Saturday, 13 August 2011

Can someone clear all the bile off this soapbox please?

The news story of the week, without a shadow of a doubt, has been the recent outbreak of riots in several areas of the UK. The damage done has been terrible - people losing their homes and small businesses looted, even three deaths in Birmingham as a result of the violence. Things were so bad that we had to drag certain members of the government back from their holidays in the sun after they had previously refused. Nice to see we're being well looked after, eh?

Anyway, reluctant politicians aside, a lot of people have been analysing the effects of the past few days' events and trying to figure out what the riots are symptomatic of. Unfortunately some people are labelled as apologists for the violence when they offer a possible explanation for may have contributed to the events, but few have taken as strong a stance as Melanie Phillips who, erm, 'bravely' takes on the new-fangled idea that single parents are not the root of all evil.

The whole article is awash with straw men and ill-founded generalisations, none of which are backed up by linked references or studies (although this is nothing new, with hyperbole taken to ridiculous levels on previous articles as well). For example, I've never heard anyone on either side of the political fence say that mainstream teaching is "an attack upon a child’s autonomy and self-esteem" as opposed to a place where children pick up valuable skills in essential subjects. The welfare state also receives a pasting but we see no solution given for the problem of how people are going to survive when they're in unfortunate circumstances. Yes, the system is subject to some fraud, but I'd rather see a few people fraudulently being fed and sheltered than a lot of people starving and struggling to find somewhere to stay warm. Contempt for welfare payouts is usually lacking in empathy and awareness of the fact that they too many one day have to rely on this system.

Phillips argues that the riots were a result of "moral collapse" caused by the sinister-sounding "liberal intelligentsia" who are presumably lurking in the country's shadows beside the gay mafia. The absence of stigmatising single-parent families and biblical morality are apparently things which contributed to the riots - you know, the ones where 2000 people started looting and millions of others remained in their houses not doing anything illegal, a fact that Melanie fails to acknowledge anywhere in her spiel.

I'm not sure Melanie has fully thought through the implications of bringing back a shame-based society shaped by Christian mythology. People have always made ill-informed descisions about family life, marriage was never a cure-all for social problems even back in the good old days this article harks back to - divorce still took place in the 1950s when social values were far more conservative than today. Yes, the rates of divorce have risen in recent decades but this is likely to be a result of lessening stigma and a sign of greater honesty within our society. In socially conservative times people would have endured a lot of unhappiness and possibly even abuse rather than consider a divorce because of the shame attached to it. And who does that benefit other than the self-appointed morality police? Nobody - an unhappy marriage creates an unpleasant atmosphere in the household and an unhealthy amount of tension, which affects both adults and children. Wanting to inflict this on people out of moral smugness is nothing more than selfishness.

As for the biblical morality Melanie prescribes for the UK, I would thoroughly advise against it. The Bible is an extremely questionable source for obtaining morality about family life given that it promotes sexual violence, incest and blatant misogyny as well as several other distasteful events. Rather than trying to appease an unstable and childish deity who may not even exist it would be a far better idea to promote human compassion and empathy - nobody is treated as being inferior for who they are and we can see tangible benefits from our works. Much better plan.

If you're reading, Mel, I should probably tell you that the author of this blog one of these allegedly feral leftie daughters living in a single-parent household. I'd just like to reassure you that I'm not hellbent on destruction or planning to smoke a spliff in your presence, I'm simply a geek who goes out stargazing from time to time and enjoys blogging about stuff. Not the dumb animal you make me out to be.


  1. A fine custard pie at Mel many thanks Hydron!

  2. Well I can't let all those slights against people like me pass without comment, can I? ;)

  3. This was a fantastic article. I never think it can be overstated what a repressive force the church has been to progressive attitudes. I found this after following it from the Guardian website. So good tactic!

    I read your description and it sounded exactly like what I've been trying to do. I'm eager to make it as a journalist and have recently created my own blog page. If you're interested in what I write at let me know, and we could link our websites to each other?

  4. @Janarchist: I'm very interested in your blog, we seem to have fairly similar styles. I'll promote it where I can for you later in the morning, I don't expect to get a lot of publicity at this hour. ;)

  5. hi...

    great to see your knowledge of bible information....
    sad to see that the only thing you can see from it is evil.....

    how about, we do a bible study together? reading book by book and debating?

  6. "Rather than trying to appease an unstable and childish deity who may not even exist it would be a far better idea to promote human compassion and empathy - nobody is treated as being inferior for who they are and we can see tangible benefits from our works. Much better plan."

    ...But, that's what the Bible says to do. So you ARE a Christian moralist. You just have a very warped view of what it means to be Christian. As do most Christians, funnily enough. Look you have something in common with the fundamentalists!

  7. Hi, John. I've read over the bible for a while and I just can't bring myself to believe in much of what happened, plus there are so many contradictions and flaws in what is being said in a lot of sections. There are some good things in there but not a great deal which couldn't also be achieved through human empathy and compassion, no religious ideas involved.

    Thank you kindly for the offer though.

  8. Moodshot, I lack believe in any gods or deities. The fact that I don't follow even the basic tenets of belief and worship almost completely undermines your idea that I'm a Christian moralist. I'm simply a human being who cares about others without any thought of religion, like a lot of other people on this planet.

  9. cool, what have you read and why?