The irritation of the expectation of empathy

There are many things in life that irritate me – a list that is in no way shrinking as I get older. Fairly close to the top of that list is the expectation of empathy.

When did we stop being allowed to make our own mind up whether or not we cared about something, or if we do, by how much?

In a change that I presume has been brought about by social media, news organisations seem to spend far more time and energy these days telling us how we should feel about something than they do reporting actual news.

“Horrifying”, “tragic”, “terribly sad”, “national pride” and other emotional cue cards pepper the news output way more than any factual content these days. And there is no quality threshold either. The same lines get trotted out for refugee drownings, mass shootings in America or for the murder of an MP as some scripted event “suffered” by the Jendashians, those morons on that The Only Way Is Chelsea Shore programme, Big brother or anything with Simon Cowell in it.

Has the dumbing-down of the population reached its ultimate level now where we need to be told when and how to emote? Has the deliberate dilution of our education system finally reached peak moron, with the achievement of a completely pliable and compliant population of mindless drones?

When did it not only become rare, but almost forbidden to make your own mind up about things? When did independence of thought become an endangered attribute?

And when did minor achievement become a cause for celebration? A semi-professional performer wins a tv “talent” show, some Kardashian clone loses a few pounds, a British astronaut becomes the three hundred and seventy-somethingth visitor to an International Space Station that is positively worn out because so many people have visited, and we’re expected – demanded, even – to care about it. Why?

Someone dies. I didn’t know that person or anyone close to them and they made no impact on my life. I didn’t notice them while they were alive, why should I care when they die? No, that’s not allowed! We have to demonstrate that we are caring, worthy people by mourning this complete stranger. We are expected to praise their “bravery” as though drawing breath is a brave thing to do. Why?

Some narcissistic moron with a GoPro camera strapped to their nether regions and Red Bull logos all over their arse flies face first into a mountain at 150mph, or falls to their death because they were walking on the edge of a high building, or breaks their neck dicking around in waves on a plank and we’re supposed to praise their bravery and value their memory. Follow your first instinct to laugh and call them what they are – idiots – and you’re completely wrong and a bad person. Why?

When did we become so reliant upon group-think that it became the very measure of our self-worth? When did we only ever feel validated and valued when we followed the herd of unthinking drones?

Saying that this is a deliberate policy on the part of the media, corporate and political elite might (but only might) be a conspiracy stretch too far. But it is at the very least a serendipitous occurrence that they seem to be in no rush to fix.

It does, however, neatly explain the rise of UKIP and the other bottom-feeding traders in lowest common denominator thought processes.

EU Referendum: For all the right reasons, I want to vote out. But I just can’t do it.

I really don’t think I can do it. I really want to vote out – and for all the right reasons – but I really don’t think I can.

These days, this country seems to be overflowing with bigots, racists, morons and idiots of all descriptions. Senile old fools wallowing in an imagined nostalgia for an England that never existed, skinhead simpletons who need to be taught how to put a cross next to their UKIP or Britain First candidate and bleating Sun Sheep idiots who think that what “they” have over there is less democratic that what “we” have over here.

This country, with its lying, fraudulent political representatives and unelected & corrupt corporate and media masters, are the drunk uncle at the party who spoils it for everyone else. We do not remotely deserve a space at the adults table in Europe.

These days I am embarrassed to be English.

The European project is far from perfect. It is not even good. But it can be. In time, hopefully, it will be. It is certainly heading in the right direction. It needs help to get there, and the vast experience of a country like ours that has learned the mistakes of over-ambition some time ago would be valuable in that process.

But instead of being a positive and valued contributor, we are disruptive and determined to ruin everyone else’s good work. Instead of seeing Europe for what it is – a chance for this country to be a major part of something great again – we are petty, self-centred and small-minded.

I cannot make my mind up whether or not our lack of ambition is an implicit admission that we know that we are simply not up to the job.

I want Europe to work. I WANT Europe to have closer political and fiscal union. I WANT a United States of Europe. I want all of that and more and I want it to work well and I want it to be able to compete equally with the other economic giants on the world stage.

But with us sabotaging the whole process, it will never achieve that.

So in order for me to get for Europe what I want, we have to leave. I have to write my own country off as a stupid loser and vote out.

