Tuesday, 28 February 2012

DON'T BE OFFENDED

Cllr Ian Driver has set up a Facebook page demanding that Cllr Mike Harrison stands down after making an anti-women statement on his blog. Needless to say, I will not be clicking the 'like' button as I think it's a pointless little crusade over something so obviously trivial. Who honestly cares about a daft remark made on a blog? Surely everybody has a right to say exactly what they want, however they want, even if they express it rather tactlessly? 

I don't know about you, but I think that local blogs have taken a severe turn for the worst recently. There's been a huge burst in 'identity politics' which are defined as "political attitudes or positions that focus on the concerns of social groups identified mainly on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation." Obviously, this frees people from the constraints of party political affiliation, and it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing were it not for the fact that the most outspoken local adherents of 'identity politics' are trying to police local blogs like wardens and attempting to spook people in the name of ‘political correctness' into not feeling like they can speak their mind. 

Cllr Mike Harrison was aiming his comment at an unnamed individual to illustrate the point he wanted to make about women objecting to being called 'love'. Of course, that doesn't entirely justify it. Anyway, for clarity, this is exactly what Mike said on this blog: 

"I see that some frustrated, dried up bint has complained about bus drivers, taxi drivers and tradesmen calling her ‘love’. Is that any worse than those people calling me ‘mate’ I ask. Well no its not. We have our shopping delivered and Mrs Grumpy tells me that the cheery “morning love” when he delivers is not a problem and helps to make a dreary day a bit more bearable. So get a life love and find something worthwhile to complain about." 

Now, obviously, I would expect a public official like Mike Harrison to choose his words a bit more carefully, but what I object to most is that people keep leaping on a few insensitive remarks and claiming victim status on behalf of others. ‘Identity politics’ depends upon seeing people only as victims, incapable of defending themselves unless there's an organised movement of minority influence acting as their mouthpiece. It's like there's a 'unionisation' of social groups going on, and I think it completely contradicts the idea of human rights as being wholly subjective to the individual, be they based around race, ethnicity, gender or sexuality. 

So why is it that those claiming to be left-wing argue so strongly for free speech and champion individual rights but react so aggressively to silly comments and hurl the word 'bigot' around like it's going out of fashion? Censorship usually seems to be the required solution to anything deemed 'offensive' and that's what worries me. Why is it that people are so easily offended these days? This whole turn of events reminds me of the libertarian stand-up comedian Steve Hughes who spoke about political correctness. Here's what he said: 

"Political correctness - the oppression of our intellectual movements so no one says anything anymore in case somebody else gets offended. What happens if you say that and someone gets offended? (snorts) Well, they can be offended, can't they? What's wrong with being offended? When did 'sticks and stones may break my bones' stop being relevant? Isn't that what you teach children, for God's sake?! That's what you teach toddlers. 'He called me an idiot.' 'Don't worry about it, he's a dick.' Now you have adults going: 'I was offended. I was offended and I have rights!' Well, so what?! Be offended. Nothing happens. You're an adult, grow up, deal with it!" 

He also goes on to point out that people who complain about being offended often say: 

"'I want to live in a democracy but I never want to be offended again.' (snorts) Well you're an idiot! How can you make a law about offending people? How can you make it an offence to offend people? Being offended is subjective. It has everything to do with you as an individual, or a collective, or a group, or a society, or a community, your moral conditioning, your religious beliefs. What offends me may not offend you. You want to make laws about this?! I'm offended when I see boy bands, for God's sake." 

And there you have it. If you want to live in a democracy, you should expect to be offended. Free speech is ugly, but it is 100% necessary for a nation of freethinking individuals who are keen to engage in debate, and I certainly don't think silencing or censoring those whose chance remarks offend your fragile sensibilities is a wise move. In fact, I think it reflects worse on those doing the complaining than it does on those being pilloried. 

Image © Andrew Kuchling via Flickr and licensed for reuse. The inclusion of this image is not an endorsement of this post.

NOTE: Cllr Mike Harrison has since deleted the above remark and replaced it with the word '< Censored >' but for now I have chosen to keep Mike's blog extract on Thanet Waves to facilitate a discussion on free speech and censorship and allow readers to make up their own minds as to the nature of any offence those words may convey.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

SIMPLY THE BREAST

With thousands of women now being referred to the NHS to get their breast implants removed, it's time to remind ourselves at how the PIP scandal has veered alarmingly close to Thanet. This is not a Harley Street sob story suffered only by Footballers' Wives or Page 3 bimbos. As a matter of fact, it might surprise you to learn that one of the women who became an outspoken critic of PIP implants after her health was badly affected was a lady from Ramsgate.

