Friday, 28 November 2008

Racist joke received by UClan Student- wrong, or very wrong?

First published at

An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman… And so the joke goes. But the ‘gags’ sent from 118-118 to a student at UClan, Kameron Abbass, were not about one of these entrenched, playful British sterotypes, they were two, about Asians, and Pakistanis.

The religious beliefs of the recipient have been picked up by the Nationals. He is a Muslim. But mixing the notions of nationality and religion is dangerous territory.

Not all Asians are Muslims, and vice-versa. So Muslims might feel the highlighting of the fact makes them a sort of positive-scapegoat.

You particularly should be offended, because that’s the hot topic, the zeitgeist. Nicely prescribed outrage from the great white media pulpit.

Kameron implied on Rock FM today that had the joke been received by a white person, they would have had a right chuckle and promptly circulated it to their entire phonebook. And probably text the 118 service for another corker.

But this isn’t a fair judgement. I’d like to think that most white people would have been offended. Especially offended that some half-wit somewhere is texting in their name something that they wouldn’t text, let alone think themselves.

And then surely the argument would follow, that if an Asian person had been sent a racist joke about a white person, it would have likewise done the rounds… And so the paranoia continues…

People might argue that as British stereotypes are common-place in the UK, your parents, your hair colour, even your skin colour are all comedians fodder (Richard K. Amos, a Black comedian cannot appear on a panel-show without the frankly not even funny, ‘is it because I’m Black?’ post ironic hilarity), then so too can your ethnic origin.

Or are skin colour and nationality non-transferable humours?

And of the ‘entrenched, playful’ British stereotypes. Are Irish people all too pleased to be the butt of the national joke?

Earlier this year Caerphilly Council in Wales were given a leaflet on acceptable terminology for race relations. In a section on what words or phrases not to use to avoid causing offence, the leaflet informs: ‘The idea of “British” implies a false sense of unity – many Scots, Welsh and Irish resist being called British and the land denoted by the term contains a wide variety of cultures, languages and religions.’

Wandering a little away from words arranged for amusement, it seems I might have been offending people throughout. White and Asian-British alike would be tearing their hair out!

If the texts were intended as a joke, albeit wholly inappropriate and offensive, and obviously constructed by some bored call-centre working moron, I believe the accepted term is that they have ‘fallen flat’.

But what this could turn in to is an all-out attack on our society, which is unfair on the majority of people in the UK who take pride in their nationality, whatever it is, and are happy to live and work alongside each other.

Britain is a country struggling to encompass the different cultures and religious beliefs of its varied citizenry. Making mistakes and making advancements as we go. Bringing this into the public domain might make something out of what could just have been a disciplinary on the one, idiotic culprit.

And obviously any checks that were not being performed on what must be a joke database carnival are done from now on.

If recent standards are anything to go by, whoever wrote the joke should be shot, without pay. In terms of offensiveness, a playful nod towards murdering someone is worse than Brand and Ross’ answering machine messages.

But who’s to say it was a white person anyway?

Sunday, 23 November 2008

A change in the lay on organ donations?

First published at

A proposed change in the law on organ donations, supported by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, would mean that everyone in the country would automatically be considered a donor unless they opt-out. Or relatives object.

The change was called for by the Chief Medical Officer- Liam Donaldson, and has gained support from The British Medical Association, the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Pathologists.

It would be a welcome change for scientists who are currently appealing for people to leave their brains to medical science in an attempt to find a cure for the debilitating and degenerative brain disease- Alzheimer’s.

But a focus group have deemed the move too soon. Is it too quick and radical a change to the current system of opting in, or were the focus groups swayed by religious groups speaking on the issue?

The argument for what is termed “presumed consent” is that experts believe there are apathetic people amongst us who don’t think to opt-in, or don’t consider the possibility that they could die suddenly with healthy and potentially life-saving organs (who wants to?), but would donate their organs, and that they believe more people would opt-in, given the opportunity, if it was made easy and clear. Or automatic. This in theory means more people considered as donors.

If more people are considered, more organs will be donated and more lives saved through transplants and research. Nearly 10,000 people are currently on the organ transplant waiting list, more then three times the number of transplants that were performed last year- 3,100. This means some terminally ill patients are not even put through what will ultimately be a fruit-less wait.

