Fear leads to Anger…

I have written before about my dislike of the intolerant, so this article will not come as much of a shock to those of you familiar with my way of expressing myself. To those of you unfamiliar with me, brace yourselves: this could be a bumpy ride.

I am a huge fan of the Star Wars universe (well, excluding The Phantom Menace, anyway) and I am also a believer in LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) rights, so when a bunch of right-wing, religious lunatics like the Florida Family Association attack EA Games for including the option for same-sex relationships in Star Wars: The Old Republic, I find my wrath beginning to surface. The Florida Family Association, a non-profit charity dedicated to “[educating] people on what they can do to defend, protect and promote traditional, biblical values”, wrote an article that accused Bioware, EA Games and Lucas Films of bowing to pressure from “LGBT activists” to include non-heterosexual characters in their games. They claim that “there were no LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) characters in any of the Star Wars movies”.

"I beg your pardon?"

Have they seen the films? C3P0 is about as fabulous as you can get! Anyway, they are suggesting that LGBT pressure groups are forcing EA and their subsidiary companies to include same-sex relationship choices in the game. Jeff Brown, EA’s Vice President of Corporate Communications (which, in fairness, sounds like an Imperial job title), denies that any pressure was placed on them and denounces criticism as “political harassment”. Good for him! The American Decency Association joined the fight, claiming that the inclusion of LGBT options was an “attack on the hearts and minds of children” and accused Bioware of “social engineering”. They also state that the films were “family fare”, which they were – especially if you include incest as “family fare”.

Family Fun?

Quite.

The American Decency Association is also accusing EA/Bioware of “censoring” comments by parents who are opposed to the move, by removing them from the website. However, EA’s Jeff Brown simply said “we don’t tolerate hate speech on our forums”, which rather suggests that the complaints were not worded in an acceptable way. A quick glance at the American Decency Association or the Florida Family Association websites would certainly support this. Both websites refer to LGBT characters as “social agenda characters”, rather than focusing on the simple fact that the player can CHOOSE to play a homosexual character. This is not being forced on anyone, although the Florida Family Association does point out that Bioware will not ” create game rules that would allow regular players to prohibit entry into their games by these social agenda characters.  That would be discrimination (sarcasm.) [sic]” Helpful of them to point out the sarcasm there, we might have missed it otherwise. On the plus side, they won’t force you to play “social agenda” characters either. Because that would also be discrimination. They allow you to choose. Which isn’t.

The ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) has classified SW:TOR as T for Teen, recommending that only players aged 13 or over have access to it. This is because it may contain elements unsuitable for younger children, such as ” violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language”. Hmm. No mention of steamy, man-on-man action there. Maybe they didn’t notice it. Or maybe they don’t consider homosexual relationships to be something that children need protecting from.

Won't somebody please think of the children?!

Either way, if their children are playing these games, it means that they are bad parents. Simple.

This is, of course, a load of right-wing, extremist nonsense. Children don’t need to be protected from homosexuals, they need to be educated about them. They need to realise that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality so that those who are gay don’t grow up feeling the need to pretend to be someone else, with all the psychological pressure that entails. Groups like the American Decency Association and the Florida Family Association need to have the language that they use exposed for what it is: attempted brainwashing. They knowingly use phrases like “social agenda characters”, or “trying to capture the minds of our children”, or “force this offensive content on a captured audience of hundreds of thousands of children”, or “LGBT…activists”, or “radical homosexual extremists”… I could go on.

In fact, I think I will.

“Electronic Arts would shatter that family quality”, or “harassing the game community”, or “a lot of them expressing anger that their kids will be exposed to this Star Warped way of thinking”, or “propaganda”, or “these LGBT activists are pummeling Florida Family Association” (which does at least conjure up images suggesting the real reason behind their fears!).

"You got a real purdy mouth!"

While these comments are not in themselves openly homophobic, they do use the persuasive techniques and biased language in a blatant attempt to influence their audience. As their audience is largely comprised of (dare I say it) ill- or under-educated, right-wing, knee-jerk fundamentalist Christians, this kind of ‘subtle’ manipulation is often very effective. Political activists of all shades of opinion have been using these techniques for centuries – look at the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, John F Kennedy, Margaret Thatcher, George Bush, Mao Zedong, Che Guevara. It is particularly effective among those who traditionally do not ask questions, such as fundamentalist religious groups (and I’m not deliberately having a go at religion again, just those who abuse their power over those less well-educated, such as politically motivated religious leaders and pressure groups). Of course, the pro-gay side has the right to use such tactics as well, but they face an uphill struggle, as they are going against the ingrained teachings of generations of homophobic morons. The fact is that homosexuality hasn’t been seen as a bad thing for as long as most people think. Plato (424-328BC) wrote about the way that same-sex relationships were a healthy part of any young man’s love life, although he changed his views later in life, possibly as a result of changing societal norms. Roman rulers were almost all bisexual and openly took male lovers and it wasn’t until Emperor Theodosius I (a Christian ruler) that homosexuality was banned. East Asian countries have long accepted homosexuality and transgender as equal to heterosexuality, especially in Thailand (the famous ‘ladyboys’) and Japan, where samurai warriors would often engage openly in same-sex relationships.

Samurai: Well gay.

It is almost always religion that suppresses, criminalizes and persecutes those people who do not conform to their expectations or belief systems. This includes followers of other sects, ideologies or lifestyles. Religious institutions see themselves as the moral and spiritual guides to society, even if (especially if) that society does not want them to be. Homosexuality is illegal in most Muslim countries, and frowned upon by extremist Christian groups in the West. It is these extremists that are attempting to force their narrow view of loving, and sexual, relationships on the general populace once again. I am by no means tarring all Christians with the same brush. It is not my intention to attack any religion for its attitude to homosexuality. I know some Christians who support same-sex marriage. I even know at least one openly gay clergyman. It is the fringe groups, like the Florida Family Association, the American Decency Association, the Westboro Baptist Church, that are trying to force their petty, narrow-minded and bigoted ideologies on the rest of us. They accuse EA and Bioware of giving in to pro-gay pressure groups, a minority that was trying to prevent the First Amendment rights of the anti-gay movements, which obviously ignores the First Amendment rights of the pro-gays. It’s all a bit confusing, isn’t it!

