Was Andreas Lubitz Evil? – A Case For The Mentally Ill

Depression

Some years ago, a good friend of mine randomly sashayed around our kitchen, swinging and juggling two large, and very sharp knives in front of our faces, as though he were performing a circus act. Despite numerous desperate requests for him to stop, he continued to swing the knives and throw them around the kitchen, until I gave him a kick. Whilst I’m not proud of kicking my friend, it was the only way to make him to stop. He genuinely believed he was doing nothing wrong, but his actions could have so easily lead to disaster, if the swinging knives had hit one of us in the face, or slashed someone’s neck. Not long after the incident, a few other reckless events lead to my friend being formally admitted for medical treatment, under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act, and he was subsequently diagnosed as bipolar.

A number of people, at that time, believed that my friend’s actions were deliberate – but I know they were not. My friend believed that he would become famous, and he regularly joked about topics such as taking over the world, and death. Fortunately, my friend received the help he needed, and has now fully recovered. He has a successful career, and fortunately has the support of his friends – myself, in particular. But, during the time of his illness, his condition resulted in him being severely discriminated against, leading to losing most of his friends, his girlfriend, being expelled from a world leading college, and losing his sponsorship. His condition caused him to act and speak recklessly during his manic episodes, even though my friend genuinely never intended any person harm. One of the symptoms of a manic episode, is delusions of grandeur. The sufferer can often believe they are invincible, or more skilled than they actually are – and in some cases, believe they are able to take over the world. 

With that thought in mind, one should seriously question and scrutinise the headlines and accusations regarding Andreas Lubitz deliberately murdering 149 people on his passenger plane. The discovery of a discarded sick note in his Dusseldorf apartment has been documented by the press, along with the confirmation that he attended a medical clinic days before the crash. Most recently, the German newspaper, Bild, has reported that Lubitz’s ex-girlfriend claimed he had once said: “One day I will do something that will change the whole system, and then all will know my name and remember it.” – Words which sounded remarkably similar to those of my friend, who of course, intended nothing malicious. If anything, it was merely a case of macho “chest-beating” bravado to impress the ladies, and could have also been the same intention with Lubitz.

Unsurprisingly, the account of Lubitz’s girlfriend in Bild (which despite being quoted by all the more “reliable” media outlets, is Germany’s equivalent of ‘The Sun’ newspaper – just to be clear!), is being misconstrued and spun by the media. 
And the reaction of the “sheeple”: 
 
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Without actually being inside Lubitz’s mind, no person can ever really know for sure whether it was his intention was to kill himself and 149 others, or whether his intention was merely a delusional dare-devil failure at descending at speed, with the intention of ascending again quickly at the last minute, thus skimming the Alps beneath him, in order to prove his grandeur. Furthermore, how do we know that he was not suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness (besides depression) which made him hear voices instructing him to navigate the plane into the Alps because the plane was being followed? Or a psychotic break as a result of stress, a lack of sleep, and being overworked? Or that he hadn’t recently been diagnosed with a brain tumour, which had caused him to act irrationally at the spur of the moment? The secret behind the torn sick note may eventually reveal clues as to why Lubitz took, not just his own life, but the lives of 149 innocent people. However, we may never know for certain, and it is too simplistic to form a definite conclusion without knowing exactly what Lubitz was thinking during the moments before the crash. Only Lubitz himself will ever know what his thoughts were – assuming he was even fully aware of his own thoughts, and conscious of his decisions. To quote Sam Harris in ‘Free Will’:

“I generally start each day with a cup of coffee or tea—sometimes two. This morning, it was coffee (two). Why not tea? I am in no position to know. I wanted coffee more than I wanted tea today, and I was free to have what I wanted. Did I consciously choose coffee over tea? No. The choice was made for me by events in my brain that I, as the conscious witness of my thoughts and actions, could not inspect or influence. Could I have “changed my mind” and switched to tea before the coffee drinker in me could get his bearings? Yes, but this impulse would also have been the product of unconscious causes. Why didn’t it arise this morning? Why might it arise in the future? I cannot know. The intention to do one thing and not another does not originate in consciousness—rather, it appears in consciousness, as does any thought or impulse that might oppose it.”

