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]

Car Talk: Honda turn their back on Swindon

Last month, Honda shocked Britain by announcing the closure of its Swindon factory, scheduled to cease producing the Civic by 2021. As a British bloke, a petrolhead and – above all – a Honda owner this was pretty disappointing news. Of greatest importance however is the impending loss of well in excess of 3,000 jobs from the factory with further reprocussions likely as supply chains and other associated businesses (even down to the snack vans and local eateries that benefit from the trade of the Honda workforce) are hit by the domino effect. Honda’s Swindon factory has been producing cars since 1989 and so Swindon IS Honda. The plug being pulled on operations there is going to hit the town harder than the Honda-powered Mclaren MP4/4 pummelled the rest of the Formula 1 grid in ’88.

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But why was this decision taken? The first inevitable suspect is the big bad arch-demon in the room that some whisper can be summoned by sitting in the centre of a pentagram and chanting the word “Brexit”. So far though, Honda have denied that the economic uncertainty being felt as a result of our embarassing divorce from the EU is to blame and I actually believe them (for reasons I will explain in a moment). Instead they have cited vague global market shifts and a need to adapt quickly. Sales of diesel cars are falling and electrification is now seen as essential.

None of which really explains why Swindon had to close; not in black-and-white plain-speaking terms at least. One rumour I read online (and I have to stress the word “rumour” given that I have no hard evidence to back it up) claimed that the equipment and robotics necessary to manufacture electric vehicles was actually on the way from Japan but the ships were turned back. Other inside sources claim that Honda had been promising upgrades to the factory to enable production of more technologically advanced vehicles for years now.

So it seems like a very sudden snap deicision and I would be accusing Honda of side-stepping the citation of Brexit as the true reason but the company also announced the closure of a Civic plant in Turkey. Obviously, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit will not help any business make decisions and long-term commitments to the UK but I don’t believe that Brexit itself is the sole motivator for Swindon being axed. Honda, it seems, are simply pulling out of Europe.

As dire as this is for the town of Swindon and the UK economy, I do want to take a balanced viewpoint and ask if this was really such a surprise. After all, the Swindon plant only produces Civics out of Honda’s current range of cars. Additionally, one of the production lines has been dormant for some time now. Finally, should warning signs have been visible? The automotive landscape is shifting towards electric vehicles and it’s odd that Honda has lagged behind the likes of Toyota and Nissan in this field, especially since they were one of the first manufacturers to “go green” and sell the hybrid car to the masses with the gen one Insight and hybrid Civic saloon.

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[image: carscoops.com]
Then you have to consider the fact that Honda, as a Japanese business, will always want to be seen prioritising the industry and workforce in their homeland and that could well be another reason for bringing more work home. That and cheaper wages + reduced costs in an industry that has slumped sales-wise. This is understandable of course because if it were the other way around, I’m positive that British people would want manufacturing to return to the UK with little regard for overseas job losses. It sounds harsh but it’s the truth, as cold as it may sound.

Whatever the reasons behind Honda’s decision, one thing must certainly be held against them and that is the way in which the workforce at Swindon became aware of their upcoming job losses. Employees didn’t get the word from their employer; it broke on social media first and the first that many knew of it was when their exit from work was met by TV cameras and reporters. Clearly somebody from higher up said “fuck that” to confidentiality and squealed. It’s a shitty business and make no mistake about it.

Finally, I have to mention the ridiculous idea that Civic Type-R production is going to be axed altogether with the current FK8 generation since Swindon is the only Honda factory producing these winged hyper-hatches. Production is just going to shift to Japan and these cars will still be sold to us as usual…at a higher price no doubt once taxes and import duties have had their say.

Car Talk: You can’t beat a sunny Sunday afternoon drive

A strange thing has happened here in Brexit land the UK over the past week: it has been warm and sunny in February. I realise that temperatures of around 15C (give or take a few either way depending on the day) probably sound chilly to some of you but over here, we go crazy for it. Ice cream vans come out of their temporary winter retirement, people immediately start wearing shorts and outdoor attractions are taken by surprise as the whole country turns out to enjoy a quick fix of what is surely a fake dosage of “summer”. Regrettably the womenfolk aren’t all fooled so easily so if you are ready to appreciate the wonders of short-shorts and flimsy vest tops then I’m afraid it’s a false dawn. Be patient.

