Bits and blogs

Musings on a large number of apparently unrelated subjects

The ten commandments of good government

In case anybody is under any misapprehension, the following is not a parody, but a revisiting of the Bible’s Ten Commandments from a different viewpoint in order to help create better governance.

1. We have one master, and that is the people we represent. Nothing – repeat, nothing – should ever take their place.

2. Don’t create monuments to yourselves: not statues, nor expensive ‘impressive’ buildings, nor expensive but unnecessary ‘fact-finding’ trips to glamorous foreign locations. You are there to serve the people, not worship or serve your own personalities and friends.

3. Don’t ever ignore the people – and that means all of them, whether you agree with them or not, even if you think yourself to have superior knowledge or intellect (because you may well not be correct). Don’t be a fascist, whose hallmark is violently to prevent others from thinking differently. And remember, fascists come from both the left and the right.

4. Honour those who do right in society and stick up for them. If the only people you give succour to are the weak-willed, the incompetent and the lazy then you are building a psychological time-bomb which will eventually explode, taking down the whole of society in the process. By all means have a heart for those who have failed but never ever to the point of penalising or vilifying those who have worked hard, behaved honestly and made a point of being responsible for themselves and their families.

5. Take particular care over crime and punishment. The person you need to be sad for is the victim, not the perpetrator. (And for those who feel that in some way it is not ‘Christian’ to punish people, I’m convinced that the true Christian approach is for the victim to forgive his/her assailant, but for society impartially to punish the criminal.)

6. ‘Thou shalt not steal’. Precisely – and that extends to government. There is no sin about just ‘being rich’  – the only sin relating to wealth is if the individual came by that money under false pretences, through bullying or violence, or illegally. Equally, those who are wealthy have a duty to use their resources appropriately, and never to use them to throw their weight around.
Remember that ‘don’t steal’ applies to governments just as much as individuals: taxation is never fair if it is simply trying to punish members of the public for their success, when their wealth has been fairly and legitimately acquired.

7. ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness’. This applies par excellence to politicians and managers. False promises in an election manifesto should be an offence punished by jail. Knowingly spreading false news should also be a public order offence (though of course great care will need to be employed when dealing with parodies and jokes, and the particularly English habit of making a point by saying the exact opposite).

8, 9 and 10. Isn’t it interesting how the last three Commandments start with ‘Thou shalt not covet…’?  Envy is one of the quickest destroyers of individuals and of society; it erodes its way through lives.
Most people think the Bible says ‘Money is the root of all evil’. It doesn’t! – the full quote is ‘The love of money is the root of all evil’. Whenever Jesus castigated those who were rich it was when their love of money had blinded them to the moral issues that they faced in acquiring, holding on to and using their wealth.
So – ‘thou shalt not covet…’ Emphasised three times in the original Ten Commandments!

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PC – the beginning of the end?

At long last the cracks are beginning to show in current concepts of political correctness/equality.

Let me say right at the beginning that, as a practicing Christian, I believe completely and utterly in the equality of all people under God, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. I also believe strongly that in secular terms equality is important – but just as importantly, that obeisance to political correctness won’t achieve it. Indeed I have felt for decades that PC is exactly the wrong way to go about achieving equality, and will actual increase discrimination rather than decreasing it – a situation which is just starting to happen now everyone seems to have started up their own legalistic ‘safe space’: white-free zones, female-only societies, female-only shortlists…  It’s simply the inverse of previous racism, sexism etc. and just as much racist and sexist as the original was — with perhaps the added disadvantage of a complete layer of hypocrisy added in for good measure.

The point at which PC has failed is – of all things – the current debate over equality for trans people (defining ‘trans’ as people who identify as a gender different to their ‘genetic’ sex). Devotees of political correctness have argued, quite appropriately, that trans people are just as important as anyone else in society and that their specific needs should be attended to. I fully agree. However, as always with political correctness, it’s been taken to an obsessional degree, so that instead of leaving gender identity as a basic principle of equality, people, organisations and institutions have been asked to spell out in legalistic detail how they intend to achieve it.

And what a mire they have fallen into! How do you define a trans person? Well, in my book, that’s probably best left to the clinicians as they have probably got the most scientific insight into the whole situation. But no – the PC brigade now insists that those who feel themselves to be trans should be entitled to self-identify as such and use the toilets appropriately. Instantly this has caused problems, particularly where those who anatomically still have male genitalia wish to use female changing rooms. But there is worse to come: what is to stop perverts and voyeurs declaring themselves as trans in order to have the opportunity to see females in a state of undress? And again, this has been made much more complicated because it is now expected that organisations should have a pro-trans attitude which they then publish.

