Greer on a Bike!
A v.broken attempt to explain my relationship with feminism. It’s all over t’shop – I do apologise…
Black and White make Grey
The writer of those tedious erotic novels was correct: there are lots of shades of grey. The number, however, I disagree with: there are not just fifty, but infinite shades of grey; a limitless pallet of sludge. There are shades that are a fraction darker than white, an imperceptible shadow on an otherwise pure hue. There are shades that seem as deep and bottomless as the blackest night, but when examined closely show the smallest glimmer of light. Scratch below the surface of any reactive philosophy and you realise that black and white, as simple and appealing as they may be, just don’t exist. There are only shades of grey.
Thinking is hard work. And I don’t mean visualising what you’re going to have for tea or imagining Lindsey Lohan’s tits and Kate Middleton’s arse at the same time; I mean real thinking. The sort of thinking that involves delving deep into your psyche, questioning your own beliefs, giving yourself a hard time about what you believe, why you believe it, why anyone else would be swayed by your argument, what makes your opinion valid. Philosophical musing can lead to considering the vastness of the universe and our own insignificance, the wonder that is nature from birth to cancer cells, our disinclination to consider the “soul” as a collection of electric impulses in the brain, despite the scientific evidence. It can lead you to places you would never have dreamed of going.
It’s emotionally draining to think so hard and acknowledge just how insignificant we and our ideals are; a lot of the time, people don’t bother to question their own life philosophies. Anyone that has, however, will know how rewarding it can be and, equally, how taxing: knowledge and understanding can be as disappointing as it can be enlightening, and once you realise something about the world or your inner consciousness you cannot unrealise it, as it were.
People generally seem happy to wade in the black and white paddling pool, rather than make their way into the murky deep end. Are they happier people? Probably – ignorance is bliss, after all. Why, then, should anyone attempt to leave the chequerboard mentality behind? Because ignorance can also lead to cruel and excessive behaviour towards others.
Baroness Thatcher, Twitter and I
Unfortunately, the people who are of the black and white persuasion also appear to apply the same logic to others. One of the things that really irritate me, when I find myself in debate, is people arguing on the “opposition” who take a point I’ve disagreed with and automatically assume that I mean the absolute reverse of what they’ve said. Recently, I was involved in a heated argument with a woman on twitter who really did not see that what she’d said in the first place was a) Inflammatory, and b) One dimensional. Of course, everyone is entitled to tweet pretty much whatever they want to; however, the woman’s original comment was excruciatingly black and white and exceptionally offensive.
“Some people begrudge the cost of Baroness Thatcher’s funeral. Most likely the same people who smashed up London.”
Which is basically the same as saying: “None of the people who disagree with the amount of money spent on Margaret Thatcher’s funeral vote Tory, all non-Tories are in the lower classes and all of the lower classes are violent yobs. Ergo, the people who disagree with the funeral costs must be the same people who smashed up London.”
Flawed logic based on sweeping generalisations.
Now, if that tweet had said: “Most likely some of those people are the same people who smashed up London,” then I would have had to agree, although it seems like a bizarre correlation to me. You could also say that it is most likely that some of the people involved in the smashing up of London are also involved with UKip, or dislike Justine Bieber, or eat Subway sandwiches.
Even if I hadn’t been opposed to the sheer amount of money that is to be spent on Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, I would have taken offence to that statement. The implication being that everyone who doesn’t vote Tory and everyone who was negatively affected, directly or indirectly, by Margaret Thatcher’s policies is the sort of person who resorts to the harmful and violent behaviour displayed in the riots in 2010. If she’d really thought about it, the woman in question could have come full circle and realised that, if what she was saying were true, she would be insinuating that Margaret Thatcher was circuitously responsible for the London riots.
Anyway, the tweeting lady, however ill informed, was entitled to say what she thought and I wouldn’t have it any other way, or this country wouldn’t be so great or free. And I was entitled to disagree with her views, not least for being one of the people she was talking about. What I’ve come to realise is that this woman has probably now stuck me in the box with the people who have engendered the current musical status of the song “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead”, which is as inequitable as being put in the box with the disillusioned youths who were involved with the riots. I have been judged harshly merely for not agreeing with the funeral costs of a woman who ruined the livelihoods and communities of many members of the working classes. I was also referred to as “hard left*” by this woman, because my disagreeing with Margaret Thatcher’s luxury funeral clearly indicated that I wasn’t a conservative and that meant that I must be totally and utterly against anything conservative ever. Which is also not true. I will probably never vote conservative, and a lot of what the conservative party does and/or says p1sses me off, but I don’t consider myself to be “hard left,” and even if I were “hard left,” that still doesn’t make the conservatives “hard right.” But then again, the boundaries of left and right change with the context in which they’re referred to. Within the moderate margins of our largest parties, I guess I would be “hard left”; yet take into account all other parties and political stances, nationally and internationally, and suddenly, our three major players seem to be just stalking around the middle ground. Which is, incidentally, most definitely where they should be if we are ever to combat terrorism.
Returning to the crux of my Margaret Thatcher tweets: I didn’t agree with all of the Baroness’ policies, and she did a lot of harm. Her funeral will cost a huge amount of money and, while I would never deny anyone a decent burial, I do not think that she was so worthy of so much of the tax payers’ cash when it is the tax payers who were affected by her leadership, and when there are people starving in the world, and when our economy is in such disarray. I’m not here solely to discuss my thoughts on Margaret Thatcher; but what I am trying to get at is that, just because I didn’t feel particularly enamoured with the woman, I don’t immediately head for the other end of the spectrum. I don’t think that she was an evil witch and I don’t think the stupid ditty, “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead,” should be at number one in her dishonour (and not just because it is an infantile mindset that has prompted that to happen), because I understand that she was also a human being trying to do what she thought was best, as most of us are. She was a strong leader, I’ll give her that. Some of her policies were unjust, some weren’t. As a woman, she is someone to aspire to in a sense, although she was no feminist – she didn’t hire women, instead choosing to surround herself with men. She was a strong woman, but she didn’t do anything for the feminist cause. She was neither good nor evil. She was a person and, as such, far too complicated to place on a single black or white square.
Most things are too complex to label, although society does its level best to try in pretty much every regard. Case in point: it has come to light that there are not merely three classes of people in the UK anymore, but seven. I guess this shows some progress in terms of diversity, but it’s still utterly pointless; it’s still a way of marginalising the masses. All this study has shown is that our “classes” and their corresponding stereotypes are far more disparate than the government first anticipated; and instead of doing away with the class system entirely when the government made this shocking discovery, it was decided that we desperately had to add more categories.
One Word to Bind them All
At the arse end of last year, a judge, Peter Bowers, made a comment about burglars being brave for choosing their “professions.” He wasn’t saying that burglars were good people**, he wasn’t saying that burglary is something we should all partake in; he simply meant that to break into someone’s house, risking imprisonment and injury from animals or the residents of said properties, is a courageous thing to do. Some may replace the word “brave” with the word “desperate,” but nonetheless, David Cameron’s reaction was disproportionate. He immediately came out with the counterargument that burglars are cowards.
We associate courage with good things. King Arthur was brave, our lads on the front line are brave, firemen are brave, Batman is brave, Jesus was brave. All these people are connected with “good” things – they’re part of the universal belief that good will triumph over evil. So to call someone that our society considers to be bad “brave” really confused everyone. In those simplistic terms, if brave is good and burglars are bad, then for the judge to call burglars brave must mean that a) He believes burglars to be good people, and b) He is, in fact, bad himself. Boo hiss, let’s all go on a witch hunt. David Cameron either knee jerked to the antonym, or he understood the psyche of the general public enough to know that he had to react to it accordingly to avoid association with the “bad” man himself. I like to think it was the latter; much as I hope I’m never driven to vote for the conservatives, I would still like to think that the man who runs this country is intelligent enough to understand the greys and savvy enough to know how to calm the public response.
The Concept of “Good and Evil” is Fallacy
Recently, I’ve managed to get myself into some debates on religion, in particular the Muslim faith (you may have noticed). My argument, in a nutshell, is that everyone has as much right to be on this planet as everyone else, and has the right to believe what they believe. Since Pakistanis (or English, American, French &c. Muslims with Pakistani ties) are the ones under the cosh at the moment, that is who I find myself arguing on behalf of, which isn’t to say that they aren’t capable of doing it themselves, just that there never happens to be a Muslim around when you need one.
The problem here, is that, because of the black and the white misnomer, I am now to be seen as pro-Islam and, therefore, an enemy of anyone who isn’t Muslim. Except that I’m not pro-Islam at all. I’m no Islamophobe, but I don’t like any religion, really. Grappling with my feminist side to argue on behalf of a religion that oppresses its women so v.badly isn’t easy for me – far from it. My argument isn’t in favour of the religion, but in favour of the people – I have no faith, but I v.much believe in humanitarianism, and as human beings, we must accept that not everyone is the same and that this difference is perfectly sufficient so long as all are in favour of humanity; and with the application of a humanitarian philosophy, we are able to see our similarities with seemingly dissimilar people after all. Unfortunately, the Muslim faith seems to spawn some pretty extreme actions from the radical few, I get this and I get that it could put me in danger. But then again, I am equally as scared of the fascists as I am of the Islamic extremists; more so, in fact. Anyone in a disillusioned enough to position to take a concept and run with it to such an extent has to be, on some level, slightly unhinged.
A lady on twitter tweeted almost exactly the same words I have said time and again:
@Yasira Jaan: Muslims view “Islamic” terrorists the same way most Christians view the Westboro Baptist Church.
The problem we have is that some people will automatically associate Muslims with terrorism, whether that’s through general ignorance or a naïve and blind belief in the propaganda that they are exposed to. These people believe that I could not possibly stick up for a group of people without entirely believing in everything they believe, which is preposterous. I would argue wholeheartedly for Catholics, for example, should someone start mouthing off about how they should all go back to Ireland, but I am not Catholic and don’t support the actions of the terrorist group, the IRA. It also doesn’t mean that I agree with Catholicism as a lifestyle, with its inability to grasp the import of pro-abortion laws, or that no sex before marriage jive, or its confessional cleansing.
Funnily enough, one of the many things that I dislike about religion is the way it perpetuates this “good and evil” nonsense. That does not mean that I dislike everyone who has a religion, or anyone who believes in black and white – it just means that I am able to recognise the fact that the black and white doesn’t exist; however dark or light a shade may be. However obvious a solution or the crux of an issue is, I can always see where the lines blur, even if it takes me a while to think about it. And I take solace in knowing that I’m not the only one. The black and white mentality is way too crude a way to view the world, and knowledge and understanding stem from acknowledging the grey roots.
A few months ago, a squash player said to me that some Muslim guys wanted to use the squash club to host a Muslim only squash team. The club refused and the Muslim guys took the matter elsewhere. On hearing this, I said, unthinkingly: “Well, you can’t do that, can you? You can’t expect people to treat you with respect and then refuse to play with people of a different faith.” The man I was talking to then said: “Well, when I asked them why they wanted a Muslim only squash team, they said that it was because squash is a social thing, a hobby that brings people together and they wouldn’t want to all go out to the pub afterwards – they’d want to go for coffee and shisha. It’s as much about the bit after the game as the game itself.” Didn’t I just feel a bit foolish?
Don’t Matter if You’re Black or White (but you can’t be a bit of both)
Another issue that arises, when only considering black and white pieces, is that people are typecast. A person does something “bad” and the bad thing immediately eradicates everything else they’ve ever been.
Harold Shipman will only ever be that bad man who killed old people; the moment he is found out, he is stripped of his lifelong achievements as a doctor; immediately, everyone forgets that his patients absolutely adored him. People start saying things like: “Oh, he seemed like such a nice man. And such a good doctor – we never knew” and they shake their heads as if all that time he was pretending to be a polite GP who was good at his job. Suddenly, he is the devil incarnate. Pure evil. But it’s not true, is it? People don’t like to think of one of the most prolific murderers as anything other than malevolent, but the fact remains that he was actually quite a nice chappy in life. Unfortunately, he also had a side to him that was disturbed enough to create in him relish at the thought of bumping off old ladies merely because he could. He was a murderer, but that’s not all he was.
A single act or belief does not define someone. And acts performed by someone of a particular faith or belief system do not define every member of that faith or belief system.
In 2001, Islamic extremists flew aeroplanes into the twin towers in New York, killing people of various faiths and ethnicities. A terrible act of inhumanity, a dreadful indifference to the sanctity of life – this I am not denying. When people discuss the 9/11 attacks, we refer to the terrorists as “bad” and the victims as “good.” We say things like: “Those poor people” when referring to the victims And, yes, I absolutely believe that nobody should ever die in such a way. But what we never consider is this: of the thousands of people who died that day, how many were paedophiles? How many had stolen something that wasn’t theirs? How many were having affairs? The people who died in the 9/11 attacks were killed unjustly, granted, but just for having been so aren’t necessarily guiltless; in fact you probably couldn’t say that about any of them. Their deaths have become all that they were to the people who didn’t know them.
The acts of the terrorists had wider implications: I’m sure that those people had interests other than blowing up “infidels,” but what they did that day created a butterfly effect. Several crazy Muslims have attacked the western world and in the minds of a lot of people in the western world, that meant that allllll Muslims would at some point want to attack. Fear sees all of us reverting to the basic instincts we try to quell because we know them to be irrational a lot of the time.
