Ideological blinkers

This excellent article by Jack Bernhardt, reflecting initially on the latest evidence of Corbyn ignoring anti-Semitism amongst his far-left fellow-travellers but broadening out into an examination of the many “prisms” through which groups interpret the world, was a timely contribution to the debate.

I think the term ideological blinkers works better to describe how individuals suppress uncomfortable facts and focus only on what bolsters their sense of outrage.  We need to break out of the filter bubble and challenge the narrow thinking that prevents us from grappling with the subtle realities of the human condition.  Whether it’s the Brexiteer admitting the difficulties of finding solutions to the Irish border question or the Remainer addressing the genuine grievances of those left behind by socio-economic “progress” that promoted a “Leave” protest vote, there are so many ways where we desperately need to walk a mile in our neighbour’s shoes.

As we approach Good Friday and Easter Sunday, I’m struck by Christ’s example – His courageous sacrifice in bearing the weight of all our sin and grievances.  He did not run away from those who determined to destroy Him but willingly bled and died for His enemies.  Surely, we can take a little time to show compassion and understanding to those who think differently.  Rather than denouncing them from afar, we must draw close, listen and learn, speaking and doing only what builds-up.  For such is His command – “love your neighbour as yourself”.


Reform our out-dated, over-complicated tax system

Why is there so little discussion about radically re-designing our taxation and benefits system for the 21st Century?  In the UK, Income tax was introduced in 1799 as a temporary measure to fight the Napoleonic war.  National Insurance arrived in 1911, specifically designed to fund benefits for those who became too ill to work or suffered temporary unemployment. Council tax, though more recently introduced in 1993, still suffers from inconsistencies and is badly in need of reform.  For example, the value of someone’s home does not reflect their current ability to pay an annually-increasing monthly bill, whilst no charges are levied against those who hold land, waiting for its value to increase and denying everyone else the chance to use a scarce, finite resource. Of course, there are also VAT, Stamp Duty, Business rates, Excise duties, Corporate tax, Capital gains tax and many more.

Our current systems are complex and confusing.  We must seek to merge all taxes and benefits in one system, so each individual can see clearly what they are putting into the system and getting out.  Child benefits, pensions, allowances, student loans/fees and such like should all be processed in one network, so tax is easier to work out and there is less chance of fraud.  There should be one portal where you can see all the information.

People would know exactly where they stand and the government would have a much better idea of where they could make efficiencies.  This would also enable better phasing out of benefits as someone’s wages increase, so as to incentivise work.

Yet why can we not use the taxation system to do much more.  For example, there are hardly any recognised incentives to boost physical activity i.e. a tax rebate for everyone who can prove they do NOT drive into work, verified through each company’s HR department.  There could also be a tapered rebate for those who at least car share.  Of course, the monitoring and incentivising might need to reflect realities – like heavy rain and ice – that occasionally curtail even the enthusiastic cyclists but these are minor details when compared to the advantages. Just imagine, for a moment, the impact on citizens if this was implemented.  We would jump at the chance, re-imagining our lives, motivated to become more active, and in the process reducing pollution, as well as achieving so many benefits for our society.  Over time, the tax system would encourage people to live closer to their workplaces, helpfully increasing population density and stopping the flight to suburbia, denuding our town centres.

The urgency of action to tackle such social ills is clear.  For example a fifth of Scottish people say they have not walked for more than 20 minutes even once over the past year.  Meanwhile, in England and Wale, about 85,000 people (estimated) die early each year due to illnesses caused by sedentary living, mainly heart disease, type 2 diabetes and various cancers.  Physical activity keeps people stronger and more supple as they age.  Our exertions also improve balance, gives better bone density and make us less likely to become depressed or develop Alzheimer’s.  These are all things associated with needing less social care.

One of the few exercise regimes proved to stick is active travel, more specifically making walking or cycling to work, school or the shops sufficiently safe and convenient that it becomes easier for people to do it than not.  With political will, great success has proven possible: Denmark and the Netherlands have spent decades very deliberately re-shaping their road environments away from the car culture of the 1960s and 70s towards mass cycling.

