4/20 Fiasco

4/20, a day unofficially recognised as a celebration of all things marijuana, a day to light it up and get high and other such shit. Look, I won’t even ATTEMPT to use the colloquial terms, I’m so square I could lie down flat and get a decent job as a spirit gauge. Point is, if you smoke weed, or even if you just have a general interest in the world beyond your bed, you know what 4/20 is all about. We all have our own ways of celebrating it, though I myself spend it celebrating my brother’s birthday that falls on the same day, but I think the weirdest recent recognition of the day was Snapchat’s Bob Marley filter, a photo filter for selfies that superimposed Bob Marley’s face onto yours and darkened your skin tone to match. Yeah, that does sound weird when you look at a literal description of it. Is this harmless fun? Well…

I want to put up a disclaimer and say I recognise the connection between Bob Marley and marijuana, I’m not an idiot, and my opinions on this are not influenced by the fact I have never smoked anything in my life, closest I get to smoking is salmon. As a liberal man, I support the legalisation of marijuana, it is far less harmful than alcohol, which is legal, and its criminalisation is the result of an idealistic and unenforceable war on drugs, started by our forefathers and fuelled by myths and ignorance. Marijuana is not a gateway drug or chemically addictive substance, it doesn’t blacken lungs or turn you into a violent lunatic, it is a plant that happens to have recreational benefits when set on fire, nuff said. Furthermore, my opinion is in no way influenced by the choice of Bob Marley, I’m not hating on the dude, I am not an avid fan but I do like his music and appreciate the cultural influence of the man. So, with that established, let me explain why personally I’m taken aback by this poor move by Snapback. Cue the non-PC outrage in the comments.

First of all, let’s face it, this is blackface. No, don’t bullshit me, don’t come out with “It’s not blackface, it’s…”, it’s blackface. You are taking a non-black face, putting a black face on top and playing it up for a laugh. Jim from IT is a white dude living with his mother who listens to Weird Al and Stereophonics, his weekends are spent modding Skyrim and he is most certainly not a famous rastafarian musician. Didn’t like that stereotype? Guess what? Black people don’t appreciate the making of Marley into a stereotype of a laidback black man with dreads and a funky hat smoking weed, he is a cultural icon. Snapchat has a history of struggling to accurately represent diversity, evading questions about the percentages of employee races in their company by saying they don’t think of people as numbers. I mean, amen to that but y’know, we kind of need numbers to make sense of what we’re doing, not looking at your bank balance is not the same as making the situation more financially manageable, trust me.

Bob Marley, as a man, was more than just a dude who got stoned and this filter, that immediately slaps his face on yours just because it’s the 20th April, reduces his legacy to his drug habit. Bob Marley was more than just a man who loved his weed and yes he campaigned for its legalisation but that was not all he did, he fought for peace and the fair representation of minorities, he opposed a system that dehumanizes us all but one that especially dehumanised people like him. The music he became famous for showed a love and respect for his culture and his faith, the lyrics of which resonated with the pacifists inside us and went on to influence not only a genre of music as a whole but generations of peaceful protests after him. Also, Marley didn’t smoke weed just for shits and giggles, he did it as a spiritual exercise of meditation, a means of understanding himself.

“When you smoke herb, herb reveal yourself to you. All the wickedness you do, the herb reveal itself to yourself, your conscience, show up yourself clear, because herb make you meditate. Is only a natural t’ing* and it grow like a tree.”

*Source uses ‘t’ing’ instead of ‘thing’, reflecting his accent, I have not changed this text

Read that and understand the difference between what you think he cared about and what he did care about. We far too often recall Bob Marley as just that reggae guy who got high a lot and this filter does nothing to combat that, all it’s done is said “Umm, 4/20, Bob Marley right?”, like some sort of bad joke.

