0

Should Fake News Be Banned?

https://mcxv.com/fake-news-made-illegal/

I recently attended a debate which focused on whether or not ‘fake news’ is covered by free speech.  This topic is very relevant for bloggers because if you tend to focus on news and current events, you are contributing to the discourse and you are presenting your own view of the truth, a view which may or may not be widely accepted.

Would fake news laws shut down blogs just because the powers that be don’t agree with them? Who decides what is and is not fake? And what would that mean for political commentators, Youtubers, bloggers and keyboard warriors? Before you decide whether or not fake news should be banned you first need to think about what fake news is and who defines and decides what fake news is.

Donald Trump believes that the mainstream media deliberately lies about him and his fans. The public has, to some extent, always been dubious of the mainstream media but the rise of independent news outlets seems to be fuelling this distrust. Facebook and Google are clamping down on fake news. People are being implored to actually research the facts before they share a meme. Fake news is very relevant to a world where basically anyone can be a journalist and users alone decide what will go viral, but is fake news detrimental to or in fact supported by free speech?

I have written an article about whether fake news should be banned, the definition of fake news, the difference between interpretation and facts, and whether or not fake news should be banned. The article was published on MCXV, an independent news website which allows contributors to make a small profit based on a number of views they get. Is this the kind of website which would be targeted by anti-fake news legislation? Take a look and let me know what you think!

0

Why America Should Legalise drugs (non-stoner reasons).

https://mcxv.com/real-reason-drugs-legalised-america-no-dont-just-want-get-high/ 

Happy belated 420 everyone.

I just wrote an article about why America should legalise drugs. Most of the reasons people tend to come up with is a person’s rights over their own body, the ridiculousness of criminalising something that only ‘harms’ yourself, and the relative safety regarding certain illegal substances (like marijuana) as opposed to legal substances (like alcohol).

These are all very true, but I thought I would try and get away from the personal reasons and focus on how legalising drugs could have huge positive ramifications on America’s messed up prison system, disproportionate representation of African Americans in American prisons, the fact that the punishment often does not fit the crime, how legalising drugs could help with overcrowding, how many Americans are actually in jail because of drug-related offences etc.

I am not from America. I should also admit that I have not been to America so a lot of my information comes from articles, statistics and Orange Is The New Black. If anyone is from the states and/or knows about the prison system and has any comments on my article or the issues relating to drugs, racism, prisons and crime please let me know!

Check out my article by clicking here or going to https://mcxv.com/real-reason-drugs-legalised-america-no-dont-just-want-get-high/ 

0

Amber Rudd’s’Name and shame’ proposal leaves a lot of unanswered questions and a rather irksome feeling.

Despite all claims to the contrary I’ve always tried to avoid the simplistic view that BREXIT was primarily about race and xenophobia. Whilst no one is denying that the ‘breaking point’ campaign and indeed a lot of the leave campaigns rhetoric was focused on immigration (despite EU immigration being limited to Europe these campaigns tried to focus on refugees, which is kind of ironic considering we still have a duty to them with or without our EU membership) there were other factors that would encourage someone to vote leave.

My article on Public Opinion and the Young People Who Voted Leave discusses several of these alternative reasons and shows that many people were influenced by the perceived anti-democratic way the EU was run, they wanted to leave what they saw as a global superpower that was trying to control 28 countries from a remote headquarters, and/or they wanted Britain to have more control over their destiny and economy. It would be very naive to assume that no one voted leave due to racist and/or xenophobic reasons, but the idea that these were the only reasons highlights the remain campaign’s failure to appeal to people in the first place.

Recent events have made me a little disturbed, however.This ‘name and shame’ policy that attempts to look at how many non-British born people work for a particular company does sound quite sinister because the aim appears to be quite clear. This policy seems to have been discontinued due to the backlash it recieved, but the fact that this was an option, the fact that this is what our government wanted to focus on is a little scary and perhaps shows what is to come. According to The Guardian Amber Rudd’s aims were as follows:

“Under her proposals, firms could be forced to disclose what percentage of their workforce is non-British as a way to encourage them to hire more locals. Ms Rudd said she wanted to “flush out” companies abusing existing rules and “nudge them into better behaviour”.

Source http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37561035

Whether they publish their findings or not the goal seems to be to check how many migrants compared to how many British born people work for a particular company and if they are not satisfied that British people are getting first pick at the jobs they may take measures to encourage the company in question to focus on British applicants and give them first choice for employment. I am not sure if these policies will focus on people who weren’t born in the U.K themselves or people whose ancestors were immigrants, nor do I know whether it will focus on a particular group (i.e European immigrants or non-EU immigrants).

I also don’t know if ‘British born’ is going to be based on race or residential status and how that’s going to be qualified (will Amber Rudd count you as a British citizen if you weren’t born in Britain but have British citizenship? Will a recent immigrant with a better application be turned away in favour of someone who has no relevent experience but is a Britis citizen?) but either way this seems very contradictory to our apparent commitment to inclusion and the need to encourage a more representative, diverse workforce not only so our workforce reflects the country we actually live in but so we don’t end up with stale ideas and we don’t miss out on talent.

We already know that we have a problem with diversity in British industries, and even though we have schemes and quota systems in place to encourage a more diverse workforce they don’t always seem that effective. We know, for example, that around 8% of the Creative sector (i.e media, film and art-based jobs) are nonwhite, and when we consider that a lot of these jobs are based in London where the demographic is roughly around 40-60% this is quite shocking. (source here: http://www.gold.ac.uk/news/the-creative-industries-and-meritocracy/)

From a quick Google search on the subject I found the following statistics:

  • Black workers with degrees earn 23.1% less on average than white employees with the qualifications
  • Ethnic minority people were more likely to live in poverty than white people
  • Ethnic minorities are still “hugely under-represented” in positions of power – such as judges and police chiefs (info found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37114418)When they are talking about hiring more locals, what jobs do they mean? Do they mean the NHS where a significant portion of the workforce is made up of Non-British born staff? Do they mean the jobs many British people simply don’t want to do or don’t have the skills for? Do they mean the more competitive industries where diversity is still a real issue? And what do they mean by foreigners? Is this based on your race, where you were born, or is it simply how soon it was that you moved to the UK? If you were brought up here and lived most of your life here but you happened to be born in another country how do you fit in? How do you qualify a British person and how do you qualify a non-British person?

    It is hard to get a job in the U.K and a lot of this is because there is too much competition for certain jobs, not enough jobs to go around and a real preference for free labour under the guise of ‘internships’. How we could sort that out is a whole other issue, but the solution isn’t to close off all opportunities to people who ‘aren’t British enough’ if they have the skills that the particular job needs. Surely if companies are encouraged to hire as many ‘British’ workers as possible it will exasperate inequalities. Surely changing hiring policies so ‘the British come first’ would increase racial profiling? Surely ‘British Jobs for British workers’ is quite an open statement which doesn’t really mean anything,  because who is British and who isn’t? What are you basing that on?

0

Tuesday morning update

I have two announcements to make this fine Tuesday morning.