The issue is that people need an immediate daily reminder, encouragement and motivation to look after their health, which obviously only unravels in the long-term – “a moment on the lips; a lifetime on the hips”. Consider Vitality Optimiser which provides Life Insurance but actively promotes a healthy lifestyle.  In return for unobtrusive monitoring (i.e. recording the number of your steps in any week), the package gives you “rewards”, such as a free Starbucks or discount codes, giving subscribers a tangible, short-term benefit that equates to a highly desirable, yet difficult to quantify, long-term positive outcome.  Why is the Government not seeking to investigate and potentially roll out these kinds of schemes to everyone?

Another key area where the taxation system should recognise the differing circumstances and contributions of individuals is childcare.  The same pay packet must cover a much greater range of expenses for a parent with dependent children, as opposed to an individual who only has to look after themselves.  Raising the next generation is vitally important for our long-term well-being – witness the frequent warnings about our falling birth rate and increasingly elderly, retired population.  Thus, we could create a generous Child Tax Credit for every parent, so they can be taxed at a lower rate (i.e. 2% for each child 20% off the current basic rate Income tax).

Alternatively, Child Benefit could be re-examined and integrated much more closely into HMRC’s current arrangements to provide proper help to those footing the bills for nappies, food, clothing, clubs, excursions, even the odd family holiday. And that’s before things like driving lessons or University tuition fees.  In fact, one study estimated the average cost of raising one child to age 21 was, in 2015, £229,251.  Assuming you claim Child Benefit for the maximum time available, you will receive a mere £17,222 from the government (for a first child, £20.40 per week till age 16).  That’s less than a 10th of the projected cost!

We need change.  Our current system is iniquitous, failing to properly incentivise choices that benefit us all, whilst being so complex and murky no-one really knows how much tax they pay and for what purpose.  We really could do so much better.

Innocent till proven guilty

With the slew of allegations launched in the media over the past few months, we must always remember this key principle of a just society – every individual is innocent until proven guilty.

Whilst I have the utmost sympathy for genuine victims of horrific crimes, we cannot ignore the fact that there are proven examples of false accusations, which also destroy the lives and careers of those targeted.  For example, consider the “torturous” experience of Simon Warr, subjected to “672 days on bail, in the glare of maximum publicity, during which time I suffered disgusting insults in the street and from the internet mob… my name and photograph were repeatedly published in the press and on the internet. After a nigh on two year nightmare, my accuser’s allegations were dismissed by a jury within a half an hour.”  He mentions the case of a fellow-teacher in a similar situation who, under the extreme pressure, committed suicide, as did Welsh Labour MSP, Carl Sargeant.

In the UK, we have seen the reputations of Sir Cliff Richards, Sir Ted Heath and many others dragged through the mud.  Lurid stories of a Westminster paedophile ring, stemming from one individual that never received any corroboration, were circulated with full page spreads by news outlets that said very little when the testimonies were disproven.

Even the Church of England has been targeted with serious questions raised about the case of Bishop George Bell who was posthumously ‘blackened” by an alleged victim – pocketed £16,800 “without sufficient investigation”.

So, given all the evidence of how much damage false accusations can inflict and the ease with which these claims can be concocted, why is there not more caution and less of a rush to judgement?  One case in point is the backlash against Lena Dunham, after a co-worker that she knew very well was accused: “Our insider knowledge of Murray’s situation makes us confident that sadly this accusation is one of the 3% of assault cases that are misreported every year … We stand by Murray and this is all we’ll be saying about this issue.”

She was effectively bullied by internet vigilantes to retract this statement by those who highlighted Dunham’s previous tweet – “Things women do lie about: what they ate for lunch. Things women don’t lie about: rape.”  This is clearly ridiculous.  How on earth can you make such a sweeping statement for all women on such a sensitive subject?

There seems to be a confusion between “believing” someone, and respecting their right to complain but then investigating carefully an allegation to discover the truth.  Again, we must highlight as misguided the likes of Hillary Clinton when she demands that all women be “heard and believed”.

Please don’t rush to judgement.  Give the accused a fair chance to defend themselves, just as we must afford victims the opportunity to seek justice.  Remember the context – are the complainants motivated by money, politics or ideology?  Above all ask… where is the evidence?