Well, no. It shouldn’t be confusing. It’s a fairly simple situation. Let’s go through it step-by-step.

Step 1: If you are offended by homosexual content in a video game, don’t play the video game.

Step 2: There is no Step 2.

Oh, well, I guess it’s not that confusing after all!

So, if you find yourself complaining about something that isn’t being forced on you, there is a simple solution: Shut the fuck up. The LGBT community has had your bigotry and hate forced on them for years – they have a right to complain. You have noticed that you could choose to have a gay relationship in a video game – you have the right to silence, please exercise it.

 

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Crime and Politics…The Situation is Always Fluid.

Our once great nation is sick. It’s not been healthy for some time, but we’ve been able to kid ourselves that the situation was temporary, just a glitch, things would get better.

But it’s not.

There is a serious problem in Britain today, and it is only getting worse. The chancellor, George Osbourne, on behalf of the ConDem government, has recently revealed a budget that relieves tax burdens on the rich, while increasing tax burdens on the poor, disabled and elderly. The ConDem government has just passed a bill in which the NHS, the greatest health institution ever created, is being broken up and privatised with £5 billion worth of savings targeted for 2015 (paid for by selling bits and laying off staff, thus creating a less efficient system).  Cameron is currently trying to deflect blame for a scandal in which the co-treasurer of his Conservative Party, Peter Cruddas, was caught on camera offering access to the Prime Minister in return for donations to the party of £250,000.

In May 2011, a referendum was held on changes to the electoral system. The current system, known as First Past The Post or the plurality system, is inherently flawed and yet nearly 68% of voters chose not to change to the AV (Alternative Vote). Well, 68% of the 42% of voters that bothered to vote. This suggests that the general public are just as at fault as the politicians. After all, we live in a democracy, right?

Right?

Well, not quite. A democracy, from the Greek demokratia – ‘rule by the people’, implies that the ‘rulers’ should be selected from the population rather than putting themselves forward for election. Douglas Adams, in his Hitch-Hikers Guide series, stated that anyone who wanted to be in charge should automatically be eliminated from the running. This was meant as a wittily derogatory remark about politicians and their motivations, but there is some sense in what he says. A system whereby individuals are chosen from the voting register at random to fulfil government posts for a set time is one possibility, but is obviously deeply problematic. Members of the public are not necessarily capable of fulfilling the duties of political office, nor should they be expected to. The running of government should be in the hands of people who are trained to do it. Unfortunately, politicians aren’t trained to do it. David Cameron was educated at Eton, school of choice for the moneyed classes, and won a scholarship to Oxford University (ditto). Eton almost guarantees a place in a prestigious university as it is, undeniably, a very good school.  And so it should be, as it charges over £30,000 per year (not including additional fees for music lessons and so on). That pays for a lot of good grades.

You can almost smell the smug, self-satisfied bastards sweating money, can't you?

With this in mind, it’s hardly surprising that the Conservatives see everything in terms of money. The NHS being privatised isn’t about providing a better service, it’s about making money. We know that privatisation doesn’t improve services. The Tories tried it in the 80s and it didn’t work too well then either. The banks and the big businesses (easy targets, I know) are making money hand over bastard fist, and yet they escape having to pay too much tax because they are in bed with the government (hopefully only metaphorically).

Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats (the other party in the current coalition government), has betrayed his party and his supporters. The Liberal Democrats are the opposite of the Conservatives. They should be progressive, socially responsible, instead Clegg has turned into Cameron’s lapdog, constantly agreeing with his boss’s ideas, regardless of their impact on the country. He saw the chance for a little bit of reflected glory and a whiff of power and went for it, damning the consequences and binning his principles (assuming he actually had some to begin with). He needs to do the right thing and dissolve the coalition, forcing a general election.

I should pause at this point and admit something. I don’t often talk in detail about politics, because I don’t really know that much about it (as anyone who does will no doubt have noticed). I know enough to bluff my way in pub conversations, but not enough to go on Newsnight, which is only one of many reasons that I’ve never been invited on. I am in no way the ‘voice of the average man on the street’ either, because I am fairly representative of the liberal middle-England (raised in Hampshire, father was an officer in the Royal Engineers, I’ve worked mainly in white-collar industries, I have a degree and I’m a teacher – you don’t get much more middle-class). I am a liberal and proud of it. I believe firmly in all of the good things that progressive governments have done for this country. Our education system used to be second to none, our healthcare was superlative, our benefits system was fair and genuinely helped some of the neediest people in our society. We used to have industries in this country, men and women working hard (albeit not always in the safest or healthiest environments) and making world class products: steel, ships, cars. What do we have now? Call centres. And even those are being outsourced.

Britain has become a nation of consumers, not producers. Creativity is not valued. Passion is not valued. Only money is valued. Success is measured by the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the house you own. We have no say in the running of our own country. Cameron’s government suppressed a report into the risks of the NHS bill, preventing it from being read by the very people who were supposed to be making an informed choice about it. If politicians in the Houses of bloody Parliament don’t have a fair say in the political arena of Britain, what chance do the rest of us have? Even when protesters take to the streets of our nation’s capital, they are almost invariably ignored.

"Go back to sleep, Britain! Your government is in control!"

Well, you could always become a religious spokesperson. That way you’ll be able to have your views listened to by government all the time. It was revealed today that three MPs have decided to try to force the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) to reverse its decision to ban a religious advert that suggests that prayer can heal illnesses. A Christian cult…sorry, Christian GROUP in Bath were banned from using advertising leaflets featuring these words:

NEED HEALING? GOD CAN HEAL TODAY!… We believe that God loves you and can heal you from any sickness.

