EU referendum

Tomorrow is the final day voters can register to vote in the European Referendum. We can make amends for not voting in a General Election after five years but once we leave the EU, that’s it. There’s no going back. So we really must register to vote. You can go online on your mobile and do it. If you can check Facebook you can definitely register to vote. Please register to vote, and then vote!

To be honest, I can see why a lot of people wouldn’t bother voting because the whole thing is bloody confusing, and the general feeling is that (as is always the case for those who abstain) is that we are f*cked either way. However, we are making a decision not just based on our own circumstances but on our children and their children. So, to reiterate, PLEASE REGISTER to vote. And then go and vote! It doesn’t make you a geek, it makes you the kind of person your ancestors who lived through/fought in the Great Wars would be proud of.

We are only voting in this referendum because of the Conservative Party, and that annoys me. We aren’t doing it for the best interests of this country. I am a left-wing voter. I detest everything Conservatives stand for, but that’s another story for another day. What I detest even more is the nationalist faction of the Tory party and UKIP, which are pretty much the same thing, who are coming out with the most polemical rhetoric, and a lot of it is ill-informed and completely irrational. Generally it tends to appeal to the older generation/working class/less well-educated who believe in the Great Britain of old; who dislike people who are different to them, who dislike diversity and fear multiculturalism, who believe that things were better the way they used to be. They are being fed this guff by Boris Johnson, who is the biggest fraud in British politics. It is well known in political circles that Boris is pro-Europe. The man is a hotch-potch of ethnicities – Turkish included. So how can he look at a poster on a bus stop which says (completely wrongly, of course) that to remain in Europe is a passport for millions of Turks to come here? If it’s alright for his ancestors to do so, why can’t others? The man is so desperate to become Prime Minister that he would literally denigrate his grandmother to achieve his aims. So would anyone fall for his bullshit?

Anyway, I am voting based on how this would affect me and my offspring, and I vote to REMAIN. I am not going to go into every reason why I believe we are better placed in the EU – there are loads of benefits for staying in, there are loads of benefits for opting out. But the simple fact is that we just DO NOT KNOW what will happen in the event of a Brexit, and what we DO know – based on hard facts – simply spells disaster. Have a look at the Economist online and see what the intelligent people are saying about all of this – not the politicians’ garber.

So what about me? First off – I’m the son of an immigrant! But I also work in the Higher Education space, and I speak with Chairmen/women and Vice-Chancellors of major universities on a daily basis. My work depends on bringing in world-class talent from all over the world, who contribute to making our universities the multi-billion industry engines of growth that they are. It would be terrible if we left the EU for George if our universities lost their place in the global HE system, so why would I put his prospects at risk? Last year I dated a Latvian girl, and I learnt about Latvian culture and heritage through meeting her family and friends. I quite like seeing people from different cultures living around me, because I get to eat different foods, experience new things, and I quite enjoy the inspiration to go visit other countries. The NHS – it simply could not function without immigrants. In the hands of an unbridled Tory government the NHS would be dismantled in a shot, so why would I take this risk? Jobs – some immigrants come here and provide jobs for other people, some immigrants do the jobs people here think are beneath them, and if you feel under threat by an immigrant coming here driving down your wages in a race to the bottom, then it’s surely there’s no better motivation to get promoted and aspire for better things? Housing – not an immigration problem. We simply don’t build enough houses and the planning system in this country is beyond a joke. Sure, the houses prices might drop, making it more affordable, but we don’t know the economic effects of Brexit and who’s to say wages won’t fall? On the economy, free trade etc – well listen, there’s people far better qualified than me saying it’s better to stay in. We are one of the world’s richest countries, why would you put this at risk for some unknown eventuality in the case of Brexit? Destroying this would be nothing short of criminal for our children’s futures. The money we pay to the EU – there’s tons of evidence to suggest we get a lot back. Finally, defence. It’s much safer to be in the EU than out of it. A terrorist can be of any origin, including British.

