Black Widows

No, I’m not talking about…

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…and I’m not talking about…

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…but a fusion of the two…of sorts. What the fuck am I talking about here? Well, I’m not sure that I know myself but I will try to explain.

This post is inspired by one of my work colleagues, specifically an unnerving experience he’s been having with a lady. To simplify the story, he met this girl and friended her on Facebook. What followed was no actual date or even a period of simply exchanging messages/chatter before choosing to meet up in real life. No, this woman decided to jump straight to calling him. Now I know that some of you are probably like, “What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with getting straight to the point and speaking properly? Are you a pussy or something?” and that’s fine but I would personally be wary of things going from zero to lengthy phone calls just like that.

But if that sounds acceptable to some of you out there, how about immediately revealing that you want to have babies within the next year? Or how about requesting a video chat to jump straight to some dirty stuff? In my eyes, the latter just makes the woman a cheap, easy slut and while I freely admit that I would be tempted by easy sex handed to me on a plate, it still isn’t an attractive way of behaving. But it’s actually the former that’s more worrying. If you haven’t even been on a single date with a guy, why in the world of fuck are you telling him that you’ll be wanting kids within the next twelve months? I’m no romance guru but I stand by the advice I gave this colleague in question: run the fuck away.

Women like this are Black Widows and men should avoid them like they’d avoid the spider their persona is based on.

From National Geographic:

The animals most at risk from the black widow’s bite are insects—and male black widow spiders. Females sometimes kill and eat their counterparts after mating in a macabre behavior that gave the insect its name. Black widows are solitary year-round except during this violent mating ritual.

A Black Widow in human female form won’t physically devour you after sex but they will still feast if you are foolish enough to fall in too deep, too easily. Their diet consists of a man’s self-respect, dignity and – in material terms – money. Now I’m not saying that there isn’t a remote outside chance that a Black Widow might turn out to be a good ‘un in the long run but the odds of that happening are extremely long. It’s far safer to simply spot the warning signs and stay away. Fortunately for my work colleague, he was already in the process of ignoring this overly-keen woman’s calls and increasingly weird messages.

Whether consciously or acting out of instinct, she had been attempting to beckon him into her sticky web with all the enticing sexy stuff. As I said, MAYBE it didn’t have to turn into a car crash but from everything he was telling us, I’m fairly certain that she was only after his sperm. If he was lucky, he’d be able to get away from her but he would never have truly escaped once she’d been impregnated. The responsibility towards the child would always be there and he’d be forced to maintain contact with her as well as see his finances sucked away by Child Maintenance (the correct thing to do of course, morally speaking).

You might consider me a woman-hater at this point but that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m just aware of the women out there who are looking to snare a man for their resources, money, social position or potent semen. Obviously, it is in a woman’s DNA to seek a suitable male partner for those very things just as it is in biological make-up of us men to stick our penises into as many attractive members of the opposite sex as possible. Thing is, we as a species have evolved to need more than that. Love and a meaningful relationship for instance. I keep coming back to the concept of Balance in these random, incohesive posts and that’s exactly what we need. Existing as a modern man or woman is all about understanding and not forcibly suppressing our inherent biological motivators but at the same time, striving to maintain equal relationships with respect for one another.

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Conversely, I love femme fatales in books, movies and videogames. [Source]
Black Widows aren’t interested in balance or equality and I’ve seen it happen with men finding their balls trapped in a vice; their woman using them for their credit card, to drive them about or to enable them to live an easy work-free life. These women will lure you in with sex and an unspoken promise of something fantastic but all they are doing are exerting their power over men to get what they want/need. For some years now, there has been a growing feminist movement pushing back against perceived male control. The interesting thing however is that most men show their control through either physical force or obvious character traits. Women are far more subtle however and don’t need to show their hand in order to flex their control. Think about the Trojan War in ancient Greek mythology – ten years of siege and thousands slain…all over a woman (Helen of Troy). In this case, Helen wasn’t even necessary inciting war herself but the power of her beauty was enough to start one.

I don’t believe in any of this “Alpha Male” self-improvement bullshit that I’ve seen around the internet but there are some elements of truth that a man can take from it. I want sex and a relationship as much as the next guy for example but I won’t jump through hoops for it or sell myself out in order to satisfy a woman. You can never truly be happy like that.

So beware the bite of the Black Widow.

Sick

Do you ever have those moments where you feel sick of life and the world around you? That’s how I’ve been feeling over the last few weeks. Admittedly, a big chunk of the contributing factors to my down-in-the-dumps mood are a) things that I am already aware of and b) things that can be ignored or forcibly blocked out. I’m not seeking sympathy here. I know that I must actively try to reject the negativity around me and work on myself to tackle the things affecting me personally. That’s all on me.

As for being ground down by things that I’m already aware of, this is the danger of waking up. We are surrounded by bullshit and falseness but we walk through life not seeing it even when it dances before our eyes. I’m talking about the rampant materialism, commercialism and blatant corruption that we all KNOW is there but forget to question. Turning a critical eye on all of this is a double-edged sword because while it’s a good thing to analyse something rather than accepting it at face value, doing so can also spawn an entirely unnecessary resentment towards the world and its mechanations. I say “entirely unnecessary” because in most cases, there is absolutely nothing that we as individuals can do to change anything.

