Homemade Tattie Scones

In these times of austerity, when UK elected leaders are using our taxed earnings to fund an Eastern European money-laundering scheme, it’s nifty to be thrifty. Tattie scones, Scotland’s parsimonious answer Spanish tortilla de patatas, are humble, filling fare that I usually buy. This morning, forgetting to stock up on porridge, I decided to give homemade tattie scones a try.

I found this recipe on BBC Food and it seemed simple enough. Boiled potatoes, peeled and mashed, pinch of salt (I think a teaspoon is exaggerating it) and veggie margarine. My tweak is a sprinkle of turmeric on the oil. Here’s how it went.

Chopped peeled potato in an orange bowl on a tan countertop.

I had about half a pound of boiled potatoes in the fridge, so I peeled them (easy when cooked) and chopped them up in a bowl, added a dollop of the margarine and bit of sea salt then I mashed them with a fork.

Vitalite margarine top

I used organic wholemeal flour, Doves Farm, bought in Locavore, and added baking powder.

Organic wholemeal flour packet, with a 50% off sticker
Dr Oetker baking powder tin

Combining all that and remashing carefully gave me this.

Mashed ingredients in bowl

Now at this point I decided to be lazy and rather than turn it out onto a floured surface and roll it till it was 1cm thick, as recommended, I just used a knife to press it down, going round in a circle, on a floured plate. I then quartered the mixture with the blade of a flat plastic spatula, to make it easier to fry.

Then a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of turmeric and it was time to fry the segments on a medium heat.

Oil and turmeric in the frying pan

I now realised the mixture was too thin so I used the flat, plastic spatula to press it down and, in doing so, erased the divisions between the segments.

It was at this point that I realised that rolling the mixture would have been a better idea. However, most of it held together and when I tasted a wee piece that had broken off it was okay. So a couple more flips on the frying pan and my homemade tattie scones were ready to serve up to the expert taster: my Mum!

3 segments of tattie scones with splashes of tomato sauce on an orange plate on a table mat with a woodland motif.

Mum had 2 tattie scones and I had 3, then she had another and I did too, and then split the last between us. As a most reliable taste test is whether they want more, I think this was a success! A little floury and a little crumbly, yes, but a tasty breakfast snack that’s healthy, vegan and organic. I think I may make these again.

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A Divisive Issue for the Freedom Movement

I don’t choose to write about this issue on Halloween from any lack of concern about its seriousness, but the very different views on this traditional celebration are a good place to start. My hope is that, by observing this difference about one topic that’s not very emotive, we might be able to do the same about another that in my experience can sunder fast friends and close allies like no other.

While Neo-Pagans celebrate the old Celtic Quarter Feast of Samhain this evening, tracing a line of continuity with the customs and beliefs of an ancient community that—like all religious claims based on historical fact—is contentious, to most families in the UK, Halloween is a bit of fun for the kids, a bit of careful safeguarding for the adults and no more religious than St Valentine’s Day.

The reaction of the western liberal and even fairly traditional Church includes a similar sense of indulgence, while stressing the significance of the images of ghosts and goblins—similar to that of the gargoyles on the Cathedral of Notre Dame—and that of the name: the Eve of All Hallows, the evening before All Saints Day. More Evangelical/ Pentecostal communities, especially those whose members originate from Africa, take the light-hearted devilry of the day extremely seriously, as evidence of Satanism. What the congregants of the latter religion feel about folk dressing up as demons I have no idea. Finally, commercial interests clearly see it as yet another way to make money selling unhealthy snacks and non-biodegradable single-use tat.

So that’s Halloween; what about abortion?

Stop for a moment and observe your immediate reaction: anger? sadness? dismay and disbelief? dispassion? Only you know why you feel about this issue as you do, and only you know the reason for the strength of that feeling.

A thought experiment—what would what is sometimes described as “the Freedom Movement” be like if everyone felt the same way as you do about this most divisive issue? What if everyone felt the opposite?

Breathe. Is it vitally important to you that we all are unanimous in support of your opinion on this topic? Can you allow for freedom of thought, freedom of conscience and freedom of expression?

Would it be possible for you to work shoulder-to-shoulder with someone who differs slightly, or even distinctly, from your stance? Could you accept their freedom to choose their own political path, even while utterly disagreeing with their ethical judgement?