And now we have come to the crunch: on the one hand are the LGBT brigade who want to create a fuss over anyone suspected of being anti-trans; and on the other are women who, quite naturally, want to ensure that they are not being sexually spied upon by males being let into female-only areas.

In many ways this is a modern version of the old ‘irresistible force meets immovable object’ scenario. Something has got to give – except that it won’t. Everyone is now locked in a tussle in which there are no winners and an awful lot of losers, with institutions and individuals scared that they will be sued for sexual discrimination at the same time as being sued for a different kind of sexual discrimination. What is the solution? If you’re going down the political correctness road, there doesn’t appear to be one.

On the other hand, if society chooses to ditch the need to obey political correctness at the nitpickingly legal level than life becomes much easier. If we adopt the generic ‘everyone is equal’ approach without trying to define every little stage, we can actually end up with a much more mature way of treating people truly equally. In other words we treat people as individuals: courteously, graciously – but also firmly, taking into account all aspects of the situation in each individual case.

Part of this, of course, needs to be the process of recognising that political correctness is a very blunt instrument, often self-contradictory, with no governing body, and no overall means of resolving conflicts within PC doctrine. In addition, PC is often (deliberately) wielded in a very bullying (and therefore not egalitarian) fashion. PC is of no help if subtle decisions about gender are made with chanting, demonstrating and possibly violent crowds outside the building, or with threats of legislation, boycotting, no-platforming or removal of professional qualifications if a complainant a doesn’t get his/her way, irrespective of the impossibility of complying, or of the physical or emotional consequences to others.

I have long held that political correctness has little to do with equality and much more to do with control freaks who simply want to push people around. So in some ways I feel a certain sense of satisfaction that PC now looks as though it has met its nemesis. If so, it’s long overdue.

But in other ways this all ends up missing the point entirely, because – bullies aside – we are still left over the subject of gender identity with a group of people who are truly needy and deserving of society’s support: those who genuinely feel trapped in a body of the wrong sex and wish to identify differently – and these deep needs haven’t gone away, and their problems haven’t been assuaged. In my view, the most elegant way to deal with this is not through the law, but through courtesy, kindness and thoughtfulness at an individual level, carefully taking into account each person’s individual circumstances.

By comparison Political Correctness is a bully’s charter which divides more than it heals: the sooner it is dismantled the better, to be replaced by a much gentler, individually-tuned, gracious and thoughtful approach to real equality.

Limiting laws

I can’t help but feel that the legal system in the UK is totally out of control.

On the one hand we have hundreds of laws which most of us are entirely unaware of yet, by statute, are required to obey in every minute detail; a legal system which is dependent upon the niceties of precedent but which often delivers anything but true justice; and a police force which is now totally overwhelmed. Indeed some constabularies appear to have given up the unequal struggle and don’t even send out officers to take evidence over offences such as shoplifting and petty theft. Meanwhile, hundreds of officers are dealing with so-called ‘hate’ crimes. Nothing anyone does seems to make things better, despite everyone complaining that this is not the way to police the community.

I have a revolutionary idea for sorting this out.

We have a finite number of officers. We have finite finance with which to support them. Why then do we allow potentially an infinite number of laws all of which need to be policed?


The cure is so obvious that everyone seems to have missed it. We need fewer, simpler laws: laws which are easier to understand and define (and therefore hopefully more straightforward to prosecute); but above all we need to stop ‘creating a law for everything’. We need to have a national debate about which actions really need to be considered beyond the pale, and therefore to be dealt with; and which other actions can sensibly be be decriminalised.


I’d like to see a Royal Commission go through all our laws, taking out the ones that no-one needs any longer and simplifying those that remain. I’d also like to see one further principle enacted: no laws should be created without the simultaneous removal of a similar number of other, existing  laws. In other words, our finite police force would always have a strictly limited number of felonies that it was required to police.

This approach would have three main effects: firstly, no one would be inclined to introduce further law just for the sake of it: it would have to be very obvious that the new laws were needed — to such an extent that the country was prepared to ditch other laws to make room for them. Secondly, by making the law simpler, smaller and better defined it would make cases easier to prosecute, leading to shorter trials and far less pre-trial uncertainty with the CPS um-ing and ah-ing about whether an offence actually had been committed. And finally the police force would at long last have a limit on the work they were being expected to do.


