Sunday, April 26, 2015

A term of abuse, when it should be celebrated

I'm not keen on Ricky Gervais. The novelty of his dad dance in The Office wore off long ago, and I've never found him funny since. However, his Twitter attacks on big game hunters who kill for "sport", showing the hunters' sickening photos, posing with their trophies, have highlighted an issue that needs highlighting. Whether it'll make any difference is debatable.

I didn't like one of his messages, however, because I hate the use of the word "cunt" as a term of abuse.
I agree with Elisabeth:
The Oxford dictionaries define cunt as "vulgar slang" and a noun meaning -

1     A woman’s genitals.
1.1  An unpleasant or stupid person.

What has the first to do with the second? Nothing, except that it's a symptom of the misogyny that associates female anatomy with nastiness. For centuries, male religious extremists have regarded women's genitals as foul or dirty, a necessary evil if progeny are desired. Women were kept hidden from society while menstruating and after childbirth, because they were considered unclean. It still happens in backward patriarchal societies. Nowadays it's a favourite term of abuse for women by male Twitter trolls, like the idiot who attacked the classicist Mary Beard online. Mary's commented:
"When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out. If you went into a bar and a load of guys started saying, 'Look at that old slag. I bet her cunt smells like cabbage,' you would say, 'Look, guys, cut it out.' Same on Twitter!
So please Ricky Gervais, choose your terms of abuse carefully. I don't care for those that indirectly insult women.

See what Wikipedia says about the term.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Let's scrap party politics and start again

OK, here's an idea. No more political parties. If you want to govern the country you have to study lots of relevant stuff, pass an exam and a psychological evaluation, then you go on a list. Members of Parliament are chosen from this list to represent a cross-section of society, half men, half women. It's a bit like jury service, only better. You serve for a fixed term. The house is divided in half and half changes at the end of the term, so there's an overlap and continuity. No one may serve more than once. Committees are formed of people who are interested in the subject, such as education, health, etc., informed by relevant professionals. They can't make decisions, only recommendations to the full house. No one is expected to win a popularity contest. Claims on behalf of the house are fact checked. The primary people's representatives are the most articulate, chosen for their ability to get everyone to work together, not to dominate.

Can't be worse than what we've got now, can it?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

God as a mouthpiece for earthly control freaks

Free will: The power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion.
Watched the BBC's The Big Questions this morning. Today's question was, do we have free will? I'm none the wiser. One of the speakers, an evangelical Christian, said something about those who don't accept Christ going to hell. I've been told by a Muslim that atheists will go to hell. The more I hear about it, the more attractive hell sounds, if it's free from the clamour of religionists all trying to impose their beliefs on everyone else. Free will? Not if the theists' God has anything to do with it. The Big Questions doesn't do religious believers any favours. By herding a bunch of them all together, arguing about who's right (they all think they are), they appear collectively silly.

Yesterday I watched the second part of Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch's series on Sex and the Church on BBC Two. Fascinating stuff about Christian history, and how attitudes to sex have been shaped by various Christian saints, all male, with sexual hang-ups of one sort or another, determined that free will and spontaneity would be strongly discouraged in matters sexual.

God is generally an authority figure invented by a succession of control freaks as a mouthpiece for their messages. The same is true of the various believers who take part in The Big Questions. They may be recycling someone else's messages, but they've all originated in the minds of men (mostly men, not women), not in some supernatural sphere. If you were looking for a religion, which one would you choose? The one that most closely reflected your attitudes and values? A majority of people, worldwide, don't enjoy the privilege of choosing. Their religion is chosen for them by the control freaks in their community, mostly male. No free will for them.

I'll stick to freethinking. The Big Questions' participants could benefit from trying it for a while.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

A puzzle, and a bored postman

A few days ago a small packet arrived with a pair of toe nail clippers I'd ordered from a company in Manchester. I don't know the people who work there and had never ordered anything from them before, so I was mystified by this hand-written message on the back of the padded envelope: "Hope you are fully recovered - David" and a smiley face. Who was David? And how did he know I've been ill? I'm recovering from a nasty bout of gastro-enteritis. Maybe, I thought, the message wasn't intended for me, but had already been written on the envelope before it was used.

Then, today, my home help came to clean my house. Did I get the message from David? she asked. All became clear. David is her husband and he works in the sorting office, sorting the mail at night. He saw the envelope addressed to me, and wrote the message. Mystery solved. I remembered that it wasn't the first time I've had a cryptic little message written on the back of a package. David amuses himself by writing them when he comes across packages for people he knows. I wonder when the next one will be?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Happiness is relative

A spiritual path?
This morning's BBC god-slot programme, The Big Questions, asked "Does religion make you happier?" The answer to that? It depends. For millions, religion is a tyrannical system of thought that makes people angry, miserable or just plain confused, while others claim that it does make them "happier" - but happier than what? Anyone who expects to be happy all the time is just plain foolish. Several spoke about their "spiritual path" and others nodded or applauded, but I have no idea what they meant. What's a spiritual path?