But you don’t want to hear my half-baked musings do you? You want to know just what it is that is killing my mood and bringing me down, don’t you? Well, there’s too much to list so I will just briefly mention the stuff that is swimming close to the surface…like sinister aquatic nightmares lurking in the shallows.

I put the news on this morning (a big mistake in itself) while I eat breakfast. Somebody has detonated bombs at multiple churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, killing around 180 people and injuring more than 400 (at the time of me writing this post) in cold blood. So much for celebrating Easter.

Ads on the radio bigging up the increase in both the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage, featuring upbeat backing music and “down-to-earth”, working-class, just-like-you (honest!) voiceovers to promote this tiny, mandatory pay packet increase. Just don’t mention the fact that wages still don’t increase fast enough to match rising costs or that employers can still work their employees into the ground in shit jobs because ten others are lining up to take your place should you decide to throw in the towel.

TV ads set in bright, expensive homes where wide-eyed unnaturally enthusiastic pensioners talk about funeral plans. You get a £100 M&S voucher for joining! Wow!

Ads in general with people and companies just trying to sell you shit all the time. Want to listen to music on the radio? Want to watch an episode of your favourite TV show uninterrupted? Tough. Here, buy this shit instead.

The masses blindly inviting crap like Alexa and “smart” technology into their homes, completely oblivious to the fact that they are handing over more and more control of their lives to the corporations as well as inviting it’s maker or any internet hacker to eavesdrop on their privacy. Real stories of smart technology getting a little too smart and doing crazy Terminator shit are apparently just comical anecdotes to chuckle at then forget. If somebody said, “hey, can I just install this speaker in your house and connect it to the internet?”, you’d say “fuck off, mate” or “get off my property”. Sell it as a convenience however for those people too fucking lazy to get off their fat asses and turn a light on with the switch and suddenly they can’t get enough of the idea, even PAYING for it. Idiots.

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The rollout of “smart” energy meters that allegedly save you money. Do your research. The savings aren’t that monumental. Worse still, why is nobody listening to the people who are warning us that the energy companies can control your energy useage remotely with these things? How about the fact that they will be able to charge you different rates depending on what you are using the electricity for? Or how about being stone-walled by your provider when the “smart” technology combines the readings for everybody in the street and sends you a ludicrous bill for everybody’s power consumption?

The government and companies putting all of their eggs into one basket and making more and more critical technology reliant on 4G and 5G despite the blinding danger of terrorists and rogue states taking out the whole lot in one go, tech failure or the ability for people to hack and take control of more and more of our lives. Let’s not even mention the fact that the UK pays foreign companies to build most of this tech and infrastructure…

All of these eco protests that have been happening. I see the people being arrested and all I see are rich-looking, suited types who can AFFORD things like expensive electric vehicles while us working-class normal types CAN’T. I see hippie students flying high on their massive student grants who aren’t holding down crappy jobs to get the bills paid and need their battered-up, dino juice-consuming transportation to get shit done. I see thick-rimmed faux-nerd-glasses-wearing, organic London coffee-shop-dwelling hipster morons who don’t have a clue about normal jobs and life outside of social media and The City.

The increase in random stabbings and the heart-breaking murders of young adults who did nothing wrong and had nothing to do with these vile cunts. All the while, the government expresses sympathy before sticking it’s fingers back in it’s ears and continuing to cut police funding.

The drawn-out misery that is Brexit and having to constantly hear about it.

Pressure and stress at work getting so bad that I have been feeling physically ill and angry enough to kick things, punch things and get shouty. At the same time, I don’t have the confidence to start all over somewhere else with new people even though I know that this is the next logical step that HAS to happen soon for the sake of my health.

Obsession with celebrity and looking up to these people as if they are important or awe-inspiring. No thanks.

People drooling over the latest phone(s) and paying insane contract charges just to have the newest handset. Each to their own but I don’t get it. Queuing outside Apple stores for a phone that you will rave about for the first week then bin without hesitation next year for whatever ‘+’, ‘R’, ‘XS’ or whatever update is released is the dictionary definition of materialism running rampant. Last week I had to listen to a 20+ minute monologue (I won’t use the term “conversation” because I only had the chance to input the words “Uh-huh” or “Right” at the correct places) from a work colleague about how he phoned up his network provider multiple times and had all of this back-and-forth hassle to get a contract upgrade. It was enthralling.

My email inbox drowning in reminders to address Facebook notifications, view what people have shared or to check out somebody’s status.

All the pop-ups on my PC reminding me that my anti-virus and firewalls are out-of-date and MUST be upgraded or else I am at risk. Hackers CAN see me and my files WILL be stolen. Honestly, the wording and fear tactics that AVG use is absolutely disgusting.

I could go on forever but you get the gist (hopefully). Paranoid ranting? Angry childish tantrums? Possibly, possibly. As I said near the beginning of this post, I know that I need to be ignoring almost all of this and just getting on with my life but sometimes I look around and see so much shit that is just heading in the wrong direction with gaping problems. Any legitimate concerns about overly-intelligent tech for example would just be brushed off as “stupid” worries inspired by fantasy like The Terminator. I see stupidity and monstrous naivete. I see society breaking down. I see our “free” world gradually becoming more and more censored as the SJW and “think of the children” nutters demand that we are choked by restrictions and a growing list of what and what isn’t “allowed”. I see companies caving to their demands and people actually buying into this shit. I see people drugged-up on tech and material possessions, kept in their places just as the corporations and governments WANT.

