Wednesday 30 June 2010

Run for your lives!

So when did they start allowing girls into the Scouts? For some reason I haven't quite fathomed I'm quite pleased that Little Miss R decided on Cubs rather than Brownies. Having said that I've noticed each meeting is preceded with the boys having a game of god-only-knows-what, usually involving a ball, whilst the girls choose to take the register. Oh well, small steps. It was 'science night' on Monday and I was the designated parent helper for the evening. Simple things such as the demonstration of air pressure with a piece of paper and an upside down jar of water; I'd forgotten how much fun science could be. I'd also forgotten how frightening children can be, especially when they run in packs.

Then there's been the World Cup. I love how you can say 'World Cup' and unless you're American you know it means football and the biggest single sporting event on the planet. England are out - deep breath - there I got that out the way and managed to avoid swearing. Naturally I'm disappointed; as I was four years ago and four years before that. It's inevitable. We were dreadful from the start but whilst we limped on there was always hope. Thankfully Little Miss R remains interested due in no small part to the dedication of her teacher who organised the sweepstake at her school. I'm told he supports West Ham. A teacher and a West Ham supporter - how brave is that?

Saturday 26 June 2010

Compassion fatigue

Some months ago I watched an episode of the English language version of Wallander in which one of the characters described compassion fatigue. I was unaware it had been given a name. That's not to say I wasn't moved by events in the news, at that time the earthquake in Haiti, it's more that I was conscious of recognising the signs. I can't remember if this was supposed to be 'normal' but a recent exchange of comments on another blog had me thinking about this again.

My offense was to question whether there was any context in which not knowing a person, for example in another country, should stop one from caring for their predicament. Their response was that I didn't care, that no-one really cares about people far away and I was admonished for being a 'smug twat'; perhaps they were right. Such a robust reply can sometimes curtail rather than encourage debate, but that's a subject for another day; I need to consider what 'care' really means, what it's worth, for the simple reason that sometimes I switch off. I don't imagine I'm alone in this, heartbreak occurs every day, we can't possibly respond to every tragedy but how do we choose those to which we do?

Sunday 20 June 2010

The boo Rooneys

Actually, no, I don’t care that you’ve travelled thousands of miles or how much the objects of your derision earn. How does spending any amount of money afford the right to treat other people like shit? It’s not only an inability to tell the difference between not trying and not being any good, it’s the endemic response to failure that irritates. It’s the culture that celebrates bullying chefs, which encourages us to dispense with those who fall short of another’s subjective view of perfection; they’re only human beings, plenty more where they came from. Shout abuse at those who disappoint and applaud the arrogant but talented pricks, ability is all that matters… when I see all this it reminds me that sometimes I don’t like you very much.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

From the office of bad comparisons

I am trying very hard to get over my disappointment in the recent behaviour of the U.S President. I am failing. Serves me right for being swept along in the general euphoria but I guess I'm no different from the billions of other dolts who populate this planet; I want something or someone to believe in.

It took until today for Barack Obama to even suggest an environmental impact as the inevitable risk of our search for the black gold, to oh-so cautiously encourage people to think about their addiction. Not that he put it that way of course. It's far easier to spew out the nonsense of yesterday; comparing the psychological impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to that of the 9/11 attacks. Those would be the events in which 3000 people lost their lives and countless more in the aftermath. What a tit.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Mister Furious

President Obama is furious. I know this because he said it twice; but this was stage-managed fury so it wasn't terribly convincing. I've little time, nor (I hoped) had he, for people who would vent rather than act, but since the U.S government is unable to do anything he expends much of his energy on that favourite political pastime, making sure we know who to blame. That'd be British Petroleum, formerly BP but helpfully renamed by the White House so the xenophobes know which b*stard foreigners to hate. No one doubts who is responsible but just in case, hint that British Petroleum are withholding all the facts, or better still that they're not working with the necessary sense of urgency. Because when people are emotional they'll swallow any old sh*t.

Monday 7 June 2010

Love is all

Back in the 1980's when AIDS first entered the popular consciousness the main television channels played their part by running a number of prime time awareness programs. Those I recollect featured an assortment of pop stars talking about safe sex. The irony escaped me at the time but the reason I remember was that half way through one of these shows, after various demonstrations of how to put a condom on a banana, I think it was Jon Moss of Culture Club who made a remark to the effect that the most important element in a relationship was love. I will always admire him for that.

Some years later I saw a documentary on transgender reassignment and if I am to be completely honest I didn't find it comfortable viewing. But again it was one particular comment that stays in the mind; a woman having undergone a procedure tearfully hoping for nothing more than to be loved for who she was. It sounds a bit 'Richard Curtis' but I'm embarrassed to say it was only then that I was able to properly connect. I've thought about that moment a lot. I hope she's O.K.

Despite being a term apparently in use for over a decade it's only in the last year I've heard the initialism LGBT, referring to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. Perhaps one reason for my lack of awareness is that it never occurred to me to group people in such a way. It's not the exclusion that bothers but the negative inference. Sexual orientation seems a completely separate issue to gender identity; the commonality appears to be based on what people are not, rather than who they are. In truth I am uncomfortable with any form of segregation, no matter how well intentioned, but that's an easy stance for a white heterosexual to take. So I tell myself that the need for such organisations is as much a failure on my part to embrace all that is different and wonderful as it is an instinctive search for identity.

Nevertheless I look forward to the day when we generalise, if we must, not according to physical preference but the content of our hearts, and I propose a new alliance based on the following three principles:
  1. It doesn't matter what sex a person wants to be.
  2. It doesn't matter what sex a person wants to have.
  3. Love is all that matters.
That's right I said "love" - I don’t want to make it too easy.

Thursday 3 June 2010

Left of centre

In August 1991 hard-line members of the Soviet communist party staged a coup d'├ętat, arresting Mikhail Gorbachev in a futile attempt to roll back the years. The BBC at the time rather bizarrely described these usurpers as right-wing or Conservative - well it was the BBC. I only mention this because for a bit of fun at lunchtime I decided to find out where I could be found on the political compass - it being more exciting than reading this weeks' Packaging News - and was surprised to discover I'm left of centre. Beyond wondering whether this is how others see me it is a reminder that such dubious exercises leave more questions than answers, or at least I hope they do. I could have just said they're false, that whilst generalisations help in providing context we should forego the label. Though it does explain the behaviour of some student friends, one might describe them as left-of-centre, who possessed of a core conviction branded themselves appropriately and then 'discovered' what else they believed in.