Apparently, those knee-jerk liberals at the ASA decided that this was misleading, and could potentially stop some people from seeking medical advice. I know, crazy fools! The clever and insightful MPs (Conservative Gary Streeter, Labour’s Gavin Shuker and Liberal Democrat Tim Farron – see? All three major parties represented These guys must represent the majority, right?) ask a very serious question of those facists at the ASA:

On what scientific research or empirical evidence have you based this decision?

Excuse me, I just need some air. You may have noticed the slightest hint of sarcasm about that previous paragraph, but I swear that quote is genuine. These three fucking lunatics have genuinely asked for ‘scientific research’ and ’empirical evidence’ to prove that prayer doesn’t heal people. My initial response would be ‘oh, do fuck off’, but, on reflection, I think we can do better. How about the fact that we need medicine? Or doctors? Or the fact that people still die from illness? Or the fact that prayer DOESN’T FUCKING CURE SICKNESS?! The burden of proof in this case is quite clearly on those who claim that it has an effect, rather than on the people who claim it doesn’t. If you want prayer included in the list of acceptable and effective medical treatments, then you have to prove that it does work in a statistically significant number of cases.

The letter to the ASA also includes some anecdotal evidence. Sorry. Not good enough. You were the ones that mentioned ‘scientific research’ so you can go away and perform clinical trials with control groups and placebos and all the rest, to try and prove that prayer can heal. At the very least, it will shut you up long enough for doctors to actually heal some more people, rather than mumbling in Latin at them before demanding their cash to pay for more shiny hats.

Now THAT'S a shiny fucking hat!

These so-called Christians In Parliament should not be bringing religion into politics. There needs to be a complete divide between the church and the state. We are not a Christian nation. It is difficult to accurately measure the number of religious people in the UK, as was proven by the Humanist Society. When people were asked “What is your religion?” over 53% responded ‘Christian’. Fairly easy to measure, I hear you say. Well, hold on, because when those SAME people were asked “Are you religious?” 65% said no. More interestingly, it was found that less than 10% of the population attend a place of worship regularly. And that 10% includes all religions in the UK, not just Christians.

From this we can deduce that Christian churches represent the views of about 6% of the population of the country, or about half the population of Greater London. From that, we can further deduce that they have ABSOLUTELY NO SAY IN THE RUNNING OF THE COUNTRY! They do not get to dictate morals or laws any more.

But who does? We have already seen that Cameron’s government is morally bankrupt, willing to take under-the-table ‘donations’ in order to gain access to the Prime Minister. Why would someone want to do that? Well, access to the PM allows an individual, or a representative of a ‘group of concerned citizens’, or a pressure group, to make suggestions to the leader of our country. These suggestions will come from someone who is clearly a supporter of what Cameron stands for, right? Otherwise they wouldn’t have such privileged access… You see? It is clearly an unacceptable and corrupt way of doing things, which is why Cameron was so quick to damn his treasurer when the news came out, quick to condemn his actions, quick to distance himself from a situation that he, in all probability, was entirely aware of.

We need to take the power back.

We need to refuse to have our voices ignored any longer.

We need to demand transparency and involvement in the politics of our country.

Maybe then we can make Britain great once again.

Unleash the Rage…

I woke up this morning with the intention of writing about things that make me happy. Then I walked down the High Street and came into contact with people. All feelings of goodwill promptly vanished and were replaced with a boiling pit of violent fury, lightly flavoured with a sprinkling of deep contempt for all humanity. This changed my plans somewhat.

Therefore, I am writing a short list of some of the things that really piss me off.

Rage Cause #1: Ignorance

Ignorance is probably my most common trigger for anger. I mean ignorance in the truest sense of the word, before people get their knickers in a twist. Ignorance does not necessarily imply a lack of intelligence, although that may be a part of it. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge or information, but shares a root with ‘ignore’. This suggests that the ignorant person refuses to ‘see’ information when it is presented to them.

For example, fundamentalist religions are often ignorant, in that they refuse to accept the theories and facts put forward by the scientific community. They may refuse to even enter the debate on subjects such as evolution (beyond denying it). This isn’t a(nother) rant about religion though, so I’ll skip over this example…

This refusal to engage in discussion, which is a clear message that they assume that the other person has nothing important to say, is hugely insulting, especially coming from someone who would probably have difficulties dressing themselves in the morning. Despite the fact that I know their opinions don’t matter (if they aren’t willing to engage, who cares, right?), it still really, REALLY gets on my nerves when people simply don’t listen to explanations. Bastards.

Ignorance is also responsible for the behaviour of people in the street. When walking on a crowded pavement, the sensible person is generally aware of the people around them, avoiding collisions by making constant corrections to direction and speed. If they need to cross the flow of people, they will judge their crossing so as to inconvenience the least number of fellow pedestrians, and should they need to stop they will do so at a point that does not cause an obstruction.

A statistically significant proportion of people are arseholes. Fact.

Unfortunately, crowded pavements often seem to be made up of less-than-sensible people. These ignorant morons walk in a completely straight line, either unaware of the other people trying to use the pavement, or uncaring that their progress along the pavement is causing massive problems to the people that get shoved aside or have to contort themselves to avoid such a fate. These people lurch out of shops directly into the stream of traffic, causing multiple person pile-ups, or stop dead in the middle of the pavement to have a conversation with a friend, becoming a clot in the blood flow of society.

This attitude extends to the road as well, where the ignoramus in question is suddenly in control of two tonnes of speeding metal. I humbly suggest that this is not a good thing. The sense of pure arrogance that these people barge through life with gives them an inflated sense of confidence, which in turn leads to them choosing to ignore basic rules, such as ‘Give Way’ signs, or rights of way. Unfortunately, when these people cause accidents, it is often other people that get injured or killed.

As a teacher, the subject of ignorance comes up a lot. ‘Why do we need to read a book? Why can’t we just watch the film?’ is something that is often asked in the classroom. A fair question? Well, no. A book is far more than a written version of a film. For a start, it invariably covers a lot more ground than a film, including examining the internal thought processes of the characters. Secondly, watching a film is a passive experience; you are watching someone else’s interpretation of events, characters and locations, rather than exercising your brain in coming up with them yourself. Thirdly, reading is a learning process. The more we read, the wider our vocabulary grows, the more our grammar improves, the greater our store of knowledge. All of human emotion and experience exists within the written world, and we would be fools to allow that to die out.

