Worth Quoting

3rd June 2013

“Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly.”

Issac Asimov and bloody well said!

The religi board at the front of my old house. It was great fun. Sometimes my posts were rubbed out! Haha. The religites didn’t really approve.

English reflections on a Scottish referendum – a reblog

Looking through a distorted window: English reflections on a Scottish referendum

Seeing the Scottish referendum from outside Scotland, it was too easy to entirely misunderstand it.

Image: Maxim Edwards

Reading coverage and opinion from England on the Scottish independence referendum has been a strange experience. It has been like looking at someone you know and love through a distorted window: the image is contorted to the extent that you can barely recognise the person you’re looking at anymore. There is a sense in which people who have never lived in Scotland or been involved in the political debate in Scotland just don’t get it. This is what has become so abundantly clear reading and talking to people in England about the referendum. It’s not just that they disagree with those in Scotland campaigning for independence it’s that they don’t really understand the situation at all.

English observers have received most of their information through sources that are based in England and on the whole are against independence (only one newspaper the Sunday Herald backed independence, no UK newspaper did so). At best the information comes from people who don’t understand at worst it comes from people who have deliberately distorted the picture. Research from John Robertson suggests that in the coverage prior to this year pro independence views made up only 2/5 of the views covered on British TV. Furthermore, prominent BBC journalist Nick Robinson has been criticised for cutting footage so as to suggest that Alex Salmond did not respond to his questions. This does not make it easy for the English to grasp what has gone on in Scotland.

Many people in England just don’t get why many Scots would back independence. Some originally believed that it must be some sort of xenophobic anti-English sentiment or simplistic patriotism. According to this view the enthusiasm for Scottish independence is part of a dangerous sort of nationalism moving across Europe that comes with a hatred of outsiders: a form of dangerous fascism. Many with good political sentiments are wary of any form of nationalism and find the idea of pride in a particular nation deeply problematic. I was once one of those people. I didn’t recognise the fundamental difference between nationalism in a dominant country that wishes to celebrate and extend that domination and be seen as better than the rest of the world and the nationalism of a country that is currently ruled by a larger unit or outsiders and wishes for self-determination: a country that wishes to have power over its own affairs rather than to dominate others. It is also vital to recognise that nationalism does not have to be based on an idea that there is a particular race or culture that is special or should dominate a region. However, the first important truth to realise about the majority of those who support independence in Scotland is that it’s not really about nationalism at all. To explain what I think it is about and why it is so hard for those in England to understand I’m going to have to tell a bit of a story.

Photo: Maxim Edwards

I was born and brought up in England (where I now live) but spent 5 very formative years living in Glasgow. It was my first real home as an adult and by the time I had to leave for work I felt fully a part of that world. So much so that I find it almost impossible to support the England football team and after a few drinks I often find myself trying to claim a Scottish identity (much to the humour and confusion of the people I’m with). Whilst living in Scotland I got into politics: activism, campaigning and following events at Holyrood and Westminster. At that time independence was not really on the agenda. It was something I talked to people about and learnt to understand but it was not a major topic of debate like the Iraq war, student fees or privatisation. In those days even when people voted for the SNP at Holyrood elections this was not primarily because they supported independence. In fact at the time many SNP voters did not want full independence for Scotland. There was a majority against independence (calculated by the Sun at 58% compared with 22% in favour) even when the SNP got 44% of the popular vote and a majority in the largely proportional parliament. Whilst living in Scotland I learned to appreciate the fact that Scotland is another political world. The playing field is just fundamentally different compared to the rest of the UK. This is what explains why so many Scottish people voted for independence this year and why so many English people just don’t get it.

As a left leaning open minded person there was a wealth of real political choices in Scotland. There were plenty of leftist groups to choose from and there were radical parties that had even held seats in the parliament. The Greens had at one point held seven seats and a party called the Scottish Socialists had also had 6 representatives in Holyrood from 2003-2007. Meanwhile in the centre the SNP and the Scottish Labour party were battling to out social-democrat each other (and the SNP were winning). The SNP picked up policies from the Scottish Socialists including scrapping prescription charges, introducing free school meals and replacing council tax with a more equitable system in order to gain votes. Making a stand against privatisation and private public partnerships was a vote winner. Votes in parliament declared a majority against nuclear weapons of 71:16 with 39 abstentions.

