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Life, Death and Other Things

10 May

‘You might think that the biggest killer of people aged between 15 and 45 in the UK would be road traffic accidents or maybe one of the many cancers we’re reliably told will affect 1 in 3 of us, but it isn’t. The biggest killer of young people in this first world nation is suicide……’

Suicide outnumbers road traffic deaths by 2:1. The latest statistics put the total number at over 6,000 per year; that’s almost one every hour. So, the question is why? What do such a large number of otherwise healthy young people in the prime of their lives find so unbearable that ending it becomes a viable option?

From a personal perspective there is a big difference between life and living. Life is the mechanical process of converting food and Oxygen to the sustain a heartbeat. Living is gaining satisfaction and enjoyment whilst doing so. In the global model of living which we are forced to accept inequality has never been greater, the basic requirements for taking part can become all consuming, leaving many people simply treading water and trying to plug holes in the dam behind which the necessities for life continually pile up leading to the feeling that living is a secondary concern. This is not to say that all downward spirals are caused by what equates to financial stress; rich people are profoundly unhappy too, but for what may actually be the same thing, albeit caused by different circumstances.

On a planet with 7bn other people it is surprisingly easy to feel alone. The family unit or the need to belong and feel needed, wanted and above all loved is another contributory factor. This is where unhappiness doesn’t care how much wealth you have but there is undoubtedly a disproportionate number of economically strained people making up the suicide statistics. The more time you spend plugging the holes in the dam, the easier it is to begin the downward spiral of loneliness and feelings of helplessness and worthlessness.

Despite the narrative that we recognise and care about people who may be well on the way down the path to ending their pain, there is very little professional help available. I’ll guarantee the paperwork and time spent evaluating and exonerating professionals of any blame in the aftermath of a suicide far out ways the amount generated preventing it whilst they were still living.

Although everything I have just written may be factual, it’s typical of my personality to attemp to rationalise and quantify but when all is said and done it is my own internal battle with suicidal thoughts that I intended to write about. The flippant remarks and often quoted misnomer that someone who is suicidal acts completely normally and “nobody would have imagined that they would do such a thing”, is a somewhat annoying cop out. Making the choice to take your own life doesn’t happen in a moment of desperation or madness, it is a considered act in many cases. I can only speak for myself but I go around in circles considering method, guilt and a whole host of emotions and rationale.

I have asked for help but nothing ever happens. Over time I have become more isolated, unhappy and desperate to escape the overwhelming feeling of impending doom. It feels like every concerted effort I make to change things fails. The failures mount up and as they do the chronic (untreated) depression makes the basics hard to maintain. I am consumed by guilt at the thought of hurting people and it is that, and only that that has kept me alive. But I don’t know how much more I can take. I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, or for that matter, a tunnel. This isn’t a cry for help; God knows I’ve cried and cried for help but none has been forthcoming. I have posted many times about this and doubtless I’ll be labelled as the boy who cried wolf. Truth be told, I’m distracting myself from thinking because I’m afraid where it might lead. Death doesn’t scare me and the rationalisation that I could never have to face anymore pain is an appealing prospect but for now I’ll just keep plugging holes until the dam inevitably overflows……

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The Right to Choose……

1 Apr

‘Regular readers will doubtless know my feelings on the right to self-determination when it comes to assisted suicide.  Well, yet again, another terminally ill man has to suffer the indignity and stress of fighting the British Courts on top of being in an unimaginable position……’

The case of Noel Conway, 67, from Shrewsbury, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease more than two years ago and fears being “entombed” in his own body as his ability to move declines, is the latest to reach the High Court.  He is not expected to survive beyond the next 12 months.

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Noel Conway

It is  completely understandable that people in Noel’s position fear the indignity, pain, inability to communicate and all of the unimaginable horrors that come towards the end of life as the disease progresses.  To have the added distress of having to fight a court battle, when all he is requesting a peaceful death when the disease becomes intolerable, seems cruel and totally unecessary.  We have the medicines required to bring about this ending painlessly when the time comes.

The legal arguments against assisted suicide always seem to come back to the same thing; that relatives will ‘push’ a terminally ill person to prematurely end their lives for some spurious reason, or that the person feels they will become a burden as the disease progresses.  It has been demonstrated in countries which allow assisted suicide that with the right checks and balances in place this is almost impossible.   I know of no instances where relatives or carers have been prosecuted in such situations.  In independent polls a large majority agree that it should be an option.

