Posts Tagged ‘Humanism’

The Continuing Scandal of the DWP Asking the Depressed Why They Haven’t Committed Suicide

March 18, 2017

Mike this week put up a piece reporting and commenting on the admission by Maximus that they do indeed ask depressed people questions about suicide as part of the Work Capability Assessment. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/11/dwp-contractor-admits-routinely-asking-sickness-benefit-claimants-dangerous-questions-about-suicide/There are several questions. The first questions simply ask them if they have had thoughts about suicide, and the frequency and severity of these thoughts. These are, in my view, reasonable questions. Or rather, it would be if it were part of a genuine medical examination as part of a real programme to make that person well again. Depression isn’t a case of being ‘a bit down’. It is, as the British medical scientist, writer and Humanist, Lewis Wolpert described it in the title of his book, ‘A Malignant Sadness’. Clearly, if someone does have thoughts about suicide, they are extremely unwell and desperately need help.

The other questions, however, is unwarranted and frankly dangerous. The depressed person is then asked

“And what is it that stops you from acting on the thoughts that you have?

“Can you think of any reason that you’re not doing that? Is it friends or family support?”

Now it should be clear to anyone with the most meagre level of intelligence that asking people, who are already mentally fragile and have admitted they think of doing themselves injury or actually killing themselves, why they haven’t done so is extremely dangerous. My guess is that the way it is phrased in particular makes the question seriously unethical, as it seems to assume that the depressed person is not seriously troubled by these thoughts unless he or she has tried to act them out.

I don’t know, but I can imagine that if a social scientist or medical professional doing research amongst the clinically depressed asked the question, they could be hauled up before their relevant bodies overseeing professional standards for ethics violations or misconduct. As part of their training, social scientists are told not to phrase questions in the form of ‘You’re not…are you?’ And the Hippocratic Oath, a form of which doctors were required to take until recently, contained the provision ‘And I shall do no harm.’ These questions seem close enough to the first question, at least in spirit, to make them also unethical, while violating that provision of the ancient doctor’s Oath in that they could seem to some to be suggesting that they should.

The Work Capability Test itself is a scientific travesty. It is based on spurious and scientifically invalid research supposedly linking recovery to illness to mental attitude. The whole wretched test was introduced by Blair and his coteries on the recommendation of the American insurance fraudster, Unum, in a conference in the first years of this century. It is based on the attitude, shared by the Blairites and the Tories, that nearly everyone claiming invalidity or sickness benefit is a malingerer, despite the fact that such fraud only counts for 0.7 per cent of such claims.

The question also shows the immense double standards about health that persists between us and our rulers. It’s assumed that asking a severely ill person why they haven’t harmed themselves or committed suicide is acceptable. But heaven help anyone, who asked the same question of a captain of industry or leading politician why they haven’t tried to commit suicide, and you can imagine the feeding frenzy from an outraged press.

For example, the Blairite contender for the Labour leadership and flagrant liar, Angela Eagle, was asked by Andrew Neil on the Daily Politics about Tony Blair and whether the vile warmonger should face trial for leading Britain into an illegal war. Tellingly, she said no, as ‘Tony’s been through the wringer’. Thus showing that she cared more for the Dear Leader’s anguish than for the real horror he has inflicted on hundreds of thousands, of not millions of innocent people, who have been killed, tortured and forced out of their homes through the carnage he and that other malignant creature, George Dubya Bush, have created through their war. I don’t know what Neil’s response was, but can you imagine the outrage that would have resulted if Neil had said, ‘Well, he can’t be going through too much trouble, ’cause he’s still walking’.

Or if one of the other interviewers asked the same question of one of the Tories, like Theresa May, David Cameron, or the people directly responsible for the question: Ian Duncan Smith and Damian Green. There would have been fury directed at the ‘left-wing’ BBC. How dare they suggest that a minister of the realm isn’t doing his job if he hasn’t committed suicide for his failures! Or even the suggestion that they have failed in their job, which the Tories have, spectacularly.