I see all of this (and so much more) and sometimes wonder what the future holds and how I’m going to deal with this crap only swelling in prominence. The do-gooders are already trying to take away my love of cars and motoring by demanding that we all drive around in yawnsome dishwashers loaded with smart technology that carries the kind of morons who shouldn’t even be on the road in the first place.

I feel sick of it all and sometimes want a way off of this planet before it’s too late.

Next Time: something more positive!

 

Let’s NOT stay connected [Part 2]

Some time ago now, I wrote about the hassle of mobile phones and how I cannot stand being contactable at any time no matter where I am. If you missed that angry, anti-social rant then you can read it here. Unfortunately, things have gotten worse since then…much, much worse.

Now I am being hassled to join a work’s WhatsApp group. This is apparently going to be a good idea and allow the department to remain connected (*shudder*) and ditch the slower methods of text messages and those dusty old things from yesteryear that we knew as “phone calls”. For a stubborn, introverted S.O.B like me, the idea of my phone continuously pinging with work chatter or teh funniez isn’t fun at all. It’s absolute HELL and an inconvenient nuisance that I simply do not want to invite into my life. If you’re the kind of person that embraces all of this kind of shit and think Whatsapp is a cool thing then you’re probably thinking, “what the fuck is this weirdo going on about?”

So let me just break this down rather than attempt to form flowy paragraphs of justification:

  1. I hate work. I don’t want to talk about it any more than is necessary and I am confident in betting money on a work’s WhatsApp NOT shutting the fuck up once our shift(s) is over.
  2. I’m really not interested in pointless small talk or sharing humorous gifs or memes.
  3. I don’t want the hassle of being expected to reply to stuff.
  4. I don’t want the intrusion into my personal time/space.
  5. As I said in Part 1, any time somebody calls me while I’m working, it’s usually related to problems, disasters or shit that has gone wrong. I REALLY don’t want more of this when I’m trying to get my job done.

As I said earlier, I am an introverted person. I intend to hopefully make some more posts on this (often misunderstood) personality type sometime in the near future but suffice to say, we don’t enjoy this sort of thing and we certainly don’t find the idea of being connected something to get excited about.

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I would much rather turn my phone off completely and be done with it all as soon as possible. The world aggravates me. People aggravate me. That might sound cold and monstrously anti-social but I simply have a limited amount of energy for socialising and have to expend it all during the day dealing with customers and work colleagues. Anything extra on top of that is genuinely a big ask which is why I have zero interest in joining a Whatsapp group and getting involved in any more chatter than is necessary.

This isn’t me saying that I hate my work colleagues or don’t want to talk to people. It’s actually the opposite. I get on with the people I work with and there’s a part of me that wishes I was more extroverted (because it’s difficult being an introvert in an extrovert’s world) but I’m not and I’ve learnt from experience that fighting your natural personality (as opposed to accepting it) only causes greater despair and misery.

But sometimes it seems that society won’t let you just be you. Resisting the WhatsApp conversion nets you odd looks or probing questions. I understand and expect this of course but I wish that “no” was enough. If I don’t want WhatsApp then I don’t want it. Leave me be.

Please.

My problem with “Hate Crimes”…

Yesterday I wrote about the movie, Blade Runner, a futuristic vision which is just one of many possible futures that we may well face. We can laugh about such movies now and brand them sci-fi fantasy nonsense but the downsides of corporate-controlled, heavily censored, technology-ruled, dystopian futures are very real and will be with us soon depending on how careful we are with our decision-making NOW. After all, self-aware computers such as HAL and Skynet were once “just” sci-fi but here we are, inviting smart technology such as Alexa into our homes and giving it increasing access to the controls. Do a quick search on the internet and you will already find stories of Alexa getting a little too smart. People are laughing about it now but for how much longer?

Anyway – as I said – the avoidance of such futures will be based on intelligent decision-making now but unfortunately, I don’t have any faith in our species to make those calculated choices. Every time I dare to look at the news I see the planet’s sanity slipping away bit by bit as my brothers and sisters persist with their determination to flush common sense down the toilet.

And it’s that key phrase – “Common Sense” – that links my waffling about Terminator-style futures and that bitch, Alexa, to so-called Hate Crimes (we got there in the end). What does any of that have to do with current social issues, I hear you ask? Well, it’s the same lack of common-sense when dealing with today’s social issues that will see us ruled by our washing machines at some point in the future. It’s one of those classic “where does it all end?” questions.

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[image: pearlsofprofundity.wordpress.com]
But first, what exactly IS a hate crime? Well, let me go straight to the top and retrieve the definition from our own Metropolitan Police website here in the UK.

“A hate crime is when someone commits a crime against you because of your disability, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other perceived difference.”

“It doesn’t always include physical violence. Someone using offensive language towards you or harassing you because of who you are, or who they think you are, is also a crime. The same goes for someone posting abusive or offensive messages about you online.”

And it goes further…

“A hate crime is defined as ‘Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.’

