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 ;)