Let’s break it down, because abortion means many things to many people but in terms of ethics the components are fairly clear: termination of a pregnancy (viable or not) by the action of an agent (self or other) with the intent to end the life in the womb (or at least begin that process inside and end it outside).

Ethics can seem like a cold calculation. It analyses according to categories, attempting to cut up the complexity of human experience to fit it into little conceptual boxes—but as the wonderful Professor Martha Nussbaum says,

…this is not how it feels to be in that situation. It does not feel like solving a puzzle

(The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy, Cambridge: University Press, 2001, p.32)

Before we continue let’s address a common reaction to any man venturing an opinion on this most female issue. Standpoint epistemology is a fancy name for “I know cos I am one/ cos I’ve done this/ cos I was there”. It’s a seductive stance and very popular these days, especially on social media but, if taken to its logical conclusion, it means accepting absurdities like “only cows have a say in their welfare”, “only astronauts can argue about footage of the moon landings” and “only the dead have a stake in their funeral arrangements”.

That said, anyone who could not possibly be faced with the choice of whether to continue with or terminate a pregnancy must at least acknowledge the moral gravity of the issue—as well as the deeply personal and emotional nature of that decision. So a basic respect for women in general and pregnant women (whatever the outcome) in particular would be a good start.

Abortion is ethically complex because pregnancy is ethically complex: one body inside another and utterly dependent; one mature and (otherwise) autonomous adult human being with a socially stable status, one developing human being whose status may change from one day to the next—from blastula to zygote to foetus to baby—or from one moment to the next—from wanted to unwanted, or vice-versa.

Immediately the reduction of complexity can be seen on both sides: pro-life attention to the baby, as if he or she is an astronaut in a space capsule instead of intimately involved in a particular woman’s body; pro-choice attention to “my body, myself”, ignoring the existence of another self, like and unlike, not-quite-identical.

At this point it has to be said that the “half my DNA” argument from the father, while factual, is overstated. Nature and nurture intertwine in gene expression so it’s very clear that the mother is not doing only half of the labour of pregnancy.

With all this in mind, the agency involved in abortion is similarly complex. Here are very different ethical categories:

  • I act, affecting my body
  • I act, affecting my body and another
  • I act, affecting my body and a dependent other
  • I act, affecting my body and a dependant other inside my body
  • I act to ask another to act…
  • I act to require another to act…
  • I act to coerce another to act…

This brings us to issues of rights and duties, and the ethical basis of both. “It’s gonna be my way cos I’m powerful enough to force you to comply” is not an ethical argument that commands widespread approval, yet both sides employ it and present it as such. “I know you don’t agree but if you’re a good person you’ll change your mind” is similarly manipulative and “this is too important for you to disagree with me” is also, at least, undemocratic.

I’m writing about abortion on Halloween because if the Freedom Movement is manipulated into in-fighting it will be over this issue. Just now, because we’re so powerless (no, Donald Trump is not and never was fighting for freedom and neither BTW is Vladimir Putin or Volodymyr Zelensky) this clear division isn’t being highlighted. When we, hopefully, start getting elected, will it be the hairline crack that the clever masons of the new world order chisel apart?

I suggest a pragmatic, principled truce. Call it the All Hallows Eve Agreement if you will:

  1. We respect each other’s right to disagree and to campaign to maintain or change the law.
  2. We acknowledge the coherence of our opponents’ stance on abortion with their view of pregnancy.
  3. We commit to work together to improve the socio-economic status of vulnerable women so that they may have better choices.
Crow standing on skull silhouetted by full moon in graveyard.

Thanks to Karen Arnold for releasing her image Halloween Background Poster Invite into the Public Domain.

5 Parties Standing Up for Scottish Women

As my contract was illegally terminated by a Russell Group university recently, following over 2 years of victimisation for blowing the whistle on violation of disabled rights, I have even more respect for anyone willing to stand up for what’s right, no matter the consequences.

Although there are individuals in other parties, and some opposition to self-ID without clear commitment to female safe space (yes, Scots Libertarians I’m looking at you) there are only 5 parties that I know are unequivocally standing up for Scottish women. I want to provide a link to their policies so that voters can make an informed—and perhaps strategic—choice.

In alphabetical order:

AlbaManifesto—“Standing up for women and girls” starts at p.10. Unique relevant points are that the Scottish Government should pause GRA reform until views of women’s groups, the EHRC and the Court of Session ruling on sex and gender are all taken into consideration—and calls for a citizens assembly to consult over any future reforms. These points are reinforced in the Scotland’s Many People section under Women’s Rights.