A hate incident is any incident which the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someone’s prejudice towards them because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender.

Not all hate incidents will amount to criminal offences, but it is equally important that these are reported and recorded by the police.

Evidence of the hate element is not a requirement. You do not need to personally perceive the incident to be hate related. It would be enough if another person, a witness or even a police officer thought that the incident was hate related.”

A prime example of our country’s definition of a hate crime was reported back in March (I meant to post about it sooner but quite honestly, couldn’t be bothered…) when a Catholic journalist made the mistake of referring to a transgender woman as a man on good old Twitter.

From MSN News:

“Caroline Farrow appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain alongside Susie Green, whose daughter Jackie Green is transgender, to discuss Girlguiding’s decision to let children who have changed their gender join the organisation.

On Tuesday Farrow tweeted that she did not “remember said tweets”, adding: “I probably said ‘he’ or ‘son’ or something. All I have been told is that following an appearance on Good Morning Britain I made some tweets misgendering Susie Green’s child and that I need to attend a taped interview.””

“Using the wrong pronoun could be an offence under the Malicious Communications Act, which makes it a crime to send messages that are indecent or grossly offensive, threatening, or contain information which is false or believed to be false, if the purpose for sending it is to cause distress or anxiety. Breaking the law carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.”

The first issue here is that I titled this post “My Problem with Hate Crimes…” when I really should have used the plural, ProblemS. If you’re of a calm, common-sense orientated mindset, as I am, then you will no doubt have picked up on them already after reading the quotes above. I wouldn’t want you to do all the work though so in the interests of not being lazy, here are the glaring faults as I see them:

  1. We are constantly being reminded to respect the faith and religious beliefs of others and I assume that NOT doing that would also be classed as a hate crime. With that in mind, why are Caroline Farrow’s CATHOLIC beliefs on the subject of gender change being criminalised?
  2. What part of this so-called “crime” was motivated by hostility or prejudice? Farrow later stated that she tries “really hard not to misgender people” and that’s despite her Catholic beliefs, let’s not forget. Anybody with a brain (a dying breed it would seem) would realise that she simply made a mistake when choosing her terminology on Twitter. I don’t believe for a second that there was any malice or deliberate attempt to defy the “victim”s transgender lifestyle by selecting the words “him” or “he”.
  3. We need to talk about this Malicious Communications Act because being sentenced for two years in prison for using the wrong pronoun is bonkers. I’ve heard of ACTUAL criminals getting less time for doing far worse. The positive side of the Act is that it deters internet trolls and low-level, neanderthal types from targeting specific people with racial or sexual slurs for the sole purpose of attacking them with words and causing psychological harm. This is GOOD. This is why such legislation was needed in the first place. The problem is that the definition of Hate Crimes becomes far too loose and grey around the edges as a result. In the case of the Caroline Farrow story, the wrong pronoun may have been used but it was an innocent mistake. Unfortunately it seems that even non-malicious errors potentially carry the same consequences as intentionally setting out to spread hate. My big issue here is that if the transgender “victim” still looks and sounds like their original sex then it is highly likely that you are going to accidentally refer to them by their original gender out of pure INSTINCT. It is a MISTAKE, not an intentional attack which brings me to my next point…
  4. When did everybody decide to become so incredibly sensitive? In my mind, the normal reaction to accidentally being referred to by your original sex would be either to calmly point out the mistake or simply accept that people make mistakes and will be doing so for some time to come. As long as that person didn’t purposely set out to offend or ridicule your life decisions then I see no issue. To me it seems that so many people are simply waiting to leap to irrational conclusions and are prepared to see attacks and hatred coming at them from every angle, like a tripped-out stoner having hallucinations of ten copies of the same person sharing a room with them.

I’m also not happy about the constant use of the word “perceived”. Rather than have concrete definitions of a crime, it’s as if the victim gets to make the judgment call on whether something was a crime or not. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t that sort of thing for the police, a jury or a court judge to decide? After all, somebody might say the same thing to two different transgender people and one will shrug it off while the other defines it as a criminal act. You can’t do that with other types of crime such as murder or theft; it either happened or it didn’t. And of course, Perception loves to share a bed with Overreaction.

Oh and let’s not forget this little nugget from the police’s description of hate crime:

“Evidence of the hate element is not a requirement”

So now we have “crimes” that don’t require evidence? Fuck.

Obviously, it isn’t my intention here to play down genuine offences or the struggles that the transgender community face because I know it is happening right now, all over the world, and that some of the legitimate hostility is quite aggressive and foul. But is it so far-fetched to believe that some people are overreacting over simple mistakes when they should be saving their fight for the REAL haters? Is it a case of the overall cause being so important that common-sense and rationale need to be sacrificed at the altar of progression? I think we need to be careful. It’s brilliant that the law here in the UK is offering protection for these relatively new movements but it shouldn’t also offer a blank canvas for people to decide what is and isn’t a crime, making the perpertrators of genuine mistakes out to be bad human beings.