I argue that we will never really know, nor understand, the real reason. Thus, we should be sceptical of the accounts given by the media.

Most importantly, the question that the media have failed to ask, and which urgently needs to be addressed, is if Lubitz was suffering from a serious mental illness, why was he put into a situation where he felt unable to seek help?

It has been reported that Lubitz feared his flying license would be revoked if his airline learned the extent of his psychological breakdown, and the Daily Mail inauspiciously states:

“The disclosures will raise more questions for Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, as to how he was allowed to fly a passenger jet when he was known to suffer from depression – and to have suffered burnout and mental illness.”

What the media have also failed to clarify, is that suffering with depression, or any other psychiatric illness, does not mean that a person is any more inclined to harm others. If anything, a person with depression tending towards suicide, will want to find somewhere quiet to end his own life, well away from other people. Instead of acknowleging that, the media seem intent on feeding off Lubitz’s mental illness to sell their stories. In reality, a recent study published by the American Psychological Association, revealed only 7.5 percent of crimes were directly related to mental illness. Furthermore, Appleby, L., et al (2001) state in their Lancet published study, “people with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime.” Hiday, V. A., et al (1999) also found that people with severe mental illnesses, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis, are also two-and-a-half times more likely to be attacked, raped or mugged than the general population.

Yet, the effects of stigma and discrimination are profound. The President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health found that:

“Stigma leads others to avoid living, socializing, or working with, renting to, or employing people with mental disorders – especially severe disorders, such as schizophrenia. It leads to low self-esteem, isolation, and hopelessness. It deters the public from seeking and wanting to pay for care. Responding to stigma, people with mental health problems internalize public attitudes and become so embarrassed or ashamed that they often conceal symptoms and fail to seek treatment.”

Corrigan, et al., (2002) found that such discrimination and stigma associated with mental illnesses stem, in part, from the link between mental illness and violence, in the minds of the general public. Furthermore, as is the case with Andreas Lubitz, fallacious links between mental illness and violence is promoted by the entertainment and news media. Mental Health American (1999) stated:

 “Characters in prime time television portrayed as having a mental illness are depicted as the most dangerous of all demographic groups: 60 percent were shown to be involved in crime or violence”:

It is also most noteworthy to consider the study by Wahl, O.F., et al. (2002), ‘Newspaper coverage of mental illness: is it changing?’:

“The vast majority of news stories on mental illness either focus on other negative characteristics related to people with the disorder (e.g., unpredictability and unsociability) or on medical treatments. Notably absent are positive stories that highlight recovery of many persons with even the most serious of mental illnesses”.

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In the midst of such public hysteria, it is crucial we remember that provided a mental health disorder is diagnosed and properly treated, the risk of a person harming others becomes even lower. Data obtained following a recent Freedom of Information request, revealed that more than 40,000 NHS staff took sick leave as a result of stress, anxiety, and depression in 2014. Are depressed doctors murdering their patients? – No. The World Health Organisation state that 1 in 4 people – or 450-million people, are affected, which places mental disorders amongst the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide – and yet, despite these figures, there is is still a huge stigma attached to mental illness, and sufferers face an inordinate amount of stigmatisation by society, sometimes from their own doctors. Two-thirds of people remain undiagnosed, and may appear perfectly “normal” from the outside. Consider that it is perhaps the undiagnosed who are far more likely to behave recklessly, or harm others, than a person who has been properly diagnosed and is being treated for their condition. Yet, because of such stigmatisation, many are afraid to seek help, and the recent tabloid demonisation of Lubitz and his health issues, certainly isn’t helping those who are already facing discrimination. If more people were encouraged to seek help, without fear of stigma or judgement from society, employers, and the likes of the Daily Mail and its readers – who all appear to relish the demonisation of the mentally ill and the most vulnerable people in society, then perhaps more lives could be saved, and fewer families will suffer such tragic losses.  

