The Ministry of Silly Walks

Two days ago the British government announced a strategy to stop people feeling lonely.  In a time when public services are being cut down like enemy soldiers in Rambo III, it seems utterly preposterous that the government now intends on spending money in an effort to identify precisely why people are feeling lonely.  It does not require twenty million pounds to realise that human contact is the cure for loneliness.

When I first read an article about the strategy for loneliness prevention I thought it was a joke.  In one article it made reference to the minister for loneliness I could not help but laugh.  It could not be true, so I thought.  A few minutes later google confirmed that the UK does indeed have a minister for a basic human emotion.  It troubled me on many levels.  First and foremost was the name.  If the minister for health was responsible for making us more healthy, and the minister for trade for making more trade, surely the minister for loneliness was meant to make us more lonely.  Would she travel the country executing our spouses and telling our friends that we secretly hate them?  The second and most troubling thought was the fact that the government are looking to minister our emotions.

Loneliness has not been the only somewhat peculiar topic on the agenda.  In the same week the government has announced a minister for suicide prevention.  Granted it is a significantly more appropriate name, and yet it also left me with a sense of disquiet.  When the two new ministers are considered together it becomes apparent that the government has become acutely aware of a mental health crisis across the UK.  The pertinent question is whether there is a genuine crisis or is this a case of a government encroaching on Big Brother territory.

In 2017 there were 5,821 suicides in the UK.  In a country of over 65 million people it sounds like a drop in the ocean.  When you look across Europe you find that although it is the fourth highest total in Europe, it is also the fourth lowest suicide rate in Europe.  Therefore, it seems strange that the government has chosen to pursue these two policies in a time of austerity, whilst slashing so many other services.

It is evident that across the country the budgetary cuts have played merry hell with mental health services.  It perhaps would be wiser to give the services that are in dire need of more funding the money earmarked for figuring out why people are lonely.  The fact is a lack of access to therapists and counselling, as a direct result of a lack of funding causes loneliness.  Overstretched mental health departments having to prioritise people’s problems causes loneliness.  Stupidly long waiting times for people suffering anxiety and distress cause loneliness.  Worst of all is that all of these problems, if fixed, would likely contribute to a lowering of the suicide rate and save actual lives.  It is not rocket science, it is basic human empathy.

If you like me are feeling exceptionally lonely, feeling isolated by a government that throws money at identifying the problem with people, rather than the problems caused by the system, feel free to contact our minister for loneliness.  I’m sure she will do her best to help…

How to be Racist

It seems near on impossible to flick through any social media site without finding continued references to racism.  The common factor between the vast majority of such posts is that are almost all completely, and absolutely wrong.  It is striking that a word that used to have such potency has been overused and obfuscated to the point that it has been rendered meaningless.

The simplest and clearest definition of racism is thus:

prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

Please note the last word in that definition.  […] based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.  In recent times we have had the scandal of Boris and the Burka where former foreign minister and London Mayor, Boris Johnson suggested that women that wear the burka look like letter boxes.  I have seen countless accusations that these remarks are racist.  First and foremost it is worth considering that Islam is a religion and not a race.  Thus we have a more accurate term that at a push, if you wish to reason that there is a heinous motive behind the comment, may well fit better.

dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.

For islamophobia to be accurate it is necessary to demonstrate that Boris Johnson has a dislike of Muslims which is not implausible.

Similarly there have been countless accusations of racism against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.  These claims fall down for the very same reason.  Judaism is a religion and not a race, despite what Halachic Law states.  Accepting the noxious idea that dipping your head in water changes your ethnicity would be the equivalent of acknowledging Jihadi as a race.

One of the biggest of the antisemitic rows within the Labour Party is the adoption of IHRA guidelines that most civilised countries have adopted to define what antisemitism is.  One of the key issues is that Labour have removed a line that warns against ‘claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour’.  antisemitism is defined in the dictionary as:

hostility to or prejudice against Jews.

This is where lines begin to blur.  Stating that the existence of Israel is a racist endeavour does not make any sense as simply the idea alone does not express any form of superiority, Judaism isn’t a race, Israeli is a nationality and the statement is just plain stupid.  However, it is absolutely antisemitic as it demonstrates clear hostility towards the notion of a Jewish state.

The common thread between islamophobia and antisemitism is a single word – prejudice:

preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.

The truth is that not only that the vast majority of opinions we encounter online and in real life are blatantly prejudicial.  In the Boris example the snippets from his article that have been shared online are from an article entitled ‘Denmark has got it wrong.  Yes, the burka is oppressive and ridiculous – but that’s still no reason to ban it’.  Thus the quotes that are being banded about in the press demonstrate dislike but it is hard to argue prejudice, nonetheless, it is a clear example of islamophobia.  The notion that the existence of Israel is a racist endeavour demonstrates a blatant hostility and subsequently can be defined as antisemitic.  The fact is that arguing that either of the aforementioned examples are racist is unequivocally, unquestionably, inarguably, absolute bollocks.

Funnily enough there is a word that comfortably describes people who falsely accuse others of racism without throughly considering the meaning of their words, whose actions, indignation, and feigned offense, is actually driven by their own ignorance as opposed to actual fact.  It is a word more closely associated with racists, homophobes, extremists, the pious, the holy, and the damn right vile.

bigot
ˈbɪɡət/
noun
a person who is intolerant towards those holding different opinions.

The Fascist Demonstrations in Warsaw

I was recently invited back to appear on Level Talk with John Harrison to talk about the fascist demonstrations in Warsaw.  As someone who lived through ‘International Stay at Home Day’ in Warsaw, and who personally experienced abuse from fascists in Warsaw, I found it impossible to refuse.

Enjoy

You can listen right here

Radio Gaga

Last weekend I was invited to appear on a radio show entitled ‘Level Talk with John Harrison’ to talk about recent events in Poland.  As a rule I largely avoid public appearances in any shape or form, however, felt compelled to accept this invitation.

Recent events in Poland are gravely worrying.  In the last week Amnesty International have published a report on the illegal arrest, assault, surveillance and monitoring of anti-government protestors.  Human Rights Watch have published a 37 page report on the ‘rule of law and human rights under attack in Poland’.  Each week that passes only emboldens the government to stretch the limits of the law further and further.

At this point every single person that loves or has a reason to love Poland has to ask themselves two simple questions.  If not you then who?  If not now then when?  That’s why I decided to accept the invitation.  If nobody is interested in what is happening in Poland it is down to us to start the conversation and make it loud enough so we cannot be ignored.

This afternoon I recorded the show with John Harrison, and a charming bubbly lawyer who will one day be the next Mrs Jagger.  It will be released on Friday evening.  Check back here then for the details.

‘Adversity is a call to action, and your freedom lies in taking the first step.  Don’t worry about the entire staircase, just take one step, and then tomorrow take another.’

– Kriss Carr