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Sunday 27 September 2020

Foxes Guarding The Henhouse

Just a brief one, but I feel this needs to go on record somewhere. It's only part of the wide shower of shit that is hitting a large number of fans, and probably the leaks of this information (from Whitehall and Government sources no less) are doing so to try and distract us - but I am pretty sure I can pay attention to corruption AND ever-rising Covid numbers at the same time, so.

The organisation Ofcom is Britain's official regulator for broadcast and electronic media. It covers TV, radio, telecoms; it is the adjudicating body when there are press complaints relating to television news, amongst other things.

In a breathtaking display of reach-around cronyism, Boris Johnson has decided to make Paul Dacre the head of Ofcom.

This is Paul Dacre.

Dacre has been the top of the Daily Mail totem pole for decades, having been made editor in 1992. Now if you know anything about the Daily Mail, or the Mail group in general, you will know that it is right wing to a degree that should make even the most wishy-washy centrist wince with discomfort. It is a rag. It has been referred to the Press Complaints Commission multiple times - and never really seemed to get punished very much.

I wonder if that's because Dacre was a member of the PCC for a decade, and following that was made Chairman of their Code of Practice Commission, a position he held for eight further years? Who knows, I'm sure.

Either way - you can probably ascertain his views on numerous topics by the way that the front pages ran under his guidance. Several fun topics include how everyone who didn't want Brexit was a "saboteur" or an "enemy of the state", and how several members of the Labour party were "terrorist sympathisers". He also has a specific set of guidelines on how women have to appear in photographs in the Mail, something that has attracted complaints, which are usually followed up with attack campaigns against the individuals that, um, didn't like him being sexist.

Oddly enough he and Boris Johnson apparently don't get on very well; Dacre once described Johnson as having "the morals of an alley cat", and accused him of having "a phalanx of minders to padlock his zipper".

His last year at the Mail, he was paid £2.5m.

He's not the only former editor of a massively right-wing newspaper being handed control of a swathe of the British media.

This is Charles Moore - or to be more accurate, Baron Moore of Etchingham.

Charles Moore loves Brexit and Donald Trump, he hates the BBC and the NHS, and he was a former editor of the Telegraph - a newspaper commonly called toe Torygraph due to its almost offensively obvious bias toward conservative and right-wing politics and attitudes.

Moore is a fan of banning muslims from travelling, and decided that two female members of the Labour party shouldn't win the leadership contest in 2015, because they were - quote - "grotesque". Not believing in climate change, Moore has called for a "bonfire of green regulations". He loves hunting, and he studied at Eton in the 70s, and he compared allowing same-sex couples any marriage rights to allowing people to marry their dogs.

He is, also, very soon to be made the chairman of the BBC.

It is notable that the Daily Mail covered this possibility like this:

So if all of a sudden all of the news channels start singing from the government's song-sheet, and anything questioning that particular angle gets sidelined, well... now you know why.

Thank you for reading. Support your humble author via Patreon or Kofi, or follow social media on the right. See you next week.

Sunday 20 September 2020

Readers Request - Irredeemable, Ironheart, Outrage, Animals

You know the drill by this point, people. I asked for some questions, comments or topics - I will answer them. Got some good ones here. Without further ado.

Your 3 favourite characters from popular fiction that are morally problematic.

Megatron - problematic for obvious reasons, he's a tyrannical despot at the best of times, but like he's cool, you know. Roy Batty - yeah murder is sticky but if you want change, sometimes you gotta pop the mega-wealthy people's heads. The Emperor of Mankind - whoops I accidentally a galactic genocide.

Redeemable Tory Cabinet member. I've stared at the list of current members of the cabinet and.... like... none. ...just... I can't. There are none. None. No. Sorry. None.

Separating artist from works - Harry Potter from J.K Rowling for example.

Ooookay. Well. ...if you want to like the art in question while not agreeing with the artist, that is probably okay - BUT - the art isn't actually separate. For one thing, they are probably still drawing royalties, every time you buy a Hufflepuff scarf or a Gary Glitter-themed mug.

