Archive for July, 2010

If This Is Islam – Give Me The Inquisition

A woman sentenced to death by stoning has pleaded to hug her kids before she dies. Preferably, to stay alive and hug them indefinitely. She has already been flogged in front of her son for allegedly having an illicit relationship with two men. Then after that indignity she gets accused of adultery during the trial of a man accused of murdering her husband. While it seems obvious this is a set up to us, to any mind that can condone such barbaric and medieval practices, the likelihood the accused man was making it up to save his own skin can be ignored. Keep in mind these radical Muslims are the epitome of misogynists in real life.

If this is Islam, then bring on the Spanish Inquisition! Just another example of religion being twisted and abused for men’s own ends. It makes me sick and I want to have nothing to do with such warped and twisted, nasty, evil and perverted people. I know not all Muslims are this sick and not all Iranians are supporters of these religious zealots but enough are to keep travesties like this happening every day in the Islamic world, especially Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. These are the places that support the cultural aberration, the burqa.

My heart goes out to that poor woman and her family and all the other decent people suffering under the despots and despicable denizens of religion, which ever brand it is. Wherever a specific religion is the power in the land there is and always has been gross injustice.

My best advice is to stay away from these countries. To boycott their products and to have as little to do with them as you possibly can. If I thought the government of Iran would care if I signed a petition, I would do so but these arrogant tyrants respect nothing and nobody. I sincerely hope they let the poor woman go but these misogynistic societies are rarely merciful. If they do carry out their primitive and barbaric murder, I hope the very first stone knocks her unconscious… but they use small stones on purpose so that she suffocates under the weight rather than dies from any blow. You wouldn’t kill an animal that way but these people see it as God’s Will.  And the moderate Muslims wonder why so many of us shake our heads at the mere mention of the old saw that theirs is a religion of tolerance.

Violence Begins At Home

A report today of a teacher assaulted and seriously injured at the local high school has me thinking about my own experiences with that school’s ‘kids’. I prepared a 20 page supporting document to have my daughter attend an ‘out of area’ school next year when she goes to High School because of the fears we hold for her if she were to attend this school. I have seen the police form a skirmish line and drive mobs of school kids milling about the forecourt of a petrol station at a nearby campus of the same college. We know the kids that go to this school because she has had several years of primary school with them and the good ones are few and far between.

I blame the parents, totally. So many of them are dysfunctional, substance abusing and with below average IQs and more practically, low emotional intelligence. They are what the Americans would call trailer trash or ‘Wal-Polloi’. We call them ‘bogans’, ‘westies’ or ‘yobbo’s’. Social invective aside, it doesn’t change the outcomes. You can have all the sympathy in the world for them and their plight but in Australia in 2010 there is little excuse other than mental illness to explain their parenting style. Those that have parents. Most are lucky to have one and too many have ‘care givers’ or carers. Guardians is the old term. Caregiver or carer is so much fuzzier, don’t you think? Doesn’t change the outcome though.

I repudiate any claim that poverty causes such anti-social behaviour and built up anger. It doesn’t help but the facts are that these people would be broke even if they received twice the benefits or wages they get now. As the English humourist C.N. Parkinson once said, ‘expenses will rise to meet income’. For several years now we have been living on exactly the same income they do, more or less, as I was a student for 18 months, then unemployed for a few more while convalescing from my heart surgery and now we are in the NEIS stream, which is the same income as the unemployment benefit while you develop your own business. Yet we have a mortgage, superannuation, private health insurance, pay off a block of land and eat well. It is tough and requires discipline and a good budget as well as the will to say ‘no’ a lot of the time but we manage. Both our school age children are doing well with the eldest a vice-captain.

So it has little if anything to do with income level and everything to do with one’s upbringing. I was brought up well, I feel,  and so was my wife and both of us come from low income families, hers more than mine. All six kids in her family graduated high school thanks to considerable sacrifices by her parents yet they valued education highly enough to do what had to be done. In this country our education is free. Our health care is free. We can travel to school for free.  We have internet access at the library for free. We get help buying uniforms and if we have real problems we can get help on top of help! There is no excuse except, perhaps, some people are just made that way? Maybe some people are intrinsically bad. It is the only excuse I can come up with.

