If you want to spend money on flowers and train fares to pay your respects to this particular old lady then go ahead. I have no issue with that, even though I don’t pretend to understand why. But I’d like to ask that you do something else – something more practical and meaningful.
Please give the same amount as a donation to your local foodbank (they my ask you to give food rather than money), a homeless charity or some other organisation dedicated to helping those whose state funded benefits don’t quite go so far as her late majesty’s did.
We all have our pet peeves – the things that stir us up, that light that ‘fire in the belly’ and get us going. For some it’s about family, for others it’s about a particular belief, mindset or ideology. For me it’s about ‘justice’.
For some justice is synonymous with vengeance. They follow, to some degree or another, the old ‘eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth’ standard of the bronze age shepherd. For them justice is both simplistic and obvious. Theirs is the ‘two wrongs make a right’ approach that most of us grow out of before we leave the schoolyard. That’s not my type of justice.
Others acknowledge the complexity of determining right from wrong in a world that contains so much more grey than simple ‘black and white’. They accept that justice is complex and often difficult to define. I have to admit, that seems like a very good starting place. But then they go and spoil things by demanding that the victims of crime, the very people least likely to be objective, get to determine the most appropriate punishments. They’re the same people whose only real (and particularly unimaginative) contribution to debates about crime is to state….
“You wouldn’t say that if it was your…. (mother, father, son, daughter, home, money etc.)”
And of course, they’re right. I’d most probably want someone’s head on a plate, not because that’d be the right thing to do but because I’m human, I’m emotionally driven (as are we all) and sometimes I can be irrational (as can we all). But I still shouldn’t be able to mete out judgement or take the law into my own hands.
The hallmark of a civilised society is that punishment is taken out of the hands of the individual and placed into the hands of the state.
Still others seem happy with the idea of a state controlled judiciary until it comes to the sentencing of offenders. Then their true colours tend to show. Then they become so similar to the ‘let the victims decide’ contingent that it’s hard to tell them apart.
These are the people who, with little or no knowledge of the often complex court proceedings and mitigating factors insist, as though through automatic reflex, that the sentence is too lenient. These are the people who complain loudly and incessantly that the convicted murderer ‘could be out in ten years’ without ever pausing to imagine just what ten years incarceration might be like. They’re the people who prefer emotional vengeance to rational justice and their lack of a sense of proportion shows all too well. They’re not interested in positive intervention to effect positive change. They simply want another person to suffer. In that respect, despite the apparent veneer of social awareness, they’re no more advanced than the ‘eye for an eye’ brigade.
These are the unthinking, uncaring individuals, the vengeful defenders of people they’ll never meet against people they’ll never understand. These are the easily led, the tories target voters who faithfully fail to notice the damage that ‘Boris’ bastards’ are doing to our country so long as they can be distracted by a juicy crime story or a made up threat from foreigners fleeing persecution or warfare in distant lands. These are the people who think populist emotionality can substitute for paying political attention and the likes of Patel, Gove and Sunak are more than happy to play along. Let’s face it, Johnson and his cronies will play any game at all if it’ll let them hang on to a little bit more power for a little bit more time.
By pandering to the lowest common denominator of our basest instincts, of tribalism and of vengeful hatred they can persuade the people to give away all their rights under the pretence of stealing them from someone else. It’s not me they’re after, it’s them others!
But the changes to our justice system that made it into law last week in Parliament affect us all – not just the few foreigners and criminals targeted by the populists.
Ironically enough, populist fervour leads to a government so buoyed up by nastiness that it can literally do anything it likes. So last week we lost the right to protest, the right to free expression and even the right to save drowning people without facing prison if they happen not to be British.
We lost the right to fair trial with several crimes being defined and people found guilty and sentenced not by judicial process, not by a court or a jury but by the Home Secretary, personally.
We lost the right to scrutinise and censure politicians when they break the law. Judicial review can now only go ahead with the consent of the very government the system aims to scrutinise. In short, they can now do pretty much whatever they like and, short of revolution or some other form of insurrection, there’s very little we can do to prevent it.