To put things into perspective, this time last year we were in the grip of The Beast From The East and had snow/ice on the ground. We were all miserable and gloomy as we should be at this time of year. On a side note, the so-called ‘Beast’ was a bit of a wimp and social media enjoyed exaggerrating it’s powers and overly-dramatising the kind of snow and low temperatures that I’m sure other countries would scoff at. Unfortunately, we are not used to snow here in Britain and so the reality of the situation was distorted by our lack of hardiness and also the stupidity of certain people who believe it’s perfectly fine to drive at normal speeds on ice in powerful, rear wheel drive German cars.

Winter and our inability to deal with a few centimetres of snow is a whole other topic for another time however.

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I’m here to talk about the joys of going for a drive for the sake of it, something I do quite often but an undeniably more attractive proposition when the weather is great as it was this Sunday. I’m fortunate to live not far from some beautiful, picturesque countryside and fantastic driving roads so it was with zero hesitation that I decided to spend Sunday afternoon attacking the lanes in my car and cruising through laid-back English villages, lapping up the lazy Sunday afternoon atmosphere and sunshine. Sunglasses and race driver wannabe Alpinestars gloves on. Window dropped all the way down. Tunes pumping from the speakers (old school House courtesy of 808 State, 28th Street Crew and Frankie Knuckles).

My chariot for this jaunt is also my daily driver: an FN2 generation Honda Civic Type-R. the last gasp (quite literally) of naturally aspirated, high-revving V-TEC power before regulations and emissions bullshit forced Honda to start turbocharging their engines. I’ve had the car for almost four years and absolutely love it. The styling still strikes me as futuristic and it’s perfectly useable as an urban runabout or daily commuter (aside from the spine-shaking suspension…) but on a day like the Sunday just gone, I can really enjoy winding that 2.0 lump up into the high ranges of the rev counter and listening to the building banshee wail as V-TEC kicks in (yo).

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[image: autocar.co.uk]
The only downside (other than watching the fuel guage deplete…) is that you are always aware that the FN2 isn’t quite as dynamic as it’s predecessor, the much-loved EP3 Civic Type-R. The rear suspension for example isn’t independent and so you have to watch that the back end doesn’t break away upon hitting crested/bumpy corners at silly speeds. You have to push hard for such a disaster to occur of course but the possibility lives in the back of my mind.

I tend to try and stay somewhere in between subdued and mental, making sure to have my fun without being a lunatic. By day I work as a delivery driver and have to suffer sluggish, speed-restricted and tracked vans so it’s good to let loose on a day off and feel that freedom.

Sundays see many car lovers bring their pride and joy out of storage, even more so when the sun is shining. You can see some great stuff, both classic and modern. Highlights for me this weekend were a Triumph TR6, B5 gen Audi RS4 Avant and a McLaren (don’t ask me which though; aside from the F1 and P1, I’m hopeless at distinguishing which is which).

I suggest that anybody into cars or driving takes the opportunity to enjoy a sunny Sunday when possible and just go for that destination-less drive. To me, little else is as satisfying as booting it along British B-roads and lanes while working a manual ‘box and simply feeling in-sync with your car. Too often these days the media tries to make us petrolheads feel guilty for stubbornly sticking with loud, unapologetic, polluting sports cars and I sometimes wonder if such basic pleasures will be forcibly taken away from us one day for “the greater good”.

Enjoy it while you can.

Brexiteers don’t understand Gibraltar

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”.

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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 bit massively ludicrously ironic given that 96% of Gibraltarian’s voted to remain in the European Union at the referendum!

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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.

Fucking embarassing.

Brexit is Bullshit II: The Saga Never Ends

I’ve previously posted about the embarassment that is Brexit but I feel like I have more to say on the subject. There will probably be a Brexit is Bullshit III [insert movie-apeing subtitle here] looking at a different element of the process but I felt I had to knock out a Part 2 now based on current events in Westminster.

Y’see, on Tuesday, Prime Minister Theresa May will attempt to win a vote in parliament for her Brexit ‘deal’ that she has put together. The problem is that it looks set to be defeated overwhelmingly by a mixture of Remainers and other MP’s who simply don’t agree that this deal will be good for the UK. The media is reporting that the deal may feature several amendments suggested by Labour (the main opposition party) in order to garner more votes. What this says to me is that this deal (if it DOES survive the vote) will be one of the most pointless, watered-down excuses for a deal since deals began.

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The deal was already seen as a betrayal by those who voted to leave the EU due to how many concessions had already been made to Europe. It wasn’t hard enough; wasn’t “up yours!” enough to the EU and their negotiators. Making more amendments is frankly a laugh and we could – in my view – end up with a deal that goes through the motions of us leaving the EU in formality but with as little as possible actually changing. Let’s not forget that this vote was supposed to have already happened but was postponed once.

