When did we get to the point where the seemingly marginalised viewpoints of society stopped being so out there? Over the past few years as the economic downturn has gripped the country, people have looked for someone to blame and the easiest people to blame are those who are different. So politicians are easy to blame but the problem with that is of course someone has to govern so whoever gets voted in will be a politician. Bankers have seen blame laid at their feet but yet again bankers aren’t going away any time soon so the problem has been who can people blame who they can a) get rid of and b) don’t understand.
Step forward religion and foreigners.
The term, ‘I’m not racist but…’ has become a bit of a running gag, albeit not very funny. People say this with a completely straight face. The people that are saying it are not the people that you would generally look at and think they are racist either. However a spectre of what I won’t call hate, but will call intolerance now hangs over far more people than I’ve ever known in my 29 years on this Earth and that spectre is becoming an ever bigger presence in society.
My problem is working out where this has come from? It must have come from somewhere and looking around the most obvious parts of society I can point my finger at and believe they are the reason is the media and politicians. The media will always tap into whatever the mood of the nation is and then play up to it. If the nation are happy then the media will be happy. If the nation has a sense of unease then the media will portray that and start to feed off it. If we are being told constantly about bad things people are doing then it will seep into the public’s consciousness and I believe this is what has happened.
Look at the media coverage yesterday. It was by a person who seemingly was a Muslim. Now was he described first of all as a terrorist or was he first of all classed as a Muslim? You bet it was the latter and not the former. Whilst so many bleat that the English Defence League do not speak for us we must understand that just because people do terrorist attacks are of one faith, they do not speak for an entire religion. When the IRA where blowing things up left, right and centre did they speak for all Catholicism? I’m pretty sure they didn’t.
We though as a nation are far more scared of the unknown than we ever have been before. In this modern age where people can interact with anyone, at any time, people get disturbed. If you are on a tube and two people are speaking to one another in a foreign tongue then instead of being calm and ignoring it, more than ever people are worried because they don’t understand and there we get it the crux of the issue. People in general are far more afraid of what they don’t understand than ever before and we have to ask ourselves, ‘why is that?’
However I want to point a very stern finger at politicians because I see a distinct lack of leadership. In all honesty the last person who displayed leadership qualities was Tony Blair. Like it or not he led this country. Ever since politicians have been too scared to truly stand for what they believe in. As a friend put it to me last night, ‘they pander to the lowest common denominator’ and he was right. Politicians are afraid to say what they really think in case the most vocal of critics attack them. This needs to stop.
I would love to see David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband at a joint Press Conference where they said that intolerance would not be accepted. We live in a multi-cultural society and I love that. Great Britain isn’t just for those who were born here, it is for people who want to live and work here. Should people not be allowed to move from place to place to live with different people, different cultures, experience a different way of life? Should we go back to the day of ‘If you were born in Essex then you’ll live and die in Essex’ and so on? I certainly do not believe so. No-one owns the Earth or any country therein and people should be free to move around.
As we all know though this isn’t the way the tide is going. People think there is always someplace greener and those greener pastures might be to leave the European Union. Some want to leave the European Human Rights Act and have a British Bill of Human Rights instead. My fear though is what if we do this and still things are no better then who do people blame? Do they blame themselves for pushing this through or do they find another scapegoat? What if we started turning on all blondes? Would that be accepted in society the way that intolerance towards people of foreign backgrounds and different religions seemingly are?
The crux is no matter how hard David Cameron wants to bang on about fixing our broken society – the more he says this then the more people will look for where the cracks and the problems are. It is a bit like saying how terrible the economy is, the more you say it the more people will believe it. Society is not perfect. We all know this. However society is not perfect throughout the globe and there are bad people all over the world doing bad things every day. This isn’t just confined to us in the UK, it is a far larger problem than that and one that has to be addressed through education for the next generations coming through.
No matter what our differences are we all bleed when we are cut. We are all but one race – the human race. We all broadly want the same things for our loved ones and for society as a whole but the problems are some believe there are short-cuts and scapegoats to why we don’t all have what we would like.
Immigration is not a problem to the degree that people believe it is. People can live with people of different religious backgrounds. Not all people who are different are our enemies. The vast majority of people who practise the Christian faith are good people. The vast majority of those who follow Islam are good people. The vast majority of those who are Jews are good people and so on and so forth. Being different isn’t a reason to be scared of someone.
Our leaders need to step up to the plate here and now and stop this going forward. Do not pander down to the most vocal in an attempt to win votes. Stand for what you truly believe in. If you stand together and say that this type of intolerance will not be accepted then you’ll start drawing a line in the sand. This whole situation has meandered on for far too long. People can have different views on anything but still not persecute one another. Until such a time where this is the strong and constant viewpoint from our politicians (and in turn our media) then I fear the culture of intolerance will only grow and slowly shatter any illusions we have that we are a progressive society.
