Friday, 20 February 2015

The 'Real World' - Where Nothing Makes Sense...

I promised a good mate of mine I'd talk about electoral bribery and an understanding of what it actually means. The concept ties in quite neatly with this, which was what I'd intended to put down at some point in time anyway.

Perhaps I should 'buy a saddle' or something similar, but I've been accused on several occasions of, through things that I have said and written, occupying a space which is "not in the real world", wherever that puts you. I think I get what at least some of those people might have been saying (a few were undeniably idiots and best not dignified with a response, but that's for another night). I've spoken to like-minded individuals previously, who have described themselves as being in the ideas market, a space principally concerned not solely with describing what is happening in front of your eyes, or suggesting remedies which deal with the way in which something might manifest itself, but drilling through all the shit, the conventional wisdom, the factoids and the urban myths, getting as close to the root cause of the problem as you can. I know what the man on the street and the mainstream media are saying, but why did xyz really happen?

This doesn't sit terribly comfortably with the notion of democratic politics, which, unless I'm missing something very profound, is about telling as many voters as you can that you agree with them, saying you love and hate all of the same things and people that they do, while finding a new and unique way to bribe them with their own or, even better if you can manage it, someone else's money. It's basically a ponzi scheme with a nasty thread of mob rule running through its rather rotten core. Karl Marx once described democracy as 'the road to socialism' and he may well have been right on that score - perhaps fifty shades of red is exactly what you're looking for, in which case keep spinning the dice every five years or so. However, those of us who recognise that you can't run an economic tyranny without a political one recognise the inherent danger of democracy without genuine limits, checks and balances.

I've said this before - just because fifty one per cent of people voted for a piece of state action does not confer any greater sense of moral rectitude on that action whatsoever. It may involve the imprisonment and slaughter of the other forty nine per cent for no apparent reason, followed by the widespread looting of their possessions, but plenty of people will tell you that, if that's what a clear majority votes for then it must, must be okay. That's how democracy works, right? Where this ties in neatly with recent 'real world' events is the calls you will have heard for wealthy people and companies to 'do the right thing' and pay more tax than they are legally obliged to. In reality, all we have is the law and beyond that morality is fluid, succeptible as it is to mood swings, a feeling of perhaps being hard up and/or over-taxed to start with. Someone feeling desparate enough will turn to someone, anyone offering easy solutions at the ballot box, someone to blame who doesn't look back at them from a mirror.

Your life is shit and it's not your fault - and, you hear that? It's the sound of morality being flushed down the toilet. You don't have to look very far back in history to see examples of how mass democracy enabled hitherto reasonable people to indulge in viciousness en masse. Ask any German. Or the people who had to flee Zimbabwe in fear for their lives. The electoral bribes for some, be they material, or the re-assurance of simply being told they weren't to blame, came at an enormous, and sometimes fatal, cost to others. That only 'an ideas man' could lead us down this train of thought was an idea re-enforced, confirmed as not having been built on conceit, when I asked one of the 'real world' specialists exactly what he meant by his criticism a few years ago (I remember it because he was supporting the invasion of Libya and I was warning him and another guy that we might end up unleashing something worse).

"Y'know, mortgage, kids, fill the car, that stuff" was his response.

I keep hearing that politicians are out of touch with the 'real world' of 'ordinary people' and I'm strongly inclined to disagree. In many cases, they have probably lived lives that would appear somewhat detached from that of the people they are asking to vote for them. But in terms of what the Great British Sheeple expect from the democratic process, the political class either already have their fingers on the pulse, or the advisers and pollsters recruited to answer this question for them are coming up with the right answer. Sheeple, to put it simply want stuff, and preferably at the expense of someone else. That might be preferential treatment under the tax system (i.e. for being married), some sort of 'protected' status giving them special consideration under the law (numerous and various minorities) or a quite blatant and shameless pre-election giveaway (the recent subsidised pension bonds to buy off the 'grey vote' at the expense of the young).

Take a step back and it quite obviously stinks to high heaven - but here's the tragic and rather unsettling thing. For both the tribal left and the tribal right, it fucking works. If the conversation is always going to come back to 'sweeties for me', regardless of the genuine moral question around the circumstances of who else was asked to pay for them, or the issue of whether or not this was a responsible thing for government to do, then nobody will have time for 'an ideas man' on the doorstep, will they? Not in my real world? If not, then why should I vote for you when the other guy has promised me all this free stuff? Then the same sheeple sulk when it turns out that the same charlatans made the same promises to someone else, this time promising that they would be picking up the tab. Then they ask why politicians don't believe in anything anymore and complain that they've lost faith in the process (snigger).

Talk about answering your own question...and getting the politicians you fucking deserve.  Shithead.

Everyone, the candidates and the voters, know that these are the rules of the game, and the only way in which you have any chance whatsoever of getting elected. I asked on social media recently who would stand up on the doorstep for unfashionable causes worth fighting for like civil liberties, a robust defence of the contribution made my immigrants in the face of frightening hysteria and those who are frequently asked to put their hand in their pockets to fund the largesse showered on others - like the unmarried (now subsidising the married) the childless (paying for the Mick Philipotts of this world) and anyone else who 'misses out' at the expense of someone who is rather frequently and rather obviously not more deserving of that money than the person who earned it. As everyone chases the holy grail of fifty one per cent, who speaks up for the forty nine? Or are they expected to just cough up and then shut up?

