Pitchforks and Politicians

Reading about a certain case that’s all over the tabloids, I had a sense of déjà vu. Politician preys on hapless youth. Basically. Instantly our sympathies are for the latter. Of course! We’re not monsters. I mean, for someone to do that to someone like that in a situation such as that, I mean! As a keen gardener, I obviously know one end of a pitchfork from the other and, on reading such blood boiling accounts, Arya’s advice to her sister about swords, as the army of the dead approach, does tend to spring to mind.

I happened upon Lawburrows, the delightful and enlightening legal podcast series by the Glasgow Caledonian lecturer known on Twitter as @PeatWorrier, and was struck by a phrase dryly spoken in the intro music:

The law is reason free from passion. (Aristotle, Politics)

διόπερ ἄνευ ὀρέξεως νοῦς ὁ νόμος ἐστίν. (Αριστοτέλης, Πολιτικά)

1297α, 32-37

Politics, certainly as presented in the tabloid press, is often the opposite. All hot air and no cool logic—and never so much as when moral outrage is concerned. I suggest therefore, after a certain amount of justified gesticulating at the newspaper and perhaps uttering some well-chosen expletives in the interest of lowering one’s blood pressure (and reassuring whoever may happen to be present that We can’t let Them away with This Sort of Thing) that we put down our pitchforks and put on our thinking caps.

Break it down like a cryptic crossword clue:

  • Politician—what party? What’s going on there? Is this Councillor/ MSP/ MP considered an asset or a liability in the party’s present ideological economy? What’s happened to others of their ilk? Is there a pattern?
  • Preys—what words and actions are being considered reprehensible and by whom? In another context (such as being welcome or assumed to be so) would the same words or actions be necessarily even remarkable?
  • Hapless—what is the probable agency of this press designated victim? What institutional, instrumental or reputational power does this person possess? Has he or she played this role on another occasion? If so, has anyone (including the complainer) taken any steps to avoid reoccurrence of such a situation?
  • Youth—at this age, what does the law allow this person to do? Has he or she reached majority? What does the same party/ paper argue that people of the same age, or younger, should be trusted to decide to do?

I know I’m on thin ice here. It’s safer to clap and boo with the rest of the audience. But having written and directed a pantomime and acted in several (being a villager in the Chorus is still acting) I’m very familiar with scripts and stage-management.

Mens rea is the noun phrase that someone, sometime, will say in every single legal eagle drama that you watch. Google’s Oxford Languages dictionary gives this definition and example of use:

/ˌmɛnz ˈriːə

the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime, as opposed to the action or conduct of the accused.

“a mistaken belief in consent meant that the defendant lacked mens rea

It’s not a crime to be mistaken. It’s what happens after that mistaken interpretation is corrected that counts. That’s the legal, and moral, distinction that’s ignored by the tabloid press—and perhaps, under certain circumstances, by party politics.

Another quote I happened upon this week is more famous but people tend to quote the modern poetic inspirational version rather than the full Latin proverb:

“To err is human, to forgive divine.”

(Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism)

“Errare humanum est, sed perseverare diabolicum.”

“To err is human; to persist (in error) is diabolical.”

(Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the Younger)

And that goes as much for parties, the press and the general public as it does for politicians.

Cartoon image of bearded young White man pointing over his shoulder to a large out-of-focus newspaper.

Thanks to Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan for releasing his image News into the Public Domain.


7 Tips for Supporting Someone with Dementia

My last post on caring focused on the overwhelming burden and (lack of) social recognition for carers, especially men. This one’s about solutions. Because there are ways to make it easier. I’ve worked as a carer for many types of people (or “client groups” as the social work lingo is now) but in terms of family, apart from some mostly very happy time as a babysitter, my experience is of looking after someone with dementia. So these 7 tips are about that.

  1. Get organised. Getting up half an hour earlier than they do or preparing the night before means you can head them off at the pass—before things start going downhill.
  2. Establish a routine and stick to it. Change may be as good as a rest but habits are one of the last things to go when the mind shuts down and they provide a series of guiding snow poles in the mental blizzard and therefore security. Bed time especially is important as you need time to relax when your charge is in bed, and for you to get enough sleep too.
  3. Have someone sane you can moan to, at least briefly, on a regular basis, who won’t judge you (for caring or for moaning) and won’t try to fix you or the situation.
  4. Make lists and get things done. It’s tempting to use caring as a karma dump: “if only I was free to do that but I’m not” but reminding yourself that you chose this helps. You can still get on with your own life. Somehow and to some extent.
  5. Eat healthily and exercise. That goes for both of you, as keeping yourself and your charge as healthy and lithe as possible is best—as the alternative brings a whole load of problems!
  6. Be realistic about your time and energy. There’s only so much you can do in one day. Try to avoid what Robert M. Pirsig* calls “gumption traps”: the things that sap your will. I especially hate finding unwashed dishes stacked away (a common occurrence in a household with an elderly person with good intentions and bad eyesight) and hygiene in general is a basic necessity so keep up with the dishes, the laundry and the essential cleaning. The dusting can mostly wait—but not forever!
  7. Accept help. Grab anything the social services will give you for free and pay for whatever else is essential (taxis, day care, items for personal care or adapting their bedroom or the bathroom). Work patiently with state or private carers. A good working relationship with mutual trust and respect for boundaries is a tremendous support.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, caring for someone who lives in the moment can be a Zen-like experience as it forces you to slow down and appreciate simple joys like the bees busy among the flowers during the day or a wee sherry and an old film in the evening.

