The ongoing twattery of ISIS, IS or whatever they’re called this week.

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Isis fighters, pictured on a militant website verified by AP.

 

When Al Qaeda sat you’re too hardcore then you must be the ultimate in “bad guy-ness”. It’s such a difficult thing to try to find humour or anything light in because this parasite is spreading and conquering wherever they go. Their quest across Syria, Iraq and other surrounding middle east countries shows no signs of stopping and you start to wonder what can actually be done here.

Everyone has their own tipping point – in the UK we are angry but still slightly apathetic when our citizens are decapitated online for the world to see. We are still war-weary from our last (current) foray into the middle east; the sad thing being that this time we probably should get involved because it’s much more serious this time.

The burning alive of the Jordanian pilot and the ongoing air strikes from the US and allies is doing some good but there is an argument we need to attack on more fronts. Starting with the internet. The hacking group #Anonymous hacked and took over lots of sites associated with ISIS this week and we should be encouraging vigilantism online to stop these idiots prospering. Cutting off the financial help, means of communication and spreading of viral propaganda can be stopped by these people.

But also there is a darker part of me that applauds what Jordan did in response to the callous murder of their pilot.

Publicly executing the failed suicide bombers from ISIS was a great move. I know it’s wrong in so many ways, but part of me was really pleased to see retaliation that they would understand. There is no negotiating with these animals so why are we even considering it? Attack them physically and in cyberspace, support and help the growing group of Islamic countries standing up to them, refuse to show, publish or broadcast any of their videos or recordings – it’s all just propaganda, why do we keep repeating it, doing their job for them??

The US is particularly bad at not understanding this. As usual it’s our friends at Fox who embed it on their website and think that’s a good idea – or on their main TV News describe what is happening in the human torture videos step by step. Who does this help? Not any Americans watching it, certainly not any Jordanians who are hearing about one of their brave members of the armed forces being burnt to death in public – the only ones who benefit are the scaremongering terrorists who hide behind a religion as an excuse to kill, terrify and maim anyone they decide needs to be taught a lesson.

On that point, and I know it’s pointless looking for any kind of reason in their actions, but why tackle aid workers? How does that help their cause at all. To take selfless human beings who travel across the world to lend a hand to those who need it most, and then kidnap, torture and publicly execute them is unfathomable. Not soldiers, not even those making a profit from this misery, but people who are trying to make a genuine difference. Yet we sit back and just thank our lucky stars it’s not us.

The Iraq war as wrong. Afghanistan was a mess. But this time you have some of the biggest players in the region wanting to do something about this and we have to get behind them. The West’s role here is not to go barging in and invading a foreign land, instead it should provide anything these Islamic allies need to stop the cancer of ISIS spreading. Let’s be honest our laws prohibit so much that our leaders can’t really do anything underhand or meaningful – that’s not necessarily of Jordan, Iran, Iraq and others. They could “deal” with these people and we could look the other way.

What’s that over there…

JD

Fifty shades of beige

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Mum porn. They’ll have to put protective plastic covers on the cinema seats to keep the sad, sad women – and it will be women – from disgracing themselves. I laughed out loud when I read a review that said it was better than the book: not exactly a high bar to reach.

I don’t have a problem with the text in either form because of the content because it’s the kind of crap you can pick up in any train station or airport in the country, just for some reason this particular tale took hold. The content is not new, but the pathetic comparisons between others sex lives and our own have now become a thing to worry about apparently.

Since when did I give a flying fuck what someone else was doing in bed – unless it’s pissing myself reading the news story that seven men had to get metal cock rings cut off by the fire service (not a waste of their time at all then) when they couldn’t get them off. That and a rise of handcuff related call outs shows what a prudish, confused and backward society the UK has become.

Or has it always been that way? The grass is always greener it would seem. When women’s magazines do those quizzes about “how dirty” or “how adventurous” is your sex life is – the truth being it takes all sorts and to think you’re missing out on something because of a poorly written female friendly soft porn book or film is a sad indictment of our self-confidence as grown consenting adults.

