Monday, 16 November 2015

Freedom of speech..? (part 1)

(Writer's note, this is part one of a two ((maybe three)) part series, in which I tackle the thorny issue of freedom of speech, enjoy!)

Firstly, straight off the bat, I appreciate the irony of me, a white middle-class male, writing a blog (while sipping my herbal tea) on my nice expensive laptop, after a long hard day of being at a good uni, commenting on freedom of speech and how it's actually quite restrictive. I understand the irony, I do.

But I'd like to introduce a caveat. This is partly about freedom of speech on campus, and about how the popular Western concept of freedom of speech is so unreal and back-slapping. I am at Uni, and I witness this concept of freedom of speech every day.

And it's starting to get on my nerves.

There seems to be a wrong and naive attitude on many social media platforms about freedom of speech, and it centres on a quote by Voltaire's biographer, Evelyn Beatrice Hall. That is of course, the famous quote, "I may disapprove of what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it".

In the last few weeks, Germaine Greer was supposed to attend my University and speak on her achievements and Women in the 20th Century in a lecture. Previously she has said some naive and wrong things regarding transgender people. In no way am I approving of what she said. But as a result of that, there was a petition passed around, and in no time at all, it was being mentioned by the Guardian. Germaine Greer cancelled her lecture, citing her age and an unwillingness to be subject to abuse throughout her lecture.

It sounds like an awful day-time TV show - a world-renowned thinker and feminist meets the students of a Russell Group University, a centre of learning and broadening minds; guess who comes off worse?


And then the shock of everyone comfy in their comfy blue sofa, popcorn suspended in their hand, mouth agape, when they realise that it's the students coming off worse. It's the students looking silly, because they're so delicate that they can't listen to an opinion from nasty Germaine Greer without feeling insulted by her views on something totally different.

It's become some form of horrible social policing. If someone has an opinion that differs from my own, or indeed the social norm, then they can't engage in dialogue with me without me getting offended.

Voltaire's misattributed quote reads more like "If your opinion fits into a particular category of opinion that somewhat mirrors my own, then I'll defend to the death your right to say it".

Don't get me wrong here, in this article, I am not supporting Germaine Greer's views on Transgender people. Personally I view them as wrong. But I am strongly supporting her (and indeed anyone's!) right to come to a great University, supposed sanctuary of open thought and fresh minds, and state views, no matter how radical, in what I once thought was the best medium for them.

Without exposure to views different to your own, it is very difficult to form your own opinion.

I thought the University campus was the best medium for different and radical views to be heard, and fresh and exciting opinions be made.

It seems clear that I was wrong.

 ( I was also going to do an article on the rise of the trigger warning at University, but decided against it, for the sake of my laptop screen, and my fist )

Saturday, 14 November 2015


I'm currently staring at my computer screen and trying to formulate words to express the pain and anguish I feel for my fellow humankind after the atrocities of last night. Conversations I've had on the topic have consisted mostly of "I just don't understand"s and and strong feelings of fear.

My housemate came back from a night out last night having not heard the news, came into my room, and I was sat, much as I am now, staring at the BBC article that broke the story in dumb silence. That night turned quickly to somberness, both simply grateful to be alive.

Hate is not the answer.

Love and acceptance is.

The point of this blog is a plea. 

It's a plea to all to not react with vengeance against an innocent Muslim community for acts that they have had nothing to do with. It's a plea to act inclusively, to foster community links and draw close together, now, in these awful times.

It's a call to war also. The war I'm talking about is not a war in Syria. It's not a war in Iraq. It's not a war in Afghanistan. It's a war with ourselves. Every time I stand silent when I hear a group preaching racist hate, I am losing that war. Every time I don't engage in dialogue those who view Muslims as blameworthy for attacks such as the ones last night, I am losing that war. And it's not a war we can afford to lose for much longer. 

Hate is not the answer.

Love and acceptance is. 

"Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” - Martin Luther King Jr

Monday, 13 July 2015


As always, I'm not entirely sure what this blog post will be about, but bear with me, you've clicked on the link, you may as well read my ramblings (Killer logic).

I never cry.

I'm not sure if I have viewed it in the past as a 'not manly' occupation or if it's because I bottle up anger/sadness into a great big ball which bounces around my insides like a rocket. Or maybe it's my British stiff upper lip. It's one of these things, I think, or I could be an emotional cripple. Who knows. I remember one big sob on my also red-eyed brother's shoulder once at my Grandfather's funeral. My big manly brother who I spent my life idolising was red-eyed. And that made it alright for me to show emotion. ( I'm sure child psychologists would have a fucking field day with this shit) That stuck with me.