Tumble Tragedy

A 4 year old boy in the UK was found dead in a tumble dryer after a game of hide and seek went horribly wrong. While the mother was out shopping the boy was left in the care of his half brothers and half sisters. Comments on the web site where the story is located include ones that confidently decry ever leaving ‘children to look after other children’. The tone is somewhat smug and all-knowing, I wonder if the commentator has children of their own or has ever had to go to the shops and leave their children at home, alone? There is no mention of a father in the article so perhaps she is a single parent? Also we are not told the ages of the half-siblings, they might be old enough to manage in most circumstances. The reality is that there are times when you can’t take them with you and you have to do things and leave them and there are no adults available to watch them.

When I was a small boy in the 1960s my father was at work or away with the Forces and my mother had to work. My sister, 17 months my senior and I, were often left on our own for the day once we were at school age and during school holidays. When I was 5 we would wake up, have the breakfast left by my mother then travel on the bus into town to stay with her at her place of work. We spent hours in the storeroom bored stiff. It was a case of economic necessity. Even when I was 10 I was allowed to travel by train to the city with my sister and other friends and we would spend the day roaming the streets, riding the ferry to Manly and back then taking the train all the way backout to Villawood. But that was 1971. Nearly 40 years later there is no way I would allow my 11 year old and her 7 year old sister to take the bus to the local Mall by themselves. It is a different society we live in.

While accidents and tragedies can occur at home, even when parents are present, there are some scenarios where the risk is heightened. Yet how does one, as a responsible parent, prepare one’s children for life on their own, taking their chances as we all had to? When we can lose them so easily in our own homes, the thought of them out there, in public, without us…

But it has to be done. You have to give them the opportunity to experience independence and the weight of making their own decisions. Consequences. I believe we start young with letting them go to the mail box on their own like my 3 year old loves to do. Her 2 year old sister followed her out the other day and didn’t get back in through the driveway gate in time before her older sister slammed it shut. She hasn’t figured out the gate latch like the older one has, so she stood there screaming and yelling for help until I came and let her in, gave her a big hug and off she went, once more happy and content.

I try to give them good training to apply when life challenges them with something new. It is a sad fact of life that we all think that when the chips are down we will rise to the occasion whereas what usually happens is we fall back to the level of our training. If we haven’t been properly trained in the first place, we are well behind that 8 ball.

In the case of 4 year olds and tumble dryers, while you can’t foresee every latent hazard, you can take a few moments to survey your home and identify potential life takers. We have plugs for power points and clips for doors, keep poisons well off floor level and try to second guess our kids. It’s not easy but then parenting never was.

Safety In Numbers…

The old saying there is safety in numbers doesn’t always hold true. In Germany this weekend 80 people were injured and 18 killed when things got out of control at a music festival. Sheer weight of the crowd no doubt played a major part in the tragedy, I have felt the crush of thousands of people when performing security duties at major public events and it is frightening. When you realise how quickly things can go horribly wrong and people can die, it makes it prudent ot rethink your strategy about any event whre rthere are likely to be large numbers of people.

In the case of this event there was just the one entrance, a tunnel, for 1.4 million people to funnel through. When the venue became full the organizers stopped anymore getting in and told them to turn around and go back. Back down a tunnel that still had thousands of people coming forwards. Apparently it all fell apart when a barrier collapsed and people tried to escape out the sides and panic set in.

What happens in these situations is that the body is crushed by the sheer weight of the thousands of other bodies pressing in with no outlet sufficient to keep up a flow of people exiting the choke point. The person has insufficient space to expand their chests and keep breathing and if they lose their footing they are trampled upon, often by people either unaware of what they are doing in the tight press of the crowd or unable to avoid doing it. It truly is a nightmare scenario.