Now, a counter-argument you might have for me is that Bob Marley’s family themselves approved this idea right? Well, hate to break it to you, they’re not the sole representatives of their heritage, it’s not like them saying “It’s not blackface” will make every other black person shrug and walk away like it’s not a problem, who are they to speak for everyone and tell them it’s not offensive or not perhaps cheapening the legacy of a national treasure into a joke? Marley’s image wasn’t a construct like the image of Elvis or Motley Crue, it wasn’t a style picked out to be memorable, he wore the clothes of his spirituality and his culture, making them into easy jokes for stoner humour is like making a Jesus filter for people on Easter. By the way, imagine the shitstorm we’d get if there was a whiteface filter to commemorate a dead white person hey, as a cheap joke no less? World AIDS day, we get Freddie Mercury tashes on everyone. The Marley family are, for want of better words, money-grabbers, licensing the Bob Marley image to everything under the sun they reckon would sell better if it had his face on it. I personally find that disgusting and a forewarning to my children if I ever become famous, if I die and you memorialise me by selling Old Man Wolfe branded soap, I’ll come back from the dead and wash your skulls out with it. Soap. Fucking soap. The man made an entire cultural history of music mainstream and known to the world and his name is stuck on a bar of hemp-scented soap. Fuck me.

I’m not just out to be a stick in the mud but I feel that making this filter was in poor taste, it’s harmless fun to the white would-be hippies amongst us but to those who share in Marley’s heritage, their sacred herb and an icon of their society is being made into a comic fad to amuse idiots. This will all be swept under the rug before the week is out and Snapchat won’t face any real backlash, nor will the Marley brand lose any customers for a lack of integrity, and that in itself is disturbing. We all, in 2016, just blinked at a show of blackface. Bob Marley, forgive us. Please please please forgive us.

Feminism and Egalitarianism

You know, despite the best efforts and good intentions of pretty much every feminist out there, we still encounter those disheartening individuals who say they support gender equality and women’s rights… but not feminism. I have made posts before about calling it Humanism, a mistake because Humanism is a philosophical belief system about the destiny of the human race as being “to be good people”. However, perhaps you or someone you know says it’s not feminism they support but egalitarianism? An egalitarian society is one in which race, income, gender and background do not affect what rights you have, everyone gets the same chances and that’s that. Awesome right? Ehh…

Egalitarianism was the philosophy that served as the starting point for fair and equal societies, the argument stood as thus – everyone is fundamentally the same, we are all human, we all therefore deserve the same as one another. In the early days of society, those who spoke of egalitarianism got the ball rolling for the formation of fairer societies in which equal rights were not available. Slavery, colonialism, sexism, many creeds of people were denied the most basic of resources on flawed grounds and egalitarianism is the idea that this can be rectified by giving everyone the exact same entitlements. A great concept, if everyone was given £100, everyone is £100 better off right, especially those who are without any money right? Well the problem with this idea is egalitarianism fails to take into account some factors that might drastically alter how far that £100 goes – maybe you already have £100,000, what’s £100 more? Maybe £100 isn’t enough to pay off £500 of debt? Maybe what you need more than money is a home and food? Maybe your problem, say, a disability, can’t be fixed by throwing some money at it? Egalitarianism doesn’t address this, everyone gets the same resources, everyone has to make do.

Feminism, as a concept, only really existed as a combination of ideas and legal battles and protests, taking its name as a means to represent the under-represented class of citizens at its time, women. Women wanted the same rights as men, rights to an education and to ownership of property, to be allowed to divorce unfaithful men and to be allowed to earn their own keep. However, what is often overlooked is what feminism stood for and still stands for – gender is not a fair basis for discrimination of any kind. Feminism grew to encompass the idea that no discrimination is acceptable and a feminist will not stand for discrimination on the basis of sexuality or socio-economic status just as much as they won’t stand for discrimination based on gender, because every human issue affects every human being, regardless of gender. To the outside world, you are defined by your gender, your race, your religion, your sexuality, and feminism says that whatever the world sees, you are never fair game for being discriminated against. Feminism was the word chosen for the movement that defends the rights of those that were unspoken for, it was the name given to the gauntlet cast against the uncaring majority. If a feminist claim isn’t one that seeks to achieve equality in terms of rights and protections for all, it’s not a feminist claim and feminism is still a valid name, though that’s a blog post in itself.

