Wednesday 28 January 2009


Is any of it real? I’ve been thinking how much of what we live for is illusory. I don’t mean that in a “what’s the point of it all” sense, more that those things that give our lives a purpose have no scientific basis. A small percentage of us may improve the physical lives of those around them, but the vast majority such as I will fail.

But then I’m not living for a cure for cancer, nor to be witness to other great scientific achievements. None of these things, worthy though they are, give my life meaning. Instead I choose to believe in those elements that provoke an emotional response. Science enables me to live but does not tell me why. It provides no reason for great literature or kindness and compassion; yet none of us doubt these things exist. They are more than mere biology; the whole invariably outweighs the sum of its parts, so how can they be real?

They are real because, regardless of the evidence, we choose to believe. Perhaps then when someone believes in God, then God too is real for that person, and that is all that matters. Perhaps all of us, religious, agnostic and atheist, have a belief system of sorts. Mine may not include God but it encompasses other essentials that have no proof; they only require… faith.

And since we have faith, we should allow for others who have a different kind of faith. Proof is irrelevant. If I deny people their God, then I deny myself the right to love.

Friday 23 January 2009

Don't worry, be happy

British money notesIt seems quite a while since I said goodbye to another year, but it will take another month before I pull myself out of the inevitable post Christmas funk. Though having seen the forecast for 2009 I’m beginning to think it may be better to keep my head down and try to avoid this year altogether. My favourite story this week, notwithstanding the small matter of a new U.S. president, was the advice from a prominent financial guru to abandon the U.K. currency altogether, or as The Times put it, "We're f****d". Oh alright, they didn’t really say that but a blunt assessment of our future is long overdue and it’s simple enough so that everyone can understand – we don’t have a future.

I’m not convinced that the solution to our financial woes, a problem caused by borrowing too much money and spending more than we can afford, is to borrow even more money and spend it on things that we couldn’t afford when we actually had money to spend.

However we shouldn’t despair; because despite what I said earlier there is some hope. I’ve done a lot of research on this - someone has to – and I think I have the answer. The government would be better advised to consolidate all our debt into one affordable monthly payment. With a bit of luck we’ll have money left over for a holiday.

Friday 9 January 2009

Failing the cricket test

Cricket game
In 1990 Norman Tebbit gave an interview in which he questioned the loyalty of immigrants to the U.K. by asking which cricket team they supported. Putting aside any pedants (most Scottish people would fail the cricket test) and accepting the metaphor, a better question would have asked why some ‘fail’ and whose ‘failure’ it really is.

When I was 14 I took part in a school football match before which one player ran around the pitch shouting “There’s no black in the Union Jack”. Whilst this boy (who was prone to writing the initials NF on any available surface and who later joined the police force) was more than capable of beating me to a pulp, it is to my eternal shame that I failed to say anything. I don’t believe we are a fundamentally racist country but there are still too many of us who fail to speak up when we should. Is it any wonder that immigrants in such a hostile environment may sometimes look to their country of birth for relief?

Such problems are compounded by the internet which has become a powerful source of disinformation. I recently read of a primary school in Birmingham where a boy was told that for PE lessons they could wear football league shirts - but NOT an England shirt as it could offend others.

This story isn’t true; yet it features at the start of a chain e-mail currently circulating that includes all sorts of spurious ‘information’ justifying why ‘they’ should adapt to ‘us’ and not the other way around. If we truly are a tolerant people then we should question whether the problem is real and if so why; we should even entertain the idea that we may in some way be to blame.

I don’t doubt that similar stories exist, but consider that we are a country of 50+ million people and local government is prone to silly behaviour from time to time. Why is it that this particular story should have been so readily believed? Why is it that though white immigrants are far more likely to fail the cricket test than those from ethnic minorities, this doesn’t invoke nearly as much ire?