The Power of Apathy

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There’s only been one topic of conversation in the classroom since Tuesday’s US Election – “What do you think of Trump becoming President?” And rather than rant, rave and have a go at the dusty pumpkin dildo I have given them all this talk which I feel is worth sharing with everyone.

This is your fault. Not directly but you are part of the problem. If I ever ask you about your opinions on politics you laugh and say you don’t watch the news or read newspapers but you did see something funny on Facebook about Trump. Some of you can’t even tell me the name of the Prime Minister or Chancellor. And I’m aware that this has always been true to a point with teenagers – but the difference now is that apathy has grown up with the last couple of generations and we face Brexit and a Trump presidency as a result.

We have a sway of people who would rather vote for Ed Balls on Strictly Come Dancing than for Ed Balls as a politician. From the comfort of our home we can be armchair pundits on events in the world and vote for pretty much anything by a tap, swipe or email address. We can sign petitions and share memes on things we feel strongly about from politics but actually go out and vote? No thanks – what’s the point?

The point is this apathy and “What difference will it make?” attitude is perfectly shown by this week’s election in America and the Brexit vote. Not only were millions of people sitting at home not bothering to vote but when you look at the overall figures of who could have voted and the outcomes the truth becomes painfully real.

In the EU vote:

UK Electorate eligible to vote – 46,501,241

Voted to Leave – 17,410,742

Voted to Remain – 16,141,241

Spoiled Ballots – 26,033

Did not vote – 12,949,258

In the US Election:

US Electorate eligible to vote – 231,000,000

Trump – 60,071,650

Clinton – 60,467,245

Others – 6,180,868

Did not vote – 104,280,237

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m no maths whizz but these stats show two things: Brexit was only voted for by 37.4% of the UK and only 26% of Americans voted for Trump. So they didn’t carry the day; it wasn’t a landslide victory and despite what politicians tell you it is not the will of the people – it’s the will of those who voted for whatever they are advocating.

I know this is common sense, and I’m also aware many will be shouting at me that this is how democracy works and not voting is still taking a stand. That’s where I call bullshit.

Not voting, not caring enough to put a cross in a box, pull a lever, press a button is a disgrace. Today we celebrated those who have given their lives so we can be free to enjoy democracy and our communal view is gradually becoming “So what?”

I’ll tell you what – look at your payslip: tax, National Insurance and pension payments. Look at your kids – schools, child benefit, tax credits. Look outside; roads, street lights, police. It’s not difficult to understand that everything we do is driven by politics and if we don’t care or can’t be bothered then when the police numbers drop and the local A&E shuts and the street lights are put out at night to save money and your kid’s school is threatened with closure don’t you dare suddenly decide to get involved, because you’re too late.

You should have been paying attention and shouting when the politicians at local, national and international level were standing with a manifesto on which they wanted your votes. When they take office don’t just sit there and accept that life has to be this way – challenge the status quo or a decision you think is unfair or unjust. We have become lazy and indifferent.

Why?

Because they don’t listen to us? No probably not to the dozen people who took to the streets or the hundred thousand who signed an online petition. Why would they. But if you fill their inbox and postbox with questions and requests for information and clarification then they are truly accountable. Just because they are elected doesn’t mean for one minute they are finished with us.

That’s the attitude we seem to have now. Not good enough.

If there is a vote coming up you need to ensure your MP, MSP or MEP knows your views – that’s their job to represent you, even if you didn’t vote for them.

It is a self-fulfilling prophecy to be apathetic about something as important as politics because if you don’t care, then why should the politicians? They know they don’t have to turn up to debates or speeches if you are never going to check/ask/need something from that decision.

Brexit and Trump happened because people felt they had something to vote for – a voice that echoed theirs. Yes, part of the problem with Brexit is it’s hard to stir up passion for the status quo but you will lose it if you don’t stand up and say something when it really matters. And yes Clinton wasn’t the most palatable candidate we’ve ever seen for the Democrats but with the choice they had surely it wasn’t beyond the wit of the more than one hundred million voters to make sure it wasn’t The Donald.

