When am I English?

I came across something the other day that wasn’t exactly racism, but an assumption based on skin colour. No offence was caused or intended, but it set me thinking. I referred to someone we had just met as English and my friend questioned it, saying ‘she isn’t English, she’s black’. Now this is a curious state of affairs, and it has brought into question what you have to do to be defined as a nationality. Is it where you are born or is it where your parents are from or born? Is it about your grandparents and your heritage? Or is it just where you feel you belong?

I class myself as a bit of a mixture. Although I was born in England, I am only a quarter English. My mother is half Swiss, half English whereas my dad is half Welsh, half Irish making me a quarter of each. So I am technically as Swiss as I am English as I am Irish as I am Welsh, and if I had to chose one, where would I place myself? It would be incredibly difficult to be honest, but I’d love to be able to say Swiss, although my grasp of the language isn’t fluent and I have never lived there. But looking at me in the street, most people would place me as classic English. Fair skin, brown hair, no accent where in fact my friend with darker skin and darker hair is much more English than me.

So I draw as a conclusion that it is not by appearance, nor is it by where you were born, but it is where you feel the strongest pull to, the place that you would consider your country. And being a bit of a mixture won’t make that pull any weaker, I assure you.

What it is to be a woman

Some disgusting facts have come out recently about some women’s lives around the world.  Afghanistan, Congo, Pakistan, India and Somalia are thought to be the worst possible places to be a woman, although it is important to remember that these things go on around the world in most countries, even those considered ‘western’.

87% of women in Afghanistan are illiterate; in Congo, 1150 women are raped every day; 90% of women in Pakistan face domestic violence; in India, 50 million girls are “missing” over the past century due to female infanticide and foeticide; and in Somalia, 95% of women face FGM.

These facts are ridiculous. It seems impossible that the world we live in today can still be so unfair, and so backwards. In  Britain, the percentage for illiteracy is barely 3% and the comparison between here and Afghanistan is appalling. No wonder western countries such as ours face so much immigration, when there is so much to try and get away from. Something needs to change. This is not just sexism, this is hundreds and thousands of people all over the planet being denied basic human rights. Female infanticide would be unthinkable in almost any developed country, yet it continues to happen on such a mass scale. Yet it is important to consider that it has largely been ignored that it occurs in China, as people consider China ‘developed’.

But what can we do? Well something has to be done. It seems to me that the obvious way forward in these countries is information. Inform the men of women’s rights in other countries and cultures, and inform the women to help them see that they don’t deserve what they are being put through, and give them access to information. I expect that the women being raped think it is what they are meant to endure (or at least have no one to help them), illiterate women don’t think that they should be able to read, and domestic violence is often seen as a given in marriages, especially in cultures where arranged marriages are common. Free access to information here is the only way forward.

Capital Punishment

Capital Punishment is a strange concept. It is considered the ultimate punishment by many and disapproved of by more.

I think it is the escape of the hypocritical. It’s been in the news recently how Amnesty International have protested against two inmates in America being held in solitary imprisonment for murder, yet I fail to hear any news about the violation of human rights that is capital  punishment.

It has always seemed to me a strange idea. It’s very much ‘You took someone’s life, so I’m going to take yours’, an eye for an eye, which seems very medieval. Surely you are just as bad as a murderer, if you murder him. Many would disagree, say that you are making things right. But what Amnesty International have made clear is that they consider solitary confinement much worse than death, and maybe this should be kept in mind for future convictions. If someone has done something truly awful, be that murder or rape or similar, death is a quick option for punishment and I feel, inappropriate. Surely long-term imprisonment in solitary conditions would be more acceptable and less hypocritical.

The way forward? Eliminate capital punishment from America and in Britain improve the conviction rates to the standards on 50 years ago, and make sentences unnegotiable, even with the best behavior. Taking a life is one way of dealing with it, but letting them live it out in a prison cell is another.

The Benefits of Benefits?

‘Benefits’ are definitely a good part of any democratic society. They are intended to help those who are unable to support themselves, and without them, many a person would go hungry most nights.

But they are freely open to misuse. Tightening the benefit system would save the government so much money and their cuts in other areas would then have to be less severe. It seems that they are not just achieving the admirable aim of supporting the needy, but also fuelling the lazy. A good example of this would be a friend, who would actually be financially better off to quit work and claim benefits than she would to carry on working. Luckily for all of us, there are a few people who wouldn’t live off charity unnecessarily and have some sort of work ethic.

