Christmas – Not As Innocent As You Think!

In my Easter blog post, I looked at the hypocrisy of Easter from an atheist perspective, and you may, or may not, be surprised to discover that Christmas poses similar issues in the worship of Christianity.

Christmas, despite all its mainstream commercialism, is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as:

‘A religious holiday the annual Christian festival celebrating Christ’s birth, held on 25 December in the Western Church’.

It is the time that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, exchanging gifts in honour of the “greatest gift ever given”. However, Jesus was neither born on 25 December, nor is Christmas a Christian festival.

Christmas is yet another pagan festival that was hijacked by Christians.

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Evidence to support that the Christmas tradition has little to do with Christianity can be found in the bible itself, where the tradition is, in fact, frowned upon. God commands in Jeremiah 10:2 “Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens, because the nations are dismayed at them.” Christ also states in Mark 7:9:

‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!’

Yet, ironically, every year on December 25, approximately two billion Christians throughout the word do just that – ‘Reject the commandment of God’.

Another little irony lies within the choice of date. As the Encyclopaedia Britannica states, the precise origin of assigning December 25 as the birth date of Jesus is unclear. However, the date is believed to have been selected in order to correspond with the Roman festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, or “Birthday of the Unconquered Sun”, with the celebration deriving from pre-Christian festivals that were celebrated during the winter solstice by pagan populations who later converted to Christianity. The Yule log from the pagan tradition, Yule, and gift giving from the Roman pagan festival, Saturnalia, were eventually incorporated into Christmas as it is known today.

If we again turn to the bible, Luke 2:8 explains that when Christ was born, “in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Note that the Shepherds were apparently ‘out in the field, keeping watch’, which would have been an unlikely occurrence in December, when Ezra 10:9-13 states that winter was the rainy season. Shepherds would not have been able to stay outside on cold fields at night.

Indeed, in “A History of Israel”, The Jerome Biblical Commentary” by Addison G. Wright, Roland E. Murphy, Joseph A. Fitzmyer; it is revealed that the DePascha Computus, an anonymous document believed to have been written in North Africa around 243 CE, placed Jesus birth on March 28. Clement, a bishop of Alexandria (d. ca. 215 CE), thought Jesus was born on November 18.  Based on historical records, Joseph Fitzmyer believes that Jesus birth occurred on September 11, 3 BCE. It would seem that Christ’s birth was nowhere near December 25.

However, as University of Manitoba historian Gerry Bowler, author of The World Encyclopedia of Christmas explains, early Christians may have figured that because Christ was crucified on March 25, that was also when he was conceived—and therefore, his birthday would have been December 25.

Yet, whilst the latter theory may be true, it is ironic that the Christmas and the modern Christian tradition of celebrating Easter, were both adopted from a pagan celebration, even though Deuteronomy 12:28-32 confirms that Christians should never mix Pagan traditions with God’s commands. Given that the Christians also hijacked the pagan Easter celebration, it would seem no coincidence that the Pagan mid-winter festival is the alleged birthdate of Jesus, together with a few other Pagan goodies, such as trees, singing, gifts, and debauchery, to make their takeover more palatable.

To quote the very words of the bible itself:

‘So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites!’ Matt 15:6-7,

Furthermore, not only did Christmas originate from a pagan festival, but one that incorporated the horrific practices of child sacrifice and cannibalism, as I will reveal.

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The pagan festival, Saturnalia, celebrated the fire god, Saturn, and thus, the God honoured at Christmas is not a Christian God, but a fire/sun God. Saturn was worshipped during this winter festival so that he (the “sun”) would return to warm the earth again so that spring planting of crops could occur.

To understand the sun/fire god, it is important to realise that virtually every civilisation has one. Vulcan, the Egyptian God; Kronos, the Greek and Phoenician God (also known as Saturn); Tammuz, the Babylonian God, also known as Nimrod, resurrected in the person of his son; and Molech or Baal, as known to the Druids. However, these were all various names for Nimrod, who was considered the father of all the Babylonian Gods.

The following quote from The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop, page 231, states how child sacrifice was associated with the worship of the Fire God Nimrod, Saturn, Kronos, Molech and Baal:

Now, this is in exact accordance with the character of the Great Head of the system of fire-worship. Nimrod, as the representative of the devouring fire to which human victims, and especially children, were offered in sacrifice, was regarded as the great child-devourer…he was, of course, the actual father of all the Babylonian gods; and, therefore, in that character he was afterwards universally regarded. As the Father of the gods, he was, as we have seen, called Kronos; and everyone knows that the classical story of Kronos was just this, that, ‘he devoured his sons as soon as they were born.’ (Lempriere Classical Dictionary, ‘Saturn.’)…This legend has a further and deeper meaning; but, as applied to Nimrod, or ‘The Horned One,’ it just refers to the fact, that, as the representative of Moloch or Baal, infants were the most acceptable offerings at his altar. We have ample and melancholy evidence on this subject from the records of antiquity. ‘The Phoenicians,’ says Eusebius, ‘every year sacrificed their beloved and only-begotten children to Kronos or Saturn.

Humans sacrificing their own children for slaughter was key to the worship of Saturn, in the belief that fire purified them from original sins. They would thus try to please the Fire/Sun God by sacrificing their own children. Indeed, the bible also states, “They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech” (Jer. 32:35), where God is also claimed to have said “I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination”. This also confirms that celebrating a Sun/Fire God is not a part of Christianity.

A Closer Look At Nimrod

Nimrod, is mentioned in Genisis 10:9 when he tries to replace God. Ezekiel 8:13-14 records a picture of the women of Israel “weeping for Tammuz.” This Tammuz (the god of fire) was considered to be Nimrod and the etymology of the word itself is fascinating. Tam means “to make perfect” and muz “fire.” The meaning is clear in light of what we have already learned.

Incidentally, in the Iraqi-Kuwaiti Desert Storm War, Saddam Hussein even named one of his missiles the “Tammuz.”

Jer. 7:31 connects Tophet and Hinnom to child sacrifice. Tophet means “the drum.” Drums were played to drown the screams of victims in the flames.

Whilst nobody will claim to sacrifice their children to Molech today, the martyr Stephen was stoned to death, the New Testament, because he indicted his listeners for the worship of this evil idol (Acts 7:43).

Cannibalism

Erik Eckholm stated in The New York Times, article ‘What Is the Meaning of Cannibalism?’:

 ‘Cannibalism has once fascinated and repelled virtually every known society, including those said to have practiced it.’

This practice has its roots in a prime function of all priests of Baal, and it is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for priest is Cahn. Thus, consider the following quote from The Two Babylons, by Alexander Hislop, page 232:

‘And it was a principle of the Mosaic law, a principle no doubt derived from the patriarchal faith, that the priest must partake of whatever was offered as a sin-offering (Numbers xviii. 9, 10). Hence, the priests of Nimrod or Baal were necessarily required to eat of the human sacrifices; and thus it has come to pass that ‘Cahna-Bal,’ the ‘Priest of Baal,’ is the established word in our own tongue for a devourer of human flesh.’

Anyone fancy a mince pie?

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Even the imagery of Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, bears a striking resemblance to Saturn: An old man, with a long white beard, who surrounded by children.

Ironically, the Encyclopedia of World History by William L Langer, states “Santa” was a common name for Nimrod throughout Asia Minor; the Fire God to whom infants were burned and eaten in human sacrificed by those who were once Christians.

It is, perhaps, no coincidence that the name Santa Claus comes from “Saint Nicholas”, when Revelation 2:6 mentions the “works of the Nicolaitans”. Nicolaitane means “follower of Nicholas.” The Greek words, Nikos, translates as “conqueror, destroyer”, and Laos translates as, “people.”

Thus, the Nicolaitanes are people who follow the destroyer, Nimrod!

Saturn appears in modern society in two more guises.  Every December, Saturn, the god of time, re-emerges as “Old Father Time.”  Baby New Year is a symbol of the child-victim. Saturn also emerges in modern society as the Grim Reaper, gathering in his bleak harvest of souls.  A chilling representation of Father Time with Baby New Year can be found in this illustration from the 19th century:

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Father Time, (Saturn, as the god of time), is standing in front of a large clock, holding his scythe.  The old years are passing away as bodies wrapped in burial shrouds, whilst the New Year is coming in as a young child.  The subsequent ‘New Years’ are portrayed as children ready to be sacrificed, and were heavily veiled so that their parents would not recognise when their child was burned.

Are you still so sure that Christmas an innocent Christian custom…?

The Exchange of Gifts

Most people today believe that the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas comes the Biblical story of the “three wise men” (although the Bible specifies no actual number) presenting gifts to Christ. Just like every other aspect of Christmas, the truth is that even this supposed Christian custom does not come from the Bible, and whilst people love to believe they are following the custom of the wise men giving to Christ, the ironic hypocrisy is that they are giving almost exclusively to each other.

The Bibliotheca Sacra states, “The interchange of presents between friends is a like characteristic of Christmas and the Saturnalia, and must have been adopted by Christians from the pagans, as the admonition of Tertullian plainly shows” (Vol. 12, pp. 153-155).

A long-standing, ancient custom of the East, which still prevails today, was to present gifts when coming before a king. Thus, the “wise men” who gave gifts to Christ, did so to honour the presence of ‘King of the Jews’. The scripture describing this is Matthew 2:1-11:

‘Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?… And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.’

Yet, despite the description from Matthew 2:1-11, it is commonly believed that the gifts were birthday presents for “baby Jesus”. But, the wise did not stand in his presence and exchange gifts among themselves, or give them to others. The gifts were “presented unto Him.” Also, they arrived after Jesus’s “birthday.” This is another reason these could not have been “birthday presents”.

Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree

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Most aspects of Christmas are not referred to in the Bible, the reason being that they are not part of Christianity. The Christmas tree, however, is directly mentioned in the Bible in Jeremiah 10:2-5:

“Thus says the Lord: Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.”

This description of the Christmas tree is clear, and the bible states that God tells people to “learn not the way of the nations,” calling these customs “vain”, thus condemning the putting up of pagan (Christmas) trees with this plain Bible command.

Mistletoe?

Christmas is incomplete to many unless it involves “kissing under the mistletoe.” This pagan custom was natural on a night that involved much revelry done in the spirit of drunken orgies. Just like today, this “kissing” usually occurred at the beginning of the Saturnalia/Christmas celebration, and has nothing to do with Christianity.

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Worship of God with Mixed Practices

Lev. 18:21 and 29 reveals how anyone in ancient Israel who merged false pagan customs with the worship of the true God, was put to death.

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In fact, the warning was clear in Deuteronomy 12:29-31,

‘When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.’

Deuteronomy 12:32 also made clear that God did not want Christians to mix his ways with any other tradition: “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.”

These are the words printed in the Bible aimed to ‘warn’ those who believe they can mix the customs of paganism with a supposed “focus on Christ”.

Ancient Israel’s Pagan Practices in Modern Customs

Deuteronomy 12:2-4 establishes:

‘You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place. You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way.’

Notice God’s references to “every green tree”. There are at least ten similar verses throughout the Old Testament referring to “green trees” and their association with idolatry.

Sound familiar? – Presents, singing in the streets, evergreen trees, decorations, offerings under the tree, merrymaking, feasting? Such Christmas traditions may sound wonderful, but they originally represented things that were once truly atrocious.

On that note, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

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Let’s Be Honest: Margaret Thatcher was NOT the ‘Greatest British Prime Minister’

Monday 8th April saw media outlets across all continents of the world reporting on the breaking news that Margaret Thatcher had passed away; some making spectacular blunders amongst the mass media frenzy to report the news first:

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The BBC reported that Margaret Thatcher had ‘died following a strike‘… How ironic that would have been. (Source: Yahoo/Twitter)

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Taiwan’s CTi Cable showed footage of the Queen when covering Thatcher’s death (Source: Yahoo/Twitter)

The world has seen the media depict Lady Thatcher as the ‘Greatest Prime Minister’, with relatively few reports revealing the darker side of her time in power. Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, also stood by the traditional moral of de mortuis nil nisi bonum (“Of the dead say nothing but good”), while Tony Blair condemned the street parties celebrating the death of Baroness Thatcher, and the Labour mainstream has attempted to distance itself from hardliners’ celebrations.

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Several hundred people gathered in South London to celebrate Margaret Thatcher’s death (Source: The Guardian)

I, for one, most certainly did not rejoice at Margaret Thatcher’s passing, and I find such celebrations of her death utterly distasteful. Such celebrations bare an unappealing similarity with the media images of people dancing on the fallen statues of dictators, when Britain has no such dictatorial institutions and practices.

However, whist I do not rejoice at the demise of Thatcher, I also refuse to remain silent.

Although I had initially decided against writing this post, I ultimately decided it was time to post an honest perspective, after feeling nauseated by all the comments of those who are too afraid to be honest, and biased articles that serve no purpose other than pandering to the Right. Such re-writing of history misleads the younger generations into falsely believing Thatcher was a “strong leader”,  and a role model to follow.

Whilst one would normally be mindful of the grief of another’s family and friends, in the case of such a prominent and controversial political figure, I feel that the judgement about such an individual’s legacy should be an honest one, whether one agrees with her policies or not. Why must a person always be automatically be granted the “privilege” of every member of society suddenly respecting them, solely in virtue of their being dead?

As Glen Greenwald reported in the Guardian, “the demand for respectful silence in the wake of a public figure’s death is not just misguided but dangerous.” Greenwald pertinently states that:

“Those who admire the deceased public figure (and their politics) aren’t silent at all. They are aggressively exploiting the emotions generated by the person’s death to create hagiography… Demanding that no criticisms be voiced to counter that hagiography is to enable false history and a propagandistic whitewashing of bad acts, distortions that become quickly ossified and then endure by virtue of no opposition and the powerful emotions created by death. When a political leader dies, it is irresponsible in the extreme to demand that only praise be permitted but not criticisms.”

The fact is, Margaret Thatcher was **not** the greatest ‘Prime Minister’ at all. She was uncompassionate, uncompromising, destructive, prejudiced, and manipulative. She pressed forward policies that were primarily only of benefit to herself and those in her elite group, whilst she punished the working-classes, disregarded their human rights, and disdainfully, and famously, branded them “The enemy within”.

Ironically, she was the daughter of a greengrocer. This was a woman who came from humble roots, and who climbed the social ranks after marrying a millionaire. It was her husband who subsequently financed her political career.

Whilst I am aware that my views will be criticised by Tory supporters, Thatcherites, and those influenced by the propagandistic right-wing media spin, Thatcherism was without a doubt a national disaster.

Many areas of Britain still remain trapped by Thatcherite policies to this day. Indeed, Thatcher’s former Chancellor Geoffrey Howe once stated: “Her real triumph was to have transformed not just one party but two, so that when Labour did eventually return, the great bulk of Thatcherism was accepted as irreversible.” It is no coincidence that all three great economic crises since the Second World War have occurred since Thatcherism. Much of it has roots in the Thatcher’s free market experiment, which annihilated much of Britain’s industrial base in favour of a deregulated financial sector.

Many Thatcher supporters still claim her policies were “necessary”, and whilst I agree that coal mines would have eventually needed phasing out when other power sources became more common-place, it was not necessary to create such mass industrial closures, nor to push unemployment so high. It also was not necessary to raise interest rates so high, or to push up the value of the pound. Thatcher’s only purpose was monetarism: a superficial logic, adopted from American economist Milton Friedman, of keeping inflation low by restricting the money supply. Whilst it did not comply in the true sense of Friedman monetarism, Thatcher adopted a looser version of monetarism when the economy crashed in the early eighties, was radically successful at disregarding the unemployment it created.

Today, there is much anger about social security in Britain, which is focused on the idea that people are “scrounging” off state benefits, whilst the poor are demonised by society. The fact is, there is more unemployment in Britain today than there was 40 years ago – A consequence of Thatcherism devastating mining villages and industrial towns, thus stripping communities of millions of secure industrial jobs for skilled workers, from which Britain has never really recovered. Even when the British economy was supposedly booming, old industrial areas still had high levels of unemployment and economic inactivity.

Modern day “chav” culture has stemmed from Thatcherism. The working-class have now become today’s unemployed. With the loss of industries which provided employment, apprenticeships, and opportunities for young people, many living in working-class societies now feel they have nothing to work towards or look forward to. Many are unable to provide for their families. Many turn to drugs believing “Where there’s no hope; there’s dope”, as was suggested in this documentary on a once thriving small Welsh town that has since been crippled by Thatchersim, and the subsequent economic downturns.

It would seem no coincidence that Wales now has the highest suicide rate in the United Kingdom.

Much of modern day intolerance of working-class people has stemmed from the right-wing media spin on the Miners’ Strike and Riots that subsequently followed. Having grown up in a community devastated by Thatcherism and witnessed the destruction, I grew up hearing stories of police brutality during the Miners’ Strike of 1984-1985; stories that were never revealed by the media at the time. The nation were shown only the footage of the miners defending themselves from the police who had instigated the violence, leaving an entire nation believing the discriminatory view that the working-class are “thugs”. It lead society to believe that Thatcher’s policies were deserved and necessary.  It was, in fact, a conspiracy and an unprecedentedly savage smear campaign, and it is only in recent years that the truth has begun to emerge. Author Seumas Milne has revealed the astonishing lengths to which the government and its intelligence machine were prepared to go to destroy the power of Britain’s miners’ union. It has since been revealed that the government used bogus bank deposits, staged cash drops, and forged documents; whilst agents provocateurs, M15 and police Special Branch were set out to discredit trade unionist Athur Scargill, and other miners’ leaders. Planted tales of corruption were seized on by the media.

Although more evidence is emerging, it is now too little, too late. The damage has been done, and the working-class will never rid themselves of the images portrayed by the media and the Tory government. Even today, the supporters of Thatcherism still hail at the crippling of the trade unions that were shattered by Thatcher’s anti-union laws, crushing defeats of strikes, and mass unemployment. With no unions to stand their corner, workers’ have been left with poorer work conditions and living standards, and are often held to ransom at the mercy of their bosses.

An article in the notoriously right-wing newspaper, The Telegraph, crows that Thatcher ‘saved the economy’. The fact is, she did not, and Thatcher’s battle with the miners’ union was economically irrational. GDP growth did *not* increase by more that 2.2%, and as Andrew Gamble documented in ‘The Free Economy and the Strong State’ (second edition (1994), p192), her battle cost Britain £2.5-Billion. Furthermore, between 1980 and 1983 the capacity in British industry fell by 24 percent, leading to an unemployment figure topping 3 million (Christopher Johnson, The Economy Under Mrs Thatcher (1991), Appendix Table 1, Economic growth trends, 1950-89). Instead, as Andrew Gamble noted in his book The Free Economy and the Strong State (second edition (1994), p193.), Thatcher permanently shut down much of British manufacturing, turning instead to banks and the City.

