Hags of Lag – Murder Machine

The NRA had their press conference few days ago. We all kind of knew this was coming, and the NRA generally wait for a bit before unleashing blame on pretty much everything apart from the guns they so love after tragedies like this. I am dealing mainly with the backlash against video games, music and movies. To be fair they also blamed Mental Illness (demanding that we create a database of the mentally ill while using language that invokes the spirit of Bethlem Hospital) and suggested that the solution to guns is more guns. These were both covered by other FTBloggers (FTBullies! Sorry!!!) so I shall go for something that I am passionate about. I agree that this is the least serious thing they blamed, but it is still incorrect and trying to fob the blame off on the arts and media.

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The Problem of Morality

Jack Kerwick’s article on Atheism and the Problem of Morality got me thinking. Why do people think atheists have a problem with morality. Well apart from the fact it is a typically carpenter god orientated article it’s filled with some of the standard and sadly all to common notions about our morality.

Morality is one of the things that religion claims as it’s sole domain and there are problems with dogmatic morality as we shall see.

Where was God when Adam Lanza went on a shooting spree at an elementary school in Newtown,Connecticut that left 20 children and six adults dead? 

It’s a distasteful choice of example. But I can field this quite easily. But not to begin with. To begin with we should examine why the notions in this article are wrong. It’s not my ideal choice of example but it’s the one Jack begins with. So let’s delve into Jack Kerwick’s article… [Read more…]

The Way I Write Isn’t Fast

I haven’t covered the news of the horrific and public rape of a student in India because I haven’t had time yet to be happy with what I have written. I am not ignoring it, I just will publish it when I am happy with the end result. New things are happening with that story every hour out here and Indian news sources aren’t the best. So until the facts are clear I will not be publishing…

It is a heinous crime but facts are what put people away and facts are what changes the world. I apologise if I sound like I am ignoring Indian issues but it isn’t what I meant to do. I intend to give it the time and place it deserves. I am not a writer, I just write for fun. Sometimes work comes first (I have an exam tomorrow for example). The way I write is comparatively slow and over more days than other writers. I often work on multiple articles in bits and pieces rather than hammer out articles whole. I also take my time and write when I can.

It doesn’t mean I am ignoring an issue. It just means that I am slow. Bear with me.

Things I Learned This Week

I am not a happy bunny, I learnt two things today, two things that probably say more about the United States of America’s toxic culture than anything else.

The first was the apparent “attacks on teachers by politicians”. The notion that the school teachers are horrid, greedy and callous individuals personally responsible for the state of American education rather than the shoddy interference by private parties and politicians.

The American system is fucked by it’s standardised testing. It’s EXCESSIVE standardised testing… I understand the need for tests. They are vital in the real world. If I told americans how many tests I sit to qualify they would probably think I am some sort of robot sent from the future to make humans embarrassed about how much they suck at exams. I have exams until the end of January… I have one tomorrow. I have so far finished 6 papers and have 10 more to go…

I am taught to the paper myself  BUT my paper is “Ophthalmology” It’s a massive subject. Being taught to the paper involves the major problems you will face. When you do a Postgraduate Qualification you will get more help but at my level of “Bog Standard Doctor” you get to know the basics and the syllabus of the paper covers that.

But that shouldn’t be the case in a school. A school is there to not just teach but inspire. To blame teachers for a broken system is like blaming soldiers for the malfunction of a weapon. The system is broke, teachers are trying to do their best. Some of the right wing vitriol makes me think that the USA wages a war on terror, drugs and education simultaneously.

The second thing I found out was that guns in the USA are a placebo. They are the extension of a Walter Mitty fantasy. They are bought in the belief that if something goes wrong the purchaser will whip his weapon out and solve the problem with hot lead and justice.

To the gun owner, crime is less of a problem in their heads. They THINK they are safe. And for the most part they are right. The USA is a relatively SAFE place. Your crime rates while high for a first world nation are lower than many places where we routinely go. I am more likely to be run over by a car everyday I step out the house than you are to die in a crime in the USA.

But the fear of crime is high in the USA. But that’s the media’s fault. Crime is glorified in the news. Because it sells. It also makes people buy guns because successful crime is only shown. You don’t see all the crime thwarted because it’s thwarted. That doesn’t make front page, that is a byline story. So people think that they are unsafe, they think the cops don’t do anything and are all donut eating salad dodgers rather than a skilled workforce. They do not trust their cops.

Why the British Bobby is considered the pinnacle of police work but the american copper isn’t is a debate for another time and probably someone more knowledgeable than me.

This attitude towards cops and crime means that Americans think that they only have two options. To prowl the streets dressed as a bat striking fear into the hearts of superstitious criminals or buy a gun. Since most billionaires are rather safe from petty criminals the only real option is the gun. Once you have a gun you think you are safe. Crime is no longer your problem.

