Search This Blog

Saturday 15 September 2012

Tory Menace, Republican Farce

[MASSIVE LEFTY WARNING. Likely to offend those not quite so Lefty.]

I'm not sure which kind of right-wing folk I'd want in this country right now - our current UK Tory government, or the US Republican party.

Our Tories (because let's face it, for a long time, there's been no coalition) aren't the kind of frothing-at-the-mouth conservatives that you seem to get in US politics. They might appear similar in many ways - predominantly male, predominantly white, predominantly fairly wealthy, predominantly possessed of ties to businesses of many stripes.

US conservatives, however, seem to be conservative to the point of comedy, in all areas. Especially religion and personal freedoms. Being vocally and publically terrified of homosexuality, decrying their opponents by making things up about their personal lives, deliberately trying to come across as downhome and uncomplicated by not bothering to fact-check, blaming immigrants and welfare recipients for everything that has gone wrong since they got into power, being so overtly against worker's rights that in order to be MORE against those rights they'd have to walk into the workplace and actually physically assault people.

Lets face it. So few people in this country would vote for that kind of politician. They'd have their supporters, no doubt - some voters are, well, a bit weird - but they'd never have the kind of support that would lead to them running the country. We just don't operate like that as a people - I like to think that we probably find that in-your-face lack of education on the female body to be an insult to schools everywhere, and that unless one is a total homophobe, the Republican attitude to gay folk to be more repugnant than gay rights ever could be.

Which is why I'd rather have the Republican party opposing Labour here, rather than the Tories.

Why? Because for so long in this country, most parties have been racing to appear as middle-ground as possible. We're not big fans of extremism in this country. Most of us anyway. There's some blips on the radarwhere the BNP and the EDL are concerned, but probably only with as great a percentage of our population as those with serious mental disorders.

So in this country, the face of Conservatism - of austerity, of regular folk picking up the slack to make imaginary numbers balance, of privatising the things which were once ours as a nation and to hell with the needy - has to adopt a more acceptable face; it has to don a mask. It becomes insidious.

Because it is less extreme in several areas - in fact, the one thing I believe our Prime Minister has done right is to take a positive attitude toward gay marriage - it is seen as acceptable; and thus people vote for it, and see it as similar enough to any other political party that they will still view them all as on a similar level. I cannot tell you how often I've heard otherwise intelligent people tell me "They're all the same really".

Yes, except...under the last Labour government, we muttered that over ASBOs, or relations with the US. And under the Tory government, we mutter that while we lose our jobs, and the only people doing well are those buying out our public services - them, and debt collectors.

All the same, really.

Well done, Tories. Just middle-ground enough that people will still vote for you - still right-wing enough that you'll happily string up your people.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

The Great Enabler

For any of this to make sense, one needs to read and be aware of this article right here:

Christians take 'beliefs' fight to European Court of Human Rights

Let us for illustrative purposes remove the actual concept of Christianity from what is going on here...

- Two individuals feel their human rights are being violated because they will not adhere to the dress code of jobs with (dare I say widely known) very specific and highly regulated dress codes.

- Two more individuals feel their human rights are being violated because they are expected to keep their bigotry out of their workplace.

To address the first two? I'm sorry, but there's a dress code. Unless you have a very compelling reason to not adhere to it - and this will be in your employment contract - you adhere to it. Airline staff are the face of the company, a company that is meant to put forward a unified face to their customers; nursing staff have hygiene considerations on top of needing to appear clinical and professional. Whatever my personal feeling on the subject of employment dress codes, you go into such a situation with your eyes open; and if you can't deal with the restrictions, then I'm sorry, but you're probably in the wrong job.

To address the latter pair...

I'm sorry. But you don't have the human right to impinge on other people's human rights. You are not entitled to prevent other people from having things they are entitled to. That's not how it works. The Convention of Human Rights is there to defend the rights of all, not take away the rights of some.

All four of these cases going forward to the Court of Human Rights are, patently, ridiculous...the moment you remove the language of faith and belief from their discussion. However, all of a sudden, things seem to be a lot less cut-and-dried the moment we factor in their respective religious beliefs.


We shouldn't allow people's beliefs to become enablers for illegal behaviour - we don't let suicide cults ill off hundreds because they believe they will be subsumed in some kind of alien uplifting, we don't let racial supremacists that truly believe white English people are the master race (yes, they do exist, and yes, it is as mad as it sounds) burn down shops belonging to people who happen to not fit into their template. So why permit another set of beliefs to allow someone to break the law?

It is a sorry state of affairs that I feel I may be looked upon unkindly for suggesting that the laws of a land should be secular. Strictly secular. Based on best practice, and ethics relevant to today, not to a book of dubious provenance. It's why we have a justice system, rather than more priests.

It is my belief that people should be allowed to believe whatever they wish. Beliefs are like teeth - they are very useful, some would say absolutely essential...but they should stay inside your head. If your beliefs lend you comfort in hard times, that is all well and good; just remember that they are beliefs. Not laws, not rights, not priviledges, not entitlements - beliefs.

If you can't tell the difference, maybe you should stay out of any kind of legal situation until you do.

Sunday 2 September 2012

The Thousand Policies

There's a lot of problems currently afflicting the world that have both simple and complex solutions. Contemplating the nature of these problems and their solutions can lead to quite a headache - lets face it, that involves juggling a lot of data.

"But it's simple," will say a cacophony of voices. "All you have to do is..."

And it's at that point that they all start to diverge, first into relatively few camps, of thought, then into more, then totally diverging from just about everyone else.

No wonder democracy confuses human beings. Presented with all these different options for how to move forward, often subject to misdirection in the intentions of those making those presentations, and trying to put together a set of beliefs from evidence that one needs to find elsewhere.

It takes time, patience, research and understanding to actually settle on a course that one thinks the world should take. Not only in terms of economic strategy, but academic, scientific, moralistic, socialistic.

And once you have settled on that - well, it would be natural that everyone else's plans would seem to ring hollow, right? Except that a lot of them have gone exactly the way you have - putting together their beliefs from a pastiche of information and a lot of soul-searching.

And that is why people don't budge. And very little in terms of words and deeds can make them shift their political standpoint. This is especially true if they have skipped out on a very central aspect of this entire exercise - evidence; it is downright scary to know just how many people will form a political opinion without any basis in fact or reality, basing it purely off the words and beliefs of others for whatever reason.

Sadly, the kind of thing that makes people budge isn't something that everyone on either side can experience. After all, homophobes aren't likely to experience a real attack on their human rights, not in the same way as their targets. Proponents of heavy taxation on the rich aren't usually very rich, so they won't know how that would affect them directly - and contrariwise, proponents of a demolition of worker's rights aren't usually in a position for the erosion of those rights to ruin their lives.

All told? The myriad of political opinions can get to be a bit of a mess - which is why the whole thing seems fairly impenetrable.

And unfortunately, we've fallen into the trap of accepting almost all viewpoints as being just as valid as the others, regardless of evidence, common sense or basic decency.

But that is for another blog, no?