Egalitarianism opened the door to this discussion for the masses when people proposed the concept of an equal society but feminism is the only mainstream movement actively making strides to achieve just that, in fact one must consider that what we often seek is equity, not equality. Equity Theory, as it is known, is the recognition that our varying backgrounds not only make us who we are but that they must be reflected in what must be done to render us all equals. Confused? Say you have a room full of people to feed and you offer everyone in that room peanut butter sandwiches. Here is the difference between equality and equity:

EQUALITY: “You are all entitled to a plate of peanut butter sandwiches”

EQUITY: “You are all entitled to a plate of peanut butter sandwiches but if you are wheat-intolerant, allergic to peanuts or just don’t like sandwiches, we’ll fill your plate with something more appropriate”

Like the £100 analogy from earlier, just offering everyone £100 is equal means but not a fair playing field, some people only have that  £100 and some have that £100 added onto the £100,000 they have in the bank. A fair society is one that levels the playing field so there is nothing outside of the individual’s control that is affecting their chances at a happy life. Equity, therefore, is the offering that if you need more, you can take more and if you can give more, you should give more so that we all share in the wealth and thus, share in the happiness of a secure life. Where does Feminism fit into this? Feminism, at this buffet, is the person at the buffet table telling people not to push and shove because we should all get what we want, everyone deserves to eat and that even if you are entitled to your sandwich, which you are, you shouldn’t force your way through the crowds because when it comes down to that, it’s the weak that get left the crumbs at the end.

The notion of equality can be exploited but equity is harder to fool if implemented correctly. Feminism seeks equity and for a truly fair society, so should we. To fight for social justice and a fair standard of living for all, where all needs are met and everyone feels safe, valued and able to contribute, is to be a feminist and that names does not need to change. By our very human nature, we are social animals who want to better the world we live in, even those of us who commit crimes think we are doing the right thing in some capacity, so a society of equity would ensure everyone’s basic needs were met whilst everyone’s talents were put to use. That is what feminism fights for, that is what a fair society is and that is why we are not egalitarians, we are feminists! 

Political Filter

Staying with the topic of the recent tragedies, one thing I noticed people saying about people like me pointing out the “what-aboutisms” of places like Baghdad, Syria and Mexico was an accusation of politicising a tragedy to preach a liberal agenda and of disregarding etiquette and decency in our pursuit to make people listen. To that I say, quite simply, bupkis. You politicised it, we all did, political agendas are an immediate reaction from all of us to any news, any issue immediately forms an opinion within all of us – some of us see a shooter in the news and think “Probably crazy, couldn’t have been helped” and some of us will say “This is why we need better gun control” or “This is why I don’t want my children attending a state school”. You are capable of grieving and thinking simultaneously, the world does not stop and pause at each tragedy in the news and we are sometimes perhaps even desensitised to the real tragedies. So, let’s look into this shall we?

Firstly, the filters, you’ve perhaps got one on but I don’t and neither does my Facebook page. Why? Well you’ve perhaps heard the reasoning in your own news feed – Paris did not suffer alone so why is it only a French filter offered? Sure, could go for the red, white and blue and call it close enough to doing something but that doesn’t sit right because whilst I do not mean to belittle the tragedy of Paris, it hasn’t had the roughest week out of us all, Syria is still getting bombed, Lebanon had just had a day of mourning themselves beforehand and in Palestine, earlier this week, Israeli forces opened fire with ‘intention of lethal force’ on unarmed protesters. Baghdad, Beirut, Mexico, Japan, the world as a whole suffers and each life lost is just as sad as the last, be it in a bomb blast, a shooting, a car crash or whatever other means. So why then has Paris become the symbol of these tragedies, the one we stand in solidarity with above the bombed ruins of Syria or the persecuted peoples of Palestine? I have some thoughts.

My scary gut feeling tells me that perhaps ISIS wants to reveal the selective horror of the Western world, crying tears for the white faces that died in the city of Paris and somehow shrugging when you mention thousands of non-white Syrians fleeing from battlefields. Muslims being the dirty word again, but there are Muslims on both sides, ISIS calls the Christian a heathen but calls their fellow Muslim a traitor for not being ready to die for their cause. Could ISIS be playing right into the “us and them” mentality that permeates the west? Turning against each other as we nitpick which tragedy was the worst and most deserving of attention until we angrily close our borders to each other and shout from a distance at one another? If you mention the deaths outside Paris, you get branded a tactless liberal, a left-winged tosser and so on when this shouldn’t be left-wing versus right-wing, this should be good decent people against terrorists, it serves no merit to us to argue in amongst ourselves. Alternatively, perhaps the argument for why Paris is so tragic is that it is closer to home and hits us harder than deaths in Baghdad and Lebanon, it is in a location you can point out on a map without trying all that hard, a city of culture and repute and that scares us for geopolitical reasoning (If they can do that in Paris, they can do that in France and spread out. Suddenly places like Germany, Spain and England are all within reach and from there, spread further west like a horrifying plague). This could explain the Middle-Eastern mess to some extent – they get away with it in one place and we don’t really care all that much so the radicals move out and suddenly an entire section of the world is dismissed as a war zone full of extremists and bombers.

