02 June, 2013
our decreasing proximity to an event is inversely proportional to the degree we care about it |
To put it in to a formula - as distance increases, concern and action decrease.
By proximity I don't just mean distance, although that is certainly a strong factor. I also mean how keenly we can relate to the event - culturally, personally, emotionally. Empathy, some might call it. Remember that devastating earthquake in New Zealand in February 2011? If that had happened in the city next to the one you live in you would probably have volunteered to help in some way; if it had happened half-way across the country, you would probably have sent food and blankets; a little further afield, maybe just a donation... other side of the world, you'll feel awful, but helpless. And you are. You're too far away physically to help. Well it's just as possible to be too far away in other ways aswell. That is the only reason I can think of that I can be sat here typing away whilst knowing that there are people in my own city that won't have a roof over their heads tonight. And that's the only reason I can think of that our Men of Power, our Members of Parliament, our Masters of Privilege are blindly making things worse for those of low-income, the underprivileged, the needy and desperate. their ideology and indoctrination leaves them so distanced from the constituents they are supposed to represent, we may as well be earthquake victims on the other side of the planet.
Proximity proportionality might also go some way to explaining why two British born Muslims would murder a soldier for the 'crime' of wearing a 'help for heroes' top. Their ideology and indoctrination must have made them feel directly affected by events far from the peaceful streets of Woolwich. It might also explain the foul stench of racism that has been kicked up from where it was lingering - right under our noses. If we can convince ourselves that they are nothing like us, we can do anything - from the middle-class guilt of not sending enough of our disposable income to famine relief charities, to ignoring the undesirables in our own town, or selectively representing the people, or murder, or racist protest against people we have never met and know nothing about.
We are, I conclude, a very fucked up kind of animal. Blessed with great big brains and not a clue how to use them properly. Perhaps we should hand the keys to the car back until we've learned not to smash the thing round every lamp-post we see...
01 June, 2013
Everyday Sexism |
This is a good news story. Sexism is becoming less acceptable every day. It still exists and happens every day, as the Everday Sexism site is testament to. But it is also opposed every day. Finally, we are living in a world where we can stand up and object to the sexist slime-bags. Finally, big corporations see the benefit of responding to complaints and withdrawing sponsorship when their adverts are placed, without their permission or knowledge,on Facebook pages that promote violence against women.
Every little bit helps. Don't let it stand - cause a fuss. Have the courage of your convictions, and that faith that you will be supported if you put some creep back in his place. The more we can expose and oppose, the more outrageous and unacceptable it will become.
And when we're done with eradicating the obvious sexism, there will undoubtedly still be the hidden sexism of equal pay, equal opportunity, equality of promotion, social advancement, and so on. The figh goes on, little by little, or gaint leap forward. Take it all, and demand more.
01 June, 2013
A warning to all distracted drivers |
I am fed up with seeing distracted drivers, using their mobile phones whilst driving. It's dangerous, it's illegal and it is completely unnecessary. Whatever activity it is that you are doing on that phone can wait. Your sole duty when driving any vehicle is to concentrate on driving that vehicle safely, and to use all your alertness and attention to scan for hazards, and avoid being a hazard yourself. You cannot do that if you have one hand and both eyes on the screen.
Well I am going to start doing something about it. I have purchased two small video cameras that can be easily attached to my helmet, and my bike chassis. They will record high quality video uninterrupted for many hours. So from now on, whenever I travel I will have one of these devices pointing directly in front, so I can capture any reckless behaviour, and one attached to my helmet, so that when I am filtering through traffic I can get a really good close up shot of you updating your facebook status. And yes I will be sending incriminating evidence to the police.
If my plan works I think I can cut down about fifteen to twenty percent of the road traffic on my commute to work within a year. Each offence will add points on your licence, and if you don't learn quick you will lose your right to drive. So, if you cannot trust yourself to leave your phone alone for the length of time you are in your car, lock it in the boot.
29 May, 2013
A fun way to teach your kids to think critically |
I cannot take credit for coming up with this idea, but here is my refined version of it. If you want to make critical thinking skills something your kids 'just do' then perhaps this idea will help. First of all, download and print out this free poster that lists all the main logical fallacies, created and hosted by yourlogicalfallacy.com.
