Category Archives: The Real World

On Guns, and their idiotic harm.

The recent shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, were horrific. 20 very young children and 6 adults were shot dead by a 20 year old boy, in a school.  Since 2009, there have been 4 mass shootings in the US.  It is pretty clear that there is something terribly wrong to allow this to happen.

Obama gave an incredibly moving speech on the Newtown incident, which you should watch. You can here, or for a shorter version, here are some highlights. It’s not often you see genuine emotion from a politician, but when Obama says that “we’re not doing enough. We have to change.” you can see he believes it, that he is sick that the country he lives in should treat murder as such a routine thing.

This incident highlights a desperately important issue in American politics: Guns.  The rights of individuals to be able to carry a tool that can kill people on demand (or as the Onion calls it: Right To Own Handheld Device That Shoots Deadly Metal Pellets At High Speed).

The US is a great country.  It really is. So many of the world’s best writers, thinkers, artists and scientists came from the States. Batman is American. So are the Drums. Pretty much every American I have met is a lovely person. Problem is, in so many ways, their politics seems entrenched in the 18th century. I know these cases do not represent the country as a whole, but a 1st World, fully developed, purportedly liberal country that has such a big anti-abortion, pro-execution, homophobic, creationist lobby just makes no sense. But these have much less power than the pro-death-stick brigade.

It is stupid to say that the ready availability of guns does not lead to the higher use of guns.  It’s just moronic.

It is true guns will still be available on the black market or whatever even if guns were banned, but that doesn’t mean that it renders a ban useless.  I don’t know where I could get a gun here (I live in the UK). I don’t know how to start looking for one.  It is thus far harder for me to go on a spontaneous rampage, or to shoot someone I dislike, or to hold up a shop, or to shoot myself.  I could well try other means to achieve the same ends, but there are fewer more efficient ways of killing someone than using a machine designed for the purpose.

Guns do not prevent murder, probably because everyone has guns. Here are some stats from CIVITAS showing that the US has one of the highest homicide rate in the developed world (though the assault rate is lower than England and Wales).  Here is another, from an Oxford University journal (admittedly from 1998) that shows the US as having the highest rate of gun related deaths (look at page 4). So whether it was someone shooting a mate when out hunting, dropping his gun, forgetting the safety’s on, shooting a guy dead for breaking into your car, leaving it on the side when a kid’s around or going out and deciding to kill someone, guns definitely contribute to death.

As I said, denying it is dumb as fuck.

Of course there are more factors. Of course.  There will be lots of reasons for things happening. Thing is, “these things” wouldn’t happen without guns in the first place.

Next thing argued by the death-spewing-phallus advocate groups is the individuals “right” to bear arms. I won’t go into any great dissection of the constitution, as I lack knowledge, experience and interest in it.  However, it should be clear: this “right” is not an inherent or inalienable human right, and it shouldn’t be treated as such.  If a right infringes upon another’s rights, especially rights as important as their rights to life and security (Article 3 of the Universal Declaration), then frankly it isn’t worth a damn. It’s not worth it. It’s not worth campaigning to protect your “right” to carry a death dispensing penis, for no real purpose. Your “right” to carry an assault rifle will endanger yourself, your friends and your children, as it’s the same for every Tom, Dick and psychopath in the country. And lets face it, the right to bear arms is not what’s stopping Obama waging war on the American populace. Don’t claim it is. Seriously guys.

So, even if a ban on a penis substitute that ejaculates lead is impractical, or politically difficult, regulation is necessary.  No one else should die.

