Election Anxiety

I’ve not been giving much attention to this blog of late – mostly down to being quite busy at home and at work, so I’ve not really done anything. I’m also going through some rather rapid emotional swings in regards to today’s General Election. There is so much riding on it and, while I’ve tried to avoid reading too much into the polls, the thought of the Tories increasing their majority fills me with dread and uncertainty for so many reasons.

On the flip side, when I follow the campaign of my local Labour candidate, and hearing testimonies from young and first-time voters excited by and engaged with the Labour manifesto, my mood swings completely the other way. A strong turnout, especially amongst people my age and younger, could change everything; my wife and I will be on the edge of our sofa as the exit poll is broadcast at 10pm.

Jeremy Corbyn, and my local candidate Andrew Hammond, have poured everything they can into this election and, policies aside, I applaud them both just for running very positive campaigns. No smears, no muck-slinging and no cheap point-scoring – that’s how political campaigning should be.

I so hope that when I wake up on Friday morning, there is cause for celebration.

My thoughts on the so-called “Dementia Tax”

There are a million and one reasons why, in the forthcoming General Election, I will NOT be voting Conservative, but the so-called “Dementia Tax” is one of them. It probably won’t affect me in the short- or long-term, but what it could mean for those who are affected fills me with disgust.

Picture this:

All your life, you’ve worked hard. You’ve earned a living, bought your own home and raised a family. Throughout your working life, you’ve never skimped on paying your Income Tax and National Insurance contributions, and you’ve never required any state support. You’re comfortable in the knowledge that everything you’ve worked for will be passed down to your children.

You visit the doctor one morning, and you’re shocked to hear that you have an age-related condition that, over the years, will significantly reduce your independence. At some point in the near future, you will need around-the-clock care. It would be nice to think that, for all your contributions to the state, the state will reciprocate by looking after you so as not to burden your children.

However, in the 2017 General Election, the Conservatives won; implementing their social care scheme that takes all of your assets into account in order to pay for the care you need. All the money you paid in to that so-called National INSURANCE scheme throughout your decades in work doesn’t count for anything. Your assets are going to be stripped down to the last £100k, so that nice nest egg you were going to bequeath to your children is now mostly going to the State.

Except it doesn’t really go to the State, does it?

Under Tory ideology, the people who are going to be charged with your care are not public servants at all – they work for a private company who now manage the social care provision in your area. As such, they’re motivated more by profit than by service. The quality of care you receive can only be described as “acceptable” – you get the essentials, but your quality of life is rather lacking… and you’re paying for it! Some retirement, eh?

Everything you worked for in the knowledge that your children would benefit from it has now ended up on the bottom line of a profit and loss report, divvied up between the shareholders and the Chief Executive’s fat annual bonus. Or, worse still, siphoned to an off-shore tax haven. You didn’t ask to get ill, and you certainly didn’t choose to – yet you and your family are being punished heavily because of it while complete strangers are rolling in the fruits of your labour.

I don’t know about you, but I find that to be quite the kick-in-the-teeth – a means of asset-stripping the elderly, and funnelling it into corporate profits. It’s disgusting behaviour.

But the good thing is, it hasn’t happened yet. It can be stopped, and I’m going to do my part in stopping it:

I’m voting Labour!

Rant in B-sharp: Interfering Wowsers

Last night, in the few minutes between getting into bed and falling asleep, one question wafted into my mind:

Why do some people believe it’s okay to interfere in, criticise or control the lives and choices of others?

In Australia and New Zealand, they have a brilliant word for such people: wowsers. People so prim, proper and moralistic, they suck the fun out of everything. People so easily-offended, freedom of choice and freedom of expression is a scary prospect to them.

Thinking about it further got me more than a little wound up. I’ve been on the receiving end of a fair share of criticism over the years from people who saw themselves on the moral or cultural high ground and saw it as their right to pass comment on others. Therefore, this post may get rather ranty, a bit sarcastic and perhaps a little satirical too. We all need to vent sometimes.

I’d been watching a video on the sexual double standard. If you’re not already familiar with the term, it’s where having many sexual partners is regarded negatively for women, but virtuous for men. From what I gathered, it’s an anachronistic and conservative throwback to the days before contraceptives, where promiscuous women were seen as potential harbingers of venereal diseases… so don’t go there! As such, a woman with no, or few, previous sexual partners was seen as appropriate; however, a man with a similar history must have something seriously wrong with him. How on earth is this still relevant today, and what right do we have to criticise others for what they get up to in the bedroom anyway? If you’re happy and healthy, who cares?!