Sorry, Nicky Campbell, but a little intellectual rigour wouldn't go amiss on your show, though you'll only hear it from a minority. Oh, and by the way, I'm content without a spiritual path, thanks, whatever it is. I quite like real ones, in the country.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Religion can be a problem, but it's not the only one

Some of my friends are preoccupied with religion, and it bores me. It's one of the reasons that I'm less interested in atheist stuff on the Internet too; the constant criticism of religion. One of the latest articles promoting atheism is in Salon - "Religion's sinister fairy tale". The author, Jeffrey Tayler, writes,
We understand the real purpose behind religion whenever it exceeds the bounds of conscience, as it has done throughout history, and seeps into politics.  More than two centuries ago, the English and American revolutionary Thomas Paine penned words that still ring true: “All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”
The real purpose? It's not that simple, is it? Religions aren't all the same, nor are the religious one homogeneous mass, equally devout, equally duped. I wonder how much the most vociferous critics of religion really know about religion, its complexities and history?

But I've blogged about this before, and about the male bias in atheism too.

I think nationalism and tribalism are also threats to peace and harmony, as the world becomes increasingly over-populated. Yes, of course religion plays a part in all this. Patriarchal religion has been used as a justification for all manner of human rights abuses for millennia, especially the subjugation of women, but it's not the only reason. Misogyny proliferates in a vicious circle, where culturally defined social structures prevent children from learning how men and women can live together on an equal basis. I commented on a New Humanist post about terrorism recently:
The problem isn't just religious extremism, it's also male domination in Islamic societies and the deeply ingrained misogyny that prevails. How can extremism be challenged when hardly any of those involved know what it is to have healthy relationships with those who share their lives? Religion is used to justify the subjugation of women, but it has been regarded as normal for so long that it's like a collective psychosis, almost impossible to change. Without the civilising influence of women, the societies where extremism proliferates can't be fixed. British, European and American politicians may fret about terrorism but the threat to us is insignificant compared with the daily terrors suffered by thousands of women and girls.

One of the consequences of patriarchal attitudes is a resistance to population control, so these societies will continue to grow as the resources to feed, house and employ them decrease. It's estimated that 222 million women worldwide have an unmet need for modern contraception. As David Nicholson-Lord, Optimum Population Trust research associate, said: “Talking about threats to national security without highlighting the growth in human numbers is a bit like staging Hamlet without the prince. Population growth is one of the major forces behind global environmental insecurity, whether it’s the direct effect on issues such as climate change and food, water and energy shortages, or the creation of large cohorts of discontented young people in developing countries, which provide fertile breeding grounds for terrorism."
Not long after I wrote that, I found this article - The Hidden Link Between Women and War. Leith Greenslade writes,
The UN’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence run until December 10, Human Rights Day, and as we reflect on 2014, there is no denying it has been a particularly vicious year for violence against women. The images are forever seared in our minds: the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls, the trafficked Yazidi women, the assassination attempts on Afghan women leaders, the sexual assaults on Egyptian women in Tahrir Square, the horrific gang rapes of girls in India and the brutal honor killings in Pakistan.

These atrocities are all by-products of the resurgence of a particularly ancient kind of war—extremely violent, religiously or ethnically motivated civil conflicts that now rage across parts of Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. All of the conflicts involve large groups of young men, undereducated, overarmed and delirious with power; caught in a labyrinth of shifting relationships and competing interests; united in their efforts to control and oppress women and girls.

Why is violence against women central to so many of the conflicts that plague the planet today? What is driving young groups of men to mobilize against women? And what can we do to prevent it?
You could blame religion for all of this, but it isn't that simple, really it isn't, and if you're only interested in attacking religion and not in feminism or population control, your blinkers will continue to get in the way of understanding.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


The BBC's news channel has been offering reviews of the year, including the weather. Their year's a bit different to mine.

Aneurin Bevan (aka Nye Bevan),
Having turned 70, I accumulated a few more ailments, including increasing deafness and a couple of small skin cancers. I continue to be grateful that I don't live America, and thank Bevan daily for the NHS. Maybe if they did something about keeping drunks out of A & E and making them pay for wasting time and money, it would help to pay the staff.

News stories and TV programmes about extreme weather only seemed to mention climate change as an afterthought. I predict that the floods on the Somerset levels will happen again, despite the river dredging, and the east coast will be eroded even more. In fact, extreme weather will affect all of us, everywhere, while governments drag their heels and ignore scientific and mathematical facts. Climate change may have had a few mentions, but the elephant in the room, population, has been totally ignored.

I gave up my Motability car in July 2013 and haven't missed it. It was harder to see where I was going at night, due to macular disease, and even in daylight my eyes didn't work well enough. The lovely guys at Hadleigh Private Hire Cars and other taxi firms have looked after me well, including hauling my lightweight mobility scooter in and out of their cars, in pieces, and helping me to take it apart and put it back together again. It's worked out cheaper to use taxis than run a car that was spending an increasing amount of time in the garage anyway and conversations as a front seat passenger have been enjoyable. Thank you, Mike, Trevor, Nick, Keith, John and all.

It's 6½ years since Wizzy died. I'd have liked another dog, never having been so long without one, but although I used to exercise ours with my scooter, I have too many PJ days now. We still had cats, but the last of them, Audrey, died this spring. At the beginning of June I adopted two more cats, Chewie and Maisie, from Cat Protection. Various research projects have shown the health benefits of pet ownership, but I just enjoy having them around. Meanwhile, Mia, a Burmese who used to belong to a relative who died and was adopted by a friend, has been a regular visitor to the patients in a local hospice.

It's been an uneventful year for me. The drama has all been elsewhere. There's a lot to be said for living a quiet life but I have plans for next year. Watch this space.

Wishing you a safe, happy and healthy New Year!