For another - well, when someone creates a piece of art, it is almost never totally divorced from who they actually are. It is informed by their attitude, by their thought process, by their life experience. It's why books written by very wealthy people that include poor people - or vice versa - rarely feel terribly realistic, or clearly push a specific agenda relating to those people without any actual realism behind it.

Many authors do a fantastic job of worldbuilding but make a world totally informed by their worldview of this planet, and their experiences of it, however limited. It's hard to step outside of how you see things, and what things, specifically, you have seen. It's why a lot of the old sci fi books are, frankly, pretty racist and pretty sexist. It's why we renamed the Campbell Award to the Astounding Award - because scifi shouldn't be rewarded in the name of a racist and segregationist who didn't believe in lung cancer or medical regulation.

I, personally, have a hard time with it. But then I think too much about stuff. I can probably do a serious over-read into most things if you give me a title and an angle. (Wreck-It Ralph? Totally all about just staying in your lane and never wanting to change your life.) So if you the reader can read a book and be chill with the author being shit in the ways they are shit? That's different strokes I guess. But more importantly - be AWARE of the author's attitudes, the musician's angle, the director's bias. Be aware of it, so that you are informed as to why they might make certain decisions in their creative process.

And if you ARE going to keep loving the work and also recognise the artist's general shitness - do be aware that some people might want to make sure that your consumption of the work isn't tacit agreement with the author's attitude.

If that notion confuses you, well, try reading Mein Kampf on public transport. Yes yes Godwin's Law let's move on

Cannibalism for fun and profit.

This sounds like a guide book for private equity firms. Hey folks - if you don't know how private equity firms work, read Mortal Engines. The book about mobile cities chasing down other cities, stripping them for anything they want, then discarding the refuse. Then imagine this applies to companies that you use, like Toys R Us. Guess what the refuse is? Jobs and stores.

And how can this beeee?


(You'd best appreciate the 20 minutes I just spent photoshopping this)

Why have my bowels just exploded?

Poor life choices and the unyielding certainty of biochemistry.

Sci-fi movie plots with elements that don't make sense (eg. Movies that release sequels that contradict the premise of the others).

Okay so I was suggested Terminator for this BUT the moment that you bring in time travel everything gets screwy, especially if your premise doesn't specifically state that the Grandfather Paradox exists. SO. Terminator gets a pass - so does Back To The Future. However. Offenders include Transformers (The history changes every movie and a couple characters literally vanish or appear out of nowhere and one even DIES and then just comes back in the next movie for no apparent reason) and Universal Soldier (basically the fact that this even has sequels is a mystery to me but apparently they all kind of pretend the other sequels don't exist).

Not following that example - The Core doesn't make sense AT ALL. It's like a script writer saw a seven year old's plasticine model of the earth's inner workings and based the movie entirely on it without doing any further reading. The remake of Total Recall - so wait there's a train that runs THROUGH THE EARTH to AUSTRALIA? Angels & Demons - that's not how Antimatter works! Battlefield Earth, WHY BATTLEFIELD EARTH!? And do not even get me STARTED on Armageddon -

(It is at this point that a sedative was administered)




(fire fire fire fire scream scream scream cry cry)

Yeah pretty much mate

Wild speculation about the overarching themes / plots of MCU phases 4 & 5.

So like I don't know about Phase 5 at all, because I believe a lot of that will depend on how Phase 4 is received. Eternals, for example, can rewrite EvErYtHiNg and introduce a whole new metaplot. I have no idea what they are going to do with Thor. I don't know if I will like what they are going to do with Spider-Man. I have hopes? But... like... the main drive of the thing has had a lot of its guts ripped out, so I think now there will be a bit of a flail about while the movie industry works out how everything works again. I want Black Widow to do REALLY well because they did her SO dirty with InfinEndgame. Outside of that. Powerless to speculate... but Black Panther II should be about Shuri taking over. And I want an Ironheart movie, dammit. I WANT IRONHEART.

Best book of 2020 as recommended by you please dear.

Got to be honest. I have found reading pretty difficult, this year. I am very much not caught up. And given that this year has been a trash fire I am going to reach back and claw back To Be Taught If Fortunate from 2019 by Becky Chambers, because, please god just give me this.

