Saturday, 25 July 2015

A Short Course In Mindfulness - 7 - Sympathy

I showed you over the last few of these posts how to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Most people can do this if they try. It might take some time, it might be two steps forward and one back, and it is most likely you'll never be completely free of negative thoughts, because humans are like that. But, with practice and determination, almost everyone can improve their thought processes to a level that is truly life-changing. People who embark on this journey reach a point where they notice that difference. Then they rarely look back.

What I'm saying is that if you choose to do this, you'll be glad you did. But I'm not pushy about it for the simple reason that it truly must be a personal decision.

When I talk about it I often run into considerable resistance. Most of it is fear of change. But I also, surprisingly often, run into those who simply don't see a need for it. They are quite content to be negative, or even downright cynical and pessimistic. It may only be on certain points, or in certain ways, for example they are positive about their own family and dearest friends, but utterly negative about the rest of the planet. It's as if they can only keep it up for so long. That is to say they have limited or selective positivity.

There's a saying that goes around "If he's nice to you, but not nice to others in front of you, then he's not nice". It's a bit of a sweeping statement, and as a one-off incident it may not mean too much, but it's worth bearing in mind. Even if you hate the word "nice". It means kind, essentially. The point is that someone who is selective in their kindness probably needs to really consider why.

Now, there's an actual psychological theory behind this, which goes right back to our ancient ways. It suggests that early humans had a genuine need to put family first, then the tribe, and others really didn't matter. At some point civilization created more levels of this, and in fact in some cultures the tribe comes first. But the idea of treating complete strangers as equally important to kin is still considered a bit weird, except in the most enlightened people. It's more instinctive to put those you love first. I don't think anyone would even object to that.

It doesn't mean that you have to actually be cruel to everyone else, and yet for some that is indeed what they do. They are rude or even spiteful to people not in their inner circle. Why?

Sympathy is a funny thing. It's easy to care about those we love, it may be automatic. To do it for everyone requires a bit of thought sometimes. Mindfulness does that. But which comes first? Is sympathy a step on the way to mindfulness, or vice versa? There are differing opinions on this. I suggest it is a spiral upwards, that both lead to the other more and more.

What I have found, is that the more naturally sympathetic a person is, and the broader their sympathy, the greater the chance of them seeking or discovering mindfulness. Naturally sympathetic people are good candidates.

Being sympathetic appears to be part of the innate human character. Even the greatest cynic seems to recognize that, even if it suprises them. It has certainly surprised those studying it.

But you see - it's USEFUL. Useful traits in any species tend to stick around - that's how evolution works, after all.

The Chinese philosopher Meng Tzu decided, well over 2000 years ago, that humans are natually "good" if they given the opportunity. In this, he answered the other question, is it nature, or nurture? In other words, if a child is raised by sympathetic people, taught to be sympathetic, and lives in a culture that encourages sympathy, the chances are he will be sympathetic. Simple as that. If circumstances turn him otherwise, well, then he could be "derailed". Because humans also have an ability to be selfish. It comes from self-preservation, but it can literally take over if the person is damaged.

Luckily sympathy can also be taught. So, even a child with everything against him, cynical or even cruel parents etc, can learn to be sympathetic with enough good influences in his life. In fact that is why it takes a village to raise a child. It's not just that he needs extra discipline - he also needs extra sympathy. The two go together. That's what guidance is.

Why then, do we get adults from loving families who are limited in their sympathy? That's the tricky one. What fails to happen there?

I believe it is CHOICE. Really, quite a simple choice. No necessarily an easy path to follow, but a choice of paths at least. I believe this because I've seen it. Over and over. In those with easy lives AND those with hard ones. I've seen it in the young, and the old. I've seen it in people of all social classes and all levels of intellect. And when it was my turn to make that choice, I knew I was in good company.

Sympathy is one of the few things that I believe works as "fake it 'til you make it". There may be times that the kindness shown is truly an act.....done with gritted teeth. That's no different to "professionalism" as in customer service etc. But just like all positivity, if you replace the unsympathetic thoughts with sympathetic ones, everything changes.

So, if you are the one who finds yourself being sympathetic only to those closest to you, perhaps you would benefit from trying to extend that. Remember, mindfulness is a win-win, not only does it help others, it helps you.

And if you are the person watching the person with limited sympathy, remember to give him sympathy too. He needs it.

Thursday, 23 July 2015


Many of you are joining the movement to bring back facts and science into our discussions rather than "I heard it online". Some of you are doing sterling work and I applaud you. Generally speaking I have other missions, but you have my full support.

My own personal peeve is with the word "natural". I'd like you consider what that actually means.

If we are talking about food, for example, natural seems to mean just about anything people want it to mean, depending on their agenda. Even better, we now have the label "all natural", which I take to be a higher class of natural.

And then of course there's "organic".

I am an organic grower. Officially. I am entitled to put up a sign on my property that says that, and any produce from my farm can be labelled organic. I don't, because I'm so disgusted with the politics and shenanigans of the organic industry that I want nothing to do with it.

But I'll tell you how natural my garden grows. My vegetables are not sprayed with anything. The water comes from the sky or a deep well. The fertilizer is sheep manure. The sheep eat hay and grass. The grass knows only rain. The hay is grown similarly.

It's a natural food lover's dream! All natural! All natural!

And do you what I do with that lamb and those vegetables?

I cook 'em.

Which is not natural. At all. Cooking food does not happen in nature. Burning food does, forest fires, lightning, volcanoes, the sun. These could all heat your dinner, but it's not a careful, controlled heat. It's not cooking.

Are you horrified? Are you shocked?

Don't be. Cooking our food is the most extreme thing we do to our food. There's no rinising it off.

Everyone online is going crazy about these.

These are mutant daisies afflicted by the radioactivity in Japan. 

Or are they?

This mutation also occurs spontaneously far from any radioactivity, from a variety of causes. And therefore it is just as likely that it has nothing to do with it. After all, one of the flowers is completely unaffected.

So it could be quite natural.

But then...radioactivity is natural anyway. Completely, utterly natural. It is keeping us all alive right now, and in some surprising ways. Look it up if you don't believe me.

Natural and organic, do not mean the same thing. Organic means "from once living matter". Which includes coal and gasoline. Actually. Natural just includes non-living things that occur without help outside nature. Wait a minute. What is outside nature? I'm not, are you?

Man-made doesn't mean unnatural. We are part of nature.

I think we need some new words.

In the meantime, stop using this one inaccurately.

A Short Course In Mindfulness - 6 - Replacing the Negative

No, it's really not hard.

What do you do when you argue with someone? Be it out loud or in your head, or maybe shouting at the TV?

You replace their opinion with your own.

That's it. That's what an argument is.

You say "I reject that idea, my idea is better."

You don't do this consciously, because it's a practised thing.

Mindfulness is exactly the same - eventually.

At first, because you are working on your thoughts, you see the process. You are aware of the negative thought that came up in your head. You "heard" it. But you chose to say "No, that's not the right thought, it should be this...." You argue with yourself, and you replace the original thought with a new one.

It will happen faster and faster, with the bad (negative) thought being briefer and briefer until it isn't there.

