On justice

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.

Mark Jenkinson MP – Bigoted and ignorant abuser of minority groups

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.

Is Mark Jenkinson MP the most bigoted man in Parliament?

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.

He told his local paper…

“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!

Psychosis, delusions & racism

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.

The lovely people

Nice people made the best Nazis

Naomi 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.

Will you?

The peasant’s revolt: 1381-2022

“The matters go not well to pass in England, nor shall do ’til everything be in common…”

Comparing the modern government’s callous disregard for the people of UK with the cruelty of 14th century leaders like John of Gaunt, Simon Sudbury and the boy king, Richard II.

In those days the peasants sought remedy and retribution through bloodshed. Today we just need to notice, to remember and to vote as soon as we can to get these callous, lying, sleazy scumbags out of office and out of our hair!

I’m confused

I’m confused. Chris Chope, the right wing tory MP for Christchurch and East Dorset has yet again introduced a Private member’s bill called the NHS co-funding and co-payment Bill. This Thatcherite neo-liberal has repeatedly sought to undermine the NHS with this sort of legislation for years now but this time he moight well gain some traction. The current overall tory majority might just allow the bill to get through.

The Bill has it’s second reading in the House early next month.

What confuses me isn’t that this nasty little scumbag is trying once again to derail the ‘free at point of delivery’ nature of our health service. That’s just par for the course. Weasels do what weasels do and there are few more weasely than Chope. He’s the one that fillibustered a bill to ensure landlords, like himself have to treat tenants fairly. He’s also the one who derailed a Bill to make upskirting illegal.

What confuses me is the very idea that the bill is necessary.

You see, we already have co-payment options in the NHS. That’s why we have prescription charges and fees for optician and dentistry services. It wouldn’t take a change in the law to extend that in principle. But Chope isn’t content to have the option to extend what amounts to small tweaks around the edges of the NHS. He wants to smash the very idea of the NHS by introducing co-funding too.

It may not look like much at first glance but co-funding actually means much more than the tokenistic sort of arrangement we get from prescription charges. Co-funding really does mean a two-tier system of health access where those too poor to afford treatment or who can’t get insurance, either because of high premiums or pre-existing conditions simply won’t be able to access healthcare at all.

This is the system that sees countless American citizens go bankrupt every year (Breaking bad, anyone). It’s the reason that US accident victims are known to plead with would-be helpers not to call them an ambulance because they won’t be able to pay for their care. It’s the reason why so many impoverished Americans give birth without midwifery or medical assistance, leading to much higher infant and maternal mortality rates than would be expected in a civilised, advanced economy such as theirs. And Chope wants to inflict that on us.

Please talk to your MP. And make sure that everyone in your constituency knows about the bill. Check to see how your MP votes and spread that information around too. If they vote for this bill they’re very definitely voting to further impoverish sick and disabled people in your town, to put pregnant women and their babies at risk and generally to lower the health and life-expectancies of you and your neighbours.

But the government will be able to afford more backhanders for their wealthy donor chums so that’s OK, isn’t it?

legalised oppression & the power of boycott

“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?

Rosa Parks sitting in front of a white passenger on a Montgomery bus

Covid ‘Freedom day’ cometh

So we’re looking at 100,000 new infections per day.

The Health secretary and the Prime minister are both happy to remove restrictions, the things that kept most of us alive for the last 16 months without giving a hoot about the lives that will be lost. The economy’s the thing. Who cares if a few thousand extra vulnerable, disabled, elderly or unemployed people die?

Who cares if workers die? There are plenty of idlers on the dole to replace them and reduce the benefits bill at the same time.

If I had the energy after 16 months of nursing through the pandemic I’d get angry – but I’m beyond that now.

I could weep!

Far right bingo card: A different species

This isn’t just ironic, it’s a wonderful illustration of the complete and utter misunderstanding these racists have of the process of natural selection they claim to rely upon. The basic confusion appears to be based in old testament assumptions where the term ‘kind’ is used instead of the more modern ‘species’ (Genesis 7) and where slavery actively is supported along with the purchase and/or capture, absolute ownership and slavery (including sexual slavery) of those who are ‘different’ (Exodus 21). Exodus and Deuteronomy define such enslaved foreigners as ‘property’ or ‘money’ and permit passing them on as chattels to future generations as part of a patriarch’s estate.

These early passages were used as justification for the slave trade which caused so much death, hardship and misery. They were also used to support Plato’s ‘ladder’ of human superiority with black women at the bottom and white, European men at the top. Such primitive notions have no basis in fact and indeed modern scientific consensus clearly shows just how ridiculous these notions actually are.

Modern biology defines speciation in several ways, the strongest and most generally agreed upon is based upon the viability of offspring. To put it another way, if two rabbits can produce offspring that themselves are capable of producing further offspring then they belong to the same species. If their offspring are incapable of producing offspring with earlier generations of rabbits then they would no longer be rabbits. We see this speciation event in modern ring species. For example Salamanders living around the rim of Death valley can all breed with their immediate neighbours, right the way around the rim but those living at the extremes cannot interbreed. Over the immense distance of the valley’s rim selection pressures and remoteness have led to the development of two different, non-interbreeding species of Salamander. This is a process of speciation observed in geographical terms rather than temporal.

No modern human population is unable to produce viable offspring with any other modern human population. Racists understand this very well. That’s why they’re so bothered about miscegenation (racial inter-breeding). What they don’t understand is speciation.

They don’t appear to understand basic humanity either but that’s another story.

The deal is done!

Boris got his deal, the economy is tanking (which is bad news for everyone except Boris, Rees-Mogg, Farage and their disaster capitalist mates). The UK faces major shortages and price rises on imported goods and other goods like medicines.

The financial sector is legging it to Europe, as are several of our remaining manufacturers but at least, for once, we really are in it together… including Tory and Brexit voters, most of whom lack the means to profit from Brexit like Aaron Banks will.

Hopefully, one day we will return.


So let’s face facts, accept the disaster we’re stuck with and pull together to maintain our community. The lesson of history predicts major social division and unrest anytime from mid-January onward. Fuelled by the likes of Farage and co who will be desperate to blame others for their own actions, it’ll be easy for us to collapse into rioting and mutual hatred not seen in UK since the civil wars of the seventeenth century.
And (almost) nobody voted for that!

let’s stick together and come through this disastrous mess as a nation united by adversity, not a people destroyed by self-inflicted misery and the resentment it so often brings in its wake.