I'm going to come back to this at a later date, but hope to have given my mate and anyone else who has read this something which, at the very least, they can argue with. Does mass democracy, minus checks and balances, invariably descend into a pathetic game of mass bribery? And/or is it the case that there ain't no sheeple quite like British Sheeple - with the possible exception of American Sheeple...and European Sheeple? Is blaming politicians for the state of politics a tad rich coming from the very sheeple who put them in power in the first place? Perhaps I'm developing an unhealthy contempt for humanity in middle age, I dunno, but these seem like very valid questions with another round of bribery, sorry, an election, on the horizon. I didn't get 'knocked' last time and had better get my responses ready for when they start harassing me in April - let's hope for the sake of all involved that they aren't required.

Thoughts and disagreements appreciated as always. Take care and I'll catch you soon.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Dodging the Draft - the Virtues of Not Voting...

Evening - as I've stated elsewhere, many thanks to all those in the United States, Ireland and other nations outside of the Uk who are giving this site a go for the first time. I hope you're not disappointed.

I've lived where I have for five and half years - indeed, the last time I voted was in the local and European elections of 2009 (Tory and UKIP before you ask - yes I want us out of the European Union that badly). During the first three years in my current abode, I heard precisely nothing with regard to the electoral roll. Elections came and went, as did the AV referendum, with nothing in the way of 'reminders' that I had the right to take part. Of course, the powers-that-be were entirely happy to take the slice of my income to which they feel entitled, and had no issue whatsoever in tracking me down to do so. At least to some, it's clear as a bell that the taxation that matters far more than the representation. My own personal with regard to voter enfranchisement is that some sort of positive tax contribution over the last parliament should be the principal basis on which people are given the vote or otherwise.

Perhaps if politicians weren't able to pander to the lazy, the useless and those looking to blame all of their ills on foreigners, bankers or whatever, we'd get a less bankrupt form of politics? Discuss...

Anyway, back to the story - in 2013, something changed. I started getting letters in the post, telling me that they knew I was living there and that I was not registered to vote. I binned the curious correspondence, only for a similar note to appear again a few weeks later. Why the sudden interest in my dodging of the draft? It wasn't as if I'd stopped paying my council tax, or had kicked up a fuss about some contentious issue. I may have a view on (say) the use of ratepayers' money to send out Christmas cards addressed from your friendly local council, but have never shared it aloud with someone in a position of authority as far as I know. One Saturday morning, I head off out for something known as 'the vegi hangover cure', which consists of a Margerhita pizza slice and cup of fresh coffee. As I open the door, two council jobsworths are waiting, like Mr Burns' hired goons.

They explain to me (as if I wasn't already aware) that the terrible 'crime' of not being registered to vote is not just illegal, but punishable by a spell in jail. This is absolutely true, and a sign of the warped and dangerous times in which we live. Kick seven shades of shit out of a random bloke in the street, mug a poor and frightened pensioner, break into and burgle some poor bastard's house - i.e. commit a crime against a private person or their property - and you're looking at a community service order, maybe a suspended sentence if Judge Schnyder has it in for you. However, commit a crime against the state, like not registering to vote, or failing to pay council tax and you are in a world of shit. No pleas of mitigation, no references to previous good character, no audience for the suggestion that non-voting is not an act of force, fraud or theft against any other person whatsoever.

Not interested. Do not pass go. Head directly to jail.

Hearing them mention this confirms that they're not joking about actually going through with it. If I refuse to sign up for the draft, then they'll either arrest me themselves (not absolutely sure if they have the power of arrest or not, but it would not remotely surprise me) or rapidly get in contact with someone who does. I'm not a bad-looking dude, with nice enough 'come to bed' eyes and a soft, gentle demeanour - just imagine the brutal treatment someone like me would receive in prison. Within a fortnight my sphincter would probably resemble a cross between a broken catflap and a magician's sleeve. Showers would not be pleasant and relaxing experiences punctuated by Radox and Oil of Olay. On a serious note, I'd almost certainly become suicidal long before ending my sentence for a whole host of reasons. What would sending someone like me to jail, for the heinous crime of not voting, actually achieve?

Faced with the genuine prospect of awkward altercations with Bubba, cowardice kicks in and I sign the forms the two jobsworths have 'helpfully' brought with them. Desperate to get the last word in and convey a false sense of not being intimidated, I tell them I will not be voting in any election as a point of principle and that my main concern was that of registering to vote, getting intoxicated and sticking a black X next to the name of someone, anyone, either for a laugh or by some tragic accident. What if my prank/blackout vote proved decisive where I lived? How on earth could I ever live with myself? So, after all that palaver, I was horrified when another letter arrived on Saturday morning, telling me I had to 'claim' my right to vote, whatever that means. Hang on shithead, I don't forget two twats with clipboards throwing their weight about and threatening me with prison when I've done precisely fuck all wrong.

