On justice

We all have our pet peeves – the things that stir us up, that light that ‘fire in the belly’ and get us going. For some it’s about family, for others it’s about a particular belief, mindset or ideology. For me it’s about ‘justice’.
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That should’ve been an easy enough thing to say, a straightforward word with a straightforward meaning. Unfortunately though, nothing could be further from the truth. That’s because justice itself has so many meanings, so many different interpretations for so many different people.

For some justice is synonymous with vengeance. They follow, to some degree or another, the old ‘eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth’ standard of the bronze age. For them justice is both simplistic and obvious. Theirs is the ‘two wrongs make a right’ approach that most of us grow out of before we leave the schoolyard. That’s not my type of justice.

Others acknowledge the complexity of determining right from wrong in a world that contains so much more grey than simple ‘black and white’. They accept that justice is complex and often difficult to define. I have to admit, that seems like a very good starting place. But then they go and spoil things by demanding that the victims of crime, the very people least likely to be objective, get to determine the most appropriate punishments. They’re the same people whose only real (and particularly unimaginative) contribution to debates about crime is to state….

“You wouldn’t say that if it was your…. (mother, father, son, daughter, home, money etc.)”

And of course, they’re right. I’d most probably want someone’s head on a plate, not because that’d be the right thing to do but because I’m human, I’m emotionally driven (as are we all) and sometimes I can be irrational (as can we all). But I still shouldn’t be able to mete out judgement or take the law into my own hands.
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The hallmark of a civilised society is that punishment is taken out of the hands of the individual and placed into the hands of the state.

Still others seem happy with the idea of a state controlled judiciary until it comes to the sentencing of offenders. Then their true colours tend to show. Then they become so similair to the ‘let the victims decide’ contingent that it’s hard to tell them apart.

These are the people who, with little or no knowledge of the often complex court proceedings and mitigating factors insist, as though through automatic reflex, that the sentence is too lenient. These are the people who complain loudly and incessantly that the convicted murderer ‘could be out in ten years’ without ever pausing to imagine just what ten years incarceration might be like. They’re the people who prefer emotional vengeance to rational justice and their lack of a sense of proportion shows all too well. They’re not interested in positive intervention to effect positive change. They simply want another person to suffer. In that respect, despite the apparent veneer of social awareness, they’re no more advanced than the ‘eye for an eye’ brigade.
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Personally I tend to lean toward utilitarianism – the philosophical approach that seeks to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number. That doesn’t make me ‘soft’ or ‘naive’, by the way. I absolutely believe that society has both the right and the duty to protect itself. Sometimes that means long sentences – even life and that’s OK by me. But often it means something quite different. Often it means understanding, compassion and education. Often it means rehabilitation. What it most certainly does not mean and cannot, must not mean is the gratuitous inflicting of suffering. Justice must be purposeful and devoid of emotional bias.

However the real purpose of this post is to make one, simple point. Justice does not involve discrimination, retribution or sanction merely because of who a person is. Justice, as determined by the state, must be in response to actions and behaviours. It has nothing to do with prejudicial assumptions about nationality, heritage, skin colour, sexual orientation, poverty, dependency, political affiliation or place of birth.
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Justice is meted out in response to crime. Discrimination has no place in the justice system except for the fact that those who act upon those prejudices should be prosecuted along with any other criminal.
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Perhaps some of those unthinking supporters of the British far right, nationalist movement would do well to remember that.

My PC, lefty, liberal crisis

Usually I’m pretty damn opinionated on this blog. It’s where I rant about the stuff that interests me. In posts about politics and social commentary it’s where I usually feel very sure of my words and statements. So this post is a bit of a departure from the norm. Right now I’m confused.

I have long thought of myself as a pacifist. That’s a big part of my heritage and my roots. Ever since I grew out of the testosterone-fuelled aggression of adolescence I’ve abhored violence in favour of reasoned argument and compassion. I’d much rather help you than hurt you.

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But now as I watch the venomous rise of fascism among the working people of UK – among my people – the working men and women of Britain, I begin to wonder. I’ve tried reasoned argument. Some have understood the damage the far right is doing to society and rejected neoNazis like the EDL, the BNP and Britain First. Many however have not.

From UKIP and the BNP to Britain First & the EDL there is a wave of nationalistic hatred sweeping across my homeland. With it comes the most hate-filled and violent prejudices against anyone the right wingers think of as ‘the other’. For some that means Muslims, for some it means Jews. Some despise all immigrants whilst still others hate only those who aren’t racially ‘pure’ (whatever that means in biological terms).

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And many of these neoNazis prefer violence to reason. Indeed, some seem to be so poorly educated that they couldn’t follow a good argument if they tried. What do you do with people who understand only violence?

Of course, I remain a pacifist. I’m not about to go out and attack those with whom I disagree (although many of these far right thugs have threatened the same against me over the years). My crisis isn’t about what happens today. It’s about tomorrow or the next day.

What happens if UKIP & the tories get their way & the UK withdraws from Europe? Such a move would destroy at a stroke the human rights protection UK citizens enjoy today. It would be a racists’ paradise.
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What if people continue to be duped by the discriminatory lies of Britain First? What if the right wing racists who found a veneer of respectability in UKIP actually gain some power?
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What if the only way to oppose discrimination becomes physical action?

What if, one day the call goes out to man a real, physical barricade in support of my non-white neighbours? Please understand that when I say ‘barricade’ that’s exactly what I mean. I’m talking about defence here, not attack. But where the jackboot marches violence has always followed whichever way we look at it.