We need only look at the banking crisis of 2008 to figure out how well that worked…!

Ian Gilmour (Dancing With Dogma (1992), p124), has revealed that the overall tax burden rose from 39 percent in 1979 to 43 percent in 1989. Gilmour also points out that Thatcher cut taxes for the wealthy (a policy we have seen repeated by David Cameron’s government), with a top rate of tax of 83% when Thatcher came to power, and only 40%, whilst the poorest were hit by VAT that was just 8% percent prior, and 15% after Thatcher gained power. Furthermore, the poorest fifth of the population accounted for around 10% of after-tax income in 1979. By 1989 their share had fallen to 7 percent, whilst the wealthiest fifth rose from 37 percent to 43 percent, thus making the wealthiest people richer, and the poorest people poorer.

The more one delves into the facts, the more evident it becomes that Thatcher was not only fighting the miners – she was, in fact, fighting an entire class of people; discriminating against the most vulnerable class, stripping them of their jobs and financial stability, and driving them into the ground, almost like a form of clandestine eugenics by the back-door.

Today, five million people have their names on social housing waiting lists, while billions of pounds of housing benefit line the pockets of private landlords, swindling people with rip-off rents. The vulnerable are often forced to live in slum housing such as sheds and garages. The scarcity of housing turns communities against each other and we are witnessing increasing racial tension as immigrants, or anyone deemed “less deserving” are scapegoated for receiving housing before a British-born national. The root of the problem lies with the Thatcherite policy which gave private landlords the right-to-buy council houses, whilst failing to replace the social housing that had been privately sold.

I have witnessed a number of people on social media turning a blind eye to the destruction I have mentioned, in an attempt to “respect the dead”; instead choosing to comment on Thatcher being the last Prime Minister to “stand for what she believed in” and that “she stood up for democracy”. It would appear that there is a major confusion, whereby many people are duped into believing that a single minded leader who is not de-railed by unpopularity, is more important than the catastrophic policies they advocate. As we have seen, standing up for what she believed in (see her famous “The Lady’s not for turning” speech), has lead Britain into a major economic crisis. Furthermore, Thatcher did not “stand up for democracy”. We need only look back to her act of racial discrimination in opposing sanctions against apartheid. She called Nelson Mandela a “terrorist”, whilst she supported the murderer and torturer Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and gave support to the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

As Glenda Jackson, the MP for Hampstead and Kilburn stated in her refreshingly honest parliamentary speech,  Thatcher may be “the first Prime Minister of female gender…  But a woman? Not on my terms.”

Ms Jackson delivered her speech from an almost empty Labour bench, as dozens of Labour MPs  from the constituencies most adversely affected by Thatcherism, chose not to attend as a form of protest to Thatcher’s tribute.

Allister Heath wrote in The Telegraph: “Far more miners lost their jobs, and far more mines were shut, in the 1960s and 1970s than during Thatcher’s time in office. Britain is suffering from a bout of collective amnesia.” – No, Mr. Heath. Supporters of the Right are suffering from collective propagandistic brainwashing. Please get your facts in order, because your claim that more mines were shut in the 1960s and 1970s, is false. In fact, it is an outright lie.

Today, the current Tory coalition government has picked up from where Thatcher left off, privatising the NHS, whilst thrashing state welfare – literally laughing as they did so.

Thatcher may be dead, but the aftermath of her civilization eroding policies and destruction, continues to live on.

Fascist Britain?

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An anti-immigration protest by the English Defence League (The Guardian)

The newspapers have readily reported that Britain’s economy has sunk into the longest depression for 100 years, claiming the slump is worse than the Great Depression. Regular publications are produced by NIESR which also suggest that Europe’s recovery is already behind where it was in the 1930s during the Great Depression. Indeed, NIESR’s latest quarterly forecast (published 5th February 2013), projects growth of 0.7 per cent per annum this year and 1.5 per cent in 2014.

Following the 2008 global financial crisis, British Labour MP, Ed Balls, stated in 2009 that he feared the economic crisis could spark a resurgence in the Far Right politics of the 1930s and the rise of fascism. His warning initially came after a trade union baron warned that Far Right parties were trying to misinterpret and hijack the slogan “British jobs for British workers” – A poorly worded phrase coined by Gordon Brown during his first speech as leader to the Labour Conference in 2007, intended to express Gordon Brown’s vision of getting British people lacking basic skills, or the long-term unemployed, back into the British employment market.

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The British Jobs phrase from Gordon Brown’s speech is regularly off-quoted by Nationalist movements.

Today, the row over foreign workers continues to gather momentum, with the implication that the in-coming Romanians and Bulgarians are ill-educated benefit tourists, and reports of the UK Government’s negative ad campaign in an attempt to deter Romanians and Bulgarians from moving to Britain.

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Tongue-in-cheek Anti-Britain ad campaigns published in The Guardian

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A witty ‘Why don`t you come over?’ ad campaign was designed by the online Romanian newspaper,Gandul , in response to numerous reports in the British media about the government initiative to launch a negative ad campaign discouraging Romanians and Bulgarians from coming to work in Britain.

We have also witnessed escalating Euroscepticism (discussed in my previous blog post); the rise of the UK Independence Party, and increasing British nationalism has seen the British National Party (BNP) celebrating their first ever secured European Parliament seats for leader Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons in 2009. This was the same year that saw the formation the extreme Far-Right group, North West Infidels, and an Islamophobic Far-Right street protest movement – the English Defence League, who exploit concerns about sex-grooming gangs to fuel its anti-Islam agenda and forge networks with far-right groups across Europe. Last year saw the perturbing revival of the National Front, whilst yet another Nationalist party, calling themselves The British Democratic Party, has recently arisen out of the rubble of the BNP. A further indication that we should not get too complacent is the result of a Searchlight poll, conducted last February, which revealed that a staggeringly high number of voters stated they would be prepared to vote for party of the Far-Right, if it renounced violence.

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Recent Daily Express headlines

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The question is whether Ed Balls was right in suggesting we may be heading towards a return to the fascist Far-Right politics that prospered in the Great Depression of the 1930s?

There are, admittedly, some parallels, and one thing history has revealed is that the Right thrives on economic crisis.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Britain saw the Labour Party almost wiped out, with Labour winning only 52 seats in the 1931 election, allowing the Conservatives to rule with a formidable majority. The situation was even bleaker in the rest of Europe as fascism annihilated democracy and the Left. Italy fell first, with Leftists languishing in Fascist jails from the 1920s. Germany’s labour movement was the strongest in the world, but Nazism shut it down virtually overnight and was upping the persecution of the Jews. A military uprising against Spain’s reformist government in 1936 plunged the country into a nightmare Civil War that ended in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Leftists and the victory of Far-Right dictator General Francisco Franco. The only glimmer of hope for the Left was France’s Popular Front, a coalition of Socialists, Communists and Radicals. Alas, it was an unwieldy government that lasted only two years, and the right were growing ever more aggressive and militant.

The majority of British people like to think that we are above that sort of thing, and like to believe fascism is more exclusive to “excitable foreigners”, who they seem to believe enjoy wearing uniforms. However, it is worth considering that parliamentary democracy was once believed to have been secure in most of the Western world in the 1920s, yet it collapsed quickly enough once the Slump came. Even emphatically anti-fascist Britain adopted its own version of a corporatist state, forming a national government in which almost all the parties were in power, and vastly extended state control with the Public Order Act which came into force 1st January 1937. Britain also saw Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts, supported by the likes of the Daily Mail, loudly agitating for a fascist government on the European model. If one was a true Democrat in 1937, there was most certainly a cause for concern, given the lack of hindsight and far right’s complacency of the atrocities occurring in Europe.

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A 1933 printed poster advertising four meetings of the British Union of Fascists (Library of Museum of London)

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The British Union of Fascists

Even during the other major economic crisis seen during the 1970s, when the ‘oil shock‘ of 1973 signalled the end of the ‘Golden Age of Capitalism’, both Left and Right abandoned the post-war consensus in favour of a renewed radicalism. Like with the period prior to the more recent 2010 election, it was unclear which side would win for a while, and indeed for long periods prior to the economic downturn, it appeared the Left was in the ascendancy. The historically unprecedented post-war boom came to an abrupt end, leading to a period of poor economic growth and rampant levels of inflation. Again, the economy had stagnated, but the New Right saw a surge in prosperity with politics beginning to swing to the Right across Europe, first with British Thatcherism. This was soon followed by American Reaganism. Thatcher was so successful in 1979 that even by the time she was succeeded by John Major, the traditional Left had been all but vanquished as a political force. This time round, there appears to be no real alternative for the Right to defeat, as the Left has never really recovered from being virtually smothered out of existence. It has been victim to the rise of the New Right, neo-liberal globalization, and the repeated defeats suffered by the trade union movement.

Above all, it can be argued that it was the aftermath of the collapse of Communism that has seen the subsidence of the Left. As US neo-conservative Midge Decter once stated: “It’s time to say: We’ve won. Goodbye.” From the British Labour Party to the African National Congress, Left-wing movements across the world have shifted their policies to the Right in an almost synchronised fashion, and although we now live in an age of revolt, there still remains no true Left to give it direction and purpose. Even in the “Left-wing” governed US, Obama may have been elected US President, but a newly resurgent Right lead by the Tea Party has seized the House of Representatives and is clearly setting the political agenda. As the Economist has boasted, the Left has been smashed across Europe, and indeed, the British National Party won its first seats in the European parliament not because its supporters are all racist, but because many voters feel insecure and let down by the main parties. The British National Party now use such views to their advantage to rally support, thus playing on the claim that their Far-Right party is “a socialist party… and probably the closest thing to old Labour”, at a time when there is no true Left to provide Britain with direction.

The recent rise of the UKIP could also be an issue for concern, particularly as recent ComRes polls have placed the UKIP in 3rd position, ahead of the Liberal Democrats.

Whilst a benign view of the UKIP by many might be that they are simply small-nation nationalists standing up against an oppressive suzerainty, and are not a fascist party; a darker perspective might be that some UKIP supporters have a more deep-seated antagonism to our current constitutional settlement, one they share with a quiescent sector of our society, that might develop into a poisonous xenophobia.

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A UKIP anti-immigration poster

Indeed, data from a study by Matthew Goodwin, Robert Ford, and David Cutts has revealed that intolerant views were somewhat more common among UKIP supporters than any of the three mainstream parties. However, while only a minority of UKIP supporters were found to be racist, the majority are not, and the UKIP were found to hold fewer intolerant views than the BNP. Yet, UKIP supporters were more likely to support a complete ban on immigration, to support government efforts to deport immigrants, in addition to being less tolerant of Muslims, and less tolerant of homosexuals. Recent statements by a UKIP candidate for parliament has described gay adoption as a form of child abuse, and the survey revealed 41% of UKIP supporters opposed civil partnerships, which is higher than all the mainstream parties and nearly twice the sample average. The study also found that all parties of the Far Right are also more likely to falsely attribute negative behaviour to immigrants as a group; holding them responsible for ‘most crime’ and agreeing with the view that they ‘jump the queue for council housing'; and UKIP supporters were more likely to agree that ‘Islam poses a serious danger to Western civilization’ and a report by Matthew Goodwin and Jocelyn Evans has revealed that 84% were bothered by the construction of a mosque in their neighbourhood. Furthermore, 4 in 10 UKIP supporters are unwilling to put up with its existence, or to offer legal recognition to a group with different views or behaviour from their own.

If we compare the 2012 London Manifestos:

UKIP on immigration:

  • Create more jobs for Londoners by saying ‘No’ to open-door immigration.
  • Priority for Londoners – whatever their ethnic origin – for jobs and housing, over migrants and asylum seekers.
  • Until the Government gets a grip on our borders, put a cap on the number of immigrants allowed to settle in London.

BNP on immigration:

  • London is already overcrowded. We will NOT give amnesty to illegal immigrants.
  • All the other political parties will let in more – we’ll shut the door!
  • While immigration policy is determined primarily by the EU (a key reason for our opposition to Britain’s membership) and central government, we will take all measures within the Mayor’s power to protect and advance the interests of indigenous Londoners and members of legally settled minorities who contribute to the common good.

Both parties use the same door open/shut metaphor in reference to to immigration, and both refer to prioritising Londoners. BNP emphasise that ethnic minorities, who are legally settled, will be included in their ‘shut the door’ policy, while the UKIP specifically refers to migrants and asylum seekers. Note that the UKIP do not refer to whether their policy includes migrants who are legal or not, nor the status of an asylum claim. Both state on their websites that they will deport all illegal immigrants.

In a 2010 document titled ‘Restoring Britishness‘, the UKIP refers to combating the Islamisation of Britain, which is also a key BNP concern:

‘Multiculturalism is another tenet of the politically correct class and has been just as toxic to Britain. In simplified form, it is broadly the belief that people from different ethno-religious and ethno-linguistic backgrounds can live together in the same society and that the state is legally obliged to respect all of their cultural mores. The notion that there is, or that there should be, a common unifying culture is denounced as ‘exclusionary’, and calls to integrate are typically met with accusations that the state is issuing ultimatums to ethnic and religious minorities. UkIP fundamentally disagrees.

Ukip will end multiculturalism and promote an all-embracing uniculturalism, one which demands integration, assimilation and a commitment to British values for all UK citizens.’

The UKIP clearly state their opposition of multiculturalism, and this would suggest they oppose ‘the belief that people from different ethno-religious and ethno-linguistic backgrounds can live together in the same society.’ There are constant references to a Marxist influence in British politics, particularly in using Ed and David Miliband’s “Trotskyite” father Ralph as an example.

The BNP have their roots in far more extreme origins through its founder, John Tyndall, and his involvement with the affirmably fascist National Socialist Movement and League of Empire Loyalists. Their members have been involved in far more extreme acts of outright violence such as the notorious nailbombs attacks by David Copeland.

Yet, both the UKIP and BNP advertise themselves specifically as “non-racist”. If both parties need to constantly refer to their lack of racism in their campaign material, perhaps they have something of a guilty conscience?

Should we be worried?

As I revealed in a previous post, it is clear that David Cameron is being swayed into a somewhat fascist direction by the increase in UKIP popularity, and the increase in Eurosceptism in Britain. In addition to David Cameron’s xenophobic speech, there is increasing pressure from Conservative backbenchers to find ways to deter Romanians and Bulgarians from moving to Britain.

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Look at the early signs: demands for protectionism; “British jobs for British workers”; blatant xenophobia; the scapegoating of capitalists; nationalisation; the surge in state spending; the contempt for parliamentarians. Is Britain really immune from fascism?

To get the issue into perspective, the BNP have been around for a long time, yet have never managed to make a serious breakthrough. Intolerant views towards immigrants and ethnic minorities is clearly an issue in Britain, but the UKIP votes are more likely to be protest votes during a time of increasing dissatisfaction with the coalition government. With such a loss of public confidence in parliament, growing nationalism and alarm at terrorism, this is a time when one might have expected votes to flow to the BNP. History has revealed that a loss of confidence in parliamentary institutions is characteristic of a time that fascists have come to power, and whilst the election of two BNP MEPs is a very depressing development, the BNP are not doing especially well. Whilst the UKIP are currently ahead of the Liberal Democrats in ComRes Polls, and came 2nd in the Eastleigh By-election, recent opinion polls place Labour in the lead.

We should also be concerned about what is occurring across Europe, where Right-wing populism is on the rise – The Eurozone crisis has seen emergence of the neo-nazi movement, Greece’s Golden Dawn; neo-fascists in France and Hungary making electoral gains; the continued success of anti-Muslim parties in Holland and Belgium; “nativist” movements such as Finland’s True Finns, not to mention the conspiracy theories cited by the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik.

Societies that preside over massive inequalities of wealth, but also promises its people democracy, equality and freedom, are breeding grounds for resentment. Wherever such resentments exist, the Far Right will try to exploit them to gain political support. Today the Far Right use Islamophobia and the hatred of migrants, because it already exists in our society, just as the Nazis played upon antisemitism, because it already existed in German society.

However, the fascism of the 1920s and 30s was a revolutionary movement asserting a violent imperialism and promising a new social order. By contrast, today’s Far-Right parties are solely based on fear of immigration, fear of aliens, fear of being Europeanised. They have no real political agenda, no vision of a new social order, nor can they legally campaign for the replacement of a democratic government by an authoritarian regime. The fear and hatred they incite, may lead to public furore, but I do not believe it will play a part in politics to the extent that we will see a Far-Right party elected into the British Government any time soon.

Nevertheless, we should still remain cautious. Presenting the Human Rights Convention to the Assembly in 1949, Schuman’s colleague, French lawyer, Pierre-Henri Teitgen, said:

An honest man does not become a gangster in 24 hours. Infection takes time. In thought and in conscience, he has to let himself be drawn into temptation. He gets used to the fault before he commits it. He descends the stairwell step by step. One day, he finds evil has beaten him and he has lost all scruples. Democracies do not become Nazi countries overnight. Evil progresses in an underhand way, with a minority operating to seize what amounts to the levers of power. One by one, freedoms are suppressed, in one sphere then another. Public opinion is smothered, the worldwide conscience is dulled and the national conscience asphyxiated. And then, when everything fits in place, the Führer is installed and this evolution continues right on to the deadly gas ovens of the crematorium.’

 

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If you really do love Britain, stop the fascists, the racists, the xenophobes, and the homophobes, etc.

Anti-Fascism merchandise is available to buy here

A Happy Hypocritical Easter To Christians And Atheists!

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Easter is a tradition celebrated across the world, which Christians believe to be in honour of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, on the third day after his crucifixion at Calvary.

Secularists and atheists, such as myself, instead celebrate the spring equinox, taking advantage of the fantastic range of delicious chocolate eggs and cakes, that modern day Easter commercialism presents so wonderfully to us.

 “Hypocrisy”, some may cry. However, the Christians amongst you may be surprised to learn that Easter, is in fact, a Pagan festival, and is not really about Jesus at all. Has it never struck Christians as being somewhat odd, that rabbits and chocolate eggs are associated with Christ’s Resurrection?

