Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas is jolly - isn't it?

Apparently 51% of Americans think of Christmas as Christian. I'm really surprised. But then away from the coastal cities America is quite an oldfashioned place and still very dominated by Christianity.

Quite simply there's nothing Christian about Christmas except the name. The date, the birth of the Son, the maiden Mother, the Star, the Magi, shepherds, angels, stable/ cave, the animals ... all of it is Pagan. So are Tree, gifts and feasting.
It's fine for Christians to share though. there's plenty for everyone.

It always amuses me the fuss every year about Christmas being "commercial."
This is the Earth quarter of the year. It's all about material survival. So we eat, drink, and are merry because very soon the death rate will peak. Some of those faces around the jolly table won't be there when Spring comes. Making a big display of how strong, vigorous, rich and well fed we are is a great way to reassure ourselves against the coming strain on our bodies.

Gift giving is also an exchange of bonds, about survival. Those we exchange gifts with now are those who we hope to call upon if things go badly wrong in the coming months.

So raise a glass. Smell the piney aroma of the Tree. Eat a treat ... and another. Let the shiny wrappings litter the floor for the cats to chase and crackle.
For tomorrow is another day.

Ignore READ MORE link.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Changing the World

An Australian journo has written a delightful (though disapproving) account of Assange's quasi-religious charisma. (Brendan O'Neill, The Australian)This was something I was already observing with interest too so I thank Mr. O'Neill for collecting the data so industriously.

Oxford English Dictionary: CHARISMA n. compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others: ...from Greek kharisma, from kharis 'favour, grace' (OED online)

The Australian article however mistakenly writes as if Assange does his work alone. He doesn't. Wikileaks was actually more active while he was helpless in solitary confinement.

Assange has explained his personality cult very neatly. “It is my role to be the lightning rod," Assange said. "That is a difficult role. On the other hand, I get undue credit."
(Oct. 2010 CNN)

Agreed Assange has a quasi-religious messianic image but I would say this operates with both his admirers and his attackers. To one side he is a rescuing angelic force to the other a destructive demonic force.

Mr. O'Neill declares "Strikingly, it shows how utterly degraded the idea of truth has become."

Indeed so. For Assange admirers the political process you recommend "political engagement, public debate and critical thinking" have failed. These have little or no influence on the ruling class of each nation.
Instead we have deadly secrets like war crimes, lies about WMD, and enquiries or consultations that merely serve to distract or whitewash. Western societies are more unequal than ever especially the USA and UK.
As a result those who support justice, fairness, equality, who were in despair at the destruction of all these values, now find a blazing inspiration in Assange and Wikileaks.

Should Assange be assassinated as some American leaders have demanded, his messianic myth will never die but grow to haunt Governments for centuries. But if he lives he remains a mighty rallying call. What a dilemma for the ruling classes.
Later edit: Assange has referred today to being a messiah without dying. He says this is a positive way to do it! (BBC interview Humphreys)

On the other side they see him as demonic. A techno-wizard superman villain who suddenly whips his cloak aside to reveal their nastiness. How scary. They got used to neatly hiding their foul doings and suddenly it’s not so easy.

The ruling class for now and some time to come is under pressure to take responsibility for what they have done.
When that includes 20,000 ordinary people including children, killed illegally in war crimes, it is difficult to see the downside. Except for the rich ruling class.

Who have not yet managed to point to one death caused by Wikileaks’ exposures.

I'll end this with an excerpt from the BBC interview.

Q: You want to change the world?

JA: Absolutely. The world has a lot of problems
and they need to be reformed. And we only live once. Every person who has some ability to do something about it, if they are a person of good character, has the duty to try and fix the problems in the environment which they're in.

That is a value, that, yes, comes partly from my temperament. There is also a value that comes from my father, which is that capable, generous men don't create victims, they try and save people from becoming victims. That is what they are tasked to do. If they do not do that they are not worthy of respect or they are not capable.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Health - or a new trainset?

The NHS is facing cuts of £20n billion.

Pain clinics are closing. Hip and joint ops are cut. Diagnostics cut so you find out too late what's wrong. Women are giving birth on the floor or alone, screaming in pain and at risk.

The new high speed rail ink London Birmingham will cost £17 billion.
That's its estimated cost so it will come out more in the end.

