issues you have been blind to, or perhaps just genuinely unaware of then isn’t it better that somebody at least ventures an opinion? I do have one last bitch fest to share, and this is my loathing of that particular brand of human best described as the Ostrich. You know what I mean, that poor soul who cannot face those tough encounters, who’d rather bury their head and see if it all goes away. Sorry, but I’m contemptuous of this position. Its cowardice, plain and simple. It merits no respect, and I for one don’t indulge or pander to it. Truth is, cowards come in all shapes and sizes, but over time you will figure out who falls into this category.
I know what you must be thinking. What side of bed did Rob get out of today? Well it’s the same side as always. It’s just today I feel like bleating about it. I guess I just like honesty and directness. I like to know where I stand. And I warm to those capable of handling that.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The People Too Afraid To Be Themselves.

There is a certain type of person who, for whatever reason, lives in the shadow of what other people think. Often it seems this incarceration is a self imposed one, borne of lack of confidence, fear of rejection, fear of admitting to themselves what they are. Of all the things we inflict upon ourselves this saddens me more than most, purely because it doesn't need to be this way. What makes us think that the opinions of others carry such weight? Why are we so pliable, so easily imposed upon? I've looked at this from many angles, and I've lived it, and only when you emerge into the bright blue skies of self determination can a person look back and see just how much cloud had gathered above.
Who are you? Who the fuck are you? Are you even close to knowing?
I can speak only from experience, but the day I shed myself of other peoples expectations was the first day that the real me emerged from my self imposed darkness. Beyond that you find that a process begins, a gradual extrication from a weight we never needed to carry in the first place. I know so many people who live lives of quiet fear, afraid of rejection, of not being accepted, and it honestly breaks my heart. Anxiety can suck the marrow from a person, reducing them to a husk, unable to function anywhere close to their full potential. And doesn't society do a grand job of keeping this ridiculous status quo? Oh the should's, the ought's, the thou shalt or shalt not. What a never ending fart this whole lunacy emits.
If this resonates with you, if there's a part of you in chains of your own making, would you do something for me? Actually, do something for yourself. Simply ask if this is how you always want to be? And if it isn't ask yourself why you're putting up with it now? To the best of my knowledge this is the one life we know we have, so why not at least commit to spending it as the person you want to be? Clearly if the person you want to be is a gun toting serial killer you may want to consider your options, but if you're an otherwise rational person you might free yourself up a bit, grow a bit, and take a few baby steps towards being a more authentic you. Frankly, if you choose not to, or if none of this makes sense then you're probably already down the road. This piece is a call to arms to those nervously shuffling in the shadows, those harbouring desires to be more than they are. Freedom is a wonderful thing. Self determination is a wonderful thing. But you need to have the courage to claim it, and that may involve disappointing a person or two along the way. I'm just saying that you owe it to yourself to make the best of this day and the days to come. Otherwise a time may come when you'll look back and regret the things you've never done. Your choice, I suppose, but from experience I've found that if I'm going to regret anything I'd rather it be the things I did do rather than those I did not. At least you get the answers then, and at least you get to dance to a tune you configured for yourself.

Friday, 30 May 2014

It Isn't Yours To Keep.

Time for you to do some work. I need you to cast your mind to a time, a moment when you were at one with the universe. When everything slipped into place, when it couldn't have gone any better. Perhaps it was with someone special? Or somewhere special? Doesn't matter. You'll know what I'm talking about.
You there yet? Don't rush this, spare the time to reflect and recall what made it what it was. We probably all agree that these events are relatively rare; we spend so much of our lives dancing to the tune of others. But when they happen, when it all clicks it evokes a feeling, a sense of being alive that doesn't occur at any other time. Now I'm having one of these episodes; or one of those weeks to be precise. I'm in the Lake District. Our days have been perfect. They haven't missed a beat. Joy and I are as into each other as we've ever been, which isn't bad after 16 years. And the girls; oh those girls have been a delight from dusk until dawn. The natural world is astonishing around us, whilst our home feels like, well, actually our home. We've climbed mountains, explored forests, walked besides lakes and through meadows and alongside rivers that look like they belong in Middle Earth. So it's been idyllic, but it's nearly done. By the time many of you read this we will be homeward bound, normality hurtling towards us like the unstoppable force it is. But that's ok, because we've had this time, these moments, and my soul is warmed. But now to the point of this thing; I'm so aware that when these transient wonders present themselves they need to be enjoyed as the precious gems they are. Handled, appreciated, but then permitted to leave without begrudging their departure. More than that, never, and I mean never try to recapture a moment that has passed. Nor a feeling, or a time. Because time is a thief and it will not, cannot return what it has claimed from you. So none of us should hanker after that which has gone, that which can never be revisited. Imagine if you will as living your life in the glow of a slowly moving torch, the light illuminating only the present, leaving our history in darkness, and our future a mystery. You, I, we live in this moment. We live in the here and now, and it's in the here and now that we must dwell, and focus our energies and our passions. Try not to mourn what has gone, and try not to live as if your life is going to start at some point in the future, when you've done this thing, that thing. The now is where we get our business done, and where are heads need to be. To do otherwise is to cheat ourselves of the moments we have.
I am a deeply fortunate man. I am loved, I have comfort and some semblance of wealth. I take none of these things for granted and hold all fortune, good or ill, as lightly as I can. But this much I know; tomorrow is a day of possibilities, and I'll never get to live it again, so if it's all the same to you I'll neither linger in the past nor await the future with indolence. That would be a crime, a crime against myself, against the time you have, I have. And I don't want to make that mistake.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Outward, Upward, Deeper, More.