Moreover, *if* Andreas Lubitz did deliberately crash the plane, it is worth bearing in mind that had more people learned to care about each other and men like Lubitz, maybe Lubitz would have also ensured more care and consideration towards others at the end, too.

Perhaps I see the situation differently as a result of witnessing my friend suffering and being vilified for being bipolar, but I can only see the crash of flight 4U9525 as a tragedy, and not a murder. It is a tragedy that Andreas Lubitz was unable to receive the help he needed, and it is a tragedy that society can only see it fit to demonise, discriminate against, and ostracise those in need in help, to the point that sufferers attempt to hide their illness and refuse help.

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Instead of demonising the mentally ill, a more positive approach would be to understand the potential benefits of mental illness that nobody talks about, and how it appears to be beneficial to creative thinking. Indeed, a high percentage of mentally ill people can be found in the Arts professions, and those people certainly make our everyday lives more enjoyable. Would Beethoven, Mozart, or Schumann have been such skilled composers had they not suffered from mental illnesses? Would the actors and comedians who make us cry with laughter, be able to do so if they did not suffer with bipolar disorders and depression?

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Hmm … Should us “normal” people be worried?

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Thought of the day: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” – Dalai Lama

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Christmas – Not As Innocent As You Think!

In my Easter blog post, I looked at the hypocrisy of Easter from a different 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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

Do “Too Many Tweets Make A Tw*t”?

Public opinion of the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has just about reached an all-time low, but it appears that our dear Mr CamWrong may have been “right” about one thing …

Twitter.

During an interview on Absolute Radio, back in 2009, David Cameron was asked by presenter Christian O’Connell whether he used Twitter.

“Politicians do have to think about what we say,” Mr Cameron stated, seemingly without irony, before bestowing the following howler upon us: “The trouble with Twitter, the instantness of it – too many twits might make a twat.”

Despite the absurd irony of Mr Cameron’s ineptness, his statement is made all the more ironic by the fact the Conservative Party had a twitter account, and not to mention that Mr Cameron now also has a Twitter account for No. 10 Downing Street. Therefore, it would seem that one “twit” in particular, really can “make a tw*t”.

As a user of Twitter, my opinion about the site is somewhat mixed. I am often bemused by the sheer ludicrousness that some people manage to incorporate into just 140 characters. Because of the 140 character limit, one can often be subjected to a long list of multiple tweets from the same person(s); full of ridiculously abbreviated words, and depending on who one is following, may result in a trail of absolute nonsense trawling up the newsfeed.

Whilst I like to think I am a little more selective about who I follow, one does come across some real “gems” retweeted by others, sometimes retweeted purely for comedy value.

Just take a look at some of these examples:

Let us not forget the way Twitter was used to incite the London Riots, whilst bystanders tweeted their riot “observations”, or riot warnings to others. Quite often, it emerged that a ridiculous number of tweets provided nothing other than false information. Yet, the false information spread like wildfire, such as rumours about the streets of a West London borough apparently being set in flames, only for nervous residents to later discover that the worst event to have actually occurred in that particular area, was a brick thrown through a shop window! What a kick in the teeth to the people who genuinely were affected by the Riots, and who lost their homes in the fires in Croydon, Tottenham, Hackney, etc. However, it must also be pointed out that Twitter also played an important role in the post-riots clean-up, which gave the police a means of tracing those who incited and recruited other rioters.

One disturbing aspect of Twitter is that regulating the site is virtually impossible because of the massive volume of messages and tweets that are sent every second. On the subject of immediacy, as also mentioned by Mr. Cameron, it can only take so much as one misinformed tweet for a false rumour to become a worldwide trend in minutes, as we have seen in the past, ranging from the apparent “death” of a celebrity, down to their so-called sordid affairs. There is a great deal of misinformation and sometimes sheer nastiness. But none of this is a special feature of Twitter, as it is a feature of people generally. Furthermore, it is very difficult to pick up on humour and sarcasm via Twitter (and, indeed, other social media sites), leading to many misunderstandings and quarrels. One careless or false tweet has the potential of giving information capable of ruining lives and relationships. But, on a more positive note, celebrities and high-profile people have utilised  Twitter’s immediacy as a way of “setting the record straight” about a rumour,  and to engage with their fans, and even form more of a following.

