Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fear leads to the Dark Side

Are there proportionally more crimes, or has the crime rate simply kept up with the head count? Is the average wealth in any way a contributing factor to the amount of theft and burglary?

The way you put it, I'd say yes and yes.

But I think it's also a matter of journalism being a little bit to blame. If you're reporting about all negative stuff that happens, it feeds negativity in people, and that's kind of a bad circle, spiralling downwards:

News: Fear this!
People: We fear this!
Other People: Let's give you something to REALLY fear!
News: Fear this even more!

When I was going to and from Shropshire to attend a course over two weekends, I had the pleasure of carpooling with a lady from Leicestershire. The conversations we had started pretty much the moment she picked me up, and I think I learned more in those hours of sharing a car with her and having conversations about this that and the other than I've learned for years. Anyway. To make it relevant to this thread again: we were discussing the media and crimes. She mentioned how some relatives were saying how dreadful everything was today, you were likely to be murdered in your own bed and have every possession stolen and this that and the other, which they had read about in the news. Her view on this was to reply with "So what are you going to do about it?" They didn't quite get it. She herself isn't a slave to newsfeeds (unlike my dear parents, for instance), and her way of responding to things like that are "okay, if I'm not happy with this situation, what can I do to help change it?"

She mentioned years ago when there was in the news how horrible puppies were treated in animal testing, and some city chick in white jeans and high heels was wanting to get a balaklava and join the Animal Liberation Front, when she instead should've been ditching her expensive (definitely animal tested) makeup, and chosen brands that have a policy against animal testing. If you keep buying stuff that's been tested on animals, then they're gonna keep testing! Simple as that!

The thing is, if you read in the papers how bad the world is, you're going to start believing the world is a horrible place, and you will live in fear. "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the Dark Side", as you might recall Yoda saying, and he was absolutely right. Fear and hate give off very negative vibes, and if everyone lives in fear, paranoia ensues, and hey presto, crime rates go up, causing more fear, etc.
What use is it for the media to have us all too afraid to walk the streets and too afraid to sleep well in our own beds? Will that sell them more newspapers, or what?

The power of the mind is incredible, and I believe you create your own reality. If you believe the world is awful and everyone hates you, that's what you'll experience. If you believe the world isn't so bad after all, and that people are quite okay, that's what you'll experience. You get what you ask for, kind of thing. If you believe "that dog is going to bite me", chances are he will (after all, you kept sending him images of how he was biting you, and since you so obviously want to be bitten, who's he to refuse?). If you believe you're going to get killed in a traffic accident or by a terminal illness, chances are you will, because that's what your focus is on. If people were more aware of the fact that perhaps the world looks like a pretty shite place to live is because that's what is in the collective conscious of humanity... well, maybe then we could see some changes.

The one way to make stuff happen is to start with yourself. Start picturing a world where people get along and are nice to one another. If enough people go around visualising it - and at the same time, staying out trouble themselves, as it's not going to work very well if people don't actually change their own actions accordingly - chances are it will happen. The Universe kind of rocks in that way.

National Pride & Prejudice, part 2

Addition to yesterday's rant.

It wouldn't be fun if everyone were stereotypically British. Stiff-upper-lip, tweed jacket, "old chap"... Much more fun to mingle, isn't it? Integration isn't about making everyone into clones for their new country, it's about realising you're in a different country and that it's different. Like, to name a silly example, say you're from Faraway Island, where it's not just perfectly socially acceptable, but in fact social code demands it, that you greet people with "Hello! F***K YOU!" Then you come to England, and you're a friendly Farawayian and want to greet your new countrymen, so you say a cheerful "Hello! F***K YOU!" - and then you're left wondering why British people are so nasty and hostile toward you. You were only trying to be friendly, after all. Integration would be that Farawayians got to know that their homely greeting is fine between Farawayians, but that it's not British custom, and in fact, it's seen as rude and offensive. ;) So in my view, integration is more about learning.

Because there were so many people coming to Britain from Asia, there are now a lot of different places to get more or less authentic food, and for those of us who have never been to Asia, we can sample their style of cooking, and perhaps say "oh, this naan bread is way nicer than this loaf of Hovis". (Sorry guys, but I think British bread is a big disappointment.)

There was a guy at work, who was swearing a lot over Britain and he wasn't happy here. When he was having one of his regular moans, I said "so why are you still here if you hate it so much?" I don't remember his exact words, but I think it was along the lines of "I don't know". He did move back to Sweden, actually. After he got fired.

