A Calamitous Day

The Prime Minister has signed the Article 50 notification. Our country has begun the process of leaving the Europe Union. The 52 percent that voted for Brexit (actually 26 percent of UK population) is now in charge. Whatever happens now is their fault. Don’t blame us if it’s a complete mess. And don’t blame the poor, the immigrants, the muslims, the homeless, the children, the sick, doctors, the nurses, the banks, the schools. This is your UK now, if you voted for this, own it.

I’m sort of an immigrant to this country. I sneaked in. It is a country I have loved but always felt a bit of an outsider; aware that I was adopted by both a new family and a new nation. I’m lucky in that the colour of my skin makes it easy for me to hide in plain sight in the UK. But it also means people have been willing to share their hateful views with me – thinking I’m one of them. But I’m not. When I hear their racism, the darkest recesses of what might be loosely called their soul, when they use immigration to justify this political leap into the dark, they are talking about me and my children.

And so no, this doesn’t end today. Like millions of others in this country I will fight for a decent future for my family. A future free of hatred and bigotry, a future free of lies painted on buses, free of ignorance and lack of education. A future where instead of isolating ourselves and dreaming of some version of 1950s that only existed for a privileged few even then – instead a future where we try to be part of something bigger and better for the benefit of our children and their children. A future where expertise, education, science, and truth are still important.

Today the UK takes a terrible first step into isolation, into a petty small minded version of this country that’s unwilling to be part of a community. A hideous mashup of The Darling Buds of May and Love Thy Neighbour. A future molded by US health insurance companies, big sugar, the Daily Mail, Murdoch, a USA in political turmoil, and the Kremlin.

I still hope our government will see sense. I hope they realise the incredible damage that could follow and thus make a brave u-turn. But I fear that the most likely outcome is that our children will be damned to a nation suffering a prolonged political, social and cultural ice age. We have a government more interested in maintaining party unity than protecting us against any external threat to the UK. We’re sleepwalking into oblivion with the scriptwriter working in Cyrillic.

To those who voted for setting the clocks back 40 years, I hope you enjoy your bendy cucumbers and incandescent light bulbs. But I don’t think they will be much compensation for the many hardships to follow.

In some ways I hope you are right. It would be wonderful to think we’re beginning a new golden age, a revitalised and glorious United Kingdom, once again earning the Great in Great Britain. We’re not though, we’re really not. You can’t build a golden age on bigotry and lies.

Maybe one day the 52 percent will understand that, and they will even apologise to us. Until then, the rest of us will fight this massive mistake. Not just for our sake, but for your sake and that of your children too. Because that’s what being part of a family, union or community is all about. You’ve just forgotten.

An Open Letter to Oliver Letwin MP (Con)

Dear Mr Letwin,

I returned home from shopping this lunchtime to find a poor tree had died partly to fund an election “communication” from you , promoted on behalf of your campaign by a Mr Antony Stanley. My first thoughts were to return to sender with instructions on where one could shove it. However I have decided to respond in more detail.

Your election pamphlet was addressed to me here at the Vicarage. You see my wife is a vicar. In fact Mr Letwin you met my wife during the last election campaign. She was introduced to you in her capacity as a local Church minister in Charlton Down and you completely ignored her. Whatever merits or demerits your party may have I would never vote for someone so rude as to completely ignore and refuse to speak to someone in this way. Manners maketh the man and all that.

But let’s move on – I don’t want to make this personal, I have more of a beef with your party than your own lack of manners. As I said your pamphlet was sent to me at the Vicarage. I know it’s not popular among your church going party colleagues but this house, my wife’s position and our family ethos actually has something to do with the teachings of a man called Jesus of Nazareth. Anglican Tories, are happy to miss out all the giving to the poor, helping the needy bit, and instead favour racist immigration policies and demonising of the meekest members of our society. However I feel that your party is the enemy of everything this house, the church and the teachings of Jesus stand for.`

I want to raise a few points for you to explain why I would never vote for you or any other Tory candidate:

1, The Bedroom Tax – a purely malignant policy with two aims, first to divide and demonise the poor and secondly to save a tiny bit of money that could be spent elsewhere such as on rich pensioners. This policy was never about freeing up larger homes for poorer families – the housing stock didn’t exist to downsize people into. But your party went ahead with it anyway.

