Wednesday, 30 September 2015

I Don't Do It, And That's OK

As I pointed out when I put this on FB, I'm actually an immigrant woman, and, as was pointed out to me, I missed another one there, which is that I support soldiers, but not "the military". Two entirely different things. Anyway, that aside, this is a good list.

Why progressives?

Well, the usual definition of a small c conservative is a person who is opposed to change (or at least sudden, or - as they see it - unnecessary change) and who prefers to do things the tried and tested way (even if it doesn't work). It's not just a political bent, it's a personality thing, and you can break it down into mundane things too, for example, I am a language conservative (I prefer that to "pedant").

But I've also noticed that it's a decidedly conservative thing to prefer "like me" to "not like me". I'd be interested in how conservatives see that. They may dispute it. Obviously it won't apply to all people, or all issues, but it's a trend I've observed.

Anyway, the point is that some people more than others, and especially those who are indeed progressively-minded, regardless of actual political affiliations, are able and willing to support people and things NOT LIKE THEM.


But seriously, that's progress. It goes against our ancient instincts. We are essentially tribal, it was tribes that helped us dominate, and tribes had requirements. You had to follow them. Rebellion was not tolerated. What you wore, what you ate, what you did, it was all decided for you, and you did it, because being ostracized often meant death.

Still, that was a long time ago, so that now, we tolerate difference. Well, most of us.

And all of us have a hard time shaking off the very last bits of this. My son, the writer, asked me how I felt about the idea of dominant reptilian species, and I said YUK. He said it was far more likely than mammalians being dominant, and I said YUK again. So I guess I'm speciesist. Or something.

I've nothing against reptiles (I love 'em) but I don't want to have to talk to them, especially not as equals or (YUK!) overlords.

But you don't have to be "like me" for me to love you, or even like you (which is much harder).

This crops up a lot in the marijuana issue, you know. It's not an issue with much middle ground. You are either pro or anti, and let's be honest, most of those who are pro will take advantage of legalization.

I am considered a bit odd by some, because I am 100% pro legalization, and 0% likely to ever use it. Inhale a drug? ME? Are you serious? Not going to happen.

Yeah, because guess what, it is actually possible to tolerate other people's choices, assuming they don't harm me. Ideally, they don't harm anyone, but despite harm being my yardstick, obviously it's always arguable.

Is there any harm in marijuana? Well of course there is. It's disingenuous to say otherwise, but it's no more harmful that a million other things people do, and a zero harm lifestyle is neither possible nor desirable.

But in the big picture, the harm is small, generally restricted to users, so why would I have a problem with it? Just to spoil somebody else's fun? Do I say they can't play dangerous sports? Do I say they can't eat fast food?

And as for governments, well, they pretend they care about public health, but they don't. Their laws are uneven, low-harm things are illegal, high-harm things are legal, and as always you have to see what makes them most money to understand why they ban what they ban.

And individuals who claim harm in the things they disapprove of are every bit as illogical, because they miss the harm in the things they approve of. I know plenty of people who claim that their objection to gay marriage is "for the sake of the children", and not politics, but ask them about reasons for childhood poverty being anything to do with politics and they change the subject.

At least I recently learned something about those who are both religiously and politically right-wing. Did you know that "being good" is not a really important thing in Christianity? I admit this was a bit of a shock to me. I've only heard this from conservatives. I thought it was an anomaly the first time, so being me I asked questions. No, this is solid conservative Christian teaching. Apparently "sin" isn't about being cruel to other humans, it's about your own personal relationship with God. Who will forgive you if you harm people, even if you persecute deliberately, because you did it for him.

Brings this to mind:

So when this warped version of morality comes up for discussion, they have it all figured out.

Progressives? Not all saints (see previous blog) but with the concept, by definition of "we must change for the better", that harming fellow humans (at least) on purpose, and for no good reason, is not the right way to go. Do I believe that ethics on the left are more honourable? You bet.

Here's the thing that makes it all so weird. The more important an issue is, the less effort is made to create justice.

There have been a few reports in the media recently about students being suspended for having coloured hair. Which is just so stupid. And even a lot of my more small c conservative friends have said so. That there are far more important things to worry about. Good. Good. We can all agree that if it's a matter of personal taste, that you don't have to like it to let it be.

In fact, those who get the rules changed about such "petty" things aren't always progressives even in power. They're just sensible people who pick their battles. Or they'll say their support of whatever is for humanitarian reasons. Well, it can't be.

Because if you bring to the table life or death matters, these same people suddenly aren't very humane at all.

You know my position on the niqab. Hate them. None of my damned business, if it's personal choice. Does Harper know when that is? I very much doubt it. Does he really care? Like hell.

If you'll stand up (suddenly) for women you've never given a damn for before, it makes me very suspicious.

Ah, follow the money. That's usually it. I don't always "get it" but I know hypocrisy when I see it, and anyone who is suddenly ultra supportive of anyone or any group they usually don't think twice about, there's always money involved.

A person who actually cares, cares universally. Remember, a person who is nice to you but isn't nice to others, isn't a nice person. If you love your fellow man, well.....

You know, I haven't checked to see if love by conservative Christians is conditional. I should ask.

Admittedly, when it comes to the petty things, I actually find it harder to get it right. But for the opposite reason. You see, for me, the harm in the "big" issues is obvious. If we shun or devalue those who are different to us, the next step is oppression, and we all know what happens after that. People die. So it's a total no-brainer to love and support those who differ to me in major ways, such as in the list up there. It matters.

When it comes to minor choices and differences of taste, it's so easy to fall into the trap, because it's not a big deal, of not caring about the feelings of others.

I believe this:

And yet I struggle, daily, to tolerate people's weird shit, and to say nothing, and to basically be nice. In order to not turn into Lady Bracknell, I have to remind myself of this constantly. I fail a lot. I keep trying. Doesn't make any of it right. The only reason I forgive myself is that if I'm going to be a bitch, I'll be a bitch about your hat or your beer. Not your skin or your gender. Bitch, not bigot. Not that it's OK, but it's better. Nobody's perfect.

I will always, reliably, stand up for you in the things that matter. Even if I hate your point of vew, I will stand up for your right of free speech. Even if I hate your politics I will stand up for your voting rights. Because that's the right thing to do. When ethics becomes partisan, we're fucked.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Saints and Sinners Redux

I am actually a little shocked that I'm writing this. Last time I did it, I had an overwhelming agreement from you, dear readers, that there are only people, and people do good things and bad things. Some more of one than the other, sure, but there really are no evil people, no perfect people, and some aspects of ethics are (shock, horror) not agreed upon.