As some of you may know I am involved in local Hospital Radio. For the past few weeks I have been recording some extra standby shows for when a presenter is unable to present his or her show and two of them I am extremely proud of so I thought I’d speak about them here on the blog and provide download links in case you wanted to hear them.
Years ago there was a channel on the Sky EPG called ‘Classic FM TV’ which featured modern classical music from opera to instrumental. I used to listen to it a lot when I felt a bit down or a bit up tight as it would relax me and chill me out. This might surprise a few people but I found this music often inspiring as well as relaxing. Alas it stopped transmitting in December 2007 and a lot of this music became lost to me.
One thing that I personally enjoy about radio and in particular doing these types of shows is I get to (re)discover lots of different music. Being part of a radio station really does open your eyes to so many different genres of music and on this occasion it allowed me to reminisce about many tracks that I had completely forgotten about over the past few years.
So if you were a fan of Classic FM TV or just a lover of modern classical music then feel free to have a listen. The links are below. Or if you just want to hear just how bad I am as a radio presenter then feel free to do that as well. I’d recommend just ignoring my waffle and enjoy the music.
So MPs are currently discussing Equal Marriage and as is custom for MPs they have differing views. Some more extreme than other. Some think that this is just a starting point for something more in a sinister way and some are just flat out barmy. Happily many others are more middle of the road and don’t think that same sex marriage is the first strep to gay people taking over the world and enslaving and discriminating against straight folk.
A lot of this debate is revolving around what teachers should and shouldn’t be allowed to teach. If same-sex marriage goes against a teachers religion then should they be allowed to not teach it? Now last time I looked I’m pretty sure some science teachers come from strong religious backgrounds. A lot of science flies in the face of religion. Just start at the fact God created the Earth. There is a thing called the Big Bang Theory that is now widely believed to have been the way the universe was created and teachers if religious backgrounds teach this. How about the whole Adam and Eve thing and the fact that genetics has shown that human life developed in six separate places across the Earth. Are there five other Adam’s and Eve’s that they just couldn’t be bothered to write about in the bible? I doubt it somewhat.
Teachers are not employed to pass on their own personal opinions to the children they teach. They go into teaching to help young people understand either a subject or an overall view of the world. Minds are never as impressionable as they are when they are young. If a teacher disagrees with a topic they have to teach then they have to just put their personal beliefs to one side and teach the subject as it written. If a teacher teaches that homosexuality is wrong in their opinion then I fear they are not doing their job of teaching young minds about the world with open eyes.
I am positive that some teachers will struggle to teach something that goes against their fundamental beliefs and I can understand why it might be problematic. However that pales into insignificance when I look at how parents entrust teachers to bring up their children according to the curriculum provided.
If a teacher had a gay child in his or her class (which pretty much every teacher has in every single class if you look at the odds) and said teacher tells the class that homosexuality and same-sex marriage is wrong then how is that child going to feel? Do teachers really think that putting a child through such turmoil is a positive? I can’t believe that any teacher in good faith would want to do that. An adult can swallow their beliefs far easier than a young person can overcome prejudice.
I have my beliefs and I don’t think it will come as any surprise that I am pro equal marriage because I am pro equality. Equality is a core principle that I live my life by. I am not religious in any way, shape or form and my views of the world are not scoped by any religious conviction. This is despise being brought up in the church and spending two years at a faith school. Marriage is a way of expressing love between two people and to pigeonhole it between a man and a woman is not helpful or equal.
The best way forward is to give young people as much information as possible and give them help and guidance as to what it all means. I truly believe that the more information young people have then the more tolerant we’ll get as a society. I don’t want any young person to not be able to fully explore who they are because they feel that they are not ‘normal’ or ‘wrong’ or anything of that ilk. Exploring who we are is one of the most vital parts of the journey we all face of being a human being.
If someone has religious views that are opposed to equal marriage then I have no issue with that. That is their right and freedom as long as they do not actively force that views on to others. When it comes to teachers then they have a decision to make. Do they want to teach children about all different aspects of humanity and thus allowing children to understand the differences that we all have but that ultimately we are all human or do they just want to teach them about the parts of humanity they agree with? If it is the latter then that isn’t the type of person I’d want my (non-existent) children to be taught by.
