There was a little bit of news early this morning, you may not be aware as hardly anyone is talking about it, but Osama Bin Laden is dead. Killed during a US operation to finally take him. This blog post will be one of the most sanctimonious things I ever write because, in the wake of this news, people appear to have lost their minds.
All over the news and the internet, people are falling over themselves to celebrate Bin Laden’s death, with hordes placing themselves outside the White House screaming “USA! USA!”, toasting to his death and generally partying. This has left a horrible taste in my mouth, it’s hardly dignified. This whole situation is a tough one, as you can’t tell people how to feel, especially those so affected by the events of nearly ten years ago. But one thing they need to understand is this is not justice for those who lost their lives, this is vengeance, pure and simple. I’m sure people will tell me “People celebrated when Hitler died and I bet you would have too!”. Yes, I would have, but there’s a tiny difference there. Hitler’s death effectively signified the end of a WORLD FUCKING WAR. Bin Laden was not holed up in a bunker, committing suicide as his forces were overrun, and his death signifies nothing. Al Qaeda are not the Nazis, and killing Bin Laden will not end their campaign.
He was the face of evil for the west, who need such things to focus their hate on, but tactically his death means absolutely squat. I’ve seen various people on Twitter say “This is what you get when you fuck with America!”. What is “what you get”? If he was the lynchpin of Al Qaeda then “what he got” was ten more years of plotting mayhem as the west fumbled in the dark for him. If he wasn’t, well then celebrating his death is beyond disgusting. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy he is dead. The world is a better place without him, but I will not be rejoicing and dancing in the street. Even those who would oppose capital punishment for serial killers have no doubt been telling themselves that Bin Laden is different. I’m sorry, but he’s not. Evil is evil and murder is murder. You cannot condemn one and not the other, unless you are a huge hypocrite.
This is the culmination of the events of the last ten years. The erosion of a national conscience. Think of all that has happened since that fateful day ten years ago. The clusterfuck wars started because Bin Laden could not be found and America (and I’m including the UK in this as well) did not want to appear weak, well instead we looked dumb. Soldiers’ and civilians’ deaths. Guantanamo Bay. Torture and humiliation of prisoners. Surrendering of civil liberties. Air force personnel laughing as they lay waste below them. Jumping at our own shadows. The mistrust and mistreatment of an entire religion. The radicalising of youth. Think of that and ask yourself, ‘Was Bin Laden’s death worth it?’. Ironically, all this, done in the name of retaliation, was beyond anything Bin Laden could have hoped to achieve when he masterminded 9/11. He didn’t just take lives that day, he took the west’s soul and today proves it.
You can celebrate all you want, I just don’t think there is much to be joyful about.
Today is International Women’s Day. A day designed to celebrate the accomplishments of women and raise awareness of inequality where it exists. I dared to challenge on Twitter how people seem to mark the occasion and clearly my first tweet on the subject was too tongue-in-cheek and the point lost. So, I’ll make it as clearly as I can and hope for the best. I absolutely support, applaud and salute International Women’s Day. Gender inequality is very much still rife and apparent in all institutions, despite the progress made. I’ve seen it in action and it disgusts me. That is not what I was disputing. My issue is that a vast amount of people use the occasion counter-productively, perpetrating resentment and division.
If you search the #iwd string on Twitter, it won’t be long before you come across it being used as a stick to beat with. The “heated discussions” I then had unfortunately furthered my point. There is nothing I like more than a healthy debate, and if I’m made to look like an ignorant twat then I’ll stick my white flag up and pray for mercy. What I will not accept is people chastising me for a point I was not making, and painting me as a misogynist. The issue that seemed to crop up more than most is that of ‘unexamined privilege’. This is the single-most counter-productive attitude to have towards equality. Basically, I was told (and you can search my @mentions) that because men predominantly still write the rules, I have received privilege my entire life and that I should take that into account in everything I’ve achieved in my life. So, in an argument about equality, people made assumptions over how and what I have achieved in my life, because society made it that way. It’s inconceivable, apparently, that I may have deserved everything I have received. If I have got the wrong end of the stick, I gave one person in particular plenty of room to correct me. They chose not to. And if I even think about saying that I have earned my accomplishments, then I am denying I have been privileged, which is akin to denying the holocaust (I hope that’s not Godwin’s Law, just an apt analogy), that I don’t “get it” and that I think any woman trying to argue with me is a feminist.