At a time like this, I cannot stand people taking offence and saying this is too soon for the discussion. No, it is not, it is exactly right – we have a short attention span in our modern world, we either act fast or not at all. If not now, when? When is it ok to discuss things from a rational standpoint? I was pleasantly surprised when I posted on here about 9/11 needing to lose the pedestal of the worst tragedy in recent history that I didn’t get grilled into submission and apology but I can perhaps chalk that up to a small reader base. 9/11 needs to lose that by the way, currently the ‘worst’ tragedy in recent history is the Syrian crisis, there are more refugees fleeing Syria now than ever fled their homes in the entire Second World War. The Syrian Crisis is having a worse fallout than a World War! Put away national security and identity and solidarity with ‘allies’ (Like Americans saying “The French were Americans on 9/11, we are French today”, you’re not, you put a filter on your profile pic, well done for your political instagramming) and realise that this is all of us, terrorism can succeed anywhere it is not opposed.

No more sombre-head hanging, no more immigration clampdowns, no more floral tributes and blames games, now is the time to say enough is enough because this is a problem we all face. Until we have crushed this terrorism that drives us to fear and hatred of one another, we need to stop being divided within our own ranks. Realise that you are not an American or an Englishman, you’re not a liberal or a conservative, you’re not a Christian or a Muslim, you’re a human being and somewhere out there is a group of people thinking that it is okay to execute your fellow men in droves. Stop them. Stand together as a species and stop them before they win because if we don’t, we’ll hate each other, we’ll cut our connections and then a few strategics here and there can bring each of us down one by one and nobody will help us. Mourn the lost but let that grief motivate you to save the living and fight the fight against the wicked.

Seeing Red This Christmas

The content here has delved into some deep matters so here is something so stupid to blog about it that you’ll either laugh at the fact it is deemed blog worthy or cringe and moan at the depths humanity has sunk to in its ignorant rage. There is genuine talk in the news and on social media of Christians urging people to boycott Starbucks for their new Christmas cups. Why you ask? Do the cups have Pagan images on or Satanic verses? Nope, the cups are plain, the cups are just plain red paper cups. Starbucks have done away with images of snowmen and wintry trees and opted for a minimalist design so as to appeal to as many people as possible by not bombarding their customers with Christmas themed imagery and thus excluding those who do not celebrate the occasion. Seems reasonable right? Well, apparently not.

Internet Evangelist Joshua Feuerstein is perhaps the most well-known opponent of this decision, accusing Starbucks of hating Christians and Jesus, urging people to keep the Christ in Christmas and encouraging people to tell their barista their name is Merry Christmas so the barista is forced to write that on the cup. Oh, very clever, well-played – the cups have never had those words upon them, even when they had snowflakes on. A lot of people are calling this a “war on Christmas”, I’d call it the exaggeration of the year but today the Sun published a two page spread on why Jeremy Corbyn is a dick for not bowing down and weeping for the fallen at a remembrance parade (Even though he attended two separate parades in two different areas and passed up on a VIP party to meet some of the veterans face-to-face). Starbucks has never claimed to be a Christian company and if you want to keep the spirit of Christmas alive, pushy Evangelists and whatever, there are more Christian things to be doing than protesting about cups. This same Feuerstein fellow protested the anti-second amendment rule (In the USA, Starbucks do not permit open-carrying of firearms in their stores) by waltzing in with a weapon on show and calling it his patriotic freedom. To recap then, we have ourselves a zealous gun nut defending his faith and freedom by waving a gun at a hapless barista and ‘pranking’ the unassuming customer service worker into writing Christmassy messages on a cup because the cup doesn’t have a picture of a snowflake on it… do you realise how stupid that sounds? This is what God allowed Jesus to die for is it? Paper cups with pictures on?Sure, I remember that passage – the Lord gave His only son that we might have decorative receptacles for our warm beverages.