But if it is acceptable to ask a gravely disturbed person why they haven’t acted out their desires to harm themselves, then by the same standard it should be acceptable to ask the same questions of anyone, including and particularly the ministers that have formulated that question.

Now I am not suggesting that Blair, May, Cameron, aIDS or Damian Green should be asked these questions, or otherwise be told to kill themselves, for precisely the same reason I don’t think anyone should be asked these questions. I am merely trying to point out the double standards involved here.

Now I imagine that if they were asked about this question, Damian Green or his predecessor, the Gentleman Ranker (and a right ranker he truly was) would say, in their inimitably patronising manner, that they are only trying to gauge the severity of the illness. This is rubbish. The whole test is structured so that the government can find some pretext to deny paying the ill person disability benefit on the grounds that they’re still somehow fit for work.

And Mike and many other bloggers and disability activists also see something much more sinister here. Many tens of thousands of people have committed suicide, or died in poverty and misery after being thrown off benefit, although the DWP continues to deny it. See Stilloaks website and the blog, ATOS Miracles, for further coverage of this and the biographies and individual cases of some of the victims. For Mike and people like Jeff Davies, one of the long term commenters on my blog this is evidence of a covert, secret genocide of the disabled. The government wants them dead, because that way they don’t have to pay out to support them. They can continue lowering the taxes of their rich donors.

This is how it’s beginning to look to very many of us, whether we’re disabled or fit. The presenters of the Channel 4 comedy review show, The Last Leg, even said so themselves. There should be mass outrage about these questions and the test itself. That there isn’t is a major disgrace in itself.

Raymond Tallis in ‘I’ Newspaper Attacks Jeremy Hunt and Privatisation of the NHS

September 13, 2016

Raymond Tallis, the neurologist and Humanist writer, is in today’s I newspaper. They’ve published an extract from his recent book on God and the NHS, in which he attacks Jeremy Hunt and the government’s ongoing privatisation of the NHS. I’ve only just skimmed it, but he notes how Hunt declared his support for the NHS’ privatisation and replacement with an insurance-based system, like America, way back in his 2005 book on democracy. He also discusses Hunt’s own career as a millionaire businessman, who after making his money decided he’d quite like to go into politics, and the actual way Cameron and the Tories have gone about privatising the NHS, while lying about doing so.

Tallis is one of the editors of the book NHS-SOS, which describes the way the NHS has been privatised by successive governments, including Tony Blair’s New Labour, which laid the foundations for the current government’s programme of breaking it up ready for privatisation.

Tory Anti-Feminism and The Descent of the Manosphere

August 13, 2016

Mike’s put up a number of excellent articles this week, so many that it’s quite a choice deciding which one to reblog and comment on first. But this one struck my eye, as it coincided with a series of videos I’ve been watching on YouTube recently.

Tory MP Philip Davies and the Justice For Men and Boys Party, Vs. Corbyn and the Labour Party

Mike yesterday put up a piece asking which party – Labour or the Conservatives – was the most in favour of gender equality. He raised the question because the Guardian had found footage of the Tory MP Philip Davies speaking at a meeting of the Justice for Men and Boys Party, which intends to compete against the Tories in 20 marginal Tory constituencies. In his speech, he accused feminists of only supporting equality when it suits them, and of trying to give women advantage over men. He also contrasted the campaign to put more women on company boards with a ‘deafening silence’ over men being given custody of their children after the break up of their marriages, and entering traditionally female occupations, such as midwives.

Mike contrasted his comments with those of Jeremy Corbyn, who also talked about adopting policies to increase gender-equality, ending the system that saw certain jobs as suitable only for men or women, and making the pay gap between men and women narrower. Owen Smith, to give him credit, has also talked about appointing equal numbers of men and women to the cabinet.

The Groan’s report also described how Davies appeared amongst bloggers, who described Malala Yousufzai as worse than Osama bin Laden, and published articles like ’13 Reasons Women Lie about Rape’.

