Liberal Comforts

   Your teenage years are a time for mistakes. It is a time when we think we know everything, that we are about to inherit the earth, that the older generation do not know what they are doing and it is time to hand over the reins to a younger, smarter, more dynamic generation. 

  You drink too much, have relationships with the wrong people,  worry about fashion, fitting in, trying to find your place in the world. You gravitate toward likeminded people. Some join gangs, some clubs, others embrace religion. It is a time in life when you feel it is time to embrace adulthood and make decisions.  

  If you make a mistake as a young person, depending on what it is, you can, as a right minded individual, correct it; make better choices in the future. That is life. 

  What about something criminal? In our society, here in the west, there has been, due to the growth of social and omnipresent media, much coverage of crimes against children, women and terrorist acts. The incidents of pedophilia have grown to such an extent that they are almost commonplace. Some of the crimes are so reprehensible, it turns the stomach to even read about them. The men who perpetuate such crimes elicit a visceral response in most people. There is a train of thought that such people can be rehabilitated or helped somehow. Maybe. 

  There has been many reports of sexual violence toward women. Generally speaking an individual convicted of a sexual crime is somewhat of a pariah in society. Even so, as before, there are those who believe that such people can be reintegrated into society. 

   The average sentence for a person convicted of one of the mentioned crimes is between five and ten years. Not a long time, but long enough for a person to decide to change their life; choose a different path. 

   This week in the UK a nineteen year old lad was convicted of plotting to behead a member of the military or a person of the uniformed services. He had a desire to make a splash, a statement, as a Jihadist supporter. Thankfully he was caught before he had a chance to commit the crime. At nineteen he has time on his side. Time to get his mind right, see the error of his ways, think about his life decisions. This, most would agree, is a good thing. 

  Unfortunately such is the fear of Isis and radical Muslims and those who would commit to jihadism, that society demands stern punishment for those who would embrace it. These misguided youth who flee to join the ‘holy’ war strike fear into the liberal, right thinking masses. For his hubris this lad was sentenced for the desire of wanting to commit a horrible crime – not committing the crime – to twenty-two years in prison. Twenty-two. 

    He no doubt had every intention of carrying out the crime, yet at nineteen years old can he truly be so lost that the only course of action was a sentence longer than his present lifespan? Should intention to carry out a crime really carry a longer sentence than committing a crime? If that is the case, what detterent is there not to commit the crime? 

How We See It.

Perception is a strange thing. Take two youngish men, both of whom have, let’s say, taken advantage of their status and the attraction it brings and had affairs. So far, so normal. One of the men had an affair with a friend’s ex – girlfriend, breaking the unwritten – but well known – rule of never getting together with a mate’s girl, ex or current. The other man slept with his brother’s wife.
   For those who do not know, whether it is because of not following the UK’s dominant sport – football – or because UK news does not affect you, the fact that this story is about two prominent sportsman will be of little surprise. What is a little strange is that the reputation of the sportsman who slept with his brother’s wife is less tarnished than the other.
   John Terry has the reputation of being a bit of an oik. A man of true working class roots, with a face that is to an Adonis what brick is to marble, Mr Terry, an uncompromising, but highly accomplished defender, does not project the air of a cuddly fella. A one club player, Terry has been a stalwart of Chelsea football club since before vast riches made them a force in world football. He more than any other player, represents the nouveau riche, cash-without-class, we’re-rich-and-we-don’t-care, attitude that irked so many opposition fans, made jealous or envious of the club’s sudden wealth.
  Being the captain  of such a club pushed Terry more into the limelight. So when the papers found out the married Terry was sleeping with a former teammate’s ex – girlfriend,  they could not wait to break the story. How could he sleep with his friend’s girlfriend?! What would happen, now that they played for different teams, when they met? What about his wife? John Terry did not get an easy ride.
  Ryan Giggs slept with his brother’s wife. Maybe they are not very close as siblings, maybe he was sick of lending him money, maybe she was an unrequited love. Maybe. He slept with his brother’s wife.
   The Manchester United former winger was a player of some talent. Fleet of foot, beautifully balanced, a footballing brain and given to – though I would argue too infrequent  – moments of brilliance.  He was the sort of player people paid to see and he played for one of the most famous teams on the planet.
  A good looking, urbanite, Giggs has enjoyed sporting success, a, relatively, blemish free reputation and personal acclaim. Even after failing to keep knowledge of his indiscretion suppressed – he tried to have the story legally squashed – he is still held in high regard in sporting circles.
   John Terry is no paragon of virtue. His reputation  outside of football is subject too many negative rumours; greed, gambling, racism. Ryan Giggs, currently enjoying life as assistant manager of Manchester United, slept with his brother’s wife.    