One example of the unexamined privilege afforded me, which I had highlighted to me a couple of times, is that of employment rights when it comes to maternity. Women DO repeatedly get screwed over when it comes to maternity, no matter what governments try to do to protect them. My argument there was that men are still, by a long way, portrayed and viewed as a lesser parent. But this argument is indicative of the problem. We engage in gender one-upmanship, even if we subscribe to the overall message this day is supposed to convey, which I do, and that could create a bigger divide. Men come out of the argument as oppressors after trying to justify their existence. What good is that in trying to rectify equality??
Rather than maybe slam all the good work the day does in my face, they amplified the original issue I had. This day would be better spent bringing people together in the cause rather than be used as a tool to create divides.
*This is a JOKE but probably confirms that I have privilege by the fact I can make it.
Recently I’ve experienced depression for the first time in my life. Not as a sufferer, but living with someone who is. Firstly, I should say that this post has been published with full consent from her, I’d have happily binned it if she didn’t approve. I’ve been reading up on depression and how to cope with someone who is suffering from it (belatedly, after spending a long time in denial) and, at least from the partner’s view (mine) it hasn’t been very helpful. There are a lot of articles out there which seem to offer a list of things you should and shouldn’t do, but it all seems rather trite: “Get them to exercise.” etc. So I thought I would write about my own experience, to maybe help both of us get through this and hopefully help someone else out there in a similar situation. Secondly, I’ll add a couple of disclaimers: 1) You could fit my medical and psychological knowledge into a jam jar that’s already packed with jam, so my viewpoints have no basis in anything other than my own personal experience; 2) Parts of this will come off as self-serving considering it’s my partner that is suffering from depression itself. It is impossible to empathise with a sufferer without having experienced it yourself, so I can only write from my point of view.
Ok, here we go. The articles you will find online will say “it will be hard”. No shit. What they don’t say is that it will be possibly the greatest challenge you both ever have to face, and if you aren’t strong enough to deal with what’s to come then you may as well bail now before you both get dragged down and things get a lot worse.
I would say the best place to start is trying to spot it early. If I’d have known anything at all about depression, I could and would have probably noticed it sooner. After learning about the symptoms now it’s clear they’ve been evident for a while. Because I didn’t, it gradually became worse, and what’s more, I associated her behaviour as something personal. Even though I now know it’s not, it’s still hard to shake it sometimes, which makes this process even harder. If you’re like me and have never experienced it before, it’s too easy to shut the gate after the horse has bolted. With depression becoming more and more common, it might be worth just having a quick glance at an article and having a very quick education. So spot it, and start treatment for it, as early as possible.
Now, the hard stuff. As the one without depression in the relationship, you will have your own special kind of turmoil. I can only assume it’s not half as bad as what they are going through, but it’s no picnic either. You will feel unappreciated and rejected, physically and emotionally. You will be the target of anger and of anxiety. You will have to pick up the slack, be that emotionally or in something like daily tasks. You will be the motivation and the glue. I should say “try to be” because god knows I’ve failed at all of these so far, and it’s only now I’m really adjusting. I have found that repeating a few things to myself, like a mantra, helps a little. Only a little, but that is something: ‘They did not choose this’; ‘they do not want this’; ‘they are not the person you love’; ‘help them get back to that’.
As I said before, if you don’t think you are strong enough to deal with all that then you need to have a serious look at things, otherwise everything will go downhill fast. You will resent them because you take it personally and they will resent you for not being there for them, all that will then happen is irreparable damage to you, your partner and your relationship.