I look at the current situation in politics and wonder why our leader of the free world is a reality TV star with no experience. I see our Foreign Secretary in the UK as that idiot that was funny (for the wrong reasons) on Have I Got News For You. I see 1960s cartoon character Nigel Farage leading the charge for Brexit and befriending the day-glow fucktrumpet billionaire.

Is this what we have become? A world who will only vote for the same people we can vote for on TV, tweet from our smartphones or Facebook Friend? If it is then we need a new revolution where policy matters. Where people matter – not frivolous personalities and stupid soundbites. Where policy matters – not redundant rhetoric or quiz show appearances.

We need to stop this cycle of apathy because you just need to see how fucked up 2016 has been – and we caused that. You and Me. Sharing a picture on FB is not enough. Setting up or signing an online petition is not enough. We need to step away from the virtual world and start living in the real world again where there are real dangers and issues.

The rise of the KKK. The need for the hashtag BlackLivesMatter in 2016. The amount of Food Banks in the developed world. The wars in Syria and Yemen and Iraq and Afghanistan. The refugee crisis in Europe and Africa and the Middle East. The gap between Rich & Poor expanding like never before.

I know, I see the irony of me putting this on a blog. I’m as guilty as those I’m complaining about in many ways. But in others I’m not. I always vote. ALWAYS. For local, Scottish, UK, EU elections or referendums. They matter. They really matter and will have an impact on your life. I joined a political party for the first time this year. not because I agree with everything they say, but because i believe in the core values and want to help shape the ideas they produce. I want my kids to grow up in a country and on a planet that gives a fuck.

If you are still apathetic then I don’t know how else I can convince you. But when you see the images of Russia moving further into Ukraine; see more violence against those who have emigrated to our country; see the dismantling of the only healthcare many in the us have; the images of the melting ice caps and you shrug your shoulders – then you deserve what you get.

JD

The End of the World

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Time to re-read Revelations, or at least pretend we were paying attention in Sunday School, as the end is nigh. Feels like it at the moment – the news is just one terrible story after another, there are those seeking power who have more in common with Hitler than Churchill, the whole business in Syria with so many different groups all fighting for their own purposes, mass migration with hundreds of young children having to fend for themselves, Daesh, natural disasters being unnaturally vicious and the ongoing appearance of new diseases and epidemics sent to test us.

To those of us who live with a head which is unsettled already, there is an impact of the negative news agenda on us. You blow things up into problems that could or even will affect you. When you live with depression as part of your life these additional black clouds can completely shut out the light. You become preoccupied with them at times – looking up the latest info to see what’s going to happen next.

In a dark world, any removal of light brings anxiety. The logical side of you is pointing out that we have lived through uncertainty and stupid politics before and survived. The sane among you will also advise me to avoid the news if I’m feeling depressed but when you’re down it almost helps to find connections to the world as you become more insular.

The other side-effect of the depression and the “bad news” brigade is anger. I get wound up by the slightest thing; for example I start fizzing over a Trump speech I look around and wonder why everyone is just sitting around accepting these facts. Why are we not rising up as a people and stopping the ongoing stupidity we can see in the world. Then you wonder if it’s just you that can see and hear these things – like a mental illness superpower. You are Bipolar man and your power is insight into the world around you.

You fly above the norm and see all the madness in other people, situations and ideas. The enemy is “Lack of Common Sense Man”; a nasty creature who lives in plain sight throwing banana skins under the feet of seemingly intelligent people. Look over there – there’s a man in charge of a political party who comes from a privileged background, private schooling, Oxbridge education but has no heart or brain or courage. Even the Wizard of Oz would tell him to piss off, but somehow people vote for him to cut money from those who need it most in society. I can’t be the only one to see this. Can I?

On a serious note I find my blood boiling with the world around me because I’m more sensitive to negativity when suffering with a mood drop. It appears that everything is going wrong, there’s no positive news – only issues, problems and heartbreak. The world is out to get you as your paranoia kicks in and everything is a trigger for the short fuse you are holding. Being defensive and striking out at anyone who comes close. And here I am recognizing these traits yet I can’t shake them.