You hear women’s groups complaining that it shows old fashioned subservient view of the female in relationships but everyone enjoys their own thing. To assume that all females want the same thing is as ludicrous as saying that we all eat Sunday Roast on the seventh day.

What irks me is the assumption that this represents anything of any importance. The whipping up (excuse the pun) of the advertising campaign and the hilarity of the #notmychristian hash-tag has placed this piece of pulp fiction on too high a plain. To release it on Valentines weekend is to assume men would go and see this. They won’t unless they are marking their partner’s card for the Star Warrs film later this year.

It’s a badly written, badly plotted mess of a book. Mr Gray is not the Messiah, he’s a very dull boy.

JD

Inexplicable

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It turns up unannounced again, like the proverbial bad penny. An unwelcome visitor ready to move in with you for an unknown number of days or weeks or months. You can’t escape it as it follows you like a shadow around every room and even in those moments of complete silence its breath hits the back of your neck to remind you of its presence. 

People have asked me how I know I have depression and it’s not just a general down feeling. Simple. When everything in your life is positive but you still feel like crying over nothing and your mind wonders so far off you wonder if it has lost its way or forgotten to return to where it came from.

The darkness descends.

Hypersensitivity materializes. 

An overwhelming sense of confusion and loss. 

That’s how you know. There is nothing wrong with me at the moment in terms of things in my life. Family life is good both in the house and with the wider circles of relations. Work is good – enjoyment and ability to think freely and clearly. Band is really good and Saturday’s gig was one of the best yet. So when there’s nothing you can pinpoint as “wrong” in your life but the clouds appear then I know it’s depression. I’m on a down in my ongoing mood waves of the bi-polar disorder. Although I’ve always thought it should be called bi-polar misorder as your brain doesn’t work as it should. 

Temper is short; impatience is high. You don’t mean to snap and be as sarcastic as it comes out, but your mouth works before your brain is even aware what is happening. The analogy of a three-legged race with each the brain and the mouth trying to run in different directions comes to mind. It means you struggle to focus on more than one thing at any one time. Each job or task needs your full attention – if broken you become flustered. You want to scream and shout and rant and let loose at everyone around you but it’s not their fault you feel this way – it’s not really your fault either. 

It’s a medical condition. You can have something wrong with any other part of your body and you’d get support – unless it’s a tumour your brain doesn’t count. And it’s not that I’m looking for sympathy, just understanding that I can’t help the way I am during the extremes of mood. It’s all any of us with mental illness want. Can you imagine being able to go into work or sit down with the family and say, “I’m really struggling with the depression today”, and it not turn into a q&a or an awkward silence. It should be the norm. 

I don’t need you to solve it for me – I have doctors and specialists for that. I don’t need to talk about it – I have a wife who listens if I need the support. I don’t need to be treated with kid gloves – I’m a grown man with an illness not a leper. Just accept me and my diagnosis and stop treating me like an alien with a contagious disease. 

JD

That’s me in the corner…

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Prince Charles puts on his his oversized “foot-in-mouth” shoes and wades into religion. Stomping across Christianity and Islam all he ends up with is a huge amount of sh*t on his shoes. He talks about “building bridges” between faiths because the constant refrain that all religions share more than they differ on. Seems strange because all beliefs demand that they are the only true faith and we should beware “false gods”. Charles’s contribution just reinforces my opinion that the separation of church and state is long overdue.

To believe in God is up to you as an individual – faith is a personal thing – but if you believe in one God then you are rejecting thousands and thousands of others. There are over four thousand strands of religion and you found the right one did you? Wow, you’re good. And within those there are numerous Gods that exists – just think of the Roman or Greek ones and how many they are in number. Look at the in-fighting between those in the same branch of religion of Islam in the Middle East as the Sunnis version of Islam is right as opposed to Shias all because of an argument that started 1400 years ago; or that between the Catholics and Protestants in Christianity they believe in the same god but different versions of the canon. If you stand back and look at any of it there is little within religion that passes the common sense test. Effectively the protestant faith was an excuse for a King to get a divorce – where’s the holy spirit and faith in that?

