Category Archives: society

What can I do about Mr Creep?

To clarify: the title question is absolutely not a “/shrugs/ what can I do?” shirking of responsibility. It is a sincere, open request for guidance. Because I’m worried.

I worry that I won’t be able to accurately put across what I want to say, and that these words will hurt instead of help.

I worry that these sorts of abuses happen every day, which they pretty obviously do.

I worry that inattentional blindness means I don’t even register or recognise them when they do.

I worry about the effect incidents like this have on the women in my life, professional and personal, all of whom I hold in the highest regard.

Most of all, I worry that it’s me.

To be clear, I’m not worried for me, but that the problem is me. I am worried that I might be making the lives of the women I work with even the tiniest bit worse.

I consider myself a feminist. I worry a lot that I’m a crappy feminist, and actually make things worse while thinking I’m helping. I want to support the women around me as best I can, and better than I do.

If any of these concerns feel familiar to you, dear male reader, then I hope that that means we’re at least aware that we might be at fault. If so, it is our responsibility to awaken and improve that awareness in others, while we continue to work on ourselves.

I am resolved to do better and I want help to be better. You deserve it.

Aye, Rabbie, ye’ll dae fer me yet!

I was going to offer some thoughts on how I became such a cynical old grump so early in my life, but I actually know perfectly well why. I am faced with the daily spectacle of the sculptured lines of the thoroughbred racecar that is “the Utopian ideal” being dashed to a crumpled, fiery mess on the Armco of reality.

Most people seem to deal quiet happily with this, but, as a Champion of Freedom of Justice and wielding, as I do, the Twin Swords of Truth and Beauty (yes, I do have a permit), I cannot let this stuff slide.

The disturbing thing about today’s car crash is that it concerns my homeland. While it is, largely, a place of spectacular beauty, bursting at the tartan seams with tim’rous beasties and sonsie-faced chieftains, I, as something of a returning ex-pat, see bits of it with an outsiders eye. These are the bits that trouble me.

The thing that triggered this post nearly made me crash the Righteous Chariot. Not really, but it sounds better, plus it continues the car-crash plot device used so deftly above. As I piloted said Chariot along the jeweled highways of this bonnie land, I met a bus coming the other way. So far, so good. The bus, however, was not in service. OK, so? Aye, reader, here comes the rub.

Instead of simply reading “Not in Service”, the high heid-yins of First Bus (Scotland) have decided that the natives would feel less aggrieved at the lack of service if the message read “Ah’m no’ in service”.

I’m no doubt in somewhat of a minority among my fellow countrypersons (save The ‘Boy, who has already voiced his displeasure) but this use of “Scottish”, instead of the more widely relevant English, jars with me. I come from what I consider to be a well-spoken home and have been well educated at my parent’s expense. I therefore opt to converse in correct English, that having been what I was taught.

It is then, perhaps, no surprise that on hearing a broad Scots accent, I immediately assume that person to be educationally inferior, an assumption that has no basis in fact whatsoever. As with all accents, those that sport them range from the wealthiest tycoons and university fellows to the Burberry tracksuit-clad dropouts in the dole queue.2.

I have not been able to reconcile this at least partially correct position, that’s what bothers me. Being a man of words, it grates when those words are butchered. But the purpose of words is to communicate, so there is little point being all precious about the ways when the means are achieved.

And so to the opiate of the Central Belt masses: football3. The problem here really has very little to do with football, the game, and rather more to do with religion, the universal excuse. If your family indoctrinated you in the ways of the Vatican, you have to support the Green Team. If you don’t, you have to support the Blue Team (or the Dark Red Team).

Either way, you now have a socially-accepted reason for singing bigoted songs at each other, marching down the street and glassing people in pubs because they’re wearing the wrong colour jacket. Having been given the choice of imaginary friend, I chose a small dog called Gerald who never, in any circumstances, caused me to glass anyone in a pub and never complained when I left him on the train.

This nation has been ruled from afar for a great deal of its history, which has been a cause for complaint over the years. The fact that, when left to govern ourselves, we have traditionally fallen back to the tried and trusted political technique of glassing each other in pubs for wearing the wrong tartan is conveniently ignored.

