You Will Never Speak For Me

Okay, I’ve been inactive, I’m not even going to explain myself on that one this time because it’s a common occurrence, it’s what being a man with limited resources and unlimited depression does when he has a blog. I’m back, with a vengeance I might add, to put in my two cents on Autism Awareness Month, particularly, how many of you might be approaching this the wrong way. My first point, is your profile picture covered with a blue filter? Well then, read on, you might reconsider that filter by the end of this article.

Autism Awareness Month, largely paraded by the charity Autism Speaks, is about raising awareness of the trials and tribulations that come with autism, both for those who are on the spectrum and those who have loved ones that are. Speaking as a man both on the spectrum and related to another who is, I won’t deny, there are trying moments in life that were daunting to us but perfectly normal events to the other kids in classes or colleagues at work places. Social etiquette, for example, eluded me for so long that I got angry at other people for having it when I did not, I came to think of myself as living in a world of imbeciles, not realising that not only did the world struggle to understand me, I too struggled to understand the world. However, my biggest qualms with Autism Awareness can be summarised thusly:

  1. People are AWARE, what they lack is UNDERSTANDING
  2. Autism Speaks

I shall challenge these points in reverse order to how they are listed, because Autism Speaks is to autism what Donald Trump is to Mexico – hilariously misinformed and full of hatred towards their people.

Autism Speaks is not a happy jolly charity as they might have you believe, their solution to the struggles of the autistic community would be akin to Oxfam forming a militia and marching on Syria, Autism Speaks seeks a ‘cure’ to autism, a ‘prevention’ of it. Don’t believe me? Check their ‘About Us’ section on their site:

“Autism Speaks has grown into the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism”

Direct quote. Causes, prevention, treatments and cure. You know, like it were a disease. Autism Speaks has been called out in the past on recommending things such as bleach enemas and allowing parents to express their desire to ‘fix’ their child, sometimes with said child in the room. Now this, this is personal, this isn’t just social justice speaking, this is “You do not tell me that I, my brother and thousands of others are broken human beings you need to fix, we are fucking beautiful”.

You know what you’re saying when you want to cure someone of autism? You’re saying you want to kill them and replace them with someone similar but normal. Autism affects how someone sees the world, how they think, what they like, what they don’t like, what knowledge they have, what things they will remember, their hopes, dreams and fears are all dictated by autism, it is not a disease or curse but a whole other way of existing as a human being. I have tried to explain this to people as being left-handed in a right-handed world. You may have challenges trying to be like the others but in the end, you find a way and your way is different but it works just the same in the end and there’s no reason a left-handed person is less valid than a right-handed one. You could try to make that person right-handed but it would change how they do everything, it would mean they had to relearn everything they ever knew about how to interact with the world and your friend or family member would be someone entirely different for it. In a sense, you would replace them with someone you perceive to be more normal, or rather, more like what you think should be normal. If you want to screen for autistic children or find a way to fix them, you want them dead. This isn’t a disability, this is a way of being human that you cannot understand and that is why you want us dead.

So you might understand why I say we don’t need your awareness campaigns, much less do we need a charity that thinks of us as a blight to be remedied. Autism and aspergers aren’t things you need to raise awareness for, they are things you need to raise understanding of. I generally scoff at awareness campaigns, who at this point is still clueless what breast cancer is? We KNOW what cancer is, we KNOW what diabetes is, we KNOW what Parkinson’s is, teach people what it means to live with these things and how to help those who have to, make people understand why diabetes isn’t just “Ate too much sugary food” or why cancer isn’t just “Thing that can kill you but if you take pills and go bald, you might not die”. The ALS Ice Bucket challenge was the last awareness campaign I agreed with. Why? I HAD NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT IT WAS. Awareness is Stage One, Stage Two is education. Imagine if your teacher taught you to read by pointing at a book repeatedly and went
“That’s a book. People read those”
Ok great, how? Why? Where do I get a book? What is a book for?
“That’s a book. People read those”
I am aware that is a book, tell me more.
“That’s a…”
YOU SEE THE PROBLEM?

