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 “you have done all sorts of evil against me, yet I am willing to put that to one side, because I have a more critical priority of sorting out the mess you made”. I think it shows the sign of a great man, and indeed many, many people, South Africa of today, and other countries, cannot see further than the “revenge” ticket, cannot see the end game.

But to be honest I found this prompt quite difficult, because I tend to admire views, but get less hung up on people. Plus, I think we all come with flaws. My favourite politician, I thought similarly on many issues, but not on others, Musically, I was influenced a lot by Bob Marley. To me, he was sound on racial issues, but was he so sound on other inequality issues? Same goes for something like the suffragettes and their focus of gender issues.

Anyway, just to illustrate my point, I’ll include one of my favourite anti-apartheid songs. See? It’s the issue, not the person. Nelson was probably the most important individual person, but that we changed the society is a far 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.

X Rated

I read a post the other day, the author made pretty clear her view of porn, of all things. Made me think. Then somebody else said something about erotica this morning. While the two are different, it started me off again, so I thought I’d put some thoughts down.

I think (good) erotica is great, just because the whole purpose is let somebody’s imagination run riot. I bet every writer has that dream, no matter what their genre. Personally, I don’t know whether this is the stroke talking, but erotica holds no interest for me. I’m actually incredibly asexual now. But if somebody else likes it, who am I to say anything?

Porn is a bit more complex, just because it is so much more explicit. I think, for me, the issue boils down to one of consent.

There is a caveat right at the very start that somebody needs to be an adult (defining an adult is a post in itself!) who has, under their entirely own volition, made a choice for themselves. But beyond that, it boils down to consent.

A guy and a woman together? Consent.

Two guys together? Consent. And so on.

And, by extension, a person doing something sexual in front of a camera? Consent.

There is an obvious counter argument there. That “consent” might not truly mean “consent”. But that goes back to my original caveat. If somebody has said “yes” out of their own volition, what right do I have to say “no”? Even if there were a bunch of cash to sweeten the deal (which I guess would be the case with porn). As long as the deal is known up-front, what right do I have even to have an opinion?

In the past I have heard the “fraternal” (or perhaps that is sorority) argument. That one woman doing this cheapens women, as a gender. But at that point, well, being either a man or a woman is hardly the same as joining the golf club. Nobody is elected on the promise that they will uphold the rules. It’s not as though gender is a choice we make.

So I don’t think there is really any common ground between people of the same gender, beyond the gender itself. To expect one person to follow a set of principles, purely on the grounds that somebody else does, seems crazy.

By all means, somebody can be offended. But their offence gives them the right not to partake, or in the case of porn, not to watch it. In fact, that is probably the category I put myself in. But I don’t think one person’s offence means that somebody who wants to do something (like porn) should be prohibited from doing it. I think there is a world of difference between “I don’t like …” and “… is wrong”.