Worse than Racist

Earlier this month, elsewhere online, I was following and sometimes entering a discussion about poppies. There had been a story or two about why celebrities or politicians were not wearing them, or were wearing them, and someone in one of the lefty papers typed a piece saying that poppies were racist now. Or something like that. I have one or two minor opinions about poppies and Armistice Day itself, so I joined the discussion.

I do not think it’s wrong to wear one, as some humans do, though I don’t see why anyone should be attacked for not doing so, either. It’s unimportant. But one person in the discussion said the following to someone who said he wouldn’t wear a poppy because the 1914 – 1918 war was ‘the most stupid thing this country ever got involved in [..]’

I quote his response to that exactly:

‘What might be your attitude toward the birthday of an illegitimate child, the result of his parents’ wrongdoing, but who bears no responsibility for either his existence or his condition?’

I was surprised that humans still manage to think like this. Only a significantly unpleasant and poorly informed mind could describe a child as ‘illegitimate’. But what kind of human mind is required to think a child whose parents were unmarried when he was born has for that reason a ‘condition’?

The idea of ‘bastardy’ is an example of religious bullying; religious bullying which tried to force parents to conform lest the ‘moral majority’ stigmatise their children as punishment for not conforming. Of course, those who choose to conform then become the most vicious in the name-calling themselves, because they hate themselves for being cowards, so most need to protest too much.

‘Illegitimacy’ and ‘bastardy’ do not exist and never have existed: they are to be found only in the warped imaginations of horrible, child-bullying humans. This is easily shown.

There is no blood test for ‘illegitimacy’, no biopsy a scientist can perform to detect traces of ‘bastardy’ in the blood. There is an irony at the expense of the religious bully. To have a ‘belief’ about the ‘illegitimacy’ of children, one which relies on the existence of a supernatural dimension, with a supreme supernatural being running things to make sense, means it’s the ‘belief’ which is illegitimate, not the flesh and blood child.

In point of fact, the person who manages to believe in ‘illegitimacy’ and ‘bastardy’ holds opinions which are demonstrably worse than racist. The argument is simple.

If the racist bully wants to bully a child, say because the child is black, then he can point his finger at the child and call it racist names so the child is in no doubt of its different status. If a man did do this – no matter how nasty and demented he’d have to be to want to do it – the child actually is black.

The religious bully does the same, but the reasons for which he does this do not exist in reality, they exist only in his horrible imagination. Therefore the religious bully is one step worse than the racist bully.

I kindly (and for free) pointed this out to the religious bully in question. He hasn’t responded yet.

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A Jagged Edge

My mother told the A and E receptionist ‘He’s sustained a bad a cut.’ I leant in to the window and corrected her. ‘Actually, I’ve been stabbed,’ I said. It’s possible I sounded irritated, but I was speaking the truth. My sister had stabbed me in the upper left arm with a long, white-handled kitchen-knife. I had a small towel wrapped around the wound to soak up the blood. Continue reading

Choking on a Smile

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, was asked to clarify his views on homosexuality. Mr Farron, who says he’s a Christian, was asked if he thought homosexuality was a sin. He chose not to answer immediately, then did answer. This is how Christopher Hope put it:

‘Tim Farron has finally clarified his view on gay sex after admitted that it had come a distracting “issue” for his general election campaign. The Liberal Democrat leader said in a BBC interview that gay sex is not a sin, after five days of pressure to clarify his stance on the issue. Mr Farron had faced criticism for days for failing to answer questions about his position on homosexuality. Mr Farron refused to say four times in an interview with Channel 4 News last week whether he believed being gay was a sin.’

The most interesting story is missed.

Consider the debate between writers Andrew Sullivan and Douglas Wilson on the question of same-sex marriage. Douglas Wilson is significantly Christian. Andrew Sullivan claims to be a Catholic while being significantly homosexual.

In their debate it was asked of Wilson what his position would be if, for instance, his son told him he was gay. Sullivan – after Wilson offered the slippery ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ line, asked an odd question. (The question was odd because if Sullivan is a Christian, one wonders why he didn’t already know the answer to a question which relates directly to his own sexuality.)

He asked Wilson:

‘What if he said “I’m gay and I’ve never had any sex with any other man”? What sin did he commit?’

Wilson replied:

‘I don’t believe that homosexual orientation is a sin.’

This reasoning should be obvious as sitting under the ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ line. Wilson’s reasoning seems to come straight from the Bible, specifically Leviticus (20:13) which states:

 “If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense.”