Feeling the urge to say something tactless? Count to ten. We all know that one.

But instead of saying to yourself "I shouldn't say that" say to yourself "I shouldn't think that".

While you're having this argument with yourself, the negative side will ask why.

"Why shouldn't I say that? It's true!"

There are so many different reasons why not.

You'll hurt the person's feelings.
You'll make them angry.
You'll embarrass others listening.
You'll regret it later.
You may be wrong.
You'll look like a jerk.
Nobody will want to to talk to you.

What do you care about most, the first or last in that list?

Well, inside your head, only you will know what you were thinking. So where's the harm?

You won't notice it at the time. It's a cumulative type of harm.

One very good reason to think positively about others is that it helps you think positively about yourself, here the benefit can be seen quite clearly. Conversely if you are frequently negative about others, chances are that you are also hard on yourself. This is one reason that many people will tell you that to love others you must love yourself. That's not strictly true, as some of the kindest, most loving people I have ever known have had very negative attitudes towards themselves, but what a struggle that must be? Sometimes also, it means that they are doing their "kindness" exclusively out of a sense of duty. That can break a person, and is not recommended.

Which brings us to the next lie.

"I don't care."

Yes, you do. You care a lot. But caring is hard. It asks too many questions, and requires too much effort.

I get told that mindfulness causes people to repress feelings. I dispute that, but let's pretend it did. Let's pretend that thinking mindfully and consequently acting mindfully, involves repressing. What would you be repressing. The urge to shout? The urge to accuse? The urge to say something cruel?

OK, let's turn it around. If you say you don't care, what does it mean? I contend it means "I am repressing the urge to care."

On balance, I can't help feeling you're better off caring.

So what do we mean by "I don't care?" An example might be:

"Wow, you really tore him off a strip, he's really upset."

"I don't care."

You think he deserves to be upset. You think he did something wrong, and had to be punished.

Will this stop it happening again? Or will he just resent being chastised in that way?

If we don't care about the feelings of others, it means we don't care about ourselves. How? Obviously a very selfish person thinks he reserves all his caring for himself, or at least that's the plan, and yet in fact, by being selfish he is actually harming himself. It is the greatest irony.

"No, I mean I wash my hands of it. I've had enough. I don't want to deal with it any more. I've stopped caring."


Nobody can switch off caring like that. The negative is humming away in there. No matter what you say out loud, you are fooling yourself. The negativity is inside, and it harms you.

You actually have to change your thoughts, not just your words and actions.'s hard. It's hardest if you allowed yourself to become frustrated or angry. Burning off that negativity take so long.

Now, there is nothing actually wrong with being angry for the right reasons. There are things that we should get angry about, and yes, I said should, and I meant it. Should is a word I reserve for deserving occasions just like anger.

But you know, and not just because you read it here, that people's anger is so often not in proportion to the event. This is something huge that I try to teach.We've all seen the videos of people going completely crazy on You Tube over their drive thru order being wrong. What does that person do extra when somebody runs over their dog?

We all have bad days. We all snap and snarl over little things. But if we make a habit of it, what's left when the shit REALLY hits the fan?


The way to deal with all of this is to stop. Stop before you throttle your co-worker. Stop before you open your mouth. Stop at the first sensation of frustration. Take a deep breath. Replace the thoughts in your head. Do it every time. Practice. Practice. Practice. Instead of repressing the urge to be negative, don't give it room. Spit it right out, and REPLACE IT, with something positive.

Even if the very best you can do is think "I must explain myself better so that my instructions are followed".

This is a start.


Funny the things you run into online when you're looking for something else.

Yesterday I covered, probably not for the last time, my thoughts on the issue of whether women's clothing can be considered provocative.

In the end you know, there is a huge difference between knee-jerk reaction, and really deep thought. I recognize the difference, and if you are surprised at my not getting truly angry with those who still don't understand what I'm saying, then perhaps you are simply quicker than me. It took me a long time to get it myself. And during that journey I suppose I developed a sympathy for those who are slow on the uptake. The post I was supposed to be writing today is about sympathy, so think of this a tangent on that.

One of the reasons woman see themselves so badly, and subsequently one another, is the ridiculous amount of mixed messages we are bombarded with from birth. This was the little piece of serendipity I collected this morning. It's supposed to be a joke, and please excuse the egregious spelling error, just follow the meaning here.

One comment I saw under this was "That's how women are", and it was written by a woman. Presumably if she'd said it out loud, she giggled. I hope she's young. I can forgive the young.

However, if you reach my age and you haven't got a grip on this, I'm seriously worried about you. In fact I hope you got it before you raised children.

I don't think a day goes by on Facebook without seeing a recipe shared by a friend, that has at the bottom of it a link to one of several Facebook pages to do with "weight loss support". Not one of these recipes would help with weight loss, trust me. They are all quite rich and calorie-laden. And therefore good, which is why people share them. And either those who do so don't notice this silliness at the bottom, or don't care.

And these aren't stupid women. All of them are politically savvy, worldly, smart, and usually quick to notice contradictions. I would even go so far as to say mindful. Which just goes to show anyone can be "caught".

Of course, it's all more of the same bullshit that women are expected to entertain and men aren't, but we only have ourselves to blame.

When are you, YES YOU, going to stop making excuses and actually be part of the solution? If we want equality we have to behave better. We have to stop the contradictions. It's immature.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Protecting Yourself From Rape With An Invisibility Cloak

The topic that won't go away. Well, it can't. It's too important.

The title is deliberately misleading, but as the entire topic is about being provocative, I thought I would begin with a provocative statement.

Here's the problem.

Some (many?) people believe that what a woman wears has a direct impact on her risk factors for sexual assault, including rape.

Some of these people will state quite firmly that:

1) They do not believe any woman deserves to raped due to her choice of clothing.
2) Nevertheless, they believe that some women dress like whores

I find it hard to see how these two opinions work together. But I try to be patient and understanding with those who hold them, because there was a time when I would have agreed with them. 

That is to say, when I was younger, I would have agreed with both statements.

But at some point I looked at how they contradict each other, and it was an epiphany. Therefore, I keep talking about it in the hope that others will have that epiphany. It's all I can do.

Those who hold these contradictory positions are not all men, in fact it's quite possible that more of them are women. After all, who raises the next generation of men? Who criticizes what women wear most of all? And women often have low self-esteem and much doubt about their appearance.

Sadly, this is what we're dealing with.

And we laugh. It's funny. And we all know what she means, right?

Do we?

I've been told, many times, if I ask what precisely constitutes "slutty" clothing, "oh you know it when you see it".

You bet we do. We've been trained to. From the day we were born everybody around us who designated themselves the decency police have pointed it out. Good grief, how could we not learn this. Dress codes, parents, friends, the media, everybody has an opinion on what women should wear.

I've blogged before on the arbitrary nature of what is and isn't deemed acceptable, and won't bother repeating myself on that. I'm fairly sure that most people who read it did not have their opinion changed by it. In fact I don't expect to change anyone's opinion, it's too deeply ingrained in the psyche. That training worked really well.

A while back I had a polite disagreement with a very good friend about it. She was sincere and emphatic. If women dressed modestly it would be "better". It would "help". But she could not say what modest was. She got quite irate when I demanded a definition, and we both agreed to drop the subject.