The same goes for those who believe conversion therapy works, and either encourage, pressure or force their friends or family members to undergo such treatment. What’s the matter? Is the shame of having a gay person in the family so bad that you’ll gladly chip away at your loved ones’ mind through extreme, Clockwork Orange-style therapies; just so you can sleep a little easier? I’m sorry, but if you’re only willing to say “I love you” after you’ve had their nuts wired to a car battery, then you’re the one who needs to seek help.

And while we’re on the subject, stop lobbying your representatives in Government to legally remove the rights of others based on your personal religious views. The same goes for international religious lobby groups too. If you want the freedom to practice your religion without discrimination, then keep your nose out of civic affairsFreedom of religion is a universal human right, as is freedom of conscience, which applies to all and not just your little collective. Freedom from offence is not a human right… so put the placard down and move along.

And finally, here’s a list of a few more things people publicly criticise others for that really pisses me off:

  • Their physical appearance.
  • Their wardrobe choices. There’s a reason Trinny and Susannah aren’t on the air anymore.
  • Their gender identity. Is that stranger over there confusing you because they don’t look quite right? If I were you, I’d go home and take a couple of paracetamol if thinking is making your head hurt.
  • Their diet. Are you a doctor or a nutritionist? No? Then shut up!
  • Their political beliefs. There is no right and wrong on the political spectrum – contribute to the debate or go back to your right-wing safe space on the Daily Mail forums!
  • Their mental health. No, we can’t just “cheer up” or “snap out of it”.
  • Their possessions. Am I making you late for work by not driving a faster car? Sue me.
  • Their personal tastes. I quite liked Pink Floyd’s Endless River. Deal with it.
  • Their accent. I’m sick of hearing how disliked or “unattractive” the West Midlands accent is, or how it makes us sound unintelligent! Yow can bugger off, arroight!

Rant over.

Taking the Hiss Out of Ben Elton: Preparing for my first proper cassette deck

It’s no secret that I love listening to music on vinyl, and for my birthday last week, I had no less than 9 LPs to listen to (a tenth is winging its way here from sunny Florida). After watching the various retro audio tech videos on Techmoan’s YouTube channel, I wanted to have the ability to listen to cassettes properly. I’ve had several Walkmans of varying quality in the past, and we’ve got a portable radio/cassette/CD player in the kitchen, but it’s hardly high fidelity.

Pre-recorded cassettes are very inexpensive, and there are rich pickings for a couple of quid including postage. I quite like listening to spoken word and comedy albums, and there are many of which that haven’t been released digitally. Such albums are better suited to cassette than vinyl.

On eBay last week, I found a Technics RS-BX 501 cassette deck on sale for just £30 – not fully working but only needed a replacement capstan belt. It’s a 20-25 year-old deck so it’s fair to say the rubber belt has hardened and perished over time, but you can still get compatible replacements for just a few quid. I had a look at the service manual and, while it does appear to be a bit fiddly, the process does seem fairly straight-forward. I’ve never repaired or restored any electrical or mechanical items before, so that’ll be another tick in the box for me.

It appears to be quite a decent deck, compatible with Ferro, Chrome and Metal cassettes, and supports Dolby B, C and HX-Pro. Looks in good condition too – a few scuffs and marks at the back, but the front looks pristine.

My cassette collection at present numbers just 8 – most of them I bought despite my inability to play them – so have been on eBay to add a few more titles to my collection. One of those I’m looking forward to hearing is Motormouth by Ben Elton, his first stand-up album collating some of his best routines from the early 80’s. I’ve already got his second album, Motorvation, on cassette so I had to made sure the collection was complete – and a couple of quid for an hour’s worth of comedy wasn’t to be sniffed at.

I know he gets a lot of criticism today due to his politics and principles, but I hardly think that’s fair at all: how he manages his life and his career is his own business. When you listen to his routines, there’s as much observational humour as there is political – if not more – and it’s not all stuck in the Thatcher-era. If you hunt around on YouTube, you might be able to find some old episodes of The Man from Auntie – his early-90’s stand-up show broadcast on the BBC – and you’d be surprised at how much of it is still relevant. You still can’t get a cup of coffee on a train that’s worth drinking, we’re still haunted by our own personal “Captain Paranoia”, nobody takes the blindest bit of notice of The Clothes Show, and the government is still made up of anachronistic toffs who think Downton Abbey is utopian drama.

Ooh err, bit of politics. Right on.