Last point is this. Love is the hardest thing I think humans have to find. You love your offspring and in turn you love your parents but when it comes to love is the romantic sense so many people struggle to find true love. I’m 29 and I haven’t got even close to finding love – not even close – and yet if I were to love a member of my same sex I’d struggle in the knowledge that some members of society didn’t see that love as worthy of being of equal value to if I loved a woman (No mum, before you ask, this isn’t me coming out, still going down the female path…)
I think if two people love each other then there should be no boundaries that show that one set of love is worth more than the other in the eyes of both society and legally. To me it is pretty simple. As for how teachers or members of the clergy should deal with it then I think with teachers it is open and shut. They are not employed or paid to put their own opinions on to their students. If they disagree then teach the kids and say nothing bad about homosexuality or equal marriage. As for members of the clergy then things are different. The ‘sanctity’ of marriage being between a man and a woman is something important but so is not cheating on your partner and that happens all too often in marriages.
I hope equality wins out. I desperately believe that equal marriage and the teaching of all ways of life and love is vital to healing our society. Equal marriage might be crushing the older generations but as a race we need to become more open and tolerant to other ways of life and love and I genuinely believe that this is a big step for that. If the next generations are actively taught that homosexuality isn’t wrong but not just that – is actively fine and welcome in society – then I think we’ll go a long way to leaving a great legacy for the next generations to build on.
That Utopian society is a long way off but this is a baby step that could turn into a giant stride towards that idealistic goal.
In 2009 the Premier League returned and Mark Halsey refereed at Goodison Park on the opening Saturday of the season. Nothing interesting here despite the 6-1 scoreline to the visitors Arsenal but the referee that day had just been given some pretty horrendous news. Mark Halsey had been diagnosed with a Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and had a cancerous tumour in his throat. This was removed and the battle started not only to return to full health but to also to return to his previous career of a full-time professional football referee.
He would do so and would referee for two more complete seasons as well as the end of the 09/10 season before announcing his retirement a couple of weeks back. Speaking yesterday after his final game the 52 year-old said the following:
‘It’s been a fantastic career for me, with ups and downs.
‘I have had three great years since I have come back from my illness and hopefully I have been an inspiration for all those men, women and children out there living with cancer, and shown them we can beat this, that we can get back out there.
‘Hopefully I have done a lot for them.’
What I have to say to Mark is that anyone who survives just an illness and returns to their profession in full health is an inspiration – certainly one that involves such a level of physical fitness. His performances on the field of play have (for me) still at in the upper echelons of Select Group referees and no doubt had he wanted to continue then he would have had another year (at least) in him. However he has decided to move on to a rather interesting new position.
As a long time fan of the NFL I have seen both FOX and latterly ESPN have had an expert that can use to talk about decisions of the referee in charge of a game. Mike Pereira and Gerry Austin have been these two gentlemen and it has added an extra insight and level of broadcasting a game. Mark Halsey will be providing this role for BT Sport when they take over one third of the Premier League TV rights next season as well as FA Cup for at least the 13/14 season.
On British TV we aren’t used to this so it will be interesting to see how BT Sport use Halsey and if the public like it. It has worked great in the States on the NFL so I see no reason why it wouldn’t work well in football over here. I’m excited for Mark that he has such an interesting job to go to but still a bit sad that a good referee has decided to leave the Select Group and the sport.
Graham Poll thought he should retire because he was getting old and didn’t see Wigan’s Callum McManaman’s horror tackle in the match against Newcastle earlier this season. Now I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure referees don’t have x-ray vision and if a player runs in front of you at the crucial moment and you are blinded then what can you do? I’m positive Graham Poll would have got it spot on as he never made a mistake. Honest guv…
One last thing on why I think Halsey was a good referee. He had played the game at a non-league level so understood the game. I have always said that bringing through referees who have played either at semi-pro or low league level can only improve the game. One of the best referees I’ve ever seen was Steve Baines who had played professionally at Chesterfield amongst others and always had the lowest rate of yellow cards in the football league but his games were always handled professionally and the players seemed to react well to his style of officiating.
So from me it is thank you and good luck to Mark Halsey. I shall miss you in the middle but your insight in the commentary box should hopefully take football coverage to the next level.
Last night whilst perusing the interweb I was sent a link to the A Barristers Wife blog and promptly spent the best part of the next hour fully taking in all the content on said blog. I won’t lie when I say it was an eye-opening read however it is one that doesn’t surprise me.
The blog is (unsurprisingly considering the title) the blog of the wife of a Legal Aid lawyer. She is writing about some of the cases that her husband has dealt with and why it is vital that changes to the Legal Aid system as proposed by Chris Grayling do not succeed.
The first one I saw was Exhibit C – the “paedophile”. This is a case her husband worked on where a young boy had claimed that his daddy had been abusing him. It seemed a pretty open and shut case until it came out in court that the young boy in fact called both his dad and his stepdad daddy and that he hadn’t seen his real dad in over a year (because of the charges) and wanted to see him and cried. That doesn’t sound like the actions of a kid who had been abused by this man. The lawyer had worked out that it was in fact the stepfather who was the abuser.