It would appear that the bible has caused Christians some confusion with the following passage from Act 12:3: ‘This was during the days of Unleavened Bread’, which is where The New Testament Church observes the feast days described in Leviticus 23. Acts 12:4 states: “And when he [Herrod] had seized him [Peter], he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people.” Some translations of the bible, such as this 21st Century King James edition, have translated the word ‘Passover’ to ‘Easter’.

However, the mistranslation of the word Easter has come from the Greek word ‘pascha’ – derived from the Hebrew word pesach. As there is no original Greek word for Passover, for this reason, a Hebrew word is used in the Greek New Testament. The word has only one meaning: Passover (Account found at Exodus 12). It does not mean Easter.  Thus, the verse does not endorse Easter, and is instead an indication that the Christian Church observed the Jewish Passover ten years after the supposed death of Christ. More importantly, there is no other mention of the word Easter anywhere else in the bible. There are no verses anywhere in the Bible, that authorize or endorse the keeping of Easter celebration. The Bible also makes no mention of Lent, eggs, egg hunts, Easter bunnies, etc. It does, however, mention hot cross buns and sunrise services as abominations, which God condemns.

It would appear that the mistranslation of Acts 12:4 may have been an attempt to insert a Pagan festival into biblical scripture for the purpose of authorising it as a Christian tradition. Verse 14 goes on to state that the Passover ceremony was commanded by God to be an annual memorial feast to be kept by Israel “forever.” This command is repeated in Leviticus 23:5. Exodus 12:15 introduces the seven-day festival called the Days of Unleavened Bread (also repeated in Leviticus 23:6-8), which was to immediately follow the Passover feast each year. This is why Acts 12:3 states, “This was during the days of unleavened bread,” before mentioning the Passover in the next verse.

Despite the biblical command listed in Leviticus 23, that Passover should still be kept by Christians today (Acts 2:1; 12:3; 18:21; 20:6; I Cor. 5:7-8; 16:8), how ironic that almost no Christian who professes to worship Jesus Christ, observes the Passover as commanded.

Thus, as there is no specific instruction to observe Easter in the Bible (although the permanent command to observe Passover, is), from where did Easter originate?

Origins

Easter has most likely originated from before the Hebrew feast of Passover. The earliest reference to a similar holiday comes from Babylon, 2400 BCE. Ancient Babylonians would mark the beginning of Spring with a gala celebration honoring the resurrection of the god, Tammuz, who was killed by a wild boar. Tammuz was returned to life by his mother/wife, Ishtar with her tears. Ishtar was actually pronounced “Easter”.

Celebrating the beginning of spring may be among the oldest holidays in human culture; a tradition that would occur every year during the spring equinox . Biologically and culturally, it represents for northern climates the end of a “dead” (winter) season and the rebirth of life (spring), as well as the importance of fertility and reproduction.

The city of Ur also had a celebration dedicated to the moon and the spring equinox, which was held during our months of March or April. On the spring equinox, Zoroastrians continue to celebrate “No Ruz,” the new day or New Year. This date is commemorated by the last remaining Zoroastrians, and probably constitutes the oldest celebration in the history of the world.

Exchange of eggs is an ancient custom, celebrated by many cultures. Hot cross buns are also very ancient, and the Old Testament mentions Israelites baking sweet buns for an idol, and religious leaders trying to put a stop to it. The early church clergy also tried to put a stop to sacred cakes being baked at Easter. In the end, in the face of defiant cake-baking Pagan women, they gave up and blessed the cake instead. Jeremiah 7:18: ‘The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead dough to make sacrificial cakes for the queen of heaven. And to offend me all the more, they pour out drink offerings to foreign gods.’

It is interesting that Christians seem to have adopted all the fun things about Easter from Paganism, including the tradition of Easter Bunnies, which are a leftover from the pagan festival of Eostre, a great northern goddess whose symbol was a rabbit or hare.

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Spring festivals honouring Eostre, the great mother goddess of the Saxons, were also held hundreds of years before the documented birth of Christ. The name Eostre was fashioned after the ancient word for spring, Eastre. The goddess Ostara was the Norse equivalent whose symbols were the hare and the egg, which began the modern tradition of celebrating Easter with eggs and bunnies. Several goddesses were associated with the practice:

  • Aphrodite from ancient Cyprus
  • Ashtoreth from ancient Israel
  • Astarte from ancient Greece
  • Demeter from Mycenae
  • Hathor from ancient Egypt
  • Ishtar from Assyria
  • Kali, from India
  • Ostara a Norse Goddess of fertilityphoto(6)

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    Goddess Ishtar

In the Mediterranean region, there was a pre-Christian spring celebration centered around the vernal equinox that honoured Cybele, the Phrygian goddess of fertility. Cybele’s consort, Attis, was considered born of a virgin and was believed to have died and been resurrected three days later. Attis derived his mythology from even earlier gods, Osiris, Dionysus, and Orpheus, who also were supposed to have been born of a virgin and suffered death and resurrection as long as 500 years before Christ was born. The death of Attis was commemorated on a Friday and the resurrection was celebrated three days later on Sunday. (Does this story not sound familiar…?)

It would thus appear that the name of Easter and the traditions surrounding it are deeply rooted in Pagan religion.

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A Pagan march through the streets…

Other “borrowed” Easter traditions, that are Pagan in origin, include Easter lilies being revered by the ancients as symbols of fertility and representative of the male genitalia, whilst the ancient Babylonian religions had rituals involving dyed eggs, as did the ancient Egyptians. Note that the origin of the Easter egg is based on the fertility lore of the Indo-European races, with the egg being a symbol of spring. Conversely, in Christian times, the egg became a symbol of religious interpretation, which symbolised the rock tomb out of which Christ emerged to the new life of his resurrection. Thus, another example of a pagan custom being “Christianised”, to deceive—as well as making Christians feel better about why they are following a custom that is not in the Bible.

Ironically, Christians seem to believe the sunrise services (yet another ancient pagan practice, which welcomes the sun on the morning of the spring equinox) is a “beautiful”, “moving”, and “religious” tradition. Yet, the Bible at Ezek. 8:13-18 states something very different: ‘There, at the entrance to the Lord’s temple, between the porch and the altar, were twenty-five men facing toward the east with their backs to the Lord’s temple. They were bowing to the sun in the east… Isn’t it enough that the house of Judah has observed here all these detestable things? They have filled the land with violence, and they continue to provoke my fury. Look at them! They even put the branch to their noses!  I will certainly respond with wrath. I won’t spare or pity anyone. Even though they call out loudly to me in my hearing, I won’t listen to them.’

Thus, observing sunrise services is so serious, Ezek. 9 documents that God would ultimately destroy all who persisted in it.

Nice.

Deuteronomy 12:28-32 also confirms that Christians should never mix Pagan traditions with God’s commands. The Passover was commanded; not Easter.

Christians: Do bear in mind the following as quoted from Matt. 15:6-7:So you do away with God’s Law for the sake of the rules that have been handed down to you. Hypocrites!…’

Therefore, if Christians continuously choose to disregard the wishes of their beloved God, year after year, then why should atheists, such as myself, feel “left out” of the loop? Atheists also enjoy celebrating what has now become a commercialised festival, and the opportunity to devour a substantial amount of chocolate. Surely, that can only be good for the economy…? Mass public spending within the food industry, subsequently followed by mass public spending in the diet and pharmaceutical industries…

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Happy Easter, everyone!

Public Ignorance of the EU and Human Rights

Britain's PM Cameron addresses a news conference after an EU heads of state summit in Brussels

Prime Minister, David Cameron (Image: The Commentator)

The future of Britain’s role in the European Union has made some unsettling headline news over the past few months, with Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge of an in/out referendum on EU membership – but, only if the Conservative Party wins the 2015 General Election.

The speech came following a ComRes survey that revealed the anti-EU, UK Independence Party (Ukip) achieved its highest-ever rating at the expense of the Conservative Party. This helped Labour to extend its lead, placing Labour at 41 per cent, and the Tories at 31 per cent. If repeated at a general election, such figures would give Labour an overall majority of 110, with the Tories losing 99 seats, and the 36 out of 57 Lib Dem MPs defeated.

Interestingly, in the wake of the Conservative Party’s drubbing in the Eastleigh by-election, after being out-beaten by the UK Independence party, Senior Tory cabinet ministers have this week raised the prospect of pulling Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights – again mentioning, only if the party obtains an overall majority in the 2015 General Election. Meanwhile, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling says that the Conservatives will repeal the Human Rights Act, which enshrines the ECHR in domestic law. Theresa May, the home secretary, has reportedly been working on the plans for the Tories’ next manifesto.

The recent news is all the more depressing when one considers that the Opinium/Observer survey found that 56% of Britons would probably, or definitely, vote for the UK to leave the EU if they were offered the choice in a referendum.

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Anti-EU protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London (Image reproduced from The Guardian)

It is, therefore, clear that such calls by the Tories are merely gesture politics, in an attempt to regain popularity. It is also clear that because the Tories have lost a by-election, they now feel the need to play to the audience. It does not make any sense for Britain to leave the EU, or for the Human Rights Act to be repealed, nor for the UK withdraw from Strasbourg. However, if a referendum really is held, it places Britain in a very dangerous position, given the position that so many Britons feel such distain towards the EU. Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, is on a similar wavelength of thought to myself. Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Miliband stated:

“I think it is incredibly dangerous what David Cameron is doing. He is essentially sleepwalking us towards the exit door from the EU.”

“The last thing we should do is start to say for some date five, six, seven years hence, let’s decide now to have an in/out referendum. As Michael Heseltine said very well yesterday, that means you are having a referendum on a negotiation that has not yet begun, with a timescale that is uncertain and an outcome that is unknown. That is an incredible gamble. We know why this is happening. He is worried about the threat from Ukip and he is worried about what is happening in his own party. It is the wrong thing to do.”

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Ed Miliband, Leader of The Labour Party (Image: The Telegraph)

There is perhaps a strong possibility that the EU debate is merely a sideshow, distracting from the real problems of the Eurozone, the UK economy and manufacturing – especially when there are fears of the UK facing a triple dip recession, not to mention losing its prestigious AAA rating.

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(Image: mydavidcameron.com)

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“Trust in me…” (Image: Top News)

Another depressing issue, is the fact so many British people seem to confuse the European Union with the European Convention of Human Rights, and the Human Rights Act with the European Convention. It is now over twelve years since the Act took effect, but uninformed and misleading statements are still made about the EU, and human rights law, by those who should know better, and circulated by those who could not care less.

When debating topics based on the European Union, some of the comments I receive on Twitter never fail to amaze me with regards general level of misunderstanding and ignorance as to what the functions of the EU actually are.

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Contrary to what the lady in the above tweet (and many others) seem to believe, leaving the European Union will not stop the courts preventing the removal of foreign criminals, and neither will it do anything to improve our national security, which I will explain.

In one sense, one cannot blame peoples’ ignorance when they believe they are “informed”, after reading absurdly incorrect news articles that are all too regularly sensationalised in a number of tabloid newspapers. A few weeks ago, I came across this shining example of Eurosceptical ignorance on Twitter, when someone posted a link to this article published in ‘The Sun’: Youngsters at risk after EU ruling. According to yet another scare-mongering tale, The Sun claims that theEU could let fiends like him prey on your children.”

To set the record straight, the story concocted in the mentioned Sun article, came from a judgement that was actually given by the Court of Appeal – an English and Welsh court, based in the Royal Courts of Justice in London. It is not an EU court, and the EU had absolutely nothing to do with this particular judgment which was regarding Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) checks and the incorporated rights of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The judgement given by the Court of Appeal can be found here, and anyone who takes the time to read it will observe how the judgement is in no way related to the story in The Sun.

The Mail on Sunday has also provided excellent evidence of misinformation with their story purporting, “New outrage as Taliban suspect told he can stay”, which begins “In a new human rights case to cause anger”. The case is not even about a human rights at all, but is actually about the EU Refugee Qualification Directive. The case report can be found here. Please feel free to read it and see if it bares any resemblance to the story. Incidentally, if we were to expunge all traces of the European Convention on Human Rights from our law, that Directive would still apply.

However, for those without a legal or political background, stories such as that published in The Sun and the Mail on Sunday, can seriously misinform, and unnecessarily scare a significant number of people. It is unfortunate that the tabloids appear to get rather confused when ranting about their hatred of the Human Rights Act and their hatred of the EU. After all, it can all get quite complicated, and with such feelings of outrage, who cares about the difference between the European Union, Council of Europe, European Court of Human Rights, the European Court of Justice, the Euro… They’re all the same – right?

Wrong.

For those who are confused between the European Convention of Human Rights, such as the person in the above Tweet appeared to be, the EU has nothing to do with the European Convention of Human Rights, just as the EU and ECHR have nothing to do with the Court of Appeal. The EU is not a party to the Convention, and has no role in the administration of the court of human rights.

The European Convention of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, is administered by the Council of Europe (‘CoE’), an organisation set up in 1949 by the Treaty of London, for which the UK was one of the first ten states to sign up. Ironically, it was Winston Churchill – proudly named the greatest Briton by The Sun, and held in such high regard by the British Nation – who called for a ‘Council of Europe’ six years earlier in 1943.

Although signing up to the European Convention on Human Rights is a condition of EU membership, they are distinct institutions. The EU, by contrast, is an economic and political union of 27 states, and its development was separate from the CoE.

Despite so much British outrage regarding the subject of the European Convention on Human Rights in its most recent years, the European Convention on Human Rights was actually formed by the CoE all the way back in 1950, and entered into force in 1953. It is, in fact, an international treaty that is aimed at protecting human rights. Ironically, it was drafted in the most part by David Maxwell Fyfe, a British Conservative MP, lawyer, and prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials. Furthermore, it was based on many of the UK’s common law rights. 47 states are now party to the Convention, and have all agreed to abide by rulings of the Strasbourg court. In a further twist of irony, consider that it was former Conservative Prime Minister, John Major, who signed the Maastrict Treaty in 1992, thus forming the European Union; David Maxwell Fyfe, a Conservative MP who oversaw most of the drafting of the ECHR; and it was Winston Churchill – yet another Conservative, who called for a Council of Europe. Yet, it is also the modern day Conservatives who now claim to be so skeptical of Britain’s role in the European Union and European Court of Human Rights.

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David Cameron in a Winston Churchill style meme (reproduced from The Sun)

However, it was the Labour enacted Human Rights Act, 1998, which brought much of the European Convention on Human Rights (which was based on many UK common law rights – as mentioned above) into domestic British law. This ensures that all UK courts are able to apply human rights law directly, which means that the vast majority of human rights judgments affecting British law, are actually produced by local UK judges. Thus, the Human Rights Act is an instrument which should be commended by those who want the UK courts to decide things instead of Strasbourg. The Act’s existence has made it rare for applicants to require a hearing at the European Court of Human Rights, and the case law developed by UK judges in UK courts since 2000 means that Strasbourg jurisprudence has become less relevant ever since. The Human Rights Acts also provides that UK judges cannot disapply primary legislation on human rights grounds, and so the supremacy of parliament is maintained – which goes against the tabloid propaganda that the UK has given away its legislative powers to Europe.

Since 2000, human rights have become part of the mainstream in litigation. I do find it incredibly ironic that Newspapers have sought to rely on Article 10 – Right to free expression under the ECHR (para 33 and 36 here), yet are so quick to loathe the very institution that gives them to freedom to publish such sensationalised misinformation.

From the amount of coverage and political argument the court generates, many may be mislead into believing that it rules against the UK hundreds of times per year. However, the statistics may surprise you: Only around ten judgements a year come from Strasbourg. In 2012 there were 3,308 applications made by individuals to the Court involving the UK, with only 21 were declared “admissible” by the Court. The 21 UK cases amounted around 2% of the total substantively considered by the Court (1,093), with the Court finding an actual violation in only ten UK cases. A similar number of applications were brought before the Court in 2011, suggesting that around 99% of applications from the UK are being dismissed in the very early stages.

Context is everything!

This is also one reason why leaving Strasbourg will not stop the courts preventing the removal of foreign criminals. As you can see from this full list on page 16 of this Ministry of Justice document, only a small number include cases on foreign criminals, extradition, or immigration.

In fact, the vast majority of such cases are decided by UK domestic courts, and none of the cases mentioned in previous Mail on Sunday’s headlines about courts stopping removals, is a European Court of Human Rights case. All relate to decisions by UK courts, as the Human Rights Act 1998 gave local UK courts the power to enforce most of the rights outlined by the European Convention on Human Rights. This prevents our human rights law being forged exclusively in Strasbourg, and UK judges are largely deciding UK human rights issues. Therefore, even if the UK withdrew from Strasbourg, the UK courts would still continue to apply human rights law, taking account the European Convention of Human Rights, as they are obliged to do by section 2 of the Human Rights Act.

Should the Conservatives also repeal the Human Rights Act, which has been suggested on many occasions, it would be replaced by a of Bill of Rights, which is likely to be similar to the ECHR – with a few British tweaks. Although the provisions of the European Convention are already enshrined in British law through the Human Rights Act, under Theresa May’s proposals, the final right of appeal would be to the British Supreme Court – not Strasbourg. That would mean a British citizen would no longer have the right to appeal a Supreme Court decision. Is that what Britons really want?

It must also be mentioned that the European Convention on Human Rights is just one of a number of international conventions that prevent the UK in deporting people back to their home countries, where they may face a real risk of torture, or from committing acts that may disproportionately affect children, such as ritual practices that harm children, paedophilia, and murder. Withdrawing from the European Convention would do little or nothing to change the UK’s human rights obligations – and nor would we want it to. I doubt the readers of The Daily Express, The Daily Mail, and The Sun, et al., would genuinely wish to withdraw from conventions that outlaw torture or protect children, if they were better informed.

