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The Revenge of Winston Smith

Observations on the absurdity of everyday life interspersed with rambling rants against religion · big brother government policies · conservatism · right-wingers and obsessive capitalists · xenophobes, racists, sexists and bigots in general · tabloid journalism · the Daily Mail · self-professed moral guardians..... and much much more!

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Category: general issues and opinions [ home ]


Posted by Tim on Friday, January 06, 2006 | Permalink

I've just deleted four posts that I started, saved as draft, and never completed. In each one I wished my readers a happy new year. So . . . happy new year. A bit late I know, but that's just me.

Anyway, I'll now attempt to get to the point of this post.

I don't know how many people in the UK watch David Letterman, but his show is on at around midnight on ITV4 the day after it's shown in the states. I often watch as I find it fascinating from a cultural point of view. Yesterday's show was particularly interesting as one of his guests was Bill O'Reilly - who, in case you don't know, is a typically right wing commentator on the "fair and balanced" Fox network (there are actually considerably worse commentators, though I think that Dave summed him up nicely with the phrase "60% of everything you say is crap!").

O'Reilly's "theme" - starting with the apparent "war on Christmas" - seemed to be about defending traditions (I'm actually getting to the point now) which is something that always bothers me.

Of course some traditions are worth keeping, but people like O'Reilly seem to think that tradition itself is a good thing. I often hear people try to explain how great tradition is by merely defining the term ("because these are things that our fathers did, and their fathers before them ..."). The problem with this kind of conservatism is that it stands in the way of progress (a word that such people tend to say with a tone of disgust).

The obvious example from everyday life is the metric system. Simple. Straightforward. Better that the imperial measurements in every way. Yet it's not only stubborn old people who complain that they don't understand it ("then learn it! It's easy! That's why it's a better system!") - many people my age, who would have learnt the metric system in school, revert back to using feet and inches and things. Why is this?

On a more serious note though - sexism, racism, homophobia - doesn't an obsession with the past keep these and other forms of bigotry alive?


"Take that, pigs!"

Posted by Tim on Thursday, July 21, 2005 | Permalink

A 15-year-old boy has won a landmark High Court challenge to the legality of child curfew zones used to tackle anti-social behaviour [BBC News story].

This story really made my day, for two reasons. Firstly because I like the fact that a 15-year-old had the guts to stand up and point out that not all people under a certain age are yobs. Secondly because it's a kick in the teeth to the members of the police who think that everyone is a potential criminal and should be treated as such. I had a few "dealings" with the police when I was younger and the vast majority of them seemed to like their jobs just a little too much (I always wonder what sort of a person would want to become a police officer in the first place).

Many of the comments from the BBC's have your say on the subject show the usual type of ignorance: "Kids are not citizens with rights", "Movies and video games are to blame" and "Two words - National Service" (I can think of two words I'd like to say to that person).

The one that made me laugh was "In my day, a good smack on the back of the legs had the desired effect". Ok, as a parent I know that occasionally a smack is the only way to deal with a young child having a tantrum, but somehow I can't see this working on teenagers . . . corporal punishment had been abolished by the time I was 15 (1987) but I still couldn't imagine at that age just standing there and let some teacher whack me with a big stick.

(no comments)


London bombings

Posted by Tim on Friday, July 08, 2005 | Permalink

There's not much I can really say about the London bombings without sounding trite (I tend to get annoyed when political and religious leaders - or anyone vaguely "important" - start stating the obvious. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for example, saying that the attacks were "horrifying". Yeah, thanks for pointing that out Bish).

On top of the casualties, it was a shame that the G8 summit has been overshadowed, and of course the celebrations on London getting the 2012 Olympics. At least it wasn't on the scale of 9/11.

Jack straw stating that "These outrages bear the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda" and Blair's speech about terrorists doing things in the name of Islam (but most Islamic people not being terrorists and all that) - are these based on nothing more that a supposed claim of responsibility on some website, or is there something else they're not telling us?

Incidentally, I think that Blair's speech will have been in vain, judging by the comments about killing all Muslims on an unrelated post on my other site (the later comments on this post).


