Thursday, 6 December 2012

The World's Gone Crazy

I live in a Western Liberal Democracy. My mum as a woman has full human rights; I am free to practice my religion; I do not live in fear of suicide bombers or a repressive regime. I really have no reason to be fed up, to have had enough, to be frustrated but for some reason, I am. Why? Because the world's gone crazy.

I live in a world where it is debated by Human Rights Watch whether Iran's repeated calls for the destruction of Israel are illegal with the ultimate conclusion, so far, that this is just fine but the worlds' leaders and media fall over themselves to blast Israel for authorising plans to build houses in land that is rightfully theirs under Oslo.

I live in a world where the murder of anywhere between 60,000 and 120,000 (your guess is as good as mine) Syrians is completely acceptable provided they are murdered by conventional means and not through the use of chemical weapons but where Israel's fundamental right to self-defence against terrorists committed to her destruction is called into question.

I live in a world where Hamas and Fatah fire rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilians but it is only Israel's retaliation aimed at killing terrorists and only terrorists that is deemed worthy of media attention.

I live in a world where Syrian babies are dying daily but this brought to the world's attention only through Hamas' use of pictures of the Syrian war dead as pictures from Gaza.

I live in a world where the UN debates 21 resolutions on Israel and only one on Syria, setting a on hour time limit for this resolution leaving the rest of the day to debate an Israeli one, but it is Israel's reaction to constant rocket fire that is deemed disproportionate.

I live in a world where there is an Arab state in Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Iraq, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Tunisia, Somalia, UAE, Libya, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Djibouti and Comoros but it is the existence of the one Jewish State which prevents peace.

I live in a world where the Arab World refuse to recognise a (Jewish) State of Israel; sponsor, partake and glorify terror; refuse every peace deal that has ever been offered; have declared wars of destruction against Israel on more than one occasion and a Palestinian Authority that rejects negotiations in favour of unilateral moves; has no authority in half the state set aside for a future Palestinian one yet it is Israeli actions which are deemed counter productive to peace.

I live in a world where the Palestinian Leadership and Arab world harbour no desire for peace, seek the ultimate destruction of Israel and are willing to go to any lengths to achieve this goal, but the world presses Israel to do more to achieve peace.

Finally, I live in a world where all of the above is true for the simple fact that Israel is a Jewish state.



Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A Few Questions for Palestinian Statehood

On Thursday, the United Nations will vote (almost certainly) to recognise a Palestinian State based on Pre-1967 borders. They will do so primarily through a hatred of Israel (Abba Eban once remarked, "If Algeria introduced a resolution that stated the Earth was flat and Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions) but also through a sheer ignorance of the situation and the recent history of the Israel/Palestine conflict (no Biblical history needed). Perhaps it is worth clarifying that when I refer to Palestinians, I do mean the Palestinian leaders (the same goes for Arabs). Whilst I would argue that if there was a strong desire for peace at the level of the average Palestinian, there would be more efforts to force their leaders' hands into pursuing a peace agenda, I feel it is unfair to label all Palestinians as anti-peace simply for the lack of these moves. They live under regimes that dictate what they should believe, restricting their rights and blaming the resulting suffering on Israel and therefore if peace is to come in this situation, it must come from the Palestinian leaders. However, they simply do not want peace. The problem is not the general population but the leaders themselves. You can argue for days about barriers to peace on both sides - settlements, the Israeli position on Jerusalem, rocket fire, terrorist attacks etc etc etc, but none of these get to the heart of the matter: The Arabs do not want peace or care about a Palestinian state but genocide of the Jews and the destruction of the (Jewish) state of Israel.

For all of you who find my previous comment offensive, wrong, ignorant, any of the above or anything similar I politely request you answer the following questions:

  1. If the Palestinians had a true desire for peace, why did they reject the 1947 UN partition plan which (having already designated 4/5 of the Palestine Mandate to Arabs in the form of Jordan) established a Jewish state and an Arab state in the remaining 1/5, with about 50% of the land each?
  2. If the Arab World truly desired peace, why did they react to the establishment of a Jewish State by launching a war filled with hatred to destroy this Jewish state resulting only hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees?
  3. If the Arab World was so genuinely concerned with the establishment of a Palestinian State (ignoring the existence of a Palestinian state in Jordan), why did Jordan and Egypt not establish a one in the West Bank and Gaza which they respectively occupied between 1949 and 1967?
  4. If the Arab World so desired peace why did they decide the best way to achieve this would be by launching yet another war of hatred against Israel in 1967? 
  5. What happened the last time an Arab nation was occupying the West Bank and what does this tell you about the current desire to reestablish Arab occupation of the West Bank? 
  6. If the Palestinians genuinely only wanted a Palestinian State with eastern Jerusalem as its capital why have the rejected every single offer of a state which includes this? 
  7. If the Palestinians want peace, why did the withdrawal from the Gaza strip in 2005 lead to the election of Hamas and constant rocket fire against Israeli civilians?
  8. If the Palestinians genuinely want peace with Israel and a two state solution, why do they continue to insist on the right of return of Palestinian refugees (made so by the 1947 war of hatred against Israel) to flood Israel with Palestinian Arabs so rendering it a defacto Palestinian state? 
  9. If the Palestinians believe in a two state solution, why do Arab states continue to not recognise the existence of Israel but rather call for the destruction of the Zionist entity?
  10. If Palestinians genuinely desired peace, why do they insist on preconditions before even entering peace negotiations?
  11. How do you explain the continued use of violence and terrorism against the Jewish population of Israel (and indeed the world)?
  12. If the Arab world cared so much about the Palestinians why:
  • Did Jordan's Regime murder thousands of Palestinians in 1970?
  • Do they not have the right to own property or land, access the health system and require special permits to leave their refugee camps in Lebanon?
  • Do Palestinians in Egypt have restrictions on the most basic of human rights?
  • Does Hamas store and fire its rockets from within the civilian population in Gaza, using them as human shields against Israel, actively putting them in harms way?
  • Is it in Israel that Palestinians enjoy the greatest level of human and civil rights, religious freedom, political representation etc?
Perhaps I can help you out:
  1. Because they do not want peace with Israel, they want the destruction of Israel. 
  2. Because they do not want peace with Israel, they want the destruction of Israel.
  3. Because they do not care about the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but a Palestinian state to replace Israel. In short, because they do not want peace with Israel, they want the destruction of Israel.
  4. Because they do not want peace with Israel, they want the destruction of Israel.
  5. A war was launched against Israel to cause its destruction. They continue to not want peace with Israel but a platform from which to launch the destruction of Israel. 
  6. Because they do not want peace with Israel, they want the destruction of Israel. 
  7. Because they do not want peace with Israel, they want the destruction of Israel.
  8. Because they reject the existence of Israel.
  9. Because they do not want peace with Israel, they want the destruction of Israel.
  10. Because they do not want peace with Israel. 
  11. They do not want peace with Israel, they want the destruction of Israel. 
  12. Because they do not care about the Palestinians but realise they are a useful tool in their desire to destroy Israel. 
So please forgive Israel for being wary at this latest publicity stunt from Abbas at the United Nations. Time and again Palestinians have been offered peace and time and again it has been rejected and is usually followed by a war against Israel. The last time there was an Arab power occupying the West Bank, Israel had to defend itself from yet another war of hatred aimed at destroying the state of Israel and the Jewish people. How many times must Israel defend herself from Arab powers who's aim is the destruction of the Jewish State? Any Palestinian state established on Pre-1967 borders leaves open the very possibility of yet another war against Israel launched in very much the same way as the 1967 war - the Arab commitment to 'Pre-1967' borders is nothing to do with a state of Palestine (if they wanted a Palestinian state, they were offered a much larger one which they rejected in 1947) but is a calculated move to threaten Israel. Unilateral moves at the United Nations do not established secure borders for Israel, something history shows us is necessary.