UPDATE: Disappointingly, the cassette deck I received was a dud. The capstan belt was perfectly fine and was driving the capstans as expected, but the poor playback was due to the pinch rollers being so old and covered in oxide that they wouldn’t rotate smoothly and freely, not even after cleaning and lubricating. In fact, the whole area around the tape heads looked rather dirty/rusty, and I couldn’t find any spares online. It’s being returned to the seller so should get a refund soon. It’s a bit of a hassle, but we live and learn. I’ve since ordered another deck – not the same one, but this one is at least fully tested and working – so I’ll just have to wait a bit longer to listen to Ben Elton!

The Normality of Niqabs and Drag Queens

One of my friends shared a video on Facebook concerning reactions to an image that went viral. The image showed two people sitting on the Subway in New York: one of them a Muslim woman in a niqab, the other a drag queen. The video interviewed a small handful of New Yorkers to gain their reaction to the photo, and they all seemed rather blasé about it. They’d lived in New York long enough to know how diverse its citizens are, and this was nothing out of the ordinary.

what_liberals_wantThe video also showed the conservative reaction via a tweet that showed the picture with a heading of “This is the future that liberals want”. Can’t argue with that – two people sitting peacefully side-by-side on the Subway… who doesn’t want that?

Okay, I get the idea that they were stating that niqabs and drag queens would not be welcome in a conservative future. I can also understand why, to a certain degree, but am still confused as to how they can harp on about their freedoms whilst simultaneously protesting others. Why are they free to wear a crucifix around their neck if they want to, but the niqab should be banned even for those women who choose to wear it? I can see how a drag queen can confuse those who see the world in monochrome, but if they’re out having fun and harming nobody in the process, what’s the big issue?

Before anybody says “it’s not normal”, I’d argue that there is no such thing as “normal” when it comes to people – our collective diversity is both “normal” and “natural”. There are statistical likelihoods, but that is all. For example, I am one of less than 0.004% of Brits that bought Steven Wilson’s latest single – does that mean my behaviour is abnormal, or am I just expressing my taste in music? 90% of the UK population live outside of London – does that mean all Londoners are “weird”, or is it just a meaningless statistic?

Being part of a minority does not imply you’re some freak of nature – the fact that you can think independently shows just how natural you are

Besides, aren’t we all part of at least one statistical minority, and if so, why are some so intolerant of those minorities that they have to abuse or lobby against them?

UPDATE: I’ve just found out that the drag queen in the image goes by the name of Gilda Wabbit. When everything is so Disney or Dreamworks, it’s good to see some love for the old Looney Tunes classics!

Dresscode Discrimination: Weighing in on the “High Heels” debate

This week, there’s been some coverage in the media calling on the British government to add further protection for women in the workplace. It was highlighted that some firms required their customer-facing female members of staff to wear high heels as part of the company dress code, with reports of some women being sent home without pay if they didn’t. Following a successful petition, the issue will be discussed in parliament and responded to.

When stories like this emerge, social media gets worked up into a frenzy, and this was no exception. Fortunately, for every tweet complaining about whining Feminazis, there were dozens more in support.

You don’t have to be a genius to work out where I stand on the issue. While Companies are well within their rights to a specific dress code policy, and their employees are bound by those policies as a condition of employment, they still have a duty to provide a conductive working environment for their employees. That also works in the company’s best interest: comfortable staff = productive staff. I can’t say I’ve spent days on end, constantly on my feet wearing high-heeled shoes, but I do at least have a point of reference: whenever my wife has worn heels at a wedding, she always carries a pair of flat shoes in reserve when all the standing-around gets too much (why do wedding photographers always have to be so perfectionist?!). Forcing a woman to wear painful or uncomfortable shoes as a condition of employment, based on nothing more than an anachronistic view of heels as both “sexy” and “powerful”, is demeaning at best and oppressive at worst.

I’m no legal expert, but if an employee becomes physically unable to wear high-heeled shoes, and the company is unwilling to make a reasonable adjustment, they are in breach of the Disabilities Discrimination Act of 1995. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

In fact, company dress codes can be bad on both sexes for archaic and impractical reasons. Although I wasn’t in any physical pain (so this pales in comparison), there have been occasions when I’ve had to wear a full suit in the middle of summer, on a day close to being the hottest of the year, on the grounds that it looks “successful” and “professional”. I certainly didn’t feel very professional with beads of sweat dripping off my forehead, and I probably didn’t smell all that professional either – even antiperspirants boasting “24-hour protection” have their limits. Likewise, a woman wearing a pair of heels that are killing her feet is not going to feel all that professional or empowered either. If I was a potential customer being given a tour of a company, and my guide was grimacing with every laboured step, I’d find her a chair and go speak to whoever’s in charge. What use is privilege if you’re blind to injustice?

