Archive for December, 2012

So Glad I’m Not An American!

What is it with these people and their guns? Another nut job with high powered firearms has gone on a rampage in a school in Newtown, Connecticut. 20 kids and 6 adults murdered. Imagine the sheer bloody terror those children and adults experienced in the last moments of their lives! The murderer kills his mother, a kindergarten teacher, then  her entire class! What the f…. is it with these Americans and their guns? I know there are 300 million of them and over half own guns and so very few go berserk but… one is one too many.

On Tuesday a man killed two in an Oregon mall, raking the place with fire from his semi-automatic then he killed himself. In July a man killed 12 and wounded 58 at a screening of a Batman movie in Colorado. Let’s not forget  Columbine or Virginia Tech or the Amish school a year or so ago. What is it with modern day Americans and their fetish for firearms? Is it a small dick thing?

I know if you outlaw guns only outlaws will have guns… ok. But it is not the ease with which guns can be had, legally or otherwise although that does make it less inconvenient to tool up. It is the mentality of the people who must have their guns. They point to the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution which states:

‘A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed’

That is all about keeping and bearing arms so they can maintain a militia to defend the state, most likely against the government if it got out of hand but also against natives and neighbouring countries. In 1791 the average soldier was armed with the same basic longarm as the average citizen could own; a flintlock musket. Today a hunting rifle isn’t much use on the modern battlefield but semi and fully automatic assault weapons surely have no place in home defence unless your home is in downtown Kabul. That amendment is about keeping the power, the ultimate power to change government, in the hands of the people who elect that government to represent them. When they stop representing their will then they need to be replaced and if they refuse to go or use the power of the military against the people they are there to serve; then the people have the ability through the well regulated militia, to force the government to do their bidding. That’s pragmatic democracy.

Today the American fears their federal government and not without some justification. Americans believe in small government and lots of it, it seems. They vote for sheriffs, judges, school boards, city councils, stage governments and federal representatives, school presidents and class presidents and lord knows who else. They love voting and elections and feeling they are in control of those who control them. The gun is merely an extension of this need, a tool they feel empowers them yet a handgun in every home isn’t much use against a UAV armed with a Maverick missile or two. There are tons of guns in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Yemen and elsewhere and that doesn’t stop Obama’s drones doing the dirty work of cleaning up America’s enemies, foreign and in some cases, domestic.

So why the big gun gig thingy? If everyone carried a gun, openly, then it would be a deterrent to some. If everyone could carry a gun but concealed then it would deter many more. Although some would simply switch tactics and pop a cap in the back of people’s heads before they knew they had to go for the draw. Of course having a gun is a deadly responsibility. How many times do you think arguments that end in fisticuffs or foul language would end in bloodshed and dead bodies if more people were armed and packing heat at the time of the altercation? There are enough unstable, mental midgets out there masquerading as sane citizens as it is. Arm them with 9mm hand guns with 15 round magazines and you are asking for a decline in peaceful anger management outcomes.

You watch; as many people cry out for fewer guns, just as many there will demand the right to carry and protect themselves. I firmly believe the body count would be lower if more people on the scene had their own gun and knew how to use it. Not just point it and shoot it but really knew how to employ that weapon effectively and legally. The dilemma is that to achieve that you risk arming a bunch of people who may not react well under stress, might add to the friendly casualty list and even add their gun to the murderer’s arsenal as they become yet another victim.

In 1941 Japanese Admiral Yamamoto advised against invading the USA because there would be ‘a rifle behind every blade of grass’. Wise words. Today there are more people, more guns and more chances of your kids not coming home from school thanks to one of these people and their pistols. If you are unemployed or working a job that doesn’t include ‘benefits’ (health insurance), then you are plum out of luck if you happen to survive the shooting with just a debilitating, long term, incapacitating, life changing wound. We grieve over the dead and rightly so but we forget those who survive being wounded face months, even years of rehabilitation and that anywhere in the world that is expensive. In the USA it can be crippling, bankrupting the victims who may never see a dime in compensation. Like the title says, I am so glad I’m not an American. Nothing personal guys, just sayin’.

Blood Money & Eggshell Skulls

While the suicide of Jacintha Saldanha is tragic, to be fair one must pause and ask a few questions that are definitely not politically correct but nonetheless need to be asked. The nurse took a prank call from a Sydney radio station with the two DJ’s pretending to be HM the Queen and HRH Prince Charles. She believed them to be who they said they were and passed on the call to a colleague who revealed intimate details of the Duchess of Cambridge’s medical condition. A week later, Saldanha has taken her own life and the presumption is that it was directly because of this incident.

First of all, I think it shameful and disgusting that the DJs thought the personal and very private details of anyone’s pregnancy is fair game and should be public knowledge. That is poor taste in the extreme but sadly not a crime, I believe. It raises a lot of questions about what is and isn’t acceptable these days, especially as we seem to be becoming a society of softies, ready to take offence at the drop of a hat.

Secondly, for someone to be so deeply affected they abandon their husband and two teenage children and take their own life is something I can’t fathom. I find it cowardly and selfish in the extreme and I appreciate how devastating such an event is to those who loved the deceased. I have friends who have lost loved ones to suicide and mentioning this no doubt opens old wounds. For that I apologise but I do believe we need to discuss this topic openly, remove the media ban on reporting suicides and let the public know just how widespread a tragedy suicide actually is. I do think some of us are more susceptible to suiciding than others but the eggshell skull doctrine comes into play here.

