Qualified Fix

Liberal Democracy
Modern Slavery
Internal Inquiry
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Public Service
Inclusive Capitalism
Market Value
Feral Youth
Collateral Damage
Unbiased Truth
Human Rights
International Law
Independent Inquiry
United Nations
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Special Measures
Necessary Evil
Human Shield
Shared Intelligence
Justified Ends
PR Stunt
My (Right) Honourable Friend

We’re really in affix
When pretending that
A qualifier gets us out of it.

Lies – 24/7

Monday’s lie is bare of face
Tuesday’s lie sets out its case
Wednesday’s lie is scare all fools
Thursday’s lie invents the tools
Friday’s lie is for profit with menace
Saturday’s lie enjoys playing tennis
But the lie that is born on the Seventh Day
Doth bless all the rest with contempt anyway.

Possession of perception is nine tenths of political lore

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” ~ William James

It’s said that perception is everything. And then getting in first with a neat narrative to solidify it. Or creating it from the get-go. Possession of perception is nine-tenths of political lore. World leaders, political and/or commercial, who hold sway, certainly understand this, don’t they? They’re all over what-if abstractions and interpretations of real events like a nasty rash. Their first thoughts seem to be how can we spin this to our advantage? How many birds with this stone? Where and what is our leverage? Their first actions seem to be good day to bury bad news. Quick! Do X while everyone’s looking at Y. You know the drill. It’s so predictable. They are so predictable.

Cynicism begets cynicism. I watch Obama, Cameron, Farage, Merkel, Bibi, Abbott, Harper, Clinton… – heck, all the usual suspects – and I’m thinking: can s/he even hear the words coming out of that orifice? Of course, if they’re using the wrong one then that is an anatomical challenge for the ears but, holy Horus! what are they on? Just how stupid do they think we are?

It’s obviously working though because just look at the readiness with which so many people buy into the propaganda. It doesn’t matter what it is: the eternal conflicts, the economy, austerity, social security, unions, celebrity gossip, statistical data, ‘think’ tanks, environment, religion, yada, yada – the naivety or eagerness to simply accept the say-so of mainstream journalists, news broadcasters, politicians and all their peripheral kin is disturbing, to say the least. Plus, it’s keeping us from moving beyond this rotten status quo. But some of us really are busy being that stupid. (Or busy benefitting from this inertia.) Though, to be fair, we’re all stupid sometimes, that does not give our leaders the right to assume that we are; to insult what intelligence we do have with such impunity; to take advantage of our ignorance and confusion, does it? No. But our ignorance and confusion are the source of power by which they thrive.

We live in an age where it is perfectly possible, almost reasonable, even, to simultaneously believe everything and nothing, however fleetingly. We also have a remarkable capacity to believe whatever fits our preconceptions so we have a tendency to be selectively deaf and blind to nuance and updated information. We have, too, a gift for stripping away context and connective causes from effects, such is our ability to isolate an event. In this, we are not just a mirror to our global leaders: we are their enablers.

A great many citizens still get their half-hour gloss of ‘agenda setting’ mainstream news once or twice a day and are content, having faith in the service. Many people still have little or no online access to alternative reporting and opinion and, even when they do, a great deal more perhaps don’t have the inclination, or the time to make deeper, wider checks on information. And, let’s face it: tracking the facts in a trail of spin, absorbing different interpretations, finding the news that is not being reported – that’s a full-time activity for which there are never enough hours in a day. Even so, how can anyone still so blindly swallow the mainstream news as though it were the entirety of a story? As though it were the only reality? It is a distressing irony that, in this most sophisticated age, critical thinking should become so dulled.

For whatever reason below that barely scratched surface, too many of us don’t listen properly and don’t think enough. Some think so much, irrespective of what is said, that conspiracy becomes their default take-away. Some just close their eyes, stick their fingers in their ears and hope their mind goes away. And still, some hang on to every word with an almost unshakeable faith, such is their trust in and deference to ‘Authority’. We are lazy and complacent. We are terrified and frozen. We are furious but fearing impotence. We are ill-served and vulnerable. The very states that assist our dear leaders in their win-win games.

Now, we don’t know everything. We don’t really need to. We can’t hold even the things we already do know to the front of our minds all the time. I rarely bother trying beyond those occasions when some factoid or other is a useful weapon of banter or I’m expecting a test. Besides, why would I care what Royal Mail’s share price is except to make some in-the-moment point: I didn’t want it sold in the first place. What difference does it really make where gets fracked if I’m against fracking in the first place?