Having been allowed a modicum of self reliance, I can understand that the nation feels the need to flex its historical muscles and shed its imperial skin in order to move forward. I would like to think that the country that invented pretty much everything4 could learn from its own divided history and move forward into the shortbread-tin sunset, without having to glass someone on the way.

I’m sure that all countries are the same, its just that this country is mine5.

! Oh, Robert [Burns], you’ll do for me yet! I’m referring to the poet’s use of Scots in his work, and how its use by Modern Scots people, for me at least, somewhat soils his work.
2 Wow, all the stereotypes are coming out today.
3 Other than actual opiates and drink. Oh, and claiming benefits.
4 Well, every good thing!
5 Which hopefully goes some way to explaining the tortured meanderings of this post.

Can Islamic and Christian law coexist? Should they?

Image from BBC News
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams – who has to have been a Unix Sysadmin at some point – says the adoption of certain aspects of Sharia law in the UK “seems unavoidable”. His comments have attracted a great deal of criticism and hostility from all faiths and political leanings.

Britain used to have the largest Empire in the world. While those days are long gone, the Commonwealth of nations that used to comprise the Empire retain strong links with Britain. Additionally, Great Britain is an EU member state. This means that, since we’re one of the richest members of either of those two groupings, we get more than our share of immigrants.

To make my stance clear, I have no problem with the concept of immigration – to a point. I am all for people coming to this country, obeying our laws and paying their way. Society benefits from change. A society that deals with change in a positive way is a rare and wonderful thing.

I’m generally against people who come here to enjoy the benefits of our welfare state without making any effort to earn those benefits. This goes equally, if not more so, for British people who fall into this welfare-sponging category.

This rather unilateral stance doesn’t help those people who are maimed, or irretrievably stupid, or who face death if they go back to their own country. Society generates these people, so it is the responsibility of Society to look after them.

Britain is predominantly Christian country and our rules are based, in part, in the statements made in the Bible; thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal and so on. It is also an immensely traditional country, traditions that have acquired the weight of law over the centuries.

We now have a good proportion of people who do not recognise the British Rule of Law first and foremost. In the case of Muslims, their Sharia law is derived from the Koran and the life of the prophet Mohammed. Since the system of belief seems to be synonymous with their system of law, their obeyance of Sharia law will inevitably find them in violation of the law of the land; Britain in this case.

I am kinda on the Dr Williams’ side when he says that certain elements of Sharia law may need to find themselves into British law. However, this is Britain and the addition of Sharia law should not weaken British law. Where the two are in conflict, I think that British law should prevail. If someone has come to a country, they should accept that sacrifices have to be made.

Having written that, I can understand that Muslims view Sharia law as inviolable. If the situations were reversed and there were a Christian enclave in a Muslim country, I doubt that that country would alter their system of law to accommodate other beliefs.

Image from Wikipedia
I think this stems from the fact that Islam is a more rigorous religion. Christianity is much more relaxed in it approach. Muslims are required to pray daily, observed certain restrictions in diet and attend the Hajj at least once in their life. Christians have no such requirements.

In conclusion, I think that elements of Sharia law would doubtless strengthen British law, due to its roots in the strict Islamic faith, but this should not be to the detriment of the British system of law and the absolutes that it’s citizens understand. Likewise, we should welcome those elements of immigrants’ society that enrich our own, but reject those that do not.

And if you don’t like it, you know where you can go.

Health and Safety

If you were asked to come up with bywords for a Happy Life, then Safety and Health have got to be up near the top. Life isn’t nearly so much fun without your health, or when living in fear.

But when you put the words together and form a government quango1, the effect is ruined. Health and Safety. Two words that, while outwardly laudable and fluffy, are the antithesis of everything that got humans where we are today.

Let’s deal with Health first. It is clear from my many posts that I do not rank or value human beings, or human life, higher than other forms of life just because we are replete with raincoats, railways and rubber wellies. Let’s face it; we got lucky. The mutations were in our favour. I believe – sorry, wrong word in this context, I know – that Evolution has resulted in our present form. Survival of the Fittest, only the strong survive, all that jazz.