Ok of the last decade 😁

phew okay. The best book written this decade that I have read is either A Closed And Common Orbit, also by Becky Chambers - or This Is How You Lose The Time War, by Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Runners up include Jeff Vandermeer's Southern Reach trilogy and Dessa's My Own Devices.

Required though about boobies, without using a picture or comment you've made before. Maybe if you fancy going serious instead of silly something to do with breast/testicular cancer?

A fantastic use of a trope that I was getting a bit bored of! Check yourself. Always check yourself. Get it checked. I know, I know, it's a pain. Do it anyway. If the idea of talking to your doctor about a medical problem makes you nervous, interrogate yourself about it - is it because of you or because of your doctor? Get a different doctor. Check yourself. Be safe, people. Have a grope.

How about an element (or two) of Magical Girl Manga that you think are good?

So you know what? I will admit that I am not speaking from a position of absolute knowledge here, I've not watched many - but I appreciate the fact that a lot of them are created by women, a lot of them thus feature some not-awful writing of women and girls in a genre that usually doesn't do that. And we like that.

The lack of mixed race heritage characters and npcs in things like dnd5e or pathfinder etc. Or the overabundance of mixed species characters in those games. Or even something about to what extent species and races are portrayed in d&d and how one substitutes for the other.

Haaaah sticky one. So. Um. RPG that originated in the mid-70s, based on tropes created by fantasy authors from a lot before that time, so race is... a bit... iffy. Given that a lot of the traits that make up each of the classic fantasy races were... let's say... influenced by the culture of the folks that concocted them, it's a big old hard-to-untangle mess. In short - mixed-species characters are often popular because it's a neat way to get stuff and have ready-to-go social acceptance (or censure) written into your background, AND you can look neat. While, a lot of game companies who (for decades) have had an overwhelmingly white male staff have felt uncomfortable in how to deal with race in terms of ethnicity. It's a big house of cards and a lot of the cards on the bottom of the house have "A Bit Racist" written on them in big letters.

The outrage surrounding 'Cuties' and whether it's founded on the facts or stirred up sensationalism...

Okay. So. DISCLAIMER. I have not seen this movie. I don't WANT to watch this movie, after having observed the outrage from an external perspective, and also learned about the actual subject matter (though to repeat, I haven't actually watched it, this has come from reading several reviews and summaries). It is about a sensitive topic - how the societal pressure on girls to be sexual entities influences girls that are clearly too young to be seen that way, and how they will be the ones that not only bear the cost for it but also get the blame. It explicitly ties into the director's experience growing up in France and being French-Senegalese. It's about how girls are sexualised, and how friggin wrong that is.

And then, it gets put up on Netflix, and the marketing department decides to just take a big steaming shit in everything the movie is trying to tell you. I'm just going to show you the posters that were used for this movie - the one on the left is for its domestic release, and the one on the right is the Netflix poster.

I apologise. This may well upset you.

And of course, everyone is taking a swing at the director for it.

I'm willing to bet she probably handled the subject matter with more thought and sensitivity than whoever came up with the poster on the right. And I'm willing to bet that a lot of people will be unwilling to direct their anger at the actual forces that make things like this happen.

Of course, there is no way to expect that sensationalism won't get stirred up - even on topics that aren't so emotive as this. News sites run on clicks, not accuracy; and people don't read full articles, or do any research. I, myself, have fallen into this camp repeatedly. Yes, dear reader, even your humble blogger isn't immune to outrage.

How Battlestar Galactica is still so relevant 17 years on (race wars, the role of religion in politics, there's even a pandemic! (The Woman King))

The writing for this show was super, super good. Like fantastic. It had its moments of rubbish, but for the most part, it was superb. Especially the internal politics; the power struggles; the creeping paranoia. It's very, VERY relevant. The entire plotline involving the military coup takeover, the elections, the imbalance between Galactica and Pegasus - just... so, so good.

And also how this could be linked to how much of battlestar was inspired by DS9 that is still relevant today and as a well made statement about world war 2 and the civil rights movement still being important then as well as now... and the comparison of these two for cultural and societal elements compared to the expanse as a series please x

Christ okay um. DS9 is probably my favourite Trek. I like Discovery a lot, but DS9 tops it if only for the actual content. Sure, there's a lot of Holodeck episodes, but every Trek has that, right? What I love is the politics of the thing. And the way that the Federation is not only not always the best candidate for the job, but also, not always even in the right. It's about military and civic authority, about what people do when pushed, about the ugly side of trying to bring peace and order to a place that classically didn't have any (or did have, at the end of a Cardassian rifle).

