As I approach the twilight years of my brief existence in this world, I’m often reminded of some stock guidance offered to me during the formative years of my childhood by my mother… “Don’t wish your life away, it will come to the end far sooner than you expect.”
I was prompted to bash the keyboard again today after two separate but partly related incidents this morning. The first mostly innocuous event was a Twitter exchange and the second, was due to people watching whilst queuing for my morning caffeine fix at the local Costa Coffee shop – other brands are available!
The Twitter stuff was remarks about UK party politics and began with Peter Kirkham saying; ”Vote anyone & you’ll end up with a lying bastard who’ll act for Party benefit first & vested interest benefit second.” I replied with; “Sad state of affairs but appears increasingly more true…indicative of predominantly self-centred society!” Peter went on to suggest that our ‘self-centred’ society found it’s roots in the 1980s – “A self-centred society that Maggie set the foundation for.” Some would say that both our comments and opinions are born out of pure cynicism, but are they? Partly as an aside, I for one would suggest that the ‘rot’ actually set in far earlier even than Peter suggests.
As I get ever older I find it far easier to fully understand and comprehend that ‘grumpy old git’ tag, the one which is often applied by the younger end of our society, to many of us who have been lucky enough to attain that ‘certain’ age. It’s all part of that commonly held belief that the young know better (and far more) than their elders, but do they?
It’s also part of that ’live in the here and now’ ethos, forget the past and bollocks to the future! All in a poor indictment of society’s (mistaken) educational belief that ‘history’ is mostly irrelevant in a modern world. Save perhaps for the puerile PC platitudinous public apologies for historic events. But, without an understanding and cognisance of history, or real (as opposed to virtual) life, aren’t we always destined to make the same mistakes, over and over again?
I don’t know about you but I can clearly remember the childhood occasions when, because there was something I wanted to do or try, I was told “sorry, you’re not old enough, yet.” My indignant reply along the lines of ”it’s so unfair, I wish I was older” quickly uttered forth. Only to be rebutted just as promptly by the ‘parental guidance‘ above. Looking back now, despite my minor disdain and sometimes even rebelliousness at the time, I’m actually mostly thankful that I acquiesced to those words of ‘time served’ wisdom. This brings me on to my second incident of the day.
As I’m waiting for my coffee to be made I’m joined in the que by a gaggle of young girls. Each one had undoubtedly engaged in hours of careful preparation at home, prior to joining their peers in facing the outside world. Pristine make-up, not a hair out-of-place and accessorised to the hilt with faux designer labels and accoutrements. Each hauling massive bling handbags and fearfully clutching their latest smartphone, each one complete with its own shocking pink protective cover. ‘Ladies wot Lunch’ preparing to discuss the inane and unimportant ‘celebrity’ gossip of the day… probably just like their mothers!
Now I have no great issue with that particular set of circumstances per se, whatever floats their particular boat, so to speak. It was more about the ’people watching’ experience, as opposed to forming any opinion on the rights and wrongs of what they were doing. The part that I found most interesting was the simple fact that, despite purporting to be ‘adults’ in many more ways than one, each one of those girls could have been no more than twelve years of age, if they were a day. Girls that twenty to thirty or so years ago would probably (hopefully) have been at home, playing with their doll’s house or learning to bake cakes with their mum.
Today they are ‘on the town’ and ‘in your face’ loud, brash and anything but demure or pleasantly innocent. Hankering after the day when they can get a good dose of alcohol down their necks in the local boozer, as opposed to sharing one coffee between two due to limited funds. Incessantly catching up on the latest ‘sexting’ events and provocative ‘selfie’ examples, prior to going back to the ‘normality’ of the childhood experiences of school uniform and more formal education the following day.
I expect many the boys of a similar age are out playing Sunday league football, that or sat on a park bench swigging from a tin of strong cider. Ah well, they could have all been engrossed in a flashmob entanglement of Roman Orgy proportions, ’getting down and dirty’ with the procreation of our next generation of ‘Entitled Yooof’ init. Perhaps, as ever, we should be grateful for small mercies!
My own, usually simple satisfaction with life for what I have/have not, actually finds its roots in my learned behaviours and first-hand life experiences. Firstly it’s owed to the attitudes and raison d’être for life displayed by my parents. I grew and matured under the protective umbrella of people who had experienced the real dangers of world wars, that and the true hardships of post war Britain.