All things pass and this will too. Inasmuch as you’re able, try to cherish this time. It is building your character (patience, perseverance, long suffering, compassion) in a way few things could—and it won’t come again.

Photo by author of completed ActiveMinds jigsaw puzzle Monet’s Garden.

*(you can read about this American philosopher in my book on his work)

It’s a Fake

They get the music right, and there is some big hair, cardies and drainpipe trousers—though none of the boys have Wham! style haircuts. Russel T. Davies continues with his self-hatred: the positive portrayal of older White men is limited to those who support the pharmaceutical narrative and whose sexual desire is (presumably) domesticated by having a partner. Older Black men lose points if religious, as that is shown as at least comic if not sinister.

Women gain points for being secular, metropolitan and preferably ethnic as well as for dedicating their lives to the service of (young) gay men. Mothers are mostly monsters but redeemed if fat, disabled or married to ethnic males. Davies gives himself the opportunity to address female self-sacrifice but basically gets a monster mother to blame a young woman for being a fag hag—without the show narrative taking responsibility for that accusation or showing the least interest in her personal life—and leaves it at that.

Brian Mullin, writing for the Los Angeles Times, finds that It’s a Sin doesn’t even advance the portrayal of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. I used to believe in that pharmaceutical narrative (I don’t now) but I take his point. Davies is very good at only one thing: the portrayal of young gay male jouissance. In this series he simply makes the equation that joy = death.

Davis also airbrushes drag queens, and their internecine war with m-f transsexuals, out of the 80s gay scene in which they literally played a starring role. Instead he’s opted for vaguely sketched cardboard cutouts of “trans” characters, dotted about the set, never centred and never defined. Lesbians are limited to sitting around tables agreeing with gay men and the main character (effeminate and never shown in the least attracted to women) is shown as ridiculous in pondering bisexuality—the only mention of that sexuality at the time of its major struggle for recognition in the lesbian & gay community.

The most grave sins of the series are those committed against Africans portrayed as backwards (with zero recognition of indigenous efforts to resist or even debate the social and biological harms done by corporate pharmaceutical interests from the global north) and, ironically, against young gay men.

This series continues the profitable trend of pushing drugs. Like all the other AIDS stories, It’s a Sin dismisses the proven connection of poppers (ubiquitous in gay discos then and widely used in gay sex) with Kaposi’s sarcoma and ignores the fact that 47 gay men didn’t just turn up coincidentally at a New York hospital all with the same cancer, Michael Gottlieb was studying low T-cell counts in two cities and actively recruited patients. All of whom were long term massive drug users.

The HIV/AIDS hypothesis (at least the Gallo version, there are others) has been the blueprint for all subsequent viral drug and test advertising campaigns—most successfully with “Covid”—and will be used again if the public are stupid and uninformed enough to swallow “Monkeypox”. Predictably, this latest series, like all the others, is being used to push for more public money for the pharmaceutical industry. So it can kill even more people. That’s not an act of charity. It’s a sin.

Cartoon graphic of two dark-haired men staring at an image of a pill bottle on a wall

Thanks to Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan for releasing his image Medical Insurance into the Public Domain.

Watt Goes Up Mast Come Down!

(If you’re pushed for time, you can just skip to the foot of the page and send the email to your MP or councillors.)

If a huge 5G mast has been set up very near your house, place of work, place of worship, leisure centre, kid’s school or playground, then you may have valid concerns about 5 things:

  • Cancer
  • Highway safety
  • Ecological impact
  • House prices plummeting
  • Children’s growth and fertility

Yes, you may be tempted to dismiss all of these as “conspiracy theory” and try to ignore your niggling worries but local councils (and parish councils) all over the UK have been forced, legally, to consider such risks and many have found them unacceptable – and have removed the 5G masts already up and halted future installations.

What can you do?

  • Understand your legal rights as:
  1. a local resident – Freedom from Public Nuisance (electromagnetic pollution, unsightly structures) etc.
  2. a UK citizen – Equal rights under the Equality Act (2010) etc.
  3. a human being – Freedom of Expression, etc.