Not Enough

I just visited a friend’s soon to be, gym site. It was a bit of a building site; all half finished floors and wires hanging everywhere. They want me to – maybe – do a few classes. I appreciate that they thought of me. After all, all the people involved are ex sportsman,  one an ex Olympian, so persuading people to work at their gym is not a chore for them.
  They are also successful business people. And it shows. Whilst I hung out with these guys for a few hours, I saw how hard and constantly they are working. Even as they are opening a gym, they were planning an event for the summer and looking at future expansion. My Olympian friend had to go and do more meetings elsewhere – he will still attend training the next day, fulfilling some charity commitments – leaving me chatting to another friend who was, whilst selling the vision to me, organising the gym floor!
  I really don’t do enough. 

Fools, Damned Fools.

Every race has its quirks. Things that, if you are part of that race, you acknowledge as, if not necessarily an omnipresent thing, something that is recognisable to your race. Each race also has its insults, words that relate to them, their people, in some sort of derogatory way.
For the predominantly dominant Caucasian, most words that are related to race come from a position of weakness, the words generally having been thought up by those they have oppressed. For literally every other race – with perhaps the exception of Oriental Asians – the words of insult have come from the oppressor.
Whether it be in war, segregation or rule, the various terms that have been directed at others in times past, are now for the most part, frowned upon in Western society.
There are many an ethnic – it really is not a white issue – comedian who will use insults related to their own race and others, using humour as a way to highlight and combat ignorance. Funny and acceptable. After all, the most potent weapon those narrow of mind have is the complacency of the good.
As far as I know, the only race who have adopted the most negative, derogatory term utilised to address them is my own black race. The ‘N’ word as the liberal masses like to call it, is used with such reckless abandon amongst the hip hop community, one would think its history was glorious.
I have heard the argument that by adopting the word ‘we’ own it, thus negating its power. That is so much shit. No other race has adopted the most vile and abusive, subservient label given to them!
Spelling it with a zed makes little difference. There is no positive spin on the word. It makes no sense to embrace it. The problem with embracing a term with such a history is that, as much as some would have you believe otherwise, words have power. People have died for ideas; for words. The connotation of that word is wholly depressive, negative, damning and insulting. To embrace it is to, on some level, believe its meaning, that of being inferior and beneath those who would refer to you thus.
As much as one would like to think that Malcolm X, MLK, Rosa Parks and all those people on both sides of the Atlantic who stood up to oppression and abuse, would be happy for their people to be more recognised and appreciated, they would not, I am sure, defend the use of the word that marked them out as less than human. Only a fool would think they would.

You Decide.

It is the thinking that gives you pause. Absolutely. it is the same for everybody, everything begins in the brain; the mind. Without getting too spiritual, it is absolutely true that you are what you think. Perception of life, how things impact you, your reaction to them and thoughts about them all shape the direction and quality of your life.

We are all well read or moderately well read people, media savvy, watching things that are more engaging than people falling over and animals doing strange thing on YouTube. We watch TedTalks, all the how to vids, garner different points of view.

A popular video/film that has gained a following and much interest has been The Secret. If you have not seen Rhona Byrne’s documentary film from her book of the same title, it is the secret to fulfilling one’s life. Hmm. Now, I am as sceptical as the next person, after all the world is full of people trying to sell…crap. Whether it is a crappy product or a crappy idea, there are those who will happily exercise nefarious practices to make a buck, even at the expense of others.