If you ask me, the red cup is the perfect happy medium, it’s Santa’s sleigh red so it’s Christmassy enough but without being over the top and pushing the images of angels and baubles down our throats. Starbucks has never been all about the Christian market, they’re neutral on political and religious stances so as not to offend people – they only join in on Christmas because everyone does, it’s Christmas, it’s fun and you make a shit ton of money when you put out those festive deals. Christmas has its fair share of issues, a Christian hijacking of a time dangerously close to the Winter Solstice celebrated by Pagans, the imagery of Santa’s sleigh is taken from the Vikings and as a Christian celebration goes, this time of year is becoming more and more about throwing bigger parties and spending more money to get more ridiculously expensive gifts than it is about actual goodwill and charity. Therein is my biggest problem with this war on Christmas idea about the cups, the cups are not what is ruining Christmas, we are.

Put simply, if you’re outraged by these paper cups but not by some people spending Christmas face down in a gutter or soldiers fighting in a foreign land rather than gift wrapping a PS4 for their kids, I have serious beef with you. If you need a coffee shop chain to represent Christmas spirit FOR you, take a good long look at yourself and your relationship with God – rather than getting some barista to scrawl Merry Christmas on a cup, why not do something to keep the Christ in Christmas that has meaning? Soup kitchens always need volunteers, maybe give that red cup of hot choc to someone freezing in the cold and rain, maybe you could get less caught up in some trivial bullshit about a coffee shop packaging design and do something selfless that Jesus himself would smile if he witnessed. Life is much too precious to waste it on boycotting a shop for not selling the right design for you, is the biggest and brightest thing you can think to do this year for Christmas to be the guy who encouraged people not to buy coffee from some place? That’s your impact is it? That is what God wants people to remember in their hearts this time of year? I may not be of faith but if there is a God, he expects us to be good people at Christmas and all throughout the year, whatever our cups look like.

The spirit of the season is one of inclusiveness and togetherness, of spreading joy and happiness to all, friend and stranger alike and Starbucks has done so by offering a neutral stance at a time when some of us get a little too crazy for angels and babies in mangers. God sent his son to preach to us the importance of love and community, not snowmen and trees covered in tinsel. Maybe it’s easier for you to get upset over a cup than it is for you to show genuine concern about how many of us will spend Christmas in poverty or in a hospital bed or possibly won’t even see Christmas at all but that tells us only volumes about you. The Christ in Christmas is in loving one another, not in loving Christmas.

Humanism, Feminism and Meninism – What Does It All Mean?

So before we begin, I usually do a piece on the 5th November, something tied into revolutions and what not but unforeseen circumstances last night directed my attention elsewhere, I’m back today and rather than a late bit piece about the Million Mask March (If you can’t see why thousands of people are angry at the government by now, you’re part of the problem) I want to discuss some terms that are flung around in the discussion of gender equality and iron out some confusion surrounding them. I previously discussed why feminism is called feminism on another post (the link to which is here – https://oldmanwolferants.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/ugly-words/) but there’s still some confusion about feminism and how it differentiates from meninism and humanism, which are vastly different and even misused terms, as is the term feminism itself.

To recap, rather than explain in full all over again, feminism is a social movement to support the equal rights and opportunities of all genders, the focus is largely on women because women are the ones denied a lot of opportunities and misrepresented in the media. A tax on tampons but not on condoms, the idea of ‘independent women’ being a comedy trope because it’s somehow hilarious if a woman decides she is happy and single, one in five women being the victim of sexual assault during college and university education – all sure signs we live in a world where, presently, it sucks to be a woman. Feminism, therefore, is the fight to change that by constructing a more gender balanced system of authority and teaching future generations correct social etiquette surrounding woman, whilst combatting misguided concepts of the past (i.e we should teach people that shouting “Nice arse!” on the street is not paying someone a compliment because if it is, why is it only vulnerable women getting these compliments? Never heard myself getting the catcall “Hey mate, you look prepared for your interview!” or “I am being strictly platonic when I point out to you that you are an attractive fellow man!”. Catcalls are not compliments, they’re lewd cries from men asserting their dominance, they are degrading shouts that tell a woman she is little more than a fascination to him). Steve Shives describes this by equating feminism to the LGBT+ movement – it’s called ‘gay rights’ not because gay people should be made more important than straight people but because gay people (and all other sexual orientations beyond hetero) are the ones being ignored, declined and marginalised, just like women are in the world of men.

