Friday, September 04, 2015

"Looking After Our Own" #RefugeesWelcome

Nobody can possibly have escaped seeing the harrowing photos of the last few days of three year old, Alan Kurdi. Sometimes there really are no words which can express emotions properly. And this is one of those times.

I keep reading about people not being happy about photos of that poor little boy being shown. The photos are too 'distressing' and 'upsetting' so shouldn't be shown.

But surely we should all be distressed and upset. We have in actual fact been ignoring this whole situation for so long. We should be distressed and upset. More than that, we should probably feel ashamed that we have ignored it for so long and allowed it to continue.

So if those photos are what makes people react, then I believe they need to be shown.

I find this photo no less harrowing. The poor man who tried in vain to take his wife and sons to a safer place.

I have sat and watched the news for months saying, how awful, this is terrible.....but what have I done? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. So I am guilty of sitting back watching. Watching, grateful that it's not happening to any of my family, but I've done nothing about it. I haven't donated anything to help those people, I haven't signed a petition to ask our governments to help more. I have simply sat here, watching the television, saying, "isn't this sad."

I am as guilty as most people of thinking, well there's nothing I can do. But in actual fact, I can do something. I can petition the government, lobby my MP to ask them to intervene and do something to help these people. We can't all afford to donate money, much needed items or even a room in a house. But we are all capable of asking our governments to help more.

Our governments have probably been partly to blame for this situation arising in the first place. So isn't it their duty to try to help those poor people? I think it is.

Apart from some people criticising the photo of Alan Kurdi being shown, I have also seen some truly horrible comments. 'We need to look after our own', 'They just want to come here for benefits', 'They should just be dumped in Libya'

I actually hate even repeating those words, but just as those harrowing photos needs to be seen, those words need to be heard. And the people who say those words need to be ashamed of themselves.

Those refugees are our own. We all live in this planet....together. We are all the same species. None more special than any other. We are all people. So, yes, we do need to look after our own. And it is time for us all to start doing so.

What can you do to help?

Enough Suffering - #RefugeesWelcome

Friday, August 14, 2015

Does Pain Change You?

Today I saw a post on Facebook asking this question.

I scrolled through some comments and, unsurprisingly, the answer was a resounding  yes.

I wouldn't disagree with that.

Of course pain changes people. The ramifications of living with constant pain has to have an impact on life.

But the same could be said about other things in life. A new relationship, breakdown of a relationship, a new job, loss of a job, new additions to the family, bereavements, winning the lottery.....(yes, if only)

Life happens and when it does, it has a habit of changing us. Not just changing us, but shaping us into who we are. Everything that happens makes us grow into the people we are.

So yes, life changes us. But we always have a choice. We can still choose who or what it changes us into.

Perhaps sometimes we need to embrace whatever is happening in our lives, whether it is good or bad, and let it change us in a positive way.

Change is inevitable, but the choice of how we change is ours.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

A Hypothetical Problem

Been quite a while since I was at school but I am wondering if I am needing to do a wee refresher course in arithmetic.

This is a wee hypothetical problem I was puzzling over earlier. Supposing there are 650 people in a room (a big room) and they decide to vote on what to drink. 59 people vote for Highland Spring water. The rest vote to drink bitter lemon. So.....the majority get to decide which drink everyone has. Now, here's the arithmetic part. How many people vote for bitter lemon and which group get to decide?

So, according to my arithmetic skills, that means that 591 voted for bitter lemon and since 591 is greater than 59, it means that everybody has to drink bitter lemon.


Well, I thought I was. But I'm doubting myself now.

Here's what's confusing me.

There is a man called Dave in the room who thinks he's in charge. He only wants the bitter lemon. In fact, he is desperate to have the bitter lemon. But he is afraid that those 59 people who want to have Highland Spring water will be able to over-rule the others. He is so desperate to get his bitter lemon that he will do anything in his power to prevent those 59 people from even suggesting voting for something else. So Dave decides that the 59 shouldn't be allowed to vote at all and he shuts them outside in the cold.

See my problem? Why would Dave think that 59 people could over-rule 591 people? There is just no logic there, but he insists that to be the case and even stresses that the 591 will never again be over-ruled by the 59. So he wants to leave those 59 people out in the cold, never to be allowed to vote again.