It is plain that homosexual acts are the problem. This formulation gives the Christian (if they know their Bible) the ‘get out’ clause which allows them to state, no, they do not think ‘being gay’ is a sin.

This is why the fuss made about Tim Farron is missing the point.

Why didn’t Farron immediately state that ‘being gay’ isn’t a sin? Why refuse, four times in an interview, to answer this question using the get-out clause above? It would have ended things right there.

Days later, he says that ‘being gay’ isn’t a sin – something the significantly Christian Douglas Wilson knew straight away.

Why didn’t Farron close the entire line of questioning down immediately by saying the same thing? It was Farron’s refusal to answer which got the press excited. By the time he popped up saying ‘being gay’ isn’t a sin, the hounds have worked out that isn’t the same thing as homosexual acts being sins, which is why the hounds sharpened their question to ask about ‘gay sex’.

And now Farron has been forced to state that he doesn’t think ‘gay sex’ is a sin, when the Christian book states it is. What of Farron’s position now?

Is he lying about his views to avoid being battered by the press as a homophobe? Would a professional politician do that? If he would, what does that say about his Christian convictions?

And the answer to that might be why Farron didn’t immediately play the sin/sinner card to begin with.

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Shatter Your Illusions of Love

‘”I am going to get fat and lazy in Hill House,” Theodora went on. Her insistence in Naming Hill House troubled Eleanor. It’s as though she were saying it deliberately, Eleanor thought, telling the house she knows its name, calling the house to tell it where we are; is it bravado? “Hill House, Hill House, House House,” Theodora said softly, and smiled across at Eleanor.’

In 1959 Shirley Jackson published ‘The Haunting of Hill House.’ Stephen King called the novel ‘As nearly a perfect haunted-house tale as I have ever read.’ This quotation sits on the cover of the Penguin Modern Classics paperback, is placed above the title (and Mrs Jackson’s name) so it’s obvious the publisher was happy with it, and why.

The first paragraph of the book was noteworthy for King.

Discussing the haunted house tale in ‘Danse Macabre’, he suggests the house requires an ‘historical context’ – a dark history – and that ‘Jackson establishes it immediately in the first paragraph of her novel, stating her tale’s argument in lovely, dreamlike prose.’ He then quotes the famous opening:

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly; floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

He says of the opening that

Analysis of such a paragraph is a mean and shoddy trick, and should almost always be left to college and university professors, those lepidopterists of literature who, when they see a lovely butterfly, feel that they should immediately run into the field with a net, catch it, kill it with a drop of chloroform, and mount it on a white board and put it in a glass case, where it will still be beautiful…and just as dead as horseshit.

He then goes on to offer some analysis of the opening paragraph. (He promises not to kill it or mount it, only to stun it a little before letting it fly on. I’m not sure he’s right to worry as much. I’ll change his metaphor to an analogy: what type of person doesn’t want to know how the magic-trick was done? What type does?)

Stephen King says he has neither the skill nor the inclination to offer a full analysis of Jackson’s dreamy opening. I’ll believe him about the inclination bit. Stephen King is a magician. I’d bet he knows exactly what Jackson’s opening does – but doesn’t want to reveal another magician’s secret.

Some think knowing the trick ruins the mystery. That depends on whether you prefer knowledge or mysteries. I’m not a magician, I always want to know how the trick is done, and I think knowing increases the beauty of it.

What does King say about it specifically? What he says about it first of all is interesting in itself. He states that

It begins by suggesting that Hill House is a live organism; tells us that this live organism does not exist under conditions of absolute reality; that because (although here I should add that I may be making an induction Mrs Jackson did not intend) it does not dream, it is not sane.

Does the opening ‘suggest’ Hill House is a live organism? I suppose it does, but ‘suggest’ is right. All humans are live organisms, and the first sentence tells us that to remain sane, live organisms need to dream. By ‘dream’ Jackson could well mean ‘fantasise’ or even ‘hallucinate’ as both these describe ways the mind of a live organism, a human one at any rate, can escape reality and therefore maintain sanity.

However I am unconvinced the first sentence actually refers to Hill House. It seems like it does, given the sentence which follows, but one needs to try to explain Jackson’s words ‘not sane’ to make this idea work.

Could she be telling nothing but the plain truth when describing Hill House as ‘not sane’? A house is indeed ‘not sane’ because it is a house, an object, not a live organism. Though something is ‘not sane’ it does not follow at all it must therefore be ‘insane’ – just as if something did not ‘turn left’ does not mean it necessarily ‘turned right’.

