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- October 2012
Should UK Law criminalise comments and opinions?
   Tue Oct 09, 2012 1:18 pm

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Should UK Law criminalise comments and opinions?

Permanent Linkby Graveyard on Tue Oct 09, 2012 1:18 pm

Two young men have been in the UK news over the last couple of days, for making objectionable posts on Facebook. One was a white lad who told a sick joke about April Jones, and the other was a Muslim lad, who made some nasty comments about British soldiers killed in Afghanistan. They've both been taken to court and prosecuted for their comments. The white lad was given a 12 week sentence, whilst the Muslim lad was given a community service order.

Both of these idiots would have got an angry reaction from me if they'd said what they said in real life. I might even have been tempted to punch them, but are they really criminals? Is it really the business of the law to be prosecuting people for being arse holes, or expressing a political opinion?

Both of them immediately suffered a backlash from their friends. Both of them, quite rightly, became instantly very unpopular. Both of them would have learned a painful enough lesson without the law getting involved.

In the case of the Muslim lad, who was voicing a political opinion, the involvement of the law will only make a martyr of him, and give him status amongst those who agree with him. It will add fuel to the fire of the perceived persecution that some of these Muslims feel. The same thing happened recently when a white woman was locked up for appearing in a YouTube video making angry remarks about black and Polish people who she felt were taking over her area. The people who agreed with her felt their opinions were being systematically oppressed.

You can't change people's opinions by criminalising them. All you'll acheive is to validate them, create an aura of persecution, and make people of that opinion even angrier.

Criminalising opinions has no place in the modern Western world... in my opinion of course!

Criminalising opinions actually makes those opinions more dangerous than ever. It just pushes groups of people underground and increases their feelings of persecution. It's far better to uphold people's rights to say whatever they believe in the open, as that enables dialogue and a chance of progress, as opposed to 'underground groups' of people festering with resentment and feelings of persecution.

Take away a minority's right to a voice, and no matter how ridiculous their 'cause' may be, if they believe in it enough, they'll find other ways to get their point across, like planting bombs in city centres...

Another concern about criminalising opinions, is who gets to decide which opinions are right or wrong? Today we have a centre-right party holding power in the UK. Tomorrow we could have a centre-left party, or a far-left party, or one that is far-right. You might agree with prosecuting the unfashionable opinions of today, but tomorrow it could be your head on the chopping block for saying something you believe in.

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Hope for Human Nature

Permanent Linkby Graveyard on Wed Jun 27, 2012 12:18 pm

Human nature makes me sick at times.

Quite often, I am astounded and dumbfounded by peoples' actions, and wonder just what the Hell goes on inside their heads.

I'm not alone in this. Many people tell me that they prefer dogs to human beings in general, and I have to agree with them. Dogs are loyal, loving creatures, that would bravely give their lives to defend their loved ones. Humans, or at least a great percentage of humans, are selfish, spiteful, two faced, and downright obnoxious in comparison.

I'm sorry, but that's true.

I used to be a bit of a pelagian, in that I believed that people were naturally 'good' underneath it all. At the age of 36, I look back and see the naivety of that. I've been stabbed in the back by people who have smiled at my face too many times. More so than ever, I'm naturally guarded against the unpleasant side of human nature when I deal with people.

If I could go back in time and give my 20 year old self some advice, I'd make sure he understood all that I now know about how cruel and malicious people can be.

But... I'd also tell him never to lose sight of the good in people.

For all the terrible things people are capable of, the human race is also capable of an amazing amount of goodness.

Not so long ago, whilst driving home from work, I noticed a moorhen that had been struck by a car, sitting sadly in the road, waiting for another hit to finish it off. I don't know how long the poor thing had been there, but other motorists were driving past it, seemingly oblivious to it's suffering.

I stopped my car in front of it, and got out. Ignoring the horns and abuse that was coming from the cars behind, I fetched a sweatshirt from my car, wrapped the poor bird in it, and carried it to the car. It had a broken wing and a broken leg, but otherwise it was okay. I took it to a dedicated wildlife hospital, where it was taken in by the excellent staff who were positive that it would make a full recovery and would be able to be released again into the wild.

Not bad, considering it was seconds away from being squished into the tarmac when I stopped my car to rescue it.