There is no denying the simple fact that there are barriers to peace on both sides that could be removed (and shouldn't be added to). This, however, makes the naive assumption that the Arab side desire peace. If the Arabs wanted peace, they could have had it years ago. Instead, from the very beginning, they chose the path of war and destruction against the Jewish people, a nation whose destruction has been sought by: Ancient Egypt, the Philistines, the Assyrian Empire, the Babylonian Empire, the Persian Empire, the Greek Empire, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Crusaders, the Spanish Empire, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. 

Not one of these civilisations, nations or empires still exist. The Jewish People remain. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

Find me a dead Israeli: There maybe a story here.

Violence in the Middle East is not a new thing. Rockets being fired into Israel and Israeli responses are events that, for the citizens of Gaza and Israel, have become quite commonplace. The media response is, too, nothing new. Nor is the justification for the media response (or lack of it). The most common is, "But the rockets don't kill anyone". This is then either extended to suggest it is 'not newsworthy' or, even more extreme, "Israel shouldn't make a fuss about it". How anyone can be so irreverent to rocket fire, I do not know, but I shall attempt to debunk both of these views here. 

The argument can be formulated as follows:


1                    1. The rockets, in the main, do not kill anyone

2                    2. That which is aimed to kill but doesn’t kill is not:

                                   a.     Newsworthy
                                    or
                                   b.     Something that warrants a reaction/condemnation

3                    3. Therefore rockets (which aim to kill), in the main, are not:

                                   a.     Newsworthy
                                    or
                                   b.     Something that warrants any reaction/condemnation


If 1 and 2 are true it follows that 3 is also true. Ignoring the obvious complication that rockets can and do kill people for now, premise 2 is clearly false. In other words it is not the case that things which aim to kill but fail are neither newsworthy nor something that warrants a reaction for 6 reasons:

1. The rockets still have a profound effect. In England, students look forward to "snow days" as a day off school. In the southern parts of Israel, students have rocket days where it is deemed school cannot be opened, not because they may slip and fall or because the coach service cannot run as per snow days, but because it is deemed that the threat of a rocket attack means students are in the position where they may go to school but not return. Thus, a day in rocket shelters is the solution. Whatever way you look at the situation - whether you argue Israel is an occupying power and the rockets are only in retaliation to IAF strikes on the Gaza strip or not, the fact rocket fire targets schools and prevents children from attending school is not only newsworthy, something that warrants a reaction from Israel but also just plain wrong. To note an example, when schools are shut in England due to snow, that is deemed newsworthy (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-16903487 - just one example of this being reported). When schools are shut due to rocket fire, because the rocket fire hasn't resulted in dead Israelis, it is not newsworthy. If anything, it should be the other way round. 

2. The rockets may not (always) kill, but they inflict damage and do cause injuries. Simply put, since when did 'deaths' become the criteria for what warrants a reaction or is newsworthy. Multiple Israelis are injured in rocket fire - the attitude that no deaths=not newsworthy/not worthy of a reaction can be crudely put as, "If there are no dead Israelis, I do not care enough to report it and/or Israel has no right to react". It makes me worry for some people that I genuinely have to explain why 'deaths' as the criteria upon which something becomes newsworthy or deserving of a reaction, is simply absurd. The unsuccessful nature of the rockets doesn't render them not bad nor does it mean that indiscriminate rocket fire is neither newsworthy nor deserving of a reaction. 

3. Linking both of the above points, the rockets aim and have the potential to kill. They are fired at children forcing them to miss school and spend the day in a rocket shelter. Hamas are not on some mission to disrupt the schooling of Israeli children. They wish to kill Israeli school children. They are fired into villages and cause damage to buildings and injuries to civilians. Hamas is not on some mission to keep Israeli builders and doctors in work. They wish to destroy villages and kill civilians. Again, when something is aimed to kill and has the potential to kill, only in the case of Israel is the failure to kill deemed a reason not to report about the rockets and/or to condemn any reaction by Israel to the rockets. Firstly, foiled terror plots haven't killed anyone yet they are still deemed newsworthy (http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/times_square_car_smoke_scare_TyBE8K6vF3PzScpS9xG0XP) - as they, of course, are. The fact the terror plot failed doesn't then render it irrelevant to news organisations. (Unless, Israel is on the receiving end). Indeed, in the case of the Times Square scare, it was deemed newsworthy even though nothing even exploded, unlike rocket fire which, in itself is successful, even if it fails to kill (many). Secondly, the fact that the rockets don't kill (many) doesn't mean Israel has no right to attempt to prevent the rocket fire. What government's defence of her citizens is only justifiable if a citizen has died? That the rockets can (and does) kill civilians is enough to warrant a reaction from Israel to prevent the rocket fire. 

4. The rockets are a barrier to peace. If we work from the assumption that a Palestinian state will compromise of the Gaza Strip and, as of yet, an undetermined amount of the land known commonly as the West Bank, then a future Palestinian state will include the land where the rocket fire emanates from and the people that fire the rockets. In other words, the actions of the ruling party from an area of land that is generally assumed to form part of any future Palestinian State is indiscriminately firing (albeit useless) rockets into Israel, actions which by definition are not peaceful. Not only should this make the situation newsworthy - whether peace is attainable in the Middle East is surely newsworthy and thus actions which, without doubt a a barrier to peace must also be newsworthy, but it means that a response from Israel is more than justified. Again, whether or not you also deem the Israeli response as a barrier to peace and not justifiable in the face of Hamas' regime of terror is besides the point - the rockets into Israel are a barrier to peace, regardless of whether or not there exist other barriers to peace.

5. Israel has spent millions on mechanisms to prevent the rockets from being deadly - iron dome defence system, bomb shelters etc etc. It is not the rockets themselves that mean Israeli deaths are few and far between but Israeli efforts to ensure this is the case. Why, therefore, should Hamas essentially get the credit for the Israeli efforts? By getting the credit, I mean not having the rocket attacks condemned or covered as extensively as, especially 100+ rocket bursts, should be. 

6. The rockets do kill people. The amount is irrelevant. (OK, granted, this is more to disprove premise one, rather than two, but the point is valid nonetheless) 

If premise 2 is false, then not only should the world's media report the rocket fire more extensively than it does, rather than taking the view that Israelis are not dying therefore it is not important but more crucially, Israel absolutely has a right to respond to rocket fire. You can argue to the ends of the Earth about the force it should use, the force it does use but the fundamental point remains that Israel, no matter how useless Hamas are, has a right to defend her citizens and put an end to rocket fire. That Hamas care not for the citizens of Gaza not only putting there lives in danger through attacking Israel but also using them as active human shields to further endanger them, is not Israel's problem. 

It is perhaps ironic that the one thing preventing Hamas from obtaining weapons which would, according to the proponents of the above argument, mean that attacks against Israel were newsworthy/deserving of a reaction is the blockade of Gaza which they all oppose. Surely preventing weapons of a more deadly nature entering Gaza is in the interests of the proponents of the above argument. They need a reason not to report on Hamas' attacks. If Hamas starting killing more Israelis, that already absurd reason would float away. 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Oh So Fresh

Going to university was a big move for me (as, indeed, it is for most). Suddenly tasks that 'mummy' would usually have done, became my responsibility overnight. From shopping and becoming bargain hunting students (mainly looking for cheap booze) to doing your own laundry (something I have not attempted yet - considering I burnt myself within 5 seconds of switching on the iron at home and I spent a good 10 minutes sat in front of my washing machine completely ignorant of what settings to use to make it work that's probably a wise move), you begin to look after yourself. Or at least attempt to.