While I was in Scotland the parliament introduced free care for the elderly. It became clear to me that things that south of the border we had been told were impossible were actually happening right here in Scotland. Whilst in Glasgow I witnessed the SNP take a majority in a proportional parliament (a very rare thing) on the basis of scrapping council tax and replacing it with a system based on earnings. I realised that Scotland was a world in which the post-Thatcherite consensus was not being followed. Political reality in Scotland is something that many left leaning England dwellers can only dream about (free old age care, free higher education, proportional representation in parliament, the protection of the NHS from privatization). While temping at the Scottish Government I witnessed some business present the case for a private sector measure to try to reduce absenteeism in the Scottish NHS through a system where ill employees must phone up a call centre who would give them medical advice and seek to identify whether they are really sick. The businessmen had been successful in selling the service to parts of the NHS in England.

However, I was delighted to hear from civil service superiors that although they liked the plan, outsourcing of this kind was politically impossible because the SNP government would never support paying a company to give medical advice to absent NHS staff. This shows how different things are in Scotland. However, the fact that much of the civil service in Scotland hires temps through agencies that take a large cut of the money and offer no benefits or guaranteed hours shows that Scotland is not yet an anti-neoliberal paradise. In this political world joining the Labour party was to support conservativism it was just not a viable option for someone with progressive politics. And all this was before the fall of the banks and the financial crisis.

Another difference about Scottish politics concerns participation and attitudes of working class people in Scotland. In Glasgow talking politics at the bus stop is not as taboo as it is in some parts of England. People express their views. Political discussion is not just for the intellectual middle class intelligentsia and the political elite. Even more importantly working class people have political options when it comes to the ballot box. If they are sick of the Labour party and the Tory party because they seem only to speak for the interests of big businesses and forget working people they have many options. Meanwhile in the North of England those who quite rightly see through the major parties have only UKIP to turn to. And many are willing to turn there to stick two fingers up at the political elite regardless of the fact UKIP contains plenty of that elite and does not support any of the things they are interested in.

Image: Maxim Edwards

What my time in Glasgow taught me was that the political situation in Scotland is different. What is not fully grasped down south is that what is possible politically is fundamentally different north of the border. It is this fact that has led so many left-leaning Scottish residents to back independence. Independence gives them a chance to have a society that is different to the neoliberal one that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are aggressively rolling out for the UK. The stepping up of neoliberal policy and the strict austerity that the coalition has imposed and the Labour party has only criticised in a limited manner is very different to what the majority of Scots support. It is a threat even to the devolved services because it can reduce their budget and force them to make cuts to public services. The fact that the Labour party has pledged to largely stick with conservative spending plans and not reverse cuts to services means that many left-leaning Scots see no hope whilst remaining in the UK. Meanwhile independence offers the chance to pursue an anti-austerity agenda through a proportional parliament and to promote these policies to an electorate committed to a strong public sector. Once this is understood it is no longer a mystery why so many left leaning Scotland residents are pro-independence. This is not about the SNP being a social democrat party. They are committed to neo-liberal economic policies like cutting corporation tax to attract foreign investment although they also support more Keynesian public investment in industry. Rather it is about having an electorate and a parliament open to ideas outside a neo-liberal consensus. It is this situation that makes protecting the NHS, getting rid of council tax, providing care for the elderly and not charging for university vote winners. The situation isn’t perfect. Scots are more in favour of abortion rights, less anti-EU, more against privatisation, but share similar views to the rest of the UK on questions like gay marriage. However, it remains true that debates and policies that are impossible in England can happen in Scotland.

Given the differences discussed above it is no wonder that there is a disconnect between Scotland and England that makes it difficult for those south of the border to understand what is going on. The political world is just different in Scotland. This means that when the Westminster political elite, London journalists and people living in England turn their attention to something going on in Scotland they are likely to misunderstand it. They have an understanding of politics in England: they know the constraints, they know the limits of reasonable opinion, they know what makes you ‘loony lefty’, unelectable or seem economically incompetent. However these limits and the spectrum are different in Scotland. Furthermore the parties they are observing have different platforms in Scotland, there are additional parties and the balance of power between those parties is different too. This can leave people at sea if they look at Scottish politics through an English frame.