And yet, pretty much every day just lately somebody tells me that X is evil, or gets all bent out of shape because somebody posted nice things about X, or whatever. Or they do some X worshipping.

It doesn't matter if it's a politician, a cleryman, a child, a celebrity or your old Mum. Nobody is ever all good or all bad. When you even begin to suggest this it simply screams your own agenda to me.

Example #1. Bill Maher.

When he's trashing politicians for you, you love him. But the moment he puts on his militant atheist hat, you hate him. Is he really good or bad? Neither. He's a guy. First and foremost he's an entertainer (so any reaction is valid) and any attention you give him makes his agent very happy. Like so many of the more intelligent comedians, he has dipped his toe in political waters (actually, in Bill's case all the way to the neck) and as soon as you do that, you're not funny any more, if your opinion is the wrong one.

Example #2. Pope Francis.

Because he's all about helping the poor you think he's awesome, but when he sticks to the traditional Catholic anti-woman and anti-gay lines, he's a git. Well, what did you expect? He's a Pope. He's not even doing anything innovative. Believing these things together has been going on a long time. Not new, not only Catholics and not that remarkable. It is very modern for social justice to be universal, and I'm not even sure it is now.

I'm not going to give you any more examples. No, not even Obama. Use your head and find your own. The people you don't like (i.e. the majority of stuff they do, you oppose) and the people you do like (i.e. the majority of stuff they do, you support) are just people. With jobs and lives. Who make decisions. The best you can ever do is choose whether to trust them or not. Then listen/vote accordingly. It's all part of critical thinking, and isn't it already how you pick your friends anyway? That their good bits outweigh their bad bits, from your perspective?

You (yes YOU) are reading this because you know me, and presumably like me, or because you stumbled across this blog and find it worth reading. You are therefore, in a way, one of my fanbase. This makes you biased towards me. The advantage (for me) of this is that you are more likely to read my stuff, and even more likely to consider it deeply (even if you don't agree with what I say). You give me the gift of your attention and time. Thank you, and namaste.

But the problem there is that unless you are really careful, you could become biased. A few of you will never have any issues there (including some I'm related to, LOL) because (thanks to me?) you are SUCH a critical thinker, you will tell me I'm full of shit.

Bias towards people you usually agree with and against people you usually disagree with is normal. We have to sort the wheat from the chaff somehow, there are only so many hours in a day. So unless I'm on a "know thy enemy" mission, I basically don't read anything written by people whose values seem very differently to mine.

It reached a point where I had effectively shut all of them out of my life. I don't actually regret this, but I threw the baby out with the bathwater. You see, along with the gits, I had tossed aside some good people. People who I almost always disagree with, but their reasoning was genuine. So I made the conscious effort to acquire new social contacts who, while we didn't have much in common on "issues" were nevertheless basically decent sorts, with good intentions, a good heart, and the ability to think outside the box.

I've only just lately discovered that the result of this was sheer bloody ignorance on my part of some recent attitudes. In other words, a distinct lack of know thy enemy missions. I get too busy. That won't change but I need to let a few more people into my life who do have time, so I can pick it up 3rd hand. There is no excuse for ignorance these days.

That is the long-winded way of saying that you really need saints and sinners - or at least, those perceived that way - in your life for complete awareness in any issue.

Let me give you an example of how important this is.

I grew up in England during the active IRA attacks on the mainland. Terrorism was all white for us, back then (oh, how quickly we forget). I grew up hating the IRA and anyone who supported them, even the slightest bit. At one point, because of NORAID (q.v.), that included Americans. How dare people who had no idea what it was like to have a genuine danger of terrorist attack 24/7 send money to those terrorists. HOW DARE THEY?

Well, I was fucking ignorant.

One day, I was out shopping and was stopped by a handsome young middle eastern guy (nobody batted an eyelid at this, back then) who was collecting money to help arm freedom fighters/rebels in Afghanistan. I knew about that. Russia had just invaded. The Mujahdeen needed foreign aid. They got mine.

I was fucking ignorant again.

You only know what you know and I was only 17 anyway, for pity's sake. But when I look back, I'm quite sure that many, if not most (but not ALL) Americans who gave money to the IRA were just unaware of the whole situation, and didn't think for one moment that children would be blown to bits with their money. I certainly had no idea what the future of the Mujahdeen was to become.

But that's not even it. The Americans who knew EXACTLY what the money they gave to the IRA would be used for weren't monsters either. And.....neither were the IRA. They were just people.

Some years later I got to know a girl who'd been active in the IRA. And I found out why. Because as a child she'd lost family members and several homes to the Ulster loyalists, and she was bitter and wanted revenge. As an angry teenager she got her revenge. Did she regret it later on? Sort of. Anyway, she dedicated her life to peace but also to explaining, and she taught me something important. An explanation is not the same thing as an excuse. This is one of the pillars of my personal philiosophy, and yeah. I got it from a killer.

The most important thing we ever do in trying to understand, and trying to get along with one another, is to listen. But right alongside that we must always remember that may still not hear, if we prejudge. After we've listened, considered, researched, asked more questions, then we can decide. Then we can judge. It really isn't necessary to like everyone, and you certainly won't/can't/shouldn't like everything they do. But you have to find out what that is first, AND WHY.

There really are no evil people, and no perfect people. Not one of either extreme. And all the time YOU are not perfect (and, like me, you are far from it) you have to listen to the gits. And you have to examine the heroes carefully too. Get them down off their pedestals. Find out what makes them tick.

It's OK to point out the strengths and flaws in our leaders (of all types). Good grief, we don't want to censor dissent. If you put yourself "out there" you leave yourself open to it. The right to an opinion, and the right to challenge an opinion must be equal. I'm just saying that it's childish and possibly dangerous to allow emotions towards a person, be it from admiration or disgust, to cloud your judgement. AND......there's always the chance, after all, that you may be wrong.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Free Will

Because I am raving mad, I thought we'd tackle this one today. Friday is (sort of) my day off. I still work but not so much so I have time to get into deep philosophical debate.

This topic keeps coming up, and I have to be honest, I am convinced most people really don't even think about it much, let alone form their own solid opinion on it. Here are a couple of things to get you thinking.

