The man in the street of course. Not the politicians who are fueling (no pun intended) the latest potential oil crisis. I think Linkin Park nailed it when they used this line in the song “Hands Held High”:
When you can’t put gas in your tank These fuckers are laughing their way To the bank and cashing their check
Yes, it’s the ongoing Yemen/Saudi Arabia/Iran/USA crisis that you may have seen in the news. Saudi oil refineries were hit by drone strikes that caused significant damage, with the knock-on effect being that global oil supplies have been cut by 5% and prices are going to go up at the pumps. Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attacks while the US has pointed the finger at current global sparring partner, Iran. Obviously, Iran has denied any involvement despite the US allegedly having evidence to prove that the drones came from there and not Yemen.
In short, it’s you and I who will have to pay the price when fuel prices rise. If we’re lucky, that’s all that will happen. The worst case scenario is that fuel stations run out or have intermittent supplies – a situation that could well become reality should the Saudi facilities suffer further attacks and consequent damage. Then we really will feel the squeeze. It’s been approximately ten years since the last such shortage hit us here in the UK and that time, it was down to a national blockade and industrial striking. Prices soared and pumps ran dry as motorists had to endure miserable queues, fraying tempers and the not knowing when you would next be able to fill up.
A very sneaky and convenient thing happened when the shortage was finally resolved though. Prices went back down but NOT all the way down to where they were before the blockade began. If the price hike was due to the shortage then there’s no reason why the price couldn’t have returned to where it had been. Clearly, the oil giants saw the opportunity to sneak a permanent increase through while customers were just relieved to be able to get fuel again and at a lower price.
If I were to put on my conspiracy hat, I might even suggest that the whole thing was orchestrated on purpose to get that price increase through when there was no other justifiable reason to do so…
But back to current affairs, this latest strain on our wallets will be the direct result of world leaders once again waving their dicks about and playing power games, heedless of how the ordinary people will feel the impact of their supreme arrogance. The situation is of course complicated and I’m not going to pretend that I’m an expert on what is happening but I’ll try and summarise.
The Houthi rebels fighting for control of Yemen are backed by Iran
Their opponents – the overthrown Yemenese government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi – are continuing to fight back, backed by multiple Sunni Arab states.
Saudi Arabia are the principle backer of Mr Hadi’s government and the Saudis are, of course, aligned with the US who supply them arms.
So the core battle on the ground is a war between two different religious factors. But the far more dangerous aspect of Yemen’s war is the proxy war between outside states that overshadows the original conflict. As a predominately Shia country, Iran is of course going to support the Houthi rebels, especially when it means gaining greater influence in the region. Iran’s enemies – the Saudis – aren’t interested in that happening in the slightest and so they are naturally attempting to restore President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s government, get rid of the Houthis and prevent Iranian influence from creeping into a neighbouring state.
But there is another conflict taking place that is having a direct influence on the war in Yemen – the cold war between Iran and the US. Donald Trump continues to throw stones in glass houses as he takes a hardline stance with Iran which I’m sure some of Trump’s supporters and right-wing types appreciate. Don’t fuck with ‘murica! Of course, there is the irony of the President being robust with a country that he has called the world’s number one “state of terror”…the same President who was about to have peace talks with the Taliban, on US soil no less. Unbelievable.
However you view Trump’s stance on dealing with countries like Iran, the facts still speak for themselves. Since tearing up the nuclear deal and ramping up the sanctions on Tehran, Iran has become increasingly hostile. They have resumed enriching uranium and breached the previously imposed limit as defined by the nuclear deal. They have been accused of sabotaging oil tankers in the region and have seized others. All of this will have unfavourable effects on ordinary people when oil supply lines are disrupted.
Between this and Trump’s other actions on the world stage, he is causing a lot of chaos and conflict. It’s almost as if he is moving through a jungle and using a stick to prod tarantulas and snakes. Prod them enough and they will strike back but what else can you expect? Iran has its back to the wall – its economy suffocating beneath the weight of sanctions – so what else does anybody expect them to do? Simply keel over and do what an outside state demands them to? Would you expect the US to do that?
I’m not defending Iran because they are in no way innocent in all of this but this is yet another instance of a nuclear-equipped country telling another country that they aren’t allowed nuclear weapons. It’s double-standards of the highest order and you can see why the likes of Iran and North Korea don’t take too kindly to US and European insistence that they don’t create nuclear weapons of their own. America isn’t the shining defender of justice and liberty that it likes to portray itself as because, at the end of the day, their administration’s involvement in proxy wars and meddling in foreign spheres of influence is only ever to gain or maintain input on the global sphere of influence.
