Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Je Suis.......

It is difficult to put thoughts into words about the terrorist attacks in France last week. Shock. Sadness. Fear. Relief when it was finally brought to an end. But I wonder if it really will ever end.

The extremists who carry out vile and barbaric terrorist acts like this, doing so in the name of their religion, are simply evil. But I don't think their religion is the problem. There are millions of Muslims around the world who are happy to live side by side with people of other or no faith. Terrorism is not about a religion. It is about terror.

I don't know how many religions there are in the world. There are many. And there will be followers of each of those religions who believe their's is the one everyone should follow. But there are also sometimes extremists within various religions, who take their beliefs to another level. They hate, injure and kill in the name of their religion. But, as was the case last week, other people of that same belief, condemn their actions.

The attack on the Charlie Hebdo office apparently came about as the satirical magazine had repeatedly published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. The cartoons often feature other religions too. They don't just mock Muslims. However, the Islamic extremists chose to use those cartoons as a reason for their actions last week. People around the world were shocked, saddened and angered not only at the cruel loss of life, but also because the attack was thought to be an attack on free speech.

This is where I have a problem.

Everyone wants free speech....I do too....but surely a line must be drawn somewhere? If we intentionally hurt or offend people, is it ok simply because we believe we should all have free speech?

A few words, a cartoon, a joke which may make some people laugh, but at the same time, may hurt and offend someone else. A cartoon mocking people's religion obviously offended people. I am in no way condoning the actions of those terrorists. Terrorists use things like that as an excuse for what they do. But is it really ok to offend people so publicly?

I don't think so.

Haven't we moved on to an age when we should think and consider other people's feelings more?

Shouldn't free speech be put to better use than mocking certain people or groups in society.

We will never all agree with each other. But can't we express opinions in a way which does not offend people? It is ok to not share people's beliefs, but surely it is not ok to be offensive to them about it.

I saw some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons online. And I have to say I found them offensive. I was not offended because of religious beliefs. I was offended simply because I found most of them to be downright disgusting and in very bad taste. They have printed a record amount of copies of this week's edition. They normally print 60,000 copies. Today 5 million copies were printed, in various languages, including Arabic. People queued up to buy this edition, and most shops sold out very quickly. Handwritten signs were put up outside newsagents in France to let people know that there was 'No more Charlie'.  I can't help but wish there really was no more Charlie.

Their front cover is a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad holding a sign saying, "Je suis Charlie", with the headline All is Forgiven. They say that Muslims need to get a sense of humour.

Humour....I am not a Muslim and I reckon that I have a pretty good sense of humour, but when a joke, cartoon or prank affects people's lives....they are no longer funny. Perhaps people shouldn't find them funny in the first place.

When Prince William's wife in hospital during her first pregnancy, an Australian DJ played a prank during their radio show. They phoned the hospital pretending to be the Queen, asking how her granddaughter-in-law was. They thought it was a hilarious joke. A nurse answered the phone and believed it to be the Queen. That nurse ended up taking her own life due to that phone call. Not so hilarious.

In December last year, just days before Christmas, after the horrific bin lorry crash in Glasgow, a young man in the North of England made an extremely unfunny joke about it on social media. Many people were angry and offended....rightly so. It was a tragic accident. People lost their lives and others were severely injured. The young man who had made the 'joke' handed himself over to the police, probably because he feared retaliation from the many people who found his joke offensive. He was charged by the police. What he had done was a chargeable offence.

Charlie Hebdo repeatedly made cartoons about various religions and high profile politicians. Back in 2008, one of their writers wrote a very antisemitic piece. He was later fired because of it. Double standards there surely. Not ok to mock the Jewish faith on that occasion, but ok to mock other religions, especially Islam. Muslims are their main target.

And I have to say that Muslims seem to be the main target for many people worldwide. I do not, and never will, condone any acts of terrorism carried out by anyone. But what seems to be happening, is a war between Muslims and the rest of the world. We share the planet, for goodness sake. We live together. Side by side, all colours, all races, all beliefs. Can't people put differences to the side and live together peacefully. There is room for everyone. Room for everyone's beliefs and opinions. But I don't think there is room for offending people in this way.