I have long maintained that we do and we don't have free will. Which is why I don't get uptight about the more extreme arguments here. I see it as relative, not absolute, and I'm well aware that that fits in with Buddhist teachings (at this point I an obliged to state to new readers that I am NOT Buddhist, but I really get along with an awful lot of Buddhist philosophy, and I've studied it in some considerable depth) but I have always felt that way, ever since I can remember.

My reasoning, as with Buddhist reasoning, is that no man is an island. Simple as that. We are affected by (and we affect) everybody and everything around us, which means that absolute Free Will is de facto impossible.

Which is not to say you don't have any. You have all sorts of freedoms, even ones most people don't think about. Everything you do - EVERYTHING - is by choice, even if your choices are limited.

How does that work? Well, reality really. Laws of Physics. I would love, for example, to be able to fly. But I don't have wings. And gluing some on won't help, because they wouldn't lift me off the ground. So my freedom to fly appears to be non-existant, while birds make it look easy. However, I have flown, by buying a ticket for an airplane. This was a freedom by money. I could afford it. If you can't, then that freedom doesn't exist for you. And so on.

Now, I COULD throw myself off a building, and I'd fly (downwards) for a short time. But this would be an unwise choice because it would probably be my final choice. Hitting the ground would not be by choice, it would be inevitable. On the other hand, by dint (and dent) of my actions I WOULD be choosing to hit the ground. That's how choice works. Consequences are part of choice.

And that's what freedom, and therefore Free Will, is all about. Choices. I think that much is obvious. Where the arguments come in really is how much of these choices are truly free. How many are even conscious?

One of the least popular debates you will ever have on this is "I chose to be fat". People balk at that. They object. They tell you they don't eat too much, it's metabolic, or age, or genetics, or whatever. This is all an excuse. A lie.

There were zero fat people in the concentration camps. Well, after a while, anyway. No. If you reduce your food intake sufficiently, you will get thin. Very thin. But most of us are unwilling to go without food to that extreme. It's unhealthy, it leaves you with no energy, and it hurts.

We all have the freedom to do that, but we choose not to. Fact.

While I'm here, let's take on the people who believe your Will is so strong it can combat anything. Do you think you can will yourself thin? Without changing your food intake? Why can't you will yourself NOT thin then, when you are starving?

Well, science, that's why. The human mind is a wonderful thing, but it has its limits.

It cannot will you to fly, it cannot will you to metabolize differently, and it cannot will you to allow for any and all of the millions of effects that surround you, whether you are aware of them or not.

That would be magic. Even if you believe in magic, and most people do (I'll come back to that) you allow it to have limitations. You allow that. You do. Oh yes you do!

If there was magic, just like in Harry Potter, where virtually anything is possible, there would be LESS Free Will, and not more. Yep.

HUH? How's that Melanie?

Well, for a start, everyone would be fighting. The nanosecond your Free Will came up against somebody else's, and they differed, wands would be out.

We have peace and harmony because Free Will is limited. It is limited not only to control over only your own body, but there's even a limit to that. You cannot become 50 feet tall and strong enough to throw boulders at people, because if you did, that unfair advantage would give you the ability to take control of your entire species. And biology is more egalitarian than that. And if everyone had unlimited growth potential things would get very silly as we all raced to get bigger. Eventually our heads would be outside the atmosphere.

It should be stating the obvious that Free Will is limited. But for a number of reasons (and not all of them religion or superstition, I might add) people often over or under-estimate it. 

Firstly, anyone who has studied this at an academic philosophical level will have learned about the various theories proposed over the centuries and will have seized upon the teachings of Descartes or Hume or whoever. Those who have decided that they are non-determinists often end up going so far that they give too much credit to the human mind. They almost reach the levels of the New Age types who have heard that you can create your own reality and have taken it literally. When you give them the weight or flight examples they scoff. 

There are many people who therefore believe in magic. They don't call it that, most of them, anyway. They call it Positive Thinking, or Reiki, or Astrology, or Homeopathy, or prayer, or whatever. But they actually believe that the Laws of Physics don't always apply. They aren't saying "perhaps science has some surprises left on that front", they are saying that with enough human Will, the Laws of Physics can simply be overcome. Right now.

Not only that, they think their particular method or group alone has this arcane power. And they are willing to use it for the most trifling of things.

I have heard perfectly sane, educated, intelligent people claim that they prayed for a (very small) lottery ticket win, and got it.

Tell me. Why would the entire universe re-arrange itself to provide extra money for one applicant? Especially when many other applicants may well be doing the same thing?

Small children do that. They have been taught to pray and being trusting, they try it out. On small things. Oh, you say, how quaint. They don't understand! Oh, but they do. You taught them. Ask and it shall be given, you taught them. Like Santa Claus, or grandmothers. Yeah. I remember doing it with raffle tickets. Never worked. Why? Because even if you are a firm believer in a deity, you cannot seriously think of him as a genie. That's childish.

"AHA!" Says the theologian. "God's Will is paramount!" Well, yes, it would be. Not much point being God if you are not omnipotent really. So the only way your heartfelt supplication stands any chance whatsoever is if it happens to coincide with God's Will. So quite frankly, why bother? I hear this: "If it be your will, then.....". Well duh. If it's God's Will it's going to happen anyway, so save your breath.

But it's not just the God Botherers, is it? This applies to all and everyone voicing their wishes, and the standard New Age (and quantum physics, these days) idea is that if enough of us want something badly enough, we'll get it. Only, this time the opposite applies. The more minor and petty it is, the higher the chances. If it's quantum, it is something very minor indeed. And even the wackiest New Ager tends not to believe he can move mountains.

So, one way and another ALL of these people, the wishful thinkers, rate their chances of getting their way rather highly.

Do they think of that as Free Will? That's exactly what it would be. YOUR desires, YOUR choices, YOUR plans.

And if you have Free Will, why doesn't it work every time?

Because you don't. That's why.

There again, there's another attitude. "It is God's Will and I can't change it." "It is in my tea leaves." "It's in the Akashic records." "Ye cannae change the Laws of Physics, Jim". The glass half empty crowd. They shrug, they accept their fate, and they never lift a finger to change it.

Well, that's just as daft, isn't it.

Twice recently I have opined that we have endless choices, and got told that we don't. Let us now examine the anatomy of choice.

Let us assume for the sake of a convenient analogy that the choice is "What shall I have for lunch."

OK. So. Assuming you have at least some money to spend, and/or a fridge/pantry with food in it, you can have have lunch. No lunch at all then is totally free choice on your part. "I was too busy to eat" is not true. Anyone can stop what they are doing. This may cause other problems, sure, but the choice to down tools exists.