I have a routine at the end of a day, assuming shift work allows. I let the dog out into the rear garden and look up at the stars, assuming they are visible. Tonight as I did so I saw my neighbour who was doing the same, and he directed my attention to a point in the sky where there was a star of particular luminosity. Only it wasn't a star, it was the planet Mars, and we gazed at it together. I have never knowingly gazed upon another planet with my naked eyes before, and it was a profound moment for both of us. And then we talked, and we learned that we were both atheists with wives whom hold deep and cherished beliefs. Nothing disrespectful was said, but it gave us the chance to talk through how we had come to our views. Again it was broadly similar. We had both tried to believe, and for some years had done so. I'd probably been more successful in convincing myself about the existence of God than he. In the end though we couldn't negotiate the hurdles that help a person to retain belief in the divine. We spoke warmly of the scientific method, and of having the courage to be open to changing ideas should the evidence warrant. At no point was it a bitch feet against religion, and it occurs to me how far I've come in this respect. If you read some previous blogs I've raged against it, but those days are behind me. It is sufficient that I seek to live my life with integrity, irony, courage and a measure of humour. I actively choose to adapt my views when I feel a must. Of late I'm trying harder to resist some of the cold cynicism I've been guilty of In the past. It makes me an uglier man and I want to walk a gentler path. Again I choose this without condemning those who take a different view, and I can say only that I am the more peaceful for it. I'm fortunate in so many ways; I've children I adore, a measure of material wealth, and at the time of writing reasonable levels of health. And I have a wife whom a I love, cherish, and desire to treat like a Queen. She is the cherry on the cake of my life and our relationship is such that I'd do anything for her at the drop of a hat. So yeah I'm lucky. Lucky and acutely aware of it. So many have it hard, so many whom deserve better never get it. So to be cynical and hard in the face of this seems increasingly wrong to me. And I want to have an outlook which openly appreciates all that I have whilst being aware that nothing lasts forever.
And all this because I went out and looked up at the sky.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

An Idiots Guide To Masculinity

I get a bit tired of stereotypes. If you feel you have to be a certain kind of man or a certain kind of women then I suggest that this says something horribly dreary about you. Better instead that you try to be the kind of guy or gal that you want to be rather than the kind that society expects you to be. I mean, do you really want to spend your life dancing to somebody else's tune? Never be afraid to live a life that is authentic, never desire the approval of those who would have you be something you are not. And never, and I mean holy fuck never live your life as some kind of tacit apology. It's too short, too unpredictable. On the subject of stereotypes one of my pet hates is the alpha male, the guy that, in one foul swoop manages to drag the true meaning of masculinity so far through the mud that it becomes something ugly and false and inane. Masculinity is about so much more than being physically imposing and verbose; in fact those two things have relatively little to do with being a man. I'm going to suggest that true strength is about presence of mind, of about being able to communicate and project ourselves without doing so at at the expense of others. Don't bore me with your temper and your threats of violence; if I want to see that I'll visit a pre-school. If you want to show yourself a real man learn to think around problems, learn to react creatively under pressure, and seek to avoid causing undue harm and distress. Oh yeah and another thing, masculinity has even less to do with the number of women you've slept with, or the way you do it. I'd suggest that true masculinity, sexually speaking, is about trying to learn what makes that other person tick. About getting inside their psychology and freeing them to be totally comfortable and open with you. In some cases that may actually require a degree of submission on your part. Don't fret it kiddo, just go with it and enjoy the proverbial ride. If you haven't detected the recurring theme yet you probably haven't understood masculinity, so for the slower learners among you I'm gonna spell it out. Learn to listen, and learn to be responsive, and make a real effort to engage with others in an authentic and real way. And here's the punch line; masculinity actually has an awful lot to do with vulnerability, with having the courage to step outside your own norms and learn to see the world, and think about the world in a different way. Boys, can I gently suggest that some of you have been doing this man thing all wrong. Wake up chaps, stretch those hairy arms and make an effort to relocate from that cave you've been living in. Trust me, much greater happiness and real knowledge isn't such a long trek away.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