This crop of tories – the truly nasty party representatives – have taken principles of fairness, of justice, of democracy and of hope and turned them into rules intended to benefit themselves and their cronies at the top of the financial tree at our expense. They allow energy companies to make vast profits while many Brits are unable to heat their homes. They allow sewage companies to dump raw effluent into our waterways – waterways only recently clean again thanks to EU regulations – you know – the ‘red tape’ we were all told to dislike so much. That’s the same red tape that’s been removed as we lose employment protections with no effective recourse to law and extremely limited access to legal aid. And all because decent people were conned into voting for a pack of vicious hyenas.
Personally I tend to lean toward utilitarianism – the philosophical approach that seeks to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number. That doesn’t make me ‘soft’ or ‘naive’, by the way. I absolutely believe that society has both the right and the duty to protect itself. Sometimes that means long sentences – even life and that’s OK by me. But often it means something quite different. Often it means understanding, compassion and education. Often it means rehabilitation. What it most certainly does not mean and cannot, must not mean is the gratuitous inflicting of suffering. Justice must be purposeful and devoid of emotional bias. And it can never be right that the person under scrutiny is the very person deciding whether or not the trial can go ahead. Guilt and sentencing should never be decided by a politician with an axe to grind and nobody should ever be sent to prison for saving a human being from drowning. What inhuman monster came up with that idea?
However the real purpose of this post is to make one, simple point. Justice, as determined by the state, must be in response to actions and behaviours. It has nothing to do with prejudicial assumptions about nationality, heritage, skin colour, sexual orientation, poverty, dependency, political affiliation, wealth or place of birth.
Perhaps some of those unthinking supporters of our far right, nationalist government would do well to remember that.
My friend and former colleague, Fran Marr really is an all round good egg. She’s the sort of person you just know would never turn her back if you needed her. Hers is the sort of compassion that never seems to tire and that has the amazing ability to inspire others to help too.
Right now she’s turning her attention to helping Ukranian refugees fleeing the war in their homeland. Have a look at what she’s up to.
While you’re here – click the link below and send a few quid to help out. It needn’t be much and it really is a damn good cause!
My MP, Mark Jenkinson MP is a bit of a smart-arse when it comes to trans rights. I’ve blogged about his anti-trans bigotry before.
As usual, “Jenky” as he’s not so affectionately known here in Workington is going around pretending to know stuff that he really doesn’t have the first clue about. This is quite normal behaviour for him. He uses his spectacular lack of understanding to whip up dog-whistles to inspire his ever-dwindling band of ‘true-believers’ to support him as he attacks minority after minority from travellers to refugees, Asylum-seekers to hungry children.
Recently he had a go at trans people, claiming that science determines that there are only two sexes and absolutely missing the point that gender and sex are different.
“Responding, Mark Jenkinson said he has never said anything transphobic, and rejects the term, choosing to call himself ‘gender critical’.
He said he does not recognise the identities of trans men and trans women, pushing favour of biological sex over gender identity to be the salient factor.”
But hey ho – he isn’t very well educated so we might forgive him for not understanding that gender is a fluid, social construct that changes dramatically from place to place and era to era. What isn’t so forgivable is the way he misprepresents scientific understanding. This video should put him right though.
Fortunately for Jenky there are people like Forrest Valkai in the world. He’s an evolutionary biologist and science educator who really can tell Jenky a thing or two – not that this bigoted and wilfully ignorant MP would listen. He’s far too interested in being right or, as we say in West Cumbria…
“He’s too clever to learn”!
Eat your heart out, Jenky!
This morning’s announcement from Her Majesty’s government, if indeed we can still call it ‘Her Majesty’s’ will shock the country and shake our system of representative democracy and constitutional monarchy to its very core. For centuries now the reigning monarch has been the head of the Church of England, a Protestant organisation respected the world over and fully in-keeping with the character of Anglicanism worldwide as well as the prevailing culture across these fair Isles.
It was the tolerance and fair-mindedness of Anglicanism that brought an end to the religious wars that once so blighted our country. Even in N. Ireland, where the struggle is as much about national identity and exploitation as it is about religion per se, the Anglican church has called for peace, along with its Roman Catholic brethren.
