Gove vs some actors, masturbation vs the NHS and why working for free is stupid

Gove vs some actors

Our new national treasure, Sherlock Cumberbatch Holmes, and a whole array of other thespians are out in force, loud and self-righteous, spouting their hatred and contempt to the government’s plans to scrap the defunct European Court of Human Rights Act (surprise! who would’ve guessed), which stupidly Tony Blair placed at the apex of our legal system in 1998.

It is important to remember that: actors pretend to be other people for a living – they don’t form government policy, they’re not elected politicians, neither are they academics or columnists – yet they, and strangely we, believe them to be some higher authority with the right to deluge us with their political opinions.

Remember people, just because Cumberbatch pretends to be a smart guy on television – it doesn’t mean he is one. And if Michael Gove thought that clashing with the educational establishment was a challenge – wait until he gets down and dirty with the massive human rights lobby groups, Eurocrats, and the powerful celebrity establishment.

Here’s what Sherlock said:

“Our Human Rights Act belongs to all of us. It’s not for politicians to pick and choose when they apply or who deserves protection.

 “Repealing it will mean less protection against state abuse or neglect, and weaken the rights of every single one of us – and the vulnerable most of all.”

There’s not much need to go into the arguments about why the ECHR act is totally ridiculous – that’s pretty obvious to anyone with a modicum of intelligence; and there are lots of examples attesting that it mainly benefits terrorists, illegal immigrants and criminals, than it ever does ‘the vulnerable’. However, the problem is not so much what it says, rather how it is applied and the interpretation given.

Contrary to what Mr Holmes said, it should be directly elected MPs and politicians who ‘pick and choose’ when the human rights laws apply, rather than Euro judges who are accountable to nobody. It’s ridiculous to suggest that without they-who-know-best in Brussels, the UK justice system would turn into barbaric free-for-all.

Moreover, when power shifts from elected MPs to judges – intent on imposing their own political agenda – we are in very dangerous territory indeed. Let’s not forget that having complete control over the justice system – allows the powerful to eliminate any poor sod who doesn’t tow the party line.

The NHS vs masturbation

National religion and biggest waste of money in the history of anything ever: the NHS was prime electoral ground a few weeks ago, with every single party battling it out – to screw over the other in how much money they want to chuck at it.

With all parties wanting to ‘protect’ and increase spending to new dizzying and bewildering heights; even the once ‘libertarian’ UKIP veered left, in order to woe would be labour voters.

While the left, centre and right, may warn against ‘the increasing privatisation of the NHS’, they are in fact barking up the wrong tree – as usual. Masturbation is a lot more privatised than the NHS could ever hope to be. It’s private in every sense of the word – meaning a private act, best done in private. Unlike that NHS fad, which involves bloody everyone, every taxpayer, the neighbours, the dire receptionists at GP offices, foreigners and bloody old people – so old they’re like dinosaurs.

The NHS is like a massive national relief session, partaken in public and incredibly embarrassing. This has all been going on since 1948 or whenever it was and it’d be better for everyone if it were more private.

And finally…

Journalism must be one of the few professions where employers actually expect you work for free. Why? I wouldn’t ask somebody to cut my grass or clean my house for free – toying with them, ‘do this and you might get more work’ (saving me a few bucks in the process). Farcical ‘offers’ over the last few months have included a magazine asking me to write half of their content (including the editorial) and a gamers magazine who started to get stroppy when I gave up their pointless press releases. “You should all be chipping in,” they said, “and pulling your weight. That’s not a threat, but we know who you are.” Er? I think what you’ve got there lads is a failed business model.

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The Real, The Virtual and The Ugly

I’ve never pretended to be a massive gamer. I spend a few nights a week cruising Los Santos, frequenting strip clubs and mowing down unsuspecting members of the public, but let’s admit it, who hasn’t fantasied about doing at least one of the above, especially the latter? But a ten-year stretch in real jail because of some repressed disinclination toward the general public probably isn’t worth it.

There’s a lot of media hype about whether or not video games, like the one mentioned above, which virtually glamorise violence, actually inspire real hatred to one’s fellow man. The argument follows that violent games and movies inspire young people to go out and commit similar acts in the real world, just as they would in its virtual counterpart. True, the characters in GTA V are a bunch of psychopathic, fouled mouthed, sons-of-bitches, but that’s part of the attraction, especially in this age of unrelenting political correctness which saturates all other forms of the entertainment culture from TV to Hollywood, which the games industry seems to have escaped unscathed from.

