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Fuck Humanity

31 Mar

I like my life.  Usually I feel pretty fulfilled and interested.  Sometimes I’m irritable, or lonely, or lazy, or annoyed, but I’m usually pretty positive about life on this planet, and that I’m doing enough good things.

But today I feel that all of my security and confidence and happiness is just so much shit in the wind, because humanity is fucking awful.  I know I usually like to present positivity and talk about how people are people and we should all be excellent to one another, but today I don’t feel like that.

I feel like people are just nasty, selfish, grasping monsters.  We bitch and we fight and we snipe and we hate and we kill.  And those of us that aren’t hating and killing and destroying happily live in our own bubble and let it happen to others.

I saw this picture today, on my lunchtime read of the news.  I was okay with it, until I read the story behind it.

And it made me really fucking angry.

This four year old girl, a Syrian refugee, is afraid that the photographer has a weapon pointed at her.  She has her hands up in surrender, and she is waiting to see if she will be killed.

How fucked up is this world?  How full of evil and despicable people is it when tiny children know what it is like to be threatened by guns?  When their mothers and fathers and siblings have desperately taught them to show that they are surrendering, in the strained hope that they might not be shot dead?

Suddenly, I’m on a downhill rush, remembering that in Nigeria there are hundreds of children missing, stolen by lunatic rebels Boko Haram, and that this is just the latest in a series of kidnappings and that these are the same monsters who sent a child into a village with a bomb strapped to her body, and that the evil fuckers will do this again and again.

In India, rapists and murderers are supported by judges and ministers blaming the victim for the crime, even going so far as to ban a documentary into the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh which horrified the country in 2012.

In Bangladesh writers have been hacked to death in the street by religious extremists who don’t want atheists to have a voice.

In Mexico hundreds of people are “disappeared” in conflicts between cartels and government forces to keep people in fear lest they threaten the profits of the drugs trade.

In Gaza ordinary people are caught between Palestinian militants and the Israeli military – in 2014 more Palestinians were killed by Israeli government forces than in any other year since the occupation of the West Bank began in 1967.

There are civil wars going on in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria, and fighting between government forces and rebels and/or extremists in over 60 countries, some on the brink of wider conflict.  Those fighting use rape as a weapon, indoctrinate the kidnapped and train stolen or orphaned children to be soldiers who will go on to commit horrific acts of violence themselves.  There’s no honour in these wars, many of them are the result of the arbitrary slicing of territories that took place in the European land grabs, the dispossession of land by “civilised” colonial forces, the implementation of racial hierarchies by the “enlightened” viceroys or governors.  Seeds planted in the profit-led annexation of other people’s homes that have now grown into ever evolving tribal, racial and religious hatred.  Except in places like Australia, where genocide was practiced openly.

And in the UK, the rational, secular, enlightened emblematic nation of nations,  we are still waiting for the punchline to the sick joke that our own government and police may have played a part in covering up systemic sexual abuse of children and perhaps even the murders of rent boys, whilst our politicians simper and sing about British fucking values.  Meanwhile, the statistic of two women a week murdered by a partner or former partner holds steady, and over 13 million people (one fifth of our population) live below the poverty line.

This is just a little slice, a list conjured in my momentary break down.  I can’t even begin to list the hurt we are doing to each other in destroying homes, habitats, the global environment – in sweatshops, mines, brothels, factories – in violence and murder and hatred and distrust – worldwide!  All of it justified by a god or a prophet or a book or money or power or just fucking because.

Our species is a waste of fucking atoms, a violent, twisted sick joke of consciousness.  I want to go back to safely mocking extremists, ’cause ya know, if we can still laugh, then we win!  But I can’t.  I look at the face of that terrified little girl, who should never have needed to know this fear, and I can’t laugh, because I’ll fucking choke.  I can’t pretend its okay that sometimes people do bad things because humans create art and music, and give great hugs and buy the Big Issue sometimes, or drop coins in a charity box.  Humanity is fucking awful, despicable, abhorrent.  Not only those that commit the atrocities, but those of us that let them.