I’m not saying science holds all the answers but it’s a damn sight more reliable and tangible than the made up words of those who wrote down stories years after they are claimed to have happened. And I accept that faith doesn’t need proof – by definition it means you believe in the word of God – but how can this be realistically adhered to? Look at the Old Testament and write down all the “rules” that exists and the pontificating talking heads on Fox and the right-wing Christian movement in America that decry Gay Marriage or Abortion are the same people who are no longer stoning adulterers to death or eat “unclean” animals.

And that’s my issue with religion in a nutshell – that these are historical texts that hold no sway in the modern world. Our basic morals are held in them but they are largely common sense: don’t steal, don’t cheat, don’t steal. No-one (sane) disagrees with this and we don’t need “sacred” texts and churches/temples/mosques to do that. We will never build bridges between religions because they all move in their own orbit. Their foundations are never going to meet. A quick look back through history reads of each religion has picked a fight with another and has persecuted those living in another’s country.

The current trend in the US of the far right and Tea Party members that stand with their guns and bibles in front of the Stars and Stripes flag and express their passion for their religion and their country is no different to an Islamic woman doing the same – they are both deliberately provocative and using religion in a negative way.

It may seem ironic that me claiming I’m right on this is no different to each religion claiming they have the truth on their side, but I’m not asking for money, for you to give your life, to abstain from anything, to follow rules or anything else. Just open you eyes, ears and mind and you will see the capacity that the human race actually has and you’ll forget all these false gods and see that we are all equal and don’t need to bow down before anyone at all.

Stephen Fry was bang on the money by stating he would challenge God if he ever made it to the pearly gates on all the horrors he “created” on earth. Look at the pain and suffering of millions around the world. If there is a God, then he f*cked off a long time ago – we were an experiment that has failed miserably in his eyes. We are the only ones that can change the world we live in – no saviour to appear and “save” us. This is it. I always find it strange that intelligent people are willing to ignore all the evidence that shows religion for what it is, but then there are non-religious people who believe in the Horoscope or fraudulent psychics who soak your money up for a lie.

We need to banish religion from our politics and schools. Religion as a thing being “preached” should never be compulsory. Religion and State must be separate. I’m fully supportive that children are educated about world religions so ignorance is reduced but there is no place for it in Primary or Secondary school.

It’s difficult to get into the deeper ins and outs of this issue in a blog but religion really does rile me and the blinkered way that so many stumble through life is a huge concern to me. And I’m not speaking from a position of ignorance because I have read the bible, I was made to go to Sunday School as a kid and then continued with Youth Fellowship. As a young teenager I got interested in the news and the more I watched and researched issues, the more the idea of a god of any kind became a ludicrous possibility.

Theologians and religious people continually dismiss atheists like me claiming we are ignorant, childish and “missing the point” but I am looking beyond a singular view of the world. I want to see what the world, nature, science and other humans can do – religion doesn’t do that. It stifles, reduces and encourages things to be dismissed because it doesn’t fit what was put in a book millennia ago.

Show me the world and I see everything; show a person of faith the world and they look past it for an answer or explanation for it.

JD

Surly, sensitive sourpuss

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Have you had one of those days where everything annoys you? I’ve got one of those lives. Every sound, movement and action seems to get me riled more than it should. It’s as if my sensitivity dial is up to eleven and the cacophony of the world is being drilled in from all angles.