2, Tory opposition to Labour’s non-dom policy. A grown up intelligent party might have pulled the rug from under Labour by instantly adopting the same policy. Instead you circled the wagons and defended the fat cats that leach on this nation yet pay little tax here. The “all in this together” rings very hollow.

3, The recently announced changes to inheritance tax rules. The wealthy of this nation do not create their wealth in isolation. Our roads, railways, schools etc. are all used as they built their business empires. It seems perfectly reasonable for the rich to make reparations to society when they die. However as usual your party has decided to man the barricades and ensure very little of this money trickles down.

4, The harsh benefit sanctions driving people to starvation and suicide.

5, The lies on the economy. The figures do not bare out Tory claims that Labour wrecked the economy and you are fixing it. Independent figures show GDP fell due to your draconian slash and burn austerity policies.

6, Focus on the few benefit fraudsters when by its own figures the government wastes more benefits in mistakes and overpayments. The continued focus on the unemployed as your demons of society is revolting scapegoating. Pensioners make up the vast bulk of benefit payments, but of course the old vote for you so you will tip toe around the rich pensioners that receive benefits they do not need.

7, Selling off housing association stock. This one is new and a new low. This wrong-headed nonsense would see you sell off prime housing stock at a loss to fund building more expensive homes. It is totally insane. We have precious little social housing as it is and you want to flog it off? Shame on you.

8, Opposition to European human rights laws protecting workers, the disabled, parents, the sick, the poor – basically the laws that protect anyone from your party and its friends.

9, The attempted coup against the Speaker at the end of the last session of Parliament was shady, disgusting work.

10, TTIP – an assault on our freedoms via the back door. Selling off parts of the NHS to American corporations, relaxing banking laws (well it’s not like the banks would get us into trouble eh?), reducing controls on environment and food safety and even an assault on our democracy itself.

11, The Tory campaign has offered little positive. It’s all been about scaring people into voting for you. Daily Mail tactics – make vulnerable poorly educated people too scared to abandon the Tory party. Your pamphlet which I received today features a banner that devotes two thirds of its space to fostering fear of Labour rather than celebrating your party’s own policies. What’s wrong? Not enough positive policies to trumpet? Scared Labour might be right? I wasn’t going to vote Labour, but this pamphlet has me thinking of doing so.

12, George Osborne’s £8bn NHS boost. A completely fictional pile of money, a desperate attempt to win back some credibility on the subject of health. It failed. What kind of minister, or even chancellor, cannot answer a question asked 15 times about where such a large amount of money will come from? I can claim to be eating unicorn bacon for breakfast tomorrow, it’s just as likely as this £8bn being real.

13, The volunteering policy. So people could take time off from work to help a registered charity such as their local posh private school – but not their normal common village primary? What larks.

14, £9000 tuition fees. The children are the future of this nation. The rich pensioners are not. But your party insists on bolstering the past while robbing from the nation’s future. It is sickening. My children will be paying for your follies long after you are gone.

15, Cuts in social care for the old that means hospital beds are blocked by them, making people waiting for treatment wait longer. Like in many areas you make cuts to get headlines but cost us more money in the long run.

16, Protecting the wealthy, the privileged, the powerful. I see plenty of entertainers from the past have been in court – but not so many party colleague that perhaps frequented Dolphin Square. A cynical person might suggest we’re being offered these entertainers as a decoy. I also see plenty of bankers are still free to wander the streets after wrecking our economy, you’re still friends with them and blame Labour for their wrongdoing. Why are these bankers are not in prison? And why do those in desperate need who wrongly make benefit claims find themselves in prison but not former education secretaries who refurnish their kitchen(s) at our expense? On rule for one, eh?

17, The failure to make the likes of Vodafone pay the billions owed in taxes.