We don’t have separation of church and state in this country as they do in the US. We still have Bishops and Archbishops in the House of Lords making laws for example, but those clergymen tend to act as much in a secular capacity as in a religious one. Such has it been for longer than any of us have been alive. And such, we imagined, it would remain. Until today.
As we know, early in this parliamentary term of office Boris used his overwhelming majority to push through an enabling act allowing him and his ministers the right to make law related both to Brexit and to Covid without reference to parliament and without notice to the populous. We saw this with the many announcements and U-turns regarding lockdowns and negotiations with Europe. One piece of legislation was announced late one evening after most people had gone to bed and resulted in arrests and prosecutions the very next morning as people went about their business completely oblivious to the fact that the law had changed while they slept.
And now they’ve done it again – under cover of the recent explosion in Covid19 infections Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the house and a vociferous Roman Catholic has single-handedly swept away the very basis both of our constitutional monarchy and our traditional political and religious structure. He has done so by claiming that only divine intervention can truly defeat covid and so we need, as a nation, to get right with God.
As of one minute past midnight this morning the official religion of England and Wales is no longer Anglicanism. It is, in fact, Roman Catholicism. The justification for this is ancient. It harks back to a deal made in the 13th century by King John (disparagingly known at the time as John Lackland) who gave this country to the Pope as a Papal serfdom in return for help in raising funds to wage war with France. The deal was struck in 1213 and annual payments of 1,000 marks were made in tribute to the Pope every year until 1290. After that they were irregularly offered until the final tribute was given by Edward III in 1333 in the hope that this would secure Papal favours on the international stage.
It did not and so the tribute was never paid again and although the English parliament eventually ruled the ‘sale’ of UK invalid, the Vatican has never formally relinquished its hold over the nation. Consequently, Brexit or no Brexit, England belongs to the Roman Catholic church and has done for over 800 years. Scotland was never part of the agreement in 1213 and so it remains to be seen how our brothers North of the border will fare.
It may be that the next big building project will involve a restoration not only of monasteries but of Hadrian’s wall as well. We’ll have to wait and see about that. What we do know is that there are few tory voters in Scotland so this particular incarnation of the ‘Conservative and Unionist party’ will have few qualms in letting our Northern neighbours adrift if it suits their short-term goals.
This is the backdrop behind Rees-Mogg’s modern religious coup. Relying upon ancient documents detailing the transfer of ownership from the crown to the Pope he has declared UK a fiefdom once again. This is possible because of recent legislation disempowering our domestic judges who are no longer in a position to overrule or even question the work of government. Further, the Roman Catholic backbench committee, ‘Opus Hominem’ has declared the acquisition of Catholic property during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries unlawful and empowered Rees-Mogg to order a return of all Anglican properties to the English branch of the Roman Catholic church with immediate effect. Any clergyman or lay-congregant maintaining possession of such properties after midnight this morning will be guilty not only of theft but of heresy.
The new law goes further. Since there was no Anglican church in the 14th century, King John’s pact was made from the perspective of Roman Catholicism and as such, only Roman Catholic law can repeal it. At that time, and subsequently, failure to observe the tenets of the Roman church constituted heresy. Even if not originally baptised into Roman Catholicism, anyone professing to be Christian was covered by the Papal inquisition and punishable under its auspices.
This was the basis of the Albigensian crusades against the Cathars of Southern France. They were Christians whose ‘crime’, among other things, was to argue that they didn’t need a Priest to speak with God – they could do so directly. Very much like the Anglican position, as it happens.
Anglicans are Protestants and as such are equally liable to accusations of Heresy from ‘mother church’.
Of course, nobody will be getting burned at the stake or hanged as they did in centuries past but Rees-Mogg has identified his own, modern approach to undermining ecumenical relations in UK. Beginning this Sunday all citizens of England and Wales will be expected to attend Mass and give confession. Those not properly baptised have been given one month to do so after which they too will be expected to take communion in this newly Catholicised state. Those who fail to do so will face imprisonment and sequestration of funds to pay for the repair of church buildings destroyed since the dissolution.
This account of Draconian legislation is, of course, an April Fool’s day joke. But take a look at what’s really going on. Click the link here. These genuine new laws, taken together really will undermine our rights, our citizenship and our democracy. And there’s nothing funny about that.