So the proposal looks promising. Bingo?

Like arguments on abortion and euthanasia, there is a divisive battle between the religious arguments of sanctity of life against a liberal, progressive viewpoint. We must remember that the United Kingdom is all but a secular country, and Parliament should arguably be a place free from the constraints of often conflicting religious viewpoints.

Under the new system if there is a religious objection, the person can opt out, and people’s relatives could object to donation after their death. Which still leaves room for a final say on the part of the bereaved. Unless the apparent apathy is really an objection, even without a religious element, as death is still a personal and uncomfortable reality.

But could the change reveal, or hide a more sinister outcome? Could doctors begin to put less effort into saving someone if the costs of their treatment and rehabilitation would be more than using the organs for donation? Body snatchers ring any bells?

Presumably, the changes would be met with adequate legislation to prevent doctors from doing this? And to make sure they stick to only those who are opted-in. Although, looking at the most famous case in the UK of a doctor abusing his position- the prolific serial killer Harold Shipman- and the organ removal scandal at Alder Hey (now going by the name Royal Liverpool Children’s) Hospital, families of the victims and the public alike might be cynical.

The more conservative alternative is to drive for more people to become donors under the current system. Which for now, looks like the official line. There is conflicting evidence from different countries with either of the two systems as to whether opt-in or opt-out produces more donors. Only time will tell whether greater promotion of the cause will bridge the gap between those who need organs, and those who donate.

Ultimately some people believe that organ donation is a gift, and making it almost compulsory takes away that element. But surely most people would want to give the gift of life should they suffer an untimely death?

Should the British National Party be allowed to speak at universities?

First published at

The decision at Exeter University to overturn a ban on having the British National Party to speak there is in some ways, an admirable one.

Freedom of expression is now an entrenched part of our social and political makeup, guaranteed under the Human Rights Act 1998, so the fact that young academics are involved in exercising their right to uphold this is a positive example of student activism.

Entertaining those with an unfamiliar and controversial viewpoint is also useful in promoting healthy debate.

The British National Party are a legitimate organisation, and the fourth largest party in the United Kingdom. They also claim to have the most visited website of any political party, proving their popularity. So the decision is a good one then?

Many MPs in the past week have come out to say that they are a racist party, including Harriet Harman, the Women’s Minister, on the Channel 4 News.

The British National Party would argue that this is a witch-hunt between the liberal-left media and the mainstream political parties. Nick Griffin, the BNP leader and his colleague Mark Collett were acquitted on charges of inciting racial hatred after a retrial. They were secretly filmed by the BBC for Panorama.

However, their ideals are not tolerant, and their website makes no point of hiding it:

“IMMIGRATION – time to say ENOUGH!

On current demographic trends, we, the native British people, will be an ethnic minority in our own country within sixty years.

To ensure that this does not happen, and that the British people retain their homeland and identity, we call for an immediate halt to all further immigration, the immediate deportation of criminal and illegal immigrants, and the introduction of a system of voluntary resettlement whereby those immigrants who are legally here will be afforded the opportunity to return to their lands of ethnic origin assisted by a generous financial incentives both for individuals and for the countries in question.

We will abolish the ‘positive discrimination’ schemes that have made white Britons second-class citizens. We will also clamp down on the flood of ‘asylum seekers’, all of whom are either bogus or can find refuge much nearer their home countries.”

Simplistic answers, playing on peoples fears, and a lot of rhetoric. But inspiring to someone. Will the BNP get a surge in support if they speak at universities?

Alternatively, would banning them from speaking and leaving them out of the media force them further underground?

Much of their policy is trivial: they wholly support good old-fashioned imperial weights and measures, definitely something worth arguing over…

Some borders on ludicrous- the BNP calls for the selective exclusion of foreign-made goods from British markets and the reduction of foreign imports- a sure-fire way to stop other countries trading with us.

Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, has admitted over the weekend that the rise in support for the BNP is a result of failures by the three main political parties. The rebranding of Labour since 1997 into a ‘catch-all’ party, means grassroots Labour supporters, generally the white, working-class, feel unrepresented.