When you throw in the stupidity of many people, the arrogance and selfishness we humans tend to display, then there is no give and take, its all give until something major has to give and people start to suffocate. By far the best advice is to avoid crowd situations. If you must attend such events, go early or accept a position on the fringe and take binoculars. Most people die pressed against the security fence keeping them back from the stage. When the mob mentality hits and everyone surges forward to be closer to their idols, people get crushed. If you are tall and solid you have a chance so long as you stay upright. Small and more fragile people quickly succumb.

If you are caught in such a surge, try to remain calm and make some space around you with your hands clasped in front of you and your elbows out, give your chest room to work. Take short steps and try to move to the sides of the crowd, avoid being caught in the middle but if there is a wall on the side, avoid it as you don’t want to be pinned against an immovable object. You can’t hold back thousands of people pressing on you.

Crowd scenarios are worse in closed venues, where there is noise and disorienting lights such as night clubs and also where there is alcohol and drugs present. Pretty much any entertainment venue young people frequent. You need to weigh up how important being cool and hip is compared to alive, but of course anyone under 30 is bullet proof. I know I was.

Needle Stick Horror

As a parent of five girls, aged  from 9 months to almost 12 years old, I have to say this story makes me very angry. The selfishness of some drug addict to leave a needle in a McDonald’s play area so that a 6 year old girl suffers a needlestick injury beggars belief. There is no excuse. No intravenous drug user is that out of it they are not aware of what they are doing. So they discard their needles wherever they do on purpose. Either because they respect the health and safety of others and thus they discard them appropriately or they don’t give a rat’s bum and drop them anywhere they wish. Then there are those who do evil things like this on purpose.

Of course we still don’t know if the needle was discarded by a druggie. Nor do we know if it is infected with anything. This could be an attempt to obtain money from the restaurant or to discredit them for whatever reason. McDonald’s are a popular target for many. For the sake of this post, let us presume it is an infected needle left there by a drug user, either on purpose or simply because they didn’t bother to think about the consequences.

I have little to no sympathy for drug addicts. As a former smoker I fully empathise with the whole addiction thing and how hard it is to kick a habit. Some experts claim nicotine is more addictive than heroin and much harder to quit. Well I quit and while I confess I still have cravings the bottom line is I no longer pollute my body or the atmosphere, not do I swell the coffers of the government and the tobacco companies. If I can do it, why can’t everyone? I am oh so boringly average in so many ways, more than I like to admit so if I can, anyone can.

I chose to smoke as all addicts choose their habits. I then chose to be in charge and quit and after  several years and multiple attempts I managed it. So can anyone. I look now at the cigarette butts discarded in the bushes and gutters and shake my head as I too once threw away my butts with no thought for the environment. Mea Culpa. In Australia there are billions of cigarettes smoked every year. Billions. Where do the butts go? What about the ash? Regardless, it is still not as anti-social as leaving a needle in a kid’s playground, or anywhere for that matter.

We have to dig into the thinking of the addict, their mindset and figure out why they feel so useless and worthless that they need drugs to feel normal let alone good about themselves. Why do they discard their needles without care or, worse, deliberately and hoping they will inflict their misery on others? While we ponder that and the parents of the poor child in the story wait for the test results, spare a thought for how to avoid repeating this sad incident. How can we protect our kids and not wrap them in cotton wool?

Fight Back!

Yet another of our children have been attacked by the sad, pathetic portion of the public that has so little self esteem, self worth and self respect they feel the need to exert power and control over those they perceive as weaker than themselves. To their minds this empowers them and makes them feel less worthless, despite the fact they deliberately choose those they feel won’t hurt them back.

Which is why when the ‘victim’ does fight back the vast majority of times the predator flees the scene. The mindset that creates this belief that they will be empowered by assaulting another person can’t see the reality or the irony that they aren’t really more powerful if only because of their choice of victim. They fall back to their base character and that is a loser. A useless, gutless, good for nothing, everything everyone has said about them is true nobody.