April or not, the government really is taking us all for fools!
It’s not over!
A far right acquaintance of mine was gloating the other day. He thought the right had won. This is why he’s so very wrong…
Racists find themselves increasingly isolated by the more reasonable members of society
For racists the group is defined in very simple, easy to recognise terms. If you’re the same colour as ‘us’ then you’re one of ‘us’. If you’re a different colour then you’re ‘them’. Since the problems we face can’t be acknowledged as part of ‘us’ it must come from ‘them’.
It’s no coincidence that racist, xenophobic groups like UKIP and the BNP began to experience electoral success just as the economy crashed (mainly due to the actions of white bankers). Such discrimination is predictable at times of social pressure.
It mirrors the rise in anti-semitism in medieval Europe as the Black Death spread across the continent and the people scapegoated minorities. It mirrors the rise of the Nazis in Germany following the disastrous economic penalties enforced by the treaty of Versailles at the end of World War One. The German people needed someone to blame who was not ‘us’. They chose the highly visible minorities of Jews, Blacks, Communists and Gypsies.
Let’s examine the psychological processes in more detail.
Nice people made the best NazisNaomi Shulman
Naomi Shulman once wrote, “Nice people made the best Nazis.” She was writing about the people who weren’t really into politics. These were the people who still exist today. The people who take pride in their stubborn refusal to take any interest in the world beyond their workplaces, their families and their favourite sports or streaming box-sets on Netflix. As Shulman put it…
“they were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbours were dragged away.”
These are my neighbours. They’re the people who close down any serious discussion of the state of our nation with tired old tropes about not talking about religion or politics. Yes they’ll acknowledge, even laugh about scandals like partygate but take no interest in serious attacks on our democracy like Patel’s Police, crime and sentencing bill or Johnson and Rees-Mogg’s attacks on the legal system.
My polite, unassuming, docile, deliberately ignorant neighbours would have been fantastic Nazis. My modern neighbours think that because they can’t see the jackboots kicking in doors in their pleasant, middle or even working class neighbourhoods it’s not happening and never will happen.
They ignore the evidence of racism in our land.
They pour scorn on those who try to highlight the issues by having the audacity to do terrible things like taking a knee before football matches – the bastards!
They make excuses for the government that deliberately put our most vulnerable citizens, those the Nazis described as ‘useless eaters’ in harms way with covid, leading to the highest death rate in all of Europe and the 7th highest in the entire world.
They conveniently ignore the massive corruption that saw billions of pounds of their money squandered on spurious covid contracts for government ministers, for the tories’ friends and for tory party donors.
These are the lovely people who don’t rock the boat, who never stop to think about where our nation is heading, about the implications of abusive policies toward immigrants and refugees, about the motivations of those who tell them blatant lies about the economy and whose pre-election promises remain unfulfilled and even, in many cases actively undermined by this very same government.
These lovely people never bother to look behind the headlines and media pronouncements, never noticing that yesterday’s lies are simply forgotten by the media today once they’ve served their purpose. They don’t notice that Rishi Sunak’s best policies are the same ones the press, and the tories themselves described as naïve, unworkable, even Marxist when first suggested by those the press didn’t support. Remember what the papers did to Jeremy Corbyn.
They confidently repeat the lie of Corbyn’s anti-semitism whilst ignoring the reality that the United Nations agree with him on the issue of Israel’s apartheid regime in Palestine and even published a special report saying so as far back as 2017. Funnily enough very few British newspapers mentioned that report at all.
These lovely people are leading the charge of ignorance as we sleepwalk into neoNazism. Their lives are so full of petty parochial concerns and cheap reality shows that they have no time left to notice what’s going on all around them.
They don’t notice the crippling poverty of their neighbours because they’re alright.
They forget the principles of fairness, of human rights and equality they once held dear and they even support the government policy of further impoverishing the most vulnerable whilst giving vast tax breaks to the already wealthy.
These lovely people who never rock the boat have already found a way to justify to themselves the appalling treatment of those who for one reason or another are not like them. They assume unemployed people are just lazy, that disabled people are all skivers and that Muslims are universally hostile to the British way of life.