If the UK were to leave the Strasbourg court, and the Supreme Court had the final say on human rights, British judges have occasionally suggested that a court might decide to disapply or invalidate a statute in exceptional circumstances. The 25-year old Court of Appeal judgment, (1) Nadarajah Vilvarajah, (2) Vaithialingham Skandarajah v Secretary of State For the Home Department 1990 which preceded the Human Rights Act, reveals that judges are not aways so obedient to the Government when it comes to interpreting basic rights – As Conor Gearty observes, ‘some judges might even be emboldened to strike down acts of parliament for breach of human rights, something that the current legislation specifically prohibits and so would be easier with the Human Rights Act off the scene.’ Likewise, I would imagine this would also be particularly so, if judges were aware that the safety net of an individual’s right to petition to the Strasbourg court, had been removed. The case of Nadarajah Vilvarajah and Vaithialingham Skandarajahin also reveals that Home Secretaries have felt unduly constrained by international agreements long before the Human Rights Act. Furthermore, Lord Hope stated in R (Jackson) v Attorney General, that the principle of parliamentary sovereignty ‘is no longer, if it ever was, absolute … It is no longer right to say that its freedom to legislate admits of no qualification whatever.’ Judges are supplied with a range of remedial powers that can address legislative actions that result in a violatation of rights, without the need to turn to the common law. Political posturing over immigration and asylum law long predated the Human Rights Act, and the law was as good then as it is now.

Nevertheless, reliance upon the principals of a judge does not mean we should let Home Secretaries, such as Theresa May and her ridiculous outbursts concerning the “evils” of human rights, dictate which agreement we remain party to.

Home Secretary Theresa May Recalled To Parliament To Answer Questions About The Deportation Of Abu Qatada

Home Secretary, Theresa May

The case of Ullah has also revealed that UK courts do “no more” than Strasbourg “but certainly no less“. Judges take the view that if there is a principle arising from a consistent line of cases in the Strasbourg court that does not conflict with British law, they will follow it. Therefore, the ECHR is not as ridiculous as the tabloids, and even some politicians, would have us believe. It also completely discredits the ridiculous anti-European propaganda on this website.

Further to the principle laid out by Ullah dictum, in the more recent Supreme Court judgment, Rabone v Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust [2012], Lord Brown examined the extent of the UK courts’ duty to follow decisions from the Strasbourg court, and their ability to go beyond such decisions. It was decided that UK courts need not always adhere to decisions of the Strasbourg court. Where a UK court is reluctant to agree with a decision by the Strasbourg court, it is permissible to reach a different conclusion from that reached at Strasbourg, but must ensure that Convention rights are not of a lower standard than those at Strasbourg. It has also been the case that the House of Lords has not followed clear decisions of the Strasbourg court when a decision can be distinguished without it, as was the case in Animal Defenders International v Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport, [2006]. It is also the case that the UK courts need not follow a decision of the Strasbourg court when not taken by the Grand Chamber, as decided by the Supreme Court decision of R v Horncastle [2009]. (However, the UK court must follow an authoritative decision of the Grand Chamber.)Arguably, Lord Brown provides the courts with greater powers than those already recognised by the Supreme Court. In Horncastle, the Supreme Court decided not to follow a decision of the fourth section of the Strasbourg court which was on appeal to the Grand Chamber; in part, due to the concern that the decision had failed to take sufficient account of English common law. Yet, a court may decide that a Convention right applies beyond the current range of decisions found in the Strasbourg court, and UK courts may also go beyond the definition of Convention rights found in decisions of the Strasbourg court, as was the case in In Re G (Adoption: unmarried couple). Where there is no consistent case law from Strasbourg, it is still open to the UK courts to develop the common law to protect human rights – note that this is a development of the common law and not a definition of Convention rights.

The case of Ambrose v Harris (Procurator Fiscal, Oban)(Scotland) [2011] confirmed previous practices of the House of Lords, and Lord Kerr noted that Ambrose, appears to provide a stronger criticism of the Ullah dictum. The case recognised that domestic courts should have the power to define Convention rights when there was no clear decision from Strasbourg, thus suggesting not only that it should be a power of the court, but a duty. Whilst, interestingly, the case of Re P [2007], revealed that the October 2000 Law Commission report “Damages Under The Human Rights Act 1998″, proved to be more helpful in the court’s decision reasoning, than any particular determination laid out in law from Strasbourg. (Thank you to the anonymous person on Reddit, who so kindly drew my attention to the two latter cases mentioned.)

Therefore, withdrawing from the ECHR and abolishing the Human Rights Act, would appear to make little difference. Nevertheless, leaving Strasbourg could still, arguably, leave individuals in the UK in a weaker position against the state, if their rights are breached. The UK, along with Belarus – a country with questionable human rights – would be the only two European countries to not be a part of the ECHR.

Devolution also casts a long shadow over this debate. The fact is that the constitutional landscape of the UK has altered radically since the Conservatives last won a general election in 1992. As the Bill of Rights Commission discovered, the London Parliament’s options may be limited whilst issues surrounding Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales remain unresolved. Devolution makes the repeal of the Human Rights Act far less straightforward. A major issue is that both the Scottish and Northern Irish devolution settlements were intended to have the ECHR woven into their constitutional fabric from the outset. Thus, withdrawal from the ECHR could prove problematic to say the least.

The key question is whether withdrawing from the European Court of Human Rights will solve the problems that the Conservative party – particularly the tabloids – have identified. The answer is ‘no’. However, given the unjustified British fear of European influence, an obsession with the expulsion of foreigners, and the rise of UKIP, the electorate are more than likely to disregard common sense.

Thus, I will ask the people of Britain this question: With regards Convention rights, which of our rights do we really wish to discard? The late Lord Bingham once stated:

“The rights protected by the Convention and the Act deserve to be protected because they are, as I would suggest, the basic and fundamental rights which everyone in this country ought to enjoy simply by virtue of their existence as a human being.

Let me briefly remind you of the protected rights, some of which I have already mentioned.

The right to life.

The right not to be tortured or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The right not to be enslaved.

The right to liberty and security of the person.

The right to a fair trial.

The right not to be retrospectively penalised.

The right to respect for private and family life.

Freedom of thought,conscience and religion. Freedom of expression.

Freedom of assembly and association.

The right to marry.

The right not to be discriminated against in the enjoyment of those rights.

The right not to have our property taken away except in the public interest and with compensation.

The right of fair access to the country’s educational system.

The right to free elections.

Which of these rights, I ask, would we wish to discard? Are any of them trivial, superfluous, unnecessary? Are any them un-British?

There may be those who would like to live in a country where these rights are not protected, but I am not of their number.

Human rights are not, however, protected for the likes of people like me – or most of you. They are protected for the benefit above all of society’s outcasts, those who need legal protection because they have no other voice – the prisoners, the mentally ill, the gipsies, the homosexuals, the immigrants, the asylum-seekers, those who are at any time the subject of public obloquy.”

I think Lord Bingham hits the nail most pertinently on the head.

As for leaving the European Union, that is a different matter altogether.

There is much uncertainty on that matter, and the truth is that there really are more questions than answers at this stage, and many of the arguments for/against are purely speculative at the moment. If the UK were to withdraw from the EU, what would happen to foreign direct investment? How much of the regulatory burden currently imposed would we maintain if free to reverse it? How would the gross contributions be used if made available to the UK government? Would there be a mutually beneficial free trade agreement, or would the political fall-out from an exit lead to irrational protectionism? As Iain Begg at the London School of Economics stated to Channel 4: “If Mr Cameron said to the EU: ‘I’m taking my ball home, I’m not playing with you any more’, there would be some kind of revenge. That is what we would do if it were the other way round.”

What is desperately needed before any conclusions can be drawn, is a full blown cost-benefit analysis conducted by the UK government, using relevant counterfactual scenarios. It is somewhat surprising that the UK government has never commissioned a cost-benefit analysis of the UK’s continued membership. Might this be yet another indication that the Government is not really intending to withdraw from the European Union, but is merely playing the electorate?

Memo to the editors and publishers of The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, Telegraph: Inform your readers; do not confuse them further.

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The Daily Mail comes up with yet another story of David Cameron relying on the ignorance of the population to give the appearance of taking a tough line on ‘Europe’.

The Hypocrisy of Saint David’s Day (Rhagrith Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant)

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Atheist author, Professor Richard Dawkins, recently congratulated the people of Wales after the 2011 census revealed that nearly a third of people living in Wales follow no religion, stating that people in Wales were ‘ahead of the rest of the UK’.

Statistics from the latest UK Census 2011, released on 11th December 2012, revealed that 32% of people in Wales consider themselves non-religious, against an overall UK figure of 25%.

The census found that 1.5% of the Welsh population were Muslims, 0.3% were Hindus or Buddhists, Sikh or Jewish took up 0.1%, and 0.4% stated other faiths. Prof. Dawkins reportedly dismissed the figures for people saying they were a Jedi Knight, or that heavy metal music was their religion.

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Yeah… My religion is METAL, man!

Yet, despite these figures, I do sometimes marvel at the hypocrisy of the entire nation lavishly celebrating Saint David’s Day – a day which has its roots in Catholicism. It is all the more ironic when one considers that Wales has been a predominantly Protestant country since the Welsh Bible was published in 1588, following the Protestant Reformation; not to mention the above mentioned Census figures. Nevertheless, it did not prevent cross-party political support, when the National Assembly for Wales voted unanimously to make Saint David’s Day a Welsh public holiday in 2000, along with 87% of Welsh people supporting the call (which was ultimately rejected by former Prime Minister, Tony Blair in 2007).

My Facebook newsfeed, as predicted, is literally plastered with photos of my former school friends’ children, dressed up in rather ridiculous traditional Welsh (peasant) costumes; photos of peoples’ homemade Welshcakes; status updates exclaiming that people were making Cawl (A Welsh stew containing lamb and leeks which is traditionally consumed on St. David’s Day); ghastly gif and jpeg banners that read ‘Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant Hapus’ (Happy St. David’s Day); all of which gives some insight into the feigned optimism that seems to span across the nation for one day every 1st March, disguising the chilling reality that depression and suicide is reportedly on the increase in Wales.

St. David’s Day is invariably celebrated in Wales, and by Welsh societies, throughout the world with dinners, parties, and Eisteddfodau (recitals and concerts). Parades take place, with food festivals, and street parties in bigger cities. Most schools traditionally have an unofficial day off, by participating in all-day school Eisteddfodau, with the main activities being recitation, singing, and traditional Welsh folk dancing. The main search page on Google.co.uk features a special St. David’s Day “Google Doodle” to commemorate the day, and despite the fact that Saint David abstained from drinking and advised others to do the same, a number of Welsh breweries make special St. David’s Day ales. British pub, J.D.Wetherspoon even run a St. David’s Day Ale Festival. Even more bizarre, is that Disney’s Mickey and Minnie adopt a Welsh identity for the Disneyland Paris St David’s Day Festival!

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A Saint David’s Day Street Parade (Copyright: Andrew Hazard)

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The Archdruid withdraws a sword from its sheath three times at a Welsh Eisteddfod

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The Saint David’s Day “doodle” featured on Google’s search engine page.

Do not get me wrong. I love Wales, and I am inherently proud of my Welsh-Irish heritage (Predominantly Welsh!). Wales is a beautiful country, with a rich cultural heritage – it is famously known for being the “Land of Song”, in addition to being famous for its stunning natural scenery and coastline, and its world famous rugby team. In fact, Rhossili Bay in South Wales, has been ranked 3rd Best Beach in Europe, and the Welsh always give visitors a warm welcome… If you’re not an English person visiting during rugby season! I must admit, that my ancestral roots also give me an excuse to join in with the atheist hypocrisy of celebrating a Saint, as I use the day as an excuse to make, and gastronomically demolish, a substantial number of homemade (vegan) Welshcakes.

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Rhossili Bay, Gower, Wales

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A Welsh lady with a plate of Welshcakes… The girl behind isn’t looking so impressed.

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The Harp is the traditional instrument of Wales

The biggest hypocrisy of all, is that few people in Wales actually seem to know who St. David actually was, or that the day has its roots in religion. For those of you who are wondering who is this St. David chap is, and why everyone now seems to fanatically celebrate annually on 1st March, I shall explain.

Dewi Sant, or St David, is the patron saint of Wales. According to the Museum of Wales, what little is known about him is based on a Latin manuscript written by Rhigyfarch, towards the end of the 11th century.

Rhigyfarch accounts that Dewi died in the year 589. He was a scion of the royal house of Ceredigion, and founded a Celtic monastic community at Glyn Rhosyn (St. Davids) on the western headland of Pembrokeshire, at the spot where St David’s Cathedral stands today. From the 12th century onwards, Dewi’s fame spread throughout South Wales, Ireland, Brittany, and the West of England, where it is believed he founded religious centres such as Glastonbury and Croyland. He continued with a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he was made archbishop. St David’s Cathedral became a popular centre of pilgrimage, particularly after Dewi was officially recognised as a Catholic saint in 1120. From this period on, he was frequently referred to in the work of medieval Welsh poets such as Iolo Goch and Lewys Glyn Cothi.

According to Rhigyfarch, many ‘miracles’ have been attributed to Dewi, the most “incredible” of which, was when he caused the ground to rise underneath him, so that he could be seen and heard by all when he was preaching at the Synod of Llanddewibrefi. Now before the Christians amongst you get excited by the story of a rising floor, consider the irony that Rhigyfarch was the son of the Bishop of St David’s. It is, therefore, believed that the account was written as propaganda to establish Dewi’s superiority, and thus defend the bishopric from being taken over by Canterbury and the Normans.

In 1398, it was decided that Dewi’s feast-day was to be held by every church in the Province of Canterbury, and Saint David was recognised as a national patron saint at the height of Welsh resistance to the Normans. Although the feast of Dewi as a religious festival came to an end with the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, St. David’s Day was celebrated by Welsh diaspora from the late Middle Ages., and became a national festival during the 18th century.

Interestingly, however, the 17th-century diarist Samuel Pepys noted how the Welsh St. David’s Day celebrations in London would spark wider counter celebrations amongst their English neighbours. Life-sized effigies of Welshmen were reported to have been symbolically lynched; and according to Jacqueline Simpson and Steve Roud in the Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore, the custom had arisen in the 18th century of confectioners producing “taffies”, which were gingerbread figures baked in the shape of a Welshman riding a goat— on Saint David’s Day. This perhaps gives us some further insight into the rivalry between the Welsh and English, which unfortunately, still exists to a lesser extent today.

Previous resistance to England can be seen in the poem Armes Prydain, composed in the early to mid-tenth century AD, in which an anonymous author prophesies that the Welsh people will unite and join an alliance of fellow-Celts to repel the Anglo-Saxons, under the banner of Saint David: A lluman glân Dewi a ddyrchafant (And they will raise the pure banner of Dewi).

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Facsimile of a page from the Book of Taliesin (folio 13 recto), showing the last lines of the poem Cad Goddeu and the beginning of the poem Mabgyfreu Taliesin (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Now, I must facetiously bid my English readers, “twll dîn pob sais”, as I hypocritically devour my Welshcakes – cakes which were once traditionally baked on a cast iron griddle for hungry Welsh Coal Miners (along with a staple diet of Cawl, and a type of meatball called Faggots). The Welsh peoples’ love of Welshcakes is something neither the English (or the rest of the world) will ever quite understand. I suppose one could describe it as the Welsh equivalent of the English’s penchant for scones with jam and cream.

Happy Saint David’s Day everyone! (Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant Hapus pawb!)

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And since I was once so cute, this is me in a traditional Welsh lady costume, aged 6.

Legalisation Of Cannabis And A Whole Pot Of Ignorance

Whilst in the process of writing a couple of other articles, a rather hostile debate broke out on Twitter, last night, on the controversial issue of legalising cannabis.

My personal views are somewhat mixed. Whilst I personally cannot abide the substance and would never care to even try it, that does not mean that I am against the legalisation of cannabis.

In fact, there are actually some very good reasons for legalisation, just as there are also some strong arguments against. Nevertheless, when pointing out the negatives last night, I received a number of responses from the ever-so-lovely fellow tweeters. Here are just a few examples:

As I dared to debate the potential problems that legalisation might present, I was subsequently blocked by TJ Kincaid @amazingatheist, for not sharing his views 100%. This was despite my stating that cannabis should be legalised, but felt that a very carefully drafted legislation, and tight regulation, should be construed.

There are certainly reasons for legalisation. For example, a study published in the UK medical journal, The Lancet, ranked cannabis as one of the least harmful drugs. Yet, many cannabis users are actually risking their health, and others via passive smoking, by consuming cannabis that is of uncontrolled and doubtful purity. For example, the ‘Talk To Frank’ website states that Cannabis may be ‘cut’ with other substances to increase the weight and the dealer’s profits, with laboratory-confirmed reports of impurities such as glass and pesticides being found in herbal forms of cannabis; and with hash/resin frequently being mixed with a range of substances to increase weight. The site also reports of a 2010 study on contaminants found in drugs, which reported that there were cases of cannabis being adulterated with henna, lead and aluminum. By legalising cannabis, regulatory measures can be taken to control the quality of the substance. Not to mention that with the substance currently being illegal, the Government receives no revenue, and criminals are making all the profits.

Furthermore, people who use cannabis for genuine medicinal purposes are criminalised and somewhat alienated for using it, and are prohibited from a beneficial medicine for a serious condition. No important long-term research can be conducted on the therapeutic uses of cannabis, because of its current illegality in Britain. As a result, police time is wasted, the courts are backlogged with multiple cases, whilst the prisons are overcrowded.

As for the benefits of the drug itself, the plant contains more than 400 chemicals, including cannabidiolic acid, an antibiotic with similar properties to penicillin. The different chemical derivatives of the plant can be used for medicinal or recreational purposes, and is reported to acts as a mild sedative, leaving most people feeling relaxed or sleepy. By contrast, it is also claimed to make some more animated, and is also reported to release inhibitions. Wide-scale trials testing the safety and efficacy of cannabis extracts (or synthetic forms of them) are currently underway, and so far there has been interest in the use of cannabinoids in nausea and vomiting, appetite, control of cancer symptoms, pain, anxiety and muscle spasticity. Cannabis appears to be able to help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy treatment, although not more so than other already established medications. Some cannabinoids have been reported to relieve nausea during cancer treatment, allowing patients to eat and live normally. There have also been reports of cannabinoids having a protective effect against cancer in mice.

Research has also shown that smoking cannabis from a pipe can significantly reduce chronic pain in patients with damaged nerves, a study suggests. Cannabis extracts also seem to benefit people suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS), by reducing muscle spasticity, thus increasing a person’s ability to stay independent.

However, one myth about cannabis is that it is safe, because it is natural. Despite the suggested benefits, a survey of 1,000 adults conducted by The British Lung Foundation, found that one third wrongly believed cannabis did not harm health, and 88% incorrectly thought tobacco cigarettes were more harmful than cannabis. The NHS news website highlights that many of the same cancer-causing compounds in cigarettes are also present in cannabis, and reports on one study suggestion that over the course of a year, smoking a single joint each day could result in the same level of lung damage as smoking 20 cigarettes per day over the same period.

