After the end of World War 1, as countries across the globe took stock of the calamity that had befallen them, nation after nation made a commitment to honour the dream that so many serving soldiers, sailors and airmen had given their lives for.
As the reasons for the conflict became clearer to ordinary people the phrase ‘Lest we forget’ came to signify not only the millions of lives cut short but also the motivations and political ambitions of those who brought them to war in the first place. Nationalistic pride, a belief in our own mythical, almost mystical superiority and contempt for ‘Johnny foreigner’ bred an arrogance that was at once both isolationist and entitled.
Coupled with the unbridled political ambition of a few key players both in and out of government, the stage was (is) set for a conflict of gargantuan, of epic proportions.
Such was the situation in the run up to August 1914.
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.
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.
The government plan is to amend the official secrets act to criminalise any reporter who effectively embarrasses the government. It means that anyone who publishes stuff like Hancock’s extra-marital kiss could face up to 14 years in prison.
“Freedom of the Press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose.”
The reach of the act will cover anyone from journalists to bloggers, to keyboard warriors on Facebook and you don’t even need to have signed the act to be liable. But it gets worse. Click the video link below to watch a 6 minute video explanation of this appalling new proposal…
One of the biggest ironies to come out of the modern far right is their claim to support the principles of freedom of speech. Of course, these modern incarnations of Nazi and fascist bully boys have no interest in freedom of speech at all. They only want freedom for their own speech. This is a far cry from the lofty ideal attributed to Voltaire (but never actually written by him)…
“I disagree with what you have to say but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it.”
On the contrary these snowflakes are so frightened of other peoples’ words they’re actually prepared to fight to the death to remove their right to say it. That’s not freedom of speech – that’s the key stepping stone on the way to authoritarianism, totalitarianism and dictatorship.
It’s no coincidence that in George Orwell’s fictional, fascist Britain, ‘1984’ control of the people began with control of the language and with the topics that could be discussed. That’s how fascism progresses.
If you really care about Freedom of speech, stop clamouring for the death penalty for those who disagree with you and who dare to say so out loud. Have a look at the short video linked to this post. Then you might understand why so many of us on the left are so tired of your snowflakery and your constant attempt to turn UK into a giant ‘safe-space’ where nobody disagrees with you.
The fash don’t often say this so blatantly but it’s very clearly what they mean when they offer violence to get their political way. When they talk about what they want to do to those who oppose them they clearly are drawing upon the mindset that tells them their entitlement comes from their physical strength. When gangs of swastika clad thugs terrorize the streets of UK, Europe and America they’re not inviting people to discuss policies, they’re threatening to crush all opposition.
And they have the cheek to call themselves democratic. It’s always worth pointing that out.
The usual retort is that lefties won’t talk to them. They’ll witter on about freedom of speech which is covered later in the series. A fun response is often to explain that you’re willing to talk it through with them right now… and then see if they can.
The sad fact is that most of them don’t understand the first thing about the ideology they espouse, the development of fascism and neoNazism or the manipulation of information that brought them to accept the current lies of the far right. You won’t win any contests here because the fash will almost certainly just insult you and move on but you will have demonstrated to them just how ill-equipped they are to defend their views and that’s a good start.
For those that suggest that might really is right ask them what they think about Stalin using the mighty soviet machine to kill millions of his own citizens. Then ask what they think of Hitler doing the same to millions of his own, German citizens. They’ll claim that Hitler’s targets weren’t ‘his own’ people which gives you two responses…
Why does that matter?
Did the socialists, trade unionists, Jews and disabled people he persecuted before the war began not have German citizenship, then?
Once again, the aim is to get them to understand that there are holes in their arguments. Many fash won’t have looked into their ideology enough to see those holes in the first place and exposing them to that fact may be the beginning of their road away from hatred.
Boris Johnson’s conservative government was elected on a manifesto which included fair warning that they intended to ‘overhaul’ our parliamentary processes and dismantle the checks and balances that have maintained the balance between Parliament, Government and the judiciary for generations. The motivation seems to have been the fact that the courts prevented Boris (and his predecessor, Teresa May) from introducing illegal or unacceptably sectarian measures. MPs exercised their democratic right to scrutinise and ratify (or not) Parliamentary bills that would have been profitable for a few wealthy tories but disastrous for the majority of citizens. This is why Boris Johnston wants to remove legal scrutiny from his machinations.