They ignore the fact that black Brits are over-represented in our prison system, not because they have committed more crime but because their sentences tend to be harsher then their white counterparts. They disregard the racial profiling that means black people in UK are many times more likely to suffer the indignity of public stop and search because they, like me, another white person have never been stopped and searched themselves.
And yet they’ll gleefully repeat the rhetoric of hatred and division that so threatens our democracy. They’ll dismiss everything that the newspapers tell them to and support whatever the papers demand, even though those same newspapers change their minds on a disturbingly regular basis. These lovely people never stop to wonder what motivated the change of heart from their favourite columnist or even to notice that it has happened.
And when they finally do notice the destruction of their rights, along with the rights of those other people they naively thought were the real targets, they’ll genuinely be surprised and wish that there had been some way of knowing what was going on. They’ll bemoan the ‘fact’ that there was nothing they could have done to prevent it and, just as now, they’ll studiously avoid any risk of awareness of their own responsibility, their own dereliction of their civic duty when they could have prevented it.
The following words come from an anonymous German resident who had just been taken by allied troops to view the carnage at his local concentration camp…
“Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done, (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing).
You remember the occasions in which maybe if you had stood others would have stood too. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.”
They Thought They Were Free (1955)
The Germans 1938-45
University of Chicago Press
These lovely people, the ones who think they’re simply enjoying a quiet life without getting involved in politics will be just as guilty as the likes of Patel and Farage who have brought about these abuses both politically and socially. And they will be just as compromised.
I said earlier on my channel that being wrong feels exactly like being right. It’s only when we take the trouble to learn, to see past our assumptions that we begin to feel the awkward psychological sensation associated with awareness of our own ignorance. And that’s good. Awareness of our own inaccuracy is the first step – often the only step needed to become accurate again.
That’s why it’s so toxic for any of us to bury our heads in the sand. Especially when the ostrich in question is a sitting MP with a penchant for attention-seeking and far-right dog-whistling. A populist MP who still believes that, having fooled his constituents once, he can continue to get away with voting so often against their interests simply by targeting a minority to whip up a bit of hatred against.
Someone like Mark Jenkinson MP, for example…
Mr Jenkinson stated recently: “Trans men aren’t men, and trans women aren’t women, sex is something we cannot change, that is the scientific view, and there is no need to educate myself on any view. It’s not just the view of me and my constituents. All I’ve ever said or done is point out the difference between gender and sex.”
Well… let’s take a brief look at the scientific view, shall we?
The magazine, ‘Nature’ is one of the most respected journals in the scientific literature. Its peer-reviewed articles are a world away from the populist dog-whistles cobbled together by biased hacks in the Daily Mail. ‘Nature’ is a scientific journal with content written by specialist science journalists and peer-reviewed for quality by practicing scientists knowledgeable in their respective fields.
T’Sjoen is an endocrinologist at the very top of his profession. He spoke with ‘Nature’ in April 2019 and made some very interesting points. Points that Mark Jenkinson MP might do well to heed before he goes shouting his mouth off about other peoples’ right to be themselves.
“Saying you’re not informed about this topic is not really valid any more,” he says. “It’s just that you’re lazy.”
The European Network for the Investigation of Gender Incongruence (ENIGI) is the largest study of transgender people in the world. In April 2019 it had a research base of 2,600 transgender individuals who provide regular ‘snapshots’ of both their psychological and their biological states. The study takes account of subjective experiences as well as more objective measurements such as hormonal balance, biological wellness, general health, task-orientated brain activity and general physical and physiological well-being. Many of these metrics have very real correlations with more normative gender-based characteristics and the results are fascinating. I won’t quote the extensive article here but I’d strongly encourage anyone who thinks they understand this topic to follow the links.
One thing Mark and I do have in common is that neither of us really ‘get it’. I don’t pretend for a moment to understand what it means to be uncomfortable with your birth-assigned gender. I’m a man, I’ve always been male, I identify as a male and I feel absolutely comfortable in that regard. I have very real difficulty in understanding how others can find that problematic. I have little doubt that Mark Jenkinson MP can say the same. But here’s where we differ…
Jenkinson, perhaps deliberately, confuses gender with biological sex whilst, ironically enough pretending to rely upon that very difference to inform his spurious, bigoted arguments. I understand that gender is a socially defined construct which is different from biology. And that social definition has always been open to change.