PS – on the day this was published, yet another shocking case emerged of a woman’s lies resulting in an innocent man having his life “flipped upside down.”  Student Liam Allan, speaking after his rape trial collapsed following the detectives’ failure to disclose vital evidence to the defence, said he felt “betrayed” by police and the CPS whose presumption of guilt inflicted “mental torture”.  The evidence in question was a disk of 40,000 text messages, many of which revealed the alleged “victim” pestered Liam for “casual sex”.  The Jezebel in question told her friends that she enjoyed sex with him and even spoke about her fantasies of having violent sex and being raped by him.  If this was finally uncovered, after the accused spent two years on bail, he faced 12 years in prison and on the sex offenders’ register for life with little chance of appeal.  Note how we do not even know her name and there has been nothing said about prosecuting her for wasting police time and attempting to pervert the course of justice…

In Googling that story, I also came across this report on Jemma Beale who invented four separate incidents of sexual assault, one of which led to a man being wrongfully convicted.  Thankfully, she has now received a 10-year prison sentence but are these cases just the tip of a treacherous iceberg?  Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, has made a high profile push to bring more sex attack cases to court and asked her lawyers to trawl through a man’s relationship history to boost conviction.  Surely, the same rigour must be applied to scrutinising the complainant’s background?  We desperately need a fair, impartial, bias-free policing and criminal justice system.


Are you not moved?

Once again, the cynics sneer at the efforts of Comic Relief, the Disasters Emergencies Committee and a host of charities to raise awareness of, and funds for, the fight against poverty.  Their criticism is seriously misguided. Celebrities could just ignore the plight of other but are doing something to help.  Yes, of course, we need to address the structural issues but these are not going to be fixed overnight (if ever) and we have an immediate to give what we can to alleviate suffering.  Personal giving does not preclude activism and shows that we have skin in the game.  Individually, I cannot force Apple to pay their fair share of tax but I can remember how privileged I am and share what I have.

Look how insidious this argument can be: “By showing starving and sick children at their most vulnerable and exposed, it goes against the idea that their dignity is worth as much as his children’s, and creates an artificial distinction between “us” and “them”. Here we are, the resourceful and benevolent agents of change; and they are the passive others in need of our charity.”

Really?  These are people who are dying with the most appalling prospects.  Their plight cries out for mercy. Surely, the ire of this journalist should be focused on those who walk by on the other side of the road, not the Good Samaritans.  The priest and Levite no doubt pontificated later about how someone else should ensure that road was properly policed, but they are rightly condemned for doing nothing.

Sadly, the arguments advanced by the likes of Afua Hirsch (quoted above) only serve to provide fig leaves for those who can watch the evidence of immense human misery, close their eyes and whistle a tune.  In fact, they are – in some ways – modern-day versions of Scrooge, deaf to the pleas of their neighbours.

Then, there is this problematic phrase “poverty porn”.  Excuse me but there is a world of difference between watching titillating videos to be sexually aroused and making genuine efforts to raise awareness of the struggles faced by the world’s most destitute with the hope that concerned citizens will be moved to give.  Considering how comparatively luxurious our lives can be, we need these reminders of what is actually happening to our fellow human beings.  How is that even remotely comparable to pornographic smut?

Tragically, we have become desensitised and indifferent to the horrendous suffering of, for example, desperate kids living off the pickings they can glean from dangerous garbage sites.  We need to keep (or start?) giving generously AND campaign vociferously, so that these scandals poverty become history.

Stop the Tax Dodgers

The furore surrounding the latest revelations about industrial-scale tax avoidance in the Paradise Papers seems, tragically, to have subsided but momentum must not be lost in the fight against injustice. Government must act swiftly and decisively to close the loopholes that allow the richest to opt-out of the system and ensure everyone pays their fair share. We must keep reminding them – and each other – what is at stake.

According to authoritative estimates, wealth concealment (by “ultra-high-net-​worth individuals”) deprives governments of about €155bn a year in revenue. In Britain alone, annual revenue losses are €6bn. Those not earning mind-boggling sums of money but instead scraping by on £20-40K per year cannot avoid paying taxes as these schemes are only affordable for the wealthy. How is anyone on a median wage expected to enjoy a reasonable standard of living? Whilst, we are constantly counting every penny and struggling to make ends meet, they are acquiring luxury items with even paying any VAT. This inequality is appallingly unfair.