But then, it’s hard to not be swept away in the fear when the media uses emotive language (like “terrorism”) and justifies the actions of certain governing bodies. The media has a lot to answer for. Recently I came across a bestselling book on US Amazon – a non-fictional account of Pakistan. Apparently, the Americans loved it – there were five stars flying all round that review page. I checked out the same book on UK Amazon – oh dear. Bad reviews. Suspicious, I dug a little deeper and discovered that the writer of this scathing book had never actually set foot in Pakistan.
When we were at war with Germany, we considered all Germans to be the baddies and when there’s a wall of people advancing on you with heavy artillery and menace driven by a dictator, it’s probably sensible to protect yourself. But that doesn’t stop each individual, soldier of civilian, from also having other characteristics, qualities that we admire. Penelope Lively injected the German soldier in The Darkness Out There with enough individuality to invoke pity in the reader, but not in the character of the WWII survivor.
Nothing but Grey Skies
To say that I believe that a black and white mentality is bad is, in itself, black and white, is it not? Yes, it most certainly is, and if you think, having read the above, that I would ever consider something to be inherently good or bad***, then you have clearly misunderstood my key point. I believe in the greys and I find the greys enlightening. I would defend a black-and-whiter should one be subject to abuse because of their beliefs, but this does not mean that I agree with everything they’re saying. Do you see what I’m saying? I find the inability to find the middle ground, and the inability to gauge the facets of human nature restrictive and one dimensional; I also find it worrying that people could blithely attack others on the premise of good versus evil, which is why I take issue. To believe something is one thing; to act upon it, or allow yourself to be used as a pawn against others in its name is quite another. It’s easier to act on a belief than to question it, but we are, supposedly, an intelligent species. Don’t let the genus down with your inhumanity because you were too lazy to think deeply about your actions.
*bearing in mind that I absolutely hate extremism, I really don’t think I could ever be “hard” anything
** Although, I am a bit hazy on his reasoning for letting the burglar off.
*** Unless we’re talking wine. Wine = good. Lambrusco = bad. If you ask my tastebuds, that is.
Following on from my rant about the publication that considers itself to report the real news from Dewsbury, I have ended up in several subsequent arguments in the same vein. Which is fine. I want people to voice their opinions – it helps everyone to get it out of their systems and refine their views. But what I find vastly irritating, is that most of the time, the people arguing against me have no reasoning to back up their statements and any information they’re working from has been gleaned from sources exactly like The “Real” Dewsbury News, which tote nothing but anti-Islamic hate propaganda.
Recently, I found myself having debates with people, and not just on the subject of Islam, that have ended with me going: “What the fuck?!” and walking away in sheer frustration. As someone said to me recently: “Even racists should have a voice,” and I concur wholeheartedly. For one thing, voicing racist (or homophobic or misogynistic or transphobic &c.) views will “out” that person as a bigot; it will also allow people to argue on the contrary, which in rare cases may change the mind of said racist; and it poses questions that a non-racist may not have considered, which gives us further understanding of why people feel the need to needlessly hate entire races of people.
And I do want to understand; truly, I do! Most people have reasons for their opinions, and whether that opinion is based on an experience, propaganda, the media or outright fact, it is the product of rational(ish) thought, even if it does belong to someone who is ill informed. And so I don’t just disregard a racist comment – I invite the racist to offer an explanation. And do I ever get one? Do I bollocks! I ask why someone believes what they believe and I get back an entirely new bald statement along similar lines, or I get called a name and sworn at. On the odd occasion that someone has offered further insight, the information I’ve been given has been hazy. I was lucky enough to find myself embroiled in such an argument a few weeks back: what had started as a comment on Facebook about the Lib Dems and had nothing to do with international politics, was suddenly about the EDL – absolutely no reason to bring that up, but the person that did so had obviously been in possession of the irrelevance stick that day. Regardless of how this all came about, I found myself faced with the following:
“There are local councillors in Kirklees who privately support sharia law ffs. If no mainstream politicians will deal with that, then people will turn to those who will.”
To which I said that, if that was the case, then those people (who purportedly support sharia law) should be investigated. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this country allows freedom of speech: speech – not actions. People are free to believe and say what they like, but they should absolutely not be allowed to fuck with our basic human rights. We have laws that are put in place for our protection and freedom. I’m not suggesting that we allow the Muslim faith to in any way overtake English culture when I say that Muslims should be treated with as much respect as anyone else. Pakistan is practically a police state because of the beliefs of its government and England does not have the same culture – should never have the same culture. In any case, I’ve spoken to people who have left Pakistan to escape its extreme laws, so I find it hard to believe that every Muslim would like to recreate a UK version of Pakistan.
I’m also not saying that there are no Muslims in the UK with extreme views – I’m certain that there are some who would happily stone every non-Muslim – but we allow Muslims to believe what they want to believe, the same way that we allow Christians to believe what they believe, and the way that we allow Jews to believe what Jews believe, and atheists to not believe what they don’t believe, and the white supremacists to believe what they believe. Again, it is one thing to believe something, but it is quite another to use that belief as an excuse to exercise violence. To think about stoning someone is v.v.different from actually stoning them. To want to beat someone up for being of a different race is v.v.different to actually doing it. We have no thought police and we never should have; so until someone acts, or threatens to act, upon an extreme belief, then no, our current politicians will not step in, because those people have done nothing wrong in terms of the law. How could a politician reasonably hound someone on the off chance that they had a bad thought or three?
But, really, where did the information come from that local MPs agree with Sharia law anyway? Damned if I know. Presumably The “Real” Dewsbury News. I’ll probably never know. And if I’d asked the question, the person on the receiving end of the question would no doubt have said something like: “It’s just a fact. Everyone knows it,” which in my book isn’t enough to condemn a whole section of our society.
Anyway – why I came here today was to dissect the screen shots from my previous post a little further. Mainly because the irrelevance of some of the comments amused me… and the hatred in some of the comments scared and saddened me.
To be honest, this isn’t an irrelevant comment. It’s not a well informed comment, but it’s one of the more intelligent responses. Personally, I think that any town would reasonably allow a road closure for an hour to celebrate a religious holiday. Until recently, I lived next to Burley, which has a massive Asian community, and have occasionally waltzed into the midst of some festivity or another.
The road that runs off mine* was closed for a secular street party recently. There was no reason for it; it was just a street party. Muslims and non-Muslims alike would have been welcome.
When I attended a Free Palestine march a while ago, the whole of Leeds city centre was closed to make way.
When the women of England take to the streets in their underwear to march for the right to be able to walk down any street dressed however they like and not be molested, the roads are closed then. The slut walk is something that not everyone understands, but we are allowed to march. That is a show of power: it’s a show of female power; not to say that we are better or plan to overtake the men, but just to make the point that we are strong, we are together, we are free, and we should be allowed as much respect as any man.
That’s not to mention the fun runs that take place all over the country and involve road closures.
And the irrelevance kicks in. What in the name of holy crap does that person’s kids have to do with this subject? I mean, really. Aside from the fact that I know full well that this person celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ not long before this post, there is absolutely no correlation between a religious festival and the fruit of this person’s loins. It’s nice that this person loves their kids… nothing to do with international politics, though. Can you imagine if David Cameron was asked to comment on a particular issue and he said: “Oh, I only care about my kids, really. Why are you doing something that isn’t my about my children?”?!
Road closures. Well, they’re annoying, I admit. They’re annoying regardless of the reason. Having researched the traditional ways in which Muslims celebrate Muhammad’s birthday, though, I have discovered that most of them, in fact, don’t celebrate it at all. But those that do mark the occasion with a procession; and, unfortunately, that means that a road was closed for a bit. Read the diversion signs if you need to drive down that particular road and get over it, is all I can say. I suspect that this person didn’t have to drive down that road, in which case it had no bearing on their life.
Show of power? I’m willing to bet that those Muslims couldn’t have given a shit what the non-Muslim community was up to on that particular day. They were celebrating a religious festival in the traditional way. And even if it was a show of power – so what? They closed a street for an hour and it affected next to nobody. Well, that showed you, didn’t it? So did all the millions of articles and photographs that came out of the march. Except that there is nothing about it anywhere (and believe me, I’ve searched). A non-event for non-Muslims – so why all the bloody fuss?
Childish and cruel.
Obviously not. As I have already said: Pakistan is practically a police state. But England allows its people to celebrate whatever they like however they like, as long as they’re breaking no law – pagans, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddists, Clingons and all.
In addition, Christmas is not traditionally celebrated with a procession, so even if a group of Christians was allowed to march down a street in Pakistan at Christmas, that really would be a “show of power”. We celebrate Christmas by gathering our people around us and inebriating ourselves – not by marching.
No, Commenter, it’s a procession! And I’m pretty sure if non-Muslims had shown up at the procession and, in a non-threatening, amicable way, joined in, then the Muslims would have been bemused and confused (possibly initially wary and taken aback), but carried on regardless. And if not, how would this particular commenter have taken it if a Muslim had shown up to join in with carol singing at Christmas? Or if a Muslim had let him/herself in, sat down at the table and started helping him/herself to turkey? Not so well, I’d like to warrant.
And we’re steaming away with ourselves on the irrelevance front again. I mean what the fuck is this silly bitch on about? Firstly, I’m pretty unclear as to who it is that has disrespected “our troops” (I suspect the Muslims, but I really can’t speculate). Secondly, what would she like to happen to those who “disrespect our troops”? Imprisonment? Castration? Stoning? She is allowed to be disrespectful of others, but believes that nobody should be disrespectful to someone she respects.
In any case those are, again, two completely disparate issues. By troops, I presume she means the British army, and by disrespect, I presume she actually means kill. In which case – it’s a war. You can’t really arrest people for killing people who have come into their country to kill them. Do you see what I’m saying? I don’t like war, but even I understand that!
That person has clearly just stubbed their toe or stepped on an upturned plug. I sympathise deeply.
That person obviously found a great, steaming turd in their breakfast. Moving on…
Well, that was in response to me saying something about Muslims not giving a crap about non-Muslims on a holy day. Instead of giving me a decent argument, the commenter just thought it best to insult me. I presume that the commenter thought I was going to give up and cry or something. My silly little lady brain sometimes works that way… oh, wait – fuck off! No it doesn’t. If that person genuinely thinks I’m naïve, then that’s fine. But I think it naïve to make an argument with no basis, to believe that every person of any given race is exactly the same, or that every person from any given race only ever thinks about getting rid of people who aren’t of that race. Not every non-Muslim is like you, the same way that not every Muslim is like Osama Bin Laden. The dangerous few spoil it for everyone else and give them a bad name; the beardy-weirdy Islamic extremists spoil it for your average decent Muslim, and the fascist, white supremacist gits spoil it for your average, decent non-Muslim.
Was in response to my saying: “Ooh – there’s a Muslim guy on here. Ask him what it’s all about.”
The words in that paragraph that stand out like a dildo at a tea party are “alleged” and “investigated.” Innocent until proven guilty, my friend.
I’ve already answered this comment in my last post, but what I said was that where there are politics and/or religion, there is corruption. It may not be nice, but there it is.
Rarely do these things pass peacefully? Well, that’s just plain wrong. Not only did that march pass peacefully, there was absolutely no coverage of it and war was not declared on the non-Muslims.
Um… unless there’s something in the Qur’an that I’m missing (I haven’t got round to reading it yet – I’m still working my way through the Bible), I have no idea what this jerk-off is talking about. I suspect that they are pulling the most offensive remark they can think off out of thin air and applying it to the Muslim faith. In which case, the comment is null and void and utterly utterly infantile.
Also, if someone put in an application to have a street party for St. George’s Day, I’m pretty sure it would go through the same channels and wouldn’t be a problem. Like I said: there was a street party on my street recently. For no apparent reason.
The hate-mongers themselves. If The “Real” Dewsbury News believes that screen shots of what people are saying would be a bad thing, then they know full well that what they publish is there to provoke a bad reaction.
Unfortunately, the majority of the EDL sympathisers appear to be illiterate and uneducated, and the writers of The “Real” Dewsbury News are no more eloquent. So little so, in fact, that any reader is asked to refrain from correcting their English or grammar at risk of being blocked from making further comments. Not education advocates, then.
Aw – commenter sticking up for me. I’ll give that commenter their due – I really appreciated them acknowledging that the censorship was wrong and that it would royally piss me off.
That person just awoke with a raging erection following a dream in which a bestockinged Nick Griffin tickled his anus with a long, pink feather. I speculate, but that’s the most obvious scenario I can think of.
Presumably, this person is insinuating that everyone wants the Muslims to leave. As a non-Muslim, I can say that I don’t. Aside from the fact that I have Muslim friends here, there are a lot of Muslims who are English. This is their home – how could we justify sending them elsewhere?
There was no reasoning given for wanting these people to leave the country, but I wasn’t allowed to comment, so I couldn’t ask.
Um… wrong! There would have been a police presence at the Muslim procession, just as there is at other marches. The following pictures are marches and processions that go on all the time… oh wait. I typed “March Dewsbury” into Google and guess what came up… no Muslim marches, but a shit load of EDL related ones! There are a couple of other march pictures thrown in there for good measure.
– NHS supporters
– EDL member saluting a la Hitler
– UAF Anti-fascists
– UAF anti-fascists
– EDL march
– UAF anti-fascists
– EDL March
– EDL march
I am a bit baffled. This person appears to be sending a message of love (with fifteen or so kisses) praises the current coalition government and says that “we” (that is to say “us”) are the ones that have it wrong. I don’t actually know whether the “us” is in reference to the people in the conversation or “us” in general… if anyone could shed any light on this, I’d be v.grateful.