People are people, and I can’t stand it anymore.

I don’t know what I can do.

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It always seems impossible until it is done

6 Dec

I just heard about Nelson Mandela.  I know I never met him, and he’s just someone I heard about on the news, but I heard about him on the news all my life.  He has been an inspiration ever since I was tiny.  He was an icon in my house growing up, a hero.

Here is something I have always struggled with: apartheid in South Africa only ended when I was twelve.  How do you square such antiquated barbarism with being a child of the modern era? That was 25 years after man walked on the moon!  I have often reminded myself of that fact throughout my adult life, because it brings home to me that we are not as enlightened a world as we often like to believe.  The fact that I saw the end of this anachronistic inequality in my lifetime makes me realise how far humanity has come, and how far we have yet to go.

To me, Mandela forms part of a holy trinity along with Martin Luther King and Gandhi.  Now, none of these men were perfect, but they chose to stand for something so important, so basic, so fundamental as to be missing from nearly every society in the world: equality and respect.  They are the fathers of my motto for life, that people are people.  Mandela’s approach after his release from prison was to seek reconciliation and peace for the future, not retribution and revenge for the past.  It takes a big heart and a wise head to choose forgiveness when bitterness can be such an easy choice.  I look at these men, and the women of the suffragette and feminist movements, and I see people who said no to injustice, no to inequality, and who decided that they would not just let things be and hope for better but that they would risk their own lives to affect the change they believed in.  Those I admire the most did this with argument, demonstration, honesty, courage and integrity.

People like Mandela make me feel that I can be strong enough to stand up against the wrongs I see in this world.

I feel bereft, for a man I never met, and for the people he inspired and who loved him.  I don’t just want to cry because Mandela has died, I want to cry because of the pain he worked so hard to heal in a country riven by hatred.  I want to cry for all the unofficial apartheids that still exist across the world.  I want to cry because of all the small braveries people need to get through the day wherever hatred holds sway.  I want to cry because so many people are still not free.

And when I stop crying, I hope that I have just that bit more strength, and that bit more resolve, to strive harder for the world I want, one where kids born today won’t find out aged 12 that some countries in the world still treat people differently because of their colour, or religion, or gender.  When I stop crying, I hope I have that bit more kindness and forgiveness in my own heart to try to affect that change with love and courage.  Most of all, I hope that now Mandela has finished his long walk, the rest of us continue that journey, to be the kind of people he believed we could be.

Let Freedom Ring

28 Aug

Fifty years ago today was the day of Dr King’s stirring, beautiful, and heartbreaking speech, the one we now call “I have a dream”.

When he gave this speech, he pointed out that 100 years earlier the constitution of the USA was written as a promise that all men would be “guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  He stated that the black and coloured people of America had come to Washington to cash that cheque, to demand the fulfilment of that promise, which had been denied through the subjugation, discrimination, and degrading treatment of African Americans in those 100 years.

Fifty years later, the balance of that cheque has still not been cleared.  The dream is not yet realised.  I am pleased that the speech is being remembered in so many ways today, by people who were there or who saw it on television, and by those of use who were born in the time since that day.  I was particularly moved by this recital of the famous words by a number of different figures – peace campaigners and human rights advocates in particular – recorded by the BBC: I have a dream – revisited

Not just in America, but throughout the world, freedom and equality are still out of reach for so many people of all colours, men and women, children.  I weep when I hear King say “I have a dream… that my four little children will one day be judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character” and my tears are not only for the past struggles of those subjugated under slavery or segregation, but they are also for those who struggle still, fifty years on, against the myriad injustices that the human race imposes on one another.

Still in this world people kill each other over arbitrary differences manufactured from superstition, fear, and ignorance.  So I wish that people would hear King’s speech, and truly hear his soul shaking final statement:

“Let Freedom ring… and when this happens… we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, jews and gentiles, protestants and catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old negro spiritual: Free at last!  Free at last!  Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Because until we are all free and equal, none of us are.

Inspirational

13 Jul

I don’t have much to say by way of introduction, Malala Yousafzai speaks for herself.