It should also be said that while we will be bitching and moaning about fuel prices, the real suffering is taking place in Yemen where innocent people are being killed and their lives utterly destroyed as religious conflict and foreign policy translates into constant airstrikes and the savage destruction of their home. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to live in such conditions. So perhaps spare a thought for them next time you are feeling irate about have to spend a few more pounds to put petrol in your comfy German executive saloon.
If you’ve ever read any of my previous posts on the shitshow that is Brexit then you may be familiar with the way I’ve described this catastrophe of a process as a rubbish version of Game of Thrones. Minus the attractive ladies and dragons of course. Unless I’ve missed a key day of news, neither of those things are happening down at Westminster.
But Brexit has everything else that makes George R.R. Martin’s books and HBO’s TV adaptation so enthralling:
Individuals using events to further their own agenda/careers
The struggle for power taking precedence over what’s important for the country
The populance being split apart with a growing “Us vs Them” environment
Wars of words with neighbouring countries
So what exactly is my point with all of this? I’m not actually sure but at least my half-assed attitude is more solidified than the rapidly-shifting events here in the UK that continue to flabbergast us. You honestly couldn’t write this shit. Each morning’s fresh batch of headlines bring something else that chips away at any belief I have in our leadership. This is a considerable achievement given that my current faith in our political elite would be represented with a negative number were I to use a percentage-based metric.
Bringing this post back to the original analogy, I have genuinely often thought, “fuck Game of Thrones. It has nothing on Brexit.” If Brexit was all entirely fictional and dramatised as a book then it would be one hell of an addictive page-turner, brimming with plots, counter-plots and end-of-chapter shocks that turn everything upside-down.
As I’ve already said, so much has happened since Boris Johnson ascended to the Iron Throne armchair in No.10, Downing Street. Therefore, it’s incredibly difficult to summarise the current situation – especially given that this crap has been selling papers since 2016 – but I will try to put it in layman’s terms…
Parliament is currently on shutdown because Boris Johnson asked the Queen for permission to do so. This is known as being “Prorogued”. During this time, MP’s may not enter Westminster and no parliamentary business may take place. Prorogation has historically been used by Monarchs in Britain to prevent parliament from interfering with their plans. In the modern era (where Monarchs are figureheads and don’t wield their theoretical power), prorogation is usually reserved for bringing parliamentary sessions to an end.
However, opposing MP’s were planning to try and pass new legislation which would prevent the Prime Minister from taking the UK out of Europe without a trade deal if one hasn’t been agreed on by October 31st. The “No Deal” option is seen as the riskiest option which could send economic shockwaves throughout the country but Boris Johnson has repeatedly made clear that he is going to get Brexit done by the 31st of October, whether a deal with the EU has been successfully negotiated or not. No request for an extension – just leave and get Brexit over the finish line.
The Queen granted Johnson’s request to prorogue parliament and it is widely accepted that he chose to do this in order to shut down parliamentary business as soon as possible and give the opposition much less time to pass their legislation.
The legislation WAS passed, however. Johnson’s Conservative government held a majority in parliament by the slimmest of slim margins – just one seat. Unfortunately for him, an MP defected to the Liberal Democrats thus torpedoing the Conservatives’ majority. The opposition was therefore able to band together, take control of parliamentary business and get their legislation through after winning a vote in the Commons.
This is where the shit really hit the fan and Westminster became the scene for raging slanging matches between Boris Johnson and the divisive Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
Furthermore, Johnson decided to expel all of the Conservative MP’s from his own party who had rebelled and sided with the opposition when it came to voting on the legislation that would make No Deal illegal (or at least very difficult to pull off).
The fallout is still happening, even as parliament is prorogued and Westminster lies dormant, despite that fast-approaching October 31st deadline.
A No Deal “worst case scenario” preparation document that speaks of potential food/medicine shortages and civil unrest was leaked and forced to be publicised. Jeremy Corbyn has been as indecisive and flaky as usual, saying he wants a General Election, then that he doesn’t, then deciding that he does after all. The Brexit Party has proposed some form of possible alliance with Johnson’s Conservative party if it means getting Brexit over the line. MP’s are resigning and switching teams all over the place. The public is sick of the whole damn thing.
I don’t know where all of this is going to end, nor would I be confident in making any sort of prediction. I do, however, think that the government is teetering on the verge of a cataclysmic implosion and might not see out the year. I also think that the next elected government has a high chance of being either a hard-right or hard-left party, due to the fact that so many people are absolutely fed up of politicians by this point and so millions of mainstream, centre-ground voters may simply avoid the ballot box.
One thing’s for sure though: as in Game of Thrones, it’s politicians and the rich elite that stand to gain from this mess while the common folk suffer as usual. They will certainly be able to weather any economic storm. Either way, they are playing a dangerous game and prioritising their own egos and party agendas. Is it really all about doing right by the country or is it about exploiting a weakness in the government and getting their foot in the door of No.10?