Put simply, if you weren’t healthy, you died. So, if everyone was healthy, evolution would not have caused us to become the fine, upstanding sentient carbon-based bipedal lifeforms we are today. So Health, in the context of the species, is not helpful. Health, as I have argued it, is contrary to the progression of the species from a genetic standpoint.

So to Safety. Taking risks is one of the things that makes life worth living. They have discovered that certain people are more predisposed to taking risks than others. These days the adrenalin junkies jump out of planes and off tall buildings; the closer you are to death, the more you feel alive. It is the adrenalin junkies of old – or yore, if you will – who progressed the species.

Where would we be if Greatn Uncle Tharg hadn’t gone out of the cave to kill mammoths because it wasn’t safe, or if people hadn’t travelled the world, wanting to see what was beyond that horizon? For one thing, I wouldn’t be here writing this. These people did not perform a risk assessment to consider the safety implications of setting out across an ocean of unknown size. They just went ahead and did it. A disregard for safety is one of the things that has led humans to our place in the world.

As a case in point, there was a story in yesterday’s Times about a volunteer member of the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency2 who felt compelled to resign because he had rescued a teenage girl from a cliff without stopping to perform a risk assessment and don the approved protective equipment and got in trouble as a result. A spokesman for the MCA stated that they were “not looking for dead heroes”. But they’re the best kind!!!

Society has given us many great things, things that could not be imagined without the comforts of health and personal safety. It could be argued that, for the vast majority of us, Health and Safety, enshrined in standard and law, are key to delivering the society we want. But do we really want to have to jump through quite so many hoops?

On the outskirts of society, where the ages old battle of Life against Death finds you hanging off a cliff by a tuft of grass, the rules of society are instantly rendered mute, impotent, meaningless by the overriding imperative of preservation of Life.

So, I salute Paul Waugh, 44, of Cleveland, England3, for being a Great Human Being and reminding me what being Human should be about.

1 The Health and Safety Executive. You may as well call them the Department for the Prevention of Humanity.
2 about the use of the word “Agency” next to a British organisation smacks of an attempt to get some of the cool to rub off from “The Agency”. I’m embarrassed that they even tried…
3 So as not to confuse the Americans.

Obesity: A growing social problem

It’s pretty clear that obesity is a growing issue in modern society. Studies show – meaning they threw some numbers at the wall and wrote down the ones that stuck – that over half of the UK will be obese by 2050 and that treatment of obesity cost the NHS £7bn in 2002, a number that is only going to increase. That’s a lot of new schools, hospitals and policepersons.

Now, I accept that many people are obese through no fault of their own, but the sad fact is that there will be a significant proportion of obese people who could get thinner but are hiding behind the excuse that the genuinely, genetically obese people provide.

The other twist is that there will be some obese people who don’t give a damn about the ‘ideal’ body image projected by society, who are quite happy with their weight and who, if given the chance, would eat burgers for their rest of their days in complete contentment. Are we telling these people that they’re not allowed, in a free society, to do what makes them happy?

The truth is that society is not free. Society is a trade, economics at it’s simplest. a democracy gives you various wonderful freedoms to enjoy but, in return, these freedoms need to be policed and you have a responsibility not to impinge on the freedoms of others. Do not threaten another man’s freedoms, lest he threaten yours.

The problem I have with the linked article is that they make the blanket statement that obesity ‘is not individual’s fault’. In some cases, that will probably be true, but in a lot of cases it will be complete rubbish. It’s yet another case of the powers that be removing responsibility from people.

I can understand that They think that evidence shows that people can’t control themselves so They have to take responsibility. But what this does is remove the onus from the individual. Gradually, our dominion over our self is being removed. More and more we are told what to do, where to go, what to eat, what to think: soon there will be no part of us that does not fall under the aegis of some faceless government agency and the notion of ‘individuals’ will be no more.

I was going to go into some extremist rant there about how we should abandon people to their fate and provide only basic support, thereby forcing people to look after themselves. But then the little bloke in white on the other shoulder piped up with “what about the people who can’t look after themselves?”.

Which means that since – and while – society is beholden to those less fortunate, those who are only pretending to be less fortunate will have a free ride and consume resources better spent on those that really need it. It means that the few – the freeloaders – are ruining it for everyone. In other words, minority rules.