In the early days of the press furore, Amanda Harrison, the 40-year-old Ramsgatonian, spoke out on the Telegraph website about her plight where she told her story of how she was initially rushed into hospital on suspicion of suffering from viral meningitis. As it transpired, her PIP breast implants had ruptured and the gel had leaked out into her body, spreading to her lymph nodes and causing two lumps on her spine, leaving her in a great deal of pain.

If you've not heard about PIP implants, it's about time you did. Women who've had PIP silicone breast implants fitted have been worried sick since discovering that they have been prone to rupture and leaking. If that's not bad enough, the real outrage is that it's now surfaced that the type of gel in PIP implants has not been approved by health authorities and, shockingly, is the same sort of stuff they use to fill mattresses.

It's truly shocking that prostheticists got away with injecting women with what is ostensibly industrial silicone (more commonly used for computers and electronic devices) and not realising how risky and potentially toxic it was to insert into the human body. Critics of breast enhancement may scoff and snipe that this is a case of suffering for one's vanity, but I think this is short-sighted as it overlooks how cosmetic surgeons in the private sector have clearly crossed the line.

7.5% of women who had breast implants done privately are now seeking NHS help to get them removed. Obviously, should it be deemed necessary, I do think the NHS should help these women, as this is a problem that's occurred through no fault of their own. PIPs have also been sold to men requiring testicle implants, lest we forget, so if my scrotum was on the line I certainly would expect the NHS to come save my bacon, as it were. What sort of country would we be living in if the NHS refused to grant help to those who needed it most?

However, we should not forget the fact that prostheticists working in the private sector have a duty to stick to medically-approved implants, and the fact that they haven't been has thrown a huge stick of dynamite amongst the pigeons. Even if this might seem like a fringe concern to the people of Thanet, it clearly isn't, particularly in Amanda Harrison's case.

Do you know anyone else from Thanet who's been affected by the PIP implant scandal? Is the NHS right to remove PIP breast implants from women on the public purse? Let me know your thoughts.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

CLLR SHIRLEY TOMLINSON IMPERSONATES LADY GAGA?



I happened across this video on YouTube recently. It claims to be of former Mayoress of Margate and Garlinge Ward councillor Shirley Tomlinson dressed up as Lady Gaga and singing 'Bad Romance' to a large group of people in what looks like the Margate Winter Gardens. Uploaded in November 2010, the poster  going by the name of 'japseyeguy claims that Shirley Tomlinson is 'my mum' so I would assume that it was recorded and shared rather discreetly by her son.

Was anybody else aware of this video? At the time of posting, it only has 253 views so I would assume it has slipped under everybody's radar, but it really is quite a bizarre discovery. This is the first time I've heard of Shirley Tomlinson's love of karaoke and dressing up as trendy pop stars, but it certainly gave me a good chuckle. I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

KNOWING ME KNOWING UFO



UFOs were spotted in Margate recently. Maybe they stopped by to admire the architecture at the Turner Contemporary. Personally I think anyone who believes in flying saucers needs their heads examined - possibly by a bunch of Greys from Zeti Reticuli upon being abducted. If you're a fan of The X-Files, you'll probably get that reference, but that's about the limit I'm willing to suspend my disbelief. I'm normally very sceptical about things this. 

What do you reckon? Is this a UFO, or is it just a trick of the light? Please bear in mind the recent revelation on Kent Online about light pollution in the skies of Thanet being quite high. Thoughts on a postcard please.

Friday, 3 February 2012

ANIMATE & CREATE TO MAKE DREAMLAND FILM

I stumbled across an article on This Is Kent's website last week which reported that students from Hartsdown Technology College will be helping Whitstable-based studio and workshop Animate & Create to make a film about Dreamland theme park. The students will be helping to research the film by interviewing local Thanet residents about their memories of Dreamland and gathering together photos and memorabilia from which an animated film will be made.