The train will save just 30 mins journey time.
Only it won't, because you'll arrive at a new station outside the centre of Birmingham and have to get a shuttle into the centre.
Green benefit is uncertain or negligible.

Which would you rather have - one high speed train connection or thousands of hip replacements, pain clinics, diagnostics and nurses?

Remember those who decide these cuts don't use the NHS. Ministers and MPs have private medicine paid for by our taxes in their pay packets.

Our taxes also pay to train most of the doctors, nurses and other staff in private hospitals. Private hospitals should pay an extra income tax by the employer on all their staff, to go straight into training NHS nurses doctors etc.

But do think about how we'll benefit from a shiny new train with so many more people being crippled and in great pain. The two projects cost around the same.

The Boys and the Banks

The Telegraph is worried that we're bashing our banks instead of backing them as we should.

I'm truly amazed. We ARE "backing" the banks. Isn't that what this massive billions of pounds bailout is?
Aren't we going to be paying this off for the next 5 years minimum, but more like a decade - so as to support the banks?

The case for regulating the banks is ... that if they don't offer investors a safe and stable system they won't get investment. No one wants to put their money in an organisation that might any minute crash into rescue mode by its government.

The banks messed up our economy. Now I don't actually blame them for that so don't all yell at me as a bank basher. Like any other company a bank is about making money.
But the trouble is if all the banks are left to do that in the short term it can wreck the economy in the long term, as just happened. Short term self interest is not enough but in the heat of competition that is exactly what dominates.

So something else has to come into play and the only other component in the economy powerful enough to tweak the banks is government.
This is what we had pre-Thatcher and it worked very well indeed. Then the lady let the boys out to play with no rules in the playground.

I wouldn't worry about the banks threats to move top staff elsewhere. They will have great difficulty going anywhere that might attract them. Who wants a bunch of boyos who's messed up?
Of course they might find a home in some nasty little third rate dictatorship but I doubt that's what they want after playing the game in London.

Oh dear are they hiring 7,000 staff abroad? Hadn't you heard that's what they are doing anyway? It's called call centres, and outsourcing. Welcome to globalisation.

Poor diddums is there a nasty "spiteful 50p top tax rate"?
Well it might be a good idea if the top rate tax payers actually PAID their tax. Then there might be less hacking at the NHS, or higher tuition fees and so on - and less prospect of riots in the streets.

After all having to use gulags to control public protests, and running violence levels unsafe for visitors isn't good for business dontcha know!

As for bonuses shouldn't the banks be putting this extra money aside in case things go poopy again? Mama Government isn't made of money you know and she's about bankrupted by the last cleanup job she did for you when you browned your trousers.

Thank heavens for A. Merkel, German banks with good sense and EU mechanisms to enforce it. Angie baby is just not going to stand for any more nonsense and neither are her people. Since they're the only ones left with any money in the game you better listen to what the lady wants.
Which is regulation.

Telegraph article here

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Rape and responsibility

Erik on his blog Aktivarum asks some useful questions.

I had said there:
The whole point of rape is that the person raped is controlled.”

Erik asked:
How do you know this?

Erik I’m a woman coming to the end of a long life. Like most women I have coped with attempted rape in my time. The aim of rape activity was to control my choice, to block off my ability to say No.

I do not say that someone being rough is a rapist. As long as there is enough restraint on the force used for the other partner to say No/ or move away and be left alone, it’s not rape.

If you take the component of force or control out of a rape situation it is no longer rape. Control defines rape as rape.

Erik said:
For instance when a guy with bad hangover wakes up in the same bed as a really ugly woman whose name he doesn't know…. Society doesn't call it rape.”

That’s true and it’s a good example. I could use an easy feminist dismissal and say why is the woman judged on her appearance?
This is valid, but it has two answers.
One is that with someone we barely know it has to be a case of judgement on appearances. Maybe if this man spent a few hours more with her he might discover her briliance, her wit, her kindness - or her good cooking! Though giving that time would make it harder to get away if he didn't discover something to compensate.

Yes compensate. For although I agree with feminism I don't want women or anyone else to be judged wholly on appearances, the reality is that that is what we do. As animals, and as civilised complex humans.
I judge men by appearances too of course. Over my life I chose my lovers in a sort of sex market where I made bids on lovers I wanted. As on Ebay I have to match what I want with my own resources - and in the sex market my resources include my appearance.
This is another whole topic so for now enough to say that I have no objection to being a body and judged as one. I do think that women are far too heavily seen as bodies and little more than that.