Economic disparity and lack of opportunity may have made criminals but Smith & Wesson make them equally dead.

If you think crime is not your problem any more, so why should you care about things that cause crime? Why should you care about it falling. If anything rising crime merely confirms your choice of purchase and you may think of buying a second firearm (I don’t know… You intend to jump through a window while firing two guns or require a spare gun in case your first gun betrays you…).

This notion came to a head today when I found out that post Sandy Hook, Colorado has seen their biggest firearms purchase ever. To the point that there is a backlog of background check claims. 4200 purchases were made.

Despite what we think in our quiet corner of the internet, the apparent solution to guns is more guns. Because no one thinks that they will ever be the bad guy in the gun fight. No one ever thinks that they will draw second. No one ever thinks they will miss. No one ever thinks they will hit the wrong person. And no one ever thinks they will draw in anger.

No one ever sees themselves shooting up a school. Everyone who they see getting shot by them had it coming. It’s always a rapist, mugger, murderer, robber, rogue gunman or terrorist. It’s never the nice boys from next door. It’s never their own family or policemen or some random stranger.

Attacks on Medical Staff

It has been reported that UN Aid staff are being moved out of Pakistan and the country’s Polio program has been halted due to a series of attacks by insurgents specifically aimed at killing aid workers working to eliminate Polio.

So far four women have died with the fifth succumbing to her injuries a short while ago.

This comes after a recent spate of threats and kidnapping of medical staff in order to cease vaccinations against this deadly disease partly due to fears that the doctors, nurses and medical staff are spies due to the involvement of a doctor in the capture of Osama Bin Laden. (A Doctor who I will point out was rewarded with a 30 year jail sentence… Nice one Pakistan. Way to look like the good guys).

The cessation of vaccination and the active targeting of medical personnel makes Pakistan the only country with a rising polio rate and there are fears across Asia that Pakistan can be the source of the resurgence of this disease which has so far come back in China, Tajikistan and parts of Africa believed to be free of the disease.

Last year over 200 children in Pakistan were paralysed due to Polio. Hopefully this is the end of such attacks but I fear there will be more attacks on medics before the war on Polio is over in Pakistan.

Sex? Homosexuality? Masturbation? Y’all Need Jesus

I am going to let you in on a little secret.

Sex is Awesome.

Okay it’s less of a secret than I thought but you would be surprised how many religious people have hang ups over something as natural as sex. It is either shameful or sinful (because anything that fun must be bad) or they don’t want women to enjoy it.

Abrahamic faith is obsessed with sex. I will admit this, I have been celibate for a very very long time, but even I know that the catholic obsession with sex is frankly unhealthy. It is analysed and psychoanalysed and scripture is quoted, it’s got more rules than the Kama Sutra and infinitely more men men in robes. It is the fascination of those who aren’t allowed to have sex with those who are allowed to have sex. Asking catholic priests for sex advice is like asking a completely blind man about the colour coordination of your outfit. It’s silly to ask them in the first place. And it’s even more sillier to take any advice they may give.  [Read more…]

The Nice Boys Next Door

I used to live in Leeds, a lovely little city in Yorkshire. Home to the debauchery of the Otley Run, the triple sports of Football, Cricket and Rugby and a tale of tragedy.

The first boy was born at the Leeds General Infirmary and lived all his life in Leeds. His father worked as a factory worker and taught his son the value of hard work. His mother used to teach him the value of community by helping foreigners who came to the little piece of the dales. She used to accompany those who were sick but didn’t speak English to the hospital where she would translate for them. He attended school in Leeds and while (like most of us) wasn’t a model student he was punctual, courteous, and social. He went on to college where he trained vocational qualification in Business. He played cricket ferociously but his true love was football. He turned out to play for the Holbeck Hornets. Those who met him said that he was a “Gentle Giant” and the only stain on his record was a caution for shop lifting which was put down to “kids will be kids”. As a mark of apology he worked at a youth centre as a volunteer.

The second boy was less of a boy than a man. He was the oldest of the four friends and a mentor figure to the other 3. He was undoubtedly this little gang’s ring leader. He was born at the St. James University Hospital and grew up in both Beeston and Dewsbury. Son of a foundry worker and a housewife, he had a relatively strict upbringing but loved his parents. He was well liked and volunteered with the community that gave so much to him. He would mentor and teach new immigrant kids about the UK. He was seen as a god fearing young man and was happily married to his wife. He made plans around everything his wife did including delaying his dreams so that she could have the baby she wanted. His mother in law doted on him. She even got to meet the queen and reportedly spoke about his achievements to her.

The third young man was born in Jamaica and moved to Dalton. He was the most tragic of the 4. A normal childhood in Yorkshire but he was enticed by crime where he worked dealing drugs. However one day he changed his mind and found faith. He become quiet and less angry. He tried to get a job and even though pay was poor he qualified as a carpet fitter.