Had the lawyer not taken the case diligently and not strong-armed his client into accepting a guilty plea (because the evidence on paper was pretty clear cut) then a completely innocent man would have rotted away in prison only to leave the real abuser still in control of the young boy.
As an aside here I have been the foreman on a jury in a very similar case. The similarities are uncanny and we fund the defendant not guilty due to essentially we didn’t trust the mother’s account of what happened. Her behaviour didn’t add up to us and that was the key. It is strange that evidence counts for so much but behaviour of witnesses do have a real impact. In the other case I sat on during my spell as a juror we didn’t trust the account of the two alleged victims in a GBH case because of the elaborate way they acted in court.
Anyway back to the case in hand. I continued to read the blog.
Next Exhibit B – the “murderer”. This case was a major national case including a Crimewatch reconstruction. The defendant spent over a year on remand awaiting his trial. The lawyer had to spend two weeks (unpaid) to read through all the background information and on the tenth day found the nugget that showed his client could not have been the murderer. In fact in time the Crown’s own evidence would prove he was incapable of being at the murder scene at the time. If we see the proposed changes of legal aid go through then we’ll get to a state where lawyers are just in the business for profit and not to act in the best interests of their client.
At the end of the piece she writes a summary of ‘Why this story should matter to you’ and if you haven’t clicked on the above link (which I would thoroughly recommend) then here is the summary reproduced in full:
Police & CPS procedure – it is clear that the officer in charge of the case had not done what my husband had done, and sat down and read everything. Evidence is collated and summarised in reports, which are passed up and up through the police rank structure. By the time it gets to the top it is a case of “Chinese whispers”. What the top guy reads is not always an accurate reflection of the evidence.
Performance targets – it is unrealistic to expect the police and prosecution to read all of the evidence in every case under the current system. It certainly won’t be possible, even for the defence, under the proposed system. The allocated defence lawyer will be working to targets, working for profit. He won’t have the time to take two weeks out to find the golden nugget. He’ll take a quick look at the evidence, see that it looks pretty damning, and advise the client to plead guilty.
The real scumbag criminal got away with it – as far as we know the real murderer is still at large. The proposed system will lead to more of this. Because if lawyers are to be paid the same whether clients go to trial or not, there will be less trials. Less trials mean less opportunity for upcoming solicitors and barristers to cut their teeth. Less practice on the more simple cases will lead to less proficiency on the complex ones. This will hold for both the defence AND the prosecution. The end result more innocent people going to prison, more guilty people getting away, quite literally, with murder.
It could happen to you – Exhibit B got picked up for this because he had happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. The Crown’s own evidence showed he could not have been at the murder scene at the right time. He served over a year in prison on remand waiting for trial for something he didn’t do. I’ll spare you the details of what happened to him while he was there. And even though he was found not guilty, mud sticks. He was a young man, just starting out. His life was ruined.
Innocence is not interesting – there was a journalist in court for Exhibit B’s trial. Every day there were articles in the local and national papers saying what a nasty piece of work he was. Once the case was thrown out my husband collared the journalist and demanded that he write the story up, listing the points as the judge had directed the jury. Guess what? He didn’t do it. No wonder the public always believe people are guilty until proven innocent.
Innocence is not interesting. Arguably one of the most damning indictments of modern society and she is right. Do we care about people who are falsely accused? Do we heck. The only time we do is if it happens to us or someone that we know. Until that point in general we couldn’t care less and that is something that saddens me. I’m proud to say that I don’t sit alongside those people and think innocence should be as big a news story as guilt. If a defendant is found guilty of a serious crime it will be front page of the local papers but if the same person is found innocent then it’s a snippet on page 17. That isn’t fair but not only that, it isn’t right.
Next up we have Exhibit A – the “child pornographer”. A tale that starts with a granddad’s computer going wrong and taking it somewhere to be fixed. On the computer were images of naked children and the computer repairer called in the police who then arrested the granddad and charged him with possession of level 1 child pornography. Until the trial no-one (including the CPS barrister nor the defence) had seen the photos and the defence lawyer would not advice his client to enter a guilty plea until he had seen the photos. They were eventually granted access to the photos and the CPS barrister upon seeing them offered no evidence and the case was closed.
The whole incident came about because someone pointed a finger (which in this day and age is pretty standard and we all want to be vigilant on these issues) but instead of the police going to see the accused and going through the case properly they just went for it. It turns out the children were his grandchildren and they had come over one day and had forgotten their bathers so were playing in a paddling pool and shooting water pistols naked. A perfectly innocent explanation and one that could have been nipped in the bud before any serious cost to the public purse. Instead police hours, CPS hours, legal aid hours, the court’s time and costs were all incurred when there was never any need for any of it.
