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.

image

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).

image

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.
image
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?
image
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.

image

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.

image

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.
image
And these people claim to be part of the superior (some of them even dare to say ‘Master‘) race!
image
 

Islam, Europe & neoNazi politics

image

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.

image

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.

image

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?

image

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.
image

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.
image

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.
image

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.
image

The Convention 13: When Islamophobia goes unchallenged

I purposely avoided focussing upon the English Defence League’s antics in the last entry on article 9. That was because ‘The Convention’ series aims to remain relevant for longer than the EDL’s limited lifespan. Let’s face it, like all such paranoid groups they will break up as infighting and internal mistrust takes over. This is already happening and the group probably won’t last for too much longer.

But then I came across this report on today’s EDL rally in Dagenham:

It seems that a limited police presence has given these anti Muslim ‘demonstrators’ a chance, once again to show their true nature. So far 3 Asian youths have been hospitalised and ‘HopeNotHate’ photographers have also been assaulted. This event is continuing as I type. Who knows what the final toll of violence will be by the end of the day.

It may be that the lack of police presence is due to the Islamophobic EDL’s recent decision to exclude police from the planning stage of their demonstrations. This is unlawful in itself and based upon today’s events it’s easy to see why. Peaceful demonstration is one thing. Violent discrimination is quite another!

Update from HopeNotHate blog:

“I’ve just spoken to one of our people on the ground. He confirms that three Asian teenagers were attacked, one seriously enough to require urgent hospital treatment. We do not know how badly this lad was attacked but there was a lot of blood.”

Here’s a photo of the assault itself.

Racist EDL mob violence in Dagenham

Racist EDL mob violence in Dagenham


Members of the EDL, of course, deny that any violence occurred at their ‘peaceful demonstration’.
And here’s an interview given by one of these young Muslim men (from his local hospital’s A&E department) following the EDL mob’s attack: http://bit.ly/mvLlMQ

HopeNotHate blog continues….

“We’ve also received more information about the police operation. It seems that Dagenham police were prepared and had 12 vans waiting for the EDL march as it was to enter their borough. The problem, it seems, was in Redbridge, where the march began. The only police presence was a community support officer on a bicycle and he did not intervene when the three lads were attacked. Apparently the police in Redbridge had no intention of diverting any resources to the EDL demonstration.”

About ‘The Convention’

This series of posts first appeared on Stuart’s blog in June 2011. It is not intended to be a comprehensive or even particularly authoritative reference guide to the ECHR. Rather it is a brief introduction to a much larger and infinitely more fascinating subject. You can download the entire series in PDF format here: http://stuartsorensen.wordpress.com/amj-freebies-downloads-and-services/

The Convention 12: The right to freedom of conscience and religious expression

My first thought on planning this blog post was to focus upon the abuses of the English Defence League (EDL) and the way that its members and affiliates persecute Muslims in modern UK. However to focus only upon this particular form of bigotry would be to miss the much wider point of article 9. So instead I’m going to explore ‘freedom’ of conscience and religious belief from a larger perspective.

Many religions

According to article 9 of the ECHR:

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
    this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

  2. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

 

This means that it’s OK for people to follow their own conscience or religion so long as that does not prevent others from exercising their rights. In other words religion is OK so long as it doesn’t abuse other people. Here’s an example:

On October 25th 2007, 22 year old EG gave birth to twins at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. A few hours later she was dead because she refused to accept a blood transfusion. EG was a devout Jehovah’s Witness. She suffered a sudden haemorrhage and bled to death following a natural delivery. EG had already signed a form before the birth refusing blood in such an event.

This is an interesting case and (since it’s already in the public domain) one I often use in training around rights and mental capacity. Participants are asked to consider a number of principles relating to EG’s capacity to decide, the rights of others to overrule her decision and the limits of an individual’s right to follow their religious beliefs in the face of life threatening injury or illness. It always makes for an interesting discussion.                       

Most people begin by arguing that EG’s husband could and should have consented to treatment (blood transfusion) on his wife’s behalf. Others argue that the medical team should have made the decision to treat her whatever her husband said.