Secondly, I’ve observed the ethics and attitudes of people who are, or have been in far worse off financial situations than I have. I have seen the true poverty and the violence and abuse experienced by others. I have spent a lifetime impacted by the worst in our society but importantly, I’ve also spent a large proportion of my meagre life always endeavouring to do any small part I can that hopefully, relieves some of that suffering in others… What have you done to make you feel proud?
Finally, I’ve also managed to narrowly escape death in a road accident, thankfully. Trust me, there’s nothing like a ‘near death’ experience to galvanise your opinion of what is/is not important in life. It also provides you with a 20/20 vision capability when focusing upon reality!
Many of the ‘problems’ which we tend to endure in today’s society, be they evidenced or perceived, are in my opinion, born out of ‘learned’ behaviour…a kind of Monkey-See-Monkey-Do learning process.
That and a total lack of historical interest or understanding, social or otherwise. The problem arises when that particular ’source’ of learning doesn’t actually meet expected or desired standards.
However, some of the ’free thinkers’ in life would also suggest that any ’learned’ behaviour process, especially if ’intentionally’ imparted during a parenting situation, is also a form of invasive cognitive modeling or even covert predictive programming.
Predictive Programming – The power of suggestion using the media of fiction to create a desired outcome ~Alan Watts
Is that actually such a bad thing, if those teachings and standards in the ‘learned behaviour’ process were (intentionally or accidentally) designed to impart some enhanced levels of humanity and civility in the subject?
In a way it really matters not which way you perceive those parenting skills, just so long as some are actually utilised and applied in the first place. Hopefully by people with the kind of ethical views on life which benefit society as a whole. But even proverbial Wise Monkeys can often be perceived in different ways.
I’m thankful that my ‘learned behaviour’ taught me how to enjoy a beer responsibly, with reasonable levels of sobriety and with minimal impact upon others. I’m thankful that my mother’s house keeping and domestic skills tought me to eat correctly, healthily and within a budget. I’m thankful for those simple little sayings such as “I want never gets” and “treat as you would be treated.”
Who knows, being the eternal optimist, perhaps the current levels of increasing poverty caused by austerity, along with greater levels of personal experiences of danger and physical hardship (floods/weather), it could all bode well for the development of future generations?
Given that all too prominent and short-term ‘Monkey See – Monkey Do‘ ethos for life, I somehow doubt it.
Since the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal first broke surface, there has been a malaise of high-profile ’celebrity’ arrests and subsequent legal proceedings, mostly as a direct result of similar sexual offence allegations.
Are we to believe that our entertainment industry (or indeed our society) is actually riddled with sexual predators and paedophilia? In addition to this, could there also be some other very important and just as worrying issues involved here?
I’m sure that if the media had its way, they would have us all believe that we are a nation of sex pests and kiddy fiddlers – perhaps they’re succeeding?
Don’t get me wrong, I find such offences just as abhorrent as any other right-minded person would. I also want to see the public protected from such offenders indeed, I spent thirty years of my life involved in that protection process. The issue I have with all this is; the public generally have a perception of (any) crime that is usually vastly exaggerated from reality. A perception that is often and mostly inflated by the media.
The same media who would also suggest, probably thanks to their concerted efforts, that our police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) now take these types of ‘abuse’ allegations “far more seriously” than was previously the case. That is only partly correct. Yes the police and CJS are probably more victim orientated than was perhaps previously the case however; the cynic in me (and many others) also believe there are several other factors involved here.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is committed to strengthening the prosecution process and bringing offenders to justice fairly, firmly and effectively…(cps.gov.uk)
One major problem, mostly prevalent since CPS inception, has been the fact that prosecution policies are based around targets; financial considerations, the overall likelihood of securing a conviction and the strange one…public interest. In my opinion no part of our Criminal Justice System (CJS) should either want or be expected to operate under any of these conditions.
Prior to the Savile scandal and subsequent Crisis at the BBC, the ex Glam Rock star, now a legally convicted paedophile, Garry Glitter (also an Op. Yewtree subject), appeared to be the main focus of media attention. As Glitter bounced around the world trying to hide from or further his disgusting habits, mostly within the continent of Asia, he must have exhaled a massive sigh of relief when the ‘Savile story’ broke. At last the media had someone/something else to sink their teeth into.