Also, putting autism in a class with cancer and motor-neurone disease in that it is something you raise awareness for, you class it as a problem. If a charity is ‘raising awareness’, it is telling you there is a problem to be fixed. If there is a disease we cannot cure, we need to be aware of it. If there is a country ravaged by war, we need to be aware of it. If there are people dying in ways we didn’t realise, we need to be aware of it. What the fuck do we need Autism Awareness for? I’m aware it exists, what else will you do Autism Speaks? Nothing, except witter on about how hard it is to deal with your kids because they’re noisy or won’t keep their jumper on or don’t like other children.

I’m sorry to get so angry, except I’m not. Autism Speaks does not, has never and probably never will speak for the autistic community, it speaks for those who wish there wasn’t an autistic community, and I personally am glad there is an autistic community. I tried talking this over with my brother, who also has autism, and he thought perhaps he wouldn’t miss it if he didn’t have it and I had to try to explain to him he couldn’t perceive not having it because having it has shaped his entire being. The idea of being neurotypical is just inconceivable to me, it would not be me, he could have my face and voice but he would have different friends, feelings and interests. Please, for goodness sake, do not partake in lighting it up blue, “Go Red Instead” is a counter-campaign about raising awareness of Autism Speaks, who, if they want centre-stage this month, let’s make you aware that they’re not just about helping families live with autism, they’re about helping families NOT have to live with autism, helping families abandon autistic children, helping families mutilate autistic children and poison them. Check it out at the link below and please, remember that autism doesn’t need a cure, it needs people to realise that we are just like you, seek to understand us like you seek to understand your fellow men, for we are they.

http://profile.actionsprout.com/o/18D37E

Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas dear readers, is the turkey sitting nicely in your gut (or vegan equivalent? So as not to discriminate). I hope this year finds you all doing well and of course, wishing you the best for the year to come. As is becoming of yearly traditions, I am here to fill you in on my Christmas and a recap of the lead up to it, from my perspective, because that is what you are here to read. I am not a newspaper nor a company, merely a man with a blog that you all seem to take some interest in, however slight or strong it may be.

I will admit I have not looked forward to Christmas – unemployment, tight finances, dwindling social life and a constant stream of happiness from the world around me seemingly for everyone bar me has had me greet festivity with bitterness in my heart. As I write this, that bitterness begins to come forth once again, as it often does in an evening. I made my efforts though, I am not one to let my personal woes ruin the joy of others and so I participated in gift-giving, jumper-wearing and cheer-spreading, albeit with a somewhat pained grimace where a smile should have been. Today in itself consisted of the usual gift-unwrapping followed by films, Doctor Who, dinner and then everyone toddles off again to do their own thing, my thing being returning to my little cell of a bedroom to brood and contemplate on doing something creative until it is suddenly 2:34AM and all I have achieved is removing my trousers and staring at the utter lack of notifications I have to attend to on my Facebook.

Christmas, in a sense, has yet to actually come for me because whilst I have received cash from the folks and a new shirt from one of my brothers, the bulk of my gifts are coming from friends I have not had the chance to see yet and perhaps on those occasions I will feel more cheery. As it stands, home life is not cheery, tensions are high here and there has been far too much aggression in the air to call this a holly jolly holiday. Interesting, when one considers this might be my last Christmas like this – though I feel perhaps that was considered by everyone present and some perhaps greeted that thought with the silent response of “Thank goodness”, there has been no attempt to bury hatchets here and hostilities are either laid plain or knives are sharpened behind backs. Indeed, perhaps even this blog is my knife, though whom it would cut remains to be seen as my work is met with the most trifling interest by my family.