See Mike’s article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/08/12/labour-or-the-conservatives-which-of-them-best-supports-sex-equality/

Blogger Kevin Logan on the Lunacy of the Manosphere

There’s a series of very good videos against some of the denizens of the Men’s Rights movement by Kevin Logan on his YouTube channel, entitled, The Descent of the Manosphere. I haven’t linked to any here, because as far as I’m concerned, they’re all equally good. I’ve also got another reason in that some of the people he discusses have such a bitter hatred of women and such repulsive attitudes to domestic abuse and rape that they are genuinely frightening. I really am not trying to be condescending or imply that women aren’t as tough as men, but I’m also aware of the severe trauma inflicted on the women subjected to rape and domestic abuse. I can imagine that some women would be extremely upset just listening to these idiots mouth their views, and I’d rather not put anyone through that.

Logan’s an atheist, and some of the misogynists he criticises are those that have appeared in the on-line atheist community claiming that their highly reactionary opinions are based on reason and logic. This is odd, because very many of the organised atheists on the Net and elsewhere are Carl Sagan-y Humanist types, with progressive views on race, sexual equality and social justice. There was discussion by one young woman in the Skeptics’ community a year or so ago about starting an ‘Atheism Plus’ movement. The plus here represented social and political activism. Some of their hatred for organised religion derives or is aimed at some of the very reactionary American religious figures, like the Televangelists Jerry Falwell, and Jimmy Swaggert, and the right-wing political broadcast Rush Limbaugh. These guys are so right-wing I’m surprised they haven’t fallen off. I don’t support atheism, but I do support the concern for progressive politics of many of the movement’s members.

Roosh V’s Rape Advocacy

And with many of the people – there are women amongst them, God knows why! – I don’t think you have to be particularly interested in feminism to despise them, just a decent human being. Some of the people Logan has attacked include Roosh V, who’s published a series of books advising men on how to seduce women. By force, if necessary. He writes books describing his sexploits with titles like Bang Ukraine. Reggie Yeates did a programme on him for one of the BBC satellite/cable channels, and was really unimpressed. Leafing through that volume, he said it’s not a book he’d want his younger brother to read. He pointed out Roosh V has not been accused or convicted of rape, but he describes forcing himself upon women, who haven’t given their consent in his book. He also advocates encouraging women to be more careful about avoiding rape, by making it legal in certain circumstances. Yeah, he’s that repugnant.

A lot of them seem to blame rape victims for their assault, by claiming that they went out dressed too provocatively, or weren’t sufficiently careful about making sure they weren’t vulnerable. Like not getting drunk on tequilas, and then going up to a strange man’s room she’d met with him. Now I know women, who have been very careful not to get drunk, because of the fear of being assaulted. A good argument against getting drunk in public for anyone, regardless of sex, is that it will leave you vulnerable. But that does not even remotely make the rape the woman’s fault.

Sexual Resentment

Sexual resentment also features a lot in these people’s attitudes towards women. You can hear a number of them, like Davis Aurini, bitterly denouncing modern women for their perceived promiscuity, until they decide that the fun has to stop, and they have to settle down with a reliable provider. The attitude is that they are Mr Nice Guy, but all the women ignore them instead to go after bad boys. And when the fun there stops as middle age hits them, they want to find a man they can marry and exploit for his money. It’s a nasty attitude, expressed in very vulgar terms.

Racism and Nazism

It isn’t surprising that many of them also have deeply unpleasant attitudes on other issues, like race, the environment, socialism and so on. Many of them are outright racists or racial supremacists, like The Golden One, an expatriate Swede. This guy makes the claim that the Second World War was started because Hitler wanted to break away from the international banking system, and that only 300,000 Jews died in the Holocaust. This, as any fule kno, is complete twaddle. The Second World War broke out because Hitler invaded Poland. Despite his rants about the Judeo-Bolshevik international banking conspiracy – surely an oxymoron if ever there was one – Adolf had nothing against American Jewish bankers like the Rothschilds when they gave him money. And they did fund the Reich, even when it was murdering the Jewish peoples of Eastern Europe. Also the Nazis very definitely killed 6 million Jews, and 5 1/2 million gentiles, mostly Slavs, in the concentration camps. Aurini seems to hold similar views.