And speaking of teachers…

Rage Cause #2: Michael Gove

Michael Gove MP, Tory Secretary of State for Education. This will be a difficult section for me to write, because every time I even think the name ‘Michael Gove’ I have to go and lie down until the urge to kill passes.

Michael Gove, MP: Ventriloquist's Dummy of the Damned

Gove is a former journalist who is now in charge of the education of the next generation. This would be funny if it weren’t so scary. Gove has never been a teacher, never had to deal with the immense workload that teachers face, and yet he is dictating how they should do their jobs. He has moved the goalposts several times in the last few years, most notably in regards to the OFSTED inspections that all schools must endure.

To be clear, I am not saying that schools shouldn’t be inspected – obviously there needs to be accountability in education – but the removal of any kind of acknowledgement of the socio-economic background of the students is a ridiculous decision for a start. In areas of lower social class and lower incomes, education is often not valued at home, so the students see very little worth in education. This has a majorly depressive effect on results, one that is very difficult for teachers to counter. Parents have far more influence over children than teachers do (which is exactly how it should be), and this influence often extends to a lack of importance placed on education. But, under Gove’s plans, this is not accepted, so children growing up in affluent areas of the Home Counties are treated identically to children growing up in economically depressed, inner-city sink estates. This is an obvious idiocy, or should be to anyone with half a brain. Of course, all students should be treated equally in theory, but in practise this doesn’t work. A student brought up in a home which is stable and supportive, where they are encouraged and interacted with, where their academic achievements are praised, will naturally do better in school than a student who is raised in a home where they are not valued, where their education is an excuse to get them out of the way for the day, where their primary care-giver is having to work all hours just to keep a roof over their head. I am not being judgemental, merely pointing out that this is the reality for many children in Britain today. The General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers said that it was important to “accept that the job of teaching is made more difficult depending on the home circumstances of pupils. No increased amount of haranguing of teachers or head teachers will alter this fact”.

The reality of teaching for far too many.

The previous OFSTED grades were simple: Unsatisfactory (for schools that were not meeting the appropriate standards), Satisfactory (for those schools that were), Good (for those schools that exceeded the standards) and Outstanding (for those schools that far exceeded the standards). However, Michael Gove, in his infinite wisdom and supported by Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of OFSTED, has decided to change the English language to suit his political needs. Satisfactory is no longer Satisfactory, apparently. Satisfactory is now Requires Improvement. Satisfactory means ‘not trying hard enough’, ‘coasting’, basically ‘unsatisfactory’. If a school gets a Satisfactory grade they will be revisited within eighteen months and will be expected to have shown some improvement in that time. They will be inspected again within a further eighteen months and, if no improvement is shown, will be placed in Special Measures.

This whole procedure seems designed to add to the stress of teaching. Currently teachers get 10% of their teaching timetable for PPA (Planning, Preparation and Assessment); in other words, 10% of their teaching day is for the planning of all lessons and the marking of all work. Obviously, this is ridiculous. Most schools have around a 6 hour teaching day (although that varies from school to school – let’s go with the averages). This means 30 hours of lessons per week, of which around 27 hours will be classroom time, leaving 3 hours a week for PPA. It can take up to an hour (easily) to plan a lesson and prepare resources to the standard expected by OFSTED (and thus many members of senior leadership). That means it can take 27 hours a week just to plan. Marking takes even longer, with a class set of books needing an investment of 2 to 3 hours a week. An average teacher might have seven or eight class sets to teach, requiring a further 14 to 24 hours a week. That means a teacher can realistically be expected to work up to seventy-eight hours a week, not including break/lunch duties, meetings, assemblies, form tutor duties, detention duties, parents evenings and so on. Yes, teachers do get longer holidays than most other workers, but many of those holidays are spent feverishly trying to catch up on the things that get left behind during term-time, like having time to spend with loved ones and rebuilding the relationships that are crumbling because you are constantly stressed out about the amount of work you need to do.

So when Michael Gove says that ‘Unsatisfactory’ teachers will be forced to leave the profession, one is filled with a sense of awe for his reasoning skills. Because clearly sacking loads of teachers makes far more sense than, for example, TRAINING AND SUPPORTING them, so that they can become BETTER TEACHERS. Because that’s just silly.

Rage Cause #3: Intolerance

I appreciate that I may be on slightly thin ice with this one, as I am basically writing an article about what I am intolerant of, but I’ll try and justify it as best as I can while retaining a modicum of credibility.I don’t mean intolerances like lactose intolerance, obviously. The intolerance I mean is the type that is simply pointless. Call it intolerance, call it prejudice, call it whatever you like, it’s the dislike/distrust of a group of people over something that is usually meaningless: race, sexuality, social class, gender and so on. Quite often, the target of the intolerance has no control (race, gender, arguably sexuality) and so the intolerance is doubly stupid. The intolerance is usually based on a stereotype, most of which are just wrong: Women belong in the kitchen, gays are immoral etc.

What a massive KKKunt

Racial intolerance is a typical example. Why? What is the point? I live in Britain, which is, genetically speaking, pretty much a mongrel race. We are not a ‘pure’ example of anything. White Britons can trace their blood back to the Celts, Normans, Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Norsemen, Romans, and any race that had influenced any of them, like the Persians, Greeks, Egyptians. Our language developed from Germanic roots, with healthy influences from the Romance languages, specifically French (our Arch-Enemies – worse even than the Germans!) Britain has traditionally maintained an open-borders policy, welcoming all races, creeds and colours into our country. I’m not suggesting that there has never been racial tension before this generation, but recently I have been dumbfounded by the idiocy of it all. A common argument you will hear is the ‘Britain is full’, and even fairly well-educated people have put this view forward. Well, that’s quite easy to counter. Look at this:

UK Population Density map

The red areas on the map show where lots of people live, the green areas show where virtually no people live. See? Plenty of space left. We don’t need to operate a ‘one out, one in’ system of immigration just yet. Besides, a lot of people coming to this country come here to work, thus stimulating the economy and paying taxes. This is a good thing. And yes, some of them are committing benefit fraud, just like lots of British people are. Mind you, I have been on the dole myself, and I lean towards the opinion that if they manage to actually get any money out of the government, they fucking deserve it! They obviously worked bloody hard for it!