Once again, those who take responsbility for themselves are going to suffer because of those who do not.

Blogging Destroys Civilisation, apparently.

The attached article jerked me out of my self-important, self-aggrandizing daze and jerked its columns at the patches of dead grass and rabid rabbits that lurk in the leafy nirvana that is Web 2.0. The Palace is a nice place to be. Here I am safe. From here I can rain down Righteous Justice on the dictators, the lawbreakers, the wrongdoers and the ne’erdowells. Your God is in his/her/their celestial house and all is right in the Web.

Or not. Enough metaphor.

The author cites quotes from people of whom I have never heard (but who are promoted as experts and sages) who encourage me to believe their assertion that blogging is “all about digital narcissism, shameless self-promotion”, or that blogs “do not add to the available stock of commentary; they are purely parasitic on the stories and opinions that traditional media provide.

Of these two quotes, I can agree with the first in the case of the virtual bike sheds that are the social networking sites, but the second strikes me as the pot calling the kettle a negro. We are all parasitic on society. Papers, TV and the internet are merely transmission mechanisms for stories and opinions created by people. Traditional news outlets only create stories when the world fails to generate its share. This differs from net-based content only in the medium and manner in which it is delivered and that it has been around a bit longer.

Which brings me to the next bone of contention; presentation. I agree that the social networking sites are primarily the domain of the teenager; indeed, the parallels bring back such memories as to make me avoid them completely. The quote;”We are creating a world in which everybody can talk – or , more commonly, shout – about themselves to everybody else.”

Put like that, it sounds like a bad thing. But while the newspapers and evening news are geared towards adults, social networking sites are not. Therefore, one cannot compare one by the standards of the other. In this connected world where every individual has the crushing fact of its insignificance thrust down its throat every day, these sites provide a beacon of hope, the chance to have your say without fear of let or hinderance.

The very word “individual” is losing its meaning. Those choices that make us individuals are no longer ours to make. This “round hole” society we have created generates row upon row of uniformly square pegs. Given that fact, are we so surprised that people feel the need to shout “I AM NOT A NUMBER!” to anyone who will listen?

The article also suggests that blogs are generally1 “claustrophobic environment(s), appealing chiefly2 to a certain kind of agressive, point-scoring male and utterly off-putting to everyone else”. The author of this comment believes signing your real name to your online contributions is the only way to ensure that people are more civil to each other. I can kinda see the point, but it’s no magic bullet and even if it were, you can’t make someone use their real name. And those who do will wind up getting death threats from those who do not.

Abusive content cannot be blamed on blogs, nor is abusive online content a new thing. People have been flaming each other in forums and on bulletin boards even before Sir Tim added the FORM tag to HTML 2.0 back in 1995. And it’s no good the newspapers getting all superior; the papers are never short of vitriol. The only difference is that the words generally have more syllables, the better to confuse the target and reduce the possibility of litigation.

It’s a case of “It’s my ball and I’m taking it home”. The internet has given those of us who scrawl our words upon it the power to commit our thoughts to immortality, a power which, until recently, was the plaything of the MSM. Now we all have to share the ball, the MSM are throwing their toys out of the pram. We all have to learn to play nice and share.

The Web is in its infancy, its ability to inform opinion and shape policy still very much underdeveloped. Like all kids, it needs to have its boundaries set, its transgressions punished and its good deeds rewarded. I don’t feel that the MSM is the body to do that, in the same way that I wouldn’t want a sullen older brother, jealous of the shift of attention to its pudgy, drooling little brother, to decide what’s best for it.

Do we need regulating? Sooner or later the web will grow, lose the puppy fat, grow some teeth and learn how to articulate itself properly. Until that time, if the Web 2.0 decides to poo itself and throw up on the rug once in a while, we should let it.

Blogging does not destroy civilization. If something as basic as freedom of speech can destroy civilization, then it deserves to die. Asking us to gag ourselves to save civilization is destined for failure. If you want us to save the world, you have to be sure we like it the way it is.

1 Always a dangerous word; you will always piss off the few to placate the many.
2 “generally” with fewer medals.