We're not going through all that again - do your worst, actually send me to jail this time.

I really couldn't give a shit, not now. And the People vs Dazza will make for amazing television, won't it?

I've said previously, perhaps flippantly, that Democracy Doesn't Work. Of course, what I meant in the literal sense is that, seeing as (to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw) "a government that promises to rob Peter to pay Paul can count upon the support of Paul", anybody promising 'more stuff' for people at the expense of others will be sure to enjoy the support of a significant constituency. A democracy is only as good, as honest and worth bothering with as the candidates. If it is reduced to no more than a game based on mob rule and mass bribery where (to this time lift from Jefferson) "fifty one per cent of the people can take away the rights of the other forty nine" then you simply have another form of tyranny with that fifty one per cent acting as the rubber stamp. That an action happens to enjoy majority support at a moment in time does not confer any greater moral rectitude upon it. None whatsoever.

Hitler won elections, remember.

Robert Mugabe continues to do so (although his continued, er, being alive and stuff defies sense, science, rationale and reason - I'm starting to think he might not actually be human...maybe David Icke was right after all?).

I get some of the negative arguments in favour of voting, such as the suggestion that if you go in and spoil your ballot paper then they have to count it and cannot dismiss your non-endorsement of a particular candidate as an act of political apathy. It's also possible to get your head around the concept of voting for the least worst option, for that of being lashed only a dozen times with the cane as opposed to having to endure twenty-four strokes. Nose rubbed in a bowl of piss or a plate of shit? There's some sense in using your vote as an exercise in damage limitation but then, when all's said and done, human waste still wins, doesn't it? I'm not trying to be deliberately crude, merely illustrating that choosing to suffer slightly less than you otherwise might should not then be twisted and turned into a positive, affirmative reason for making the choice you have. A lot of 'use your vote' types fall into this trap rather readily.

Spoiling your ballot paper is an entirely sensible and honourable thing to do, but should be an option in a form of a 'None of the Above' box beneath the list of candidates. If people are really as concerned about 'democracy' as they claim, then it should extend to the right to express a view along the lines of "I've got off the couch and turned up here to tell you that, as far as I'm concerned, you're all a crock of shit and not one of you is worth voting for". NOTA actually won the 2005 Uk General Election decisively, securing a significantly higher percentage of the vote (41%) than a by-then unpopular war criminal Tony Blair or the useless Tories could have dreamed of. Who 'represents' that significant slice of the electorate? Were they all apathetic, as the political class would have you believe, or does a result like that reflect the failings of a system where you 'have' to vote for one of them?

And that's 41% of those registered to vote, remember. We all know people who have gone off-grid to avoid a fine, overdue court appearance, endless junk mail or maybe just a demented ex-girlfriend or boyfriend. The real NOTA figure in Uk elections will be much, much higher than the one admitted openly, and the number dodging the draft of conscripted voting is, by definition, impossible to quantify. Admitting you're one of them means admitting to a crime, punishable by a spell in chokey - they were quite keen to tell me that. The next logical step, mark my words, is compulsory voting, where you will be required by law to endorse not just the process, but one of the candidates. If there's a concept those bastards cannot stand it's that of personal freedom, the right not to vote, to stay at home and register your contempt by opening a bottle of wine instead, or whatever.

'None of the Above' otherwise known as 'the fuck you candidate' will not be an option.

Of course I hate to disappoint anyone who still believes in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, but your vote is not and never truly has been anonymous - this is a complete myth designed to lull you into believing that nobody follows, monitors or records your voting habits. So refusal or spoiling your ballot will be met with the full force of the state, it will be a criminal offence, easy enough to trace back to you and punishable by a spell in jail. Endorsement will be a requirement for every last one of us much sooner than we think. How a natural dissident possessed of a cowardly and squeamish streak (i.e. someone like myself) reacts in that situation I guess we'll only find out when it comes down to it. When it dawns upon me exactly how close we are to this 1984-style scenario, I wonder how I have not yet turned violent, or at least very nasty, on one of the many half-wits who have argued that "brave people died so you could have this".

I'll keep it short, sweet and as polite as I can. No they fucking didn't, shithead.

If we're agreed that a democracy is only as good as the candidates, then nobody died for your choice between two psychopaths at the voting booth, did they? What people actually fought for, at least in the context of World Wars, was a society in which liberty and freedom were protected from, amongst other things, the whim of politicians and majority 51-49 tyranny. Liberty has NOTHING to do with democracy and indeed it frequently pulls in entirely the opposite direction. I'm clearly in the mood for indulging our new friends from across the pond this evening, so let's have some Benjamin Franklin on that very subject - "democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner, liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote". Touche Ben. Liberty includes, amongst other things, the right to do dangerous things that do not endanger others, the right to 'be in a minority', to cause offence, and the right not to vote.

Even on what to have for dinner if you don't want to...