Now then, let's assume in my fridge there is ham, cheese, and eggs. Fairly basic stuff that most people will have "in stock". Let's also assume there is a loaf of bread on the counter. I can choose a ham sandwich, a cheese sandwich, or an egg sandwich. That is at least 3 choices. If I were a bit decadent I could put any two, or even all three of them in my sandwich. And I could then toast it. I could add vegetables, and sauce, and I could cut it many ways. The permutations of possible sandwiches are quite high with a few extras.

On the other hand, I couldn't have a chicken sandwich. Or could I? What if I went to the deli and bought some chicken? Or to the sandwich shop and bought a chicken sandwich, just like that? Or went out back and killed a chicken? In theory, at least, I COULD have a chicken sandwich.

I couldn't have a T.Rex sandwich. That's not available. That's not an option. But there are many others.

I could sell my TV, buy an air ticket, fly to Montreal and have a genuine smoked meat sandwich.

I could steal somebody else's sandwich.

I could have soup instead.

All of these options are open to me, and if that isn't freedom of choice, there's just no pleasing some people.

OK, admittedly, some of these aren't terribly realistic choices, or choices I would ever consider making, but they remain. A choice doesn't have to be sensible, or even legal. People make stupid, criminal choices all the time. Quite often when a person complains of his lack of choices what he really means is "simple choices".

Free Will is supposed to be a deep philosophical construct, but if we have it, we actually do a lot better if we use it on everyday stuff too. It beats making excuses, anyway.

We all have obstacles our lives, and that's life, but it's bloody stupid to put them there ourselves.

To sum up then, I maintain that there is such a thing as Free Will, but it's far from complete, and for some people, not even used. I would also like to point out that is wholly a "modern" idea, and can not be claimed (or dismissed) by any traditional religion. It is outside of those.

In fact, belief in Free Will is completely free.

Argue with me on Facebook.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Fear of Beauty

A funny thing has happened.

Over the last few decades there has been much emphasis on authenticity, values, and the deeper things in life, and this is all very positive. A person's character, his values, his words and behaviour are all far more important than how he looks. We even say that people are beautiful on the inside, and it's quite true. This is all good, all good.

Somewhere along the way though, we got scared to remark that a person was beautiful on the outside. People don't take compliments graciously, and you can be called shallow if you comment that someone is attractive. Why are we so afraid to admit that there are people among us who are exceptionally pleasing to look at?

I have a friend who studies Tao. He says that as soon as you recognize one thing you are obliged to recognize its opposite. I am keen on balance in all things, and so I pay attention. In other words he's saying, if you acknowledge that some people are beautiful, you must acknowledge that others are ugly. And we are all uncomfortable with that.

Well, when I say all, of course I mean thinking people. There's no shortage of those ready to condemn anyone who doesn't line up with their idea of beauty (even if it's an attribute they don't have themselves). And rightly, we condemn them in turn for their judgemental attitude. We tell them to get past that, but they are not interested.

I have seen articles about people, especially children, with severe facial deformities, that 100 years ago would have had them hidden away in an attic. Today we are more sympathetic and caring, and we want them to be treated like everyone else. And this is a good thing. But some people go so far as to call them beautiful. I understand why they do this, and they will tell you it's their smile, or their eyes, or their spirit. Which is wonderful, but we may as well say they are tandrenous, for all the word beautiful means here.

I am not saying "be brutally honest" here. I know how dangerous that sort of idea can be, but let's be realistic.

I am not beautiful. I used to be. I got lucky in the gene pool and I was born with all the right proportions in my face. Then age came along, and while I won't scare the horses, I'm not beautiful anymore. I'm perfectly OK with that, it's one less hassle frankly.

I know a thing or two about being beautiful. Oh yes. It is a HUGE advantage. When you are young it makes self-confidence that much easier. As a teenager I was slim and pretty and never had to obsess over my looks or my figure. I'm here to tell you that makes life easy. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying to you, or.......or.........they had other reasons for their lack of self-esteem. Because I guarantee, right now, reading this, are women saying "WOAH! HOLD ON! I was slim and pretty too, but I was a neurotic mess!". Yeah. Beauty won't fix that.

So that advantage only works if it's not offset by other issues. Actually.

The other advantage, OBVIOUSLY, is that you can get any romantic partner you want!


This is a rumour put around by those trying to explain why they didn't win the "prize".

"Wait a minute....I'm not seeing the advantage here."

Actually it's minor. I did get one job based solely on my looks, but apart from that and the time saved, there was no real advantage to it.

And the unwanted attention you get outweighs any advantage anyway. When you are young and slim and pretty and you enter any bar, club, party, or whatever, every scumbag in the place make a beeline for you. It's tedious.

I much prefer being old and ugly. I have conversations with more interesting people. I don't get hit on. It's just waaaaaay easier.

That's the truth.

Nevertheless I can't imagine many young people choosing to be ugly. They may choose an ugly hairstyle or whatever, but that can be changed. Only a minority deliberately uglify themselves, and they generally have psychological issues.

It is certainly different for the young, and we must never overlook that. We teach them that you are setting yourself up for heartbreak if you base your self-esteem on your looks, because unless you got really lucky in the gene pool (Johnny Depp, etc) those looks won't last with age, and we see people spending a fortune on age-defying surgery.

Then we scorn vanity. We often do this in the same breath. We talk out both sides of our mouths on this entire topic. We are so conflicted.

And, last but not least, there is personal taste. There are even people out there who don't think Johnny Depp is good-looking. It's a minority view, but it's genuine. They just don't see his appeal.

So, to call a person beautiful is an opinion. It's never a fact. That's interesting in itself.

The fear of beauty goes right along with the fear of ugliness. It's a fear of opinion itself. We don't want to be seen thinking the wrong thing, and that is a type of vanity!

I don't want to live in a world where beauty is everything. Where we shun people for not meeting an arbitrary standard. But I want to enjoy beauty where I see it,  SEE IT. Not feel it. Actual physical beauty, like flowers, and butterflies, and sunsets. I don't want everything to be treated as equivalent, visually. I don't want bad art to be applauded, I don't want horrible colour schemes, I don't want buildings to get run down, or gardens to be neglected because they all have equal value.

I want there to be beauty, and I want it to be OK to acknowledge it, to enjoy it, and to say so.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Why Do You Hate The Past Tense So Much?

