Our Messed Up World…

Right then world. Stop what you’re doing, that’s it, drop everything and listen up. I’ve got just a few complaints. I’m just a little fed up with how awful things are at the moment and I need to get it off my chest.

Firstly and foremostly; the straw which has broken the dam. Anyone in the UK is probably already painfully aware of this. Yesterday a man was killed in Woolwich, London. That’s the simplest way of putting it. This man was a soldier in our armed forces, and was wearing a Help for Heroes t-shirt. That seems to be what singled him out for this horrendous attack. Two men, armed with knives, cleavers and machetes, killed him, then waited by his body, spouting political and religious statements until the police arrived.

Seriously. What the fuck?

Sorry, this isn’t a swearing blog. I’m just so angry and sad that this has happened. I’m sad for the man’s family, friends and colleagues. I’m furious that other members of our armed forces have been advised to cover their uniforms in public, although latest reports suggest that advice is about to be reversed. I have so much respect for our armed forces and for the work they do. The police too, and the fire and ambulance services; all of these people who work not for a profit, but for the good of their country and its people – us. Any attack on them is an attack on the United Kingdom, and I don’t think I’m the only one around taking this a little personally.

The attack in Woolwich has been hailed a terror attack. It’s not like the previous attacks we’ve seen; the bombs at the Boston Marathon, the events of 7/7 and 9/11. These terrorists were just two men, armed with knives. Somehow I find this so much more frightening than the idea of bombs and large-scale attacks. The trouble with terrorists is that it’s not clear who is and who isn’t one; it’s not an entire country, and it’s not an entire religion, it’s a group of people with extreme beliefs and who are willing to go to extreme measures for those beliefs. Extreme measures, which include killing innocent people just because of the job they do or the country they live in. It’s disgusting and it just makes me so angry and exhausted.

To add to the awful events of yesterday, I’ve read comments on the news saying that the ‘English Defence League’ (who I really think ought to stop. Just stop being whatever it is they are and go away) have taken to the streets, including one man being arrested for carrying a knife into a Mosque.

Seriously. What the fuck?

Who takes a knife into a place of prayer? Who thinks that the correct response to militant extremists attacking an innocent person is to send militant extremists out onto the streets with the aim of threatening innocent people? I am English, but I want nothing to do with this so-called Defence League.

Also making me sad and angry at the moment are the happenings in Oklahoma. No terrorists here, but still a world of devastation. The perpetrator was a tornado. We’ve been hearing about a lot of natural disasters lately, and this tornado has added another 90 to the death toll. Unavoidable, people took shelter as and where they could whilst the tornado tore its way through Oklahoma City, hitting the suburban area of Moore particularly hard.

There’s no one to blame for this. No one sat down and planned it; no one decided spur of the moment to go out and release a tornado. It just happened, like Hurricane Sandy last year, and like the earthquake which struck China just last month. And yet even with no one to blame, there is anger that this could happen, that it could happen so quickly, and that it happened in such a densely populated area. The tornado ploughed through a school, killing children. I sat in my car on Tuesday lunchtime, listening to a fire marshall break down as she talked about the recovery work they’re doing and I wanted to cry myself. It’s not fair that these things happen which are so out of anyone’s control and are so damaging to whoever stands in their way.

But what really doesn’t make sense is that, even though we have these natural disasters all over the world, we have earthquakes in Asia and the Middle East, we have hurricanes and tornadoes and tsunamis, and there are still people bringing it upon themselves to kill other people. There’s more than enough death in this world as it is; no one should be adding more.

So please, people of the planet Earth. How about we all just stop doing what it is we’re doing, and instead of fighting each other, let’s have a go at working together to fix the things we can’t prevent. There’s no need to be killing our soldiers or setting off bombs at public events. No need at all. Gavel!

Discuss…

Let’s hear it for the Vernal Equinox!

This article was going to be about the Budget. But I really didn’t feel like rehashing the figures every other British blogger with a slight political bent would be delving into. It affects us all, beer’s gonna be cheaper and petrol’s not rising. There – that’s my coverage. Instead I want to talk to you a bit about spring and about beliefs and about why I like spring the best out of all the seasons. I’ll give you a clue; it contains my birthday!
I’ve never really understood why people make New Year’s Resolutions. I personally have very little time for New Year – it’s just a night which becomes a day. Ok so it’s a new calendar year… So what? I like numbers, I like patterns, I like it when the digital clock says 12:34 as much as the next person (please say that’s not just me being weird!) but I’m just not fussed about New Years…
The Vernal Equinox, however, is a completely different kettle of fish. This time of year totally deserves a celebration!
Never in my life have I ever really been religious. My parents aren’t religious, so I was raised in the way of the non-believers. I went to a Christian Infant School and a Primary School because they were in the village I grew up in; and so I was educated in the way of the Lord’s Prayer, and we sang hymns in assembly, but none of it really permeated my belief system. Later in my teens I dabbled in witchcraft. There’s not much else I can call it, regardless of how ridiculous that sounds. It wasn’t really witchcraft; I bought some spell books, collected gemstones and different-coloured candles and incense and attempted to believe that I could change things using willpower, pretty ribbons and the position of the moon. I grew out of this phase fairly quickly, but I’ve always harboured a scholarly interest in the real religion behind the witchcraft I was ‘practising’.