Despite arriving with virtually everything under the sun, I somehow forgot to bring any food other than some cornflakes leading to genuine concerns from my flatmates as to my eating habits in the first few days. Luckily a female flatmate took pity on me cooking me a stir-fry not once, but twice. So much for looking after yourself, I was still being looked after by a (albeit different) woman! Indeed,  before I'd even bought any food, our kitchen had been used by others not once but twice. The first was a perfectly innocent couple of guys from downstairs who only wanted to cook a lasagne because their oven wasn't working but were subjected to brilliant discussion centring on 10ft whale penis. We couldn't help but feel sorry for them as they nervously waited for their lasagne to cook and clearly felt quite uncomfortable in the process. The second occasion, however, was much weirder:

I was just arriving back from something when I was greeted by "Come here Raphael. Come and have a look at this". I figured I'd made a mess with my cornflakes or something as I was dragged to the kitchen. Upon entering, however, I discovered that a group of Chinese people had set up base in our kitchen, were using 3/4 of our stoves and had even brought their own rice steamer with them. None of them were from our kitchen and only one was even from our block. Looking back I shouldn't have compared it to Hitler's search for living space in the east but nonetheless my flatmates had all been driven out of our kitchen by hysterics and a complete ignorance over what to do about 7 random Chinese people just cooking in our kitchen for no apparent reason other than they felt like it. They then all sat down and started eating in our kitchen. I took the opportunity to join in and eat - it wasn't bad. All was forgiven.

Taking a couple of days to settle in; a visit from Mum and Dad the week after moving out and finally purchasing something to eat/drink other than cornflakes or tea, I settled down to began student life...

...Pretty much the same way I ended school life. I remain the annoying one seemingly not doing any work or, indeed, having any work to do and as I sit here looking at my comparatively empty timetable (to a science subject for example), I can't help but think I made the right decision picking an Arts Subject like PPE; I still wear what some would label ludicrous clothing, going out two nights in my PJs (and only on one of those did I get a free drink); I still offer everyone and anyone a random hug even if I do claim that most enjoy it and, indeed, a good hug is always beneficial; I've still been getting into "discussions" about the Israel-Palestine conflict and I'm still blogging!

Getting to know people is always a bit daunting and despite initial anti-socialness as I scampered off to Old Trafford, I quite quickly felt at home and indeed as if I had been lucky with my flatmates. We quickly labelled ourselves as a dysfunctional family and haven't really looked back. We are an odd but, I would say, wonderful mix.

Despite lectures starting 2 days into Freshers Week (actually two weeks here at Warwick), my determination to party remained strong - "Please drag me to stuff," I believe were my exact words. My reasoning? I bought a freshers passport and didn't want it to be a waste of money - I had expected this would receive the amazingly witty response "YOU JEW" forgetting I was no longer at Habs and casual racism might not be as acceptable. Whilst I have attended most Freshers Events, I still fail to see the attraction and often leave early for a game of pool gaining me a reputation as Arthur Vick's resident party animal (or not). Something about the incessant shoving, immense crowding, shit but loud music, the one guy who decides the middle of the dance floor is absolutely the right place to break wind and drunk people that doesn't endear me to them - of course, I will still attend the freshers events remaining. And moan about them.

Drinking is big part of Freshers week especially and whilst even I did cross the line from sober to tipsy on a few occasions, and even went a bit further than that, I discovered a wonderful pleasure in observing drunk people. I felt a bit like David Attenborough as I ate my yogurt perfectly sober and looked on, sometimes in shock, sometimes in amusement, at my block mates going about their business having just played Ring of Fire.  Then it got a bit interesting.

For a moment I thought I was back at HABS as I suddenly heard, "You can't be racist if you have slept with a black guy". I'm sure there was a context to this that I missed as I finished of my yogurt but this was a line of argument that was actively pursued and, indeed, repeated. It culminated with the question, which remained unanswered, "What about if a black man rapes you? Because technically you've still slept with him so can you not be a racist?". It was something off a HABS playground and I did have a little snigger to myself as I realised we're this absurdly and casually racist completely sober! There was worse but I'm not sure I should reveal all here. I will admit to enjoying the drunken conversation even if I did get caught out tweeting about that comment.

Having spent a week and a half at university, I can certainly say I've enjoyed it. I've met some wonderful new people, had a lot of fun at freshers, got a free condom and actually done a little bit of work. Just a little bit mind. It's been a brilliant experience so far and as long as I have food in the kitchen or people who take enough pity on me to cook me something I am sure I will do just fine!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Just A Minute

 40 years ago, between 5th September and 6th September, at the Olympic Games in Munich, 11 athletes were abducted and eventually murdered by terrorists. Two nationalities may have been left out from that sentence but really, they are not important. 40 years on, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) continue to refuse  to hold a one minutes silence for these murdered Olympians who went to compete at games, like the athletes and coaches of every other nation, in peace and with nothing but sporting achievement on their minds but, unlike every other athlete, they returned in coffins murdered by terrorists who wanted nothing less than to see them dead. The day after the tragedy occurred, there was a memorial service held in Munich for the murdered athletes and coaches during which the Olympic Flag and those of attending countries were lowered to half mast. All attending countries excepting 10 nations who refused to have their flags lowered to respect 11 dead athletes. 


40 years on it is similar nations who, it seem, will ensure that 11 athletes and coaches will continue to go unremembered at the event at which they were murdered and by the movement which they served and believed in. Repeated calls have come for a permanent memorial, perhaps in the form of a minutes silence, to be held at the Olympic Games to remember 11 athletes and coaches that were murdered but the IOC has declined, saying that to introduce a specific reference to the victims could "alienate other members of the Olympic community". The Olympic Movement is meant to represent unity of all through sport, but her members cannot pull together to remember 11 Olympians murdered at a Games. Perhaps it is time to consider if these nations truly represent the spirit of the Olympic movement. Indeed, London 2012, the 40th anniversary of the tragedy, will be the latest Olympic Games that has no memorial service at the Games to remember 11 athletes and coaches murdered at an Olympic Games and the excuses have not gotten any better in the past 40 years. 

The London Olympics in 2012 will last 24,480 minutes. The Olympic Community still struggle to find just one to remember 11 Israeli athletes and coaches murdered by Palestinian Terrorists. 

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

You're Doing It Wrong Grammar Nazis.

You\'re Doing It Wrong Grammar Nazis. Here Is Steven Fry Doing It RightAnother ace clip selected by Sabotage Times to distract you:

I recently blogged about "typo's"  where I tried to explain why I can't stand these people who insist on correcting my, admittedly poor, use of language. In fact, so poor is my use of language that in all my attempts to make all of the mistakes that so infuriates those who Mr Fry speaks about so eloquently in the link above, I am not sure I managed to succeed. Of course, the bright amongst you may have noticed that it should be "whom"...or should it? Not only am I not really sure but it doesn't make a difference and, indeed, that is exactly the point. I suspect the majority of the few people who will read this won't have noticed at all had I not pointed it out to them, while those who did may have questioned whether I used the correct word rather than actually being sure that I didn't. The few who know whether it is "whom" or "who" in this case will probably delight in telling me, but frankly #LeaveItYeah?

