Thursday, 19 September 2013

Complete Equality

As many of you know, I class myself as an Egalitarian. My ideal in life is that every single person in the world deserves the same rights, opportunities and respect as each other, which of course goes hand in hand with everyone having the same personal and social responsibilities such as being subject to the law, etc.

In my interactions around the web it's coming to my attention that many people seem to have a fundamentally flawed concept of what equality actually is and what complete equality actually entails.

It's very easy to fight for the equal rights of people you agree with, even if you don't share their reasons. For example, more and more straight people, myself included, are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the LGBT community to see the end of injustice on the grounds of sexual orientation and identity.

It's much harder to fight for the rights of those you don't agree with, the bigots, the criminals, the oppressors. To stand up and say "though I don't agree with their beliefs or actions, it doesn't stop them from being a human being with the exact same rights and responsibilities as everyone else." But this is exactly what complete equality entails. It's not just a social club where we get to pick and choose who we let in and who we don't, because if it's not for everyone then it's just not equal!

So if your method of fighting for a cause leads you to denigrate those whose opinions differ from your own then you've lost your moral high ground.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Too Much Fuckwittery

There's only so much fuckwittery I can stand, and sacerdotus has pretty much filled my daily quota. While I feel a strange sense of accomplishment for getting myself added to the list of accounts he's trying to get suspended from twitter, I'm getting rather annoyed that so many decent, rational people are getting spam-blocked everyday that my followers counter keeps going up and down like a Catholic priest's cock in a choir lesson!  

Here's the email I've just fired off to twitter:


Re: Breach of ToS

I'm writing to complain about @sacerdotus and his sock-puppet account @yearoffaith2012.

These accounts have been repeatedly abusing the report spam facility to get anyone he disagrees with, especially atheists, suspended from twitter and actively encouraging his followers to do the same. 

This has been pointed out to the @Twitter and @support accounts numerous times and by numerous people, often with links or pics of evidence and yet nothing has, as yet, been done. 

If this breach of the terms of service was being carried out against any other minority group I have no doubt that you would be quick to respond and yet it seems as though your company is willing to turn a blind eye to discrimination against unbelievers. 

I would appreciate it if you could clarify your position on this matter and await your response.

Friday, 26 July 2013

5 Simple Steps To Avoid Atheists Spamming Your Mentions On Twitter

Here are my 5 simple steps to avoid having your twitter mentions spammed by numerous atheists:

1) Don't Tell Us We're Going To Hell.

Seriously, we don't believe in hell so it doesn't frighten us. All it does is make you sound like an intolerant sadist who gets off on the torture and suffering of anyone who disagrees with your beliefs. Imagine if someone said they think that everyone who believes in any god(s) deserves to spend eternity in perpetual pain and fear, that'd probably piss you off too, right?

2) Understand That The Existence of Monkeys DOES NOT Disprove Evolution.

Just stop and think for a second, what is more likely? That hundreds of thousands of scientists, who have trained for years to evaluate information without bias and have access to all the evidence, research and critically robust and peer reviewed studies have somehow failed to notice the existence of monkeys OR that you don't understand how evolution works?
 (On a related note, the word "theory" has different uses depending on whether it's being used in a scientific or general sense. In scientific terms "theory" doesn't mean "guess", as it does in general terms, instead it actually means "collection of understood facts supported by masses of evidence", learn this distinction to avoid (a) looking stupid and (b) atheistic mention spam!)

3) Don't Try To Claim That Atheists Are Immoral.

Firstly, PLEASE READ YOUR HOLY TEXTS OF CHOICE! Those books are filled with condoned "immorality". Incest, torture, rape, murder, child abuse, slavery...I could go on and on! Seriously, if you live by the standards set by any holy text then your moral compass is about as reliable as as those crappy little plastic ones you get in cereal boxes and Christmas crackers, it may look like it should work, but relying on it is guaranteed to leave you wandering in the ethical wilderness!

Secondly, statistics, worldwide, have shown that, of all religious demographics, those without a belief in any gods are less likely to divorce and are notibly underrepresented within the prison population.  

Basically, if you allow any book that actively encourages you to discriminate against huge swathes of the population to guide your behaviour and how you treat others, you have no moral high ground to stand on and are likely to piss off a lot of people!
 (On a related note, don't call us "satanists"! We don't believe in home either, see step 1 for how this makes you look!)
4) Don't Try To Force Your Beliefs Us.

We don't give a damn what you choose to believe. It is your right to believe anything you wish. However, that right doesn't include changing legislation, that affects everyone, to reflect or give undue support to your beliefs. 
Neither does that right include trying to convert people to your belief, they have the right to believe whatever they want too!
Nor does that right include having your beliefs treated as facts in any secular establishment. This includes schools, universities, hospitals... in fact, anywhere that isn't a church, temple, synagog, etc!

5) Just Don't Be A Dick!

This is probably the most important one. If you're going to say something that sweepingly prejudiced, grossly offensive, startlingly ignorant or just downright stupid, and don't want to be barraged with masses of criticism, well reasoned rebbuttals and abuse then either set your tweets to private, or consider  removing yourself from public forums. Otherwise you deserve everything you get!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

A New Dirty Word?

Being (A) a woman, (B) a survivor of rape and sexual abuse and (C) a fairly intelligent person capable of reading a variety of media sources I cannot fail to notice that discrimination, abuse and violence against women is still shockingly prevalent worldwide. It's somewhat of a stain on the human conscience that things such as victim blaming, honour killings, wage inequality and denial of women's basic rights have been allowed to continue into the 21st century. I have, and will continue to campaign for equality and raise awareness for women, worldwide, who struggle and suffer purely for the sake of their gender. It is something I have always felt passionate about.