At the same time Nick Griffin became leader of the BNP and saw this as an opportunity to shake off the extremist image to make the BNP electable. They have been intensively campaigning in disillusioned communities asserting patriotism, Britain for the British, and to many people, answers where they thought there were none.

This has all coincided with the leaking of the personal details of the 12,000 members.
Why so secretive if they didn’t think they were doing anything wrong? Serving Policemen aren’t allowed to be members- what does that say?

Scarily, but unsurprisingly the Internet is allowing them to get their message to more people, and target young (and more impressionable) people.

But increased support for extremist parties always happens when a country is in economic turmoil, lets just hope someone gets their act together soon…

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Remeberance Day goes unremebered here at UCLan

First published at

Yes. There wasn’t a ceremony at the university on Tuesday to mark Remembrance Day.

It seems nobody thought, in a quasi-community of supposedly academic and intelligent people, of people working and learning, that we should have come together and held a ceremony to mark the 11th of the 11th, the 90th Anniversary of the day in 1918 when the First World War, the Great War, the war to end all wars came to an end. Surely, that’s not ok?

Melanie Mingas, a 20-year-old Journalism Student said: “I would have gone to one, but I didn’t see one advertised.” Sadly this may be true of many students, and it wasn’t advertised, because there wasn’t one.

So whose responsibility is it to organise ceremonies to mark events that really should be remembered, and shared with others?

Should the community have involved the university? Yes. But it is clear when the services are, is there more that they can do?

Is the community in any position to do this? An annual Remembrance Day walk in a village, Culcheth, near Warrington was only attended by 50 people, do people in the community even care enough? Possibly not, but in a City like Preston, more should be done to engage everyone in the community, even the visiting students. Otherwise how can you call it a society?

Should orders have come from the top? Arguably, yes. If something of importance to everyone at university is happening, then the easiest was to coordinate something is from the voice of authority. The kind of thing that happens at school.

But we aren’t children. As an organisation itself, couldn’t the Students’ Union have used its authority to organise something? Or even, as a group of people, students, in the community, shouldn’t we have organised something?

A certain detachment from others, the community, and even fellow students seems to come from the emphasis on independent learning at university. Often you have little contact with peers, tutors, and those who might be able to organise such an event. And that is a disappointment.

But there’s also a sense that in greater society people care less about things that were once so vital, the emphasis on the individual breaking down our sense of community.

But the enormity of such an emission cannot be overlooked. Remembrance Day is relevant. There are still people serving in the military and fighting overseas. There are still people dying. One might argue an ideological opposition to these wars but Remembrance Day doesn’t just honour them.

Remembrance Day commemorates all the people who have fought and died in all wars since World War 1. The people who we have to thank for being able to enjoy the lives we do. The millions who have died, those who have been injured, some irreparably, and those who didn’t have physical, but mental wounds.

For the wives, mothers and sisters whose families were torn apart. For the families still being torn apart. For those who enlisted, but also for those who were conscripted- those who fought for their country, because they had no choice, no matter how they truly felt. Even those conscientious objectors, who took the courage to make a stand, and the people who it just so happened were fighting for the opposite side.

The First World War, for all the bad things that happened, eventually brought equal voting rights between the sexes and ages. Women came out of the home and found a different purpose in the labour market and proved their worth. Surely these unprecedented social, political and economic changes could convince those who might argue their opposition to military intervention that Remembrance Day is a day to mark?

Sadly, this year was 90 years since the signing of the Armistice, a significant anniversary, and probably the last that the remaining WW1 veterans will get to see.
There isn’t any point in apportioning blame, because the whole university, probably even society, is at fault. It’s just sad that so many life-changing events are given just one, or two minutes in the whole year where everybody should remember, but can ultimately be forgotten.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Was ex-UClan’s input necessary in abortion debate? Is there a more pressing issue?

First published at

The changes to abortion laws are all but made. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is now in the ‘ping pong’ stage- their words not mine ( – between the two Houses of Parliament, before it is given Royal ascent- or the Queen’s big rubber stamp.