The Expanse... is probably my favourite scifi TV series? I think? The character writing is superb, the politics are believable, the science makes sense until the thing comes along that doesn't and that is ACTUALLY a plot point, it looks great, it sounds great, and essentially - it joins the aforementioned series in portraying facets of politics accurately through the lens of accessible characters. It shows various governmental interactions, diplomacy at many different levels too. It shows how regular people suffer the actions of the few and the powerful. It shows how, in the end, however alien the foe, the cruelest enemy to humanity is itself in its worst moments. So does Babylon 5, which also joins this list.

If someone wanted to understand how power and politics works on Earth, today, they would not be ill-advised to consume a smattering of the series discussed before. It will be, at the very least, insightful.

Summing up the past year using song titles? asked for it.

...that's not actually a bad playlist, thinking about it.

First rain after a spell of dry weather.

Not a big fan of rain (it hurts my joints) but I know it's necessary - and in some cases lifesaving. So. Let it rain.

Current favorite song, album, artist, and genre. (Four different, though related, questions really in one.)

Favourite SONG - The acoustic version of Crabulon by Evil Scarecrows. ...just listen to it, you'll get it.

Favourite ALBUM - Moron Police - A Boat On The Sea. Like, their albums before this one, I can take or leave. This thing sounds fantastic.

Favourite ARTIST - Spanish Love Songs. Hands down. I've gone back and listened to their back catalogue and it's fantastic

Favourite GENRE - ...well, honestly, a mixture; but if forced to pick I suppose the music I throw on to listen to the most when not looking for a specific artist, right now, is synthwave in the vein of Timecop1983, Kavinksy, FM-84 and Night Runner - and adjacencies like Gunship.

1 Actor and 1 Actress that you think give the best 'smolder' look?

For the consideration of the Academy, Henry Cavill...

...and Eva Green.

With an honorable mention for Pedro Pascal.

Done and done.


May the memory of this righteous one be a blessing. Now push back. In memory of everything she ever stood for, and every right she ever fought to give you. Push back on all fronts. ALL fronts.

Worst offending countries using Covid to push through political agendas.

...see this is a difficult one because of all the countries that have been doing the worst, most heinous right-wing shit since the virus hit, they're all the ones that just ram through legislation they like anyway. And where a lot of it doesn't reach big news because, you know, global epidemic and measures specifically taken to make sure nobody notices...

Pretty sure we might be tied with the US though.

Can I get a review of my cats?

You wish to enter CAT BATTLE 2020!? CHOOSE YOUR FIGHTER!!!

  1. PUMPKIN! Clearly very much needs to headbutt. A specialist in the arena. She hasn't been pet recently. Fix it. FIX IT. 12/10 for technique.
  2. NOVA! Her fang attacks are more effective than headbutts, even if less commonly used. You get more pets with nuzzles than nips. 12/10 for music taste.
  3. MR SMAUG! Clearly this cat's skin condition can't stop him being a speed demon. He did it all for the locusts. Gecko Theft Auto. 12/10 for peepers.

In summary. All of these cats are winners. Extra treats and pets for all. ESPECIALLY MISTER SMAUG.

The wonders of baconated grapefruit.

Do you mean two grapefruit stacked one on top of the other with cheese slices in a burger bun with several slices of bacon on top, as served in international fast-food restaurant chain Wendys?

Wouldn’t you be depressed if you were a dangerous alien cat lizard and your human stopped talking to you?

Mate I'm depressed now and my human still talks to me imagine the state of THAT. ...also I mean they stopped talking to Coeurl after he ate a handful of the crew.

If I sneeze in the woods and nobody else is there to hear the sound, do I have the virus...

If you live in England, probably - the government has been gagging for you to catch it - but good luck getting a fucking test. Your nearest site might be IN the fucking woods.

Which county has the sexiest borders?