With that said, I am NOT a feminist. It is a label I refuse to apply to myself due to an increasing negative connotation that is becoming attached to it and what appears to be an expanding minority that are just propagating that negativity.

I found myself embroiled in a twitter "debate" (I use the term loosely as there was little rational discourse coming from some participants) last week and was truly astounded how there are some people out there who will twist absolutely any scenario so that they can cry "misogyny" and act the victim. Anyone who disagrees with them is shouted down with such vitriol that it seems as though even if all chauvinism and inequality disappeared overnight they'd still be angry tomorrow. They are blinkered to the suffering of any group that isn't women and they tarnish the reputations of the many, rational, feminists who continue to support the goals and ideals that the feminist movement first began with.

I fail to see how this is supposed to benefit the cause for equality. I refuse to gain rights by taking those of others, I refuse to play the victim and I refuse to let the sacrifices and advancements made by those who first fought to get out from under the subjugation of a male dominated world to be subverted by those who seem to believe it gives them the right to dictate what other women should think, feel or do!

It's a shame that it has come to this. That a movement that began for all the right reasons and with the very best of intentions has, in the public eye, become a standing joke that evokes mental images of bitter, man-hating women with doc martins and moon cups angrily hollering at any woman who dares to shave her legs that she's a traitor to her sex.

Feminism has become a dirty word, a parody of its origins that instantly removes any hope of being taken seriously as a woman the second it is uttered and prevents us from bringing about any real change.

So, while I will continue to oppose the sexism, discrimination, the violence and abuse that is carried out against hundreds of thousands of women every day, I am NOT a feminist, I will oppose all discrimination and injustice wherever I see it. I am an egalitarian!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Going Dark

Having read Stephen Fry's frank and heartfelt Blog piece I realised that, while depression in general is pretty widely discussed, the various different types and the multitude of ways it affects people is not really that well understood at all, partly because it's hard to put it in words and partly because we tend to develop our own phrases and terminology to discribe our experiences. The only way to combat this is for those of us whose lives are affected by depression to speak out and let people know how it is, for us.

I have what's classed as a form of Reactive Depression. This means that rather than a chemical imbalance or genetic predisposition my depression is a direct result of things I've experienced, specifically, being sexually abused as a child. In the majority of cases reactive depression is easily treatable with medication and therapy. In some cases, as with mine and many other survivors of abuse, the trauma event(s) leave us suceptable to a multitude of possible triggers that can reignite the depression.

What this means, for me, is that I can go months without feeling down at all, then all of a sudden my mood drops and I become pretty much useless, I call this "going dark". I lose the greater majority of my energy and motivation, I avoid leaving the house, I neglect most of my housework and personal hygiene, partly because I lose the ability to care but mostly through a conscious decision to focus what little motivation and energy I have into ensuring I continue to meet my son's needs. I feel worthless and sick and almost constantly anxious, I have nightmares and delayed sleep phase at night and flashbacks and panic attacks by day. I obsess with reading anything, books or online, to escape from all the horrible thoughts running through my mind, memories and fears that push themselves to the forefront of my mind when I let my guard slip.
 And then, just as suddenly, I'll hit what I call "the bounce point" and everything will gradually improve until I'm no longer depressed again. 
Sometimes it lasts days, sometimes it lasts months, I can't predict it and I can't control it.

This unpredictability makes antidepressants ineffective. By the time they've started to take effect I'm usually out the other side and all they achieve is to numb all my feelings, making it impossible to experience all the joy in my life when I'm not down. The last time I tried them was when my son was a baby, I remember watching him laugh as he played and knowing I should've been able to feel happiness watching him but it was like it was trapped behind a wall of grey. That was the moment I decided never to used them again. Yes, the bad times are hard but not hard enough to make it worth sacrificing the good ones!

I've also had counselling for my experiences. I know it wasn't my fault, I know I'm safe now, I'm no longer angry, or hurt, I've faced and fought every demon it left me with but no amount of counselling is ever going to make the memories go away and all the while they're there they're always going to be a trigger point for my depression. It's just something I have to live with. Much like an amputee must adjust to living without a limb, this is my scar tissue.

Fortunately, I have a wonderful partner, a guy who understands what I go through and is there to take the strain when I stop functioning. He's my rock and I really don't say how much I appreciate him as often as I probably should! 

I apologise if this post is a bit rambling and morbid, I'm once again in the dark, but I will bounce back again, I always do!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Religious absurdities 1

It has long been my opinion that the Abrahamic god, if he were real and as described by holy texts, would be a complete and utter douche. A malevolent, spiteful and sadistic bastard of the greatest magnitude and certainly not deserving of my (or anyone else's) praise and adoration.

For clarity, I will specify that god, by Abrahamic terms, is the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent creator of everything. Oh, and he loves us all! Lets look at these in slightly more detail;

Omnipotent: All powerful, there is literally nothing that he is incapable of doing.

Omniscient: All knowing, he knows absolutely everything, always has and always will.

Omnipresent: He is everywhere, at all times.

Creator: he, and he alone planned, designed and created absolutely everything in existence.

All loving: Pretty much an obvious one, do I really need to clarify this?

Now, keeping these characteristics in mind, why is there suffering in the world?

Believers will often argue that suffering is caused by the actions of bad men acting under their god given free will. But I find two major issues with this argument.