To return to Erik's question then -
For instance when a guy with bad hangover wakes up in the same bed as a really ugly woman whose name he doesn't know…. Society doesn't call it rape.”

I would answer the same way that I look at the case of a drunken woman, out of control, who gets raped.
Society has generally said that this is her fault and she cannot claim rape. Very recently there is debate about this, where some assert that a man must not take advantage of a very drunk women, so it is rape.
I say that it is a situation created jointly. Both are at fault.
A woman is stupid to an extreme if she gets very drunk so that she erases her ability to stay in control EXCEPT when among a safe group of friends, or a trusted lover.
But a man is a rapist if he takes advantage of her.

Perhaps we need a new crime of “failure to exercise due caution.” This would apply not only to rape but also bag snatching, car theft, burglary, personal assault. We would have certain clear conditions where we understand that the victim is cooperating and even provoking potential crime.

In fact we do have this concept in insurance claims. If I leave my car unlocked, even more in certain ‘rough’ locations, I am partly responsible for a theft. If the car is found with no sign of forced entry I’m going to have difficulty making an insurance claim.

I would like a strong message to go out to young women that being alone with any man at all you do not know well, is unsafe. A legal offence would help.

You need to know where the door is, check regularly your access to your exit is not blocked, and check who is nearby if you need to yell for help. This is not silly or neurotic and it need not be dramatic any more than looking both ways before crossing the road is silly, neurotic or dramatic. It’s just routine common sense.
Unfortunately any suggestion that men should be regarded as anything except shining princes, causes hysteria.

Men are even more unsafe if you are intoxicated, or wearing clothes that expose your cleavage, central body or upper thighs. These are more conditions that a woman can use to protect herself. Neglecting them causes risk.

This analysis is the basis of the frequently misunderstood Radical Feminist cry “All men are rapists.” In reality they are not, but from a woman’s point of view we cannot know for sure about any individual man. Until it is too late.

If we are to take responsibility for our own safety and not be silly girls who expect men to be always nice and sweet, we must protect ourselves by being careful – of all men you don’t know very well indeed. He could be your rapist if you yourself don’t take reasonable precautions.
Girls should be taught by family, school and by legal code to use the protections available to them, because we cannot know if a man can be trusted until we know him very well indeed.

But reasonable precautions – covering the central body, keeping a clear head, being within shouting distance of others, avoiding unsafe areas, even being elderly or ugly, or a child, or heavily pregnant, are not enough to protect us. Being uncovered, or drunk, drugged, alone and in certain risky places, all make it easier for a man to rape.
None of these things makes a man rape.
What makes him rape is his own defects. For that he is criminally responsible.

But it is still not quite that simple. If we made a victim crime of “failure to exercise due caution” we would need to make allowance for very young women because it takes time to learn the skill of drinking safely, retaining self control. Until 21 I do not think she can be held to be fully skilled about alcohol and if she can prove she only started drinking a short time ago, even older.
It also takes time to learn about unsafe places, and to become calmly aware of being alone with a man in a cautious way. It’s not easy to recognise that the perfectly nice person chatting with you is quite possibly listening for when the last person has left the office and you should now leave too, or else invite him to a public place where you are not alone and at risk. It’s even harder to do this analysis and not act stressed about it so you spoil a possibly very nice friendly situation.But that is what a sensible woman has to do. All part of adult social skills.

Comparing this analysis of double responsibility to the situation of drunken sex with an ugly woman is instructive.
There is a close similarity of the young man being too drunk to retain control and stay in command of his choices. Under my analysis he has not exercised due control and caution. So he carries his side of the responsibility.
Like the drunken girl, unable to deny or consent, who is raped, the drunk man with a lover he would not normally choose, is at risk of STD or AIDs if he was too drunk to use a condom.
He may feel a strong regret that this sex event happened. Interestingly, because he is used to the idea that he is responsible for what he does, he will most likely feel he has been a fool.