I apologise, I am a downer on a day of joy, such is my lot. I wish I had stories of charity and cheer to tell and whilst this season has not been an endless suffering on my part, indeed one party was attended and unexpected gifts have been assured to be coming my way yet as it stands, at this time on this day, I feel a black mist grip my soul and drag it back down like always. I look forward to the new year, if only because I have ambitions to drive me and feasible means of achieving some of them and the prospect of being in work again is seemingly more apparent – two employers have expressed great interest in me and once the world of work is back in order then they will hurry to usher me in and get me sorted out as either their new team player or latest addition to the rejection bin.

I have no right to complain, I spent Christmas in a warm home with turkey on my plate, no job to tear me away from my family and there was no actual family tragedy today, just muttered words and a general consensus of “Let’s do this for as long as it is bearable”, with some of us giving up an hour in and some sticking through to dinner before departing. Families do that I suppose, the Christmas card image of a family gathered and united in love is appealing but fairly untrue, especially in homes on the breadline like mine. Ultimately, you must think me a terrible whine, to speak of how poor I find myself and woe is me but you are not obliged to read on, this is merely a personal filling in and as it stands, this is the truth of it – a modest Christmas with a family divided and I am little more than a misery.

I do not know what 2016 will bring. I hope it will be the year that changes everything and intend to work hard to make it so and yet, I have said that much for each year of my life since I left school and here I am. On the upside, with a gym contract I’m obliged to for twelve months, at £9.99 a month, I can at least be depressed and fucking jacked up like a beefcake, I’m too much of a tight git with money to let the best part of £10 vanish from my bank account each month and not turn up at the gym – I’m lazy enough, I don’t intend to charge myself £10 a month to be so.

Still, Christmas is a time to be thankful so let me end on the lighter note as to what I am thankful for. I am thankful to my family for providing me a home and for the efforts they have made for me all year round, to my Dad for being willing to invest in me and help me take my first steps towards revolutionising my work by buying me the equipment. I am thankful to my friends for their steadfast loyalty, especially at this time and whilst the run-up to Christmas would provide many of them valid reason to make less effort, some have made more effort than ever to check that I am okay and provide me with some reason to smile or laugh. Lastly, let me give thanks to the unexpected friends I have found this year, old grudges washed away and casual acquaintances have made new strides to know me better, it is always something that can make me smile.

Merry Christmas everyone, I will provide a 2015 retrospective later this year and in it, I will look back on my year and my plans for 2016, for those who take interest in such matters

Christmas Is Always Coming

So, let’s talk about Christmas, it’s obligatory with it being less than ten days away at this point and I do plan to discuss my actual day of Christmas with you on Christmas as it happens, a sort of sum up like last year followed by a retrospective of my year as a whole. However, for now, let’s discuss Christmas, in particular why some may view me as something of a Scrooge on the topic. I never really partake in festivities to the same degree as my friends – no antlers on my head, no Christmas jumper waiting to be sprung out come December and you’ll never get me singing along to Jingle Bells. A variety of reasons surround this, first and foremost is my social anxiety which insists that although everyone else in the room looks like a colossal dickhead wearing red noses and tinsel scarves, I will be the most dickheadiest of dickheads if I join in, that somehow my foolishness isn’t just fun, it’s utterly disgusting and degrading to watch and people will remember the display as a reason to hold me in slightly less high regard. On the other hand, there are some other reasons I’m not huge on Christmas as a whole, which I’ll cover over the course of this post.

Now, don’t be mistaken in thinking I want December 25th to be just another day on the calendar and we don’t bother at all, that’s not it, I think it’s nice that we all agree to dedicate some time of the year to togetherness and family time and so on – though it sucks to the nth degree not all of us get that. Christmas, forced onto the mainstream by a previously Christian dominated society and now kept around for people of all walks of life due to a combination of tradition and marketing, is fun when you’re in the right setting for it with the right people and resources and so on – hard to be miserable at Christmas when you have all you want. The problem is just that though, Christmas is such a beacon of light and joy that some of us expect it to cast out the negativity simply the grace of existing and we can overlook the pains, struggles and loneliness of our fellow men because we think “It’s Christmas, someone will do something for them and they’ll probably feel better with a belly full of turkey and some nice new trinkets to unwrap”. Here then. we have that phrase, that phrase that is the bane of my life every single year between the end of October and December 26th.