Yes, we want free speech. But being offensive, racist and obnoxious has nothing to do with free speech, in the same way that terrorism has nothing to do with religion.

Mark Zuckerberg made a point of saying that Facebook will always be a place for free speech. People should be allowed to say what they want.

So groups like Britain First will continue to encourage people to share their vile, racist posts on Facebook.

I actually complained about one I saw the other day, but was told that it complies with Facebook regulations, so it would not be taken down. The post said that Muslims might be offended by jokes about Muhammad, but we (the British people) are offended by a picture of a woman wearing her hijab, in other words, we are offended by Muslims. Another post said that Britain is a Christian country, let's keep it that way. Aren't Christians supposed to show kindness, respect and acceptance? Certainly doesn't come across that way when you see posts like those on Britain First's website.

I find Britain First posts to be highly offensive. Sadly, though, posts like that are shared on social media like wildfire. Just as all Muslims shouldn't be considered as terrorists, I hope that all British people aren't judged as being racist.

✦✦✦


After last week's attacks, there was a rally in France on Sunday. World leaders attended, linking arms to march in unity against terrorism under the banner of 'Je suis Charlie', supporting free speech. Ironically, many of those world leaders have been part of injustice, illegal wars and yes, even acts of terrorism themselves. They seem to have double standards and are happy to stand united when it suits.

And many of them don't actually allow free speech or freedom of information in their countries.

Our government recently ensured that the public didn't get to find out about their expenses scandal, by shredding the evidence. At the moment, there are a lot of questions being asked about paedophile rings and government members having had the knowledge about them going on, and some actually having been party to that. It is starting to look like more evidence will be getting sent to the shredder.

Allow media outlets to post offensive, racist cartoons.....but don't allow them to tell us what is going on within our own government. Something is far wrong here.

Our Prime Minister is trying to make some new laws to ban any political rallies. It is supposedly to prevent extremism in the country. He has also suggested monitoring all internet activity, even reading your private emails.  And if anyone dares to speak out against the government, they could be arrested.

Perhaps I should just hand myself in to the police now.....



Sunday, December 21, 2014

One Wish...

If you could have one wish, what would it be
Fabulous presents under the Christmas tree
A new computer, an iPad or maybe a phone
A piece of jewellery with a big sparkling stone

What would make the season special for you
Perhaps something special you’d like to do
A visit to Paris or maybe Rome
Or have a family party in your own home

What would make life better this year
And better for those whom you hold dear
If you could have any gift, what would it be
What is the one thing you’d like to see

Sometimes what we would like is hard to find
Like compassion and happiness and peace of mind
A world without fear and hate would be nice
But things like that, don’t come with a price

Instead, they are things which we can create
And not just yearly on one single date
To have a better world in which we live
Perhaps we all have something to give

Maybe if we all play a part each day
Showing compassion along the way
Spreading some cheer, some kindness too
The wishes we have, may come true

E. Sirrell   December, 2014




Wednesday, November 19, 2014

People like Bob

Bob Geldof.....good old Sir Bob.....coming out of the woodwork to solve the Ebola problem this time. Gathers the troops, brings out another version of the Band Aid single, 'Do they know it's Christmas'.

Hmmm....do they know it's Christmas? Do they? Did the people in Africa ever find out it was Christmas? Of course they did. He ridded Africa of its poverty single-handedly, didn't he. Didn't he???

Remember the, "Give us your f***ing money!" back in the eighties.

He became the world's hero. But that was a while ago.

Perhaps Sir Bob needs his ego polished a little bit once again?

A multi millionaire, (thought to be worth 32 million) giving his time, asking for our money for a good cause. I'm not arguing with that....of course it is a good cause. What I am against is people and organisations which use emotional blackmail to make people donate to actually benefit themselves financially and boost their egos along the way. I'm also against people criticising others for not donating. It is a personal choice as to whether someone donates to a charity. It is their business. Their money. Their time. Their effort. Bob Geldof publicly criticised the singer Adele because she didn't jump on the bandwagon and join Band Aid to sing 'Do they know it's Christmas?' this time around. He had no right whatsoever to do that. If Adele donates to causes she feels deserve it, perhaps she does so privately, without the need for people to tell her how wonderful she is for doing so.

