Yes, another marriage rant… Continue reading
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
Another of the reasons I disagree with marriage between a man and a woman is that same sex couples are not allowed to do it. Oh, of course, they can have civil ceremonies, but that’s not exactly the same thing, is it? If it was the same thing, it would be a wedding and a marriage, not a civil service and civil partnership. Aside from the fact that it’s called something different, married gay couples are not entitled to the same benefits as straight ones. Evidently, I don’t understand why anyone would want to marry at all, but that aside, why are same sex couples denied the option to have a marriage with as much import as straight couples? If people are forever encouraging straight couples to marry, why aren’t gay couples encouraged to for the same reasons? Could anyone ever say that gay couples are less in love? Of course not. That’s absurd. Love is love. Whoever* it’s happening between. Do people take offence because it’s “wrong” in the eyes of God? If so, then presumably, any marriage that doesn’t fit into those strict guidelines would be “wrong.” It would be wrong to get married if you weren’t religious, for a start.
This is not an argument in which I’m going to bang on about the fact that placing someone into a box like “Gay” or “Straight” is ludicrous. I’m not going to wax lyrical on how sexuality is fluid and how it makes no sense to take such offence simply because you don’t understand why one person is attracted to another. Some woman married Nick Griffin of all people – I don’t understand it, the v.thought knocks me quite sick in fact, but I don’t think that it warrants me burning crosses on her lawn or condemning her to Hell. The man may be a slimy, hate-filled, Nazi with a brain the size of a poppy seed; he may resemble the creature from the black lagoon, or something that’s been plunged out of a drain never before unblocked, but there’s no accounting for taste, is there? All it boils down to is attraction at the end of the day and how can I deny a person that?
I’m not going to bang on about gay rights, because this post isn’t about that, no matter how strongly I feel that homosexuality (should there be a thing so easily labelled in the fickle nature of human sexuality) streaks through us all and that you‘re just attracted to the person, not the gender. This blog is not about how disgust is a man-made feeling, designed to control our actions – in terms of hygiene, it does this v.well; in terms of disfigurement &c., not so much. Still, boundaries bind less than one would think and the blurring edges merge and converge until one subject cannot be broached without summoning another. So it is, in part, relevant to allude to these things… no matter how much this post isn’t about them.
On the subject of gay marriage, I recently had the following conversation, which I think sums things up nicely:-
T’OTHER PERSON: I don’t care if people want** to be gay, I just don’t think they should be allowed to get married.
ME: Why not?
T’OTHER PERSON: Because marriage is between a man and a woman***.
ME: Well, actually, if you’re going to be parochial, marriage is between a man and a woman in the eyes of God.
T’OTHER PERSON [with no small degree of vehement concurrence]: Yes! Exactly! It’s sacred.
ME: Oh… I didn’t know you were religious!
T’OTHER PERSON: I’m not.
ME [stunned pause while I wait for the nonsensical aspect of what “t’other person” has just said to sink into their heads]…
T’OTHER PERSON [clearly losing argument and so roaring slightly]: It’s tradition!
Of course, this person hadn’t ever thought about why they felt the way they did – they’d just been told somewhere along the line that it wasn’t the done thing and run with it. This person knows nothing about gay people other than that they fancy people of the same sex – something this person’s learned to think of as abominable. Would this person dare to judge a straight person on their heterosexuality alone? No, of course not. Would this person claim to know enough about a straight person to make a judgement of them? Again, of course not. But, apparently, the majority of society sees the act of coming out as a way of eradicating every other quality, quirk, flaw and idiosyncrasy. As far as the ignorant are concerned, if you’re gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual &c. then that is ALL you are and it isn’t the way they want you to be, so you definitely shouldn’t be allowed to mingle with the “normal” people.
If people are going to make offensive sweeping statements, they should be able to give you a logical, well-reasoned argument for thinking that way. And they should damn well know enough about the subject to be able to hold a consistent, balanced conversation about it. And if anyone ever says to me: “… because God says so” I swear I will reflexively chin them. That is not a valid excuse to go to war, and it is not an argument for racism, homophobia, misogyny or any other misguided, misinformed, loathsome features people may choose to adopt. Be religious, if you must, but don’t be a bigot in the name of “God.”