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A Degree Of Responsibility

It seems everybody’s writing about University now.  This is for the obvious reason that lots of people have gone, or are going, really, really soon, to the aforementioned havens of learning (and drinking). The University will give you a fresher’s guide, as will your college/halls, as will your sixth-form, as will the Police, as will each member of your family, as will every newspaper you choose to read. Including the Sun, which has a touch of irony about it.  Even the very friends which left a week ago act the grand veterans of higher education, and give you advice, that by and large, you neither want nor need (incidentally, a fish bowl does not come with a fish. Remember this when you are looking for a present for your nephew). The advice from the other (possibly more reputable) sources invariably comes down to “washing up rotas, the best thing since toasters?” and “don’t drink too much, you saucy dogs!”  Because we are imbeciles, and we’re not used to thinking, as we haven’t really done it in 3 months. Instead we drank (presumably as practice), played video games, moped over the friends and girl/boy/?-friends we’d miss, and took on menial jobs so we could actually afford to eat next year.

It does seem odd to me that the act of willingly ingesting poison to make social events more tolerable (ie. getting pissed) is not only prevalent in a place of learning, but is seen as a secondary feature.  It’s probably got something to do with hoards of young people going off to live on their own. If you put a kid on their own in a room full of chocolate they will eat all the chocolate, and I suppose for all the talk of independence and adulthood and having your own potato peeler, we are still kids. I’m going to University at the end of the week, and I am frankly terrified.  All this talk of buying kitchen implements and contents insurance makes my blood run cold.  Of course I’m excited for it, but by Harry it’s a big step.  Just one year ago I had to send an email to let my teacher know that I got poorly, now I’m having to arrange my own vaccinations for possibly life threatening diseases.  That’s fucking adulthood. Pretty soon I’ll be drinking Ovaltine in an armchair, complaining that “music isn’t what it used to be”. Oh. Wait.

To be fair, Uni students are pretty protected from the big bad world. There are welfare officers, tutor groups and a general dormy sensibility, that kind of makes it a bit like a big ol’ summer camp specifically for adults who like reading. It’s certainly not preparation for reality. All the financial advice I had as a child told me debt was bad, and I should avoid it when I grow up, whereas everyone in University is thousands of pounds in debt! We don’t actually have a choice!

Nevertheless, it’ll inevitably be worth it.  You will spend upwards of 3 years of your life immersed purely in what you are most interested in. You will meet loads of people who are just like you.  At the end you can get the job you wanted.  Well, possibly. With the current rate of qualification inflation, in 3 years time a 2:1 in Mathematics might be able to get you a job in Burger King if you’re lucky.
Good luck everyone, and if you’re going straight into work, well done for not being a lazy slackarse.

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Don’t give a squat

This is in response to my very own response blogger, and friend, Iwanttheconch:
Squatting is symptomatic of a much larger problem, that is, people without decent shelter.  Homeless people.  Most of the time, people on the street have nowhere to go, and to criminalise them for trying to find shelter from the elements (as opposed to exercising their right to get pneumonia) is callous and stupid, unless the government has implemented decent homeless shelters (which they haven’t).

By definition, you cannot squat in an occupied house, so this law protects the privilege of the wealthy to own land they don’t live on at the expense of the most vulnerable.

I agree that squatters can do damage, and they should be dealt with accordingly, and that they should move when asked (by the police or homeowners, I am not going to defend their “right” to live on someone else’s property). Furthermore, the government cannot be seen to encourage trespass.

But giving someone a criminal record, for what can only be described as a crime of desperation, seems extreme.  Move them on, charge them for vandalism if you want, but for crying out loud, get them somewhere to stay!

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Not really a sporting chance.

I have long considered Sport, like dairylea and Queen, to be both boring and marginally unpleasant. However, I have steadily come to realise that maybe my judgement was too harsh…maybe.  Of course, the idea of people being paid vast quantities of money for effectively playing games does grind somewhat with my sense of what is good in the world, but if people want to pay them for it then you have to hand it to the crafty buggers.
I enjoyed the bits of the olympics I saw immensely! I didn’t watch all of it, I didn’t even watch a decent percentage (I’m not a crazy person). Most of what I saw was in the background while I did other, much more important things. Like reading webcomics.  But that’s not to say that I wasn’t impressed by the swimmers, cyclists, gymnasts, weightlifters and pentathletes I saw, to whom the best comparison I can make are Superheroes. Visually. Batman could do all those things and more, but hey, he’s not real, and his build’s like that guy on the parallel bars. The novelty wore off by the time I reached the Paralympics, which is a real shame, because I’ve only heard good things about the amazing feats the Paralympians pulled off.  It brought up questions about the true meanings of words like “disabled” because people in wheelchairs often kicked more arse than anyone else.  And George Osborne got booed (well, if you have the name, face and behaviour of spiderman villain….), which if you look up on youtube, is hilarious.