Bob Geldof also offers his services as a speaker at functions and charges a fortune. A lovely little money earner. His chosen subject.....poverty. The multi millionaire talks about poverty.

In one instance, he travelled to Melbourne, Australia and charged a whopping $100,000 to speak about poverty. If you are interested in hiring him, I suggest you find someone who knows about poverty, whether that be poverty in Africa or poverty in the UK or poverty anywhere else in the world. Most people who live in poverty would do the talk free of charge, then you could donate that $100,000 to their chosen charity.

Bob Geldof is one of the many celebrities (and many other high earners) in the UK who find ways to avoid paying tax. (Yes, that's right, the man who asks us, not even politely, to donate to his cause, has so much money himself and pays no tax. He has said in the past that his time is tax.)

So while our countries go into financial meltdown, with working people relying on food banks to ensure their families are fed, people like Bob ask us to help him save the world....and polish his ego at the same time.

There are many organisations and individuals giving their time and money quietly, no publicity....they just want to help. But people like Bob want the limelight. They want to be seen to be the one who saved the world, freed the people in Africa from their poverty and even put a stop to Ebola. “We really can stop this foul little plague,” as he so eloquently put it, when he was interviewed on BBC Breakfast earlier this week.

I am hoping Ebola can be stopped, but I think it will be down to a lot of other people. Although, I am sure Bob will try to claim some of the glory.


Perhaps if all those high earning celebrities (and companies like Amazon, Starbucks etc.) actually paid the tax they should, the world wouldn't be in the state it is in now. Perhaps if all the banks didn't give themselves such high (undeserved) bonuses, we would be in a better state. Perhaps if all the MPs and those who sit in the House of Lords didn't claim millions in expenses (tax-free) to supplement their salaries, we would all be living in better world. 

Sadly, there are just too many families world wide, not just in third world countries, who also won't know it's Christmas this year. People without a roof over their heads. People who are relying on soup kitchens and food banks. And the people who are fortunate enough to have a roof over their heads are trying to decide whether to heat or eat.


And people like Bob Geldof could help. Quite simply by paying their taxes.

When a reporter once asked Bob about his non-payment of tax, he got angry and asked her how many irrigation ditches she had built. She may have built none, but she had paid the taxes she was due to pay. So she has helped fund the NHS, pay pensions to the elderly, look after sick and disabled, pay towards education etc....oh and her tax has also gone towards providing aid to other countries when needed. 


Incidentally, Bob Geldof visited Scotland a couple of months ago, in a bid to persuade us not to become an independent country. S
ent up by Westminster with a group of other very well off celebrities who probably also enjoy tax dodging....they probably also got paid expenses for their trip. 

In his speech he used that expression, "we are better together".

As long as they're are people like Bob not paying what they should, I don't think we are.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Remembrance Day

After a peace treaty was signed, the First World War came to an end in the early hours of the 11th of November, 1918.

Poppies were growing in the battlefields of Flanders and due to their colour, they became a symbol of the blood spilled during the war. And there was a lot of spilled blood. The war saw millions of lives lost and even more millions injured throughout all the countries involved, amongst both military and civilians. 

World War One was thought at the time to be the war to end all wars. Sadly, we know that wasn't the case.

We remember those who fought for our countries. What they gave was precious and we must never forget them.

But can we learn from the past?

We are still living in a world with so much hate, greed and terror. Sectarianism and discrimination is still very much alive throughout the world. We see wars over power. Wars over religion. Wars over oil. Wars to avoid wars.

Can we somehow get to a time of peace? Is it too unrealistic a dream?