All the experiences and understandings from my time living Scotland come from before the political earthquake that has been the build up to the referendum. I have not been a part of the society as the massive changes have taken place. I have only been able to look on from abroad (I was in Germany last year) and try to get snippets of what has happened. This means that there are now no doubt ways in which I don’t really ‘get’ what is going on. Furthermore, my experiences were predominantly Glasgow based and say nothing of society in Scotland in general. In fact the referendum results from rural areas show that Glasgow is not representative.

The referendum campaign has brought many young and working class people in to the debate and on to the voting registers than ever before. This is a huge development. While I was active in Scotland I saw the beginning of return of young people to politics. When I first started attending rallies it was the baby boomers who dominated. Young people of my generation weren’t particularly interested. But five years later this was changing and fast. The referendum campaign has seen an explosion in political participation by this generation as they rally round the chance to actually make a difference.

I arrived in Glasgow the weekend before the referendum to crowds of motivated, articulate and informed people talking about the referendum. There were songs and chants but there was also debate. The city was abuzz with referendum talk and campaigning. There was a movement. I arrived wishing to see what was going on and hoping to see a good campaign and a reasonable debate. I left with the shocking realization that Glasgow was going to vote yes and that a radical change to politics was actually possible. I have never before been able to see first-hand or been part of a campaign for radical change that has had a real chance of winning. Those on the left who have been part of the official yes campaign, Radical Independence Campaign, Green Yes, National Collective, Labour for Independence, Women for Independence, English Scots for Yes, Yes LGBT, Scots Asians for Yes and any other pro-independence networks should be immensely proud of what they have achieved. I am really in awe of them for creating such a strong and diverse movement. On the left we are used to being in the minority and facing an uphill battle. The yes campaign started with such a battle and made huge gains despite not having the backing of the media or the majority of elites. This is a huge positive development. It inspires me to think that there may be hope for radical political change in the UK yet. It suggests that it is not impossible to build a movement for positive change that is capable of winning.

In most elections people are asked to back one party or another: to select one group of elites to rule over them. However, the referendum was a directly democratic event: it asked people to make a choice themselves. This is part of why it had so much power to get those who dismiss politics as a farce to participate. The fact that people were voting not for some elites to rule was not fully grasped by the BBC who showed pictures of ‘campaign head quarters’ as the results came in and talked about votes for the yes campaign or for the better together campaign. These votes were not for a campaign. They were votes in favour of a particular decision. Talking of those video streams of campaign headquarters there was a stark difference between the young careerist political types shown at ‘Better Together’ headquarters with their smart dress and rosettes showing party allegiances and the rag tag collection of people at the media office for a part of the yes campaign that the BBC showed. Although these people looked predominantly middle class they did not look like wannabe prospective politicians from good universities and moneyed backgrounds (the type you usually see at campaign headquarters). Furthermore, they did not declare themselves as ‘the campaign’ but a part of a wider movement doing some media stuff. This showed how the yes campaign brought about a different kind of politics. It was not just the debating society types hoping for a career in politics that were involved in the campaigning.

The weekend before the referendum, where Sauchiehall Street meets Buchannan Street at the Donald Dewar statue, masses of friendly smiling people who turned up to support independence. Being in the crowd it felt to me like Scotland was becoming a democracy of the kind civil society champions like the Scottish Enlightenment thinker Adam Ferguson and communitarians like Michael Sandel endorse. It felt like a demos had emerged where people actively and loudly engaged with politics. Whilst outside the BBC protesting at the poor journalism mentioned earlier in this article a woman started to explain to me how single mothers were being imprisoned for not paying their license fee. Her enthusiasm and passion for political issues was clear as was her fearless discussion of them with anyone she came across. If Scotland can keep this up then there is a chance for a better future. I just hope that the energy, interest and commitment that the vote inspired can be maintained and used to make gains and improve life in Scotland and the wider UK. Already, there has been an ongoing debate as to how to move forwards and remain engaged. I hope that something beautiful can come out of this debate.