Okay, you say, what has any of this got to do with The Secret? The Secret puts forward the notion that you can achieve or accomplish whatever you want if you think about it. What?! Sounds like utter nonsense. It says that you attract what you think about on a consistent basis. But I think about winning the lottery! Not happened. So far from a lottery win. That is a common thought; the stuff that you believe you think about, that never happen. So what is going wrong?

Thinking and dreaming are not the same. Dreams are a necessity, creating a reason, purpose, to do jobs or things that are not what you wanted to do, in the hope that you create or obtain your dream. Thinking is different, cognitive. It is the decision making process. What have you decided to do? Which path did you decide to take? It is what you do to achieve your dream. Or it should be. Most spend their time pursuing stuff, finance, covering the bills, paying a mortgage, building a nest egg, saving for the rainy day. All very laudable things. Are they the stuff of dreams? Did you dream of these things as a child, growing up to pay a mortgage or saving up for retirement?

What if…just listen a minute, what if you decided, really decided, to think about your life differently. Whoa! Think differently? Like how? Who do I listen to? How about yourself. Of course information is good for critical thinking, decision making. But it still needs to be filtered; absorb the useful and disregard the pointless.

With so much information and the human ability to be lazy and take the easiest route, it is expedient to accept the first thing you are told. After all, it is human nature to believe first and question second. We hope that our fellow man is not trying to mislead us, wanting to believe that whatever they might tell us is because they want to help. As much as life tells us otherwise, we intrinsically want to believe that others are generally good.

People are good, or at least they believe they are. In their own mind, it is rare the person who thinks they are evil, a bad person. This is not a consistent thought for anybody of a healthy mind, regardless of the proof of their actions. If they have friends, people they care about, they must believe themselves to be acceptable human beings. It is the information they gain, the reaction to incidents, events or happenings in their lives that impact their thinking. This creates the person, the information and how their interpret it.

We are not what we think. We are what we decide to think.

No

  Everyone has heard some variation of the story. An enterprising individual has an idea, something they feel will change some facet of life. All they need is the right people or person to see it or hear about it and gain some backing, some momentum.
   The story of Colonel Saunders is well known, how he approached fried chicken shops with his chicken recipe and was turned away over one thousand times before receiving a ‘yes’. Positive life coaches talk about not giving up, as the next opportunity may be the one you were waiting for. Perseverance is a lauded, recognised and an encouraged trait for a would be go getter. No is never no. It is just the first refusal; it’s a test! Do you want it or will you be easily deterred? Rousing stuff.
  Like religious text, people have a way of interpreting things in a way that benefits their thinking. The notion of ‘no’ being the starting point of a discussion, as opposed to the conclusion, is very much a generational, liberal thinking, modern phenomena.
  Anyone who works in an environment where they are required to deal with the request of others, will understand this. The present generation have a real problem with the word ‘no’.
  Whether it is something quite important, like trying to gain a place for their child in the best schools, or fill a necessary prescription or something less so; getting a table at a hip restaurant on a Saturday evening or tickets for that unmissable thing, the response in the negative will, for those entitled souls, begin a battle of attrition.
  The variety of non important things, objects, request is endless. There is just a belief that if one shouts loud enough and long enough – basically the equivalent of a small child throwing a tantrum – you’ll get what you want. This tends to actually work because most want to avoid embarrassment or confrontation. It is bullying.
  It is nice and can be fulfilling to get what one wants. But always getting your way is only possible for those blessed few. The rest of us just have to accept that sometimes no means no.