The ‘fem’ in feminism is still enough to dissuade some people from supporting the cause though and for this, these people describe themselves as humanists. I would like to point out to you reader that this is a misuse of the term humanist, a ridiculous use coined by celebrities who were unaware that humanism is something entirely different. Humanism is the belief in the value and agency of human beings, as individuals and as a species, over faith in a god or deities or a special invisible power that connects all livings thing or whatever. In simpler terms, humanists believe in a world that was created through random happenstance of the universe and is now being shaped and moulded by humans, that it is our responsibility as a species to look after this planet and the life upon it not because God says so but because we live here – a religion, such as it were, based on not shitting in the bed you sleep in. Humanism goes hand in hand with science, believing scientific research and falsifiable evidence to be the key to understanding the universe and not reliance on prayer or holy scriptures. I would like to state this is my own personal belief system – I think we are all a bunch of hyper-intelligent shaved monkeys clinging to a ball of mud and water that is spinning around an infinite void and we should be nice little monkeys because that is a nice thing to do, it is much better than killing each other. I could write reams and reams on my beliefs and I perhaps would but I fear it’d seem condescending and self-appreciative as I get VERY floral with my wording when I bust out the philosophical shit. Humanism, in terms of the gender equality debate, should therefore promote total equality and would be on side with feminism if one were true to the ideals of humanism but it would not object to the title of feminism like some seem to think.

Last but by all means least is meninism. Meninism defines itself as the social movement defending the rights of men, the voice for those who take offence to being labelled as rapists or thugs and whilst there are issues about the fair treatment of men to be resolved (i.e fixing the ‘absent black dad’ stereotype as it is a harmful trope, raising awareness of male victims of rape and domestic abuse, disestablishing the enforced standards of physical strength and dominance on all boys). Meninism, however, is as much a force for positive change as Britain First or the Ku Klux Klan – rage-filled groups of disgruntled white boys angry that the people they want to bully and harass and victimise without judgment now have a voice and even their fellow man will call them a misogynist or a cretin for their viewpoints. Meninism has yet, as far as I can see, to do anything for the greater good of their own membership, let alone the human race as a whole. Meninism is just the seedy underworld of the internet, a hovel of grumpy ‘friend-zoned’ douchebags complaining they aren’t getting women falling at their feet for them or lost out on a job to a woman or someone of a different ethnicity. Steve Shives, bringing him up again because he inspired this post, said meninists are annoyed they don’t get to see their kids after the divorce, which he trivialised and I respectfully disagree with him there – in the exception of scenarios where the father is an abusive figure, he should be able to see his children – I do not believe he should have any right over them that the mother does not by any means but divorcee dads shouldn’t be generalised as a bad lot – I’d agree a father shouldn’t be allowed to see his kids if he was likely to abuse them or fill their head with toxic meninist nonsense, but on the grounds I wouldn’t allow anyone abusive or toxic near children in general. Meninism is bitterment, it is rage against social change and a club built upon a warped love of a lost world ruled by muscle cars, beer adverts and women being live-in maids.

In summary then – believe in the fair treatment of all genders and equal opportunities for all regardless of their genitalia? Feminist. Believe in the idea that this world is shaped by humanity and we should be good people just because we should be, not because of a promised afterlife? Humanist. Believe that your female friends should just sleep with you already because you’re a great guy? Meninist. If you have a religion you follow, you can’t be a humanist and thus you can’t say “I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist” because humanism is a belief system, it’s akin to saying you’re not a feminist and a Christian but you are a Christian and a Pagan. The fight for gender equality is feminism, the belief in the agency of humanity is humanism, the bitter resentment towards women for wanting equal pay and the right to an abortion if needed is meninism. Ok? Ok

Glad we made that clear

Offensiveness and Defensiveness

Did you read yesterday’s post folks? In it, I explained why feminism and black lives matter are generally seen as ugly terms to the majority of people and how that’s a case of ignorance on the part of most people who don’t see why these terms NEED to exist. I hope most of you read the post and clapped or did something to show some approval, shares in particular are lovely, but perhaps my post reached some people who looked at it and sighed in a huff saying “God, people get offended by anything these days – feminists get up in arms over the most trivial thing” and so on and so on. If that was your reaction, perhaps you still miss the point of my posts and if you’re reading this then I congratulate you on giving this blog another chance but I need to explain to you still why ‘getting offended’ has been more of an issue in recent memory than it was, say, twenty or so years ago.

There’s the infamous Stephen Fry quote on the subject of being offended that goes as follows:

“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.”

