The Lockdown That Is Not

The “End of Freedom” bellows The Daily Telegraph, and yet personal responsibility is the real limit here not what Boris Johnson says.

Allowed out to get essentials like food and medicine (infrequently as possible) and out once a day for exercise seems at odds with work for non key sectors. Working premises not closed employees can go to work while keeping two metres apart from others. Despite being called a national emergency the onus is still on people to act responsibly rather than state coercion.

The moral hazard is clear: when people do not take the threat to themselves seriously it will be of even little consequence the impact of their behaviour on others they care little for. That should concern us all, as we see people on crowded tubes still, and people told to go into work by employers despite not being key workers. The virus will still have plenty of opportunity to spread quickly along commuter routes key workers, including health care workers, depend on.

As mentioned in the previous post, as a caregiver I am self isolating with my asthmatic brother with severe learning difficulties and 72 year old mother. The hair cuts are still nice and short we had the foresight to get weeks ago. However the online grocery deliveries are now gone till mid April, last one comes tomorrow. Through a shut door going to ask if they can note we cannot go shopping, in case there is a priority service down the line. There is talk of the army delivering parcels for people in our situation.

Social isolating is about keeping the two people I love most in the world safe as I can as I look after them. I appreciate others cannot be with their loved ones now. In our own ways we will do what we can to keep our households and families safe.

It is all very well bemoaning people stockpiling essentials, but fears of a lockdown and difficulty getting essentials as people go sick (supply chain and doing the weekly shop) as the virus spreads are rational fears which make the situation worse. Limiting what people could purchase came far too late at supermarkets.

Online you can see plenty of TED talks and other lectures going back ten years warning a pandemic would happen. The need at the local authority level to know what to do, let alone at central government. Nothing compares to when a pandemic hits whatever the planning, and armchair experts having listened to some internet lectures can ask questions and scrutinise those making the decisions but perhaps are not best qualified to take over from them.

Keep your seat and do not add to the panic like saying the Clinical Frailty Scale means young people with learning difficulties will not get critical care treatment. The guidance says it is not validated for them, and is applicable to those aged over 65. I did my best to post that to people concerned on Twitter when the scaremongering was done. Social media will have the ill informed sharing their worries, concerns as much as their incompetence and unwillingness to research before speaking out.

The honest answer is if you watched the film “Contagion”, read the news about SARS, swine flu and bird flu, and did not speak out demanding of your local authority and MP what are you doing to be prepared for a pandemic, then as citizens we have a culpability too in all this. We were told to be worried by experts, and prepare, ages ago.

The only thing we can do now is take the advice given seriously. I do recommend the World Health Organisation not just relying on the UK government advice.

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Sick Times

In a world of Netflix, PlayStation and supermarket deliveries to the door step, self isolating has never been so good thanks to the coronavirus. Assuming you aren’t actually ill. When I had swine flu, courtesy of a work colleague that came back from abroad, it was not fun.

If regular flu is you wouldn’t go outside your house to pick up a £20 note, swine flu is you wouldn’t care if the lounge downstairs was being ransacked by full time female naturists for their cause. You wouldn’t even want to take a peak down the stairs or through the bedroom curtain. All you would ask is they would at least be quiet, and maybe thoughtfully bring you some chilled orange juice before they leave.

It is a bit different now, as a full time caregiver. My disabled brother has life threatening asthma and my elderly mother has weakened kidneys. The most at risk group from coronavirus. Assuming us bunch of economic inactives are not bullied into fruit picking by Home Secretary Priti Patel, we might have to stay away from social settings.

We all decided last week to get haircuts to see us through these uncertain times; you can face anything with a smart haircut. The coffee place next door was unusually deserted, but we could not patronise as they were bleaching the whole floor to kill any lingering virus. The smell should be as reassuring as a hospital corridor. Breathed in for long enough by my asthmatic brother, he would need oxygen during an ambulance ride to A&E.

It is no more trips out to places like the supermarket for the elderly. That is what WHO were recommending. Your number really could be up going to the bingo. So it’s house at home.

So thoroughly wash your hands for 20-30 seconds in a regular and need to basis, boost your immune system by eating healthily (masturbation helps too I read), catch it bin it, sneeze and cough into your elbow if you cannot catch in time, stop touching your mouth, nose and face. Do yourself and others a favour and reduce the spread.