First there’s child one. I know all children need to learn to read but there are several issue with this. Firstly please stop sending books home that have about as much of a storyline as the average episode of The Royle Family about them. F*ck all happens in any of the ones I’ve had to sit through so far. Is it too much to ask that there is such a thing as a plot to be used? Bland story after bland story is replayed when there are so many great classic fairy-tales and children’s stories that they would be better off with. Those Ladybird Books we all had as kids need a comeback in the classroom.

Then there’s the delivery of the words. The unwavering ability to get words wrong because he’s not paying the slightest bit of attention (because of the lack of storyline) is impressive. Then there’s the slow pace that makes you as the listener lose interest – you know like when your teacher used to ask certain kids to read in class and you knew you were in for the long haul. I know it’s cruel and he’s just learning – I just wish he’d learn quicker.

Then there’s child two who has decided to get herself infected with tonsillitis for the forty-second time this year and thinks that by fake coughing she will display this illness better. To be fair the spewing on Friday night and continued bad breath is clue enough. You can hear the forced air being expelled from her little lungs just to force out a cough that sounds as real as a watch with “rollux” written across the face of it. But now she’s faked it so much she is actually coughing, making the whole situation worse. Yes she’s ill, but can we not just get the doc to remove the tonsils and be done with it now rather than this newfangled attitude that we should leave them in?

Then there’s the darling wife who has to live with those two and me as well. She’s currently on full baby mode and has been writing her lists – a trait she inherited from her own dad – for everything. From things we need to buy to filling in the paperwork for her mat leave she’ll keep asking me what I think. We all know that men don’t think as a rule and if we’re watching TV – even re-runs of Top Gear on Dave for hundredth time – out brains cannot cope with anything else. Especially at the weekend. So I may respond with a grumpy “What?” when asked about fitted sheets for the cot bed or looking for monitors because the truth is I don’t know or really have a strong opinion about it. She then gets pissed off with me for my “attitude” and “disinterest” in our third child. I’m not disinterested, I’m sure like its siblings it too will be ill and bad at reading initially and I’ll listen and comfort correctly.

I think it’s the mind-reading skills I am supposed to have that cause the issues. You know, the things she “definitely” told you but you weren’t listen to and now it’s your fault. That. You rake through your mind and realise that she probably did mention it amongst dozens of other things around four weeks ago. Maybe I need to write lists too…

But reading all this back, maybe it’s not me that’s grumpy and sullen? Perhaps I’m the normal one in a house of lunatics.

JD

God, Revolution and Birthday Presents

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Was I off the day the celebs took over? In the last few months it appears that Myleene Klass has become the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Russell Brand has become a political spokesperson and Stephen Fry has become the Philosopher Laureate.  The last one I’m fine with, the man can do little wrong in my view, but why do we look more and more to celebs than to academics or politicians.

I know it’s easy to find fault with our politicians and the political system in general – but ultimately the politicians are our fault because we voted for them, if we want change then it’s easy to make happen. If we want a revolution as Mr Brand promotes then it doesn’t come from vomiting thesauruses all over our tellyboxes  it comes from you and I getting involved and voting.

Myleene Klass is a prime example of someone who has found herself in a position where, because she made Ed Miliband look like a confused Aardman character (not a difficult achievement), she is now being listened to. Today she thought it was a good idea to publish emails she received about a kid’s party and the expected present. It’s being discussed on Radio 2 for the love of sanity. Last time I checked she was a pop star for a couple of albums, a DJ on Classic FM and an occasional Loose Woman not a political commentator.

Brand continues to surface on Question Time, Newsnight and other media outlets professing to be the saviour of society demanding revolution but when pressed cannot formulate what that would actually mean. He is not a bad comedian and should stick to that.

Stephen Fry seems to be the “go to” guy for the media when they want opinion – mostly because he has read books, something which many of the journalists have never done. I am a big fan of Fry and his response to Gay Byrne’s Question about God was brilliant. As he admits himself though these are opinions that many have held for years and can be found in any decent Philosophy 101 textbook. Just because he’s intelligent doesn’t mean he is the only voice on this subject; media outlets appear to have the same handful of famous faces for the carousel of news soundbites.