Libertarian Anti-Socialism

There’s also a considerable amount of Libertarian anti-Socialist ranting, by people claiming to be defending freedom. Except when low paid workers call a strike. One of the Manosphere bloggers Logan takes down does a piece complaining about a strike by employees of MacDonald’s in his local town, moving about the crowd of picketers while sneering at them.

Feminists Do Care about Men

They also have a bitter hatred of particular bloggers and celebrities, like Anita Sarkeesian, who was at the centre of the ‘Gamergate’ row over sexism in computer games. There’s also a lot of ranting against Rebecca Watson, the former actress who portrayed Hermione in the Harry Potter films. She’s now a feminist activist. There’s one Manosphere blogger – I’ve forgotten quite who – who attacks her and feminists generally for ignoring similar issues for men, such as rape, domestic violence and sexism. Logan shows in each case that this simply isn’t true. For example, it’s due to feminist pressure that the figures for rapes against men are now being recorded and released for the first time. And he shows a clip of Watson at the ‘He for She’ conference talking about doing more to help male victims of domestic violence, and confronting sexism against men. He also provides a link to an internet petition to criminalise a particular form of male rape as well, which is also not yet illegal under British law.

Logan’s a witty blogger, and his videos are very funny. They feature interruptions and asides from his cat, who speaks with a French accent, and from an otter, who speaks with the kind of western American ‘Howdy, y’all!’ accent that you used only to hear from Slim Pickens. If you look at his videos, be warned: there’s a lot of very strong language, including the ‘C’ word, which many find extremely offensive. Another blogger I recommend on this issue is Abaddon5. He’s also an atheist and former Satanist, and there’s a lot of obscenity in his language. But what he says about the MRAs is cool. But be warned: the people they talk about are really disgusting. There’s been petitions, if I recall correctly, against Roosh V and another bloke, who has similar views, by women, who were concerned that they are really dangerous. I signed them, because I think they’re right. Roosh V’s apparent attitude that women are to be used for his sexual pleasure, and his complete indifference to the matter of consent, in my opinion make him a real danger to women.

The MRAs ultimately hanker for a 19th century-style America, where a women’s place was in the home, and proles and people of colour knew their place and were properly deferential to their social superiors. And all this is important, as despite the Tories’ claim to be pro-feminist with the election of Theresa May, there is a profound anti-feminist aspect to the Conservative party. I put up a piece a few weeks ago about a couple of pamphlets I found in one of the charity bookshops in Cheltenham written against the women’s movement, and published by the right-wing thinktank the Institute of Economic Affairs. One of them even had the title Liberating Modern Women… from Feminism. The Tories’ policies have hit women the worst, as most women are employed in low-paying jobs in the service sectors, such as carers, or shop assistants and so on. When Theresa May talks about equality, it seems to mean getting more jobs for middle class, well-heeled women like herself, and not those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Anti-NHS Privatisation Rally at 1.00 PM Today, Stoke on Trent

May 4, 2015

I’m sorry this is somewhat late, but it’s only just come through my inbox.

Gail Gregory, one of the campaigners against the privatisation of the NHS, and particular local hospitals in Staffordshire, has been part of a team organising events this Bank Holiday weekend. She has sent out another release letting everyone know that there is another rally today at 1.00 in Stoke On Trent. She writes

Dear friends,

I know you may not be able to join us, but I though you would like to know just how amazing the March we have helped organise is going. We set off from Burton on Saturday morning – and before we reached the finish line we had Harry Leslie Smith confirm he would like to speak in Stoke on Monday (today) and welcome us across the finish! What a day. We will put footage up online for you – but in the mean time here are the details of the final day and the speakers we have!

Cancer Not for Profit Announce STAR speaker for May Day Rally!

Star speaker line up revealed for finish line rally of the 3 day, 30 mile, M’aide May Day March For Our NHS in Hanley Park, Stoke on Monday 4 May at 1pm:

Harry Leslie Smith – author of ‘Harry’s Last Stand’ and 91 year old survivor of the Great Depression, a second world war RAF veteran and an activist for the NHS, the poor and for the preservation of social democracy.