    1. Take a look at my published article on why we need more video campaigns for male domestic abuse victims
    2. I’m doing book reviews now! Take a look at my new and shiny book review website, and if you are an author or looking for new books to read this summer click on the ‘book club’ banner for lists of cheap books and the opportunity to list your own book and gain a wider audience.

For more information on Alter Ego by Tory Allyn (the book I’m currently reviewing) check out it’s Amazon listing here.

I’ve been quite busy writing about weird topics for minimal pay (latest includes sewing machine sergers, karaoke machines, and milk frothers) but I promise to update again soon with a longer and very exciting post.

Book Club Reading List

Cheap eBooks

Cheap eBooks

Cheap Kindle Books

0

An update on my life, and a rant about Jeremy Corbyn

Read my article on Jeremy Corbyn as the underdog of British politics.

Me

I’ve been neglecting my poor blog.

Things have been quite busy. I’m trying to work as a freelance writer, which basically involves sending pitches and searching the internet for writing opportunities for hours and perhaps actually getting something once or twice a week. It started slow, but I’m feeling optimistic about it. I’m working as a ghostwriter, which isn’t great as you get no credit for your work, but on the other

I’m working as a ghostwriter, which isn’t great as you get no credit for your work, but on the other hand I’m getting paid to write. It’s ghostwriting for a tech company, so I have to rewrite and research these tech topics like virtual assistants for android phones and then write a load of words on them. It’s quite fun, I’m learning a lot of trivia and I’ve discovered some really addictive phone games.

I’ve also found a few other jobs along the way, including a job which literally paid me $100 me to record myself saying phrases. I think they were testing for a Google app, as I had to repeat the word “Google” so many times it stopped sounding real. It did get a bit repetitive, but realistically making $100 dollars by lying in bed and talking is pretty much the best thing ever.

Getting paid for journalism, opinions and analysis is pretty hard, especially for newbies, and as that’s what I really want to do it kind of sucks. I’ve written a fair few articles which, whilst they weren’t paid for, did manage to end up on a legit website and reach a reasonably large number of people, so that was pretty cool. I have written an article for this website, and please forgive me for being a shameless promoter but please click and read it.

Jeremy Corbyn

The article is my attempt to levy the playing field for Jeremy Corbyn by writing something nice about him. I should probably clarify, as he goes against a lot of what I write about, that I don’t actually want him to run the country, and I don’t agree with a lot of his policies.

But I am fascinated by him. For a man like him, a genuine, scruffy do-gooder of a man who would rather hang out with local people and go to his constituents citizenship ceremonies then pander to the press and attend all the official occassions … he really is something different. Whether you agree with him or not, don’t you get tired of politicians saying the same things, politicians who don’t seem to have anything to do with you?
So many people are disillusioned with politics and can’t be bothered to vote in elections because they don’t agree with the leading parties. Because they don’t feel that they represent their views. Sure some people are just lazy, or uninformed or simply don’t care, but there are a lot of people who don’t want to give their support to a candidate they don’t trust. This is at least partly why so many young people don’t tend to engage in politics, because politics has made them apathetic.

Why I like Jeremy Corbyn

And I’m personally interested in seeing Jeremy remain in parliament, not because I think he’s right, but because I think he represents the people who don’t normally get representation, and the leading party should have some decent kind of opposition even if he is a bit mad. Some say that he is incompetent, that he has crazy ideas and he abandoned England to Brexit whilst he went on a sunny holiday, and at least some of these are things are probably true. But it does appear that people really can never be satisfied.

So many people complained that the Remain campaign was pushing itself down people’s throats, that David Cameron spent tax payers money on leaflets. Some people got so sick of the constant warnings and threats that some of them voted to leave just out of spite. So how is it that the one person who didn’t do that, who didn’t make wild claims and belittled the people by giving them threats rather than actual facts, how is he suddenly the evil villain of the story?

A few newspapers have discussed this and shown that  more Labour members actually voted to remain than the Conservative party, and those that voted to leave did so because of reasons that had nothing at all to do with Jeremy Corbyn. Yes, he could have done a better job, and yes he didn’t seem that into it. Realistically, he probably wasn’t. You can’t really have his opinions and be totally in favour of the E.U. Perhaps he was hoping we’d leave. Perhaps as a man who has such strict principles, he couldn’t properly campaign for something he didn’t really support. Perhaps his main fault is that he finds it hard to lie.

Perhaps he was hoping we’d leave. Perhaps as a man who has such strict principles, he couldn’t properly campaign for something he didn’t really support. Perhaps his main fault is that he finds it hard to lie.

But he did campaign to remain, just not enough. People saw him giving talks on workers rights within the E.U and why we should have stayed in to reform it. He didn’t do it as well as he should have done, but he did so it and  we can’t know how much he actually did do because no one reported it.

I want him to remain, at least for a while longer, because I think it’s interesting to see a real difference of opinion in parliament and displayed across social media, even if it’s an opinion I don’t agree with. I want to see the parties represent different things, so people actually do have a choice. And perhaps Jeremy’s old labour socialism thing just isn’t popular enough with the majority of people, perhaps Labour itself no longer works because the world has changed and it no longer has a place in it.

The Labour Party

Perhaps if old labour can’t work anymore it’s a sign, because we don’t need a party which bases half its support on the fact it seems a bit ‘nicer’ than the Tories. I am sure there are people who really love the Labour party and believe in what it stands for today, but I don’t come across these people very often. ‘New Labour’ doesn’t seem to have the same appeal it used to, and if Labour goes back to it’s ‘Tory-lite’ image it could be years before they are re-elected.

I just feel the Labour party spends so much time saying “look, we’re not the Torie’s and you hate the Tories so you must like us”, without giving us enough of a reason to like them. I don’t feel the majority of them, including Jeremy’s contester, know what they stand for, just that it’s not the same things as Jeremy Corbyn. We need them to say what they are, not what they are not, and if they don’t know they had better start thinking. There are some things they have to agree with, because there is no way to change them. Perhaps there isn’t a good enough alternative to the tories because they actually have it all right and there is no other way, but I’m not convinced.

Maybe it’s time for a new party or several new parties. Maybe we’ll see the rise of a (real) liberal party, perhaps the greens will take over, who really knows. We would (and should)  change the electoral system, which that would involve a lot of headache and paperwork, but there are other options beyond out current brand of politics. It’s not crazy to suggest we may need to think about them at some point.

I don’t know what will happen, but I have an inkling that something has to change. Maybe Jeremy isn’t the right kind of change, but he shows that it is possible for non-Etonian champaign socialists/strict Tories to get into positions of power and at the very least, we can hope he will inspire other people to try and do the same.