It’s unfortunate that so many Brits either didn’t bother to read the manifesto or brushed over that page without really noticing just what it meant. Here I’ll link to various posts outlining just how they’re going about that process and why it’s such a problem for anyone interested in fair and democratic representation of the people. But first let’s hear what two parliamentary candidates had to say about the issue at my local hustings. The labour candidate, Sue Hayman counselled caution and spoke of the importance of scrutiny whereas the conservative candidate, Mark Jenkinson clearly had a different view.
Boris Johnston wants to assume power like a dictator and simply do whatever he wants without reference to parliament or law and without having to listen to anyone who may have cause for concern. And Tory MPs apparently want to help him do it. That’s not democracy.
There’s good reason why we have those checks and balances. They prevent a plethora of evils from police states to human rights abuses. They’re not just minor inconveniences to be swept aside by egotistical overgrown children like Johnson. These are our protections and the consequences if we allow this government to tear them down will be dire.
Within a single month of taking their seats in the House of Commons, every single conservative MP voted to remove their own right to scrutinise Brexit legislation. At a stroke they disempowered parliament and in doing so guaranteed that Boris Johnston won’t need to listen to MPs or the electorate in forcing through Brexit – even under the worst of terms.
That’s not all. This unscrupulous regime is attempting to influence culture itself. They’re interfering in academic appointments and attempting to politicise every aspect of British life. From schools to museums, the message is the same. And the historical implications of that are genuinely terrifying.
Then came Covid19 and yet another excuse to disempower parliament. Boris wasted no time in deploying his majority to ban parliament from scrutinising or commenting upon laws he chose to pass in relation to the pandemic – a topic with an alarmingly wide reach as we shall see. The combination of powers relating to Coronavirus and to Brexit make Johnston dictator in all but name. The government even ignored its own scientific advisory group, SAGE, choosing instead to scapegoat the expert panelists under the distorting auspices of Dominic Cummings, eugenicist and far right sectarian who seems to be pulling Johnston’s strings like some Machiavellian puppet master straight out of renaissance Italy.
It may be that Cummings’ divisive views were the impetus behind the obvious racism inherent in the domestic abuse bill recently passed by this disgraceful tory government.
As if that’s not bad enough. The tories have also voted to remove any and all protections from our NHS. They have completely ignored their oft-repeated manifesto promise to protect the National Health Service from foreign (in particular American) private health investors. This government has quite literally paved the way for the health needs of British citizens to be sold down the river, sacrificed at the altar of corporate profit and private greed. This is not democracy!
In truth, our democracy has been so damaged in just a few short months that it’s genuinely reasonable to compare UK with a banana republic, a totalitarian state in which dissent is ignored, privacy is a thing of the past, laws threaten the peoples’ right to scrutinise the powers that be and where the majority become poorer whilst the elite cabal increase their own wealth exponentially.
My Tory MP, Mark Jenkinson demonstrated once again how little regard he has for representative democracy or the constituents he purports to represent. He couldn’t have made his contempt for his constituents involvement in British politics any clearer if he’d tried.
How on Earth did this ignoramous make it into parliament?
Technically they kept their manifesto promise. Actually they made it toothless and a travesty. Shame on this gaggle of Tory goons who see the problem so clearly, had a mandate from the electorate to fix it and polluted the solution they had promised us with extreme nationalism, racism and petty greed instead!
Let me tell you a story. You might not like this story. Some of you might even want to hurt me for telling it. but it’s a true story none the less. It’s a story about sovereignty, about democracy and about Boris Johnson’s shameful attempts to destroy both.
Thankyou for unblocking me and so allowing me to comment on your FB page. I’d much prefer to engage with my MP than merely criticise from a distance. That’s why I offered you an interview for my channel during the election campaign. That’s also why I have written to your office with questions more than once since you were elected. You see, I believe passionately in freedom of expression and the democratic process and that must include constituents having access to their elected representatives.
So in the spirit of this renewed openness I’d like to make a suggestion…
I recently made a video which to date has had approaching 8,000 views criticising you for denouncing my union, the RCN for ‘politicising’ the current PPE crisis, a crisis which only yesterday Boris Johnson himself acknowledged is something we have to ‘fix’. As ever I’d prefer to give you the chance to put your own case so here’s my suggestion…
We conduct a brief (around 10 minute) skype interview which we both record, me to make a video and you to ensure I don’t misrepresent you in which we discuss your idea that the RCN complaining about the lack of PPE is wrong because they’re ‘politicising’ a crisis. I can be contacted easily enough, your office has my Email address or we can communicate on Facebook.
I look forward to hearing from you and to beginning a more reasonable dialogue moving forward.