However the fact is that EG was a consenting adult who had made her wish to refuse treatment abundantly clear. She understood the consequences (Jehovah’s witnesses do tend to understand the implications of refusing blood). She had made her decision.

To put it another way, EG had decided that the chance of eternity with her God was better than another few decades here on earth followed by the intolerably cruel torture of eternal isolation from that God.

Given that those were her beliefs it’s difficult to say that another few decades in this life would be worth the cost in the next.

So we see then that people have a perfect right to follow their religious beliefs wherever they will take them – even to their death if that is what their faith demands. However they do not have the right to inflict those beliefs upon others.

One excellent example of this involves the way that the law treats Jehovah’s Witness children (or more accurately the children of Jehovah’s Witness parents) when they turn up in hospital. Whilst an adult can refuse ‘life sustaining treatment’ for themselves on purely religious grounds they cannot do so for a minor. The law assumes that young children are too young to have chosen to follow a religion because they are unable to understand it in any meaningful way. So they are not bound by it. There are other considerations around consent and ‘Gillick’ or ‘Frasier’ competence as children grow older but the issue is always around the child’s own ability to decide – not the religion of other people, even their parents.

Typically in cases where the parent refuses consent on religious grounds the child is made a ward of court and treated in their best interests, regardless of the beliefs of their biological parents. This gives us a dramatic illustration of the basic principle that a consenting adult can follow their religion even to their death if they choose but they cannot inflict their views upon others.

As an aside, although I do not intend to focus very much upon the anti-Islamic ‘English Defence League’ (EDL) during this series, it is this article that will prevent the Sharia law that they fear so much from ever becoming law in Europe. It is a religious system and cannot be imposed upon anyone who does not agree to be bound by it. Such is the beauty of the European Convention’s article 9.

There are a number of Sharia ‘courts’ in UK but they do not have legal authority in the same way that other courts do. Instead they are centres of arbitration and rely upon all parties agreeing to their ‘judgements’. This is a far cry from the imposition of Islamic law across the board that some people pretend.

There are some concerns that Shariah ‘law’ discriminates against women and that Shariah based arbitration may well lead to unfair decisions. However that is no different from the way that many Christian churches operate in UK.

I remember many years ago when I was a fundamentalist Christian myself being encouraged to follow the church’s own arbitration system as laid down by the Apostle Paul (Corinthians Chapter 6). But I also know that when it became clear how flawed that system of arbitration was there was nothing to prevent me from contacting a solicitor and solving my problem that way. In fact that is precisely what I did back in 1993.

Nasty Nick Griffin

The same rules apply to matters of conscience. Morality is not always based upon religion and so article 9 protects people who have firmly held beliefs wherever they come from. But again the same rules apply – only in so far as those beliefs don’t interfere with the rights of others.

It’s OK for Nick Griffin and others to believe in some mythical Arian ideal but it’s not OK for them to remove the right of others to join any political party they choose to because of it.

The British National Party (BNP) led by Nick Griffin was forced to change its policy in October 2009. The court ruled that the BNP policy that only white people could join this political party was judged to be discrimination.

We can see then that whatever we believe article 9 both protects our right to act according to our consciences but also protects us from the interference of others who want to impose their beliefs upon us. This is why, for example, Christian B&B owners are not able to discriminate against people using their services – it breaches the potential guests’ equality rights under article 14.

This is why the nursing professional governing body, the Nursing & Midwifery Council forbids nurses from inflicting their own religious opinions upon vulnerable patients. It’s why Gary MacFarlane was sacked by Relate and why the courts did not uphold his ‘right’ to discriminate against gay people.

There is no right to discriminate against others because of your own religious belief. You have the freedom to follow your conscience but so have others.