Instead of the news on TV and on Facebook we tend to see opinion from famous people and not experts. Be it gun control and Piers Morgan, voter apathy and Alex Brooker, Scottish Independence and Bob Geldof or Sting and the rainforest we seem to prefer being informed by a famous face rather than someone who might actually be fully informed on the subject.

Look at the current issues in the West with the increase in Measles: In the US and across Europe we’ve seen a sharp rise in the illness due to parents being idiotic and not vaccinating their children against it. If you did ten minutes research online, you’d discover that the negative press about the vaccine was disproved years ago – dismissed by everyone. No links to autism, aspergers or mental illness. But we listen to uninformed people like asking politicians what they would do with their kids or what a celebrity would do, why not maybe ask your doctor who will have the facts.

There are real experts out there with years of knowledge  and research yet people would rather listen to reality stars and comedians. Everyone has the right to an opinion – I wouldn’t have a blog otherwise – but we need to be careful whose opinion we take in future. Is it better to have fame or facts?

JD

Time to Talk

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I have lived with mental illness for most of my life. In the last few years the diagnoses have been made to confirm my specific conditions and needs. Today is “Time to Talk” day and we are all encouraged to break the taboos of speaking about mental health for just five minutes – so here’s mine.

As you walk down the street you pass all those people on the pavement, stand beside them in queues and speak to them in the corridor at work as you go to the office, each and every one of them will know someone with or be someone with a mental illness. The problem is many don’t know they do because it is not spoken about openly . We can ask people to sign our casts for broken limbs but to spend just five minutes speaking to someone we know really well about the way we are feeling is impossible.

We talk proudly about fighting and beating illnesses like Cancer yet to admit depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, post natal depression and other mental illnesses is frowned upon. Why do I think it happens? We don’t want to be seen as weak. Think how competitive the workplace or school yard can be and any sign of an advantage can be taken by someone else over you – but that’s completely wrong. To stand up and say you’re living with a mental illness makes you stronger in many ways.

As with my annual cancer check ups, to ensure that hasn’t returned, I also go to Cornhill every three to four months to speak about how I’m feeling and whether we need to do anything with my medication. I am stronger and more confident in myself because I know that I am being looked after, protected and supported by the NHS on both counts. The problems don’t just go away, I still have to deal with days that go beyond the usual boundaries my meds can help me with. I might find myself in a real low struggling to get out of bed, feelings of worthlessness and a negative view of the world around me – on the other hand it might be that I have too much energy and my mind is firing off too quickly for me to keep my mouth in check or to qualify my behaviour. Either way I have a support system in place that I can turn.

What do you have? What about those people you pass on the street? Or in the corridor at work? Are they getting the help they need? One in four people every year will be living with/fighting/coping with/however you want to phrase it being mentally ill. That’s 15 million people every year in the UK. You do know people who are ill, but do you know how to help them?

There are numerous websites out there that you can read up on to find out what these illnesses are – in the same way as you might do for a physical illness. But what I and my fellow loonies really need is support and understanding. I won’t always be “fine” or “normal” and those around me accept that because I speak about it. Everyone that matters – and others who don’t – know what I struggle with. If you are in the same boat you need to share that story to help yourself get better. Bottling it up is not the answer and for many the issue will not just go away.

In the past GPs might have been more dismissive, but they and the wider public are more savvy now and will be understanding. As will workplaces – by law they have to help you and support you and for some people just sharing the pain will lead to a better relationship with work, friends and family.

You should never feel embarrassed because you are ill. If you were told that having the cold was something that shouldn’t be spoken about, then Facebook would be half empty. I’m not saying we all need to be as loud and in your face about it as I am, but you have a right to be listened to if you are living with mental illness yourself or living with someone else who has it.

Help and support exists; just ask.

JD