Now, people use this as ammunition to take on social justice warrior types as if bombarding them with the words of their beloved intellectual icon will silence them in awe but this quote is taken out of context to serve as justification for offensive jokes. Stephen Fry is NOT saying we should get over the idea of being offended, Stephen Fry himself gets offended by homophobia and anti-Semitism as those topics affect him and those close to him so perhaps the above quote is heinous hypocrisy on his part or perhaps it has been twisted out of proportion to what I hope he actually means. What do I hope he means? I hope he means that saying one is offended is not an end-all argument, it is an empty complaint if it is not followed up by a reasonable justification – you can’t tell someone an image or joke is offensive if you can’t reasonably explain why it is offensive – this is what differentiates between legitimate outrage and silly outrage nobody can support (i.e If I were to urge you to boycott eating grapes because they are the food of the devil, you’d struggle to see justifiable grounds to that and as a result, very few people would stop eating grapes – however, there are justifiable grounds to telling someone not to use racial slurs rooted in hatred or make jokes about rape). Stephen Fry’s remark here is flippant and I don’t much like it, he’s human though, everything that escapes him can’t be perfect but this quote isn’t the ultimate putdown for any argument about offensive content, it’s something he said in the context of his own views offending strong religious types who tried to silence him on the grounds of being offensive without giving him a rebuttal beyond that.

So, back to the point at hand, why are people offended more these days? Truth is, they’re not, people have been offended by things for generations but what has changed is that people are fighting back against it more fervently and with a larger presence thanks to the internet. Past the cat videos and memes, the internet did manage to actually achieve the unification of like minds into groups that span across countries and helped people organise movements more easily than standing on soapboxes and hoping someone will listen to them shout down a megaphone. Nobody is getting offended more easily these days, we’re just learning about the offences more easily. There was no point in history in which every black person in the world gathered together and said “Hey, you know what? We should get upset when someone accuses us of being responsible for our own deaths as a result of police brutality, that sounds like a fun thing to get all bitchy about to wind them white people up – pay ’em back for the slavery and lynching by being dicks on the internet”. Never happened, they were always upset at how the system treated them, only difference is they can tweet about it now.

On the matter of being offended, it comes down to an intellectual discussion, something I know a lot of us can struggle with but we need to keep trying. You can justify being offended by homophobic remarks when you point out that they aren’t funny because in some places, being gay still gets you arrested and/or executed, you can point out how many people take their own lives because of their sexuality and you can explain how homosexuality occurs in a long list of different species but homophobia is unique to humans. That said, you can’t say, justify calling ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ a ‘promotion of mysticism’ (legit reason the book is banned in some schools) when you look at it more closely and realise if anything, it is an attempt to make the life of Jesus Christ and a relationship with God into something a kid can pick up because they WANT to, not because Mum forces them into Sunday School. Heck, I love that book series and I get all the themes, they’re so obvious I’m not sure how anyone construed Aslan as teaching kids to worship lions or what not, the White Witch is so obviously associated with paganism and satanic images and is an irredeemable villain that those of the Christian faith should adore this book, not fear it. I’m going off topic, I apologise, but you must understand that being offended isn’t a new thing, it is what drives social movements to do what is right for those who are offended and if the people can recognise their point as fair and reasonable, in time, society changes its standards and even laws to suit (thus where feminism and equal rights for LGBTQIA came in, the people listened, agreed and so did the government, little by little, that’s how these things work)

So, if you think people are offended more easily, ask yourself why it doesn’t offend you? Because it doesn’t affect you? Consider how lucky that makes you and then try to consider how unfortunate it makes those that are affected. Likewise, if you’re offended, consider why you are offended and how you can respond to the situation – sometimes you might just have to hold your tongue and sigh or else I’d never get past a YouTube comment section but sometimes it’s worth voicing your opinion, make an eloquent argument and make people see it and just maybe they’ll listen. After all, why do you think this blog changed from a buttload of dumb rants about tattoos and Facebook posts to a critique of politics and a voice to add to the many shouting for the fair treatment of all people?

Kentucky Fried Common Sense

This isn’t a new story to some of you but it is fairly recent, a man had apparently got himself sacked for refusing to remove a Remembrance Poppy from his shirt whilst working a shift at his local KFC, the argument for it being that the small plastic flower is a foreign body and could contaminate the food if it fell in. Now, the title probably gives some hints as to my stance on this matter, I side with KFC here, the newspapers apparently ran to defend “the young father” (damning hypocrisy there, especially from papers like The Daily Mail, who usually are first in line to speak foul of my generation) but take away the sentiment of the poppy and you have a small piece of paper and plastic, pinned to a shirt and there’s a chance that the pin could fall out and plop, poppy in a fryer, or worse, pin in the food. Imagine the PR nightmare KFC would face there if someone got a pin lodged in their throat because someone dropped their poppy in the food. Not pretty. Anyway, there’s more to this story so I’ll fill you in a little further.