A World Gone Soft

A couple of minor news stories have leapt out at me this week. The first was the 24 year old drug dealer who broke down in court upon receiving a life sentence for the murder of a pensioner whom he robbed in order to fund a drug habit. The 2nd comes courtesy of a 23 year old Irish alcoholic whom was left in a bus lane by police officers further to being off her head. Different stories, but with a theme running through both. Or rather, not so much a theme, but rather an absence of personal responsibility on the part of both. I don't care about either individual, and care even less about the claim that they have been somehow wronged. Perhaps those of a more liberal bent might suggest that these two may have had difficult childhoods, upbringings filled with abuse or an absence of love? And perhaps this may prove to be the case. I still wouldn't care.
Thing is, I genuinely don't care whether they had a rough childhood, because that doesn't mean they have to blame current behaviour or misdemeanours on a past they cannot change. There comes a time for us all when we have to stand as responsible citizens and accept the consequences of our personal choices. In the case of Mr and Mrs Cretin they've demonstrated amply that they've failed to do this. It doesn't matter how rough a ride you've had, nothing justifies the murder of an innocent, nor the failure to show even a trace of personal responsibility or self respect. I actively choose not to care about these buffoons because they've chosen not to care about themselves. For me it really is that simple. And you know what, I think we overdo the compassion when it comes to offenders these days. We try too hard to understand and mitigate abject behaviour, looking instead to find a rationale as to why they may be a certain way. I think we should stop this and work towards a culture where we are all encouraged to be self responsible and self aware. A culture where we do all we can to better ourselves rather than expect the state to sweep in and coddle us into competence. Now please note, I have said before and for clarity I will state again that I have all the time in the world for those who are struggling and who need some support and encouragement to get their lives back on track. We need to be a caring society and we need to help those in genuine need. But I reject all calls to bail out every low life and imbecile who makes no effort to treat others as they would hope to be treated themselves. Let the law judge them, let them wallow in their own indolence and lack of self respect. I don't care, and my energies will be spent supporting and walking alongside those who actually want to improve not only their own lives but those of their fellow man. We've been too lenient for too long. It's time to draw the line in the sand.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

No Plan "B"

So the trial of the killers of Lee Rigby has concluded. Whole life sentences, and a comic book scuffle in the court room. Two guilty men, two tedious humans gullible and credulous and warped by their own particular brand of religious certainty. I wonder how many more like them we shall see? How many other gnat brained "Soldiers of Allah" are waiting in the wings for their fifteen seconds of fame? Somewhere out there are future victims, future bereaved mothers and fathers, siblings and children. Their sentences will also be whole life. How could it be any other way? These days I actively steer clear of religion in all it's forms; I've learned that it has a leech like quality, sucking the precious hours from our lives with its wearisome demands. Oh well, personal choice I suppose. And most believers are kindly and decent and generous and normal. It just saddens me that Rigby's killers pursued their own unique delusion to such an extent that the ramifications cost so many so much. Perhaps the lesson we should learn is that no matter our views, none of us has the right to impose ourselves on others to their detriment. Like I said, I've left religion to its own devices and I've no interest in rekindling my investigation into the issue. I'm done with it. I don't have a dog in that race. I'm content to let others live lives as they see fit. I only wish the extremists, whatever creed they follow, would do us the simple courtesy of taking a similar view? Only that's not how these things work, is it? They believe themselves right, and their opponents really wrong. Apparently some cannot simply live and let live, so I suppose we will never be able to lower our guard. There will be other Rigby's, and other atrocities. This will happen just as surely as the sun will rise. To which I can do no more than shrug, and commit myself to living a life of common decency, allowing those who disagree with me the space to do so. Perhaps that is the truest response to barbarism, to small minded delusion in whatever shape or form it takes. Perhaps we just need to offer a simple alternative, namely to live out our days with gentleness, compassion, an enquiring spirit and no small measure of humour.
It's the best I can offer. And I really don't have a plan B.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Creating A New Space To Play