“BUT IT’S CHRISTMAS!”

You know what? So fucking what if it is? We’re aware what time of year it is, which by the way, I resent for creeping earlier and earlier into the year, partly because I’m a November baby and partly because it applies the pressure to be cheerful and excited on depressed folk like me before they’re even in the right frame of mind to adopt false happiness. Christmas isn’t some be all, end all cure to the woes of the world, whatever Bob Geldof insists on telling you. The reality is Santa doesn’t deliver world peace, bosses don’t always let things slide because the big day is coming and not every broken heart finds someone willing to bring them out of the cold, let’s not delude ourselves. If we perpetuate Christmas as being the best thing to happen in a year, it loses that status because we don’t need to do anything, it becomes that for the consumerist masses just by being Christmas – people already have their Christmas spirit pumping without the need for volunteering in a soup kitchen or checking in on their lonesome neighbour who doesn’t have kids to come visit or whatever. By doing that, Christmas becomes less and less like the fairy tales and slips more and more into what cynics like me have been calling it for years – a mass of over-excited meatheads stuffing their faces and buying shit.

So, Christmas lovers, maybe you’re think I’m being a Grinch hmm? I just don’t understand because I’m a misery right? Maybe you’re right, this year is seeing me be the most depressed I’ve been at Christmas time since my schoolboy days, for reasons too personal to disclose here. However, last Christmas (Don’t), I wasn’t as bad, I had money, friends and even though Christmas didn’t happen at my home, I did my fair share of philanthropic gestures and gift giving and even then I STILL wrote an article about how overhyped Christmas is and how unfair it is on children in particular. I love Christmas and that’s speaking as a staunch Atheist to whom Christmas has no religious meaning to give remembrance for, it’s literally just “Winter is shit but hey presents and food happen!”. but I still love this idea of a time in which we stop to think about people and how we can express our love for them, my only concern is that perhaps we lost sight of that.

You know the shpiel here, that Christmas has become about buying affection rather than earning it, in showing love through consoles and laptops rather than actual words of kindness or shows of support and many of you will roll your eyes at the goody two-shoe deal here but it is so important we remember that and we must remember that Christmas isn’t a time of joy for us all, no matter how much you wish it to be. Tragic story time, my Dad when I was young, despised Christmas, so much that seeing decorations filled him with dread and sorrow because to him, it didn’t mean joy and laughter, it meant a time of spending money and fulfilling other people’s dreams because if he didn’t, he had to disappoint them. We had no decorations in our house until Christmas Day itself and they’d come down again afterwards as soon as Dad could manage it, just so he didn’t have to see that tree for one second longer than he had to. I didn’t understand as a child, I don’t think my Dad ever realised that as a kid, I was always happy at Christmas with anything he got me – probably because kids are so shit at being grateful for stuff. We’ve always lived on the breadline in this home and to then have December 25th pop up “JUST A HEADS UP, YOU BETTER SPEND AT LEAST LIKE… £500 ON GIFTS OR PEOPLE WILL THINK YOU DON’T LOVE THEM” when you can barely afford £5, it’s terrifying and makes you resent Christmas as being a toll, a challenge to PROVE your love and selflessness, as if everything else you did all year didn’t count.

Christmas is getting a little too big for its own boots here and stomping on the poor and the heartbroken, it brings joy not only because we are all given what we want and are giving those we love what they want but because everyone looks happy when you push the unhappy ones out of the photo frame. I’m not even going to try and count the number of times my depression has been muddled up with a lack of Christmas spirit, that somehow all this obnoxious corporate money-grabbing and ugly jumper parties should be the strongest mood medication I could ever want. Somehow though, it is not but I still partake in Christmas – gifts have been bought, nice gestures done without the hope of them being returned have been performed and on Christmas Day, as is my tradition, I contact everyone I consider a friend to at least give season’s greetings.

