New Beginning

It seems dumb, especially in this day and age, that people are differentiated by melanin, but as recently as May 10, 1994, South Africa drove the final nail into the coffin of the apartheid era by, for the first time, holding elections in which the majority of its population was permitted to vote.

The man elected was Nelson Mandela.

Independence Day

Every man’s got a right to decide his own destiny

Bob Marley

To all my friends in Zimbabwe, which finally gained independence on 18th April 1980, I hope you have a good celebration.

Only So Much

One apparent plus side of COVID – we have not, for a while, heard of any mass shootings in that themepark which is the USA. It might well be that they have continued, but seems to be on a scale which does not make the news across the ocean.

It is a relief that these events, from here, seem to be happening less often, but frankly, they leave me cold. Every event, there are a thousand varieties of people calling “bad”. Fair enough. But very few willing to stand up and say “this is how we stop it”. And, if somebody does stand up, there are lots of “ah, but…”s but frankly…ah but, you have no right to life.

Bottom line, it is a straight choice. We need to get past the “ah, but”s, one by one, before we can get to the issue itself.

But we have a duty at least to identify what these “ah, but” issues are. I see very little of that.

While there have been no shootings making the news, though, that phenomenon has certainly made it across the ocean.

You will all by now have heard of Sarah Everard. If not, look her up.

Same as the shootings. A thousand “bad”s, eloquent as you like. But I want more. Anybody in their right mind knows that this is bad – if somebody can think of a new way to express that in words, so what? What I am looking for is how we make sure that Sarah was the last. Unless we can do that…there is only so much I can give.

I wrote a post the other week involving an alleged rape. The post did at least crystallise the issues. The violation itself versus the potential loss of liberty, in cases which often boil down to his word against hers. Juries quite rightly know this, and are reluctant to convict. All the numbers point to guilty people walking free as a result.

I highlighted the issue, and that was a start. But, that isn’t good enough. We then need to kick on to solve it. Given that there are people out there who would do this, what steps do we, as society, take to ensure that they dare not act on their impulses?

This post is an open-ended question. It is the kind of thing I ask myself, it is the kind of thing that wakes me up at 2 in the morning, when I should be fast asleep.

Women-only juries? My gut says no. A crime is a crime is a crime. Gender shouldn’t come into it. But maybe women are the only people who truly understand the magnitude of the crime? Again, that feels wrong, because the magnitude of the crime is an entirely separate question to whether someone committed it or not.

Come on. blogland, give me the answer, let me go back to sleep. Or are you just going to be the next voice to tell me how bad this murder is?

Reblog: Imagine

Speaks for itself. Actually, there is one thing worth saying. It is good to know that other people share this view. This is what gives me hope.

Times and Tides of a Beachwriter

This evening, women all over the United Kingdom will be lighting candles to remember Sarah Everard, a young woman in her thirties who went missing on 3rd March while walking home in London. She had been kidnapped and murdered. Although we were told this sort of crime by a complete stranger was very rare, women of all ages and parts of society spoke up to say fear and harassment on the streets and anywhere in public is all too common. A national dialogue has started and my guest blogger, Fiona Hallsworth, was moved to write this powerful piece.

Don’t think about my gender, don’t think about your gender. Forget “men vs women”. Just read my story. All of these examples really happened to me, they are just a small sample of many.

Imagine you are 11 years old and at a family party. You play with the other children, oblivious…

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Father of the Nation

For KK’s Flashback Track Friday prompt.

Having brokered career in law,
Let it go,
I could see things were unfair,
Let if go.

When the odds against were stacked,
Let it go,
I could see I had to act,
Let it go.

Took away my liberty,
Let it go,
When you threw away the key,
Let it go.

World expected to forget,
Let it go,
But I come back stronger, yet.
Let it go.

For all those years, neglected,
Let it go,
Yet released and then elected,
Let it go.

When I gained emancipation,
Let it go,
Became the Father of the Nation,
Let it go.

The thing I liked most about Nelson Mandela was the “truth and reconciliation” aspect. That he could turn around and say “despite all the evil you have done, my priority is to clean up the mess”. I think it shows the sign of a great man, this ability to see the big picture, and not to sweat the small stuff. People, South Africa of today, many other countries, could learn from this. Instead of which, they see no further than “retribution”.

I found this prompt quite difficult, because I tend to latch onto a particular viewpoint, rather than onto a person. Plus, I think we all come with flaws. My most influential politician, I agree with them on many issues, but not on all.

Just to illustrate my point about it being the issue rather than the person, I’ll include one of my favourite anti-apartheid anthems. I think the struggle against apartheid will undoubtedly be the greatest victory of my life, and while Nelson was probably the single, most important individual in that struggle, that we, as a collective, changed their society into something more fair is a much bigger thing.

Unruly

I read one of Melanie’s Share Your World posts the other day. One of the questions was hypothetical, along the lines, would you be in favour of suspending rules for the day?

I also follow several bloggers who take part in this prompt, and so one by one I saw the responses come in. I think it was unanimous -nobody wanted to see them suspended.

It’s funny (well, sad!), because one of the things I toyed with as an adolescent was which system of government would be best. And, anarchy, was right up there. Which, of course, means “no rules”. That notion of doing as you pleased certainly had attractions. It is certainly a better system than some.