I was asked recently in a conversation, after I had admitted that I didn’t agree with marriage, why I didn’t want to commit. I’m not one for soppiness, especially not in public, but I was somewhat taken aback. I guess it depends on what your own personal definition of commitment is, but to me it means a degree of self-control, a quality of compromise and mutual respect, and the knowledge that if you were needed by another to lean on you’d be there for them… I’m pretty sure I’m already doing that.
If you’re not sleeping with anyone but your partner, you share decisions with that person and make plans with them then I don’t see how you could be more committed. If you don’t need to lean on them, but know that if you did that person would be there for you and vice versa; if you move v.much in your own circles and congregate from time to time and know that you’ve missed their presence, then surely what more could they ask of you? I don’t feel that forcing someone to announce that they’ll be there for you would mean more than the unspoken knowledge of knowing that they would be. Actions speak louder than marriage vows.
Marriage lost its clout the minute divorce became a possibility. It continues to lose its clout with societal evolution and, like organised religion, must learn to change with the times if it is to be embarked upon for generations to come with any rational rationale.
AIN’T NOBODY’S BUSINESS
There is something else that niggles me about marriage as much as anything else that I’ve mentioned and it’s this: why should I have to prove myself or my love for someone else to everyone else?
A v.close friend of mine recently got engaged. I am happy for her – it’s what she wants. But I know that she and her partner are crazy about each other. I know that they have a great relationship. I can see that they are in love. I do not need her to parade around in front of me in a lovely dress (and I’m sure it will be spectacular affair because she is stunning) to prove that she loves and wants to spend the rest of her life with this person; I can see that. I’ve been able to see that for years. Much as I believe that love generally doesn’t last forever (and the love that doesn’t is no less valid than that which does I hasten to add), I can honestly see these two people being together for the duration, so well matched are they. I love this couple – they are a beacon of joy together, and are so as individuals too. They have chosen to get married – I don’t know what for, but I v.much hope that I’m still invited. As I said in the first paragraph of my first post on marriage: I love weddings.
But I know the above couple love each other. I didn’t need them to announce it formally to me. If there are people who don’t understand how much they love each other, then they obviously haven’t seen R— and I– together… ever. So, if R— & I– know that they love each other, and if everyone who sees them together knows that they love each other and want to share a life together… what’s the marriage bit for?
Someone once said that being with me was like being with the Ice Queen. I’m not particularly proud of this and I hope that my current partner doesn’t feel that way. That a partner could feel that way is a serious issue, but I don’t really care what anyone external thinks of me in terms of my relationship or past relationships. I don’t feel that I have to validate my love for my partner by announcing it or shouting about it or tweeting about it (or even blogging about it – I’m v.uncomfortable with this whole paragraph, truth be told). I don’t want to have a party about it where everyone can tell me how “cute” we are. As long as my partner knows how I feel (and I hope that they do), I don’t see what it has to do with anyone else. Most weddings appear to be all about being the biggest, best, most dazzling, sparkling, regal couple for a day as if this proves that they love each other more than people who don’t go down that route. As if the whole day is to out-love other couples. But if you’re comfortable in the knowledge that you love each other, why do you need to prove it?
I LOVE YOU
Internally warm and soppy like a fuzzy love-bundle, inside tearing up at silly romcoms and getting a lump in the old throat when I hear words of love, I realise that I am, externally, a bit of a cold fish. Although I rarely say “I love you” even to my family (I know I know – bad Emily), I hope that my loved ones know just how much I love them. I would hope that they never see these strong opinions of mine as a sign that I don’t care or that I don’t value my relationships or the relationships of others. From my Mum to the wonderful explorer that is Michelle Jones, through John Magee, El Kitten (and hubby Mike Infinitum), Rose (and fiancé Ian) to my partner, and many many others (I merely haven’t mentioned you other wonderful people because a. I’m scared of missing someone vital out, b. I don’t want to impinge upon your privacy and c. I can’t be bothered typing out all those names), I can say with absolute honesty that I may have fingers in many pies, I may be able to cope without you, but I absolutely wouldn’t want to – my relationships, romantic or otherwise, are the foundations on which I build everything else. I would hope that, despite my not wanting to officially bind myself to any of you permanently in the eyes of “God,” and Goddess knows who else, you know that I wouldn’t ever not want you to be in my life.