But… There’s always a but…

I just can’t do it. At the back of my head there is a nagging voice that keeps reminding me that before too much longer the ageing blue-rinse racists, bigots, mindless Little Englanders and knuckle-dragging UKIP simpletons will grow old and die. Their pathetic world view will become irrelevant and will finally achieve the meaninglessness it deserves.

At that time, our children, and subsequent generations, will have to deal with the fallout of the referendum decision. I cannot in good conscience deny them the only one bright thing in their future: membership of a strong, powerful union of countries.

So although Europe doesn’t deserve us, and despite my firmly held belief that at least for the next decade Europe is better off without us, for the sake of future generations, I will be voting to remain.

I just hope that Europe has the patience to wait while we do some desperately-needed growing up.

Over to you, kids. Please don’t fuck it up like we did.

EU referendum: Time to write-off my own country.

I am fully in favour of a completely integrated European superstate that is financially, politically and culturally one country. I think that Britain could contribute in an incredibly positive way to the building and maintaining of such a state because of our huge experience, our technical expertise and our influence.

We should be at the very heart of such a project, driving it forward for the benefit of all Europeans, including us.

Sadly, Britain these days is run and populated by intellectual minnows who think the last world war is still being fought and who lack the vision, intelligence and determination to see anything beyond the English Channel as positive. We have become a nation of under-educated, racist morons who are content to be dictated-to by wealthy tax-evading oligarchs like Murdoch and the Barclays. Dumb sheep in all but name that would depress and embarrass Winston Churchill and other great leaders of his time.

As such, for the European project to succeed, we need to be outside of it. We are the killjoys; the sulking losers sitting at the edge of a playground, determined to spoil it for everyone else. The under-endowed bully with minuscule genitalia, lashing out as an unconvincing diversion from our own pathetic shortcomings.

So, as a commited pro-European, I shall be writing off my own country in June and voting to leave the EU.

With the USA, China and a slowly re-forming Soviet Union playing their global power games, the only way Europe can compete is as a united continent, and having us polluting it with bile and selfish bitterness will sabotage that.

I shall feel incredibly sad to be voting that way, but that will not stop me. It will mark the start of Britain’s entry to the also-ran list of countries that were once great but fucked it up. It will mark the point at which we finally lose the Cold War.

It will not be a good day.

Hillsborough Inquiry – the unasked questions

Much fuss is being made by those in denial about the Hillsborough incident about the answers to the ten questions that the jury were instructed to answer. In particular, the nine that relate to the failures in duty of care by the police and by the stadium operators.

When, after an event that included fatalities, asking whether there was a failure of duty of care is a loaded and under-analysed question to which it is almost impossible to answer “no”, because to do so would imply that nothing further could have been done. That is clearly not the case.

Obviously, since people died, more could have been done. However, to use this to blame the police and stadium operators for murder, which is what the baying crowd around the gallows is doing, is completely unreasonable.

The ten questions need to be expanded to enable the full truth to be dealt with. Here are some unasked questions that it would benefit all concerned to answer. Mine are provided.

11. Hillsborough Stadium was a long-standing venue where thousands of football matches, including important cup matches, had been held without incident. Had all fans arrived in plenty of time to get into the ground, would the deaths have happened? Yes or no. No.

12. Have the lessons from the incident been used to make football in particular and crowd control in general far safer today than when it took place? Yes or no. Yes.

13. Can any further lessons be learned from this incident that will improve crowd safety more? Yes or no. No.

14. Will any of the conclusions of this latest in a long series of inquiries make any difference to crowd safety in future? Yes or no. No.

15. 96 Liverpool fans died because they were crushed by other Liverpool fans. Yes or no. Yes.

16. When crowds stop behaving like sentient, mature human beings and demonstrate a behaviour indistinguishable from sheep, they need to be managed like sheep, not humans, for their own safety. Yes or no. Yes.

17. When Liverpool fans stopped behaving in a safe manner, was it reasonable for the entire burden of responsibility for their safety, and the blame for any consequences, to fall on the police, stewards and stadium staff? Yes or no. No.

18. Did the police fail to anticipate the extent that Liverpool fans outside the ground would start to behave like sheep that day? Yes or no. Yes.

19. Were the concerns about crowd safety outside the ground the root cause of the decision to open gate “C”? Yes or no. Yes.

20. Is there any evidence whatsoever that any member of the police, stewarding team or stadium management meant any harm to come to anyone that day? Yes or no. No.