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What if a violent struggle becomes necessary rather than an intellectual one?

What will I do?

What should I do?

Right now I have no idea how to answer those questions and that worries me greatly. I would never have believed myself capable of even considering the use of force as a political tactic. Now I wonder if one day it may become the only effective response to the violent excesses of white supremacist, ‘Christian’ groups like Britain First. Even the fact that I’ve asked myself that question is frightening.

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Ineffective by design (but not on a school night)

 

EDL Downing Street piss up 140920Today the almost defunct English Defence League, together with assorted factions of fellow fascists descended on Downing Street in huge numbers. Estimates vary as to the exact size of the demonstration piss up with some claiming as few as 15 of these uneducated, bigoted numpties storming the capital. Certainly they haven’t even reached triple figures, in spite of the hype.

Not that it matters very much. Today is Saturday. Even if they were to get through the gates and past the permanent police presence they’re hardly likely to meet any actual politicians.

In summary then Londoners (at least the few Londoners who can be bothered to notice) have been ‘treated’ to an ineffective display of collective weakness by an equally ineffective (and very, very small) bunch of nobodies who lack the foresight even to check what day of the week it is. By the look of things in this picture nobody even noticed apart from the very small number of coppers judged sufficient to contain this massive crowd tiny little band of neoNazis,

Of course it may be that they chose Saturday because many of their demonstrators wouldn’t be able to attend on a weekday school night. If that’s the case I shudder to think how few attendees this fading group of far right has-beens would have ended up with had they waited until Monday! Then again, judging by the level of argument that these people typically employ (and an almost total inability to use the English language) I seriously doubt that any of them attended any school at all beyond the age of about fourteen twelve nine.
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And these people claim to be part of the superior (some of them even dare to say ‘Master‘) race!
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Islamic State and Rotherham abuse ‘fuelling far right’ – BBC News

It’s good to see the media beginning to recognise the far right problem, even though much of it is fuelled by sensationalist media reports themselves.

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Islam, Europe & neoNazi politics

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There are just over 2 billion practicing Muslims worldwide. Can you imagine the global impact of 2 billion far right neoNazis like Britain First, BNP or the EDL? And they tell us that Islam is the biggest problem.

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There are, of course, good reasons to distrust all religious groups, especially the three Abrahamic religions (Islam, Judaeism & Christianity) but let’s keep it in perspective. Secular societies such as we have in the European Union keep religious bigotry at bay, just as Europe also keeps nationalism & xenophobia at bay.

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The very things that Nationalist groups oppose protect us from the theocracies that they claim to fear the most.

But the European convention on human rights (ECHR) doesn’t just prevent religious theocracy – it also prevents governments based upon discrimination and Nazi ideology. No wonder far right groups from UKIP and the BNP to the EDL & ‘Britain First’ want the UK to leave the union.

What could possibly go wrong with the Master Race in charge?

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Who ate all the pies?

Pies and racism to go!

I really like Gregg’s food. That probably goes some way to explaining my ‘none too slender’ physique. Yes, I admit it – I’m a fat bloke.

But maybe I’ll be getting thinner from now on. I won’t be buying any more steak bakes, or indeed anything else from Gregg’s unless they can satisfactorily deal with their racism problem.

Today the English Defence League went to Rotherham in yet another failed attempt to “take back our streets”. Needless to say they didn’t succeed. But they did get a few free pies from Greggs – courtesy of Rotherham Gregg’s racist counter staff.
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Today I Emailed Greggs customer service dept:

“Today in Rotherham one of your employees gave away free food to racist demonstrators from the English Defence League because she apparently “loves” the EDL. Whilst I’m sure giving away free food to hatemongers is not official Greggs policy the buck must stop with the employer.

“Consequently I must advise you that I will forego my regular supply of Gregg’s steak bakes until your organisation makes it clear that you do not support this behaviour.

“I look forward to your response which I will publish on my blog alongside this message.

Yours sincerely,

Stuart Sorensen”

It’ll be interesting to see how they respond. I can’t imagine Greggs PR dept will be too happy. If it was only theft of their product that might not be so bad (although it is generally grounds for summary dismissal). But stealing from your employer just to feed a pack of racist thugs (because you “love” them) adds a whole new perspective.
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You can contact Greggs here. Let’s do all we can to ensure that UK culture offers no quarter to racist bigots such as this.
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UPDATE

Today (May 12th 2014) I received the following response….

“Dear Stuart
Thanks for getting in touch about our Rotherham Shop.
We are aware of this matter, and it is now the subject of an internal investigation. We are not therefore able to comment specifically.
However, we can confirm that Greggs does not have any political affiliations whatsoever.
Yours sincerely,
Christine Bond
Customer Care Team”

To which I replied…..

“Hi Christine,
Re reference number F1570963
That’s all I wanted to hear. Beyond that, it’s completely your own affair so far as I can tell.
Thankyou for the quick response.
Cheers,
Stuart”

Looks like steak bake is back on the menu.
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Brilliant response to UKIP’s scaremongering

Last night Nigel Farage made yet another appearance on BBC Question Time. Whilst there are some very interesting questions surrounding this man’s remarkably frequent QT appearances (given the fact that his party holds precisely no UK parliamentary seats) that’s not my point here. Instead I just want to reproduce this brilliantly succinct comment from last night’s TV audience.

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Well said that man. This nationalistic shift toward the right in UK is precisely what happened in 1930s Germany.

For those who need more evidence of Farage’s fascist nature have a look at this letter expressing extreme concerns about him from the master of Dulwich college.
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