(A few people still read my posts about spelling and grammar in the wrong voice. These are supposed to be funny, even if I do want to dive at you with four sets of claws out and teeth bared when you use an apostrophe to create a plural. If you don't find 'em funny - and useful at the same time - don't read 'em.)

OK, I know English is a very fucked up language. That's its beauty really. English dictionaries are bigger than all others because it's replete with synonyms. It has borrowed ( = stolen) words from many other languages, and so we can express ourselves with very little repetition. And it's an old language which has developed in a very quirky way, and it has been permitted to, so that in its modern form it has many irregularities.

This table demonstrates this very well:

verbpresent tensepast tensepast participlepresent participle
lay (to put down)laylaidlaidlaying
lie (to recline)lielaylainlying

Imagine coming across that for the first time as an ESL student. I think I'd run away screaming.

But as well as reminding us that if we lay on the table we should always pick the eggs up afterwards, it shows how you can't even trust endings to be consistent in the past tenses.

This is no excuse. 

Two of you regularly, and many more occasionally, are getting your present and past tenses muddled up. So, what, are you time travellers?

The typical past tense ending on regular verbs is -ed.


Watch, watched.
Kiss, kissed.
Poke, poked.

So why do you insist on saying:

"I use to!"
"You were suppose to..."

You mean used to and supposed to.

We also create some adjectives from the past tense of a verb. Sounds complicated? No, you do it all the time. Sometimes these too have -ed endings.

"He was exhausted."
"He was an exhausted man"

OK. You are quite familiar with this. If somebody said instead "He was an exhaust man" you'd laugh. That's wrong. You know this.

SO WHY DO YOU INSIST ON SAYING "That is a prejudice statement"?

You mean prejudiced.

But we're not done there, are we?

Oh no. When you create adjectives using the -ant ending you STILL fuck it up.

"He dominated"
"He was dominant"

So why do you say "he was dominate"?

Maybe you don't proofread. I forgive you, neither do I. My point is, after decades of using this, your NATIVE language, you shouldn't be making these BASIC errors in the first place, right?

I have resisted correcting these (and all others) oopsies in the past, because I'm tolerant (not tolerate!) but I have a new graphic......

And I'm not afraid to use it........

Monday, 21 September 2015

Halloween/Samhain Public Service Announcement etc.

Every year it's the same. Drives me effing screwy.

Halloween, not Holloween, It's not hollow, there's no hole in it.

It's the same word as in Deathly Hallows. Hallowed ground. All Hallow's.

It sounds like "HALLO!"

It rhymes with shallow and mallow.

Here is a person saying it.

If I hear one more person saying "hollow" I shall sacrifice them.


I just heard something worse, but I think I have it all figured out. I just heard a person say Hulloween.

See a pattern here? Hallo, Hullo, they think it's a greeting to somebody called Ween. It's therefore just a matter of time before I hear Helloween. Who is Ween BTW?

How can I enjoy this time of year if people are saying it wrong? Have you any idea the effect this has on me? I'm going to get my own back. It will upset people. I don't care. Revenge is sweet. Just wait until Chrustmas.

Now then, the Pagan version is Samhain. It is NOT, I repeat NOT pronounced Sam Hane. But nor is it pronounced SOW IN which I've heard all over the place.

Its's SAH-wn. Rhymes with the first two parts of "Ma 'n' me went shopping"

I looked for a video to demonstrate. First one I found was wrong. But then I looked to see what else this person had created as pronunciation guides. OH MY GIDDY AUNT.

They had Sidhe pronounced as SIDE!!!!


It's pronounced SHE.

Good grief.

So, back to Samhain. MH is a Gaelic sound which traditionally sounds like a V. But it's not a hard hard V, and if you know anything about languages you'll know that V and W are often confused, and some languages don't distinguish between them. Well, in Gaelic it varies, both by word and by locality. So this is not the the same in all parts of the Gaelic speaking world. You will hear SAH-vn too. This is also correct. There is also a dialect version that's more like SHAH-vn. Take your pick among these.

Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, they are WRONG. I don't care what your Irish cousin says, she doesn't represent the entire Gaelic speaking world, and unless she's a teacher or linguist she probably knows nothing more than what she's heard around her.

For general purposes, stick to SAH-wn. Not SAH-win, or SAH-wen. An unstressed syllable, a schwa. And not SOW. It is NOT pronounced like cow, nor is it pronounced like low. It's SAH. Not SAHHHHHHHHH, but not the A in Sam either. Got it?

I think the "cow" explanation of rhyme you often see is a mis-hearing. I've listened to native Gaelic speakers say it out loud, and people listening say "SEE! It rhymes with cow!" but it doesn't. It's not a dipthong. But, more to the point, in a Irish/Scottish accent the word cow DOES rhyme with the beginning of Samhain. The way non-Irish/Scottish people say cow is different.

That means that if you say it to rhyme with cow in YOUR accent, it sounds wrong. 

EXCEPT.......some Canadians say "cow" the Irish way. My youngest son does. So, for him, the SOW-n explanation works (THIS IS THE PROBLEM WITH PHONETICS!).

So, after that bit of pedantry, to show off completely I can tell you it comes from an old INDIAN word (yes, from India) Samana, referring to a gathering. Because Celts come from India. Actually. Follow the red hair.

I'm so glad I didn't call my younger daughter Samhain (it was on my list). She has enough trouble with Sian.........

Sunday, 20 September 2015


There's a snarky little "meme" doing the rounds about scientists citing articles they haven't actually read due to paywalls. This is intended to discredit their work, and is yet one more attempt to discredit science in favour of woowoo.

Now sit down, shut up, and listen. It is a fact, a reality, that not all scientific research is accurate, and some of it is downright bogus. That is absolutely no reason to decide your version of it is better.

Let's get the paywall thing right out of the way first.

Citations are wonderful things, but in the end it could potentially be a house of cards, if everyone just cites each other and by chance they are all wrong. That's why peer review is so important, and why the internet, with all its faults, garbage, woowoo, and trolls, is a huge help. Just try publishing something that's dodgy science and watch the critiques come in.

Then there's the other extreme. Scientist worship.

Here I side with the Pope, but not because he is a chemist. Many of the scientists regularly quoted by those who do not believe in climate change are, like the Pope, not experts in the field. Climate experts are a subset of scientists. In other words, we need to leave it to the climatologists.