We should never have been given this vote in the first place but – staying on theme – it was a pledge in David Cameron’s manifesto. He promised to deliver a vote on the UK’s membership of the EU if he was elected. In other words, he offered the necessary treats to get voted into No.10, probably (wrongly) assuming that the British public would never actually vote to leave. And when we did? He immediately stepped down as Prime Minister and washed his hands of the problem – proof, if needed, that Brexit is simply the result of politicians chasing power and trying to further their own careers.
I think the likes of Tyrion Lannister and Littlefinger would be in their element here…
I’m a big believer in the idea that our (sometimes) wonderful race won’t be wiped out by a planet-consuming disease or a sudden asteroid impact. Likewise, it won’t be a biblical flood, global warming or even aliens that will supply us with our tickets for the Death Express. While all of these things remain a possibility, I think that WE will be the architects of our own doom in some form or another. Our own supreme ignorance; the selfish agendas of the elite; our frustrating inability to learn from past mistakes…these things are all in with a bigger shout of fast-tracking human extinction.
Right now for instance, the Amazon rainforest – an unrepeatable wonder of natural beauty – is burning and, rather than save it, the Brazilian government and other world leaders are using it as the latest political battleground. Far into the future (if we even make it that far) the loss of all that forest and the unique species within is going to look pretty dumb.
It’s quite sobering to think about where we – as an overall race – could be right now and how far we could have come if we hadn’t poured so much time, resources, money and intellect into killing each other or preserving the status quos that keep the rich rich and the powerful powerful. Obviously, there are far too many factors as to why this is the case to go into here, but the outcome is still the same: irrational hatred and conflict holds us all back.
Different races regard one another with suspicion.
Neighbouring countries harbour deep-seated resentment of each other based on historic acts that were ordered and carried out by people long since dead.
Society on a national level is divided by issues where compromise seems impossible.
A free pass for this behaviour could have been handed out thousands of years ago when humans lived in tribes and raw survival was the sole priority. But now, with the benefit of knowledge and the experience of countless mistakes, we should know better. And yet we don’t and likely never will. Not as a collective species anyway. As intelligent as we are, we are also incredibly dim-witted at times.
What happened to accepting that we all have different opinions, beliefs and views? Is it not possible to disagree with somebody else and NOT take shit to the next level? At the end of the day, the person you disagree with is still a person and you will probably have shared interests…if you’d actually view them as a person and not their beliefs. Take the embarassing Brexit saga currently splitting the UK in two for example: it’s turned into a real Us vs Them war of opinion. Suddenly you are either a Remainer or a Brexiteer and both camps are hurling abuse at each other, forgetting that those on the other “side” are just like them – British guys ‘n gals just trying to get on with life.
The irony is that Brexit was never about giving the people what they wanted or about Britain puffing its chest out and going solo. Offering the vote was David Cameron’s way of tapping into an existing anti-EU sentiment in order to win a general election and get into No.10, Downing Street. Everything that has happened since has been a game of political chess with parties and individuals hoping to utilise Brexit as a means to advance their own agendas and careers…
Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party hope to get into power by toppling an unconvincing Conservative government. The Scottish National Party cite Brexit and the government’s piss-poor handling of it as evidence that a second independence referendum for Scotland is necessary. The Brexit Party has risen from the ashes of the (now irrelevant) UK Independence Party and become a genuine political force. The anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats are enjoying a resurgance. Back-stabbing and shifting alliances within ruling the Conservative party itself continue to dumbfound us all.
It’s like a really low-rent, boring version of Game of Thrones without the dragons and breasts.
More importantly though, the rich and powerful continue to move the pieces around the board and get away with it while we continue to divide ourselves and shun neighbours based on which way they voted.
I’m not proclaiming to be perfect. I have my own prejudices and reservations about certain people and groups/organisations for example. But more and more, I’m recognising how incredibly short-sighted and foolish it all is in the grand scheme of things. While we fight and scream at each other over social media, determined to have the last word on a disagreement that we’ve probably long since lost sight of, common threats that should concern us ALL are hiding in plain sight.
Shortages of natural resources and food.
The rise of Artificial Intelligence.
Blatant corruption and cover-ups by the elite.
Yes, some of these do get their fair share of air time but some don’t and even those that DO are forced to make way for “news” on Donald Trump’s latest Tweet or the latest dick-measuring contest between world leaders.
It is in our nature to be competitive and to band together around common beliefs – to be tribal. It’s part of our biological make-up and to try to stamp it out altogether would probably be impossible as well as dangerous. But that doesn’t mean that we should stop learning from the outcomes that division and hatred have historically triggered. Right now, it often feels like we are actually regressing and getting wrapped up in our petty quarrels while actual progress and improvement is forced to take a back seat.