Do you know, when I look at that last two march pictures above, when I see people seething with hate like that, people who would harm me for my beliefs and my sexuality (oh yes – they don’t like me for counter-arguing, but they also have something deeper, personal and far more scary against me) I want to attach fucking bayonets and run each and every one through, I really do. But that is a childish knee jerk of mine. Then I calm myself. I think about the fact that a member of my family is, unfortunately, a BNP voter. I think about my cousins and what that person means to them. I realise (because I’m not a fucking nazi wanker) that these people are still just that… people. I calm myself down and I think rationally. I disagree with what they are doing and I have rational thought behind me (which the few of them I’ve spoken to don’t seem to have), but they are entitled, as inhabitants of this country, to voice their opinions too.
What this commenter has failed to do, is get beyond their visceral reaction and question why they feel this way. You know – like a child having a paddy.
Dude – when did they ever claim to be a religion of peace? When did any religion apart from Buddhism? I’m reading the bible cover to cover and all I’m getting from Christianity is wrath. I will read the Qur’an next. Pretty sure it doesn’t say it in there either.
Will you be able to walk with them? Yes. Will you be able to take a Union Jack? No – because the union jack is now associated with the BNP and ethnic cleansing, unfortunately (the Muslims didn’t spoil that – the BNP/NF/EDL did!). Will you be able to take a parachute banner? Um… probably. It would be like taking a “Happy Birthday” banner to Christmas Day, but ok.
Muslim people have suffered, in the past, horrific abuse from the UK. The Empire. As has the rest of the world. The UK started with the animosity, years ago. We still think we have that power. We don’t. Then Pakistani immigrants came seeking asylum – they were abused for looking different and for believing different things. The next generation of Muslims was brought up here – when they were under attack, they started to fight back. Racial aggression against non-Muslims by Muslims is not acceptable, but neither is aggression against Muslims, and people who gave them a hard time in the past could hardly have expected the Muslims to sit back and be abused.
If a non-muslim tried to march with them, it would all probably be fine, although that non-muslim would be regarded with suspicion. Would they kill you? Maybe, if they had the chance. How many of their family members have been brutally and verbally attacked by white supremacists? What would you do to them if they showed up Christmas day? You start a war, you get a fight back. I’m not saying it’s right, but what the white supremacists do is also not right.
A profession of immortality. See – these people are children. Full grown children with no cerebral development at all.
Do you know – I think I’m done.
What I want to say to these people is this: you think you are the goodies and that they are the baddies. Well, we raped that fucking country when we arrived all those years ago – we abused our position and we took what wasn’t ours. There is no such thing as a “goodie” or a “baddie.” There is no black and white; only shades of grey (I hate that bloody woman who wrote those terrible books. She’s totally spoilt that for me). Perhaps you should do some growing up and learn about the world, learn about different cultures and ethnicities before you stomp around with your indignation and hatred aimed at anyone who isn’t exactly like you. We are a teeny, tiny country in a wonderfully diverse world. The beliefs of fascists appear to be unfounded and the reasoning given is irrelevant. If someone can give me a well-rounded argument in favour of racism, I’d love to hear it.
* Park Mount in Kirkstall, Leeds. I can say this now, because I have just upped sticks and shipped myself off to greener pastures.
I have developed a technique; it’s brusque* and there is only one situation in which I’m comfortable executing it, but it is effective. It goes like this:
“Hand up, palm out in front of my face as if I’m about to say: “Talk to the hand, bitch!” I yell “NO!”
Now, I suggest that, before you read further, you practice this in front of a mirror – just to get the full impact of what it means.
Do you understand what it means? Good. Then I shall begin.
NO! NO! is what it means. And it is reserved solely for people who interrupt my lunch break. Not just any people, mind you; if someone at work came over to me on my lunch break and asked me something, I would swallow my irritation and answer with gusto; if someone on the street came up to me on my lunch break and asked for directions, I would happily send them packing in the wrong direction**; but if anyone approached me on my lunch break proffering a clipboard, or a religious leaflet, or a flyer, or a bloody collection tin, they would (and often do) most definitely get NO!-ed.
I attempted to shop today. I don’t often; I hate shopping in every regard – the heat, the lights, the smells, the endless racks of identical clothes, the continual stream of ignorant fucks, the soul-sapping ugliness of chain stores – but I wanted a nice, fluffy winter jumper and, although every sinew of my anatomy was screaming in protest at the thought of even going into Debenhams, let alone trying things on and queuing to pay, I decided I would just have a quick sweep of the ladieswear and then peg it back to my desk to read my book for half an hour. There was no sweeping. Pegging? Not a chance. Because en route to Debenhams, I was accosted a sum total of five times. That might not sound like a lot, but then consider that on the way back, trying to avoid the twats who had waylaid me on the way there, I was confronted six more times, and two of those times were by people who had accosted me originally. Re-accosting gits.
The first of these people was a homeless man*** who was sitting by a cash machine. Forgive me, for I have never been homeless and v.much hope that I will never be homeless, but cash machines don’t, have never will never, dispense change. So to ask a person who has just drawn a ten pound note out of a cash machine for coinage, as if by dint of the fact that they’ve just shown the colour of their money in one form will automatically mean that they have other money of a less foldy variety, seems ludicrous. Perhaps it is merely that people have their wallets out at this point, but I still resent being made to feel like a selfish bitch for taking my own money out of a cash machine and not giving it to the homeless when I’m on a lunch break from the job that consumes most of my life (thus preventing me from completing commissions faster), but which I must do to pay the bills. I sympathise if that man is truly homeless. But I am perpetually skint and the £32 I spent on a jumper should really have been spent on whittling down some more of my crippling debt, not on clothing me or feeding the needy. So I said: “No – sorry” and he said: “Have a nice day, love.” in a contemptuous tone that made me momentarily lose any shred of compassion. This man, I didn’t NO! because I had initially thought that it would be cruel, but in my moment of aversion, I fervently wished that I had done.
Accosting the first. Done.
The second of these people was also standing near the cash machine and as I passed she tried to force a flyer into my hand for which I had no use. Said flyer was for the Park Row Brasserie bar and was an advert for BOGOF cocktails. Even if the thought of flinging back two cosmos before going back to the office had appealed to me (and, to be honest, it really did attract me more than the thought of whatever merry hell Debenhams had to offer), I wouldn’t need the flyer to do so – the flyer would have been pointless – the flyer had no bearing on whether I could march into the Park Row Brasserie and order two piña coladas for the price of one – the flyer was merely alerting me to the fact. And I already knew that because I’ve been in that bar and tried to use the flyer as a voucher in the past and been told that I didn’t need it. And even if that hadn’t been the case, I would have managed to glean this information from the discarded flyers that littered the ground around this girl’s feet. I NO!-ed her. She looked a bit shocked, as did I fleetingly, as I realised, arm outstretching to show my palm, that I’d misjudged my distance from her and knew that it was too late to stop it. Luckily, I managed to not make contact, all was well and I grumped off over the road.
Accosting the second. Fini.
The third of these people was someone who seemed to think that a man I’ve never met, called Jesus, still loved me despite my sins. I thought that this was highly presumptuous on the part of both the accoster and this Jesus dude, but I managed to deter him with a well placed NO! and was on my way before he had recovered enough composure to start bellowing at everyone else who was walking past that Jesus passionately loved his flock… polygamy and bestiality are surely sins. No wonder he forgave me mine.
Accosting the third. Bosh.
Next up was a woman with a clip board, a bright red T-shirt and an irritatingly cheery voice who bounded up to me and asked me for money. I declined with a NO! But this time, I was thwarted and, as I walked off, the woman dashed around me to explain that I was mistaken and did want to give her some money after all. Why would I not? It was for a good cause. I bellowed a NO! again and walked away, but she did still insist on prancing after me for a good few metres and her shouts continued to accompany me almost to Debenhams’ glass doors.
Now, I didn’t always roar at the bearers of clipboards. I was never interested in what they had to say, and I was never going to donate to their cause because I am everlastingly brassic and because I donate to charities on a regular basis, but I used to try to explain. I used to say things like: “Oh, but I already give to charity every month” and they would say nonsensical things back like: “Well, that means you’re a nice person – you definitely want to donate to Save the Cows because we’re a similar charity to… what was it you donated to? Oh, yes – I mean, we’re just like the NSPCC, really, if you think about it.” I also tried the: “I really have no money – sorry” to which I often received the response: “But just £3 a month could buy a dyslexia victim five reams of yellow paper… You must be able to spare a measly £3.” Well, no, actually! Not on top of the £3 I give to the NSPCC (which is an organisation that thoroughly fucks me off, incidentally. I’m pretty sure the money I’ve given to the NSPCC over the years has been spent on free pens, cold calling, adverts that make me want to vomit at their triteness and clipboards), the £2 I give to the Brittle Bone Foundation, the £5 I give to CLIC Sargent and the monthly donations I make to whatever charity we’re touting in the office at any given moment. I’d stop those payments too, because I can’t really afford them, but you can’t cancel donations to charity… you just can’t, can you?
Accosting the fourth. Booyah!
Just before I reached the shiny doors of Debenhams, beyond which shimmered potions and lotions that seemed to promise me eternal life, happiness and exquisite beauty for a reasonable sum of my hard earned cash, a man stepped in front of me and whistled like a bird. I frowned at him and attempted to walk around him, but he once more stepped in front of me and whistled like a bird. I stopped and looked up at him with a slightly bemused look on my face (he was v.tall and I was wearing trainers and was thus rather shorter than he.) He wiggled his eyebrows. I harrumphed and was about to try to pass him a third time when he pulled something from his mouth and offered it to me. I looked up at him again, blankly.
“You make the noise, yes?” he said in the ever cheerful accent that is typical of all Nigerians.
“Um… no, no, I’m ok for the moment,” I said, coming over all what-ho. “But thank you v.much for the offer.”
Again, the man thrust his little whistle at me.
“Is wuan pund ant fifty pence,” he said, flashing me a winning smile.
“Yes, yes,” said I. “I’m sure it’s v.reasonable. But I’m not sure that I need one right now, thanks all the same.”
The Nigerian man smiled and wiggled his eyebrows again.
“For pretty girl like you, we make it wuan pund.”
“Oh,” I said, burning inside with discomfit. “That is most awfully kind of you. It is v.jolly, isn’t it? But I’m afraid I just want a jumper at the moment.”
The man, who was beginning to look a little downcast, perked right up.
“You want jomper?”
“I’ve seen one already,” I rushed. “It’s…” I started to move towards the shiny doors of false hope. “It’s in here. Thank you. I’m sure your jumpers are lovely. Thank you. Maybe next time. Thank you. Thank… thank you.”
I pushed passed him and threw myself into the heat of the department store.
Accosting the fifth. Meh. Next time, I will NO! anyone who whistles at me like a bird, but that scenario had never presented itself to me before and my eternal politeness kicked in before I’d had time to think. As an eternally polite person, I once listened to a couple of Jehovah’s witnesses who’d knocked on the door while I was at home recuperating after an operation. I stood, in agony due to nature of said operation, with a polite look on my face, bare-footed and frozen until eventually, I said:
“I say,” slight nervous cough. “It is awfully kind of you to try to save me and it’s been ever so interesting, but you see… well, would you mind if I went back inside now? It just that my feet are rather chilly and I’m pretty sure some of my stitches have come loose.”
So there I was in Debenhams, attempting to unwind from my bizarre bird-whistling experience under harsh electric lighting, jostled around by consumers and unable to breathe. I have always wondered what would happen if someone inadvertently lit up a fag on the ground floor in Debenhams. There appear to be many flammable things on the ground floor in Debenhams, you see. The air, for a start: I swear that the chemical formula for the atmosphere for your average Debenhams is H2O-C2H5OH. Then there are the assistants, who appear to be made of some form of plasticine, or perhaps wax; whatever their physical compound, I’m willing to bet that anything that shade of orange has to be highly combustible. Presumably, these aliens are employed specifically for the ground floor because they are the only creatures who can breathe the atmosphere for hours at a time. And let’s not forget the millions upon millions of sharply pungent perfumes, some of which clearly have a base scent of Sex Panther. No, Debenhams is a ticking time bomb of doom, if you ask me.
“Carrot?” asked an orange assistant with spectacularly messy black hair.
“I’m sorry, what?” I asked, trying not to breathe too deeply or stare too intensely at her matted locks.
“Diamonds Black Carat. The new fragrance by Armani,” she held up a bottle, which did look surprisingly like the Sex Panther bottle.
“Oh for God’s sake!” I bellowed, perhaps a little too loudly. “Can’t I just buy a sodding jumper without having to go through all this shit?!”
The girl jumped and moved away, confused, but not upset as far as I could see. Accosting the sixth.
Suffice it to say that I did not get a jumper in Debenhams. I went to the correct floor, I walked around it once, I walked around it twice trying to find the downwards-bearing escalator, I walked around a third time with panic beginning to set in and then I left, livid and rather frightened that I would never breathe the clean air of an inner city again. On the way back, I was accosted by another charity, this time a young man wearing blue; the same charity (same bloody girl); a leaflet giver who wouldn’t take NO! for an answer; a man who wanted me to join Leeds’ cheapest gym and who didn’t believe that I didn’t want to sign up even though I had run eight miles that morning, walked three, would walk another three and would finish the day with some ab’ work and circuit training; a Big Issue man dressed like some sort of zany clown; and the same homeless man, who had moved to a different cash machine.