Anybody who checks out my Facebook page will notice that from time to time I post things about relationships. You've probably also noticed that I'm a huge supporter of marriage and long term commitment. I confess that I've always found myself perplexed when I hear long term couples moan about one another. I'm in the habit now of just saying "Have you communicated that to them? Do they know you feel this way?". I mean seriously, it doesn't say a lot about your communication skills when you can't convey the important stuff to those closest to you. I can't actually think of a better way to shoot yourself in the foot. I get that relationships can be hard, and I get that people don't always find it easy. That said, isn't a relationship about actively trying to make another persons life better, richer, deeper? Isn't it meant to be about looking outward, looking for a level of connection that fuels warmth, affirmation, and above all, fun? Have I missed something? Have I misread the rule book?
Oh yeah, about that. Ain't no rule book. Ain't no right or wrong way to run the show. If I could give one piece of guidance to couples currently struggling it would be to suggest that you just find a recipe that works for you. And if that means being unconventional, creative, then so much the better. I actually suspect that many people get bogged done by should's and ought's, hamstrung by some unwritten social code. Bin it people. Seriously. If you want any relationship to flourish you have to actively seek to fill it with good things. And here's the crux, that's never going to happen unless you communicate what makes you tick. And it's probably also going to take you to places you may not have expected to go. From my perspective, through seeking to better understand my incredible wife I've discovered aspects of my own personality that I never knew existed until just a few months ago. Back then we made a conscious decision to create something that enabled us both to be as authentic and real and transparent as we could be. And with that shared commitment I found myself changing in ways I could never have foreseen. We made ourselves vulnerable, and more importantly we listened really closely to each other. Perhaps in a way we'd never done before. And because of this I'm confident we can say we've unlocked a whole new dynamism, a new way of being. And the best of it is that there's no pretence involved. We're totally one hundred percent ourselves having finally jettisoned a shed load of baggage that we didn't need. We're being totally true to who we are, and our love for each other has increased exponentially.
That person you live with, the one you're possibly sat near to as you read this, how about you make a renewed effort to communicate where you'd like your journey to go? Why don't you take time to see where they're at? Are either of you bringing as many good things to the table as you could? Is there uncharted territory, some undiscovered country you'd like to visit? The good news is that you don't need a passport to go there. Any the journey is half the fun. But you're probably going to have to make yourself vulnerable, and possibly even prepared for a few surprises. Negotiations might be extended, sometimes challenging, and perhaps progress might be slow. But people, it's worth the effort. It's worth going those extra miles to sure up the foundations. And once you've done that, well then you can add an extension, a few extra rooms, and create a new space to play.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Grow A Pair

Sometimes, the amount of stupid in the world makes my brain bleed. Take David Milliband for example, and his declaration that the middle class are in crisis. Thing is, we're actually not. To call it a crisis would be to misunderstand what the word even means. So I may be less affluent, and my pension worth less, and I may even have to work a bit longer. I am, at worst, inconvenienced. Crisis is about being hungry, homeless, lonely and in poor health. Crisis is something dire and frightening. Crisis is not simply having less than you may have had before. When I hear people in authority belch out such sewage it alarms me. Where is the common sense, the honest candour, the methodical evaluation of evidence? Does everything have to be reducible to petty political points scoring and Kleenex grade soundbites? Apparently yes. So let me make a suggestion. Let's recognise how fortunate we are. Let's not assume that we are somehow deserving of some pre ordained standard of living. We're not. We never were. More than that, let's be just a bit grateful that we weren't born in the Sudan, or forced to live according to some bronze age religious creed. Despite having a little less we continue to enjoy levels of affluence and liberty alien to those born a generation or two before. And I fear that we have become so soft, so expectant and so belicose that we render ourselves unable to cope should a real trauma arrive. Once upon a time we British would have baulked at using words such as crisis with such feeble minded ease. We would have deemed such bleeting as absurd. Perhaps we should embrace a similar lack of tolerance towards those who speak so glibly, so weakly, and with such disregard for the meaning of real words. People of Great Britain, stand up, get a grip, and quite frankly grow a pair.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Status Update

Ok, I admit it. I'm out of the habit. Haven't really been writing much. Haven't actually been thinking much, to tell the truth. All to do with my commitment to spending less time thinking about life and more time just living it. I'd forgotten how to enjoy the art of simply going with the flow, and now I've remembered I'm finding that I quite like the peace that comes from thinking less. Last time I checked I had readers in over 50 countries, which I guess isn't too bad. But I never really did this for anybody's benefit but my own. In the event that anybody is remotely interested I'm doing just fine. Actually better than ever. I've become quite fond of living in the real world and I'm committed to spending most of my time here. I don't rail and moan about religion any more, because I actually don't give a damn. Let people believe what they want. I've flushed it from my system, and I'm the better for it. Family life is good, and my relationship with Joy has hit new heights. We've reached new levels of understanding and intimacy, and we are both focused on being everything we want each other to be. I'll never understand why some couples seem so willing to settle for second best, or become so bogged down in routine and convention that they starve each other of the very thing that made them strong in the first place. Big mistake, people. Huge. Are you really so happy to settle for less? Still, none of my business. Anyway, this isn't really a blog. It's more of an extended status update. Life's good, and I'm in a good place. I'm planning to keep at that way.