On another blog we see the blog post So you’re a football fan, and think the legal aid cuts won’t affect you? which tells of a common tale that could happen to anyone. As a matter of fact a very similar thing happened to me in my teens and it was only the fact that the copper’s colleague really couldn’t be bothered that I wasn’t arrested.
Now I do not know how I’d have reacted as a what 14/15/16 year-old (I can’t remember exactly how old I was) but the context was it was a school INSET day so we were walking through town towards Seaclose Park to play a bit of football. I was saying to the guys something along the lines of ‘I bet we get pulled over by the police asking us why we aren’t in school’ and literally as I said that a cop car drives past eyeballing us. I point and laugh and say to the guys ‘just like that’ and then about 30 seconds later the car has swung around the block and young copper wants to talk to me/arrest me. Older copper (the driver) just stood there leaning on the car and I saw him just shake his head of the younger officer and so I was told to go away. He said I had sworn at him. I knew I hadn’t. However it was effectively my word against his so I’m hypothesising that the advice given to me would’ve been to accept a caution and not taken it to trial had he in fact done what he wanted to do and arrested me.
Of course it didn’t come to that and it was one rather small run-in with the law but I’m not going to lie. Even that incident affected me for quite a while and even years later it would blindside me and I’d think about it. Essentially it was one coppers decision that he couldn’t be bothered with the paperwork that stopped me potentially having a criminal record. How insane is that?
If the proposed changes to legal aid come in and the emphasis changing from putting the clients best interests first towards providing the best value for money and creating profit for the legal aid accredited companies then something has gone seriously wrong in our justice system. Seriously wrong. The cheapest contract is not always the best. I could say that I could school a whole school for £50 a night but that doesn’t mean I could clean it to a level that they expect and the same goes for lawyers.
We can all find ourselves in legal strife through no fault of our own. It can happen to any of us and that is what is so vital about not only the ability to have legal aid but also quality legal aid. Not all defendants are criminal scumbags and until they are found guilty by a jury of their peers they should be allowed the best possible representation from a diligent lawyer who puts the best interest of their client ahead of their own personal views or profit.
If you believe that everyone has the right to a good level of defence when they are only accused of a crime then you can sign the petition here. I did so last night. I would implore you to do so and if this blog post hasn’t convinced you then please read all the pieces that I have linked to. The right to a good standard of defence and advice is something that we all deserve but because of the way the media like to portray all accused as guilty scumbags until proved otherwise and the way society in the main has moved from innocent until proven guilty to suspicious presumed guilty until proven otherwise then it is all the more important that we defend quality legal aid for all who need it. I don’t use libraries but I can see many people that do and therefore don’t mind my taxes being used to keep them open. The same goes for quality legal aid.
My blood is boiling folks. There is one thing that I hold dear and that is that we are all created equal. One human life is of the same value as the next. So if I get murdered the person who killed me should get the same sentence as if they killed anyone else in exactly the same way. Now of course not all murders are equal, some are premeditated, some involve sexual crimes, some include torture before killing their victims but if I am killed in exactly the same way as another person then I’d expect sentencing to be the same.
Theresa May today outlined new proposals that will mean any police officer or prison officer slain would see the perpetrator given mandatory whole life sentences. This is because we ask them to put themselves in harms way to ensure that society are safe. However last I saw Army, Navy and Royal Air Force personnel did exactly the same. What about the coastguard who risk their lives to safe others? What about the Fire Brigade? Are we seriously saying that one section of society deserve more retribution than others?
What about when police officers kill members of the general public? Do these people deserve less time in jail and the opportunity of being free one day? Isn’t that kinda mad?
I am not a ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’ person. In fact I am quite the opposite. I believe there is a better way to deal with criminals but when it comes to serious crimes such as murder and rape then prison very much has its place. However mandatory life terms for a crime against one section of society to me seems wholly wrong and only goes to show that we are not all equal. All crimes are not equal. That is why we have judges who have leeway to use their judgement to decide on how long a guilty person should spend inside. Mitigating circumstances have to be taken into account.
This policy seems to me to smell strongly of the Home Secretary trying to get the police back onside and trying to sound strong on crime. That is what everyone seems to want. Labour have welcomed this policy and I don’t know what the Liberal Democrats think but I’d be disappointed if they are happy to say that one persons life is worth more than another’s. It goes against our very principles of equality.
Should people that kill police officers and prison officers face heavy sentences? Darn tootin’ they do but you know what – so does anyone who takes another human life deliberately. Whether that person is a police officer, a member of our armed forces, a teacher, a student, a homeless person or whoever. Taking another human life is a despicable act but you won’t convince me that killing one person is less reprehensible than killing another.