I ordered a jumper online from the safety of my desk and lamented the moment when I decided that in-the-flesh-shopping sounded like a blast.
This sort of invasion of privacy has now become the norm, it would seem. So, my NO! and accompanying hand movement may seem rude, but is it really as rude as, say, someone trying to foist upon me some outdated religion when they know not a single thing about me? Is it as rude as someone insinuating that I have all the money in the world and have v.selfishly decided to keep it for myself? Is it as rude as someone whistling at me like a bird and then handing me something that they’ve just taken out of their mouth?
Too right, it isn’t. It ain’t rude enough! Maybe one day I’ll evolve to a more eloquent “GET FUCKED MOTHERFUCKER!” but that seems like an awful lot of syllables to waste on someone of such ilk.
* Downright rude, actually
** Not because I’m mean, but because I have absolutely no sense of direction.
*** Stand by for my tale of how I ran into a homeless man I see regularly when he was on a night out in town one weekend
I’m awake. It’s night time. Merely seconds ago I was in a deep, healthy sleep. And bang! My eyes are suddenly open and I’m wide awake. My eyelids aren’t even gritty and groggy – I test by lowering them. I lie still for a few minutes with eyes closed and heart pounding slightly; a sure sign that I have awakened before I am meant to. But even with my eyes squeezed tightly shut, there is no denying that I have been thrown from the land of nod with a great force. I listen for sounds of an intruder. I hear the ticking of my clock and the sighing wind outside, ruffling the leaves in the graveyard. It’s peaceful, it’s quiet and still – but my hackles are on edge, if not fully raised. Holding my breath, I feel gently under the pillow for my mobile with one hand and close the other around the steel bar I sleep with; it’s warm from being next to my legs under the quilt. Both located, I open one eye and peer into the eerie half light, cast by the white streetlamp outside. I see my kitchen door, still closed. I cautiously raise my head and scan the room until I reach the hallway; the door is fastened and the keys are still in the lock. They aren’t even swinging. It feels too still. There seems to be a deliberateness to the inertia. I carefully work the bar out from under the covers and, once it’s free, I sit up. I jolt and a pain shoots through my chest – there is a large, dark figure in a cloak standing next to my wardrobe, which had been obscured from my sweep of the room by the door to my cupboard*. I inhale sharply and clasp my steel bar.
Slowly, I let out my breath and shake my head as a silent laugh bubbles up. It is a sheet, hung over the wardrobe door to dry the night before. If there is someone here, they are in the kitchen or the bathroom. I press the button to light up my ‘phone and wince at the brightness of the screen. It is merely habit – I already know that it is 3:02am and that my eyes snapped open at exactly 3 o’clock. I blink back into semi-darkness with splodges of light marring my vision, slide soundlessly out of bed and pad towards the kitchen, trying not to trip over anything. Turning the handle I kick the door open and brandish the steel bar with both hands… nothing. Kitchen is empty save for a startled spider. We eye each other, momentarily frozen. I turn towards the hallway and make my way into the dark shadows there, where the door key glints securely in its lock. I turn and flick the light switch to the bathroom with the end of my weapon, enter and squint gingerly into the bath and behind the door.
There is nobody there. A part of me knew it too. This happens every night I sleep alone. 3am – on the dot. Sometimes I’m not quite so jumpy and just lie in my warm bed dozing for a couple of hours before my alarm sounds.
I am shattered. I have tried to be in bed for a reasonable time for the last couple of nights, because I like to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning and run. I’m a tad out of shape at the moment what with sciatica and a mild chest infection and a house move getting in the way of training, but the Hell Runner Challenge is fast approaching and I really want to get a good time this year. So, last night, I went to bed at 9:45, which wasn’t as early as I was hoping. I was particularly tired yesterday on account of not sleeping v.much at all the night before (including the usual awakening at 3 o’clock) and was aiming to be in bed reading at 8:30pm in an effort to fall asleep naturally and catch up, but I’m one of those people for whom time organisation is not a strong point. Still, I figured going to bed a bit later than planned, despite being dead beat, might mean that I didn’t wake up too often in the night** and it was at least earlier than usual. Now, I do wake up at least once in the night anyway. A few years ago, I ended up with MRSA in my kidneys, which began as a kidney infection, brought about by my not peeing as often as someone with a bladder the size of a pea needs to. I doubt v.much that my kidneys have been damaged by this, but nonetheless, I now can’t sleep the night through without tramping off to the toilet at some point. This generally happens between midnight and 1am and I go, take a sip of water and then crash back into sleep. When I awaken at 3am, I don’t need to go to the loo. I tend to attempt it anyway, but not a right lot happens. I have no idea why I wake up again at this exact time and I have no idea why this only happens when I’m alone. I am not scared of living by myself – the steel bar is present merely on the off chance that some poor, unknowing burglar tries to burgle my bomb site of a flat, in which there is nothing of any value, and instead encounters me. Bring it on, bitch! Besides, my neighbour’s walls are paper thin and his door is right next to mine – he could be woken with a stifled whimper and be in my flat within a second.
Currently, I am not particularly worried or stressed out. The office job is dull, but nowhere near as fraught as it once was; I am slightly behind with commissions, but have nothing with a particularly strict deadline; my finances are the best they’ve looked in years; as far as I’m aware, the people in my life are happy and healthy and treating themselves (and me) well.
As I climbed back into bed, I decided I was going to have a quick look on the internet to see if anyone else suffered from this irritating malady. They do. Lots of them do. Now, I’m used to typing symptoms into Google and being informed that they’re probably a sign that my death is imminent, but I was surprised to discover that after typing in “I wake up…” Google completed “…at 3am” for me. Interesting. So other people did suffer from it. Yes, indeed they did. It turns out that 3am is “dead time” which is when you are most likely to be contacted by a supernatural being. And not a ghost, oh no – an evil demon. You see, Jesus Christ was killed for the sins of man at exactly 3pm and 3am is considered the time directly opposed to this. So just the twelve hours they’re bothered about then… not the thousands of years in between then and now.
I don’t believe in Jesus***. I don’t believe in Satan. I don’t believe in an external God. I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe in demons and I don’t believe that 3am has any religious significance whatsoever. So I did what any normal 28 year old woman would do… with a terrified squeal I pulled the duvet over my head, tucked it around my feet so that nothing could grab my ankles and pressed my eyes tight shut before the witching hour hit which, contrary to previous information of midnight, happens at 3:33am… this forum told me so:
I was Christened Methodist (which is why I don’t drink… ahem…), my mother is Church of England, my Dad’s Catholic, I briefly attended a Pentecostal youth group before I realised they were all insane, and I was sent to a C. of E. school. Although my parents never enforced religion on me, my primary school and other exposures to religious propaganda have managed to affect me somewhat. I am flooded with misplaced spiritual feeling when I enter a church, I hate films about possession, the thought of stigmata terrifies me, I still want to apologise to an imaginary deity whenever I say “I don’t believe in God” and, until recently, I thought something dreadful would happen if I had a go on a Ouija board. And then there was that bloody haunted stone circle I jumped into the middle of eighteen months ago in Edinburg, which freaked me out for a good couple of weeks. Religion is part of a person’s culture because it is everywhere and, although I am a non-believer, part of my hard-coding has its basis in religion and it’s v.difficult to break a pattern like that.
The other thing I have riding against me is my imagination. If I wasn’t such a wimp, I’d write horror novels, I think. But I have tried and after a couple of chapters, I’m seeing things that aren’t there and jumping at any little noise and sleeping with the light on. Having such an imagination can be quite useful – I am able to imagine many possible outcomes from any given situation in a matter of seconds, no matter how ludicrous it may seem. But it can also bring the ludicrous to life when, in fact, there is nothing but the mundane. The fact that I can look at my current insomniacal problem logically and pick apart the silly obsession with numbers seems to make little difference to how my mind works overtime when something appeals to some deeply-ingrained religion-saturated self I didn’t know existed.
Why is 3am the time for demons? Because it is exactly “opposite” 3pm on a twenty four hour clock and Jesus was said to have died in the name of humanity at 3pm, apparently. Um… even if I did believe in Jesus, I would struggle to understand the logic behind this. Why do demons come out at that time? Are we, then, supposed to get “good” spirits at 3pm? Do they wane as the day goes on to be taken over by demons as their shift comes to an end?
According to the internet, Jesus’ number was 333 – but isn’t that the witching hour? And is he 333 because 666 is the number of The Beast, and beast is man and that’s half?
“Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666”
We are infatuated with numbers. The number 13 is bad luck in western society. So, in blocks of flats and in new office buildings, flat 13 or floor 13 is omitted. This seems bizarre to me – surely the number is purely an indicator of the actual number of the flat or floor. If the floor is the 13th from the ground, it is still floor 13; whether you choose to call it “14” or “Shirley” it is still the 13th floor. It would be denial of the highest order to suggest that you live in house number 15 on and that the house next door to you is number 11. You are still in the 13th house as we count houses on a street. Then there are magpies: 1 magpie is bad luck – 2 is good luck and so on.
NO SUCH THING AS SILICON HEAVEN? BUT WHERE DO ALL THE CALCULATORS GO?
We are all, it seems, fantasists. Even non-religious people believe in ghosts, which strikes me as completely bizarre. In order to believe in spirits, we must first believe in a soul which uses the body as a vessel, rather than a soul that is created by electronic impulses in the body. This soul is the part that the religious believe leaves this earth as we know it and enters the world of the dead where they will either be allowed access to heaven^ or be banished to hell. A ghost is, supposedly, the spirit of a person who has not yet “crossed over” to the world of the dead. I mean what utter hogwash. No, I don’t purport to know what happens when we die, but I’m pretty sure that, once the body is no longer working and the electrical impulses in our brains fizzle out, we return to the state we were in before we were alive, which is, basically, a nothing. Yes, there are things we don’t understand and possibly there are things we will never understand, but we found the God Particle, did we not, which was incredibly exciting and a great breakthrough? Higgs Boson is real! Little by little, we answer the questions previously unanswerable and ascribed to God.
I don’t particularly want to cover too much old ground here – I’m sure anyone who’s read my early posts will be getting irritated with my repetitiveness on the subject of the supernatural. What I want to know is, bearing in mind that I am not religious, have no obsession with numbers and do not believe that a demon is loitering around in my flat just to poke me awake at 3am and watch as I stalk around with a steel bar (although, that is possibly rather an amusing sight, I grant you), why do I keep waking up at 3am on the dot? I’m not sure how long this has been going on for, but could it be the fear that nothing seems to be wrong at the minute that’s panicking me? I am always most suspicious of something that seems to be going too swimmingly… right up until I systematically destroy it in case I find out that it’s not real after all.
Does anyone else suffer with this waking at bang on 3am thing? Has anyone else diagnosed a problem or found a cure? Help would be much appreciated or the Hell Run will be a no go this year.
* I have a studio flat and the bed pulls out of a cupboard
** Every cloud, ey?
*** Or, at least, if I do believe in Jesus, it’s in the sense that there was some terrorist 2012 years ago who managed to convince everyone that he was magic, but really was just a rather egotistical show off.
^ I sure as hell wouldn’t want to go there – full of straight-laced, self-righteous, judgemental God botherers who only do “good” in the name of the lord… phew, no thank you.
PLANTING THE SEED
So, you’ve been with your partner for years and they’re still showing no signs of popping the question. If you’re a bloke in a straight relationship and want to marry, chances are you’ll be working out how to ask your lady for her hand, safe in the knowledge that she’ll almost certainly say yes. But, as I have witnessed firsthand in other couples, if you’re a woman in a straight relationship, you’ll probably be dropping hints like crazy: strategically leaving catalogues open at the Engagement Rings section, leaping desperately for the bouquet at weddings and coming out with such gems as: “Tallulah and Tarquin have only been together for three years and they’re getting married already…”
If you’re at this stage, then there is no denying that you’ve submitted to manipulation tactics to get what you want. But is that what you really want? Why do you want it? If you’re happy with your partner, you live together and you have a good, strong relationship, what is the point of marrying? Chances are you’ll spend an awful lot of money on feeding and watering distant relatives, followed by a lavish holiday only to return to the exact same life you had before, only poorer.
Maybe you feel that there’s something missing in your relationship and that marriage is the fundamental link to success and happiness; that marriage will solve all your issues. Or maybe you feel that you’ve been with your partner long enough and after doing so much hard time, it’s absolutely imperative that you tie the knot or it has all been for nothing. That’s the thing about relationships, though – there is nothing to work towards; if you’re in a relationship, you’re in it and that relationship can grow and change, of course it can, but there is no “happy ending.” Marriage is not as dramatic as an ending, it’s not even a beginning – it is a continuation.
Whatever the reason for wanting to marry, why do women drop hints? Why is it such a rare thing for a woman to propose to a man? A hang-up from days gone by, perhaps, but a hang-up that acts as a tiny, but niggling reminder that all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. The institution of marriage is fundamentally flawed in many ways, but its inability to change at the same rate as our culture deems it outdated and regressive.
