Wednesday 23 November 2011

The life worth of others

...a deliberate intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, to relieve intractable suffering.
It’s an act I can understand in theory, yet one that on examination leads to a worrying question. When we talk about euthanasia it’s often in terms of a right to die for the seriously ill, but who decides on what is meant by “seriously ill”? Is it a terminal illness or - more contentiously - a severe disability? Assurances that it’s the patient making the decision for him/herself are unsatisfactory. If the patient determines the definition, it is a right conferred to all as the definition is meaningless; and if it’s society as a whole, in doing so is it not making a value judgement? What message do we send to those who qualify for assisted suicide?

Saturday 19 November 2011

Kind and helpful creatures

I had an unexpected experience yesterday. On searching for some winter images, the results left me feeling contrary; pictures of snowy landscapes - clich├ęs to be sure, but usually the thing to remind one of magical times. It was as if a premonition for later that evening when Little Miss R informed me “I’ve asked Father Christmas for a cat... and if he doesn’t get me one I’ll ask Mother Christmas... then the elves”. There are various reasons - which I can’t explain - for not getting a cat. I couldn’t explain them to my daughter either, and though the request was funny, I went to bed worried with the prospect of disappointment.

I woke up in the middle of the night with a cold, laying for an indeterminate length of time with my eyes closed, a wandering mind, wondering how long I could last before seeking out some paracetamol. My mind was fixed by the bedroom door opening, followed by light steps around the side of my bed and a gentle shake. “I had a nightmare”, she said. It took a cuddle and a glass of milk to settle, ending with a smile; it took me a cup of tea, and an hour and a half or more to do the same. I read The Accidental Tourist, and then I read the Christmas letter again. “A cat or other pet” said item one, and I could smile too.

Thursday 17 November 2011


Lobbying is one subject I’d like discussed. A lack of specificity suggests the inaccurately titled Occupy LSX movement - currently occupying St. Paul’s - may well have covered this only to circle on. It tickles my imagination; a topic giving substance to claims of representing a broad section of political belief, though I don’t buy that for one moment. Nor, in all honesty, do I believe it to be the simple issue suggested, though some forms are undoubtedly a problem. In this respect the encamped libertarians and other free-marketers - if they exist - do share one characteristic in common with the more practiced protester; vagueness - something is wrong but what, and how to put it right? At least the right-of-centre have offered a “how”. Lobbying though, as described on the UK parliament website, could originate from any of the following:
  • Individual members of the public
  • Groups of constituents
  • Local businesses
  • Organised pressure groups/campaigners
  • Commercial organisations
Responding to members of the public, or groups of constituents, sounds like a job requirement; and an organised pressure group may only differ by virtue of scale. Likewise, I can imagine valid reasons for listening to the concerns of local businesses and, following from that, commercial organisations - or should government build infrastructure on a whim? It might appear we’re running out of suspects; however it’s the “professional” or paid lobbyist who most invokes our ire - thousands employed in the defence of special interests against competition; described by some as corporatism. The difficulty is one of distinction; even assuming agreement on which is which, how can we legislate to separate the good from the bad? I suspect contesting corporatism requires less fight and greater transparency - and better judgement from those we charge to oversee our interests.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Soft target

I noticed, but let it slide; my increased tendency to remark on some innocuous comment I’ve read on Twitter, using one social platform to write about another, sounds incestuous. One should not base a post on such - I find it difficult to say tweet - it’s mean and it's lazy. There are those who will always tempt; the absolutists, the consultants, the educators, knowledge wielded in the style of Good Will Hunting - what an odious film. But it’s the indolence for which I should be marked down; throwing darts at easy targets is shallow sport. It’s dangerous too; I’ve written my fair share of gibberish. That’s bad blogging, Phil - you wrote a bad blog.

Monday 14 November 2011

When worlds collide

Combining M&S with X Factor contestants seems inherently dangerous; it could rip apart the fabric of Christmas. Pairing an up-market brand with something from the other side of the tracks; it ought to result in something more daring but it’s a terribly safe, by the numbers effort put together by the same kind of mindless drones who once chose Titanic as the BBC Christmas day family movie. Who let them out? I don’t know quite why the M&S Christmas advert should annoy me so much, since their usual television offering is so decidedly bland. Roll on the Iceland release - last year’s production may have been tacky but they had fun on their side - and thank goodness for the following:
Saw Anonymous n absolutely loved it. Love history.
I am completely blown away by this awesome comment. That’s “awesome” as in the opposite of awesome, possibly, since it occurs to me they may have been practising irony; indeed the more I think about it the more I think it must have been? But then… but then it’s from someone using txt-speak and who describes themselves as an ‘educator’ - as opposed to teacher - and you know what that means.