Everything becomes an “End of the World” situation where the worst case scenario is the only outcome to everything. You know in your heart it’s not, but your head is charging on ahead in a self-righteous march towards what you perceive to be the solutions. Not thought out, ill-conceived in the first place and idiotic I become no better than those I get angry at.

Then it turns inward. You get angry with yourself; admonishing the idiotic actions of a man struggling with mental illness. If I did it to someone else I’d be locked up, but self-flagellation is part of the British way of life so nobody blinks when they hear the nutter in the corner call himself names. The outside world impacts and changes the depressed and causes the internal battles to escalate. The self loathing I wrote about the other day becomes a norm – even in the manic phases. I have little or no confidence in myself never mind the outside world.

But what can you do – apart from build a rocket and escape all this background noise? I want to go to bed and just pull the covers over my head until it all goes away.

JD

Syrian posts negative comments on Trip Advisor

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Syrian man Ali Alsaho has spoken publicly about his disappointment and the grief he suffered at the hands of a small Turkish travel company. They had promised him and his family a trip to Greece, but when his wife and drowned on the journey he decided to only award the experience one star on Trip Advisor.

Having looked at how busy the local holiday camps around Syria and the neighbouring countries were, he decided the best plan would be to take his family off to Europe and experience a nice city break with a view to maybe prolonging their stay. The Turkish travel company have been unavailable for comment but many other customers have not been happy with the companies offering trips across the water – with over 3500 deaths so far this year it appears that they are somewhat slap-dash with their Health and Safety record.

Nobody from the Turkish tourist board seems to be listening as countries are starting to question whether their inability to deliver people alive at the end of their sea trip is perhaps false advertising. European governments are aware of the issue and don’t like the idea of dead children being washed up on the shore of holiday resorts; It’s bad for business. Especially European lilo sales which have seen a huge drop since the trips began.

What can be done to improve the situation? Well Mr Alsaho suggests that it’s maybe not a wise idea to travel to Europe across the sea. This sounds like a great idea for all concerned and here at the Piss Take News we support his stance. Too often people have jumped on these boat trips without thinking through the consequences. Not only are you taking a risk by getting on the boat, but there are dangers for those at the other end too – no-one wants to be sipping a cocktail and watching the sea re-enact a scene from Game of Thrones.

Stay-cations are a great way to support your local and national economy. If we all spent a bit more time investing in our own tourist attractions rather than travelling miles to be disappointed by death and other holiday mishaps. Also you don’t have to worry about other governments actions or lack of action in protecting you. You do have to ask why the trips are continuing without anyone stepping in to stop them.

Holidaying at home in Syria would have been a much better option for this family – maybe only some of them would have died in the ongoing bloody three-way civil war which is now being complicated further by German intervention on top of the UK, US, France, Saudi and Jordan forces.

So while Syria is a complex place it offers home comforts for the weary travellers. And there’s lots to see: there are numerous ruins available to tourists – some new, some old; daily fly pasts by the world’s greatest air forces; bargains galore for the canny shoppers among you; and just think of the nightly fireworks you could enjoy from the comfort of your own back garden!

So stay at home this holiday season – who knows, you might just live to tell the tale!

The Editor

To donate a blanket to help those children affected and displaced by the war in Syria text “Blanket” to 70123 to allow UNICEF to help those young children get through the harsh winter. Texts cost £3 and you normal text charge.

Obviously I am taking the piss with this blog because no-one appears to be doing anything to help these poor people – damned if they run and damned if they stay. Please do your bit to try and help those innocents who didn’t ask for any of it. 

JD

I must have missed something…

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Just want to clear a few things up here about the Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya issue – just a handful of questions to make sure I wasn’t off the day we abandoned common sense.

  1. We have to get involved because we are a big world player. Yes that’s the logic from the chair of the defense committee. Do you remember when you were a kid and your mum told you to stop being a sheep and copying the rest of your peers – any chance you could get her to speak to Cameron?