There are options available to some, but only if their condition and financial status allow.  Dignitas, Switzerland, are one organisation that can arrange a peaceful death for sufferers of incurable, degenerative diseases, however, the cost involved (approximately £10,000) is prohibitive for some.  For others, their condition makes travel impossible, denying access to the service.

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Established 1998

The unfortunate inability of our courts to legalise assisted suicide has led to despairing people taking things into their own hands which can cause more suffering or, in the worst case scenario, a prosecution.

Death is not something to be feared.  The idea that your place in Heaven will be lost is  nothing more than the remnants of outdated superstition.  When you are dead you are effectively in the same ‘place’ you were before you were born; and anyway, surely a loving ‘god’ will understand your need to end your pain.

It is time we removed the superstition and hysteria from the argument and listened to common sense, ended the anguish and suffering of those people who find themselves in the unfortunate position of having an intolerable illness and placed assisted suicide on the statute books.  It is a sick irony that we don’t allow animals to sufifer but our fellow brothers and sisters are allowed to suffer…….

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Love Hurts……

5 Sep

Recently a lot of things that were buried have come back to haunt me again.

When I was a confused, frightened 15 year old boy I fell in reciprocated love for the first time ever. He was older than me, gorgeous, a football player and told me how much he loved me. There was only one thing that had to be kept a secret; that there was an us. He didn’t want anyone to know.

I was submissive to him. It felt like that’s what I should be. He didn’t hurt me and I enjoyed the sex and the feelings of butterflies whenever I thought about him. Life was great, I had escaped the fear of being found out and it didn’t matter that we were a secret. When we were alone nothing else in the world mattered. I was in love.

As time went on we maintained the secrecy, we had our own secret code to communicate and arrange our secret meetings (no instant messenger then).

Then, one night, we had arranged to meet at a pub but I had to stay away from him until the night was over. This was nothing new. The plan was simple. He would leave and we’d go in opposite directions and meet up at his bed-sit when the coast was clear. Everything was ‘normal’ when he came up to me on the way back from the loo, handed me the keys and told me to go. Change of plan, he’d be home soon.

Soon enough he was. I was undressed and couldn’t wait for just another night of passion. How wrong was I. It was clear something was wrong. But what? I had, apparently, spoken to somebody he didn’t approve of. Butterflies turned to fear. He had hold of me by the top of my arms, digging his nails in. I told him he was hurting me and I didn’t even know what I’d really done but found myself apologising. I tried to kiss him; he moved aside. Precisely what happened next is still a bit of a blur but he hit me in the stomach and I went down. Two, maybe three digs later, I was on the floor in tears. Then he raped me. I don’t think I actually said no. I was confused, crying and in a lot of pain. I just froze. After, I can remember being in bed facing away from him so he couldn’t see me cry. Every time he touched me a shiver went through me.

In the morning he got up and left as if nothing had happened. When he’d gone I got up and walked into the bathroom. In the mirror stood a devastated, crying mess. Bruises and nail marks on my arms, a huge bruise on my kidney and an intense pain; the result of two cracked ribs which acted as a reminder of what he could do, even six weeks later.

He came back, told me I shouldn’t have provoked him and I apologised again. How could I still love him? I don’t know but I did. I put up with his paranoia, temper and abuse for almost two years. I blamed myself.

And when it was over it was him who finished it and I still cried and begged him to stay with me.

It was a long time ago but not the last time. What was wrong with me? Was I so desperate to be loved I’d take anything inflicted on me.
It wouldn’t happen now and I would never treat anybody that way. I don’t even know why I’m saying this. I suppose it’s freed a skeleton from the past. Another piece of embarrassing history. He might even see it and think about the damaged he did to an already damaged boy. And, I still love him. How twisted is that?…

But, as I’ve recently discovered, punches hurt less than unrequited love…

Flooding – The Blame Game……

11 Feb

‘We’ve reached that time of the year again that nature overwhelms us.  Last year it was the turn of snow and ice; this year it’s the rain, or to be more accurate, its effect……’

Approximately 5000 homes in the Somerset Levels, the South-West and towns and villages lining the river Thames have been affected in the latest event.  The political mud slinging has begun, with the Environment Agency

Eirc 'the pie' Pickles

Eirc ‘the pie’ Pickles

in the firing line for giving what the pie eating MP, Eric Pickles, described as ‘poor advice’ on flood management, although had they been given ‘good advice’ it wouldn’t have changed anything.  Our political system has become reactive rather than proactive.  The residents of the areas affected have accused the Government of being unprepared and failing to respond fast enough; chasing the problem, rather than putting measures in place to deal with it.