I think Jackson added ‘not sane’ into her description of Hill House to link it in the minds of readers with the first sentence, and could do so because to describe the house this way is still to tell the truth about it. If readers take it to mean something else then good: that might be the point – but Jackson hasn’t lied to anyone.

Once this piece of clever misdirection is complete, Jackson can then tell the plain truth about the house in more detail, knowing the reader will not be reading it as the plain truth. (Remove ‘not sane’ – therebye uncoupling it from the first sentence. Does it sound quite so creepy?)

Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly; floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

The ending sounds spooky, but it would be true of anyone who walked around a house by themselves. They would walk alone if that house wasn’t haunted.

In other words the first paragraph disorientates the reader; allows the reader to think the ‘problem’ – or the ‘issue’ as we might now say – lies with house, when the problem might really be with one of the characters about to pay Hill House a visit…

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Virtus Maximus

That Fidel and his comrades overthrew Batista was a beautiful thing. Who would not think so? I’m not talking about the ‘regime’ which came after. Fidel might have been Cuban by birth, but he was Roman by nature.

Castro had himself a tyranny. It is justified, certainly, to say that, although it’s probably a good thing for all of us not to gaze into the abyss for too long. On tyranny, one thinks of a passage from ‘An Open Letter to Fidel Castro’ by Norman Mailer:

“We live in a country very different from Cuba. We have had a tyranny here, but it did not have the features of Batista; it was a tyranny one breathed but could not define; it was felt as no more than a slow deadening of the best of our possibilities, a tension we could not name which was the sum of our frustrations. [..] By law we had a free press; almost no one spoke his thoughts. By custom we had a free ballot; was there ever a choice? [..] In silence we gave you our support. You were aiding us, you were giving us psychic ammunition, you were aiding us in that desperate silent struggle we have been fighting with sick dead hearts against the cold insidious cancer of the power that governs us, you were giving us new blood to fight our mass communications, our police, our secret police, our corporations, our empty politicians, our clergymen, our editors, our cold frightened bewildered bullies who govern a machine made out of people they no longer understand, you were giving us hope they would not always win. That is why America persecuted you.”

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Gay Cakes and the Whiff of Something Else…

That the ‘gay cake’ business found its way into a courtroom to begin with is an outrage to reason: one showing how rotted our national mind has become thanks to the thought-cancer of political correctness.

Alright, Mr Lee might be a total hoodwinker, but are the bakers any better?

I don’t think Mr Lee was asking the bakers to agree. That the bakers disagreed with the message is irrelevant. Their disagreement with the message did not prevent them from making the cake.

How do I know this to be true?

They could have made the cake without agreeing. Publishers publish things all the time without necessarily agreeing with their contributors.

Their refusal to make the cake might be more revealing than they realise. Indeed, their refusal to make the cake suggests they don’t really believe in God.

One assumes the bakers consider God to be an actual agent – a thinking being – who feels a great deal of love and is capable of forgiveness and so on.

One also assumes they believe God has the powers many have attributed to Him over time: the power to see-all and know-all, etc.. These are fair and reasonable assumptions. Indeed, this should be the least of it.

So why did they choose not to make the cake?

Surely to goodness, given what they claim to believe about the universe, they could have chosen to believe God would understand why they made the cake, would know they disagreed with it and that their principles remained unshaken, and been duly understanding and forgiving.

Is it possible the bakers were motivated by something else, and were using their “conscience” as cover for it?

This question is fair and reasonable.

In his Mail on Sunday column, Peter Hitchens takes a certain position on this case. His column is here.

Mr Hitchens also mentions Israel in this column.

Look at the colour of Mr Hitchens’s position in reply to those who criticise Israel with more enthusiasm than they criticise other countries for similar violence.

Mr Hitchens says these Israel critics are / might be, motivated by a dislike of Jews.

Apply that logic here.

(I mean, for heaven’s sake, a Christian who secretly doesn’t believe isn’t that weird an idea. I can read no minds, but consider Andrew Sullivan, no doubt a fine gentleman and an interesting person. Does he give anyone else the impression he is significantly unafraid of God?)

Had the bakers used the brains they were at least born with (or actually believed what they claimed to believe) they could have disarmed Mr Lee without a shot being fired. Their all-knowing God might not have understood this, but Sun Tzu would have.