Anyway, isn’t the whole point of gaming is to escape reality, not mirror it? It wouldn’t do, if a new release were entitled: The Convert: follow the trials and tribulations of Mohammed Whodehella (formally John Smith), radicalised over the Internet by boy band ISA (formally Individual Savings Account). From his suburban dwelling in Blackburn, we follow the ‘I can’t believe he could do it’ grade-A student on a soul-searching journey across the Turkish border to Syria, from the slaughterhouse blues of cavernous dwellings to the refugee camps of Christian minorities – an odyssey of pure discovery. Or what about Depression Quest: an interactive game where you play someone living with depression, tackling a series of everyday events such as the precariousness of your mental illness, relationships, jobs and possible treatments. (Actually I tell a lie, the latter is a real game not a virtual construct of this writer’s warped imagination).

Moving on, the point of games is to escape reality not to inhabit a surrogate virtual reality. It’s a generational thing, this obsession with micro-managing every minuscule aspect of our lives: from calorie intake to Facebook friends to our Curriculum Vitae, we have our ‘life paths’ charted and graded from birth to death, and this culture even transmutes into the virtual realm. Ask your self how many hours of your ‘precious life’ you’ve spent cooking or organising your ‘home’ in Skyrim? Or what about The Sims, which is practically an alternative life – with all the really boring bits – for those sad enough to play it. Even Football Manager feels like a full time job, with the charts, meetings, sackings and financial budgets; don’t we have enough of that prosaic banality in our real lives? Perhaps not, especially if you’re an obsessive compulsive, desperate for more.

So what is it that attracts people to living these bizarre and often tedious virtual realities? Who knows, maybe life really is that dull; but if it is, it’s only because we choose it to be. Are we all slowly being mutated into automatons; calculated droids unable to pass even a few minutes staring into space without catching a quick glimpse of twitter or some other alienating social networking machination, when even our leisure time (a supposed hiatus from all the life-tedium) is spent charting, organising, and budgeting – in the virtual? Think about all those hundreds of management-game Apps, played by millions of commuters on the way home from an ugly 8-hour stretch at the office.

So where does all this leave us? The late veteran gamer Robin Williams said that: “Reality is just a crutch for people who can’t handle drugs.” Quite, but for a lot of us the new drug is the virtual realm, whether it be our phones, tablets, consoles, dating sites or internet pornography; and no doubt in the near future we’ll be strapping some sort of contraption across our faces, sticking microchips in our brains, accessing the internet through our cerebral cortex or whatever it’s called, living in virtual ignorant bliss. But until then, I’ve got the real laundry to do, got to pay my real bills and really wake up to go to work; oh and need to arrange my virtual library in Skyrim. Where do I find the time?

Japan’s road to extinction

The novelist PD James died a few months ago; known mainly as a writer of detective fiction, not much coverage was given to her brilliant 1992 non-detective novel, The Children of Men that imagines a dystopian United Kingdom in 2021. In the novel the country is steadily ageing and depopulating the last human to be born was in 1995, but has been killed in a pub brawl in Buenos Aires. As a result of sperm counts dropping to zero mankind faces extinction and novel takes us on a journey through the horrifying consequences. The sexual act has become so unappealing and devoid of all meaning that the state sponsors pornography centres to encourage the flagging libido, just in case a baby might be born. Dolls are dressed up as babies. Puppies and kittens are doted on and treated as infants, pushed around in prams and dressed up in children’s clothing and even christened in religious like ceremonies. Society has lost all interest in politics and is now governed by a despot named the Warden of England.

Due to a depleting population, foreign workers are imported into the country to be exploited from poorer countries. These are called the sojourners, who once they reach the age of 60 are sent back home – to be less of a burden on the welfare system. Native citizens are not allowed to emigrate to prevent further loss of labour. There are too many old people and they have become a burden on society being unproductive and a cost to the state. There are few nursing homes and the rest are forced into committing suicide by taking part in the Quietus – state sponsored mass drowning. The youngest generation – The Omegas are spoilt rotten, violent and unpredictable, regarding their elders with little more than contempt.

If there is any society that resembles The Children of Men it’s Japan. Let’s take a look at Japan’s fertility figures. In 2012 the fertility rate was 1.4 live births per couple. Japan along with, Spain (1.3), Italy (1.4), and Greece (1.3) has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. The replacement rate needed for a healthy society is 2.1. The population under 15 years old is 16.6 million (13.2 per cent of the total population) while the numbers for the over 65s is over 23%. The percentage of the population aged 65 or over is now the highest in the world, followed by Germany and Italy both standing at 20.4%. At this rate Japan will have no children left by 3011. It is reckoned that in 50 years the population of Japan will shrink to about 87 million people. Lots of old people and very few young ones. Experts say that Japans population will decrease by one million every year in the coming decades. The sale of adult nappies in Japan has recently surpassed that of children.