Malala Yousafzai speaks at the UN on her 16th birthday

“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen, can change the world”

Dead Pretty

15 Feb

The Sun is a tatty rag filled with half truths and hyperbole.  This is not new information.  What is new is that The Sun has actually managed to shock and upset me – I thought I was inured to its tactlessness and depravity, along with that of its tabloid shelf-mates.  I was wrong.

Her name was Reeve Steencamp.  She was a human being shot dead in the early hours of yesterday.  She wasn’t a character from some trashy Hollyoaks noir.  The Sun’s front page has reduced a whole woman’s life to a cheesecake photograph without a name.

I understand that Steencamp’s death (murder?) has made international news purely because her boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius, is an internationally recognised name, but the salivating tabloid pack have reduced her from a whole person, past being just Pistorius’ girlfriend, to the level of some dead chick readers can perv on.

Call that journalism?  It is one of the worst examples I have seen of the conflation of sex with violence in a so-called newspaper – selling a suspected murder story with ADDED TITS.  Fucking deplorable.

You would think that the press would have developed some sensitivity after Leveson, that they would be keen NOT to be seen being crass and sleazy after the hacking scandal.  There is a new campaign against Page 3, and yet today the Sun seemed to move Page 3 to Page 1 – probably assuming that Steencamp’s family live too far away to complain.

Well I’m going to complain.  Steencamp murder was reported in the early hours of Valentine’s Day – not just the day when many men are expected to bare their feelings for a partner despite being expected to repress their emotions throughout the rest of the year – but also the day of one billion rising.  A day when women and men worldwide joined a movement against violence against women and girls (VAWG).

A day on which I am sadly certain that Reeva Steencamp was not the only woman to lose her life to the violent actions of a partner.

Just one day after a tragedy for Steencamp’s family and friends and one day after a joyful protest against VAWG, The Sun presents the death of Steencamp as some kind of macabre soft-core.  I’m not saying that her death isn’t a news story.  I’m not saying that the papers should ignore the fact that she was a model – or indeed ignore the fact that she was beautiful.  I’m saying they should show far greater respect for her as a person than treating her as fridge-filler and an excuse to sex up the front page.

Her name was Reeva Steencamp.  May she rest in peace, and may her loved ones find peace, and justice.

4 More Years

7 Nov

Photograph by Elizabeth Messina reproduced form The Huffington Post

I woke up to the news of Obama’s re-election. Like most of the world outside the USA this was good news to me.  I’m a total lefty, and although Obama is still right wing from my point of view, he was a far better option than the alternative.  Here are some thoughts I have on Obama’s re-election.

Firstly, as a Westerner and a citizen of a country that usually dances to the tune set by the USA, I hope that now Obama has his second term he becomes more bloody minded in affecting the change he originally seemed to stand for. This man won the Nobel Peace Prize and yet Pakistani civilians are still being maimed and killed by Western attacks, from drones or otherwise. The tension in the Middle East continues to be ramped up with Israel expecting US support should they wish to attack Iran – and personally I’m in no way going to support the UK government if it decides to wage war on another front (full disclosure – I didn’t support the invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan either). We have to learn from the tragedies of Afghanistan and Iraq which have caused so much death for so little progress.  As Remembrance Day draws closer and every celeb and their dog dons a poppy to improve their PR I can only think of the phrase “never again”. Can Obama bring peace not war and justify that Nobel prize?

I am glad that the election of a non-white president has not been written off as an experiment, and the racism of the USA has been exposed by this electoral competition through dog whistles and outright shouts including Romney’s campaign insider’s reference to “anglo-saxon heritage” (headdesk). The twitter user @yesyoureracist had a full and busy election day with some staggering racism being flung around often tagged #notracist as if saying that negated the expressed racism.  I have a suggestion for the many twitter users who said something along the lines of ‘minorities/black Americans are only voting for Obama ‘cos he’s black’ – why do you think ethnic minorities or “people of colour” are more likely to vote for a black man and not for a white man? What does that say about race relations in the USA, and what can you yourself do to improve the situation?

