There seems to be no area of our lives, whether public or private,that is not subject to the scrutiny of the 'Equality People' Yet, no one ever defines Equality. So, how will we know it when we see it? Is it definable? And are the principles of equality, however we define them, attainable?.Is the ever extending range of government regulation over our lives 'progress'Or,are we on the road to totalitarianism. Are we hindered or helped in our quest for rights and justice through membership of the E.U., U.N.,e.t.c. or, would a strengthening of our own Parliamentary Democracy serve us better.
This Blog will comment on equality and related issues with the hope of making some small contribution to the debate.
Feel free to post your opinions and share your thoughts and experiences. That way we can get a better idea of how we, the little people really feel about things.
And,just maybe,we might even influence the debate!
Today is the shortest day of the year, a time to look forward to the coming spring. Difficult I know, as we're just approaching Christmas and it's cold, and we might get snow and, according to the news,the heavy rain could cause more flooding. All the more reason to remember Yuletide. The days will now begin to get longer. So celebrate with food,warmth,a little wine and lots of friends. may you never thirst. If you're a Christian, remember Christ was born at the darkest and coldest time of year for a reason. By spring time,which used to be the beginning of the year, He produced a new warmth and a new light through the crucifixion.
Samhain-(pronounced-s-ow-in-) occurs on 31 St October. A pre-Christian festival and ritual, which sees out the last of summer and acknowledges the coming winter. As with all of the old religions it has a strong spiritual dimension. At this time of Samhain the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest. It is hoped that the spirits of our ancestors may return to renew the ties with the living. However, it is not only good spirits who are able to break through the veil. All manner of mischievous ones come out to deceive, play tricks and frighten all the good people;hence the multitude of mini-rituals designed to ward them off. This old festival forms the basis for the Christian festival of All Hallows Eve (Halloween) with the first day of November becoming All Hallows (all saints day) Both of them are concerned with the soul of those who have died. Whether you participate in the Christian or the Pagan festival it is clear both are concerned with life, death and the possibility and, for some, the certainty of an afterlife. It is a time for spiritual reflection as well celebration. To think about those who have died in this context is to think of the physical body as just that, a shell. The person who inhabited that now discarded shell still lives on. How, why and where, provide much 'soul' searching and not a few discussions round the bonfires. It is clear then that both festivals have a serious dimension and purpose. However, there is another type of Halloween festival which has been developing over a couple of decades in The UK at least. As people lose religion and any notion of spirituality they once had, I have noticed a steady rise in blatant commercialisation of the festivals. Clearly people without religion seem still to need some meaning in life.There is a gap where religion used to be, one which is being filled by the corporate money-grabbers. At a trip to the supermarket last week promotion of Halloween was already under-way. Shelves stacked high with toys and costumes directed mostly at children of course. On Halloween itself I have seen hoards of children being led, snake like by their parents around the streets. The only concern of the children, because it is the only thing they have been taught to think about- is how much can I get in my goody bag. So,what bothers me about it is, they probably don't know anything about the festivals. They're just dressed up, taken round the streets and encouraged to get as much free stuff as they can. Some people might say it's just a bit of silliness, or it's a free country and all that. Yes, that may be. However, I can't help but think this corporate rather than spiritual Halloween, is just further evidence of the society we are bequeathing to our offspring; shallow, greedy and empty. I wonder how the ancestors feel.
I was presented with these lovely flowers today by my partner. It's three years since we met. I think it's hard these days for men to know if they should give flowers for fear of being called misogynistic. No such problem for me,flowers always welcome.
The second consultation is under way into whether we need or want a U.K. Bill of Rights. The consultation paper,released by the Department for Justice contains some of the responses gathered from its first round of discussions and responses to it from the public. From a quick perusal of the responses it might be difficult to form any kind of consensus. Many people felt there was ample protection through the Equality and Human Rights Commission (E.H.R.C.), while others felt we should go back to relying on English Common Law. Something which had served us for centuries. The Commission also discusses potential problems of a U.K. wide Bill given that Scotland is moving toward independence and Wales has a devolved administration.
I'm not really sure what to make of the whole exercise. Will it be a futile but costly one.? There's hardly anything about it mentioned in the media. Maybe journalists now already what many of us think. Or, maybe it's low-key in order to keep the consultation and thereby,keep the outcome in the hands of the elite.It doesn't matter what rules or laws we have, governments will always get round them, ignore them, or simply get rid of them.
Cynicism? well yes,but can you blame me.For the past twenty years or so, rights have been top of the agenda. From would be politicians, to rights based campaigning groups, all declaring their love for fellow man and woman, wanting to protect us from the baddies and nurture the country into a more equal and happy place.Yet the erosion of our civil liberties has escalated during this time.The curbs on trial by jury, the extension of surveillance, extended detention without trial and, in some cases without being told what evidence is against you; people being arrested for so called hate crimes, which might be something as minor as upsetting someone's sensitivities.