I have, in the past, been referred to as a misogynist. This is not true. I hold no particular loathing for women. I am a misanthropist: I am an equal opportunities hater. Gender politics is a tricky field to skip through, as some angry feminists will assume the worst no matter what you say, and some misogynists will ascribe views to me that I do not hold. I am all in favour of equality and I support the move towards equal gender representation wholeheartedly. However, some radical, extremist feminists do not seem to want equality. It’s an oft-repeated argument, but worth mentioning in this context. It would appear that some of these radical extremists want to invert the gender relationship that has existed for centuries, rather than settle for equality. They are out for revenge for their sisters, women who struggled against male oppression and often died for their beliefs. I am not, in any way, belittling what women have gone through, but many of the inequalities are now gone, and the majority of men alive today were not involved in it, and many are like me, in that they support equality. So don’t tar all men with the same 17th century brush.

On the flipside to that there are the men who truly believe that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, that women don’t have the same rights as men, that they should stay at home, pleasuring their men and popping out babies. Obviously, these people are wrong too. There is a move on the internet at the moment whereby a certain type of deeply insecure male will make constant mention of kitchens, sandwiches and ‘bitches’, and while some of the comments are clearly made as a joke (and often quite funny ones), there are many that are just a thin veneer over hatred and the suggestion of violence. These ‘men’ need to get their heads on straight. All they are doing is reinforcing the stereotype of oppressive and violent masculinity, which has no place in the 21st century.

And somehow that makes them more interesting...

And speaking of something that has no place in the 21st century, I’m back on one of my favourite soapboxes: Homophobia! Seriously, if you are offended by two men kissing, or two women making out, DON’T WATCH! Simple. Just because gay marriage is legal, doesn’t mean you have to have one. It’s legal to have a cock ring too, but that doesn’t mean you have to rush out and stick a 1lb lump of steel through the old chap. It’s all about choice. The arguments against homosexuality are always idiotic. ‘It’s unnatural!’ So are clothes, living in houses and driving cars. ‘It’s immoral’ So is preaching hate, but that hasn’t stopped you. ‘It’s against God’s law’ So are tattoos (Leviticus 19:28), shrimp and crabs (Leviticus 11:10), the handicapped (Leviticus 21:16-23) and shaving (Leviticus 19:27). I like Leviticus. It’s pretty much where the whole ‘God Hates Fags’ idea comes from, so it’s always worth having a few other verses handy for throwing back at homophobic religious nutters.

OK. I think that’s probably enough ranting for now.

What makes you angry? Let me know in the comments below.

The Tyranny of Tolerance

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the highest ranking Roman Catholic in the UK and the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, has unfortunately decided that he has the right to preach morality to the country and in doing so has exposed his unacceptable levels of bigotry and intolerance. How has he done this? He has criticised the government’s plans to legalize same-sex marriage (as opposed to the civil partnerships that are currently allowed in law). These plans WILL NOT force churches to allow same-sex religious ceremonies. They DO NOT have any effect on the religious institutions in the UK. Surely, I hear the logical among you cry, that means it’s got nothing to do with the church then!

Apparently, he disagrees.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien: Really doesn't approve of the cock.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, O’Brien calls the proposition “a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”. Let me highlight what I see as an important part of that sentence: “a universally accepted human right”. Unless you’re gay, in which case the implication is that you don’t have the same human rights as the rest of us. You are somehow less than human. He asks “what will happen to the teacher who wants to tell pupils that marriage can only mean – and has only ever meant – the union of a man and a woman?” The answer, of course, is that nothing will happen, because teachers are currently not allowed to tell pupils that. Teachers have to teach the curriculum, not their own personal opinions. Teachers aren’t even supposed to talk about their own personal political views, in case they unfairly influence the children in their care. He suggests that teachers and pupils will be “the next victims of the tyranny of tolerance, heretics, whose dissent from state-imposed orthodoxy must be crushed at all costs”. Well, as a Catholic cardinal, he’d know all about crushing dissent from orthodoxy.

O'Brien would really hate this.

The cardinal continues by considering “the point of view of the child”. He suggests that same-sex marriage would rob the child of the right to start life with a mother and a father. Much like prison. Or death. Or divorce. I don’t want to get onto the whole “when Catholic priests stop raping kids I might listen to their views on morality” trip (there’s already plenty of that on the internet already), but there is an element of logic to it. Until the Catholic church has its own house in order, they have no place interfering in the running of the country. The Catholic church has a long and despicable record of child abuse within its ranks, so it is repugnant that they would dare to consider “the point of view of the child” or dare to take the moral high ground on issues of childcare. I know that not every Catholic priest is a child molester, but the record of cover-ups is as long and despicable as the record of abuse, and it is unlikely that a high-ranking official (such as cardinal O’Brien) was not aware of such behaviour. I am not for a moment suggesting that O’Brien was involved in either abuse or cover-ups, simply that they existed, as O’Brien’s apologies to the victims over the last decade have proved. In fact, one of His Eminence’s Irish colleagues, Cardinal Seán Brady, was revealed to have been involved in an official church cover up of Father Brendan Smyth’s sexual abuse of dozens of children in the 1970s.

At this point in his article, O’Brien’s prose blossoms into full fantasy as he asks if marriage can be redefined from a man and a woman to a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, what is to stop three men all getting married to each other, or two men and a woman?