Lord Philip Hunt – Labour Spokesperson for Health in the Lords

Sarah Perry – Cancer Patient and 38 Degrees Campaigner

Professor Ray Tallis – Co Author of NHS SOS

Tristram Hunt – Labour Stoke Central PPC and Shadow Minister for Education

Christine Venables – Save Our NHS Campaigner – South Derbyshire

Paul Walker – East Staffs TUC Chair and cancer patient

Representatives from the CCGs have been asked to attend but are unfortunately unavailable on this occasion.

Health Campaigners Cancer Not For Profit and East Staffordshire TUC are calling on the public to join them at the FREE event on, Monday 4 May at 1pm, to hear stirring speeches from famous NHS campaigners and why we need to fight the privatisation of our NHS in Staffordshire.

The M’aide, May Day March for our NHS began on Saturday in Burton on Trent with a 10am rally where 50 concerned health campaigners, members of the public and patients set off for Uttoxeter in a bid to highlight the privatisation of the NHS in Staffordshire. On Sunday 3rd May the NHS crusaders were joined by more supporters as they left Uttoxeter for Blythe Bridge to complete stage two of the march. On Monday 4th May the final stage of the march between Blythe Bridge and Stoke on Trent will culminate with a mass rally with expert contributions from prominent NHS campaigners as walkers arrive in Hanley Park at 1pm.

The biggest potential NHS privatisation in history still looms large for Staffordshire, with the £1.2 billion contract for of Cancer and End of Life care for 800,000 residents, yet to be decided. The bidders in the running include five private companies and only two NHS Trusts however since the 2012 Health and Social Care Act 70% of all contracts have been awarded to the private sector.

Virgin Care have recently won a controversial contract in East Staffs to provide Elderly Person Care worth around £280 million for 6000 frail elderly and 38,000 patients with chronic diseases in East Staffordshire as awarded by East Staffs CCG. Campaigners have condemned the contract fearing care will suffer as private companies seek to make profit out of an already cash strapped NHS.

38 Degrees are supporting local efforts to stop NHS privatisation with more than 60,000 people signing the petition to stop the sell off of Cancer and End of Life Care in Staffordshire in the past month. This adds to previous efforts which have secured more than 15,000 signatures from Staffordshire residents who presented concerns to the County Council in October but failed to secure enough support from the chamber to stop NHS privatisation, instead residents’ concerns were referred to the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

Monday 4th May

Blythe Bridge Rally point 10am Blythe Bridge Library ST11 9JR

to Hanley Park, Stoke On Trent for the final rally at around 1pm by the Bandstand

For full route and timings please see the website: bit.ly/NHSMayDayMarch

Enjoy your bank holiday if you do not join us – once again thank you for making this campaign happen!

Best Wishes,

Gail

This is very far from my home in Bristol, but I wish her, the event and the speakers every success.

One of the speakers, Ray Tallis, is a former neurologist and Humanist, who has written and spoken extensively on the mystery of human consciousness and cognition, as well as art and philosophy. I heard him speak last year at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, and he is well-worth hearing.

Dawkins’ Atheist Bus Service

February 7, 2009

Richard Dawkins has been in the news a bit recently. Firstly, about a fortnight ago the buses in various cities in Britain started running his adverts for atheism. The slogan adopted by Dawkins and his fellows for attacking religious belief is ‘God probably doesn’t exist, so be happy.’ This has prompted its share of comment and controversy. According to the British papers, one Christian bus driver in Southampton, Ron Flowers, refused to drive one of the buses with the slogan. Apparently he turned up for work one Friday, saw that he was supposed to drive that bus, and went home instead. According to the bus company, when he turned up for work on Monday the company decided instead to reach some kind of arrangement with him so that he could drive another vehicle instead. A spokesman for the Humanist Society declared that they couldn’t understand why someone would be offended by someone else’s statement of belief, while a spokesman for the Methodist Society stated that they had no problems with atheists sticking the slogan on buses, as this encouraged people to think about these important issues.