Meanwhile, almost €12.7bn in UK taxes is dodged by multinationals and, across the world (facilitated by Britain’s “offshore” empire) data suggests more than €600bn is artificially shifted by multinationals to the world’s tax havens each year. One example is Glentorran President, David Chick, who used artificial loan structure to hide the sources of money for various projects in Northern Ireland, one of which evaded a 45% income tax bill on a £600K development. He also claimed to have “influence at the highest political level”.

Such cosy connections were also evident in 2013 when a new UK tax break, set at a mere 5%, was introduced on diverted profits (those held offshore in “controlled foreign companies”) to make Britain “more competitive” and attract business. Analysis of this change has demonstrated that it only succeeded in bringing back “brass plates”, a top holding company, employing a few accounts and lawyers, to exploit the loophole but bring virtually no benefits to our country.

In fact, this tax break, which under close investigation by the EU, was designed by series of working groups packed with big companies, such as Vodafone. Big accountancy firms apparently seconded staff into the Treasury to help write rules and then, subsequently, made money on advising clients how to exploit the new dodge. The initial estimated cost to the Exchequer of this scheme was £900 million by 2018 but behavioural changes have significantly increased this total. According to HMRC, multinationals avoided paying £5.8bn in taxes in 2016, some 50% more than government forecasts. That figure, which was reported by the Financial Times, does not even include losses from changes to the aforementioned CFC rules.

Most egregiously amongst the corporate tax dodgers, Apple paid just £12 million on a £1.9 billion UK profit, meaning they dodged about £400 million in corporation tax, according to accounts filed in September 2014. Now we know they are using Jersey after their previous tax haven (Ireland) was shut down. Surely, you can see how this corrosive to democracy? Obviously, this money could make a huge difference to millions in the UK, balancing the books without further painful cuts to benefits for the poorest and vital public services.

Companies spend vast sums on image-burnishing, public relation projects, whether planting some trees in Honduras or dance projects in Burkina Faso. However, all I want from them is to pay a fair amount of tax in the countries where they earn their sky-high projects. Is that too much to ask?

Even the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is now warning of the damage to the developing world caused by all this profit shifting.

Back in the UK, according to Deutsche Bank, London itself receives about £1bn a month in what it calls “hidden capital flows”, much of it Russian. However, if ordinary people want to purchase a property they have to go through multiple checks to make sure the money is not laundered. Why is this tolerated by our political representatives?

As several commentators have noted, those who gratuitously avoid tax, such as Lewis Hamilton (private jet VAT refund) or the stars of Mrs Brown’s Boys (millions sheltered in Mauritius and “loaned” back to circumvent income tax) rob the country that has provided the education, health care and infrastructure, which has supported their ability to make their jaw-dropping fortunes.

The sums involved are mind-boggling and if you are struggling to fathom the numbers, then link them to their consequences… “The money we lose because people like Lewis Hamilton don’t pay some VAT on their private jet means thousands more visits to food banks. The budget cuts leading to rising homelessness might not have been necessary if Apple had paid more tax. Fewer people might have killed themselves after a work-capability assessment if companies like Alphabet (Google) had not registered their offices in Bermuda, and the downward pressure on benefits payments was not so intense.”

So how can this mess be cleaned-up?  I think the key to sorting out this mess and restoring faith in the system is to insist on transparency: how can we catch the crooks if they are allowed to keep their finances top secret? Britain’s PAYE is virtually impossible to fiddle but these other systems are just too prone to abuse. HMRC is over-stretched and opening-up the data would allow many more people to scrutinise the dodgy deals. We need a UK-wide land register, so we know exactly who owns what, especially as our island becomes increasingly crowded and pressure grows to build new homes. Government must re-write the tax evasion vs avoidance distinction to declare illegal any artificial construct that serves no purpose other than to avoid tax. Those responsible must be punished accordingly.

After the Panama Papers, not much seems to have changed. Gordon Brown is leading a petition to shut down tax havens, which is exactly what needs to happen now and a campaign I hope you will support. We all, but most particularly those privileged to sit in Parliament, must act now and not ignore this fundamental injustice.