Some of the changes were supported in a letter to The Times by, amongst others, the former head of Professional Ethics here at UClan, Ruth Chadwick.

Their letter urged change to the current qualifying conditions held in the Abortion Act 1967 so that the consent of two doctors will no longer be needed for an abortion, and in medically sound circumstances, where and by whom abortions could now be performed. This is because with medical advances, abortions no longer have to be performed just by doctors, and could be given in GP Practices.

The letter was hardly one of defiance at a divisive time in the debate (it was only printed on 17th October) or necessarily on the more controversial provisions of the Bill. But the letter did highlight a rational debate that has been lost in the more sensationalised, moral objections in newspapers and from Parliament.

The letter said:

“As academic medical lawyers and ethicists, we believe that the current restrictions on women’s reproductive autonomy during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy are not justified.”

But, just how autonomous is or should a woman’s reproduction be?

On one hand, it is your body, and you should be able to do want you want with it. If you become pregnant, at any time, you should by some argument, be allowed to terminate it.

The BMA, RCN and other royal colleges support the present 24-week time limit for abortions, saying: “There has been no significant improvement in the survival of pre-term infants below 24 weeks gestation in the last 18 years.”

So women have autonomy under the law, until the given time where it is seen by medical professionals to become and inhumane procedure. It is also notable that most abortions are performed earlier rather than later.

But, women’s reproductive autonomy can often come into conflict with the rights of the father. Some would argue that they also come into conflict with the rights of the unborn child. Can or should provisions be given under the law to them?

Can the law or other people really measure other factors- feelings, the relationship itself, and the situation?

There is a moral argument… but morals are relative. Should it be someone else’s morals? What if you have incredibly lax morals yourself?

Religious people, particularly the Catholic Church, are very vocal on abortion issues and have been throughout the discussion of the Bill. Nadine Dorris, a Catholic MP still calls for the time limit for abortions to be reduced from 24 to 20 weeks, although this flies in the face of medical advances and advice from the BMA.

In an almost secular country, but one religiously governed by the Church of England, should the Catholic Church be allowed to decide the outcome of unwanted pregnancies for non-believers?

And should Members of Parliament bring their religious views into their jobs, governing people who are not religious? Although, is it fair to ask them to keep them separate?

But do women actually know how to self-govern their reproduction? The number of abortions is on the increase. Do some women have irresponsible pregnancies because they don’t know or don’t care about contraception or consequences?

There is often a very loud voice when it comes to the pro-life/pro-choice debate, but is there a loud enough voice, with a clear message on how to stop so many women needing to have abortions? Or is there anyone in authority questioning why so many young women decide to have many children, often by different and numerous partners?

I think this is a much more pressing and obvious problem and whether the government feels intervention in such issues is their place or not, a consensus on how to control under-age sex and helping people to form proper, loving relationships is necessary.

Maybe energies could have been better spent trying to solve this after the Bill had already gone so far?

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Obama Wins Election

First published at

Watching BBC News Coverage of the US Election, I realised Obama’s victory was tangible, even imminent. And today, 634 days after his campaign began, Barack Obama was confirmed the victor, and the first ever African-American President of the United States.

This has been incredible. The most expensive campaign ever, using the internet in a never-before-seen way, and to the bemusement of his peers, has seen the candidate and voters alike cross the lines of age, ethnicity, background, and party, and it feels like an unprecedented opportunity for similar spirit around the world.

‘A new America starts tomorrow…’

…the sentiments of an excited Florida voter. And by around two-thirty, The Republicans had all but conceded.

This is a huge victory for Black people, many of whom, in their lifetimes had felt the racism and bigotry in a country where many laws giving racial equality were implemented less than 50 years ago. But despite this, 9 out of 10 voters said they had not cast their ballot on grounds of race.

Talk turned to a defining generation. Young people have come out and voted for change. Not only young, but open-minded, liberal people with good ideas who are willing to share them. Could this be an end to politics in America as we know it?

The conservative core that McCain was depending on, who actually felt the campaign energised by Sarah Palin, the Christian-right, the neo-Conservatives, are they all running scared? Will the White, middle-class, middle-aged, male conservative politics, slowly be replaced by anyone with dreams, ideas and hopes that people now know they share?