I really don't think we need more rules;because let's be clear, this is what rights have come to mean; it means more rules,more interference.
Still, it could be worth following the Commission's path and maybe even making a contribution. May be you disagree. May be you think it is a good thing to have a Bill of Rights. Let us know what you think. If you are from outside the U.K. and you have a Bill of Rights do you feel it protects you? and would we benefit from one of our own?
The Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations are starting to wind down a little.We've had marches, picnics, concerts, street parties, tacky souvenirs, t.v.docs about,well, just about everything connected to monarchy and the current Queen Elizabeth. I expect Republicans headed off to the hills at the first opportunity.
Her Majesty's persona as a good family woman has been pushed endlessly;a particularly interesting programme was that of Prince Charles rummaging through boxes of old cine film. Here was Charles and his siblings growing up in a very loving family.
There has been very little mention though of the Queen's position of Head of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith. Nor has there been any discussion of the constitutional aspect of the monarchy and it's role in our political and democratic structure.
Should we be surprised by this.?Perhaps not. To raise these issues would show in sharp relief the contradiction between the projected idea of Britain as an equal, multicultural meritocracy and the actuality of the hereditary bloc at the heart of the British establishment.
I'm not against the monarchy; I'm no republican. But let's stop pretending. Let us have a debate on the monarchy. Does it still have a constitutional role to play;does it still exercise influence in our legal and political life. How is it responding to the campaign for an independent Scotland for instance.?How about the campaign for same sex marriage and the potential dilemma for the church and Christianity. Is the present monarch allowed any involvement or to express her views.Or is she there merely to be wheeled out at appropriate times to suit the agenda of politicians; rally the masses,get the flags waving and have a BBQ? Let's pretend we're all in it together and forget; the incestuous relationship between politicians and the media, the banking crisis our money is being used to bail out,our non-referendum on the E.U. treaty, our creeping security state with secret trials, trial without jury, extended detention without charge. The list is endless.
Centuries ago monarchs were expected to abstain from these practices on pain of being strung up.The rights of the ordinary person were to be protected. Now our democracy can do as much damage to us as the old absolutist monarchies.
So, where do we go from here. I don't know but it would be good to get a debate going. If it sounds a bit too heavy, too ponderous, too serious, then just go and wave a flag.
It's May Day today,a day to welcome the (hopefully) beginning of a good summer, good crops, and lots of babies. A pre-Christian fertility rite no less. It has nothing to do with banks, International Labour Day,Communism,Socialism or any other ism. (except Paganism) These organisations have simply co-opted our traditional day for their own ends. Ignore them. Let them find their own day for their anti-religious, atheist communitarian politics.
If there is anything going on in your area then I hope the day remains dry at least. If not, enjoy the pics.
It'sSt George'sday today, England's patron Saint. You would hardly know it though from the lack of attention paid to it by our media. you know-that media which is supposed to represent the whole of Britain, it's people's, history and traditions.Oh well,
Freedom of speech and expression is supposed to form the bedrock of a liberal, tolerant and democratic society. And here in the U.K. we strongly believe we are a liberal democracy. After all didn't this country produce the likes of John Stuart Mill with his famous treatise, On Liberty. Written in the nineteenth century, it still reads like a breath of fresh air in a dungeon, reminding us of part our heritage, and those before us who struggled to be free from 'truths' imposed by so called betters; church, state, school.
However, the latest clampdown on people's right to free expression could see Mill's words eventually becoming to be seen as subversive which, God forbid, some one, or some group may at some future time try to ban.
The case in question is the intervention of London Mayor Boris Johnson,(Con) in a campaign by the Christian group Core Issues Trust to advertise their views about homosexuality on the side of London buses. This form of advertising is a common enough thing to do; you pay, you get your avert on the bus and any one in London can read it, ignore it or follow through to find out more.
The advert in question was in response to Stonewall's (campaigners for gay rights) campaign a while ago, which also used London buses.Their slogan ' some people are gay-get over it' was plastered all over the place.
The Core Issues Group, using a similar design poster to Stonewall wanted to say something on the lines of-'Ex-gay,post-gay and proud-Get over it'
Following complaints that some people were offended by the message, Boris Johnson has stopped the campaign from using London buses claiming that London 'is a tolerant city and will not put up with intolerance'
So there we have it, offence is not a matter of personal feeling but a question of fact, to be decided on by Boris, with the power to ban opinions.
Now, I don't have any interest in the debate between Stonewall and the Core Issues Trust on the nature or otherwise of what makes someone gay. I simply don't care. I do however, care very strongly about the right to express opinions and beliefs, and the freedom to try and persuade others to a particular point of view. How else would gay people have been able to end their persecution. To shut down debate says to the rest of us- or to me at least- whatever I don't agree with, you must not hear, you cannot decide for yourselves the merit of someone's argument. If you disagree you might go out and commit violence, so I'm protecting you. On the other hand, if you agree, you will join the other side and I will lose power over you.