But without a definition this argument goes nowhere.

We don't actually fix anything with "should". We can shout all we like about how men are fully responsible, for rape and it doesn't seem to make any difference. Especially all the time their mothers are teaching them about good girls and bad girls.

I don't believe I actually have any friends/readers who would agree with the crazies who think that women "ask for it", but I know I have a few who are still confused on those two beliefs above. And it is confusion. It is cognitive dissonance of the highest order. That's why it causes anger when it's challenged.

I am a pragmatist. I understand cause and effect. It's something you cannot escape from and it's why we find ourselves here. People getting cause and effect wrong creates so many problems in our world, and yet we see it all the time. And this is where the provocation idea comes in. So let's look at that carefully, because this is important.

We can see very easily that aggression in all its forms, from bar fights to military invasions, can be a result of provocation. As a child I hit people for teasing me. Perhaps you did, or perhaps you wanted to. It's wrong but it's so damn natural, this is not something we will ever overcome, and you can quote me on that. Dogs bite when they are teased. So do snakes, as my son found out when he was younger. And...don't poke the bear. We all understand provocation. OK?

And while we're here....provocation is not a cause. It is never allowed as "just cause" for violence.

What we forget when we call clothing provocative is that clothing is inert. It does not do anything. It doesn't poke, it doesn't tease, and it certainly isn't aggressive. People might do that, but garments don't. Attitude can be provoking, words too, but a piece of cloth? Maybe a flag?, not even then. It's the attitude behind it that causes the anger. The poke, poke, poke.

You with your hand up at the back? Did you say "Yeah, just like guns don't kill people, people kill people. Ha ha ha. Spoons made me fat. HA HA HA.". You look very pleased with yourself. No, not like that. There is only one purpose for a gun, and you know it. Spoons and skirts are not analogous to guns in any way. Don't be silly.

No, the reason that people call clothing provocative is because they believe they know the intent of the wearer. What they mean is "she's wearing that to get male attention."

Is she? Are you sure? No, you're not. That may be the case, but just as likely:

1. It's all she's got clean right now.
2. If you've got it, flaunt it.
3. It was on sale.
4. It's the latest fashion.
5. It's to impress her friends.
6. It's comfortable.
7. She just likes it. Actually.

Not that any of this matters really. Nobody's else's business, but the fact remains that when you look at what anyone is wearing, unless it's a uniform you really have no arcane knowledge of why it is being worn. No, you don't. So quit saying you do.

And what if she is wearing it for male attention? Is that wrong? Back in the days when women wore pretty bonnets, they chose them with the intent to impress male suitors.

Do men never dress to attract female attention?

Humans are vain creatures. We are programmed to seek attention in this way.

The very first item "worn" by humans was most likely beads. When an ancient human collected such items that could be strung around the neck, who did they do it for? Can you see your own necklace? Did they have mirrors? No, it was "look at me, I'm pretty, I have beads". Anthropologists strongly suspect men did this first, based on the fact that in the animal kingdom it is usually the male who "displays".

But is the attention sought sexual?

Sometimes it must have been, it certainly is for peacocks. But there is far more to our vanity than that.

When you get dressed in the morning you do so for many different reasons. Sometimes it's the first thing out of the closet. Sometimes it's an agonizing decision. But to a greater or lesser extent there are two things that we do - sometimes subconsciously.

We wear what we think looks good. That is to say it "suits" us. It minimizes flaws and maximizes our attributes. You get compliments when you wear forest green? You'll wear it more. When you are choosing a single item of clothing with the help of other people, there will at some point be an agreement that this one looks better on you than that one. Maybe an expert can explain why, but often it's just one of those things. Unless you are deliberately trying to look bad for some reason, the choice is obvious.

We wear what we thinks "says" something about us. This can often be for business reasons. There is such a thing as power dressing. If you are actually in the public eye there is a genuine career benefit in being trendy and in choosing certain styles. You may need to research this, or take advice, but there are certain unwritten rules, and they change. Watch Hilary Clinton's earrings for a lesson here. In some lifestyles (including mine) looking quirky is not only acceptable but expected. If I do a show in very "plain" clothing it is a bad business move. The more colourful I am the better. But there are individual choices here too. Extroverts tend to dress differently to introverts, because we seem to like to warn people. Is it vanity or is it authenticity? Does it really matter?

Is any of this sexual? Unless you are one of those who thinks everything is sexual, I'd assume you'd think not. Self -image is far more complex and interesting than that.

But that word provocative, what does it mean? It means intent to elicit a reaction.

This is a huge assumption.

Is this person trying to elicit a reaction?

Possibly. Possibly not.

If you say "obviously" then you must be a mind-reader. Clearly this person doesn't object to attention, but you absolutely do not know their motives for such an unusual appearance. No, you don't. You can make all sorts of guesses, but any of them could be completely wrong and really is the height of arrogance to insist that you can tell just by looking.

I think this is hideous. But it's none of my damn business. I didn't have to pay for it, and it causes me no harm. It causes nobody any harm.

Is it provocative?

Oddly enough some people think so. People with extreme appearances like this are frequently insulted, and sometimes attacked physically. How can you justify that?

Well, here's the truth. People justify it by saying "what do you expect if you look like that?"

Now, let's be very clear here. They may not actually say that a weird-looking person deserves to be beaten up. But they are saying it's "understandable". They are saying that if you go around looking very unusual you shouldn't be surprised if you are bullied.

They claim not to be blaming the victim ("Oh, it's still wrong") but at the same time they see it as normal, or "human nature" in some way.

In other words, all you have to do is conform, and you won't get picked on.

Really? It's certainly true that bullies quite often single out targets based on appearance. Whether it's deliberate or accidental. Ask the fat kid. No question at all. And saying this is wrong is stating the obvious. It's also stating the obvious that if we shrug and say nothing we can do about that - that's how bullies are, we are enabling them. But I stated early on here that no amount of shouting what people shouldn't do is going to change anything one way or the other. Telling bullies to resist taunting or harming her is not going to work. They seek out victims, and if they don't find a "suitable"one they'll pick at random.

And telling her to look normal so they leave her alone (and move on to somebody else) may sound like good advice, but it's not.

Because there's no such thing as normal. Unless you mean a newborn. And is that with or without hair? And which skin colour?

And you don't need me to tell you that skin colour is a BIG issue when it comes to bullying.

What would normal mean there, if we defined it? The most common?

At it's absolute peak, (visibly) white people were about 27% of the world's population in 1950. This is now dropping again and expected to reach single figures later this century. There is nothing normal about being white. We are a mutation.

Ah you say, you can't use that as an example. Skin colour is not a choice. Quite so. But then neither is sex. So being female is normal, because we are the majority, but we are still treated as a minority, more so in some places than others, but let's just say that equality is not here yet. No, it's not.

If it were we wouldn't be having this argument in the first place. Because it's all about what women wear. Because we are the bullied ones. We are the ones being told what to do and what not to do. We're the ones being told that our clothing causes problems.