By all accounts, a scale model of Dreamland in its heyday will be created and brought to life using stop-motion photography, a style famously adopted by Nick Park of Wallace & Gromit fame in his work for Aardman Animations. This reminds me actually  one of my old schoolfriends Sam Blown was a huge fan of making plasticine models and is still trying to eek out a living drawing fantastic cartoons on his website. I recommend you check him out. If you love old-school British eccentricism, trust me, you'll love it.

Funnily enough, I have another friend called Justine Cullen who graduated from the University College of the Creative Arts recently and she herself is a very talented animator who I'm sure would be in her element if she had an opportunity to work with them. I'm sure she'd fit right in. Maybe both she and Sam could get involved with Animate & Create, if they'd be kind enough to take them on, perhaps? I'm not sure if they offer apprenticeships or not but I think both Sam and Justine are more than talented enough to thrive in that sort of environment.

Just like Sam and Justine, the team at Animate & Create are an incredibly talented bunch of people and they do fantastic work so please take a look at their showreel (see below). If this video is anything like what the students at Hartsdown will be working on for the Dreamland film then I'm sure we'll be in for a right treat.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

OCCUPY MARGATE FACES SNOWY WEATHER

The Occupy movement came to Margate last week, pitching up tents outside the Turner Contemporary to protest against the injustices of capitalism and to stand up against the cuts. Quite why they've chosen to base themselves on a windy beach front on possibly the coldest area imaginable is beyond me, but fair play to them for having the guts to do it.

I'm not sure I'd be brave enough to risk pneumonia in the name of a political ideology, but each to their own I suppose. I've read that snow has been forecast over the next few days so whether Occupy Margate will still be there this time next week is anyone's guess. Let's hope they've been watching Bear Grylls to learn how to keep warm in arctic conditions!

The Occupy movement, for those not in the know, is a non-violent protest movement for activists who are actively campaigning against social and economic inequality by 'squatting' in various locations and recently made headlines by camping in front of St. Paul's Cathedral. Their emphasis is on representing the 99% (with the other 1% being the small minority of people who control a vast proportion of the country's wealth).

Love it or love it, the Occupy movement has encouraged a big debate about corruption, tax evasion, bailouts, bankers bonuses, direct democracy and the moral nature of capitalism itself. Some activists  not the ones in Margate, I might add – have gone so far as to call capitalism evil, but I don't think that's the case. Capitalism is an amoral system. It does not have any intrinsically moral imperative woven into it, it is flexible to whomever and however people choose to use it.

If an unscrupous, money-hungry Gordon Gekko wants to exploit people by any means necessary, capitalism enables him to do that every bit as much as it allows the likes of Anita Perilli to set up The Body Shop and inject some environmental ethics into the mix. It's this amorality that makes capitalism quite a productive and enabling system, but in my view that doesn't mean people shouldn't condemn those who operate within the system for nefarious purposes.

Ideally, most businesses should  and I believe most of them do  operate by firm moral principle and only be compelled to deliver or supply a good service or product. Those who deserve to be chastised are those who are only motivated to cheat, exploit, hoodwink or place too much emphasis on fiercely competing with their rivals and stoop to maraudery and bully tactics. That's the law of the playground so, in essence, I think capitalism needs a dinner lady on patrol to watch over things.

In the end, profit should not come at a cost of misery to others; it should always be of emotional, social and financial benefit to all. So my point is that capitalism is not necessarily bad, but it is capable of fostering injustices and citizens should be vigilant and call for reform in areas where the system fails to deliver, be it on moral grounds or otherwise. The Occupy Margate press release appears to acknowledge this by stating that they are taking a stand against a capitalism which operates "without constraint or conscience" so for that reason, I have no problem with their presence.

Besides, never has it been more blatantly obvious that the majority of people are paying a price through public sector cuts for a crime that most of them did not commit. The real culprits are the short-sighted buccaneers in the City and the fat cat bankers playing Double or Quits with people's hard-earned cash. I'm inclined to agree that government debt is a problem that needs to be addressed, but to see those in the financial sector toss currency around like it's monopoly money and reward themselves enormous bonuses is farcical when you think about how many cuts that sort of money could reverse.

If the Occupy movement gives people a voice and calls into question the standards to which the ruling classes have been abiding by over the last thirty years, then that can only be a good thing in my book. Let's hope it marks a sea change in how the status quo conducts its affairs. First thing's first though, let's see how the Occupy protesters handle the snow, shall we?!