Saturday, 31 January 2009

The Special Case Of Parenthood

Last month, Sir Ian McKellen caused a stir by telling an interviewer that “Britain has already had one or two gay Prime Ministers”. Perhaps a catty allusion to Edward Heath's girth? Now Iceland, plunging in all other respects, has appointed the world's first openly gay prime minister, Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir, a former air hostess.

The time has come, perhaps. Some commentators believe that Keynesianism, with its carefree attitude to saddling future generations with debt, could only ever have been propounded by a childless gay man — one who famously said “in the long run we are all dead”. Perhaps in the current climate we need more gay leaders, to shape up to putting millstones around our children's necks for years to come? If so, Sigurdardóttir is no good. Lesbian she may be but with her partner she has three children. Presumably each one of them, like every man, woman and child in Iceland, owes £116,000. - David Sexton Evening Standard 30/01/09

I'm going to ignore the obviously latent homophobia of this short piece of comment (catty indeed) and instead focus on something that has always goaded me; the supposed specialness of parenthood.

It seems almost universally believed, as suggested here by David Sexton, that becoming a parent makes you a better person.

I have two major problems with this:

1) If it takes becoming a parent to make you less selfish and more responsible than that truly is a damning commentary on your moral character as a human being.
2) Given that most people become parents it is fairly self evident that parents are no more likely to be selfless and responsible members of society than those who are childless, through their own choice or otherwise.

Don't get me wrong; I think becoming, and being, a parent should be a wonderful moment in someone's life. But it does not make a bad person good.

Sure some people might be better people as a parent than they were as a childless person. But the same could obviously be said vice versa. That's pretty much how life is, every situation affects everyone differently. Any suggestion that those who are childless are more likely to be selfish and irresponsible than those who are not is naive in the extreme.

I have nothing against parents (I have more than two of my own plus I go out with one) but I do have something against this prejudice against those without children. Given that the world is already over populated perhaps those who are childless should be considered as being rather selfless giving up their quota of children so that the more fecund can have as many kids as they wish (not that there's anything wrong with that).

P.S. Keynes was not a gay man. His last relationship was his reportedly happy marriage to a woman. That makes him bisexual at the very most (and I use that term loosely as one can't really be certain of anyone's sexuality), not that this affects his level of selfishness but it does show how widely ignored bisexuality is throughout the media who seem to prefer to the safe titles of gay and straight. I might be gay but I am constantly surprised at how many folks out there are bisexual. You wouldn't know that from the media. Bisexuals rule.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

National Holocaust Memorial Day

Today is a very sombre day indeed as we remember all those who lost their lives to the Nazi death machine, plus (I hope) all those who have lost their lives in many other senseless attacks on civilians throughout the modern age.

We all know that the death toll of the Nazi Holocaust is mostly Jewish victims of racial hatred but we must also remember all those others who died... the Communists, the liberals, the homosexuals, the Jehovah Witnesses, the gypsies and, most disturbing of all, the disabled; the weakest and most vulnerable victims of all.

Action T4 is often forgotten. This was an Euthanasia programme aimed at removing those who were mentally or physically "unfit" from the gene pool and releasing the money and time required for their care to more "useful" ends. These people, some just children, were gassed in vans having been lead there believing they were going on holiday or were about to get a special treat. Their families were lied to to try to hide these crimes. But eventually the German people found out and did start protesting. By 1941 the Nazis had to stop this hideous criminal activity... but they took their experience, equipment and men to the east to begin their final solution...

All those who died deserve to be remembered but somehow the stories of the victims of Action T4 will always be foremost in my mind. They seem to scream out with the utter inhumanity of the mindset of that particular time and place.

Let us dream of a future free of such vile crimes... it may seem far fetched at the moment but one must hope for a better day.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Don't Call Me English

I continue my fight to be British, something that is increasingly hard to be here in London. There are so many "colonials" here who, not knowing any better, seem to feel it's okay to call me "English" (plus of course most of the English folk too which is about 90% of the population even those of ethnic minority origins which really makes me laugh). Well it's not and I'm pretty quick to educate them in the subtle differences.

The biggest of course is about being patriotic. Self-confessed English people are, in my opinion, being traitorous towards Her Britannic Majesty. If the United Kingdom is one country under Queen Elizabeth II then that is good enough for me to consider myself British. Anything else is secessionist rebellion against the monarchy and as self confessed royalist I'll have nothing to do with that thank you very much.

What connects British people? A shared ruler, a shared political structure (being eroded now by devolution, alas) and a shared military. Not culture, which is what some English folk protest connects them. People seem to think being English means you share an exclusive culture with all the other folk who live in "England" as opposed to the cultures of the Scots or Welsh. This of course is a ludicrous delusion. I no more share my culture with someone from Yorkshire than I do with someone from northern France. I suspect I'd probably understand the French person better too (my French is rudimentary but better than my Tyke). If that is not the case, if they really don't think culture connects them then being English is quite pointless as there is no other sane reason for considering yourself English than as part of one nationality and culture. Thus Englishness is a defunct concept.

The most important point for me though is aspirational. Britishness is a concept open to interpretation, free of the thousands of years of history of any other and formed only over the last couple of hundred years. The concept of Britishness, to me anyway, is one of being unobtrusively patriotic (no American gushing over the flag, more a silent respect), of being polite to others, of being thoughtful and of keeping ones emotions in check as much as possible. The good old British stiff upper lip as it were. Sure it's impossible for any human to constantly maintain such a holier than thou demeanour. But it can't hurt to try.

Englishness seems more in line with ideas of Anglo-Saxon bravado and a certain lack of class in everyday interactions. Of thoughtlessness and of arrogance. The St Georges flag seems to me to represent everything that I hate in this country.

This story from the Titanic empathises everything I consider important about being British. In everything I do I aspire to meet the Captain's demand of "Be British, boys, be British."

I just wish more people did the same.

So feel free to call yourself English and lay claim to the violence and destruction of the Anglo Saxons. I prefer to believe in looking forward, of believing in unity against sedition or progress over longing for an imaginary past. So don't call me English and don't call this country England. Until the nationalists (and of course the disinterested masses) win, it remains the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Long may it remain so.

P.S. Why do Americans call the country England? Even at the time of the Revolution it was the Kingdom of Great Britain. Grr...

Rant Ends

Further Reading

The How to be British Collection (US Amazon)

The English Nation: The Great Myth (US Amazon)

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Another Victim Of Scientology?

John Travolta's 16 year old son has sadly passed away after suffering a seizure. He had a history of such seizures, but such a history never makes the loss of someone so young any less painful. Of course most would have expected him to be on medication, something I'm more than certain his parents arranged for him. What sort of parent wouldn't?

It is unclear whether Jett was taking any medication for his seizures.

A spokeswoman for Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport, where Jett was taken, said she could not release any information because of privacy concerns.

Any suggestion that any medication might have been witheld prior to his latest seizure would of course be pure, and baseless, speculation. But the level of Scientology "crisis management" on the internet is certainly worrying...

May He Rest In Peace.

Further Reading

Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics and L.Ron Hubbard Exposed by Jon Atack (UK Amazon, US Amazon)