The girl who took the animal from me was scathing about the other drivers who drove past it, and the people behind me who sounded their horns and shouted abuse at me for holding them up for a minute. She had a rant about human nature, and told me how she preferred animals to humans etc etc.

Of course she was right, but she was missing something obvious.

The fact that we were in a dedicated wildlife hospital, funded entirely by charitable donations, spoke volumes for the fact that THERE IS A WONDERFUL SIDE TO HUMAN NATURE.

If you look at the past century or so, you'll also see that there is a collective desire amongst the human race to better itself. Despite the efforts of an increasingly few religious hard-liners, the human race is becoming more tolerant, less prejudiced, and above all, more caring.

Human nature, at this point in time, isn't what it could be. It's downright rotten still, but it has the potential and the desire to improve. We've got to believe in that ability though. For all the crappy things people do, we mustn't forget that there are an awful lot of good hearted people in this world, doing a lot of amazingly good things.

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Is modern life poorer for having too much?

Permanent Linkby Graveyard on Fri Feb 10, 2012 8:17 pm

On the face of things, modern life looks as though it should be a lot more enjoyable than life in times past.

We can communicate with someone on the other side of the planet at the touch of a button. Technology is constantly making everything easier and more convenient. Year on year, so many aspects of our lives become more and more effortless.

We're healthier than we've ever been. We live longer. We have very little risk of death or injury in our day to day lives. Illnesses that would have been life threatening not so long ago, are now easily cured.

In my last blog post, I mentioned a family who lived in a derelict church in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. They were poor people, living largely off the land. They made their own clothes. What they ate was what the father had grown, hunted or gathered himself. They had no electricity, no mains water, and the majority of their possessions were home made.

It wasn't so long ago, and it wasn't so far away from where I am now, but it was a very different world for them.

What would they think if I could bring them here, to see how people live a century later?

They'd probably find it strange to see how isolated people have become, and how the importance of family has deteriorated. They'd be astonished to see close relatives communicating through handheld devices more often than face to face. They'd no doubt be impressed at the advances that have become part of our everyday lives, but I suspect they'd also find it sad at the skills we've lost that were once commonplace, before everything became so convenient.

They'd note that we strive for very little, make almost nothing ourselves, and probably wonder how we can appreciate certain things when they have become so easily attainable that we've lost all concept of making any effort for them.

When I grab some bacon out of the fridge and stick it in the frying pan, do I appreciate it as much as they appreciated their equivalent? Of course I don't, because like everyone else today, I'm so used to convenience, I take things like that for granted. There's no effort involved, no striving, and the 'reward factor' is not there.

I believe that a family like them were happier than the majority of people today. Their days were much harder, more folk died early, but all the little things in life were so much more rewarding. There might have been more strife, but I'm convinced that was outweighed by the fact that there was more happiness too.

We've made our lives longer, with less risks, and everything available at our fingertips, but we've spoiled ourselves. We've taken the magic out of everything. Nothing requires striving for. Nothing is special. Nothing is rewarding.

I know people with lots of money, big houses, flashy cars, high tech stuff all around their homes... but who are not happy, and it drives them nuts that they are not happy. They can't understand why they're not happy, even with all their money and what it buys.

I'm being 100% serious when I say that that poor family who lived in that derelict church were probably 'richer' than the majority of wealthy folks who live in the area nowadays.

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Getting Closer to Yesterday's People

Permanent Linkby Graveyard on Thu Feb 09, 2012 3:31 pm

Probably my favourite place in the world is a little known church ruins inside a small overgrown clump of trees on the banks of a river near to where I currently live. Only a handful of people know the place exists, and nobody but me ventures inside the overgrown wooded area which contains the moss covered remnants of what was once a beautiful 12th century church.

I stumbled upon the place when I was 15 or 16, and the site and it's history has captivated me ever since.

Although the church ruins are the only visible remains, there was once a whole village around them, until it was mysteriously abandoned around the year 1810.

Information about the village has been hard to come by. There is practically nothing on the internet, and until recently, searching libraries and local records has only yielded tantalysing snippets of information. Two reasons have been given for why the village was abandoned. One reason was that it kept flooding, and the other was an outbreak of bubonic plague. I keep an open mind, but the flooding theory is questionable to my mind because the few surviving pictures of the settlement show the buildings well above a level that the river could ever rise to. The plague theory is also highly doubtful, due to the date of the abandonment.