…a swing voter says. Obama has no doubt stirred up hope in voters that he can make a difference to their lives. People will have felt they’ve had a part in making a difference of huge historical importance. Will the masses be empowered as things start being done in a more practical, pragmatic, and inter-connected way?

And can this hope, and clear determination and commitment from Obama be transferred into action? In terrible economic conditions, that many feel hindered McCain’s attempt at the White House, will Obama be too restricted?

A Republican pundit claimed he would bring in old ‘protectionist’ economic policies. Was this just an old-school politician seeing that there are only so many ways of doing things? I am certain.

The pundit also said that jobs would be lost in old-industries, that many people wouldn’t be happy. But isn’t this just an inevitable progression? Are we still evolving after all? Will this pave the way for new, highly-skilled technical jobs for the young and bright? Obama clearly embraces the ethos of Silicon Valley.

Similarly will his commitment for change mean new and better alternative energy use and sources? Republicans and many politicians worldwide have been reluctant to seriously acknowledge the environment. Many Americans simply do not understand that oil and coal just won’t last forever. I think he has every opportunity to make some drastic but necessary changes here too.

And he will be more diplomatic. No matter whether critics said he was aloof, critics are bound to criticise! His speeches, particularly the acceptance speech for his candidacy, were poignant, captivating, and most of all believable. He seemed at ease and to be enjoying the race. And much of the world will have seen that too.

He has gained the White House. He has also gained endorsements from Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, although he and America are not easy bed-fellows. German and Dutch finance ministers have mirrored this international and professional admiration, support and belief in Obama.

I’d like to think Politics in the UK could be changed too. No more boring, tit-for-tat, ‘well if they’re all saying that then lets say the same’ (opposition) ‘or, well if they’re saying that, then we’ll say the opposite’ (3rd party). People should be interested, especially young people. Older people might be controlling it now, but not forever.

Fresh ideas, new types of people, listening and pragmatism could replace favour, nepotism, tradition and polticians seeming out of touch. People should feel they can make a difference, and difference will affect them. And most of all it should be engaging.

Because politics matters, just look at America.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Ross and Brand debate continues if the Daily Mail has their way

First published at

You’d be forgiven for thinking that "Satanic Slut-Gate" (coined that myself, hopefully before the Sun had chance to) was all but forgotten.

A brilliant, alternative comedian, Russell Brand has given up his show. Jonathan Ross has been suspended without pay for three months without pay. And Lesley Douglas, the BBC Radio 2 Controller credited with saving the station with her edgy ideas and devotion to the BBC and music, has stepped down.

That’s a whole lot of fall out. And you might think the neo-Mary Whitehouses would be happy with that. A radio show they don’t listen to, taken away from 2million people who do, along with a new understanding that an apology is no longer enough.

But apparently someone is baying for blood. The Daily Mail has turned its attentions to Mock the Week, and any other comedy aired by the BBC in a story entitled:

The BBC fills our living rooms with more smutty and degrading obscenities

…anyone feel a moral panic coming on?

Other offenders listed by the Mail included Chris Moyles, Graham Norton, David Mitchell and Webb. Where is this all going to end? You can’t sack all of them!

The very words smutty, degrading and obscenity are fluid. To whose standards? Who decides? Who is degraded (surely someone involved in the process, and therefore someone who has given their consent)?

One joke the Mail took offence to was by Hugh Dennis as he wiped his lips and said: ‘Yum yum, I’ve just eaten a swan’ after being asked to perform ‘things that you would not hear the Queen say in her Christmas message’.

To claim offence at joke- a work of fiction- is one thing, but a horse becomes much less high when you find a report in the Daily Mail- a presumed work of fact, and truth, in a publication with a responsibility to its audience- that claimed that the Luton Angling Club felt moved to produce a sign which communicated the message, “The swans are not for eating” in pictographic form to stop Eastern European immigrants from eating the swans.

There is no evidence that an eastern European has ever eaten a British swan, or indeed that these signs were ever posted anywhere.

Whether this article was maliciously aimed at immigrants or not, the facts should have been checked first, and it wasn’t going to do much for race relations if the right (right-wing) people had gotten their hands on it.