These Christian bakers, thanks to their paw-licking, posing and preening, have done more than make themselves look like idiots: their tactical incompetence has resulted in yet more ground being won by the enemy.

They might not have meant to do that, but they did.

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There’s Something Creepy

That Jo Cox was murdered is a tragedy for her family and friends, and perhaps some of her constituents, but it’s not a tragedy for those who didn’t know her, nor is it a tragedy ‘for politics’ or in any way for the country. There is a tendency, in grief – especially when that grief is largely fake – to evict reason from the mind very quickly.

There is also a tendency for one person to want to ‘out do’ the other in their public demonstration of that grief, and we (sometimes) end up with a grotesque, public-blubbing freak-show: the sort that sniffed about in the gutter after Diana exited the society.

The situation shouldn’t be made more complicated than it is. A dedicated mother and wife was hideously murdered by a man who very likely will be found to have been motivated by madness not politics. He shot and stabbed this young woman to death in the street: sane people don’t do that.

(If people are to be killed, the sane and acceptable way is to kill them is using miltary hardware. This way, hundreds – if not thousands – can be killed in one go.)

There is a very creepy aspect to the public and political reaction to Jo Cox’s death: a death which even Hilary Clinton decided to comment on.

(I’m amazed Mrs Clinton didn’t claim to have known Jo Cox personally, and therefore felt her loss more sharply than most, and just as sharply as her husband must have felt it. The woman is an organic lie-machine.)

The creepy aspect is this. The coverage and reaction seem to be tied into a feedback-loop – where one informs the other, and suggests that politicians are a more important breed than the ordinary human.

Jo Cox has been described as ‘gifted’. I’m sorry, but I can take only so much. I’ve read that Gareth Bale is ‘gifted’ – and a if a word can mean different things when used across different examples, yet in the same context, then I doubt ‘gifted’  means anything at all.

‘Gifted’ presupposes the person was was given special abilities for a specific reason; it implies someone or something smiled on the gifted and bestowed these special abilities. To call Jo Cox ‘gifted’ is to deeply – very deeply – presuppose there was somewhat angelic and therefore ‘special’ about her which justifies the vigils, hastily arranged shrines, the candles and so on. This is not fancy on my part. The words we use reveal the thoughts we have. We do have unconscious minds with thoughts we are unaware of. (We know this is true because we all know we don’t hold everything we know consciously in our head at once.)

Politicians are never ‘gifted’ or ‘talented’. Most of them are disgusting opportunists who choose politics as a career path rather than a vocation. It seems as if Mrs Cox was motivated more by the issues than by career advancement, but this doesn’t make her more worthy of praise. That’s how politicians should be.

We’re so used to having gutter-sucking politicians in our public life, that when one isn’t, it’s news. We have things the wrong way about.

Shall we take bets on whether or not there will be flower-throwers rubber-necking the funeral?

Murder of the Soul

“..from top to bottom the whole system is a fraud, all of us knows it, labourers and capitalists alike, and all of us are consenting parties to it.”

 Henry Adams, 1838 – 1918

 Hierarchical structures are the support beams to the systems which are responsible for our financial, behavioural and ideological delusions. Some of these systems exist in the day to day world, they can be seen and heard, while others exist only in our heads, but are no less effective for that. Human beings are trained to obey masters, and while we obey those masters – some obvious, some invisible – we are failing ourselves.

One need only to glance at the way corprations, the Armed Forces, the Police, government departments and many other institutions are structured to see the system they have in place – hierarchy – is responsible for creating greed in the humans who toil within it. It is a mistake or laziness to believe hierarchies are natural and necessary. To come to see the truth of how hierarchies work, how they maintain themselves, requires one to unplug oneself from the Matrix. It is not always easy to do: some delusions offer security and comfort, and absolve one from the responsibility of acknowledging the horrors of the world; but to acknowledge the subtle oppression and manipulation which controls us is to make the first tentative steps toward freedom of mind.

There will be people who will argue that hierarchies exist to reward ‘hard-work’, ‘effort’, ‘commitment’, ‘dedication’ and ‘duty’. These naive and abstract labels would not exist without the basic human behaviour which makes them possible: obedience.