Some of these rights are “provided for” (given back to you) in law and some are already yours because they cannot be taken away (“inalienable rights”).

  • Ask your MP (by email or letter or in person) to “invoke the precautionary principle”.

Tonia Antoniazzi MP, Labour, Shadow Minister for Northern Ireland, explained in the House of Commons what this means for many people, in the long-term, HERE and described what some people with sensitivity to electromagnetic fields may suffer as soon as such masts go up:

Symptoms include headaches, fatigue, disturbed sleep, tingling, pains in limbs, head or face, stabbing pains, brain fog and impaired cognitive function, dizziness, tinnitus, nosebleeds and palpitations.

Electromagnetic Fields: Health Effects, Backbench Business, 25th June 2019

Carol Monaghan MP, Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans), supported this principle:

It is true that we are talking about lower frequencies than the ionising radiation that would be beyond the visible spectrum. However, it is not true to say that all low frequencies are not harmful. Looking at microwave radiation, for example, if we get a high enough intensity of non-ionising radiation we can still cause harm. I would not want to be in a microwave oven and I am sure the Minister would not either. So it is not just about frequency; it is about the intensity of the radiation.

Electromagnetic Fields: Health Effects, Backbench Business, 25th June 2019

David Drew (then Labour/ Co-operative MP for Stroud and Shadow Minister for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) spoke out for people suffering from EMS, mentioning scientific evidence:

I have met people who are incredibly affected by electromagnetic sensitivity—to the extent that, when they moved into their house, they had to have the smart meter taken out, and even asked their neighbour to take out theirs. Once that happened, their health dramatically improved. People say that electromagnetic sensitivity is all psychosomatic, but I have seen the evidence of people’s sensitivity to electromagnetic waves. If we ignore it, there will certainly be health and biological consequences, and there may be many more problems.

It is only fair to ask the Government to at least respond to the growing evidence from the International Electromagnetic Field Scientist Appeal, PHIRE— the Physicians’ Health Initiative for Radiation and Environment—and other reputed scientists in the field, as well as from communities. Brussels has now stopped the roll-out, and so have a number of cities in California. There is growing concern, and it needs to be recognised and answered.

Electromagnetic Fields: Health Effects, Backbench Business, 25th June 2019

Geraint Davies MP, Labour (Swansea West) commented on commercial interests behind the rollout of 5G in the same debate.

  • Here is a draft email that you can adapt, to send to your MP. You can find who that is, and how to contact him or her, HERE. You can also send this to your local councillors. You can find who they are, and how to contact them, HERE. In the email below, I have bracketed all the words that you need to change (unless you’re in my area objecting to the same masts – in which case you can just remove the brackets and send it as it is).

Dear [Stuart C. McDonald, MP],

I am [one of your constituents] and I am concerned about the health risks and impact on property prices caused by the erection of a huge 5G mast [a few feet from the children’s swingpark facing Merkland School, shops and residential housing, in Harestains, Kirkintilloch].

In view of the concerns raised on EM radiation, human health and the environment by [your colleagues] in Westminister Hall (Electromagentic Fields: Health Effects, Backbench Business, 4.35pm, 25th June 2019) I ask you to invoke the Precautionary Principle on this and all such unsightly and dangerous masts planned or already erected in this [constituency] and to cause a Cease and Desist notice to be served to all contractors involved in setting them up.

As [your colleague] Tonia Antoniazzi MP, Shadow Minister for Northern Ireland, explained in the same debate, her concerns finding cross-party support, a safer solution to connectivity is fibre broadband.

On a personal note, as [a carer for an elderly family member who has survived cancer] I find the failure of Duty of Care to the most vulnerable members of our community (children, expectant mothers and the elderly) in [East Dunbartonshire Council] not applying this Principle to be unacceptable.

I look forward to your reply and to swift action. The level of expressed concern in the local community, in person and online, is extremely high.


If you’re sending this to councillors, you can replace these brackets as follows:

  • [Stuart C. McDonald, MP] – [NAME(S) OF YOUR COUNCILLOR(S)]
  • [one of your constituents] – a local resident
  • [a few feet from the children’s swingpark facing Merkland School, shops and residential housing, in Harestains, Kirkintilloch] – [LOCATION OF MAIN MAST YOU’RE OBJECTING TO]
  • [your colleagues] – Members of Parliament
  • [constituency] – local council area
  • [your colleague] – the Hon. [or just leave blank]
  • [a carer for an elderly family member who has survived cancer] – a concerned citizen [or another caring or concerned identity, like “a mother of three small children”]
  • [East Dunbartonshire Council] – [NAME OF YOUR LOCAL AUTHORITY]
Busy highway in USA with telegraph wires and huge 5G tower beside restaurant and gas station

Thanks to Hana Chramostova who has released her image 5G Tower into the Public Domain.