A mutual truth

Anyone who has visited my social media pages will be aware of my commitment to the Humanist cause in the UK.  My stance may have soften somewhat in the past year or two, but I am no persuaded that God exists, and belief in the supernatural leads humans to do some stupid things.

In light of the resurgence of “All Muslims are potential terrorists” ire that has emerged since the atrocities conducted in Paris recently, I was reminded of something.  My Muslim correspondent on Facebook, on seeing my family and I get together for Hallowe’en, immediately presumed us ALL to be humanist and labelled us as such (Hallowe’en being All Hallows Night, has roots in paganism and early Christianity).

I immediately got on my high horse and replied in no uncertain terms that although I count myself as Humanist and secular, I cannot account for my family’s personal beliefs, which are individual and private.  None of us are churchgoers, but I know not what level of faith or not they have, and I dare not presume.  I always leave it up to them to keep their thoughts on the matter to themselves, as is their right.

So we are no longer Christian, but we are not pagan either.  We use holidays and festivals to catch up, rather than take notice of the festival’s origins.  Indeed, my husband marked last Christmas Day wearing an atheist t-shirt (Atheism: a Non-Prophet Organization).

But a presumption remains that because one human being follows an ideal, his or her peers/friends/family follow the same.  It is absolutely not true. The same could be said of political ideals.  Often politics and reliion mix, although in my utopian world, the two never should.

It is an undeniable fact that of the terrorist atrocities performed around the world since the 9/11 attacks in New York, most were committed by Islamists.  Of course, I remember Anders Breivik, a white supremacist, in Norway. He had a political and religious ideal, no different from the Islamist attacks.  He didn’t like Islam (I suspect the feeling was mutual).

It is also an undeniable fact that British Muslims bombed London in 2005.  But get this, they were four men.  The percentage population in the UK affiliated with the Muslim faith is around 4% of the total, and although growing, is still tiny.  Living in a city, perhaps I feel I come into contact with Muslims very regularly, but they are not spread equally across the nation, mainly settling in larger towns and cities. So four men from 4% of the UK population. Tiny.

I also get that whilst some Muslims sympathise with the jihadi cause, the vast majority of those are not engaged in terrorist activity. I mutter about the obligatory call to worship in primary schools, I complain about it, but I don’t take direct action over it. The Muslims I know through my work do not support Jihad or terrorism. They like the quiet life.

Belief is very personal.  There are differing levels of belief.  There are differing levels of feeling injustice.  There are differing feelings of needing to protest.  The abused, bullied, weak minded and easily manipulated fall more easily into the trap.  The stronger minded see reason, and resist. No two human beings are the same.

Although I can presume my Muslim correspondent is related to other Muslims I must not fall into the trap that they all are, or that any of them want jihad. In the same way other faiths must not presume to comment on my family’s beliefs, but we are all different. If we stripped back the religion, and listed our values, we would see they are much the same, on a philosophical level.  That should be our uniting force, against powers who wish to highlight our differences.

Peace. Love. Cake.

 

#parisattacks #vivelafrance #labataclan

 

 

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I hope the Tories are voted out (and why I spoiled my paper)

The prime aim of a Tory right wing Government is to serve business, which in turn raises tax money and creates jobs, which hen can be ploughed into the economy.  The Tory business owner feels impeded by holiday pay, sickness pay, maternity leave and the many other rights fought for and won by the working proletariat.

It frightens me, therefore, that should the Tories win again, they plan to decimate the welfare state by a further 12 BILLION. (The Guardian, 05/05/15) This includes abolishing statutory maternity pay and and barring under-25s from claiming housing benefit. Ian Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions secretary of the last government, already oversaw the terrible effects on low-income families when he introduced Universal Credit and the the so-called “Bedroom tax”.  Jobseekers were “sanctioned” if they didn’t meet the very strict criteria the government has set down for finding work, leading to a rise of food bank use from 61,468 in the year ending 2011, to 913,138 visits in the year ending 2014 (www.trusselltrust.org/foodbank-figures-top-900000). The Trussell Trust, which runs many of these food banks, expects the 2015 figure to top over a million.

Many users of the welfare state are working in some capacity or other. According to the Daily Mirror (ampp3d.mirror.co.uk/Joseph Rowntree Trust 18/13/14) 4.3 million families were in work and on benefits. That’s out of 5.3 million working age benefit claimants overall (DWP, 2014). So 1 million claimants cannot or will not work, but the majority, or at least one person in the family, holds down a part time or full time job. Not the layabout, TV watching, smoking, drinking feckless wonders that some journalists and politicians will have you believe.

Meanwhile, lets have a look at the top of society whilst David Cameron has been in power. For a country with the 5th world’s largest GDP, the gap between the top earners and low income earners has widened. In other countries, like Japan, the gap has remained much the same for twenty years. In the UK, it has widened by 10 points. There are 4700 people in the UK with fortunes of £31 million plus. (The Mirror 15/10/14).