Digging deeper into the “flat earth”

Reading British comedian David Mitchell’s article, “The Earth may not be flat but it just possibly might be doomed” was eye-opening.   The fact one peddler of this total nonsense, Mark Sargent, has 43,415 subscribers to his “Flat Earth” YouTube and there has actually been a conference to discuss this drivel clearly flags-up a serious problem.  We seem unable to persuade people to work together, to unite around truth, such as basic facts about our universe, or more alarmingly, the need to do all we can to tackle global warming.

Mitchell pinpoints how a “safety-first, unquestioning scepticism about absolutely everything could lead to the thoughtless discrediting, and chucking out, of huge swaths of our collective achievements.”  He argues that this “boundless doubting” is linked to “this nasty internet-contaminated era.”

However, I think we have to dig deeper.  These weeds spread much more widely than he dares to consider.  The primary culprit is postmodernism, which prioritises the subjective individual and distrusts all universal narratives, claiming that the truth is relative.  This has trickled down from upper echelons of universities to seep into the pores of society, leading to the rejection of authority, alongside an unthinking embrace of whatever “feels right” for “me”. Thus those born as a boy, for example, are encouraged to question the objective evidence of their eyes and listen to their insecurities or pander to their passing whims with devastating consequences.

Similarly, the dangers of pornography are dismissed and the facts conveniently ignored.  In 2016, a court in Cheltenham heard how a 12-year-old boy repeatedly raped his younger sister after becoming fascinated with hardcore online pornography; in 2014, a 13-year-old boy from Blackburn admitted raping his eight-year-old sister after watching porn on a friend’s Xbox and ‘deciding to try it out’.  Tragically, hundreds of school pupils in the UK have been disciplined in the last four years after perpetrating sexual acts, including seven who were only five years old, according to recently released Freedom of Information data.  These might represent just the tip of the iceberg as numerous Local Authorities have neglected to provide data.

Any sense of what is right and true has been reduced to “moralistic mood swings”, jumping on bandwagons to denounce the latest uncovering of someone else’s dirty laundry.

Whether denying that abortion involves the killing of innocent babies and should, at best, be an absolute last resort (rather than a form of contraception) or declaring that the earth is flat, the roots of delusion can be traced back even further to Descartes’ famous ditty, “cogito ergo sum” or “I think, therefore I am”.  By placing human beings, and the evidence of one’s senses, at the centre of the universe, this movement closed the door on the possibility of divine, authoritative revelation.  Man is drawn to rationalising the inexcusable, be that gas chambers or gender reassignment surgery; only God shows us the true Way.

We need One who is outside of our moral morass to reveal to us the path we should follow and give us the Saviour who frees us from the chains of arrogance as He walks with us on the journey to “fully knowing, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).  Are you worried that the world is “doomed”?  Turn to the Christ Jesus: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).


Fifty years of legalised murder

There’s no shades of grey here – abortion is the extermination of innocent lives.  It’s a not merely a fetus or a blob of cells, but a living person with the most amazing potential.  Yes, society should give much more support to couples who feel unable to look after a child, whether through better adoption services or improving the likes of child benefit, but we need to reverse a change in the law that has led to over 8.6 million murders.

As a History graduate, I was saddened to read how the record of the past has been twisted to support what is indefensible.  Kate Lister’s article tries to critique the law, which originally criminalised abortion in 1803, because it focused on actions taken after the “quickening”, the first felt movements of a baby in the womb, usually about 16 weeks.  The problem with this approach is that, prior to ultrasound scans, women – and anyone else who was interested – would have hardly any knowledge of what was happening before those first, wonderful movements.  Using this to lambast what she labels a moral inconsistency is just nonsense and completely unfair, given our greater medical knowledge.

There is only a brief acknowledgement of how social attitudes have changed towards extramarital sex and children born out of wedlock, which makes irrelevant all her descriptions of the dangerous means some women resorted to in an effort to end pregnancies.  After only focusing on the United Kingdom, she also refers misleadingly to “The Lancet”, which “estimates that unsafe abortion is still responsible for approximately 69,000 deaths and millions of injuries each year.”  This is actually a figure that refers to the worldwide situation that obviously includes many countries where the stigma still exists and there is a lack of even basic healthcare, so of little help in understanding what would happen if abortion laws were tightened (and proper care in place for families).