Somerset Levels

Somerset Levels

There have been various claims that the Environment Agency have neglected to dredge rivers stretching back 20 or more years and claims that work undertaken up-stream has exacerbated problems further down.

All of these claims may have some degree of truth but the real problems began hundreds, if not thousands, of years earlier and are the work of human beings and their management of the landscape……

Climate change is cited as being one of the major causes but this is unproven.  No matter how many statistics are pulled out of the hat, for example; this is the most rainfall recorded in the 248 years since records began, yet areas that were affected on previous occasions have not been affected this time around and visa versa.  Climate change models have thus far proven to be unreliable.  There is a much simpler answer closer to home……

UK over 80mtThe beginning is usually a good place to start.  Much of our country is below sea level which has been managed for years successfully.  You only have to look at the map to see where is below sea level.  Most of East Anglia and Lincolnshire fall into that category.  They have been managed by digging dykes and pumping out the seawater.  It used to be done by windmills, then steam engines and now with electric pumps.  Although the system works well most of the time, when high rainfall combined with high tides and low atmospheric pressure over the North Sea they become overwhelmed, which is what happened in the 1953 disaster which claimed 1836 lives.

The Somerset Levels are called that for a reason.  Our ancestors new that they had a tendency to be submerged or swamp like at certain times of the year and farmed or grazed their animals accordingly.

The ‘picture post-card’ view of the Peak District and its counterparts is a man made image.  Before we came along with our farming and grazing they would have been a mixture of woodland, scrub, salt marsh and all of the other naturally occurring variations in the landscape.  So, the current situation is as a result of mankind’s manipulation, which has the side effect of draining higher ground much faster and, without plants, washing the soil off of the hills……

The upshot of this interference is to overwhelm the streams and rivers further down hill, causing the current floods.  What I do find interesting is the NIMBY effect, whereas which ever area is this seasons chosen one, the residents are up in arms about the lack of action taken either before or during the event.  We hear very little about the crumbling East Coast where beach front properties are left to the elements and fall inevitably into the sea……

Solutions can be found but there will be a price to pay.  Managed areas of high ground can be planted, costal defences can be left breached to allow the sea in and, if you have ‘delusions of grandeur’ you can try to play King Canute using ever larger, and more expensive pumps to fight the loosing battle with nature……

Whatever action you take, its effects will only last an increasingly shorter amount of time.  The Human Race has gone and made that same mistake again and presumed it can control nature, which it can’t.  The only thing we can do is stop building on areas we know to be below sea level and pursue the councils who gave the planning consent, the bankers who lent money against a toxic asset and the political system that allowed it all to happen on their watch……

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An Autobiographical Account of Life……

10 Jan

“How’s it going Steve, I haven’t seen you for ages?” is the unintentionally robotic greeting that I am inevitably met with, followed by “What you up too?”  This happens on almost all occasions when I find myself unable to avoid a social function.  I, presumably like other people whose lives aren’t sailing along nicely, give the polite answers expected; “Oh, okay; this and that”, when nothing could be further from the truth.  Similarly hollow questions would never be asked of somebody, whose partner had just died, or their house repossessed and business in receivership.  Depression is an invisible illness.  Depressed, unemployed and living in almost complete isolation, save consultations with doctors, one encounters dark and suicidal thoughts.  Clearly, battling with ones inner mental turmoil, alongside addiction is not a consideration of those who ask.

I sometimes find myself playing truth or dare (without the dare) and when asked, ‘you alright?’ I look at the enquirer, stony faced, and answer, ‘No!’; leaving an awkward silence and the questioner not knowing how to continue the conversation.  For the facts of the matter are that I’m not alright and the only thing I do from the confines of my self induced isolation is write an occasional blog entry, and when the mental fog clears, allows me to finish it.  The similarly vacuous platitude, ‘We must get together for a coffee some time’, when you both know that you have no intentions of meeting up, falls into the same category of polite conversation.  I suppose the scales of apathy are strictly tilted in my direction, after all it isn’t the responsibility of my counterpart to understanding my depressed isolation.  Hence the easiest way of avoiding vacuous questions is to remain in social isolation on a diet of Morphine, Benzodiazepines and Antidepressants.

Life in all its many forms; animate and inanimate, from the unimaginable small building blocks of particle physics to the infinite beauty of the Cosmos beyond, from a flower bursting fourth from its bud, a basking Dragon Fly awaiting the moment its wings are dry enough for it to take to the sky, to the rainbow of autumnal colours and the dust clouds of distant nebula beyond hold an infinite beauty.  One does not need to be either a scientist or traveller to appreciate this beauty.