NOBODY voted for the right of two jobsworths, thugs in uniform, to goose-step up to my front door and threaten me with imprisonment because I can't be bothered playing their silly little game every four or five years (ah yes, it's actually five now by law - you get a rotten government and there's precisely nothing you can do about it for five years...and who voted for that again? So much for democracy eh?). I cannot be sure, but I very much doubt that the rebels who brought about the Magna Carta, Roundheads in the Civil War, anti-Corn Laws protestors, the Suffragettes and all who died fighting the Nazis had the 'rights' of this twat with a clipboard in their minds when they did what they did. In fact, I'm almost certain they risked their own liberty and indeed lives in many cases precisely so people like myself would have the reasonable expectation of being left alone by such scum. And I appreciate every last one of them for that effort - I just hope it wasn't in vain.

So how can one say that a 'high voter turnout' is automatically a good thing, if the candidates are a pair of megalomaniacs? How, in that case, is voting automatically a morally (and indeed politically) superior choice to not doing so? And if nobody standing comes remotely close to representing your own views, the choice of 'least evil' becomes an incredibly narrow, and probably somewhat pointless one. How a lack of enthusiasm to make such a cold bath vs cold shower type choice 'disqualifies' you from having an opinion on the government for the next five years escapes me. In that case, there must be some threshold above which your opinion 'counts' more than that of other people. What if you voted for a complete lunatic who got 0.1% of the vote? Or a racist? Or a raving Communist? Was their choice to vote still an 'inherently superior' one to that of not bothering, or did the abstaining non-voter display more political nous by default?

I mean, it's all about getting people engaged with politics, right? Even if they turn out to be Stalin, Pol Pot or Hitler...

Personally, I'd rather voters (and potential candidates) of that ilk remained apathetic for all eternity, but I'm just a malcontent...apparently.

Thanks for reading - take care and I'll catch you soon.

When Society Looks in the Mirror, Josie Cunningham Looks Right Back...

Ok - the recent documentary which prompted this piece is here.

Josie Cunningham's back-story, or at least the major landmarks of it in case you're curious - she leaves school at sixteen and while expecting her first child. Bullied by her peers for a distinct lack of clevage, she is eventually allowed cosmetic surgery on the NHS two years ago, choosing the largest possible enhancements (36DD). This leads to a newspaper interview which prompts the headline 'NEW HOOTERS SERVICE' and immediately turns Josie into a figure of notoriety and the recipient of genuine hatred. One 'gentleman' by the name of Robin Armstrong appears to have devoted his life solely to the purpose of hating her. Having had a second in the intervening years, Cunningham then falls pregnant with her third child, the girl she has during the period covered by this documentary. That's when events take a few quirky twists and turns.

Firstly, she sells 'golden tickets' to a maximum of four lucky 'spectators' who want to watch her heaving, gyrating and screaming for several hours until the kid pops out. Quite who would want to watch this in the flesh, let alone pay for the privilege, asides from family connections or close friends, is beyond me. If you're prepared to pay a sum in the thousands of pounds to 'partake' in something as unfortunate as this, then I'd venture that you should probably speak to a psychiatrist about the sick fascination in your head, then put the money to much better use. Unless I've completely misunderstood, some front row seats for this 'event' were actually sold, raising Josie circa £30,000? The phrase 'more money than sense' has never been more appropriate.

I have no idea if geriatric dinosaurs were dancing round their beds, singing "I've got a golden ticket" or not. Only Josie herself could tell you whether or not that happened. Maybe banging four tickets in bars of Dairy Milk and doing a deal with Cadbury would have generated a more favourable public response and a roughly equal amount of money, I dunno?

Perhaps the worst thing she does is, while pregnant, Cunningham declares that she will have the child aborted if it means she can appear in the next series of Celebrity Big Brother. Quite where (and how) you start dissecting that particular brainwave, which of the many angles you come at it from in the first instance...well, off the top of my head, the first thing worth noting is that this poor child will not have to look too far going forward to find out that her Mum gave very serious consideration to having her terminated - not on the grounds that she was unable to provide for the child, or some health reason, but because she wanted to appear on Celebrity Big Brother. As far as motivations for wanting to abort your own child go, doing so in order to appear on a low-rent trash TV programme for the cheap 'fame' that results is amongst the very worst of what would be a pretty worrying list to start with.

Josie eventually has the child, and appears genuinely happy having eventually decided not to go ahead with the abortion plan. The man originally believed to be the father was Hull City and former England under-21 defender Curtis Davies. At least that's who Josie understood him to be - until it turned out he was just a bloke who looked (and to be fair, he did) quite a bit like the Tigers star. Anyone who is the victim of a deception on that scale from someone who they have trusted and allowed into their private space is fully deserving of sympathy, but there's a nagging doubt as to whether Cunningham's outrage is fuelled simply by a sense of having been lied to, or the realisation that the the life of a WAG will remain elusive, at least for a while longer. On a personal level, I'll admit that had you asked me if there was any mileage in being a Curtis Davies tribute act before this strange story blew up, I'd have answered no, definitely not.

Turns out I was wrong. Emphatically wrong. No point pretending otherwise...

You have to wonder if they watched a Hull City match on TV together though, perhaps while the 'real' Davies was injured or something like that. Sorry, I couldn't help it...