She asserts that “the Bible make no claims that life begins at the point of conception”, which ignores Psalm 139:13 – “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” and the bold declaration “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (v. 14).  Then there’s Jeremiah 1:5, where God speaks to the prophet – “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”

Now, some cite Exodus 21:22-25 as proof that a fetus has less value than a person because the punishment for causing a woman to miscarry is only a fine.  Well, actually that translation of the Hebrew is contested and most probably the text is referring to a “child going forth” and there being “no injury” to anyone.  Please do follow that last link to John Piper’s verdict on this matter as he very carefully examines the text.  Of course, this is still clearly highlighted as a crime against another person – hence the need for restitution – so whatever the precise meaning, these verses actually support the protection of innocent children.

Returning to Kate Lister’s concluding statement, “A minority of women will always want an abortion. Therefore, it must be done properly”, again misses the mark.  A tiny percentage of the population enjoys stealing from other human being, or even murdering them.  Should the law just ensure that this proclivity is “done properly”?

So, please stand-up for life and stop the slaughter.


Crucifixion in Saudi Arabia?

I was listening to the BBC Radio 4’s News Quiz last Friday (29th Sept) when one of the comedians happened to ridicule Saudi Arabia’s alleged practice of crucifying individuals. I was quite disturbed by this claim and searched online with about the fourth or fifth “hit” being from the Guardian.

The article clearly seemed to suggest that one member of the gang was slated to face being “crucified for three days”. The article does go on to state that “Human rights groups have condemned crucifixions in the past, including cases in which people are beheaded and then crucified” (emphasis added). Note how the word choice implies there must be other crucifixions where the victim is attached to the cross alive and left to die. Consider that the Amnesty International quote, “…inhuman and degrading punishment” should really not be applied to someone beheaded and then crucified as how can you “punish” a dead body!?

Interestingly, there is no follow-up to this article on the Guardian, explaining what actually happened to the men. Apparently, they were all executed by firing squad.

However, from reading other sources, I was more concerned at the reference to crucifixions. According to the Atlantic and the BBC, this actually involves first killing the “criminal” (usually through beheading) and then displaying the body for up to three days.

So, I think the original Guardian article is misleading and dangerous. I agree that Saudi Arabia does much that is shocking and abhorrent, including their practice of beheading and then (sometimes) displaying the body. However, I think most readers (like the comedian) would take a reference to “crucifixion” to imply the “criminal” is strung-up until their last, agonising breath. As the Guardian boldly states on their website banner that “facts are sacred”, I sincerely hope this will be corrected, especially as though this is from 2013, the article still features quite prominently on search results and clearly has an ongoing influence.

If you followed the BBC Magazine link, you will have noticed an Islamic scholar trying to excuse the Koran’s reference to the matter: “Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment.”

The apologist encourages us to read the context: “Except for those who return [repenting] before you apprehend them. And know that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” However, I do not find this at all comforting. Basically, the verses say “surrender or die”. Islam means submission and Muslims’ ultimate aim is for everyone to conform to Muhammed’s view of the Deity.

Whereas the Christian Bible repeatedly insists that judgement belongs to the LORD and instruct us to “forgive our enemies”, the Koran incites its readers to take matters into their own hands and destroy those who disagree with their view of God, permitting even the cruellest of punishments. I suppose “exile from the land” does not sound quite as bad but, given that the Caliphate’s borders were continually expanded by conquest until the 16th Century, even this would only provide temporary relief.

What kind of depraved religion is this? I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ will open their eyes to the truth.

The Brexit “divorce bill”

As previously argued in this blog, I think Brexit is a tragic mistake and I predicted that the EU would make negotiations of the details as tough as possible, both to extract as much money as possible to maintain their bureaucracy and also to discourage any other bids for independence.

Sadly, this has proven true with their negotiators refusing to move on from discussing the “divorce bill”, insisting that Britain honour all possible commitments made, even including pension liabilities.

What troubles me is the fact they ignore the estimated £390 billion net contribution Britain has already made to the EEC/EU since 1973.  Yes, of course, there have been many benefits accruing with membership, though it is impossible how these would have compared to NOT joining in the first place.  However, there’s so little gratitude or appreciation for the vital role Great Britain has played in developing the EU thus far, the largesse that has funded numerous projects from Portugal to Estonia.  No, instead they demand more money and refuse to even discuss future relations, which is actually a rather sickening attitude.