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Habs Don't Do Muck Up Days


No really, we don't. Or at least, we're not supposed to. Every year we are told that "we leave well" and that "we don't do muck up days over here. They may do them at the girls' school and do them well, but not here". It is certainly the case that Habs Girls do muck-up days and, it seems, get it right in terms of tone. Anyway, Habs Boys don't. Instead we have last days filled with assemblies, breakfast and form time. Well, of course, that is the idea. It usually doesn't pan out exactly as the staff, or some members of staff, would like because plans get made; intentions discussed and ideas put into practice.

Now, being somewhat committed to the idea of avoiding any potential trouble I didn't partake in either of our grand schemes for plotting the downfall of Habs as a school and starting the revolution but, naturally, many did. The great minds from Habs thought deep into the night of how to cause the most havoc and establish an event that would go down in history as something that shook the world and came up with, wait for it...

...No really, wait for it...

...Wearing school uniform on the Monday and shorts on the Tuesday (with final day being the Wednesday). It was with a mix of worrying about quite how much damage to the school's reputation this would cause and also just knowing that it would all end badly that I decided not to do either. We'll ignore the fact that I wouldn't fit into my school uniform from two years ago now, anyway. The school uniform, as far as I could tell was largely not noticed or ignored or taken in good spirits as well it should have been. However, it was the shorts that was made our muck-up day cross the line from Anarchist to Revolutionary and to the detriment of society as a whole. Just how many people suffered trauma from seeing generic brown person's hairy legs we will never quite know.

Picture the scene. A slightly gloomy Elstree. The sky cloudy and grey and daylight descends over Habs. School is starting. Birds singing. The sound of Ben Peacock on duty echoing into the distance. And out of nowhere, thugs in shorts suddenly start raping and pillaging. Reports of trees on fire, bombs being set off and landscape beginning to look somewhat like an Iraqi Market emerge. Journalists and world leaders are alerted to..Oh wait, sorry that didn't happen. U6 students were arriving in school alongside everyone else in shorts to get ready for a final day of lessons. But the reaction it got, you'd have thought someone had murdered a coach driver and suffocated a small child. On a serious note, I didn't wear shorts because I knew that a reaction would occur, however right or wrong any reaction, I think most people acknowledged that but took the risk anyway, with their defence being "it is perfectly harmless". And I think most people would accept that wearing shorts is, indeed, as harmless as things can get for a muck-up day considering some schools, with very decent reputations, end up with cows on their front steps; emergency services being called or something else actually relatively serious like that.

I expected, at most, a chuckle and a "No, really, put some trousers on." Maybe a small comment on why breaking the school dress code is not allowed on any day, last day or first day and perhaps, even, (maybe to a prefect who committed the offence) something about younger boys looking up to us. Not, of course, that I envisage a sharp increase in Yr7 boys turning up to school in blazer, shirt, tie and swimming trunks in the coming days. What I got was, arguably, the largest overreaction to a single event you could imagine. Yeah we, or some of us, broke the school dress-code and yes "rules are rules" on all days of the school year, but in the grand scheme of things and out of all the options to "f*ck shit up" that we could have taken, other than perhaps wearing white socks for the day, this was the most harmless.

Instead of what would have been the reasonable thing to do (either let it go or quietly tell us to change), we faced members of staff who seemed to be personally offended by our decision to wear shorts; being sent to the most senior of staff; being sent home to change; students being called disgraceful and generally the reaction one would expect if we had brought large amounts of illegal substances onto the campus. It was almost as if certain members of staff had a terrible experience with shorts when they were younger, perhaps getting caught on a the zip or being forced to wear pink hot pants by their parents. Of course I made the point that we should have expected this sort of reaction - being reasonable is a quality that is lacked in so many people not just members of the teaching staff. That, of course, doesn't justify the reaction.

Apart from anything else, it is incredibly stupid to react so OTT to something so harmless. Because, of course, we understand that we can't just burn down buildings or start torching trees for muck-up day and that our school careers are not over. Consider the decision to not wear suits on Monday and Tuesday so that we would be in suits for a school leaver photos. Not a decision taken by those with a desire to overthrow the senior management and bring the school into disrepute. What started as a simple "let's wear shorts, it'll be hilarious" was turned into "HOW DARE THEY WEAR SHORTS AND POTENTIALLY CAUSE MASS UPHEAVAL IN THE SCHOOL" by a huge overreaction. No matter how infantile wearing shorts was, no matter how against the rules it is, it did not warrant the reaction it got.

No, instead, the reaction only serves to fuel the fire. I wouldn't describe the Habs Boys U6th as a potent revolting force but when any teenager is faced with what he perceives to be an injustice, it can only result in the desire to up the anti so to speak. All it has and will do, is encourage further worse behaviour which, clearly, was not the aim of any punishment but was such an obvious result you wonder how those entrusted to educate supposedly some of the brightest minds in the country, could not see that. Now, instead of attempting to have a little bit of fun in what is, let's face it, our last couple of days at a school which has been so great for so many of us, many people will have a desire to go further than wear shorts and actually cause some form of damage.

Maybe we should have realised that in a school where going home at 3.00 instead of 3.20 is forbidden, that wearing shorts wouldn't have gone down too well. Of course, I don't think we were unreasonable to assume that the worse that would happen was that we would be told to change and, in fact, I don't think many assumed they would get away with wearing shorts all day. What we got was a reaction blown out of all proportions with names taken and very angry members of staff for, let's face it, wearing shorts. Ludicrous.

*Disclaimer: For legal purposes the entirety of this blog post is, of course, fictional and not in any way linked to Habs Boys, Girls or any affiliates. The author does not condone, agree with or support any muck-up day activity at any school. If you have been affected by any of the content in this post, especially if you suffer from a short-wearing-related illness please contact your local GP*

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Keep the Faith

It is very easy to be secular, to believe that G_D simply cannot exist, to argue that it is impossible that G_D does exist and to criticise those who happen to believe, however strongly, that G_D or a higher power of some sort exists. I'm not here to argue that G_D exists or anything like that. I don't think that is the point of having faith or believing that G_D does exist and, indeed, I don't think anyone will ever be able to prove that G_D does exist. The point, however, is that there should not be a need to argue for or against the existence of G_D. I do not reject evolution, I do not reject science but, crucially, I do not reject the idea that G_D exists, rather I would say that I have faith that G_D does exist. I am not asserting the existence of G_D - I do not know if G_D exists but that does not matter because I have faith that G_D exists.

I can't stand it when people question why I have faith, what it is I have faith in or call having faith (or a belief in G_D) irrational or something like that. I don't think I can explain the answers to either of the first two questions but I do not think I need to. Perhaps the attempt to explain something infinite (the universe) with something finite (the powers of mind) leaves a gap I chose to fill with faith, namely faith in G_D. Regardless, faith is incredibly personal, it is something for me to fall back on, to look to and live by. Something I can't stand just as much as being blasting faith for whatever reason is people trying to force faith (or religion) upon other people. It is something that should be left to individuals to discover (or not). That is why I do not see the point in arguing for or against G_D. Ignore the fact you could never convince the other side nor prove it either way (even if people argue they have removed reasonable doubt). It comes down to a personal decision of how to attempt to understand what seems unexplainable. If appealing to G_D only creates more questions than it does answers and doesn't do it for you, that is your decision to make. 

It is the last question or comment that really frustrates me, the comment: "Faith in G_D is irrational" or, "A belief in G_D is an irrational belief." I am obviously of the opinion that it is not irrational at all, in fact perfectly rational - an attempt to explain things for yourself and to help you understand things cannot be called irrational. The human desire to understand what it is that goes on around you can be overwhelming and any attempt, on a personal level, to explain those things can only be rational. To hold a belief in G_D for no other reason than because your mum told you G_D exists may be irrational, but to consider how best to explain the universe and your existence etc and to arrive at G_D as your best, personal, explanation is wholly rational. Indeed it helps me live my life, to recover from hardships and fuels my unrelenting positivity that things can only get better. I'm unsure how faith in G_D can be irrational, on a personal level, if it helps you carry on and gives you reason to hope for the future. Rather that seems perfectly and completely rational to me. 