The Mock the Week shown last night, to which the Daily Mail was so shocked about that it had to give it it’s very own scornful article was actually a re-run.

So easily such a programme slips past the first time, when the hawk-eyed yet easy-to-blush licence payers amongst us aren’t staying up past their bedtimes looking for other things they don’t understand, wouldn’t usually watch, but definitely are not happy with.

Mock the Week, judging by its popularity, is liked by at least some bill payers- yes, those smut-loving, but equally tax-paying- and up to now silent bill payers.

Who, if they aren’t careful are going to be paying for a channel with a weekly line-up of Points of View, Songs of Praise and the Antiques Road Show on a loop. With repeats of Last of the Summer Wine and Birds of a Feather- just like in the old days!

This is utter lunacy! Fortunately many Daily Mail readers agreed with these sentiments in the comments at the bottom of the articles.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Brand and Ross debate- blown out of proportion?

First published at

“…just a storm in a teacup really…” famous words from his first DVD – Russell Brand Live – that he must now wish could be used to describe this incident.

But it seems many people aren’t going to forgive and forget quite as easily as Rod Stewart did in that anecdote after Brand claimed he’d “had a go on his daughter.”

Obviously, the incident to which I’m referring is Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross being reprimanded after leaving messages on the answering machine of Andrew Sachs- who played Manuel in Fawlty Towers- concerning the sexual exploits of his granddaughter and “legendary swordsman” Brand. A misjudged prank gone terribly wrong.

The pace has been pretty swift. As I write this, the number of complaints is over 35,000, Ross has been suspended for 3 months without pay, the BBC Radio 2 controller has resigned and even the Beeb’s Chief Executive’s post has been called into question. All after Brand quit the show yesterday.

But is this all really necessary? Much of the outrage has come from Sachs’ granddaughter, Georgina Baillie, the comments were about her after all. Although her grandfather has said he doesn’t want to take it any further, and that as an actor himself in the creative industry, he understands that a joke can go wrong.

But has her outrage been less about protecting her grandfather’s interests, and more about self-promotion? She is after all an aspiring model, and a member of a burlesque tropue called Satanic Sluts. Baillie has forfeited her privacy in an exclusive video with The Sun and has come out to say: “that despite his [Brand’s] ladies’ man reputation, he was a “disappointment” in bed.”

Let’s hope her assumed-rather-sensitive grandfather doesn’t read that then. So who is it that really believes they have been wronged by the broadcast? It can’t be those who actually listened to it, as, of the 2million listeners, they received only two complaints before it was taken off-air.

Is it Sachs’ ‘national treasure status’ that’s got 35,000 people who probably didn’t hear the broadcast outraged and on the phone? Because frankly, apart from playing Manuel in Fawlty Towers, which ran for two series of six episodes in the 1970s, I’m lost.

The show was pre-recorded. More than one person, the producer, the BBC Radio 2 Controller could have stopped the show airing if they’d thought it would be offensive. Conspiracy theorists have started to wonder whether the show was aired anyway to get higher ratings- any publicity is good publicity.

Intentional or not, all of those involved, the station and the stars have been thrown right into the spotlight.Other conspiracy theorists- oh yes, they do love a good counter-theory- might go so far as to say that a rival TV programmer or newspaper (not mentioning any names) might have paid the pair to bring the Big British Castle down from the inside out.

A little far-fetched? Or is this a bit of middle-England scare-mongering convincing as many people as possible that a) that society and particularly the youth of today is going to the dogs (still, again and more) and b) the BBC is some kind of supporter/purveyor of this and should have their ‘privilege’ of being funded by a licence fee taken away.

This comment was left on the telegraph website: “Ross and Brand and many useless celebrities reflect what is wrong with many of the youth of modern Britain. Obsessed with moronic pop music, poor discipline, know it all, foul mouthed, untidy and in pursuit of the easy life and easy sex.”

Bit of a sweeping statement? Ross and Brand are actually 47 and 35 respectively. Hardly representatives of British youth. They appeal to many ages, Brand particularly to those with a less-mainstream taste in comedy.