1) What about the suffering caused, not by men, but by natural occurrences? (I will hopefully cover this in a separate post) 

2)Why would an omniscient god purposely make people knowing they would use their free will to cause suffering?

Usually, they come back with some variant of "It's not god who causes evil, it's Satan" With which I have the following issues:

1) Why would an all knowing god knowingly create Satan? 

2) Why would an all powerful god not do something to stop Satan from causing suffering to his most beloved creations?

Which in turn is usually met with either accusations of persecution, vitriolic hatred, a poor attempt at apologetics or is just ignored completely (often with any further attempts at communication being blocked!)

Whichever way you look at it, there is some pretty obvious conclusions the Abrahamic religions what you to ignore here.

An omniscient god must, by definition, have known every thought and act of every person that ever has lived or will live even before he began to create the universe.

If that is the case then he knows, way before he makes someone, if they're going to be a murderer or rapist or child abuser or *insert evildoer of choice* (regardless of whether they do so through free will or through satanic inspiration). 

An omnipotent god must, by definition, have the power to choose whether or not to make that person.

If that is the case then every murderer, every rapist, every child abuser and every evildoer that has ever lived must have been knowingly and purposefully created by god. By anyone's standards that's one hell of a malevolent act for a god who claims to love us all!

But here's where it gets even more twisted. For each and every sinner there is the chance of redemption through repentence. Not just for those truly evil ones as described above but even for those of us who live noble and honest lives yet seem to get on his wick by not believing in him,falling in love with someone he decides is unacceptable, eating shellfish, shaving, not shaving or any of the myriad of petty little crap that he's willing to condemn his most beloved creations to eternal torture for.

As a side note, this means that god will happily allow an apologetic child abuser to share heaven with all you faithful believers, but will send an honest but unrepentant atheist to hell. Seems a bit backwards to me :/

But the darkest part of all this is that an omniscient, omnipotent god, by definition, would also know who will and who won't repent, and must have the power to decide whether or not to make them repent.
 So basically god is knowingly and purposefully creating sinners, letting some of them cause suffering throughout the earth purely so he can send them to suffer eternal agony for doing the things he created them to do and for his failure to make them be repentant!

And so, here I return to my original point;  the Abrahamic god, if he were real and as described by holy texts, would be a complete and utter douche. A malevolent, spiteful and sadistic bastard of the greatest magnitude and certainly not deserving of my (or anyone else's) praise and adoration!

My Personal Atheism

Unlike a lot of the Atheists I know, I was never a believer so I never had that experience of losing my faith that so many who were raised religious describe. 
 For some it was a gradual erosion of faith as their doubts mounted up and religion failed to provide the necessary answers, while for others it was a dramatic burst of realisation, like waking up to find they'd been living in a comfortable but unrealistic dream.

For me, it was nothing like that. I was raised in a household where religion was just not important. My Mother is probably best described as an agnostic lapsed Christian and my Father is "spiritual" in a new agey, ageing hippy kind of way, and while they were (and still are) happy to openly discuss their beliefs and views with us kids, there was never any pressure to conform and always a willingness to engage in heathy debate. Although we were baptised (though I think that was more because it was the done thing rather than any aspiriation on my parents behalf for us to be religious) and we did attend Church of England primary schools (though, again, I think this was less about religion and more about good quality education.)

So, without the pressure to conform at home, and raised in an environment where having differing views and opinions was respected as being an important part of developing yourself as an individual, I was free to make my own mind up as to whether or not these stories I heard at school had any relevance to my life. 

I think that's why I never viewed any of the modern religions as any more real than the ancient mythologies my Father would tell me about or the fairytales my Mother loved to read. They were just more stories and while, as with all stories, there may be helpful messages interspersed here and there they're also full of some of the darkest capabilities of the human mind and they just end up sounding ludicrous if you try to take them literally.

So I never really felt as if religion was something I needed, though that's not to say I never felt the need to try at various points growing up. Whether it was the feeling that I was missing out on something my friends had (not helped by my being a precocious little brat who'd happily proclaim at age 5, in class learning about the creation story, that I didn't believe in god and it was evolution and revolution that created the world we live in and thereby getting myself thoroughly ostracised by the rest of the kids who were happily lapping up the indoctrination) Or the times in my life where I was desperate for a saviour, any saviour, to protect me from my darkest experiences. I even went through a phase, around the time when I was first diagnosed with depression at 13, where I read every single religious text I could get my hands on (the benefit of being hyperlexic is that it thankfully didn't take too long, because that's a hell of a lot of drivel to dedicate too much time to, trust me!) So it's not as if I didn't try to find any gods, just that there were never any there for me to find and the effort of trying to convince myself always just left me feeling rather silly, rather like being caught dancing to music in my head (which, I'm embarrassed to admit, has been known...)

The trouble is, for me, none of it makes any sense. There's far too many inconsistencies and not enough convincing evidence for any kind of loving creator deity (I may go into some of these  inconsistencies in a later post) and if there's no loving creator deity, then what need for any kind of deity at all? And if there's no deities at all then what purpose is left for religions and all the spiel that comes along with them?

 It's all just rather pointless and redundant, really. Especially when there's far more wondrous and awe inspiring aspects of reality than we can even begin to understand within my lifetime. Personally, I'm far happier investing my time in those!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

How Not To Win An Argument

There are many ways to win arguments.
 Here's just a few of the things that don't...

1) Personal attacks
Now these can range from vulgar insults (eg: you suck donkey dong) to ad hominem fallacies (eg: as an anti-theist you dislike Islam, so do the EDL, therefore you're an overly-patriotic racist!)
 However they come, once you start attacking the proponent and not their point you've effectively lost the argument!