Could they still be wrong? Of course they could, but it's unlikely. If you want certainty, in anything, you're out of luck, and this is why there's so much misunderstanding.

Let's go back to basics. What is science?

It is the careful observation and recording of data, which is then repeated to check results, and finally, as part of your study, you try to prove yourself wrong. These results are then published, i.e. shared, and the expert opinion of peers (other experts in the same field) is taken into acount. Ideally they also try to replicate the findings, or try to disprove it with their own studies. At some point after much of this, it is considered valid and used to teach others.

There is no ultimate authority to check it. (If anyone says God, his research papers were rubbish.)

Why do we go to all this trouble when some things are obvious?

Well, firstly, obvious isn't always correct. It used to be obvious that the Earth was flat but we've come a long way since then. (You will be horrified to learn there are still people trying to prove it is flat. They don't get anywhere, but they call themselves scientists. They forget about the peer review aspect.)

I'd like to give you an example of what "everybody knows" being wrong.

As most of you know, I grew up in England. All the time I lived in England I "knew" that the vast majority of spiders did not bite. I knew, of course, of dangerous tropical spiders that did, but as far as I was concerned the ones I ran into didn't, and therefore it wasn't something I ever worried about.

I also, therefore, ruled them out as suspects when I had an insect bite.

In 1993 I came to live in Canada, and over time I heard many, many people tell me about spider bites. At first I laughed and said "don't be silly, spiders don't bite." I was sure of that. 30 years of experience and all that. But I heard so many instances of spider bites that I came to believe that Canadian spiders must be unusually aggressive. I accepted a new truth, based on the wisdom of those around me.


Scientists, and that is to say experts in spiders, not physicists, or astronomers, or experts in other small critters, have conclusively proven, with multiple studies, that the vast majority of spiders don't bite, actually. That in fact spider bites are even rare among the scary tropical spiders. Spiders prefer to run or hide than attack a human. The small spiders we have in our homes do not even possess the ability to bite us. Oh, and that thing about how many spiders crawl on you at night, or how many we eat as we mouth-breathe? All nonsense. All old wives tales. Spiders avoid us. They are WAAAAAY more scared of us than we are of them. They are not aggressive. Even the spiders who can pierce human flesh (the really big ones) only bite you if cornered. That's why you shake your boots out if you live in Black Widow or Brown Recluse country. The average bedroom spider? Nope. And all that rubbish about "it must be a spider bite, there are TWO holes side by side". No. Actual spider bites never look like that. You're thinking of vampires.

Here's one of many articles on the topic. Feel free to try to prove me wrong. That's GOOD research.

So why do Canadians believe in spider bites? Well, lots of insects bite us here. Some are never seen. We just wake up in the morning with bites, some very small, we are sure there were no mozzies in the room, and then we try to figure out the culprit. We SEE spiders, so they get the blame.

That's not even good police work, let alone good science.

So much of what people believe, because it's "obvious" or widely "known" is complete bollocks, and that's why we need science.

That doesn't mean we know everything, and it doesn't mean science is always right. Nobody ever said it was. Even experts invent data for convenience, because people expect them to come up with figures out of their heads, so they estimate. And as we all know, 50% of statistics are made up on the spot, right? But this is still the right way to go about it. This is the right approach. Not guesswork. "We've always done it that way, and I have never known anyone harmed by it" may work. You may be lucky. But it isn't science until you have studied it properly.

We all know someone who prefers woowoo to science. If they are harmless, we can be kind to them, and hope that one day they'll understand how it all works. And if they don't - so long as they are harmless - we'll leave them to their beliefs. It must work for them in some way.

But thinking, rational, logical people still make mistakes. I already knew about spiders, but allowed myself to be hoodwinked. It can happen to anyone. I should have checked with experts instead of taking on what "everyone knew".

Monday, 7 September 2015

Physician, Heal Thyself!

I live in a funny place. No, I don't mean Dundalk, although that's funny enough. I mean I live in a fringe "world" where most of my circle are non-mainstream people. And this covers a wide range of people but an awful lot of them are dead keen on alternative healing. And I am a skeptic. I mean a REAL skeptic. Not a person who just dismisses stuff. Not a person who is just rude and obnoxious on the subject. But somebody who asks questions, and demands evidence. This applies to everything, but it crops up most in the healing area.

Some of my friends are extremists. Both ends of the spectrum. Some believe in what can really only be described as magical healing (and this includes Christians, it's no different). Some require clinical trials before they'll use a Kleenex. The whole range.

I tend to fall out over this topic with all of them, because I don't fit into any neat category. I go with what works, and that really means "works on me". So your anecdote may not impress me.

And I am equally skeptical of all treatments, be they Ancient Sumerian, Mayo Clinic, or whatever. Never mind anything else, does it work?

For example, speaking of mayo (see what I did there?) if your kid has head lice, before you rush off to try a prescription shampoo, use mayo. It's cheaper and in my personal experience, it works better.

Don't just believe me though. Try it. Judge for yourself. We didn't choose mayo because we were politically opposed to Nix, we just weren't happy with it, and sought another solution. We found that mayo had many advantages, the chief one being no lice left.

On the other hand, among the many experiments I tried over the years regarding my seasonal allergies, the homeopathic remedies didn't do a bloody thing. I may just as well have drunk water, because that's what it was anyway.

I have had people tell me they've had great results with homeopathy. Great. I'm happy for them. My opinion will not change that it's just water, but if it works, it works.

In my opinion (and I could be wrong, but there have now been multiple studies on this) the power of placebo is what is at play there, and it is powerful indeed.

If you've ever read any Terry Pratchett you may have come across headology. Same thing. If you believe....REALLY BELIEVE....that the bottle of blue liquid will get you better, it will.

This is, actually, a fascinating area of study, because it attests to several other things:

1. The power of positive thinking.
2. The human body's ability to heal itself.
3. My contention that belief isn't a choice*.

Put these together and you've got de facto magic.

Consider the following.

Imagine you have a full size olympic swimming pool. You fill it with fresh, clean drinking water. Add one drop ( < 0.1ml) of something toxic. Would it harm you? Only if it's plutonium maybe? On the whole, no. That's how poison works, or, it this case, doesn't. It's all based on dilution. If that drop was arsenic for example, you'd come to no harm at all. But if you drank the stuff neat, it would kill you.

So, how the fuck can any "active" ingredient diluted to that level have any effect on you whatsoever?

Answer: it can't.

Ah, say the believers, it still has its essence.