Of course, there had to be strings attached. You had to think in terms of a colony (i.e. someone joins willingly) rather than a nation (which you “join” unwillingly, based on your birthplace). And, one of the conditions is that nobody screws over anybody else. Beyond that, you do what you want. No rules. Anarchy – as long as everybody agreed to it.

This was quite a real concept maybe a hundred years ago. Back in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-9, one of the Republican factions was the Anarchists. They marched under a plain black flag. So there were people willing to stand up and fight for this ideology back then.

When you think about it, Anarchy falls short. It is that tendency to act as an individual. Looking after Number One is good up to a point, but if we think in a more “social” way we can pool our resources and have buildings, schools, roads, hospitals etc. that we’d be unlikely to have if we acted individually. Even battleships, if we’ve a mind. I’m sorry to anybody who has been conditioned to think that socialism is evil, but every time we leave our houses, we enjoy its benefits. Even the mechanic who is able to fix our car because of the education we, as a member of society, afforded them.

And certainly in the context of something global, like climate change, it is even more obvious. You can’t really afford to be an anarchist. We need to pull, together, in a certain direction and anarchy means the exact opposite.

Anyway, I thought it was an interesting question, that and the spinoff about how you could make a “no rules” society work. That’s one of the ways in which it might work. But everybody would need to agree up front to behave themselves and that, of course, is why it couldn’t work.

We Will Remember

A serious poem to display my cynicism on Remembrance Sunday (today) in the UK.

I think we should remember, but I think we should also be clear on what we are remembering. And when we do fight a fight, it should be for a cause we believe in. I would have been a lousy soldier.

We will remember,
But soon to forget,
For dropping our smartbombs,
We have no regrets.

We will remember,
I hear the loud cry,
Remember what?
Is my simple reply.

We will remember,
All those young lives,
But that will not make us
Change impervious minds

We will remember,
to show them respect.
But just don’t expect us
to have introspect.

We will remember,
to lay down the wreath.
Do not indicate
What our thoughts are beneath.

We will remember
Make sure we look the part.
But who can determine
What goes on in my heart.

We will remember
This great photo op
As they take their photos,
My ordnance will drop.

We will remember,
This cloudy Sunday,
To make sure our killing’s done,
Far, far away.

We will all agree that people made sacrifices, lives are cut short, but we have to think further than that. We should also remember that those lives were cut short precisely because of the folly of somebody’s ideas. That war represents a failure of negotiation. That because all these lives end up being cut short, war should be a last resort.

Left In the Dark?

First, to international readers, this is an ongoing internal issue in the UK. I wanted to put my thoughts down, but if you are outside the UK, this will probably not be of any interest, so please save your time.


There’s a debate been rumbling on here for a while. It’s funny, I’ve heard the issue raised a few times these last few days, so I just wanted to get my thoughts down on paper.

The UK has a tax called the TV License. It is technically a tax on watching programmes from the BBC, but it dates from the time when BBC programmes were the only programmes out there, so the tax became, effectively, universal. In these days of 100s of channels, the BBC no longer has a monopoly, but they fudge around with this license so that we end up paying it anyway. There are various hoops you can jump through if you don’t want to pay, but most people just pay it.

That’s the general case. There is an exemption. The exemption is if someone is over 75. Your income does not matter, just your age.

There has been a storm in the UK because the BBC, who apply the tax, want to abolish that exemption. Over 75s would now need to pay.

Now, there are a couple of issues here.

The first one is the concern about poverty. Over 75s can be among the poorest in society, although this is not always the case. The most famous over-75, our queen, is worth an estimated £500 million. Even if you don’t understand £, that translates to a helluva lot.

Now, there has already been an attempt to tackle this problem. There is a state benefit, designed to help these poorest people by supplemenmting their income a little. It is arguable whether it hits the spot, and perhaps reform is required as very few people seem to qualify. But basically the rule will become that anybody in receipt of this benefit will continue to be exempt from the license.

The second thing is the isolation. It is common for elderly people to be isolated. It is common to claim that because of this isolation, TV is the only medium through which people can see/hear human beings. I do not doubt that this is true. But the argument continues that the BBC will therefore increase people’s isolation by starting to charge.

I don’t buy that. I don’t think that the BBC are increasing anybody’s isolation. What they are doing is saying that people must start paying for the service. If somebody is isolated and needs the TV for company, they still have it, they just need to pay for it. What if they can’t afford it? Well, people on the lowest incomes will still be exempt.

There is a further issue about whether the BBC is managing its finances properly. I think this is a valid point, but it is a different point to license fee exemptions. We shoulds be discussing both questions, but separately. Possibly the start point should be whether it is appropriate for the public sector (the BBC) to try to compete with the private sector.

Summary
  • If we’re going to have a mechanism with any exemptions (which seems absolutely the right thing to do) then we should base those exemptions on wealth, not on age. This fits into the whole “social security” ethos.
  • If the wrong people qualify as being exempt, then let’s fight that battle, and campaign for a change in the rules.

Lastly, did you notice how I got through the whole of this post without mentioning the cost of this tax? That was because its value is not really important to my argument. But if you are interested, it is about £150/year, which is roughly the same value in EUR and USD. I guess we will all have different views on whether that is a lot of money or not.