It really does feel like an episode of Game of Thrones at the moment albeit without any credible leaders or sexy ladies getting their kit off. At the time of me typing this up, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said that “this political chaos cannot go on” and signalled that should May’s Brexit deal be defeated, his party will call for a general election. Isn’t that a bit ironic? Saying that you want the worst British political chaos in recent times to be brought to an end while threatening to throw more fuel on a raging fire by adding a country-consuming election vote into the mix?

Meanwhile, the DUP (Democratic Unionist’s Party) from Northern Ireland – which propped up May’s Conservatives at the last snap election – are set to vote against the deal themselves due to the issue of the Irish border and a refusal to agree with the “Backstop” idea (a plan which will see the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland remain as it is now i.e. no hard checks). On TOP of that (as if there needed to be any more complications…) there is currently no government in Northern Ireland since the Power Sharing agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein collapsed two years ago.

You can see now why we are fed up with Brexit in the UK. The whole thing is a monumental train-wreck that will never satisfy voters on either side of the issue. Of course, it could be about to get much, much worse…

If the deal is defeated in parliament (a current, very likely outcome) then we could be leaving the EU without any deal of any sort. Hardcore Brexiteers are championing this idea and looking forward to giving the finger to the EU and making Britain “great again” (more on this in Brexit is Bullshit III – coming to a shitty, rundown shambles of a cinema near YOU soon…) but away from the scaremongering, there are numerous ways in which we – as a country – could suffer after severing the cord between us and Europe. You only have to look at how financial markets are so easily influenced by rumour, loose predictions and “feeling” to wonder how things may pan out once paths are chosen and economic deals not made.

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A reminder of a hideously blind, uninformed campaign [image: The Independent]
But who is really set to suffer from the fallout of a no-deal Brexit? Will it be those in Westminster fighting for control and playing political chess? Will it be the suited MP’s and high profile public figures with enough money to weather the storm? No, it will be people like me – working class people who keep the gears of our economy turning while those we are supposed to trust (LOL) to run the country dump it into the toilet and keep pulling on the flusher, seemingly determined to force the UK into its own sewerage system and make as big a stink as possible.

This should be the time for MPs to realise that this pantomine has run its course, set aside their differences and work together to put some sort of agreement on the table for the good of the voting populance. You know, the very same millions of people who they want to vote for their parties at the next election? But of course, this isn’t how it’s going to go. Instead we will have a PM (who didn’t believe in Brexit) forging on with her widely panned deal, an opposition leader using the situation to gain political power and MP’s from the whole political spectrum forgetting about the man in the street and squabbling amongst themselves, trying to score points instead of securing a stable future for the UK.

As I said in the previous installment of Brexit is Bullshit, I am no fan of the EU and being under the influence of a super-state that can overrule my own country but at the same time, I simply couldn’t vote to leave (as I would have liked to) because I knew that this current farce would be the outcome. I saw no concrete plans, credible statistics or a timetable for how we would deal with the process if we were to vote “Leave”. All I saw were propaganda-decorated buses preying on public emotions, blue-sky dreaming and people shouting “Take back control!”

Obviously, nobody could have predicted just how embarassing and drawn-out the Brexit saga would actually become. If you read this, are living outside of the UK and can’t help but laugh then I sincerely don’t blame you. As for me, I just feel like a powerless passenger on a runaway train. It all comes down to just how bad the derailment is.

Let’s NOT stay connected

Last week, a cataclysmic disaster of earth-shaking proportions struck the UK, resulting in mass panic and untold trauma for the citizens of this fair isle. No, I’m not talking about a natural disaster or a Godzilla attack but the partial service outage for customers of o2, one of our main mobile network providers. Some people struggled with basic calls and the ability to send messages but it was the data outage that triggered outrage and despair. Essentially, a worrying number of people were simply lost without access to the internet on their mobile phone…for what turned out to be a little over one day.

The only people I genuinely felt bad for were emergency services or care homes who relied on o2 in some way and had their communications severely disrupted. Everybody else though? Deal with it. I’ll admit that businesses losing trade was a bad thing (especially for the smaller businesses that perhaps can’t afford to take the hit) but in general, it was those who have decided to completely bin off landlines and go mobile-only that suffered the most. Becoming overly-reliant on mobile networks and technology in general occasionally proves to be a very bad thing. Technology that we ourselves have no control over has woven itself into much of our lives to the extent that we don’t even realise how reliant we have become on it and this – for me – is a massive mistake but that’s a separate discussion for another time.