CONFORMITY IN FRIVOLITY:
With This Ring…
An enormous amount of emphasis is placed on the ring that starts it all. The engagement ring. Note the singular: ring, not rings. An engagement ring should typically cost the same as the prospective groom earns in a month. You see, it all starts with a deposit. To secure this man’s future purchase of a wife, he must guarantee it against outside interference with a trinket, and this trinket must be worthy of the item to which he is laying claim. Well, that’s how it used to be in the good old days before these damn women started reading too many books that gave them ideas. Unfortunately, there was something misunderstood in the feminist movement that is still misconstrued to this day: the idea that women battled and battled in order to offer other women the right to own their partners as much as they themselves were owned. Equality – yes absolutely – but surely where ownership of a human being is wrong on one count, it can only ever be wronger on both. Two wrongs do not a happy union make. Note that the word “obey” is often omitted from the woman’s wedding vows to make them more equal, it’s never added into the man’s!
But I digress. The engagement has only one ring; there is only one owner in this part of the proceedings and an engagement ring is a talisman to ward off all other suitors. Worn solely by women. And judged massively by the woman herself. After all, if a man loves his woman, he will all but bankrupt himself to give her what she wants, no? The significance of this ring is now one of power on the woman’s part; the ring is a prelude to a promise almost as binding as the wedding vows themselves. And is this ring something that has been picked out because it suits the wearer? Well, it’s a diamond solitaire on a gold band, the slight variation is irrelevant.
Dress like a Princess…
Then there’s the dress. White, floor-length and, these days at least, strapless. White. For virginity. Let’s face it, most couples are already cohabiting with each other when they decide to get hitched, so to wear a white dress seems somewhat disingenuous. Why white? Certainly not to imply virginity. There may have been a slight increase in the number of coloured dresses to appear in bridal shops, but for the most part, the dresses are still white (or cream). It’s almost like a fresh start; a blank canvas. But if marriage is neither beginning nor end, it again seems somehow inappropriate. It’s a rare occasion when an affianced couple opt for a small wedding to which only close friends and immediate family are invited. It is also a rare occasion when a girl doesn’t spend thousands of pounds on a dress that she will only wear once for a ceremony that lasts all of twenty minutes.
It’s all about uniformity. Conformity. A diamond solitaire ring in a gold setting, a white wedding dress, flowers, drapes, place settings, a sit down meal, a cake cutting and a first dance. “But it’s traditional” you might say. Yeah, and so is slavery, imperialism and oppression of the minorities, but that’s no excuse for ploughing on regardless. Traditionally, marriage was for uniting countries. Traditionally, marriage was to justify sex and childbirth in religion. Traditionally, marriage was a way for government and church to control the masses. Tradition? Balls to tradition! The Wicker Man was a satire of communities who take tradition too seriously – I suggest you traditionalists watch and take note. In a western world that is evolving cerebrally, there is no act that can be validated because it is an act of tradition.
Whether the bride and groom have chosen a religious or secular wedding, they will no doubt be heading for a wedding breakfast and reception shortly after they’ve had lots of posed photographs taken. Photographs that don’t portray any natural moment of the day, but capture exactly what the photographer wants people to see. Then the guests will throw confetti at the couple, despite the fact that the custom is rice (or the local grain) and that the rice is to symbolise fertility, not just so some people in posh clothes can throw bits of shit at some other people in posher clothes in the name of convention.
It is popular these days for wedding receptions to be held in expensive hotels, where the wedding guests who have probably travelled to see the happy couple get married, bringing with them gifts they can’t afford to bring, are expected to book themselves into swanky rooms. Luckily for the wedding guests, the bride and groom have arranged for all the chairs at the reception to be covered in organza and for fresh, colour coördinated flowers to adorn every table, so that makes up for the expense, doesn’t it? Well, no, not really. It’s a vicious circle: the bride and groom shell out thousands of pounds to arrange the wedding, so it is expected that the guests spend hundreds of pounds each in return. The bride and groom are probably only really bothered about a third of the guests and about two thirds of the guests aren’t that bothered about the bride and groom. And yet, somehow, the groom’s sister has manipulated the bride into making her a bridesmaid and even though the invitation said “no children,” there’s a suckling sprogger screaming its head off because that particular set of owners couldn’t possibly have found a babysitter in the three months prior to the big day even though every other besproggered family managed it.
It’s a stressful do, is a wedding. There is a massive responsibility when seating guests – one mustn’t forget the row auntie Doris had with your cousin Frank in 1998; the seating plan is created and immediately scrapped over and over for just such reasons. Once seated in carefully designated places, the guests will find favours next to their place names, which are generally little knickknacks for which they have no purpose and which will gather dust in a drawer for years to come. Is any of this sounding romantic to you?
With the invitation you receive, for which you are required to feel suitably humbled and grateful, you will also receive either the name of a shop from which the bride and groom would like you to purchase the rightfully expensive present that you’re going to give them, or a request for money, with which the newly married couple will buy drinks on the luxurious holiday they’re about to go on. Most couples have already lived together long enough to know that they are capable of cohabiting with each other. Wedding presents were generally given when couples lived with their respective parents and so had none of the things needed to make a house a home when they moved into their new pads together.
An important question I think you have to ask yourself, if you are seriously considering marriage, is: “Do I want to be married or do I want a wedding?” Because if what you crave is the dress, the day all about you*, the party, the presents and the holiday, I’m guessing you haven’t considered the implications of marriage at all. Maybe another question should be: “Would I do this if it was just the two of us, both wearing jeans, doc’ martins and skanky old T-shirts with a quick I do ceremony in the register office and nothing more?”
[Name], do you take [Name] to be your lawfully wedded [husband/wife] to live together in marriage. Do you promise to love, comfort, honour and keep [him/her] For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. And, forsaking all others, be faithful only to [him/her] so long as you both shall live?
Groom: I, [Tarquin], take thee, [Tallulah], to be my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ‘til death us do part.
Bride: I, [Tallulah], take thee, [Tarquin], to be my wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, ‘til death us do part,
These days the vows are sometimes adapted somewhat, as in the case of Kate Middleton refusing to “obey” Price William. A girl under enormous social pressure to conform and with some pretty daunting boots to fill. Good on her!
I can’t read the wedding vows without wanting to tear my hair out. “Do you promise to love… so long as you both shall live?” how can anyone promise that?! You can promise that at that moment in time you love someone; you can promise that at that moment in time you can’t imagine ever not loving them – you cannot ever promise to love them forever and know that you will keep that promise, because love is out of your physical control. And everybody knows this, deep down. If they didn’t, there would be no instances of jealousy or insecurity. Love is an erratic malady that makes fickle creatures of us all.
Moreover, how can we pretend to not see that wedding vows are superfluous in a world that allows divorce and prenuptial agreements? And how could you not allow divorce?
* I have a day about me every year… it’s called My Birthday.
BODILY FUNCTIONS & HAIR REMOVAL
It’s been a v.long time since I had a period. For the majority of my adult life, my menstrual cycle has been put on hold with progestogen and progesterone. Initially, this was to alleviate the severe pains I used to suffer as a teenager* and later on became necessary to avoid the droppage of unwanted sproggers. Now that I find myself uncoupled, I’m reluctant to let the crimson wave invade my life once more. There have been occasions in the past where I’ve taken breaks from internal contraception to “sort my body out,” but all I‘ve discovered is that two weeks before a period, I turn into a snarling, snapping, whining, bitching, illogical, nasty, frustrated, irritated, worn out, emotional, violent, tearful, depressed, annoying twat; followed by dreadful bouts of teenage skin and bleeding that is not only painful, but leaves me drained of all energy, bloated, in pain, anaemic and often squicked out**. Add to this the inconvenience of being unable to wear light colours in case of leakage, the expense of buying tampons*** and the dilemma of to screw or not to screw (can I be bothered washing it out of the sheets? If we do it in the bath, will that just make the water look murky? Although they are wipe-clean, is it really hygienic to liberally spatter menstrual blood on the kitchen work tops?) Oh, I can’t be bothered any more. Implanon will be replaced when I finish my first three-year round in November.
But for most women, menstruation is v.much a reality and, for most women, v.much as I’ve described above. You boys have no idea! As well as the physical discomfort and the hormonal turmoil, entertaining Auntie Flo can also be a cause of deep embarrassment. A worrying amount of men flinch when periods are mentioned. It is more surprising to find a man that will quite happily take the topic in his stride than one who immediately blanches at the first mention and says: “Too much information…” or a variable thereof. I happen to be v.lucky in this regard – the men in my life have all been v.understanding and, in the not so frequent occurrence of my being on the blob at the monumentally inconvenient moment of being in a position of intimacy, have all carried on regardless, without hesitation or squeamishness. However, I have had the following reaction from male colleagues, teachers and the like (not during sexual encounters, I might add):-
THEM: Are you ok?
ME [bent double in agony]: I’m fine
THEM: What’s wrong?
ME: Period pain
THEM: I really didn’t need to know that
The insinuation here is that I should have invented a reason for my bellyache. But what? Presumably nothing relating to arses or fannies. It’s just another layer to add the ethereal image women try to portray. Germaine Greer, to return to that particular sage, suggests that we taste our menstrual blood. Well, I’m pretty sure the stuff has ended up in my mouth at some point, but I’m happier when any fluid that comes out of my body doesn’t end up in my mouth. After all, it’s coming out of my body for a reason. I don’t think eating your own blob is a way to accept the natural occurrence of its monthly appearance; I’m toilet phobic, but I don’t think drinking my own pee (or worse) is a way to accept that I have to do it. Learning to hide so diligently this so fundamental of female bodily processes is perhaps the foundation on which we build the greater deception assumed by most females as part and parcel of being a woman.
We shave our body hair. Whilst I understand the attraction with a smooth pair of legs, I don’t understand why the attraction, or why it doesn’t extend to men. We deal with armpit hair and back hair and sack and crack hair and yet the thought of a woman with hair in similar places is rather objectionable. Even women wrinkle their noses at the thought, so deeply ingrained is the ideal of the smooth woman. In fact, the only hair I can actually understand the removal of is pubic hair: of course, hair removal is at your own prerogative, but if you choose to allow your pubes to be unruly, at some point, some poor sod is going to end up with a mouthful of curlies and that is not going to be pleasant for them. Still, despite my lack of understanding, I will continue to remove any hair that isn’t on my head because to not do so is just not on the agenda. Does it not smack of the worst kind of brainwashing that I do not understand the need to do this and yet go ahead and do it anyway? My only motivation is other people. I don’t want to wear a skirt or short-sleeved top and have people see that, on occasion, hair grows out of the places that are on show. And what a ludicrous reason to do anything!
It goes further than waxing and shaving the hair on our bodies. A friend of a friend of mine recently invested in removing something else. Something that required anaesthetic and permanent mutilation. Her flaps! It seems that I was much mistaken when I took women with no flange flaps to be the same as people with no earlobes. People actually want this! I’m not saying that if you only have little flaps there’s anything wrong with that – maybe you’re just naturally neater – but why would you change something that you only ever show to someone with whom you are comfortable being intimate? For a start, that’s going to desensitise a v.sensitive area to some extent and that’s the last thing women need. I’m really not savvy enough on the subject of bajingo surgery to understand the rationale behind it, but I wouldn’t cut part of my genitalia off if you paid me. Since hearing of this outrageous act against muffs, it’s all I’ve been able to think about****. Perhaps they could take the removed flesh and pad something else out with it, since apparently the most effective way to become more attractive is to hack parts of yourself off and shove foreign articles in.
And then there’s anal bleaching! Presumably this is to give an effect of cleanliness, but here’s the thing: a bleached anus is even less clean than a non-bleached one on account of this equally ludicrous procedure causing anal leakage! “Oh, yes, I smell like arse, but at least I paid a lot of money for the privilege.” Here’s a news flash: your anus is the colour it is because of its main purpose in life and no matter what you do to it, that will still be its purpose!
I find the thought of medical procedures in general to be a rather extreme way of enhancing looks. I’m all for make-up as a way of enhancing what’s already there, but even then there is the fact that men don’t do it. Again there is hair removal – plucking the eyebrows. For dark-haired ladies with hair on their top lips, I have been told that bleaching is the best practice for disguising. We cover blemishes and dark circles, change our skin tone†, augment our cheekbones and brow-bones with highlighters and shadows. We make our eyelashes darker and, in my fair case, the eyebrows we lovingly tweezed. If one is to go the whole hog with make-up, the face is wiped out by primers and foundations, only to be redrawn over the top in deeper shades. And men don’t have this hassle. In fact, unless you’re Eddie Izzard or Tim Minchin, male make-up is rarely seen outside the circles of rock and/or drag. Yet I am all for wearing make-up. Make-up that looks like you’re wearing make-up. My eyes have gone from doe to sixties wings to fifties flicks to rockabilly ticks. But never did it occur to me to not do it. In fact, I find it slovenly to not do it – it’s part of getting dressed for me. There always comes a point when I start a new relationship and the person I’m seeing goes: “You look different somehow…” and I have to explain that my face is actually underneath the paint and that the reason I look different is that I’ve taken the paint off. I realise that this isn’t the case for all women, but there’s no denying that there is a great deal of pressure for women to look a certain way and regardless of what anyone says, constantly being bombarded with images of women that have been airbrushed to “perfection”, pouting, dark-eyed, ruby-lipped and vacantly-expressioned really gives us ladies a run for our money.