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[image: thewomensuniverse.com]
There’s also another issue here that I think needs to be brought into the light: the difference between accepting something and agreeing with it. I sometimes feel that people think in black-and-white and can’t understand that it’s possible to disagree with something and still accept it. I personally don’t agree with people changing their sex, especially when they are children well below the age where the law classes them as an adult. BUT I accept that this is happening and I wouldn’t dream of insulting a transgender person or taking the piss out of them. As far as I am concerned, it is their life and they can do what they like with it. They aren’t hurting anybody after all and I have always bought into the philosopy of doing what you need to do in order to be happy considering that our lives are short and can end at any time. After all, the haters can spew their bile and waste their energy but if it’s YOU who are happy with your life and the choices that have got you to that point then who really gets the last laugh?

But I can’t help but see people searching for injustice and actively seeking it out; twisting even the most minor of things into a full-blown outrage that deserves media coverage and a Twitter-storm so that like-minded self-victimisers can get together in the echo chambers of the internet, their numbers bolstered by hoardes of tag alongs that have nothing to do with the issue but want to look fashionable by liking or commenting on whatever is trending. And once all of that has escalated to Red Alert status and the furious meltdowns begin, the trivial root cause of all the screaming is forgotten and somebody who perhaps said the wrong word by mistake has already been metaphorically tried and executed by social media as the devil incarnate.

If you think I’m making too big of a deal out of it then read the following news excerpts and tell me that these aren’t the signs of a society descending into madness…a society where people are furious about everything and set on turning non-malicious errors of speech into criminal acts.

“In February, a teacher who was accused of misgendering a child was told by police that she had committed a hate crime.

The teacher reportedly refused to acknowledge that the pupil self-identified as a boy and failed to use the pupil’s preferred pronouns of “he” or “him”.

Okay, I can only half give this one because the teacher in question did actively refuse to acknowledge the pupil but even so…how do we know that the student in question hadn’t just decided off their own (non-adult) back to “be” a boy? Is it fair to call this a hate crime? Is it right to force society to agree with it and not give the option to retain an opinion?

“Last year, it was reported that a teacher was suing a school after he faced disciplinary action for referring to a transgender pupil as a girl.

Joshua Sutcliffe, from Oxford, said he was investigated after he said “well done, girls” to a group that included a student who identifies as a boy.”

In this case, this has to have been a simple mistake. Let’s face it, if you were teaching a class of girls, wouldn’t it be easy – understandable, even – to accidentally forget that one of them identified as a boy? Let’s not forget that “identifying” as a boy doesn’t mean that you actually look like one so the mistake would be even easier to make. Finally, did the pupil even tell the teacher/school that they identified as a boy or did they use witheld/private knowledge after the so-called “incident” to retroactively lodge a complaint? This one is ridiculous as far as I’m concerned. Teachers shouldn’t have to go and do their job (difficult enough anyway with budget cuts and lack of discipline amongst school-age children these days) and then have to deal with this bullshit on top. I would ask those who are offended to put themselves in the position of the teacher and look at the situation from a different perspective, their own beliefs set to one side for a moment…

“Last October, a transgender lawyer launched the UK’s first “deadnaming” case in the high court against Father Ted’s screenplay writer after he referred to her using her birth name. The transgender activist Stephanie Hayden is suing Graham Linehan, the co-writer of the comedy TV series, for defamation and harassment after he allegedly published a series of tweets “deliberately misgendering” her by using her previous male name, otherwise known as “deadnaming”.

Hayden said Linehan “caused her distress” and that his actions constituted harassment, a misuse of private information, and were a “gross affront to her dignity as a woman”.

So now we have “deadnaming” too? And our old friend, Perception as well as that amazing word “allegedly”. We don’t know that Linehan intentionally used Hayden’s original name in his tweets. Could it simply be a conclusion that was leapt to without even asking Linehan? There’s no concrete evidence or fact to this one and yet it warranted a court case and the extreme terms of “defamation”, “harassment”, “distress” and a “gross affront”. How about that misuse of private information? The original name of a TV actor that was already out there in the public eye and no-doubt in the end credits of many TV episodes? Come on: get real here. Maybe Linehan DID do it on purpose but if he didn’t, I bet he was sitting there thinking “huh?” and wondering what kind of parallel universe he’d fallen into during his sleep.

And that’s about all I can stomach, I’m afraid. The whole hate crime thing is deeply flawed and far too open to any old rumours and personal perceptions being classified as criminal acts. There is well-meaning there and I am 100% in agreement that unnecessary prejudice and hate is out there and a real obstacle. But how about this: save the energy and passion for taking down the REAL hate-speakers, not the poor guy who saw a woman, didn’t know that ‘she’ identified as a man and ended up having to take a police interview for an honest mistake that anybody would make.

I need to go now anyway. I have to complete the move into my new house:

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[image: stevehamiltonphoto.com]

Giving Materialism the boot

It’s been a short while since I lasted posted but unfortunately, I had a small dosage of writer’s block. Additionally, I am also suffering with My-Back-Is-Fucked-itis 2: The Sequel which, let me tell you, is not enjoyable. To snatch a silver lining from a particularly black and moody stormcloud, I am now off work for a few days in order to recover and this means I have some time to get my writing back on.

So let’s fucking do this.