Dear Mr Speaker, concerning that Gordon Brown ‘Debate’

Veronique:

Gordon Brown has lied by slime to the voters is Scotland’s IndyRef – how unusual

Gordon Brown

Originally posted on petewishart:

Dear Mr Speaker,

I am writing to you, the Leader of the House, the Shadow Leader of the House and the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, concerning the debate secured by the Right Honourable Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath on the 16th of October on the subject of the UK Government’s relationship with Scotland.

The Right Honourable Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath revealed to the press that he secured this debate with your kind permission and he has since described this debate as a substantial debate on the ‘vow’ made concerning the timetable on ‘more powers’ for Scotland. As you are aware, this debate is nothing other than an end of day adjournment debate, meaning that it will only last only half hour, is un-amendable and can not be voted on. These debates usually involve only the member who has secured the debate and the relevant Minister responding. In…

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Why I wish Everyone Else had voted Yes

There have been a lot of analyses since 18th September when Scotland decided to stay tied to the apron strings of Westminster. I think I shall re-post a number of these on this blog so I will have a record in one place. This one is self-explanatory and well said Ian Montgomery. More people should amass facts and figures.

This is Ian Montgomery writing…..on his wife’s Facebook page..because I don’t have my own, the reason being…… I’m pretty convinced that ‘social media’ is, for the most part, for twats….like you lot….!!!
However, this evening I had a casual scan through the endless and mostly mindless postings below (YES voters excepted) and concluded that this forum needed some informed and intelligent comment…….this is where I come in folks!!!
What follows is from me…. and me alone……….OK….!!!
Some facts and figures…………………….

1) There are 280,000 millionaires in the UK. 260,000 of them live in London.

2) There are currently, and have been for the last twenty years, more construction cranes working in London alone than there are throughout the rest of the UK in its entirety. There is NO recession in the South East!

3) Back in 1988, when the Channel Tunnel project was announced, we were all told that every city in the UK would soon have direct high-speed rail access, via Folkstone, to the continent. Today, twenty years after the Chunnel was commissioned, only one city has high-speed access to the tunnel……………Can you guess what city that is……????

4) In an average European country the economy of the nation is reflected in the metropolitan demographic. (Big words….Eeeh………….are you still with me?) In short……The largest city is approximately twice as big as the next city, three times as big as the third city and so on….etc……etc………Check this on Google if you like……I’m not lying.
But…..In the UK …London is eight times as big as Birmingham…….sixteen times big as Glasgow and Manchester….and the other cities are nowhere………..so what’s happening?

5) Major projects in London now and pending: East/West Crosslink rail, followed by North/South Crosslink rail, followed by new hub airport…………..Elsewhere……not much!
A whole succession of Governments of differing persuasions have, passively or actively, contributed to the exponential expansion of London, at the expense of the Scotland, the Midlands and the North of England.

6) There are around 4.5 million voters in Scotland and around 20 million in London and the Home Counties….. If Ed Milliband wants to win the general election next year for Labour…..whose votes does he have to chase?……………. Tony Blair knew this in 1997 and re-aligned the Labour Party so that he could win…………so we ended up with Tory and Tory-Lite!!! and then…Iraq……… Afghanistan………….Banking Meltdown………etc….etc.
Ed Milliband will have no choice but to do the same….think about it..!!!

7) Last week the Unholy Triumverate, in a panic, swore that new powers would be devolved to Scotland…..if only, please please and pretty please……. we voted NO!………………So we did!
Points to ponder here:-
David Camerons back-benchers are already applying pressure………..Who gave you a mandate for increasing Scottish autonomy they cry….,,,and they’re right………….who did? England demands an input!!!………..probable outcome:- Fewer Scots MP’s at Westminster…….Will the Torys’ care about losing One MP…………………No!
As for Milliband……if he becomes PM and augments Scotlands fiscal autonomy, his English back-benchers and grass roots supporters will, as a bargaining condition, demand a cut in Scotland’s presence in Westminster…..most of these are Labour MP’s……..which means he would have to cut his own throat to meet his assurances of last week…………….A rock and a hard place?

8) In 1969 man put astronauts on the Moon..a wonderful technological achievement……… 45 years later…in the second decade of the twenty first century, UK subjects still toady to a Monarchy and aristocracy. We still have an unelected House of Lords, including Anglican Bishops, who can veto just about anything from the Commons. We still have Dukes, Earls and Lairds who own most of the Scottish land-mass. Our legal courts are populated by judges and lawyers dressed in gowns and wigs from the sixteenth century and who speak in a pseudo-biblical language.