Up until now, I'd not mentioned religion in this post at all. I am not a religious man but a man of faith. There is certainly a difference here, with a religious man going above and beyond having faith in G_D, something I do not really do. I would describe myself as culturally Jewish but certainly not religiously Jewish. When I say I have a faith in G_D, it is not, necessarily, in a Jewish G_D or necessarily in any religious concept of what a G_D is. Perhaps this article can help to explain the concept of having faith but not necessarily (or fully) buying into religion. Again, I do not really know or understand what kind of G_D I have faith in, only certain that I have faith. I do not believe the metaphysics or ontology of G_D need not come into consideration when I say that I have faith in G_D, it is not really that important. It is the having faith in G_D that matters for me, not what G_D is.   

I'm writing this in response to something I saw on Facebook (and I've been thinking of doing so for a while), not to force anyone to believe in G_D, not to argue that I am right but merely to defend my having faith in G_D. There is nothing wrong with not having faith in G_D but equally there is nothing wrong with having faith in G_D. I think having a faith in G_D (or not) should be immune to critique and not require you to justify it to anyone. I would never try and convince people that they should have faith, fully respectful of the personal nature of the belief. I only ask that you grant me the same. 

Friday, 13 April 2012

Typos. Who cares?

Some people, clearly! A day doesn't go past where someone doesn't correct one of my typos, smugly pointing out my flaws in the English language. Sometimes they're just being helpful and, indeed, it is necessary but a lot of the time it is completely unneeded and plain annoying. Certain occasions where spelling does matter and correcting a typo is obviously important - on a blog, for example, where the whole point of engaging with that website is to read something. It would help if it was typed correctly - which is why I always apologise for typos in my blog and correct any that are pointed out to me (and I do try and proof read, but I am hopeless at it!).

Maybe I should lighten up and ignore it, but I really don't think that is the issue. It is much easier to look past a typo, ignore the mistake and type out a reply. Maybe it shows a lack of conversational skills, or a desire to be "humorous" but correcting a typo is not the way forward in a conversation online! Assuming you knew what I meant, is there a problem?

"BUT YOU NEED TO LEARN!" I hear you cry as I accidentally type form instead of from or too instead of to. And sometimes you'd be correct. It took me 7 goes to spell "accidentally" there, convinced as I am that it is 'accidently' or 'accidentely' but that isn't a typo. That is me not being able to spell and I am the first to admit in a message when I can't spell a word. And there is a difference between typing "I just come form home" and typing "I love you're mum" because the latter does imply misunderstanding that can be corrected. And even then, you can type "you're" when you mean 'your' just because your brain is working faster than your fingers as you type and don't realise you typed 'you're' by mistake.

A typo is a genuine mistake, usually derived from typing to fast or not quite being able to touch type properly. I could not care less if I accidentally typed "get's" when it is "gets" and I know I did not cause you major offence. You understood what I meant. Life goes on. Conversation wasn't halted. Stop correcting me. Rant over.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Revision will start soon....honest

There is nothing worse than getting to a holiday after 5/6 weeks of school to realise that you are going to have to do revision and it is not a holiday at all. Or at least you should do revision and you will do your best to put it off but more importantly justify putting it off. As you get older, it seems, you get better at justifying putting off revision (or indeed work) despite it being more important - similar in a way to justifying eating chocolate because it comes from a plant and therefore is essentially a vegetable. All sorts of excuses come out and the older you are, the better you are at convincing yourself of the soundness of those reasons. For example, I shall proceed to put this into an argument and claim that I am therefore doing philosophy revision:
  1. I need to do x amount of revision
  2. I can and will do  x amount of revision later
  3. Therefore I need not to do revision until later. 
If the two premises are true this argument is such that I can convince myself that the conclusion follows and is true and now it would seem that I can put off revision until later. In fact, this argument is paradoxical, because while I've just concluded that I need not do revision until later I have, in the process of formulating it, also managed to convince myself that this counts as philosophy revision. As you get older you get better at not only procrastination, but also convincing yourself that procrastination can count as revision. It's a funny old world. 

You also get better at convincing yourself you need a break after slaving away for approximately 10 minutes, possibly underlining three words that were already underlined and telling yourself it would be good if you knew what they meant but you will figure it out later. At this point I usually go for a banana all the while mentally going over what you have just "revised", again convincing yourself that, despite being on a break, you are actually still revising and, as a result, deserve a longer break. This can get so bad as to watch TV and start finding subliminal messages in the Disney Channel's programming that further convinces you that you are still revising - last year, for example, I was watching Wizards of Waverly Place (as you do), and managed to spend the entire programme asking myself if they were determined to make the decisions they were or if it is was fate or free will. Definitely solid philosophy revision there. Yet again, your second break wasn't really a break at all and you need another break.

Having gone off for the "another break" that you now need after two unproductive breaks, you often end up on social networking sites. The undoing of many, vain attempts to deactivate facebook "for exams" often fail with this being nothing more than simply logging out, Facebook can claim the revision of many teenagers. Twitter is no better and between them, they must see numerous posts about "should be revising but on here" or something along those lines, often complaints about how easily distracted people are and funny things they found whilst procrastinating (like this blog? Nah...). With these sites comes the most deadly and convincing type of justification for not doing revision. Again I shall do some philosophy:
  1. X is online
  2. X is a hard worker and likely to get top grades
  3. Therefore, if X is online and not working, I can be online and not working 
Whilst possibly the most flawed reasoning in the world, this can be the most convincing and for as long as X remains online (let's say s/he left his computer on), you feel you can remain online - after all, is s/he isn't revising, you obviously don't need to be. 

Finally, you decide that for you to "revise" a subject, you have to have known it in the first place. No point trying to learn something that the teacher hasn't taught you so you do one of two things:

1. You email your teacher safe in the knowledge that s/he won't reply because it is not term time and thus convince yourself that you are not able to revise that topic until you go back to school and ask him/her about it. Or rather, that you would have revised it if you could and therefore count the time you would have spent revising it but didn't, as time you actually spent revising.

2. Convince yourself if you needed to know it, the teacher would have taught it and therefore not only do you not need to know or learn it but also you can cut down revision time in the knowledge you have less to revise. 

Having procrastinated but actually revised, taken a break but actually done revision and managed to cut your revision time down despite not revising it is probably time to end the hard day's revision and find a way of adding in revision you've only technically not done to the next day, to convince yourself you will eventually do it, only for the process to start all over again. And with that, I am already 3 minutes late for maths revision but then, I do 3 essay subjects so writing this blog counts as writing practice, so really, I've already started revision...


Sunday, 1 April 2012

April Fools'

This article is not an April Fool. Apart from it being difficult to make an actually funny and/or believable one, I am sure I'd be the one to cross the line and go too far. No, this is an article on April Fools' themselves. A basic Google search will yield the necessary history and I have helpfully linked the Wikipedia article on April Fools' Day if you do wish to read more about them. I do enjoy April Fools' Day. Once I remember to sit back and ignore everything that comes up on twitter and Facebook, I quite enjoy watching people get fooled. Even if it is infuriating when you realise that the once in a lifetime offer turns out to be a harmless April Fools' - the City Tickets offer on twitter being the offending April Fool that got me this year.