‘Individuality in people is what makes them beautiful’
Words of a very special young man, oh wait, no, scratch that, I said those words this morning. You see I was speaking (well typing) in response to the petition surrounding the ‘glammed up’ version of Merida by Disney as they have made her look more ‘beautiful’ as they prepare her for the US market. They clearly think that by making her look more sexual then they’ll sell more products but isn’t this yet again an attempt by a big money corporation to follow the dollar instead of standing up for what is right?
The creator of Merida – the star of the film Brave – is unhappy with the new version of her character. Speaking in The Guardian she said the following:
“The redesign of Merida in advance of her official induction to the Disney Princess collection does a tremendous disservice to the millions of children for whom Merida is an empowering role model who speaks to girls’ capacity to be change agents in the world rather than just trophies to be admired. Moreover, by making her skinnier, sexier and more mature in appearance, you are sending a message to girls that the original, realistic, teenage-appearing version of Merida is inferior; that for girls and women to have value – to be recognised as true princesses – they must conform to a narrow definition of beauty.”
By jove she has a point. Now I’m a man so did not face half the issues that women – and in particular young women face as they grow up. Still I see all the magazines and read all the stories (ok that is a lie, I don’t but I know they exist). I know that we are spoon fed by the media what to look for in role models and alas looks is right up there. I was standing in the shower earlier working through this blog post in my head (yes this is the type of thing that I do) and I wondered to myself if we asked 1,000 teenage girls and 1,000 teenage men who they would aspire to be like (and for the men would like to share dinner with) – either Dame Helen Mirren or Kelly Brook who would get the most votes amongst both genders?
I think it is safe to say the vast majority of teenage men would be hot blooded and say Kelly Brook but I also fear that an albeit smaller majority of women would prefer to be like Kelly Brook than Dame Helen Mirren. This depresses me. The tabloid media will follow Kelly Brook’s (or anyone else of that ilk) every move so they can show a photo of her in an attempt to boost sales. Good looking women sell copies but photos of a respected, Oscar winning actress would not.
Michelle Obama is the most known First Lady of all time I suspect and is it a coincidence that she is the most glam? I had Carla Bruni shoved down my throat in both the written and broadcast media when she was the wife of the French President but I had to go and search for the name of her successor in that position. Valérie Trierweiler is her name for the record. Whilst I don’t begrudge the media presence of Michelle Obama as she clearly uses her position to further many great causes – it says a lot that other First Lady’s have done just as much good which were not as widely recognised due to being less in the media spotlight.
The media and society have a view on what is beautiful and they try to promote people who fall into that venn diagram of who they believe is beautiful. The media do this to make money (similar to what Disney have done with Merida) and society gets dragged along with it. You ask anyone who they think is the most beautiful person and they’ll say their partner if they have one and then if you say ignore their partner they’ll pick out someone famous. However they won’t all name the same person, in fact quite the opposite, if you asked 1,000 men and 1,000 women who they thought the most beautiful famous person was and I’m willing to bet we’ll get at least 100 names for both men and women.
You see the thing is we all look for something different and see beauty in an unending number of ways. If someone asked me what I thought makes someone beautiful then I would struggle to answer. This is just this je ne sais quoi that some people have and some people don’t in my eyes. There is no one thing that I could hang my hat on and say ‘that is something all beautiful people have’ because I just don’t think there is that one thing.
I would love to live in a world where beauty isn’t dictated by society or the media. I know as we all get older we start to see this for ourselves but when you are young and impressionable you don’t see this. When I was a teenager I saw what the media dictated as the most eligible bachelors – David Beckham and Jamie Redknapp – marry two pop stars. Every young women (ok not every young woman, that is a lie) but the amount of young women who wanted to be pop stars increased with this because they thought that is what eligible bachelors go for. A lot (although not as many as some in society would claim) of young women would like to be a footballers wife. Is this really an aspiration we want to pass on?
The best way to tackle this is to promote individuality as beauty. If young people can see that beauty is not just want society tells us it is then they would start to feel less pressure to conform to what society wants them to be. We are all different. This is what makes us a wondrous race. I’m lucky that I have reached a stage where I am comfortable in my own skin but heck in my teens and early 20s I had so much disdain for how my looked it was insane looking back.
If I had my way then schools would promote individuality far more than they do. In our education system you aren’t prepared for the real world. Instead you are forced into a mould to achieve the best possible exam results for both yourself and in turn your school. However whilst being academically successful is important, so is the process of discovering who we are and how we can be the best person we can be. I think our education system fails on this and is one thing I’d love to change. The more young people are allowed to explore themselves the more tolerant we would be and the more comfortable we would be with ourselves and others – no matter how different we were.