I am not saying the EU doesn’t need reforming. It’s a horrible, bureaucratic mess and having studied EU law as part of my degree, it’s so boring and so complicated. But it is better to try and reform that from the inside than come out of it and then realise we’ve lost what was a very good thing for us and our descendants. What actually frightens me more is living in a country with fascists who hate any other language being spoken other than English and believe that Britain can go back to the “days of old”! I look forward rather than backwards. I am aspirational and not apathetic. I vote to remain in the EU, and I don’t want my future being in the hands of older people who wear rose-tinted spectacles because the younger voter couldn’t be bothered to vote. So register and then get voting! #remain

Nelson Mandela

In April this year, Louise Mensch wrote: “Pygmies of the left so predictably embarrassing yourselves, know this: not a one of your leaders will ever be globally mourned like her.” She was, of course, referring to a woman who divided opinion, an entire country, and promoted grotesque inequality; and a woman, who, in fact, labelled Nelson Mandela a terrorist. 

Yet Nelson Mandela is the man that did much more than promote; but lived, breathed and embodied equality, respect, courage, tenacity, drive, determination, humility, grace, peace, and kindness. One of the greatest statesman to have ever lived, he is one of a handful of people who was genuinely loved by almost everyone on the planet. His portrait is one of the most iconic images of the 20th Century and his profound legacy will live on long after. He was the soul and heartbeat of an entire nation.

At the time, I didn’t really understand anything about his release from prison, but I do remember it, just like I remember the fall of the Berlin Wall. Over time, I learned about what he did, what he stood for and what he fought against. I will make sure my son George learns about his life, about his struggle and about his legacy, but more importantly, I hope that through me he will take inspiration from the principles by which Mandela lived his life. And he will be a greater person for it.

There are many great sayings attributed to him, but my personal favourite is this: “‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Thank you for being part of this world. RIP.

The Zeitgeist and Jimmy Savile

 

The news is hot on one topic at the moment. Jimmy Savile appears to be one of Britain’s most prolific paedophiles, yet whilst he had an aura of eccentricity and strangeness, the rumours that followed him were never acted upon. Why?

In yesterday’s Observer, Jane Root, controller of BBC2 from 1999-2004,  said there needed to be a “truth and reconciliation commission” into Savile along with perceived sexism in the corporation, and “throughout television” in the 1980s and early 1990s. She said: “It was this sexist atmosphere, although a totally different thing, that assisted a very dedicated paedophile such as Savile to operate in the middle of it all”. Therein lies the question. How could the BBC foster such an environment in which Savile could go about his business?

I will admit that I find nothing wrong with adult men finding post-pubescent teenage girls attractive. Biologically speaking, youth is a powerful driver in sexual attraction. Moreover, guys I know will tell you that they have, as adult men, recall at least one situation where they have noticed an attractive underage girl before, especially when they wear revealing clothing and appear to look older than the age of consent. But generally speaking, as people get older, they are attracted to and look for sexual partners closer to their own age. The reason being is that older people have matured, and they are on completely different planes to younger ones mentally.  Sexual maturity does not equal mental maturity.

It is for this reason that there exists an age of consent in countries across the world, which is where sexual and mental maturity reach a confluence. This age, of course, is entirely arbitrary but we have to draw the line somewhere and here in the UK we settled on 16. This varies across the world, and indeed in countries with similar cultural norms to ours; for example, in France, the age of consent is 15; in some countries it’s 14, 13 and so on. Indeed, in certain cultures across the world, it is customary for a girl to become pregnant and raise a family as soon as she is physically able to, but they tend to be in countries we consider to be “third world” and are often much more tribal than we are accustomed to.

So whilst I concede there can be an attraction to younger girls, at the same time, I think an adult male should have their testicles cut off and given back to them on a plate if they sexually take advantage of girls under the age of consent knowing full well how old they are. Doing so once is bad enough, but doing so on a prolific basis is nothing short of systemic child abuse. Such behaviour is predatory in nature and much less about sex, but rather, power; a point rightly made by Deborah Orr in Saturday’s Guardian.  Savile, who clearly had a predilection for underage girls therefore deserves to be labelled as a child abuser. Noticing a girl who is pretty but young, and having a sole sexual interest in girls under the age of consent are completely different things. The demarcation for when a girl becomes legal is designed to protect her. Savile broke that line, not least by choosing underage targets but by forcing himself upon people, which is horrendous to both adults and children and alike.