Our Warring World

We say goodbye as they leave for war
Hardly knowing what they are fighting for
Some come home. Many are lost
War always comes with such a high cost

Husbands, wives, fathers and mothers
Sons and daughters, sisters and brothers
War heroes, they're called, with medals too
Returned back home, draped in red, white and blue

At home we wait for those to arrive
The fortunate ones who did survive
A sense of relief is in the air
Despite some being wounded beyond repair

Physical wounds. In time they heal
But some wounds we can neither see nor feel
The shell shock. The memories. Bloody and dark
The war has left an invisible mark

We’ll never forget, but will we ever learn?
Wars give us lessons which are harsh and stern
Lessons of fighting, bloodshed and tears
Lessons of anger, bitterness and fears

Power hungry men want to lead the fight
Marching soldiers into the darkness of night
They’re fighting. They’re struggling. So many are dying
Wars bring no winners. Just misery. And crying

Will our world be at war until the end of time
With innocent lives being lost to a hideous crime?
Will the hunger for power ever cease?
To make way for a better world; a world of peace

© E. Sirrell

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Remember, Remember, the 5th of November............. Gunpowder, treason and plot

Back in 1605, some guys decided they would like to blow up the Houses of Parliament. One guy was caught red-handed.

Guy Fawkes was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered for his part in the crime, however, he jumped to his death before that could happen.

Over 400 years later, we still 'celebrate' Guy Fawkes. Bonfires and firework displays are held throughout the UK on the 5th of November every year. A 'guy' (an effigy of Guy Fawkes) is normally placed on top of the bonfire to be burnt.

Despite the country having no money, making cuts here there and everywhere (apart from MPs expenses....would be unfair to make cuts there), some councils organise bonfire and firework displays.

Tonight, the sky above the UK will probably be glowing red from the heat of all those bonfires.

One particular council run bonfire in a town in England is using a different effigy this year.

Lewes, in East Sussex, will be burning an effigy of Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, along with our lovely Nessie. Some tartan, Scottish saltires....I'm sure I saw a haggis in there somewhere too. Basically, all things Scottish.

There is also a sign saying 45%. The 45% obviously represents the 45% of the Scottish people who voted for Independence. In case nobody realises, I am one of those 45%.

Why does this Tory run council think this is OK?

The referendum is over. We weren't being anti-English. So why is it ok to be anti-Scottish?

Scottish people were accused of being anti-English for wanting Independence. But we weren't. We were not voting against England (which is how the press reported it). The referendum had nothing to do with the Scots disliking the English. It was about getting a parliament which had Scottish interests at heart, instead of a parliament which looks after its own and forgets about other areas of the UK.

Scotland is not Anti-English. Scotland is Anti-Westminster.

But Westminster got their No vote. By hook or by crook, they got their No vote. (If I sound a bit sceptical about that result, that's because I am) But none the less, they got their No vote. We are still part of the UK. David Cameron was extremely relieved that the country with the liquid black gold was to stay within the UK. So relieved that he let the world know that the Queen purred to him....

Since the referendum, politics in UK have gone crazy. There are MPs jumping ship. The Labour party, especially in Scotland, is crumbling. It is in tatters. Blaming the referendum.....but they won (apparently), so why are they leaving? Why aren't they slapping each other's backs and congratulating each other on their victory. Perhaps their victory wasn't as sweet as they would have liked.

UK has been trying to call the shots in Europe, much to the disdain of other countries in Europe. We might actually be put out of Europe, since Westminster got its sums wrong and owes a lot of money to Europe, which Mr Cameron doesn't want to pay. If we're not put out, we might leave Europe anyway, since Mr Cameron has said there will be a referendum so the people can decide. (Hate to let you all know this, but somehow referendums give the result that Westminster want....yep Sceptic Liz really doesn't believe that was the true result in Scotland, but I will keep my reasons for another time) The irony about Europe, is that the Better Together campaign, used Europe as one of their biggest arguments against Independence. If we were to leave UK, we were warned, we'd not be part of Europe.....looks like we possibly won't be part of Europe anyway the way things are going now.

But anyway, back to Lewes council's effigy of Alex Salmond and all things Scottish (including 45% of its voters)....is it ok for a council to support something like this? Would it be ok to have an effigy of any other politician? Royalty? Someone black? A gay couple? Or what about an effigy representing another country and its people? What about something representing China? Russia? USA? Germany?

Surely not. Doesn't UK condemn bigotry and discrimination?

During the referendum campaign, David Cameron asked people to "love bomb" Scotland. Don't let Scotland split the UK. We are all "Better Together".

Whatever happened to the love bombing Mr Cameron?

End Trigeminal Neuralgia: Invisible Conditions

Trgeminal Neuralgia is one of many Invisible Conditions. People very often find it difficult to understand or empathise when there are no visible signs of illness.