Live 8

Posted by Tim on Sunday, July 03, 2005 | Permalink

Although I was twelve at the time, I can't really remember much about Live Aid - but the Live 8 gig went pretty well. A good mix of artists, old and new, all performing well. The older bands proved they haven't lost it - particularly nice to see Pink Floyd all together again. They were slightly nervous to start with, but no-one can play a long, expressive guitar solo like Dave Gilmour (who now looks ancient). Roger Daltrey now looks like my dad, but can still scream out the vocals (and Pete Townshend still plays guitar like a madman). Paul McCartney looks better now he's dyed his hair (couldn't he have done the whole of Hey Jude rather than come straight in on the final sing-along bit?)

Trying to persuade governments - people with the power to make a difference - to do something is better than making ordinary people feel bad and give money. Charity on a large scale doesn't work - apparently the original Live Aid raised £150 million, which is nothing really. It'll be interesting to see what happens following the G8 summit.

If you haven't signed your name yet, do so here.


Fascinating figures

Posted by Tim on Saturday, June 25, 2005 | Permalink

Apparently, the British Royal Family cost the taxpayer just under £37 000 000 last year. This works out as £0.61 from each person. While I am no big fan of the royals, and could probably think of better things to spend £37m on, I suppose I can't really complain about paying 61p a year. Perhaps these figures will give the people who complain about the amount teenage single mothers get in benefits something to think about (see my last post on this).

When I was unemployed some years ago a friend of mine complained that, as the amount of benefit I received was about the same amount as the tax he was paying, he was in effect paying my benefit (he didn't seem to realise that if he was paying my benefit someone else must have been paying his share of all the other stuff tax goes on. He was also being rather a hypocrite as he had lived in my flat for free for several months previously when he himself was out of work).

I was unemployed again recently. I'd guess that the benefits I received - jobseeker's allowance, child tax credits and housing benefit - would have added up to around £12000 over a year (a reasonable amount to live on, provided you don't have any major debts). Using the figures above regarding the royal family, I worked out that this £12000 I would have received would have cost each taxpayer £0.00019783. This means that I would have had to be receiving these benefits for over fifty years for my friend to have given my a penny!

Kind of puts things into perspective, don't you think?


Kids, sex, kid's kids, you pay

Posted by Tim on Tuesday, May 24, 2005 | Permalink

The story of the three schoolgirl sisters who gave birth aged 12, 14 and 16 has dominated the media over the past few days [BBC News story].

While the comments to the BBC's have your say on the subject are, surprisingly, fairly free of Christians banging on about celibacy (see here) most of the commenters seem to be randomly pointing fingers at people, hoping to find someone to "blame".

So, two simple facts:
1. Kids are going to have sex. Like adults, they are aware that it's kinda nice.
2. Kids don't always do what their parents or teachers tell them to do. They rebel - especially if their parents or teachers are too strict with them.

When it comes to sex, the parents/teachers are fighting a loosing battle against hormones. So, surely schools should be teaching sex education from an early age, giving relationship and contraception advice - and, when necessary, handing out free contraceptives?

Of course, many parents, religious groups, moral guardians etc. would be up in arms if this sort of thing did go on. I recall the shock reactions to a recent news story about ten-year-old girls being given the pill. Ok, I'm not going to say that ten-year-olds should be having sex (or twelve year olds come to that) but surely ten-year-olds taking the pill is better than ten-year-olds getting pregnant?

The thing that annoys me the most however are the people who moan about young mothers being given benefits. On the front page of The Sun for example was the Daily-Mailesqe statement "and guess what ... YOU'RE paying their £31k a year benefit".

So what are we supposed to do - let them starve? It's not as if anybody's tax bill is going to increase to cover these benefits - £31k is a pretty negligible amount. Consider the millions (billions?) that must have been spent on the unpopular Iraq war. Guess what ... YOU PAID!


Death penalty for burglars?

Posted by Tim on Friday, January 14, 2005 | Permalink

The law on the amount of force householders can use against intruders will not be changed, according to the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke [BBC News story].

Many of the comments in the BBC's have your say on the subject make me wonder what type of society we live in. I even recall one of the tabloids recently stating that we should have the right to kill burglars!

The courts aren't allowed to sentence a burglar to death - and anyway, does someone trying to nick your T.V. deserve to die? Ok, if they attack you you need to be able to defend yourself, but I think all these people going on about tackling burglars are talking bullshit anyway. I'm sure that most people, if they woke up and thought an intruder was downstairs, would crap themselves and hide under the duvet.

(Incidentally, what is it that makes people believe that a duvet is adequate protection against being attacked ...)