The Government has been building the UK economy mainly on foreign investment, from China, Russia, India and South America.  Business from those countries have bought up large swathes of housing in the UK, leading to rent rises and property left to rot as investors cash in on the fast rise in its value. The “SE17” twitter feed found out that a party of developers of the former Heygate estate in Elephant and Castle went to China to sell their new flats (www.twitter.com/se17). This site housed local authority tenants for forty years, all of whom were forced out to unfamiliar parts of London (and in some cases, the UK). Such social cleansing is, in my opinion, heinous.

But whilst I will never vote Tory in the future (I did vote for Boris Johnson in over Ken Livingston for London Mayor, a decision I think every working class Londoner who did the same now regrets) the choice of the other parties is limiting.  I cannot see the natural choice of Ed Miliband for Labour as a statesman.  He seems like a ridiculous fool.  Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems let down so many students when he let the Tories raise university tuition fees, and Nigel Farage with his UKIP party, look like a bunch of fruitcakes (no PSHE in schools, exit the EU, go after AIDS patients to prove their entitlement to the NHS). The Greens looked okay to me, but they have a forgettable leader (I forget her name) and are anti-unions, of which I am a member. So despite memories of my mother reminding me what the suffragettes went through to get women the vote, and despite I am fully aware of the struggles of citizens worldwide to get a free and fair democracy in their countries, I spoiled the paper.  I really couldn’t decide between them.

As voters are not provided with a “none of the above” box, I wrote next to each candidate exactly what I thought of their party, and the party leader.  Some would say, I wasted my vote.  Some would say, I protested about the ambiguity of politics these days.  I just say, there needs to be a change so that there is a real choice.  At the moment, choice is sadly lacking.

The Election is ON…but who speaks for me?

The next UK election will be a tough choice for people like me.  I earn enough to live on, my child is doing fine at school, my husband is having difficulty getting the NHS treatment but coping, many jobs are being lost in the industries we work for, and we are stuck in inappropriate but mortgaged housing.

Being brought up in a working class family I find voting for David Cameron and his Conservative Party a heinous act.  I am very aware of what George Osborne and Ian Duncan Smith are enabling to make the poorest and weakest struggle daily.  Instead of making the richest pay more towards the country, they employ accountants to help them avoid tax, whilst the poorest, who needs the money the rich can contribute, are wondering where their next meal is coming from. Universal Credit, the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance and the introduction of the “Bedroom Tax” for housing benefit claimants have hit hard. All these measures have been the brainwave of the Conservatives.

The Liberal Democrats had my vote in 2010 because I agreed with most of their policies.  This time around though, they have a proven record of being the Conservatives’ stooges.  The biggest back pedal was the huge increase in University tuition fees.  Whilst the numbers of young people going to Further Education has not gone down since the fees went up, it has led to many post-education with huge debt.  As a man, I like Nick Clegg, but they do not have anything that will make my or my family’s life better.

Labour is traditionally the party of the working class but they have a terrible record on the economy.  They haven’t offered anything new about the NHS, or justice, or immigration.  They have nothing about housing.  I wouldn’t trust Ed Balls with the local Bowls Club subs, let alone the country’s finances.  Also, no true Red Labour supporter will ever forget what Ed Miliband did to his brother David by stealing his crown.  If David had won the leadership I am sure the party would be a different beast today.

Then we have the weirdness of UKIP.  They seem to attract the type of person who never admits outright that individuals born abroad should be thrown out but secretly believe it.  They have a small point that the UK may be getting full but apart from that, I can only see passive racism. In the past, their members have blamed bad weather on gay marriage and called women “sluts” if they didn’t clean behind the fridge.  On the policy of restricting immigration from the EU, people tend to forget that UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage is married to a German.

The Greens have an outside chance of gaining seats in England. But the leader, Natalie Bennett, was caught out on LBC radio recently for poor preparation when explaining how to fund her new Council housing plan. It leads the voter to wonder what else has she not thought through properly. There is another problem, in that Caroline Lucas, a prominent Green and MP for Brighton, is more popular with Green voters than Natalie, which is a formula for disaster, leadership-wise.  I like the Greens policies but given the huge debt that the UK needs to repay, I cannot see them as anything but pipe dreams.

I am not the only person to say that there is little choice. Many of my peers and contemporaries say the same.  In part, it’s our own fault for not registering to vote in time, or voting at all.  The voting system is not effective and needs to be changed to better reflect the thoughts of the voters. Although Russell Brand advocates, “don’t vote, organise”, I think both are needed to change British politics.

Post-election, I think there will be another hung parliament, another coalition, and a further feeling of not being properly represented.  I certainly don’t think my vote will make any difference.