I must confess that I do love Twitter as a means of keeping up-to-date with current affairs. Twitter is a fantastic forum for learning of any errors in news reporting and for academics to promote general public understanding of their research. It is also a wonderful forum for lawyers, politicians, and and journalists to share information such as links, viewpoints, and to receive instant feedback. It is now becoming common for interesting legal trials to be live-tweeted and debated by legal scholars, and for the mainstream media to subsequently try and catch-up! Whilst one may have to sift through some rather trivial tweets, there are so many high-profile academics who are happy to share a fresh insight and engage in very interesting topical debates. As a result of instant tweeting and academic blogging, newspaper reports are now becoming old news that contribute little additional value to what one has already learned “straight from the horses’ mouths” on Twitter.

Some university departments are also increasingly using Twitter as a teaching resource, and whilst it may seen that nothing of value could possibly be written in only 140 characters; for all the bizarre tweets full of abbreviations that I sometimes think only the person who tweeted it could possibly understand,  I have also very often been pleasantly surprised. The restriction in communicating with just 140 characters can be a very useful learning method: It teaches one how to be more succinct by forcing one to stick with the facts, and not swaying off topic, which would result in a long series of multiple tweets. That, after all, might lead to a mass exodus of followers, as they become increasingly more frustrated with having to sift through the vast number of irrelevant tweets on their news-feed.

Taking the latter into account, maybe too many tweets really do make a “twat”. However, too many tweets might actually rid you of some, too!

Cheerio, chaps!

Have Literacy Standards Taken A Nosedive?

Schools across Britain are reporting that students who sat GCSEs in English have been ‘harshly marked down’, as a result of this year’s GCSE A*-C results falling for the first time in the exam’s history. One headteacher has condemned the GCSE exam board as being ‘unfair’, and claims that her ‘pupils have had their life chances damaged’.

The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, has always alleged that the value of GCSEs and A-levels has been corroded by the “dumbing down” of exams, and the over-generous awarding of grades.

The question is, have standards genuinely fallen, or were this year’s GCSE exams particularly harsh?

There has been much speculation in previous years about exam standards becoming progressively easier. It always seemed difficult to believe that Britain’s teenagers were getting increasingly more intelligent every single year, particularly as there have been conflicting reports suggesting that literacy standards have been falling in Britain since 2005.

Although it is considered “cool” for teenagers to type in “text talk”, what implications might this have upon literacy standards – if at all? Arguably, if one is not reading quality literature, or writing at a high standard on a regular basis, it is very easy to fall into a situation where spelling standards decline, and writing standards do not progress as quickly. I do not suppose the US English spelling, which is so commonplace on the internet, helps terribly much, either.

Furthermore, consider the poor quality of writing in the ‘Twilight’ series of books, which are ever so popular with today’s teenagers. When teenagers are familiarising themselves with the following examples of syntactical car-crashes, colloquialisms, and appalling overuse of adjectives, would it really surprise us if we discovered that English standards are falling?

“He leaned in slowly, the beeping noise accelerated wildly before his lips even touched me. But when they did, though with the most gentle of pressure, the beeping stopped altogether.”

“Time passes. Even when it seems impossible. Even when each tick of the second hand aches like the pulse of blood behind a bruise. It passes unevenly in strange lurches and dragging lulls, but pass it does. Even for me.”

“He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare.”

This bizarre adjective reduplication also takes the cake:

“He was both dazzling and dazzled.”