2) Circular reasoning 
If the only evidence you can provide for your point is part of or the source of your point, then you have effectively lost the argument!

3) Strawman fallacies 
Take the statement "I don't like inviting vegans to dinner parties"
 If you then conclude from that statement that I refuse to associate with vegans and that I am intolerant of their views then you have created a Strawman fallacy. When you start arguing against your own assumptions rather than the point being made, you have effectively lost the argument!

4) Ad populum fallacies
I've said it before and I'll say it again, I don't give a damn how many people agree with your point, it doesn't make it right (Do I really need to reference reality tv again to make my point?)
 If you start insisting that popularity adds weight to your point then, once again, you've effectively lost the argument!

5) Any opening statement that starts with "I'm not..." and end in "but..."
We've all heard them;
"I'm not a racist, but..."
"I'm not trying to be offensive, but..."
"I'm not suggesting I could do any better, but..."
Yes, you blatantly are, stop denying the obvious! Argument lost!

6) Wilful ignorance
If you have to sit there stuffing your fingers in your ears and singing "la la la" to ignore contrary evidence then you have effectively lost the argument.

There are just 4 vital ingredients to not losing an argument:
 •Intellectual honesty
 •Good research
 •An open mind
 •The ability to admit when your information was wrong

Keep these in mind and you'll never have to fall prey to any of the argument killers above!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

21st Century Sexism

It always amazes me that sexism is still very much prevalent in the 21st century and not only is it still prevalent but it seems to be used against both genders yet still remains largely ignored.

The image above is a perfect example of this. It's seen as perfectly normal to discuss with our daughters methods of reducing the risks of being sexually assaulted, it's even taught in schools, yet it's almost unheard of for boys to be advised on ways to reduce their risk of assault, despite us all knowing that they are just as much vulnerable to such crimes, or for what does and does not constitute as consent to be discussed with children of either gender.

You can see another example of this gender bias when you walk into almost any toy shop. The boy's aisles are dominated by Construction, Vehicles, science and weaponry often in shades of blues, reds, greens and blacks. While the girls aisles are awash with cleaning and cooking, crafts, ponies and babies all in overwhelming amounts of pink, purple and yellow (often with an unhealthy dose of floral patterns and butterflies thrown in for good measure!)

It's almost as if we're teaching our kids to see men as being simple minded workhorses who must keep a stiff upper lip throughout everything and unable to control the marauding whims of their genitals, while women should be viewed as delicate and vulnerable baby factories who would never dream of anything as complex as a career and must be kept as pure as possible for the stud who deigns to trust her with his progeny.

Yet nobody nowadays wants to live by those narrow and ridiculous stereotypes, so why are we still inflicting them upon our children? When we invest so much time and energy giving our children the confidence and support for them to be anything they want why are we allowing society to bombard them with bullshit messages telling them what they should want? 

Surely it's time to let go of our outdated, Victorian gender roles and let kids be themselves for a change?

Monday, 10 June 2013

Happy 10th Birthday, Gorgeous Boy!!!

To my beautiful boy on your 10th birthday,

Where do I start? It sounds rather cliched  to tell you that you will never understand how proud I am, not just today but everyday, to call you my son, but it couldn't be more true.

I can't believe ten years have passed since I held you in my arms for the first time, you were such a gorgeous baby! You were my clever little so and so from day one, supporting your own head and gazing round the room to soak up everything that was going on.

You've never lost that love of learning or your ability to absorb information like a sponge, whether it was being able to recognise all colours and shapes by 8mths (including burgandy, turquoise and dodecahedron), working out the birds and the bees from a 2inch square scientific cross section diagram at age 4 or reeling off the history of the universe in the back of a taxi aged 9! 

I've watched you grow, your first smile, your first word, your first step. Watched as you've transitioned from baby to toddler to school child to gobby little pre-teen ;) watched you face every day, good or bad, and triumph over both, never losing your love of life or fantastic sense of humour. 

 You are one amazing, intelligent, articulate, caring, insightful and handsome young man.

 You face every challenge life throws at you with the most inspirational confidence, maturity and determination, more so than any person that I've ever known. I can hardly wait to share so many more firsts with you, to watch you step into the bright and shining future I know you have ahead of you, because you really can achieve anything you put your mind too, of that I have no doubt!

Happy Birthday, Son, I hope it's everything you wish for!

Loving you, now and forever,

Friday, 31 May 2013


Having a child with Autism has meant that I've had to teach my son how to recognise and identify his emotions, teach him how to put into words how he's feeling and how it's affecting him and teach him the skills and techniques to manage them, and one of the most noticeable things that it's brought to my attention is just how little effort we make on these subjects with neurotypical children.

We, as a society, need to start educating our kids to understand and properly deal with their emotions. To be entirely honest we need to learn the exact same lesson for ourselves while we at it!

Problems with antisocial behaviour, violent crime, hooliganism and extremism can hardly come as much of a surprise when the majority of fully grown adults are so incapable of expressing and managing anger that they turn into the Incredible Hulk and want to start smashing stuff and beating people? 

Resorting to violence solves absolutely nothing. Life is littered with examples of this. Children don't learn respect and honesty from being beaten, punching that offensive coworker in the face doesn't improve their opinion of you and vigilante justice does little to comfort the victims nor discourage the perpetrators  of crime. It's never been the fighting or the loss of lives that've ended wars, but always the sitting down together, opening a civilised dialoge and negotiating changes and compromises that solved the problems that we were fighting over. 