With the very greatest respect for the elder statesman at the head of Alba, I’d love to read his political (not personal) memoirs and I think it’s time he retired, let Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh take over and so remove the block to victory that is the lingering taint of the court case that means many women won’t vote for the party—despite the not guilty/ not proven verdicts.

Freedom AllianceManifesto—(This is my party but I’ll try to be fair to all.) Under “Personal Freedom”, unique relevant points are: “Freedom Alliance will: Legislate specifically to protect individual’s right to body autonomy and to prevent the state from mandating any medical procedures.” and “Always oppose any form of discrimination based on gender, age, sexual orientation, race, nationality, disability, health or medical choices.” So, to be honest, the clear commitment isn’t here—however it is in the section in Latest News named YOUR SEX IS A FACT : YOUR GENDER IS A FEELING which states clearly:

“We will protect sex-based rights and single-sex spaces. We oppose the Scottish Government’s reforms to the Gender Recognition Act”

I feel the phrase “bodily autonomy” is unhelpfully unspecific as may confuse positive rights (entitlements) and negative rights (protections). I suspect it’s being used a bit vaguely to cover the fact that the party supports politicians who agree on other party policies but have opposing views on abortion. Unlike the SNP, Freedom Alliance does not agree with a party whip, especially on matters on conscience.

Independence for Scotland PartyManifesto—the only mentions here are: “ISP supports the Equality Act (2010) and the Gender Recognition Act (2004).” However there is explicit endorsement of Women Speak Scotland’s Manifesto for Women’s Rights in Scotland. I can’t find that exactly (however that website is amazing for gender-critical resources) but I’m guessing it refers to the Joint Statement by Scottish Woman’s Organisations which contains this:

The Scottish Government must therefore:

  • ensure single-sex spaces, facilities and other provisions are fully protected;
  • strengthen the rights of women to create and access them through clear guidance;
  • ensure in-depth and thorough Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments are carried out, especially in sectors and services where sex self-ID has been introduced by stealth ahead of legislation, so that public bodies in Scotland are not potentially in breach of their Public Sector Equality Duty.

Again I really respect the ISP, especially as they were so gracious in regard to not stepping on Alba’s toes, and my only personal concern is over their massive support for vaccines. I’m also not sure what differentiates them from Alba and I wonder (as my own party is exploring with ADF) whether a merger would be mutually beneficial.

Scottish Family PartyManifesto—basically they say everything about supporting women and children that everyone else says (at length but there’s a helpful electronic ToCs) with the difference that, although they explicitly condemn bullying of LGBT people, they are very clear that the heterosexual family is the basis of morality and stability in society, and that undermining it leads to a multitude of ills. Under “Supporting families”:

As well as being a great source of joy, family life underpins our society. In the family, care and love are embodied, and resources are shared freely. The state should not seek to supplant the fundamental role of the family in bringing up children and should refrain from interfering in family life. Instead, the state should be supporting families to enable them to provide for themselves, structure their family life according to their priorities, and bring up their children according to their values.

While I respect the honesty of the Scottish Family Party, I do feel that the tone and content of some of its messaging, especially on video clips, lacks the urbane respect for diversity that people in the 21st century expect from politicians. That said, there is absolutely no doubt that they oppose gender theory. Under “Values education”:

The philosophy of gender fluidity is dangerous to young people, leading to confusion and unhelpful experimentation.

Under “Policies”:

Currently children and young people are being harmed by the message that choosing a new gender identity is normal, natural and healthy. While we sympathise with those experiencing gender confusion, we do not believe that legal gender change should be possible.

Sovereignty (formerly Restore Scotland)—Manifesto—under “A Free Scotland”, unique relevant points are:

We oppose the SNP’s illiberal family policies. We believe in family autonomy and we will fight for parental rights, and the right of children to be raised in line with their parents’ beliefs.

We pledge to:
• Repeal the Hate Crime and Public Order Act.
• Ensure parents are not criminalised for using mild physical discipline.
• Outlaw Self ID as inimical to women and children’s rights and safety.
• Criminalise the purchase of sexual services and strengthen anti-voyeurism legislation.
• Mandate age verification on websites offering adult content.

Under “Investing in Education”:

  • Replace Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood education with politically neutral teaching.