As usual, the media madness around this fairly small incident is ridiculous, there’s no official confirmation that the said employee has been fired, the store to blame saying the incident is being looked over but there’s been no sacking involved and it is a clear policy that any foreign bodies (i.e anything that isn’t uniform) is not allowed in the kitchen because of health and safety. Understandable, these guys are handling food, you don’t want to find whatever pocket lint they’ve been playing with in your meal – coins, pill packaging, pens – stuff you don’t want in a Boneless Banquet. Of course, the issue here is this is no ordinary “I’m 21 today!” badge or whatever, this is a poppy, a symbol of proud tribute to the veterans of global conflicts, something much more meaningful than all the other stuff. I have some qualms about that…

Firstly, the employee was told to take it off until the end of the shift, that’s all, it is no big deal and everyone there is perfectly aware the guy is respectful of veterans, there will be no inspection in which he has to present it or face grave dishonour. Take it off, do your job, get on with you life and there you go, no harm done to anyone. The actual physical poppy itself means very little and wearing it in October doesn’t make you extra special and respectful of these past heroes, what matters is what the poppy represents. If you are taking the polite request, based on health and safety, to not wear a badge on your chest and put it away for the time being as an attack on you and your faith in a cause, it doesn’t speak volumes for that faith. Refusing to remove the poppy doesn’t show integrity or solidarity, it shows pig-headedness and a foolish level of pride in basically paying a pittance into a charity box to show you gave a shit. Granted, if we all pay pocket change to a cause, it adds up but one guy alone standing and saying they won’t take a badge off, even though it makes sense for him to do so, is not an act of martyrdom or national pride, it’s an idiot grabbing attention for himself. Heck, he’s succeeded, the papers played up his story like a real tragedy, the bunch of blithering bloodthirsty bastards, scared of a politically correct era, I wouldn’t be surprised if they blamed this incident on a Muslim infiltration scheme tearing apart British tradition. Poppies are paper and plastic, a little thing to give out to say thanks, what matters most to a charity is what you contribute to it, not how proudly you cling to that token thank you they handed you.

I’m all for wearing a poppy, for the right reasons. I wear a poppy but I do so in memory of the veterans of the World Wars, the ones we owe British freedom as we know it to. I don’t agree it stands as a symbol for every single soldier in the world, we didn’t fight for our righteousness in Iraq and Afghanistan, there was no clear moral duty to intervene like there was against Hitler. The poppy was chosen because it grew on Flanders Fields after the war had ended, a sign that even through tragedy, life prevails and that the world moves on. I don’t want to besmirch the efforts of veterans, kudos to them definitely, brave fellows indeed, but us wearing a poppy doesn’t make us bastions of British values. You are no better than someone else for wearing a poppy if they’re not, all that flower says is “I paid 50p to a charity you didn’t!”. Same goes for the pink ribbon, wearing that symbol hasn’t suddenly made you a paragon of virtue, it simply shows you cared enough to reach into your purse or wallet and make some donation. I know I’d bark back if someone pointed to the absence of a poppy on my chest and said “Do you not care about the efforts of our soldiers?”, my response would be “I don’t know, do you not care about poverty? Because I give AT LEAST four hours a week to fighting against it, what are you doing for those veterans?”

Symbols are meaningless, what they represent is what matters and clinging to the symbol in the face of everything, even common sense and/or the health and safety of others isn’t admirable or pitiable, it’s just misconceived heroic stoicism. You care for a cause that strongly? Contribute! If you’re so damn proud of veterans, get out there and do them a favour, there’s plenty of them slumming it on the streets, do you give your time to shelters or rallying people to fight for better treatment of soldiers? Do not get caught up in thinking your once-a-year donation of fifty pence makes you a saint, it means very little in the end. If you bought one hundred poppies in your lifetime, that’s still only fifty pounds you ever gave to that charity, is that the grand total sum of your care? Symbols mean nothing if the idea behind them is second to the person bearing the symbol