Are those 59 people's voices not worthy of being heard? Surely they should still be allowed to vote and, even more so, explain why they would rather have that lovely Highland Spring water rather than the bitter lemon. But Dave says no. The odd thing is that Dave actually invited them into that room. He said their voices were important and needed to be heard. He actually begged them to be there. Even said that everyone's life would be better if they were all together. But he now seems to have changed his tune and wants to leave them out in the cold.

So is it my arithmetic? Has 59 actually become more than 591?

Or is Dave the problem? Does Dave just want to ensure he gets his own way all the time and always get his bitter lemon?

Dave says that's not the reason. He claims that the votes simply don't have any impact on the 59. But he's wrong. There is a big impact.

You see, once the 591 people have had a few bitter lemons along with some snacks, Dave and his pal George count what money is left. And sadly, there's not much left. George then opens door, throws out the loose change onto the road and quickly shuts the door to keep the cold out. The 59 people who are standing outside get down on their hands and knees, rummage about to find those coins. Once collected and counted, they realise there isn't enough money to get each of them a bottle of Highland Spring water. And they certainly don't have enough to have snacks as well. They have to share what they have and be very careful to try to make that money last.

There is a second part to this problem. There is another room further up the road. This room has 129 people in it and they make decisions on things too. But the odd thing about it is that one person can over-rule any decisions they make. That one person is amongst the 59 who were left out in the cold down the road. That person's name is Dave too. And he happens to be a good friend of the other Dave.

Dave1 seems to think that 59 people may be able to over-rule 591 people and really doesn't like it so will not let it happen. But Dave1 and Dave 2 both think it is ok for 1 person to over-rule 129 people.

 All very odd. Maybe it's a Dave thing.

Thank goodness this is just a hypothetical problem. Imagine if people like Dave were trying to rule the country. Really doesn't bear thinking about....

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Stand Tall, Be Proud......

I'm having one of those days when a song keeps popping into my head and it's all thanks to Facebook. It's a song by Al Johnson from 1928. And just in case anyone wonders, no, I wasn't around back then, but I can remember my Papa singing it all the time when I was a wee girl.

I can only remember one verse, so this one verse has had the automatic replay button in my brain switched on all day.

There's a rainbow 'round my shoulder
And a sky of blue above
Oh the sun shines bright, the world's all right
'Cause I'm in love

As with almost every song ever sung, it can be found on You Tube. There are several versions of it. I chose the original Al Jolson's version to share here, but how I wish I could hear my Papa sing it again.

I said at the start that I remembered this song thanks to Facebook. For anyone who doesn't use Facebook, I will explain....

Facebook has put a tool on their site so that people can have a transparent rainbow on top of their profile pictures to celebrate LGBT Pride. I have added it to my profile picture, as have many of my friends. So Facebook today is awash with rainbows.

I am sure the Pride celebrations have been celebrated even more than normal this year after USA's Supreme Court made the ruling to legalise gay marriage. Hopefully more countries will do the same because I truly believe that all people in this world should be treated equally. We all came into the world the same way, so why should certain groups of people be treated differently because of they are attracted to? Why shouldn't they be allowed to marry and have the same legal rights as a heterosexual couple?
Nobody would have had any right to tell my husband and I that we shouldn't love each other or that we shouldn't get married. Nor should anyone have any right to tell a gay person that they shouldn't love or marry their partner. Surely love is something special which should be celebrated. It should be their choice, and there should be no laws telling them otherwise.

For too long, that has been happening and for too long people have felt the need to shut themselves away because they believe they won't be accepted for who they really are.

Sadly, as well as the rainbows on Facebook, I have seen some other posts about the Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage. Some very shameful and hateful posts. Thankfully, the rainbows outnumber the hateful posts, so hopefully, it is a sign that people are changing.  Hate and love are two very strong emotions. I'd rather see a world full of love than hate.

It is time for change. Time to accept people for who they are, no matter who they love, no matter what colour of skin they have, no matter if they believe there are fairies living at the bottom of their gardens. We are all equal and deserve to be treated equally. Everyone should be able to stand tall and be proud of who they are.