With our media’s predilection for anything remotely salacious, coupled with a methodology of supposition and opinionated reporting, can anyone (especially ‘celebrities’ and public figures) be able to expect a fair trial any more? It is for our Law Courts to be the judges of guilt and them alone, is it not?
These concerns not without standing, many prosecution decisions can also be (and are) too often influenced by the power of our media machine, igniting and fuelling that ’public interest’ factor. A sad fact is that, a large proportion of our society rarely seem to have any opinion on many things, at least not until the media tell them they should have one!
Despite the overall raison d’être of the CPS and this seemingly ‘new-found’ direction being a laudable and worthwhile ethic, perhaps it is now also suffering from scoring some monumental own goals?
Former BBC DJ Dave Lee Travis said he had been through “a year and a half of hell”, after he was cleared of 12 counts of indecent assault…(bbc.co.uk)
There are strong suggestions that the Op. Yewtree investigation team, along with the CPS, may well have made several of their decisions based solely around rebuilding public trust in their capability, the overall ‘success’ rate of our CJS and with (undue) consideration for the undoubted pressure applied by our media. But last week another connected, but non Yewtree specific case, was also thrown out of court.
William Roache: Coronation Street star found not guilty of all sexual abuse charges – The 81-year-old has been cleared of two counts of rape and four of sexual assault following a four-week trial at Preston Crown Court…(independent.co.uk)
It appears that most of these alleged offences came from decades ago (so far). It also appears that, despite the belief and direction of the CPS, the ‘evidence’ simply hasn’t been strong enough to secure convictions. But that’s ok, isn’t it? A balanced judicial process has been applied, hasn’t it? Or, perhaps Operation Yewtree has actually been hoisted by its own petard?
Both the men above have always insisted they were not guilty and now the juries involved in these cases have agreed. However, these subsequent outcomes won’t remove any of the psychological and reputational damage caused to any of those involved here. The ’victims’ in these cases are not only the ’accusers’ but also, the alleged ’offenders’ who have now been acquitted.
Bill Roache’s trial has proved more than just his innocence. It’s also proved that the noble concept upon which our legal system is built – innocent until proven guilty – is now dead in the water…(mirror.co.uk)
The Mirror comment (above) is worryingly not made without substance, despite it being rather rich coming from our Tabloid Press. The same individuals and organisations who are probably the major exponents of assumption of guilt, prior to any ‘evidence’ being heard in court proceedings. How can it be right that our ‘media machine’ can set itself up as Judge Jury and Executioner and then, after the main event but just as quickly, suddenly become the long-lost friend of the ‘wrongly’ accused?
After the court case involving Dave Lee Travis he alluded to the “year and a half of hell” that he and his family had just been through. He also said “I’m not over the moon about any of this today. I don’t feel like there’s a victory in any way, shape or form.” He is right.
He went on to comment on how he felt as if he’d been involved in “two separate trials, one by media and one in Crown Court” and he much prefered the Crown Court process. Last week, Bill Roache was quoted comments in a similar vein, after the results of his court case. Within hours of this latest court result, media outlets who had previously hung DLT ‘out to dry’ were suggesting ’the system’ had failed him. They can’t have it both bloody ways, surely not? Can they?
I’m no great fan of legal proceedings being held in-camera, except in certain major situations impacting upon National Security or, perhaps even the safety of a third-party. To do so actually impedes the understanding of, and public trust in, a legal system to be proud of in an open and democratic society.
That said, perhaps it is also getting close to the point where suspected offenders should be allowed anonymity, similar to that afforded to accusers in such cases? Either that or a more robust application of existing (or new) legislation? Laws which are designed to protect the course of legal process and importantly, those individuals involved in those proceedings. Protection from the negative impacts of a salacious, mischievous and opinionated media machine.
Should that come to fruition, you could bet your bottom dollar that our press would immediately throw their notebooks and cameras in the air screaming about some secretive foul injustice. Despite the fact that we, the public, are the ones that pay for and soak up their crap, they can’t avoid blame for the situation. It would be as a direct result of their methodology, manipulation of public opinion and their negative impacts upon a stable and (mostly) adequate Criminal Justice System!