For some it means their next victim will be even more vulnerable, at least appear to be so. These scum bags aren’t stupid, they learn from their mistakes and their survival instincts are honed sharp enough to ensure they rarely make the same mistake twice. Not that any of that should stop anyone from defending themselves, far from it. You fight the battle you are in right now, don’t worry about anyone else’s battles to come. Survival is very, very personal. It is all about you, right then, right there because in these situations you are on your own. You can’t rely on anyone coming to your assistance and you have micro seconds to regain the initiative and then shatter his element of surprise with a determined, aggressive response.

You can prepare for this right now by deciding as you read this that you will not be a helpless victim and that you will not go down without a fight. In a dynamic assault like this one there are no options other than a far more aggressive and intensely violent counter attack. He has not left you the option of talking your way out or dissuading him verbally and your Triple A Rating (Attitude + Awareness = Avoidance) has been down graded because you weren’t sufficient paying attention to be aware and avoid.

Predators have plenty of time to identify their prey. Then they isolate them and either interrogate or go straight into the annihilation (attack). It is the interrogation stage where one can very often turn the tables non-violently but in too many cases you simply don’t get the chance. That’s when you hit the ‘ON!’ switch and become the most savage human animal in the fight. If there is enough surprise and fear present you will have no trouble at all responding with sufficient savagery, trust me. Those who don’t,  become victims, then headlines and finally just statistics.

Photo: Copyright Premier Martial Arts 2010

I Told You They Weren’t Cuddly!

For many years people have been oohing and ahhing at the sight of whales migrating up and down the coast, there is even a whale watching industry and legislation regulating how close you are allowed to get to the whale. I’m sure they have similar laws in South Africa but one of the whales there either hadn’t read the law or decided to become an outlaw whale.

This whale dived under a yacht and came up, breached and fell onto the yacht’s deck. The animal dismasted the boat and scared the couple on board who were lucky to be able to make it back to shore. No doubt they will be blubbering about this escape for years to come. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun)

I remember reading a book some years ago about a family that were sunk by killer whales off the Galapagos Islands and spent 38 days in their liferaft and dinghy before being rescued. I have also read of adolescent male dolphins sexually assaulting humans in otherwise friendly interactions between us mammals. Yet people insist whales are harmless creatures and all so wonderful and how horrible is it that the Japanese, Norwegians and Icelanders eat them?

The thing is, whales are wild creatures and very large. Not only that the sea is their element and while attacks or even perhaps misunderstood interactions are rare, they do happen and they can be lethal. Part of the problem lies with the media, as usual. The plethora of excellent wildlife documentaries on cable tv give many a false sense of safety, such as that bottle top who tried to sit on the 5m crocodile last week.

Most people forget that the makers of these documentaries have years of experience as well as local guides to keep them safe. Even then they usually use telephoto lenses and keep a safe distance. Those that get close enough to touch really do know what they are doing. Of course, the animal might not be as experienced in dealing with humans and their reactions might be somewhat unpredictable. With an animal weighing thousands of kilograms and you in a floating Tupperware container, ‘unpredictable’ takes on new menace.

Just When You Thought You’d Seen It All MkI

That's a bird disappearing in the change tray of the machine!

In Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada there is a coin operated car wash that was losing money. Big money, but all from the coin machines used to give change to operate the car wash. The owner accused the company that had installed the system of having staff with keys who were coming around after hours and ripping off the coin machine. Not a nice thing to say so worth setting up a sting operation with some cameras and seeing who gets caught in the act.

The thief turned out to be birds. Several of them were getting inside the machine and emerging with several quarters at a time. A search of the rafters and roof of the car wash found over $4,000 in 25 cent pieces (16,000 plus)! Crime is everywhere apparently and you can never be sure just who it is that is ripping you off!

And coming out with the loot!

What’s The Lesson?

Too easy to end up in here, nowadays.