When I was fifteen years old, my oldest sister got married. I, along with my other sister, was her bridesmaid. When the wedding photographer saw us outside the church, he came over to me and whispered, "When I am about to take a photo, I'll give you a signal. Bend your knees a bit, so you don't look as tall." I was six feet tall and pretty self conscious about my height, but there was no way I was going to bend my knees to make myself look a 'normal' height as he had put it. That was who I was, so why pretend not to be me? Incidentally, he didn't ask my sister to stand on her tiptoes to appear taller.

I was brought up being told, "Stand tall and be proud". I was a bit self-conscious about my height, but I did learn to stand tall, and be proud. That photographer's comment was just insensitive rather than cruel, although over thirty years later, I can still hear his words in my head.

I am not trying to compare that photographer's comment with the bigoted, homophobic or racist slurs and prejudices which some people are subjected to. But just as I refused to bend my knees to appear normal, nobody should have to pretend to be someone else, just so that they are accepted in society. Everyone should be allowed to be themselves.

Everyone should be encouraged to stand tall and be proud.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Orange Fest.....Without Vitamin C

This Saturday there will be an Orange Fest in Glasgow.  I would love to be able write that the Orange Fest is in celebration of the lovely, sweet, juicy, vitamin C filled fruit. But unfortunately it's not.

This is actually a festival being run by the Orange Order, classed as a Cultural and Heritage Day. Glasgow City Council gave this the go ahead, and unsurprisingly, there are petitions asking for it to be banned. But it will be allowed to go ahead, just like their Orange Walks are allowed to go ahead.

For those who don't know, the Orange Order is a Protestant fraternal organisation which holds one value above all others.....hatred of Catholics.

I can't hold back my disgust that this event is being allowed to take place. I actually find it hard to believe that a council can give the nod of approval for this or for any other Orange Order event.

I have no objection to anyone celebrating their religion. Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Hindus, Bhudists......whatever people choose to believe is just that - their choice. And if their organisations want to have Cultural and Heritage Days to celebrate their beliefs, that is also fine by me.

But the Orange Order is not celebrating their is promoting hatred of Catholicism.

Processions of men wearing suits, bowler hats and of course, their orange sashes, march to drums, with tunes being played by flute bands. Catchy tunes possibly. But disgusting lyrics. They insult Catholics and all things Catholic. They incite trouble. They incite hatred.

The Orange Order spills over into football too. Many Rangers fans are also Orange Order supporters, and they can often be heard singing those disgusting lyrics when their team is playing against Celtic. All football teams have rivalry, but the Rangers/Celtic rivalry is based on Protestant/Catholic rivalry.

I find it all extremely disgusting.

Shouldn't we, as a country, want discrimination, prejudices, bigotry and antagonistic behaviour like this to be a thing of the past. Surely, that is where the Orange Order belongs? Surely, it does not belong in Scotland in the 21st century.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Are You Fair-Minded?

Last night I asked myself that question. I would normally reckon that I could class myself as being fair-minded. I try to seek out the good. I try to not jump to conclusions. I try to see two sides to a story. Obviously, I am human and far from perfect, but I try to be fair most of the time.

Last night, I came to the same conclusion. However, I realised that one person's version of fair-mindedness might not be a the same as another person's.

In the run up to the general election, a memo was leaked to the press. It was about a conversation which supposedly took place between Scotland's First Minister and the French Ambassador. It suggested that Nicola Sturgeon would rather have a Conservative government in power at Westminster. Nicola Sturgeon immediately denied saying that, and the French Ambassador denied she'd said it. Nicola Sturgeon had been campaigning against austerity, campaigning that the country couldn't take another five years of Tory cuts. She wanted Labour in power and she would have backed Labour in the event of a minority government. There is no way she would have said that she would rather have a Tory Government.

But, as is the way in politics, the leaked memo was used against her. Mainstream media made a huge deal of the story. They were not prepared to accept that the memo could actually contain a complete and utter lie. Politicians from the other main parties also ran with the story, telling the people of Scotland that the First Minister was deceiving them. Saying one thing, but wants something else. They had been trying to find something, anything at all, to tarnish Nicola Sturgeon, but had been unsuccessful in doing so....until this leaked memo appeared.