It all boils down to one general thing; I can’t get behind the idea of a deity, multiple deities or some ethereal presence. It just doesn’t work with my particular set of beliefs. I believe in what I see, in what has been proven by science, or what the evidence strongly points towards. This does not include gods, ghosts or the afterlife. So yeah; I’m a bit of a sceptic. But I’m also a strong believer in right and wrong, in avoiding causing hurt or damage to other people, and in treating others as they ought to be treated. These last two especially are very much a staple teaching in Christianity (do unto others as you would have them do to you) and Wicca (an ye harm none, do what ye will). This shouldn’t really be a surprise, the culture I’ve grown up in is steeped in influence by both religions, and I was brought up to be a conscientious young lady, sharing and caring and doing the right thing.

Where does this all lead back to the Vernal Equinox? Well it’s sort of to do with the Wiccan thing, I guess. Even after deciding I sat firmly in the atheist camp I’ve had this interest in the Wiccan beliefs. I’m a fantasy author and I like to write about worlds where hedgewitches are commonplace, and are basically practising Wiccans with a healthy dose of artistic license. In doing my research for this I have come across the Wiccan calendar and have become more aware of the solstices, equinoxes and other festivals. For those not in the know; there are two solstice; the summer solstice in June to mar the longest day, and the winter solstice in December to mark the longest night. The equinoxes are when dawn and dusk are 12 hours apart; making the day and night of equal length. In between these four festivals are another four festivals. They give structure to the year, whilst also bearing religious meaning. I like them because they just make sense to me. Setting time by the rising and setting of the sun is more scientific to me than marking the passage of the year by historical events of significance. Thinking about these alternative holidays has made me question the holidays I currently celebrate, and the approach of Easter has brought this to the forefront of my thoughts.

The thing is, I live in a Christian country. Heck, we even have our own brand of Christianity in the form of the Church of England. Because of this, our national holidays fit in with the Christian calendar. We have Christmas off, we have time off for Easter, whenever that occurs. There are a few days off thrown into May and August as well, but the big deals are Easter and Christmas. This has always seemed a little odd to me, but then I’ve never complained – I got presents at Christmas and chocolate eggs at Easter, and complaining would have taken those away! But now, as an adult, it all seems rather hypocritical; to celebrate the birth and the death of a man who became the centre of this entire religion when I don’t really think he was anything more than just a man, if he even existed.

Don’t get me wrong; I still want my Christmas presents and I still want my Easter eggs, I just want to look at the festivities in a different way. Take Christmas, for example – let’s call it Yule. Let all of us non-Christians stop participating in someone else’s belief system. The Winter Solstice is the 21st December; the night is the longest; why not celebrate that with gifts and food and the gathering of family. The deep midwinter needs celebrating in order to take our minds off how very cold and dark it is outside. Isn’t that something a little more genuine to celebrate than the birth of the son of a god we don’t believe in? Come December I want to see Yule cards rather than Christmas cards. Christ has no place in my faithless world!

As for Easter, well my proposal is barely any different to what we already have. I put forward the notion of celebrating the Vernal Equinox (which was technically yesterday, so I’m a tiny bit off, timing-wise) for really, what’s not to celebrate? Ostara, as the Pagans call it, comes at a time of burgeoning life. The grey and brown misery of the winter months has started to lose its battle against the onslaught of green, yellow, pink and white. Daffodills have taken over from the snowdrops, blossom has started covering the trees. Life has returned to the world, and it’s such a beautiful thing. There are lambs in the fields, the bunnies have started coming out of their warrens, and the world seems a better place. I would therefore suggest that we do away with New Years Resolutions – who wants to be dieting or exercising or stopping bad habits in January? January is a time when we need all those comforts! In my world, the right time for spring cleaning your life is spring, whether it’s a clear out in the house, or an addressing of your weight or just a vow to read more. With the world around you blossoming and blooming you’ll get that extra boost of motivation and the task just might be made a bit easier.

While I’m at it, in my ideal world we’d probably celebrate the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox as well. Everyone loves the summer time; it’s warm (in theory) and we can use our gardens, we have more sunlight hours than we know what to do with, and as for the autumn, well we may not be quite as reliant on the harvest as we used to be, but that’s a failing of our modern age, in my mind. I would have us, as a country, become a little more self sufficient, and then we’d have cause to celebrate a good harvest and to have a good ol’ knees up at the end of the summer.

Apologies if this has been a bit of a hippy, waffling post, bashing organised religion and just generally without direction. I don’t really have a Gavel statement, though I’ll cobble something together, because that’s how we do things! I don’t think my ideas would ever become a new national holiday scheme, and as they’re sort of based on an existing religion, but without the religious aspects, I can’t see Joe Public taking them up of their own volition, so for now it might just be me, celebrating a little out of sync with the people around me.