Anything you recommend on Netflix or Prime?

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Tim Farron Resigns As A Persecuted Christian 

Tim Farron had to go as leader of the Liberal Democrats. There are real concerns that the Conservative deal with the Northern Ireland DUP to be a minority government would mean social policy against gay rights and women’s rights being more likely from Theresa May in this parliament. 

Some of Tim Farron’s past statements:

“Abortion is wrong. Society has to climb down from the position that says there is nothing morally objectionable about abortion before a certain time. If abortion is wrong it is wrong at any time.”

“Christianity, I am convinced, is not ‘a bit’ true. It is either not true, or it is so compellingly utterly true, that almost nothing else matters … There is no middle way.”

His Christian conviction led to him supporting faith healing claims without needing evidence, demanding the advertising agency allow as “God can heal people from medical conditions.” Usually, the burden of proof is on those claiming to perform miracles. (More on the above can be read here). 

Tim Farron had a majority of 7,000 odd at the 2015 Election. At the (let us say first just in case) 2017 General Election it went down to exactly 777. God’s own mark of approval?

It was not enough to convince people that he was the right man for the job to promote liberal values when they are in serious threat from a minority Conservative government supported by a fundamentalist protestant party.

Lord Paddick, a former senior Met police officer, had resigned as Home Affairs spokesman. For the record, Lord Paddick is gay and a Christian in a same sex marriage for last eight years. Tim Farron’s views on gay sex during the current campaign had not convinced him to stay on. 

In Tim Farron’s resignation statement, he ended:

“There are Christians in politics who take the view that they should impose the tenets of faith on society, but I have not taken that approach because I disagree with it – it’s not liberal and it is counterproductive when it comes to advancing the gospel.


Even so, I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in.”

We want to count on someone being whole hearted against the fundementalists not someone that wants to be in that number, when the Orange Men come marching in. If your Christianity is at one with the DUP, do not be surprised if you end up being drummed out of the Liberal Democrat party. 

I saw Farron as being a clear break from the coalition government of 2010. I hoped his secularism would mean he could show his liberal finger tips. The problem was he made a fist of it, as he admits. With over 80% of the vote going to the two main parties, and barely getting into double figures in the Commons, his position was untenable. 

Tim Farron suggesting he has been crucified for his Christian faith, is how he can forgive his own sins while leading the Liberal Democrats. After the 2015 General Election there was to be no resurrection this time. Perhaps more a stone has been rolled away. 

Whether anyone comes out of the tomb now to lead the liberal democrats to paradise, is another matter that can now begin. 

Post script:

Some have been stating that Farron’s voting record on gay rights has shown, whatever his beliefs, his secularism meant he always promoted their rights. Here that issue is put to bed: it was not as consistent as one would hope for someone promoting gay rights as an MP. I too had a discussion with Farron a few years back about his past voting record, and he admited “I have since then to show through deeds too.”

 

You can not be a liberal party leader holding views that question homosexuality, no matter how much you claim your religious anti-gay sentiments do not cloud your activism for gay rights. This election was a chance to put right. There were two years to think about, and resolve how to communicate to soothe such concerns. When Theresa May and Michael Gove appear more pro gay then you saying gay sex is not a sin … 

Liberalism tolerates different views. A liberal leader though has to be on the right side of those views in order to challenge how people act and think about people who are oppressed and vilified, for a liberal society to flourish. 

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Manchester And The World Standing Together

Shocking as the Manchester Arena attack last night was, targeting an Ariana Grande pop concert that many children were attending, it should not be surprising. We cannot afford for it to be so to understand what is happening globally. 

The terrorist jihadist mindset has no issue with massacring children in a school or explosives in a park. Nor boarding a schoolbus to put a bullet in the head of a girl that wants an education, and had blogged about how ridiculous Islamic extremists are about veiling women and children. That is just using Pakistan. More from across the world could be mentioned. 