This blog is not anti-love, it is anti-brainwash and I’m happy to be signing off with love… a love that has no need of marriage. Because as long as you guys know that I love you all v.v.much, that’s enough for me.
* People should definitely be allowed to have sex and/or fall in love with whoever they want, as long as the other party is wholly consensual (and neither young child nor animal).
** First mistake. T’other person clearly about to embark on an argument when they obviously haven’t got the faintest clue what they’re on about
*** Yes – already a weak-arsed argument
Cunt: A Declaration of Independance ~ Inga Muscio (an appreciation of the wonders of the vagina, the etymology of the word so many people find shocking and words of wisdom for women everywhere.
The Edible Woman ~ Margaret Atwood (an unassuming work of fiction on the subject of societal pressure)
The Dying Animal ~ Philip Roth (a v.dark, fictional tale of love, marriage and sex)
The Women’s Room ~ Marilyn French (a novel about women, marriage and feminism)
The Female Eunuch ~ Germaine Greer (a seminal discourse of women and their position in society – common sense for everyone)
Lady Chatterley’s Lover ~ D. H. Lawrence (or watch the TV series with delicious Sean Bean and the delectable Joely Richardson)
The Canterbury Tales ~ Geoffrey Chaucer (filthy, pious, sexy, devout, ambiguous and still relevant. I highly recommend David Wright’s adaptation, if you don’t want to struggle with Ye Olde Englyshe)
The Stepford Wives (the original Katharine Ross version, not that new shite with Nicole Kidman!)
I often overestimate society and believe it to be more tolerant and forward-thinking than it actually is. As I said in the first paragraph of my first post: I am constantly offended by people telling me that I should get married, that when I meet the right person I will want to get married (the insinuation being that I have simply never loved anyone enough) and that there’s clearly something wrong with me (not society – oh no – it’s all me!) Last night I had the conversation yet again. A friend and I went to the pub after work and were met by another friend who announced that they were getting divorced after ten years of marriage. So, naturally, the topic turned to my opinions on the matter. I was both shocked and appalled by what followed; suffice it to say that I never wish to speak to the friend with whom I originally went to the pub again.
I am more than happy to listen to the opinions of others; however, when I say opinions, I mean rational, well thought out, logical points of view, not bald statements. Of course, what I got was a load of bald statements.
Conversation the first, had with the soon to be divorcee who joined us:
ME: Well, to be honest, I don’t understand why anyone would get married. If someone can give me a good enough reason, maybe I’ll change my mind, but I doubt it…
DIVORCEE: Oh you should get married – our wedding day was so much fun
ME: But if I want a big party, I’ll have a big party
DIVORCEE: But it was just nice having people there to celebrate it with us
ME: Celebrate what, though?
DIVORCEE [pause]: The day, I guess. It was just loads of fun – you should do it
ME: I just don’t see why I need to get married to be with someone
DIVORCEE [beginning to look condescending]: Oh, when you meet someone you’ll want to marry, it’ll all change
For a few moments I was speechless with rage at the injustice of that comment, I reeled, and both of the people I was with took this as their opportunity to turn their conversational backs on me and start talking to each other disgustedly. Finally, on the way home, the original pub friend began again.
PUB FRIEND: It’s what holds our society together
ME: That may be how people perceive it, but I really don’t think, in these changing times, that it should be the case. Explain to me why you think that
PUB FRIEND [more than a little patronising]: It just is sweety.
ME: But you must have a reason for thinking so
PUB FRIEND: Well, without it, society would fall down
ME: What the fuck are you on about? Explain to me how
PUB FRIEND [still patronising]: It just would. That’s just the way it is. Marriage is about creating a union in the eyes of God… [at this point, my friend looks a little bit shocked at what he’s just said, what with him not being in the slightest bit religious]
ME: But you’re not religious
PUB FRIEND: No I’m not, but it’s not about that
ME: Um… you just said that’s what it was about. So you think married people are more important that we are [my “Pub Friend” is a 54 year old singleton, I hasten to add]
PUB FRIEND: Ah… no… well, yes, actually. Yes
ME: Do you have any idea what you’re saying?