Yesterday we were given an opportunity to begin a journey that would leave all that behind and begin a progress into the modern world occupied by our European partners…..We did not take it. And just to compound our decrepitude, this evening , on the television news, I watched Union Flag waving ‘Loyalists’ attack YES supporters in George Square ……..(We all know which football club they support……..no surprise there…….utterly pathetic!)

What a sad broken little nation we are……..Those of you who voted ‘NO’ did so mostly as a matter of self interest rather than principal. You have no vision…..no imagination and no moral compass. What lies ahead is your legacy……

Why I’m voting YES

Originally posted on CAMERON McNEISH, Writer & Television Presenter:

SOMEONE said to me recently that Alex Salmond has “divided a nation” with the independence referendum, but if division is about discussion, about debate, even friendly argument, with so many people engaged in something as important as the future direction of my country, then I’m absolutely all for it.

I heard someone discuss this on the radio the other morning and he said his family were Italian – and they often have loud, vociferous family arguments about kinds of things – but they still loved each other… 

I think it’s wonderful that a small nation like Scotland can reach this point in considering its future direction with what has been a campaign of hope, optimism and positivity.

But before I set out my reasons for voting Yes I should remind folk that I’m not a politician – mind you, that’s not stopped Danny Alexander from becoming First Secretary to the…

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Wikipedia and Shonky Charlatans

It’s been a long time between posts. This got under my skin though.

Jimmy Wales has been asked via a change.org petition to include complementary and alternative medicine as scientifically sound articles in Wikipedia. The petition is thus:

[Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia: Create and enforce new policies that allow for true scientific discourse about holistic approaches to healing.

1. Petition by
Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology

Wikipedia is widely used and trusted. Unfortunately, much of the information related to holistic approaches to healing is biased, misleading, out-of-date, or just plain wrong. For five years, repeated efforts to correct this misinformation have been blocked and the Wikipedia organization has not addressed these issues. As a result, people who are interested in the benefits of Energy Medicine, Energy Psychology, and specific approaches such as the Emotional Freedom Techniques, Thought Field Therapy and the Tapas Acupressure Technique, turn to your pages, trust what they read, and do not pursue getting help from these approaches which research has, in fact, proven to be of great benefit to many. This has serious implications, as people continue to suffer with physical and emotional problems that might well be alleviated by these approaches.

Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, left the organization due to concerns about its integrity. He stated: "In some fields and some topics, there are groups who 'squat' on articles and insist on making them reflect their own specific biases. There is no credible mechanism to approve versions of articles.”

This is exactly the case with the Wikipedia pages for Energy Psychology, Energy Medicine, acupuncture, and other forms of complementary/alternative medicine (CAM), which are currently skewed to a negative, unscientific view of these approaches despite numerous rigorous studies in recent years demonstrating their effectiveness. These pages are controlled by a few self-appointed “skeptics” who serve as de facto censors for Wikipedia. They clothe their objections in the language of the narrowest possible understanding of science in order to inhibit open discussion of innovation in health care. As gatekeepers for the status quo, they refuse discourse with leading edge research scientists and clinicians or, for that matter, anyone with a different point of view. Fair-minded referees should be given the responsibility of monitoring these important areas.

I pledge not to donate to your fundraising efforts until these changes have been made.]

ACEP’s logo. Pretty and pretty meaningless
ACEP - The Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology

I find the arrogance of this organisation breathtaking. That there are currently 7,781 signatories is depressing in the extreme. There is nothing scientific about CAM and Wikipedia rightly doesn’t allow spurious claims rather than peer reviewed research into Wikipedia.

Of course, Larry Sanger wasn’t talking about ACEP even though they try to co-opt his reasons for leaving Wikipedia. Everyone has a tendency to confirmation bias and cherry picking but this citing of Sanger’s words out of context is egregious. Here is where and why Sanger said what he did – it is under the heading We can do betterhttp://blog.citizendium.org/?p=286

Here is Jimmy Wales’ response to ACEP’s petition on change.org:

‘No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.
Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.
What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of “true scientific discourse”. It isn’t.’
________________________________________
Posted on March 23, 2014

There are currently four hospitals of homeopathy in the UK. This number has decreased because many more GPs are not referring their patients to these places. That they ever did is a worrying reflection on the standard of medical training in the UK.