I’m not telling you to discard your views or opinions but try taking a step back and seeing the people behind the labels, because they are most likely just like you, ultimately fighting for the same things.
Not so long ago, I wrote about the Matrix-inspired red pill/blue pill analogy, how I interpreted the meaning and how I think it should be applied to the real world around us. In my eyes, taking a (metaphorical) red pill means to look beyond the consumerism, materialism and superficiality that rot us as human beings. It means to ask questions and not be sheep. It means to not blindly accept the status quo and established way of things as being the one and only way of living.
That’s my definition of a red pill.
Unfortunately, I discovered – after writing that post – that the Red Pill has actually gained negative connotations and to take one is no longer simply an analogy for waking up. If the internet is to be believed, you can now be “red-pilled” by somebody else. Using my definition of the red/blue pill decision, I see choosing the red as a positive thing; especially given that opting for a blue pill means to be ignorant and to endure any old bullshit that society can throw at you just because standing up and rocking the boat is too frightening, even when being a passenger on said boat makes being happy incredibly difficult.
But now I see the red pill associated with the hard-right who think that they are fighting back against an SJW agenda. It is associated with those who believe that there is some almighty global conspiracy to control us all with hidden figures pulling the puppet strings from the shadows. All I can say on the latter is this: look at how useless those in charge of this world really are and the chronic ineptitude and childish dick-waving that occurs when it comes to domestic and foreign policy. If that is really an act to fool us all then it’s a bloody good one and we should start handing out the Oscar trophies now.
Of course, I’m not completely condemning the concept of a secret global elite that exist on a level above world leaders because – as I have said before on this blog – it is far more grounded of us to accept that we don’t really know anything and that we could always be wrong. Plus, I already believe that it is corporations and big business that really run the world. Coca-Cola probably has more influence on the direction of our race than Donald Trump, the EU or any other political organisation could ever hope to wield.
The irony that I see in all of this is that those who proudly claim to have been red-pilled are quick to tell you not to blindly accept and believe in social agendas or the ideas of others. At the same time, they are asking you to accept THEIR ideas and anti-progressive agenda.
I think it’s a shame that the red pill is now a buzzword used in conjunction with hardline right-wingers because I wholeheartedly agree with the concept of free thinking and not obediently accepting the agendas of others as the “correct” way forward. But to talk about red pills in 2019 kind of puts you on a “side” and I’m sure many will auto-assume that somebody such as myself is a “bad” person. Not that I give a fuck of course. I’m comfortable with my interpretation of Morpheus’ ultimatum to Neo and I’m happy to call out ideas on both sides of the political divide as bullshit.
If we ever want to advance as a human race then we need to come together in the middle and stop drifting apart into two warring “sides”. BOTH camps need to stop enforcing their beliefs on the other while they simultaneously denounce the act of enforcing beliefs on others. Both groups need to realise that it is okay to accept that, when somebody disagrees with something, then it’s fine and that it doesn’t make them the enemy.
We seem to be pretty adept at squandering money here in the United Kingdom which is ironic given the relentless savaging of national and local funding that often makes me question if we ever actually escaped the 2008 recession. If the austerity measures were truly necessary then surely the government would be doing their utmost to preserve funds and not waste them?
You would think anyway.
Let me briefly travel backwards to 2nd May of this year (2019). The local council elections were taking place and temporary polling stations were rolled out to wards that didn’t have somewhere permanent i.e. a school to commandeer for the day. The polling station I am instructed to go to should I wish to cast my vote is one such temporary facility – a large container-like portable cabin that is set up on a field behind my house. Usually it is removed fairly quickly once the voting is done and dusted and the experts are busy chewing over the results but this time, it hung around for over a week. “Makes sense” I thought. “The European Parliament elections are being held later this month so perhaps they will do the efficient thing and just leave it there”.
But no; it stayed there for over a week and was then suddenly loaded onto a lorry and removed…only for it to be brought back today on the 23rd May for the MEP elections. Now imagine this happening all over the country and think of all the transport costs incurred for moving something that need only ever have been removed once after BOTH of these elections had concluded. What a waste of time. More importantly, what a waste of money. Yes, it’s a relatively minor thing to gripe about but that wasted money comes to mind when you’re driving along on roads that look and feel as if they’ve been the target of several airstrikes.
While I’m on the subject of the European Parliament elections though, they are a monumental waste of time and money the UK. That’s right folks, here we are going to the polls to select who we want to represent us in a parliament we should no longer be part of, in a union we should also no longer be part of. We should have left the EU a long time ago but thanks to the staggering incompetence of our politicians, here we still are. Rather than banding together to put a good deal together for the people of Britain, the government and opposing political parties are more interested in taking shots at one another and scoring points, Brexit being the vehicle for their war of words and embarassing slanging matches in the Commons.