Recently, I have found census records for the village, on microfilm at a records office in a town some miles away. For the first time, I could see the names of the folks who lived there, and actually managed to follow the lineage of many of them to the present day. What really excited me was that the church itself was occupied by a poor family long after the other villagers had deserted the place, until the early half of the last century in fact, and their descendants are still in the area. I've even had a beer with them in the local pub!

When I go to those ruins now, I can picture the church as it was a century ago, the last standing building of a deserted village, and picture those inhabitants who stayed there long after the village was supposed to be abandoned. I know their names now, and I feel strangely close to them when I visit the site. They didn't give up on the village, and I wonder if my fascination with the place comes through them? As if they have somehow guided me to care about a place that has been sadly forgotten?

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A Brief History of a Necrophiliac

Permanent Linkby Graveyard on Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:54 am

I was ten years old when I discovered AM's grave in a lonely part of the cemetery near to my home.

My family had moved to the area 6 months previously, and I had yet to make any friends locally. My brother went to the local school and settled in well, but I remained at a special school (I had undiagnosed Aspergers, and was considered 'difficult' by teachers) miles away.

To say the other kids in the area were hostile to me would be an understatement. What started as name calling (about going to a special school) quickly escalated into violence, and so I spent 5 of the first 6 months there too scared to walk out of the front door. When I finally did venture out again, I went exploring the countryside where I wouldn't encounter anyone.

I'd always had a fascination with the dead, and people from times past, so it was natural enough for me to spend time exploring the cemetery. I loved it there. It was quiet and peaceful, and even though it was in use, there rarely seemed to be anyone around.

One grave was instantly special to me. AM's grave. She had died in the early half of the last century, aged 19, and it touched my young heart to find her so lonely and forgotten. Although I felt sadness for this dead girl, I also felt uplifted and incredibly happy to have found her. I was lonely and forgotten too, and now I had somebody to care for. There was a spring in my step as I walked home that evening. I felt like dancing as I walked, as youngsters do when they find a love interest.

For the next couple of years I would bring her little presents and wild flowers picked from the woods and nearby fields, and spend much of my spare time by her graveside. As far as I was concerned, she was my girlfriend. When I went to bed and closed my eyes, I was no longer in my bedroom, but with her, either cuddled up in her grave or running hand in hand through the nearby woods and fields. I genuinely loved her.

I was 12 or 13 when we moved away from that area. The situation with the local kids had not improved for me, and I was glad to be getting away to somewhere new. I promised AM that I'd be back for her. I kept that promise, and still visit her from time to time. She will always have a special place in my heart.

15 years later I was working on repairs to a 15th century church, when we uncovered an entrance to a vault containing coffins in various states. Some of them looked remarkably new (the vault was sealed in 1910) whereas on some the wood had decayed almost completely leaving a shell of lead lining. I had already read the names of those interred there, and couldn't help having an interest in one particular occupant. A woman aged 21 who had died in the late 19th century. I shall call her EH.

[[I've deleted this part for personal reasons. It covers two weeks when I visited EH every evening after work.]]

That night, I went through every possible emotion. I would feel deeply ashamed one minute, then excited and happy the next. Scenarios such as bringing EH home went through my mind. Could I get away with that? Keeping her in my home, as my partner, for the rest of my life without being discovered? What would happen to me if we were discovered? Would I be put in a mental home or prison? What would they do with her?

My mind was going from deep shame, to excitedly envisaging various scenarios, back to deep shame, back to envisaging a wonderful future with EH, then back to shame again.

The entrance to the vault was sealed first thing the next morning, so I didn't get my chance to keep that promise to EH. I went home saying I felt too sick to work. It wasn't a lie.

EH didn't leave me for years though. There were days when I was obsessed with her, when she was all I could think about. At one point, the ever-present thought of her in that coffin, in that cold dark vault was almost paralysing me. Anyone who has ever felt this way about someone will know what I'm talking about.

About a year and a half ago, I found a new deceased love interest,...

[ Continued ]

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