When that story broke, I remember engaging in a bit of schadenfreude about it on social media, stating that "it couldn't have happened to a nicer woman" and other comments of that ilk. A lot of people hate Cunningham and you have to wonder if the Geordie and self-appointed arch-enemy Robin Armstrong, could perhaps devote the time to being better at telesales, following the Toon Army, memorising lines from old episodes of 'Our Friends in the North' or listening to Jimmy Nail. Perhaps he is wasting his life by essentially dedicating himself to the intense hatred of a woman he will almost certainly never meet? On the 'golden tickets' saga, Armstrong suggests "I'd pay ten grand to watch her fired into a fucking volcano", which is funny in a limited and somewhat twisted way. Honestly, hands up if there's nobody in your life you would ever have wanted to see shot out of a cannon in the general direction of Mount Etna...

However, it adds to a lingering sense that just about nobody comes out of anything surrounding this woman with any credit. Cunningham herself, her friends and relatives who seem capable only of seeing everything through the lens of what she suffered as a child (and I'm the last person to trivialise the scars that can be left by the cruelty of others, having had a rough adolescence myself). Her haters whose unhealthy obsession with her poses just as many questions as it makes any attempt to answer, while inadvertently feeding the public profile of this person they'd clearly like to see fade into obscurity. Then there's her shallow and vacuous agent, Rob, turning every minute into an opportunity to get something on Twitter, preferably something deliberately spelt wrong. The girl gives birth and his immediate, in fact his only concern is 'the celebrity angle'. This is some fucked up and seriously sick shit.

And what of the rest of us?

It's worth remembering that nobody 'becomes' famous or achieves a public profile. The rest of us, mere plebs as Andrew Mitchell might (or might not, just for legal reasons) call us, buy tickets to the matches, shows, concerts, pay our own hard-earned money for the albums, the DVDs, the replica shirts and souvenir mugs. We own the T-shirts with their photograph on the front, buy magazines and newspapers simply because he or she is being interviewed or is the subject of a feature in them. We talk about them with our friends and relatives, actively seek out others who hold them in the same regard we do, post on internet forums devoted to their talent or genius and engage in a collective form of dopamine-inspired euphoria as we fawn over his or her brililance with the like-minded. Others with equally impeccable taste, right?

If only so many of us hadn't rendered ourselves dopey and complicit with the mainstream media in terms of being told who and what to like, we'd realise it's one of the few bits of power we have left - the ability to decide who does and does not become famous. This 'sheep phenomenon' is something I have noted and observed getting slowly worse over the last fifteen years or so. A television programme in the mould of the X Factor, Britain's Got Talent or the Voice has absolutely no artistic merit and, by rights, should not exist. If only enough of us followed our noses and changed the channel, then the highwaymen trying to pass off C-list holiday camp cabaret as the new Elvis would be out of business within about ten minutes. Instead, I've worked in more than one office where I've been in the distinct minority not remotely interested in this shit. A minority refusing to buy what it's told to buy - and they thought I was weird, fancy that...

In the case of Josie Cunningham, it's even easier as there are no CDs to 'not buy', no live shows or tours to avoid. It is, quite simply, a case of not paying your own money for the trash-rags that run stories featuring her (read them for free online and ignore the ads if you must!!). Don't engage with her Twitter account, or any other form of social media where she's the topic of discussion. If she's on the television then change the channel. Stop watching programmes like 'this Morning' that take her seriously. Then Josie, the social media creation with its own agent and marketing strategy, courting controversy and making money on the notoriety generated by it, will die. Josie the single Mum from Leeds will then have a choice to make, between getting some sort of 'normal' job or a life on benefits. As it stands, like many of those who choose not to work, she's made the most rational choice available, which begs the question, who are the real mugs?

Even in the dysfunctional society that is 21st century Britain, the phenomenon of Josie Cunningham remains something of a rare one, possible only because of a fusion of numerous quirks and circumstances. The fact that breast enhancements were available to her at the expense of the taxpayer, the decision to get 'massive bangers' and cash in on the controversy as a form of 'therapy' for the 'flat chested' bullying she got as a teenager. That she lives in a society where the connection between fame and being half-decent at something, anything, has been broken. The ability of the talentless to collude with the media and, it would seem, tell people "look at me, I'm famous now" and the lemming-like tendency of the masses to swallow whatever the mainstream media and Twitter tells them is trending. I swear in fifty years time Kang and Kodos will watch us from space running around in our hamster wheels and wonder what the fuck went wrong.

Without all of this coming together, she would be nobody's nothing. Perhaps another subject of her fifteen minutes of fame for dancing topless in a bar in Rhodes and sent home by the authorities - no idea where I got that idea from. Ah yes, this is where...

Strange that Sarah was from Sheffield and Josie's from Leeds - what is it they put in the water over the Pennines?