It's not just anger either, frustration, disappointment, stress and fear all cause deep and long lasting issues if not managed correctly. How much could we cut the instances of domestic violence, self harming, eating disorders, teen pregnancies and so many other issues if we just equipped people with the right tools to deal with their emotions before they reached adulthood and the bad habits were already ingrained and required extensive therapy to relearn?

How odd it seems, given the problems caused by poor emotional management and the amount of time, effort and money put in to dealing with those problems, that very little about emotion is covered by the educational curriculum. This is even more poignant when you consider just how many children are failed by the educational system because they don't know how to identify, express and manage their emotions. 
How has such a simple solution been neglected for so long?

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Importance of Intent and Context in Language

(Or: Why I'm Not Very "PC" For An Egalitarian.)

Insults are an intrinsic part of human discourse. We use them aggressively, to enhance communication of our feelings, we use them humorously or ironically, to highlight the ridiculousness of the concepts behind them and we use them amicably, as stress relief and status indicators within social groups. 

The subjects we insult each other upon also fall mainly into three categories.

1) physical or mental prowess, common sense and rationality

2)behaviour, conduct and interpersonal skills

3) personal characteristics

Now, as I said in my previous post, I am a firm believer that offence is taken rather than given and often the problem lies with the misinterpretation of the intended subject of the insult.

A great example of this comes from a conversation I was part of with a self proclaimed feminist and anti-sexism campaigner, a man who self identifies as a liberal and critical thinker and a blatant misogynist troll on twitter. I won't go too much into the background of the debate but the main crux of my point comes from two insults, traded between the feminist and the critical thinker.

He, in the course of questioning the helpfulness of the language and attitude she displayed in response to a misogynistic comment, referred to her as a "hormonal cow"

She, in response to his point about foul language and irrational displays of anger being unhelpful in any fight against bigotry, called him a "chauvinist" and inferred that all men are incapable of fighting against sexism unless led by a woman. 

Personally, given the context and intent behind both insults I found hers to be the more sexist.

His was a reflection on her conduct, it was simply a play on the well known and documented effects of female hormones to highlight the irrational levels of anger and aggression she was displaying.
 It was in no way intended as a reflection on her gender, as an attack on womankind or as a comparison between women and livestock. This was blatantly self evident from the context it had been used in.

Hers was based on a misinterpretation of his insult, purely because of his gender which then went on to become a sweeping generalisation of all men.

When I stated my point and the reasoning behind it, she couldn't seem to understand why I, as a woman, didn't find the term "hormonal cow" intrinsically sexist and a limit of 140 characters makes explaining myself rather difficult. But, who knows, maybe one day she'll stumble across this blog post and maybe understand my perspective, even if she continues to disagree.

My point is, words themselves have no real intrinsic value in and of themselves, hell, even the very meaning of words is subject to change and evolution over time. The level of insult they carry is determined by the context they're used in and the intent behind them.

So, this is why I'm not very "PC" for somebody who is strongly pro equality and anti bigotry. I don't believe that making words that have been misappropriated by bigots taboo does anything to protect people from bigotry. If anything to makes matters worse as it prevents the meaning of the words from evolving and just emphasises the bigoted connotations making the words themselves seem shocking regardless of the context they're used in.

Hence, I will say gay, and retarded and hormonal and coloured and pansy and all the "incorrect" words that we're not supposed to say. Just never with the intent, or within the context of, bigotry.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Taking Offence

Words have power! Anyone who's heard a speech from a great orator, or been moved to tears by well written song lyrics or poetry, or been offended in an argument knows this to be an indesputable fact.

Another indesputable fact, to quote the often neglected Voltare, is that "with great power comes great responsibility" (appologies, Stan Lee, I'm a huge fan but it was Voltare's quote originally.)
 Inevitably, this means that we all have a responsibility for what we say. But just how much responsibility do we have over the feelings of others?

As it says in my disclaimer, I am a firm believer that offence is more often taken than it is given, that when we feel offended we have more responsibility for those feelings than the person whose words or actions caused them. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, some things are said, out of anger, ignorance or sheer bigotry, that are purposefully and wilfully offensive.

It is an unfortunate aspect of the human psyche that the things we find most offensive are the things that most highlight what we perceive as faults or weaknesses within ourselves. It is this that makes us able to laugh off some insults as just narrow minded judgements while other barbed words find their way right to our nerves.

A perfect example of this can be found in this excellent post by fellow blogger, Christian: Here

I would not say that it is unreasonable to point out that having an act of worship for one particular religion as a compulsory part of the daily school routine is a rather distasteful idea. Faith (or lack thereof), as I have said before, is a personal matter and while most people would have nothing against an individual choosing to pray if they felt the need, making such an act compulsory, especially for any one specific religion, is bound to be divisive. Not only does it denigrate the status of anyone who doesn't follow that religion, it also gives support to the more distasteful and bigoted view espoused by it, regardless of how moderate the follower. Not exactly ideal in an environment we would hope to be teaching our children to be tolerant and understanding of all religious and cultural differences.

Yet it is often the case that people take offence when this is pointed out, not because they are incapable of seeing the logical reasoning behind it but purely because it makes them question themselves. Most people don't want to consider themselves in terms of causing hurt to others.
But who bears the responsibility for this offence? 

Let's look at another example:

There was a recent case where a councillor in Cornwall sparked outrage by stating that disabled children put too much financial burden on government finances and should be put down. When I first heard this, I did, as the mother of a child with autism, I found his comments to be offensive. It was only by looking into my views and opinions that I was able to write them off as the ignorant bigotry they are because I place a far higher value on life than I do on money.