Japan faces another problem – who’s going to pay for all the pensioners? In Children of Men it’s the sojourners. In Europe it is covered by Muslim immigration, but Japan doesn’t particularly like immigrations and has no interest in importing any. Foreigners account for just 1.1% of the workforce, by comparison official figures for Germany is 9.4% and UK 7.7%. So all this obviously causes a mounting pensions crisis. Who’s going to staff the hospitals, man the factories, build the roads, do the jobs nobody else wants to do? Maybe get robots to do it.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Japan seems to be suffering from “celibacy syndrome”. The under 40s have appeared to have lost interest in normal relationships. Dating, kissing, having sex all that stuff to do with human contact – they just can’t be bothered with. A survey found that 61% of unmarried men and 49% of unmarried women aged 18-34 were in no kind of sexual relationship. Another study found that a third of people under 30 had never even dated. Japan’s Family Planning Association found that 45% of women between 16-24 despised and had no interest in sexual contact as did over 25% of men. And let’s not even get into Tokyo’s Cat cafes, where for a cover fee you can spend a lazy afternoon stroking and petting feline baby substitute. Like Children of men, pornography or virtual sex has replaced the real thing, with most people preferring to be sexted rather than doing the real thing. PD James writes, “Women complain increasingly of what they describe as painful orgasms: the spasm achieved but not the pleasure. Pages are devoted to this common phenomenon in the women’s magazines”.

As PD James knew, a society, which is totally atomised and lives in the present (Ipad YouTube), resents the past and believes in nothing will slowly give up having children. A society, which stops having children, is literally a dead society.

Interview: Andrew Withers UK Libertarian party

“Absolutely not.” Was how Andrew Withers, leader of the Libertarian Party UK (LPUK) responded when I asked him whether he thought Nigel Farage and UKIP were libertarians. “Take a look at this week’s policy statements. They are an authoritarian party with economic policies worthy of socialists.” Indeed. And what about the Tea Party in the States? “Not keen.”

LPUK was formed on New Years Day in 2008 with Andrew Withers being elected leader in November 2010. What is or isn’t ‘libertarian’ is quite contentious. But what isn’t in disagreement is that the state plays as little role as possible in our lives.

Libertarianism is a political philosophy most commonly associated with America, with its new world ethos of what Herbert Hoover described as ‘rugged individualism”. However, Andrew Withers tells me that Britain has a long history of libertarianism predating 1776.

So what in his view does the UK Libertarian Party stand for? “The rights of the individual taking primacy over that of the state; a written constitution; electoral reform on the Swiss Model. Brexit (Britain’s exit from the European union), and the full implementation of Law Commission 322 of May 2010, to make public servants liable for actions before the civil and criminal courts.”

Most critiques of libertarianism would argue that it is selfish, cold-hearted and capitalistic. Andrew Withers denies all of these tags. “That’s Anarchism, Minarchism recognizes that Humans wish to look after the sick, old and young, but believe that the state is the worst vehicle to do this by, Rotherham, Mid Staffs and the NHS, prove our point.”

I asked him what his party’s stand on immigration was (a point of contention for libertarians)? “There should be open borders, but the pull of the Welfare State means that this is impossible at present. It is in effect a Ponzi scheme; its model is that of a 1950’s Bureaucracy. It is a sacred cow, that is financially unsustainable.”

And does he believe that immigration has had a negative effect on the UK? “Mass immigration under Labour,” he said, “has put a strain on housing, medical provision and education. It has made the Welfare State even more unsustainable and caused social tensions.”

So if the state has as little a role as possible in the affairs of individuals, when disputes arise in society who decides? “An independent Judiciary.” He explains: “Judges are to be elected on a local level. Legal Insurance needs to be available to all not leaving the Courts the playgrounds of the rich and powerful.” Here Withers is referring to the time he sued Vince Cable the now business secretary in the coalition. Withers claims that Vince Cable was maintaining a file on him and in 2011 he says Cable wrote to a district judge, objecting to him being the leader of the party. “But the district judge dismissed Cable’s argument as without foundation and he had no grounds,” he claims.

“A formal Criminal Complaint was made by sworn Affidavit to the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police. This was served on Cable in the House of Commons by Liam Fox MP. The Chief Constable referred the matter to the Serious Fraud Office, where it has languished ever since.

“The Daily Telegraph has interviewed myself and Liam Fox, but the story was ‘dropped’”

And what are your plans for the future of the party? “To influence other parties on small state policy and get more district and local Councilors. We will continue to oppose foreign military adventures, and call for the full version of Chilcot and the impeachment of Tony Blair.”

Are video games a waste of time?