End Trigeminal Neuralgia: Invisible Conditions: Trigeminal Neuralgia is an invisible condition. One of the most difficult aspects of living with Trigeminal Neuralgia is that it cannot...

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Trigeminal Neuralgia Awareness Day

Today, the 7th of October, is International Trigeminal Neuralgia Awareness Day. If you use Facebook, you may have noticed a plethora of teal coloured profile pictures representing the condition.

I changed my own profile pic to this.



This represents my face pain. The Trigeminal Nerve comes from the brain and enters the face via the Gasserian Ganglion (shown in yellow on my picture). The nerve then branches into three : Ophthalmic (red), Maxillary (orange) and Mandibular (blue). I get pain on each branch of the nerve, fortunately mostly on one side of my face, but I do sometimes have pain on the other side too.

There is no known cause for my pain, as is the case for many other people. Obviously, there has to be a cause, but that cause is unknown to doctors. That can be a huge problem. If a cause cannot be found, it is extremely difficult to treat it. Another problem, possibly an even larger problem, is that when a cause cannot be found, some people, including some doctors, may actually question the realness of the pain. It casts doubt on the patient. It can make patients feel as if nobody believes them.

This is not unique to Trigeminal Neuralgia though. Many, many conditions are the same. Especially when there are no visible signs of an illness. An Invisible Disease. People can look healthy, but can feel far from it. They can be living every day in agonising pain, but nothing shows. Absolutely nothing.

So how can that be fixed? Walk about with a post-it on my forehead with a list of ailments? Paint my face teal and draw on the lines of the nerve, like the photo above? Would a stranger walking down the street see my teal face and realise I have Trigeminal Neuralgia? They might...if they had trigeminal neuralgia themselves and if they are part of online support groups. But if they have never heard of it, they would be none the wiser and would simply wonder why I had painted my face this lovely shade of blue.....or is it a lovely shade of green?

Having a colour to represent a condition is good as long as people are also given information about the condition. The information is the important part.

The truth is that a colour doesn't define a condition. Likewise, a condition doesn't define a person.

That photo above might represent my pain. But it certainly doesn't represent me.

I have chronic face and head pain (and back pain, but I'll ignore that for now), but that's not who I am. It's part of me. But it's not all of me. I don't want to have a post-it attached to my forehead to tell people about my pain.

I guess I've lived with pain for so long, that I don't know anything else anyway, but I sometimes wonder if my pain has actually helped turn me into the person I am. And, I will admit that I am quite happy to be that person.

I think it is so important for people to not allow their illness to define them. Obviously, because I help with awareness and support for Trigeminal Neuralgia, it does take up a lot of my time and energy. But I also have to switch off from it. I cannot let TN define me. There are some things I cannot do due to my pain. But there are other things I can do despite my pain. I prefer to focus on those things, otherwise, my pain would define me.



The Teal Appeal

I've always loved the colour teal. In fact, I liked the colour so much that when I got married, my Mum wore teal. She went shopping for an outfit and came home and showed me. I was so happy when I saw it and I said it was my favourite colour. She said, "I know, that's why I chose it."

So my Mum wore teal for me before it ever became fashionable to ask people to wear a certain colour to represent a certain condition.

People have been working really hard to try to get some awareness about Trigeminal Neuralgia. Making their social media profiles teal, trying to light buildings in teal, attaching teal ribbons to trees, asking people to wear something teal.

Hopefully people will ask why a building is being lit in teal, why someone has tied lovely teal coloured bows on trees, why so many people are sporting teal nail varnish during October. Hopefully their efforts will lead to more people learning about Trigeminal Neuralgia.

I haven't actually asked anyone to wear teal on my behalf. My family and friends know what my life is like, give me support and they share my posts on Facebook about TN. I don't need them to wear something teal on one day of the year to tell me they support me. I also know that it can be difficult for some of my family to see my TN related posts or pictures like the one above. They hurt because they know about my pain. They hurt because they care.

On Wednesday, I will remove my teal TN profile picture and replace it with my normal photo. However, I will still carry on raising awareness about Trigeminal Neuralgia.....awareness doesn't stop after awareness day.