And then there's Josie herself - I'm always unsettled by the sight of anyone crying (must be my inner bleeding heart, but please don't tell anyone) and it's quite apparent from the emotion she displays that Josie does love her kids, regardless of the rather fucked-up ways in which that love would appear to sometimes manifest itself. The real problem would appear to be one of reconciling that regard for her offspring with an unhealthy desire to 'get famous' in the ultimate equal opportunities society, where stupidity and a lack of ability to be good at basically anything is no barrier to having a public profile. She doesn't want to be 'a scrounger' but clearly has less than zero interest in taking some sort of 'normal' job, as hundreds of thousands of other single parents do, even if her 'fame' puts the kids she clearly loves in danger of by proxy abuse and attacks. However much those kids might mean to her, Josie's fame is clearly 'the non-negotiable bit', despite her pleas to the contrary.

Maybe all of us are to blame in one way or another - the legions of Twitter followers and haters, those sheep who watch 'famous for being famous' shows like Celebrity Big Brother, which create the space in which the talentless create a public profile for themselves. Observers like myself for watching documentaries like this against my better judgement, pausing to take notes and then writing thousands of words about why she's not worth the oxygen - yes, I'm totally aware of the irony but thankyou for pointing it out. Those in the alleged profession of journalism, which has become little more than the indulgence of existing pop culture and the regurgitation of the fake 'news' fed to them by Reuters and other agencies. Proper, investigative journalism where the truth is paramount appears no longer to be with us on a scale capable of making a difference, Then there's Josie Cunningham herself, obsessed with fame above all other considerations.

Anyway, what was that about life imitating art and not the other way around? Here's the quite hilarious Fran Chappell from the brilliant 2000s TV series, Monkey Dust.

Dunno why it seemed appropriate but...take care and I'll catch you soon.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The Hysterical Case of Ched Evans...

Ok - thanks to the gent who wanted to argue the toss with me about this yesterday.

In case you missed it, Ched Evans and his legal team claim to have new evidence, which was not available in his first trial - one which resulted in the Wales international footballer being convicted of rape. If there really is new and unseen material going into the Criminal Cases Review Commission (and you'd be curious as to the confidence of his solicitor were this not so) then it opens up a rather dark and unfortunate possibility, namely that Evans' most serious crime was that of committing adultery on his long-term partner and his two and a half years spent in jail were for precisely nothing. I have no idea whether or not he committed the crime, but unlike many who seem determined to declare Evans 100 per cent guilty (or totally innocent, as some 'fans' of his have a tendency to do) it makes rational sense to me if we let the legal process run its course without appointing ourselves as judge, jury and executioner.

It's worth being absolutely clear about this - Evans is a man with a rape conviction who continues to protest his innocence long after leaving prison. Most guilty people who ran the gauntlet with the legal system before being convicted, eventually admit to their crimes while serving a spell in chokey, perhaps as part of the 'games that people play' otherwise known as the early release scheme. Many maintain to their dying day that 'they never done it' and, of those, a fair proportion will actually be innocent. The number of people currently behind bars for crimes they didn't actually commit is, by definition, an impossible number to quantify. What we 'know' about virtually anything illegal is that far from all of those who committed the crime end up being convicted. The flipside of that coin is that far from all of those convicted were actually guilty.

All we have is the fact that somebody was deemed by a judge or a jury to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Then again, do we even have that? Something to revisit later, methinks...

I've dealt elsewhere with the 'argument' over whether or not Evans, or someone in his situation, should be 'allowed' to play football again, genuinely guilty or otherwise. Being realistic, there's no danger of him running into the crowd and raping someone during a match, pouncing on an unsuspecting League official, TV cameraman or whatever. The job itself is not one in which there is inherent vulnerability and a sense of endangerment for other people, as there would be were he looking to become (for example) a nurse, gynocologist or schoolteacher. There is no rational, practical or occupational reason why someone convicted of rape should not be allowed to play in a professional football match where there are thousands of 'witnesses' to any potential crime, right? So we're into all that 'role model' bullshit, sorry, I mean, argument.

Apparently, Evans would be a 'role model' to millions, so shouldn't be allowed to play football, even at a level where practically nobody watches, there is no risk of the games being televised and so he would be a 'role model' to virtually nobody. Now, when I've punched holes in this bollocks previously, I've been met by the response that this applies strictly to kids, as if a person's sixteenth or eighteenth birthday equates to some mammoth 'eureka' moment at which he or she ceases to be impressionable having been little more than a sad drone beforehand.  Have the half-wits spouting this actually spoken to anybody under the age of 25 recently? Does anyone seriously think a fourteen year old kid is going to watch a football match in which Evans is just one of twenty-two players on the pitch and reflect at full-time that he should rape someone on the way home as a sort of twisted homage to his new hero? Really?

Let's suppose that for someone, somewhere this is actually true. I'm sorry, but if your choice of 'role model' is a complete arsehole then that's entirely your fault. If you're so incredibly fucking docile, incapable of independent thought that you can't see their mistakes and misbehaviours as what they are, feel a burning requirement to impersonate every last thing your 'role model' might have done in his or her life then the 'role models' meriting closer (and indeed harsher) examination are much nearer to home. It is of course different when the bad or non-mentors are your parents or carers, but a footballer is, like a musician or actor, someone you can take or leave, perhaps draw a very narrow form of inspiration from, but do you really need to emulate him or her to the letter? The simple answer is...of course you don't.