Back to the original point the petition is here and if you believe that young women need a vaster array of role models then I would implore you to sign. I don’t blame Disney for what they did because they are just trying to maximise their revenues but I am disappointed by it. They don’t have an obligation to any section of society but it would be nice to see them promote a larger selection of role models and not just do what they think is best for them in the short term profits wise.
Neil James Monnery is what my parents named me.
Early life would not be easy because of a duff arm and a duff leg.
Incidents of falling over would be far too commonplace.
Labelled as ‘disabled’ is something my mum would not tolerate, something I would learn to appreciate as I struggled to be like every other kid.
Nippy is not a word you could use to describe me but I can walk and run, which wasn’t exactly a given at one point.
Early it was noted that I was a gifted child.
Intelligence is something I had but I fear I wasted.
Lamentable are my school grades, despite never ever failing an exam or test I didn’t excel as much as my brain allowed.
Negative traits I have a fair few.
Envy is one that rears its ugly head on too many occasions but dissipates quickly.
Irrelevant and Insignificant are two I constantly fear I am.
Lackadaisical though is one that can very easily stick.
Not everything though is a negative.
Earnest I am.
Imperturbable in a crisis.
Liberal in my views of the world and of the people therein.
Narrow-mindedness makes me sad.
Egotistical people too.
Intolerance of others is another bug-bear.
Let us not dwell on what crushes my spirit though.
Normal is vastly overrated ergo I am not normal.
Early mornings are something that I do not miss.
Inane is something I worry my life is becoming.
Lucid though is my mind.
Naive I have been called.
Eloquent at times.
Influential on rare occasions.
Lovely…well once or twice.
Now to round this all up in a nice little bow.
Easy, life is not.
It has ups and it has its downs.
Life though is a journey and one that I have have a long ways to go.
Nine degrees of Neil James Monnery.
Each verse made up of the letters of my first name, acrostic they call it.
I am immensely proud of this poem and to a significant degree the person that I have become.
Like me or not I always try to be a good and decent person, that is how I would like to be remembered when all is said and done hopefully on a day far away from today.
…because I know you are all dying to read them.
First of all I am surprised that the Manchester United board have gone with a guy who whilst I think can do the job – has yet to prove his ability at the very top table. It is always good to bring through new blood and give (relatively) young managers a chance but Manchester United are a club listed on the NYSE and the share price is extremely important to the club. Until Moyes can prove it I suspect investors will be uneasy.
Away from that though I am delighted that Moyes has been given a shot. I really am. I think he is the best manager outside of Sir Alex and Arsene currently plying their trade in English football. I would throw in Guy Whittingham as well but that I suspect might just be blatant bias. The job he has done at Everton has clearly been first rate and his record in the transfer market has been impressive. All managers have their misses but he has been able to keep his flops to a minimum and has always got the best out of his players. Taking chances on the likes of Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines were first rate as both of these players could be argued are in England’s best XI at the moment.
The big question though (well one of three but in my opinion the biggest and most stark) is how will David Moyes do when buying at the top table. I shop at various supermarkets but I suspect if I shopped at Fortnum and Mason I wouldn’t know where to start and would come out with posh nosh that actually wasn’t very good. Can Moyes identify the right player to spend £30million on? Can he solve the problem Manchester United have of finding that playmaker in the middle of the park? Can he attract players to join him over the likes of Mourinho etc…?
Another question is how he’ll deal with the egos of the bigger players. Lots of talk that Ronaldo might be returning but that Rooney wants out. What does he do here? Lastly can he deal with the pressure that comes from one of the biggest jobs in world football and following a legend? It is never easy to follow a beloved leader but when that leader left at the top and is still on the payroll and around? Oh boy…
I fear for David Moyes but you know what – he has well and truly earned the chance to try and whilst I’m no big Manchester United lover I will be rooting for him to succeed. However with Jose’s imminent return to the Premier League I’ll also be rooting for him. With my long team fandom of Arsene and the way his teams try to play then I have lots of rooting interests in the Premier League next season. Manchester City will not have any of that.
Moyes has always come across as first and foremost a decent chap and I personally respect that a lot. I think he can succeed at Old Trafford and the six-year deal shows that the powers that be at Old Trafford see this as a long-term appointment (and is possibly why Jose Mourinho was never a genuine contender). Lots of hard work ahead for him but what a job and what an opportunity. I wish him well and also to Everton for the way they’ve acted in all this – it has been very classy.
So at least two of the top four will be changing their managers this summer (United: Moyes, Chelsea: Mourinho) and who knows what’ll happen with Roberto Mancini. Sounds like a fun summer ahead!