So, what am I saying here, you ask? The article has sort of read as a general guilt-tripping Santa-bashing bitterness sandwich but I guess ultimately, I want you to read this and remember that Christmas in and of itself is not special, Christmas is as special as we make it for ourselves and others. If you think buying lots of stuff is all it takes, well done, you’re nothing more than a patsy Amazon and Wal-Mart will bleed dry year upon year, but Christmas is about charity and charity isn’t just giving to the homeless, it’s showing love. PLEASE take this time to check on people and that they’re ok, if that’s the only genuinely good thing you do that isn’t all about presents, please make sure that miserable fuckers like me are at least safe and comfortable this Christmas. I guarantee you that everyone who hates Christmas has a reason for it and it’s no good telling them to just cheer up; do something that makes this time of year a little easier for them.

Merry Christmas.

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.

A Problem In Pink

October is a month filled with many different things isn’t it? Halloween comes to mind first but let’s not forget it is also Stoptober for those trying to quit smoking and is the designated Breast Cancer Awareness month. Pinktober… yes not a very clever name, is supposed to be a month in which efforts are made to raise awareness about those diagnosed with breast cancer, though there are some issues I have with the whole thing. I never take too kindly to campaigns solely based in raising awareness, chances are we’re aware of what they’re campaigning about (except maybe things like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raising awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, something I’m sure wasn’t much in the public mind beforehand). So what’s wrong with Pinktober if you ask me? Well, where to begin?

The Pink Ribbon movement was originally a feminist ordeal to get the discussion of breast cancer out in the open because whilst breast cancer has been around for a long time, it hasn’t always been an acceptable subject of conversation. Ridiculous to think of it like that now but once upon a time, a time so recent that your parents or grandparents might remember it, you had to keep hush-hush if you had it, talking about your breasts in any context was vulgar, even if it was to tell people you have a life-changing affliction that affected said breasts. However, what started as a noble goal to make a taboo subject something the world had to pay attention to is now more of a money-making scam laden with sexism, commercialism and a small-minded attitude of focus upon breasts over cancer or indeed, the victims they’re supposed to be helping out. In fact, there’s even a term for this corruption, pink-washing.

Pink-washing, in this instance, refers to the sleazy efforts of corporations trying to cash in on a charity by slapping said charity’s label on a product they sell and assuring us a percentage of their profits goes to the charity they claim to represent. The pink ribbon is the most exploited of these symbols, having been stuck on even things such as beer bottles. Whilst many companies are happy to just give some spare change away and think themselves in the right, this easy way out fails to educate anyone on anything and some of these percentages and donations are so minimal they can’t be doing it for anything beyond good publicity. Of course, if you point this out to people that buying all the ribbons in the world doesn’t promote any awareness whatsoever and that pink shirts and pink pop bottles aren’t the answer, you get called out as a monster, strange though it seems. A campaign to discuss a serious health condition and the knock-on effect it has on the lives of those with it has been reduced to a garish pink mess of boob jokes and self-righteous parties. If you buy pink, you’re helping right? Well, no, you know no better so you’re not more aware and when these pink ribbons can be found attached to products that can CAUSE CANCER, it’s a real kick in the shins for those fighting for the cause. After all, you don’t see Oxfam branded caviar or British Heart Foundation branded cigarettes.

The media has dumbed down something as complex as the development of cancer into a popular viral branding scheme, dressed it up in pink and made it into a sexist mess? How is it sexist you ask? Free the ta-tas. Yeah, a breast cancer awareness campaign focused solely on breasts, on how wonderful and amazing boobs are. Forget the woman behind them, she’s dying, so what? Nah, save those perky pink orbs! A woman is more than a pair of breasts! Let’s not forget that men can get breast cancer, do we free his ta-tas too? I’m all for funny and interesting ways to get people to care but efforts lately have been warped into focusing on a sole part of a woman’s anatomy and forgetting about the men in the same boat, the women being oggled and the families who have to adapt or possibly even grieve. A study by Bright Pink showed two thirds of women they interviewed would do more to change their lifestyle if it prevented breast cancer but only about half of those women knew where to start making those changes. The Pink Ribbon stuff has been around for as long as I can remember but I’ll admit to a limited knowledge of breast cancer and I’ll bet most of you reading couldn’t outline how to get checked, how to prevent it happening and what happens if you do get breast cancer. One in eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime but only 10% of women know what to do to correctly estimate their risk of developing it… put simply, we know what breast cancer is, we as a society just know jack shit about it.