I was having a discussion with another Twitter user who had weighed in on this subject. Their initial tweet had diminished the oppressive aspect on the grounds that there are far greater oppressions abroad. True, but it’s pure sleight-of-hand: draw your attention to one big oppression so that you’re blind to the hundreds of little oppressions that carry on while you’re not looking. One greater oppression does not excuse the hundreds of smaller ones – they all need to be dealt with, so it’s better to pick a battle where you can influence and make a difference, however small that battle may be. These little wins all add up.

The discussion quickly turned to appearances vs. qualifications. My friend (as Jeremy Corbyn would put it) argued that you need to ‘look the part’ when you’re at work; after all, you wouldn’t entrust your savings to a bloke in a track suit, would you? Well, if you were that superficial, no you wouldn’t. I asked them if they would trust me with their savings if I was wearing an expensive, tailored Italian suit, to which they replied “more than if you were wearing anything else”. Well, you know what they say about fools and their money, don’t you?! Whether I’m wearing an Armani suit or my birthday suit, you should never trust me with your savings: my degree is in computer science, not investment banking. Looks can so easily be deceiving, but it’s hard to fake a qualification.

I’d have loved to have kept the discussion going, but when I brought up the legal implications should a woman become medically unable to wear heels during her employment, they dismissed these as infrequent and was not worth changing policies for “a couple hundred deformed”. At that point, I knew the conversation had crossed the line and wasn’t going to go anywhere constructive, so I politely took my leave.

I do agree that clothes say a lot about you, but like any other art-form it’s open to interpretation. It should always be our attitudes, our aptitudes and our behaviours that speak louder. I personally believe that a relaxed dress code at work, particularly for non-customer-facing staff, encourages freedom of expression and creativity. Dress-down Fridays where I work feel more relaxed, conductive and informal, so I don’t understand why we can’t have that every day. I also think it’s time this superficial view of professionalism was done away with – are first impressions really all that important?

These days, if someone approaches me wearing a suit, I’m initially quite wary of them – particularly salespeople. Any trickster can throw on a suit and look far more trustworthy than they actually are – when you look formal but act informal, my brain tells me something’s amiss. Put on a pair of jeans and a company-branded polo shirt, and you might find me a bit less defensive.

What are your thoughts on the whole debate? Do you think employees are right to protest when company dress codes cause severe discomfort, or do you believe that should be their cue to find work elsewhere? Do you think company dress codes are too traditional and formal? Do they even contribute anything? Let me know in the comments section below.

I didn’t know what an “SJW” was either.

During my weekend YouTubing, I watched a couple of videos that appeared to be ragging on so-called “Social Justice Warriors”, or SJWs. Like the term “special snowflake”, it’s not one I’ve come across until recently – it might just be more prevalent in the US than over here. Rather than continue in blissful ignorance, I looked it up.

The opening paragraph on Wikipedia describes the term as “a pejorative term for an individual promoting socially progressive views including feminism, civil rights, multiculturalism, and identity politics”. Okay, so basically anybody whose politics leans to the left. It continues: “The accusation of being an SJW carries implications of pursuing personal validation rather than any deep-seated conviction, and being engaged in disingenuous social justice arguments or activism to raise personal reputation, also known as virtue signalling.” So, by that definition, an SJW is someone who expresses left-leaning political views to serve their own reputation and not out of conviction. Is that right?

The way these videos were describing SJWs, you’d think they were trying to create a new world order by censoring and arguing with everybody who has less-progressive views than them. This actually sounds a bit extreme to me, and I doubt such actions are applicable to most progressives, whether they class themselves as an SJW or not. However, by such definition, it’s not all that different from a vocal Brexit voter shouting down anyone who wants anything but an immediate, hard Brexit. I’m also willing to bet that it’s these extreme fringes that get the press attention and, with simplified black-and-white thinking applied, we all get tarred with the same two brushes.

I hold rather progressive views – I make no apologies for that – but while I’ll express them here and on social media, I don’t insist everybody agrees with them. I’m all for civil debate, but I won’t get involved in a flame war.

I do also hold feminist views, but I’m somewhat more relaxed compared to how feminists are described in those YouTube videos. Again, I make no secret of my feminist views, but you’re more likely to find me acting upon them than preaching about them – it’s called “leading by example”.