Another party I deeply respect and my only concern is that the respect Sovereignty have (which I can testify to personally) for all persons covered by the Equality Act 2010 could be more explicit in their manifesto.

Other defining (for some) policy points are here:

Abortion—the SFP and Sovereignty are explicitly pro-life, the former (although pragmatic about an incremental legal reduction in time limits) quite militantly. None of the others mention this topic, clearly, in their manifestos.

Europe—whereas Sovereignty explicitly opposes rejoining the EU, Freedom Alliance doesn’t oppose the concept of free trade in Europe but supports decentralisation and opposes the technocratic bent of the EU; the SFP is neutral but respects the referendum result; both Alba and the ISP promote joining EFTA as a means, with the will of the people, to rejoin the EU.

LGBT—apart from the anti-bullying stance, the SFP is clearly against same sex relationships and trans identity. Sovereignty recognises gender dysphoria and the need for treatment but seems silent on LGB issues. Alba, the ISP and FA all are clearly supportive of same sex relationships and all seek to balance the rights of trans people with those of women—although this balanced respect is not always reflected in all the media content put out by all their members.

Scottish Independence—Alba, the ISP and Sovereignty are manifestly for independence; FA & the SFA are neutral, the latter explicitly so and for the former you’ll just have to take my word for it, however FA is explicitly for decentralisation of power, UK-wide, and both encourage more local engagement with political activity and decision-making.

This post is inadequate to convey the complexity and professionalism of the political stances of these 5 parties. If I have misrepresented a party, I apologise and please let me know on Twitter by post or DM. Please take the time to read all of their manifestos because there is much that is admirable in each of them.

Whoever you vote for, please make sure they will stand up for the beleaguered women of Scotland!

Vintage scrap of thoughtful young White woman with blue eyes and light-brown hair with a black butterfly clip wearing red tasseled jacket, colourful scarf and tartan-trimmed highland bonnet with 3 ptarmigan feathers.

Thanks to Karen Arnold for releasing her image Woman Beautiful Art Portrait into the Public Domain.

Insubstantial Pageant—“The Tempest” by Bard in the Botanics: a review

Disconcerting, awkward, with some lucid moments, painful and embarrassing to witness, Nicole Cooper’s adaptation and direction of Shakespeare’s last solo play has almost none of the sympathetic magic of Bard in the Botanics’ Medea. Alan Steele underwhelms as Prospero, muttering majestic lines almost inaudibly while fidgeting with his ratty cardigan then suddenly giving vent to crazed shouted rants. Jennifer Dick, unlikely Ariel (why the purple hair?) and Nurse has rare moments of celestial spell casting but mostly is a wry, compassionate and practical carer. Lynsey-Anne Moffat is every woman who ever loved a failing father, as admirable Miranda, and nicely evil as Antonio. Nicole Cooper, in time-honoured tradition of the director stepping in for an absent actor, brought a butch n’ femme energy to her romantic role as Ferdinand and at least some petulant power to Caliban.

Halfway through, when I really wanted to leave, I observed my emotional reaction and worked out why I hated it. I’m an unpaid carer, both my parents have had dementia. My employer is trying to sack me for standing up for disabled rights. I’m just back from a short holiday which was (mostly) lovely for my mother but no respite for me. I was looking forward to an evening of captivating escapism and instead I was confronted with all my domestic stress onstage.

The craft of theatre is such that last month I was ready to forgive a murderess of children and yet this I struggle to find sympathy with an old man losing his mind. The most poignant part for me (I didn’t cry) was Prospero failing to turn on the radio. I saw my father hopefully pushing the DVD of The Great Escape into the video recorder.

No, it didn’t make sense. The glasshouse/ care-home transition wasn’t clear and the cross-dressed actors playing doubled roles of characters mistaken by a mad old man, switching often without a change of costume, was confusing. Ariel’s prettiest lines were spoken to the lively golden carp in the pond as she exited towards the sound desk—and throwing away Miranda’s most famous line on a potted plant is frankly unforgivable.

But it’s the banality of death by dementia, gradually losing the loved one who once stood robed in might and could command the elements, that’s the drama of this performance which I was so desperate to avoid. Because I can’t and no-one who cares can.

Disconcerting, awkward, with some lucid moments, painful and embarrassing to witness, dementia is a misunderstood tragicomedy happening all around us. Caring for someone losing their mind means bursting into tears at the sink, drying your eyes and making yet another bloody cup of tea.