Did young fans of teams Paul McGrath played for all develop drink problems? I don't recall Arsenal or Liverpool supporters in the 1990s taking to drink-driving on an industrial scale by way of a big 'thumbs up' to Tony Adams or Jan Molby. Maybe followers of West Bromwich Albion, a club for whom Lee Hughes scored goals and achieved cult status, jump in their cars and mow people down for a laugh, or smash into other vehicles from behind in the hope of killing as many people as possible? After all, many of them will have been kids themselves when their hero, the carrot-topped goal-poacher Hughes, committed manslaugher while at the wheel and made the cowardly, diabolical decision to speed away from the scene of what nobody disputes was an accident. I mean, young people automatically emulate every last thing footballers do, right? Or so I'm told...

What crap.

There are two dimensions to this. One is the determination of parents to blame the failings of themselves and, by extension, their kids, on some 'famous person' who wasn't quite as good a 'role model' as they should have been. Look, if you're letting 'famous people' raise your kids by proxy then your concern for 'society' should perhaps have extended to arranging to have yourself sterilised before it was too late. If those kids are so lost, so bereft of guidance that they are taking the life story of some new 'hero' of theirs and feeling the urge to act out every last moment of it, then the first thing this serves as a 'reflection' on is your fitness (or, more to the point, complete unsuitability) as a parent. We've got the state teaching sex education, good manners and 'citizenship', whatever that is. Now it's the duty of anyone and everyone who was ever 'in the public eye' to raise the next generation.

And you, Mr footballer/pop star/actor, are personally responsible for every last bad thing somebody under the age of eighteen might do, be it shoplifting or murder. Nobody is to blame for their own mis-steps, mistakes or misbehaviours. Nor are their parents, or their teachers, or their priests for that matter. Everything is the fault of those awful 'famous people' who failed as 'role models', didn't set a 'good example' and so led the 'impressionable youth astray'. Now we've established that, I'd like to declare that since I once watched  Lester Pigott riding a horse at Chepstow after he'd left prison, I won't be paying income tax from now on. When I was equally young and impressionable, I also saw Tony Adams and Jan Molby play IN THE SAME MATCH on TV (yikes!!), so you can't blame me if I drink fifteen pints, jump in a car and drive it like a madman, can you?

I was just a kid when I saw all this, so I have no choice, right?

Then there's the "boy done too good" angle, which is a curious thing since it pulls in precisely the opposite direction to that we'd normally have in mind when exploring the 'rehabilitation' of offenders. I remember watching a boxing match a few years ago in which one of the contestants was introduced by the commentator as having not been long out of prison for the not insignificant crime of involvement in an armed robbery. "You've got to give credit to anyone who turns his life around" he says as the fighter is announced to the crowd and proceeds to blow his opponent out in a couple of rounds. Well, yes you have, and you've got to dangle that carrot in front of people that they can make the most of themselves after leaving prison, that nobody should be pressurised or intimidated out of offering them a lawful opportunity.

No doubt someone who remembers having a gun pointed at them found the sight of his assailant in a boxing ring to be somewhat distasteful, but what's the genuine alternative? Give up on rehabilitation altogether? One strike and you're out? That's a hell of a lot of unemployable people, a massive financial and moral price imposed on all of us to sate the contrived sense of outrage felt by some. I've heard this qualified by people who insist they have no problem with someone in Evans' position getting a 'normal' job which doesn't pay too much money or put him 'in the public eye'. So, would you disqualify him from starting his own business in case it did too well?  As for 'the public eye' well he could manage that by pulling a drowning child out of a river - are you suggesting he should 'get his head down' and just let the kid die instead?

I mean, can't have him 'hailed as a hero' in the papers can we?

What else do we disqualify him, and others in his position going forward, from doing?

You know you're going to have to draw up a list of other 'proscribed careers' now, don't you?

Or did you not stop to consider the can of worms you were opening?

The curious thing is, most making such noises would usually be 100 per cent behind the idea of an offender rehabilitating themselves, even celebrating the efforts of those who have done so. They would also, based on my personal experiences with some of them, be totally open to the idea that a person who protests their innocence after release and is fighting to clear his or her name, might actually be innocent. It would be several stratospheres from being the first time a person was wrongly convicted of a very serious offence and then released - just ask messrs Conlon, Kizsko (RIP both) and George to name three. Yet on both counts, otherwise sane, rational and intelligent men and women alike have suddenly morphed en masse into an army of shrieking, hysterical twats. The sound of tumbleweed and marbles simultaneously hurtling down the road as people take leave of their senses is a curious one.

There will be no real rehabilitation for Evans. 'Society' now decides what he can and cannot do for a living, and presumably, the next time there is a recession, his employer will be required to sack him so his job can be taken by a more 'worthy' individual. This punishment of someone who has already served his time will never really stop. Resuming his football career is off-limits now that employees of a club who conisdered employing him were threatened with murder and cyber-vigilantes also pledged to burn the ground down. This of course is what happens when 'society' hands justice over to that most lofty of institutions, the much-loved 'court of public opinion'. Vigilantism becomes almost noble. Threats of murder, arson or the destruction of property are suddenly justified by the 'pariah' status of the target. Innocents caught in the crossfire are the proverbial eggs without whom no omlette could ever be made.