A large proportion of the post Savile investigations have been, just as much about a face-saving exercise, as they have about ‘justice’ for victims. Yewtree can be seen as overt public penance for systemic failings in the past, a PR opportunity that struck cords for many elements of the CJS, not least the police. Yewtree, like today’s politicians apologising for events in history, sometimes hundreds of years ago, was also Political Correctness gone mad.
Mostly, our society has thankfully moved on a pace, but not always in the right direction. We are hopefully more understanding, tolerant and informed than was once the case. What was once ‘normal’ is now no longer acceptable decades later and vice versa. Tactile and overt displays of affection and friendship were once considered the norm, especially within but not exclusive to, the ‘lovey’ world of show business.
But consider this question; would it be right to ‘judge’ the now well-known homosexuality of Oscar Wilde and Quentin Crisp by today’s standards? These individuals were high-profile ‘celebrities’ who at that time, participated in acts and lifestyles that despite being abhorrent (and actually illegal) then, are now rightly totally acceptable.
I know this example of circumstances is the reverse of the Yewtree situation however; has our society sought to castigate or criticise deceased gay people, who can’t answer for themselves? Or heaven forbid, have the CJS brought charges against people still living, who were practicing homosexuals prior to the Wolfenden Report or Sexual Offences Act 1967?
The trial which has ended in Dave Lee Travis’s acquittal on the majority of charges of sexual misconduct that he faced has provided an object lesson in the limits of the judicial system to contend with questions which cover changing moral and social attitudes, as well as solid standards of proof that a court can or should accept…(independent.co.uk)
I have absolutely no desire to detract from any of the ‘traumatic’ situations that some people may have found themselves in the past, real or perceived. But come on, is it right or realistic to judge the events of yesterday by today’s standards? An important and relevent factor highlighted within and after the Dave Lee Travis trial.
As the debate about the Legalization of Cannabis hots up again, predominantly in the USA (see here) but also in the UK (see here), The Mail reported recently that; “a young mother of three died after she was poisoned by the cannabis she smoked to help her get to sleep” (see here).
The legality surrounding cannabis varies from country to country. Possession of cannabis is illegal in most countries and has been since the beginning of widespread cannabis prohibition in the late 1930s. However, many countries have now decriminalized the possession of small quantities of cannabis, for personal use.
Many of those who are FOR or AGAINST the ‘Legalize It’ campaign have been quick to try to use this single piece of tragic news, mostly for the purpose of enhancing their own particular standpoint.
Whether or not it helps either camp is mostly immaterial. It’s unlikely to finally debunk the pro ‘users’ camp argument, about the ‘herb’ being “natural and safe” to use. It’s also just as unlikely to enhance or strengthen all the drug’s ‘danger’ arguments. At least not significantly, and certainly not in the short-term.
♫♪ Every man got to legalize it, and don’t criticize it. Legalize it yeah, yeah, and I will advertise it♫♪ (Peter Tosh)
It’s now more than 40 years since the American President Richard Nixon declared war on “public enemy No 1″ in the USA – drug abuse. Since then, despite aggressive US anti-drug policies rolling out unabated, c$1 trillion has been spent on drugs law enforcement and over 45 million people have been arrested on drugs charges. But things there (and here) have remained relatively unchanged. There are now well 20 million users of illegal drugs in the US today, and probably a far larger percentage in the UK than we care to admit, despite (mostly manipulated) statistics.
The plant genus Cannabis isn’t actually the ’bad guy’ in all this. The fibre (hemp) of the plant is valuable in tens of thousands of commercial products, especially as fibre ranging from paper, cordage, textiles and clothing. Hemp is stronger and longer-lasting than cotton. However, despite the plant having long been used for medicinal purposes, it is the use as a recreational drug that causes the main concerns within our society.
However, a recent piece at Child Health Safety, pointed out that UK Govt ‘experts’ have been involved in ‘Cover Ups’ for years when it comes to the true facts about drugs. Although talking about prescription drugs in this particular report (which also have abuse issues), I see no logical reason not to assume that; ‘official’ advice about currently illegal drugs may well be subjected to political and/or financially motivated manipulation. But as one very knowledgeable academic says; “Drugs Aren’t the Problem.”