The Default Face

In the film 2009 The Invention Of Lying, Ricky Gervais puts forward a world, a society, where everybody tells the truth. In essence, everyone you encounter is exactly as they seem. Warts and all.
Obviously this notion would be an impossibility in modern society. We generally go through life as a daily lie. Not harmful, deceitful lies. Just the sort of halve truths that allow people to coexist.
You know the sort of thing; morning, how you doing? Oh, I’m fine thanks, you? I’m good, thank you. A perfectly pleasant exchange. Just how we like it. Nobody really wants to hear an uncomfortable truth; morning, how you doing? I’m shit. I hate this job, my underwear is too tight and physical violence against my fellow commuters is illegal, how you doing? If you anticipated, or even had the slightest inkling, that this would be the response you received after your polite enquiry, you would stop at ‘morning’.
We all operate, necessarily, behind mask. The way one is with one’s friends is not generally the way one is with work colleagues. Even amongst friends, even those you consider close, do not see reality. We project the happy. The confident and in control you. Yeah, you got bills and the odd irritation at work, but it’s alright. You handle it.
Maybe, just maybe, you are happy and/or content. Somebody has to be. Even as you travel on the crowded tube or bus, observing the sullen faces, glued to phone screens or Kindle screens or just staring into space, do you see a sea of chirpy, excited people, eager to get to work?
In fact, when you do see someone smiling on the tube, does it not look odd? We mostly try to affect a neutral visage; the default face.
It can be mildly sullen, non plussed, disdainful, curious, menacing, tired; so many options, only one is your default. It tells the world what sort of person you are.
Are you serious? Approachable? Fearful? Fearsome? All these are things that a person, encountering you for the first time, will subconsciously contemplate, anticipating certain expectations from the meeting.
So how do you get your default face? It is a combination of your upbringing, thinking and character. We are shaped by our experiences, these create our outlook on life; decide our approach.
It is within our control to project the image, the face, we want the world to see. This is something we do everyday, mixing in society. Our default face, the face we show when relaxed, in that mild trance that takes you to work, that takes a deeper, holistic embrace of life. For the default face you want, that relaxed, Dai Lama-esque, air of serenity, you need to appreciate and accept the life you have, that way you may find contentment.

Me My Nemesis

Those who never suffer depression think of it as some sort of affliction of the lax of mind. A lament of people who cannot be bothered to just snap out of it. The recognised depressive is that of a dour individual, emanating a permanent lethargy, unable to see the reality of their life situation. How bad can it be really? It’s not like they’re being asked to go to war!
The truth is, depression, like that other most random of diseases, cancer, can strike anyone. For some, it may never happen, others may only experience it once or twice, when some particular incident – a bereavement perhaps – causes it to engulf the mind.
Depression has been likened to a large, black dog. Heavy, weighing one down. I suppose for a lot of people it is like that. For me it is not like that. There is the weight, the dull pressure inside head that just appears from nowhere. It is a split thing. I can see it, feel it, happening; negative whispers, little things becoming reasons to flip out, every past failure replaying, reminding me of poor decision making or the inability to make good choices. This is how it manifest. Suddenly, like a punch. Not a heavy punch, more a shock; an eye waterer.
This is when I should get my guard up, move away from the attack. Sometimes I do. Usually the second punch comes quickly, following up; a combination. I am reeling, trying to fight back, but the punches I throw in defence are easily dodged. My nemesis knows every secret I have. Every move I make or am going to make. Of course he does.
I am the rubbish fat, slow kid, left almost to the last when the teams are being picked, the sweaty teenager unable to talk to the girls; the guy who never sees the opportunities. The one who always disappoints. In fact being a disappointment is so common, it is expected. The punches keep coming. They are everywhere, coming from every angle. Never enough to make you lose consciousness, but constant and painful. The fight wages on for what seems a very long time. This is where the tiredness comes from; the relentless war, fighting against the barrage of blows.
Humans are pack animals. You get the odd loner, those whose prefer the company of cats or dogs perhaps, but generally people gravitate toward people. People are affected by one another. That’s why a mob can quickly become a riot and why the euphoria of live events can be felt in the largest of crowds. It is a collective feeling. It is also the reason people fear depression.
Just like laughter, misery can be contagious. Nobody would deliberately put themselves into that potential malaise. Misery may love company, but company does not love misery.
The darkness does not want to leave, it has a life; a purpose and it likes it. It is a demon child spawned by yourself. So you love it even if it feels like it’s destroying in you. You need to kill it. Even though it is part of you, born of you, desperate to exist, feeding off of you. Still, the first rule of any species is self preservation. You have to kill it. But what kind of a parent would kill their own child?
Perhaps you could cage it. Lock it away, never to be seen or heard from again. That would work. Are you strong enough to do that? Do you want to? Of course you say yes. Why would you not want to stop the internal war, the constant struggle of maintaining the facade.
Would you be the same person without it? That is the question. Without the darkness, the temperance, would you become the idiot you fear hides behind the mask of conformity? Would you be light of heart and open and sweet? The darkness brings balance, it keeps check. As ever, it comes down to the fear, the fear of the nemesis you can never escape; you.