When this was discussed recently, and I used the example of a Muslim girl being chastised by her father for not covering her face, because it could cause her to be raped, I was told this was not the same thing. Well, two things that are different are never the same, but I contend that the analogy is sound because it is different only by degree. The argument remains the same, and the solution offered by the argument is just as ineffective.

If a girl wearing a face cover worked as an effective protection against rape, then by now all women would cover their faces. Yes, really. We all wear shoes to protect our feet, and I don't need to tell you how profitable sunscreen is.

But here is just one example of a Muslim country that has found it serves no purpose.

If the solution really were that simple, after all these years of women suffering this crime of violence, do you think we are so stupid as to not follow it?


"Slutty", or provocative. or whatever you want to call it, is a moving target. It varies by date, place, occasion, and social group. To many religiously conservative people a woman showing her shins is a slut.

In olden days a glimpse of stocking........

And yet, those who insist that modesty "helps" continue to rave on. They ignore the data. The data shows that the vast majority of rapes are committed against fully dressed women with no history of provoking anyone. In other words the idea that the provocative clothing has any connection to violence against women is simply wrong. But a lot of people still believe it.

  • Research conducted by Amnesty International in 2005 found that 27% of people believe that a woman is totally or partially responsible if she is wearing ‘sexy or revealing’ clothing.
  • A survey of 986 Scots carried out by TNS System Three in February 2008 for the Scottish Government found that 27% thought that a woman bore some responsibility if she wore revealing clothing.
But here's another angle. One recent study has suggested something quite different:

No. Let's be perfectly honest here. Seeing clothing which is tight or shows more skin as "provocative" is a matter of opinion and taste. If you find a person's clothing offensive, or any aspect of their appearance come to that, you don't have to look. That's how the Amish deal with it. They look away. They don't condemn, or persecute, or bully. Just because they opt for an ultra modest style of clothing doesn't mean they insult ours. They keep their opinions to themselves.

It is not "common sense" for women to dress modestly. It solves nothing. And there is no solid definition of "modest". At best it means "like me".

We can not live our lives based on what other people think of the way we look, because there will always be somebody who disapproves.

That invisibility cloak might just work though. Making women invisible seems to be the goal.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

An Objection

"Seriously, I'm not a bad person, I don't say anything unkind to anyone's face, so how is my "negativity" hurting them."

No silly, it's hurting YOU.

A Short Course In Mindfulness - 5 - Rejecting the Negative

The "how" of it.

This is really the basis of the entire book I'm writing, and it does require an entire book, so I don't intend to cover it in one post here. But just to go over the idea....

You are the one who has to make all the choices.

First you have to decide that you want to reject the negative. And to do that you have to have a good reason. That's the "why". Nobody can make you do it. They can hint, expect, suggest, .........all the way to demand, but just as we cannot change the behaviour of others, they cannot change ours. Only you can do it. So there's the "who".

Then there's the "when". Time actually crops up here, especially in it not happening fast. This is a process. And that's not all.

Unfortunately you only learn the benefit of rejecting the negative after you've done it. Then it's obvious. But at the time of attempting this, it's a gamble. It's a lot of work and the reward is not certain. It's a leap of faith, in a way. So you do it before you really know why.

But the "how", is the hardest part of all. This is not a switch you can flick.

There will be great resistance. From where? From you. You will effectively argue with yourself.

That's how it has to be, because you will change.

The best example of this I ever heard was on an internet forum some years back, wasn't even about mindfulness, but was a perfect example of it just the same.

A man told a story of how he overcame "head up arse syndrome" as he called it. He was being criticized for being stubborn over certain things, quite minor, petty even, but at the time they seemed important. I forget the details, but they're irrelevant anyway. The big thing here was that he made a conscious choice to take that leap of faith and let go. He said at first it wasn't easy and he likened it to giving up an addiction. He felt physical symptoms from shrugging it off. At this point he even saw a doctor, wondering if he had OCD, and was told no, you're pretty uptight but it's not clinical. Two steps forward, one step back, and then one day, actually suddenly, it all fell into place.

He drew a picture, similar to this:

This is why so many people balk at the idea. In fact it's why there are warnings about strict Buddhist meditation in those outside the Asian cultures, because the unprepared western psyche can take quite a hit.

You've heard of people who become mindful after a tragedy in their lives. Doesn't always happen. Sometimes they become bitter instead, or sometimes the "new" attitude seeps away and they revert to how they were.

Most of us aren't that bad to begin with. We are basically decent people. We just gossip and whine a bit too much, and we think it's OK, no harm in it, everyone does it..........

But the biggest fear (and it is a fear) is of losing your sense of humour.

Have you seen the Dalai Lama? Have you missed the laughter? Here is a man trying to represent Buddhism to the world, and trust me he has a great sense of humour.

You are not trying to be a Buddhist, just a better human being. That's all. You're not losing anything, you're finding yourself.

So. Here you are. Today. Interested enough in this idea to be reading this. Hopefully having read all of it so far. Maybe you've made the decision, maybe not.

What will it involve? HOW will you reject the negative? By becoming more mindful.

"Yes Melanie, we got that part, you keep saying that."

That's how! Actions begin in the mind. Feelings may be visceral (or seem to be, anyway) but actions are different.

Things you do, and most importantly, things you say, are the result of a thought process.

If you say something unsympathetic it's because you were having unsympathetic thoughts. And the great lie we all tell:

"I didn't mean it."

Let's get one thing straight, right here and now, if you have to apologize for what you said, there's a mindfulness problem. A negativity problem.

Before we go any further, we must address the issue of those who seek offence. This a disorder some people suffer from, and we can't help them. They have to fix themselves. Do we have to apologize to them?

Perhaps. If you know you are dealing with a person like that and mischievously play into it, there's no real excuse, and at some point you may need to apologize for the sake of others around you. But this is "advanced" stuff, which I'll deal with in my book, if you are so inclined. For now, hold this thought: "don't push buttons".

For now, let's assume you are dealing with rational people whose reactions to you are normal and sensible and fair. If you upset reasonable people then you must apologize. Better yet, don't upset them. Aim to conduct yourself in such a way that you never need to apologize.

But do it anyway. Apologize often. It is so good for the soul. If you collide with somebody in the supermarket, apologize. Even if it was 100% their fault. 

OK, I saw a hand raised in objection there.

Really? Why not? Do you think that if you sigh and roll your eyes at the guilty party it will achieve anything?

Oh yes, I've heard that one a million times "It makes me feel better". No it doesn't. It adds to your negativity, and it harms you.

Step 1 in rejecting the negative is not to say or do negative things.

Step 2 is not thinking them.

If you are saying them, you are thinking them. They come from an ugly place inside you, a place you should reserve not for shopping cart road rage, but for fighting real injustice in this world.

Every day of my life I see people getting more angry over pathetic things, than over the things that matter. Your priorities are all wrong, people!

Negativity breeds negativity. Somebody has to call a halt to it somewhere.

When you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, STOP.

Stop right there.

Replace negativity with sympathy.

Tomorrow we'll investigate sympathy.

Monday, 20 July 2015

A Short Course In Mindfulness - 4 - Why We Reject The Negative

I'm assuming by the lack of commentary on this series of blog posts that you either agree with everything or you're not the slightest bit interested. I know you're reading it.