I've chosen to view the email not from a perspective of immigrants meaning people from some warm country where people are of a different skin colour and the customs + religion are very different and "they don't even use a proper alphabet". Some of those people don't have much of a choice. They CAN'T go back home, even if they'd like to, because going back home would mean torture and execution without them having committed any actual crimes. (Being gay or a rape victim or disagreeing with the current dictator are not "actual crimes" in my opinion. Raping, stealing and murdering - those are actual crimes.) Immigrants can just as well mean equally pale-faced folks from Europe, who believe in the same kind of religion, use the same alphabet (possibly with the addition of some), drive the same cars, watch the same soap operas, and have a culture quite similar to the British.

...And if the letter is seen from that perspective, then it's not racist, as racism is primarily being against people of a different skin colour. If you do see it as it being against immigrants of a different skin colour, like Asian, African or Caribbean, then you would see it as racist. But then maybe you should also ask yourself why you instantly assumed it was about dark-skinned people, as opposed to someone from Europe, Australia or North America. Maybe that says more about you than it does about the person who wrote the email in the first place...

Monday, November 13, 2006

National Pride & Prejudice

One of them circulating emails...

After many cities not wanting to offend other cultures by putting up Xmas lights. After hearing that the Birmingham Council changed its opinion and let a Muslim woman have her picture on her driver's license with her face covered. After hearing of a Primary School in Birmingham where boy was told that for PE they could wear Football League shirts (Aston Villa, Birmingham, West Brom etc) but NOT an England shirt as it could offend others! This prompted the editorial below written by a UK citizen & published in a British tabloid newspaper.


Take It Or Leave It. I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on London, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Brits.

However, the dust from the attacks has barely settled and the politically correct" crowd begin complaining about the possibility that our patriotism is offending others.

I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to Britain. However, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some born here, need to understand. This idea of London being a multicultural centre for community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. As Britons, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language and our own lifestyle. This culture has been developed over Centuries of wars, struggles, trials and victories fought by the untold masses of men and Women who laid down any one of the millions of men and women who have sought freedom. We speak ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society, learn the language! "In God We Trust" is our National Motto. This is not some Christian, right wing, political slogan.

We adopted this motto because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture. If St. George's cross offends you, or you don't like "A Fair Go", then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet.

We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from. This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our National Motto, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great British freedom, "THE RIGHT TO LEAVE".

If you aren't happy here then f#@* off! We didn't force you to come here.

You asked to be here. So accept the country YOU accepted. Pretty easy really, when you think about it.

Some very good points, there.

Like when everyone moves to Spain. Heard a bit of a radio program in Sweden once about all the people living in sunny Spain. They moved there and lived in ghettos, more or less. The kids went to Swedish school in the Swedish area, they shopped Swedish food in Swedish shops, listened to Swedish radio, and only hung out with fellow Swedes, and only spoke their own language. Tension between them and the locals? You betcha. A few, very few, families have moved and live among the locals. They learn Spanish and their kids go to local schools - they integrate with the native culture as opposed to just take a piece of their home and plop it down on foreign soil.

The whole point of moving abroad is to experience a different culture, in my opinion. Sure, I miss home, and whenever we go to IKEA I spend a healthy (?) amount of money in their food shop to get food I know and have grown up with, and it's the same for expats everywhere. Whenever I go home, I make sure to go to the shops so I can bring home some familiar food. But I don't exactly live in a Scandinavian ghetto over here, and if I didn't know English, what would be the point of living in an English-speaking country?

Yeah, okay, so I work in the Nordic department of a callcentre, where I speak my native tongue on the phones. That's a job, and it's not why I moved over here. Unlike my colleagues, who for the most part came over because of the job. They live with people from work, they only hang out with people from work (on occasion people from other departments)... I mean, if you have the chance of working in a foreign country, why not make the most of it?

Instead of bitching about British cuisine, or as some would have it - lack of, why not go to the nearest supermarket and buy stuff and make yourself? I can assure you that onions, mince, garlic, crushed tomatoes and pasta exist in abundance in both countries, so if you're not happy with how people make Spag Bol in this country, you can make it yourself, with the same ingredients, just as if you were home.

Speaking of food, as it's a bit of a subject close to heart (read: tummy *wobble wobble*), Britain has a lot of stuff to eat that is (or was) new to me. Instead of just going "eww" or "I don't recognise that, so I won't have it", instead I've tried a bunch of stuff, and some I really like, others I don't. (I'm even gradually learning to pronounce pasties 'past-is' instead of 'payst-ees'!)