As well as denying that she had said that, Nicola Sturgeon wanted an inquiry to be held to find out who actually leaked that memo. It was obviously a government meeting with the French Ambassador, a meeting in which conversations recorded should have remained private, rather than put into the public domain. But here was a memo, detailing a conversation which didn't even take place, being shared to media.

At the time, Alistair Carmichael was the Secretary of State for Scotland. He was asked about the memo and denied he knew anything about it. Fast-forward a few weeks, and the inquiry discovered that it was in fact Alistair Carmichael himself who had leaked the memo.

He leaked a memo, which he admitted he knew was untrue, in order to smear Nicola Sturgeon. He watched as other politicians bad mouthed her. He watched as the mainstream media had a field day with the story. He lied about knowing anything about it. And he allowed an inquiry to take place which cost about £1.4 million. He confessed last Friday, and sent Nicola Sturgeon an apology. He admitted he had been wrong in leaking the memo and acknowledged that the contents of the memo were untrue. His reason for confessing was simply because he had been found out and the inquiry was about to be made public.

As a very senior politician, he should have known better. Even had he put his hands up and confessed to it before the election, it might not have seemed so bad. But his constituents voted in the belief they had a trustworthy MP. He won his seat by less than 900 votes.

Alistair Carmichael is still the MP for Shetland and Orkney, despite a growing demand that he resigns. He is trying to hang on to that seat. He is only one of eight Lib Dem MPs in whole of the UK. He goes, and they lose one eighth of their MPs. Lib Dems have been quiet, but have giving him their support to stay. Yesterday, Scottish Lib Dem leader, Willie Rennie, made a statement about Alistair Carmichael and the leaked memo. He said it was an aberration and that he thinks people deserve a second chance. He hopes that fair-minded people will give Carmichael that second chance.

Now this is when I realised last night that my version of fair-mindedness is different from that of some other people. In my view, we vote and hope for politicians who are honest and trustworthy. Alistair Carmichael has lost that. Can he be trusted again? I wouldn't want him as my MP.

I also wouldn't want a party leader who classes leaking a memo in order to smear another politician as just an aberration, then asks people to be fair-minded and give the MP a second chance. That is surely condoning what Carmichael did.

In this case, Alistair Carmichael may well be the fall guy. Being Secretary of State for Scotland, meant he was working close with Tory Cabinet MPs as well as MPs in his own party. I would imagine some of them played a part in this too or at least knew about it.

It is time for change surely. Time for politicians to earn trust and respect. We should not just accept what they tell us. We should not just accept that MPs can be a bit unscrupulous at times. Give us the truth and then we might trust them. But election campaigns based on lies to smear other parties need to be a thing of the past. It's time for politicians  to clean up their acts and stop the dirty politics.

This was a big mistake for Alistair Carmichael. It throws doubt on anything he has said in the past. And as for the future, can his constituents ever trust him? Perhaps he should resign then his constituents can decide on his future in a by-election.

I still reckon I am fair-minded. Just not Willie Rennie's version of fair-minded. His version seems a watered down version, with no principles. I expect MPs to be fair-minded too. Respect the electorate. Be honest. No more dirty politics. Then perhaps they will earn my fair-mindedness.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Election Fever

Nearly there.

Never before have I felt as strongly as this about an election.

I imagine people see me blogging about it and think, oh, here she goes again. I even think that myself sometimes, but it doesn't seem to stop me. If I didn't have health issues, I think I'd be out there, chapping on doors, campaigning. But if I didn't have health issues, I would possibly not have become so interested in Scotland's politics. I would possibly be sitting back, accepting status quo. I would possibly be working and possibly not having to worry too much about anything other than scheduling the tv channels to avoid all the election programmes.

But the thing is, I do have health issues. And those health issues are probably at the root of my interest in the politics of my country.

Time and time again, sick and disabled people are targeted by politicians and the media. We are scroungers. We are lazy. We are fat. We are low-life scum. We are parasites. And of course, we are benefit cheats. Those are just a few examples of what gets thrown at sick and disabled people daily.