I hated this performance because it took me inside a failing mind, once so wise, that I can’t fix. Go see it!

Suited portly older White man with beard holds a lit lantern in advert for The Tempest: adapted & directed by Nicole Cooper. 14th-30th July.

Advert from: https://www.bardinthebotanics.co.uk/productions/2022/the-tempest

This Story Is True—“Medea” by Bard in the Botanics: a review

The classics scholar Martha Nussbaum titles a chapter in The Fragility of Goodness, her magisterial work on tragedy, “This story isn’t true”, a reference to the Palinode (recantation) of Stesichorus in Plato’s Phaedrus 243a.

Stunned this evening by the performance of the erstwhile lovers under Gordon Barr’s direction of Medea, this phrase came to mind but as affirmation not pious negation: this story is true.

Kathy McCain’s plain spoken version starts, as does Euripides’ lyrical original, with the Nurse as narrator—but rather than relating the back story of the Argonauts and the Golden Fleece, the devoted servant, played with forthright Scotch common sense by Isabelle Joss, states “this is not a love story”.

And yet, Nicole Cooper as Medea is (at first) so lovely. We feel this woman; those of us in the double rows of seats lining the link section of the Kibble Palace who know the story ken fine what she will be driven to do but, already, she has won our sympathy.

By the time the strapping Johnny Panchaud playing Jason strides into the scene (could this man look any more like the perfection of masculine beauty?) we are not immune to his considerable charm—and, clearly, neither is his ex-wife Medea—but our hearts are already taken and as charm fades into smarm the chilling modernity of the version hits us.

This is not a love story, it’s a story about ambition, manipulation, rejection, and gaslighting.

Alan Steele does well as Creon and the Tutor, the former adding menace and the latter plot points, but anyone who has experienced the persuasive power of a master manipulator—either in domestic or workplace abuse—can understand why the physical threats of the King matter little to Medea: Creon may hold her life in his hand but Jason has crushed her heart.

90 minutes is a very long time to maintain almost constant emotional intensity. The few workaday props give the female characters some business and the sparse music and subtle lighting adds tension but Cooper is emoting onstage most of the time—and we simply cannot take our eyes off her. Nor she us. An extraordinary ability to elicit complicity. We feel we are her friends.

The Greek speech is so well done. Language in this version is a gift, not a barrier. “To ksero, I know”, Medea tells us, “den thelo tipota, I don’t want anything”. It adds to her exotic appeal and, shrieked offstage, indicates her raving madness.

This is a woman driven mad by a man everyone else thinks is a hero. The moments when they embrace are precisely such a mindfuck because that’s exactly what gaslighting is: attempted mental rape. This story is true because a myth observed with attention highlights the painful realities of our human experience (ancient or modern our nature doesn’t change) that we would rather ignore.

The poet recanted after being struck blind, for the impiety of blaming Helen, daughter of a God, for the destruction of Troy. Perhaps we should judge Medea with similar caution: diabolical and divine, mother and murderess, this stunning performance by Bard in the Botanics bids us ask ourselves—under such circumstances, life torn asunder by men, a cruel king and a callous hero, backed by an army, can we really blame her?

Advert for Medea running 23rd June – 9th July on https://www.bardinthebotanics.co.uk/

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.

International Men’s Day

In the late 80s/ early 90s I started some men’s groups. Nowadays, especially in the White liberal middle-class tertiary-educated post-industrial cultural groups that love to congratulate each other for their progressive values on social media, the received wisdom is that membership of a men’s group is evil on a par with joining the Ku Klux Klan. And at least the Klan are honest about it. And, apparently, had a female wing: the WKKK. (By now, they’re probably co-ed and insisting on everyone using inclusive pronouns.)

Despite the prejudice of the gender-obsessed youth born this century and the paranoia of many (not all) middle-aged White feminists, men’s groups in those days were not primarily about women. This may come as a shock. However, yes, on occasion, we men do like to talk to each other about subjects other than our relations with the opposite sex.

Although many men’s groups were self-consciously inspired by their feminist counterparts (more on that later) consciousness-raising was a widespread late 60s/ early 70s strategy of emancipation that by the late 80s was so standard in feminism that its more general application, and revolutionary origin, was often ignored.