“Sex between a man and a woman can be wonderful, provided you can get between the right man and the right woman.” - Woody Allen

Well, so what? If three people decide that they love each other and wish to live like that, who’s to say they shouldn’t be allowed to get married? It may not be your cup of tea, but it would be a bloody boring world if we were all alike, wouldn’t it? Some people find that swinging keeps their marriage fresh and exciting, some people have their marriage ruined by swinging. It’s swings and roundabouts (sorry – couldn’t resist). As long as it is done with the informed consent of all parties, whatever people choose to do to/with/for each other is entirely their business, and if they want to show their commitment to several people at once, why should anyone want to stop them? It isn’t morally degenerate to admit that you are able to love more than one person, so why should it be frowned on? Bigamy is illegal, but why? There is no reason that it should be as long as all parties are aware of, and agree to, the situation! It’s certainly less morally objectionable than rape, or abuse, or using your position as a leading member of a prominent religious group to preach hate and intolerance in an attempt to dictate government policy. There is, or should be, a separation of church and state (especially between the Catholic Church and the state – Just ask Henry VIII). Religious groups can certainly comment and offer their opinion on government decisions, but O’Brien is as guilty of preaching intolerance as Abu Hamza, after all, both used religion as a basis for their messages of hate. Ok, this may be a slight exaggeration. O’Brien has not, at time of writing, shown support for a medieval theocracy determined to subjugate women, homosexuals, other religions… Oh, hang on…

O’Brien claims that the fact that churches would not be required to perform same-sex marriages if they did not wish to is “staggeringly arrogant”, and states that “no Government has the moral authority to dismantle the universally understood   meaning of marriage”, presumably because the “moral authority” belongs to him. As I understand it, as far more than the “small minority of activists” that he alludes to understand it, marriage is the union in law of two people who are willing to publicly declare their love for, and ongoing commitment to, each other. I’m sure that you have noticed the lack of gender-specific terms in my definition. Cardinal O’Brien, on the other hand, is adamant that marriage has “only ever meant the legal union of a man and a woman”. Tradition is obviously important, especially to such a venerable institution as the Catholic Church. After all, they have not changed anything for many centuries. Except their attitude to slavery. And the age of the earth. And that atheists and heretics should be executed, as should anyone who translates the bible into English. And a few more things, now that I think about it.

This man is entitled to his opinion, of course, but he should be very careful about the message he is conveying. It is very easy to read his article (available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/9121424/We-cannot-afford-to-indulge-this-madness.html) as a direct attack on homosexuality, rather than an attack on same-sex marriages (although this is a largely semantic distinction). He describes marriage as a universal human right, before going on to explain why he thinks homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to have that right. O’Brien has never been afraid to court controversy, and this may simply be a way to convince his followers that he and his institution are still relevant in today’s society. And so they may be, to their followers, but they are not to me. They have no right to preach morality to me: I do not live in a Catholic state. I do not subscribe to their dogma. I do not believe their stories. I do not want them to try to tell me what i can or cannot do, who I can or cannot marry.

And neither should you.

UPDATE: The Coalition For Equal Marriage (C4em) has a petition to sign if you are in favour of same-sex marriages. Please take a few minutes to sign up at http://www.c4em.org.uk/. Thank you.

Sickening examples of belief

Christmas Day, 2010. Police are called to a flat in East London. They find a fifteen-year-old boy dead in a bathtub. He has over 100 injuries. He has been starved, beaten and tortured over a period of three days by his sister and her boyfriend.

RIP Kristy Bamu: Victim of his sister, Magalie, and her boyfriend, Eric Bikubi.

Why?

Because they believed that Kristy Bamu, a fifteen-year-old boy, was trying to hurt them with magic.

Take another look at that date. 2010. 21st century Britain and people are still being murdered because someone else thinks they are a witch. It all stems from Kindoki, a belief system associated with the Christian faiths of Subsaharan Africa, especially D.R. Congo. D.R. Congo, which is where Kristy Bamu and his family originated, has a population of over seventy million people, almost half of which are Christian. There are a large number of Christian sects that incorporate traditional beliefs into their methods of worship, including a strong belief in Kindoki. This has led to thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people (usually children) being abused in the name of God.

This is, frankly,unacceptable in this day and age. There is simply no excuse for people to be so poorly educated that they subscribe to these barbaric practices. I do not hold with the idea that ‘traditional beliefs should be respected’, not if those beliefs include torture and murder of others, especially children.

Do we really need to spell it out? Ok, I will: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MAGIC! Sorry to break it to you, but there it is. If you believe that there is, then the burden of proof lies with you, not me. Prove to me, unequivocally, that magic exists and can have a solid, physical effect on the world and I will happily change my tune. I will proclaim it from the highest buildings. I will go on national television and declare my faith in magic. I will cut off my genitals with a rusty hacksaw and nail them to my head. That’s how completely sure I am that no-one will ever be able to  prove it.

Sadly, not all victims of witchcraft get better.

I know some people who describe themselves as Wiccan and believe in magic. I respect their belief, but cannot accept that it is anything except absolute horseshit. If it gives them comfort, fine, but I am reasonably sure that they would never torture someone to death because they thought he was using magic against them. The worst that they might do is mutter a vague hope that their enemy hurts himself in some way and wait for an accident so that they could claim a victory. Hardly worth burning them at the stake, is it?

So where does the Christian fear of witchcraft come from? Because it IS a Christian influence, even if it is tied in with pre-Christian belief systems. Well, the obvious answer is Exodus 22:18 – Thou Shalt Not Suffer A Witch To Live. Here we have a problem, however. the King James Bible (from which the quote is taken) is clearly about witches, but relies on the translation of the Hebrew word kashaph, which means sorcery – specifically evil magic, designed to do harm – or possibly even poisoner. This distinguishes it from magic like parting the Red Sea, bringing people back from the dead, walking on water and so on, which are all clearly GOOD magic.

You see my problem?