18, Closing libraries. What the actual fuck? Why not just go the whole way and burn books at torchlight parades?

I could list many more, but if I don’t put the shopping in the fridge soon some of it may spoil. And so that will do for now. I’m also a bit cross, so I’d rather go have a wagon wheel and some Fanta than bang my head against this uncaring brick wall any longer.

Mr Letwin, I would never ever vote for you or any of your party. You are the enemy of decency and fairness, your party has attacked and vilified the poor, made the poor hungry and sick, made the sick homeless and driven people to their deaths with your selfishness. The policies of your government since 2010 were an all-out war on the most desperate and needy people in our society, the people without a voice, all so you could hoard wealth for rich pensioners, non-doms and your corporate friends.

When children arrive at school hungry and without warm clothing there is something very sick at the top of our society. I am not a party loyalist – I haven’t even decided where my vote will go in May – but one thing is clear, it will never go to those who abuse the weakest members of our society. My late mother brought me up to believe in decency and kindness – and I am not one of those people who can stomach the cognitive dissonance of kneeling on a Sunday but voting to harm the poor on a Thursday.

Good day to you

Harry Neary

Bishop David Walker on Poverty

I’ve read an excellent piece in today’s Guardian by Anglican bishop David Walker on the subject of the church’s recent head on collision with the Tories over poverty.

“Most of us would see service provision not just as an end in itself. It is equally the ground on which we stand to challenge and stimulate public sector provision, and our basis for offering a critique of dominant political narratives. Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts this latter in a typically telling phrase: “When you’ve fished enough people out of the river, it’s time to take a walk upstream and see who’s pushing them in.” And what seems to be casting people in ever increasing numbers into the waters is less a matter of specific policies and more about Britain’s scapegoat culture.”

You can read the article on the Guardian website. Obviously don’t read the comments underneath the article. Never read comments on newspaper websites.

Cross Purposes

Once again the subject of wearing crosses in the workplace has reared its head again following the government’s decision that there is no automatic right to wear one.On this rare occasion I agree with the government.

The sort of people who get annoyed by this kind of thing have already been getting worked up about it. How can we show we are Christians, they demand of the government, if we can’t wear our execution-based jewelry?

Here of course is the irony. The sort of person who needs a bloody great cross to show that they are a Christian, the sort of person who rants and raves about their rights to wear a cross, needs a heck of a lot more than a piece of jewelry to convince anyone they have anything to do with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

Let me put it this way, my late mother needed nothing no personal adornment to show people she was a Christian. She lived in a way, and treated others in a way, that left nothing unclear. She didn’t need to wear a cross. Christians shouldn’t need a cross to demonstrate their faith.

But my real argument in supporting the government decision comes down to our idea of freedom of religious expression. This is a valid human rights issue – and our society allows people to express their religion even when there may be other legal conflicts. For example Sikhs are allowed to ride motorcycles without a helmet. Religious observance is protected by our laws.

But wearing a cross is not a religious observance. It is not a sacrament. There is no Biblical command to wear such an item – in fact one of the main features of Christianity was the removal of ritual, religious costume and the like. Christianity doesn’t require a temple, special magic underwear and the like.

Besides, so many people wear a cross as a jewelry item with no religious relevance to them that little meaning is conveyed to anyone by wearing one. Wearing a cross is at best meaningless, at worst among the militant Christian cross wearing types, a warning to others of what an asshat they are.

I see no reason why workplace rules on the wearing of jewelry should be different for Christians. The wish to wear a cross is not about religious observance. It is about certain types of people proving exactly what kind of man/woman they are, and not quite in the way they imagine.

Children & Violent Videogames

Do you ever just read something and hold your head in your hands in despair? I did when I just read some online debates among tens of parents on whether they let their children play games rated for adults. Seemingly intelligent and well educated people can be seen trying to justify allowing their children to view the most violent of content. These people know how violent the content is, they can’t even plead ignorance of that. Yet out of some misplaced pride in their child’s ability to function as an adult or perhaps a typically modern and lazy approach to let their little darling have whatever he wants they would attempt to justify their reckless stupidity.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Many years ago – before I began a career writing about videogames – worked in a videogames store. We would often have parents walking up to the counter with a violent game intended for their child next to them. In such cases we would point out the nature of the content. In many cases – thankfully – the parent would be shocked and it would be clear the child had lied about what was in that game case. In all too many cases though – especially among the educationally bereft – the parent would reply that they didn’t give a toss (or something stronger). And in those cases we wouldn’t sell them the game either.