We will be exiting the EU in October with or without a deal so whoever we elect will be swiftly ejected from the EU parliament, making the voting process and all the costs involved even more of a joke. Nobody’s laughing though.
I didn’t bother to cast a vote in the MEP elections because of this. As far as I could make out, voting meant making one of two non-productive choices:
Choosing candidates representing the current warring parties who have already failed to sort this mess out over the course of several years.
Choosing candidates from the likes of the Brexit Party or UKIP – MEP elects who would aim to cause maximum disruption in the EU parliament and would be unlikely to help anything. Voting this way is essentially blowing a raspberry in the face of the EU.
I’m pretty sure we’re all fed up of this shitshow now. I voted “remain” in the original refurendum (based on the Leave campaign’s complete lack of substance or concrete facts about the aftermath of a Leave result) but I also have no love for the EU.
But I have even less love for our own politicians and this crap that they can’t seem to solve much to the country’s frustration.
And on top of that? We now face a leadership change in the wake of Prime Minister Theresa May’s resignation this week…
It’s been a while since I delved into some Bullshit News but the truth is, I actively avoid the news as much as possible these days – taking a proactive approach to not allowing more negativity than necessary into my already-poisoned chalice. Unfortunately, the news is a goldmine for that rich, potent BS that makes for fun writing and scathing analysis pieces.
So it is with a mixture of regret and eagerness that I have returned to the world of clickbait and twisted facts for this latest entry in Bullshit News. This time, it’s because Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is banging the £10-per-hour drum again, vowing to end the Minimum Wage boundaries here in the UK and ensure that workers below the age of 18 receive the same wage as their older colleagues. This follows a previous promise to increase the National Living Wage for workers over 25 to £10-per-hour.
If he and his party are elected in next year’s general election of course.
For those outside of the UK who have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a quick lowdown. We have a National Minimum Wage; a legally-binding hourly rate that employers must pay to their employees at a bare minimum. This was originally introduced to prevent unscrupulous employers from paying people peanuts or hiring cheap, foreign labour at the expense of British workers. The Minimum Wage isn’t a one-size-fits-all however. 16-17 year-olds receive £4.35 p/h, 18-20: £6.35, 21-24: £7.70 and 25+ get £8.21.
Obviously there are many flaws to this system. Disgruntled younger workers being paid less for doing the same job for instance thus affecting motivation and sparking much anger over equality. On the flipside, you must factor in lack of experience and effectiveness in a job role which would make a reasonable argument for established employees receiving a higher wage in the first place. You can’t expect the ladder to have only one rung after all. But the counter to the counter comes along when you have new blood in a company eager to impress and working hard while their older counterpart – on a higher rate of pay – does the bare minimum and slacks off, taking home more money for performing the same role…even though their output may be worse.
Another problem is that businesses have gotten around having to pay higher wages by simply employing people for less hours on part-time contracts. In a lot of businesses here in the UK, this gives the employer a bonus secondary benefit because employees don’t necessary receive the same contractual benefits unless they are classed as “full time”. It also gives them greater control over moving employees’ shifts around to benefit the business, meaning that people desperate for work will end up having to take crappy, unsociable shifts with inconsistent hours.
So in short, the National Minimum Wage was a well-meaning idea but like most legalities, businesses will always find loopholes and ways to work the system to their advantage, not the supposed beneficiaries – the workforce. And as is usual, the government are far too slow and ponderous when it comes to closing said loopholes and keeping pace with the wily tactics of large businesses.
So you would think that a £10-per-hour wage would at least be some sort of consolation for being an employee trapped in The System. It really isn’t though and Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to deliver this is equally as ineffective in combatting the problems facing the UK’s working-class people.
Yes, companies will be required to pay their employees £10 p/h and in doing so will be adhering to the law of the land and going about their business with (mostly) clean hands. But you’d better believe that they will subsidise that cost somehow, ultimately leading to worse working conditions for those very same employees reaping the “benefits” of an increased pay packet. To use a first-hand example, the company I work for suspended quarterly bonuses one year in order to cover the cost of raising the workforce’s Minimum Wage mid-financial year – a cost that hadn’t been foreseen in the financial planning for the year.
An increased minimum wage will also result in an increase of part-time contracts (weighted in the employer’s favour) and – more depressingly – greater cost-cutting. The fatcats at the top don’t want their large salaries to be affected by the grunts at the bottom receiving their (comparitively minor) wage top-up. They want to continue driving around in company BMWs, sitting in offices drinking coffee and making decisions based on no hands-on experience of what it’s like for those doing the actual work that keeps their wallets bulging.