The only criticism I've had was that "No matter how much I try to ignore the fact that my boss is a jerk, he's still a jerk, I still have to work with him. How does acknowledging my feelings work there? Reject the negative? I can't ignore him!"

It's true. An arsehole remains an arsehole even if you somehow manage to deny that he is. This is why women stay with abusive men. Denying the real fact that a person behaves badly causes more harm than good. So there's the acknowledgement. But negative behaviour of others is not something we have any control over.

Look at the objective here - mindfulness. Read it as awareness if that helps. Nobody says that awareness solves all problems. It's just a starting point for action.

But yes, mindfulness can lead you to not having a jerk for a boss. How? It shakes you up into realizing that it's time to get a new boss.

Ah, but you say, that's just giving somebody else the problem instead, and you'd be right. True change comes when everybody is mindful, and being a jerk won't work for bosses (they won't have any staff) but we have to start somewhere.

While it's not your fault that your boss is a jerk, and it's not your responsibility to change him, even if you could, it is your responsibility as a mindful human being to assert that being a jerk is not OK. Therefore do not enable him by continuing to work for him.

One of the first things we learn when we really pay attention to reality is that we can't change how other people behave. It is the biggest mistake we ever make, thinking that we can. We can try to persuade them, we can criticize, nag, demand, beg, or threaten. But people's behaviour is based on how they think, and we cannot change that.

Every behaviour has a thought process behind it, even it is a flawed thought process. So, the best thing we can do when somebody is being a jerk is to consider why. There's always a reason. Some people are so lacking in mindfulness that they are jerks simply out of habit.

Why should we care what the reason is for their behaviour?

First of all, if it's someone  you aren't close to, and whose normal behaviour is unknown to you, they may just be having a bad day. How you react to their bad behaviour can make all the difference. And even if it's a regular jerk, giving thought to the reason behind it (even if you don't know what that is) can allow your reaction to be gentler, rather than fighting fire with fire. The most powerful reaction is always the positive reaction - patient, calm, polite, kind. You can stop them in their tracks by responding positively, or as they say "kill 'em with kindness".

But also, every jerk you run into is a lesson in how not to behave. Tit for tat, giving them a taste of their own medicine etc, is usually counter productive, and it does you no good at all. If you analyze instead of "fight" it helps your own growth journey. Remember, we change the world by changing ourselves.

Everything I've said here, you've heard before, possibly even from me. I teach this stuff a lot. If, today, you reject this advice, it doesn't matter, there will be a better teacher or a better time eventually. But of all the things I have learned about human interaction in my half century, and all the things I teach to pay back the gift of learning, these three simple truths, which go together, are the key to all relationships.

1. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
2. If you accept people as they are, rather than how you want them to be, you'll both be happier.
3. You can never control a person's behaviour; only your reaction to it.

If you seek personal growth, you need to remind yourself of those 3 every single day.

The objective, is for YOU to not be the jerk, after all.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

A Short Course In Mindfulness - 3 - Recognize the Negative

In the past, when I have raised the subject of preventing - or at least attempting to prevent - negative thinking, I have often been told that I must be particularly fortunate in life if I never fall into the "dark" places psychologically, and that those less fortunate have a good reason to do so.

I think there are two misunderstandings here.

One is that a person's situation decides his attitude. It does not. As it happens, one of the readers of this short course lives in Gaza. It's not easy to even access the internet there, let alone find time to read trivial social media, but as a matter of fact, people who live there are trying to deal with everyday life too, and they have found that attitude helps. They have lost so much, but they still have their choices here.

Secondly, it isn't necessary, or perhaps possible to ignore the negative aspects of life. It's not even desirable. It must be seen, it must be acknowledged. But the plan is to not be overwhelmed by it. The plan is to transfer the fear and worry into action. To move forward. To thrive, not just survive.

The only way to do this is to be aware of how we think. Please read this interesting article:

OK, this is all very well, you say, but my brain races with stupid thoughts.

Then fill it with something else.

There's a really old fashioned method of getting to sleep, and it has inspired many jokes and cartoons.

In my personal experience, that's not possible. For a start, I never go to bed until I'm tired, and if that's really late then so be it, and I would advise anyone to do the same. And a tired person would not get that far. So, unless you are an actual insomniac, counting would work quite well.

The reason it works is that you are concentrating on the numbers, so you can't think of anything else, and numbers are boring.

But if you want to be sure it works, you can do it while concentrating on your breathing too.

(N.B. if you try this, no cheating, and it doesn't work, you should seek professional help, and I'm not joking.)

Now, unlike many of you, I have no problem getting to sleep. Unless I'm in actual pain, or too cold, etc, I usually go out like a light as soon as my head hits the pillow. But at some point during the night it is common, or even normal, for me as well as many others to wake up, and THEN it is hard to go back to sleep. It may be that the call of nature wakes you, or a noise outside, but whatever it is, you've had half or more of a night's sleep and you are not really tired anymore.

You could get up then. But if it's 3am, and you start your day, you're going to be knackered later on.
You could use the 4-7-8 method.
You could lie awake and worry.
Or, you could use the time usefully.

I am quite fond of those middle of the night "me only" sessions. Sometimes I "write". It's only the outline of something, and then when I get up the next morning I jot that down for fleshing out at the keyboard.

Sometimes I design. Yeah, in my head.

Sometimes I plan the next day.

Sometimes I watch the stars out of my window and try to be one with the night. That's my absolute favourite, and I recommend it if you can do it, but if course that may not be your thing.

What I don't do is worry.

Oh, I used to. But I learned. Not only did I learn that it didn't help, I learned how not to do it. I learned that for a start, thoughts at 3am tend to be unrealistic thoughts. Nobody seems to know why this is, but it works both ways. Ideas that seem to be absolutely brilliant at 3am look very different when considered during daytime. And things that seem frightening or difficult at 3am turn out to be perfectly doable. So, the first thing to do is examine those thoughts, put them on trial, as it were.

Determine (by being totally honest with yourself) if the thought is negative, that is to say it falls into the pattern of "I'm scared X will happen", "What if X happens", etc., or "X happened yesterday, let me just replay that tape over and over a few times".

Ah, you say. I'm just trying to figure how to prevent X happening soon (or again). I'm planning.

Are you? There is a difference between worrying and planning. And it's very hard to discern between the two in the middle of the night.

Therefore, this is a good beginner's time/place to practice mindfulness. Grab that opportunity the next time it happens.

Say to yourself "this is not a good time to think about this" and save it for daytime. Choose instead to fill your mind with something else. Try any of these, and be determined about it.

Go back to sleep using the 4-7-8 method or any other trick you know that works.
Create a list of pleasant memories. Reject any unpleasant ones that creep in.
Create a bucket list of good things to do. Be as unrealistic as you like so long as it's all good stuff.
If you have a good imagination, write a story in your head, a happy story.
Play the internal jukebox in your head, choosing upbeat or soothing songs. Concentrate hard on either the lyrics or music, and reject intrusive thoughts...turn up the volume.
Word puzzles. Think of a random letter and small number and then try to find words, e.g. 6 letter words beginning with H.