Right, I think I've strayed off the subject, but I suppose I'd just like to say "what he said ^^" basically. And that is, speaking as an immigrant myself.

Everyone who moves from one country to another are free to take whatever they like with them, in terms of language and customs and traditions, but it's still moving to a different country, with a different culture. INTEGRATE. Doesn't matter where you come from or where you move to, the key to getting along is integration. Learn the primary language of the country, hang out with natives. If you never do anything to blend in, you're always going to be miserable and hate the natives who don't understand you, and they will in turn not be too keen on you either. Like the example of the Swedish ghetto in Spain.

Language can be a tremendous barrier for both sides - I know how difficult it is at work on the phones when someone phones up who speaks neither Swedish nor English. They might be able to say a few words and possibly communicate okay with a person in front of them, but on the phone, there's no body language to back you up, and instead, we're both just frustrated as neither of us can understand what the other person is saying. Slightly easier to solve on the phone (just get someone else who knows the language better to call next time) than as a problem with society, but still...

In a lot of cases, immigrants actually find it quite weird how the natives of their new country almost seem afraid to show their love/appreciation for the country. From what I've heard, it's like they live in this great new country, and they want to celebrate that on national days (in England's case, St. George's Day), by waving flags around and show how happy they are to be a part of it all. Instead, natives are all hush-hush and "if we wave flags about and sing the national anthem and it's not even the world cup we're terribly racist and we mustn't do that". In fact, NOT showing support for your own country can be seen as more of an insult than celebrating the fact of your heritage. Which gets kinda lost in any sort of debate.

YES, racists and neo-nazis like to walk around waving national flags about and shout the national anthem, but is it really just THEIR national anthem/flag? Don't those things belong to all of us? If we allow them to hijack the flag and anthem, the most clear symbols of our country, isn't that a bloody stupid thing to do? Reclaim the flag and the anthem, and use it with pride of our country, multicultural as it is, wouldn't that be better? If we just say "oh no we mustn't", that's actually empowering the racists, as we then acknowledge that they've succeeded in their goal of hatred. If we take away the stigma and the drama of being proud of one's country, and everyone used the national symbols equally, we wouldn't give the power away to the racists, because the symbols won't be as charged anymore. If we all waved flags about, singing the national anthem, that means the racists aren't special anymore, and by that, some of their power is taken away.

The thing of "love thy enemy" is actually true. If you want to defeat someone bad, send them love. If you send hate, you empower them. If you send love, the powers that be will make sure they pay their karmic debts one way or another, and realise the error of their ways, kinda thing. Well, that's one way of going about it. Another way to defeat the enemy is by ignoring them. I'm not saying racism should be ignored... as such. The thing is, if we focus on a person we don't like (GW Bush springs to mind), it doesn't matter if we love him or hate him, he still has all the collective energies of the way we feel about him to empower him. Ignoring someone is actually worse. Scientists have actually proven that we need touch in order to survive when we're babies! We need more than food to live, we need someone to touch and hold us, and be close to us.

I suppose it's like a balance thing. Sending hate (negativity) to the racists makes them grow. Sending love (positivity) to them makes for balance, and when there's balance, they have no power. Anyone seen "Merlin"? Remember how they defeat Queen Maab in the end? By fighting? No. By ignoring her! By simply not paying her any attention whatsoever...

"So, if I see a racist heckling someone of a different colour than them, I'm supposed to just ignore it?" No, call the police (as getting involved personally is more likely to end you up in hospital, and not necessarily with a pulse). Think of it in the terms of terrorism instead. Terrorists want to cause fear. So they do some stuff, and boy do they get publicity! Because they get the publicity, they've got the power to scare people. If everyone reads about terror threats, everyone goes around being afraid they'll be next, the terrorists are out to get them. And because of that, the terrorists have won.

I think Britain did rather well after the July bombings. Instead of causing widespread panic all over, the old Battle of Britain spirit was resurrected: "So, what, you're trying to scare us now are you? Well, guess again, old chap! Hitler tried taking over our country, and he failed, and look where he ended up, and he was WAY scarier than any of you fellas." The terrorist attack caused the sad loss of lives and not-quite-so-sad London Transport property, but they failed. They wanted panic and fear, Britain did not deliver.

Oh well.

...Then there's the thing of St. Patrick's Day being celebrated wildly all over the world, and no one seems to consider that particularly racist... And why should they? It's a celebration of a beautiful country.

P.S. Although, "In God We Trust" is a Christian slogan, and I think everyone should be free to subscribe to whichever religion they want, regardless of where they were born.