Additionally, the public would feel much more in control of the legislative process. There is currently a huge wave of disillusionment in the UK among those who have been assaulted or burgled, when the police don’t respond to a cry for assistance, especially when resources are made available for the investigation of the badly-drafted law around hate speech but not for patrolling the streets and preventing physical assaults and sexual attacks. By making open the discussions about new definitions of crimes the public would be able to feel that they were in charge of deciding which activities were and which were not worthy of the police’s attention.


I’m sure that this would also make the police feel much better about their role. To have limited time, limited manpower but unlimited demand is soul-destroying for the workers involved – the NHS has had this for years and it’s a quick route to burnout and disillusionment. I’m sure that the police feel the same. So one of the important benefits of this approach would be an instant improvement in police morale.


Rationalising and limiting the legal system isn’t something that could be done overnight, or even over five years: nevertheless, the sooner we start to do this the quicker we will get our legal system under control. If the first thing we did was to insist that any new law had also, before its enactment, to be assessed for the demand it would place upon the police and the courts, and prior to its enactment be accompanied by the formal removal of a similar amount of work, the more the nation will find that its legal system is slowly and gradually being tidied up and made more fit for purpose.


Some quotes

‘Quiet people have the loudest minds’ – Stephen Hawking

 

 

Some laws

  • Goodhart’s Law : “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”
  • Campbell’s Law : “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”
  • The Cobra Effect refers to the way that measures taken to improve a situation can directly make it worse.

 

Left and right – the moral difference.

From the Daily Telegraph letters page, May 2017
”On social media there is much venom being directed towards Theresa May and the Conservative Party, yet I see no such reciprocal behaviour towards Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. Why is this?” (David Malia)

“… The reason is that she is in power but he is not. It is human nature to rail against authority.Were he in power, though, such organs of criticism would be suppressed, and the complainant punished.” (Fiona Wild)

“There is a simple explanation… Rightists think Leftists are misguided; but the Leftists, convinced of their intellectual and moral superiority, believe that the Rightists are evil.” (Patrick Jordan)

Drug tests?

‘If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs: we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.’ — (P J O’Rourke)

2016 – the year of the little people

As far as I’m concerned, 2016 was utterly brilliant year. Not only did the UK vote to leave the EU, but against all the odds the outsider Donald Trump became President of the United States.

Now I have to say that I don’t personally like Trump: I find him abrasive and something of a boor, but I suspect that in the grand scheme of things he will be surprisingly effective and on the world stage probably a much safer pair of hands than his electoral opponent would have been.

Why was 2016 brilliant? Because it marked the rise of the ‘little people’ – those whom the professional politicians (especially those on the left) have made such a point of ignoring. As a UK citizen, I can’t speak for the US: but I can identify specifically with the needs of the little people in the UK who have so often been swept aside under the pretext of political correctness. Indeed, it has seemed to me for some considerable time that the new underclass in the UK are working class white, heterosexual, married males of Christian background.

But not just that, in trying to help the genuinely needy, in the medium past those who have conformed to society’s norms of honesty, respectability, reliability and hard work were almost routinely ending up at the back of the queue. 30 years ago there were many cries that scarce council housing was being preferentially allocated to single parents (so much so that some women were getting pregnant in order to jump the queue) in preference to the indigenous population who had decided to wait until they were married before having progeny; or alternatively that the tax laws were slanted to discriminate against those who had opted for a conventional, married family life.

Similarly, there is the continuing sense that religious tolerance has in practice now come to mean ‘tolerance for any belief other than Christianity’.

Don’t get me wrong here. I believe strongly that society has to ensure that it looks after the disadvantaged, the dispossessed, the refugee, the immigrant, the person of a different religion, of a different colour, of all sexualities – but not at the expense of the rest, who at the very least need to be treated equally.

But in practice that fairness has not happened and the current underclass (white, working class, heterosexual males of Christian background) has in practice been discriminated against whilst also being taxed to pay for everybody else and then verbally lambasted as bigots by the Metropolitan chattering classes.

The reason why I am increasingly annoyed by the aforesaid chattering classes is that although they claim to be politically correct, in practice (and despite their virtue-signalling), their actions and decisions consistently disadvantage the current underclass who have done nothing wrong (they didn’t ask to be born working class, white, male etc did they?)