If something is really weighing you down, and none of this works in getting it out of your head, there is a weird emergency meditation.

Write a letter of objection. The addressee isn't important. If you are religious it could be God, but it doesn't matter who you are objecting to. Instead of worrying, begin "Dear Sir or Madam, I am writing to complain about........." Then spell it out. Explain in very formal and precise words, who is suffering, why they are suffering, or who will suffer. Explain the reason behind this, in full detail, in the style of a police report of court deposition. Assume the person you are complaining to knows nothing about it, so make it detailed, but don't repeat yourself or use any form of emotive language. Then pretend they can fix it, and tell them exactly what you want done about it.

OK, so that's all night-tine stuff, what about during the day?

Talk to yourself.

You do it anyway. You do. When you are standing in the checkout line and you see a person who looks strange in some way, unless you are INCREDIBLY rude, you don't say what you are thinking out loud. You say it in your head.

This is a very good starting point. You are being negative about something obvious and not yourself. You are being judgemental. You consider it OK to do so as you are keeping it to yourself. That's the best way, right? No......

This was my epiphany within mindfulness. I had learned not to share those thoughts with others, but one day in the checkout line in a "home and garden" type store, I caught myself being very judgemental about a couple ahead of me. And I stopped myself in mid-thought, chastised myself, and having done all this, remembered.

I'm not going to tell you it was the last time it happened, but every time I catch myself doing it, I remember that day.

Now, relax. Nobody expects you be be oblivious of other people's behaviour. Or even not to judge it. The whole point is to be aware of your thoughts. You don't have to repress anything, and it's probably not humanly possible to find the positive, or even the balanced in everything. Unless you are Carrot Ironfoundersson (qv). Most human humour is based on relieving stress by making fun of one another. But the point is to know what you are doing. Because that way you can STOP, when necessary.

Once you have recognized the obvious negativity you feel about others, you'll find it easier to recognize it when you do it to yourself.

Today's homework. Whenever you find yourself thinking something negative towards other people, ask yourself why.

Friday, 10 July 2015

A Short Course In Mindfulness - 2 - Positive and Negative

Serendipity. I was about to write this one, and a friend posted the following. Do read it.

As one comment says, the idea of telling everyone to just "think positive" is patronising. Many people have issues in their lives that make that anything from hard to impossible. In particular is the bullshit aimed at people suffering from an actual depressive illness. It's the modern equivalent of "snap out of it".

Our thought patterns are formed early on, and this is one of those nature and nurture double whammies. First you inherit a personality type, and then the person you inherited it from raises you. Throw in some early life experiences and you have a system in your head for dealing with life.

For the most part it works. Look at you all grown up. You are a success, despite whatever bits are less than ideal. Right?

Remember when I said nobody's perfect? I meant it. None of us, not one, has it all together. We are just at various levels of togetherness. Most of us cope.

Those who don't, those who seek professional help, are offered two avenues of treatment. One is medication. Works for some, not so much for others. Each person is different so there's some trial and error and so on. The other is what is sometimes called cognitive behavioural therapy. I am privileged to know several therapists, and also a few people who have received this treatment. Sometimes it works alone, sometimes it works in tandem with drugs, but it usually works.

Surely, it can help everyone? Yes, it would. But the vast majority of people don't ever get to try it out because they have never considered they need it, or they don't have time, or it's expensive, or they think it's all a crock of psychobabble. Those who've benefited from it, and those who work in that area and see the results sigh deeply and wish people were more open-minded, but let's be honest here, we've all rolled our eyes at those people who see their therapist for everything. There is a stigma to it.

The solution is obvious. Become your own therapist.

And because you are talking to yourself (hey, you do anyway, don't pretend you don't) you might want to start with being honest, because you'll notice if you're not.

So. First admit that life is not 100% great. Nobody's is, and I said NOBODY. Some have better lives than others, and that's part luck and part effort. You work on the effort, maybe your luck will change. Even if it doesn't, you'll see it differently.

There are endless things we can do to improve our lives. Some are obvious, health stuff, lifestyle choices, getting rid of toxic people in your life, and so on. Most people overlook their thought patterns, because no, it really ISN'T as easy as just "thinking positive". That is the end result, not the method. It's not a switch you can flick.

I want you to consider opposites.

You are seeing positive as the opposite of negative, right?

OK, what's the opposite of loud? Of light? Of heavy? Of full?

These aren't real opposites.

Take light. It's a real thing. It can be measured, it has a wavelength. Dark is not a thing. It is the absence of light. There is a scale down of less and less light until there is none.

Loud is noise, quiet is less noise. Silence is no noise.

And so on. You get the idea.

Negative is a construct. It exists in math and physics but not in reality. In reality you cannot have less than nothing. If positive were a real thing, and you took it all away you wouldn't end up with negative, but with simply absence of positive. You could work towards absence of negative in much the same way.

That absence is balance. It is reality. It is neither Pollyanna sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns, nor is it nagging self-doubt, passive aggression, fear, and all that other stuff we call negative.

When you achieve mindfulness you are not simply "thinking positive" (although that is what inevitably happens) you are simply thinking fully. You are examining the negative and discarding it. You are examining the positive and aiming towards it.

So you begin at the bottom, and work up.

Here the cynic says that negative thinking is reality. No, it isn't. Good and bad are just values we choose to place on situations. Only balance is reality, because it looks at both sides.

I'm not saying optimism is a bad thing, but it isn't active.

The usual way we hear this in our world is people saying they'll pray for something.

But the Russians, the world famous pessimists, have a saying:

Pray to God, but keep rowing to shore.

The other one you'll hear is "Let go and let God". I can quite understand that in difficult times, when people feel helpless, there is some comfort in that idea. But there is another way of looking it, from Desiderata:

"...whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."

I much prefer the latter as it doesn't take the responsibility off us to deal with the day to day things, while suggesting that in the bigger picture worrying is unnecessary, and actually rather pointless.

Nothing I can do will stop the world turning, but luckily, also, I need do nothing. It'll happen without any effort on my part.

So I can concentrate on myself, and those around me. I can in fact tend my own garden. 

The very first thing we must do then, having acknowledged that we have negative thoughts that are acting as roadblocks in our lives, is ask why. What benefit are they to us? Are we using them as excuses? 

Today's homework. Next time you notice a negative thought, ask yourself what benefit you find there. Do not use the "reality" excuse. Reality is in balance, not in negativity. Ask yourself, and find an honest answer.

Tomorrow we tackle overcoming negativity. 

Thursday, 9 July 2015

A Short Course In Mindfulness - 1 - Doing Your Best

There are lots of little sayings we all grew up with that became so familiar we stopped listening to them. In fact they were clichés before we were in school. Looking back some of them were very, very good indeed.

There are a pair of these - that is to say they go together very well, and they are:

"Do your best."

"Nobody's perfect."

If we actually live by these it makes everything else easier, so this is a good place to begin.


Yoda said:

"Do or do not, there is no try."

And he was right too. How do we reconcile these two?

Sincerity of intent. If you are genuinely doing your very best, no excuses, no lying to yourself, that is more than just trying. It really helps, therefore, to know your own mind, to be sure that you are being true to yourself. This will happen with mindfulness practice.