I'm sure I've cried over scraped knees and the like, but besides that, my tear ducts have remained largely dry for the duration of my remembered life.

This huge part of my emotional makeup has been treated to a few crushing blows over the last year.

After a particularly harrowing English lesson (seriously, it's a thing) reading a story from the POV of a self-harmer, I cried onto the shoulder of one of my favourite teachers in the world. Everyone had left the classroom, and I was sat on my own in the corner with my head in my hands. I got up to leave - you know when your insides go all funny? Well that happened. She noticed that the normally sarcastic/pretentious/loudmouth wasn't being sarcastic/pretentious/loudmouth and I believe her motherly instincts kicked in. It was a very surreal moment. Hundreds of lower-school kids streaming past a classroom with an open door, as a tall year 13 sobbed his heart out into a much smaller hug. I quickly pulled myself together, apologised for having wet her cardigan, and ran.

On a rainy day in February this year, sitting in a park in Cardiff with a good friend, I cried for what must have been a good four or five sobs. They were good ones too. Real heartbroken ones. Real. I was talking at them regarding the death of a family member I never met, and how I wish I had have met them. The day before I'd received a message from another good friend completely out of the blue, telling me that they "remember them like it was yesterday... imprinted on my mind". As I recounted this I broke down and sat, in the rain, as joggers and couples walked past, sobbing my snotty nose onto my friend's shoulder. Several seconds later I rubbed my eyes and was done. That was quite enough public emotion for one day/month/year/lifetime. I felt like a less attractive Ryan Gosling; tear/rain streaked cheeks and a heavier heart than I wished to have.

Yesterday I received some heartbreaking news. I looked at my phone and stored that particular nugget away for what I presumed would be several years. This morning I woke up, strode downstairs, made a coffee, gave my Mum a hug, and proceeded to break down on her shoulder. Most unlike me, if you know me. I mean, the coffee wasn't THAT good. We were interrupted from that heartfelt moment by someone asking to get past. We were blocking the way. Good old real life, choking quality film moments with crushing reality. 

I guess in that hug with my Mum, and the hug with my friend, and the hug from that teacher, I learnt that real, deep sobbing into someone's shoulder is one of the most human things we have available to do. This isn't about to descend into cheesy Nike territory, if I say "Just do it" (Trademark, sorry Nike) feel free to leave. I would. What I will say is this. Those people you rush through life with are beautiful people. Take time to appreciate them occasionally. You never know if the next day they might not be there to mock you or make you a cuppa. 

I don't think these happenings will make me 'in touch with my emotions'. I don't really do that, it's not my style. This is just a little bit of catharsis for me. And if, because of this post, one person smiles at one more person, or gives one more person a big bear hug when they next see them, I consider this a very worthwhile post.



Thursday, 2 July 2015

I don't like Christians.

Now my actual article has absolutely nothing to do with my like or dislike of Christians (If you must know, some of my best friends are devout Christians, I love 'em) but my original statement has everything to do with the point I'm making in this blog post.

Joe's little comment today revolves around people who don't read articles, they just read headlines and go ape-shit at the out of context quotes that they are drip-fed. My title of "I don't like Christians" was intended to comment on this. But I guess if you've clicked on this article you're not my target audience for the point this article is making. Crap. Oh well. Take Joe's little comment as you will, or don't. Whatever. I'm not fussed. Your loss. Dick.

I agree with Russell Brand.

Now hold onto your hats, this isn't as dramatic a statement as it may seem, in fact, I'm going to redefine that very statement. I agree with Russell Brand on less than a handful of things. One of those things is that a minute of silence for the victims of Tunisia being proposed by David Cameron is bullshit. Let me specify that even further. I find that "David Cameron proposes" the offensive bit of that statement, not the "minute of silence for the victims of Tunisia" bit. And I think Russell Brand was trying to make that very point when the Independent covered his story. The title for that piece?

" Russell Brand condemns moment of silence for Tunisia attack victims as 'minute of bulls**t' "

Now I purposely left that as big font (not because I don't know how to change fonts, look) to make the point that article headlines are purposely designed to draw the attention of a reader. They will sprout utter crap and take out of context statements left right and centre to make more people click on their stories.