 

//rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?o=1&p=12&l=ur1&category=books&banner=1MH7120YTP434ANM2F82&f=ifr&linkID=744e92cc294626aba23876cbaffaa5c2&t=sophestry-20&tracking_id=sophestry-20

0

Why you can’t trust politicians

Since my country voted by a small margin to leave the E.U on Thursday, things have gone a bit crazy. Our prime ministers resigned and it looks like we now have a choice between Boris Johnson, a very memorable public figure but not exactly a trustworthy leader who is reported as being homophobic, and Theresa May, a sour faced woman who has said some  nasty things about refugees in the past. The Labour parties falling apart; Jeremy Corbyn, who wasn’t exactly vocal during the referendum campaign, has had his leadership challenged and has now lost 23 members of his cabinet and counting. Neither party looks prepared to lead this country in regular times, let alone sort out a Brexit, and no one really knows whats going to happen next.

Our pounds fallen to a 31 year low, some stock shares are falling, the future of our city is in question and the people continue to fight amongst themselves. It also looks, although no one can be sure, that the leading lead campaigners are now having a change of heart. Boris Johnson has assured the public nothing immediate is going to happen, that we will have a continued partnership with the E.U and this decision will not affect our universities, science, arts or the ability to live abroad. But how is that the case? Does that mean we will stay (and pay) for the single market? Whilst that is the scenario I personally am hoping for, the fact that so much of the leave campaign was about immigration and about us making our own trade deals, how will those who voted leave for this reason react when they realise nothing in that area will change? If we stay in the single market, that means we will also accept the continuing free movement of people. I would be very happy with this result, but many won’t be. Can the leave campaign betray their own supporters and take back their own words like that?

Of course they can. Their politicians.

I always feel that you can never totally trust politicians, but not because they are all scumbags who lie to get votes. You can’t trust them because the public again and yet again assumes they have far more power then they actually do. Look at what happened to poor Nick Clegg when he had to retract his promises over tuition fees.

David Cameron had as much to do with putting them up, but because Nick Clegg made the mistake of promising something, something he probably didn’t know he couldn’t deliver, he paid the price. The fact is that under the current system tuition fees couldn’t have stayed the same price. If you have as many universities as we have, and if more and more people start going each year, people the government gives tuition and maintenance loans to, what happens is that if these people fail to get well paid jobs quickly (which, as the degree keeps falling in value and as it is getting harder and harder to get a graduate position, is quite likely) the government is basically giving away more money then it is getting back. In that situation they either need to throw far more money into education, we can debate about whether they could do that or not, or they need to raise the prices so eventually they may break even (which they won’t).

Nick Clegg made a mistake, but it wasn’t not keeping loans the same price. He made the mistake of making people believe he could, made the mistake in becoming too popular. That was his downfall, because now people will always blame him for it regardless if it was actually his fault or not.

That was a pretty long analogy, but it may well end up applying to the leave campaigners as well. I’m not saying Nigel Farrage didn’t lie about his claims that money saved on the E.U would be spent on the NHS (he most definitely did, we’ve all seen the bus) or that these politicians shouldn’t be held accountable for their broken promises, even if they are promises you didn’t personally want in the first place, but the public isn’t blameless either. The public cannot assume that the government has all these over arching powers that can totally rewrite reality. Individual politicians will never be able to deliver all that they promise because none of them have that much individual power. That is what living in a democracy means. That is why it is up to the public to research their claims and make an informed decision for themselves. That is why it is up to the press not only to report but to analyse and to explain what they are actually saying and what the reality may be.

I don’t know, again I don’t think any of us know right now, but in the short term at least it may not be possible to totally break from the E.U. And whilst it is acceptable to blame the politicians for not following through with their pre-referendum promises, it is also not acceptable to believe everything they say as fact and not do your own research. People are saying they feel cheated, that they didn’t understand the referendum, voted leave and now ‘want their votes back’. This makes me angry. If you wanted to leave, and you knew why you wanted to leave, then fair enough. But if you are going to live with your head under a rock for all of your life, take it out really briefly, believe a bunch of confusing things a bunch of confusing politicians said and then get upset when it turns out it wasn’t strictly true, then you don’t get my sympathy. This is why voting shouldn’t be made compulsory; if  someone doesn’t really know what they are voting for, then why should they be obliged to vote?

3

Reaction to Brexit

We’ve left the EU.

It still doesn’t feel entirely real, to be honest. It was assumed that the British people don’t really like change, that they’d stick with what they knew, that referendums don’t normally deliver results like this.

But it did. And now we’re out. Now we are a small little island bobbing around on it’s own with no real idea what’s going to happen or who it’s friends are. We’ve rejected our neighbours, we’ve turned our backs on our allies and we’ve upset a lot of people. The pounds low, the stock markets breaking and at the moment it looks like all those warnings were in fact correct and in a day we’ve screwed up our country beyond repair. This is a historical moment, something that may well have a massive effect on British history for the foreseeable future. The historian in me is excited, the traveller in me is upset and the regular human me is confused.

Neither campaign was particularly good. The Leave campaign has been accused, and rightly so, of using racism to create fear and in doing so gain support. As Nigel Farrage was such a big part of the Leave campaign it always had that dodgy UKIP feel that a lot of people can’t abide and their incredibly dubious ‘breaking point’ poster really did not help matters. All of this really dominated the campaign when in reality there were a lot more points to consider.

I know people who thoroughly researched the EU before the referendum and after much soul searching voted to leave, and I know they didn’t do it because of immigration. Immigration may be the reason some people voted, but there is this idea floating around that it must be the only reason and it really, really wasn’t. There were many concerns about the EU being a huge, confusing and undemocratic entity that was trying to take over the entire region and ensure the individual countries had less and less power for their own affairs. This may or may not be true, but it is a valid concern, and one that doesn’t stink of racism and xenophobia. There is also this deep seated British need to separate ourselves that perhaps played a bigger part then the younger more Europe friendly voters realised.

The media’s attempts to paint leave voters as exclusively working class small town un-university educated Daily Mail readers also backfired and may have actually lost the remain campaign the support they needed. The Remain campaign didn’t really seem interested in stating why we should remain in the EU; they seemed more focused on the dangers of leaving, and this simply failed to impress people.

If you focus on why the other party is wrong instead of on why you are right, it makes it look like your own argument isn’t that strong. I’m sure there were a lot of good reasons they were talking about, reasons they should have made the focus of their campaign, but instead all I could hear was fear mongering and a growing resistance towards it. Perhaps they didn’t trust the British people enough to give them real arguments out of fear it would go over our heads, or perhaps they trusted us too much to make such a big decision on something a lot of people simply didn’t know enough about.

It didn’t help that there is quite a massive lack of understanding about what the EU is and what it does in this country. The fact is it’s a massive, bureaucratic and multilayered organisation that is very hard to understand, and I do question if their lack of transparency is real as so much as people didn’t know where to look.

I’ve always known the EU existed, but until this referendum I’ll admit I never knew a great deal about it. I loved the fact I could live and work in another European country and I thought the idea of uniting countries in the same area via trade and belief was a good idea, but I never knew the logistics of it.

I voted remain because I love the open borders Europe has, I love the freedom of people moving and visiting as they please. I love the idea I could have just packed up and moved to Germany, or Holland or Italy or any of these 27 countries if I chose. And I loved cheap travel. Maybe these aren’t the calculated, well researched reasons that they should have been, but you always end up voting with what is most important to you at that given time.