There will also be those who maintain the animal kingdom offers proof conclusive that hierarchies are natural and necessary. One usually hears mention of, say, Gorillas, in defence of hierarchies and how ‘pecking orders’ have been around for millennia and are, therefore, perfectly natural and necessary. Such arguments are laughable and those who make them prove their own argument false. It is language which offers such an argument, and it is the primitive species – such as Gorillas – which have no language, and therefore rely on primitive instinct to run their social group. Language makes hierarchies unnecessary. I have yet to see David Attenborough filming Gorillas, or Lions (or any other animal) offering bonuses and perks in return for obedience, or written warnings if they don’t get it.

Hierarchies within the animal kingdom exist for one reason only: basic survival of the living beings within the hierarchy.  The hierarchical structure for animals is redundant for the most part unless another group move closer. Only then is the Gorilla, as an example, required to do something, which is to say, have a fight for supremacy. The hierarchies humans belong to exist to allow the continuance of the hierarchy itself. It is a self-perpetuating monster. Humans, their thinking damaged by consumerism and greed, fail to see the true nature of the system that controls them.

A basic human hierarchy must create greed. In an office for example, a new starter may be called ‘an administrator’, and that title is understood to be the ‘first rung on the ladder’, and where there is a ladder there is something which needs to be climbed, because – just look around! – everyone else is doing it, and who wants to be the odd one out? (It’s worth mentioning that to write ‘everyone else is doing it’, is to touch upon one psychological phenomena of manipulation, explained by Robert Cialdini in his book: Influence: the psychology of persuasion. It is what he calls ‘social proof’ and it can be summed up thus: where all think alike, no one thinks very much.) An ‘administrator’ is tugged toward ‘working their way up’ or ‘getting on’ to keep their ego happy against their co-workers’ advancement. The claws of the hierarchy pierce the psyche here – and don’t let go.

When one makes the move from ‘administrator’ to the dizzy heights of ‘senior’ administrator, it is more than the job title which changes. On documents and emails, and name badges and things like that, the promoted person can inform those interested that they push paper in a ‘senior’ capacity, thereby giving other lowly ‘administrators’ something to look at to distinguish one paper pusher from another.

A visible difference is vital.

Visible perks – from a change in job title to a huge corner office – are as important as the private financial perks which are offered in return for obedience. (They may be more important, actually, but are certainly no less so; either way, the basis of advancement is obedience.)  I offer the following from someone who has been safely unplugged from the Matrix:

 ‘We have team spirit stamped upon our heads by managers whose noses are all the same shade of brown. And hardly do the managers work alone in their subjugation of the spirit, this assault on individuality; there are the managers’ obsequious lap-dogs – the senior administrators – with their slobbering mouths and hungry tongues. They whisper, gossip and report back, hoping to curry favour in return for a detestable brownie point, a faecal treat, peeled from the nose of their master and licked off the fingers with glee.’

 The military is one of the worst offenders when it comes to offering money and perks – along with gross pomp and ceremony – in return for the obedience which maintains its existence. A Private soldier is the military’s ‘administrator’ and will be paid more money – and maybe win the perk of private sleeping quarters – if he can make it to Lance-Corporal. Do consumer goods increase in value if one is a Lance -Corporal? Must a pay-rise be offered? Can not a human being whom other humans simply refer to as ‘Lance-Corporal’ survive on the wages of a private soldier? It must be possible, because one would have thought that is exactly what the Lance-Corporal did when he was a Private soldier. A Lance-Corporal is thrown a few extra financial scraps – the private perk – and gets to wear a V shaped piece of cloth on his arm – the visible perk. Some of the people who are still comfortably plugged into the Matrix will argue the extra money is offered because the newly promoted has additional responsibilities, and an increase in salary must reflect that. This point is meretricious. The promoted does not have ‘additional’ responsibilities; rather, the promoted has ‘different’ responsibilities. Not that this distinction matters, really, the question to ask is this: is it possible for a person newly promoted to carry out their new tasks in return for the same money and perks they received at their previous level within the hierarchy? The answer, without doubt, is yes. It is possible. Therefore, the system runs, not to reward, but to entice – to keep humans within it – and allow the subtle enslavement to continue. The same questions apply at the top of the military hierarchy – with the senior officers.

There must be reward for obedience because obedience murders individuality. The reward for selling one’s soul to the system of hierarchy is the opportunity of advancement within a system that needs to crush the soul to dust in order to self-perpetuate; and the money offered – and the value of the perks, combined – will always be less than the value of the labour and obedience offered in exchange for them. It has to be or the hierarchy will die. This is achieved, simply, by making people greedy by showing them the higher wages and perks available if they can only win that promotion.