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Of course, the stories of “tragedy” were all over the news with accompanying interviews of those we were supposed to feel bad for. It’s hard to take the BBC’s online news seriously however when they actually gave airtime to somebody who’s disruption amounted to missing out on placing ebay bids for a Christmas gift because he had no internet. Is this news? Is it even a real problem? My first thought was “why didn’t you just place a maximum bid on the item(s) beforehand?”. Then I wondered if this person was wanting to be online so that he could just keep bidding on something until he won, in which case I would say they had too much money and should have simply purchased said item from elsewhere without pissing about with bidding. Finally, I wondered why I was wasting any of my thoughtwaves even thinking about this pathetic excuse for a “problem”.

It’s ridiculous that a data outage and an inability to connect to the internet and the dreaded social media can reduce people to such frustration so quickly. You don’t HAVE to be constantly connected to the ‘net all the time, refreshing Facebook or flicking between favourite sites while on the move. How about having an actual conversation with a real person? How about looking out of the window on a bus rather than plonking your arse on a seat and instinctively whipping out your fancy iphone 986XR-S Pro Elite Widescreen handset and ignorant noise-cancelling Bose headphones? There’s lots happening all around us and so much detail to take in so look around once in a while and really LOOK at life and your world before it passes you by.

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I personally cannot stand people who can’t exist without fiddling with their phone every few seconds or sit at a table in a restaurant without having it next to their plate, easily accessible to check their notifications. Since when did other people’s “look at me!” ego chasing Facebook statuses and inane Twitter ramblings become so important to us that we’d allow them to disrupt or sit in on other activities?

The thing I detest the most is being contactable at all times. I work as a delivery driver and my phone seems to constantly be buzzing in my pocket with incoming calls from people back at base wanting to ask me questions or add to my workload. I’ll be driving between destinations and thinking that things are going pretty well around the mid-morning mark but then the calls begin and I have people informing me of problems that need sorting (usually other people’s fuck-ups), asking me how to do stuff or telling me about shit that isn’t even on that day’s schedule. This is the curse of being expected to be accessible by phone all day. Sometimes it gets to the point where I feel like dropping the window and launching my phone out into the next ditch. If only they didn’t cost so much to buy.

And you can’t answer a phone while you are driving. I don’t know about other parts of the world but here in the UK, it’s illegal and rightly so after the rise in car accidents and deaths associated with drivers being distracted by their phone call(s). Even so, you still see countless fuckwits speeding while on the phone or looking down at their notifications as soon as they come to a halt at a red light…just what is so fucking important? If these people were to crash and hurt/kill themselves as a result of their own stupidity and lack of prioritisation then I honestly wouldn’t give much of a shit but it’s the innocent victims in other vehicles or on the pavement that tend to pay the price.

So I refrain from answering or even looking at who is calling. I COULD keep pulling over and killing the engine to answer incoming calls but a) there isn’t always a suitable place and b) answering all of these calls just slows me down from doing the job that people are – ironically – calling me about. The inevitable result is a screen clogged with voicemails and missed call notifications or text messages that say “call me back asap”. To say it deflates me would be an understatement.

Then there are those people. “Those” are the people who keep persistently calling until you answer and when you DO answer, it’s usually something non-important that could have been relayed via a text message or voicemail. I even have some people who keep calling and leave literally a single second between every attempt. Just fuck off already! Don’t get me started on the people who know that you are most likely to be on the road but then whinge about you not answering the phone later on.

And yes, I am fully aware of the irony of complaining about staying connected or social media addiction on a blog which is a form of social media in itself. By my own admission, I am often an introverted sort of guy so I have to hold my hands up and say that there may also be a streak of bias running through this post but even so, I find it quite worrying and – in the case of people’s anguish at last week’s data outage – ridiculous how mobile phones and 24/7 internet access have become so integral to so many people’s lives. Just put it down and disconnect every once in while – it really won’t hurt.

Brexit is bullshit

Sometimes I wonder what this trainwreck called “Brexit” looks like to those outside of the UK. I also wonder what they think of the social media-style name for the process which was quickly adopted by the mainstream media and politicians despite being a piece of slang that somebody obviously felt well chuffed about thinking up. Even worse is when a newsreader says “Breggzit”…sorry, I forgot that leaving the European Union had something to do with the output of chickens.

But mostly I wonder what people think because as a UK resident who duly went to polling station on that fateful day, I’m just fed up of hearing about it. Right now, it feels like Brexit is simply not going to deliver what either camp of voters wants. All that has been achieved is greater division and resentment. Hardcore “Brexiteers” shouting about shutting the borders as soon as possible while “Remainers” keep banging on about having another referendum, hoping to reverse the vote no doubt. Overall, I think that Brexit has brought out the worst in everybody who is passionate about the subject one way or another.