It is, of course, imperative to remember one thing:

Stuff still happens! Just because it is April Fools' day does not mean that things don't happen - don't just ignore everything. I'm convinced controversial stuff like the legislation to monitor internet use which I am assured is true, although I still want to have my doubts, is deliberately posted on April Fools' so people ignore it until it is too late and BAM, internet use is monitored, being poor is made illegal and all forms of tax are abolished. Just approach with caution!

I feel odd posting an article with advice. Strangely patronising, no? Ah well.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

What can you say?

The BBC recently wrote an interesting article asking what you can and can't say on twitter. You need not read the article, but merely be a rational human being to understand that there are certain things you simply cannot say or do on twitter. The most obvious, of course, being racism, although the BBC talk about some others which all fall under a criminal jurisdiction. Funnily enough, just as I write this, I got told something I tweeted was offensive. The tweet was "Trust a girls school to invite in a renowned philosopher to talk about philosophy of religion". That's obviously sexist, but let's be honest, it is a harmless joke - lighten up?! Or am I too liberal...perhaps. Either way, I certainly would not live in a world where I couldn't tweet something as harmless as that. (Oh update on this, just as I finished writing this post, the final reply was "next time you make an offensive joke, at least try and be funny". Ouch....Of course I will try.)

That aside, a recent tweet got me thinking. The tweeter will remain nameless, or "untagged" to use twitter language, but it was a tweet by a twitter account named after a football team and whose bio states it is dedicated to that club. The tweet was "BDSIsrael". Perhaps my bias viewpoint against this campaign doesn't help my judgement, but I would argue that twitter accounts have a certain duty to their followers to stick to tweeting about the stuff relevant to their name. I followed that account not for a political commentary but a commentary on the football club and, as they describe it as such, they have a duty to provide that. I wish to read football updates, not political updates - the whole reason for my follow goes out the window if they start providing something else.

Of course you may respond saying "twitter, you can tweet whatever from whatever account" - surely the account name shouldn't pose restrictions? But that is exactly where I would disagree with you. Because it is incredibly easy to set up a twitter account not specified to football or sport and tweet about whatever the hell you like. You'd get annoyed if the BBC News Twitter Service suddenly started tweeting about what his dog was having for lunch - you signed up to read news tweets, not personal ones! You should certainly avoid such controversial and highly charged issues on an account that is specifically for a certain football clubs views and thus people are following purely on the pretence that they will receive said views.

Opinion should be valued at all times. Of course it should but there is a time and a place. Political opinion does not belong on a football twitter account followed for football opinion. It is as simple as that.


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The Budget

I thought I'd make a late night comment on the budget which has just come out today. Whilst every detail remains unknown to me, there is enough for me to make a comment on:


1. The reduction of the 50p tax rate to 45p.


This is probably the most contested part of the budget, not that any of it was left unexamined by Labour, and for good reason. There is sound argument on both sides here - tax people more and they'll work harder to find ways of legally/illegally avoiding tax/ move out of the country entirely and take their profits elsewhere. However, how can you justify reducing taxes on the richest at a time when the poorest are paying so heavily for the mistakes of the former government? Surely tax breaks for rich people isn't going to help us get out of this recession and plug the gap in government spending and tax revenue.


I lean towards the former argument - I do believe in incentivising high earners to earn more money and thus pay more tax. Forcing them to pay more in tax only incetivises the opposite. However, does that really apply in this case? Osbourne, although he is always going to say this, claims that the higher tax rate isn't bringing in any extra revenue which is fair enough, but does lowering 5p actually mean that people are going to suddenly stop avoiding this higher rate of tax? The only reason to lower the tax rate is if it will actually bring in more revenue (through the reasoning above) and there is no way that a 5p decrease in the tax rate will do this. Osbourne has bottled a big decision here - he could have abolished this rate of tax entirely and brought it back down to 40%, a huge move, that may have had a positive effect on revenues but decided for a pathetic middle ground that does nothing except attempt to appease the Conservatives' rich allies whilst monumentally piss off everyone who hate bankers. Which is everyone.There is weight, in my opinion, to the argument for lower taxes (if not at a time of austerity necessarily) but this is going to make no difference and smacks of protecting bankers for no reason.


I thought it best to add in a bit in response to the comment below regarding the 0.105% increase in the bank levy designed to stop bankers from gaining benefit from the reduction in tax. First of all, as I asked below, does 0.105% actually offset a 5% reduction? That is equivalent to giving 5p and taking back 0.105p in the pound - for anyone who couldn't do the maths, I cannot see how that really harms the bankers. However, more crucially, would you not agree that it is pointless to lower a tax and then raise another tax to ensure people don't benefit excessively from the new lower tax - 1. That seems to defeat the purpose of lowering the tax initially and 2. It seems to be admitting that bankers will/would have benefited from this lower tax as a (tiny) measure has been put in place to stop this. What a stupid move! 


It is about time, whilst we are on the tax point, that the government did more to prevent rich earners avoiding tax legally (or indeed illegally as the case my be). Here lies the real issue - big companies can afford to spend big money on avoiding tax and will continue to do so even with lower rates; why not deal with this problem effectively?


2. The child benefit caps.


This seems completely the right move in my opinion. You may be able to argue over the lower end figure for removing the benefit, but does someone earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a year really need child benefit? More importantly, does it, in this situation, even benefit the child? Surely that should be the cut off point - where the child benefit is of no benefit to the child, where it makes no difference the standard of living of the child why should to be given to the parents? That's quite a simple argument, but I'm open to reasons why it's wrong.


3. The Pasty Tax


It has, since the writing of this blog, been brought to my attention that the "correction of VAT loopholes" that the BBC write about in their article, to be found on the BBC website, is actually, effectively, a pasty tax. I've tried to detach myself from emotional involvement on this and while one can consider the large negative impact this will have on the Cornish economy especially, it is the principle of this that irks me too. Needless to say there are economic arguments for and against the move, and I do lean towards the against side, but taxing something so British seems anti-British. Was it not the Conservatives who opposed the proposed Cider Tax that Gordon Brown proposed and dropped
The good in question


There are some other, more minor, changes:


4. Corporation tax has gone down - probably just about a good move, should help businesses and incentivise investment which can only be a good thing. We await the empirical evidence I suppose


5. New Stamp Duty rate for homes over 2million - can't see a problem here really. Seems the right move


6. Tobacco Duty Rises - As a non-smoker and a complete anti-smoker I can't see any problem here either. If you wish to kill yourself then at least give money to the government doing it!


7. Fuel Duty rise - will, due to price in-elasticity of demand of fuel, probably raise revenue. There is a strong argument for fuel already being to expensive and this may inhibit ease of travel and thus growth.


8. Increase in personal tax allowances to £9,205 - again this seems a good move, or at least a move that doesn't simply favour the rich and could boost consumption amongst those most likely to spend their income - the poorest, who will now be better off. 


Overall, I remain unconvinced. Sure this budget does some good things - the child benefit removal and increase in personal allowance but you cannot help but feel that the biggest change made; the change that headlines the BBC website and will be most focused on, has been horribly fudged up. I can't understand why he has made this move now - it will almost certainly not bring in extra revenue and can only serve to annoy those opposed to rich people getting richer at a time of need for most. It is at least a political mistake and time will probably show it to be an economic one too. 

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Field Day 2k12



Unlike HABSMUN, this was probably a final thing I was looking forward to the end of. I've stuck at the CCF despite it trying its best to destroy me (the 36 hours of rain at Warcop Summer Camp a couple of years back springing to mind). While there have definitely been some excellent moments - an incident involving coco-buttering of someone's arse in a gay-off and coasteering stand out, it is something I will be glad to say I have completed. And this final field day is one step closer to finishing Habs CCF. I think the response to my relatively sarcastic, "I will miss spending time in a basha so close to the ground with you two," summed up my feelings: "I wouldn't say I'd miss it...but I'll look back upon it with happy memories." More on that later!