The two hierarchies mentioned, corporate and military, are obvious examples; there are many others. Some of the others, I stated earlier, are invisible – existing only in our heads – but are still able to control our thinking, and, therefore, our behaviour.

These are the hierarchies to which we subscribe. The ‘property ladder’ is a perfect example of this type of hierarchy. Take a moment to ponder: what is the property ‘ladder’ made of? Is it wood? Is it aluminium? I mention these materials because I have seen ladders made of both. The ‘property ladder’ is an abstract notion which is designed to do one thing: manipulate as many people as possible into selling their homes every few years to buy something bigger (and bigger is better, isn’t it?), take on larger levels of debt (the bankers must laugh themselves to sleep each night), and increase their own dependence on their employment hierarchy of choice, because their debt to the bank needs to be met; therefore – you guessed it –  greater levels of obedience are required at work.

Don’t underestimate the use of the word ‘ladder’, either. One may hear the argument that the term, property ladder, is a convenient way to describe a harmless thing – people using free choice to choose where they live and in what type of property. If they can afford a more visibly impressive house, why not buy it? What’s the problem? The problem is the manipulative language which coerces people into doing it in the first place. How about referring to people on the property ‘path’, or the property ‘journey’? No, that would never do. ‘Ladder’ does the trick splendidly. As I stated before, where there is a ‘ladder’ there is something to climb; after all, what else are ladders for? And when those of us who are yet to be freed from the Matrix walk around and see these trappings of wealth, the cycle of greed and obedience is reinforced.

I have made several references to the film, The Matrix, and have done so because that film is the perfect metaphor for what I am describing: recognising the truth of the system, seeing the world as it really is, and, one hopes, starting to care a little about being treated like an irritating farm animal by the state.

Of course, the question remains: if what I say is true, what is to be done? Whatever the future holds for human beings, we control it; or, rather, we have the power to control it, but we – ordinary people – need to free our minds before we can free anything else.

When you are next sat in your car, stuck in traffic, becoming agitated because another driver has made you feel as if you must prove you are not as inadequate as you sub-consciously know you are by ‘cutting you up’, spare a thought for your fellow serf, and rather than wanting to become violent, instead, look at the thousands of obedient people sat in their obedience pods – all stuck in the same congestion – all travelling, heads down, to serve their hierarchy of choice.

Thomas Becket had it Coming

It is said that Henry II probably didn’t intend for Thomas Becket – Archbishop of Canterbury and the one who ended the bromance with the king – to be killed when he uttered his famous words, but I like to think he did intend it. Make no mistake: Thomas Becket had it coming.

Henry II had introduced the ‘Constitutions of Clarendon’: his attempt to restrict the power and authority of the clergy in England. Henry didn’t want this restriction to help the likes of peasants like me. It was a cynical move, but one worth having even so. Decreasing the power of the clergy would be to increase his own power, yet who would argue the ‘authority’ of Rome was worth having unclipped? The power of Rome was an occupation of a kind, a psychic occupation of the mind, and if that wasn’t benefit enough for them, the religious granted themselves the ‘benefits of clergy’ and would try religious wrongdoers in their own ecclesiastical courts where the sentences were conspicuously lenient.

Thomas Becket opposed these reforms and wanted the religious to retain their privileged status, exempt from the laws which covered the rest of the population. Allowing for the times, he should have been whacked on the spot.

Henry behaved like he was contrite. He walked barefoot to Canterbury and spent a night being flogged by monks to show how he terribly sorry he was that his former buddy got significantly more than scalped.

One can’t help but ask if all of the famous pious persons from history really were genuine believers. Did religion have a grip on people’s minds in the way political correctness does now, with many making public declarations of piety so as to ward-off accusations of heresy? It’s hardly a ridiculous idea, because being publicly against the politically correct orthodoxy might result in career damage for the person nowadays, and that’s enough to make many compliant, but taking a similar anti-God position in Becket’s day – and for centuries afterwards – would have meant a slow, agonizing death. It’s no surprise to me that many professed faith in God, and publicly made the right noises and shapes.

The Knights who topped Becket – if they were genuine believers – committed an extraordinarily brave act. They killed God’s man in England , and did it in God’s house, and all the while believing that an eternity of fire might await them for their doings. And these chaps were spurred into this soul-threatening action by a few vague sayings from their King. Why didn’t the fear of God stop them?

Whatever the reason, Becket needed to go. If ten of him had to be killed to land a blow against the Pope’s authority then it would have been worth it. Henry’s act, no more than chipping at the religious pillar, was an important precedent.