Italy. I mean. The boot is just kinda horny.

Milkshake choice if your favourite is not available

Uuuuuh... I guess... banana?

Carbonated milk with or without the pulp?

I absolutely hate that I have had to think about this. ...but never, ever with pulp.

And on that final, cursed question, I shall take my leave and ride into the sunset. Thank you for your contributions, folks. I will catch you next time.

Thank you for reading. Support your humble author via Patreon or Kofi, or follow social media on the right. See you next week.

Sunday 13 September 2020

Gentle Rebuttals

Hah, the title says Butt.

So I found it difficult to pick an individual topic - so instead I am going to go through several smug statements that I have seen or heard people use, and... well, gently rebut them.

This is mostly to clear noise from my brain on various topics, but if anyone else might derive joy or use from it, well, that's a bonus.

Don't try to play this as a drinking game though; you'll just get sad that you've heard so many of these sayings banded about.

"If my pants can't stop a fart, how can a mask stop COVID-19?"

This comes from a basic lack of understanding as to the size difference between COVID and other very small things. COVID-19 measures at 120 nanometers across (for comparison, a human hair is 80,000 nanometers across). The methane that gives a fart its smell is 0.38 nanometers across - COVID-19 is over three hundred times bigger.

To illustrate why cloth can stop one but not the other...

If we imagine that this basketball is the same size as methane, then comparatively, COVID-19 is the size of St Paul's Cathedral.

Now imagine fitting St Paul's Cathedral through a basketball hoop.

You're welcome.

"Charity begins at home."

This probably began as a warning about looking after your own finances before you bail out anyone else. 1 Timothy in the Bible actually addresses this, chapter 5, verse 8:

"But if any provide not for his owne, & specially for those of his owne house, hee hath denied the faith, and is worse then an infidel."

And in terms of personal finances, this is great. This is key. If you aren't fiscally stable, and you risk that stability further by giving to other people, you reduce your capability to do more good in the long run for yourself and others.

However, national economies do not work like personal finances, which is something I will touch upon later - and I only ever see this phrase rolled out when someone speaks about providing charitable aid to other nations that are significantly worse off than we are.

A lot of those nations are worse off specifically because of their past... let's call them... interactions with nations such as ours or those like ours. Our nations, which are correspondingly more historically wealthy because of those interactions, are filled with people that say that charity begins at home.

This is a short format, so going into things like the East India Trading Company and the Belgian Congo would take up too much space - but if you fancy a little eye-opener on the topic, have a google.

"Cancel culture has gone too far."

Almost everyone has participated in cancel culture at one point or other, it just wasn't called that.

Why do you go to eat at one place instead of the one down the road? Why do you use one brand of toothpaste rather than another? Why do you watch one news channel and avoid its competitor?

We make decisions about what products and services to use and consume on a daily basis, and some of our reasoning is conscious, and some of it is subconscious. For example, if you have a four-hob oven, one of them is your favourite, and you probably can't explain why.

If you have ever articulated a negative or positive opinion about something, you have participated in cancel culture. Think of a band you don't like. Think of why you don't like them. If you've told another human being that reason, you've participated.

For example. This guy. Not actually very funny when it comes down to it.

Bam, I am one of those awful cancellers you have heard so much about.

If you don't like a celebrity for whatever reason, and you say so, you are participating. For reasons as diverse as "I didn't like the last movie they were in" or "They aren't actually very funny" or "They have faced serious and credible allegations of assaulting their spouse" or "They're a bit of a lefty who keeps virtue signalling" or "They are a bit creepy" or "They treat my friends as not being actually human" - you say that to someone, that is cancel culture.

But then people wanted to keep liking the people that other people didn't like, so there needed to be a witty phrase to sum up this apparent war - that way it could be tied into "Political Correctness Gone Mad," which I might touch on later. And so, the phrase Cancel Culture became pejorative, just like Social Justice Warrior. Because it was useful to throw around as an accusation or insult, rather than a description of complex human behaviour.

Money is the primary driving force of much of the world, and a lot of us don't have very much of it. Pointing out something that a person or corporation did - like, actually did - and then making a decision on whether or not to support them financially based on that information is okay, frankly.