There is a certain kind of ignorance that surrounds this cause, a kind that I’m sure will have some who read this thinking I just don’t care and I’m calling this entire thing a worthless con, I’m not. However, when you reject the people your cause represents and turn a noble cause into a capitalist nightmare to feel like you’re the patron saint of all things good and righteous just because you wear a ribbon and attend a cake sale, you fall out of touch with the spirit of charity and you overlook the importance of your cause. I understand it’s difficult to get actual factual information circling in the public psyche but it is not impossible and sadly painting the town pink and calling it an effort to raise awareness isn’t the way to do it. We’re all aware, who really hasn’t heard of breast cancer these days? The people are AWARE of it, now it’s time to educate them on the reality of it, on the people it changes and what needs to be done. As it stands, this campaign has become something ignorant, something corrupt and dare I say it for the irony… something rather cancerous.

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

Real Resolutions

Trigger Warnings – Some strong language

Hello everyone, how are we all getting on with the resolutions? Anyone cracked and called it quits yet? I’ve not managed to jog today but I have been walking a lot back and forth between places, that surely counts for something right? Even if only to burn off the amount of food I ate. Anyway, if you have made a resolution and you’re struggling, do stick with it, half of the battle with most of these things is sheer willpower, perceive and achieve! If you’re really struggling and you’re not getting anywhere, it is still pretty early into the year, don’t worry too much, you won’t notice a difference for a few more weeks yet but maybe you’ve given yourself an unrealistic goal? Was your goal to quit something cold turkey perhaps? Or really get into something you’re not actually into, like jogging… erhem… Anyway, just in case you’re stuck for some goals or you want some better ones to strive towards, here are my suggestions based around things that I’ve heard, seen and are, you know, just good goals to have. Bear in mind, these are just ideas, run with them, shrug them off, whatever, just don’t be shitty alright?

1. Say ‘Yes’ to more

A lot of people often tell me I’m too selfless, that I give away my time to anyone as if I were immortal but if karma’s a real thing, maybe I’ll get a lot out of my selfless time donations. I’d encourage my readers to just go along with the ride a little more often – take up on an invite, volunteer somewhere, do a friend a favour even if it’s a pain – obviously use your common sense,  don’t say yes to a poison taster session or joining your particularly stupid friends in lying naked on train tracks but y’know, the little things in life, it doesn’t cost you much to just go along with it. I find it can also come with unexpected benefits, usually free food and drink as a thank you but I’ve sometimes earned money or made friends this way.

2. Do something to make you feel more positive about yourself

I’m all for loving the skin you’re in but people who tell you to never diet or never gain weight or never dye your hair misunderstand the point, you can make a change to be comfortable, just be sure it’s a healthy one. Take me for example, I’m not by the common definition ‘fat’, but I’m doing my best to just lose a few pounds from my belly and my cheeks, why not do the same? If you need a new haircut, a tougher diet, a few more piercings in order to look in the mirror and admire the reflection, go for it. Make 2015 the year you woke up to smile back at that face staring at you in the bathroom mirror, not the usual “Ugh” noise that I tend to make.

3. Learn where you stand

You know I find people mistake arguing less for being mature, for rising above, but there’s a difference between arguing and bickering. Rise above petty arguments over where you sit or who gets the last custard cream, sure, but when it comes to your stance on politics, on gay marriage, on the representation of minorities in media, you’re not rising above when you say “I don’t bother with these things”, you’re just invalidating yourself. If you don’t know what your opinion is on contemporary feminism, read up on both sides of the argument and ask yourself if woman are still perceived as at fault for sexually motivated crimes, if woman should be the ones responsible for remembering protection, if women should or shouldn’t have to shave their armpits – it’s immature to squabble and shout but to have something you believe in and to defend that is not childish or obnoxious, it shows commitment and integrity which are very adult traits to have!