Ask The Right Questions

There does seem of late, or should I say, since it has been possible to let any and everybody know your every thought, via social media. Unfortunately, some have forgotten the ability to filter. David Osbourne, a barrister and, it would seem, opinionated blogger, has written an article in defence of men accused of rape due to the female victims inability to give consent reliably, because they are too drunk.
He does – in a way only a person who has no comprehension of how strongly true rape victims feel could – blunders callously into the subject, castigating women who he believes should expect no quarter in law if they go out dressed inappropriately – cover up trollops! – and get to stupefied on drink or drugs to give clear headed consent, when some young buck, scenting an opportunity, should try to make a conquest.
The question of why anyone one would want to have a sexual liaison with a highly inebriated individual is perhaps a little naive, but one that needs addressing. Unfortunately the seeming need for young people and some who should know better, to drink to the point of oblivion, whilst still with one eye on a possible hook up, means the sex-whilst-drunk debate is not likely to go away anytime soon.
One enterprising lawyer has suggested that those seeking to get lucky on a night out, should carry a consent form with them, getting signed permission before any possible hanky panky happens. Interesting concept.
I think a person who has imbibed more than their bodyweight in alcohol, should be asked a different question. If they are insisting on being amorous, giving all the signals of being not only complying to a sexual liaison, but wanting one, one should ask for their cash card and PIN number. You would reason that, having no money, you need to purchases condoms for the deed. Anyone who would voluntarily give up their PIN number is too drunk to trust with any decision.
Of course this is being a little facetious, as every case, every individual, every situation, is different. The number of post alcoholic hook ups that could – some should – have ended in a law court are probably in the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.
The decisions that would have happened in the lead up to any number of nights that end in a strangers bed are numerous. What do you wear? You’re a young person, you have half an eye on attracting another, you dress, perhaps, with this in mind. After all, no one can tell if you have a sparkling personality through your asexual, loose fitting, body covering, prison grey, boiler suit. Probably would have a shower, shave the necessary areas, spray, splash or dab on your best scent – armpit eau de cologne will not do. As is the fashion, a little alcoholic beverage, just to relax, is enjoyed even before you have left the house. You go out.
The bar, a club; wherever it may be, is awash with hormones. Eyes roaming for an attraction, that person of interest. Maybe for just the night, maybe a bit longer. A few more drinks. Something else for a few, something with a bit of kick; a buzz. As the evening wears on, the primal urges rise. Options have been spotted. More decisions; engage now or wait until later? If you wait and mess up, you are going home alone. If you engage and it’s a mistake….!
The opposing factions that argue for or against rape accusations are very emotive. Such is the difficulty in proving rape or sexual assault after the incident, even seemingly clear cut cases, that an accusation levelled where the initial encounter was a mutual attraction, regardless of alcohols helping hand, becomes a victim creating minefield. It becomes a judgement on character and believability.
Is it reasonable to expect a young man, brazen with alcohol and wanting to perhaps impress his peers, to have the kind of presence of mind to pause before approach a woman a little worse for wear? Should the onus always be on the man to prevent a questionable situation? Shouldn’t accountability fall to both parties? After all no one crosses the road with their eyes closed just because cars have brakes.
The subject is one which will continue to create anger, disgust and frustration as long as there are those who will venture an opinion as though it were common sense. So the question is; how do you broach such a delicate subject? Carefully.