The last thought I want to leave you with relates to Obama as a symbol – something that has caused him problems, since he was raised on a high pedastol that he could only fall from at the start of his presidency. He is referred to widely as black, but his mother is white. He is the most famous and powerful mixed race man in history and his presidency, however history judges his policy, represents something of phenomenal importance that I hope will continue to resonate throughout the world – especially wherever people are judged for their lack of racial “purity”. If an obviously mixed race man can overcome the odds to be the Leader of the Free World, twice, of what are the rest of us capable?

This is explained beautifully in an open letter to President Obama, by the white mother of a mixed race son. The associated picture, included above, gave me goosebumps. A president can only do so much, perhaps an icon can do more.  Here’s to hope, everyone.

Privilege on toast

13 Oct

During last week’s Conservative Party conference David Cameron said something which for me sums up the problem of how privilege works in the UK. Using classic political styling he set up a strawman: that people are asking him to justify the existence of privilege, specifically his and that of his cabinet, for example. He then blew his paltry strawman away with a very Cameronesque soundbite. He said:

I am not here to defend privilege, I am here to spread it.”

The first thought that came to mind on the thought of spreading privilege was that he was sending BoJo out on the sleaze without any condoms. Then I thought more seriously about what he might mean – buy enough bottles of Moet and eventually you’ll find one with a golden ticket to a garden party at Buck Palace? Or the deeds to a Kensington address? Or ownership of a race horse? Spread the privilege Cammers, caviar for everyone! On tiny crudités! Pass them out at the job centre along with cloth napkins and Cuban cigars.

I digress. The main “shaking my head” point for me about this Cameronism is that no-one is genuinely asking DC to defend privilege. We make potshots about his privileged background as it seems to (mis)inform his policy – he makes sweeping judgements about the lives of low/no income Brits without acknowledging that, generally, he has no personal experience nor empirical evidence to back up his stereotypes. I am not asking him, however, to defend his own existence or to come up with a reason “why David Cameron”. All I want from DC is a recognition of context and, as this is all I want from any politician, thoughtful evidence based policy enacted efficiently, justly, and sensibly.

Cameron is answering a question in order to avoid examining another, far more important question. Most people I would imagine aren’t expecting a defence of privilege. We’re adult enough to realise that within any given scenario privilege will exist or develop. We don’t all have access to the same resources when we are brought into this world or since, life just isn’t fair in that way.  What I think most critics and commenters want from Cameron is for him to explain the behaviour of those with privilege, especially the ones who treat those without their privileges with disdain.

Every millionaire seems to like being described as a self-made man, but the truth is that for most of the super-rich, they had a hand up. Even if they didn’t have an inheritance in the form of cash or property or a business, they perhaps had familial connections and were introduced to people who pulled strings for them. The very few who came from poor backgrounds are exceptional people, who have achieved great things no doubt, but I think it might be wrong for them to imagine that they would have got anywhere without the everyday consumer, or without the infrastructure, legal and transport, provided by the state through taxation. Ignoring the context in which they achieved their success can lead to conceit and a sense of self-aggrandisement, a sense of superiority over the rest of us plebs.

What Cameron has not been able to do (nor Blair before him) is to bring to account those so swelled with their own privilege that they turn their backs on the rest of society, at the least by saying nasty things about the underclasses, and at the worst by doing everything within their power to avoid paying their taxes, often whilst decrying the benefits system as full of “cheats”. What is it about privilege that limits one’s ability to feel compassion for those worse off than yourself? Except of course when raising money for deserving charities through lovely parties and extensive foreign holidays visits. I guess you can’t compel a person (or corporation) to act reasonably or with compassion (unless you OWN them, like we own the royals), but you can compel them to pay their taxes.

So perhaps, DC you can’t defend the actions of the privileged or their existence, but perhaps you can make sure they follow the rules as much as the bottom third of the triangle must. Of course, examining your own privilege, leading to greater integrity and understanding of the way our society works takes honesty, patience and will. I suggest our glorious leader tries to spread this instead.