Okay, now spend some time to explain these fallacies to your kids one by one,using appropriate examples for their age. When they seem to have got a basic grasp you can now make a game of spotting logical fallacies on TV / at school in lessons / in real life / on the radio / or on the internet. Offer your kids a reward (financial would work best) for every valid example of a logical fallacy that they can spot, and explain to you. Make a bingo card with all of them on and let them cross them of when they have spotted them. Then give them a bigger reward when they have spotted and documented every single fallacy on the bingo board. If you have more than one kid then this will become a competition. It might cost you some wonga, but it will teach your kids to challenge the arguments they may otherwise accept without challenging.
As I am not a parent myself I have no idea if this will work, and my experiment with my Collies concluded that more research is required. So please, go forth and experiment!
28 May, 2013
Not in my name... oh no thank you |
In the event that I am murdered by terrorists, or in fact merely someone who happens not to be whiter than I am, could I please formally and passionately request that the English Defense League must not partake in any marches in my honour? The last thing I would want as a legacy of my demise would be the promotion of the bigoted rhetoric spouted by a bunch of racist, Carling-swigging, pure-bred English half-wits, stinking of chip-fat and adorned with misspelled-tattoos.
Hows you like them stereotypes?
I will now be wearing this message in a emergency medical bracelet at all times. I urge you to do the same, or have it written in to your will.
25 May, 2013
It's not about Islam, or race, or soldiers, it's about decency |
Islam is just the vehicle, and it's a good vehicle, because like most religions it is easy to find scripture to support your bigotry or violence. But take away Islam and perhaps this particular piece of horrific wouldn't have happened, but there would still be extremists, terrorists and violent maniacs. I don't like Islam; I don't like any organised religions, but I don't think we have a problem with Islam in this country. We have a problem with common decency.
No cause, no belief, no feeling of disillusionment warrants the deliberate murder of innocents. That's common decency. We don't make our political points through random acts of fatal violence. Even in the most desperate scenario you could imagine, where it is imperative that we overthrow an oppressor that has corrupted our nation and is acting shamefully at home and abroad – even then we would not kill a man as a protest against a regime. We are decent people with a common sense of decency. Muslims, Christians, atheists, and everything else – we are civilians – and what happened in Woolwich this week is an attack on all decent people.
So let us protests, and be angry, and let us find blame. And let us all stand up to the indecent, wherever we find it. Right now radical Islam is the problem, not that long ago it was Catholics and Protestants, Unionists and Nationalists, who knows what it will be in the future? Animal Rights extremists, pro-life fanatics, football rivalry spilling out of the stands and into the streets, or something else we never saw coming.
On Facebook the other day I said "There's nothing like slashing an innocent man to pieces in the street to show the world what an awesome religion Islam is. I'm sure Allah is just so super proud." Sure there was a mild dig at Islam wedged in there but the more subtle message is one of profound disgusts that any person could use any cause or faith as a vehicle for such extreme violence.
Every day in various dusty hell-holes around the word, angry men plant explosive devices engineered to kill soldiers. They don't want our troops there, and as much as we don't like it, and as much as I condemn it, you can understand the people of these places taking violent action to oppose their occupation. I would take up arms to defend my nation, my neighbourhood. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have died directly, or indirectly as a result of our military actions. Have we achieved something noble that can somehow justify these casualties? Perhaps in Iraq you could find enough positives to go some way to compensate, but Afghanistan? We haven't enriched the lives of the citizens or improved the rights of women, we haven't made the place safer, or richer. We piss off Muslims on a daily basis, and some of the worst among them keep on showing us their displeasure in the most atrocious ways.
This is a global problem, and frankly I'm more concerned now than I was in the days following 9/11. A terrorist organisation can be dismantled; It can be attacked, infiltrated; we can freeze their assets and make travel, communication and coordination impossible. But this new guerrilla terrorism is harder to tackle. Two bombers in Boston, two butchers in London. What's next?