PUB FRIEND: Ah… Look, marriage is what we base our society on
ME: I’ve already asked you to explain that. You’re just trotting out propaganda – explain to me how that is so
PUB FRIEND: It’s how adults conduct relationships, sweety
ME: Um… that makes absolutely no sense. So you’re saying that a relationship between two people is nothing without marriage?
PUB FRIEND: Yes.
ME: Do you percieve relationships that don’t involve marriage to be everything that’s wrong with the world?
PUB FRIEND: Well, yes.
ME: So, I’m everything that’s wrong with the world?
PUB FRIEND: In that respect, yes, I guess so
ME: But you’re not married…
PUB FRIEND: That’s different [pub friend lives with a similarly-aged lady and has done for several years… I mean, since the ‘80s]
ME: How? I just want you to explain how you’ve come to these conclusions. Do you have the first fucking clue what you’re on about? [yeah, so I was getting cross… wouldn’t you be?]
PUB FRIEND: Oh… [looking superiorly over his glasses]… sweety… your ideas are 30 years out of date. You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about.
ME: I don’t want to talk to you right now. You’re not making any sense and you appear to have turned into a patronising, misogynistic arsehole. In fact, don’t talk to me until you can actually answer my questions instead of making statements you can’t support!
Proving that, unlike the evolving society I like to think we are, we are, on the whole, just a bunch of brainwashed, walking clichés who don’t know why we think what we think and don’t want to question it in case it rocks the societal boat. So depressing.
I have been attempting to write this blog for three years and failing miserably. One of the difficulties is that it has been steadily growing at a rate faster than I can type. I write a paragraph, I save it, I read it back, I add some more. Sometimes I bring the subject up in conversation; it’s controversial, I get some more opinions, I add some more. People begin to question related subjects, such as gay marriage; I try not to explode in their faces, I add some more. I start a new relationship; I’m grilled about it, I add some more.
It has been a tough post to keep a handle on and no doubt I will refer back to it in the future and, shaking my head in resolution, add some more. It’s a piecemeal affair and neither elegant nor eloquent. But, since I am often offended by what is socially acceptable, I feel that it is unfair that I should have to keep quiet for fear of causing offence.
(I am posting this blog post in sections, so if you want to ask me a question/answer one of my questions, it may be something that comes up in a later post, but feel free to do either anyway.)
I love weddings. I do. I get caught up in the moment easily, I love getting dressed up, I love seeing Brides blushing with anticipation and guests flushed with champagne. But I don’t understand it – I don’t understand the need to bind yourself with another. What follows are my thoughts and questions on the matter. I am not attempting to belittle anybody’s marriage or relationship. I am not trying to tell anybody that they are in the wrong. I am opening the floor for discussion. I do not want to get married and I do not comprehend why anyone else does. If anyone can give me some answers, I would be v.glad to hear them. You never know, you just may change my mind… I doubt it, but stranger things happen at sea.
To my wonderful married (and potentially to be married in the future) friends: I love you all, I love your partnerships and corresponding loin fruit, I loved and will love your weddings – they are (and will be) beautiful, graceful ceremonies full of gorgeous people. Go, prosper, grow, breed – ignore your friend Emily, for she is clearly a lunatic to question a thing like marriage when you are all such glowing examples. I envy your clarity of mind and your resolution and your lovely, clean houses (also a mystery to me – how do you achieve that?). But, nonetheless, questions I am having.
THE START OF IT ALL
I’m not sure when it dawned on me that I would never marry. Somewhere between my third consecutive serious relationship and the two that followed, I guess. It wasn’t an unwelcome revelation, by any means; the realisation didn’t come wistfully clouded in hopelessness. On the contrary, it was a relief. A blessed, refreshing relief. In one, unbidden thought, I had absolved myself of the massive weight I hadn’t even realised I was carrying; the society-driven pressure that most women place upon themselves to find a husband had been lifted. I was me and I always would be me… I was free. And I couldn’t stop telling people.
What I failed to realise, in those early days, before I’d seriously considered the impact of this understanding, was that simply voicing what I considered to be a wonderfully freeing fact such as this was not only going to invoke pity in any listener, it was going to make them angry. V.v.angry.