But at least these images are false: the face has been drawn on, the hair has been backcombed, sprayed, dyed, blow-dried and that’s before the final projection is tampered with. These are realistic goals to strive for, if that’s what you really want. It is possible to go someway to achieving the look of the moment, if the word “achievement” can legitimately be applied here. Of course, some stars go a step further and have plastic surgery – we accept this since they are something of a mythical “other” anyway. The rich and famous, for those of us that aren’t, are fabulous untouchables. They almost cease to be people. They are the beautiful husks, designed for our entertainment and amusement, to which we attribute whatever personality we feel like, since we don’t know them and never will. Somehow, for them to present themselves to us as perfect packages is wholly acceptable, since we effectively pay their wages and if a proportion of the billions we spend on music, films, magazines &c. goes towards a bit of rhinoplasty, then so be it. It does, after all, make the Beautiful Untouchables better at their jobs. But plastic surgery is slowly creeping into the high street. These days it is perfectly normal to see busses rolling by advertising cosmetic “enhancement.” It is no longer beyond our means to afford this sort of luxury.
What I can’t get my head around is that people would actually pay to have someone cut into their flesh for no other reason than that their nose was a bit wonky or their breasts smaller than they would like. The v.thought actually knocks me sick. Having had surgery, and I mean minor surgery††, I can’t entertain the thought of paying thousands of pounds for someone to do that to me if there is nothing wrong with me in the first place. Going under the scalpel is scary, for a start: a person injects you with something that renders you unconscious, which can cause health complications (and in some extreme cases, death), once under you have to trust another person to wield incredibly sharp implements over your naked body and then to actually slice into you. Now, let’s just suppose that everything goes to plan and you awake unharmed – firstly, you’ll probably vomit violently. And you will be in pain. Severe pain. You can’t expect to have your tissue hacked into and wake up feeling fine and dandy, of course you can’t. You’ll feel dizzy and confused, parts of you will hurt that didn’t even have the surgery, because bodies are funny that way, and you’ll probably be full of tubes. I don’t know what the recovery time is for plastic surgery, but after I had my appendix removed and my laparoscopy, it was a good two or three months before I felt ok again and the scars still ache from time to time to this day. And, the pain aside, what happens if you don’t like the finished result? Do you go back for more to correct it or quit while you’re ahead? What happens if, say, you have a wonky nose, have it straightened and then discover that it makes the rest of your face look wonky? What happens if your new nose suits your younger face, but as you get older starts to look out of place? There’s a limit to what surgery can do. And reversing age is another limit it cannot transcend.
So, it’s painful, it’s expensive, there are health risks… but what about just plain unhealthy. Liposuction, for example, is the procedure of sucking the fat out of a person’s body. Just as it is unhealthy to be underweight, so is it to be overweight, yet we have developed a way of reducing the fat in a person’s body without exercise or dietary revision. Bit of a no-brainer, that one. And we all know this and yet about a third of the people I asked said they definitely would have plastic surgery if they could afford it (mainly women), a third said they would consider it (a few more men crept into this category) and the remaining third said they wouldn’t (mainly men).What is this need to be uniformly beautiful? And why do the majority allow the media to dictate what being beautiful entails? True, we’re visual creatures… those of us who are lucky enough to be sighted, at least. I’m not denying the fact of attraction, but surely we are able to decide what constitutes beauty for ourselves. And surely there is an appeal in the irregular features that make one person different from the next. Maybe there are similar pressures for men when it comes to image, but I don’t see that men spend an inordinate amount of time preening, plucking, dyeing, curling, straightening, buffing, filing, painting, waxing and cutting off parts of their genitalia simply for the aesthetics, dressing up like damned male peacocks or tottering around on their tippy-toes.
* I mean pains that spread up into my chest and down both legs. Pains that made me faint and vomit. Pains mainly caused by Endometriosis, it later transpired.
** I am squeamish of all blood – my problem is not the location of the bleeding, only the fact of it.
*** Although, should I choose to return to my natural state of affairs, I shall be purchasing a mooncup. Sounds cleaner than plugging my muff with cotton wool, in which nasty germs can grow, and would work out cheaper on account of being a one off payment.
**** A colleague asked me recently why I was staring into space and all I could say was: “I’m thinking about flaps.”
† Historically women would put arsenic on their faces to bleach the skin. Unfortunately for pasties like me, in this day and age, the trend is to apply unnatural shades of orange to create a healthy glow
†† Appendectomy, laparoscopy, lapascopic womb scraping, contraceptive implant &c.
DISCLAIMER: All generalisations made relate to the “average” straight woman and “average” straight man are purely exemplary
Society is bound together by a set of rules that essentially stop us from passing on disease and/or killing each other. What the creators, or should I say “maintainers”, of society fail to realise is that it doesn’t necessarily work. For the most part, we’ve learned the difference between “right” and “wrong” and use this as the basis for our moral compasses (compae?); however, we are still passing on disease and killing each other regardless. Interesting. There is anger to be borne of repression. To be naughty is somehow delicious.
The problem with rules is that they’re open to interpretation. As with everything, from the law to personal moral code, the boundaries of each precept blurs into the boundaries of others and sometimes into grey areas you’ve never even considered. We have solicitors – that’s the law sorted. But one person’s guilty non-compliance can be another person’s norm.
Men are bigger and stronger than women, as a general rule. But just how much stronger are they? We are sold this idea, right from the start of our lives: boys are big and strong and girls are little and delicate, boys like getting dirty and girls like to clean, boys like blue and girls like pink, boys climb trees and girls play with dolls &c. Forget the fact that some men are short and may have a subconscious issue with this (otherwise known as the Napoleon Complex, which can cause anxiety and aggression). Forget the fact that if a woman is naturally larger, she’ll probably feel hung-up on it for life; starve herself and binge in equal measure, causing nothing but unhappiness and self loathing. What happens if a man’s muscle tone isn’t naturally as firm as he’s told it should be? Does that mean he’s less of a man? If he has pronounced hips, does that make him too feminine? What if a woman has a grip like a vice and a kick like a donkey? If her thighs are hard and muscular should she be considered too masculine? What I’m trying to get at is that, yes, one is a man or one is a woman, but there are varying degrees of the male/female distinction. As with all things, to take the divide at its face value of black and white would be ignorant. Take those who consider themselves to be in the wrong body: technically one thing, emotionally another. Society does not make allowances for disparity. Maybe it’s more a case of there being numerous different sexes that we coarsely split into two categories in order to slot people into this over-simplified civilisation of ours.
Because western culture dictates that men are strong and women are weak, the average man does everything he can to be the big, brawny male and the average woman just plain doesn’t try to be physically powerful. Why should she need to be? Of course, a woman may exercise, but she does that to be thin, surely. What we end up with is the stronger entity becoming even stronger and the weaker entity becoming even weaker. Men carry bags, men drive HGVs, men open jars, men change tyres, men put up shelves and why? Because women don’t believe they can do it; they think, because they have been wrongly indoctrinated to believe, that they need a man to do that. Almost, that it’s a man’s duty to do these things. And more than that, the majority of straight women genuinely lust after big, strong men who can take control and protect them when, in actual fact, they are quite capable of protecting themselves.
Of course, it’s easier to hand a jar over to a man than attempt to get the lid off yourself. I struggle with my bathroom light, for example, which conks out an inordinate amount and which I can’t reach unless I stand on the bath and lean over to it. Unfortunately, the landlord chose a heavy, glass light shade of the sort usually found in public toilets and, given the angle of approach (which involves hanging onto the shower-curtain rail) combined with the weight of said light shade, it’s rather difficult to unscrew with one hand. Being a short-arse is not something I can help. In times gone by I have showered in the dark until someone tall came round. I v.much begrudge letting a man change a light bulb on my behalf, but I have had no idea from whom to borrow a stepladders long enough to do the job and have no room for a set of my own. Conundrum…
It’s amazing how much a mental block can affect your physical ability. As a runner, I know that any self doubt can cause an inhibition in performance, especially following a period of rehabilitation. The minute I think: “I can’t get up that hill” or “I can’t go that extra mile,” I’m doomed. If I allow myself to walk once in a run, I will allow myself to walk twice, then three times and so on. So it’s perfectly understandable that if women have been told all their lives that they’re not strong enough to do something quite simple or that they’ll get dirty if they attempt it and are advised to pass the task to a man, then that’s precisely what they’ll do. And precisely the advice that they’ll pass on to their children. Of course, I’m not saying I could take on a man in combat (I’m not denying the natural physicality here) but I have no necessity for men in order to live, nor does any woman. It is the ultimate ideal, the deeply embedded paradigm, of the nuclear family that makes a woman feel it necessary to have a man around and it is this that often makes a woman feel inadequate if she doesn’t.
Women, have a clue! It’s all in your heads where it was planted by society generations ago. We are strong! Stronger than you could ever believe. Do the job yourself; you are more than capable. If you don’t know how to – learn! And in a world where violence is rife, it’s downright dangerous to allow yourself to be weakened to the point where you must rely on somebody else to protect you. Join a self-defence class, bench press, do weights, tone your core… do everything you can to enhance your natural ability. And don’t forget that your arse and legs are powerful tools!
And men… get over yourselves – you’re not all heroes and it’s a mystery to me why we all seem to want you to be.
Women are known for being in touch with their emotions. We cry easily, we have compassion, we are nurturing and maternal… I, of course, don’t include Margaret Thatcher in this. What happens when a mother doesn’t feel that infamous connection with her newborn baby? It’s written off as post-natal depression because no sane woman would ever spurn her own child. Every woman is maternal, as far as society is concerned, and if she’s not, there must be something wrong with her. It is her role, her duty to want and care for babbits simply because she is the one who has them. She must, therefore, be maternal by nature. She must be caring and loving and because of this adorable trait, she lives on her emotions and therefore, cannot be expected to think logically with her little lady brain. Leave that to the men.
Maybe I’m being a tad unfair here. I had PMT enough times, back in the days before Implanon, to know that for no apparent reason, I would suddenly find myself screaming and shouting, ranting and railing and bursting into tears over nothing. It often took me a while to think: “Hm… when was my last period?” The guru, Germaine Greer, believes this anger and upset is caused by the stigma that has been placed on the menstrual cycle over the decades. Well, maybe – I’m not ruling it out – but I can honestly say that the PMT always hit me before the realisation of the lunar phase did. So maybe, in addition to being naturally smaller and slightly weaker (notice the word “slightly”) we are also naturally slightly more emotional. But these organic attributes have been grasped upon and blown out of all proportion and now we’re in the rut, it’s damned hard to climb back out again and admit that the way we implant convictions in the mind from an early age is not necessarily in the best interest of humankind.
Hormones aside, it is still considered the case that if a man sheds a glistening tear, he could be considered sensitive. But if he cries like a baby, he’s just plain wet. Whereas for a woman to cry in times of trauma, relief, happiness – well, that’s just to be expected. We’re allowed, nay expected, as women, to break down and flap in the face of turmoil, whereas men are expected to take charge. Which is ridiculous. It’s natural to cry when emotions are running high – for both men and women*. It is also possible for both groups to pull themselves together, consider a situation logically and act accordingly.
As with the gender split, maybe it’s more of a case of individual levels of emotion. To give you another example: I’m not much of a crier (although, I used to be), but my last two partners were both major criers. I don’t think for a second that I’m less sensitive than your average woman – I just have a v.long fuse and like to ensure that I fully grasp a situation and have considered all options before I react. Of course, when I flip (and don’t we all at some point?), I really fly off the bloody handle, but I usually get a grip pretty quickly. As I get older, the flips are less frequent and when they do happen, the red mist clears faster. Life becomes harder to compartmentalise the older you get and accepting that allows me to consider every side of a situation. Of course, I’m far from perfect and not every conclusion is correct, but doesn’t the fact that I, as a woman, deal with things analytically enhance my point about basing opinions on individuals and not purely on gender?
It is because of this caring nature we’re all supposed to have that women are expected to maintain the momentum of a relationship. You rarely see relationship self-help books aimed at men – How to Get and Keep Your Woman…? Women are taught from an early age to build close monogamous couplings and you often see little girls hand in hand with their best friend. The problems arise when one of the little girls finds another little girl that she considers to be her best friend and thus sets the other one off in a flurry of frustrated tears until she finds herself another best friend. Sound familiar? In the same way that women are not wont to aim for physical strength, men are not inclined to strive for emotional alliances. And if they do erupt with emotion, it usually manifests itself as aggression. This imbalance creates frustration on both sides of the coin and liability in couplings always lies with the woman. Woman will almost certainly do anything to reach the inevitable marriage and man will do anything to put her off. So when a relationship breaks down, it is the woman who is to blame – woman could not maintain her relationship, woman didn’t care enough, woman smothered man, woman “stole” man from other woman, woman drove man away… At no point does anyone say: “You know, you really can’t help the way you do or don’t feel about someone. Maybe we should just all be honest about how we feel…” because all the women in any given relationship situation are too enraged at the other women involved to look at the bigger picture. It’s all down to a sense of possession, which I won’t touch upon right now as there are no room for tangents** in this blog. But women try to possess men just as much as men try to possess women in the straight world; it’s just that one group of people physically possess and the other emotionally and that’s down to sheer programming.
We are as emotionally strong as we are physically and, once that’s something we all acknowledge, once we stop playing to our set of precedents, the battle of the sexes may well come to a standstill… well maybe not, but it would be a start, at least.
* To some degree. But that is just the initial reaction, not the solution and it will not solve any problem. Cry, by all means; give yourself a moment. Then wipe the tears away and get on with it!