At this point some of you will balk.

"I already worry enough! This will just make it worse!"

No, it won't. This will change your worrying to caring deeply, which is quite different. Caring is positive and pro-active. Worrying is negative and a waste of time. Discovering the difference is one of the delights of mindfulness.

We all have limits. We can expand some of them, but right now we have a limit on our ability to do anything. Many people have a limit, for example, on how much they can read before they zone out. That's why I'm keeping this short. If it grabs you there are books you can buy to read much more. I want to keep your attention long enough to get you to be interested.

The most important thing is to have the right intent. That is a choice. Right now you can choose to follow this or not. Nobody will bother you if you choose not to. Just know that if you choose not to, and then later on think it may have been useful, you've missed an opportunity.

If you choose to follow it, then follow it with every fibre of your being. Not half-heartedly. No excuses. No "buts".

Nobody is perfect, and that's OK. Just do your best.

A Short Course In Mindfulness - Introduction

I don't mean to be rude, but....

I'm not a racist, but....

I'm not saying I know better than you, but.....

Of course, it's none of my business, but.....

Is it just me or is this increasing? I seem to see or hear this daily, and it's bollocks every damn time. What they are really doing is asking permission to say something they would be better keeping to themselves.

We are very keen on something we call free speech. Nothing is free. There is always a price. Whenever you "speak", be it out loud or in text, you open yourself up to criticism, contradiction, and memory. It's that last one that most people don't think about.

I have an unfortunate memory. Tell me your name at a party, I doubt I will remember it. Tell me something numerical, and I guarantee I'll forget it. But say something meaningful or controversial, and it's stuck in there for eternity. This is not deliberate on my part, and the definition of meaningful or controversial is...elastic. Let's just say that for some reason, I accidentally remember things you'd probably prefer that I didn't.

What this means is that when you contradict yourself, ten years later, I will be aghast. I may not say anything, but in my little data file in my head, you will be marked down as confused, indecisive, a hypocrite, or a liar, depending on the severity of the contradiction, and the issue in hand. I'm sorry, that's just how it is. I may not hold it against you, in fact I probably won't, because I'm very understanding and tolerant, but I'll notice.

Yes, people are allowed to change their minds, so the longer it is the less I'll care.

Well, that's me. Am I the only one? No, of course not. It's not possible. I'm quite sure there are many others out there with the same weird memory, and far less tolerant and understanding. So, it may be a good idea to engage brain before opening gob.

When you exercise free speech you are allowing all those with the steel trap memories to create these little files. Is that what you want?

Maybe you don't. And, maybe you've never considered this. So many people speak without thinking, and even write without thinking. This is obvious. It pours out.

Add to that, there are very few people who can think fast enough to filter themselves well. The vast majority of people regret things they've said, and once it's in writing....well, that's actual evidence.

So how the hell is anyone supposed to avoid long-term damage done by things they've said?

Get those thoughts out of your head.


Yes. In that inner monologue where thoughts live, tell the errant thoughts to bugger off. Yes, you can.

This is the basis of mindfulness. Speech is actually the final step, not the beginning. If there is less ugly in your head, there's less chance of it coming out.

Instead of waiting for a brave listener to correct you, correct yourself.

I have been asked to teach you how to do this. I'll give it my best shot.

Mindfulness is usually associated with Buddhist teachings. I am not Buddhist, I just like some of their ideas. You are not Buddhist either. But this concept doesn't require you to be Buddhist or know anything about Buddhism. Like many of the eastern philosophies, it stands alone.

As western people we begin with a huge disadvantage. We are selfish. In East Asia, and indeed in many other parts of the world, there is much more emphasis placed on the common good rather than the individual good. It's not a political thing, or even a religious thing, although it has certainly affected and been affected by those.

It is my considered opinion that when we are mindful it helps everyone. The funny thing is that what we actually notice is that it helps us on an individual basis. So it's a win-win.

Mindfulness can be thought of as a personal philosophy, a method. It can also be seen as self psychotherapy. Whatever you think of it as, give it a try. It works.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015


So. That B word. Bigotry.

I got into a bit of a discussion about what it means exactly. There seems to be some disagreement over it.

I present a few different dictionary definitions for your delectation and delight:

Merriam Webster


A person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices;especially :  one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance



A person who is intolerant towards those holding different opinions
Late 16th century (denoting a superstitious religious hypocrite): from French, of unknown origin.


person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own, esp on religion, politics, or race


The concept of Bigotry can have slightly different meanings in American and British English.
In British English it refers to a state of mind where a person is obstinately, irrationally, or unfairly intolerant of ideas, opinions, or beliefs that differ from their own, and intolerant of the people who hold them.
In American English, the term can be used similarly; however, it can also be used to refer to intolerance towards a group of people in general based on their group characteristics such as racereligionnational origin,genderdisabilitysexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.

Now there's some variation there, so I'm sure the discussion will continue. It must be remembered that dictionaries collect common meanings of words, they don't prescribe them, so if a word is being widely used in a certain way, that way will find its way into the dictionary. Hence a bit of variation from place to place.

It is my considered opinion that when people refer to bigotry they are referring to the behaviour of the bigot, and specifically his prejudices and negative attitudes towards those holding the opinion in question. The concept of intolerance seems to be key.

It's not simply a disagreement of opinions.

Now then, all that said, what can happen is that good old battle of intolerance. That is to say there is an accusation of intolerance of intolerance. A suggestion that those objecting to bigotry are being bigots. This is where definitions come in.

So the question is, who is being harmed here? Who are the oppressed? Who is being discriminated against?

If we persecute the KKK is that bigotry? We are being intolerant of their opinions, and the behaviour that these opinions lead to.

Would anyone in their right mind refer to it as bigotry?

Well, the KKK might, but then I'm not convinced they are in their right minds.

Here's how I see it.

Blue is harmless. He has hurt nobody. He has opinions/behaviours that Red disagrees with. Red does not harm Blue in any way.

Is there any bigotry there? No. Just a difference of opinion. This is human relationships. We are never going to agree all the time.

Blue is harmless. He has hurt nobody. He has opinions/behaviours that Red disagrees with. Red hates him for it. But Red does not harm Blue in any way.

Is there any bigotry there? Maybe. Maybe not. In theory there is potential for it though. Grey area.

Blue is harmless. He has hurt nobody. He has opinions/behaviours that Red disagrees with. Red has a restaurant, and refuses to serve Blue. Asks him to leave.

That's bigotry. It's not the worst thing he could do. There was no damage to person or property. All Blue has to do is eat elsewhere. Red's business is private and he can do as he pleases, but yes, that's bigotry.

Yellow objects to Red's behaviour. Is that bigotry? No. That's just an opinion.

If at this point Red calls Yellow intolerant, in a way he's right, but his reason is that he saw harm being caused to Blue. Ethically Red is wrong, and Yellow is right. All sorts of arguments can go on here, but ultimately Red is being intolerant without a good reason (just his opinions, no harm was done to him).

This plays out over and over around the world, and it's seen most commonly over racism. That's the reason I chose colours for names. Maybe Blue is being discrimasted against just for being blue. That's deep bigotry. But if Blue was being discriminated against because he dyed his hair green, it would still be bigotry, because his green hair is hurting nobody.