21. Which inquiry used to most white paint, this one or Hutton?…

The one interesting thing about this hugely expensive inquiry is how very rapidly its findings faded from the national media’s interest. For once, they seem to recognise a local story for what it is – of local interest only.

Money well spent? Yes or no. No.

EU Referendum Voting Dilemma

Missive to the Evening Standard, not that they’ll print it…

Sirs,

Deciding which way to vote on the EU in June’s referendum is actually really difficult.

In my view, closer political, economic and financial union for Europe would be a massively beneficial thing. It adds power, it adds efficiency, reduces costs and improves lives and security. 

I would even go so far as to suggest completely removing medieval throwbacks like the concepts of countries and local parliaments and just have a pair of elected parliaments – an upper and lower chamber – in Europe to make continent-wide decisions. City, district and county councils with enhanced powers would become the highest level of local government. I see absolutely no problem with that as a concept. 

The tiny-minded Little Englanders would have major strokes and hissy fits even considering that degree of loss of their precious, but essentially meaningless sovereignty. But I really think that is the way Europe should go. 

However, us being the bloody miserable little killjoys that we are, they can never do it while we’re on the outskirts, mindlessly handbagging everything. So we need to get out, because we are spoiling it for everyone else. 

Given all that, my inclination is to vote to leave, but voting the same way as all the village idiots like Johnson, Farage, Galloway, the quitter Duncan Smith and assorted braindead and racist morons that support UKIP, BNP, EDL and the lunatic fringes of the Tory party, really put me off doing it.

Parents of child don’t want to pay 20p a day to save him.

The Mirror wrote this story about a kid being denied a prescription for household cornflower:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/boy-who-drinks-cornflour-could-7346614

400g of cornflower costs 62p in Aldi. This kid gets through 150g per day, so about 20p-worth, or about £6 a month – a pint and a half of beer or half a packet of cigarettes.

This has nothing to do with cost, then, because any parent in ANY situation can find £6 a month to save their child’s life. So instead of just picking up a few packets with their normal shop, they expect to waste time getting prescriptions and making special trips to the chemist, wasting their time, the doctor’s time and the pharmacist’s time.

Their entire position on this is that they expect the state to pay for something they can very easily afford themselves. It’s a “moral” position, and a quite warped one at that. When did we become so utterly weak and spineless in this country that instead of paying 20p a day ourselves, we expect the state to pick up the tab?

When did we become so incapable of self-dependence, so flaccid and feeble, and so parasitic that 20p a day becomes a moral crusade? “Because druggies and gluten-intolerant people get help” is beyond feeble as a response. It is a way of saying that you really can’t answer the first question so you’re going to ask a different one as a distraction.

The people that think their position is right are, in all liklihood, exactly the same people that berate refugees for wanting to come over here. Perhaps if some more of us stood on our own two feet instead of taking every opportunity to sponge off the state, that point might be valid.

As it stands, it is just laughable, because we are far more weak and feeble than any refugee is.

I’m Not My Father’s Son

It will not come as a major shock to many of you, but I know quite a few other gay guys. Without exception, those that I have spoken to in depth on the topic, all of them have some sort of father issues. I do too.

Most of theirs, sadly, are negative. Mine isn’t, and this has for a long time slightly confused me. I do, most definitely, have father issues, but they’re not remotely negative, they’re just issues.

Having seen (and blubbed my way through most of) the stage show “Kinky Boots” it has, for the first time, hit home what it is. There is a song (cruelly close to the intermission!) called “I’m not my father’s son” which details how a character in the play is not who his father might have hoped for, or who his father might compare himself against.

But since in the stage show, as in my life, the father has died, the character will never have the opportunity to show his father that although different, he has been successful in his own way, and is now happy.

Having wasted (and although I choose that word deliberately, I do not choose it in any way lightly) the first four decades or so of my life trying to conform to others’ expectations, I really would have loved the opportunity to sit down with my dad now, staring out to sea over a windswept beach, and just chat about who I am, who he is, and what it actually feels like to be honest with yourself.

He was, in my view, one of the straightest-thinking people I knew, and I think he might have been a little disappointed that I lied to myself and everyone else for so long, but at the same time, I think he would have been satisfied that I got here in the end. “You took your bloody time” might have been his reaction.

I really would have loved to have taken him to Kinky Boots and held his hand while they sung “I’m not my father’s son”, looked at him and shared a smile and a tear.

I miss my dad.