Understanding and patience are the keys. Even if you can’t muster patience, a little tolerance will do. When depression causes arguments, and it inevitably will, there will be an urge to lash out at each other. This is the worst thing you can do. You have to be compassionate without being patronising, remember that depression causes them to see the negative in everything, their feelings of self-worth are non-existent and they don’t see anything like a light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, every now and again they might improve and you start to think that it’s over, but it’s only temporary. Appreciate those moments, but appreciate them for what they are and be patient. Even when they start treatment, it takes a long time for it to take effect.
I may paint a pretty bleak picture, but that’s a good thing, as you don’t want to go into this blind, as I did. You need to try and keep it together knowing and experiencing all of this, for both of you, and if you survive it, chances are you’ll both be much, much stronger for it when you do.
I can’t offer any more advice, such as it is, than that as I’m still learning myself. We’re nowhere near anything like good at the minute but I know we’ll get there, together.
So this week we had the ConDem coalition’s spending review, their plan for pulling the UK out of the economic crisis, delivered by Chancellor George Osborne. For a start, I should say that I am no economist, which I’m sure will become abundantly clear, so I won’t try and go into detail on everything that was proposed, lest it be pulled apart by people far more clued-up than I. Instead, I will focus on a few points as I see them, my main bugbears. By all means, please correct me on points I may be ignorant on, though I should say I will be more appreciative of an objective view rather than any left or right wing rhetoric.
My first (and main) gripe is the change to child benefit. It was previously announced that it would be scrapped for anyone earning over £40k. No depth was given to this proposal initially, so I expected some to be provided during the spending review. It didn’t come. Just the same line, that anyone earning over £40k would have their child benefit scrapped. Nothing about household income, no plan to review it, just a one-line policy. There is a perfect example of who this is going to hit and how in my brother’s situation. Now, my brother is doing well for himself and he deserves to enjoy the fruits of his labour. He is ambitious and has the skills to meet those ambitions, however he has a toddler and another baby on the way and he works bloody hard to provide for his family. As it stands, with this change to benefits, he will have to sacrifice his aspirations in order to provide the best care he can. Why should he try and earn more when, if he does, he will be worse off without the benefits and, if he continued, the higher tax band? We are encouraging people to strive for mediocrity in order to survive, because of a policy which was written on the back of a fag packet. Honestly, it’s the kind of thing you would hear in a pub when the regulars put the world to rights, “‘Ere, Frank! ‘Ow would you sort the crisis out?” “Well I’d get rid of benefits for those earning over £40k!” “How would that work then?” “Uh… dunno” “Leave it to the politicians Frank, eh?”. Except this is what the politicians are coming up with!
My second gripe is the banks. They are the reason we are all in this mess and yet they are getting away scot-free. The world knows they are to blame (people may say there were other contributing factors but let’s be honest, these do not come close to those caused by the banks’ ineptitude), they make no real argument against it themselves but it won’t be them who cleans up the mess. Osborne stated during the review that they would come down hard on them but, as his disclaimer of not wanting them to up sticks and move from the UK suggests, it will be a token gesture if anything at all. As I said at the beginning, I’m probably being ignorant, but we should tax them and tax them hard. Tax all banks that were bailed out by the general public 50% of all recorded profits, after forensic accountants have been in to make sure what they are recording is correct. This, of course, will never happen. The government doesn’t want to scare them off. Forgive me for sounding naive, but surely we have international relations? Could other countries, who can also see that the banks are trying to get away with murder, refuse to accept them and force their hand? Of course, said countries would want the jobs it would create, but it would need those jobs because of the mess caused by the BANKS! Perhaps I’m hoping for some morals which have no place in a capitalist world. Instead, the government decides to slash public spending, sacrificing nearly half a million jobs and hoping the private sector picks up the pieces. So, in a nutshell, the banks cause the economic crisis and the government slashes public spending because it doesn’t want to drive away jobs in the banks which are needed to employ those coming from the public sector who find themselves in that position because we won’t punish the banks. Lunacy!