That is not a free country. I think we need some reminding of Mill's words. Here are a few quotes. If any one has time or the inclination, read his works.
From; On Liberty- Of Thought and Discussion-
' They have no authority to decide the question for all mankind and exclude every other person from the means of judging'
'All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility'
'To call any proposition certain, while there is any one who would deny its certainty if permitted, but who is not permitted, is to assume that we ourselves and those who agree with us, are the judges of certainty, and judges without hearing the other side'
'Strange it is that men should admit the validity of the arguments for free discussion, but object to their being pushed to an extreme, not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for any case'
There's been a lot of hoo ha recently about women being given abortions on the ground of the sex of the child. Apparently sex selection is illegal in the U.K. as a ground for abortion. The practice was uncovered by the Daily Telegraph which secretly filmed conversations between women and doctors at a private clinic.The patients made it clear during consultation the ground for abortion was the sex of the child. The doctors agreed to carry out the termination and did some 'artistic' paper work to cover up.
Andrew Lansley, Health Secretary, calling the practice not only illegal but morally wrong, has promised an investigation. The Society for The protection of The unborn child (s.p.u.c.) said it was "the reality of eugenics in modern British medicine"
Now, I don't like abortion, especially since in the U.K. at least, we have had free contraception for decades. However, there's no going back to pre-1967 days;that horse has well and truly bolted. But the response of the establishment reeks of double standards and shows that no matter what they say about freedom of choice they always get very upset when that choice is the wrong one.
If abortion is to be allowed on social grounds i.e. a disabled child that the parents feel they simply cannot cope with, they are not ready to be parents, they have to finish university, they have too many already and society says it is the woman's right to choose we can hardly get upset if some choose sex as a reason. If the prospect of having a child when young is allowed-which could be called a cultural reason, then why not allow for cultural preferences for males over females. We cannot have it both ways. I suspect though, that no matter the law on this issue the establishment must, unless they are dimwits, know that sex selection exists. They just don't admit it and expect every one else to keep quiet about it.
The most common ground for abortion on legal terms is - continuing with the pregnancy poses a greater risk to the woman's life, physical or mental than if she had a termination.Or, continuing with the pregnancy would pose more of a risk to her existing children than if she had a termination. Those two grounds could in my opinion, cover any reason a woman could possibly come up with. So we have abortion on demand, if not in theory then in practice.The woman only has to convince two doctors of how she feels. As far as I can make out nothing has to be proven, no impartial evidence, there isn't time. An abortion has to be carried out within a time limit of 22 weeks. How many have had abortions because of the sex of the child but have played the mental health card about the pregnancy Per Se.
The statement by S.PU.C. was very apt.We do have eugenics. In 2010/11 there were 189,574 terminations in England and Wales, a rise of 8% on the previous year.If the Telegraph had uncovered some Government practice of eugenics which had got rid of the same amount of people on the ground of their supposed uselessness to society, I'm sure we'd all be screaming Nazi scum at them. But what is the difference. We have merely devolved decision making to the individual, who makes the choice on the usefulness or convenience of the potential child, to her own immediate situation.
Those pro-choice supporters who are upset about gender based abortions really cannot have it both ways. If a woman has the right to choose she has to have the right to her own reasons -otherwise she doesn't really have a right to choose.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against the U.K. Government's application to extradite the Islamist Abu Qatada to Jordan. The Jordanian authorities want him for conspiracy to carry out bombings of the American School and the Jerusalem hotel. He was tried in his absence.
The court ruled that evidence obtained by Jordan which put Qatada in the frame was obtained through torture and, therefore, to extradite him would be a breach of his human rights.
Evidence obtained through torture is notoriously problematic, not least because it is wrong. It is also unreliable. If someone was pulling out your fingernails with pliers, beating you every day, threatening to rape your female relatives, you may be inclined to say whatever your torturer wants to hear just to make the pain stop.
However, there are two points here worth considering. Firstly, Qatada himself wasn't tortured and the ruling does not rule out extradition in the future on the ground that it is- "confident that diplomatic assurances between Britain and Jordan that Abu Qata would not be tortured would be upheld if extradited"
Secondly there is the evidence against Qatada allegedly obtained through torture. If this information was excluded would he still have a case to answer? If so, surely there is scope for us to work with the Jordanian authorities on resolving this issue. Jordan, like the U.K. is attempting to deal with terrorist attacks against its own citizens. The terrorists are trans-national operators and not confined by state boundaries or respect for sovereign rights. It is a global problem and it needs to be tackled at a trans-national level.
A statement issued by the Home Office expressed its disappointment at the ruling but, added that it would continue with its efforts to extradite. I hope it does. We owe it to ourselves and to Jordan to resolve the case in a way which, while upholding our principles to protect the innocent also prevents those same principles from being a hiding place for the guilty.