** Meaning my extensive rant about marriage
It’s an ostensibly pretentious sentiment when people say they don’t believe in labels. Those commonly referred to as moshers* used to bang on about it during my school days. Regardless of whether it was correct to label them thus, you know the type of people I mean: those who think they’re being original, but are actually just adhering to a slightly smaller set of fashion rules like a sheep that’s rolled in mud and announced: “I’m better than you. I’m so unique because I’m depressed and muddy and don’t like the same things as other sheep… well, apart from all these muddy guys who hang around the cattle grid with me and shout abuse at all the non-muddies for being conformist, to the point where all the cool independent shops have to shut down… in the Corn Exchange…” Hm… this analogy was tenuous to begin with, but now it appears to have morphed into my bugbear about the kids in uniform-black who hang around Leeds city centre making people so uncomfortable that local businesses suffer.
Anyway anyway anyway, I understand the primary need for labels. Labels are just names when you think about it and you wouldn’t want to find yourself pointing at something and going: “Could you pass me that thing, please? No, that thing. THAT thing!” But there comes a point where a name becomes subjective and transforms into a label rather than a definition and, being undefined, labels, like generalisations, are incredibly hit-and-miss; especially when you reach the realm of categories. Genres, for instance. It would be difficult to find a book you’d want to read without genres, but under which genre would you put The Well of Loneliness, or Maurice? Gay and Lesbian Fiction? Modern Classics? And why is there a section just for gay and lesbian fiction anyway? Why is it separate from everything else? You don’t get Middle-Aged Fiction, or Brunette Fancier Fiction. True, it’s annoying and unrealistic to read about heterosexuals all the time and perhaps you’re actively looking for fiction wherein the main characters are gay. But why segregate just this group of people? You don’t traditionally get Black Fiction or Jewish Fiction and if you’re sick of reading about Caucasians and Christians, you’d have to dig the old fashioned way*** to find books with a black/Jewish protagonist. And if everything is segregated like this, how will straight people ever learn enough about gay culture to wholly accept it? If we’re striving for equality, surely putting Gay and Lesbian fiction on a different shelf is kind of like pointing a finger and going: “These books can’t possibly mix with the normal books.”
My real issue, though, before I head off on another tangent, is people who try to label other people. And by “other people,” I mean me. I was recently much narked after having a row with a self-proclaimed feminist on Twitter who announced that I was no feminist after all and proceeded to tell me that I was middle class****.
Now I would never have called myself a feminist, mainly because I don’t really know what being a feminist entails and, since no two feminists have ever completely agreed with each other, I don’t think the feminists know either. I have my ideas and beliefs, however malleable, and they seem to tie in with a lot of feminist ideals, but I don’t see why that makes me a feminist.
Even more annoying than being labelled is being unlabelled. I never said I was a feminist and yet here was a girl I’d never met confidently announcing that I was definitely NOT something I had never claimed to be. Personally, I don’t see how she could make such a judgement after five 140 character exchanges with a stranger who looks nothing like her Twitter profile picture†. Outrage! I mean, yes, I believe that society has brought us up with some pretty topsy-turvy ideas about love, marriage, sex, relationships and family, and I believe that women have been horribly oppressed in the past (and maybe still are in some ways) and that it’s led to a lot of avoidable unhappiness from all corners, but why the hell does that make me a feminist? Surely that just makes me me!
And take people who say they don’t believe in bisexuality. Or that bisexuality is just greedy. How fucking ludicrous and downright childish! It is simply a case of desiring who you desire and you can’t help being attracted to people even if you’re deeply in love with someone else. It’s just human nature. Why does who you’re attracted to mean so much to everyone who isn’t you? Fine, say bisexuality doesn’t exist, if you want to; it still doesn’t change the fact that some people sleep with both men and women. Why does that actuality necessitate a label? And as far as being greedy: a person can be attracted to both women and men and carry on a perfectly monogamous relationship. Some women and some men, remember, NOT absolutely everyone. And not all at once!
Categories in politics are also tricky. I tend to vote for the big party†† that has the most agreeable points, as far as I’m concerned, which is all anyone can do, really. But it’s so hard to know where to stick your little cross when you don’t whole-heartedly agree with absolutely everything any of the parties promise… not that the promises of politicians mean anything at the end of the day. And even harder when some of the things that concern you the most aren’t even touched upon by any.
I believe the distribution of wealth is completely unjustified – does that make me a socialist? I’m not sure joining the EU is a good idea – does that make me a Tory? I tend to lean towards the left, but not always. I’m a greeny-libdemy-laboury-monster-raving-loony. But not completely.
I am me. Why do I need other labels?
* I believe they don’t make moshers** any more. I have been informed that they’ve been replaced with Emos. Or twats, as I like to call them.
** I used to get accused of being one of these. Easy mistake to make – I’m pasty and my natural expression is one of despair. I’m not despairing, it’s just my face.
*** Google, naturally
**** I’m glad someone told me. Didn’t realise with my history that’s what you’d call me. Tell me, do you get many middle-class people living in one room flats, sleeping in the cupboard because there’s no bedroom and living on soup?
† I really should change that, but it goes with the background
†† To stop the BNP getting in. I live in absolute fear that Nick Griffin will have some sway in the world, the arrogant, shallow, bigoted wanker.
Until recently, The Female Eunuch wasn’t even lurking, War and Peace style, in my reading pipeline. Nobody had ever suggested that I read it, Amazon included, and it just never seemed to home into view, so to speak, though I’ve always been a fan of Germaine Greer. It was actually a Guardian article, The Female Eunuch 40 Years On, that made my little grey cells prick up thoughtfully and, on a whim, I finished said article and instantly bought a second hand copy of the 1970 edition online. And once I started to cart the book around with me, I realised that it was no wonder it had never been recommended. Not because it is unrecommendable (far from it!), but rather because of the peculiar reactions it produced in people. I got sneers, raised eyebrows; ultimately looks of disgust with… what was that flickering… was that… it couldn’t be… could it? Yes, it could. It was fear! People were afraid of this book. What made it all the more bizarre is that I couldn’t find a single person who’d actually read it and when I asked any of the fearful what they thought it was about, they just said something along the lines of “man hating, feminist nonsense,” and the sentiment was almost certainly followed by “I can’t stand Germaine Greer.”
What I discovered in the first few pages of this book was life changing. Not in the sense that it opened my eyes to a new way of thinking, but that it corresponded, almost exactly, with what I’d spent my life being told was a weird perspective on life. I was wrapt. For once, someone other than my mother was in agreement and it felt like a homecoming. I was a feminist by default, not design, it would seem.
I haven’t felt this way about a book since Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook. Erudite, witty, insightful and delightful, this book should be every woman’s bible. The anger and force of a strong writer pervades throughout, but this is not merely about slating the male. In fact, Greer’s points are often as sympathetic to the man as to the woman, which is particularly pronounced in her denunciation of the way we are brought up to believe women the fairer sex; feeble creatures who should be treated like glass dolls to be looked after like possessions. As Greer rightly questions: what man wouldn’t be grateful to have the burden of being the protector lifted from his shoulders? In addition, when the question of female superiority is raised, Greer highly criticises women’s lib’ groups who attempt to elevate themselves above men, deeming them childish. These groups are, in her eyes, one of the reasons feminists have a bad reputation amongst the male population.
From burning witches to burning bras, The Female Eunuch is a history lesson on the lives of women, female liberation, the suffragette movement and the shortfall of western society. The inefficiency of our social order is Greer’s main bugbear, as it is mine. But, like anything that threatens to drastically change our way of life, it brings about a fear. Fear of disruption, fear of revolution, fear of change and the uprooting of the comfortable morals we lazily live by.
Of course, every person is different and not every point rang true for me. The unforeseen pooh-poohing of female ejaculation made me positively cross, since, without going into too much detail, I know for a fact that it is not a myth*. And, what with it being written some forty years ago, some sections are slightly outdated or irrelevant. It all added to the charm as I found myself comparing the life of the ‘70s woman to the woman in patriarchal society today and I put the book down and instantly wanted to know how Greer felt these days. Luckily for me, she has written another book: The Whole Woman.
Fiercely interesting from beginning to end, this book hit no lulls. Germaine Greer concisely presents the problem as she sees it, the history, the facts and the solution; a rational and shrewd theory of how society ought to be broken down and rebuilt on an equal footing.
* If you e-mail me nicely, I might explain
The Women’s Room ~ Marilyn French
The Golden Notebook ~ Doris Lessing
When I die, of whatever, at whatever age, in whatever circumstance, people will shake their heads and mutter:
“ Such a shame… She could have had plenty of opportunity… If only she had listened…”
For when I die, emblazoned… etched deep on my bones, written in my ashes, chiselled onto my tombstone and rapped out in my eulogy in big, shameful, unavoidable letters will be the word “spinster”. Yep, that’s me. Give me an S, give me a P, give me an I, give me an N, give me a STER… what do you get?
Actually, what you get is an embarrassed silence followed by overenthusiastic, patronising demurrals that go along the following lines:
“Don’t say that! You’re not a spinster! You’ll find somebody! It’ll happen for you one day, you’ll see!”
Because the association with the word is far from flattering. To most people, the word spinster conjures images of haggard old crones with wiry grey hair, sometimes crazed with a squint and twenty unruly cats, sometimes prim and schoolmarmish with a sour expression and a bitter outlook.
But the word “bachelor”…? Why, that’s a successful man of any age, surely. Living alone, carefree, happy, having the time of his life.
Presumably, the semantics of two words that essentially mean the same thing boils down to western society’s delusion that women want (or even need) to get married and men don’t. Unfortunately, this belief is so ground into your average person’s subconscious, that genuine pity and scorn are felt for the poor poor spinster, who is surely desperate to find a husband.
It starts at birth. I’m loath to delve too far into my opinions of marriage, because I feel those deserve a missive in their own right; however, I can begin to neither make my point nor attempt to reclaim the balance of spinster Vs bachelor without touching on the subject. From the moment we are born, our indoctrination begins: we are taught that, if we are normal, we will grow up, marry someone of the opposite sex and have the generic 2.4 children. Now, there may be people who never attempted to stuff this down your throat, but the odds are against anyone who tries to raise a child differently. Disney, chick-flicks, Mills & Boon… in fact, these forms of love propaganda are obvious and honest about the ideal they’re selling – it’s the rest of the media you have to watch out for: conservatives sell the notion of the nuclear family, as does Christianity in its many forms; films that claim to be historically accurate always revolve around a love story; books (and again, films) about vampires involve the choice between two loves, the true one and the false and, ultimately, between good and evil. Wherever you look, the myth of the “one true love” is being subliminally and literally shoved down our throats. And yet, for the most part, we’re so used to it, we don’t even notice. This is not so much my reason for not marrying as the reason I am subject to a stigma I cannot, and will never be able to, shake. Whether it’s a conscious smugness or not, mingled with the pity shown by a married to a spinster, is the superior air of someone who considers themselves to have “made it” in life where the spinster failed.
Of course, there is the Americanism of the “bachelorette.” Far less evocative of powdery old ladies. In my head, the term bachelorette applies to 3am girls in their twenties; bolshy, thriving on youthful energy and binge drinking* sessions. It’s probably an unfair picture to paint and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that lifestyle if you can hack it. What I’m trying to say, v.incoherently, is that one can only be a bachelorette for a finite period of time. That is to say, I can’t imagine that in my forties, I will be commonly thought of as a bachelorette. And whether I have incorrectly twisted the definition of the word to fit into my world or not, the fact remains that it isn’t even a word! An unmarried woman is a spinster. End of.
And what’s wrong with that? It would take decades to dissolve the ideology of the perfect life**, maybe hundreds of decades, the conditioning goes so deep. But while the majority of people subscribe to this, maybe it would be prudent for that majority to look at the spinster from a different perspective; try looking at her as a person who has chosen to live a certain way, not as someone who had no choice in the matter. And if you are a spinster who’s always looking for a partner, desperate to be loved, maybe take a good, long look at the life of the married and seriously consider the implications of promising your v.existence to someone else. Is that really what you want? Or could it be possible that maybe, just maybe, if you feel that something is missing from your life, it is because others have made you feel that way? I would urge any spinster to never ever allow anyone else to make you feel a failure for not seeing things the way the rest of the western world seems to. Scratch the surface of any marriage and you’ll find that nothing’s perfect. Though society presents marrieds as a shining example, are they really blissfully happy? Does doubt flicker under the solid exterior? And, with so much obvious discontent in the average modern marriage, why is this way of life still pushed upon us?
The inability of people to put themselves in others’ shoes or at least to understand that the way we’re always taught it should be is not the only one is v.frustrating to me.
I have a womb that will never be occupied, although I will not cut it out; I have breasts that will only ever be used to hang clothes from; I have a partner I will never marry, though I love v.deeply***; and I have genitalia, the purpose of which will only ever be to pass urine or for the instance of pleasure****. These hips will never have my children perched on them. These hands will never change a nappy or bear a solitaire chip or throttling band, nor will they clasp a swaddled newborn warm from my belly; they will not make meals, scrub floors, fetch washing, bleach bathrooms or unclog drains whilst my husband slouches in front of a telly or swans off to the pub with his mates whilst my children scream for more attention. I will never stay sober at a party so that my other half can have a lift home. This is my choice, not my fate!
And until we come to our senses and invent one encompassing word for both unmarried women and unmarried men (and even then I’m not sure we need one, since singletons are not second class citizens!) I am a spinster. And don’t ever presume that I am short† of anything.