It is not hard to understand why, for all its destructiveness, explorers in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries collected specimens on mass in order to show their contemporaries the strange diversity that existed in far away places, after all would you have believed in the existence of the Duck Billed Platypus had you not actually seen one?  Now, however, due to the wonders of the technology operating because of the strange properties of the Quantum Theory, we are all able to experience nature’s beauty, albeit from the point of view of a camera combined with the comforting tones of David Attenborough.  Perhaps we are spoiled, being in a position from which to see the actuality of what beauty lays beyond our horizon, especially as there are still billions for whom the beauty of our planet is pushed further down their agendas as they pick through rubbish tips salvaging what they can to afford a cup of rice from which they may need to feed a whole family.

I should be grateful for the facility to watch the beauty of our planet whilst eating a pre-prepared meal from a super market, which is certainly thrown into perspective by the considerations above; yet, somehow, I remain dissatisfied with my circumstances……

Although the immediate pharmacological concerns of my basic health needs are catered for, along with food, shelter and the other western necessities to which one is accustomed, I still feel I need more.  It can it be attributed to the greed that western capitalism has allowed us the time to develop that makes depression possible?  It is, however, for me, a reminder that I am trapped; cocooned in this man made shell, for I too would like to experience, first hand, the rain forests of Borneo, the remnants of ancient civilisations in South America, Asia and the Middle East.  I yearn to see the Northern Lights and watch pods of Whales majestically swimming in synchronisation.  To fly over the Grand Canyon and stand in proximity to feel first hand the power of Victoria or Niagara Falls; the list is almost endless, and, given an inexhaustible cash flow, would still not have the time to experience them all.

Reality is not something I would advise devoting much time to.  Because the reality, for most of us, makes us the victim of globalisation whereby to feed the machine we are tied to a banal existence, the reward for most is one, or maybe two weeks restitution packaged, door to door, by a travel agent.  If you happen to be in that majority, many of whom can barely afford their electricity bill, then your future is already written.  You will be enslaved by an employer who is unlikely to know your name, let alone the state of your welfare or that of your family, and nor does he care.  You are a small component in a machine expected to work at maximum efficiency and like a worn out bearing in an engine the minute your efficiency falls below the benchmark on a spreadsheet, you will be replaced.

Those in power, who govern, do so without a mandate, moving ever closer to the Orwellian nightmare whilst distracting the electorate with meaningless statistics, manufactured half truths and disinformation designed to turn neighbour against neighbour.  Whilst the political mud slinging fills the mundane news, most of which is simply ignored, the rest of the globally corrupt iceberg continues unseen, making a chosen few rich off the profits of war, terror and human misery.  And in order for them to continue they need a subdued population.  They take what they wish from what you have earned, do as they wish with it whilst continually preaching the mantra that we are all at the precipice and must continue to operate the machine at an ever increasing cost.  They will do this to you until you reach an age they have decided; currently 67, 68 or even 69, at which point they will tell you that the vast sums of money they have taken from you was not enough.  They will provide you with a small amount of money that is barely enough to survive on then let you spend the 4,5 or 6 years you have left doing as you choose.  Then, should you have been in the fortunate position to have acquired any wealth through property, they will take half of it before allowing you to give it to your children.

To me this does not seem to be a life.  It is more akin to slavery where, without any choice, you must work for your master, allowing your master to achieve great wealth whist making your existence just about possible.

I don’t believe I will ever experience any of the worldly beauty I described above.  In fact, I believe I have experienced it as closely as I ever will through the medium of television.  Therefore, I see little if any point in contributing to the machine and will, at some chosen point exit this world, and perhaps in hundreds of billions of years, the energy I give back to the universe will recombine in some other entity and experience the magic at first hand, or be a part of it……

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Russell Brand – Revolutionary……?

8 Nov

‘I’ve never found Russell Brand particularly funny but credit where credit’s due, he’s used his celebrity to say what most people are thinking……’

It all started two weeks ago after Russell Brand was invited to be a guest editor for ‘The New Statesman’.  Interviewed shortly afterwards by Jeremy Paxman, Brand in his own leftfield way highlighted some of the obvious political perversions that are abundantly obvious to the majority of the electorate.  Paxman’s retort was to suggest that if you choose not to take part in the electoral system by not voting, then you are not in a position to comment.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Disillusionment with, and disenfranchisement from the political system is not uncommon, especially amongst the young, although this an effect, not a cause.  Let us suppose that every young person with the right to vote enters the booth; faced with nobody they can trust they mark their ballot paper ‘None of the above’.  This may give them the ‘democratic’ legitimacy which Jeremy Paxman requires but still changes nothing.  Let us also suppose that any ballot papers marked with ‘None of the above’ are counted and outweigh all of the others added together.  Although, this effectively gives no-one a mandate to govern, it still will not trigger a change……