There is a legal concept called the ‘eggshell skull’ which declares that even if the blow to the head wouldn’t have harmed 99% of the population, it did harm this victim as they had an eggshell skull. In other words each case must be tried on its merits and not on the merits of every other case. If Saldanha is more susceptible to such an extreme reaction to these specific events than anyone else int he world, so be it. But to me she must have had other issues, surely? She only passed on the call, she didn’t initiate it nor did she give the information away. Yet she appears to have felt sufficiently guilty to suicide. Sorry, but to me that is being about as selfish as you can be. We all handle situations differently to some degree but this is an extreme reaction, surely? There must have been underlying issues that were kicked over the edge by this, as if it was the trigger event she had been waiting for. I could be wrong of course but this is the only explanation I can accept as being the most logical.

What about the radio station? They suspended advertising to protect their advertisers from fall out. Fair enough but that was more commercially motivated and PR driven than anything else and that is understandable, they didn’t know the deceased. Yet to offer a $500,000 payment is so typical of today. As if money will fix everything. Blood money. Money will assuage the guilt and cleanse the slate. It is a bit like the news presenter telling us that, at the scene of the bus accident involving twenty schoolkids counselling has been offered to everyone. Great, we can all let out a sigh of relief, they are getting counseling so that means we don’t have to develop a psychosis over this. We sit in our overstuffed lounge chairs watching our giant flat screen TVs and suck up the gospel according to big business and those who mold our minds to consume what they make the most profit from. We are warned that the scenes we are about to see might cause some viewers distress. Well aren’t we bleeding lucky we aren’t actually there on the scene seeing everything! All the real horror of a bomb ripping apart women and children in a Middle Eastern marketplace,  blood and body bits hanging from trees. if they forget to cut out every morsel of reality and accidentally leave us with a large blood stain to shock ourselves over, they warn us before hand Don’t want someone sueing the TV station, do we. Can’t have real life push aside the construct the powers that be create for us so we can continue to consume in guilt free bliss.

Offering the money is as good as an admission of guilt in my book. The radio station is settling out of court, mitigating the collateral damage and all the other 21st century cliches and media catchphrases. A nice, large number, five hundred grand. Minimum. If they make more in ad sales between now and New Year’s then they will hand that over. Why not? It is a charitable donation and thus tax deductible. If they don’t do this they may lose more advertising revenue but now the advertisers can feel good about advertising on a station staffed with DJs who don’t seem to think through their pranks. 2DayFM, the home of the arch idiot and mister arrogance himself Kyle Whatshisname. They must have the most experienced damage control team in the PR world!

So why did Jacintha Saldanha commit suicide? Was it just because of the 2DayFM prank call? Her family claim she is such a devout Catholic this would have been enough to set her off. Thank God I don’t believe in God! It seems like such an onerous responsibility. Make no mistake, the loss of this nurse is a tragedy. What is also tragic is that we, as a society, think it is acceptable, even funny, to trick someone into giving away private information for the sake of a few laughs and some ratings, increased advertising revenues and a couple of ego’s. It is tragic that we feel it acceptable to pay off the family and even use this as a tactic to mitigate the damage and minimise the fallout.

When my wife was pregnant nobody but friends and family cared. No radio stations called, no women’s magazines stalked her for photos of her baby bump. Her pregnancies were just as special and at the same time every day and run of the mill natural as any celebrity’s. Perhaps the real offender here, and the victim, is us. Society. That we give the media the signals that we accept what they do to bring us our bread and circuses. That we want to read this stuff, to be titillated and shocked. It is just a part of the human condition and we’ll never change, no matter how many Jacintha Saldanha’s feel despondent enough to commit suicide. This is not, as a species, our finest moment.

Fat Is An Adjective

Jeff the waiter at Chili’s, Stockton, California in the USA might be fired for listing the customers at Table 1 as ‘Fat Girl’s/1′. When the bill was examined by the customers they took offence at being listed as such. The thing is, are they fat? If they are then what is the problem? Fat is an adjective used to describe someone who is overweight or obese. Why do we take it as an insult? If you are fat you know it, so why pretend otherwise? If you are fat and someone describes you accurately, why make a fuss and seek their termination from their job?

This is indicative of our soft society. We are so damn quick to take offence at anything that doesn’t stroke our egos these days. I am fat. I am a fat man and I know it. Call me fat by all means, it is merely an accurate description. If you were reporting me to the police as a missing person, surely my body shape and size would help them sort through all the people they might vet quicker than if it is not mentioned. It is no different to describing someone as ‘of Middle Eastern’ appearance, or ‘Indian or Pakistani’ (even if they are Bangladeshi or Sri lankan) or ‘Aboriginal’ appearance. It is not racist! It is reality. Putting someone down because they are of ‘Middle Eastern ‘ appearance or refusing them a job purely because they look ‘Indian or Pakistani’ is racist and it is wrong. Period. But describing them as such isn’t and can’t be. They are fat, or they are of Middle Eastern appearance and so on.

What amuses me is that there is no mention of the size of the three women in the story. My money is they are fat and too often it is the truth that we get upset by.

 

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