And I’d still almost consider myself, and a lot of people I know, as a part of the modern youth. I’d like to think that a lot of the accusations aren’t true. And if there are youths with these kind of problems, there is more than just pop music to blame.

As for the ‘ivory tower’ that is being the BBC. The BBC does not depend on advertising, which can be good, but as comedian Ricky Gervais has said, he wouldn’t have aired The Office on BBC One as it would be changed beyond recognition due to the constraints the BBC is under.

There is little room for diversity and creativity due to the remit, so viewers easily go elsewhere. Comedy is a particularly boundary-pushing- in this case crossing- area, so the BBC can have little dealing with it. And are about to have much less due to the latest developments.

So they aren’t always laughing all the way to the bank. The youth are not to blame, they barely have their say even on any network. And the BBC is by no means a maverick, especially in comedy.

We shouldn’t let this stupid joke, on the part of two edgier than some comedians, grow into something worse. It has gone too far already. A mistake, yes, but not the end of humanity.

Comedy is but a small part of what could shape who we are.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

20 weeks for an abortion- or a real problem that needs solving?

First published at

An authoritative report was published by the British Medical Journal last week stating that there has been no improvement in the chances of survival of babies born before 24 weeks- the time limit for having an abortion- despite medical advances.

These findings, backed up by much research, mean that any further debate from ‘pro-life’ campaigners seems to be futile, even useless.

Nadine Dorris, a Conservative MP leading the fight to limit abortions to 20-weeks has dismissed the claims on her website arguing: “No improvement in neonatal care in 12 years? Really? So where has all the money that has been pumped into neonatal services gone then?”

She misses the point. Money has been spent, premature babies have been cared for and survived, but the human species is only human.

Abortions should not just be about when, some focus should be on the whys, and then the hows; how can we stop it from getting to that point?

Many assumptions can be drawn from rates of abortion but no one person could say, and unlikely a politician, could second-guess that all those women and girls thought nothing of the act that they were committing, the sexual, and then the medical.

We hear of some people using abortions as a form of contraception, but I’m sure the pain and probable resulting guilt is enough for most people to think that once is enough.

A mistake is a mistake and women should not be made to feel so guilty about it, no matter when. Especially as their partner in the act is not likely to be experiencing the same feelings, or may not even know about the result.

Although you’d think anyone with a basic grasp of biology (and any emotional sensitivity for that matter)- something that every person should be getting at school- would be able to hazard a guess.

They will argue that the act resulting in pregnancy may have been too hasty or lacking in feeling. It may. Even the resulting decision to have an abortion taken too lightly. Again, it may. But at least some and maybe all of those abortions have stopped an unwanted baby being brought into the world.

A world already full of unwanted children and children who aren’t cared for as well as they should be. A sad, but realistic appraisal.

And if all the abortions that have taken place over the years from 20-24 weeks hadn’t been allowed to go ahead, I imagine, chances are, the resulting children would not have been given the best opportunities, those that a child that was wanted would have gotten. And where would those children be now?

Other statistics that fly in the face of lowering the time limit for having an abortion is that younger and younger people are actually having more and more children. Newspaper headlines ‘boast’ a wealth of examples of this.

The Daily Mail in 2006 reported the UK’s youngest mother was to give birth after becoming pregnant at the age of 11.

Exactly the people that one might think would abuse the current availability of abortions, stereotypically those in the ‘underclass’ of society, are choosing, in a certain sense of the word, to have the babies that one might think are the product of abusive relationships and might be deemed ‘unwanted’ pregnancies.

Arguments about the time limit on abortions, now that medical science officially disagrees with lowering the limit and as logic can also pick holes in the arguments, are also detracting from more serious issues within society.

Girls and young women are seeming to give themselves so little value that they will have sex with x, possibly y and z as well, without ordering them to wear a condom, and take the responsibility wholly on themselves to deal with the consequences.

Having an abortion should not be the answer, but having a baby, or babies with a man or men that you don’t really know or love should not be the answer either.

This is not exclusive to young women. The fact that young men don’t understand or value the act that they are also taking part in is as much a part of the problem.