In the whole debate about identity and gender politics, while I’m not all that keen on labels personally, I now understand how a lexicon of identities, labels and pronouns is important to those exploring and defining their identities – if a definition already exists, there’s at least one other person who identifies the same way. You’re not alone! I still maintain that all this exploration around gender identities adds vibrancy and colour to what is traditionally a strict monochrome. There does need to be some accommodation on both sides though, especially around the use of pronouns like “xe” and “hir” – it’s easy to add new nouns or verbs to your vocabulary, but as pronouns are woven into the fabric of the English language, new ones take a lot of getting used to, especially to a native speaker of almost 40 years. The singular “they/them/their” comes a lot more naturally.

The way I understand it, activism is a bit like driving a car. Those at the extreme ends have their cars in low gears with the needles on their tachometers constantly in the red: their engines are noisy and angrily revving away, but they’re not going anywhere fast and are likely to be doing more harm than good. The rest of us cruise along in higher gears at a more relaxed pace and make good progress.

I could sum all of that up in just two words…

Calm down!

Conservative Christianity + Politics = Baffled!!

Vinyl records have been a passion of mine since my mid-teens, but I’ve never actually owned an old 78 – the ones I tend to come across are rather scabby and all scratched up and, even if they were still in pristine condition, they weren’t my kind of music anyway. I know in order to play these old records I’d need a special 3 mil stylus to track the much wider grooves, but say I’d got one and some records to play – how would I go about cleaning them?

Well, I found a page telling me everything I needed to know, just in case, and I thought I’d take a look around the website – after all, with a URL of 78rpm.com, they sound like they’re the experts.

The first thing that greeted me on their homepage was a reaction to the recent US Election. I read it, and was rather baffled by it. I just don’t get the mindset of fundamentalist Christians. They say one thing, but they want the opposite.

The pundits and pollsters will debate the cause of this new American revolution for years to come, but the Church should understand one thing: God has moved.

Are you sure it was God that intervened? Some news sources say it was Vladimir Putin.

President-elect Trump is a very flawed man. As far as we can see, his greatest weakness is his pride, and we know how God feels about that. It was pride that caused the downfall of Lucifer, and it may be his pride that brings about the downfall of Trump (and with him, this country) if he doesn’t also humble himself and seek God.

This is where I begin to get baffled. Do you want the full-on, ultra-confident and assertive Trump who will mince all those nasty liberals into slurry, keep those pesky Mexicans away from your stuff, and stop Muslims practising their religion near your children… or do you want a humble, peaceful and Christ-like Trump? I don’t think you can have both.

God, please forgive us for neglecting this most important discipline of the Christian life, and strengthen us to engage the enemy and advance Your kingdom in prayer from this day forward.

And whom, may I ask, is this so-called “enemy”? Why is everything always “Us vs. Them”?

The return to righteousness and the rollback of ungodly laws will not happen without serious battles, perhaps not unlike the fight that led to this historic moment.

Wait, what?! I thought America was supposed to be the land of hope, freedom, glory with liberty and justice and Cable TV for all etc… it kind-of sounds like they’d exchange all of that to live in a Conservative Christian theocracy.

Economic decisions and foreign policy shifts will be easy compared to the fundamental cultural and moral issues we face. Whatever we do regarding the former will ultimately be of no value if we do not attend to the latter

Oh here we go.

For God has chosen to bring judgement upon this country in the form of foreign aggression and a crumbling economy precisely because we have allowed our nation to descend into a moral pit

No, your economy is crumbling because you elect the economically-incompetent. Foreign powers act aggressive towards the US because aggression is all they get from the US. Study economics, stop acting like the playground bully and you’ll find “immorality” was not to blame for the country’s woes… well, not the cultural immorality I’m sure we’ll hear about soon enough.

The end of abortion … If we don’t rid ourselves of this abomination, nothing else will matter. Trump has pledged his support for this cause and we must hold his feet to the fire.

I’m so not going there. Abortion is not a black-and-white issue, and I find it hugely hypocritical when those who cry about the “right to life” only define “life” as the mere state of being alive. They have no concern for the mother or her well-being, and they have no concern for the child’s quality of life post-partum. If you’ve not been in that position, having to make that decision for yourself, you are not qualified on the subject. I find it even more hypocritical when said “pro-lifers” want to retain the death penalty and/or protest against gun control. It’s not okay to kill someone still in the womb, but they’re fair game once they’re on the outside? I don’t always agree with him, but I’m with George Carlin on this one.

The restoration of traditional marriage. This will be even more difficult than ending abortion, and it may not be something the administration wishes to pursue

I’ve said before, each person interprets scripture differently and there is no universal consensus on this issue. If churches want to keep marriages wholly traditional, that’s their prerogative, but civil and non-Christian marriages are none of their business.

The return of God to our schools, government, institutions and the public arena. Our gracious Father enters where He is invited, and we need to replace political correctness with spiritual correctness.