It is a question that comes and goes with various media stories and people have fairly entrenched views on either side of the debate. I am one of those people. I have strong views that due to the fact a not insignificant proportion of society equate an arrest or a charge sheet to guilt. I’ll ask these two questions and I want you to think about it and not just read past it.
If a friend of yours was charged or even just arrested for burglary would you treat them any different? If so, by how much? If the same friend was charged or even just arrested in relation with a sexual offence, certainly one involving children would you treat them any differently? If so, by how much?
Now i don’t have any statistics to back up my point but most people I know would be far more cautious with regards to someone who had been linked to a sexual offence. Certainly if you are a parent then would you want this person around your children? I’d pretty sure you wouldn’t even though they had not been found guilty of anything. An arrest or charge of burglary is a serious crime but there is a distinct different in how many of us perceive sexual crimes and all other crimes. We (rightly) find them more vile but we are also far more ready to err on the safe side in removing those people from our lives before the judicial process has played out.
The old adage of ‘mud sticks’ isn’t there because it isn’t true. It most certainly is true. Anyone who has been arrested or charged with a sexual offence will have that on file for the rest of their lives and it will follow them like a bad smell even if they were found not guilty or the charges were dropped or even if they were never charged. It is fair that innocent people are victimised (I don’t use that word lightly) because we as a society err on the safe side?
This brings me nicely on to my next point. At what point do we decide who the victim is? Do we decide that the victim is the person who has alleged a sexual crime against them from the off or do we decide they are a victim when a jury reaches a guilty verdict? Do we decide that the person arrested/charged is the victim if they are found not guilty or do we still perceive the person who alleges the crime as the victim?
Now clearly this isn’t an easy one to answer because there is a situation where both people can be victims, the person who alleges the crime may well have been the victim of a crime but the person arrested/charged with that crime might not be the right person. In that situation are they both victims or is one of them more of a victim than the other?
We all have different views on this case and one of the most prominent liberal voices out there, co-editor of Liberal Democrat Voice Stephen Tall has his and they are vehemently to mine. In his post Rape anonymity for the accused: well-intentioned but wrong, he concludes that, ‘Ultimately the best safeguard for maintaining a free and open society is an accountable and open system of justice. Secrecy, however well-intentioned, is hardly ever preferable to transparency, however messy.‘
Whilst on paper that seems the best way forward I would contend that in the real world that is not plausible. Justice can be seen to be served in a not guilty verdict but that verdict cannot undo the months (and sometimes years) the accused has suffered on multiple fronts. They find their social circle dramatically decreases whilst they await trial as people don’t want to associate with someone charged with such serious offences. They probably are at best suspended by their employer but in many situations they will be fired and are unable to find any more work until they are cleared and if they do it is unlikely to be in a similar field. Also as I hinted at earlier a not guilty verdict doesn’t ex-sponge people’s memories nor does it disappear from your criminal record. Yes you can have a serious criminal record without even being a criminal. A rape/sexual offence arrest/charge stays with you forever.
Some would say they would prefer to know if someone they knew was arrested or charged with such a serious offence as they have to think of their safety as well as that of their children. This is a fair point but at what point does a person constitute a threat? An allegation? An arrest? Being charged? Being found guilty of the crimes? I honestly don’t know but what I do know is that innocent people charged with such serious offences are victims. I’m not saying they are more or less of a victim than the alleged victim but they are victims. Yes a not guilty person can rebuild their life but they will always carry baggage with them and they will also always be looked at through narrower eyes.
I think I should put it out there that I believe the vast majority, let me reiterate that, the vast majority of allegations are made in good faith. We all know there are a number of malicious allegations made but we’ll ignore them for now even though they are a relevant debate. This is about a situation where there is a victim who has been attacked but at what point does the person the police decide is the person who attacked them deserve to have their name made public?
I know many (including Stephen linked to above) bring up the Stuart Hall case where him being named brought forward more victims and ensured a guilty plea and a sexual predator brought to justice but that is but one example. You could make a case for any piece of legislation based on one example. However I always ask the same thing – if you were an innocent person arrested and subsequently charged with such an offence, you lost all your friends and your job and lived a life of limbo for say a year or so before being found not guilty, finding that your social circle still weren’t sure and most of them still didn’t want to know you and then you couldn’t return to your job – or a job of similar standing – then would you feel aggrieved?
Darn straight you would. Your life would have been turned upside down through no fault of your own. Now whilst it is true that rape victims have exactly the same in that their lives are completely turned upside down, do two wrongs make a right? No. No I don’t think so – and more than that – I never will.
So to round this thing up one of two things need to happen, We as a society have to learn the difference between someone being found guilty of a crime compared to being charged or even arrested in connection with a crime (which I don’t think we can do) or we need to keep both the accused and the accuser anonymous until we can find out which of the two (or even if both) are victims.