2. There will be collateral damage but it’s necessary to defeat IS. Really? So it’s fine for us to kill innocent people in the name of doing the “right thing” but not them? These terrorists aren’t stupid, they know to live among civilians because then they can claim we have killed women and children when we bomb them.

3. We’re friends with Jordan and Saudi Arabia and are fighting for freedom and fairness alongside them to defeat medieval practices. Well if we take a quick look at the arms receipts from many Middle East countries we have sold to, then maybe there is an argument to look the other way when they torture, behead and refuse democracy to their own people.

4. There are 75,000 troops in the Free Syrian army ready to step up when we get involved. But they didn’t bother when France, Russia, USA and others started bombing months ago. Also how can the Tories all of a sudden magic up a number of SFA members when they don’t know how many members of the Taliban or Al Qaeda or IS there are – do they have Google’s accountants working for them?

5. IS don’t recognise borders, neither should we. Okay, I won’t bother with my passport from now on then if you’re willing to rip up the rule books because of what a terrorist organisation decides.

6. If you are against the strikes you are a “Terrorist Sympathizer” Right so what should I do? Do I check in somewhere to pick up my clothes and gun before boarding the plane or do you want to treat us like grown ups who have a differing view of things from you Mr Cameron? Or do you apologise for saying something fucking stupid?

7. We will work towards cutting off the financial avenues IS are using to fund the war. Right, so they’re basically Starbucks with Guns. We know they have the money but we’d rather “Tsk” at them than do something about it. We know they are selling oil to neighbouring states and countries – oh yes they are our allies…

8. We have a UN resolution. Oh good that old chestnut, I’ve missed that. This is nostalgia for war mongerers. I’d go back and check the wording more carefully Mr Cameron – nothing in it says we can bomb indiscriminately. Maybe you spoke to Blair’s Lawyers, I’ve heard they’re good on these types of things.

9. We need to protect ourselves against terrorist attacks. We will be safer if we bomb them. In much the same way you are safer if you hit a wasp’s nest with a big stick and then stand still while the flying stingers attack you where you stand. Yes, a real lesson to learn there.

10. We shouldn’t worry about the shadow of Iraq on this decision. Exactly the opposite – we fucked up then for most of the same reasons we’re about to fuck up now. In short we have learned nothing from our fuck-uppery. Labour MPs should be looking carefully at themselves because they were guilty of lying twelve years ago – they should be standing and calling out Cameron today.

I could go on, but what’s the point? A huge sway of the public don’t want this. Experts are already making it clear without troops on the ground it won’t work. There are too many cooks in this stew and no-one is leading – it’s a free-for-all with Russia bombing the people we are about to try to support.

I don’t know if it’s cynicism or getting older but I’m extremely pissed off with this whole thing, from the same old lies to the ridiculous way in which Jeremy Corbyn has been treated by the media, MPs on all sides and some sections of the public. He will most likely lose the vote tonight, but he’s one of the few people who will walk away from this with his reputation intact.

We’ll look back on this as another example of stupidly jumping in where we should have sat round the table. “Impossible” I hear you cry, but hasn’t nearly every conflict ever been finally solved by signings of treaties and discussions. “They’re too evil they don’t want to talk” – the IRA did, the Nazis did, all involved in Bosnia eventually sat down. Bomb first, talk later? The talks in Vienna are being ignored when they are the best chance of progress.

But what do I know? I was off the day we turned into a nasty country who only solved through bombing, shooting, ignoring war crimes, selling arms to those in questionable regimes, taking money from those we should be putting sanctions on, supporting undemocratic practices and blowing things up kind of country. Must have been a Tuesday. I’m useless on Tuesdays.

JD

How do you bomb an idea?

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Let me take you back to the halcyon days of September 10th 2001. Do you remember what life was like? We lived in a world where there areas of danger and civil war but largely we got on with things and were able to pop on a plane to most locations without too much worry about terrorism. In fact in the UK we had more recently lived with terrorists next door in Northern Ireland and even that was a fairly limited campaign on “the mainland” as it was called back then. Yes there were the odd terrorist attacks – even from Al-Qaeda – but in the large part we were living in a safer world

Then the next day three hijacked planes hit buildings and a fourth was crashed in to the ground when the passengers overpowered the terrorists. Now I don’t want to diminish the deaths of those three thousand people but fourteen years later we are in a situation that has been largely caused by our reaction to that atrocity. In simple terms when you spend $2 trillion to fight a group of terrorists, kill twice as many allied soldiers than were killed on 9/11 and murder a further one million civilians in the middle east you do have to wonder if we have overreacted.