The problem lies with those who dislike working, and would rather stay at home. They can claim unemployment benefit, or job seeker’s allowance or even find some way to claim disability. I have even heard of people claiming benefits as they feel they are too fat to work. Maybe their benefits should be supplied as healthy meals 3 times a day, and they’d be fit for work in no time. The fact is, the government doesn’t invest enough time and energy in checking up on those receiving benefits, whether they are really deserving, or just lazy. We would be far better off cancelling job seeker’s allowance and using the money to pay for inspectors to check up on the other benefit recieving people say every 3 months. It would create new jobs and save the government money in the long run.

Who am I to comment anyway. The government is making cuts (reassuringly different from our previous labour governments), as it has to, but maybe in slightly the wrong ways.

The Obsession with ‘Reality’

When I say ‘reality’, I am in fact referring to the very unreal world of reality TV. It has overtaken our nation in a blur of celebrities and nobodies giving in to the ongoing siege of the media’s grasp on our lives.

I feel it is a very strange idea really, the one of ‘reality’ TV shows when usually they are hugely displaced from reality. I think it’s peoples’ lack of self confidence in their lives that has allowed this craze to be driven forward. People do not think that their lives are fulfilled enough and look to these poor people who have been thrust upon TV to fill the gaps. Any entertainment fuels the imagination, takes one away to a place that may not be real but is new and exciting, but reality TV shows fail to do that. They don’t flood you with ideas and concepts, they show ordinary people in an not so ordinary setting, arguing with each other as ordinary people do.

These shows, ‘I’m a Celebrity…’, ‘Big Brother’ and such the like, are different to the reality talent shows of this era. Things like ‘X Factor’ and ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ do seem to fuel the imagination, seeing a normal but talented person being catapulted to unimaginable fame. It could be fiction for all we care, it’s the thrill of the ride that counts. Shame that the same cannot be said for normal Reality TV shows. Watching a person sleep can hardly be described as thrilling, can it?

Many class reality shows as proof of the degradation of our society, but really it is more a further intrusion of the media into our lives. They can control what we want to be like, how we want to live by these examples on the TV. Now, that really is a worry.

Euthanasia: Forgivable murder?

When I was younger, I was told to give a speech about euthanasia, either arguing to make it legal or for it to keep its status as murder. To my younger self it seemed very black and white. These people were suffering and wanted to die, surely it is right to grant them that at least?
But now, I begin to see the shades of grey. It is a very difficult subject to approach, let alone make any sort of judgement on. It has this association with doctors gone wrong, killing their patients or the Nazi’s scheme to get rid of old or ill patients. Keeping it illegal though, could also be seen as a deprivation of human rights. If someone is unable to end their suffering for themselves, wouldn’t you wish to end it for them?
Where does euthanasia end and murder start? That is the question preventing legalisation. It would be very hard to govern a case where a doctor gave a paralysed patient a lethal injection because they asked him too, yet the family has accused the said doctor of malpractice and murder. It is hard to collate enough evidence to say that the patient wanted to die, when the patient is obviously not there to provide witness.
As I said, it is a difficult grey area that many people feel is not open to debate. This is the problem. Something as difficult as euthanasia needs debate and open discussion or it will never be sorted, and will remain forever uncomfortable.

Patriotism: Faults and Virtues

Two major events have recently both started to cause a surge in patriotism and to show how many people lack it. Of course I am talking about the Royal Wedding in April and the Olympics coming to London next year.

Some are very sceptical, claming it is something that belongs to a previous era and we are only being drawn into it by cheap bunting and a media explosion. That it has no place in modern day society, and sits uneasily with the idea of racism. But they are wrong.

Patriotism is very much key in our society. The United Kingdom is nothing if it cannot be united simply by a love and pride of where we live. There are people from all over the world living in Britain, there must be something about here that draws people to it. And since it can’t be the weather, it must be something deeper. There are few cultures as old, developed and traditional in the world today as Britain. We still have a monarchy, a national religion and a pride of being who we are. The ability to laugh at ourselves, be consistently bad at sports and produce dry comedy is desired by all, but only possessed by people who know what it is to be British.

Patriotism is something very strongly connected with happiness, unity and a joint love for something. The Wedding helped to symbolize a new generation of patriotism, one forged from a genuine connection formed between the royals and the people. Tradition is something cherished in Britain and admired throughout the world. It is wonderful to be British and whether your ancestry lies in Britain, in Europe or  further afield, being British should be defined as how much pride you hold for Britain.

The Olympics is one of the oldest traditions in the world, and we as a nation are privileged to hold it. Patriotism should should bring our country together in order to make it an iconic event that will be remember. Without our patriotism, it will fall apart.

It’s events like this which bring our rich culture and heritage into the public’s view, and there is certainly something there to be patriot about.