Having said all of this, the question then must be asked as to how and why the BBC fostered such an environment in which Savile operated. That there has been a wall of silence around this behaviour, especially in a society that enjoys exposing sleaze, defies belief if we assess it by today’s standards.

The answer lies in the ‘spirit of the times’. This is known as a zeitgeist, defined in the Oxford dictionary as “the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time”. Think of the 1950s and how the world looks today compared to back then. Young girls routinely started families much earlier than they do now. We’ve seen a huge swathe of cultural and legal changes designed to bring parity to women and other groups across the world over the course of many hundreds of years.

But it’s a developmental process, and it takes time to finally realise something is wrong and needs to be changed. For instance, a man could legally rape his wife up until 1991. That’s right. A woman could not bring a rape charge against her husband if he had sex with her without her consent because it was seen as part of her marital duty to satisfy her husband. Furthermore, child porn was legally sold in Denmark and other European countries, with laws banning their sale coming only in the early 80s. There existed an organisation called Paedophile Information Exchange which received funding from the Home Office and those who advocated for child sexual freedoms publicly argued for their cause.  Homosexuality used to be a crime which deserved imprisonment. We used to hang people if they committed a crime; even on shaky evidence.  Women used to be legally paid less than men (and we are still battling on that front). Therefore the zeitgeist is crucial to understanding shifts of thought pertaining to certain periods of time in history, and equal pay, human rights, women’s rights, gay rights: all have benefited from changes in human thinking over the course of time. What is deemed and morally acceptable continuously changes.

It appears, therefore, that Savile came from a time when it was seen as being acceptable, if not publicly but inconspicuously, to engage in sexual behaviour with sexually mature, but underage girls.  None more so than in music and show business was this more prevalent. Many famous rock stars had sexual relations with underage girls (think of the groupie culture), and indeed many famous songs were written about such desire. Whilst it may have been frowned upon by certain people (people did complain at the time of Savile’s offences) it certainly didn’t spark the widespread revulsion we would see now – revulsion seen in the recent Jeremy Forrest case for example (Google this name and Megan Stammers if you are unfamiliar with the story). Instead it was met with a wall of silence and a degree of acceptance. The police investigated Savile but did not bring a criminal charge.

So is it the case that the BBC ignored this because it was seen as being “part of the culture” back then? Jane Root seems to think so. Much like it was seen that women were inferior to men on almost every feasible level until we realised it was completely unacceptable and made some very necessary changes. Remember that this behaviour wasn’t just perpetrated against young girls – adults complained about groping at the station as being “par for the course”.  Remember too that the BBC produced shows that routinely contained blatant racism in its TV shows, which was viewed as being culturally acceptable back then. The internal culture appears to have been equally inappropriate.

What’s more, the very fact that Esther Rantzen (who made it her mission to protect victims of child abuse) did not see Savile’s abuse as being something which she should complain clearly demonstrates the zeitgeist in which the BBC operated. How else could a woman ignore child molestation whilst at the same time invite victims of child abuse to call ChildLine? I don’t believe it to be about Savile being completely untouchable – there are plenty of domineering stars who the media would love to tear apart – the sleazy press existed back then and surely if they felt it to be a scoop they would have reported all of this many years ago. Nor do I believe his charity work trumped his illegal behaviour.

There exists no plausible defence for illegal behaviour and Jimmy Savile appears to have been a prolific criminal stretching over many decades. He broke the law, but seemingly had free will to do so. Just like the man that once raped his wife as free as he pleased. Thankfully now rigorous controls are in place and it seems very unlikely that a Jimmy Savile would be able to conduct criminal behaviour on an institutional scale. The zeitgeist has changed.