Some experiences are for adults, some for children. We have rules on movies, alcohol and tobacco that most intelligent adults seem to understand and respect. But why don’t they do so with videogames? Perhaps it’s still the widespread mistaken belief that videogames are meant merely for children. And that whatever their content, there is an expected child audience. So Call of Duty is for over tens, Mario for children younger than that.

I am dismayed when I walk into my local Game and see the number of what we might call “yummy mummies” buying violent games for their children. Amazing really. You might expect it of the thick and feckless, but not those who outwardly at least seem to show some respect for society and having had an education. And amazing the shops will let this happen. As I said, back in the 90s we’d just refuse the sale if we thought the item was for a child, just as a shop would with alcohol or tobacco.

It all comes down to being lazy parents. You see folks trying to justify their stupid decisions – oh yes we had a long family talk about the second world war and little Oscar (half of middle class kids are called Oscar) knows the difference between right and wrong. But the truth is they are just giving into peer pressure and their own wish for an easy life. Those of you who are happy to let their children play games that have a VERY CLEAR age rating well above their child’s age – do you do the same with movies?

Do you ever say “no” to your little darlings? “Awww mum, Sebastian’s mum lets him take a bottle of vodka to school, why can’t I?” Since when is peer pressure on your child by other children pressure on you? Show some backbone. Say no to your child, tell them their friends’ parents are wrong if you think they are. Don’t be such a coward. You are the parent. You might think giving in gives you an easy life, but that’s short term, and you’ll end up with much harder parental work later.

Any of you that have bought Call of Duty for your 12 year olds, will you be letting them watch The Human Centipede too, or perhaps The Exorcist. Will your 12 year old be able to down a few beers while he enjoys his violent game? Perhaps you’ll allow him to smoke a few cigarettes to help cope with the pressures of the modern warfare he is embroiled in. Perhaps he could wind down with some porn.

No?

Didn’t think so. You’re all lazy, delusional idiots.

You may get the idea that I’m anti-games. I’m certainly not. I’ve worked as a professional games writer/editor for over ten years. I love a good shoot ’em up (BTW Call of Duty isn’t a good one) and have plenty of violent games in my collection. But I’m over 18 and I deemed capable of understanding the issues surrounding such content.

Your child isn’t capable of making those decisions. Unfortunately many parents don’t seem to be able or willing to make those decisions either. That’s why we have legally binding age ratings on games. The 18 rating says that a store cannot sell the item to a child – nor should it sell it to someone buying it for a child. Do you know why? Because we have laws. We have laws because some people are too stupid and selfish to make the right decision, so we have to have a judicial system to do it for them.

Yet it seems no matter how obvious, how big and bright we make these age ratings, some people will completely ignore them due to some delusional misplaced pride in your child’s ability to absorb and intellectually process the horrific violence in front of them. Oh we don’t let your darling son play violent videogames in his room – he plays them in the lounge. Well thank heavens for that, that altitude, longitude and latitude shift of ten feet really will make a huge difference to the way his immature and easily influenced brain copes with the violent images it is being forced to process. Well done many of you. Parents of the year.

I’ll say it again. You are lazy, delusional idiots.

Oh and before I go a quick plea to those of you who do let their kids play 18 rated games. At least keep the kids offline. Stupid whiny kids are ruining online gaming for those adults who would like to enjoy it with our peers. I really don’t expect to go down to the pub at 10pm and have twelve year olds running around calling everyone a “dirty jew” or a “fag” in their stupid breaking voices. But you’re quite happy to let your kids to that in online games intended for adults. Thanks a bunch for sharing your bigoted idiotic offspring with us.