The solution is to reduce investment and hack away at employee perks until all that is left is the bare minimum required by law (and they will push the boundaries even then – believe me). It means an end to subsidised staff canteens and vending machines. It means cutting jobs and not replacing those who jump ship thus piling greater pressure on the remaining employees who are expected to deliver the same results with diminishing resources. It means reducing investment into the likes of facility maintenance and equipment purchases. Ultimately it means a harder life for the working man.
But the thing that earns Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge a free admission into the Bullshit News segment of my blog is the fact that his words are a mere bribe. He and his Labour party have a history of telling the younger generation what they want to hear in order to win their votes. They know that the UK’s youth is a politically dormant vein waiting to be tapped. Instead of gold or crude oil, that vein will yield votes – important votes. You see, many young people in this country take no interest in politics and don’t exercise their right to vote and it’s completely understandable. They see old people in positions of power that they can’t relate to. They see politicians making decisions that benefit the rich and established, not them or their aspirations. They see the lies, U-turns and constantly-swelling landfill site that needs ever more space to accomodate all of those false promises and undelivered pledges.
So nobody can blame Corbyn and Labour for trying to win the vote of this age group because they know that they feel ignored or disadvantaged by the current status quo. We can debate these points and the rights/wrongs all day long but what I’m saying is that it’s important to remember that the £10 p/h promise is just a bribe – the same as being offered £50 in exchange for voting Labour in the next election. There’s no guarantee that the wage increase and an end to a scale system will actually happen.
But it makes for a good, attention-grabbing headline that will make young people take notice and that’s what politics is all about. It’s about talking big and shouting loudly on volatile subjects. It’s about telling people what they want to hear. It’s about making voters believe that their interests are actually at heart – not the power games at Westminster and the battle for the Iron Throne keys to No.10, Downing Street.
If you need any further evidence of undelivered promises, attention-grabbing soundbites and ideas that sound great without looking into the actual implementation(s) and knock-on effects/consequences then look no further than the appalling embarassment to our nation that is Brexit. If you, valued reader, live outside of the UK and laugh at us then I genuinely can’t fault you for doing so. It’s some shitshow alright.
The bottom line is that it’s the businesses and corporations that actually control our lives, not the governments. Corbyn’s promise is great on paper but it is ultimately just another bribe and workplace life will suffer as a result once the big employers start making their cost-cutting measures to fund not only a wage increase but also a wage scale dissolution that would shake up everything.
I’m not saying that it’s all bad or that you – as a younger voter – shouldn’t want to vote for more money and fairness. I’m saying don’t take such promises at face value without digging deeper or being prepared to take the rough with the smooth.
[Side note 1: it feels like forever since I last posted here. Things have been shit and motivation to write has been M.I.A. To anybody who cares, I’m back (I think)]
[Side note 2: the title of this post may be a mouthful but the second-rate hack of a writer in me wasn’t happy with the rather vague “Political Apathy” or overly-blunt “British politics is bullshit”. The latter is 100% accurate though]
So…we have just had our local council elections here in the UK. For those living outside of Britain, the locals aren’t the big elections that decide our MPs (Members of Parliament) or governance of the country itself but the vote to decide on the political make-up of local councils. For example, having a majority of Labour councillers in your local council just means that they will have the majority and therefore a greater influence on deciding what goes down in your district.
As you might have guessed – we citizens are SUPPOSED to vote in these local council elections based on issues in our local area(s) and the pledges/previous work of those standing for election. Unfortunately, the colossal shit show that is Brexit has overshadowed the whole thing and people have voted based on national events to make a statement about the ineptitude of the two largest parties – Conservatives and Labour. The glaring problem with this is that local councillers have no input into national events. They have no influence on Brexit. Yet, councillers either lost or gained ground in their local area because of the party they are a member of, not for anything that they have done or promised to do. I’m no fan of BBC news (aside from when they provide me with perfect blog post fodder in the form of bullshit “news” and biased, agenda-driven narratives) but this quote from their coverage of the election results did sum things up neatly:
“The elephant stalking the voting halls is Brexit”
The summary of the results is this: the Conservatives lost a massive 1000+ council seats while the other “main” party, Labour, didn’t lose nearly as many but still lost a lot and – more importantly – failed once again to capitalise on the impotence and general lack of public faith in the ruling Conservative government and their piss-poor handling of Brexit. The winners were the previously-obliterated Liberal Democrats (who rose from the ashes to claim hundreds of council positions), Greens and independents. Interestingly, even the mis-management of Brexit and (apparently) large anti-EU sentiment couldn’t prevent UKIP (UK Independence Party) from losing ground – again.
I didn’t even cast a vote in this election. The first reason was that I had had a huge day at work and by the time I was released from my prison, I was too exhausted and fed up to do anything other than go home, eat and sleep. I can’t deny that it’s a terrible, grossly lazy reason for waiving my opportunity to vote but I completely accept that, as a result, I also waived my right to bitch and moan about the election result.