My final army field day started as any other one did, with a long wait. No surprise really, but it is something we have gotten used to in the Army Section, coining the unofficial motto, "Hurry up and wait." We refused to be put off by our coach turning up fashionably late and were in relatively high spirits as the darkness dropped down around us even if most of that was "WOOOO final field day". Having decided that we would actually do a proper tactical de-bus (pronounced de-bu) instead of screaming "BE TACTICAL", "THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A TACTICAL DE-BUS" and generally laughing at how untactical our tactical de-buses (pronounced de-bu-se), those on the back of the bus (i.e. U6) would remain there for a while as the slowest bus exist in history occurred. Finally off, I took the opportunity to look to the heavens and was disappointed when nothing but cloud revealed itself - I was hoping that in my many hours stood around being enemy, I could at least look at the stars and pretend to have a clue what was going on. A relatively swift walk followed with the army section's, or rather my, taste in music brought into question with classics such as "Never gonna give you up" and "I want it that way" being sung at whatever volume we thought we could get away with.

Having made it into camp in the dark (I am not sure I have ever set up camp when it has been light), it was time to start setting up. That meant, at least for myself, Tom and Luke, making our final basha together and we were determined to make this the lowest one ever so that it was nothing more than slipping between two sheets. I am not quite sure why we put ourselves through sleeping in really low basha's, which invariably break as we try and get into them, but it became something of a field day tradition. I think we succeeded as well, with our basha no more than a few inches of the ground, leaving for an interesting attempt at squeezing underneath it later. With shelter built, I whipped out my Jew Saus (sausage) and shared it around. No, it is not what you're thinking, dirty mind. Jew Saus is a kosher turkey sausage that has become something of a favourite with fellow cadets and I bring it along every field day. We were left to cook and eat before setting of on the night exercise. 

I was dropped off at the "radio mast" along with Chris and Vivek, as enemy told to defend it from a section who were trying to plant an IED. Quite why enemy would defend a radio mast that belonged to the camp and quite why a section would want to blow up what was effectively their radio mast is beyond me but defend it we would. Well, we'd lie down and try not to get too cold, with Vivek finding a particularly comfortable tree branch and practically fell asleep. Every so often we'd get up, have a wonder and talk really loudly about our plans just like any regular enemy would with no sign of the patrolling section. I managed to scream as a teacher approached and we ended the night telling ludicrous jokes. We did get IEDed having not spotted the section, but I really couldn't care less with my attentions firmly focused on the 6am wake up that morning as we were still waiting to be dropped back at 1am. 

Sleep was interesting. The customary "ooo are you happy to see me?" jokes were made and there was a lot of "I AM OUT THE TENT" as we rolled around to get comfortable. Having managed to get the middle spot, I could only look in with smugness as Luke and Tom struggled to stay inside a quickly breaking basha. I had also brought a pillow and was strangely comfortable, even if Tom decided to climb over me so he could take photos of the three of us with a basha sheet in our faces. We left Luke to wake up at 5, Tom and I decided that we were not need until 7, at the earliest. Despite Luke's protestations we did not surface until just after 7 - why we would need to wake up at 6, when we had to be ready by 8.10, I have no idea and I wasn't about to give up what little sleep I had! 
The basha in question

I was enemy again, which was bliss with no running around or physical activity needed, just an opportunity to fire off about 90 rounds from whatever position we wanted with an interesting one handed approach being taken by a couple of us. There isn't much to report other than we definitely defeated a pathetic platoon attack despite there only being 4 of us and we then had to wait around...

Rounds aplenty
...For a long time. In fact there was nothing for us to do from about 10.30ish until 2, so we tossed a rugby ball around, made some tea and tried to stay warm. It was a nice feeling - knowing that it was nearly over and I could return home for a lovely shower and my bed very soon. Field days are always tiring even though you don't really do that much and while they definitely have given me some fond memories, it is good to finally be done with them. With jokes about joining the OTC when we went to university a plenty, we boarded the coach home (which was early for once) and within about 30 minutes the usual head back, mouth opening sleeping position had been donned by many. With the final mad rush to make the 4.15 coaches for most, having arrived back at school at 3.55, came the end of my final field day. 4 years of CCF and at least I've made it to the final field day without being kicked out!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Haberdashers' Aske's Boys School Model United Nations 2012


Or HABSMUN for short. Picture the scene. Habs was being transformed from an excellence nurturing machine to a Model United Nations conference, birds were singing, Mr Simm's customary yellow trousers were out and Will Thong was rumoured to be firing a member of the committee for no apparent reason. Having successfully navigated the week, using HABSMUN as an excuse as much as possible, it was finally the Friday, the day it would all begin. The banter began before any delegate even arrived with Mr Pauletto or "duce", imploring us to not mention the war because a German school were coming. Clearly the famous Habs level of wit was out in full force in anticipation of a weekend of a debate. My road trip with David Gottlieb, which lasted all of 30 minutes, was much more fun with Gottlieb's driving providing much laughter. Suffice to say his driving isn't great and he managed to hit a car within 10 seconds of trying to exit his space, I was very worried. It didn't help that he then confessed he only passed recently before stalling twice trying to re-enter Habs.  

Upon our return, I walked around for a bit looking important and wondered if (or indeed when) I would ever have to actually do anything. Even as schools began arriving and the walkie talkies went mental as no one could find Rob Harris (a theme that continued the entire conference) I felt underwhelmed as Ollie Anisfeld did what he does best and that is muscle his way in control. But I think it went well - no one got lost and Will Thong was still alive, no mental breakdown in sight and, or so it seemed, relatively calm. Well compared to the preceding weeks anyway. It was nice to finally see delegates in committee, lobbying away and thus the conference actually beginning. Why we open the conference after lobbying begins I am not quite sure, but regardless the day I had been waiting for had finally arrived, opening speeches were made and safety announcements made, HABSMUN 2012 was soon to be declared open. Before that, however, I slowly made my way to somewhere never before ventured by the ordinary Habs boy and that is the Staff Common room.

What lay behind those doors? Was there a gym? A boxing ring? A swimming pool? A trouser press with "Property of Mr Simm" inscribed on it? Perhaps there was snooker table and football goal? Nothing of the sort - just some seats, a table and some drinks machines. There was, however, also a finger food buffet which was to be our lunch. Having established that seconds was allowed, I was not complaining and tucked into the most expensive part of the HABSMUN food bill. It was quite nice to escape the hustle and bustle of the conference while making casual small talk with advisors who were all to quick to compliment the PGAs on giving up their time and commend us on how much work we must do. 

Opening ceremony was nothing particularly special with yet another opportunity taken to make fun of my dress sense. It was discouraging to note how many delegates actually seemed to get the joke not that I was complaining about the attention. Without the musical delights of Ben Okafor and his hit "living in a suitcase", we were treated to George Grant who looked suspiciously like Boris Johnson's younger brother. Anyway, he rambled on for a bit (the irony) and we went home excited for the conference proper to start. 

All that standing around and listening to people was incredibly exhausting and I crashed out in bed at about 8.30 having left my computer on and music still playing. Saturday was a weird day for me. Other than having to chair ECOSOC for a bit as Ben went off to play football, there wasn't much for me to do. I spent the day in Disarmament (where my bow-tie, pocket square, socks and cuff-link combo impressed with another best dressed award heading my way) and did some general wondering around. I was waiting to hear my name over the radio for something to do, a problem to solve or a delegate to reprimand. Nothing of the sort happened and I was left to my own devices for the entire day, not that I was complaining. It did mean that I spent a lot of time randomly posing for pictures but that, I suppose, was much better than being sat in a committee room all day. It just seemed odd to be given a role that, apparently, is an organising one and then spend the entirety of the only full day of the conference walking around looking pretty. 