Listen. The water you drink from the tap or bottle has the essence of multiple organisms. Everything you drink has been through many people and animals. Or, as they say, you are drinking Leonardo da Vinci's urine. At homeopathic levels.

At homeopathic levels, despite purification, tap water contains the essence of everything.

So, don't waste your money. Drink tap water, it's all in there. Which of course is exactly what most homeopathic remedies are. Water. Prove otherwise? Find a trace of anything in any of them, I dare you.

Ah, say the believers, it's at the vibrational level.

Fine. A little bottle of magic.

LISTEN. If magic is that easy, what do you need the water for? And the same applies to holy water, or whatever.

If magic is available, just bloody well use it and cut out the middleman.

This is what the faith healers, the Reiki practitioners, the healing hands folk do. No magic water for them, they just use their own bodies. And why not? Humans are far more complex than a bottle of water. So, does it work?

Sometimes. Because of placebo. In my humble opinion.

Which is great. Totally. Awesome. Healing is healing.

Go for it.

But don't tell lies. Don't sell snake oil. Above all, don't prey on the weak and vulnerable.

We were talking about this last night. If somebody asks for these services, wants them, believes in them, and wants to pay for them, there is a whole area of ethics involved which is....grey.

If I buy music that makes me feel good, is that unethical? Is this any different?

I remain open to the idea that it's down to the customer. Payment for entertainment. Payment for relaxation. Payment for "feel goods".

Those who oppose the idea do so on the basis that the customer is getting nothing for his money. This isn't strictly true. They are getting what they paid for, even if what they paid for is a nice lie down on a comfy surface while (maybe) music plays, incense burns, and somebody waves their hands over them. They are paying for time and attention.

I think the problem is the promises. "I will heal you."

What ails you? If it's stress (and stress can result in physical ailments) then a lot of the woo woo may do some good. But to PROMISE that it will heal you is too much. To say it will help is fair enough.

If the problem is something rather more urgent, it won't.

I have lost two parents and 2 grandparents to modern medicine. This was not enough to put me off using it or to become one of those who treats it as evil or dangerous.

What it did was give me a healthy introduction to the idea of efficacy. Efficacy is what it's all about. A treatment is no good unless it works. A diagnosis is only as good as its technician, and in any case, is only of any use at all if sought, and in a timely manner.

As in all areas of science, even if we are working with our very best and latest knowledge, and totally competent medical staff, shit happens. And nobody gets out of here alive. So, I don't think this discussion is as meaningful in the life and death areas of healing.

Except where the treatment is harmful. This is where all the arguments tend to congregate. Not so much in lack of efficacy, but in those treatments that damage instead of heal.

And while I'm here....

*Repeat topic of mine, but I'll tackle it again this week sometime.

Saturday, 5 September 2015


"European Union laws require you to give European Union visitors information about cookies used on your blog. In many cases, these laws also require you to obtain consent. 

As a courtesy, we have added a notice on your blog to explain Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies. 

You are responsible for confirming that this notice actually works for your blog and that it is displayed. If you employ other cookies, for example by adding third-party features, this notice may not work for you."

So there's my notice. I'm getting a little tired of this stuff. 

Here's my personal notice.


Thursday, 3 September 2015



I am going to refer you to the post from yesterday. For this one to work you need to read that first.

Then I'm going to repeat the bone analogy.

A good metaphor I keep seeing is the man who goes to the doctor for a broken arm, and the doctor starts examining the rest of the man’s body. The injured man says, “Doc, it’s my arm that’s broken; everything else is fine,” and the doctor responds, “All bones matter.” Of course they do! But they aren’t the ones that are hurting right now!

Let's consider that in terms of privilege. Those other bones, the unbroken ones, don't need attention right now. Maybe they will one day, but today the bone requiring help is the broken one. Are all the other bones the same? No. They are different sizes, they do different jobs, some are more worn than others. Some may have been broken in the past. Really they only share two characteristics.

1. They are bones.
2. They are unbroken.

Two characteristics is enough to form a subset. The set, the whole group, is bones. Together, the grouping is obvious. They are not tissue, they are not organs, they are not liquid. Anyone can see they are bone. Being unbroken (their condition) selects those who right now don't need attention. The subset, broken bones.

Here, have a Venn diagram.

But that's just an analogy. When we talk about privilege, we are usually referring to people.

It is tempting - and hopefully natural (don't make me do the lecture on human nature, not today anyway) - to see this as a compassionate thing. It's also a logic thing, as I can demonstrate with Venn diagrams etc. A subset is a grouping of whatever we are talking about, that is smaller than the whole. So, any grouping of people that is not enjoying the privileges that the rest are enjoying is also a subset.

Here are a couple for you.

This subset suffers when its raining. Of the rest (the green), there are those who have to go out, and those who don't. Some have cars, and some don't. Some are sick, and some are not. Some live in the desert and some live on the west side of the mountains. So, of this privileged group there are many differences, and some will still get wetter than others, but nothing changes the fact that, for now, they own raincoats.

But this is a fluid group. Some of the subset can acquire raincoats, and some of the privileged can lose them. There are many things among humans like that. Employment, illness, wealth, etc, are all things that can change either way, so it's possible (however difficult or involuntary) to move from privilege to non-privilege and vice versa.

Not everything is like that. 

If you are right-handed the world is set up for you. No matter what other issues you may have, you are in the privileged group. Any gadget you buy is designed to be held or used in the right hand. Left handed people either have to make do, or buy special gadgets, sometimes at a higher price.

There are situations where being left-handed is an advantage, you may get selected onto a sports team purely on that basis because it messes with the opposition. If you break your right hand, you don't have the same problems a right-handed person may have, and if that means you can still work it could save you money. But these situations are temporary and few and far between, so in the great scheme of things they are not relevant. The right handers are still privileged, be they rich, poor, or whatever, because this society assumes right-handedness as the norm.

Of course, this is privilege based purely on numbers. The majority of people are right handed. All downsides to being left-handed are the result of there being a smaller percentage of left-handed people being born.

Sometimes privilege is with the minority.

This is rather obvious privilege, but it's not really any different to any other privilege. Those in the privileged group take it for granted because that's what they are used to. And people get used to it very quickly. And fight like tigers to keep it.

Those not in the privileged group are not necessarily suffering. They may not even WANT personal staff, lack of privacy, independence, whatever. Makes no difference. The fact remains that a small minority of people in this world have the privilege (and option) not to do menial work for themselves.