Today I am going to talk about materialism, specifically my determination to kick it to the gutter. It’s an affliction that one doesn’t recognise even when it’s right before their eyes and there are many reasons for this. Further, materialism is also widely classed as a negative personal value since it contributes little to your life. Obviously, a little materialism isn’t necessarily something to get freaked out about but as with all things in life, there has to be balance and moderation or else it is probable that another department in your life is out of whack.

mag1For me, the first reason that I am materialistic is because I’m a hoarder; a magpie who loves shiny things. Even worse, I am a big geek with a large collection of videogames, books, DVDs and all that shit. With the videogames, I was once obsessed with ensuring that I picked up collector’s editions, original prints and complete (i.e boxed with all original instructions, paperwork etc.) copies with the view that I would eventually get around to playing them all “some day” (such a magical phrase!). Problem is though, I can easily spend over a hundred hours on a good role-playing game so the reality is, I am never going to get around to playing everything I have bought meaning that at least 80% of my collection sits on shelves or in storage crates, gathering dust. There’s also the question of replayability and whether I would REALLY ever revisit something I’ve already beaten.

Moving onto books, it’s pretty much the same thing. I have a burning need to make sure that I have the first edition hardback copies in excellent condition. It costs more money and those hardbacks take up a LOT of space. The main problem with a swollen bookshelf is that I am unlikely to revisit a large chunk of those books even if I enjoyed them. For as many books as I have read, there is an ocean of other good reads out there and I intend to dip my toes in that ocean rather than remaining in my literary comfort zone. Also, great books that rely on incredible plot twists or mystery tend to blow their load like a male pornstar on that first read and as a result, often sacrifice their ability to provide the same rush on a repeat reading. It’s okay to say that you enjoyed these books but not revisit them. One such example that immediately springs to mind (and has ended up in my growing stack of stuff to get shot of) is Stephen King’s The Outsider. This was a fantastic page-turner but once you know what happens then the mystery is gone.

DVD’s are another space-waster and I tend to keep what I think I would 100% watch again but as I look through my collection, I find so many that are covered in dust and haven’t been viewed in several years, despite my best intentions. Again, it’s okay to say that you enjoyed a movie but keeping copies of every single DVD around “just in case” hasn’t turned out to be a great idea.

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A tiny snapshot of my videogame hoarding. These shelves are two layers deep and full of stuff I haven’t inserted into a console in years.

There is a second reason that materialism has crept up on me over the years and this is where I have to simply cut the bullshit and get straight to the point in true Unfiltered Opinion style. I collect things because it distracts from my real problems. Materialism is akin to a mask or smokescreen with the items and collections providing an illusion of comfort and something to waste away your time and attention on rather than dealing with real life issues.

With this in mind, I have decided that now is the time for an utterly brutal clear-out. I want a tidier, more streamlined living space that leans more towards minimalism. There is also a lot of money tied up in some of these things, especially the videogames, some of which have appreciated in value over the years thanks to a buoyant collector’s market. And having more money is always a helpful thing. Y’see, aside from the obsessions I have already spoken about, I also collect trading cards and have an appetite for performance cars, both of which aren’t cheap interests. I would much rather have just the one type of nerdy collecting habit so that I can focus on my car and my own life. As I said, some materialism isn’t necessarily bad but it has to be moderated and if that means cashing in on several defunct hobbies/collections in order to reduce it down to just the one then so be it.

Of course, anybody who has tried to do this before knows that letting go of shit is difficult if you have developed the hoarder mentality. Sentimentality is one of the biggest hurdles but I find that guilt over throwing out gifts or old presents is the tougher obstacle. On top of these nasties, you are also dealing with the fear of not being able to acquire X item ever again once it’s gone as well as trying to break free of this detrimental mindset of running away from root problems to bury your head in material possessions.

So I scoured the internet and various blogs to find the best tips for slaying materialism and leading a more minimalist life. Here is what I have compiled thus far; the wisdom that I will continually be referring to while I attempt to let go of stuff.

  • Love or associated memories of a person/event are not in the items themselves. They are in us and our memories. Taking and archiving a photo of an item before getting rid of it is enough.
  • Worst case scenario: I can always buy something again if I really need it down the line.
  • Keeping useful items to save wasting them is a waste in itself. A waste because other people could be using those items.
  • Ask “if I didn’t have this item, how much would I pay to get it?”. If the answer is “nothing” then you can let go of it because it is worth “nothing” to you.
  • Does it add any value to my life? Do I feel any kind of spark when holding the item? If not then I am simply stuck holding onto the past.
  • Always keep your ultimate life goals and dreams in mind. If these items won’t help you get there and don’t bring any joy then they can go.
  • If you own too much stuff then your stuff will own YOU.

So I’m going to give this a go. At the time of typing out this post, I have already piled up a load of stuff that I never thought I would let go of and despite the fact that it is still here in the house, I honestly have no regrets about pulling these items out and have no itch to put them back before it’s “too late”. Some stuff is already listed on ebay and I have many more areas to scrutinise and collections to slim down.

I have come to firmly believe that materialism is a bad thing and one of the largest problems in Western society that is rarely spoken about in the mainstream. Probably because the mainstream is so busy trying to sell us more crap and ‘fashionable’ products that won’t really enhance our wellbeing – just keep us drugged up on entertainment and gadgets so that we remain content and believing that we are happy (we aren’t).

Tried this yourself? I would love to hear about your experiences with battling materialism and the methods you used.