Again, who bears the responsibility for this offence?

Whatever your views and opinions, by silencing dissenting views and trying to make certain that some subjects and words are seen as taboo all we achieve is  granting greater power to those words and subjects that do us harm. We make them enticingly dangerous and secretive to those who feel neglected and marginalised and we shield those most vulnerable from them, preventing them from forming the thicker skin and coping strategies that protect them from the unfortunately incurable ignorance and discrimination that is a harsh reality of the real world. 

Perhaps we would be better to look within ourselves when we feel offended. To see if those barbs have a point. Is the fault or weakness we perceive within ourselves really a problem or is the real problem the attitudes of those who criticise them? If there is an issue within ourselves, are we willing to accept it as part of who we are or will we work to change it? Either way, by accepting or by changing, we are disempowering those words and subjects from having any influence upon us.

Friday, 24 May 2013

So Much Hate...

Why does tragedy often evoke some of the most vile and hate ridden reactions from so many?

How can people not see that if their response to violent crime is to call for more violence then they are, for all intents and purposes, a part of the problem?

I mean, in what dark recesses of the human psyche does it make sense, after seeing a life brutally wasted, a child left fatherless and a family torn to pieces, to call out for yet more of the same? To express a wish for more pointless deaths, for more orphaned children and more grieving families?

The Woolwich attackers committed this grevious act in response to violent acts carried out in Islamic countries. This was obviously the twisted response of none too stable minds. If people respond with violence though, how are they any different? It would be just as much a tragedy if it were a Muslim father laying on the floor, a Muslim child crying for a father who'll never come home, while an English killer postures for the nearest camera, bloodstained and brandishing weapons, rabidly ranting that he did this in revenge for the deaths caused by Islamic extremism. 

This is not about Us Vs Them! This is not a tit for tat playground bickering! This is the result of wasting so much effort on revenge and bigotry and it will only lead to more deaths, more suffering and more grief until we learn that the only way to fix this mess is to stop focusing on all our petty differences and work together to find a way to fix and prevent the twisted parts of the human mind that make people believe that violence is an acceptable option!

In memory of all those who've died needless and violent deaths worldwide.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Scientific comforts for a logical, autistic child.

I'm basing today's post on a conversation I had with my son last week. For those of you who don't know, my son is almost 10 and has mid functioning autism. He is also an atheist, a decision he came to by himself via C of E then unspecified deism, as despite being open about my own atheism I have always considered faith to be an entirely personal choice so have always allowed him the freedom to decide for himself.

Due to his autism it is usually pretty easy to tell when something is bothering my son, though working out exactly what that something may be can be a far trickier process. 
 He had come out of school and instantly come to me for an excessively squeezy hug. A sure sign that something's amiss as not only was he seeking the sensory reassurance of pressure but he was actually willing to show me affection in front of his peers (a rarity for any 9y/o boy!)

Once we got home I tried all the usual questions, "have you been in trouble?", "has anybody been mean?", "are you feeling poorly?" And finally got a response when I asked if he was worried. He stopped spinning in the centre of the front room just long enough to nod and say "I don't believe in god!"

After a little further probing I managed to get from him that, after an RE lesson in which he'd mentioned his lack of belief some "wonderfully civil minded Christian child" had taken it upon himself to tell my son that people who don't believe in god go to hell when they die, which he'd managed to laugh off as untrue but had got him questioning what does happen after death. 

Fortunately, one of the many positive aspects of my son's autism is that he has a natural aptitude for, and obsessive interest in, science. His terminology may be pretty basic but his understanding is remarkable for his age and stage of development.

I told him that while nobody can know for certain what happens after death there are certain scientific facts that are fundamentally and demonstrably true. I told him that while I couldn't promise that I am right I would tell him what I thought and why I thought it and that it was up to him to decide what he thought too.

We discussed how we are made up of matter which, in turn, is made up of energy and how energy cannot be create or destroyed, it can only change forms. We discussed the different ways energy works inside our bodies and how those energies change forms and leave our bodies both during life and after death. 

We discussed how we pass on parts of ourselves, through genetics, to our children and that those parts of us become a part of them.

We discussed how, just like genetics, we also pass on information to the people we interact with and how this information becomes part of the information they know.

I told him that I think that the things that we discussed show that while we may not be around for ever there are parts of us that will be. That after we die we will no longer be conscious or aware of anything (just like when we're asleep) but that the energy that once gave us life will go on to power plants, animals, people and maybe even distant stars. That the genetics and information we share with others means that a part of us will always be with those we love, just like how my grandad's big nose and sense of humour passed down through my dad and through me and will be passed through him to his own children and onwards into the distant future.

He sat quietly contemplating, thinking about everything we'd spoken about for a few minutes and finally looked me in the eyes, smiled and said "that's much better than a pretend heaven, any day! Can I have a snack?"

So much for philosophical angst! 

Sunday, 19 May 2013

A Survivor's Thoughts

It seems as though the sexual abuse and exploitation of children is a subject that's never far from the news these days and, inevitably, with these stories comes wave upon wave of justifiably angry and well intentioned yet fundamentally misguided comments from the general public.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I can't presume to speak for every survivor, but I would like to raise a few points for public consideration based on both my own opinions and experiences and those of other survivors I have encountered in therapy, online and in daily life.

1) When you say " is ruined" As Adult Survivors, We Hear:
 "your happiness, accomplishments, well raised family, etc are all worthless, you are forever tarnished by a tragedy that happened years ago." 