The hospitals are funded by the National Health Service, the UK’s publicly funded health system. No one really knows how much is spent by the NHS on homeopathy and other complementary ‘medicines and treatment’. In 2009, The Guardian ran an article based on an FOI that turned up some horrendous figures.

‘Homeopathy, which many doctors argue has an effect only in the mind of the believer, cost the cash-strapped NHS £12m over three years, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.http://www.theguardian.com/society/2009/jun/10/complementary-medicine-nhs-more4

Another article cites some more alarming figures:

‘However, the Committee’s report suggests the figure could be even higher. The £12 million does not take into account the running costs of the four homeopathic hospitals in the UK, nor the £20 million spent refurbishing the Royal London homeopathic hospital from 2002 to 2005.https://fullfact.org/blog/homeopathy_how_much_does_the_nhs_pay-2206

That’s enough to make me spit chips.

To get back to the reason for this post, I checked out the group that tasked Jimmy Wales with including CAM as scientifically sound articles in Wikipedia.

It is an American organisation – I suppose I should have guessed that – though with the scientific Dark Age spreading its envelope far and wide, ACEP could have originated anywhere. Here is their self-description:

ACEP is the Home for Energy Psychology: Championing EP techniques such as Thought Field Therapy (TFT), Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT), Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), Comprehensive Energy Psychology (CEP) and more.

Well, that made me spit more chips. This organisation offers certificated training courses in this guff and from the photographs on the site I see quite a number of oldies like me. It must be lucrative. Of course, they are registered as a non-profit organisation ‘of licensed mental health professionals and allied energy health practitioners who are dedicated to developing and applying energy psychology.’ “Energy” here used in the literal meaning of “activity” or “operation”. Well, whoopee do.

Wikipedia has an article on energy psychology here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_%28psychological%29
Much of the attempt to garner authority is citing references from Freud and Jung. They also try to credit their theories by citing fMRI studies. There is no citing of anything that would stand as research or a proper study.

I have a few friends who are psychologists and I used to know a couple of psychiatrists. I doubt that anyone of them would touch ACEP with a barge pole. I certainly wouldn’t. I am glad that Jimmy Wales won’t either.

 

A Smidgen of Sophists – World Congress of Families, Sydney 2013

Veronique:

Thanks to Chrys, I now know about this organisation. It is so heartening when the Catholics understand when they have to live their lives in the reality that we actually live in.

 

Originally posted on Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear:

As a young woman, I felt strongly that, should I have an unplanned pregnancy, I would not want to have an abortion.

But then the day came when, duped by a man who told me he was sterile, I agreed to unprotected sex when I was not on the pill. The next day this wicked Welsh charmer blithely told me he’d ‘made up’ the part about being sterile.

I fell into a panic. The very last thing I wanted was to be pregnant to this bastard who’d so easily lied to get into my pants! Sure, I’d been stupid, but should I really have to pay for that moment of stupidity for the rest of my life?

I visited the Family Planning Clinic and they gave me a ‘morning after’ pill. I’m not even sure if it was legal then, but they gave it to me. The relief was overwhelming.

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Assisted Suicide in the News – Again

You know whenever you come across polls, surveys and other methods that attempt to quantify the public’s attitudes to assisted suicide, euthanasia and just plain suicide, the majority opinion seems to be well in excess of the halfway mark.

YouGov has conducted an online poll of 4,437 British adults for the Westminster Faith Debates. This is a religious organisation commissioning a survey. Well done although I suggest they didn’t warm to the results.

Dr Anne Turner with her son - to Dignitas

Dr Anne Turner with her son – to Dignitas

‘Overall 70% of those questioned said they backed a change in the law.’

Interestingly in this survey 56% of those responders following Catholicism supported a change in the law. The percentage changes were upwards for those not so active in public adherence to their faith. Anglicans, Jewish and Sikh faiths had a majority in favour of a change in the law.

Typically a spokesman (this time for the Church of England) opined that such surveys were the wrong way to go about testing opinion on this issue. Presumably because the results didn’t match his expectations.