Russell Brand (I believe) was more commenting on the fact that David Cameron has continuously led a policy in which the UK takes action in countries where the UK had no business taking action in, and selling guns to other countries the UK has no right to sell guns to. Russell may strike me down if I am misreading him by saying that he mourns for the victims of Tunisia as much as the rest of us, just doesn't appreciate the stench of hypocrisy coming from Mr Cameron by his populares comments when the awful awful deaths in Tunisia are as much a fault with his foreign policy as they are with terrorism.



Monday, 25 May 2015

tl;dr Personal update

Just before I go to bed, as I look out my window across a dark city with lots of bright lights, I thought I'd update y'all (*inwardly cringes*) about the life according to Joe.

In the last few months I've undergone some major shifts in my life, shifts that in about ten years time will seem like minor road blocks but at the moment feel enormous. I have discovered politics. I have discovered words like "societal" and "objective", words I have always known but have recently changed my view on life (If you know, you know). I have discovered Philosophy. I have discovered a "Yes" attitude, which sounds corny as fuck but basically amounts to me, a normally introverted person with my free time, going to any gig I can, meeting up with people I don't really know that well, trying new things and doing stuff I'd have never dreamed of doing twelve months ago.

I've found out that I really love old books and old languages. I've spent the vast majority of my money this year on books, books and more books. I sleep, exhausted and hungry on a pile of paper. I haven't eaten for months but damn, I know a lot about the Peloponnesian war. (I'm joking, I'm joking, I'm not exhausted)

On this date, I have an exam on the 27th, then two exams next week, and then I will spend a week around the lovely city of Cardiff, seeing friends and probably drinking a lot of alcohol before I'll go back to sunny Bugbrooke and resume an acquaintance with all things village life. I think the price of vodka will hit me the most.

I still smoke, I still drink (damn you drink a lot at university) but I have met a whole bunch of people who I'm almost certain I will know for the rest of my life. The crippling debt almost feels worth it.

Friday, 22 May 2015

You are a cockroach

This post is a confusing one for me to write. In this, I discuss my confusion at referring to humans as cockroaches. I draw from a rapper called Akala, who makes some very valid points, but mostly, I draw from a confused mind (my own) which is all of a sudden very confused about life. I feel as if in the last month or so, I have woken up and smelled the bacon, as it were. Just the bacon isn't bacon, it's a pile of shit. Burning. On my doorstep. In a paper bag.  (And I thought the neighbours liked me)

So twenty-one years and roughly two months ago, across Rwanda, an exhortation came in over a national radio station to the Hutu (an ethnic group present in Rwanda, mainly located in the surrounding African Great Lakes region), it called for a "final war" and to "exterminate the cockroaches". The cockroaches in question were the Tutsi, another large group in the area. Roughly 800,000 Tutsi and three months later, the Tutsi were wiped out. Estimates show that only approximately 30% of the Tutsi in Rwanda remained. The rest had been butchered with machetes and AK-47's, burnt alive, tortured and hung. The exhortation had done its job.

Now by bringing Katie Hopkins and her dispicableness into this, I may seem like I am overstepping the connection. I am not stating that Katie Hopkins, by describing immigrants as cockroaches, wishes a mass genocide upon them. I am stating that the wording is unfortunate coincidence at best, and at worst, hate crime. Katie Hopkins is a woman who makes a living out of her horrible views. But Joe, I hear one or two cry, (let's be honest, it's only my Mum who reads my blog, cheers Mum) I thought you liked freedom of speech, I thought you'd defend her right to say what she wants to the death? And the more I think about this conundrum, the more I get confused. Freedom of speech should never incite hatred, and that is intrinsic to my personal morals. Katie Hopkins has overstepped my mark (finally) and her views provoke extreme sadness in me. Love the immigrants. Doctors can be immigrants. Social workers can be immigrants. Teachers can be immigrants. The British peoples are bastard races of Germanic/Scandinavian/French etc peoples. We are the product of immigration, like it or not. If time has clouded your vision so much that you dehumanise humans (this doesn't have to be by the extremes of Katie Hopkins, this can be just by treating them like shit), then you also provoke extreme sadness in me.


Saturday, 28 March 2015

The problem with feminism

I got you.
You clicked on this expecting a misogynistic rant and I'm not going to give you one.
What really does my nut is the guys who think it's cool or acceptable to slate girls for what they wear. The guys who think it's cool or acceptable to grab at any random girl in a club. The guys who think it's cool or acceptable to sing about rape (lookin' at you Robin Thicko).

I heard a beautiful quote from a feminist (or as I would like to call them, a person) that said "the inflection of my voice shouldn't undermine the realness of my thoughts". Real talk.