As Children, We Hear:
 "There is no hope, you will never recover from this so what is the point of even trying?"

The Damage: 
To a survivor who has mostly come to terms with their past this may cause no more damage than a few days of bleakness and depression. 
 To survivors who are still on that journey it can be far more harmful. The overwhelming feelings of hopelessness can lead to self identification as a victim which make it easier to fall prey to abusive relationships and exploitation and harder to take responsibility for bad choices. It can also lead to self harming and, potentially, to suicidal thoughts.

The Reality:
 Recovering from Childhood sexual abuse is like learning to live with grief or the loss of a limb. Of course their is always going to be some kind of lifelong impact, but that doesn't mean that life is ruined, just that it's different. There can still be happiness, still be fun, still be great careers and loving families.
 I won't say that it will be easy because it won't, facing those dark thoughts and feelings is a major battle, but it's one worth doing and nobody has to face it alone. There are fantastic counsellors, and wonderful support groups both online and in real life, that provide a wealth of support. 

2) When you say "He/She's a monster/demon/fiend..."
As Adult Survivors, We Hear:
 "How couldn't you tell you were in danger?"

As Children, We Hear:
 "No matter how long he goes away for, no police, no adults can keep you safe."

The Damage:
 As adults this feeling, regardless of how unintentionally caused, can seriously impead the process of learning that we weren't at fault. All survivors face a phenomenal amount of self inflicted and unnecessary guilt. It can be hard to convince ourselves that there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING any child can do to bring this on themselves! 
 Worse still is the harm it does to children who are still trying to process their experiences and haven't even started to deal with the aftermath. They really need to feel secure and safe to even begin recovering. They are already terrified and most likely suffering from nightmares and flashbacks and trying to come to terms with the threats and control methods abusers use, the last thing they need is to invest their abuser with superhuman powers.

The Reality:
They are just people! Bad people, yes, but just people all the same. There is know way or recognising them beforehand and the threats they use are just words. Once they're out of your life you are safe!

3) When you say "they should be executed/tortured/horribly maimed!"

What We Hear: It doesn't matter if we're adults or children, we hear exactly what you say and to us it just means "our feelings of anger and disgust and our need for revenge is much more important to us than what you think or feel!" 

The Damage:
 The greatest damage this causes is that it makes abuse much harder to report. It is hard enough to find the courage and the words to first alert people to our experiences without the added complication of worrying about the devastation it will cause.
 The majority of abusers are either related or well known to those they abuse and we are not so blinded by our pain that we fail to see that there are other innocent people who will be affected. 

The Reality: There has already been too much pain and suffering, inevitably there is going to be more and equally inevitably we will internalise the guilt for that too. Please don't add more to this already unnecessary burden. We don't need our abusers lives on our conscience. We don't need their family's grief. We don't need the fear or guilt of our family being torn apart by a loved one serving a prison sentence.
 Yes we're angry about what happened too, but what we really need is guidance to handle this anger correctly so that we can move past it and begin to heal.

I don't expect to change anyone's feelings with this post. I do fully understand that anger is a natural response and that people honestly don't mean any harm. I just hope people will consider what they're saying and who can hear and just be aware that sometimes their best intentions can do more harm than good.

***Personal Note***

I apologise for the delay in posting this. I struggled to write this much more than I anticipated, especially as it's nothing I haven't said or written before. I found myself facing either writer's block or, when the words did finally come, they came so fast that I struggled to keep up. With that in mind, I also apologise for any mistakes in spelling or grammar. If I start messing with it now I may never finish and it's blocking all my other posts so I'm just going to hit publish and hope it makes sense. :)

Friday, 17 May 2013

Medical Hypocrisy

I will never understand why medical science is allowed to be held back by the moral crusaders who seem to believe that, for whatever reason, they have the right to force their opinions onto everybody else.

When we have a section of medical science dedicated to finding humane ways to chemically execute prisoners, doesn't it seem just a little incongruous that people are already trying to ban the use of cloned human blastocysts for the harvesting of genetically compatible stem cells?

why is it perfectly legal for people to promote and sell complete myths and unsound science as valid medical treatments yet it's illegal for the known benefits of illegally classified drugs to even be subjected to scientific scrutiny, let alone used as treatment options. 

Why is it that we can walk into health stores on the high street and buy homeopathic "remedies" (which are, basically, water that's been slapped about a bit!) for potentially life-threatening ailments when scientists are prevented from carrying out research into the multiple claims that Cannabis oil can be (and has been) used to shrink cancerous tumours without the need for chemotherapy?

Or why we can legally promote and use dangerous dieting techniques that put copious amounts of strain on our internal organs when the greatest failing of drug rehabilitation programs is that medical professionals are not allowed to use illegal substances so must first switch patients onto a legal substitute (many of which are more addictive and more harmful than their illegal counterparts)? 

What kind of world are we living in, where it's perfectly acceptable for quack science to offer false hope and empty promises to some of society's most desperate and suffering when we put stumbling blocks in the way of real science making potentially monumental medical breakthroughs on the basis of the attitudes of a narrow-minded few?

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Difference Between Faith and Religion

As an Atheist, I don't follow a religion and I don't have a faith in any higher power. I am strongly anti-religion but people often mistake that for being anti-faith, something which I am not.