In the book High Price: Drugs, Neuroscience, and Discovering Myself, the author unravels the common perception that drugs and drug addiction are the cause of many of society’s problems. Apparently not so – but whilst he doesn’t argue that illegal drugs have no negative effects, he takes the reader through his journey of discovery about the problem.
Book Review: …the pharmacology of the drugs themselves is not the cause of our social ills – rather, drugs are the symptoms of a broken society, masking the underlying issues of unemployment, lack of education, poverty, racism, and despair…(guardian.co.uk)
Dr. Carl Hart, although something of a ‘lone voice’ in the debate, is an eminent Neuroscientist who has been on a mission to debunk many of the myths about addiction (see here). But, with so much ‘noise’ on either side of the drugs debate, one can be forgiven for asking… who the hell is right?
Addiction is one of the biggest preventable killer in the UK (see Addiction Actually). Today many people know someone who has been directly (or indirectly) affected by addiction, or is a friend or loved one or someone with an addiction. Addiction has devastating impacts upon individuals, families and communities alike.
The entire concept of ‘Addiction’ is now underpinned by neuroscience and medicine. We are making enormous strides in moving away from the moralistic viewpoint that blames the addict or alcoholic for their condition…(source: Addiction Actually)
Many say that per se, Cannabis is no more addictive than alcohol or tobacco. Despite not being trained in the ‘scientific’ evidence (or even understanding some of it), I would mostly tend to agree. I do however understand a small part of the science behind addiction.
I understand the scientific concepts of ‘neuroreceptors’ in the brain, I also know a little about the ‘reward’ and ‘pleasure’ centres in our brains. Systems, playing a major role in reward-motivated behavior and sensation-seeking. Dopamine is the ’neurotransmitter’ or chemical messenger, that facilitates the transmission of signals in the brain and other vital areas
Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them. Dopamine deficiency results in Parkinson’s Disease, and people with low dopamine activity may be more prone to addiction…(psychologytoday.com)
When referring to any kind of addiction, it is important to recognize that its cause is not simply a search for pleasure and that addiction has nothing to do with one’s morality or strength of character. Experts debate whether addiction is a “disease” or a true mental illness, whether drug dependence and addiction mean the same thing, and many other aspects of addiction. Such debates are not likely to be resolved soon. But the lack of resolution does not preclude effective treatment.
Teenage weed smoking and long-term brain damage
“Adolescence is a sensitive time for brain development,” says Matthew J. Smith, a research assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. “If a teen introduces the abuse of marijuana at that point in their life, it could have consequences for their ability to problem solve, for their memory and for critical thinking in general.”
Unfortunately, this crucial message is getting lost in the pro-legalization fervor.
That perception, however, is all wrong. In a study published last month, Smith and his colleagues found that teens who smoked a lot of pot had serious and abnormal changes in their brain structures related to working memory—a predictor of weak academic performance and impaired everyday functioning—and that they did poorly on memory-related tasks.
While the study focused on heavy marijuana users—specifically, those who indulged daily for about three years—one of its most crucial findings related not to the amount of pot an adolescent smoked, but when he or she started: The earlier the drug was taken up, the worse the effects on the brain.
“Marijuana is the ideal compound to screw up everything for a kid,” says Hans Breiter, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and a senior author of the study. “If you’re an athlete, a chess player, a debater or an artist, you need working memory, and marijuana hurts the brain circuitry.”
There is one overriding factor in all of this debacle in that; those who use drugs will rarely be dissuaded from doing so, irrespective of therapy, punishment or prescribed safe alternatives.
A Fresh Look at Our Drug Laws Is the First Step Towards a Sane, Evidence-Based Policy…(Caroline Lucas MP)
It is nearly always the individual who actually makes their own personal decision to stop taking whatever substance is their preference. For that reason alone the continued ‘war on drugs’ will always be mostly destined to failure.
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Dr. Carl Hart: is an associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University. Hart is known for his research in drug abuse and drug addiction. He is also a member of the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse (USA) and a research scientist in the Division of Substance Abuse at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. However, long before he entered academia, Hart gained firsthand knowledge about drug usage while growing up in one of Miami’s toughest neighborhoods.