There are a lot of questions, a lot of confusion and a lot of anger going on at the moment. The press is dominated by the immediate negative effects this decision has made, people are fighting amongst themselves, the young are accusing the old of destroying their futures, accusations of stupidity, racism and ignorance are flying around. The Leave voters are assumed to be racist, and the Remain voters apparently can’t deal with the realities of a democracy. These reactions are all to be expected, but none are particularly helpful.

Perhaps some of the older voters did vote because of an outdated idea of making Britain great again. But perhaps they voted because they, unlike us, have lived through a time when Britain was not part of the EU. Perhaps because of this it isn’t such a scary concept because they know we’ve done it before. And perhaps they also voted this way because they’ve lived through our membership of the EU, maybe they have a better insight of how it’s changed the UK then we do.

Some people did vote because of racism; perhaps  because they don’t like the EU telling us we should let in Syrian refugees. Maybe others don’t like the free flow of people, perhaps they want to build a wall around Britain and truly cut us off from the world. But others would have voted for any number of reasons; including the un-democratic and over imposing structure of the EU and fears that a closer union would end in one state, one army and one currency. Public opinion has never been and will never be unanimous, and it does not and never has fitted into neat categories.

Victor Klemperer, a Jewish academic and diarist who kept a record of the Nazi regime frequently found that you could never assume someone’s beliefs. He encountered children who spat at him in the street and Nazi officials who apologised to him, who told him they didn’t agree with the regime. He found different reactions and opinions everywhere he went, and he stressed throughout his book that the ‘vox populi’ is never unanimous. This is something I feel we could all learn from, something that would stop these broad accusations and let us focus instead on the actual arguments and the future.

Who knows what’s going to happen now? Maybe, miraculously, the leavers are right and this is the dawn of better trade deals and a rising economy. Or maybe we’ve just shot ourselves in our collective foot, will realise just how bad a mistake and will end up running back to the EU and beg to be let back in, which (if it did happen) would result in a much worse deal and the end of the pound. Hell maybe someone will invade us and the rest of Europe will turn a blind eye. Should we be optimistic? Should we be terrified? What do you think?

0

The tragic case of Dylan Seabridge and why home education is not the problem

In 2011 an eight year old boy named Dylan Seabridge died of scurvy. This was undoubtedly a tragic and utterly preventable death which was caused by this child’s parents failing to feed him properly and then misunderstanding his condition as ‘growing pains’, something they continued to maintain even after the child’s death and post-mortem exam. Even though this happened over four years ago, the story appears to have re-emerged last week and most of the coverage is now centered on the fact that the eight year old boy was home educated. This has raised concerns with some people, who say there should be stronger measures taken that would give the authorities more power over  home schooled children, with all home educated children being listed on a ‘register’, presumably with the occasional compulsory check up.

A lot of sources are reporting that the child was ‘invisible’ to the authorities because the child was home educated, even though it has recently come out that the child was known to the authorities for a year before he died. Concerns were raised by two people, a teacher and a lawyer and the education officials visited Dylans home, but were turned away by the parents. Apparently there were no further attempts to see the child. According to some of the press coverage, as the child was home educated under ‘current law’ they had no legal right to demand to see the child, and therefore he ‘slipped under the radar’ and they could take no further action.

As far as I understand, parents are not legally required to have regular check ups with the social services or education offices, and they can refuse to allow the education officers to see their child (as these parents in question did). However, the education authorities do have the power to take things further if they decide to do so.
According to http://edyourself.org/ , a website which offers legal advice and information to home educators: “Under paragraph 3.16 of the Government Guidelines, it states that “if it appears to a local authority that a child is not receiving a suitable education it may wish to contact the parents to discuss their ongoing home education provision. Contact should normally be made in writing to the parents to request further information. A written report should be made after such contact…stating whether the authority has any concerns about the education provision and specifying what these are…
Paragraph 3.16 of the Guidelines goes on to say that if a local authority considers that a suitable education is not being provided and the parents, having been given a reasonable opportunity to address the identified concerns and report back to the authority have not done so, the authority should consider sending a formal notice under section 437 before moving on if needed, to the issuing of a School Attendance Order.” Paragraph 3.5 – which only applies after it seems there may be a problem, and not from the outset – does not say that the authority “must”contact parents or even that it “should”, rather that it “may wish” to do so.
The concerns were voiced by a lawyer and a head teacher, who were worried because Dylans mother was mentally ill and as the child was home educated they were presumably unsure she could provide a suitable education for her child. The information above shows that whilst the local authorities did not have to pursue the matter, if they were concerned about the child’s education and the parents were not able to provide assurance, they could have gone on to issue a formal notice and if necessary involve the social services. I personally don’t believe that would have saved the child’s life, but they did have that power if they had chosen to use it. To say they had no further power because the parents refused to let them see their child is wrong. They did not have the obligation to take it further, but they did have the option to do so. http://edyourself.org/ also has another section of interest to this case. According to them: “4.7 The welfare and protection of all children, both those who attend school and those who are educated at home, are of paramount concern and the responsibility of the whole community. Working Together to Safeguard Children states that all agencies and individuals should aim proactively to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. As with school educated children, child protection issues may arise in relation to home educated children. If any child protection concerns come to light in the course of engagement with children and families, or otherwise, these concerns should immediately be referred to the appropriate authorities using established protocols.  Government’s Home Education Guidelines

The education officers have to give you a notice and give you some time to prove you are providing a satisfactory education, and if you do not then they can refer you to the social services. As far as I am aware, if the social services were concerned about child abuse (which would include neglect) they had the power to take the same actions they would with a child who attended school. The social services don’t seem to have been directly involved with this case, perhaps because the education authorities decided there was no cause for further concern, but if they had been they would have had the power to take further action if they deemed it necessary.
The idea this child was ‘invisible to the authorities’ is clearly untrue as the authorities visited his house and therefore clearly knew he existed and were, at least momentarily, concerned for his welfare. The idea they had no power to take action as he was home schooled is  incorrect, because as the information above shows it was within their power to take further action if they had decided to do so. They did not have the obligation to do so, but if they had been unduly concerned they had the option to issue the parents with a notice and, if they did not receive a satisfactory response, get the social services involved. This was within their power, but they did not choose to take to exercise it.