I’ve ranted about religion before in my blog, but I feel I am going to need to do so again, just to vent some of these feelings of pure rage that are bubbling away inside me since re-reading about the Kristy Bamu case. So here goes:

These people are evil fucks. Anyone who supports a religion that explicitly orders that other human beings should be put to death, such as Protestant Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism and so on, are actively supporting the murder of innocent people. You are giving this religion power, therefore you are to blame for the evil done in its name. I know some will argue that the evil acts are done by individuals and that they are not following God’s teachings, but one simple glance through the bible will shatter that argument. Eric Bikubi was following God’s teaching to the letter: he was not suffering a witch to live. The fact that there is no such thing as witchcraft is neither here nor there (after all, there’s no such thing as God either), he was doing EXACTLY what his God had told him to do. He was being a good Christian.

That’s the rant over for now, but I want everyone to remember Kristy Bamu. Remember how a fifteen-year-old boy spent three days being beaten, tortured and debased. Remember how a fifteen-year-old boy was drowned in a bathtub. And remember that it was all done in the name of a loving, forgiving God.

“‘You’ve got to let Jesus into your heart!’

I Wouldn’t let him into my fucking garden!” – Dylan Moran

Sex: What’s that all about?

I'm not sure how accurate this portrayal of Neanderthal woman is.

Sex is still viewed as a taboo subject, not something one talks about in polite society. Mention sex in company and quite often you will find yourself judged quite harshly. But why? It’s the 21st century. People have been having sex since…well, since before there were people! Many people would admit to actually quite enjoying sex and often spend a considerable amount of time, money and effort actively seeking someone to have sex with. Our society tries to hide sex away, censoring television, film, adverts, images, websites and so on. And now, it seems, PayPal are forcing censorship on authors. How? Well, PayPal, the largest online payment processor, have told publishers that if they publish erotic or adult material then they will no longer be able to use PayPal’s services. This would be devastating to these publishers, so they really have no choice but to cave in to PayPal’s demands.

Is censorship right? Is it ok? Well, I think we can all agree that hardcore pornography is not appropriate for, say, primary school assemblies. There has to be a limit to what can be viewed by children, but surely adults can decide for themselves what they watch, read or even engage in. If a couple of adults want to watch porn together, who has the right to prevent them from doing so?

Sex is great. I love it. I’m sure I’m not alone in that regard. In my opinion, anything that I choose to do with another consenting adult should be legal. If someone wants to have sex with a member of the same gender as them, fine. If someone wants to have sex with half a dozen people of mixed genders, fine. If someone wants to be chained to a bed of nails, while being asphyxiated by a twenty stone transvestite in a latex catsuit, fine. It is none of my damn business. It’s also none of your business. It therefore follows that it’s certainly none of PayPal’s business, or the church’s business, or the business of government, or pressure groups, or random tight-arsed prudes.

This ***** is ******** by the ***

What is important is our attitude to sex as individuals and as a society. At the moment, the taboo on anything sexual reinforces the view that sex is somehow dirty (“Only if it’s done right” according to Woody Allen, although I’m not sure he’s the best person to talk to about it). It is invariably taught in schools as inextricably linked to teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. This turns it into something dangerous and dirty, ironically making it more attractive to teenagers but still colouring their perceptions of it. This perception carries over into our adult lives, reinforcing the taboo. And we accept it. We tacitly agree that this beautiful, caring, sensuous act is something that we should be ashamed of. Watch this: http://t.co/ojPUF07I. It explains it far better than I could.

Does watching or reading pornographic material make you into a bad person? Does it make you more likely to go out and engage in rape, sexual assaults, sex crimes? No. Of course it doesn’t. Watching porn doesn’t turn you into a rapist in the same way that watching Bruce Lee movies doesn’t turn you into a martial artist. If you rape or sexually assault someone, it is because you are a bastard who wants to hurt, dehumanize, physically and psychologically damage another human being. Porn had nothing to do with it and anyone who suggests otherwise is probably a defense lawyer.

Yes. It's a picture of a big black cock. Sorry.

There have been many studies that have tried to examine the link between pornography and sex crimes. Most of these are inconclusive as they have to point out that correlation is not the same thing as causation. In other words, just because there are apparent links between the two things, one has not necessarily caused the other. In most of these studies, it has been found that sex crimes tend to decrease after the decriminalization or legalisation of hardcore pornography. They suggest that a relaxed and open attitude towards sex is a healthy one for a society to take. Any rises in the sex crime figures are often explained by an increase in victims coming forward to report them, rather than an increase in the crimes themselves. Because individuals are more comfortable with sex, they are more understanding of the boundaries and are therefore more confident in coming forward when their boundaries have been violated.

If you do not like something that you see or read, then don’t look at it or read it. It really is that simple. If you do not expose yourself to pornography, you cannot be offended by it. We should all have the freedom to access whatever we want to, as long as it involves consenting adults. You also have the right to indulge in any sexual activity that you choose, as well as the freedom to say ‘No, I don’t want to do that’. Exercise these freedoms. Enjoy them. Demand them.

"It's all this cold-hearted fucking that is death and idiocy." D.H. Lawrence

Religion – Shit it!

I have no objection to any person's religion, be it what it may, so long as that person does not kill or insult any other person, because that person doesn't believe it also. But when a man's religion becomes really frantic; when it is a positive torment to him; and, in fine, makes this earth of ours an uncomfortable inn to lodge in; then I think it high time to take that individual aside and argue the point with him - Herman Melville

Religion is always going to be a dangerous subject to discuss openly. People get very defensive when they think that you are attacking or denigrating their deeply held beliefs, but should they? Shouldn’t their faith be strong enough to withstand a logical and frank discussion? You would think so, wouldn’t you?

I am an atheist, an admission that is fairly meaningless to me. The majority of my friends are atheists too. I was raised in an atheist household but encouraged to be respectful to the beliefs of others and I have tried (not always successfully) to do so. To not believe in God, or a god, or gods, seems to me to be the logical choice. I see no evidence in any sort of divine creator, and the idea that this world was brought into being by a loving god would be laughable if it wasn’t so tragic.