It begins with a look of deep sympathy. A frown, a wonky, patronising, sad smile. Then comes the sentiment: “Don’t worry – it’ll happen for you one day. You’ll find someone &c. &c.” The automatic assumption being that I want to get married but haven’t met someone who wants to marry me. Or perhaps that I have never met someone that I loved enough to want to marry. Which is utter hogwash on both counts. I have been loved. I have been in love. Crazily, stupidly, illogically, want-to-spend-the-rest-of-my-life-with-you, truly, madly, deeply, head-over-heels, can’t-live-without-you, painfully, torturously, in full on clichéd stylee love. And, in that state, the urge to lock a relationship down, to preserve it, to do anything to make the other person reciprocate your love to the same extent is incredibly strong, I get that. No, my reasons, of which there are many, for opposing marriage have nothing to do with an inability to find love. I do believe in love, I honestly do! Just not in the way that people expect.
THE FAIRY STORY
We thrive on stories. With our art, music, acting and writing we can cause anguish and pain, we can make people cry and laugh, we can cause depression and anger and contempt. We like a good fable, an old-fashioned fairytale, a thumping formulaic read with some hot gypsies thrown in. We understand the black and white of the thing – learning the black and white is the basis for understanding that there are only shades of grey in life. Swathes and swathes of suffocating grey. And so, when the grey gets a bit too much to bear, we fill some of it in with black and white again… in our minds at least.
Fairy stories have a lot to answer for. Tales have always been a way to control societies; these days we have stories in the media too that churn out similarly damaging propaganda, but we still have those more traditional fairytales to remind us of what we should strive for in life and to warn us of the dangers of not living how we should. It is brainwashing of the highest order and it is the thing, above all else, that causes niggling feelings of guilt and failure in our lives, no matter how we live them. The fairytale has crept into everything; it’s in adverts and films and books and songs.
The basis of a fairytale is to take a young, pretty, thin girl; weak and vulnerable and sweet-natured, of course; and put her into a difficult situation, which inevitably gets worse and, just when we as the audience despair, along comes a man (generally rich and dashing and noble) to save her. And then they get married. Happily ever after. The audience is so glad it’s a “happy” ending. Life will be swimmingly easy for them. Isn’t that what we want? Love, happiness, riches, an easy life…? Well, we may as well get married – that’s a start, ey? And it’s the “right” thing to do. Don’t ask why, it just is, ok?
And then along came Disney. Despite the grim nature of some of our original fairytales, Disney manages to turn each one into insipid nonsense. True, I will quite happily sit down and watch the Little Mermaid or Snow White &c. when I want to allow my brain to have a snooze, or when the grey bits in life really get me down. But I know that I’ll have to swim back into the sea of grey at the end. Children, however, think that the fairytale is gospel, as they do the… well, the gospel. We are all brought up with these tales and they stick with us because, unlike the story of Santa Claus, they are still taught to us in varying formats throughout our lives. And everyone gets married, don’t they? It’s like growing up, it just happens. So when it doesn’t happen the way we’re told it should, we feel like failures; whether we failed to marry, failed to meet a mate, failed to be happy in marriage, failed to stay married, failed to be straight – we feel responsible. Because the other thing that fairy tales teach us is that if you are a good person and do as you are told, all the good things will happen to you and you’ll get your happily ever after. And they teach us that if you don’t get married/can’t get married/stop being married/don’t fancy who you’re supposed to, you’re probably a bad person because you’re not even trying to follow the story that someone else wrote for you long before you were even born.
It’s something that is fundamentally flawed in society – the need to promote the married and fecund above the single and childless. David Cameron is just not helping society to progress, but I don’t have time to go into that diatribe right now. Society as a whole is constantly changing and, v.slowly, it’s trying to evolve into something more modern and, for want of a better word, tolerant. But perceptions of marriage stand stubbornly archaic against that evolution of acceptance and, unless the way in which we view marriage changes with the times, this out-dated institution will hold us back in part, and exclude more and more people from its clique.