There has been a lot of controversy regarding the social services in resent years, with cases like Baby P highlighting the clear failure of the social services to save a child’s life where they had the opportunities to do so and real cause for concern. Now, I don’t think any of us who do not work in the social services sector can fully appreciate how hard it must be to investigate these cases, and to toe the right line between taking enough action and not unduly interfering in a family’s life, both of which can cause a backlash if done incorrectly. There is an uproar if they fail to see the danger a child was in in time, and rightly so, but there would also be an uproar if they tore a family apart without adequate evidence that it was necessary. These are human people, and the ultimate fault must still lie with those directly responsible for the abuse i.e the parents/carers.
I do not feel that home education is really the issue here. There have been documented cases of children who went to school who were obviously being abused, which was either missed by the school or reported by the school and yet still was not adequately dealt with. The terrible case of Daniel Pelka comes to mind, as this child was also described as being ‘invisible’ to the professionals despite the fact he attended school. This child was starved and beaten at his home, became severely underweight and died as a result in March 2012.  It has been reported that the child arrived at school with visible bruises and was seen scavenging for food; a teaching assistant described him as a ‘bag of bones’. This was another tragic and preventable death, and it was said that because English was not the child’s first language (he was Polish), he lacked the ability to speak up about his treatment and his parents may have used it as an excuse not to cooporate.
I would not blame the school for this, as it appears teachers did report it. However, I would say that this case weakens the assumption that if Dylan Seabridge had gone to school it would have made a difference in the tragic outcome of his death. Scurvy is, as far as I am aware, not immediately noticeable or easily identifiable by a non medical professional. If he had attended school there may have been concerns about his welfare, but I am not sure the school would have been able to identify what was wrong. They may have alerted social services, but this does not mean adequate action would have been taken.

The parents are still have been intimately responsible for the child’s welfare regardless of his education. The sad and horrible fact is that some parents do terrible things, whether it be neglect their child, not feed them a healthy diet, or even physically abuse and starve them. Child abuse is a real concern for our communities and authorities, and I agree there should be an over-view of how social services treat different cases and that they are fully aware of the powers they have and what action to take in which instance, although clearly it is not a simple issue with a one answer fits all solution. What I would say though is that home education is not the cause for concern, and it is not to blame here. The authorities appear to already have authorization to take action against home educating parents if they believe the child is being abused or not receiving a satisfactory education. I would maybe suggest that rather than leave it to the authorities discretion,  if they have valid cause for concern that the child is not being educated and/or is being abused they would be required to take further action rather than simply have the option to do so, but that would require a change in wording and a requirement that they use the powers they already have, not a change in the law.  If they are concerned, they already have the power to take action. Registering all home educated children on a database would not change the rights that the authorities already have, but it may be a stepping stone to allowing more state interference in the education side of home education.

I think the basic concern lies in the idea that home educated children could be ‘locked up’ from the outside world and have no interactions with people outside of their family and thus it may be easier to abuse them as no one would ever hear about it, but in reality this isn’t what happens, nor was it the case here. Dylan’s parents were known to several people who reported their concerns, so clearly they were not unknown to anyone outside of their family.  The vast, vast majority of home schooling families go outside regularly; to museums, art galleries, parks, home educating events and clubs, friends houses, historic buildings etc. There is a vast and active home educating community all over the world, it is not a collection of anti social individuals who never go outside. You may say that a compulsory register could help save the few home educated children who may have abusive parents, and should not affect the majority of families who home educate to the best of their ability and do not neglect their children, but the fact is that there is a genuine cause for concern which has nothing to do with abuse. If being registered means the authorities can come and inspect your ‘progress’ on a regular basis, parents may be concerned that this would allow the authorities to dictate how their children are to be taught, and popular methods like autonomous home education may not be deemed ‘appropriate’ as there is not a universal way to test it, even though it can and does work well for many children. As the authorities already have the power to tackle abuse, I see no reason to put extra measures onto home education in itself, or to say that home education is in itself to blame. These parents are to blame, the authorities who did not take action and then tried to cover it up by saying the child was un-known to them (even though it has since come out that he was) are partly to blame as well. But the majority of responsible home educating parents are not to blame. I hope the full report sheds further light on all that happened in this tragic case, and I hope the powers that be use their common sense and look into this case properly before taking any measures that could harm the innocent and do nothing to help children who are actually at risk.

Further reading:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/12114339/Social-services-warned-about-boys-health-a-year-before-he-died-of-scurvy.html

http://www.cps.gov.uk/wales/news_and_views/dylan_seabridge_death__charges_against_glynn_and_julie_seabridge_dropped/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-24106823

http://edyourself.org/articles/socialservices.php

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jan/22/concerns-raised-about-boy-who-died-of-scurvy-a-year-before-his-death-leaked-report

http://edyourself.org/articles/FAQ.php

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/dylan-seabridge-concerns-raised-welfare-7222922

http://educationalfreedom.org.uk/information/social-services/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3410742/Concerns-raised-boy-s-welfare-year-died-scurvy-aged-eight.html

http://www.vaccineriskawareness.com/Home-Education-And-Your-Legal-Rights

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-24107377

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-24107377

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jan/22/concerns-raised-about-boy-who-died-of-scurvy-a-year-before-his-death-leaked-report

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-23349527

1

Thoughts on Syria

This has been a pretty intense week. After a ten and a half hour debate in the house of commons on Wednesday the UK government voted in favour of extending air strikes to Syria and contributing to a bombing coalition with the US and France in that country. After the decision was broadcast, a lot of people took to social media to voice their opinions. I have personally seen far more comments against the motion than I have for, but it would be wrong to say that public opinion is unanimously or extremely against the strikes. Public opinion is never unanimous, and not everyone takes to social media to voice their opinions. There are a lot of arguments on both sides, and both are right in parts and wrong in others.
The idea that military action should never be an option is frankly un-realistic, and some people seem to have bought into the hype surrounding this vote and decided that it means the UK will personally start dropping thousands and thousands of bombs on innocent people. This is an overstatement. The UK is contributing a small number of air crafts to an existing operation, and it has basically been admitted that our contribution is unlikely to make a significant difference, they are also meant to be targeting Daesh only and avoiding civilian areas.  They are not trying to target civilians and they claim that the RAF has not killed a single civilian during the already existing operation in Iraq, in reality this is very hard to prove because of the sheer depth of destruction in this region and dubious sources, and we may never know for sure if this is true or not. We also do not know and may never know how many civilians are going to be effected or killed by extending the operations in Syria.
Syria is already being heavily bombed by different, overlapping forces and there doesn’t seem to be much proof that it is helping to end or even significantly hurt Daesh, but if there was a proper ground force and a realistic chance at a peace settlement it would be a helpful to weaken them, scatter them and help cut off their resources. As we do not have these things, I do not feel the bombing campaign is the best course of action, and I have not been convinced by any of the frankly half baked, rushed or non-relevant arguments by the MP’s or those who support this.
Some things came up in the debate, including Cameron’s assertion that bombing Syria will somehow make us safer in the UK and all the hype about Hilary Benn’s speech. There is also a very important issue no one seems to be thinking about, which is very worrying as it is extremely relevant to our security and the future of Syria.
I’m going to attempt to address these, but this is a very complex and multi-faceted issue and I’m not going to pretend to know what the best course of action should be. It does worry me that these points don’t seem to have been acknowledged adequately by parliament.