The second reason is more relevant to the title of this post and that is my general disillusion with politics here in Britain at the moment. On a national scale, the two main parties (the only two with a realistic chance of getting into power) are an embarassment. The ruling Conservatives are constantly on the ropes and led by a Prime Minister who seems to be clinging on by her fingernails, fighting for survival on a daily basis. Their largest rival, Labour, are unable to take advantage of the situation and gain any more public support – shocking given how the current Conservative government is the weakest in years. Both parties are constantly rocked by scandals and resignations that have completely destroyed any credibility in the eyes of many.
On a local scale, the candidates spam our letterboxes with their promise-laden flyers but every year, they are the same promises to tackle the same issues. In short, nothing actually happens between elections or else the councillers wouldn’t still be promising to solve the same problems. The big issues round here are potholes, traffic problems, countryside-consuming housing overdevelopment and crime but reading the pledges on these issues from the candidates gave me a major sense of deja vu. What is the point in voting for people based on promises when the exact same promises haven’t been fulfilled in the time since the previous council elections?
And the flyers they shove through our letterboxes are hilarious. I have to give credit to the Conservative candidate (who did actually win) for sending several letters with pretty candid content that actually criticised his own party for how they have let the country down. The others though? The flyer for Labour’s candidate featured a horrendously pixellated photograph on the front that looked like it had been blown up from a 100×150 JPEG. UKIP’s on the other hand contained spelling errors, the bloke’s mobile phone number scrubbed out with marker pen (but still readable through the dried ink…) and a photograph of the town’s council offices photoshopped to look purple/yellow – the UKIP colours.
UKIP is a populist party as far as I am concerned and the party that people vote for when they feel like casting a protest vote in order to give the establishment their middle finger. They are nowhere near as unsavoury as the far-right BNP (British National Party) but are still difficult to take seriously. Oh and their logo looks like it belongs on the front of a bargain-bin “pound shop” store – always makes me smile.
Completing my disillusionment is the simple fact that local councillers can promise anything and everything but at the end of the day, if funding from central government isn’t available (which it isn’t these days thanks to never-ending cuts) then there’s nothing that they can do to deliver on their vows to increase spending in specific areas. So even though you are supposed to be voting on local issues and not the national stuff in the news, everything is still ultimately controlled by national budgets.
In conclusion, there is a definite lack of trust in our politics here in Britain and it feels standard to assume that all politicians are self-serving liars, unfairly tarring the decent ones with the same brush. At the same time, we don’t like to rock the boat too much and so the same two parties will continually trade power no matter how poor their performances are. What it adds up to is a glum resignation to the fact that whoever you vote for, nothing will ever change. Anybody offering radical change or a break from the status quo are dismissed as “nutters” and only ever manage to secure a few seats.
TL;DR: British politics suck and if you are laughing at us from the outside, I honestly can’t blame you.
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.
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:
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?
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”.
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…
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.
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:
The latest Brexit-related stink bomb has been dropped and this time it concerns the overseas British territory of Gibraltar which has been described as a “colony” in a piece of EU legislation concering the travel rights of UK citizens post-Brexit. Gibraltar is a complex and long-running item of heated dispute between the UK and Spain, the latter believing that sovereignty rightfully belongs to them (Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in 1713). Back here, the British government hasn’t taken kindly to the “colony” designation or Spain’s refusal to agree to the footnote in the legislation being removed/changed.
I’m not here to debate the issue of Gibraltar though because it’s a big debate that I’m not fully clued-up on and I’m honestly not informed enough to be hurling ignorant opinions about. Plus, as a British man, I’m probably likely to be biased on the matter.
What I AM here to showcase is this terrible hack-job of a digital poster that one of the various Brexit-backing online organisations has produced to be shared on social media for the purpose of sticking it to Brussels for their brazen use of the term “colony”.
I’m not even going to comment on the huge message dominating the image because there’s nothing actually wrong with it. What I DO find utterly daft however is that “Leave Means Leave” logo up in the top-right…
…because it’s a little bitmassivelyludicrously ironic given that 96% of Gibraltarian’s voted to remain in the European Union at the referendum!
Evidently, the research team for the Leave Means Leave campaign didn’t do a very thorough job on this one. Should I be surprised though? Absolutely not.
You see, these guys didn’t do even the most basic bit of research because they were too busy jumping for joy at being handed another piece of anti-EU ammo to fire back at the evil empire that are now attacking the sacred frontier of Gibraltar. These people don’t give a fuck about the people of Gibraltar or what they want. All they were concerned about was using this latest tit-for-tat news item as a fresh piece of anti-EU propaganda to whip up more Brexit support over social media.