Indeed, studies have found a significantly higher accident culpability risk of drivers using cannabis, and chronic inflammatory and precancerous changes demonstrated in the airways of cannabis smokers, and a case-control study showed an increased risk of airways cancer that is proportional to the amount of cannabis use.

Furthermore, a study conducted at University of Toronto, on the adverse effects of cannabis on health found a causal role of acute cannabis intoxication in motor vehicle and other accidents with the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in cannabis, in the blood of injured drivers in the absence of alcohol or other drugs.

Several different studies indicate a link between cannabis use and schizophrenia. The adverse effect of cannabis use on the clinical course of schizophrenia has been confirmed in a 3-year follow-up study of psychotic and non-psychotic subjects in the Netherlands. Those who were using cannabis at the start of the 3-year period were more likely to have some psychotic symptoms, and especially to have severe symptoms, at follow-up. Both this, and a second study, revealed that those who had psychotic symptoms at the start of the study showed a more severe adverse effect of cannabis use than those who were non-psychotic at the start. Studies reveal that cannabis can also cause serious relapse in people with schizophrenia.

Furthermore, a significant link between cannabis and depression has also been found in various cohort studies, with a large-scale case-control study in New Zealand found a significant link between heavy cannabis use and serious attempts at suicide. A Canadian study found in a representative sample of over 1800 Quebec adolescents, that over one third had used cannabis and other illicit drugs more than five times, and encountered a variety of interpersonal problems related to their drug use. Cannabis has been shown to cause feelings of anxiety, suspicion, panic, and paranoia.

Another study has linked cannabis to testicular cancer, whilst cannabis has also been found to cause cognitive decline. A growing body of evidence indicates subtle but apparently permanent effects on memory, information processing, and executive functions, in the offspring of women who used cannabis during pregnancy. In total, the evidence indicates that regular heavy use of cannabis carries significant risks for the individual user and for the health care system.

Whilst recognising that there are limitations to the current evidence, the Canadian Cancer Society believes there is enough research to suggest an increased risk of cancer associated with long-term smoking of marijuana and being exposed to second-hand marijuana smoke. They suggest that cannabis smoke contains as many as 50 of the same carcinogens as tobacco smoke, and also state that there is scientific evidence that smoking marijuana may be associated with increased abnormalities in some of the cells in the body, including precancerous changes in the lungs. Might it, thus, not be wise that more research be conducted to better understand the cancer risks associated with long-term recreational smoking of cannabis and of exposure to second-hand cannabis smoke (not to mention the added risks of third-hand smoke), before ultimately deciding to legalise it? There are also studies which contradict such health risks, and the question is, which “evidence” should we believe?

My personal experience is that even walking a few centimetres behind a person smoking cannabis outdoors is sufficient to give me symptoms 20 minutes later, such as nausea, alteration of taste, insomnia, and brain fog. This would certainly tie in with the findings of scientific research.

However, despite the scientific findings that suggest cannabis is a harmful drug, none of the cannabis research carried out over the past 50 years has been conclusive. Although tobacco also affects the lungs, the law does not criminalise those who smoke, and it is not illegal to smoke outside of an enclosed public area. However, taking the possible health risks into consideration, combined with the risks of passive smoking, there is all the more reason to tightly legislate where the drug can be smoked. As free individuals we, of course, should all have the autonomy to put whatever substances we wish into our own bodies. However, it is unfair to inflict our potentially risky lifestyle choices upon others, via passive smoking. There is also the issue of burden upon the health service, which in the UK, is already under strain from lack of funding, the burden of the British binge drinking culture, obesity adding to the number of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease cases, and from people generally living longer and presenting an array of old-age related illnesses. Furthermore, there is the possibility of serious consequences arising from mixing cannabis with alcohol, which reinforces the requirement that we need a very tight legislation if the drug were to be legalised

I appreciate that cigarettes, alcohol, and pollution from vehicles are all toxic and can potentially cause much harm, but to use that as an excuse to add to pollution and health risks, is a very weak argument, and does not reinforce why a person has the right to selfishly inflict their smoke upon others, who may be suffering from chronic chest complaints. UK legislation makes smoking in a public place an offence under Section 1 of The Health Act 2006. However, it does not apply to outdoors, which means smoke is often a problem for people walking behind someone on the High Street, or standing at a bus stop, or living in a flat next to a smoker, etc., which could also be a problem if cannabis were legalized. A wise legislative solution might be to enforce that users only smoke the drug within the confines of their own private detached house, or at a special designated “Marijuana Bar”, where it will not impact the health of others who do not wish to have second hand cannabis smoke inflicted upon them without their consent.

On the grounds of legalising cannabis for its health benefits, it would surely be more prudent to administer a cannabinoid based medicine derived from the cannabis sativa plant, such as that which came into use in the UK in 2010 for people with MS, rather than administering the recreational cannabis that causes euphoria. Less than 3% of those in trials for the derived drug said it changed their mood. As a botanical product, it is difficult to test for efficacy and safety of the natural product, as the proportions of active chemicals can range greatly from plant to plant.

What is particularly interesting is that pro-cannabis advocates all claim that cannabis has the ability to “calm” a person. Therefore, I question why cannabis users are so hostile and aggressive in their method of debate, if the drug has such a calming affect? Surely such aggressive language and manner, similar to that on Twitter, goes someway in reinforcing the studies that suggest the drug causes permanent psychological problems such as anxiety, perception, paranoia, and hostility – not to mention mental illnesses.

It is also interesting that the pro-cannabis advocates, including TJ Kincaid, failed to note that I was not saying that the cannabis should not be legalised, but was merely pointing out the issues legalisation could potentially cause. Consider the studies that suggest how the effects of cannabis can interfere with a person’s attention, judgement, and thinking, and perhaps this suggests the reason as to why.

Alas, such hostility in the pro-cannabis advocates’ method of debate, is surely not the way to convince government officials of the drugs supposed benefits. Conversely, it might even go some way into convincing officials that the studies suggesting the drug’s adverse effects on the brain are accurate after all.

No Shave November

According to Cancer Research UK, men are in general, at a significantly greater risk than women from nearly all of the common cancers that occur in both sexes, with the exception of breast cancer.

The joint report, The Excess Burden of Cancer in Men in the UK (2009), published by National Cancer Intelligence Network, Cancer Research UK, Leeds Metropolitan University and Men’s Health Forum 2009), reveals that when rate ratios were calculated by excluding breast cancer, and cancers which are unique to either men or women only, 60% more men in the 15–64 year age range are dying from cancers that should be affecting men and women equally. Thus, a greater effect seems to be predominately because the cancer deaths that occur in younger women are those related to the breast and genital organs (37.1% overall of cancer deaths in those aged 15–64; and around 50% in the 35–44 years age group). From the rate ratios of male to female deaths it is evident that there is a significantly higher rate of death for men over all ages. This ratio is lower in the 15–64 age range but rises substantially over the age of 65 years.

The mortality rate for lung cancer is substantially higher in men than women due to differing smoking patterns over the previous 60 years, despite there being more men who have reportedly given up smoking, relative to the number of females smokers. When rate ratios are calculated after excluding lung cancer to examine the influence on the burden of cancer in the two sexes after excluding the major cancer caused by smoking, then the ratio for all ages drops slightly to 1.31, with corresponding falls to 0.98 for 15-64 year olds and 1.51 for those aged 65 and over. This could suggest that younger males also have higher overall cancer mortality because of their excess rate of lung cancer.

There has also been a rapid increase in the incidence of prostate cancer, with rates rising from 32.5 per 100,000 in 1975 to 97.2 per 100,000 in 2006 in Great Britain. Although statistics by Cancer Research reveal that more women averagely die of breast cancer, than men of prostate cancer, there are fewer campaigns targeted at men and the importance of early detection. Prostate cancer mortality combined with the male mortality rates for common non-gender specific cancers, means that more awareness campaigns are necessary for male cancer.

It is interesting that despite September being Prostate Cancer month, blue ribbons and blue coloured merchandise did not engulf the country in any manner similar to the flurry of pink ribbons that emerged in the subsequent month of October. Perhaps it is no coincidence that November has now become a month for male cancer fundraising, with the “Movember” challenge.

“Movember”, a portmanteau of the word “mo” (from moustache) and “November”, is an event involving the growing of moustaches during the entire month of November, to raise awareness and raise funds for more effective detection, diagnosis, treatments, and to reduce the number of preventable deaths from male cancers. The Movember Foundation has run Movember events since 2004 in Australia and New Zealand, and since 2007 in Ireland, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain, the United Kingdom, Israel, South Africa, Taiwan and the United States. The foundation’s goal being to “change the face of men’s health.”

As I believe in equality and, therefore, believe that male cancer deserves the same attention and awareness as that generated by female cancer campaigns, such as the ‘Pink Ribbon Campaign’ and ‘Race for Life’, I would join in with the moustache growing… If I had enough facial hair to grow one! Therefore, I have instead decided to join in by going razor and wax-free with regards legs, arms, and…etc! My fundraising page can be found HERE.

No doubt many will turn their noses up at my challenge, and I must admit that I will find it difficult to walk around unshaven. On the continent, many women are reported to grow their body hair, but it is very much a faux pas in Britain. Women whose body hair falls outside aesthetic standards may experience social acceptance problems. The exposure of body hair on women other than head hair, eyelashes and eyebrows, is generally considered to be unaesthetic, unladylike, undesirable and embarrassing. People will usually point and laugh at a “hairy lady”, just like Julia Roberts caused a stir at the film premiere of Notting Hill, when she raised her arm and revealed a hairy armpit.

Julia Roberts at the premiere of ‘Notting Hill’ in 1999.

Yet, it would appear that in casting aside the razor, she is in good company. Drew Barrymore, Elizabeth Jagger, even fashionista, Trinny Woodall, have all had a hairy moment:

Elizabeth Jagger

Drew Barrymore

Fashionista, Trinny Woodall

Beyonce Knowles

Anne Robinson is the “weakest link” after all!

Jessica Biel

Even the ever-so-sophisticated Sophia Loren has been known to fashion a bush!

Women participating in the “No Shave Novemeber” challenge have also been causing some revolt on Twitter.

I confess to also finding body hair most unsightly. But, is that really my own opinion, or is it one that has been indoctrinated into all of us all by society? Hair removal has, after all, been an integral part of grooming since prehistoric times, when men used flint to remove unwanted hair as early as 30,000 B.C, and historical accounts of women’s hair removal have been linked to ancient Greece, the Trobriand Islands, Uganda, South America and Turkey. The rise of hair removal can certainly be closely linked with fashion – as most of society’s ideals are. In ancient cultures, the absence of body hair often indicated class. Only the lower classes let their hair grow. In the Middle Ages, women even removed all of their hair, including the hair on their head, in the name of fashion. The first commercial for a female hair removal product was in 1915 when Harpers Bazaar printed an advert which showed a woman in a sleeveless evening gown which exposed her perfectly shaven armpits.

In the 1970s, feminists put their razors aside as a form of political statement, but today even women who object on principle, are still under pressure to remove body hair. Merran Toerien, who has researched gender and body hair, believes that bodies are seen as needing disciplining into an ideal:

“Hair is seen as masculine…Historically, medically and in the media, it is nearly always associated with men. Shaving female body hair is seen as a way to differentiate between the sexes.”

Women with body hair are even perceived by men and women to be more aggressive and immoral, according to a study by US psychologist Dr Susan Basow, who asserts that non-hairy women are generally seen in a positive light. Indeed, a UK study found that 99% of modern day women removed some hair, most commonly from the underarms, legs, pubic area and eyebrows. Shaving and plucking being the most common removal methods.

Professor Stevi Jackson, Director of the Centre for Women’s Studies at York University stated:

“Over the years body hair on women has been viewed more and more as a monstrosity and dealing with it has become more and more draconian,” she says. “It is about conforming to standard and if you don’t you are viewed as unattractive and ungroomed… It is not about being seen as beautiful; it is about conforming, not standing out.”

The removal of female body hair has become such a social requirement that little 12 year old girls are being subjected to a Brazilian wax, as this anonymous article titled “The Bare Truth”, published in the Economist reveals:

“An Irish beautician called Genevieve is explaining what a ‘Brazilian’ is a she practices the art on your correspondent. … Between each excruciating rip, she explains that she is going to remove nearly all my pubic hair, except for a narrow vertical strip of hairs the width of a couple of fingers. This is known colloquially as the ‘landing strip.’ … In only a few years, this form of waxing has gone from the esoteric to the everyday and is starting to rival the ordinary bikini wax in popularity. At the same time the bikini wax is becoming a normal procedure for women of all ages: the youngest person Genevieve has waxed is a 12-year-old girl”

It is socially acceptable for men walk around with beards, hairy chests, backs, legs, etc., and is even considered an expression of manliness. Ironically, if a man shaves his legs (which may be required for a sport such as rugby or swimming), he will often be ridiculed. In fact, thick hair is associated with strength and masculinity, and so much so, we often find many men going to great lengths to prevent male pattern baldness on their heads. Femininity demands a hair-free body, and a hairy woman is not considered sexually attractive, whilst body hair on men is associated with masculine virility. Whilst I accept the physical differences between men and women on a biological level, society’s dictation of body hair is surely yet another example of ironic hypocrisy, which affects both genders.

When society faces a serious health issue such as cancer – a cruel disease that takes so many lives away from us on a daily basis, surely this is a time to set aside such social and cultural expectations. If ditching the razor and wax strips for a month, and joining the Movember campaign is a social faux pas, then so be it. I like to think I have the strength of character to stand up to what is, essentially, a rather pointless social ideal, in order to raise much needed money for cancer research – an important cause that might help save lives.

It would be nice to see other women who are also brave enough to “stand by her man”, and ditch the razor for a month (or at least sponsor my endeavour), instead of trying to adhere to narrow-minded social norms. It is, after all, for a good cause. I would also like to to remind all the chaps out there: Please remember to have an annual health check up, and a PSA Test if you are over 40. Furthermore, young men should regularly check their testes for any abnormalities, as testicular cancer is most common in young men.

Please remember to donate to my “No Shave November” page at Cancer Research UK. It does not matter if you can only donate as little as £1, for as long as everyone donates something, all the small donations will add up to something bigger. Although it is a UK cancer charity, with which readers from other parts of the world may not feel is relevant to them, one must remember that as long as money is donated to cancer research, it is irrelevant as to where in the world the money is donated for research. What is most important is that valuable research can be conducted, to ensure a cure is ultimately found, instead of focusing upon where in the world the cure was found.

Please donate. Thank you.

“Save The Boobs”!

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 7.6 million deaths (around 13% of all deaths) in 2008, whilst breast cancer is the principle cause of death from cancer among women globally.

According to Cancer Research UK, more than 48,400 women were diagnosed with breast cancer – approximately 133 cases per day. It is also the third most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accounting for 7% of all cancer deaths. According to Cancer Research UK, breast cancer accounts for around 15% of female deaths from cancer, and is the second most common cause of cancer death among women in the UK, after lung cancer.

Despite lifesaving developments, we are still no closer to a cure today, than we were two decades ago. Therefore, we regularly witness cancer charities releasing donation appeals; emphasising the importance of supporting their research.

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in support of America’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, PornHub, the world’s third largest porn site, has launched a somewhat controversial fundraising venture by announcing that it would donate 1 cent to the Susan G Komen Foundation breast cancer charity, for every 30 breast-themed video viewed on the site. The company claims they receive about 70 to 90 million clicks per month, which would amount to a donation of approximately $23,333-30,000.

However, the Dallas-based Susan G. Komen Foundation has said that it wanted no part of the campaign, stating: “We are not a partner, not accepting donations, and have asked them to stop using our name”. This raises the question as to why, when bearing in mind the reliance upon charitable donations for important research. Furthermore, is it ethical for the Komen Foundation to turn down potentially life saving donations, particularly as the foundation has faced much criticism for threatening to pull funding to Planned Parenthood, leading to a significant drop in participants for their “Races for Cure” events? I question whether a charitable donation from a pornographic website is really so unethical, that it is worth rejecting money that may save lives.

The pre-controversy press release from Pornhub states:

“It doesn’t matter if you’re into itty-bitty-titties, the perfect handful, jumbo fun-bags or low-swinging flapjacks, what matters most is that your kind and selfless gesture will go a long way towards helping our sisters to find a cure.

This isn’t the first time Pornhub has taken action to combat breast cancer. Six months ago, the website brought their “Save the Boobs” bus to NYC to rescue Manhattan’s mammories by spreading awareness. So how can you help save the boobs this time around, you bravely ask?

Simply visit the landing page on Pornhub’s site (link available upon request) and follow the prompts, or head to the ‘categories’ tab on Pornhub.com’s home page and choose either “Small Tits” or “Big Tits” videos, then sit back and let the good times bounce.

The Save the Boobs web page will keep track of the total unique visits for the month so be sure to encourage your red-blooded friends and family (yes, tell your fathers too) to become a hero of the headlamps and a champion of the cha-cha’s!”

One major problem with the press-release is insensitive and disrespectful language. The final paragraph even goes so far as encourage the partners of breast-cancer patients to leer at attractive young women with healthy breasts, whilst their wives/girlfriends may be undergoing the trauma of a mastectomy. When a charitable campaign potentially makes women feel insecure about their bodies, therein lies the problem; but, had the press-release been less insensitively worded, by perhaps omitting the final paragraph, would the source of the donation really be so unethical?

There is no denying that a large percentage of men and lesbian women are attracted to breasts, and pornographic websites and images have always been irrefutably popular. A high demand for pornography, and sexualisation of breasts will always exist in our society, whether we like it or not, and breast cancer awareness is unlikely to make pornography anymore (or, indeed, any less) sexualised than it already is. Whilst promoting and exploiting the sexual objectification of breasts may seem inconsiderate when so many breast cancer patients are undergoing mastectomies, and losing their hair as a side-effect of chemotherapy, sexual objectification exists regardless of breast cancer campaigns.