Firstly, the idea that bombing Syria will make us safer does not make sense to me. And the reason for this is simple. Although Daesh currently has its headquarters in Syria, the attacks that happened in Paris were carried out by those in Paris, not in Syria. The people who carried out the attacks may have been to Syria, they were in touch with people in Syria, but they were born in and residents of the EU. So although people who support Daesh and subscribe to their views are likely to be in touch with people in Syria, and as we know hundreds of people from our own country have travelled to, and worryingly back, from Syria, if attacks happen in this country they are very likely to be carried out by people already here, and therefore bombing Syria will not stop their ability to carry out attacks on our countries, and is likely to make ‘revenge attacks’ more likely, as well as potentially so called lone wolf attacks, by people inspired by but not directly connected to Daesh.
There is another reason as well. It is not just extremists who dislike our respective governments and the actions they have carried out in the past and continue to carry out now. There are thousands of people who hate the very notion of religious murder and the whole idea of Daesh who also hate our government and  their previous actions in the Middle East. There are plenty of people who see the war in Iraq as nothing more than a cold, calculated war crime and believe that those who were involved are murderers. And there are also plenty of people who disagree strongly with the decision taken on Wednesday, because they believe it is to do with oil and our governments collective greed. These are non radicalised and often peaceful people who hold these views. These are not limited to extremists. The reason Daesh’s propaganda works is because some of it is based on truth. Not the idea that there is some apocalyptic crusade in which they are fighting, and not the idea that murdering innocent people is going to result in some heavenly reward. But we do have a complicated, long running and often nasty history not just with the middle east but with most places around the world. This is not because people in our countries are abnormally evil, but because human history is full of people doing horrific things to each other all over the world. There is no way to excuse the murders these people have carried out in Europe or abroad. These people have murdered thousands within Syria and continue to stone, torture and execute any dissenters or anyone who even vaguely strays from their vision of Islam and their strict rules on behaviour. They have also filled mass graves with all the people they decided not to rape. And they have and continue to carry out horrific attacks outside of Syria, including our neighbors in France. These actions can never be excused; as human action goes these are among the most evil it could be and I hope everyone reading this is under no delusion that this is the case. But that does not mean that our countries actions over the last twenty years were any less terrible, that innocent people have not died during these ‘liberation’ wars. The ‘west’ are at least partly responsible for the hell that Daesh was born out of. This is by no means the only factor, but it is a factor, and until we stop ignoring our past mistakes we cannot hope to beat  this propaganda. There is also the fact that these people want to be martyred, and they want the west to commit atrocities because it furthers their cause.
This does not mean military action is not an option, but it does mean we have to be more careful when applying it and ensuring that it is part of a comprehensive plan, not just war for the sake of looking like we are doing something.

Secondly, Hilary Benn’s speech was really not all that. In terms of rhetorical devices and the art of public speaking, it wasn’t bad. He had a good use of tone, he applied several effective rhetorical devices and he had good presence. He would have done any debating club proud. But the actual words he said did not offer anything new to the debate, in fact in terms of addressing the issues at hand he failed on several accounts. He played it in such a way that everyone could agree with it without him actually having to say anything of note, and it worked very well for him. His analogy with ‘facism’ was effective because it invoked our feelings about Nazism, but it did not address the issue. This is not the same situation as it was during the second world war not least because warfare has changed a considerable amount. This is not fighting them on the grounds, seas and skies, and fighting a clear army with equal footing, this is dropping a few bombs a week from a great hight and adding slightly to the destruction of a country.
Most of his speech concerned the need to fight Daesh in general. No one was disputing that we needed to take action against them, the issue at hand was whether contributing air strikes, and a small number of air strikes at that, is the right approach to tackle them, not whether we should fight them at all. And he does address that where he says: “Look at how their military capacity and their freedom of movement has been put under pressure. Ask the Kurds about Sinjar and Kobane. Now of course air strikes alone will not defeat Daesh, but they make a difference because they are giving them a hard time and it is making it more difficult for them to expand their territory.”. I find that pretty weak, because whilst it may slow them down, it does not mean they cannot regain the territory fairly quickly without ground forces to stop them and as we have seen in the campaign that is already happening whilst they have been stopped in some areas, they have gained territory in others. Without an effective ground army to keep them from regaining this territory, bombing will at best have very limited success.
His mentioned the ‘ground troops’ that we are relying on to hold the territory being bombed “But I tell you what else we know: it’s whatever the number – 70,000, 40,000, 80,000 – the current size of the opposition forces mean the longer we leave taking action, the longer Daesh will have to decrease that number” is also not a strong statement, in fact it highlights how little we know about these troops we are relying on, especially as they are very likely to have their own agendas. Some of these fighters are fighting for democracy, and some for their right to their own country, and some are doing very well and establishing free societies within that country, but others are not. If we train and equip these people, it is quite likely if we are able to defeat Daesh someone else will easily be able to take their place. The PM has basically admitted that some, who knows how many, are from Al Qaeda, the people we spent the last ten+ years fighting. There are many interests at work here, and I think it is extremely naive to think we can unite them all and control them, especially if they are not sure what we are offering them at the end of all this. And his statement “We are part of a coalition of over 60 countries standing together shoulder to shoulder to oppose their ideology and their brutality.” is something I’m really not convinced about. I’ve tried to find a list of every country involved in this ‘coalition’, and so far I have found around 24 countries with varying levels of involvement, as well as an array of local forces within the region. If anyone has any information on the other 36 countries apparently involved please let me know, otherwise I fail to understand where this figure has come from.
It was not a bad speech, but I do not believe it, or he, deserves the hype.  I do not feel he gave a convincing argument for  whether the UK contributing to air strikes would make a significant positive contribution to this war.  He did attempt address these points, although I do not believe he did so very well, but he spent far more rallying everyone up by making statements that are both easy to agree with and largely empty.

The third and perhaps most pressing point is that this war is far more complex then the MPs made out on Wednesday. It is not a case of a united country being invaded by Daesh that will go back to normal once they are removed. The civil war was not started because of Daesh, Daesh was just able to capitalize on it because of the chaos that was already happening. And the civil war will not stop with their removal. There are many differing and often un-compatible interests in Syria, and it is far more complex than it sounded during the debate. President Assad has most probably killed more Syrians than Daesh have, and many Syrian people have fought for years to remove him. So when and if we can defeat Daesh, there will be a few options, and none of them are ideal. Firstly, we could say that our sole aim was to defeat Daesh and now we will withdraw military action, in which case the chaos is likely to continue and a similar group will sooner or later have the opportunity to emerge, or that Assad will regain power (in which case see point three). We could go against Russia and say that we will continue to fight, and therefore fight Russia to remove Assad, which is likely to anger Iran and Russia and could potentially lead to World War Three. Wars have started for less. Or we could side with Russia and turn the country over to Assad, which is probably the most likely plan, which would be a betrayal of the Syrian people who have spent years in a hellish war. To say all of that was for nothing and that things would be set back to how they were before this all started is almost guaranteed to turn these people against us, and out of all the possible scenario’s the fact will remain that we will have proved to the world we only care about those who directly effect us and are perfectly happy to work with murderous dictators and turn a blind eye to their domestic policies as long as they are friendly to us. Some people are comparing this to Iraq, but it is not the same. It is not a case of us invading a country for no reason and removing a dictator with no end plan, many people in Syria have already risen up against Assad. We are not enforcing this from our comfortable plushy offices overseas, many people in Syria have fought for this for years.