A German father abandoned his 14 year old son at a service station on the autobahn in Bavaria the other day. They were still several hundreds of kilometres from home when they had an argument and the Dad let the boy out, gave him five euros and told him to make his own way back. Passers by alerted the police who called the father and convinced him to collect his lad. He suggested they keep the boy at the police station overnight, to ‘teach him a lesson’. Eventually father and son made up and went on their merry way together, no doubt lesson learnt.

So what was the ‘lesson’? How often do we do that, teach other people a lesson? Does it ever work? Does it make them change their ways? Does it all too often backfire on us? Afterall, this German Dad will now be reported to child welfare and be under scrutiny. A decade or three back you could teach your errant teenage child a lesson and most likely people would respect, admire or at least accept it as your right as a parent to parent as you feel is right. (That’s a chiamus by the way, I learnt the name for those things just yesterday at Roger’s Reference website) Back then, the lesson would be that sometimes you are not in control and you have to do as you are told whether you like ti or not and if you want to do it your way then go ahead but it isn’t easy. Or something like that.

In 2010 the lesson would be the same in the father’s mind but the son would think it is all about taking away his rights and freedoms and stopping him from being able to do it right now and not have to pay for it ever. The authorities would see the lesson as an attack on their control of the population by a parent who thinks he knows better than post graduate childless academics and career focused public servants and self focused politicians. It starts with a lesson in self reliance and ends in more rule breaking and tax avoidance and unwanted media attention and loss of budgets and votes and its all your fault!

I think leaving him by the side of the road, at dusk, with just a few bucks is tough love of a rather too tough kind. The kind that can backfire nowadays. Whereas once there was less likelihood of the boy falling afoul of predators, today and especially on the autobahn’s of Germany and main roads of Europe there are predators galore. People traffickers and other low life pouring out of the former Soviet Bloc and in from the Middle East and Africa, mingling amongst the genuine asylum seekers and people looking for a new life. Preying on the young, the weak, the vulnerable, the destitute and the desperate. Not a wise move, Dad.

What is the lesson here, then? That society has changed in what it believes is appropriate parenting? No doubt but then it changed over the first few decades of my life. I can’t say when I last heard, even spoken in jest, the old ‘children should be seen but not heard’ saying that was around still in the 1960s when I was a boy. Even though it was used to show how not to parent and how things had changed, it was still relevant and we were still close to those days when it was accepted as good parenting.

So, what is the lesson? Think about that for a while, now and then as you go through your day. What is the lesson we really try to pass on? Is it what we say it is or something deeper, more inward? Something about ‘now I have the power, I am the teacher of lessons’? Sometimes I catch myself giving my children lessons my parents gave me, yet they are no longer relevant in this day and age. And then there are the lessons that will never age, never go out of fashion or be obsolete. The lessons about respect, responsibility and character. They are the hardest to teach, especially if one never properly learned them in the first place. But they are what holds civilized society together.

How Ready Are You?

Few of us living in major cities and large urban centers rarely give any thought at all to how we would cope if a natural disaster were to strike. We figure State Emergency Services will be out there as usual doing the great work they do in all weathers, taking care of the holed roofs and fallen trees and within hours the blackout would be over, power will be restored and all is once again well in suburbia. But what if that doesn’t happen?

What if a storm the likes of which have never been recorded before slams into your suburb and takes off half your roof and does the same to nearly everyone else. The SES simply can’t cope all at once so it might be days before you get a tarp up there unless you and your neighbours do it yourselves. Perhaps the electricity is off for a couple of days and all your frozen food goes off, what will you eat? Small children in the house? How will they cope?

Being ready for what might never occur is a balancing act between being prepared and being paranoid. You need to start thinking about the possibilities versus the probabilities and I have started a new page to look at this facet of personal safety management in more detail. It is where I will include links to sites of interest such as the Ready Store. They sell all sorts of things to help you prepare for emergencies and they have a wealth of information so it is easier and more sensible to link to them than to repeat common sense tips on both sites. Click on the link and take a look, then check back for the new ‘Are You Ready?’ page.

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