In April this year, another petitioner for the right to die with the help of a doctor has made a case that continues the legal challenge mounted by the late Tony Nicklinson.

The inability or refusal of the legal and political fraternity to address this issue head on seems to me to smack of the utter meanness that religion displays in its mantra that suffering is the way to god. It may be naïve to describe it in this way and no doubt I can be taken to task for being simplistic about religious faith and its aspirations. I don’t really give a damn.

Religiosity is simplistic in essence and its tenets are man-made injunctions both for and against specific behaviour. I hold no brook with religiosity of any stripe. Why should I? I am not religious. My point is that I should not be held prisoner to religious privilege in the political agenda nor should any medical attendant have to suffer threats or indictment for murder under a ridiculous archaic and exceedingly antiquated law.

This law was made under the thrall of religiosity and is really and truly antiquated in the 21st century. We have a population (at least in developed countries) where medical technology is able to increase longevity (not necessarily quality of life) with medications and palliative care et al.

Some of us do not want that sort of longevity. Some of us have had enough and some of us, like Nicklinson and Lamb, Purdy and others, want help to end our assessment of the travesty of our lives.

He has mounted a challenge to the law

Paul Lamb – He has mounted a challenge to the law

What is so hard about this? I really do not understand why UK law would consider the compassionate act of a medical person in administering a drug that would end such a life to be murder. It isn’t murder when a vet puts a dog, cat, horse, donkey, cow or any other animal under an anaesthetic and then administers a lethal dose to end its suffering. We are just animals after all. We like to think that because we have developed consciousness that we are special and ‘above’ other animals. Our physical bodies attest that this is not so. We are like every other mammal; we just don’t call each other ‘it’. With tears, love and regret we acquiesce to the induced death of our best loved domestic companions. We grieve, sometimes for years if not decades. If only we could do this with our best friends and family easily with no religious angst.

It is over ten years since the first Briton went to Dignitas to end his life.

Ten years of over 180 Britons having to pay thousands of pounds to go to a Switzerland-based clinic, located in an industrial estate, to end the lives that they consider intolerable. And, make no mistake, it is they who know their lives are intolerable, not some granny state. The extra cost of taking a family member as support for the end of their life is substantial. The Act governing this was made in 1961. Those travelling with the patient could be indicted. So far no one has. That’s not quite good enough They have to be legally immune from arrest as accessories.

They have had to make this decision well before their self-assessed use-by-date because they have not been able to access their own country’s NHS system to find the compassion and willingness to help them through this final hurdle. Why? Maybe it is partly because there is an established religion in this country. There may be a fear of funds for politicking being withdrawn. Maybe big pharma has something to do with it. But I doubt it. 180 people is hardly worth the effort. Many more would not have the funds to enable such a Dignitas visit. So let’s quadruple the number just for fun. 720 people out of a population of some 55 million. And the sky will fall in?? Our moral values will fail – you have to be joking!!

Britain likes to see itself as civilised but I question this. Especially in relation to assisted suicide, the shilly shallying over acceptable criteria to employ for such a euthanasia act is quite pathetic.

In Australia there is currently a window of opportunity::

‘there’s a bill about to be introduced into NSW State Parliament that would give patients the legal right to request a humane, medically-assisted death (voluntary euthanasia). This option includes robust legal safeguards and would only apply to individuals suffering from painful terminal illness.’

It still doesn’t go far enough but it is a start. The Northern Territory passed an Act which was overturned federally because the Northern Territory was ‘just’ a territory and deemed unable to make its own laws. So a mealy mouthed religite conservative put up a bill overturning the Territory’s bill after only one or two people had made use of it.

This quote from the lobby group GetUp says much the same thing I have blogged about before:

‘ … too many Australians choose to end their suffering by the only legal means available to them. Options such as ending life support treatment, cutting off food and water or suiciding, often violently. These options are distressing, prolong suffering and cause further grief and anxiety. They can also push family, friends and medical support away when they’re needed most.’

Can we all please be civilised in the proper sense of the word and leave superstition, religiosity and misplaced pro-life quasi-arguments behind?

People who have made a decision to die because life has become intolerable need help not hindrance.

For those of you who haven’t seen The Barbarian Invasions http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0338135/

I suggest you watch it.