There is no easy answer to this issue, all have the potential to be very messy and unpleasant, and I am not sure anyone really knows how to deal with it  if and when it does come up. What I do know is that by rushing into an air strike on Syria we have thrown ourselves into a much bigger conflict than we would like to think about, and the assertion that it is hardly an issue because the borders are not recognized by Daesh is not the point. The point is that the situation in Syria is not the situation in Iraq, and now we have committed ourselves to something I am not convinced any of the MP’s really understand. I am not saying military action is the wrong approach, and at some point it would probably have been necessary. But I feel they should have spent far longer thinking about the immediate as well as the future consequences and thought up at least the beginnings of a solid plan before engaging these air strikes. The Vienna talks are intended to solve this issue, but I can’t see that happening any time soon, and until they do the situation remains uncertain with or without Daesh. This was not just extending the war. This was much more than that, and to say it is not is to lie to the public.

 

Further reading:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-air-strikes-cartoon-sums-up-the-problem-with-the-international-coalition-against-isis-a6755521.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/11/us-air-strikes-iraq-isis-minimal-impact-pentagon

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/12032102/Awful-though-it-seems-working-with-Assad-may-be-the-only-option-in-Syria.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/12/02/jeremy-corbyn-warns-uk-fa_n_8700172.html

http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2015/12/heres-the-hilary-benn-syria-speech-transcript-in-full/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/russia-and-france-will-co-operate-against-isis-but-vladimir-putin-and-francois-hollande-at-odds-over-a6750781.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/03/syria-assad-question-means-a-common-front-against-isis-is-still-a-long-way-off

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-34981848

0

Paris, Syria and scary current events

So, the past two weeks have been scary and intense. The Paris atrocities of November 13th, in which 130 innocent people were killed in seven terrorist attacks on the capital have understandably shaken Europe and the wider world, and you can still feel the aftermath here in the UK. There is no way to excuse these murders; the people killed were regular, innocent people, like you and me. The idea that you could be out with your friends on a Friday night, doing the things you have always done, and someone could just go and murder you because of some religious ideology that you have nothing to do with is beyond words.
Things have definitely changed in the UK in the last two weeks. There are police everywhere, personally every time I get a tube I feel like I am tempting fate and we may be only a week or two away from a full blown war. A lot of things are going on, and these are definitely scary times to live in.  I’m going to focus on the issue of bombing Syria, but this is only one part of a must larger issue and we still have no idea how it is all going to turn out.

The Paris atrocities were just that; they were atrocities. Because those that carried out these murders say they are Muslims, and indeed want to create an Islamic state based on their take on Islamic law, a worrying amount of people seem to have become concerned about Muslims in general. If you go to any comment section on a relevant news story, you will see a number of people suggesting that the Koran is evil, that that we shouldn’t trust Muslims, you will even get people suggesting that we should deport all Muslims to Syria.  I very much doubt we will get to the mass deporting of innocent people stage, but smaller levels of discrimination do appear to be on the rise, and both to keep the UK safe for all its citizens and to combat further radicalisation in our communities, this needs to be addressed. This is not just for political rhetoric and for the sake of being a good, tolerant person, but because terrorists want to invoke an ‘us and them’ mentality with the West as an all encompassing bad guy that must be destroyed. Attacking innocent people and treating them like the enemy isn’t going to help with that, and surely if we are going to try and stop radicalisation of people in this country we need to fight against this perception, not perpetuate it. Human history is full of people doing bad things to each other, and England’s history is a particularly bloody and often horrific one. That does not mean the majority of the population have personally done bloody and horrific things, or that they are responsible for these things, but we do need to acknowledge this countries past. In the same way you can’t blame all Muslims for ISIS, you cannot blame all Europeans for their colonial past or for the wars the leaders of these countries decided to drag us into.  This does not mean we shouldn’t fight Daesh or that we should apologise for them, but we need to acknowledge our part in the context of these events before we can plan what to do next. I’m sure the majority of people don’t believe all or most  Muslims are terrorist or Daesh sympathisers, but here are a few points for those that do.

Islam is not a uniquely violent religion.
That is not to say there are not very questionable passages in the Koran. It is true that there are parts that can be interpreted as promoting violence and even murder against non-believers and perceived sinners, and that people have carried out murders based on their take on the Muslim religion. Suicide bombers do follow a type of Islamic faith, although it is not the same beliefs as the majority.
However, it is not alone. The abrahamic religions have a lot of differences, but they also have a lot of similarities and it is simply untrue to suggest one is significantly more violent than the others.  The Old Testament has a lot of passages that sound pretty dodgy to me, including but not limited to: ” Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. (Numbers 31:17-18)” and “If your own full brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife, or you intimate friend, entices you secretly to serve other gods, whom you and your fathers have not known, gods of any other nations, near at hand or far away, from one end of the earth to the other: do not yield to him or listen to him, nor look with pity upon him, to spare or shield him, but kill him. Your hand shall be the first raised to slay him; the rest of the people shall join in with you. (Deuteronomy 13:7-12)”. In the New Testament Jesus is reported as saying: “”Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:34“.
Do these passages mean that all Jews and Christians are inherently violent? Of course not. Have people used these religions to justify violence? Yes. Of course they have. Murder in the name of religion is hardly a new concept. Here are some nasty titbits for you: During the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars in the 1200’s, large numbers of Cathars were massacred by Christians due to their duelist religion, despite the fact they were mostly peaceful and pious people. Back in the day the Crusades were very real and lengthy religious war in which both Christians and Muslims murdered and enslaved each other in the name of their respective religions. During Tudor times in the UK, people were burnt alive for being the wrong kind of Christian. In numerous countries all over Europe those accused of witchcraft were tortured and murdered.  In more resent times, the Ku Klux Klan of whom many considered themselves Christian, murdered and terrorized black people for decades. Human history is full of people doing bad things to each other and justifying it in one way or the other. People have done many bad things in the name of Islam, but you can’t say that because some groups of people start trying to force everyone to share their outlook and commit horrific acts in the name of their Gods, it means everyone who subscribes to a version of that religion wants to do the same. Because that would mean all religious people would be murderers as people have done that in the name of pretty much every religion at one time or another. I’m not saying religion is bad. I’m saying some people use religion to justify a whole array of things, and in that respect Islam is not unique.