Fuck me, I’m sick and bored of Brexit by now. Every day brings more and more doom-mongering here on British TV as well as utterly embarassing attempts at point-scoring between political parties as they elect to point the shit-encrusted finger of blame rather than banding together to work out a deal that will be good for the populance. Yet here I am making a thirdpost about the whole fucking thing. Problem is, there is just so many angles to cover and Brexit in general is just such an easy target.
This time in part three of the eternal saga of miserable doom known as Brexit (or Breggzit according to certain newsreaders), I want to talk about some of the crazy things I hear coming from the mouths of Brexiteers. Most of it I consider to be extremely ignorant, misguided and plain incorrect but before I put my critical hat on, let me remind you all that I’m NOT disagreeing with people’s desire to leave the European Union and “make Britain great again”. It’s just that I don’t think people’s fantasies can actually be a reality once the facts and figures are taken into consideration.
Also, as a working-class man in his mid-late twenties, I’m not exactly thrilled that the older generation of pro-Brexit voters are determined to leave and risk potential economic ruin (or at least upheaval) at the expense of the younger generation. To be blunt, these people are driven by a perceived invasion of foreign immigrants and if they get their dream of a no-deal, middle finger to the EU and the country is fucked as a result then they won’t have to deal with it. They are prepared to obliterate the living standards of the younger populance (if it all goes sour) as long as they get their way. And to be even blunter? A great deal of the oldest of voters will not be long for this world once the shit hits the fan and they won’t have to live through the consequences.
So: some shit that I have heard/read and what I think of it…
“We were fine without the EU before. We will be fine once we’re out of it”
A romantic, chest-swelling statement designed to remind non-believers that all was well in those sunny, idyllic pre-EU days before the evil empire absorbed our island and made us all miserable. The sun surely shone all day, everybody was nutting into wads of twenty pound notes (just because they could) and there were no rules to bring us down. Problem is, this ignorant way of thinking doesn’t acknowledge the fact that the world as a whole has moved on since those pre-EU days. Globalisation is a thing and we are all more interlinked than ever before as a planet. This isn’t going to change. In fact, globalisation and international trade is only going to continue to grow and become more important.
Doing anything that sends us in the other direction or hinders our ability to be part of a fast-moving trade environment makes zero practical sense. Globalisation wasn’t such a major force before the UK was a member of the EU so maybe we were fine then but times have evolved and if you don’t evolve with them then you die. Going backwards and electing to be more isolationist doesn’t seem like such a good idea, especially since the UK is such a consumer-driven country that relies so heavily on the import of food and goods.
And you can’t simply rip yourselves out of such a complex system and expect to carry on as before. But then again, those shouting the loudest are probably those who have the least to lose should it go tits-up.
“They need us more than we need them”
Such an ignorant statement that it deserves little analysis. It’s a view that stems from the belief that our products, goods and exports are so important to the EU that the union would implode in a fiery ball of failure should we leave without the form of trade deal that we want. At the end of the day, we are a consumer nation that imports so much of what we buy and eat. If we were more self-sufficient and confident about thriving alone in self-imposed exile then yes, I could see some potential merit in the above statement but this isn’t the case.
Believing that twenty seven other countries need us more than we need our links with them also makes no mathematical sense at all. I’m sure I could be incorrect somehow but I can’t word it in another way where the formula stacks up in Britain’s favour. It is the absolute pinnacle of ignorance and misplaced pride.
Any negative consequences will bring the rich and London elite down a peg or two and level the playing field between the north and south
An idea possibly born from the class divide which is definitely a thing here in the UK (but not exclusive to our collection of islands). There are many in the Midlands and the north that harbour a resentment towards London, the self-important attitude of “The City” and the wealthy people that live and work in and around the capital. People are working their arses off to keep a roof over their heads – with the spectre of redundancy and employers going into administration ever present – while people living in London rent teeny-tiny apartments for £2000 a month and their mayor dares to suggest that London could have an exception and remain in the EU (while the ‘Leave’ voters who ruined it for everybody can suffer the consequences alone, eat turds and die I suppose)
Unfortunately, it’s a fact that the working class and poor will suffer the most should Brexit go wrong and produce dire economic consequences. The rich and the greedy will simply have their ability to make MORE money diminished and will possibly have to just lower their living standards a little. Meanwhile, they will still have a better living standard than those at the bottom of the ladder as well as the cash reserves, influence and power to keep their seats at the top table of society.
If prices increase and jobs are lost then it isn’t those people that will be brought down as a result.
That’s about all I have to say for now. I could go on and on (so much dumb stuff is vocalised on a daily basis when people decide that they have the measure of Brexit) but quite honestly, I’ve bored myself here. I just wanted to publish a snapshot of some of the absurd “insights” that I hear on the radio or in actual conversation amongst other sources.