Tuesday, 27 June 2017


A letter written to this morning's local newspaper caught my attention. The writer criticized a columnist's decision to poke fun at the political situation in the U.S. in a recent piece, and then continued, "Love [Trump] or hate him, he was elected fair and square.  He has earned the right to govern and face the voters in 2020 based on his record."

I completely disagree.

More and more evidence is coming to light that the 2016 U.S. federal election was neither fair nor square.

In Florida, election employees were allegedly caught filling out stacks of stolen absentee ballots.

A pattern of voter registration irregularities was being investigated in Pennsylvania and other states.

In Michigan, thousands of ballot papers were reported to be missing because of broken polling machines.

Not to mention the embattled investigation into alleged Russian hacking, which has already cost several investigators their jobs.  Why would the President fire the director of the FBI unless he had something to hide?

The current President of the U.S. has earned nothing.  He has spent his entire life riding on wealth and privilege, and has a marked disdain for anyone who lacks either.  Time and again during his campaign, and even during his time so far in office, he has denigrated, mocked, and even fired anyone who dared to question him.  He has medieval attitudes toward women, the disabled, and many other groups.  The reason he ran for President in the first place was to prove that he could, not because he genuinely believed that he would be a good leader.

This is not the kind of person who is fit to lead a country.

And yet millions of people voted for him because they were duped by his inflammatory rhetoric or they were too disgusted by the alternatives.  When I listened to the election results on the news, I was physically ill.  How could so many people have been so stupid?

Now, whenever I see anyone on my social media feeds who says "give him a chance" or "he was elected fairly", I block them.  I will not engage in debate with people whom I already know will never change their minds.  They have been thoroughly brainwashed into believing that a person who cares about nothing other than himself can govern.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Marching Toward a Failing Society

On my mother's bookshelf is a series of books entitled "The Great Ideas Program" by Mortimer Adler and Peter Wolff (pub. Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1959).  Part of the preface reads as follows:

"...in high school we are told that we must begin to think how we are going to earn a living, and the prerequisites that are supposed to prepare us for that activity become more and more the ingredients of our educational diet. ... What is missing is education to be human beings, education to make the most of our human powers, education for our responsibilities as members of a democratic society..."

One of the books that I studied in university was The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom (pub. Simon & Schuster, 1987).  In a chapter about books, Bloom writes: "...whatever the cause, our students have lost the practise of and the taste for reading. ... I began asking my large introductory classes ... what books really count for them. Most are silent, puzzled by the question."

For over 50 years the educational system has been gradually failing.  Both my parents were high school teachers for 35 years and were witnesses to this failing first hand, as in their later years they had students who could not spell or do math adequately.  Other colleagues of theirs were reduced to having students draw pictures instead of writing essays. In high school.

The result of this educational failing is a population that does not understand the world around them, who are unaccepting of new ideas, and who think in terms of self instead of community.

One need go no farther than certain places in the United States, where there are people who believe that a woman can stop her period by gluing her labia shut, who claim that earthquakes happen when people swear a pact to the Devil, or who call on others to promote anarchy.

In a 2006 episode of the sci-fi show Doctor Who, there is this wonderful line: "You want weapons?  We're in a library!  Books!  The best weapons in the world!  This room's the greatest arsenal we could have - arm yourselves!"

Books such as the aforementioned Great Ideas Program, or "An Incomplete Education" by Judy Jones and William Wilson (pub. Ballantine Books, 1987, 1995, 2006) attempt to redress the educational gaps by offering reading lists, citing historical examples, and inviting discourse.  They should be a must on anyone's shelf.  If more people were willing to educate themselves, we would have a better society.

The philosopher and scientist Aristotle wrote: "If there is some end of the things we do... will not knowledge of it, have a great influence on life?  Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what we should?  If so, we must try, in outline at least, to determine what it is."

Sunday, 4 June 2017

If Wishes Were Horses

There has been another terror-related incident in the news, and once again there are people pointing at this and saying "This wouldn't have been so bad if the defenceless people had guns".

I'm tired of it.

Bear in mind that the majority of the police forces in the UK (except for Northern Ireland) do not carry firearms; only specially-trained officers have permission to do so.  However officers are armed with non-lethal alternatives such as Tasers or incapacitant sprays which are subject to the same regulations.

I don't hate guns per se.  I have family members who served in the military.  I know people who are responsible gun owners.  What frightens me is the "wild west" mentality, that there are too many people who use their guns as tools of intimidation, or worse.  The notion of open-carry makes me more nervous.

A few months ago I took part in a conversation with a gun enthusiast who, among other things, decried other countries as weak and said that they would no longer exist if the U.S. hadn't been involved in World War II.  He then went further and added, "We can walk right in if we wanted to and take what we want," before posting a photo of his personal sidearm.  I interpreted that action as a threat and immediately blocked him.

Someone I have known for a long time has, in recent years, become extremely pro-gun.  On almost a daily basis he posts gun-related articles and images on his Facebook wall and he fully supports open-carry.  That's his prerogative.  But when he began to encourage his fellow gun-owners to defy state legislations concerning background checks and other gun controls, that's when I had to draw the line and limit my conversations with him.  I eventually unfollowed him with great regret because I just couldn't bear to see his arguments any more.

More guns isn't the answer.  We should have more open dialogue with the disaffected.  There needs to be more services for people struggling with mental illness.  And there must be better controls so that people who are more likely to become violent won't end up hurting so many others.  Sadly, in many countries there isn't the money or the political will to do that.