Monday, August 29, 2011

Nuclear power? You cannot be serious!

The Japanese will have to deal with radioactive pollution from the Fukushima reactor for generations. A reactor in Maryland has been damaged by Hurricane Irene. Don't forget Sellafield. What they all have in common is that they're by the sea, which no one can control. We have a nuclear power station at Sizewell on the Suffolk coast, where a North Sea surge caused huge damage in 1953, and it's likely to happen again. I don't care what the nimbies say, I'd sooner have the whole country covered with wind turbines than one more nuclear reactor.

The Sizewell Debate

CANE (Communities Against Nuclear Expansion)

e-petition against nuclear power

Illustration © M Nelson 2010

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ernie the ignoramus

Ernie Rea presents a BBC Radio 4 programme called "Beyond Belief", described as "A series exploring the place and nature of faith in today's world." It's sure to irritate people like me because it's hopelessly biased in favour of the religious, who are given a sympathetic hearing and allowed to talk utter twaddle without fear of contradiction. For this reason, I don't usually listen, but the radio was on the other week when I was busy, and I didn't get around to switching it off before I became incensed over Rea's ignorant use of the words "secularism" and "secular" as synonymous with atheism or anti-theism. This happens a lot, you might say; religious leaders, such as pontificating bishops, do it all the time, but this was the bloody BBC! They're supposed to know what words mean. I expect BBC presenters to use the English language correctly. So I complained:
It's incumbent upon a Radio 4 presenter to use words correctly, even if his or her guests do not. During today's programme, Rea and his guests all demonstrated their ignorance of secularism by using the word to mean atheism or anti-religion. Secularism means the separation of religion and the state, so that no one religion dominates. It's the only system that allows everyone to practice his or her religion freely, or not to follow any religion, provided that he or she does no harm. The UK isn't totally secular, as we still have an established church, but the US, Canada, France (and others) have secular constitutions and are secular states, guaranteeing their citizens freedom of and freedom from religion. I spoke about this at a local Forum of Faiths a while ago: This isn't the only instance of the word being used incorrectly in BBC radio and TV programmes - it happens all too often - and it drives me mad.
I've just had a reply:
Dear Ms Nelson,

Thanks for contacting us regarding ‘Beyond Belief’ broadcast on 15 August on BBC Radio 4. We understand you’re unhappy with the use of the word ‘Secularism’ in the programme because you feel it’s used incorrectly.

The BBC is conscious of the need to maintain high standards of spoken English and pronunciation throughout its broadcasts; standards that not only include fairness and impartiality, but also proper use of language.

We’re sorry you feel this hasn’t been the case when using the term ‘Secularism’, we can assure you no offence or annoyance was intended.

We'd like to assure you that your feedback has been registered on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that's made available to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, programme makers, channel controllers and other senior managers. The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards
Leigh Mallon
BBC Complaints
Will Rea make an apology on air? I doubt it. You can still hear the programme, for a limited time.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It's all those bloody cuts/foreigners/gangs/Tories/kids ...

My lovely home help commented on the riots, "They're all bloody foreigners, aren't they?" Have you noticed how many people have blamed the riots on whichever group they're particularly prejudiced against, or the group that fits in with their pet theory about what's wrong with society? I know I've done it myself. The list so far: poverty, the cuts, the Tories, envy of the super-rich, gangs, "bloody foreigners", "bloody kids". Think it's time that we had some solid research into the reasons that people behave the way they do. Evicting council tenants won't solve the problem. Understanding why it's happened might. These are some of the commentators who've made the most sense to me so far:

No shame, no limits: Has the behaviour of the mob destroyed the idea of British civility for ever?

Camila Batmanghelidjh: Caring costs – but so do riots

The London Riots - On Consumerism coming Home to Roost

None of these offers a total explanation but they're all relevant.

If MPs try to turn this into a party political issue, they'll confirm a popular opinion that they're all idiots. After all, as someone on the news pointed out, the 11-year-old who was arrested the other day grew up under Labour.

I wrote a blog post about this a few days ago, then deleted it when it became out of date. However, I haven't changed my view that there's been a large group of young people, mainly boys, that's been out of control for years; it's just that there are more of them. They haven't had good parenting, mainly because their parents didn't have good parenting either. There are more of them because it's a cycle of chaos and neglect. As Batmanghelidjh says, putting that right will take time and money. With everyone clamouring for swift action, it doesn't seem likely that that will happen.

The Guardian reports that it's setting up a survey to get to the bottom of why people riot, and have referred to a survey done after the 1967 Detroit riots. The results were interesting:
"One theory was that the rioters were poor and uneducated. No, the survey found otherwise. There was no correlation between economic status and participation in the disturbance. College-educated residents were as likely as high school dropouts to have taken part."
As British rioters have been appearing in court, people have expressed surprise about who they are, as some don't fit the stereotypes; a primary school teaching assistant, students, a graphic designer, etc. If those who've already made up their minds would pay attention for a change, they might find more of their prejudices challenged.

As for my home help and her willingness to blame "foreigners"; it's a familiar theme in her family, where periods of joblessness have been attributed to "foreigners coming over here and taking our jobs". I resisted the urge to tell her about the tweet that said,
"Turkish and Asian groups have stood up to, chased off rioters. Coming over here, defending our boroughs & communities."