 The majority of Refugees do not pose a threat to our security

I guess I can kind of understand why some people have come to the conclusion that allowing refugees from the war torn countries of Syria and Iraq is a threat to our safety. Syria is an ISIS stronghold, the people who have committed atrocities have most probably been in touch with people in Syria and may well have gone there, and so therefore people coming here from Syria are all a potential threat. But that doesn’t really seem to be the case. As far as I am aware, whilst some of the terrorists managed to get through borders into France they were born and raised in Europe. As far as I am aware, none of those involved in the murders were refugees.  Why someone would choose to commit these atrocities in their own home country is something I cannot begin to understand, but that appears to be what is happening. No, this does not mean we should start deporting people on the chance that they may be a terrorist, but it is true that we seem to face a bigger threat from people already in Europe than those trying to enter.  It is true that out of all the refugees trying to enter the EU, a very small number may be be from Daesh and prepared to harm the European country they enter. But a far, far larger number are fleeing these same terrorists because they are in danger, and because they live in a war zone that has been in conflict for years, that is being bombed constantly, that is basically being destroyed. Most of them are genuinely desperate people who are trying to come here to protect themselves and their families, because they are likely to die where they are. A lot of them are leaving because they cannot stand what Daesh is doing in that region, because they know better than any of us here how they are treating people and what life is like in Raqqa.  It is not a pleasant and easy route. Many men, women and children die on that trip.  We should not turn our backs on desperate people out of paranoia. There was something in the Metro this morning about how the Conservative government have not met their immigration targets and net immigration is on the rise. Of course it’s on the blood rise! We are facing the worst refugee crisis since the second world war. Should we close our doors to fulfil a few targets? Is that going to sound good to future generations who are going to analyse our handling of this situation and judge us for it? Security does need to be tightened, and our countries need to work together to try and find known terrorists. Border security does need to be increased. But this does not mean we should close the borders and send these people back to the hell like war zone they were so desperate to escape. We need to be safe, but we need to be human as well, and I maintain all the things I said in my previous article.

We should not rush into Syria

I’m not normally a fan of Jeremy Corbyn’s politics (although I’m warming to the man himself), but I agree with his response on Syria. Paris was a terrible atrocity, but rushing into a war without a clear plan or sense of direction mainly out of revenge and the need to show our allies we are ‘doing something’ is not a good move, especially if the only action the government is willing to take is mostly symbolic. Dropping a few more bombs on a already heavily bombed area doesn’t seem like it is going to change much, especially as as far as I am aware there hasn’t been much success from the bombing already being carried out. You will probably kill a few terrorists, and maybe even some prominent ones. But there are others who can take their place, and in the mean time who knows how many civilians will be killed in the process especially as there is evidence that suggests members of Daesh will enter populated areas and use the civilians in that area as a sort of ‘human shield’, which means that even our apparently superior bombs are going to have a hard time distinguishing between terrorist and civilian. The fact is that you will kill innocent people. No matter how sophisticated the bombs that will be used, you are going to hit innocent people. That is a fact of war and sometimes it is unavoidable, but the benefits have to outweigh the costs for it to be worth it and I am not convinced that they do in this case.
Yes, we are already bombing Iraq. Is there evidence that that is helping? In the Metro today it detailed how ISIS is using tunnels in Iraq to avoid the bombs. Regular civilians are unlikely to have this luxury. I would suggest people read the testimonies of refugees from Raqqa and their opinion on the bombing, because they are the ones who are going to be most affected. And whilst they want Daesh to be stopped, most of them seem to think that bombing alone is not going to change much more than kill even more people than are already dying in that region. Incidentally, they are also questioning why all the decisions regarding Syria are being made without consulting the people who have fled this region and therefore are likely to know the most about it which is a fair point and something the prime minister should thing about. There is another point as well; The Syrian civil war wasn’t started because of Daesh, rather Daesh emerged out of an already existing conflict in that region. Assad murdered the Syrian people before the Islamic state did. And Britain was well aware of that, in fact we voted against fighting Assad in 2013. And the Islamic State has been around for a while now, and all the time they have been killing and controlling people. We’ve found the mass graves, we’ve heard the testimonies, we know this is happening. So it may well seem to the majority of people in Syria that we will turn a  blind eye to the slaughter of local people in that region, and are now only joining in to seek revenge for Paris. And whilst no one can deny the events of November 13th were horrific, if we now say that we want to eradicate Daesh and in the process potentially keep Assad stay in power as the ‘lesser of two evils’, I can only see that turning more people in that region against the West, especially if they see they start to see us as the reason for the destruction of their city and the death of their families. I imagine free press, whilst it does exist, is hard to find and risky to access in this region and you would have to be very careful about what you say, therefore if people are desperate and they see destruction all around, a group that offers you a way out even if it is through your own death may start to seem attractive.
Yes, something does need to be done. But not just about Daesh. They are not the only terrorists in that region. If war is going to happen, there needs to be a guarantee that the West isn’t simply going to hand power back to Assad in the end and turn things back to how they started. Because that is not going to end the conflict, that is going to make it worse, and sooner or later we may find ourselves right back in the position we are in now. There are obviously no easy answers, and there is a conflict of not wanting to interfere in other peoples countries but also wanting to help make them better for the people who live there that isn’t easy to resolve, but this is why I think we shouldn’t rush into broadening this conflict without thinking about the end plan and the future.
None of us want to send ground troops to the Middle East, and at this time I don’t want to advocate it either, but without sending ground troops  and solely relying on air strikes, it doesn’t sound like our respective governments are willing to properly commit to this war. Without committing properly and taking action that can be seen as not enough or even just symbolic, I don’t feel that it is worth it at this stage. They say there are 70,000 ground troops in Syria who can fight on the ground whilst the allies fight in the skies, but is that true? Who are these troops, and what do they want? The situation in Syria is very complicated, and many of these ground troops are jihadists themselves or fighting their own war against or for President Assad, which means that if we were to back those fighting Assad we may end up at war with Russia which would basically mean World War III. The PKK and some rebel groups do appear to be doing good things in that region, but they are also opposed by a lot of people in Syria. There are many mini wars going on within that context, and we can’t really rely on all of them to forget their differences and fight together. Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion that it has to be a political settlement may not be enough and may seem naive, but at least he is thinking about how to end the conflict and create some sort of stability in that country. And his other point about cutting them off at the source, by stopping their money supply and stopping people buying their oil and selling them weapons is a good one, and it is something no one seems to be thinking enough about, perhaps because if we did it would incriminate some of the US and the UK’s very questionable allies. I don’t think he is just sticking to his ideologies without thinking about the situation. He seems to be the only one who really is thinking about the situation in the long term, and for what he believes to be the benefit of everyone, not just the people in Europe. Say what you want about him, but he has clearly thought about and maintained his position because he believes it is the correct one, and I think he may be right.
The UK is in danger. An attack is quite likely. I do believe that bombing Syria is going to make that attack even more likely, not necessarily from people in Syria but from those already in the UK, perhaps people who have never even been to Syria themselves. I question the idea that bombing Syria is going to make your average person in the UK safer, because the people who are going to attack them aren’t going to be in Syria. They are going to be here. And that is why we should try to combat radicalisation not just by fighting it, but also by disproving it. Our country has a long history of self interested blood shed, please let’s think about this carefully before we do any more.

Articles

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/6120373/Top-10-worst-Bible-passages.html

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/30/syria-airstrikes-legal-david-cameron-civil-war-flawed

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/29/raqqa-exiles-bashar-al-assad-isis-bombing?CMP=fb_gu

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bible_and_violence

http://www.rationalchristianity.net/genocide.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34940728

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34927939

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34939109

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34931421

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34940427

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34941658

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/nov/26/shadow-cabinet-seriously-split-over-syria-with-corbyn-in-minority

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34944499