In 1215 King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede and promptly wrote to the Pope to try to get the whole thing annulled as soon as the barons had turned their backs. The barons weren’t motivated by a desire for the peasant to be protected; they – like Henry before them – were motivated to look after their own interests. Even if the benefit comes from a cynical motivation, it’s worth having.

In the two events briefly mentioned, power is moved slightly. In the first it’s moved slightly toward the individual country: a barely perceptible shift toward greater independence; in the second, slightly toward the ordinary person. These events didn’t change anything immediately, but that they happened is important for freedom.

(Would Henry VIII have been ready to break from Rome without the Becket incident as a precedent? If a King can have God’s man topped in his house and keep his job and his life, then why should a King worry about a simple break in relations?)

Although he was a religious lunatic and mass murdering maniac, Oliver Cromwell was on the right side of the argument. Charles I was a weak-kneed, chinless Catholic fancier, with a strange fascination with the Duke of Buckingham, and, like Becket before him, was rightly got rid of after Cromwell’s Roundhead’s won the Civil War. What was a genuine opportunity to rid the national mind of superstition, and the profoundly un-scientific idea of ‘the divine right of kings,’ (the Stuarts were fond of the idea of divine right) turned first into a tyranny under Cromwell, then collapsed back into monarchy with the Restoration: a failure of imagination which was a national disgrace.

Consider all the political doings in England’s history. There’s more to discuss than the few incidents mentioned here. The problem is that – or rather it’s a problem for some – it is likely ‘we’ are going to vote to remain part of an unelected political empire, the EU. It’s a Soviet model, and (as Peter Hitchens once pointed out) the EU even has its own rouble.

The Scottish voted to stay when I thought they’d vote to leave, and I think the British will vote to stay because we’re British. Do we want all that upheaval, old-boy? If I can still take The Times and knock back a drop of the hard-stuff while checking the cricket-scores, am I going to vote for any boat-rocking?

If more people knew more history they’d be able to see the EU for what it is, and would perhaps vote to leave this corrupt, disgusting experiment for good.

The Single’s Singularity

When I separated from my children’s mother and left the family home in June 2011, several well-meaning friends suggested I could now live ‘the single life’ because I was now a ‘single man’. This phrase – single man – still has the ability to irritate me. I have always been a single man, I would tell them.

There has only ever been one of me.

I took a strange enjoyment from the look of confusion and mild-hurt which usually followed. The idea of rejecting a simple attempt at a kindness from a friend has, more than once, made me wonder whether I might be insane. Another occasion of this ‘kindness rejection’ happened recently.

I had been seeing a woman for some weeks when she (on March 20th, to be precise) cancelled our relationship for reasons which are still unclear to me. I was telling a friend about it at work, and the brief conversation ended like this:

‘Well, it’s her loss, Johnny,’ Yvonne said.

‘I think you’ll find it’s my loss, Yvonne. Not hers.’

‘Well, yeah – I know what you mean, like – but it’s her loss too.’

‘She hasn’t lost anything, she’s gained something. She’s gained the thing she wanted – a life without me in it.’

The look of confusion at my rejection of her kindness crept over Yvonne’s expression. In about two or three seconds, I guessed, confusion would be followed by mild hurt. It was then I realised I didn’t want her to feel that hurt because I have too much affection for her.

‘I’m just trying to…’

‘I know you are,’ I said, cutting in quickly, ‘and thank you. But logic wins every time.’

Indeed it does.

(I once was asked to read an account of a funeral procession, written by a person in the crowd. This account was said to be a ‘moving account’ and a ‘heartfelt piece’ and so on. I remember the first words of this account of the soldier’s funeral:

“Silence descended as a bell tolled…”

That was as far as I got.

If a bell is clanging, I wondered, what sort of bloody silence is that? Like I said, I have questioned my sanity more than once.)

And never more so than on the evening when I – and another ‘single man’ – walked into the sealed-off function room of a waterfront wine-bar in central Bristol, for a ‘singles night.’

I have been brought up to believe that cutting one’s own throat in despair is not to be done in public. So I knew I would have to endure several hours of utterly absurd, contrived, false conversation; where the best opening line – ‘hiya, what’s your name?’ – couldn’t be used because the women who had ‘organised’ this exercise in humiliation had given us all little white stickers with our names written on them. Adam – the fellow who had sold the idea to me the day before at work – seemed oblivious to my pain, and was looking to become (his words) ‘knee-deep in clunge.’