But does he feel profoundly shamed?
Does he remember this event for the rest of his life and suffer years of personal struggling to overcome its destructive effects on his overall self confidence? Some rape victims never do recover.
Will it make him afraid to go near another woman sexually for months? perhaps year? perhaps for life?
Will he need copious amounts of support from friends, family and ideally a good counsellor in order to recover from the experience?
Will he get pregnant? If he does might he have to bear the child because he cannot morally abort it?

I might be look at this partially blinded by a female perspective. Perhaps men DO suffer from extreme reactions that last for years or lifelong and devastate their lives if they drunkenly sleep with an ugly woman. I doubt it.
Why do I doubt it?
Well because I once long ago did just that. Afterwards what upset me was how to reject further advances without being nasty about it. But I never once felt raped, or dominated, or exploited. I felt totally responsible for what I did.

I felt ashamed yes but only of being stupid, and thoughtless so I caused hurt to another person. I didn’t feel shamed and sickened by being invaded in my most personal inner self. It didn’t weaken me and disrupt my ability in other areas of my life.
That’s the difference.

Radical Feminism

Radical Feminism is a Marxist perspective? This couldn’t be more wrong. Heavens – is this the way things have been twisted for a later generation?

Radical Feminism simply asserts that I as a woman need to explore putting my own needs first – as a woman.
That’s it. Plain and simple.
It arose out of a rejection of Socialist Feminism ...
which at the time (1970s) was being trapped in the male trade unions’ demand that women “wait until after the revolution.” Some of us decided this was going to be a very long wait. We didn’t want to go on licking envelopes and certaiun parts of male activist bodies as our part in activism.
So we said No! we are going to put women’s issues at the top of the queue if we want.

Note Radical Feminism does not say that men’s needs do not matter, nor am I required to always put my needs, women’s needs first. I am just required to CONSIDER my needs/ women’s needs to see if it is my decision to put them first.

In fact I personally found that after several years of Radical Feminism, once I found my strength as a woman, it came naturally to recognise that men deserved equal consideration. But it was impossible to see that when I was weakened and up against a very patriarchal society as a young girl. In that condition all I saw was males blocking me or trying to use me on every side. I had to learn to be able to put myself first before I could support men as well.
Again Radical Feminism is about learning that women can, and often should, come first. Not every time, not unthinkingly, but as a very very important point to check.

I agree with those who say Radical Feminism is not “into fairness.” It is a medicinal antidote against the balance being set against us as women. The way to correct it is to push hard the other way.
I also agree with critics who say this is dangerous. If Radical Feminists do not truly access strength but instead get stuck in resentment and complaining then they are a pain to themselves and to others. Manhating is perfectly logical – so many men behave atrociously. But to get stuck in it poisons the woman and obviously is unfair to decent men.

As Radical Feminists our desire is power. With power comes a greater sense of safety and control. That in turn brings greater fairness and compassion to our thinking.

Radical Feminists never ignored biological issues. The opposite.
To us biology is extremely important. So much so that to me it is impossible for women and men to be completely equal – we are too different. In many situations yes it is equal, but when being female/ male – it is females that get pregnant, have abortions, give birth, breastfeed. These differences change our needs on each side.

With such very different needs we have inevitable conflict. We need to learn the other side, and try to balance the needs. In some cases though there is no real compromise e.g. abortion, which cannot be ‘fair’ to both.

Assange sex case full data

The Guardian (UK) published full information on the exact basis of the Swedish sex charges against Julian Assange (Wikileaks) who has recently been released from solitary confinement in the UK.
Mr. Assange is still on tightly controlled bail in the UK pending possible extradition but until now no clear information has appeared about the basis of the charges. The account that follows is excerpted from the Swedish prosecutor's (leaked) records.
See the full Guardian account Here I give the most pertinent excerpts plus a balanced gender analysis.

Miss A "tried to put on some articles of clothing as it was going too quickly and uncomfortably but Assange ripped them off again". Miss A told police that she didn't want to go any further "but that it was too late to stop Assange as she had gone along with it so far", and so she allowed him ..."

"[S]he had tried a number of times to reach for a condom but Assange had stopped her by holding her arms and pinning her legs.
" Assange then released her arms and agreed to use a condom "

[Miss A also alleges he somehow deliberately tore the condom.]
Miss A held a party for him on that evening "
Assange was still staying in her flat but they were not having sex because he had "exceeded the limits of what she felt she could accept" and she did not feel safe.