Or, in other words, create a theocracy. Get ’em while they’re young, eh?

The appointment of godly men and women to our federal, state and municipal courts and most especially to the Supreme Court.

Or, in other words, create a theocracy. How “godly” would they have to be: Moby, Ned Flanders or Fred Phelps? Am I alone in thinking that if you hand full legal and judicial control to a group of fundamentalist Christians, it won’t be long before someone is in the dock accused of witchcraft?

We must seek to restore the proper role of government in our society and restrain politicians, ideologues and bureaucrats from unwarranted intrusion into our lives.

You are joking, right? The bulk of this document has been advocating turning the US into a theocracy based on one particular Christian ideology. You also have no qualms about intruding into peoples lives when it’s something you don’t agree with – or does telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies fall under “warranted intrusion”? How do you think they feel about that? Or are their feelings secondary concerns because what (you think) God wants, God gets?

A greater respect for the privacy, freedoms and property rights of all US citizens. A government with unbridled access to unlimited data detailing the personal lives of the American populace is a threat to democracy, a boon to tyranny and a powerful tool in the hands of the Enemy

I do actually agree with this, but I doubt that if such fundamentalists were in power, liberally covering all that is civil and judicial with their scriptural interpretations, they’d be all that quick to close down the data farms. Aren’t you even tempted to find out who has been checking out Richard Dawkins books from the library? Wouldn’t you like to see who on Facebook recently changed their marital status so you can verify the sexes of the happy couple?

You can’t say you want to respect people’s freedoms while, at the same time, imposing restrictions on said freedoms based on your religious ideology.

If I were you, I’d stay out of politics and stick to selling records.

The Bathroom Debate: A British Perspective

Previously, I briefly mentioned my views on the whole ‘bathroom’ debate, so I’m going to go into a little more detail.

To reiterate what I said before, I can understand why women would get rather defensive if a man – or someone they believed to be a man – walked into the ladies’ bathroom. It’s obvious there are some serious trust issues and men – or, to be more accurate, patriarchies – are largely to blame for them. A major change of attitude is required, but a sense of perspective is required too.

I have read some comments where some women have, in exceptional circumstances, used the men’s bathroom – usually when a queue has formed outside of the ladies’ bathroom and they just can’t wait any longer. Needless to say, these weren’t “risky” places like pubs or football stadia, so they came out of there completely unscathed. Whether or not there were any men in the room at the time is unclear, but had I been in the room at the time, they’d be perfectly safe – and I’m no special case. Why is that?

I’ve learned from writing some of my recent posts that there are still some pockets of American society that still believes men have power over women, that men have to be the strong, dominant and decisive ones; while women must be submissive and obedient. This is largely absent in British culture. Here, the overwhelming majority of men, whether they call themselves feminists or not, at least know how serious a crime sexual assault is. We wouldn’t wish it upon anybody, least of all our friends and family, and we certainly don’t defend anybody found guilty of it. We have a few “lads” and “players”, but there is a very solid line between promiscuous and predatory behaviour. Victim-blaming rarely goes unchallenged.

Rather than go on my observations and assumptions, I’d like to hear your opinions on this.

Let’s say, for example, we’re in a supermarket and the men’s toilet is closed for repairs. The only toilet available for men is a single disabled toilet, and a large queue has formed outside because the inconsiderate bloke occupying the toilet has taken in a copy of the Daily Mirror. He’s not going anywhere for the next 10 minutes. Under those circumstances, would any women object if any of the following broke away from the queue and went to use the ladies’ room, or would they feel threatened or unsafe? We’ll assume they did the polite thing by knocking first and asking rather than barging in.

  1. A father with an infant child who is in desperate need of the toilet and is screaming the place down
  2. An elderly gentleman with a weak bladder
  3. A man with Cerebral Palsy accompanied by a female relative or carer
  4. A boy aged between 10 and 12
  5. A man wearing motorcycle leathers
  6. A man with a non-threatening appearance

Please feel free to leave your comments or opinions below.

Meet Brother Hyles Part 2: Walk This Way!

Ladies, Gentlemen and everybody in-between… I am proud to present… more from Fundamentalist Christianity’s answer to Trinny and Susannah… PASTOR JACK HYLES!

In the first part, we learned that:

1. Pastor Hyles doesn’t like men with long hair
2. Pastor Hyles doesn’t like women wearing trousers
3. Pastor Hyles thinks that those who do are going to hell

I pick things up at the second part of his sermon, entitled “The Devil is using long hair on men to break down the barrier between the sexes.”