Desensitisation to violence

I currently have a large list of topics and ideas for posts that I will hopefully be getting around to in the coming weeks (if anybody is interested that is) but I wanted to put them all to the side and talk about this – something serious – for today’s post. The growing desensitisation to violence and cruelty in our society. It’s something I’ve noticed more and more as the years pass and quite honestly, it concerns me. Perhaps it shouldn’t but it does. And I think more people should sit up and take notice of what’s going on because there are many questions that can and should be asked.

I’m talking about indifference to the latest terrorist attack wherever it happens. A bomb obliterates a marketplace of innocent people in some far off Middle Eastern country? Shrug of the shoulders. No surprise there. Carry on watching Netflix.

An unhinged teenager brings a machine gun to show-and-tell day and fills his classmates with bullets just because “nobody liked him” or a girl turned him down for prom. Yawn. Seen it all before. Show me something new.

A woman is raped and brutally murdered on parkland simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whatever; it happens all the time. Push it down to the minor news items so that we can focus on the real news. Who is illicitly shagging who in showbiz for instance or how Kim K’s butt looked in public this week.

I get it. There’s nothing that getting upset or overthinking on stories like these will achieve. We are constantly bombarded with terrible news on a daily basis and so it is probably only natural that we can only be shocked by so much before the shocking gradually loses its ability to deliver a gut punch. Further, it’s easy to look at awful things happening in faraway locales and not feel threatened by it because of all that space between us and them. It’s a luxury of the western world that shouldn’t be forgotten.

But often I am seeing fun being made of atrocities and savage violence; horrific, needless losses of life being trivialised and accepted as ‘normal’. Don’t get me wrong: I can take a joke and see the logic in laughing so that you don’t cry but I see this desensitisation being taken too far, too often. Nowhere is this more prevalant than with school shootings in the US. These are some of the worst things I have ever seen reported on TV: innocent children being shot to pieces for no crime other than attending school. Young lives cut short for no good reason and families/friends destroyed. I see these events unfold on the news here in the UK and it genuinely breaks my heart…and I’m far from a weepy, emotional sap – believe me.

Others clearly don’t feel the same though. I recently watched the video for Foster The People’s Pumped Up Kicks on Youtube (a song that alludes to school shootings) and the comments section was interesting to say the least.

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I don’t believe that any of these people mean malice or are necessarily “bad” people. Also, this is a music video and not a political/social battleground so I wouldn’t EXPECT serious discussion. However, do these comments reflect a general lack of respect to the results of school shootings? Are these people US citizens poking fun at these horrible tragedies that are occuring in their own country? It’s one thing to be unable to react emotionally to attacks in foreign countries but in your own? Obviously this is Youtube and the internet so we can’t assume contributers’ locations.

But why is it that we – as a society – are able to make fun of apalling acts of murder and act so indifferent to them? I personally believe that it’s down to the “it won’t happen to me” mindset that too many of us have. We feel safe in the west even though we know that murders and shootings are happening in our midst. There’s also the fact that we are “drugged up” on entertainment and non-important life content. It is all too easy for us to shut out life’s horrors and bury our heads in videogames, movies and the internet. Sometimes, it’s the real world that feels like the fiction while the fluff and materialistic things have a greater power to offend or anger us.

Even so, try explaining your latest school shooting joke as “harmless fun” to somebody whose daughter was shot dead at high school. Inform the friends of a dead highschooler that they can’t “take a joke” after they get upset at the latest fatal shooting spawning “witty” humour. To me, it’s wrong. People are only able to come out with this stuff because they personally haven’t been the victim of a similar attack. I really hope they don’t ever have to experience it for themselves but if they did, I imagine that the laughing and clever jokes would stop.

Sometimes I look around and wonder how we got to this point so quickly. I don’t doubt that bad taste humour has always been around (because it has) but the millennial generation have taken to it like a duck to water and continually push the boundaries. Then I wonder to myself: how much worse will it get? How much are we prepared to laugh about? Children are growing up with shootings, stabbings and brutal killings being the norm thanks to a media that is determined to broadcast them to us on a rolling twenty four hour news feed. If it’s no longer out of the ordinary then how will it shock?

In my mind, it all comes back to our lives being too easy with no real hardships. Yes, we all experience suffering to different degrees for various, personal reasons but we are all fortunate nonetheless. If we lived in war-torn countries then I doubt we would be posting amusing memes about death on social media. Was WWII funny for the generation who being called up and sent to their probable deaths in trenches? I doubt it.

I’m not really sure where I intended to finish up with this post. All I can say in conclusion is that this desensitisation to violence is disheartening and unhealthy. I hope that attitudes might change but I think that the indifference is only set to grow.

 

Why I don’t believe in religion

Well, this might be a thorny subject but here goes anyway. Blame it on the fact that I’m currently still sponsored by ibuprofen and Deep Heat pain relief for my screaming back. That and a lack of sleep last night as a result of said back.