Miss W told police that though they started to have sex, Assange had not wanted to wear a condom, and she had moved away because she had not wanted unprotected sex. Assange had then lost interest, she said, and fallen asleep. However, during the night, they had both woken up and had sex at least once when "he agreed unwillingly to use a condom".

Early the next morning, Miss W told police, she had gone to buy breakfast before getting back into bed and falling asleep beside Assange. She had awoken to find him having sex with her, she said, but when she asked whether he was wearing a condom he said no.
"According to her statement ... "she couldn't be bothered to tell him one more time because she had been going on about the condom all night.

Miss A did what many of us women do far too often by cooperating with sex which was not 100% welcome. We women do that when we don't fully want it because
a) we have not freed ourselves from the idea we ought to do as he wishes; or
b) we are deeply reluctant to rouse male anger once sex has got going; or
c) because we are simply having mixed feelings of like/ not like.

This is a difficult area but ultimately it's up to us women to learn to be more assertive. Unless we are definitely under threat and too intimidated to speak or move away, we should do just that. If we are intimidated into silence we need to get away from the man completely, which only leaves the case of compliance in fear of our life or injury then or later, to count as rape.

That she temporarily had her legs pinned is worth consideration but extremely ambiguous. It could have been horseplay, or pushiness by the man. Miss A later used the word "violent" to a friend about it. Chatting with a friend is not like legal court evidence so it was a loosely used word. It is certainly too strong a word for something that apparently left no injury.

The crucial item here is that the man stopped before the forcefulness went too far. After both expressed their differences he did as she wished.

Allowing the man to stay in her flat with her for the rest of the week, but without sex, suggests Miss A did in fact retain control of her situation, and was not living at the mercy of a rapist. The later part of the account then makes it clear that what she really wanted was for him to leave, but she did not say so.
Most women will find such insensitivity familiar and infuriating while most men will find it a normal misunderstanding, Assange did not pick up on her wishes telepathicaly.

Miss W had a lover unwilling to use a condom. Ungentlemanly but then many men are.
She couldn't be bothered to insist on a condom in the morning when she was by her own statement "half-asleep." If she couldn't be bothered she can hardly complain later.
Possibly again those difficult mixed feelings muddled things.

It was up to her to insist on her own wishes. It is not up to another person to obey us in our wishes every time and give us a gift wrapped (sex) package of exactly what we want. They have wishes of their own and differences in desire need constant negotiation.

We women must be more assertive about what we want - and more honest with ourselves about our mixed feelings. We cannot rely on others to protect us with gentlemanly polite behaviour levels, especially if we don't know each other well. If we are half reluctant half involved it its up to us to choose the half we act on.

One problem seems to be that the man concerned appears to have been totally focused on the political activism to at first realise that he had offended the women.
It is understandable that this was hurtful and annoying to them. It's an uncomfortable stereotype that a woman is waits on the side until the man has time and attention for her. Byron proclaimed "Man's love is of man's life a thing apart,: 'Tis woman's whole existence" but that was 200 years ago. Westernised people have assumed different attitudes lately.

On his part, much preoccupied, Assange quickly assumed their uproar was a CIA "honeypot" trap. This was a reasonable assumption, something predictable in the life he was then living politically. He has said that he and his organisation is under constant attack to the point where 85% of their budget goes on the attack problems, whether hacking or legally. Many commentators have since agreed with him that this Swedish case is politically driven.

He seems therefore not to have taken the women's complaints seriously even when the prosecutor's office first became involved (although he did do what was legally required of him). It is regrettable but understandable that he brushed the women's complaints aside. In his view he had not been violent or dominating.

He had argued, been pushy and persuasive, but in the end each time the woman insisted, he'd done as she wished. When she didn't insist he did as he preferred.
Therein lies the lesson.

There is no rape here and no assault. There may be a combination of a pushy man reluctant to wear a condom, who did it only when the woman pushed him to; and on the other hand women who were not strong enough and insistent enough to make it clear to him what they wanted, every time. Being aggrieved that they were somewhat like groupies, and he was far more interested in his work than in them, could not have helped.

Negotiating, "sorting it out" can be a bit rough and requires a lot of insisting unless we deal with weak people (who then get back at us indirectly). Deal with it.

Based on an article first submitted to OpEd News shortly after the Guardian data was freshly released Dec. 17: submission is now out of time limit.