Now my own point of view is that atheists like Dawkins and the Humanist Society have every right to have their adverts carried on buses and other places. It’s a free society, and so they should have the right to express and try to promote their views, just like people of faith. However, I also consider that Dawkins’ atheist bus campaign presents far more problems for atheism, and indeed itself constitutes a rebuttal of some of their arguments, than it does for people of faith.

Firstly, it bears out Aleister McGrath’s view in The Twilight of Atheism that much of the New Atheist attack on religion is due to religion not declining as was expected by atheists in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Also, the content of the slogan itself has managed to offend many people regardless of their own personal stance on religion or political affiliation. The advert was briefly discussed this past week on the BBC magazine programme, The One Show, broadcast on BBC 1. One of the presenters, Christine Blakeley, felt it was arrogant for Dawkins to state that religious believers were miserable. They had as one of their guests on their show the fertility expert, Dr. Robert Winston, who has himself presented a number of science programmes on the Beeb. Winston’s very definitely a supporter of Charles Darwin, and was talking about a children’s book he’s written about evolution. He also made it clear that he was a friend of Dawkins, but objected to the buses’ slogan and stated that he also found Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion, also to be arrogant in its choice of title. In fact, Winston gave a speech at the Edinburgh branch of the British Association for the Advancement of Science a few years ago where he stated that, as much as he liked Dawkins’ personally, Dawkins’ attempts to promote atheism in the name of science was itself unscientific and indeed damaging to science.

There are also a number of non-scientists who were similarly unimpressed with the adverts. They were discussed a few weeks on BBC Radio 4’s The News Quiz, which, like Have I Got News For You on TV, takes a satirical look at the week’s news. One of the regular guests on the programme is Jeremy Hardy, a man of strong left-wing opinions, who isn’t afraid to criticise organise religion. However, he described Dawkins as ‘one of those irritating professional atheists’. This seems to indicate that Dawkins’ campaign has managed to annoy a lot of people regardless of their personal views on the existence of God or religion. This might be because people generally don’t like to be told what to believe or how to vote by others. Now one of the most frequent objections to organised religion is that it tells people what to believe. But this is exactly what Dawkins and his fellows have done with their bus slogan: they are telling people not to believe in God. The slogan is not ‘We believe that there is probably no God, and recommend that you be happy’, but ‘There is probably no God, so be happy’. Now I’ve no objection to people being told to be happy, but there is clearly a problem in that the posters are telling people ‘there is probably no God’.

In fact there are further, more profound objections to Dawkins’ slogan. There’s the question of how Dawkins can say authoritatively that ‘there is probably no God.’ One can question not just the validity of the statement, but the logic and arguments that support it. However, the slogan doesn’t present any: it’s just an assertion, a statement of belief purporting to be fact.

There is also the problem that the non-existence of God does not necessarily lead to happiness. For atheist existentialists such as Camus and Sartre, the non-existence of God meant that man was free, but also condemned to a meaningless existence, and much atheist, existentialist literature is occupied by the anxiety and despair that created by this lack of transcendental meaning. So, rather than atheism leading necessarily to happiness, it may also lead to misery and despair. Indeed, Hume, the great founder of modern Scepticism, himself declared that at times his rational investigation of the cosmos filled him with such despair that he had to take a break from his philosophical activities and amuse himself for a few hours. Nevertheless, when he returned to his philosophical analyses once again, they appeared so cold, strained and ridiculous, that he didn’t want to go any further with them.

Many religions, by contrast, offer the joy of a truly meaningful universe in which humanity can find fulfilment both as a creature in the cosmos, and through contact with the gods and deeper realities that give that cosmos meaning. In Christianity, humanity was created by the Lord for fellowship with Him, and so has a profound meaning and dignity. People of faith are not necessarily miserable, and indeed there is considerable evidence that they are happier and enjoy better mental health than other, secular individuals. Religion, and Christianity, can therefore be seen as far more optimistic than the atheism that Dawkins seeks to promote.