Censorship (again)

Posted by Tim on Friday, January 07, 2005 | Permalink

This sort of thing really annoys me.
"Christian protesters have set fire to their television licences outside the BBC's London offices as outrage spread over the public broadcaster's plans to air a profanity-laden musical. In the award-winning London show "Jerry Springer -- The Opera", viewers can watch a diaper fetishist confess all to his true love, catch a tap dance routine by the Ku Klux Klan and see Jesus and the Devil locked in a swearing match." [Yahoo! news story]

If I think I'm going to find something on the T.V. offensive, I won't watch it. I wouldn't want to stop other people watching it! Who the hell do these people think they are? So it's offensive to Christians. Well, guess what guys - I'm not a Christian - and I'm looking forward to watching it. It looks quite entertaining!

I bet that most of the people complaining haven't actually seen the musical - and if people do wait to see it and then complain - well, that's even worse. Why would someone make a deliberate effort to watch a programme they know they are not going to like, just so that they can complain about it afterwards?

I do think they have a point however when they state that "... the BBC would not risk upsetting minority faiths like Islam or Buddhism". I personally would like to see much more in the media that upsets minority faiths like Islam or Buddhism.


Nannies to stop people being arseholes

Posted by Tim on Friday, November 19, 2004 | Permalink

Following reactions to the proposed ban on smoking in public places and talk of the "nanny state", I would just like to make something clear.

A big brother state would ban smoking completely. People would be continually monitored to check that they weren't having a crafty one out the back or something. They'd probably have some kind of brain implant to see if there was even a desire to light up, and if such a desire was detected then the person would be dragged off to the bowels of the ministry-of-something-or-other and made to face their worst fears until they truly loved the government for eradicating their evil desire to smoke and making them pure again.

A nanny state would stop people infecting others with their smoke, but allow them to do what they wanted in their own homes. It would point out the dangers of smoking and help people to stop. It would even provide the healthcare they needed for any illnesses caused by smoking.

The two are obviously very different. I'd never want to stop people doing whatever the hell they want to do - as long as what they're doing doesn't affect other people. What annoys me is the hypocritical right-wingers banging on about "so-called liberals" restricting their rights, without realising that what they themselves are doing is trampling over the rights of others.

I'm going off on a tangent here, but it's along the same lines - I used to live in a flat where the guy next door would frequently decide to start playing deeply unpleasant bass heavy dance music at about two-o-clock in the morning. When I complained his response was that I was obviously some kind of fascist and that he could do what he wanted in his own flat. I pointed out that, if anything, he was the fascist for forcing me to listen to his music - he could indeed do what he wanted in his own flat, but the music didn't stay in his flat, it came into mine as well. (He didn't seem to get the point, although he eventually did stop - probably because he was fed up with me complaining all the time).

The point is that people should not have a "right" to act like selfish arseholes and restrict other people's rights and well being. The fact that they have always done this in the past doesn't automatically make whatever it is they're doing ok.


Homeschooling and being a misfit

Posted by Tim on Monday, September 06, 2004 | Permalink

My wife has recently started a homeschooling blog (here if you're interested).
Although most people don't realise that educating your kids at home is actually legal, it's becoming more and more common, with over 100 people a month choosing to do this (see this Guardian report).

Despite having done this for nearly three years, the opinions of family and friends remain negative, varying from ignorant concern to downright hostility. The fact that our daughter is happily learning in freedom (without having to sit behind a desk wearing a uniform and having to ask permission to go and perform basic bodily functions) doesn't seem to matter. My mother-in-law even went as far as phoning the social services! Quite what she was hoping to achieve I'm not sure - perhaps she thought that someone would come along and drag our daughter off to school "where she belongs". As this didn't happen (we were visited by a man from the educational authority who was suprisingly supportive) she phoned the social services again - anonymously - this time saying that our daughter had been seen covered in bruises. Needless to say, we no longer have anything to do with the EVIL FUCKED UP BITCH. Luckily the person who visited us from the social services realised that it was a hoax call.

My point is that all the arguments people use against homeschooling turn out to be a disguised version of "it's not normal", as if that in itself is a reason for not doing something.

Even my mother - the most "genuine" person I know - has called me a "misfit". What she has difficulty in understanding is that I am not a jigsaw piece. I mean, why the hell would I want to do things for no other reason than it's what other people do?


Hang 'em and flog 'em!