22 are dead and 59 injured in the Manchester attack. Many are children. We might think standing together is a weak cliche response. Yet opening your doors to people left stranded after such an attack is standing together. Taxi’s giving free fares is standing together. Queuing to give blood so supplies do not run out is just that – standing together 

It is what makes the Mancunian heroes and the terrorists losers. They have to get attention for their ideas by killing weak and innocent children. They think they can intimidate and threaten us not to question their extremist Islamic fascist ideology, nor challenge them on the battle field. That the cost will be so much to bear, we will not show our solidarity with other mothers around the world who grieve for their children taken by jihadists. 

They have to be wrong that we will stand aside and let them take over how we think and act. They want to separate Muslims from non Muslims, to create enmity. Thinking of the grieving mothers of Pakistan, Nigeria and so many others, that is never going to happen. For in suffering and pain there is a bond that unites humanity in grief. 

Today is a time to grieve and give what support we can. Whilst the usual suspects will use this to further an agenda of hatred and division because it sells and gets publicity, we cannot ignore the need to tackle the indoctrination and hatred which fundamentalism fuels.

Our anger must be used to ensure the losers do not win, let alone get what they want. 

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Tom Holland on ISIS and others on the Yazidi 


Tom Holland’s “ISIS: The origins of violence” aired this week on channel 4. Through out the film Holland made clear how Muslims were outraged by the violence perpetuated by ISIS. That Koranic, Hadith and Sharia were interpretated in ways most would never dream as an ideal, let alone one to be envisaged in their lifetime. 

When it comes to ISIS, strategies to minimise their importance or any link between them and the Islamic faith are made. Mehdi Hasan described them as “a bunch of thugs” that must not be considered a state, Islamic or a military power in the region. This when they controlled territory the size of England. In the face of global terror attacks organised and inspired by ISIS, this was more than thugs that make you cross the road on a Saturday night. 

The beheadings and crucifixions of ISIS are designed to make us not only appalled and frightened by their savagery, but to remind us of a history closer to the lifetime of Mohammed. As Tom Holland mentions, ISIS justification is that what they do were either done by Mohammed or are justified by appeal to Islam. Whilst a theological context can be made to counter this modern interpretation, a far simpler one is that these were the tortures and punishment of the age when Islam originated. Hence the more shocking they are today.

A reminder of today: mobile video footage of the Paris attack, with people running for their lives as a pregnant woman hanged out of a window at the bataclan. The faces of Yazidi people in Lalish, facing a genocide because they are considered devil worshippers and thus ISIS intend to purge them from the land. For there is one God, and Mohammed is His Prophet. When fanaticism meets monotheism, horrors will terrorise the land as a howling wind blowing over the red soaked dunes. Such acts against a people must not be forgotten, and when being carried out the reasons for not ignored.

In a critique of Tom Holland’s documentary in the Middle East Monitor by Alastair Sloan, the Yazidi are missing. Holland is criticised as being a propagandist for ISIS. Yet I would describe people saying this more like ISIS propagandists:

“ISIS demanded jizya (tax for non-Muslims under an Islamic state) from the Yazidis, who refused to pay, and as a result, were forced to retreat to Mount Sinjar in western Mosul.”

The denial of genocide by Dilly Hussain in the Huffington Post above was called out by me at the time. Yet to ignore there is even an issue involving what ISIS want to do with the Yazidi – cultural genocide by forced conversion or genocide by mass extermination by ISIS – that needs telling and how such the Yazidi are looked at via Islam – as tax dodgers or devil worshippers? The silence is itself a propaganda coup for ISIS. When people refuse to call out genocide, there is a complicity in the actions of others that should make us nauseous. 

Where does Alastair Slogan views on the Yazidi place him? Twitter gives us a glimpse. 

No wonder the Yazidi are not mentioned in the review. It’s “Yazidi hyperbole … hugely exaggerated” used as a “ruse” by America. When you are downplaying the atrocities of ISIS, no wonder it’s Tom Holland you want to focus on.  

Mehdi Hasan though is mentioned in the above critical review, mentioning his view of how ISIS are not religiously observant nor theologically knowledgable. The thieves who have their hands cut off by ISIS would applaud such a sleight of hand if they could at missing the obvious. The reason for ISIS fighting is that they claim to have the right way of living the faith. Jihad comes first, after conquest comes their sharia and Islamic way of life. This you could hear them chanting in the documentary. 