Don’t get me wrong: I like facts and I know evidence matters. But I like principles first. I believe they need to be established before policy and action because determining them with any measure of confidence requires a reconciliation between the heart and the mind. No, not in the ‘British values’ sense but in the more universal sense of fundamental humanitarian propositions. Principles are the keystone of practical personal philosophy, civic prosperity and good, sound Law, be it domestic or international. If what I read, see and hear offends my personal sense of them, I become instantly impatient: the he-said-she-said facts and details are rendered superfluous beyond political one-upmanship and most often provide a distraction from the wider, deeper point that is really being signposted. I reckon that if we agree some basic, yet higher principles, beyond the diluted or self-righteous ones our leaders conjure up, then the best way forward would be much more clearly defined and less easily abused. International Law, for instance, is a moveable feast, the Law being cherry-picked and defined as whatever the strongest section of the globe (currently the US and her cronies) says it is.

For example, albeit loosely: I would rather we decided whether we agreed that withdrawal of labour was a right or not (it is) before we discuss union thresholds or how they influence a political party. I would rather we agreed on what constitutes sovereign integrity and self-determination before we castigate peaceful demographics for demanding it; or subjugated populations for violently protesting their occupation. I’d rather we agreed that heinous acts required a criminal investigation before applying punishments which may be politically expedient and rather misdirected. I’d rather we re-evaluated what is meant by ‘free’ or ‘fair’ trade before corporate machinery is invited to influence, nay, shape treaties. I’d rather we decided whether we agreed on the right of individual autonomy over our own bodies such as affords a woman the right to contraception and abortion; a person the right to ask for an assisted death before the myriad criteria of procedure be determined. I’d rather we defined what and who the State is before we allow governments to exercise any more arbitrary power over us. And I could go on, of course.

I’m sick of our political class telling us what we should believe, who we can trust, how things are, what needs to be done. They don’t know and what they do know really ain’t worth many beans. I’m especially sick of leaders wilfully forgetting their own hypocrisy while throwing their weight around in mock indignation and expecting us to just accept it and support them. And I’m truly sickened by the creeping sense that somehow I could be unpatriotic if I won’t or can’t.

Perception is nine-tenths of the truth. But which truth? Based on whose perception? Yours, mine, ours or some bozo leaders who claim, empirically, to know this and that but invariably turn out not to know very much at all and are nonetheless still hell-bent on their course, despite destroying the world with their twisted convictions and agendas?

“.. every event is utterly pointless, every object intensely unreal, every self-styled human being a clockwork dummy, grotesquely going through the motions of work and play, of loving, hating, thinking, of being eloquent, heroic, saintly, what you will – the robots are nothing if not versatile” ~ Aldous Huxley

[For display – do not swallow]

Sowing seeds of hate
Sowing hate to mow
Cultivating a patch
For constant dispatch
To promotional shows
[For display – do not swallow]
For sowing and feeding
And hoeing and mowing
A harvest each cycle
Makes hatred keep growing

Twatitude

The twatitude
Of ‘leaders’ in their snappy crappy attitudes
Is evidently present in their double-meaning platitudes
Compounded by the scribal hounds, so happy in their lassitude,
They sound the propaganda ’til its latitude has magnitude.

Void of course

Obliteration
Void of course
From false flag
To red rag
From spin to force
From the rage of
Hapless acts
To the choke of tyrants raining bombs,
That knock before they ‘mow’

A World aghast
And how!
It’s even raining people now

Hope falling low
So thick and fast
Life, running for itself
As herded, numbered stock
Literally

And going where?

For the cult of cunning folk
Flocks there
To grandstand
Numb and shock
And finger point with speculations
Accusations cast
Until the facts sit
False witness fit

Brace
For the horror show
A perfect captive audience
At the cutting edge of frozen hearts
And hottest heads

Keep watching

Tragedy
On tragedy
Heaped upon tragedy

Life’s long and shameful death

You know:
There is nowhere to go

Assisted Dying: Whose Soul?

I’m all for a law which permits an assisted death. I’m also for ‘living wills’ to be legally respected. I’m for these on the principle of Free Will which, at the most basic level of physical existence, means the right to do with my body as I see fit, for me. If I make a ‘mistake’ then that is my consequence. Yes, probably we could get into an elongated set of what-if overrides – throwing your body in front of a train, for example: that obviously inflicts consequences on others, as does sprinting naked at your child’s school sports day. I’ve done neither of those, by the way. But, for the purposes of assisted dying – as with abortion – I am pro-choice. I think only those personally and directly affected have any right to try to effect a different choice. By persuasion, that is, not coercion.