I am not trying to suggest that there are no benefit cheats in Britain. Of course they are, and I do believe that they need to be caught and stopped. But the numbers are a minority and to target everyone as a benefit cheat is just so wrong.

Being ill or having a disability is not a life choice. It is a sad fact of life. People often are guilt ridden and stressed because they cannot work and have to rely on benefits. The last thing they need is to have accusing fingers being pointed at them, suggesting they are cheating the system.

The Conservative Party have admitted that they will be making welfare cuts if they get back into power. They will not admit which benefits will suffer, but there have been 'leaks' that the disabled and carers will be hit. Perhaps some people who are wealthy and people who have been fortunate enough to have had good health, don't actually see why people who are disabled are given 'hand outs'. But to disabled people and their families, those benefits help them to live some semblance of a normal life. They aren't 'hand outs'. They are in place to support people. Very often, that benefit is the sole income in the household. To take it away is punishing someone for having an illness or disability.

Over the last few years, I have increasingly felt that politicians haven't seen people. They don't really care about the people. They have simply seen numbers and have endeavoured to find ways of cutting numbers. (Labour as well as the Conservative party). This scares me. When life is already a struggle due to illness or disability, a bigger struggle is being created by the very people who are in a position to be able to help. It makes me realise that I want more from politicians. I want politicians to see the people. To really see them and to care about them.

Last year, during the referendum, I started looking at the SNP in a different light. I hadn't given them much thought before that. But I do see something different in them. I believe that they want change.

What I see is politicians who actually care.

They are passionate about allowing people to have free higher education and just as passionate about maintaining the NHS.

They want to ensure that disabled and their carers are looked after. Westminster gives private companies like ATOS the contract to oversee disability benefits. The claimants have to fill in numerous complicated forms and attend medical assessments run by those companies. The companies have targets to reach, therefore they pull the benefit from some of the most disabled and vulnerable people in society. People then have to fight to have their benefit reinstated. Sadly, some people do not have the strength to fight it. If the SNP could have control of this, they would prefer to have GPs do these medical assessments.

They don't think it is alright that there are people having to use foodbanks, especially since many people using them are actually in work. Sadly, it gets reported that many people using foodbanks are having to do so because they squander their money.

They don't think it is alright that people are being employed on exploitative zero hour contracts. Westminster say they exploit people too, but they have never done anything to stop it. People are forced to take jobs on zero hour contracts, because there is nothing else available. If they do not take those jobs, they will lose benefit. Of course, unemployment figures are low when people take those zero hour contracts, so the governments can boast that there is low unemployment.

They don't want that unelected House of Lords. Ex-politicians, business people, friends of politicians being given titles in return for some kind of favour, to then be paid a lot of money to sit in Westminster making laws.

They don't want Trident.  Nor do I.

More and more billions will be spent in the coming years on nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

We are told that we probably would never use them....they are just a deterrent. So why do we need them at all? Why are billions, upon billions being spent on weapons which (thankfully) won't be used, especially when the country has so much debt and poverty. It is 2015 and people are living in poverty! Shouldn't that money be spent on making a better future for people in the country?

But we are told that we need them. They are a deterrent. But do we really? There are only nine nations holding nuclear weapons. Does that mean that all the other countries in the world are in danger? Of course it doesn't. So why do we need it? Do we really want to live in a country which has the power to create devastation on another country? The world as we know it could change at the press of a button....controlled by USA, not even the UK.

We went to to war with Iraq just a few years ago because it was thought that they may have nuclear weapons. Why should it be ok for us to have them, but not ok for others? Are we really trying to dictate to the rest of the world whether or not they should have nuclear weapons?

Why have nuclear weapons at all....anywhere? Weapons of mass we really want to have something so dangerous, so powerful that it could cause untold death and destruction anywhere in the world, including
 on our own soil?

Some politicians say if the other countries disarm, then we can too. Maybe the other countries are saying the same thing. Waiting for the other countries to disarm. But someone always has to be first.  

I know people will read this and think I have an idealistic view of the world. I suppose I do. I don't want to live in a world with weapons like these. I want to live in a nicer world. A fairer, kinder, more compassionate world. And guess what, I think that the SNP would try to do that.