4. Record your thoughts

Seriously folks, you have no idea how helpful a blog or a diary can be. Do you ever have those feelings that you just want to let go of in a big burst of verbal rainbows and then afterwards you feel much better? My blog and diary serve that purpose, I funnily enough don’t have a 24/7 therapist to call up at any given moment to tell them that I think the universe is amazing or that our species is doomed but with a diary, you can sorta do just that. Blogging is great too, you can say so much more to people in just one go rather than awkwardly burbling your feelings at them through stuttered “What I mean is…” moments. You can also use it to see how far you’ve come in your year or how you’ve changed and it allows you a lot of room to think and ponder about yourself, which is something we should all indulge in now and then

5. Challenge those thoughts

Part of self-discovery is contradicting yourself, if you’ve never contradicted yourself, you’ve never grown. Ever had that moment where you say something and then someone cuts you down by saying “But wait a minute, didn’t you once say…?”. Now, that’s a humiliating moment, sure, but once you get past that think carefully about the point they raised and the point you were trying to make – why don’t they fit together? Which do you truly believe? I used to think things like “Women are free to vote and work whatever they job they want sure, but y’know, they’re still delicate creatures, they probably don’t work in trades like mechanics because that’s not something women generally do”. Now, forgive me, younger me, not quite worldly-wise yet but I had to challenge my thoughts – what made me think a girl doesn’t want to be a mechanic? Why did I assume such a reason as her being too delicate to fix a car? I now realise gender and career aren’t linked and y’know, I’ve met many women who know more about cars than I do in the same way I’ve met men who know more about interior decorating and hair care than some women, the gender binary is a crock of nonsense in the grand scheme of things, choose to adhere to it if you will, I’m very typical male, I don’t ever wear mascara or don a dress but that’s my conscious choice, I’m sure that as I am now, if I wanted to wear a mini skirt and tights, I’d fucking do it so always challenge yourself to grow and change

6. Lastly, try to see things from a perspective you can’t easily empathise with

I’m not here to toot my own trumpet, I assure you, but I pride myself on fighting alongside groups I really have no reason to need to defend other than human decency. Gay rights, women’s rights, minorities in media – none of those have any effect on me so why should I care right? Well, every ally helps, I hate to be the kind of ally shouting from the rooftops “Admire me because I give a shit about people that aren’t exactly like me” but we always need to look to other people as potential allies but as allies, we need to look to ourselves to see who we can really help. I mean, it’s nice that you defend your gay friend from some extreme religious nutcase but you and your friend might be otherwise well-off white folk, what about people who are killed or forced into corrective therapy? You might have a black friend, that’s great, but what about friends from other minorities that are still oppressed and stereotyped? Reach out, educate yourself on the plights of people from so far away, you might not know how to point to where they live on a map, understand their world and fight for fairness for all mankind, not just your group of buddies.

I guess I’m ultimately just trying to say to people that this year, think more, that’s a great resolution, think more about others and think more about yourself, work as a community to make the world a better place. Start small, spare some change, look after a pet, let someone ahead of you in a line but try to think what you can give to the world, not what you can take. A good person strives for a good world to live in because the world really needs a lot more empathy in it if we’re ever going to stop shooting at each other and start talking. That’s just a thought anyway, do what you will, you could always make your resolution something completely different but make it something you can imagine achieving realistically

Thanks for reading, hope I gave you some good food for thought there. If you’re hungry for more, look around or click the link below to find me on Facebook where you’ll get information on the latest blog posts and such. If you’re a generous kinda person and want to share a platter of posts, hit the share button, show your friends that resolutions aren’t all about less nail-biting or more fruit-eating, it can be much more rewarding if you want it to be!

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