Another thing we thrive on is drama. Let’s face it, the majority of us Westerners lead pretty mundane lives and a lot of the time it’s a strain and an effort and we don’t see much for it. So we spice it up a bit. Probably as a hang-up from more devout days, we attribute meaning to every token – we take things as a sign that we’re meant to be with this person or that person. We make booming declarations of eternal love that seem so v.real at the time, but in hindsight are embarrassing, undignified and rather absurd. But then, you will prostrate yourself at the feet of someone who has said they want to leave you and scream things like: “I can’t live without you! I want to die! Oh, can’t you see we’re meant to be together?!” because that’s what you do when you love someone, isn’t it? Um… in films maybe.
“ONE TRUE LOVE”
Let’s start by looking at the concept of “The One”. Even if there were such a thing as “The One,” in a world of approximately seven billion people, what are the chances of that person being in your hemisphere, let alone in your country/city/place of work/bed? But incredulity aside, let’s suppose you’ve met someone who you consider to be your “One and Only” and let’s suppose they feel the same way about You. They feel the same way about this You, the You you are now, not the You you were five years ago or the You you will be in five years. Different books are right for you at different points in your life: you can read a book at twenty and hate it, yet read it at twenty seven and adore it, and vice versa. I believe that the same theory works if you substitute the word “books” with the word “people”. Cue outrage
That’s not to say that people can’t change together, but life takes so many different turns; events and situations change you so v.much. Even if you were to live out of each other’s pockets (and this is v.unhealthy both for your relationship and your own personal sense of self, I might add), the two of you can never have the same reaction, emotional or otherwise, to any given thing, so the likelihood of you changing into two different people who love each other is slim. Opinions change. An incident could occur to your partner that turns them from a liberal, free-thinking hippy into a bigoted, racist homophobe. You might have so adored your partner’s smile and twinkling eyes, yet the death of a loved one causes a bout of depression so deep that their eyes become dulled and the mouth never again curls upwards in mirth. It’s easy in theory to say that you would love that person through thick and thin, no matter what the cost, when the going is rosy; but if everything a partner says to you becomes tinged with scorn, for example, would you patiently take the flak and continue to love them as vehemently as you always did, regardless? Of course, history in a relationship adds a certain something; but surely that is akin to loving the memory of how a person was, rather than who they are now. And presumably the urge to stick is tantamount to the age old excuse of doing exactly what you’ve always done because it’s harder to not do it.
But, again, let’s suppose that you’ve been with your partner for years and that you’re still emotionally compatible… what is there to say that you’re still physically attracted to each other? What is there to say that your sexual needs have morphed into the same craving? What is there to say that there isn’t someone else out there who would fulfil your “needs” more?
We are driven towards partnerships, but I think Tim Minchin, as he so often does, succinctly sums this up perfectly with his song: “If I Didn’t Have You, Someone Else Would Do.”
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.
As usual, running cleared my head somewhat. And it got me thinking and now I have questions, damnit, with nowhere to direct them.
How, exactly, is there any way that ghosts exist? I mean, surely, with all the people there have ever been, the world would be rife with them. So rife we’d all go mad with the ghostiness. I asked this of one of the girlies on the hen do who was telling a story about the time she’d had to exorcise her flat. Her answer was less than satisfactory – she said: “It’s only some people who become ghosts when they die and you have to help them to cross over.” Cross over to where? I mean, it’s religious, isn’t it? You’d have to believe in a life after death, wouldn’t you, for a start? And, the ongoing debate about religion aside, why haven’t they made it across to wherever they’re heading? Are there no instructions? I mean, if there’s limbo and purgatory for people who aren’t in either heaven or hell, then where are the souls of these people who haven’t “crossed over”? Earth, I guess, but how does that make sense? I’m glad I’m an atheist, because this life after death lark sounds pretty complicated; I’m not good under pressure and I’m pretty sure that death would be stressful. I get lost in Morrisons at least once a week as it is.