I think, perhaps, the complaint comes from the fact that some people feel one of two ways: 1) that the entity in question wasn't wrong to do what it did, or 2) that the entity was wrong but they shouldn't suffer any negative repercussions for it.

By that same virtue, you should always buy bad products that don't actually do what they propose to do, because holding the manufacturer accountable for the product being not fit for purpose is Cancel Culture and wrong. Don't like Pot Noodle? Tough, go buy a four pack of Chicken & Mushroom.

That's how you sound.

"If voting changed anything they'd make it illegal."

If voting didn't change anything "They" wouldn't spend literally millions every budget trying to convince you to vote a certain way. Trust me, they'd rather not. They'd rather you didn't vote at all, which is why millions is also spent trying to make voters apathetic and make voting difficult for people. If voting didn't change anything, the US Government wouldn't be closing polling booths in areas that don't classically vote Republican.

"I don't see colour."

That isn't a clever way to say you aren't racist. That's a way to wash your hands of engagement when it comes to racial discrimination that very much exists and is ongoing at this very second. Saying you don't see colour means you don't acknowledge that other people very much do, and those people are often in positions of power over those whose colour they VERY MUCH see.

File this with "We're All One Race, The Human Race" and "All Lives Matter".

"If you haven't done anything wrong then you have nothing to worry about."

This one I see rolled out to defend overbearing police powers and surveillance. Usually by people who have never been persecuted, or never seen the wrong side of the law. It's actually very easy to break the law, and that's before even thinking about what happens if the laws change once the Omniscient CCTV Network is installed.

Even given that, miscarriages of justice happen literally every day; and abuses of power of every kind are also a daily occurrence. You do not want to hand that kind of power over to a group of people, even if you think you can trust them - because can you trust all of them? All it takes is one bad apple to spoil the bunch, after all; and if 99 out of the 100 people that can observe every moment of your life are trustworth, that means that 1 of them isn't, and has totally unfettered access to you.

You think it's awkward and cringeworthy when that guy that gives you weird vibes is going through your facebook and liking every image of you in a bikini since you joined? Imagine if he works for whoever has access to that information.

Besides, you should never imagine how the current administration - or how a good administration - will use a particular set of powers and privileges. Instead, imagine how a more abusive or harsh administration will. Imagine how a corporation will. Now understand that it is far more likely that a more repressive government will seize power in such an environment, or that the government will privatise their police/surveillance services.

This is key, when imagining powers that a government can have. Don't imagine them in the hands of the good guys in a sci fi movie. Imagine them in the hands of the worst people you can imagine, because there's never a zero chance that those people won't be running your country one day - and if there is a system they can abuse, they will.

"Back in MY day..."

Back in YOUR day was probably awful too, even if it wasn't awful for you. Right now you're remembering riding your bike around and having fun and laughing with your friends, not the fact that husbands would beat their wives with total impunity and children with learning difficulties got locked in their rooms and treated like subhumans. Have a word with yourself.

"Who's going to pay for it?"

The government, which they will find a lot easier than you think, because - newsflash - national budgets don't operate like personal finances.

You see, governments operate in deficit almost all the time. The British economy has only emerged from budget deficit for about five years out of the past forty. (It bears mention that the most recent patch of that, 1999-2001, was just after a Labour government took over from a Conservative one.)

If you try doing that, the bank gets really angry at you and men with hobnail boots show up on your door asking about you.

See, the government also controls the creation of new money. It can do this whenever it wants. Governments do it all the time. Constantly. They don't operate to the same budget as you or me - the primary thing that limits the creation of new money is the risk of creating inflation. Of course, that can be pretty damn damaging in and of itself - there's an entire list of places that have been damaged by hyperinflation here, which will also cover the various reasons why it happened.

(It bears mention that one of the key examples in there is Zimbabwe - whose hyperinflation event was caused by the UK ending a series of agreements between Robert Mugabe and Margaret Thatcher to redistribute farmland. This interfered drastically with food prices. What made this worse was multinational companies that Zimbabwe relied on started hoarding their goods beyond the country's borders, which tanked the economy, which lead to the mass printing of currency, so on, so on. Sure, economies can go bad for internal reasons, but to really screw everything up, you need foreign corporations to get involved!)