Like Russell Brand, and not for the want of trying, I have no alternative solutions to the nefarious, unethical, untrustworthy and sycophantic way in which our so called ‘democracy’ operates.  I’ve read Marx and attempted to think of ways in which a political structure could be truly democratic and drawn a blank.  It is a sad truth but the phrase ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’, attributed to Lord Acton, is a statement concerning human evolution as much as it is about political power structures.

In a somewhat not unrelated diversion from the subject matter of this article, but one could easily argue a relevant one for a universe whose sole purpose is supposedly to harbour the pinnacle achievement of a divine creator; namely mankind, and then consider the comparison with us; a largely monotheistic anthropocentric mistake in evolution.  Our behaviour, as a species, makes the remaining sadly threatened family groups of Silver Back Mountain Gorillas appear to be more civilised than us as we have the arrogance to think of ourselves as being more civilised than they.  Spend a few hours of your precious time observing them, look into their eyes and see an animal completely at one with itself, its own existence as our distant evolutionary cousins once were.  If you conclude, as I have, disregarded the usual methodology by which we judge intelligence, then the Gorillas are closer to the pinnacle of evolution, you are left with two species from which I can only conclude it is they and not us who are more perfectly adapted to living on this planet.  Making Gorillas closer to the perfect divine creation, should you find it necessary to invoke divinity into your view of the world.

This planet with all its perverse power structures has more than enough resources for every one of its inhabitants.  No one need go hungry, homeless or not have access to education or medical care.  It is only the way in which things are valued and organised that precludes this.  I am not suggesting that some form of communism in which the state provides everybody with an equal income.  There is room for a sliding scale of incomes dependent upon skills.  We simply have to define that scale.  For example a surgeon deserves a good degree of recompense for the skills they offer but so does a hospital porter and both could be adequate to provide a good standard of living.

There comes a cut off point at which income becomes irrelevant.  When somebody reaches the point at which their income is in the millions, it is more than they could ever need or spend.  Therefore, there has to be a way in which all can be recompensed for their contribution; I just haven’t worked out the details yet.

Who would have thought that Russell Brand would be the person to start the conversation about fairness but now that he has we should grasp the opportunity and seek a resolution to the disparity that exists before the messy business of a French style revolution starts.  And be in no doubt, we are at a point where, like the ‘Arab Spring’, revolution is a very real possibility……

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The End of an Empire……

17 Sep

It is only me that thinks Great Britain is no longer great.  We no longer have an empire and the Commonwealth exists only like the remains of a Dinosaur from the 19th century.  I think the decision of Parliament to take no action against Syria, obscene thought the crimes being committed against its people from all sides are, was the right one……

I have no doubt that the secretive machinery that has its corrupting fingers in many countries pies bears responsibility for some of the situations as it did with Libya and Egypt but we are not the world police and we just have to accept that when the inevitable disputes of primitive religious groups, all be they with a large helping of Western corruption, come to a head, we are better leaving them to sort out their differences regardless of the cost in human suffering.  If we don’t, and continue to attempt to exert our will on the outcomes, we will become stuck in a never ending spiral of tribal warfare……

None of this absolves us of responsibility and the G7, G20 and UN should provide all of the assistance possible to try and make the lives of those caught up in the conflicts easier and we should provide the resources to rebuild the infrastructure of these countries.  The only proviso being that it should not be contracted out to the ‘evil doers’, as George W Bush once called them, for it is they who hold a great deal of responsibility for the status quo……

It is my personal view that the only dispute that deserves the full attention of the West in creating a lasting piece is the Israeli/Palestinian dispute.  This differs from almost all of the other disputes, past and present, in which the actions or more precisely, lack of it which can trace its roots directly back to the West, which clearly favours the Israelis whilst ignoring the Palestinians, who in reality are the only people who have any claim over the disputed territories.  Free_PalestineThe quibbling between who used chemical weapons first in Syria has some validity but as for who has ignored all UN directives, is in breach of the Geneva Conventions, treats the IAEA with contempt and holds an entire population at ransom, destabilising the region, whilst the West watches on without comment is Israel……

It is time both the US and the UK pulled out of any conflict that doesn’t arrive directly at their shores but has a duty to provide justice to the Palestinians whose situation would never have arisen were it not for us……

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