Let’s put disbelief to one side for a moment and suppose that there are such things as ghosts; then surely the actual ghost of a person is representative of their spirit only. And if that’s the case, surely they wouldn’t manifest themselves in a form at all, especially not clothed, but rather as floating minds in some respect. Once the physical has gone, then it would leave just a soul that would certainly be incapable of recreating itself as the body it inhabited prior to death, let alone dress itself. Is this where possession comes in? And if a soul has possessed a body, what right has it to be exorcised, since possession is nine tenths of the law…?* My first thought, if I was a lost spirit that had just found myself inside a body for a change, when confronted with a priest would be to a) act as normally as possible to avoid losing my new body or b) say something along the lines of: “Excuse me – I don’t suppose you could give me directions to… um… where I’m supposed to be going, could you?” I definitely wouldn’t roar at him and then projectile vomit. When you’re lost as a living being, you ask a policeman, so it makes sense that when you’re lost as a ghost, you should ask a priest. Politely!
And, again, just supposing that people have souls that sometimes get confused en route to the afterlife, and just supposing a ghost somehow managed to mold itself into its former state and wrap a sheet around itself and stay on earth instead of “crossing over”… why would it want to throw things around and make spooky noises and generally scare the living daylights out of people? Surely it would actually be thinking: “I am pretty sure I’m in the wrong place. Maybe I should have gone left at the statuesque man with the skull for a face wielding the large gardening implement…”
… Although, I’m positive that emotions are caused by hormones and pheromones and gin, which are all physical things. Why, then, are ghosts so angry? What causes that? Why would they come back and haunt a random house** / person / bathroom / toaster***? And thought is caused by electrical impulses in the brain… and if the brain has died with the person, how can a ghost have any thoughts at all?
And why are ghosts always of a type? You don’t ever hear of people seeing rappers standing at the end of their bed, eerie light glinting off their bling, do you? Or of cavemen with a club in one hand, scratching their balls in uncouth fash’ with the other? And surely, a ghost of days gone by would be most confused by a lot of the things that happen in this day and age. I can’t imagine that there’s, say, a Victorian ghost watching me doing yoga and thinking (with the brain it’s somehow managed to find, even though it couldn’t manage to find the stairway to heaven): “Yes yes, I’m going to throw some stuff around and scare the shit out of this one.” Any Victorian ghost capable of thought would most likely be thinking: “What on earth is this all about? I’m not going near her – she’s mental!”
And, do animals turn into ghosts when they die? Because I know Christianity at least states that animals have no immortal soul, in which case they couldn’t possibly turn into ghosts. But human beings are animals, which, of course, means that they have no immortal soul either.
And why, I mean just why, am I freaked out by all this stuff when I’m not religious and I’ve just proven to myself that in order to actually believe it, I’d have to be of the faith? Is it just that my C of E / Methodist upbringing has been so far indoctrinated into my system that there’s a latent religious quality to my thoughts? Could this dormant Christian brainwashing be so ingrained in me that I can’t quite live without looking over my shoulder for imaginary ghosts, holy or otherwise?
I mean, it all just sounds like bollocks, if you ask me! Answers, I demand! Really good answers, please!
ASK THE EXPERT:
A friend of mine is not religious, yet apparently believes that he once had to exorcise a house. I don’t doubt his story for a second; I’m not saying that I don’t believe that he genuinely believes that he had to. How could this be? Come on, Wesley, explanations, if you please! What made you think / realise you had a ghost? Who performed the exorcism? Jon Bon Jovi? If a priest, surely this goes against your beliefs, or lack of; but if you performed the exorcism yourself, how did you find out how to do it? The internet? Did you need equipment? Because, and I know this sounds like I’m taking the piss (and I guess I am a little bit – in the most good-humoured way, I assure you), but I genuinely am curious – I just can’t imagine you wandering round a house talking to something that, presumably, can’t hear you, what with it having no ears!
Tell me a story! I love a good spooky yarn. In fact, I’d love to hear all spooky stories of real life… or death experiences. So if anyone fancies telling me theirs, go ahead! I’m not trying to belittle people’s beliefs; I’m cynical, but I’m not a dick†. So, please, tell away – you might just change my mind.
* Boom boom
** I excuse Beetlejuice because they explain that one in the storyline and it is just a film after all
*** But that’s not right – it wouldn’t haunt a toaster because that’s not scary enough. It would haunt a castle or a freaky doll. They not so dumb, these spirits****
**** Spirits… now that’s something I can believe in. Lovely see-through spirits that make you act in bizarre ways…
† Well, not all the time