Look at what has happened since we reacted to the 9/11 attacks – bombs and attacks in London, Madrid, France, across central and northern African countries, all over the Middle East and further afield – how are we any safer? Today we see more fallout from a screwed up approach to fighting terrorists with Turkey shooting down a Russian jet in its airspace. We bomb target after target yet every few months there is another attack by this “small group” of terrorists. Surely I can’t be the only one to see the cause and effect here. We go and kill their friends and family, they respond in kind. What part of that don’t politicians understand?

France responded to the attacks in Paris by bombarding Syria – a country already in pieces due to the bitter civil war that has been hijacked by ISIS – and has done nothing to lower the threats and dangers for the rest of us. In fact quite the opposite. It’s easy for the lazy end of the media to point at Muslims and blame them but we all know that the problem isn’t one about religion, it’s a problem with people. Idiots on both sides that think that by posturing and killing they can make their point better than the other side.

I have no sympathy at all for the terrorists, but look at the situation from their point of view. Regardless of their beliefs, people who are just living their lives find their family and friends are being indiscriminately killed by bombs from above. They want revenge for the desecration and murder and have two choices: flee as refugees or pick up a gun and join the terrorists. Few will just brush themselves down and carry on with their lives – especially after the third or fourth attack on them. Now let’s add the latest round of bombs we are throwing at them because of Paris. David Cameron now says he wants to add to those bombs. It can’t just be me that can see the snake eating its own tail here.

Boots on the ground, more bombs, more anti-Muslim sentiment, more mistrust, more animosity, more confusion, more death and where will we be? In the same place with more bodies around us. How many of us have held up our hands and said the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were wrong? How many of those people are now saying we add Syria to that list of targets? No, we can’t do nothing – that much is clear – but we can’t just keep killing because we know that today’s terrorists are in their late teens and early twenties. We must take the responsibility for partly creating those fighters. We do it again and we face another generation of terrorists fueled by our actions.

No, there are no easy answers, but the Peace talks are a much better bet. Find a way to get people round the table, try for a ceasefire, stop the killing and try to find a path through the corpses. It won’t be easy – but neither is taking the decision to kill anymore innocent people. If the vote comes to the House of Commons then we will hear all the usual arguments for and against taking military action: pacifists will object and those in favour of bombing will speak in favour. Even the SNP – a largely anti-war party – are considering action here. There is a momentum to try to stop ISIS where they are.

But ISIS are here in the UK, in groups and individually across Europe, Africa, Asia – in fact right across the world. They don’t have geographical boundaries, yet we aim to bomb within man-made lines they don’t accept. how can the two correlate? To defeat an ideology you have to attack the ideology not the physical people. Yes there will always be those who will fight to the death for their cause but the majority will sit down and talk.

Can’t we try that first and stop the killing after fourteen years of an onslaught?

Being a pacifist is sometimes the most difficult of choices because it relies on finding the goodness and reason in people – even those we believe have no goodness in them. One of the most powerful things I’ve seen recently about the futility of war is this. While it’s based in a world of science fiction the words and ideas are as relevant for our current situation than anything I’ve heard from any politician or commentator.

JD

The Hydra Effect

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Last night France responded to the attacks on Friday, predictably, by dropping bombs on potential ISIS locations.

French catharsis may have been experienced, but in truth you just created another fighter in the war that can never be won. For every bomb that kills someone is left behind, vulnerable and alone in the world. Terrorists feed on this like a parasitic creature does in its host. A new soldier is mobilized. Two, perhaps three new people with a reason to attack.