It used to be that women weren’t allowed to vote, they were barred from certain jobs. My own mother really wanted to be a barrister but gender-based prejudices in the mid twentieth century sent her down a different path, first as a housewife and mother and then on to a very successful career as a primary school teacher (traditionally a career acceptable for women). Today nobody would sneer at her ambition to approach the bar because the socially constructed gender rules have changed as society moves on.
Whatever your individual views on gender might be here’s the bottom line for me…
People have a right to be who they are… to live their lives free from bigotry and hostility… to know that they are part of their society and that they have a place. They don’t need everyone to understand their experience. I was very clear with the people I spoke to at Saturday’s little demo that I don’t ‘get it’ but that I support each person’s right to be themselves. Not a single trans person I met objected to that stance of mine.
If, like my bigoted, dog-whistling MP, you have a problem with trans people then I suggest you ask yourself just what it is about you that makes you take such an unhealthy interest in other peoples’ gender preferences. And remember…
Allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable about your prejudices is the first and most crucial step toward adopting a healthier, happier and far more reasonable and compassionate perspective for the future.
Don’t allow Mark Jenkinson MP to hijack your humanity just so he can con you into hating ‘them’ and voting for ‘him’. The politics of ‘us and them’ should have no place in a civilised democracy. Nor should bigoted, hate-mongering MPs like Mark Jenkinson! He has a right to his opinion but when he uses his position as MP to foster hatred and prejudice he really oughtn’t to represent the decent people of Workington for a moment longer than the law allows.
“There will be people who will have seen scenes of protests and asked, ‘Why aren’t the government doing something?’ The answer, in many cases, may simply be that we live in a democratic, free society.”Theresa May, House of commons, July 2021
Today’s the anniversary of a crime. A terrible, heinous, unspeakable act that tore at the very fabric, of the society in which it was committed. An apparently lone criminal, in the most brazen way imaginable broke a law and a tradition that had existed for 55 years among the fine, upstanding citizens of Montgomery, Alabama in the good old US of A.
So what was this unspeakable act, this depraved antisocial behaviour that resonates across the miles and the years? Who was the criminal who on this day, December 1st 1955 set in train a series of events that would shake America – well, part of America to it’s bigoted, racist, ignorant core?
The criminal’s name was Rosa Parks and the act that would forever guarantee her fame was simple. Rosa Parks sat on a bus, on a seat reserved for white people – and that was against the law.
Sometimes it’s necessary to break truly unjust laws. Sometimes our very liberty depends upon it.
This session the UK government is taking the new police, crime, sentencing and courts bill through Parliament. It’s currently nearing the end of its passage through the Lords and is likely to become law very soon as there’s little chance of Boris’ sycophantic back-benchers opposing it. Among other erosions of civil liberties it aims to make anti-government demonstration illegal. Really. They’re going after our right to protest now.
This, yet again, is the stuff of dictatorship. The Nazis did the same thing shortly after gaining control of the Reichstag. It’s a blow both to our individual liberties and to our collective democracy.
When debating the bill at it’s second reading last July former Home Secretary and Prime Minister, Theresa May remarked…
“There will be people who will have seen scenes of protests and asked, ‘Why aren’t the government doing something?’ The answer, in many cases, may simply be that we live in a democratic, free society.”
So my question to you is this…
Do you have as much courage as a little woman from Montgomery Alabama whose lone protest on an Alabama bus ride helped bring down a system that had been tolerated for far too long?
Priti Patel may well be the most despicable politician of my lifetime. She seems to be motivated only be her own mean-spirited avarice and cruelty. And yet even she has surpassed herself in heartlessness with a new bill intended to guarantee desperate people drown in the channel. She even plans to imprison anyone who rescues them from their fate. How can this travesty of a human being attain the position of Home secretary?
Bishop Gerald Glenn is dead. He had faith that God would protect him from Covid so he ignored the guidance and opened his church.