This leads on to my third and final gripe, a more specific one. The Vodafone tax bill. Now, as I understand it, Osbourne has written off a £6billion tax bill owed by Vodafone. One can only assume that this is because the government is scared of driving away jobs again. Either way, I fail to understand it. SIX BILLION! The country is on its knees and yet we can afford to write that off? It’s hardly pocket change. If you or I decided that we weren’t going to pay income tax for a few months, you think we’d get away with that? Not bloody likely. It’s punishing those trying to get us out of this mess, which wasn’t their fault to begin with, and rewarding those who are to blame.
This isn’t some kind of rant against the right wing by the way. Labour (although you could say they were right wing anyway, so maybe it is) played their part in this and they didn’t even offer anything constructive during the review. We had Alan Johnson, a man who has no clue how to be a Shadow Chancellor, skirting from one criticism to another, trying to pull apart the proposals without anything to give in return. I imagine Ed Miliband thought fresh eyes were needed, but now is not the time for it. When a country is in crisis it needs a plan, not someone learning the ropes. That being said, and as much as the Conservatives (let’s not continue with the idea that the Lib Dems have any kind of influence in affairs) bleat on about what they “inherited” from the previous government, punishing the people for their failures is not the way to go.
Once again, the public are going to shoulder the burden of responsibility for something not of their making. We’re going to pay, and we’re going to pay dearly.
One of my biggest vices (of which there are many) is smoking. Right now I’m in the middle of Serious Quitting Attempt Number Three. I say “serious” because there have been numerous other attempts, but both I and the guy inside my head who whinges a lot knew that it would not last a morning before we’d even started, so we don’t count them.
I don’t know if you know this, but quitting smoking is rather hard. I mean, if you take away the increased possibility of heart and lung disease, the expense, the yellowing digits, the disposing of cigarette ends, the waking up with a mouth like a camel’s arsehole, the smell on your clothes, the having to go outside in the pissing down rain and wind that could freeze your knackers in two seconds… smoking is quiet pleasant actually.
Smoking guides you through a bad day and makes the good ones better. Waiting around is no longer boring, as you have your white and gold little friend to make everything ok. Is there a problem you can’t solve at work? Go outside for a smoke and you’ll have an epiphany! Feeling stressed? Smoking will take away your worries far away on a hazy trail, dancing on your eyes. I can hear you sternly telling me that it’s just my subconscious associating relief with smoking when, in fact, it doesn’t do those things at all. I know this. I know it is just my mind making attachments. But you know what? You telling me that is as helpful as kicking me square in the nuts. There is nothing worse than non-smokers trying to advise you on how to quit. I’ll take guidance from ex-smokers because they’ve been there and done it. But non-smokers?? “You don’t know man! You weren’t there!” If anything, it creates a me-against-the-world mentality and is more likely to get me smoking again as a way of saying “Fuck you!”. Childish? Maybe. But so is your face.
Smokers only have one person who can really help them quit – themselves. They will only succeed or fail because of their own will, and nothing anyone else says or does will guarantee the outcome. In fact, a smoker will know before attempting to quit whether they will succeed or not.
I wasn’t always this way. Up until the age of twenty I was the most vehement anti-smoking lobbyist, and would chastise my chain-smoking parents every chance I got (high and mighty little sonofabitch that I was). But then, like an idiot, I tried one on a night out and that was that. Sure, I tried to pass it off as “Oh I’m only a ‘social’ smoker!”, but that quickly turned into “If you don’t give me a cigarette right now I will kill you where you stand and smoke your corpse.”. Once I became regular it affected everything. I had less money, I stopped going to the gym and I stopped boxing training. When your lung capacity is halved, exercise is a real bitch.
So right now I want to stop. I’m two weeks into the latest stint and so far it’s been ok. I have had one relapse but if anything that has steeled my resolve. Last time I made it three months, this time it’s going to be forever.
P.S. For anyone who doesn’t smoke and who may be tempted to try. You see all that shit I’ve written above? That’s how hard it is to quit once you’ve started. So if you don’t start smoking, you don’t have to quit. Keep that in mind!