I’d read and heard a variety of statistics and opinions on both sides of the argument and, last weekend, was about to write my own take on assisted dying when I read Desmond Tutu’s wonderful essay on the subject and thought why bother: no point in reiterating what has already been so well told. I didn’t disagree with a word of it. I contented myself with scribbling a bit of verse instead.

The debate rolled on, in the Press, on the TV and Social Media. The whole spectrum of opinion flowed. Well, I say spectrum but really it was pretty much a polarisation of those who, roughly, were: a) pro the right to an assisted death, either on principle alone and/or by direct experience of the fear and practicalities of a drawn out and painful end and, b) those who were against the principle entirely, based mostly on religious grounds and/or those of the slippery slope persuasion who may or may not be against the basic principle. It was harder to discern the motives behind the slippery slope what-ifs of the anti group beyond the understandable fear of this callous government and a justifiable lack of trust in Institution. The emotional/mental blackmail pressures of culture, family and friends notwithstanding, if this group had trust in State actors, those who at the moment feel vulnerable at the mere thought of this Bill being passed: would they still be against it? That question didn’t get air.

As you know, I, myself, also loathe and rather fear the potential of this government but I’m concerned, too, about the Human Right afforded by this Bill and the Tory future is nowhere near sufficiently guaranteed – however it looks in the near-term – to make me couch my life within a projection of their force-fed ideas.

So, the whole assisted suicide debate was depressing and reassuring by turn. I thought again to write something more than another blunt verse and then I came across Polly Toynbee’s excellent post. Again, I agreed with everything, from the merciful release to the financial aspects to the inadequacy of the proposed law. The requirement of having less than six months to live shows that this Bill, while welcome as the best shot yet, rather misses another justification for it, relevant in so many other scenarios – the unbearable suffering endured by those who don’t fit the “terminally ill” criteria, a point which has always been of equal motivation behind the desire for a law of permission. This Bill does not actually go far enough. Polly is one of a very few to point this out.

Anyway, between her and Desmond Tutu, (there were others) just about everything I would want to say was said. From his “what does it mean to be alive” question to Polly’s “we all stand on slippery slopes, if the alternative is to stand at an extreme at either end.”

What on earth could be left to express, then?

Well, this: Desmond Tutu is a man of Faith and Polly Toynbee is an atheist. As a consequence there is a gap that neither has addressed. The former because it would drastically reduce the hold that orthodox religions have on their flocks; the latter because the absence of belief in the notion of ‘god’ rather precludes the need for consideration, whether or not it is on her radar. The gap, however, is of great importance and, to me, it is glaring.

Just whose soul do the religious antis believe is of concern? Whose soul do they think they are saving and what makes them think they have an obligation or even a right to do so? Is it just their own individual souls they are watching out for or an anxiety for the soul of the individual making a choice they disapprove of? Do they fear that their own soul is at risk of collective punishment or is it out of concern for a collective soul; Humanity entire? Whatever, it’s utopian/fascistic, egotistical and surely impossible. To me, anyway. To believe that god holds one individual responsible for another’s act is to disregard Free Will. To imagine that God will punish us all collectively for our sins, à la flood is subscribing to a ‘creator god’ who is in control of everything and that negates Free Will. These are ancient hypotheses which provide no more certainty today than they ever did. Just as we can understand the concept of ‘Free Will’ as ‘autonomy’ or ‘sovereignty’ without getting distracted by a theo-philosophical discussion of whether it really exists, we can debate cause and effect and cultural changes versus moral decline without bringing religious doctrine into a discussion. It serves no extra help in the lawmaking of a secular society.

Besides, either ‘god’ is everything or god is not at all. If god is everything then we are all god(s) – parts of a sum. In which case, there are as many paths to ‘god’ as there are Beings and each can be responsible only for its own soul. Ultimately, then, it is ourselves to whom we must answer.

Minding the soul and free will of others is not what is meant by ‘brother’s keeper’. The Law, as made by humans may have jurisdiction over rule and punishment in the physical plane but no one has such spiritual jurisdiction over another individual. There is no such thing as vicarious atonement either. At-one-ment: “Middle English (originally in the sense ‘make or become united or reconciled’): from at one in early use; later by back-formation from atonement.” Our karma is our own to own.