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For my part, I find myself trapped in the middle. I voted to remain in the EU but not necessarily for the reason that many others did i.e. the economical benefits of the partnership. Basically, I liked the romantic concept of leaving the EU and going our own way without having an additional layer of “management” on top of our own government, forcing their rules through. Make Britain Great Again and all that. Unfortunately, logic and reason must have a say and so I ultimately ended up voted the opposite way.

The thing is, the Leave campaign was pure vapour with those promoting it (such as Boris Johnson) arguing their case without solid facts or – more importantly – a solid PLAN of how Brexit would work. Words such as “could”, “can” or “might” do not make for a convincing campaign for anybody analysing the situation carefully rather than voting with their heart. What it amounted to was various politicians shouting “take back control!” and the like. No concrete strategy or timeline of how we would leave and achieve these benefits of going solo. Worse still, if voters actually stopped to think about it, none of those standing on stages around the UK shouting about immigration or money for the NHS were actually in the driving seat at Westminster i.e. they had no power to control negotiations or steer the ship once the destination was decided so why should we have put any trust in them?

Fast forward to December 2018 and where are we? The prominent faces of the Leave campaign have gone quiet or resigned from their ministerial positions, we have a Prime Minister who didn’t support Brexit negotiating Brexit and the likes of UKIP (UK Independence Party) have imploded before evaporating into a steamy cloud of irrelevance. A deal has been put together which doesn’t exactly reek of victory and there is the constant threat of the Remain camp achieving their wish of a re-vote which would contradict democracy itself.

On a side-note, even though I “lost” at the polls and pretty much disagree with a lot of Brexit, I still believe it would be a crime against democracy to have a re-vote and alter the decision. Aside from the fact that going back on the all of the negotiations thus far would firmly place our balls in the EU’s vice, you can’t just keep having votes and referendums until you get what you or your side desires at the polls. If it went 52-48% in the opposite direction, I can pretty much guarantee that the Remain side wouldn’t even entertain the notion of a second vote, no matter how loud the Leave camp shouted.

The vote happened and this is the result. Democracy is a fantastic thing but it comes with risks and you have to accept that unexpected results can and will happen.

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I have to give a shout out to the old-school brigade shouting about binning the EU off, slamming the borders shut and getting back to being British. While I do agree with tightening right up on immigration, giving the EU’s daft rules the finger and being proud of our country, it is an inescapable fact that times have changed and globalisation is a thing. The older generation love to bang on about how Britain was great in the past and how we “were alright before the EU so let’s go back to those times” but you cannot simply “go back”. Practically everything in our economy and society is intertwined with those of other countries across the globe – for better or for worse – and simply ripping those connections out could well be like walking up to a complex computer system and ripping cables out at random, assuming that everything will continue to function as normal. Times have changed yet there are many who choose to ignore basic facts/logic and carry on shouting about foreigners ruining the “cun’ry”.

I would love to leave, do our own thing and have a selection-based immigration system and all that good stuff but it isn’t as simple as that and unfortunately, negative consequences have a tendency to topple like dominoes. Cast your mind back to the financial crisis of 2008 (something the world still hasn’t recovered from) and remember how fragile the framework of our everyday lives really is. One aspect that has never sat right with me is that a lot of older people voted to leave based on their memories of how wonderful the past apparently was (you can unearth plenty of reasons why it wasn’t all that rosy…) but it isn’t their generation that will have to deal with the fallout of Brexit should it go sour. Without sounding too harsh, thousands will have passed on from this mortal realm, potentially leaving their descendants a fractured future as an inheritance.

But then there are the Remainers, the sore losers who simply cannot stand the fact that a sure-fire win for their side could actually fail to materialise. Protests marches calling for a second vote, individuals going to the courts to block Brexit and even those suggesting that London could remain inside the EU…it’s been a pretty desperate show. It seems that everybody loves democracy but only when the ‘safe’ result comes up. The truth is that there is no smoke without fire and excluding the influence of outside parties and misleading campaigns, there is a reason why events such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump happened. People are fed up the status quo and tired of voting for the same people who peddle the same lies or feed us the same bitter pills and expect us to obediently swallow them. I’m not saying that either Brexit or Trump are positive things but they were always going to happen eventually.

If you exist in the middle as I do and support pieces of each argument as well as disagree with points put forward by both sides then Brexit is just a big stinking turd blocking up the u-bend and refusing to flush. In reality, nobody won and we are now seeing some very ugly sides to people before (likely) accepting a deal that fails to achieve anything other than needless unsettlement with the rewards for sticking with it still not that clear. I just want it to be over and to get the fuck off my TV screen.