I would still vote again to Remain in the EU – I think the process of leaving is just too complex and fraught with difficulty when there is so much for the other side to lose and they have rigged the process of triggering Article 50 in their favour.  However, if we must go – respecting the referendum result – then at the moment I would rather just leave now.  Not a penny more to the EU, stuff their budgets, accept the WTO tariffs and look for new trading opportunities elsewhere.  It feels like we’re caught in a hostage situation, which is just ludicrous.

Maybe I’m being too hasty but I definitely do think that we must start highlighting to our EU neighbours (minus Germany) how much we have bankrolled their countries’ development.

Playing the “racism” card – some serious flaws

Marina Hyde‘s article in the Guardian this week pinpointed a critical problem with current thinking on this issue of racism.

Firstly, the Romalu Lukaku chant is rude, crude and deserves to be banned from football stadiums where the focus should be on the Beautiful Game.  It’s just not suitable for a recreation that anyone should be able to enjoy, especially kids.

However, the arguments that Hyde uses in the article are deeply flawed and likely to promote a backlash.  Here’s the nub of her logic: “the trouble with supposedly positive stereotypes is that they tend to be accompanied in the minds of those who hold them by distinctly less complimentary ones.  Time and again research papers have showed you couldn’t have one without the other: people who saw Asians as great at maths also thought they were cold and remote, and terrible drivers.”

By calling compliments  “racist” and threatening punishment, these politically correct aficionados are effectively undermining the central premise of our judicial system: “innocent until proven guilty“.  Yes, by all mean, if the chanting or behaviour turns ugly against group of people take appropriate action.  Yet to infer that praise for a particular individual who happens to be an Asian, woman, African, whatever… must mean there is a dark reservoir of hatred lurking beneath is ludicrous.  They are attempting to police thought!

This erroneous principle enunciated by Hyde seems to extend, for her, to all corners of behaviour/human interaction: “It may come as a shock to the system for men given to paying a certain type of compliment but when women heard men praise them for conforming to one positive stereotype – being ladylike, for instance, or nurturing – they stated they were more likely to think the man also held negative stereotypes about them. And why wouldn’t he? He’s a stereotyper. Stands to reason he does it both ways. He may not be saying them out loud but they’re there.”

Hang on – what if the woman really is nurturing, caring for other members of a team or clearly demonstrating a wonderful compassion towards her own children?  What’s the negative flipside of being ladylike that she’s so anxious to avoid?  The word means “wellbred, decorous woman or girl”, so to me that seems straightforward appreciation for a female displaying pleasant manners.  In fairness, I can see how this “compliment” could be abused in certain situations (sinisterly implying the “lady” should be seen, not heard) but I can also think of other circumstances where it’s only meant as genuine praise (i.e. someone who doesn’t engage in vulgar, drunken antics!).  Of course, there’s a deeper issue here as sections of our society seek to abolish any notion of gender difference, which is probably even more damaging.

To compound this error of attempting to police thought and assuming the worst about anyone who utters words that are not deemed PC anymore, there is a terrible arrogance in this sneering attitude, which will only fan the flames of resentment.  Who are you calling a racist?  That’s not what I meant!  By generalising about this particular issue surrounding the Lukaku chant, it’s only going to alienate more individuals who are being accused of a crime without any evidence.

There needs to be some humility and realism here.  We should all examine our assumptions: “take the log out of your own eye before removing the speck from someone else’s” (Jesus – Matthew 7:3-5).  The greatest teacher ever also warned: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!” (Matt. 23:15).

There’s a serious danger in zealously promulgating half-baked ideology on others, adopting a position of “right-on” smugness at the perceived failings of those who haven’t studied psychology and allegedly don’t have a clue about what goes on in their minds.  A little knowledge truly can be dangerous.

In fact, we should all remember that before God’s holy and perfect standard, we all fall woefully short.  But, hallelujah, our Lord Jesus Christ still loves us and gave His life for us.  I need to realise that first about myself before I can dare to point others to the Truth. Any other approach is doomed to failure. We’re all messed-up but there is abundant grace to cover our failings and leads us to be who were created.