Feminism was then (and is even more now) not so much a broad church as shifting and contested female sacred space seething with accusations of ideological heresy, strategic alliance, excommunication and schism – as well as a place of healing, of community and of miraculous resilience and solidarity. So, while my take on male-female relations was based on Dorothy Dinnerstein’s The Mermaid and the Minotaur and Jean Baker Miller’s Toward a new psychology of women, in said groups the topics of conversation tended to centre men’s self-understanding and relations with other men.

Rather pretentiously (it was that kind of Uni) I subtitled the group, “an experiment in self-conscious brotherhood” and, although there was some flirting, some macho bravado, some backstabbing and a lot of gossiping, that appeared to be the general experience.

We talked about gender stereotypes, about relations among and between gay and heterosexual men, about the possibility and difficulty of bisexuality, about our relations with our fathers, about loneliness and friendship, and a bit about group dynamics. We went for walks and road trips and sat round a fire in somebody’s cottage in the country. We shared meals (some shared beds) and some of those friendships have lasted decades.

Another inspiration was a book by Robert Bly named Iron John, which personally I found rather macho and extremely American (I’m Scottish) but also valuable if read in context: as a corrective to a certain feminist view, now almost universal, of masculinity as incurable toxic. It is precisely because Bly was speaking, rather bluntly, in that context that his work was used to demonise an entire movement.

A few years later, early in the new Millennium I think, a man trying to start a men’s group in Edinburgh, and announcing it on Facebook, was shouted down by feminists insisting on an approved woman chairing each event and policing the topics of conversation. This was at a time when the exclusion of men from female groups was non-controversial. The reason, plainly stated, was that men couldn’t be trusted to gather on our own as our only possible motivation would be to plot against women.

Several things had changed:

  • The Courage to Heal and other sacred texts of the Recovered Memory Movement had convinced a generation of (mostly) young White middle-class women that either they had been abused in early childhood by an older man or had suppressed the memory due to trauma.
  • Madonna’s postfeminist flaunting of feminine allure had won over Dworkin’s aversion of the male gaze.
  • A new generation of girls were being raised to see themselves, primarily, as victims and, automatically, as more worthy of praise for any achievement (due to having to overcome their victimhood) than boys.
  • The adjective “male” replaced the nouns “man” and “boy” whereas the noun “women” replaced the adjective “female”.
  • To address previous and continuing gender imbalance, countermeasures were applied – some of which confused affirmative action with positive discrimination.

So, for example, in university departments (including those overwhelmingly staffed by women) strategies of diversity & inclusion that were set up to balance gender by choosing a less represented demographic candidate over one equally qualified and experienced were popularly understood as a license to employ and promote good women candidates, still bleeding from deep wounds of the gender wars, over the ever-abusive male candidates who had caused them, simply by being born with a Y-chromosome. So basically White middle-class women replaced White middle/ upper-class men.

Meanwhile more and more boys were receiving primary care in exclusively female-led households and primary education from almost exclusively female teachers. In this process they got the message that men are inherently either mad, bad or sad whereas women as wise, good and in touch with their emotions.

So, is it any surprise that so many young men are attempting to “identify” out of being male? Here’s some homework (I’m a teacher, sorry) for you to verify the outrageous claim that there is prejudice against masculinity: look up the hashtag #InternationalMensDay on social media. Read the posts and comments. What percentage of them are positive about masculinity?

If we want young men to stop invading female space and attempting to appropriate female identity, we need to start valuing masculine men.

US Navy Poster of two fit young men wearing white navy caps riveting girders.

Thanks to Dawn Hudson who has released her image Vintage Navy Poster into the Public Domain.

Vive le Roi?

Amid all the speculation over an event that is inevitable, as “no-one can slow the passage of time”, perhaps a more fruitful (and respectful) enquiry might be into the role and qualities of the Head of State of the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Firstly, a comment on the speculation. Any household that has suffered a bereavement knows that divulging the news and dealing with the reaction of others is an exhausting task. People do not limit themselves to expressing sympathy but demand that you mourn with them, right here, right now. When perhaps you’ve already spent hours doing that and have just managed to pull yourself together sufficiently to phone, it’s simply selfish of them to try to pull you apart.

When the head of the household dies, there are also all the extra legalities. Now scale up that experience from a household to a state, remembering the public hysteria over Princess Diana, considering the past two years of restrictions on public assembly and the general mental health of the populations subject to this monarchy and you can begin to have some idea of the problem.