Anyway, if you’ve read any of my previous content work word vomit on this blog, you will know the score. I don’t like to pander or apologise. Maybe I come off as being tactless and bullish but as far as I’m concerned, it’s far better to be honest. It’s also a luxury that we have here in the West and I’m well aware of that. HOWEVER…in the case of this specific post, I feel that I must open by saying that what follows is not an attack on any religion or indeed anybody who believes in a god. Your views and your beliefs are yours and regardless of what you might believe about me, I would certainly not ridicule or insult somebody else for holding those beliefs. We would still get along in real life because people aren’t just opinions and beliefs on legs, as difficult as that is for the militant and zealous amongst us to accept.

I do believe that everything should be open to challenge or analysis however. Denying that points to insecurity or the fear of having something disproven. In my (unfiltered) opinion of course.

I’m not going to make a meal out of this or attempt to forge an in-depth thesis so I will simply list off the reasons I have for not believing in a religion. I also want to take a quick second to say that this post was inspired by a post on belief systems written by Black Sheep over at Not Sheep Minded. Check his blog out if you have a moment as I’m really enjoying his content right now. Anyway, my reasons.

  1. There is no proof. As far as I can see, there is no proof or hard evidence of any religion’s deities or figures of importance actually ever having existed. True, we can look back at historical evidence and sometimes tie religious events down to a likely date. We can also safely assume that some of the figures described in religious texts may have lived in some capacity. But as for the miracles, magical events and omnipotent beings? There is no hard evidence at all. Further, we have to ask the question of why the appearances of and interactions with deities no longer occur. Where are the unbelievable miracles and incredible acts such as Moses parting the ocean?
  2. A lot of believers (not ALL I must stress) believe what they believe because they were told to. Maybe they grew up in a traditionally religious family and religion was drilled into them from a young, impressionable age. Maybe they live in a country where religion is as commonplace and widely accepted as breathing air. Regardless, there are millions of believers who probably didn’t actively choose to follow their religion but were raised to believe in it without ever questioning the authenticity or facts. In my mind, this is the same as voting for a particular political party just because your parents or the majority of your neighbours always have done. It’s the same as harbouring a hatred towards a neighbouring country for no rational reason other than because your ancestors did so. It’s like only buying Nike trainers because all of your friends do. In all cases, there are gaping flaws in such behaviour and an ignorance towards alternatives. There is no willingness to ask questions or challenge what you have been told is correct.
  3. Blind belief. Tying in with the above two points, I simply cannot accept that it is healthy to believe so strongly in something and re-order your life around said belief without any evidence. In one way, I genuinely admire people who can do this but for me, I just think of all the other things in this world that I would put zero stock in without any proof or at least prior experience that it works. Perhaps this last point can be countered by those who believe they have had certain experiences that simply aren’t explicable by scientific or earthly means. That much, I will concede.
  4. Contradictions. We are told to respect the beliefs of others and different religions attempt to co-exist in peace. However, the teachings and lifestyles of different belief systems often contradict one another. So if we are all to accept the beliefs of others, how can we accept that multiple religions have conflicting endgames? Does this mean that only one religion is right? THAT is a path of questioning that nobody wants to venture down.
  5. Wars. Religion – alongside power, greed and lust – has been one of the standout motivators for bloody, senseless wars. From Islamic terrorism to the Christian Crusades, countless wars have been fought due to the other “side” holding separate beliefs or because one side wants to force their teachings onto others. Considering that peace and love is often preached, this strikes me as highly ironic. Those with a deep convinction in their chosen religion are prepared to put that above all else and go much further than non-believers. It’s a scary and cold-blooded notion.
  6. It is a form of control. Don’t do X because you will be denied heaven. Don’t do Y because you will be punished for it. DO keep doing Z because it will be thought well of in the next life. Order is necessary in society and while nobody enjoys being ruled over by office managers, politicians or the police, there are at least usually legitimate reasons for this form of control. You have to get the work done at the office to keep your job and to keep the gears of your company greased for example. You have to obey the law because murder, theft et al are wrong and bring suffering to others. But spending your life submitting to another form of control because you are taught to on the basis of no hard evidence (see Point 1) is not for me. It is all done on the promise that you will be rewarded later on but there is no proof of that and no way of knowing what will happen when you die. So again, it goes back to believing something simply because somebody else tells you that it is so.

Now I do realise that I have probably hammered all of that out in a crude and ignorant-sounding fashion but those points are simply how I see the situation. Obviously, I am open to having my points challenged and having a reasonable discussion. What I’m not open to are those who relentlessly push, push, push their beliefs without showing me some hard facts as to why I should make a decision to believe in what I cannot see. A discussion cannot exist in that format.

It isn’t just religion either. I don’t believe in ghosts, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster or anything else that has no concrete evidence. With all of these things (religion included) I like to think that I keep the door open just a crack i.e. I am open to new evidence and open to the fact that someday, I might witness something that will change my views. I am not closed-minded. I just don’t see the reasoning in accepting anything without sound argument or proof. And it’s too easy to play the “well if your mind isn’t open then you won’t see it” card because that’s the cheapest trick in the book as far as I’m concerned. It takes us down a dangerous path where anything at all is possible if it can’t be solidly disproved. It’s a way for anybody to promote anything as the truth and while I do enjoy looking at out-there theories and possibilities, it is still with an sceptical and analytical mindset.

As I have said before though, one thing I do believe in is remembering that we can always be wrong about anything. It keeps us questioning things and prevents us from becoming too ignorant or sheep-like.