The question that MP’s like Nadine Dorris should really be trying to address is, “How do we make lost young people feel valued and cared about enough in society so that the young women:
a) don’t think that they need to have sex until they are ready?
b) feel that if they are ready, becoming pregnant does not have to be a result of what they are doing?
c) don’t just have sex with anyone, that the person who they do have sex with should love and at the least respect them enough to wear a condom?d) on becoming pregnant, are given the best advice and a range of opinions and options, and maybe advised that an abortion is the answer?
…and the young men:
a) don’t think that they need to have sex until they are ready?
b) realise that wearing a condom can stop a whole host of future problems and isn’t even a minor inconvenience?
c) that actually loving someone and having children with them is more rewarding than having women who they don’t love chasing them for emotional and financial support?

… and the bottom line being that they both need to truly understand what they are doing. I, controversially, think that some young women should be advised to have an abortion.

Science or not, it is clear that some young people are not ready; they are not building secure environments and families to raise children, and it is the children who are most likely to suffer, and unfortunately perpetuate the problem because they don’t know any better.

They may even see having a baby as somewhat of an accessory or even a badge of honour. And for every success story, which should not be overlooked and should be praised, there are others that are not successful.

Speaking to a teacher who works in a deprived area near Manchester, the true cost to these children’s lives manifests itself daily. The mother of a 9-year-old boy has referred herself to social services because she can’t cope with his behaviour. I am told this isn’t a regular occurrence as they usually don’t think or want to admit that there is a problem, they think social services are ‘snooping’ or they are too scared of the consequences from their partner.

She has been in two successive abusive relationships -which in this area is apparently not unusual- the violence of which has been witnessed by all of her children, and now her 9-year-old is repeating the behaviour, on her, because it is all he has known and therefore he thinks it is alright.

He hits her with golf clubs and he cut the dogs ear off to name but a few incidents.

Society may well cry “throw away the key, he’s obviously no good,” but when is this inherent social problem going to stop being ignored and be addressed in a logical way without the usual education policy spin and gimmicks?

The teacher tells me: “no one has ever shown compassion for them, so why would they have compassion for anyone?” and: “why would people want to better themselves if no one cares?”

The mechanisms for solving these problems are at best unworkable! A meeting was set up, by the teacher despite it being the job of social services to begin finally addressing behaviour that has long since been out of hand, and none of the relevant people turned up.

A desperate woman concedes that she needs help, and the people who in society have been given the job to help these people, don’t care.

This kind of person, a ‘chav’ is the most likely label the red tops would assign to them, are parasites on society. No doubt there is an ‘underclass’ and they have developed a benefits culture. But even when they want to better themselves, there is nobody there to help. Where is the logic???

The only learning, care and support that these children get is at school. They need to be taught respect, to feel respected, to value and to be valued, basic moral conciousness, love, humanitarianism, discipline and boundaries.

School used to be about that, not about teaching for tests.

Teachers also need to feel valued, they are only human at the end of it all and they can only have so much devotion and patience for someone else’s children who are a product of all the modern ills of the society we live in.

Politicians can direct from afar, they can even make a complimentary visit to the ‘front line,’ but they need to listen to teachers, and people with problem-solving ideas, not spin doctors, and they need not to do things for political gain if they want to solve this pressing problem.

If they want to solve the problem, if they can even begin to understand that people’s lives are like this, and if they don’t just gain power, sit there comfortably for a while and then run off into a wilderness of after-dinner speaking with as few people as possible noticing their incompetence.

We do not need tit-for-tat, two-party, spin politics. We need action and all we ever get is words.

As someone who has never been pregnant, so have never had to face the prospect of abortion or the horror of losing a baby I can see that I present rather a dispassionate argument. But it seems that pro-life campaigners are arguing with an emotive chip on their shoulder, considering scientific evidence, logic and anecdotal evidence show that sometimes people for whatever reason make a mistake and they, and the child should not keep having to pay for it every day, perpetuating a cycle of poverty evident in our society.

Real problems need solving now and kicking around an age-old argument in Parliament from high up on their pedestals is coming absolutely nowhere near to helping thousands of sad, sad lives being lived by innocent children in this country every day. A revolution anyone?