The problem with ‘singles nights’ is obvious – at least to me. There are actually two problems. First, there is nothing on offer at a ‘singles night’ that isn’t on offer on a normal night out (If that is not true, then why do persons have affairs?) and second, personal relationships could be described as an upside down pyramid. In other words, a relationship needs to start somewhere in order to branch-out and widen later on. What is that ‘singularity for singles’ which moves them from one state into a relationship?

It is sex. I mean to say, how many persons start a relationship because of a shared love of flower-arranging or a mutual respect for Nelson Mandela? When you build a house you don’t start with the roof.

Personal relationships start with sex, so it would be less contrived, and therefore more honest, if the organisers of these events lined all the men up in a smart row, lined all the women up opposite them, and collated who would be prepared to have sex with who, and then the conversations could start. The setting for this travesty didn’t help, either.

The wine bar was the epitome of the over-priced, city-centre social scene: neon and chrome along with bare-wood floors and leather sofas; with a cold, technical – almost laboratory-like feel to the place which did nothing to draw-out the correct mood, based on personal warmth and closeness, which is required for me to relax.

In short, just after arrival, I hated it. Could things get any worse, I wondered? I thought probably not, and that allows for a certain relaxation, actually. Then things got worse.

I was stood in a loose-group, just listening to conversations and dropping in the odd word here, the odd line there, though paying attention to the door which I could see out of the corner of my eye, wondering who might be coming in next. I noticed a group come in and walk over to us, on the way across the room to find a corner of their own. I turned to have a look and was face to face with my mother.

Now, what were the odds of that? She offered a quick ‘hello’ and told me the names of the two women she was with. (She needn’t have bothered, I could read their names on the white sticker-labels.)

That did it for me. I now had lots of question from my little group asking if it was true, was my mother really here as well? Yep, I confirmed, it was certainly true. Lots of jolly, cocktail party laughter ensued. Marvellous, darling.

Adam saved me and introduced me to a woman he’d met at the previous week’s ‘speed dating’ event – a French lady, multi-lingual, who worked as an interpreter and would have been extremely interesting to talk to, but she was monopolised by Adam (who probably wanted her sodomised, not monopolised) and decided to have a conversation with Tanya – a nurse, Jewish and half Greek – who was stimulating company and extremely pleasant. She began by telling me what my name in Greek was and how to pronounce it, and I got her a drink and we moved to a sofa for a conversation which involved the degree she holds, the degree I’m studying for, the compromise of relationships, the tranquillity of solitude, God, The Cosmological Argument, demons in fiction, Kant, how an atom’s volume means solid matter is mostly empty space, and then her mate, Debbie, asked to join our conversation because the one she just left was about ‘dogging’ and ‘fingers up arses.’ It was good to know there was a healthy mix of topics up for discussion if the philosophy and science ran dry.

I had to question why I had agreed to go to a function which every fizzing atom in my body told me to avoid; though it was, perhaps, worth it for the realisation that wanting to be wanted is a different proposition from wanting a relationship, though the difference doesn’t make the realisation any easier to cope with. The proposition affects one in the gut; it acts like a form of shock, solidifying the gut, causing tightness, tension. It’s the moment one realises there forever remains a part of us which needs that skin on skin cuddle which our mothers first gave us. Perhaps wanting to be wanted is rooted in a desire for safety and security? In any case, my mother was sat over in the corner so I should have gone and asked her for one.

As time progressed the numbers thinned out and it became obvious I could drag Adam away without too much complaint. It was arranged that I would sleep on his sofa so it would have been counter-productive to drown him in the harbour. We walked across the city and I have never wanted to be at home, in bed, tucked-up and warm quite so much.

I was once so utterly drunk, vomiting in a toilet cubicle in a bar in Brussels, my vision black and white as the cubicle rapidly span, that I would have given a million pounds to have been transported home at that moment. (That feels pretty awful at any time of the day, but it’s worse somehow at 8:30am.) But the singles night was worse even than that horror; and to spend the night shivering under a rizla-thin sleeping bag, in the coldest flat I’ve ever been in, was not the most agreeable end to an evening’s socialising.

I’ve vowed never to go to another of these events. Adam, however, swears by them and no doubt will be back again in the hope of meeting a lady with whom he can form a meaningful relationship. I’ll stay as I am, a single man. In fact, I’ve always been single.

There has only ever been one of me.