In the first part, I could respond to some of the sections quite seriously but, in the second half of the sermon, he goes way off the chart so what some of my responses lack in length, they make up for in flippancy.


Marshall McLuhan asked theoretically, “In what may seem a ludicrous statement, they are sending a message to all who will listen: ‘We are no longer afraid to display what you may call feminine. We are willing to reveal that we have feelings and weaknesses'”

Yes. We all do. It’s part and parcel of being human. We all have strengths and weaknesses, even Pastor Hyles, but we play to our strengths. I have quite a strong sense of detail and logic, but I don’t have an abundance of confidence and charisma. That’s why I work as an Analyst and not a Sales Rep.

“Well,”” somebody says, “what about Jesus? He had long hair.” You’ve got to be kidding! “Well,” you say, “in all the pictures I’ve seen of Him, He had long hair.” What kind of camera was used to take that picture? Was it a Kodak? You know where we got those pictures? We got them from sissy artist who had long hair. If I drew a picture of Jesus, He would be balding!

Nobody really knows what Jesus looked like. He may have had long hair, he may have been balding, he may have had short hair. We’re in the realms of Schrödinger’s Haircut, where Jesus has every conceivable hairstyle… even a Skullet. Nobody is right, nobody is wrong. Nil points all round.

In Asia, men hold hands. Why? They do it because pagan religion is in Asia.

No, they do so because it’s how their culture expresses friendliness – just because it translates into something else in America does not change its original context. Also, congratulations on potentially offending almost half a billion people. Have you met Boris Johnson, by any chance?

In Russia, men kiss each other on the mouth! Boy! I’d go to the electric chair first!

Again, culture. That’s another 70 million people potentially offended. I’d recommend you stay out of Russia but, given that this is 1972, you probably weren’t planning a visit.

EDIT: Hyles’ ultimate fear:

1fncps

I was watching a basketball game the other day. The announcer came on, and he was a doll! You men who cover up you ears with your hair, you’re pitiful! It just curls around so only your beautician knows! Ladies, if your boy doesn’t want to show his ears, cut them off!

So, by that logic, if the boy doesn’t want to show his doodle, that should be cut off too? Wouldn’t that make him even more of a woman? Come on, Hyles – show some consistency man!

You high school girls ought to go home tonight, take every pair of slacks you own, and destroy them. A lot of them would if you mothers would keep you noses out of their business in that respect.

Being a bit paternalistic, aren’t we? I think someone’s taking a bit too much interest in the teenage girls’ wardrobes.

Let me tell you one reason why I’m against a female wearing slacks. A female in slacks can sit like a man with one leg up on the other knee, and they do it. No female ought to sit like that!

Show me the passage in the Bible that explicitly tells women how to sit.

Go on.

There isn’t one, is there?

Thought so.

Do you know what? We ought to have more girls at this meeting on Thursday night to learn how to be gracious and feminine than we have at any other activity in this church, apart from soul winning. You mothers ought to insist that your daughters get up here and let someone teach them how to walk and sit.

In other words, you want girls to come to what is, in effect, an obedience school. You’re equating teenage girls with unruly dogs – you know that, right?

I go to Hammond Baptist High School sometimes an, even though the skirts are long enough, you can see as much when the girl sits down as you can see when a girl is wearing a miniskirt. Why? They have not been taught how to sit.

How about we teach Pastors not to look up girls’ skirts when they sit down?! No wonder rape culture is still an issue.

In this class, on Thursday nights, they have the girls bring an encyclopaedia. Do you think they study that encyclopaedia? No. They put it on their heads and the girls learn to walk like girls. (Any boy who can take three steps without dropping is not right with God!) A girl ought to know how to walk like a girl. Girls are not “one of the guys.” Don’t walk like one!

Girls are also not robots, yet it sounds like you’re training them to be one.

Walk this way! Talk this way! Hey… there’s a hit song in there somewhere…

Bugger, Aerosmith beat me to it.

(EDIT: I can access the whole of Wikipedia on my phone. With my phone on top of my head, I was able to take more than 3 steps before it fell off. So does that mean I walk like a girl? To be honest, I couldn’t give a rats arse if it does.)

You say, “Brother Hyles, I’ll just pack up and go some place where a preacher doesn’t preach like this.” Well, good! It will keep us from borrowing two and three quarters of a million dollars. You can do it, but you know that the unisex crowd is pleased with your trousers. It’s time we had an old-fashioned altar call about women wearing britches, just like we do about drinking and smoking and gambling and everything else.

And you’ll be preaching to an old-fashioned congregation that, in time, will dwindle into nothing. If the Great Commission calls on you to spread the Gospel to all corners of the earth, why are you so intent on pushing people away from it?