I’m not even asking you to join me in my new quarterly celebrations. To be honest I’ll be impressed if I remember, come the summer solstice, that I was going to make a big deal of it! But what I am asking you to do is to think outside of the box. Easter is a societal norm, but it’s not really right for everyone.

We are our own people. We are not what our country dictates us to be.

But spring is the most awesome season. Gavel!

Discuss…

War on Wildlife

Hats off to the badger, he is black and white. He doesn’t fight, except for mating rights and territory.
-Bill Bailey

I wanted to keep this blog as objective as possible whilst still giving my, sometimes strongly held, opinions about the matter, But I fear this time I may give in to my more subjective side. Yep; on week two I’m releasing my impassioned, slightly ranty, bleeding-heart liberal self. It was going to happen eventually; might as well get it over with!

I’ve picked two topics to cover. They’re pretty much on the same theme, which is ultimately the way we human types interact with wild animals. There are, I feel, a great many injustices done by human beings to native animals around the world, more than I could possibly cover in one sitting. There are many injustices done by humans to other humans. The world is full of injustice. These two seem easier to fix than most, and yet even that seems such a struggle.

First we’ll tackle the simplest one, and the one which has hit the headlines most recently. Foxes. And I’m not talking about fox hunting, although I have plenty of thoughts on that (I understand that it’s necessary to protect chickens and other livestock from local predators, but I don’t understand why it has to be made into a cruel, barbaric sport.) I’m talking about the ‘growing menace’ that is the urban fox. Earlier this week a four-week-old baby, lying in his cot, was attacked by a fox. This is not the first incident in recent years. In 2010 twin baby girls were likewise attacked in their own home. The link between these two cases; both occurred in London. No longer is the fox simply a country dweller, preying on the farmer’s chickens or the odd pet bunny – now they’re after our babies.

Except that’s not really the case. It is? With the countryside dwindling before the relentless onslaught of housing developments, is it really any wonder that the foxes are moving to the towns to find food and shelter? And oh my, we’re providing it. Dustbins filled with leftovers make our cities a prime feasting spot for the cat-sized scavengers, not to mention all the buildings and their central heating systems, keeping back the cold weather of winter. We have made a haven for them, and then we are shocked when foxes do what foxes do – hunt for young and unprotected animals. We cannot blame them. What we can, and should, do is discourage them. Putting lids on bins would be a good start; better still would be to minimise our wastage. Buy only what you need; cook only what will be eaten. Close the doors and windows where children are sleeping so there is no path from the outside to their beds. Fans and air conditioning units can be used to keep the temperature down. If there is no food to be found in the cities, there will be no need for the foxes to be in the cities. It’s that simple. Gavel!

Second on my list of unjustly persecuted animals to champion are, probably quite predictably, the badgers. Cousins to my beloved pet ferrets and portrayed so fondly in television shows and books, they are the subject of one heck of a debate. It’s all to do with the cows. The British beef trade is, I believe, rather a big deal, and there’s this nasty disease called Bovine Tuberculosis which is quite damaging to the meat industry. Like, really, truly, terribly damaging to the meat industry, costing millions of pounds. And, of course, it costs the lives of entire herds. Where do the badgers come in? Well, unfortunately for them, for the cows and for the farmers, it transpires that badgers are able to carry the bovine TB disease, and it seems to pass between the two species fairly well.

There are, to my relatively un-researched mind, several solutions to this problem. Investing in badger-proofed fencing, a systematic vaccination program to immunise the badgers and stop the transmission of the disease, or even working with the EU to allow the trade in vaccinated cattle so that the cows can be treated to prevent them from getting it in the first place. What did they pick? Yeah, they went for option D; kill all the badgers. I can’t imagine that there would be that much money saved in the cull of a native species (well, only 70% of the species, let’s not exaggerate) compared to the other possible solutions. Now, really, you don’t even have to vaccinate all the badgers to stop the spread; so long as you’ve got a significant proportion of the population immunised, the remainder will likely be so dispersed that if they were to get it they would be unlikely to pass it on (see the Wikipedia link for a better explanation).

I could go on, but I’m already late for posting this. Ultimately my point is twofold. One – just vaccinate the badgers. You’ll save the meat industry AND not destroy an indigenous species, and Brian May will be happy! And two – we human beings need to take a long hard look at ourselves. We have outgrown the natural order of things. We have stepped out of the prey-eats-predator world where Darwin’s rule of survival of the fittest is law. We have become the game-changers in this world, and in that capacity we have to learn how to accept responsibility for our actions. Entire species are being displaced as we claim this world acre by acre. Intricately balanced ecosystems are being torn apart, and one day we’re going to go too far and there will be no wildlife left; just domestic animals we have bent to our will. That is not a world I want to live in.

Respect the planet and the creatures who live on it before it’s too late. Gavel!

Discuss…

Articles which inspired this post;
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21399709
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19890114
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-20534842
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herd_immunity