I like to think that I have a fairly scientific mind. I like things to be explained, measured and categorised. I also like asking questions and that seems to be anathema to those of a more religious mindset. To ask questions seems to be the opposite of having faith, and to test faith is to weaken it apparently.

The Science Vs Religion argument is an old one, first really rearing its ugly head with the Catholic Church disagreeing with Galileo over the theory of heliocentrism first put forward over fifty years previously by Copernicus, whereby the Earth and the other planets revolve around the sun. This appeared to be a direct contravention of the Bible, and so Galileo was convicted of heresy and placed under house arrest for the rest of his life. An early and well-known example of the Church persecuting those who voice ideas that are true.

This has gone on throughout history and continues to this day with the Evolution Vs Creationism arguments. As we all know, evolution is only a theory. But ‘theory’ doesn’t mean ‘guesswork’. Scientifically, theory means that something is a ‘comprehensive explanation of some aspect of nature that is supported by a vast body of evidence… so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter them substantially’ (according to the United States National Academy of Sciences). It is not a hypothesis. It is not a guess. It is a scientifically tested and supported system that is accepted as fact.

Creationism, on the other hand, is just making up fairy stories. Fairy stories that some Christians want to be taught exclusively in schools and others want taught alongside evolution in science classes.

No. Creationism can certainly be taught in Religious Education lessons, but Science classes are for science. You know, things that can be examined scientifically. With evidence.

I really don’t mean to be rude, but a literal interpretation of Genesis is idiotic. To believe, in the face of overwhelming evidence, that the earth is only 6000 years old and was created in a week by a divine being is insane. It also suggests that you believe God is messing with our heads, trying to fool us and thus earn us a place in eternal torment for believing in evolution. Loving God, my arse…

I don’t want to fall back on the standard anti-religion arguments. I could write for hours about the fossil record, geological ages and so on. I could argue that religion has been the cause (or at least the excuse) of more conflict than anything else in the history of mankind. I could point out the horrors inflicted by religious extremists (from all religions) throughout history. But that seems somehow lazy. Instead, I’ll post this picture:

Pigf*ckers

Ah yes. The Westboro Baptist Church. I realise that it is unfair to tar every Christian with the same brush as these bigoted scumbags, but I’m going to. Let us not mince words: these people are shits. They preach a message of hate and intolerance based on their twisted and morally deficient belief system. ‘God hates fags’? If so, I’m fairly sure I don’t want to meet the fucker. If they are right, I will gladly lead the march into Hell with pride (or possibly Pride).

It is the silence of the moderate religious majority that allows these extremists to exist and spread their messages of hate, the vast majority of religious people being generally sensible and normal (despite their crazy belief in big beards in the sky and so on). And obviously it isn’t just the Christians who exhibit these anti-social, borderline psychotic tendencies. Jihadist Muslims, the far-right Jewish Kach party and so on, all willing to insult, dehumanize or murder in the name of their own religious ideology.

The fundamentalists and extremists often pervert their religion for their own ends. The message not to kill tends to run through most religious teachings, and yet it seems to be acceptable if you are killing non-believers, heretics or just people who are somehow different to you. In the West, we tend to hear mainly about Islamist fundamentalism and extremism, so we develop an inherent prejudice. Our media seems to largely ignore the actions of Christian extremists, a tacit approval of their actions. We need to fight this. The War in Iraq had its roots in Christian versus Muslim conflict, but it was the Islamists who tended to make the news as ‘the bad guys’, rather than the right-wing Christian governments (AKA ‘the good guys’) that were busily bombing civilians. The Isreali-Palestinian Conflict is essentially a conflict between Judaism and Islam, with a little Christianity thrown in for good measure.

I could go on, but I will withdraw from this section of my rant while I still have a little dignity (largely because I have pretty much exhausted my knowledge of the religio-political situation in the Middle East).

Intelligent design is another ‘theory’ that pseudo-scientific religious ‘thinkers’ often put forward. Basically, this runs that some things (usually the human eye is inserted here as an example) cannot have evolved a little bit at a time and must therefore have been created in one go by an intelligent creator. It is described by its followers as “an evidence-based scientific theory about life’s origins” despite being, quite clearly, not scientific in the slightest. It was thought up to try to circumvent American laws about teaching Creationism in schools and was about as successful as its predecessor.

Perhaps one of the most well-known, and certainly the most outspoken, atheist is Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion and The Selfish Gene. He has been a critic of creationism for years (check out his various TV series and interviews). He has said that ‘The list of things about which we strictly have to be agnostic…is infinite. If you want to believe in a particular one of them — teapots, unicorns, or tooth fairies, Thor or Yahweh — the onus is on you to say why you believe in it. The onus is not on the rest of us to say why we do not. We who are atheists are also a-fairyists, a-teapotists, and a-unicornists, but we don’t have to bother saying so.’

"By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out." - Richard Dawkins

So why is religion still so popular, despite the fact that it ignores fact? Probably because it ignores fact. An atheist has to face the simple truth that life is all there is: there is no paradise, no pearly gates or seventy-two virgins waiting on the other side of death. This is all we get. That is a scary notion, but also an enormously liberating one. What we do while we are alive matters! By working together for the good of all we can change the lives of many, rather than waiting to be rewarded after death for not being bad. The ‘dangerous notion that death is not the end’ (Dawkins again) allows the religious to sidestep their responsibilities in life, or worse be prepared to end their life and the lives of others to make a religio-political point.

Shortly after the horrific events of 9/11, Bill Maher said that ‘we have been the cowards, lobbing Cruise Missiles from two thousand miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, that’s not cowardly. Stupid maybe, but not cowardly’. I agree in part, except that to the terrorists, it was the beginning of a beautiful afterlife, according to the garbage that they had been fed by people who were quite clearly not on the plane with them! Perhaps that should have been a warning sign to them.

Religion messes with people’s heads. It divides them. It makes them small-minded. It can make them bigoted, murderous, evil. We have outgrown religion. We don’t need it any more. We need to move on.

Scientia non habet inimicum nisi ignoratem