So. Assuming that your economy isn't actually stalled, or hurtling out of control, or spiralling to the ground like Icarus with a blob of warm waxy feathers on his back, perhaps one can risk some inflation.

Even if they are unwilling to make cuts in places that they could afford to make cuts - yes, Trident, I'm fucking looking at you - the notion of a governmental budget operating like a guy with eat beans in his pocket is just absolutely fallacious.

It's been very convenient for various right-wing and conservative entities to have people think this way, though. Super convenient. It's why people will believe austerity is a necessary evil, rather than an ideological, chosen evil. And it's why I say, the resources always exist - all that is lacking is the will to use them.

"I just wish they'd keep politics out of my [whatever]."

Politics has been in your [whatever] since your [whatever] was first conceived of. You just haven't felt uncomfortable seeing it or thinking about it,  because you weren't disadvantaged by it. Skunk Anansie said it best, so I will let them cover this point for me.

So there we have it. A variety of gentle (some more gentle than others) rebuttals.

I mean, I feel a little better.

Thank you for reading. Support your humble author via Patreon or Kofi, or follow social media on the right. See you next week.

Sunday 6 September 2020


This is the Palace of Westminster.

It's where Parliament sits, when it does. That's where the laws of the country get settled. There's more to it than that in the grand scheme of things, but for a basic overview, that will probably suffice.

The people in the two houses of Parliament - the House of Commons and the House of Lords - are really, really not like you and me.

No, I'm not going to repeat some weird antisemitic conspiracy theory involving shape changing animals and mind control. I'm going to prove it with two of my favourite tools: Statistics and Anecdotes.

Lets start with the stats, shall we?

The average age of a person in the UK - as of 2020 - is 40.5 years of age. There's approximately 99 men per every 100 women, leading to women making up 50.25% of the population. Around about 87% of the UK is white, and 60% identifies as Christian of whatever denomination. (The next highest religious choice is None, which sits at around 26%.) The average household income annually is £29,800 - though we're going to see a graph about that later that might pique some interest. 7% of the children in the UK attend private schools (the cost of attendance of these schools is on average around £17,200 a year), and around 50% of those who leave compulsory schooling in the UK attend higher education afterwards (which costs approximately £18,000 a year, unless you went between 1962 and 1998, in which case it was free).

(Those statistics were pulled by a variety of sources, including IPSOS-MORI, the Office of National Statistics, and a dozen others; feel free to have a quick check around to check my maths if you feel I've flubbed them somewhere. If I'm wrong I'm not too proud to admit it.)

Let's take a look at the House of Commons.

The average age of an MP is 50 years - Mhairi Black of Renfrewshire is the youngest current MP at 22. Women make up 32.5% of the Commons, 211 of them versus 437 men. 92% of MPs are white. There's no religious data kept on MPs, though 2% of them are Muslim, compared to 5% of the population of the country. Their average household income is skewed by the fact that they are paid over £70,000 a year, plus expenses, plus pay for cabinet positions; though perhaps an inference to the income of the households they came from can be provided by the next statistic. 29% of MPs were educated in private schools - 45% of the Conservative party, significantly ess for other parties - and 89% of them are University graduates, with a full 23% of them holding a degree from Oxford or Cambridge. Due to their average age, this means that most of them attended University during the years when it was free to do so.

(These stats were almost all provided by the House of Commons itself.)

These are the people we vote for, with our weird old voting system that is long out of date and seriously needs renewal.

When something is described as a Representative Democracy, it means that citizens Democratically select people to Represent them in the political arena; but it seems that the people that get picked don't actually represent the population of this country, in several ways.

For example the Isle of Wight is represented by one Bob Seely, who isn't from here, doesn't spend much time here, and doesn't really respond to any letters sent to him by his constituents, so, you know.

Is this, perhaps, why decisions are often made that don't seem to be the best for the average person in this country? It might explain why our current political establishment has precious little empathy for anyone of an average income or a less than ideal life situation. The phrase "Out Of Touch" used to mean that individuals didn't understand the basic needs and pressures of life, before it got co-opted by people to try and undermine actual experts.