Friday 11 November 2011

Silence will fall

#remembranceday Silence shouldn't be compulsory, but those who don't observe it show their true colors [sic], and should be judged accordingly
I am uncomfortable in collective forms of remembrance; I generally find their subject best remembered in private contemplation. This of course is a personal view, many prefer to come together and share their grief or thanks. I have no argument with this, except when it requires the adherence of others. I am reminded of two events; the first was David Blunkett (then the Labour Home Secretary) who initially suggested the new ID card (since scrapped) could be optional, whilst at the same time admitting those without would be unable to use NHS services, amongst others. Secondly, the insistence of the ‘great’ British public in requiring Princes William and Harry to parade in public behind the coffin of their mother. There are many forms of tyranny. The comment above was hardly the worst, I include it as a mild example of how intolerant we are, or have become; I’m not sure which.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

The red versus the white

Royal Irish Rifles Somme July 1916
An old debate reappeared recently. I’m not sure how, perhaps some innocent comment, like me wondering whatever happened to the white poppy? It’s a dislike of mine, though not for the usual reasons. I’ve no disagreement with those who remain unadorned, and the criticism of Jon Snow for not following fashion seems counter-intuitive to what the poppy should achieve. ‘Fashion’, I should be careful how I use that word. I expressed this concern to my father after having seen the occasional t-shirt with a stylised poppy-print; and my reaction to Robert Fisk’s recent article in The Independent was much the same as that of my Dad all those years ago - what an idiot. Fisk’s article continues a worrying tradition in believing after reasoned argument we must naturally come to the same conclusion. I respect his reasons for not wearing a poppy, but those of us who don’t should afford the same for those who do. It’s obvious really; poppies on the England kit or worse, as hood ornaments on cars, it’s all horribly commercial and not in the true spirit. But suspecting foul appropriations is no reason to besmirch the best intentions of so many others.

I should allow the same for white, but my heart tells me different. An absence can be explained by people choosing to remember in their own way, or deciding the past is the past; an opinion I can understand, but don't share. The white poppy however feels elitist, a suggestion that their proclaimed sentiment - the desire for peace - cannot be found elsewhere; an “up yours” gesture to the rest, a symbol of one’s own beliefs more than a remembrance of the past.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Occupy St. Paul's

There will be a cross-cultural solidarity protest with the Syrian people on Thursday outside St Pauls, 5pm. Please RT. #occupyLSX
-- 2-Nov-2011
Help, they’re being oppressed! At first I thought it a spoof account but no, it’s the real thing and was duly re-tweeted by dozens lacking any sense of perspective. I’d have loved to see the looks of their more rational comrades, such people certainly exist but I imagine they’re drowned out by the more active; and the vigorous political types tend to be at polar ends of any debate. This is a problem for any protest movement claiming to represent “the 99%”, though I think they’ve now broadened the definition to “acting on behalf of the 99%”, as opposed to letting them decide for themselves. Thus some polar explorers will claim it’s a left-wing protest - which it is - whilst being in the interests of the 99% - which it isn’t.

Camping outside St. Paul's, refusing to move, and instead of weeks debating the issues we’ve been diverted by questions of whether they should even be there, whether they have imposed on the good faith of others, and the resignations of people with whom they have no disagreement. If the occupy movement were representative then we’d have had something other than an initial statement inspired by UK Uncut, we’d have had at least one idea with a level of support from both left and right; an intersection rather than amalgamation of familiar gripes. For example, legislation on lobbying might have been an issue that all sides could get behind, instead they gather under an anti-capitalism banner. In place of having a problem, many protesters have settled on capitalism being the problem, rather than an expression of our freedom of choice.

The collapse of any business has a ripple-like effect on those with which it used to trade; the bigger the business, the bigger the effect, to the extent that a bank failing can be a disaster for us all. Where capitalism has failed is not in income inequality, our freedom to choose means some will always be wealthier than others, even obscenely so. Nor is it a lack of job security, businesses fall so that other stronger ones can take their place. Its failure is in a framework that for one particular sector, grants large businesses a government guarantee; it will not allow them to fail, no matter how poorly run, as to do so would be catastrophic. That's what needs fixing, after the small matter of a large debt.