I can completely understand why some people choose to believe that somewhere, amid the chaotic and ever changing complexities that is life and the universe, there is something or someone who not only understands what it's all about but cares enough about everybody to make sure that it all turns out nice in the end. I can see why that would offer a great wealth of comfort and support and how it would help people try to live in a way that echoes that kind of care and compassion. This is faith. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but in the grand scheme of things it's harmless and does a multitude of good for those who need it.

Whenever anyone takes that faith and twists it into some form of control over others, whenever anyone claims to know for certain that, not only is there definitely a higher power but, that they know exactly how that higher power does and doesn't want people to behave. Whenever someone acts as though their beliefs give them greater rights or some kind of perference above others. This is where faith ends and religion takes over. 

Religion is the destructive and divisive dark side of faith. It drives people to war and violence over petty differences in interpretation. It's the misplaced certainty that allows parents to sit by and pray as their child suffers and dies of medically treatable condition. It's the prudish and puritanical judgement that makes people think they have a right to poke their noses into the sex lives and health issues of others.

When the overwhelming message of almost every system of belief is "just be nice to one another." How did religion turn it into "a billion and one ways to be hateful to each other?"

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

What Price Happiness?

These are troubling times, my friends, and made more so by the ease with which society is accepting the harshness and casual cruelties being meted out in their name.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't believe for a single second that people are, by and large, malicious or unfeeling. And I'm certainly no tree hugger type, living a morally irreproachable life. I just think it's easy for people to ignore the harm caused if they are not the ones directly dealing the blows.

We want our consumer goods mass produced and easily affordable, all the while ignoring both the unemployment and devastated manufacturing industries at home and the appalling working conditions and pitiful wages abroad.

We want our foods cheap and easy, neglecting to think about animal welfare, exploited migrant work forces or even the potential health risks.

We want our welfare system cleared of fraudulent claims, totally ignoring that the percentage being cut is far greater than that being fraudulently claimed, meaning that some of our most needy and vulnerable are becoming unwilling sacrifices.

Yet it's so easy to ignore these painful truths, to allow our rose tinted glasses to block these dirty realities from our conscious minds and go about our daily lives. After all, we're good people, we're not the ones with blood on our hands.....are we?

I don't know about you, but it leaves me wondering, isn't there a better way? Just how much of our compassion and humanity are we willing to sacrifice for what we want? What price would we pay for happiness?

Monday, 13 May 2013

Honesty and Trust

If ever there was anything more fundamental to a healthy and lasting relationship it's honesty and trust. The kind where you trust one another so implicitly that you can share absolutely everything with them (yes, even that soul-crushingly humiliating thing you did, in your teens, when you were home alone! You know, the thing you've never told anyone about.)

I mean, we're talking about finding someone to share your life and home with, someone to possibly raise a family with. If you can't trust them enough to be completely honest with them then how can you even contemplate trusting them with your life?

If you have to pretend to be someone you're not just to keep your partner then surely you have to question if they really love you at all? 

Equally, if you can't trust someone enough to bare your all to them then you have to ask yourself just how much you actually care about them, because if you truly love someone then surely they deserve 100% of you?

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Pros and Cons...

...By which I mean Professionals and Convicts (see what I did there ;) lol)

Yes, today I shall be airing my views on the recently announced government plans to increase the use of probation services to include those serving short-stay sentences in the hopes of reducing reoffending rates.

Now, don't get me wrong. Any attempts to cut crime statistics has got to be a good move, but I can't help but feel that maybe we're shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

I mean, what do we really do, as a society, to try to reduce the types of crimes that receive these short sentences? Baring in mind that these are usually things such as drug offences, financially motivated crimes and low level violent crimes.

Well, I know that a lot of money had been spent on youth schemes, in the hopes of encouraging children not to enter a life of crime in the first place, but I fail to understand exactly how much good will be done by ploughing money into projects thought up by adults with no input by the kids and almost completely taken up by those less likely to enter the criminal world anyway!

When we're cutting the budgets for so many important services, things like child protection and therapy services, and reducing the welfare funds. When we live in a culture that glorifies selfishness and greed. When we take a juvenile, hedonistic, society and wring them through the pressures of austerity whilst bombarding them with all the wonders of capitalist commercialisation, are we not just setting ourselves up for more neglected, disenfranchised and frustrated youths and far more of these short-stay crimes? Are we not just saving pennies now only to face a massive bill in the future?

Thursday, 9 May 2013


Opinions are like genitals. Everyone has them, and it's quite nice to share them with the right people, but if you whip em out in public or shove them in people's faces then there's bound to be consequences!

Never one to shy away from consequences, I've finally decided to take the leap and make my first foray into the world of blogging and what better, being the opinionated moo that I am, as my first subject matter than opinions?

1) I don't give a monkey's rectum how deeply held your opinions are or how much value they bring to your life, if they're political or religious then keep them out of my dining room! Seriously, there's a time and a place and boring my guests to death isn't it!

2) I don't give a rat's left testicle how many people agree with your point of view! Millions of people also think X-factor is great TV. It doesn't make them right, it just proves that most people are idiots!

3) I honestly couldn't care any less how far back in history your opinion dates back to. What makes you think that would add even the remotest bit of validity or credence to your point of view?  Have you not seen all the educational advances we've made since then?

4) Mocking your opinions does not mean I am personally attacking you! If you say something I find laughably stupid I damn well am going to make that clear. I don't expect you to change them for me but I certainly won't censor my own for you.

5) Finally, Nobody (not even me, much to my despair) owns a monopoly on opinions. It takes all different types to keep this world ticking over smoothly. By all means challenge ideas and opinions but don't allow that to become clouded by disrespect for the individual. Remember, play nice, peeps ;)