I also follow the cycling, which, regardless of what anyone else wants to say, is the most brutal sport in the world which isn’t illegal somewhere. I’ve seen a man fall down a mountain to land with barbed wire between his legs, and get back on his bike.  I’ve seen a pile up of 20 people, each going at 30mph, which broke a guy’s collarbone. He finished the race. The races last all day! Across hundreds of miles! It makes a footballer’s grazed knee and one and a half hours look pathetic (Frankly, so does playing football when you’re 10, where the rules consist broadly of “no hand-balls” and “no weaponry”).  It’s also fortunate, because it’s a sport the UK is good at.

Unlike…football. That massive corporate preoccupation of this country which is only rendered more inexplicable by just how bad we are at it.  We haven’t won the World Cup since 1966. That was when my Dad was born. Seriously? We’re not getting any better!  Why would you watch some overpaid children kick a ball around a massive field for nearly 2 hours when you know we will lose?!  But hey, I play video games, and blog, so I suppose I can’t talk about futility (but FIFA? What the fuck!?)

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Should We Kill People?

Should we kill people who do not follow the law?

This post is not on a topic that I’ve had a lot of controversy discussing before, but I realise that it is actually fiercely fought across the world.  I think I will play devil’s advocate with myself a little, in order to get a feel of internal debate going here!

There are many things to say in favour of the death penalty. With repeat offenders of serious crimes it could be seen as the only solution there is for dealing with them, short of keeping them locked up forever.  It could save significant amounts of money, given that the government would not have to pay the living costs of criminals, and as prisons are getting over-full anyway, it could save space.  What’s more, it is a powerful deterrent (there’s no coming back from being dead), and, for the more scarily vindictive, some people deserve to die.

Apart from the very last point, I am inclined to sympathise with this line of argument, because it makes a handful of decent points (I understand I made them, but work with me here).  However, I personally am vehemently opposed to the death penalty.

I think that punishments should be preventative: in order to discourage people from committing crimes, and to stop people who are likely to commit crimes from committing them again.  I do not think that people should be punished simply for “doing wrong”, as I would struggle to see what would be the ideal end result, if not one of the above.  In that sense, I don’t think some people “deserve” punishment on any inherent level, and thus some people do not, fundamentally, deserve to die.

I believe that killing is wrong. I imagine that this is a view held by a lot of people.  I myself think that there are few things, short of rape and torture, that are worse, morally. If we were to institutionalise killing, then that normalises it to an extent.  If we are to kill people, how can we really take the moral high ground about lesser crimes such as stealing cds or smashing windows?  Would revenge killings count as murder, and how could we justify saying that if it is? A justice system should be trustworthy and respected, and that is hard to achieve if they get their hands dirty in such a way.  It’s a joke going through twitter now: “What’s the death penalty? Killing people that kill people to show people that killing people is wrong.”

However, compared to all the obvious practical advantages, should purely moral objections be given such weight?  I would say yes, as I believe that you shouldn’t put prioritise material gains over (as I see them) such fundamental moral ideas.  But what is more, there are serious practical problems with the death penalty. A significant flaw is one of the advantages I mentioned above: when you kill someone, you can’t just take it back.  The guilty verdict must be absolutely irrefutable. That is rarely the case.  Furthermore, execution rarely acts as a much stronger deterrent than prison, countries and eras with death penalties simply do not have lower crime rates (there are other factors involved, of course, but this shows the effect is small).

So it appears I can’t persuade myself otherwise. I still think the death penalty is pointless and barbaric.  Others are welcome to have their own opinions on the subject. As long as they do not become a member of government. Or vote.  Or speak.

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