Having successfully done nothing for a day I was delighted to get the general consensus that everything was going well. I think Thong implication that the conference is a success for those on the organising committee if the delegates enjoy it could not be truer, and it seemed as though this was the case in the main. Saturday night was an interesting one. There was, apparently, an event at Proud which is apparently a "club", not that I have any idea what that is. This of course was completely unaffiliated with the school and I am not even sure anyone went to it, just showing how unrelated to HABSMUN it was. 

Having decided that I don't get enough jokes at my expense because of what I wear, I decided blinding as many people as possible was in order by wearing a golden jacket. Yes, golden. I was compared to a gay vicar and got a few negative "OMG"s but that was far outweighed by the numerous "I love your jacket" etc compliments that many girls gave me. So I wasn't too fussed. Hey, if I was worried about what people were going to say I wouldn't wear such outrageous clothing! I was delighted to finally be given a job to do - announce crisis to the Human Rights Committee which consisted in running in and screaming "CRISIS". A very enjoyable task! There was a small mutiny on the cards next as the PGAs asked, reasonably, if we may do the jobs we were selected for and actually chair General Assembly rather than watch the Sec-Gens do it.  Not amused, we tried to work out a compromise whilst I tried to ascertain how long I would have for lunch.  

The gold jacket in question
GA finally rolled around and it was time for my actual job to begin - repeatedly telling delegates to be quiet and delighting in finally, after 4 years of being annoyed when I hear it, saying the phrase "or I will be forced to suspend note-passing", something that occurred a few times. I enjoyed receiving bribes saying "here is some chocolate/haribo (etc), please recognise us" and sending back "I am afraid I am not eating sweets, chocolate, desserts etc and thus this bribe does not work". Nice to be in control I suppose. I was very happy, however, to receive Matzo from the Italian delegation, a bribe that I could eat. Not that I let it affect my judgement. GA was an interesting "committee" to chair - much louder and more difficult to control, obviously, than a regular one and the influx of bribes and interesting notes was difficult to cope with at times but nonetheless I really enjoyed it. 

General Assembly...nearly over :( 
I did not want to to end. Well I guess I didn't want HABSMUN to end, but I guess it had to. With the final resolution debated, the final votes counted and the final minor issue as Ollie Anisfeld managed to spill coffee all over the desk and certificates, we were just about ready to close the conference. You would have thought nothing, really, could go wrong. Surprisingly enough, it wasn't even Ollie Anisfeld that made the comment (although some of his jokes were questionable) with Omar Ali taking centre stage in a weird attack on the streets of Croydon. That aside, the conference was drawing to a close and I made an emotional, for me, last ever speech at a Model United Nations conference and had the honour of announcing the Outstanding delegation award. With the gavel banged, the delegates leaving and slightly tearful eyes, all that was left was to...

...Get hugs from as many people as possible. Literally everyone was subject to the "Random Hug?" to which the usual response is "erm, ok?" with most being shocked sufficiently so that their vocal chords no longer seem to work and they are forced to nod in agreement. There are a few that do jump at the opportunity to hug a man wearing a funny jacket and a bowtie, but they are a limited few. Even hugs failed to cheer me up as it dawned upon me that this was to be my final MUN conference. Forgive me for being cringe or a bit soppy but MUN has been something I have enjoyed for 4 years now and I think I am going to miss it. 

I never wanted to write this post. Quite simple really, this post means my Model United Nations career, if we are to call it a career, has now come to an end. I guess I'm just going to miss it; meeting new people; getting random hugs and, of course, winning best dressed delegate. The business of writing about this conference was difficult. It wasn't external, obviously, so there were no coach trip antics, no opportunities to demolish Chinese or Premier Inn buffets or get "lost" in a convenience store and buy some "batteries". But this was what made HABSMUN so special. It was nice to end on home turf, at the conference which introduced me to MUN 4 long years ago which resulted in me meeting so many wonderful people, getting so many wonderful hugs and spending such amazing times away from school. I guess all that remains to be said is thank you - thank you to everyone who made HABSMUN a success, to everyone that has made any conference I have ever been to a success, to everyone I have ever hugged and finally to everyone I have ever met at MUN. 

4 years later, numerous awards, many memories, some fantastic conferences and brilliant people met, it is time to call it a day on Model United Nations. Not that I want to. 



Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Price of Life

The title is rather ironic. This article has nothing to do with how much preserving life costs, but rather the opposite: how much ending life costs. I shall not detail the rising costs nor explain why they are going up as this BBC article does it for me, but rather look at the death penalty. I think it is naive to argue that the States in the USA will stop executing people because it has got more expensive (indeed the article does not argue that) - when you have the death penalty in place, the relative cost of it is not really something you considered. Or at least, you would hope that the reason for having the death penalty is not because it is cheaper than keeping a man in prison for life nor the reason for not having it is because it is expensive. Having established that the cost of the death penalty is unlikely to effect whether or not it is kept in place in states such as Texas, it is worth asking the question, "Why is it in place at all?".


I am not so right wing or conservative that I can argue blindly for the death penalty (or torture which is a similar matter) but I can see justification for it, to an extent. I think it is more difficult to justify keeping alive someone who has been convicted of murdering children, for example. You give up certain civil rights when you commit a crime and I have no issues, really, arguing that convicted child murders (especially those with added sexual offences too) should lose the human right to life. You may say "but Texas execute others" but surely this is a punishment that needs to be judged on a case by case basis, as it is indeed done at the moment. So we can establish that some crimes are just so disgusting and heinous that the perpetrators do not deserve to carry on living. It is quite a hard line, but they are called human rights for a reason. I question the extent to which someone who can bring him/herself to murder a child can still be defined as truly human. After all the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article one does read: "They [humans] are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood". You could easily question the extent to which a child murder is endowed with reason, conscience and has acted in the spirit of brotherhood.  Indeed, there are many human rights detailed in that declaration that most would be very quick to deny this sort of criminal - the right to freedom of movement (article 13) for example. 


So we have established that certain crimes can render someone non-human and thus perhaps not entitled to (all) human rights and therefore it is (at least more) justifiable in this case. The big question is, where do you draw the line? When do crimes simply become "terrible" and don't rid someone of their human status? I am, of course, working on (a fair?) assumption that certain crimes can render you non-human. You wouldn't want to say that shoplifting deserved the death penalty, but through 6 steps suddenly it does: 1. Shoplifting, 2. Burglary, 3. Robbery (violent burglary), 4. Robbery whilst home-owner present 5. Robbery and murder of home-owner. 6. Robbery and murder of child in home. It is clear that 1, 2, 3 and 4 are not deserving of the death penalty. But can you distinguish between 5 and 6? Is child murder worse than adult murder? Likewise, few would have a problem with, for example, condemning Hitler (if he were alive) to be executed. Indirectly causing the death of everyone during World War II would definitely render him non-human. But when does quantity stop making a difference? Is setting a bomb off in an Old Peoples Home (where no children die), murdering 1000 any worse than killing 10? 


I am being deliberately unhelpful here because I have no answers. I am happy to accept the premise that there exist certain crimes which render you non-human and therefore eligible for the death penalty and the loss of your right to life. But fitting crimes under this premise is far too hard, indeed impossible. The premise alone cannot justify the death penalty. I am not wholly against the death penalty, I just find it hard to justify to the extent where I believe states should/can use it.