And it’s these people that have risen up en masse and kicked the establishment in the teeth over Brexit. If the left-wing chattering classes had bothered listening to those they claimed to be protecting they would have realised long ago that there was a simmering sense of resentment among a vast section of the population who were utterly sick of being ignored over their perfectly reasonable frustrations. After all, it is very hard to keep your cool for decades when you are consistently demeaned, disadvantaged or sidelined.

It is also extremely hard when you are aware that the reason why you may not be able to get a house is because others from different countries are being given preference; the reason why you can’t get a place at a maternity unit is because there are so many immigrants having babies; and the reason why you can’t get your children a place at the nearby school is because most of them are oversubscribed because we still keep on letting large numbers of other people (especially from the EU) into the country.

What is even harder is when people who are being disadvantaged in this way protest, they are accused of being racist when in fact they are simply drawing attention to the external overloading of the system. This isn’t racism: they are talking about numbers, not nationality. That the Metropolitan chattering classes accuse the English underclass of racism is testament to the degree to which those chattering classes are out of touch with the real concerns of the citizens they claim to represent. (And of course they are doing it from their dining rooms in their comfortable  North London houses, whilst large numbers of people up and down the country can’t acquire a decent house at a decent price; or else can’t get their children into the local school and have to make do with a place miles away — and therefore miles away from their childrens’ social contacts.)

No, say the chattering classes. You are wrong to want out of the EU: you are racist, fascist bigots. (How easy it is to criticise others when you have the privileges that they don’t! )

And so we had the apparently unexpected result of the referendum – though it wasn’t unexpected to me. The EU always represented a mega-version of the Metropolitan chattering classes, an elite which the little people in England were so anxious to get rid of.

I predicted that the UK would vote for Brexit: similarly, I predicted that the US would vote for Trump – again, for much the same reasons. Although the left wing (chattering classes) media are very quick to make out that Trump is a bully, sexist, racist unintelligent incompetent, I suspect that many of the US underclass see him as their representative – someone who will actually take up cudgels on their behalf: seal the border with Mexico to stop unwanted immigrants (but also, very importantly, stop the heroin coming in); and ensure that the US is not suckered into treating Middle-East refugees as though they are 100% non-involved with terrorism (as Merkel has just found out).

One of the difficulties of the Metropolitan chattering classes is that although they disdain the theological aspects of the Christianity they despise, they try to continue the social aspect of it (or, rather, the social aspects of it that they are comfortable with) without realising that they haven’t got the whole picture. Were they actually to read the New Testament they would be brought face-to-face with a completely different picture of Christianity in which rules matter, punishment for wrongdoing is still very valid, where social misbehaviour is deprecated and those who take part in it are firmly criticised. Sure, the New Testament tells of forgiveness, freely given by God, love, and (in the appropriate circumstances) turning the other cheek. But you can’t have the social benefits without the theological truths and to imagine that Christianity is all about being lovey-dovey to everyone is about as far from the real truth as you can get.

One of the real driving forces of my entire life is the injunction in the Bible, repeated in many places, to ensure that justice applies to all, and especially to the disadvantaged: ‘justice for the widows and the oppressed’. I stand by that entirely: both the UK and the US need to ensure that they are always sensitive to the needs of the disadvantaged, of the refugee, of the vulnerable. But crucially, this must not be done to the detriment of existing groups of people already within our societies. The Bible tells us that we must treat our neighbours as ourselves: this also implies that we must treat ourselves as our neighbours. Or to put it another way – charity begins at home.

NHS Management-speak

I can’t help feeling that “Explore options for New Models of Care” is NHS management-speak for “We don’t know what to do”.

The real motives behind the EU

From a letter to the Daily Telegraph March 2016:

“On the contrary, the EU is entirely political… ….the system of Jean Monnet, the prime visionary and instigator of a wholly unified continent of Europe. His title was President of the Action Committee for the European Superstate. The superstate is not a myth: it is the intent.
Monnet wrote: ‘Europe’s Nations should be guided towards the superstate without their people understanding what is happening. This can be accomplished by successive steps, each disguised as having an economic purpose, but which will eventually and irreversibly lead to federation.’
Trade and prosperity are merely an adjunct: the EU’s true destination is post-democratic government by unelected committee.” (Frederick Forsyth)

Words fail me that, even after the convulsions of not one but two world wars on Europe’s territory, that such a totally undemocratic policy and goal should have been even thought of, never mind written down. The sooner the UK gets out of Europe, the better.