So let me state clearly, that if the public actions of the royals and dissemination of news about them seems scripted, I don’t blame them. Every family deserves privacy and there are reasons of state for news about this one to be carefully controlled.

Respectfully, therefore, let us as a second consideration acknowledge that the heir presumptive to these 4 thrones (which are not, technically, one, in the way that applies to the UK, Crown dependencies and British Overseas Territories) is the present Prince of Wales and ask: if Charles is to be king, what kind of king will he be?

Let’s get all the slurs out the way, otherwise they’ll hamper us. In order of barking madness (starting from guano and moving up to bovine manure) they are that Charles & co. are:

  • shape-shifting reptile aliens
  • baby blood-drinking vampires
  • Satanists
  • paedophiles
  • murderous eugenicists

I’m not going to waste energy on the first three, I don’t believe in guilt by association, I do believe in the rule of law and, as for the last, yes, Charles could certainly keep better company.

Why doesn’t he?

I could be wrong (I’ve never met or spoken to him) but Charles, in his own archaic, elitist and paternal way, appears to believe he’s doing the right thing. I don’t think that can be said for Klaus Schwab or any of the trillionaires funding Big Pharma or Big Data—including those under cover of Big Philanthropy.

What I do know about Charles, and this is from people who have witnessed his support and participation in local projects, is that he comes across as genuinely interested in the kind of thing that is generally nowadays named (by secularist mistranslation of Aristotle) as “human flourishing”.

So why is he supporting those who want to kill us off like weeds? I have 4 hypotheses:

  • 1. I’m wrong about that list.
  • 2. He’s being blackmailed because of his brother.
  • 3. He’s stupidly naive.
  • 4. He thinks he can harness rapacious commercial interests for the good of the planet while controlling their worst excesses.

At the moment, I’m prepared to believe a combination of the last two, because the evidence of just how much misinformation, wishful thinking, misguided policy and downright evil people can continue to deny is all around us.

Charles is a great believer in Public Private Partnership projects of cultural and environmental regeneration. From Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic college on the Isle of Skye, (£??M) to the Eden Project, the eco-centre in Cornwall, (£134M) he has been specifically supportive of, or directly involved in, combining corporate and public money for creative projects. That do benefit the local community and do do what they set out to do.

So what’s the catch? Well, PPP is problematic because public spending is so wasteful and disorganised whereas corporate funding is so self-interested and predatory. Managed extremely well, it can work but the required skill set is basically that of an ambitious Renaissance magician conjuring demons and trying to control them.

Heard of Faust?

Many who are awake have highlighted in alarm the militarism and clear call for unelected global governance in a section of Charles’ speech at the opening of COP26 when he called for:

a war-like footing … a vast military-style campaign to marshal the strength of the global private sector, with trillions at its disposal—far beyond global G.D.P. and, with the greatest respect, beyond even the governments of the world’s leaders—it offers the only real prospect of achieving fundamental economic transition.

This is to tackle biodiversity loss and climate change. (Presumably he meant global warming which, presumably, is actually happening.) However, there is a later COP26 speech of his, to the chief negotiators, that I believe contains the key to Charles’ patrician mentality:

I remember going to the Amazon in 1992 and managing to create a gathering on the old Royal Britannia in the Amazon, with the then President of Brazil, just before the Rio summit, the first one.

“Managing” and “gathering” tell us all we need to know. This is someone with the power to persuade the president of a country of 127 million people (then) to come to an unofficial meeting organised by royal fiat, with no oversight or accountability, on a superyacht, in the middle of the Amazon.

Charles may genuinely wish to save this sick world but he doesn’t live in it, and his Boy Scout attitude to big business may mean that, under the unelected global military dictatorship he’s (perhaps) naively seeking to install, the disease is a hell of a lot less deadly than the cure.

Hand drawn woodcut style illustration of a royal crown.

Thanks to Dawn Hudson who has released her image Crown into the Public Domain.

Heartbeats Under a Lone Star

The chances are that your stance on the recent Texas Heartbeat Law differs not at all from that of (at least) the majority of people you recognise as family, your close friends and your social media mutuals. Their stance, of course, is determined by their collective identity. Broadly, very broadly (because these terms are colliding and confused these days) Left or Right:

The Leftwing will believe this law that prohibits abortion (termination of pregnancy is a euphemism when the intent is always to kill, not remove) after the fetal heartbeat is discerned is the most insidious attack on female emancipation (they’d say women’s not female because that adjective, for reasons that no-one has yet explained, is now shunned by feminists) since the Epistles of St Paul. Well, okay, they won’t, because hardly any of them have ever read any of the Bible.