When you are privileged you forget.

That doesn't make you evil. Nobody is suggesting that. But an awareness would be better. Many parents in the western world, even those who are not especially well-off, make a point of reminding their children how lucky ( = privileged) they are to live as well as they do. Many of us were guilt tripped by our mothers when we wasted food as children, and most of us rolled ours eye, because we were too young to "get it".

Getting it happens at different times for everyone. I know I certainly didn't get it quickly. Even though as a teenager I was quite angry about injustice in the world, I was very selective. Even when I had kids, who taught me a lot, I still had much to learn. Even when I had the luxury of moving to a different country out of choice and not by force, even when I bought my farm, the dream of so many. No. I still had much to learn. How did I finally "get it" about privilege?

People kept telling me about it. Sometimes it annoyed me, and sometimes I protested. But they didn't give up. Eventually the penny dropped.

I won't give up either. I pass on the stuff I've learned. I learn and then I teach. I am patient.

If you have any questions, I'll try to answer them.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

It's All About Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!

I'm going to call out so many people here, I'm not naming (many) names or pointing fingers, this is an "if the cap fits, wear it" method. If you recognize yourself, good. If you are in denial, this lesson will repeat, somewhere, so no worries. That's what ethical teaching is all about. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. And sadly, if the student isn't ready, the teacher won't have any effect even if she beats him with a 2x4. So, when we teach, we must be very patient.

This is a lesson in listening to hear (and maybe even understand), not just listening to reply/argue. It's a lesson in not demanding attention. It's a lesson in awareness.

So, let's start with the simplest example. If you have kids, or if you ever had siblings, you'll know this one. It's the one where the kids try to argue their case by citing what one of the others has done, or hasn't done. In my house this is the commonest version:

"Have you done the dishes like I asked you? If not, why not?"

"But, but, HE isn't doing anything....."


"You got a D for English? English is your best subject!"

"But, but SHE flunked it too!"

In all these instances we remind them:

"I'm talking to YOU."

I have been through versions of this more times than I can count. With my bunch there were times when this happened multiple times daily. To excuse their behaviour, they'd try to divert the issue to somebody else's behaviour. Despite the fact this never, ever worked on either parent, it was a daily ritual.

When and where do they learn this? I must conclude it's innate, because as you are about to discover, that it's rife.

I began thinking about this blog after 3 occurrences on Facebook. Yes, good old Facebook where all the deepest discussions happen. Well, OK, no, but where we can, IF WE CHOOSE, actually learn something. Unfortunately all the time we see examples like these, it's clear that nobody is learning.

#1. I was discussing a news article about how many of the conservative Christians don't give money to the poor the way the Bible tells them to. A Christian friend insisted that he does/his church does/his denomination does. Great. Tickety-boo. But the issue in hand was why they don't. In fact many of them do the opposite, especially the rich TV evangelists. They take money from their "followers" and preach the opposite of charity. Every time this general topic comes up I hear the same "my church does X" or "well, they aren't all like that". And? Some do, and that's what we're discussing.

#2 I was talking about Stephen Harper's wealth to one of his fans on a friend's wall. She kept referring to Tom Mulcair's financial situation. That wasn't the topic. But it seemed that the only way she could answer was to turn it around and attack the other guy. But it didn't stop there, then she referred to herself and essentially gave a defence of her own wealth. This was unsolicited, not relevant, and frankly, rather weird. She actually said "I didn't steal it." Nobody said she did. In fact nobody said Harper did either. Theft was never mentioned.

#3 When I thanked my son in public for his help over the weekend, my husband had a little dig about what he'd done. Nobody ever suggested for one moment he'd slacked off. He actually worked really hard. But this was about my gratitude to James. No more, no less.

Now, this is all very petty and mundane, but I threw in three examples from just yesterday to demonstrate how often this happens. There's a sort of flow chart.

Person A says something (good or bad) about Person B.
Person C, reading it, or listening (possibly even eavesdropping!) wants to talk about HIS angle, HIS side of this, HIS problem, HIS opinion. So instead of just reading/listening and butting out, or contributing something appropriate, draws the attention to himself (or his organization/family/team/country, whatever) and discusses that instead.

Needy much?

Is it all about you? Is it.

Well, let's see.

There was a neat little "meme" that succinctly explained this, and of course I've lost it. But I can remember 3 out of 4 of the examples it used.

One was on the topic of gay marriage. I don't care whether you approve of it or not, I just want those who don't to stop pretending it affects their own marriage. Because it doesn't. What other people do in their personal lives has no effect on yours. They aren't asking you to marry your own gender. They aren't asking you to attend their wedding (well, I doubt it). They just want you you to shut up and mind your own business about who they marry, because they don't tell you who to marry.

So, if you want to argue against gay marriage, knock yourself out, but talk about that and not your situation. It's different. It's not about you.

Another one, which came up again today, as it happens is the "Not All Men" issue. This is where whenever violence against women is discussed, sooner or later somebody will say "not all men are like that". This is really getting old, and I can't believe anyone still doesn't see it, but when I posted this today....

....a friend mentioned something about not feeling guilty. And nobody asked him to.

But I struck the motherlode on the 3rd one. A friend drew my attention to this. It covers the one issue, but does so very well, by giving two perfect analogies. If you are too lazy to read the article, don't worry, I'll extract the best bit for you.

A good metaphor I keep seeing is the man who goes to the doctor for a broken arm, and the doctor starts examining the rest of the man’s body. The injured man says, “Doc, it’s my arm that’s broken; everything else is fine,” and the doctor responds, “All bones matter.” Of course they do! But they aren’t the ones that are hurting right now!

"But, all lives matter!"

Yes, including yours. But this isn't all about you.

There is probably a concise term for all of this, but I don't know it. If you do, please create a pertinent Twitter hash, because I'm sick of it and I am absolutely determined to get my point across.

Everything matters. When lions are shot, yes, the unborn babies and the abandoned dogs matter. When celebrity transsexuals get awards, yes the disabled children and the firefighters deserve awards too. Everything and everyone is important. Not just your cause, or your passion. It all matters. There is no score card or ratings table as to what matters more. But when you paint your house you have to start somewhere, do the windows bitch because you started with the door?

STAY ON TOPIC. Comparisons have their uses, obviously, and to prove it I'll finish with one. Just watch that you are paying attention to the issue at hand. Bragging rights and a box of Smarties for anyone who can explain why the "meme" below is not part of the problem I just described.