Yet, breast cancer charities readily accept donation money from a number of junk-food manufacturers, ranging from Cadbury’s to KFC, who have also taken the opportunity to exploit the breast cancer Pink Ribbon campaign. Ironically, charities are accepting donations from the sale of the very foods that the cancer charities and health officials advise us to avoid. Scientific studies have long acknowledged that cancer cells thrive on glucose. Foods with a high glycemic index (GI), which causes a sharp rise in blood glucose, trigger the secretion of insulin and insulin growth factor (IGF-1), thus promoting cancer growth. Yet, we have witnessed Cadbury’s produce a pink ‘Flake’, McVities produce pink packaged Jaffa Cakes, and Lucozade produce a pink drink – All are foods that are high in sugar and fat, and have donated their proceeds to a readily accepting breast cancer charity. If cancer charities are accepting donations from an, arguably, unethical source that is contributing to a serious public health issue and costing lives, why is a donation from PornHub considered any more unethical? After all, welcoming donations from the manufacturers of potentially carcinogenic foods, is perhaps akin to a lung cancer charity accepting donations from a cigarette company.

Perhaps the issue has more to do with the discrimination of male sexuality, than it has to do with ethics. Surely, it is more unethical to refuse a donation that could potentially help to save lives, particularly when donations from foods that potentially contribute to cancer are welcomed, just because of an inherent discrimination of male sexuality. Yet, a number of nude or imposed nude calendars have been sold over the years – including calender pictures that objectify men to fund raise money for cancer charities, which, arguably, is not any more ethical than money donated from a pornographic website.

Australian Rugby Player, Dene Halatau, poses nude for a Breast Cancer calender

Newcastle’s female students pose naked for charity

Despite any good intentions, critics of Breast Cancer Awareness Month have complained for some time that the campaign has become a form of commercial exploitation. L.A. Times writer Rosie Mestel published a blog post in 2010, on so-called “pinkwashing”, and writer, Christie Aschwanden has reported on “the downside of awareness campaigns.” Suzanne Reisman wrote in her blog post: “Why I Don’t Support Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”:

“Where are the campaigns to figure out why, once diagnosed, black women have longer delays in getting diagnostic results than white women? TheTheologiansCafe is soliciting topless photos to raise money for free mammograms for low-income women and asking women if they would pose nude for a good cause. (I’ll pause for a moment so I can be polite.) While that’s a nice idea — helping women get a mammogram — the real question is how are these low-income women supposed to pay for treatment if they find out that they have breast cancer? Will there be more topless photos taken?”

Meghan Casserly wrote on her Forbes.com blog:

“Breast cancer awareness month has bugged me for years–I imagine the cheap plastic factories overseas churning out all manner of things, rubbing their palms over how quickly American women open their wallets to anything pink or emblazoned with the Susan G Komen ribbon. I may be the biggest cynic in the free female world, but it’s a marketing charade I just can’t get behind”

Commercial exploitation of cancer awareness campaigns in an attempt to boost profits, may be unethical, but when so many lives are lost as a result of a cruel disease, surely we should all put our aside, and accept the much-needed charitable donations that such commercialism offers. Not everyone can afford to pay monthly donations to a cancer charity, and some may feel ashamed if they can only afford to contribute a small amount when they do contribute. Another issue is the questionable ethics of charities selling the details of their patrons onto other charities, and the regular mail from charities sending raffle tickets, and requesting more money once a charity have a person’s details on file. It would appear that charities are also guilty of exploitation.

Exploitation and capitalism may be unethical, but surely a charitable contribution through the purchase of a product or service that a number of people would have purchased regardless of a breast cancer campaign, is a cloud with a silver lining.

Had PornHub offered to donate to a Prostate Cancer charity, I question whether the donation would have faced the same refusal, or the same level of opposition from feminists. In response to my tweet, Men’s Rights Activist, Tony Chiaroscuro, from ‘A Voice For Men’, tweeted:

“If porn was viewed and funded donations to prostate cancer treatment/research, guys wouldn’t bat an eye… and given it receives significantly less awareness and funding for very real instances and deaths, maybe pornhub should.”

The prostate cancer charities that I contacted, have not yet responded to my question as to whether they would accept a donation from a pornography website, thus, we can only speculate.

Meantime, PornHub.com says it is now looking for a new recipient for what it classifies as a “significant” amount of money. It will be interesting to see if any charities will ultimately accept PornHub’s financial contribution.

Page 360-degrees of The Sun – Are Naked Breasts Really So Bad?

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There is much media attention surrounding the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign launched by Lucy-Anne Holmes, aimed at banning topless models featuring on page 3 of the The Sun newspaper.

The petition is a hot-topic on Mumsnet, and supporters include Eliza Doolittle, Jennifer Saunders, Frances Barber, Lauren Laverne Frances Barber, Tony Hawks, Chris Addison, and Graham Linehan. Caitlin Moran has tweeted: “Teenage tits aren’t news OR a feature.”, and Janet Street-Porter wrote in The Independent: “Page 3 girls started in the 1970s as part of a tabloid circulation war. They seem so old-fashioned today… it’s hard to see how a pair of nipples can sell a paper in 2012.”

At the time of writing, the ‘No More Page Three’ petition had reached 45,376 supporters. Yet, despite 45,376 signatories, recent figures published by the National Readership Survey suggests that that “a pair of nipples” do not deter a person from buying a paper, as The Sun is the most read newspaper (both in print and online) in the UK, reaching an audience of approximately 13.6-million per week. Based upon these figures, it would appear that the majority of the UK population do not have that much of an issue with Page 3.

This latest campaign to abolish page 3 as we know it, is nothing new. In 1986, Labour MP, Clare Short, was branded “fat, jealous Clare” by the newspaper when she launched her campaign against page 3. Last year the feminist campaign groups, “Object” and “Turn Your Back on Page 3”, made a joint submission about “the hyper-sexualisation of women in the press” to the Leveson inquiry. MP Evan Harris also backed the campaign, stating: “Why should it be considered acceptable and mainstream in hypocritical family newspapers to portray women in this way? It’s just wrong in my view that this should be seen as normalised.” Dr Harris added, “These images can be available for adults if they want to access them, but they should have to reach up to a higher shelf than what is at the general view for young people.”

Why are we so offended by the human body, and is page 3 really as degrading as the protesters claim?

Lucy Holmes felt the necessity to launch the latest campaign after reading a copy of The Sun during the Olympics. Despite the extensive coverage given to the victorious achievements of British female athletes such as Jessica Ennis and Victoria Pendleton, Holmes stated the dominant female image in the paper was “a massive picture of a girl in her pants”.

Journalist, Deborah Orr wrote in The Guardian that “The Sun’s Page 3 is the highly visible tip of misogyny’s iceberg”. Orr claims:

“A lot of women feel the people who want an end to Page 3 are uptight harridans, envious, bitter, prudish and prescriptive. They would love to be glamour models themselves, given half a chance. They want it for their daughters. You can see them in any city on a Friday night, hobbled by their Lycra dresses and towering heels, so keen to be viewed as “empowered” that they can barely walk…. They are on Team Katie Price, those women, not Team Lucy-Anne Holmes.”

Being neither in support or condemnation of Page 3, I would like to believe my view is a little more objective. I am not at all enamoured by the “busty-babe” look, and I am most certainly not a woman who is on “Team Katie Price”. In fact, when spending time at a friend’s house during my childhood, we would sometimes spend our afternoons giggling at the nonsense printed in The Sun, which her father would leave lying around on the kitchen table we used to do our homework. We would draw moustaches and a bra, etc., on the breasts of topless page 3 models; and draw big breasts, fangs, and long hair on John Major and William Hague, whilst (supposedly) working on algebraic equations. Dear Deidre’s Agony Aunt page was also a hoot. Yet, I do not pretend to understand the minds of those who buy The Sun because, to be perfectly honest, I am now educated and middle-class. However, I do possess a keen sense of humour, and this has ensured that I have never taken frivolous tabloid stories, or Page 3, too seriously. In my view, The Sun is little more than an adult comic bought by the working-class, and is not really a ‘family newspaper’. It is only deemed a ‘family paper’ because it happens to be stumbled upon by the rest of the family, as they lounge around on the sofa watching daytime TV, or happen to find it lying on the kitchen table when grabbing a snack, or perhaps whilst the children do their homework – which, of course, was my first encounter with the paper.

Not every person shares my permissive perspective, however. Deborah Orr seems to believe that glamour models affect a woman’s sense of self worth, stating, “I remember, as a teenager, studying the breasts of the women who appeared in the tabloids, and fretting about the dismal fact – to me, then – that mine weren’t “like that”.

Contrary to Deborah Orr’s belief, not every woman wishes to have large breasts, or to look like a glamour model. Not once have I ever looked at a Page 3 model and compared my body to hers, nor have I ever aspired to look like a glamour model. Every person has a different take on what they believe to be attractive. Furthermore, if Page 3 were to be abolished, and more “positive” body images were featured by the media, such as pictures of victorious Olympic athletes like Jessica Ennis, the new body comparison will subsequently become, “My abs don’t look like that”, or “I’m not that muscular”. The subsequent trend could, thus, become a cocktail of steroid abuse, over training, and eating disorders; instead of the breast augmentation and eating disorder combination that society is familiar with at present.

Women will always be of the belief that her outward appearance is dependent and related to her personal worth. No matter how confident one particular woman is, she will always compare herself to other women. As psychologist A. Schopenhauer has stated that “women are all in the same profession (competitors for the attentions of men), they all stand much closer to one another than men do, and consequently strive to emphasize differences in rank.” In many cases, this is unfortunately, true. An interesting study can be found in this psychological article: R. Joseph, Competition Between Women (1985), (Psychology, 22, 1-11, 1985).

Ironically, the misogyny Orr suggests, appears to lie not in the media’s sexualisation of women, but in womens’ hatred of sexualised women and their naked bodies. If that were not the issue, one must question why this campaign is so focused upon naked breasts on page 3, and not the unpleasant, opportunistic, civilisation-eroding content and blatant lies, that so regularly appears on other pages of The Sun. This is, after-all the news paper that invented the phrase ‘gay plague’, and ironically, if anything is at all misogynistic in the paper, it is some of the text and headlines featured on pages 1,2,4,5, etc. Why is Page 3 such an issue, and why are the campaigns not drawing attention to Mail Online and it’s “sidebar of shame“? It would appear that the petition is rather distastefully using the subject of misogyny merely as an attempt to rally support. Let us remember that the term ‘misogyny’ means a hatred or dislike of women. Surely, those who enjoy looking at the women on Page 3, are more philogynistic and misogynistic, because if they hated women, why would they wish to ogle at their breasts? Does a woman with a hatred of men enjoy looking at a penis?

Nevertheless, the politician Lynne Featherstone has felt it necessary to focus her argument on a different aspect of misogyny, by specifically linking page 3 to domestic violence – an assertion made without any evidence whatsoever. In her article ‘Page 3 pictures cause domestic violence’ against women, she claims: “When you know that one in four women experience domestic violence in their life, two women are killed each week by their partner or husband, there is a very long way to go. While a lot of blokes say ‘You are mean, sour-faced, whatever – it’s harmless’, actually it’s not harmless at all.”

Perhaps Lynne Featherstone would be interested to learn that despite her absurd assertion that Page 3 pictures somehow drives men to kill their partners, the National Centre of Domestic Violence statistics suggest that 1 man dies every 3 weeks as a result of Domestic Violence perpetrated against them. However, due to factors such as shame and embarrassment, most men will not seek help to get out of the abusive relationship. Approximately 4 million men are affected every year by domestic violence, and practically the same percentage of men as women are victims of severe acts of Domestic Violence. Bearing in mind the large amount of non-reporting, official Data from Home Office statistical bulletins and the British Crime Survey show that men made up about 40% of domestic violence victims each year between 2004-05 and 2008-09, the last year for which figures are available. In 2006-07 men made up 43.4% of all those who had suffered partner abuse in the previous year, which rose to 45.5% in 2007-08 but fell to 37.7% in 2008-09. Yet, men assaulted by their partners are often ignored by police, have far fewer refuges to flee to than women, and usually see their female attackers get away with their crimes.

I think this goes some way in invalidating Featherstone’s unsubstantiated assertion that page 3 is the cause of domestic violence. This is, of course, assuming the victim is female, and not the man for, ironically, looking at page 3 pictures.

If the mere sight of naked breasts really are too offensive to have a place in a ‘family newspaper’, as the protesters claim, I must also question why it is considered acceptable for women to openly take her breasts out in the middle of Starbucks to breastfeed her child in public, whilst in front of a number of families with young children. Consider the vast number of “Breast is Best” pictures published and broadcast on daytime television, in order to promote breastfeeding, not to mention the large-scale breast cancer campaigns featuring photos of naked breasts, and topless women on daytime television shows, such as ‘This Morning’ – a program broadcast before approximately 11 hours before the watershed, and viewable by young children. Last year, ‘This Morning’ featured a woman with the largest breasts in the world (ironically, this link is to the Daily Mail – another ‘family newspaper’), and most recently a feature on a man with the world’s largest penis. Yet, there was no furore over either. There are also the vast number of breast photos published in school encyclopedias and anatomy books, used for so-called educational purposes, and are uncensored. The Guardian also features this picture:

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Reproduced from article ‘The wonder of breasts’, featured in The Guardian newspaper.

If it is the sexualisation of breasts that is the problem, rather than the image of breasts per se, why are there no protests against adverts such as that for Herbal Essences Shampoo? This is, after all, an advert that sexualises both the hair and product, whilst portraying the man as useless and humiliated. The Western world condemn Islam for oppressing women and forcing them to wear a hijab, which essentially prevents the sexual objectification of hair in the same way as wearing a sweater does for a woman’s breasts. Yet, if we find the objectification of hair to be acceptable, when we condemn Islamic countries’ condemnation of oppressing women with a hijab for the equivalent reason the Western countries revolt the revealing breasts, is this not further hypocrisy?

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Herbal Essences is by far not the only example of sexual objectification. Just take a look at some of these examples, and furthermore, women are not the only ones subject to it. Take into consideration how the Lindt advert with Roger Federer and the adverts for Emporio Armani and H&M featuring David Beckham, and the infamous Diet Coke advert, all objectify men just as much as women. Yet, if this objectification were reversed and instead featured the female objectification, there would be the same ever-so-familiar heated debate on the subject.

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Also consider that naked breasts are not the only form of sexualisation in the media, which again discredits the argument against page 3. Bear in mind that for a foot fetishist, a photo of bare feet can be just as provocative as a page 3 photograph for a man who likes large breasts; and for a hair fetishist, the sexualisation of hair in a Herbal Essences advert, may also be provocative. Furthermore, there are a number of websites for those with a breast feeding fetish. Consider how a person with such a fetish makes the woman who chooses to breast-feed openly in Starbucks (which is her right), just as sexualized as the women who autonomously model for page 3.

One of the signatories of the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign has stated: “How are women meant to be taken seriously in the workplace when this is how they are seen?”. I argue that abolishing page 3 pictures will not change the perception of glamour models, as long as pornographic sites exist. In fact, page 3 is far less obscene than pornographic sites, which so often reveal women and men performing a number of lewd acts, which I shall not mention here. Whilst glamour models may, perhaps, degrade themselves, it is their autonomous choice to do so. Just because some women like to be objectified, does not make it wrong, and as long as the objectified person consents to being objectified by others, where is the problem? Live and let live.

If the answer is to reject any form of glamour modeling in order to prevent women from degrading themselves, it would not only infringe their right to autonomy, but it would drive the industry underground where it cannot be regulated. It would also result in the loss of newspaper sales; and less work for models, photographers, and publishers. At a time of economic downturn, this is surely not advantageous.

It is important to remember that sexual taste is incredibly diverse and complex. Not every man is attracted to the sight of breasts, and some may be sexually attracted to bare feet, just as some women may be sexually attracted to the sight of a “beer-belly”. It would appear that any photo could potentially be subject to sexual objectification depending upon the viewer and their sexual preferences. Perhaps the campaigners should review their protest, and call for a ban on all photos – or just airbrush out all people, just as Ikea removed women from the Saudi Arabian Ikea Catalogue.

I am sure that even the ‘No More Page 3’ supporters would find this a ludicrous proposition.

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A photo from the Swedish Ikea catalogue (left), next to the modified picture in the Saudi Arabian catalogue. (Image reproduced courtesy of BBC)

Microchipped Kids

The recent abduction of 5-year-old April Jones in the Welsh town, Machynlleth, has sparked much public and media interest as the search for April continues. The abduction has lead to much debate on the social networking site, Twitter, as to whether children should have a GPS microchip implanted at birth.

The question is, will microchipping really help us keep children safe?

Brazilian millionaires are already tagging their children in an attempt to thwart kidnappers, and in the Brazilian city of Vitoria da Conquista, children up to the age of 14 have had electronic chips implanted into their school uniforms by the authorities, in an attempt to combat truancy. The students’ whereabouts are fed into a central computer when school starts, and teaching staff are informed immediately if a child is absent.

Based upon Brazil’s example, it might appear that microchipping could very well be a good idea, particularly as many people now also microchip their beloved pets. The process is quick, and the insertion is simple.

However, microchips have been known to work free of the skin in pets, which could perhaps pose a problem with a more boisterous child. In fact, many pets have still managed to go missing without a trace, despite being microchipped. Bear in mind that April Jones was left to play outside unsupervised, in the belief that the neighbourhood was safe. If microchipping were to become common place, it may lead to further false security, where parents believe that their child is safe because they are both microchipped, and living in a “safe” neighbourhood. This is all the more problematic when one considers the possibility of a microchip working free from the skin as a child is playing, and the possibility that the chip could also be removed surgically by an experienced kidnapper.

At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, if GPS microchipping were to be funded by the NHS, there is perhaps the additional concern of the information possibly being stored on a government database throughout a person’s life, and a concern as to how the information might be used by the authorities in the future, leading to an invasion of privacy.

One could argue that where there is “nothing to hide; there is nothing to fear”. Yet, at a hacker conference in 2006, Annalee Newitz and Jonathan Westhues showed that they had successfully cloned an RFID chip implanted in Newitz. A home-built antenna let the hackers steal the unique ID contained on the chip, which apparently lacks any sort of security device. If a chip can be counterfeited, this might suggest a possibility of the ID implanted under a child’s skin, being stolen by identity thieves – At least in theory.

In-body RFID chips have generated a considerable backlash of protest, and there are claims that the chips cause cancer. Citing a number of animal studies, CASPIAN’s new report, Microchip-Induced Tumors in Laboratory Rodents and Dogs: A Review of the Literature 1990–2006, suggests a causal link between implanted radio-frequency (RFID) microchip transponders, and cancer in laboratory rodents and dogs. The report claims that in almost all cases, the malignant tumors, typically sarcomas, arose at the site of the implants and grew to surround and fully encase the devices. The report also claimed that the tumors were malignant and fast-growing, often leading to the death of the afflicted animals, and claimed that the implants were “unequivocally identified as the cause” of the cancers.