“Video games are a waste of time for men with nothing else to do. Real brains don’t do that,” said science fiction writer and master of narrative Ray Bradbury. Admittedly he was writing in the 1980s when games consisted of a square bouncing around a screen, but he has a point doesn’t he? As past-times go it’s a pretty ineffectual way of passing the time isn’t it? What did you do today? Umm… I sat in my underwear guiding a yellow ball with a mouth around a maze eating yellow dots trying to avoid other balls that wanted to eat me. But if you have nothing else to do with your life, why not? Yet if Bradbury was writing about video games today he’d be completely wrong, and not only wrong but snobbish. Nowadays intelligent narrative, solid scripts and voice acting are taking centre stage, and in some cases are even better than film.

Read the rest here at Gamersftw.co.uk

Multicultural Melilla: Spain’s secret African enclave

An Indian housewife in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, looked around her diverse multicultural London neighbourhood, and observed that: “No one was more liberal than anyone else anywhere anyway. It was just that here, in Willesden, there was just not enough of any one thing to gang up against any other thing and send it running to the cellars while windows were smashed.”

Situated in the north coast of Africa, where the blue sea laps against its shores; a tax-free haven, a port of call for the many cruises which dalliance around the Mediterranean and a smuggling point between Morocco which contests the city as its own. Nowhere is diversity more evident than in the Spanish enclave of Melilla, which along with Spain’s other autonomous city Ceuta shares a border with Morocco.

Melilla has been praised as a shining example of multiculturalism and is home to populations of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Indians and Chinese. Over the years the native Christian population, which was the majority in the past, has been shrinking, while the Muslim demographic has steadily increased, due to increased immigration and higher birth rates, approximately 45 percent of Melilla is now Muslim. The city also has an established Jewish population, which has also shrunk from 20 percent down to 5 percent with many emigrating to Israel and Venezuela.

Although Melilla has been part of Spain since 1497, it was only until about fifteen years ago that migrants and refugees have attempted to storm the six-meter high security fences, which surround the city. Immigration reached its peak in 2005 and has been increasing ever since, amounting to what are now full-scale fence storming operations. On the 28th of May this year more than 1000 migrants stormed the fences with 400 managing to make it over, to be housed in the city’s ‘temporary’ migration centre, which was built to house 500 but has now over 2000 refugees, and that number is increasing. In 2013, some 4,200 migrants crossed into Spain from both Melilla and Ceuta, a 49% rise over the 2012 figures, according to official figures. The situation is already desperate not just for the migrants but also for the Spanish authorities who are reaching saturation point.

If the migrants successfully make it over the fence they are housed in the migration centre where they will find themselves in a no-mans land, a bureaucratic purgatory until they are eventually sent back home or more likely released and granted asylum, by which they can travel to any other EU country, due to the relaxation of border controls. The Schengen agreement, which removed internal borders within Europe, puts great pressure on border countries, which have to deal with refugees and immigrants on behalf of other countries. Melilla, a small city, bears the brunt more than most places. It should also be noted that many migrants lose their passports so they cannot but be accepted by the Spanish authorities. No identity, no country to send them back to.

The situation in Melilla is echoed throughout Europe at large. On the same day that 1000 migrants stormed the border fences in Melilla, the French riot police stormed two similar migrant centres in Calais (the last port of call to England) forcing some 500 migrants mostly from Afghanistan and Syria to collect their belongings and leave. The encampments were then bull dozed. Italy has also experienced a massive influx with migrants attention focused on the island of Lampedusa, which is close to Africa and the last port of call to the EU.

Most people, might imagine Melilla to be a wondrous place, a fascinating anomaly in the north of Africa, where east meets west, just a jaunt down the street and you’re assaulted by an array of languages, colours and smells, a vibrant market place of diversity. You’d be wrong. Almost immediately upon arrival the languid fatigue of the place slaps you in the face, as you desperately try to gather your bearings. Rather than being a unique multicultural wonderland, the various cultures of the city have literally given rise to what can only be described as a cultural vacuum, with the various cultures, whether Christian, Chinese or Muslim, effectively neutralizing each other. For example, you have Spanish style cafes but they double as kebab or pizza takeaways; you have tapas bars but they’re not nearly as good as they are on the mainland, the Chinese food is ghastly and Berber food difficult to find.

Despite being technically Europe, the whole place has a distinctively third world feel to it. And with the increasing Muslim demographic, the city will eventually become part of Morocco by default, leaving only a ghostly whisper of the town’s Spanish past. The Bengali housewife in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth would doubtless have thought the same about Melilla as she did about her culturally diverse neighbourhood in London, but whether anything will fill the cultural vacuum of this place is for future generations to decide.