The Rightwing will believe that the Heartbeat law is the first step, long-awaited, towards making America great again (which apparently they feel it was, at some unspecified point) and one that drives back legions of devils (and/ or feminists) and protects women, children born and unborn, and is due, somehow, to the divine favour currently shining on one D. Trump who will yet reascend the Presidential throne—as long as they all Trust The Plan.

Both Left and Right are utterly convinced (and very self-congratulatory about it) that they, and they alone, really support the well-being of women. Ditto for children and this smug sensibility extends to the Left with the ethical sleight-of-hand that:

A) The products of abortion are no more than fetal tissue and the fact that foetus means baby in Latin is neither here nor there.

B) Abortion care includes what is being killed in the womb (or someway outside or even completely) as it’s selfish to bring unwanted children into this big bad world so it’s no more than kindness to kill them.

In my view (goodbye social media acquaintances) both sides are almost entirely hypocritical and don’t actually give a damn about the welfare of women and the idea that they actually care about life in or out of their womb is, if it weren’t so tragic in consequence, laughable.

Why do I say this? Is it just to stir up both sides so they’ll read my book on the subject? Well, they’re very welcome to but, as it was published some years ago and annual sales have risen to about the price of a posh fish supper (and I’m vegan) I don’t really see that as my major motivation.

It may be that, despite the above polemic, I see good women fighting each other over this and wasting so much valuable time and energy in a screaming match that in its modern form is at least a century old and doesn’t even attempt to be a debate. I was very careful when I wrote that book (and the many women on all sides that I reference are well worth reading) but I’m not convinced now that being careful accomplishes anything so here’s my thoughts:

The Left is hypocritical because if they actually cared about the welfare of women they wouldn’t ban any information (including personal testimony) on the often profound physical and mental stress caused by abortion that can last for decades.

The Right is similarly hypocritical because they make it so very difficult, socially and economically, for so many pregnant women to feel able to give birth—and to bring up a child with decency.

The Left concede more rights to lobsters than to babies that survive initial abortion attempts (a saline bath sounds very clinical but its purpose is to burn the skin off the screaming baby) and only refer to such situations by focusing on the distress caused to staffers! As for the findings of human pain studies in utero, they just don’t want to know.

The Right misrepresent the Biblical tradition (which is ambiguous on the moment of ensoulment) and typically promote an anti-maternal economics that ignores completely the prophetic tradition of hospitality to the stranger, care of the widow and the orphan, leaving the edges of the field for the poor to glean and forgiving debts in the year of Jubilee.

Both sides save face, reject all and any critique of their stance (selective abortion is racist, classist, ableist and sexist—and precisely those same prejudices, along with religious sectarianism and demonisation of other faiths, create a climate of snobbish rejection of pregnant women by communities intent on keeping up appearances and producing progeny of the right sort).

What’s the solution?

1) Realise that someone’s stance on abortion is likely to be coherent with their view of pregnancy (baby or blood clot) and reinforced by the collective ideological identity they value.

2) Accept that criticism of your own stance is possible—and that you may even learn from it. At least you might earn the right to be heard if you demonstrate an ability to listen rather than keep shouting THEM down.

3) Try to see your side from the other (and there aren’t just two sides on this) and acknowledge the possibility of your opponent being motivated by as benevolent an intent as yours.

4) Agree to disagree, if that finally is inevitable but ask yourself what part of the project of your interlocutor might overlap with your own.

5) Try to be honest with yourself about your real motivation regarding ostentatiously adhering to the ideological purity of your familial and social circle. Is that badge of honour more important to you than strategically collaborating with someone they despise—for the real well-being of women and children?

6) Ask yourself how much you and your cronies actually do, practically, to support women who want to give birth and bring up their children well. If you had access to the resources of the other side, how much more could you do? Would you be willing to work with them for that—knowing they’re still campaigning to change the law in a way you utterly oppose?

7) Consider the expression of ambiguity on this issue. How do you deal with it? Sweep it under the carpet or allow the uncertain voice of what “the woman who had been Jane Roe […] Norma McCorvey” called “the messy middle” to be heard?

Chrome stethoscope with yellow rubber cover looped over a red image of a heart