We look for new ways to hurt those who hurt us. Ways that are more painful than ever before. Water boarding and torture; detainment without charge in a foreign prison; mass bombings in “shock and awe” attacks which are no more accurate than any other planned attack. We think if we hot back harder we will stop them.

My Dad was wrong you know – hit them back harder, that’ll show them. They would then get their mates and it would turn into a thrashing. It doesn’t work when you’re eight and in the playground, so why would it work in any other set of circumstances. We need to find other ways of defeating this disease of militants and their bastardized version of a loving religion.

Who are these people in ISIS? They are the shadow left behind from centuries worth of meddling in the middle east by the west. From the Ottomans and the Germans to the US & UK led wars the last century alone shows us where all these conflicts arise from. We are just looking at the latest manifestation of anger at repression and attack by others. We created the monster that we are now fighting, but can’t see it for looking.

What if we apologised?

What if we forgave?

What if we recognised our role in this issue?

What if we sat down with all those with a vested interested and facilitated a conversation? In the end a border is a man-made creation so why not look at what each side wants and needs. And we’re not miles away from that position either. The meeting in Vienna at the weekend to try to find a peaceful end to the Syrian Civil War is starting to make headway. We need to learn lessons from other places where discussion, forgiveness and openness took place.

Then we need to spread that model across the other problems in the region from the Gaza Strip to Afghanistan and Iraq. Sit people down – even those who are the terrorists – and discuss the issues. By humanising the issues and those involved we start seeing everyone for who they are. Is it a complete antidote? No, there will always be those who continue to fight – just look at Northern Ireland or South Africa, even after peace talks and open conversations about the past, some still look to violence.

But it’s a start. And that’s more than we have now.

I admit to having oversimplified the argument somewhat but in essence this is the first step. When the Arab Nations, Europe and Russia are generally in agreement on something it’s time to work together and grab the opportunity.

Why? Because consider the alternative – do you want to keep increasing their number and therefore putting more innocent people in trouble? As a recent TV show put it:

Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot. No matter how right you feel, You have no idea who’s going to die. YOU don’t know who’s children are going to scream and burn. or how many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered. How much blood splattered until everybody does what they were always going to have to do right from the very beginning:

SIT. DOWN. AND. TALK.

– The Doctor (The Zygon Inversion)

We have to at least try. To not try is to condemn the next generation of people to repeat our mistakes.

JD

 

Jihadi Brides – One way ticket

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Four girls from Bethnal Green have travelled to Turkey to cross the border into Syria because they want to be Jihadi Brides. Understandably the families are heartbroken and are calling for the authorities to help them get their children back home.

Sorry, but I think we need to shut the door permanently to anyone going to fight or be any part of ISIS or ISIL.

These are people who believe that the “West” should be attacked,  punished and destroyed under a warped version of Islam. Why the hell would I want people who wanted to do us harm back in our country? No, we must draw a line under these exits permanently otherwise we are putting ourselves at risk.

As a parent I would be in pieces if it were my kid, but it wouldn’t excuse what they were doing. We need to be harsh on anyone who travels to be part of a terrorist group like IS and remove their citizenship – if it’s not a law it should be. People who say that they are only kids and that they are being brainwashed are missing the point that these “kids” will be given guns and weapon to harm people – those boys and girls won’t think twice about doing damage to others.

I know there are those who have come back shocked at their treatment – that what they were promised online and social media was not the reality on the ground. Tough. Why should my taxes be used to protect, transport or search for anyone who actively wants to become a terrorist against us? I know I’m sounding a bit UKIP-py here but I genuinely don’t think we can do anything else. We could end up bringing people back to the UK who still share the terrorists vision and end up with more examples of 7/7.

Just look at all the poor Syrians travelling for hours and days by boat to Italy to escape the violence and pain, these are the people we should look after – the refugees who are fleeing persecution. Or the Coptic Christians that were attacked earlier this week are welcome to seek sanctuary here. Those who want to kill us and our way of life do not.

Immigration is a positive thing. It brings new culture, food, music, traditions and skills to this country, but if you choose to leave it and fight against it then you no longer deserve the right to be a British Citizen.

JD