Statistics don't always tell the full story, admittedly. As promised, here's a little graph of the average household income in the UK; and you can see where the average is, and that is definitely not where the highest point of the graph sits.

Looks like the average gets shunted up quite a lot by those folks up near the other end, hmm? Which happens to include MPs, on their £70,000 a year.

But that's only one side of our government. The OTHER side is composed of the House of Lords, which is... a bit different.

The average age in the House of Lords is 70 years old - more than one of them were born in the 1920s. 27.6% of peers are women. The House of Lords is 94% white. Religion is actually weirdly statistically skewed in the Lords due to the fact that the Church of England gets to have 26 Bishops sit in the chamber just by virtue of being the apparent state religion. They're called the Lords Spiritual. That doesn't mean there can't be MORE Bishops - the rest have to earn their place the usual way. (By being nice to the government.) The Peers of the House of Lords do not receive a salary; they can claim £305 per day in expenses (or a reduced rate of £150 per day). Here come the big deviations; approximately 57% attended private school. 90% of them attended University, in a similar proportion to the House of Commons.

And, of course, we don't elect them. They get chosen; and often they are chosen by whoever is in government at the time. A recent example of this being news was when Jon Bercow, former Speaker of the House and well-known for annoying the current Tory party by insisting they not be disrespectful in the Commons, was snubbed for a peerage - despite almost every single former Speaker of the House being offered one in the past. Theresa May's husband, Boris Johnson's brother and Ian Botham the Cricketer were all offered seats, mind. Can't think why.

This does mean that governments can, effectively, try and seed a legacy of Lords that will be friendly to their cause later on down the road; loading the metaphorical deck with individuals that will vote the same way they do, or the same way that the party in general likes to vote.

And that's entirely putting aside the influence of government advisors, who are utterly unaccountable.

What does this mean for you and me? Well, it means that those that make the decisions are often fairly far removed from the decisions that they end up making. Humans tend to naturally have selective empathy that they reserve for those that are more like them than not, which is why the Prime Minister burned a £50 in front of a homeless man, amongst other charming little anecdotes.

Note, I am not forgiving them - because learning to have empathy and to think about how things affect others is a big part of being a decent human being. Deliberately not doing so is ignorant at best and malicious at worst.

It says a lot that the standardised uniform of the House of Commons used to include a black silk top hat. In fact, there's a whole anecdote (I TOLD YOU) about one man who brought his working class ethic into the Commons.

Keir Hardie was a gent. He helped form the Labour Party as it exists today. He stood for progressive taxes, women being allowed to vote, the abolition of the House of Lords and free education for all. This is a genuine campaign poster for when he ran for Parliament in 1892.

Notice how he is not wearing a top hat. Keir Hardie entered the Chamber wearing the cloth deerstalker hat, a normal working man's suit and a red tie, and caused a significant uproar by doing so. He faced many accusations of undermining the reputation of the House, by "wearing the cloth cap" of the working class.

Think about that, for a moment, as you take in the things that the man was campaigning for. An eight-hour work day - he wanted to bring us DOWN to an eight-hour work day. With the single exception of temperance reform (the temperance movement was a whole other thing), we can get behind that entire list, and frankly, laws have been put in place to cover almost all of it.

Things have improved somewhat since then, obviously. Most people don't wear hats into the Chamber these days; and while there is still an expectation of a certain level of decorum, and traditional behaviours undertaken by all in the House, we've got a far clearer idea of what is actually disrespectful these days.


So how do we change this? How do we make the House of Commons more like the majority of the country, and thus more representative, and more likely to work in the interests of most of us? And, it follows, more likely to promote Lords that agree with that agenda?

Unfortunately, we have to vote.

We have to get involved at a local level. I know that in some areas, that is harder than others. That some places are seen as safe seats for the incumbents. But without the work being put in, nothing will change. We need to attack political apathy wherever we find it. It is said that if voting changed anything they would ban it - but if it didn't change anything, why would they spend millions of pounds and a huge amount of effort trying to sway the process one way or another?

And we need to make that push now. We need to do it while the government is showing us who it really is - not in three years, when it can start to hide all its fuckups. Now.

Because representation matters, but so does action.

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