The last young man was born at St. Luke’s in Bradford to a local entrepreneur. He was a born sportsman and represented his school excelling in cricket, football, triple jump, distance running and ju-jitsu. He studied sports science but probably wished to inherit his father’s small business empire. Often working to help his dad at his father’s fish and chip shop, restaurant and butcher’s shop. He was widely regarded as kind and courteous to everyone in his neighbourhood.

Apart from the Jamaican who was new to the group these three young men were thick as thieves and helped everyone who they met. They were model human beings… Even the Jamaican had turned over a new leaf. These are Nice Boys ™.

Except for the last thing they ever did.

On that day I was at home, relaxing after my brother’s 12th birthday party. My brother was talking to my aunt who had work in London so missed the entire party and I was listening in exhorting him to get her to buy some video game when the phone cut off.

It was the same day that these four young men had decided to go on an adventure to fight against injustice and oppression. In their own words…

I and thousands like me are forsaking everything for what we believe. Our drive and motivation doesn’t come from tangible commodities that this world has to offer. Our religion is Islam, obedience to the one true God and following the footsteps of the final prophet messenger. Your democratically-elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world. And your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters. Until we feel security you will be our targets and until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight. We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation.

On that day four of these young men blew themselves up using home made explosives on the Underground and on the London Bus Service. They killed 52 people between them. These nice young boys next door killed people. Their names were Hasib Hussain, Mohammed Khan, Germaine Lindsay and Hasib Hussain.

But no one really dwelt on their niceness. No one would listen to their families who honestly didn’t believe their sons did this. It was the second deadliest terrorist attack in British History (Lockerbie was the biggest), but one that lived in infamy. I still went to work that day, knowing I would have to face people who were mad at brown people.

At times like this I am proud to be British. When the vultures that are the BNP and the various right wing conservatives such as Melanie Philips came out against non-white immigrants brits rallied and told them where to shove their bigotry. The answer to bigotry is not more of it. There were incidents but they were few and far between compared to the horror show of the USA post 9/11.

But you have to admit, they were nice boys until the end. In the UK at least we don’t stand for the kind of scrutiny that americans put on their killers but if we did we probably wouldn’t know anything about them. Their story is one of faith creating alienation, and the unscrupulous taking advantage of that alienation to create hate and the notion that their cause was just. They fell prey to religious extremists who filled their mind with poison which caused them to be able to rationalise the deaths of so man and to act on it. They fell prey to a feeling by their parents that they were losing their culture so they sent them to places like Pakistan to be re-immersed in traditional culture. Where they were told that their parents are traitors and too soft to fight for justice, where their minds were poisoned by hate and conspiracy theory powered by a unquestionable belief in their holy cause.

Just remember that the next time you hear about a tragedy like this. The people who did this may have been “nice” and “not white” too. We forgot that in the UK and that resulted in the tragic death of Jean Charles de Menzies who was shot for being too fast moving, too brown and wearing a coat by a police officer who made the wrong decision.

I do wish to end on a note of absolute humanity. I believe that heroes aren’t special, they are people just like you and me who when called upon by circumstance did what needed to be done and what we are all capable of doing. This doesn’t make their achievement small, in fact it makes it bigger. If grew up with what we would call  genuine heroes in my life. My grandfather was awarded for valour. I have family who were given medals for giving up their lives to save others in Ypres. My mother was a hero when she fought to be taught surgery when young women were serious discriminated against in the field. And my grandfather taught me two things, the first was how to fish and the second was what makes a hero a hero. A hero is just a human being who did the right thing when no one else was willing to. That when the odds were against him just did what he thought was necessary. Anyone can be a hero. You do not make them. While my actions have been on the small scale compared to a man who once held a position in the middle of a jungle so damp that your clothes rot away and fought with everything from gun to grenade, knife to rock against an enemy that was legendarily brave. Or compared to my mother who learnt her trade through sheer stubbornness. And all through that I have always been impressed by the humility of these people at their achievements.

I have tried to do the best I can as a human being. I think the greatest expression of humanity is someone doing the necessary and the best that they can. There were heroes at Sandy Hook, there are heroes everywhere as there are villains.

There were two cells of bombers. The second wave failed due to equipment failure. However one of the bombers called Ramzi Mohammed was confronted by a man. Angus Campbell, an off duty fire man got everyone else to evacuate the carriage to safety but stayed behind to get Ramzi to not kill himself. Ramzi was captured a while later, it is believed that the actions of Angus saved lives as well as stopped Ramzi from killing himself. He may not have the chance to live a normal life again but he gets to do something with his life rather than cause pain for others. Angus’s courage is an equally good lesson to learn from this.

I agree with Siviku on this, perhaps we should realise that the people who commit crimes from different communities have stories too. That it isn’t just “middle american white youth” who are nice boys.