Perhaps incorporating the study of one of the ‘Twilight’ books into the National Curriculum would not be such a bad idea; not because the books are an example of quality writing, but because they are actually very good examples of a poor writing style that teenagers should be taught not to emulate in their own writing. As some of the more “eloquent” teenagers are already reading the books recreationally, why not use ‘Twilight’ as an opportunity to educate teenagers in what not to do, in a manner that will actually be enjoyable for most of them, and will thus be easier for them to relate with. Moreover, although somewhat off the topic of English studies, the ‘Twilight books might also be a useful learning text for PSE (Personal and Social Education) classes, as the ‘Twilight’ books also send out the wrong message about relationships. For example, the main character, Bella, abandons a number of things (school, her relationships with others) in order to allow her entire existence to be engrossed in her adoration for Edward, resulting in an underlying message that almost makes it seem “cool” for a girl to allow herself to be defined by a boy she obsesses over. Maybe it would be a good idea to let teenagers realise how destructive such a mindset could be.

Back to the topic of English, the following examples discovered on Twitter may just about sum up the general standard of some teenagers’ literacy:

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A tweet posted by @AngryBritain, which commented on the TV programme, ‘X-Factor, lead to the angry response of a teenager who, it would appear, was previously uninformed as to the definition of the word “snigger”. She was, therefore, under the false impression that the tweet read the word “nigger”, instead of ‘snigger’.

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Something tells me she may have been right about that…

I rest my case.

‘Hate peepz who typ lyk dis’? The Reason Why Text-Type May Be More Scholarly Than You Think.

Just a quick glance at the Facebook page or Twitter feed of today’s modern teenagers gives us an insight into today’s standard of English literacy. “Y do teenz lyk 2 typ lyk dis”? Alas, I do not think the elder generations will ever really understand the trend.

Maybe “dis way of writin” could actually be considered more scholarly than we care to believe. Perhaps the English language is merely reverting back to Old English or Frisian! Fashions do, after all, repeat themselves, and maybe the same is beginning to happen with regards the English language.

Just a moment ago, I was reading an old book that I stumbled across: ‘The Cambridge History of the English Language: (Vol 1): the Beginnings to 1066’ by Richard M. Hogg, and was reminded how Frisian, a West Germanic language spoken in the province of Friesland, Netherlands, and parts of northern Germany, is the closest relative of English. In fact, Frisia was once a powerful and independent kingdom from the c.7th century, but lost its independence by the 15th century.

To summarise, Old English and Frisian were, at one time, mutually intelligible. After the Battle of Hastings, English became influenced by Norman French, whilst Frisian became influenced more by the Dutch language. Frisian is similar to English in that both languages are rich in vowels, diphthongs and triphthong; but unlike Germanic languages, have nasal vowels, similar to Afrikaans. The Frisian “r” is similar to the English alveolar “r”, as opposed to an uvular sound in German or Dutch.

An extract from ‘Beowulf’, a poem written in Old English.

I was interested to hear the languages spoken, and a search on YouTube led me to a rather interesting documentary presented by Eddie Izzard, that was previously part of a series called ‘Mongrel Nation’, once featured on The Discovery Channel. In one of episode, Eddie Izzard learnt a few Old English phrases, and subsequently took a trip to Friesland to meet a local Frisian-speaking farmer. Interestingly, Izzard asked the farmer if he could buy a cow, speaking in Old English, and the farmer understood most of the conversation. An excerpt from the series can be found here.

To understand my observation about teenagers’ “text talk” being similar to Old English or Frisian, just observe the following example:

Frisian: Ik wolde net lyk it te rein oer de neist wyk.
English: I would not like it to rain over the next week.

Notice any similarities there? (“lyk” = “like”, etc.)

Also, notice how in spoken English, certain regional dialect tends to be a little sloppy by dropping letters from the ends of words. Thus, observe the following:

Frisian: Bûter, brea, en griene tsiis is goed Ingelsk en goed Frysk
English: Butter, bread and green cheese is good English and good Frisian

I am sure if teenagers realised that their style of writing/speaking  is scholarly enough to be comparable to Old English or Frisian, the latest trend of “text talk” would soon appear less “cool”, and perhaps we might gradually see it begin to fizzle out.

I am sure that would come as a relief to some of us.

If the English language is reverting back to Old English, perhaps Old English fashion will also repeat itself? Who reckons we’ll be seeing this example of 11th century “chic” worn by today’s teenagers…? … Maybe not.