The simplicity of calling Tom Holland an anti-Islamic ideologue for pointing this out does not bare scrutiny. If you are to call anyone who does not believe Mohammed is a prophet, or for believing that the Koran is a text composed by human mammals rather than the whisperingings of an angel, as being anti-Islam, then take a closer look at ISIS. For there is the divide that they wish all Muslims to make between themselves and non-Muslims. If you as a  Muslim do not feel about Islam as they do, you are an apostate. As the destroyed Shia mosque Holland visited bore out, and the graffiti marking where Sunni, Shia and Yazidi had once lived together in peace. 

The Battle for Ideas

Western colonialism was mentioned in the documentary via Napoleon and the bloody French Revolution. How an uprising against monarchy unleashed an imperialism to bring the enlightenment not just to Europe by force, but to Muslims via the invasion of Egypt to plunder its riches as Alexander the Great once did. Religion was meant to be the past, reason the future. Instead what we have seen played out over generations is a battle of ideas, which once had gullitones on the ground and now drones in the air, making their deadly point. Potentially we are all in the cross hairs thanks to the past and how it is reimagined today by all sides. 

Stature in history is measured by some as the height of a statue on a plinth, the western idea of a great man of history by how quickly people will defend what can only be described as savage. One day perhaps, instead of heroes standing on a pile of corpses to deliver their version of a better world, we might look to others as a model to follow. Yet too many are tied  to the idea of an apocalypse to solve humanities woes. One which some pray for, some kill for. 

We need something more than religion or the enlightenment. The drones in the sky and the crosses of ISIS on the ground, are not going to deliver that brave new world. Rather being sick at the destruction humanity is capable of delivering in the name of their vision, is what we need.  

The world is worth fighting for, and so the fight for what makes it a better world goes on. If history shows us anything, it really does matter who wins. 

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Doctor Who and The March for Science

“Sadly, vaccination, climate change and research budgets are political issues.” I have to agree with Robin Ince. Those that have a special interest to go against science are heavily political. They need push back. It will take scientific personalities that can engage the public; that kind of politics is in the public interest. Sometimes to advance science you need to get out of the labs, and in to the streets.

Robinince's Blog

It appears that there is a condition of “Doctor Who fanboy by proxy”. Arriving at the Science museum to take part in the London Science March, there was Peter Capaldi.
It was the beat that my heart skipped.
Not for me, for my son.
He was at home.
He had done his march for the year.
Halfway around on the Women’s March, he had been told to try to be less bored.
‘I am 9 years old, you’d have been bored on a march when you were 9,” he told my wife.
You couldn’t fault his logic.
My son didn’t spot any noticeable or notable Timelords on the Women’s March (though some were there I am told), just a Gandalf, and he hasn’t got into Middle Earth as yet.
I was embarrassed, but there was no choice.
I felt I had to get a photo and an autograph for my…

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TEDxExeter 2017

The lunch interval may have been by default vegetarian, but we have had plenty of meat to get stuck into in the first half of the day at the TEDx 2017. Christina Lamb talking about the bomb attack targeting Bhutto’s motorcade when she returned to Pakistan, and what drives her to tell the stories of defiance and life in the darkest places. The chance to talk to speakers is a big part of TED, and watching the interest and excitement of schoolgirls ask her questions about journalism a reminder of the theme of this TEDx. 

Hope. 

If there is to be any, children having hope that they can write, report and be activists to bring about the promise of hope. To live their lives with hope. Andrew Solomon spoke about how travel had the social function to give you a window and a mirror as you engaged the world. That there was a need to challenge Theresa May’s assertion that there was no such thing as a citizen of the world. We have multiple identities, and they interconnect us with the rest of humanity. 

Nujeen Mustafa spoke about being more than a number as a refugee from Syria. If the name is unfamiliar to you, she is the girl in a wheel chair that left that bloody civil war. Her heartfelt plea for acceptance, an understanding of what makes her different was based on a hope that we all could understand one another. If only we were prepared to do so. 

Videos of the talks will be uploaded on the web – will try and update this blog post when they are. We are only halfway through the sessions for this one day event. 

My thanks to Claire Kennedy, the curator and licensee of TEDxExter, for inviting me to attend. It is one thing watching a TED talk. But being there, just makes it more human. 

Being more in touch with our humanity, is to have more hope. 

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