Whatever Evans did or did not do, these scum are worse and more dangerous by an order of magnitude. There, I said it.

It may look from a distance as though many of these people regard rape as a more serious crime than deliberate murder, which it cannot be, although it's clearly no minor league offence. I can't possibly know whether or not they do, but the most apparent aspect of the Ched Evans case which few have touched upon is the political dimension to the type of crime he is alleged to have committed and, as it stands, is currently convicted of. For all sorts of reasons, some totally understandable, rape draws an emotional response from people that (almost) no other crime could match. Nobody with half a brain disputes that there was an era in our history where women were little more than the property of their husbands, and nor would they want to return to it. It was a brutal, degrading and somewhat embarrassing chapter, especially when one considers how only recently it ended.

But the other crime I think of immediately when I look at the 'emotional aspect' of rape is actually, wait  for it...terrorism, Ok, pick your glass back up and let me run this past you. Like rape, the act of terrorism draws an emotional response from people and has collective, political connotations. Terrorists, like rapists, evoke genuine fear that borders on irrational panic amongst those who have (thank Christ) never suffered it and it's highly unlikely to ever happen to them. Because of this, smart, sane individuals lose sight of simple and important details when dealing with either. The presumption of innocence gets turned on its head, the 'suspect' is guilty as sin, ripe to be hung drawn and quartered, unless someone on the prosecution side suddenly gets up in court and admits they were lying through their teeth, made the whole thing up.

Just as many people remained convinced that Gerry Conlon 'got off on a technicality' after his release (he was actually innocent), winning on appeal won't be enough to redeem Evans in the eyes of many. I've even heard otherwise intelligent people say he should be 'allowed' to play football again if he 'proves himself innocent'. Hang on, shithead - if he wins on appeal, it's not for you, me or anyone else to 'allow' him to play football - he can do what the hell he wants. As far as 'proving himself innocent' goes, well, that impossible to achieve by definition. Unless his accuser states openly that she accused him maliciously, it will not be known 100% either way whether or not he did it - and no doubt being innocent in the eyes of the law will not be enough for some of the self-appointed mob dispensing their uniquely populist take on 'justice'. Some of them, I suspect, are having too much fun trying to wreck the guy's life, guilty or not.

Every couple of years the "how do we make trials easier for rape victims?" question comes up on the news wheel. A move away from adversarial justice to an inquisitorial system would probably be the single most sensible way in which both the genuine victim could be spared the most brutal aspects of cross-examination, while the malicious, the vindictive, the deranged and the attention-seeking would not have the opportunity to dupe the butcher, baker and candlestick maker, aided by their own theatrical performer in a gown and wig. When questions of dignity and decency on the most basic level become nothing more than a game played out between two actors, each hoping to persuade you to vote for them, it's a racing certainty that those least deserving of brutal and harsh treatment will invariably find themselves on the receiving end.

That victim could be the genuinely raped person, or the falsely accused defendant - it might make great television for the unemployable, but justice isn't the word I'd use to describe it.

Then again, when politicians in particular ask that question, this isn't what they mean. The 'terrorist threat' has been used by the political class to justify six weeks in jail without 1) charge or the prospect or release 2) the right to see the evidence against you and 3) any form of legal representation whatsoever. Anti-terrorism laws have been used to arrest, amongst other things, drunk people at peaceful demonstrations and an octogenarian heckler who shouted "rubbish!!" at a cabinet minister during a speech at the Labour Party conference. Oh, and lest we forget they very, very nearly had it increased to THREE MONTHS and they're now looking at carte-blanche to rifle through the private correspondence of anyone they want without legal process or the need for a warrant. No phone call or e-mail will be sacred from now on, no judge will ever need to get involved.

Nothing to hide, nothing to fear, and all that shit...

Now with regard accusations of rape I've heard the very same people state on television that the default position of the police should be that of believing the accuser - i.e. the presumption should be one of guilt and not innocence. In the case of Evans, it does look as if this is pretty much what happened - i.e. that he was convicted 'on the balance of probability' and not beyond a reasonable doubt.

This is jaw-droppingly terrifying, 1984 unfolding in front of our eyes, exactly what a certain type of authoritarian wishes to impose on us - and millions of you are going along with it like fucking gerbils, guided by emotional response to crimes like terrorism and those with a sexual dimension, too blind to spot the bad bastards using and manipulating those reactions for their own ends.  Anyone versed in psychology will tell you that what the control freak wants you to do is react with your heart and not your head, emotionally instead of rationally. Once he or she has persuaded you to switch your brain off of your own accord, you're then ripe to be told what you need to do, what you might have to give up for some contrived greater good. Right to a fair trial? Personal Privacy? Presumption of innocence? Don't say I didn't warn you.

Ched Evans may or may not be guilty of rape - he is almost certainly an idiot for putting himself in that situation, but then so are those failing to spot the bigger, and much more dangerous picture.

An appropriate post on the day I registered to not vote - take it easy and I'll catch you soon