Now, you don’t have to believe in any god to see that this patriarchal guarding of other people’s souls for their own sake is a major hook for organised religion and that, as Orthodox Religion has such a weighted voice of influence in the House of Lords, in this particular debate and in setting the terms of any potential law, the ‘sanctity of life’ must not be theirs to own and define beyond their own doctrine. Archbishop Justin Welby thinks that “true compassion suffers with all, including those whom we do not know or might never meet” and uses this like a race to the bottom chestnut to argue against the Bill. As though we all have to suffer together. He seems to have missed the nuances between compassion, sympathy and empathy. It reminds me of the way the Church has taken “the poor will always be with you” line as an inevitability that must be endorsed. Orthodox Religion depends greatly on it. So, although Religion is still a representative voice to many and has every right to advocate its interests and opinions, it has no right to claim a monopoly over Faith, itself, nor what is ‘moral’. Their belief is not the Authority. Not in Law. Not any more.

There is a chasm between immoral and/or unlawful coercion and healthy efforts at persuasion whose limits are recognised and respected. We can wring our hands and gnash our teeth all we like at some of the decisions of those we care about and sometimes – often, even – it’s agonising to witness their self-inflicted suffering but that, as they say, is Life. To knowingly coerce another into acting against his/her Will just because one personally believes s/he is making a wrong or ‘sinful’ choice, is quite wicked. To deliberately manipulate another’s Will specifically for one’s own agenda is a dark art. This Bill is about giving access to individuals to make a specific personal choice on his/her own behalf. No one else’s choice; no one else’s behalf.

On Doctors ‘playing god’- they do this all the time if you think about it. So do plenty of people in many other fields. The maxim: first do no harm must surely include a doctor not prolonging the suffering of an individual, especially if that individual is asking for help to make that suffering stop. We know that many do help already, within their current capacities. So, as with abortion when first legalised, even if many doctors are currently against this, there will also be those prepared to see this as midwifery at the other end of physical life and, therefore, part of a good health service. What is being proposed is not a law of compulsion but a law of access to an important, personal request. It is not intended as a replacement for other types of palliative care and it is not intended as a method of eradicating assisted living, both of which can and should be improved. Its purpose is just to make available another choice.

The debate is welcome and well overdue. The obvious concerns about safeguarding against abuse and pressure, of which we are all very aware and would all be keen to address, regardless of personal positions held: these are a vital part of making good, sound Law. While Welby is correct to say it “would be naive to believe.. that such pressure could be recognised in every instance”, that is the case with many aspects of life – the concept of marriage is not undermined because some people are forced into a marriage. And, no, of course I’m not suggesting a direct like-for-like comparison of circumstance.

Good, sound Law is always based on a principle and that is what we should debate and come to a conclusion about first. Creating a safe, practical method comes after. The principle is simple: Do you believe that you have a right to do with your body as you see fit and, if you do, do you believe that an assisted death, requested by a compos mentis individual who fits a legally structured criteria, is part of decent and compassionate healthcare? Maybe because, although you wouldn’t avail yourself of such a service you still respect that right of service existing for others who would; maybe because you already know you will need it one day and, just knowing you could get it would make each preceding day more bearable and may save you from cutting your life even shorter as you balance length of time with the dwindling capacity to end it all entirely by yourself; maybe because, although you’re fine now, that ‘just in case’ card is an insurance of enormous comfort.

Traditionally, we humans make a great deal out of respecting last wishes. We’re all going to die. But how? If I am ever so unfortunate as to want and need to ask for help to do so before Nature takes me, I hope my dying wish is at least respected by both the Law and my doctors.

Will Pit

Stop trying to save me!
Are your Will and conscience
Greater than are mine?
Are they more refined,
Correct, important,
Valuable or something?
Do you actually presume
To tell me your design for me
Is better than the one
My own Self does perceive?

For,
Is it not conceivable to you
That, as an adult, what I deem
Acceptable for me to do should
Be of no concern to you unless
My doing is a harm upon another?

And,
If that should be the case:
Aren’t you persuaded that the Law
Or ‘God’ would have more
Sanctionable right to punish me
Or stay my Will than you,
My would-be keeper?

Do you think my Soul is cheap?
That I could sell my rights
To my own path? That I’d be
Daft enough to offer shares in it
Or that I’d want to tread on yours?
I wouldn’t dare! I care about Free Will
Too much – yes, yours as well –
I wouldn’t dream to consciously
Manipulate a person’s state
For my own gain. Nor will I let you,
Through some misplaced fear
Or righteous indignation, win that game.

Condone or not – that’s up to you
But neither force your view or worse:
Make out you’re worried for my Soul!

I’ll check the causes and effects that
I collect as mine – for one alone, can
One atone – our karma is our own to
Own so you, pal: you should go, take
Care of thine.