So… give me an S, give me a P, give me an I, give me an N, give me a STER… what do you get?
A whole woman, living a full life!
* I realise that my binge drinking is legendary in some circles, but bear with me.
** A la marriage to a person of the opposite sex and the 2.4 children
*** Don’t tell on me. I am fine with spouting opinions, but feelings stay tucked away inside me.
**** Never at the same time, of course.
† Physically short, yes, but not lacking in my life.
I began writing a blog several weeks ago on the subject of running; however, since beginning said blog, I have managed to break my back* and, whilst I fully intend to pick it up once I am healed, the thought of blogging about running, my beloved sport, seems unnecessarily masochistic at present. Still, there is many a blog subject whizzing around in my head just waiting to be put into writing.
During the last flat-bound week, a subject on which I have recently ruminated much, has been pushed to the forefront of my mind. You see, what with the vast majority of my friends tying the proverbial noose… I mean knot… buying houses in true grown-up fash’ and even dropping sproggers, I have been driven to study my own situation in greater depth.
It has been suggested that my views on relationships, nay on society in general, are somewhat unorthodox. I can’t even begin to summarise on such a broad subject without going off on a tangent, but I can say, just to give the general idea, that the middle-class myth of romance, marriage and happily-ever-afters leaves me cold. Don’t get me wrong, I v.much believe in love, but not in quite the way that western society dictates, although I have been Disney indoctrinated on my life journey as much as the next person. Anyway anyway anyway, to conclude before I really begin, I have no intention of marrying**, no interest in bearing babbits and I am clinging to my solitary studio as if my life depends upon it. All well and good and that’s my prerogative, you might say. But for the past few months, this resolution has been tinged with a nagging doubt. It isn’t the body clock rapping on my maternal instinct and it certainly isn’t the sight of yet another blushing bride in a strapless*** wedding gown. It is simply the matter of security.
Possibly this uncertainty has been borne from my mother’s indefatigable refusal to conform and marry her partner of 12 years, and my concern for her future well-being. Regardless of how it sprang into being, the question of security had begun to needle me long before the disappearing chair incident and my subsequent incapacity. A week of disability, however, has taken it’s toll. The question is now not just lurking nonchalantly, but tramping around the forefront of my mind wearing hobnail boots.
It’s all v.well my spouting on about independence and freedom and personal space and self-respect as an active twenty seven year old. It’s ok for me to spurn marriage as a fresh(ish)-faced young woman; no conventional beauty, it’s true, but no munter, either. But what happens when I unravel? What happens when I am forced to give up running, walking, yoga-ing, working out****? What will happen when the lines on my face don’t fade throughout the day, when my hair is grey and thinning and I can’t quite make it up the stairs or even remember where the stairs lead? If I do not marry, if I do not have children, if I never manage to make enough money to hire a good nurse, who is there to look after me?
This week, I have mainly relied on Gary, my boss (or my boss’s boss, if I am to be pedantic), who lives just around the corner from me and is, much to my eternal gratitude, always looking out for me. Michelle would have also been a great source of support, if she hadn’t been seconded to Belfast for the week. And it’s unfortunate that my partner is away skiïng in.. um… Sweden… Switzerland… somewhere beginning with “Sw”, although he did spend the former part of the week running me to hospital and bringing me shopping. I’m sure that both Michelle and my partner would have done their best to take care of me had they been here, but it’s a boring, time-consuming job to look after someone when you work full time yourself, and neither of them are used to me needing them; I encourage and seek autonomy in any relationship. I have been indoors for a week, peering out of the window at the ice-rink that is my street, unable to even step foot out of the door for fear of falling and doing yet more damage. I hate this. I hate needing people.
I hate even needing my mother and consider our relationship to be strictly want-to-know these days. But of course, the fabulous Mrs Dewsnap has, naturally, come up trumps in the hospitality stakes once more. She is my Mum at the end of the day. But when I am old, what then? My mother insists she will live well into her hundreds and, being as solid as she is, I can well believe it. If she makes her hundreds, though, who will be looking after who?
Michelle, my saviour and good friend, will one day pledge allegiance to the U. S. of A., marry a rich American and pop out more bairns than she’ll know what to do with. She does not share my cynicism of marriage. And Gary, great friend that he is, is the same age as my mother.
There is always John, of course. We made a pact, way back in the days of puppy fat, that should we both be single at the age of thirty, we’d marry each other. Thirty in those days seemed so v.far away and as the day of judgement looms, the boundary has been pushed laughably further and further back. I think we agreed on forty five at the last count. It seems John has no desire to marry either… even if I had been the right sex.
So, then, I expect to deteriorate and rot alone in my old age, far away as it seems right now.
Although I have not yet reached the end of the book, “The Female Eunuch” for me so far has been life-changing. Not in the sense that it has opened my mind, but rather because it has confirmed my own existing ideas. Whilst I don’t agree with every single point in an extended essay that is, in essence, a documentation of one woman’s opinions, it has voiced several thoughts that I have often tried to express and been rebuffed for. This book has been a blessed relief. It seems that my ideas are not as bizarre as people would have me believe – at least one other person agrees with me; and one as rational as Germain Greer, no less.
The real eye-opener, though; the section that made me think twice, was the short chapter entitled “Security”. This concern of mine is relatively new and I like to mull things over and really attack the root of any problem to find a solution, which often takes a while to come to fruition. Sometimes I ask questions of people†. The chapter on security has saved me a job, although I’d like to believe that I would have reached the same conclusion in the end had Greer not pipped me at the post. It’s all so obvious when you think about it:
There is no such thing as security
And I don’t just mean in terms of companionship. If you pay into a pension, does that guarantee your financial security? If you marry, does that mean you’ll never again be single? If you invest, does that mean you will get a greater return on your contribution? If you raise moppets, does that mean you will never be lonely? A husband/wife/civil partner can just as easily run off with a temp’ or get hit by a bus as a singleton. People change, companies go bust, markets crash, children grow into adults. All we are guaranteed is the moment in which we live and breathe and all we can do is hope that our investments (no matter what they be) pull through for us in the end.
Contrary to being daunting, the realisation that security is yet another mirage of society is v.comforting to me. At least this way, I can view other people’s situations in a new light when compared to my own. Others are no more secure than I am, they have just bought into the myth. All we can do is our best!
It’s a similar feeling to the realisation that after death comes nothing. Blessed, divine nothing. And once we are gone, none of this will matter a single jot. What a heavenly thought…
* Just my coccyx. It was a hilariously impressive feat performed after the consumption of copious amounts of mulled wine, whereby I hallucinated a chair and sat on it with all my might.
** If it hasn’t happened already
*** It is the fashion, I am well aware of this and each to their own
**** For many reasons that I won’t list right now
† Deep, delving, inappropriate, occasionally downright insubordinate questions.
I was arrogantly opinionated in my younger days. I would hear something and immediately form a series of judgmental convictions without finding out the finer details, which often meant I came a cropper and ended up looking pretty daft. In a debate, I tie myself in knots because it takes me a while to process my thoughts into a string of sentences that voice exactly what I mean. I’d be a crap politician and these days would rather just keep schtum and listen to a discussion on a subject on which my knowledge is sketchy than make a tit of myself by being bolshy and annoying. But I’m about to spout some opinions, yes yes! On a subject I’m not such an authority on, nope nope!
There are things in this world that cannot be explained even by, like, proper scientists and that. In fact, it was in the news recently that scientists believe we are coming towards the limit of what the human brain can comprehend and that further mysteries will remain as such. Sounds like laziness to me, but then I have been known to be wrong*.
It’s one of my bugbears of the religious debate that when an atheist begins talking about science, the inevitable answer from the believer is: “Yes, but scientists have been wrong in the past” or “Science hasn’t been able to explain [insert bizarre phenomenon of choice here].” I always feel like saying: “Give it chance; we’re getting there.” And, if the case for believing in something is the mere fact that it has never, to our knowledge, been disproved, I could quite happily believe that David Cameron’s balls are as bright blue as his political views, on the grounds that I have never been told otherwise.
I feel much the same about ghosts and I would go so far as to say that one cannot believe in ghosts if one does not have a religion. The v.idea of a soul in itself has religious connotations – this notion that your emotional being is separate from your physical body is presumably where the idea that something leaves your body when you die (which, thanks to that rather mediocre, over-sentimental film, shall forever be known as the “21 Grams”). Something other than bodily fluids and body heat; this “something” is, presumably, your soul, which passes into heaven or hell depending on whether you’ve been good or bad. Or, should I say, depending on whether you believe in God and have repented any sins you may have committed**.
Which leads me neatly onto the point about good and evil; neither of which exists outside of society and both of which change from culture to culture, however marginal these changes may be. As a non-believer in God, I am also a non-believer in good and evil… at least, not in the black and white sense in which religion presents them. That people do misguided things – terribly, awfully misguided things – I believe, be it through sheer desperation, physical or psychological damage, but I don’t believe in inherent evil, nor do I believe in inherent good. Which means that I can believe in neither good nor evil spirits. Coupled with my cynicism of the mythical 21 grams, I can honestly say, with only the merest wibbling of doubt, that I do not believe in ghosts as we are given to understand them – I do not believe in the rogue spirit, so to speak.
What I do believe, however, is rather vaguer than what I don’t believe. I believe in energy. At the risk of sounding like a true dippy hippy, I believe in a sixth sense. Although, maybe in a slightly less exciting way than its namesake film. I believe that one can walk into a room and sense that much unhappiness and suffering has been caused there. I believe that there is a possibility that people and animals leave some sort of imprint in space or time or some such, rather more like a whiff of a recording than an actual part of themselves. Maybe it’s a dimensional thing, of which I have no information whatsoever. How this fits in with modern science, I really don’t know. I profess myself to be an utter philistine in that department… mainly because I spent every GCSE science lesson flirting with Ste Horsfield rather than actually listening, which made it impossible for me to take science further***. I guess biology was my bag back then.
It’s a truth universally known that people are curious by nature. We hate not knowing how things work and explanation kills the mystery, as Derren Brown has proven time and again. It’s true that he does some disturbing things himself, but the explanation for these displays are incredibly dull. He is not magic or psychic and he goes to great lengths to make this v.clear. I’m using him purely as an example of that which we understand automatically becoming mundane. And as far as I can see, the thing that makes the thought of ghosts scary is misunderstanding or lack of knowledge. Many people have reported that, whilst in bed, they have been pinned down, unable to move, by an unseen force on their chest. The explanation for this is simply sleep paralysis; a hugely frightening experience, but one that has been explained away by science. It’s a powerful tool, the mind.
If you think about the stories you hear or the experiences you’ve had yourself with ghostly forms (and I’ve had my fair share) they’re never clear. They’re generally something you see out of the corner of your eye or in a mirror. We are v.visual creatures. You often hear people say: “I’ll believe that when I see it.” You don’t ever hear people saying: “I’ll believe that when all the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.” But the fact that you can wake up in the night, heart pounding for no apparent reason can lead us to believe that we are not alone. We don’t see so well in the dark and the dark is infinitely scarier**** than daylight – you never hear of people seeing ghosts strolling down a sunny beach. With our peripherals being what they are, we always have our backs to something – ghosts appear in mirrors; ghosts stories where mirrors cloud over are equally as creepy because the thought of not being able to see behind ourselves is as frightening as the thought of seeing something in the mirror that shouldn’t be there. Similarly, ghosts who can walk through walls – backs to the wall means that something can still creep up and catch you unawares. It’s all so logical when you lay it down and dissect it. We jump at shadows and unexpected bangs. There is something of the natural fight or flight instinct in it.
It is also a rather human trait to need to believe in something more following the death of a loved one. It’s a stressful and upsetting time. And I often hear stories of people who have woken up and seen the effigy of a person, dead within the hour, at the end of their bed. For some reason, this strikes a chord with me in the same way that, for example, often if I’m upset or in trouble, my mother will ring and ask if something’s wrong without my saying a word. Or the same way you can pick up a mobile ‘phone seconds before it starts ringing. Something in the subconscious powers of deduction, perhaps. Or maybe it’s just the power of coincidence.
There is also a strong propensity for play. Even as adults, we like a good story. In fact, mythologies and old wives tales are the heart of our ghost stories. Like osmosis, we absorb tales over time and they linger in the back of our psyche. The delicious fear of the unknown envelops us in a tingly web and then works its magic as our imaginations go into overdrive. In times past, this would manifest itself in the form of witch hunts. Fear of the unknown causes panic, but witch hunts were equally a gruesome form of recreation. Could the exorcism of a house, i.e.: telling a ghost to leave, actually be our own way of cleansing our psyches of a story that’s created a suitably spooky experience that’s gone too far? A metaphorical witch-burning, perhaps.
I’ve got to admit, it’s all fascinating. Like Richard Dawkins, I haven’t so much proved or disproved a thing other than spew forth my opinions to the ether and I could continue to do so, but I’m not so sure my musings are particularly important in the grand scheme of things.
Anyway, basically what I’m getting at is, since I don’t believe in souls, I’m starting the bidding on mine for a fiver (free P&P).
* But rarely, you understand. V.rarely. Don’t let on, ey?
** I’m going to stop with this train of thought as I could start ranting about religion and that’s a subject I could rant on about for some time.
*** I doubt it would have been my forte, given my artistic leanings
**** I have a huge respect for the blind: they spend their entire lives on their other senses and live every day in the dark.