Ah says Red, I hate green hair and I don't want to see it. It's my restaurant and I don't want green hair in it. He has no good reason. He allows in purple hair, orange hair, pink hair, and even turquoise hair, it's just green hair he objects to.

If you think that's nuts, that's exactly how racism would look to an outside observer.

When question, Red says that Blue's blueness and his green hair are two totally different things. He can't help being blue, but he DELIBERATELY has green hair. Makes no difference, it's still bigotry if he's discriminated against for it.

Then Red pulls out his holy book and on page 231 it specifically states that green hair is an abomination. On page 232 it says charging money for food is an abomination, so Yellow points THIS out and asks him why he's running a restaurant.

Red says "I'm being persecuted!"

Oh dear.

Read this.

I'm not sure how to fix this. When bigots complain about people being mean to them my instinctive reaction is to respond with "WAH WAH WAH". You'd think they'd get the hint but they really don't.

So, foolishly, I repeat myself, and patiently try to explain.

If you don't like the words used, if bigotry sounds too harsh, there are plenty of other words to use. I'm not sure that it helps.

We can discuss the related words, such as hate, mean-spiritedness, intolerance, prejudice, discrimation, unfairness, cruelty, and have the same argument. At the end of the days, somebody harmless was harmed by somebody's opinions. Then the harmer cannot justifiably cry foul when he is called out on it.

It's a bit like invading a country that had done nothing to harm you, then getting upset when you are called a warmonger.

I will continue to call bigotry bigotry, and if I get called a bigot for doing so, I'll simply ignore it. I use my words carefully.

Monday, 6 July 2015

She Made Me Do It

There are often things that crop up on social media that refer to our lack of privacy in the digital age. Big brother is watching you. If you are unaware of the risk of your online publications being collected or used by a third party then you are a fool. If you are worried about this, you shouldn't be online.

I am not by nature a paranoid person, in fact I'm not a very private person at all. I'm aware of the risks of this, but I prefer to live my life fully rather than worry about who is watching me.

Then there are those of you who go to the opposite extreme, you believe that if you don't do anything wrong, you have nothing to hide. You are also a fool. Laws change. What you do openly and happily today could be illegal in the future. So quite frankly we're screwed. Something that seems totally innocent could be dragged up by authorities in a dystopian future and used to incriminate you.

Therefore I just don't care. What you see is what you get. If my behaviour leads to me being tied to a chair and interrogated, so be it.

I shall now make it really easy for those of you making a file on me. Here is a complete list of all of Melanie's secrets.

1. I don't lock my house. Ever. Don't even know where the key is. If you wish to burgle me, have at it, at least you won't break the windows. Good luck with the dogs.

2. Essex Constabulary, regarding that car chase in 1978, here I am, come and get me.

3. I don't have a vote. If I did I'd vote as far left as available. I don't trust any of them but at least I'd vote my conscience.

4. I grow a number of poisonous plants, on purpose. It's a weird hobby. You never know.

5. Sometimes I keep pigs too.

6. I am:

An ally to LGBT people.
Anti-war, except for genuine self-defence.
Pro multiculturalism, and not particularly patriotic. I'm actually anti-border, and given the choice would declare my nationality/citizenship as "Earth".
Anti capital punishment.
A feminist.
An anarchist at heart.

7. If you tested my DNA you'd find I'm not wholly European.

8. I am Pagan, of a very eclectic nature, and staunchly agnostic. Yes, I said staunchly.

9. I don't believe we have been visited by intelligent extra-terrestrial species. I'm open to panspermia, but don't find it necessary.

10. My attitude towards sex is that if there is full informed consent by all parties, anything goes.

11. I believe in free speech, but I approve of laws against hate speech. I acknowledge the difficulty there, so it's a topic I'm particularly interested in.

12. My chief topics of interest are any of the above, ethics in general, history, nature/science, music, art, literature, and minerals.

13. I like both cats AND dogs.

14. I make my bed every morning.

15. I eat meat.

16. I meditate.

17. I shave my armpits in summer. I don't judge those who don't.

18. I don't floss.

19. I don't use marijuana, actually, but I support legalization, because duh.

20. I am happy.

I am certain I've forgotten some, so I'll add to this as they crop up. I dare you to write a similar list.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Sympathy for the Devil

You may have seen the viral video of a woman going completely insane over marriage equality. It had been taken down. However, a friend found the following, so you can see it:

And if you can't see how this is funny, then watch this, it may help:

It's also very sad, because there are far worse rants going on out there, and this bitter hatred for 10% of human beings can lead to very dark places. If people are that passionate, they can be dangerous.

Well, we all know that.

Something else struck me about it though. Within her worldview it makes sense. By her highly emotional personality, the reaction makes sense. If you believe something very deeply, no matter how illogical that belief is, then by the chain of events that follow, you can arrive at that place.

I actually feel sorry for Betty. Her life must be bloody awful. Her hormones seem off kilter, she may need professional help. But...she's trapped. If she were to accept marriage equality she'd have to dismantle her entire belief system. Systems work as a whole. You can't just set aside one part. It's a house of cards, pull out one at the bottom, and FLOP.

When the US Supreme Court Judges made their decision it was not done easily. It took time, and much, much debate. It certainly would not have involved emotional rants. Courts are the opposite of emotional rants, they are about fairness, balance, logic etc. (It is especially notable that Justice Kennedy is a conservative, by the way.)

Most regular people are not educated like Supreme Court Judges and follow a very different method when making decisions. There is a lot of "gut" feeling. Betty is going with her gut and not her reason. She may be too old to change. She may not be intelligent enough to understand. She may not be stable enough to cope. Don't hate her, pity her.

You don't have to approve of homosexual unions. There is no law or requirement for you to do that. If you want to, you can not only disapprove but hate. Aren't you lucky? Nobody can prevent you from hating. That's true freedom. Your personal opinions are safe.

That same freedom that gives you the right to hate gives others the right to love. Remember that, because you can't have it both ways.

And then it gets even better - the same restrictions that prevent you from manifesting that hate, the laws that stop you from discriminating against the people you hate, also prevent them from harming you. Again, it's totally fair.

You are not allowed to harm gay people, and they are not allowed to harm you. What more could anyone ask for?

This is the difference between hate and harm. You may hate all you wish, but you can't harm.

You can't discriminate.
You can't oppress.
You can't bully.
You can't persecute.

I gave up trying to help the likes of Betty a long time ago. I am not equipped to communicate with people who are that emotional. I leave that to others. Others who fight emotion with emotion. Who cry and shout and use dramatic language. Not my forté.

I offer logic, and I get emotion in return, so we talk past each other, and it's a waste of time.

I acknowledge that some people are compromised in their logic. They use emotion instead. (This is where the hate often arises, BTW). Simply educating them doesn't work.

That's why we have laws. Laws exist because people can't figure out how to behave all by themselves. I don't need laws to tell me not to bully people who are different to me, I learned that by myself. But some never do that. So we have to protect their potential victims.

If people are too emotional to be logical, they have to be told to behave.

In other words Betty, you did this to yourself.