The report recommends that any further microchipping of humans be immediately discontinued; and that all implanted patients be informed in writing of the research findings and offered a procedure for microchip removal.

There are also a number of additional risks that the FDA already recognises, such tissue reactions, chip migration within the body, and the possibility of the chip carrying a current from MRI magnets resulting in burns.

If I can interject my own opinion, I would suggest that the under-skin microchipping of children is over-hyped, and until more research is undertaken, should not be implemented anytime soon – if at all. Although a very young child is not legally competent to consent to the procedure, and the decision is that of the parent; is it ethical to implant a microchip, given the potential risks, and the likelihood that the child will wish for it to be removed later in their life? Furthermore, as long as there are people who wish to harm children, it is unlikely that such perpetrators will be deterred by implanted chips. It is, therefore, crucial that parents teach their children not to speak to strangers when not accompanied by a guardian, and for parents to keep a close eye on their children.

Remember, Remember…

Meet Rose.

Rose wanders up and down the corridors of the nursing home for hours on end, her feet moving in small, shuffling steps; her expression vague, almost eerie. Her speech is no longer coherent, but she attempts to explain that she has “to go home”, because her “mother will worry” about where she is.

Rose is 73 years old, and is one of the 800,000 people diagnosed with dementia in Britain (although it is approximated that 400,000 unknowingly have the disease). People assume dementia is merely age-related memory loss, but Rose is incontinent because she has forgotten how to use the bathroom. She cries at the sight of her own faeces, as she no longer understands what faeces are. Rose also cannot remember her husband, children, or grandchildren. Yet, despite the inability to remember the present, many dementia sufferers only remember a fragment of their life – for example, a time when they were children, or early on in their marriage, etc. Tragically, Rose remembers the most traumatic part of her life, and now believes that her heartbroken granddaughter is her sister, and that her husband is her abusive father, causing her to wake up in the middle of the night, screaming in terror, in the belief that her father is “coming to get [her]”.

Rose’s story comes to light just as today’s news reports on former England footballer Gordon Banks’ and Sir Michael Parkinson’s accounts of their personal experiences with dementia, as part of a new campaign launched in the UK to drive dementia awareness.

Despite the stigma that the news reports on today, very few understand the severity of the disease and the impact on lives. Not only are sufferers stigmatised by friends who often abandon them in their fear of being in the company of a mentally ill person, but there is often some harrowing ridicule of dementia sufferers within society in general.

Only a few evenings ago, a visit to my local supermarket was a reminder of this. I was appalled to witness two members of staff at the supermarket, laugh at an old man who is suffering with the disease. I see the old man is at the supermarket almost every evening, and recognise that he is still at a relatively early stage of the disease whereby he can occasionally visit the supermarket by himself (although is usually supervised by his wife). He regularly forgets an item he needed, and is often circling around the small store for an hour at a time. The other night, he would continuously arrive at the check-out only to subsequently shuffle over to another area of the shop, upon realising he had forgotten biscuits, or cheese, etc. The two male staff at the check-out would make “loopy” gestures behind his back, and sniggered rudely as the old man left/returned to the checkout for the umpteenth time.

Similar behaviour was experienced by my own grandmother, whom my mother and I were joint-carers of, and it never ceased to amaze us how ignorant and cruel people can be to a person they think of as being just “a crazy old woman/man”. It was also a harsh reminder as to how society so cruelly stigmatise those who are mentally ill. Remember, the mentally ill are human beings, too.

Perhaps society needs reminding that dementia could affect pretty much any person. Although the disease is generally considered an “old person’s disease”, it has also been known to affect people as young as 30. The Alzheimer’s Society reports that there are over 17,000 people under the age of 65 in the UK, who are sufferers of dementia. Researchers have yet to find a cure, and can still only speculate upon many of the potential causes of dementia, although some faulty genes have been identified, and in some rare cases the disease can also be inherited.

Let me introduce you to Claude. You may of heard of him.

This is Claude Shannon, the person to whom you can attribute the founding of electronic communications age, and is a person whom you can now thank for enabling you to be able to use a computer and read this post. Claude died of Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia, in 2001; completely unaware of the significance of his scientific discoveries going on around him.

Despite this Nobel prize winner’s remarkable intelligence and achievements, the disease nevertheless took his mind from him too.

Any person who sees humour in a person suffering with dementia, should be grateful that they still possess their own mental health. Our brains are central to who we are; yet, the brain can be so fragile and so vulnerable to disease, regardless of our character, strength, or intelligence. The heartbreaking effects of dementia could potentially affect us, or our families.

Despite the disease becoming increasingly more prevalent, Dementia is one of the most underfunded areas of research, with eight times less invested in dementia research than cancer research. However, Dementia is reported to be ahead of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and stroke one for being one of the main causes of disability later in life. Furthermore, the Alzheimer’s Society reports that more than 24 million people have dementia in the world today, with the numbers affected predicted to double every 20 years to more than 80 million by 2040.

If, like me, you are also interested in supporting the research of dementia, you might be interested in this page.

If only every person from the UK could donate £1 to the research of dementia, that would amount to a total of around £62,000,000, which could make a big difference to all our families.

(Please note: This post was not endorsed by any Alzheimer’s charities)

“You’ve Got Mail!”

Ah… I just received a private message from someone named “Stuart”! How exciting!

Except… I actually receive a number of private messages from the same online dating site every single day. That may very well make me sound popular, and maybe even “drop-dead-gorgeous”, but funnily enough, despite all the private messages I receive, I don’t have an active profile!

You see, despite my skepticism regarding online dating, one cold evening when feeling a little downhearted and dangerously close to old (as we all feel sometimes), I decided, “Oh, what the hell!”, and signed up to a dating website that is supposedly for busy professionals. However, after the initial sign-up, I decided that I had no interest in filling in one of those long-winded online profiles about who I am, and who I’m looking for.  I soon realised that I am just too busy to have the time for a relationship, nor do I even want one at the moment. If I did, I would have surely taken the time to fill in the profile. More to the point, if I had spent quality time in writing a full profile to ensure others know who I am, to attract a potential mate based upon my personality and mutual interests, etc., how many people would actually take the time to really read all of my (or any other person’s) profile, anyway…?

Generally speaking, most people will see a pretty face and it will prompt them to send a message to that person. After a bit of online tittle-tattle and abbreviated messages (“hw bout we go 2 pub sum time”), they will go on a date with someone who is probably highly incompatible with them, never having actually read the person’s profile properly in the first place. But, maybe I am being completely unfair. Whilst I always take the time to read another person’s words carefully, I do get the impression that not everyone is quite so thorough.

The fact that I am receiving so many messages from people like “Stuart”, when my profile has bugger all on it (not even a photo!), may perhaps, go some way in substantiating my suspicion.

On the other hand, it certainly seems to corroborate the reports on the increasing number of fraudulent profiles circulating the web, and serves as a reminder as to how we should remain vigilant where our online security is concerned.

I, for one, will be sticking to the old-fashioned method of meeting potential partners via real-life interaction.

As for Stuart… Perhaps he is an online rogue of some description, or an escort touting for business, or maybe he genuinely is a very lonely and desperate man, whom I should give the benefit of the doubt. After all, he does seem compelled to message people regardless of whether they actually have a profile or not. Poor guy.

Let us hope that “Stuart”, “James”, “Will”, “Tom”, et al, will all find true love one day.

Please Mind The Gap!

No, I’m not posting about the London Underground on this occasion.

I am instead referring to the wage gap between men and women, which continues to make headline news.

Just the other day, the International Business Times reported that the U.S. Census Bureau found no progress had  been made to close the gender wage gap in the United States. It reported that womens’ wages have continued to hover at an average of 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man in an equal position, since 2005. This is despite Obama passing the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, shortly after taking office in 2009. Whilst the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act may be relatively new in the US, legislation to ensure equal pay has been in place in the Britain for 40 years. Despite this long established legislation, the gender pay gap not only still exists in Britain, but the discrepancy remains among the highest in the EU.

In Britain the full-time gender pay gap between women and men is reported to be 14.9%.  The Fawcett Society report that the pay gap varies across different sectors and regions, rising to up to 55% in the finance sector, and 33.3% in the City of London, with 64% of the lowest paid workers being women. Progress in closing the gap has been slow, and now there are concerns that the wage gap may now widen, as the economy faces difficult times. The US has already seen the wage gap widen: the median income for women working with full-time jobs in 2011 was $37,118, compared to the median of $48,202 for men. In 2010, women averagely earned $38,052 compared with the average male earnings of $48,202.

The poverty rate for women is reported to be considerably higher, particularly among the elderly. The US Census Bureau reports 15.5% of women between the ages of 18 and 64 were living off less that $11,170 per year, meaning that 15.5% of women are officially living in poverty in the US. This is compared with just 11.8 percent of men. 10.7% of women over 65 were living in poverty last year, compared with 6.2% of men in the same age category.

Such a pay gap inevitably translates into a significant economic disadvantage for women in female-headed households, and especially in is the US where women are already reported to be less likely to have health insurance. In 2010, 20% of women between the ages of 18 and 64 are reported not to have had any form of health coverage, according to The Kaiser Family Foundation. Most did not qualify for Medicaid, and did not have access to employer-sponsored plans. This is all the more worrying when one considers that many female-headed households in the US, are thus also less likely to be able to provide health coverage for their children.

In Britain, nine out of ten single parents are women, yet the median gross weekly pay for male single parents is reportedly £346, while female single parents will averagely receive £194.4. Although Britain has the NHS to rely on for free healthcare, a number of single mothers are still, nevertheless, living poverty, and this inevitably effects their children.

There could be a number of factors influencing the wage gap. Feminist theory has speculated that the differences may be due to the discriminatory undervaluing of women, and “women’s work”, but I doubt this is the case. Even if struggling to find work, very few women will actually choose arduous manual labour over shop-keeping, nor will many women choose manufacturing work over a job in the nursing sector. How often will one see a woman laying bricks or operating a digger, rather than claim benefits or work part-time? Although more women may choose a career in engineering today than they may have in previous eras, it is still a case that relatively few women will actively *choose* such a career over the more traditional female dominated careers such as primary school teaching, nursing or secretarial roles, which are generally lower paid than more male-dominated careers in astronautics and space engineering.

A female JCB driver?

It seems unlikely that the reason behind the gender gap is largely due to sex discrimination, when it is actually the women themselves, who so often select the sector in which they choose to work in. That is not to say that sex discrimination is never a factor, of course, as both women and men could potentially be open to experiencing sex discrimination within the workplace. Indeed, there have been reports of an increase in employment tribunal cases where men have been subject to sex discrimination by their female colleagues. Sex discrimination is not exclusive to women.

There is also the factor of a lack of available flexible work opportunities, which means that single mothers who cannot afford childcare, can find it hard to reconcile paid work with family responsibilities. This might result in women working in part-time positions for fewer hours, or taking on a number of different temporary jobs. The so-called “motherhood penalty” could also arguably lead to discrimination in companies. There have previously been a number of employment tribunal cases revealing how employers have been less likely or refused to hire or promote women of childbearing age, for fear the female employees will prioritise pregnancy and childcare  over their commitments at work. One factor which may heighten the case for this argument is that lesbian women are reported to earn higher than their heterosexual counterparts.

According to the research the site pointed to, lesbians make about 6 percent more than heterosexual women when factors like race, education, profession, location and number of children are accounted for. There are other factors to take into consideration as to why the gap exists between heterosexual and homosexual women. One being that heterosexual women may expect their husbands or partners will earn more than they will. As a result, heterosexual women might choose to make career sacrifices, such as rounding a family, and thus choose to invest less effort in making themselves appear more indispensable to employers.

It may also be that employers and employees of either gender are unaware they may be either experiencing or perpetuating a gender pay gap, and so it remains unnoticed. Perhaps the mere knowledge that a male in a similar role at the same company is being paid more, might be enough to trigger a change. As a result the Fawcett Society has long proposed that businesses employing more than 250 people, should routinely audit, monitor, and publicise any pay gap between male and female employees. The 2010 Equality Act also included a clause, requiring companies to carry out gender pay audits if they failed to make enough voluntary progress. Unfortunately, the Section 78 clause was dropped by the coalition in 2010.

Whilst the Fawcett Society reported that the wage gap is even bigger in certain professions, such as financial management, a similar picture is mirrored in the findings of a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study conducted at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, found that male doctors reported making an average of slightly over $200,000 per year, whilst women earned about $168,000. However, the study researchers found women were more likely to work in lower-paying specialties such as paediatrics and family medicine. Female doctors also tended to work slightly fewer hours – an average of 58 hours per week, compared to mens’ average of 63 hours. Although such differences were responsible for some of the salary gap, Dr. Reshma Jagsi, the lead author of the new study, found that despite factors due to career and life choices, women still made about $12,000 less than men doing the same type and amount of work.

The finding of the study does not reveal the underlying driving force between the salary differences between men and women. In this instance, perhaps female doctors accepted slightly lower pay in return for less time being on-call to spend time with families.

One significant explanation is that women are less aggressive about negotiating for pay. Indeed, a report by Shuchita Kapur in Emirates 24/7  reveals how experts believe the gender gap to be a result of female unwillingness to negotiate.

The article points to the suggestion that companies will generally present every employee with a low starting offer, and it is usually up to the individual to negotiate any salaries rises. Professor Horacio Falcao who specialises in Negotiation at INSTEAD has suggested that men are much more likely to negotiate pay than women: “Research actually indicates that in many countries around the world, women are more likely to accept the first salary offered than men. This usually results in men entering the company with a higher pay than women and then making more money in the future as raises tend to be percentage increases relative to the base pay.”

The opinion of Grainne Fitzsimons, Associate Professor of Management at Fuqua School of Business, also coincides with Falcao’s, and stated that: “Research suggests that women are less likely to negotiate salary, because women feel uncomfortable in that role and worry about the impression they will make if they ask for more money. In fact, research suggests that this unwillingness to negotiate is extremely costly for women, and leads them to be underpaid in a number of domains,” she told Emirates 24/7.

A research study by Carnegie Mellon University in the US, revealed that while 51.5% of men negotiated their initial offers, only 12% of women did.

So, ladies; perhaps the moral of the story (at least in part) is: If you don’t ask; you don’t get.

More to the point, whilst a job providing the benefits of full-time pay with flexible hours, may be ideal for working mothers, the truth is, we cannot have it all. Nor should any of us expect it. Salaries should be based upon merit, hours of work, and dedication. Until modern medicine discovers a method in which men can give birth and become mothers, women cannot realistically expect the salary statistics to match those of men.

Given the subject of ” Please Mind The Gap”, I decided to include this rather wonderful photo of Hannah Dadds, who made history by becoming the first ever London Underground Tube driver, in 1969. Story can be found here.

The name’s Bond… A Battered Bond.

20120915-095117 AM.jpg

Since writing an article about male rape victims and female perpetrators, it has just emerged that Sir Roger Moore has also been a victim of domestic violence. In an interview with Piers Morgan, the 84-year-old actor, Sir Roger Moore, spoke of the violence he experienced at the hands of both of his first two wives.

Despite the well-published statistics on the domestic abuse of women, it is slowly emerging that a significant proportion of men will also experience some form of domestic abuse in their lives. The revelation by Sir Roger Moore reflects how just about anyone could potentially be a victim of domestic abuse. It will be interesting to discover over the coming years, how many other male celebrities will slowly start coming forward, to reveal a few bruised truths that nobody wants to hear: women are not the only victims in society, but are also deviants, capable of untold violence. Hopefully, as more men become brave enough to speak out, any stigma and shame attached to male victimisation, will be banished once and for all.

Sir Roger Moore is by no means the first celebrity male victim. The famous American Western Actor, John Wayne, despite his macho image, was a victim of domestic abuse by his wife Esperanza Baur, a former Mexican actress. In a drunken rage she is reported to have also attempted to shoot him as he walked through the front door of their home, after returning from a post-filming party of the movie Angel and the Badman (1947). Humphrey Bogart was also stabbed in the back with a butcher’s knife by his wife Mayo Methot in 1938. Historians report that Abraham Lincoln was severely beaten and abused by his wife Mary Todd. The one thing these men and many others have in common is that they never spoke about it in public. The late Whitney Houston also admitted that it was she, not Bobby Brown, who was physically violent in their notoriously destructive relationship.

No man should feel ashamed of disclosing the truth. Violence should never be excused or accepted. Hopefully Sir Roger Moore’s story will help to break some of the stigma and shame associated with being a male victim.

A Dubious Degas? – Danseuse Bleue et Contrebasses

Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould holding the painting, Danseuse Bleue et Contrebasses (Image courtesy of BBC)

Today’s BBC news features the wonderful painting Danseuse Bleue et Contrebasses, which was once considered to be one of the greatest works painted by Edgar Degas. The small oil painting depicting a ballet dancer on stage, was bought as a Degas from a reputable London dealer in 1945, but failed to make the official record of the catalogue raisonne. The painting was declared a fake by a leading Degas expert in the 1950s, after it was deemed that the dancer’s features and composition, was atypical of Degas’ unique painting style.

According to reports on BBC news, cutting edge forensic techniques have now made it possible to establish the authenticity of the work, in a way that was never possible before. As a result, paintings by some of the greatest artists that were either unknown, or considered fakes, are now being re-evaluated.

The once ‘dubious Degas’, Danseuse Bleue et Contrebasses, has since been declared authentic after tests found the paint contained lead (consistant with paint used during Degas’ day), and did not contain titanium white – a constituent of paint used after Degas’ time. Modern photographs were also taken of dancers at the Paris Opera, to evaluate the body composition and the reality of the dancer’s position.

The fascinating investigation of the painting’s authenticity will feature in the second series of BBC One’s ‘Fake Or Fortune?’ which begins tomorrow on Sunday 16 September.

I will be looking forward to watching the programme on iPlayer.

The Silent Male Victims of Rape

Whilst researching various sociological topics on Twitter, I was reminded how insensitive and ignorant people can be. This was a re-tweet from a so-called “holy” person. The initial tweet was also by a person who describes himself as “a child of God” in one of his subsequent tweets.