About ‘The Convention’

This series of posts first appeared on Stuart’s blog in June 2011.  It is not intended to be a comprehensive or even particularly authoritative reference guide to the ECHR. Rather it is a brief introduction to a much larger and infinitely more fascinating subject. You can download the entire series in PDF format here: http://stuartsorensen.wordpress.com/amj-freebies-downloads-and-services/

The convention 9: No punishment without law

In an earlier post I mentioned the appalling events that took place at Winterbourne View Hospital, a private establishment owned by Castlebeck.

wpid-Panorama-abuse-allegation-007.jpgThere have been some excellent blogs written about the scandal since it broke on a Panorama programme last week. These have mainly been from the perspective of liberty. For example This ‘Fighting monsters’ blog or this one from Lucy Series at ‘The small places’.

Of course this is important. In fact it’s vital that those of us who work in health and social care understand and respect the right to liberty. However there’s another, equally important principle to consider here. The idea that there can be no punishment without law. Welcome to Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

According to Article 7 people have the right not to be convicted of a crime that was not an offence at the time they committed it. They also have the right not to be given a harsher sentence than the maximum allowed at the time of the offence. This seems eminently fair and reasonable and few people object to it – at least in theory. It’s when we start to look at the wider implications that things become interesting – especially in health and social care.

wpid-winterbourne_2376241b.jpgThe Panorama footage from Winterbourne View leaves no room for doubt that staff were taking it upon themselves to ‘teach residents a lesson’ whenever their behaviour didn’t meet expectations. At least it leaves no doubt in my mind but of course, I’m not the court. This apparent abuse is all the more poignant when we learn that the expected behaviours involved passive acceptance of mistreatment and that the punishments meted out to them were torture by any definition.

But torture is not the focus of today’s blog. Instead I want to concentrate upon the widespread practice of people taking the law into their own hands. That’s what the staff at Winterbourne view did (allegedly) when they decided who to punish and who to let be. They were setting themselves up as judge and jury. But they were not judges or jurors and they most certainly were not entitled to act as executioners. Remember the maxim:

No punishment without law.

There is no law that allows care workers to punish anyone. That’s not what our work is about. If a criminal offence has been committed then we have a legal system designed to deal with it. A legal system that abides by the laws of the land and that understands proportionate punishment – not using a hammer to crack a nut.

Winterbourne View staff wrestling someone to the ground because they ‘looked at them’ is neither lawful nor proportionate. It’s a punishment meted out by someone with no right to decide upon guilt and penalty in the first place. That really is punishment without law. Throwing cold water over residents, pinning them to the floor with chairs or standing on their hands is equally indefensible.
The simple truth is that only the courts can condemn and only the courts can punish. Private citizens are not authorised to take the law into their own hands, especially if they are in charge of vulnerable people.

But this principle goes much further than Winterbourne View. One of the most common misunderstandings I come across when delivering training on challenging behaviour work is the belief that behavioural regimes involve punishment. They do not. Punishment is both illegal and unethical. It’s abuse.

edl rioters in BradfordA more obvious example of Article 7 at work is in the field of ‘hate politics’. From animal rights campaigners to religious fundamentalists there are always individuals ready to hurt those with whom they disagree. They see a difference of opinion, of race or of religion as an offence worthy of punishment and sometimes they take the law into their own hands.

Currently the UK group most often prosecuted for condemning and punishing others is the English Defence League whose members, ironically enough, regularly ‘defend’ England by attacking and harassing English citizens.

It is ironic that the ECHR not only prevents groups like the EDL from getting their way but also ensures that the Islamic ‘Sharia’ Law they fear so much could never hold sway in Europe. If EDL members would only stop and think for a moment they’d see that the very convention they oppose so vehemently protects them from the thing they fear the most.

It really is true that the more people know about the ECHR the more they appreciate it and the positive impact it has for us all.

About ‘The Convention’

This series of posts first appeared on Stuart’s blog in June 2011. It is not intended to be a comprehensive or even particularly authoritative reference guide to the ECHR. Rather it is a brief introduction to a much larger and infinitely more fascinating subject. You can download the entire series in PDF format here: http://stuartsorensen.wordpress.com/amj-freebies-downloads-and-services/

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 262 other followers