Posted by Tim on Tuesday, September 21, 2004 | Permalink

I try not to get too involved in online/radio/tv debates - mainly because most the people taking part want to voice their opinions but aren't willing to listen to any opposing views. Ever now and again I come across one that bothers me, like this one from the BBC's "Have your say", about new sentencing rules for convicted murderers.

No one has anything new to say on the subject; it's just the same old clichés about bringing back capital punishment and stuff - which I am amazed so many people are in favour of. Personally I am 100% against capital punishment, mainly because there can never be 100% proof of guilt (but also because I feel that pretty much everyone deserves a second chance).

My response to the usual clichés then:
Bring back hanging!
Why specifically hanging? Does that mean public hanging? Why not burn people at the stake - that would be some spectacle.
Don't we want to punish criminals anymore? (taken from the Daily Mail!)
No. We want to reform them. And dangerous criminals need to be kept away from the rest of society, which is what prison is for.
Holiday camps for convicts!
Convicts may not get hard labour anymore, but I don't think anyone who has been in prison would liken it to a holiday camp. And you can walk out of a holiday camp at anytime - the lack of freedom is what makes being in prison a punishment.
When you take a life, you loose your right to life yourself.
So ... the government own the "right" to my life, and can take it away from me if I've done something bad?
Life should mean life (or "Lock 'em up and throw away the key!")
Unless someone is a danger to society, I don't think they should be locked up until they die. If you're going to do that, you might as well kill 'em and be done with it. Again, don't even the worst offenders deserve the chance to reform themselves?
Murder is murder, no matter which way you look at it!
No it isn't! Someone who assists the suicide of a terminally ill relative is hardly in the same league as someone who goes to a school and guns down loads of kids, is he?
If someone in your family was murdered, you'd want justice done.
If such a thing happened I'd hardly be able to think rationally about the subject, but I think I would at least admit that I wanted revenge rather than use the term justice. Frankly, people who have lost family members in this manner should not have any say in how the murderer is treated.
The law is the law!
Yeah ... and ...? I mean, eggs are eggs, a porcelain teapot is a porcelain teapot.
I'm never quite sure what point people are making when they say this - perhaps they are trying to say that the law must be obeyed no matter what. The problem is that the laws of the land were not written on stone tablets which were handed down by some god - they were created by people and are capable of - and often are - "wrong". There needs to be flexibility within the law to take into account individual circumstances.


Pointless Censorship

Posted by Tim on Sunday, July 18, 2004 | Permalink

My last post about free speech got me thinking about some of the utterly pointless (and patronising) forms of censorship that we've had to put up with.

For a long time, the voice of Jerry Adams (Sinn Fein president who supported the I.R.A.) was banned from UK media. You could watch a video clip of the guy talking, but his voice was dubbed by someone else. Now, I would have thought that it was what he was saying that was the problem - not the sound of his voice (irritating though it is). So ... what exactly was the point? He was still getting his point across wasn't he?

It's rather like when swear words were "bleeped out". You didn't need to be a lip-reading expert to work out what the actual word spoken was - so why did someone think it necessary to bleep the word out? It's not the sound of the word that "some viewers may find offensive", it's the meaning of that word.

Similarly in some publications writers cannot use the word "fuck" (for example) but are allowed to write "f**k". Are the letters themselves in some way offensive ..... or am I missing something here?


Should organ donation consent be presumed?

Posted by Tim on Tuesday, June 29, 2004 | Permalink

I've already given my views on organ donation in my previous post entitled playing god, but the subject popped up again recently as the house of commons has rejected plans to change the law on organ donation (changes to the Human Tissue Bill would have meant organ donation after death was automatic, except in cases where people have previously chosen to opt out).

The comments to the BBC's Have your say on this article were predictable, with comments about butchering bodies, grave robbing etc.
Now I don't believe any government "owns" the people in a country, and I am always against any moves towards a totalitarian state.

But the people who's organs are to be used ..... are ... already ... dead!!!

Why would a family want to stop their dead relatives bodies being used to save the lives of other people (and it's not always to do with religion)? I bet they'd soon change their opinions on the subject if one of their own relatives was dying and in need of a transplant.

Still, that's the "general public" - bigoted, hypocritical and selfish.

UPDATE: Missed this comment, which says it all:
Perhaps those selfish individuals who register not to donate their organs, should be added to a list preventing them from ever receiving an organ should they need one. Fairs fair.
Kelly, Bristol, UK