Almost every day, there are reports in the news of rape, or rape convictions. Indeed, recent reports reveal a 53% rise in recorded rape in London over the last four years, and whilst perusing through the Irish news the other day, I also discovered an article that reported on an increase of almost 18% in first-time callers to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre last year. A few weeks earlier, I had also read about the reported rape of a 14-year-old boy in the toilets of Debenhams in Manchester.

Most women in society are indoctrinated to be cautious of unfamiliar men, and to fear rape. From childhood, females are taught to be afraid of, and to never talk to any ‘strange men’. Women are warned to remain cautious: never be alone, keep all doors locked, and do not behave in a manner that may encourage a sexual assault. However, living in a patriarchal society, how often do we hear of such guidance provided for males?

Males, by contrast, are brought up from a young age to be “strong”, masculine, and “in-charge”; and indeed, feminists use our expectations and perception of what a male should be, to base many of their misandrical arguments, using their infamous male-female rape theories. Society so often perceives men as being the perpetrators, whilst women are the victims. Consider the following examples of despicable feminist misandrical misnomers:

“All sex, even consensual sex between a married couple, is an act of violence perpetrated against a woman.” Catherine MacKinnon

“In a patriarchal society all heterosexual intercourse is rape because women, as a group, are not strong enough to give meaningful consent.” Catherine MacKinnon in Professing Feminism: Cautionary Tales from the Strange World of Women’s Studies, p. 129.

“Most perpetrators are male and most victims are female. It is both a consequence and cause of gender inequality.”UK Rape Crisis Charity

“All men are rapists and that’s all they are” — Marilyn French Author, “The Women’s Room” (a metaphor in a novel to suggest male lust for power and domination.)

Ladies: Bear in mind that if, according to Marylin French, “All men are rapists”, this must mean that your dear baby boys are rapists, as are your fathers, and your grandfathers – and let us not forget your brothers, too! If there is any logic in the above feminist assertions, that must be the reason as to why your baby boys suckle upon your breast when they are breast fed, and why your baby girls must surely need to have your breast forced upon them – right? Furthermore, if such blatant misandric feminist arguments stand any validity, this would suggest that your sons will rape your daughters, and even you. Logic alone should tell us how absurd such statements are, and should surely reveal much about feminist theory.

Yet, with such preconceptions that rape exists only within the context of a male perpetrator – female victim model, very few people will consider how males are also victims of sexual assault. Yet, male-male rape is often shrouded in secrecy due to the social stigma that many men associate with rape, which annihilates everything that our patriarchal society dictates men should be. But, you might find the results of recent research to be quite shocking.

Statistics of Male Rape

The British Crime Survey estimates that up to 15% of the adult population of the UK have been sexually abused in childhood, and this includes 11% of young men. A 2003 national study of U.S. adults reported that 14.2% of men were sexually abused before the age of 18. Furthermore, Metropolitan Police figures reveal that on average, in London, a man is the victim of a sexual crime every hour, and the British government estimates that 11% of male victims report being attacked. Based upon such research, it is believed that the 945 assaults recorded by the Met in 2009-10, actually suggest a true figure closer to 8,500 in London.

Baroness Stern acknowledged in her 2011 rape report, The Stern Review, that the vast majority of male victims of sexual violence do not report their crimes because of the common view that men “should be able to fight off an attacker”. The review recognised that men do not report rape for the fear of being regarded “less of a man”. They fear being ridiculed, fear that they may be considered gay, or fear that they will not believed.

Several studies argue that male-male prisoner rape, as well as female-female prisoner rape, might be the most common and least-reported forms of rape, with some studies suggesting such rapes are substantially more common in both per-capita and raw-number totals than male-female rapes in the general population.

The claim in the following n+1 piece, suggests that more men are victims of rape in the US, than women, as a result of prison rape:

“In January, prodded in part by outrage over a series of articles in the New York Review of Books, the Justice Department finally released an estimate of the prevalence of sexual abuse in penitentiaries. The reliance on filed complaints appeared to understate the problem. For 2008, for example, the government had previously tallied 935 confirmed instances of sexual abuse. After asking around, and performing some calculations, the Justice Department came up with a new number: 216,000. That’s 216,000 victims, not instances. These victims are often assaulted multiple times over the course of the year. The Justice Department now seems to be saying that prison rape accounted for the majority of all rapes committed in the US in 2008, likely making the United States the first country in the history of the world to count more rapes for men than for women.

No doubt, many will sneer at this finding, believing that it is a justified act for “undesirables” who deserve punishment, and need putting in their place. This is perhaps one reason as to why there appears to be so little interest as to the extent of prison rape, and so few reports. With such possible reason in mind, we must not forget about the number of innocent men who are wrongly convicted and imprisoned, and who are subsequently made victims of rape – a crime inflicted on them perhaps, in a cruel twist of irony, as a result of a false rape allegation for which they were wrongly imprisoned. How could such inhumanity ever be considered fair?

Rape as a weapon of terror in warfare

Male rape is also used as a weapon of terror in warfare, and the Syrian regime is regularly reporting that rape is used as a tool of war against male opposition forces, as is the situation in Congo. Feminists and the media regularly report of the horrendous cases of female rape in Congo, but there are very fer reports of the horrific physical and psychological damage suffered by the victims of male rape in Congo. I would highly recommend a read of this article from The Observer.

The Journal of the American Medical Association has reported that 22% of Congolese men (and 30% of women) have experienced sexual violence as a weapon of war. Male victims have also had genitalia amputated, raped with screwdrivers, circumcised, or castrated in cases where they were spared amputation. Yet, under Congolese law, it is the male rape victims who are the ones considered guilty of a crime, and can face severe punishment for the so-called crime of homosexuality. Male survivors will, therefore, almost never speak of their experiences to anyone. Taking this into consideration, the rate of non-reporting amongst male victims is likely to be high, thus, the real statistics of men victim to sexual violence before being killed by their rapists, cannot be accurately determined. The statistic is more than likely greater than 22%, and no charities or agencies providing funding to male victims of rape, to help them get them back on their feet, as there are for female rape victims.

Furthermore, these men will typically hide their experience from their family, due to fears of abandonment. According to an employee of the Refugee Law Project, it is common for a woman to take the children and leave her husband, upon discovering that he has been raped. The view being, “If he can be raped, who is protecting me?” The cruel, ironic, hypocrisy is that despite the patriarchal social view of women needing a “strong, protective man”; women are, in fact, “strong” enough to be the aggressors of male sexual assault.

Female-Male Rape

A study on male rape in Congo published by the Journal of the American Medical Association defies the cultural narrative of patriarchy surrounding male rape in Congo: 40% of sexual violence against women in Congo, and 10% of that against men, was perpetrated by women.

Only a few days ago, the BBC reported that three women in Zimbabwe who were arrested in connection with a series of male rapes, had their rape charges dropped, and were instead charged with 17 counts of aggravated indecent assault – merely because Zimbabwean law does not recognise the act of a woman raping a man. It is believed that there is a nationwide syndicate of women raping men in Zimbabwe, possibly to use their semen for use in “wealth” rituals. The three Zimbabwean women were charged after being found in possession of 33 condoms containing semen, obtained after a string of sex attacks whereby women targeted male hitchhikers.

Feminists argue that women are “more maternal” and “less aggressive”, and have been often speculated that if a woman were in charge, there would be no violence or wars. Yet, when Adam Jones examined the activities of five of the “female architects of the Rwandan genocide”, he noted the women not only participated in the selecting of thousands of Tutsi men and boys to be killed, but it was the women who were so often the ones perpetrating their murders. Accordingly, author Tim Goldich has stated:

“These cases of female leaders represent only a small part of the story of women’s participation in the genocide. At the grassroots, “very often, groups of women ululated their men into the ‘action’ that would result in the death of thousands of innocent men, women and children, many of them their own neighbours.”

“Their role was dominant in the post-massacre looting and stripping of bodies, which often involved climbing over corpses (and those still alive and moaning in agony) piled thigh-high in the confined spaces in which many Tutsis met their end. Frequently these women assisted in administering the coup de grâce to those clinging to life.”

Another report currently in the news, is the alleged rape and murder of a wealthy Nigerian man, Uroko Onoja, by his six wives; and let us not forget the female aggressors of male rape in the West: Only a few days ago, Oklahoma teacher, Michelle McCutchan, was convicted of raping two 16-year-old male students, and also Keyvette Gamble for sexually abusing her friend’s 14 year old son. In the later cases, however, both female perpetrators have been sentenced to 15 years in prison. There have been several widely publicised cases of female-on-male statutory rape in the United States involved school teachers raping their underage students, such as the cases that lead to the convictions of Mary Kay Letourneau and Debra Lafave.

Misconceptions and Ignorance

When a boy is sexually abused by a woman, people often do not recognise the harm. Take for example the recent case of, Zakiya Gaskins, a woman from Washington, who was charged with assaulting her neighbour’s 13-year-old son. Authorities had to relocate the teenage victim and his family, because neighbours harassed the boy when he reported the assault. It is reported that neighbours referred to him as a “punk” and quizzed if there was “something wrong with him”, because he “didn’t like it”. Another recent Washington case reveals how 18 year old Heaven Wright, gave her 13-year-old male rape victim a sexually transmitted disease.

Not only do male rape victims report a lack of services and support, but many legal systems are often ill-equipped to deal with this type of crime. Inconsistent definitions of rape, different rates of reporting, recording, prosecution and conviction for rape create controversial statistical disparities, and leading to rape statistics which are unreliable, and do not represent the full picture. Even though Britain has, more male rape awareness campaigns and crisis centres available per head of the population than in most other Western countries, under British Law, the crime of male rape was only legally recognised in 1994. Unlike most countries, British society is beginning to open their minds, and recognise that men are also vulnerable, and men have hope through Male Rights activist groups. Yet, even Britain still has a long way to go with regards public awareness of male rape.

A hard-hitting poster campaign by male rape charity Survivors UK, targeted this year’s Six Nations to urge victims to speak out, using the high profile at Twickenham. The masculine image of rugby was used to convey the message that male rape does not make a victim any less of a man.

There are still many misconceptions that male rape will only happen to a “weak” man, and that only gay men are raped. In reality, many victims are heterosexual. One example that might go some way in dispersing the “weak” theory is the story of a male US soldier who was a victim of female-male rape, and has since suffered Military Sexual Trauma (MST) after being raped by his female supervisor, who was a First Sergeant, and reported “used her higher rank and position to get what she wanted”. The US Attorney Shana Dunn, has reported that at least 27 percent of men serving in the military are estimated to have suffered “Military Sexual Trauma” either as a result of sexual assault, or repeated harassment and threatened assault. Whist the figure for females is 60 percent, the 27 percent figure for men is, nevertheless, 27 percent too many. So is the figure of 60 percent.

How can a man have an erection, or ejaculation, during a sexual assault unless he wanted it?

There is also much ignorance regarding the biological aspect of male rape, with statements such as, “a man cannot have an erection or ejaculation during a sexual assault, unless he wanted it”. However, an article by Philip M. Sarrel and William H. Masters entitled “Sexual molestation of men by women” (Archives of Sexual Behavior 11 (2): 82–88), states that male erectile response is involuntary. Any physical contact or extreme stress can cause an erection and ejaculation, and does not imply desire or enjoyment. Women can initiate penetrative sex through stimulation of external male genitalia or the anus, and can force penetration of the anus with the use of foreign objects such as dildos, or even force oral sex. As some abusers and rapists are aware of this biological process, and how it can confuse a victim of sexual assault, Survivors UK – a male rape charity, has reported that it motivates some attackers to “manipulate their victims to the point of erection or ejaculation to increase their feelings of control and to discourage people from telling their story”.

Although more research on male-male and female-male is beginning to emerge, almost no research has been conducted on female-female rape, although there have been cases reported, thus further dispersing many feminist theories and social misconceptions about men only being perpetrators, and females the victims. Perhaps there are fewer female-female rapes because of size restrictions: female victims are more likely to fight off a female aggressor, whereas men are often taught not to hit a women back. Certainly, as a female, I can testify to having been the recipient of far more aggression in my lifetime from fellow females, than I have from males. Memories spring to mind of being pushed down stairs, hit with a hockey stick, and pushed onto the road in front of a travelling lorry – all by fellow female schoolmates. Very little aggression was ever perpetrated by boys towards girls, yet, the girls were certainly known to hit a few boys. However, this is only an observation from my own personal experience as a Caucasian female living in Britain, and is by no means an official statistic. This is not to say that women are not victim to male abuse, as the domestic violence and rape figures reveal otherwise. Nevertheless, research on female aggression has revealed that women can be more violent than men, and let us not forget that rape is a crime of control and aggression, and not a random act of passion.

Given the extent of the social stigma towards male rape, and the level of patriarchy in society, it is understandable as to why so many male-male sex crimes are believed to go unreported. Even if the numbers are smaller – so what? Men are human beings, just like women; and no human being deserves such pain and suffering. Nor do men, as fellow human beings, deserve the psychological terror male rape victims experience of being judged, abandoned, ridiculed, and not to mention the fear or actuality of contracting HIV. In certain non-Western countries men are left with no access to healthcare or surgery, leaving them incontinent from their injuries, and unable seek help for fear of homosexual conviction. Many men end up doubting their sexuality, fearing sex, and many have difficulty forming relationships as a result of rape. Male rape can cause severe disability or disorder, and whilst the crime is undoubtedly a real threat for women, it is also so for men. It a heinous crime, no matter who the victim may be, and is not something to joke about, or judge a genuine victim for. Male rape victims need to know they have nothing to feel ashamed of – it is not their fault, and they need to be able to speak out.

Every single one of us could potentially be a victim of a sexual attack, irrespective of whether we are male or female. It is high time that the draconian views of society accepted this, and provided men with the same level of benevolence and protection as females.

Still not convinced? Question how you might feel if the victim of male rape were your son, or your father. Perhaps that concluding thought will provoke a few to open their minds, and hopefully their hearts.

Is Chivalry Dead? – If only!

Since blogging on WordPress, I have encountered a number of interesting blogs written by fellow bloggers. One post that provoked some disagreement was ‘Chivalry – it’s not just for knights’, written by author, Stephen Liddell. Whilst I respect Stephen’s views on the matter, I must confess that my views do not coincide. Why should one gender be treated differently to the other when it comes down to something that, essentially, should be nothing other than good manners and common courtesy?

From a female perspective, the underlying patriarchy of chivalry has always sat uneasily with me: The implication that men are the strong protectors, who tend to the perceived weaker gender, like a knight in shining armour. Feminists argue that chivalry is therefore misogynist, but I disagree with this view entirely.

Misogyny is defined as being a “hatred, dislike, or distrust of women”, and even if men really are chivalrous as a result of their inherent beliefs that women are weak (as the feminists claim), I fail to see the correlation being the belief that someone is frail, and hating them. A newborn baby is more fragile than a fully-grown adult: does that mean that we nurture and protect a child who is so precious to us, purely out of hatred? Such feminist theories are preposterous, and as such, do not stand any validity in forming a well constructed argument or reason. Chivalry may very well be patriarchal and even exasperating for women such as myself, but it is surely not a feature of misogyny.


On average, men are only about 15-percent larger than women, although the average male is usually physically stronger than most women, because of greater muscle mass. Of course, there are exceptions, and even if a woman is physically weaker than her male suitor, that does not make her too frail to open a door for herself, or to stand during a train journey. Women such as the suffragette, Emily Davison, died in the fight for female equality in our history; so what a kick in the teeth to the memories of women who fought for equality, when there are still some instances of women being perceived as the “weaker” gender, so many years on. Perhaps such patriarchy is the result of modern women demanding they be “treated like queens”, just as much as men are at fault for bestowing it upon women whilst, quite hypocritically, not treating their fellow men with such good manners.

When an injury necessitated the use of crutches last year, I was admittedly, very grateful when a seat was offered on public transport, and was genuinely touched by the number of kind people who would stop and offer to help – both men and women. Usually it was men who offered to help, and I could not help but wonder how many of them would have been so helpful had I been a male. No doubt the men who stopped to offer help, believed they were just being kind; and maybe they really would have been as helpful towards a male as they were towards a female. But, as Steven Liddle wrote in his blog, “I do it for me”, and is such a statement not a form of moral superiority, whereby the person is rather egotistically making the gesture merely to make himself believe he is the “good guy”? I cannot help but object to, what is essentially a patriarchical moral high ground, particularly as good social etiquette dictates the obligation that I should graciously say thank you for something I neither wanted nor asked for, but was imposed upon me nonetheless.

Being a humanist (as opposed to a feminist), I advocate equality between both genders. Men should be treated the same as women, with good manners bestowed upon both genders – and not forgetting the transgendered, too. When a man runs to hold a door open a door for a woman, or offers to carry her bags, then he should offer the same to a fellow male. If a woman is genuinely in a position where she appears to be in need of help, such as being on crutches and struggling to carry heavy bags or may need a seat; then yes, by all means offer her help – but also offer the same assistance to a man on crutches. I certainly would, and very often have, much to the surprise of the men in question. With regards pregnant or elderly ladies (and elderly men!) unsteady on their feet; yes, a physically healthy man should give up his seat – but so should other women who are not pregnant, elderly, or less physically able to stand (I.e. on crutches or recovering from surgery, etc.) It is a matter of priority and common courtesy.

My message to all the Knights in Shining Armour out there: Instead of behaving in a chivalrous manner, try being an all-round decent human being instead. People will respect you for it more.

My little anti-feminist joke of the day!

Are today’s children “a Jack of all trades, master of none”?

The results of new research reported in the news headlines today, suggests children are now reading less than they did back in 2005.

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According to a study of 21,000 children and teenagers conducted by the National Literacy Trust, today’s generation of children read fewer novels, comics, magazines and websites. While many enjoyed reading, it is reported that 17% said they would be embarrassed if a friend saw them with a book.

The results of this research reminded me of two previous posts that I wrote for this blog, only a matter of days ago:

Hate peepz who typ lyk dis’?

Have English Standards Taken A Nosedive?

A Government review of British education, in addition to a more dedicated and specific parental encouragement, is long overdue it would seem. As the research has suggested, childrens’ lives have become more crowded with other activities, and it seems that parents are putting too much emphasis on a number of activities to try and make their children more “well-rounded”, instead of having their children focus on fewer, but more educationally beneficial, pursuits.

It would appear there is more truth in the old proverb  “Jack of all trades, master of none.”, than parents care to realize. Whilst “well-rounded” children are deemed highly desirable by schools when selecting new intake, and subsequently during the application process for university admissions, finding a healthy balance is also crucial.