While I’m at it, let me just pay my respects to the women’s liberation movement. I think everyone in it is right.

Wait. WHAT?!

They’re not women; they ought to be liberated! I think they’re right; they’re not Miss or Mister or Mrs. They’re just Ms.!

Oh, you were demeaning women again. This is becoming a recurring thing.

Then you fellows, for Pete’s sake, or Harry’s sake, or anybody’s sake, don’t walk like a girl- swinging your hips and being prissy as you walk! If I walked like that, I would go down to some Texas ranch and ride the wildest Brahma bull they had. You say, “I might get thrown off!” That’s exactly what I had in mind! You say, “He might stick his horns right through my gizzard!” You’ve got my second idea too, but at least I would come back a man! I would rather my boy have a bull’s horn through his gizzard and bury him tomorrow than for him to priss across the platform like Miss America.

I could hear through the channels of history the collective relief of all the women in the congregation as he lays into the men for once.

So, basically, what you’re saying is that in order to be a REAL MAN, you have to be BRAVE… and that bravery should come in the form of RECKLESS STUPIDITY. Tell me this, if America needs REAL MEN, then why are you trying to get them to come within an inch of killing themselves just to prove that they are?!

I’m teaching grown men how to walk. I’m teaching them that a man doesn’t lean back when he walks; a man bounces when he walks and walks like he’s going somewhere. I wouldn’t have to teach them if you moms and dads would teach them when they were kids. Cut their hair! Take the make-up off of their faces! Take your dresses off their bodies! Put some blue jeans on them! Let them get in a fight every once in a while! Make boys out of them, and I won’t have to try to correct them when they grow up!

If he seriously wants men to be strong, brave, decisive and dominant – what’s he going to do when someone squares up to him, decides he’s having no more of this crap and tells Brother Hyles EXACTLY where he can stick his walking lessons!


To be honest, I’m glad I’m now at the end of that sermon. That was gruelling! Obviously, I never knew Pastor Hyles, but based on this one sermon, I don’t think I’d want to.

It sounds like he has absolutely no respect for other people, as if he seriously wants to put hard limits on their individual expression so they conduct themselves the way he wants them to – if this was any random person in the street, they’d be brushed aside or dismissed, so he claims God’s authority for himself and uses the threat of damnation to scare his congregation into conformity. Well, the less critically-thinking ones at least. The man sounds like an absolute control freak! He told the women they were behaving like men, the men they were behaving like women and the parents that they weren’t doing a good enough job – pardon my French, but I’d have stood up and told him to mind his own business and go raise his own fucking kids!

It’s worth noting that, throughout the whole sermon, Jesus was only mentioned 5 times. Four of those times were when he was slating the “sissy, long-haired, effeminate, homosexual” artists who painted pictures of Jesus with long hair. That leads me to believe that his sermon was based more on his political beliefs than his spiritual beliefs. The Jesus I read about several years ago was far more concerned about people’s hearts than their clothes.

I’d even go as far as saying he’s afraid. Very afraid. What of, I can’t be too sure. It’s a bit concerning that he spent a portion of the second part sticking his nose into girls’ wardrobes and looking up their skirts to see if they’re “sitting correctly”. And why is he so afraid of men showing even the slightest bit of effeminacy? My guess is that he’s no different from any other ultra-conservative: keep the nuclear family sacrosanct so that more people get married and have children. There’s a 50/50 chance they’ll have a boy and, if they do, buy him some toy soldiers and teach him how to be strong and tough. Got to replenish the army somehow, haven’t we? Especially as, at the time, the US had sacrificed so many families’ sons in Vietnam.

I’m sorry, but just don’t get the “fundamentalist” way of thinking. From this angle, it looks comparable to a factory farm where people are caged, confined and fed a special diet so that they emerge with the most desirable attributes. But like a battery hen, there is no chance at a full life – you’re bound by what is and isn’t written in a centuries-old collection of books because the fear of eternal torment prevents you from taking a gamble on a less-literal interpretation. When I studied the Bible, I always saw the Old Testament as the historical context for the “life manual” of the Gospels. I cannot say with any certainty that Jesus existed and the records in the Gospels are historically accurate, but even if that Jesus exists only on paper, the teachings of that literary Jesus are still highly significant and relevant today. If there is a god (again, I’m uncertain yet open-minded) and Jesus is wholly representative of that god, it gives life a much fuller purpose than the god described by Pastor Hyles.

One thing I am certain though: whether or not a Heaven is waiting for us after death, there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t create one while we’re still alive.