30 June 2016

armchair centre back :: french kiss off

i'm guessing that the english international football team has a wicked collective sense of humour. who else would give us the comedy gold of getting bounced out of the euro tournament scant days after their country voted to leave the e.u. not merely that, but they got sent packing by iceland, a country that, one commentator observed before the game, has a population roughly equal to that of the english town of leicester. [can we just take a moment to salute him for that singularly appropriate comparison?] social media, never a body to look a gift horse in the mouth, exploded with satirical rage, which was not less funny or biting for being predictable. as it stands, referee mark clattenburg's calm and decisive handling of the violent outburst of croatian fans during the croatia v czech republic game will certainly go down as the best performance by an englishman at this year's euro.

worse yet for english fans, it's not like they can even take out their righteous anger on the team who beat them, because that would make them monsters. everyone loves iceland. they are the happy story to emerge from this year's competition, the tournament debutants who were supposed to feel lucky just to be there, but who have ground their way through to the quarter finals. and in a year when fans have been at their worst, icelandic fans have inspired love and awe from everyone with their incredible dedication and that slightly unnerving chant that does seem to have magical powers. apparently, they've only been able to identify 650 people in the entire country who didn't watch the game against england.

iceland is the darling of political progressives [alongside usual suspects norway, sweden, finland and denmark] and while some would argue that its virtues have been overstated, it looks pretty spectacular when you compare it to the chaos unfolding in britannia right now. britons can take heart in the fact that this year's social progress index, ranks iceland only tenth best in the world, while the united kingdom is ninth. on the other hand, the extremely detailed world happiness report [pdf link] sees iceland soaring in third place, while the u.k. languishes in twenty-third. revised fifa ratings haven't been released yet. [warning: both of the study links provided are complete data porn. if, like me, you love analysing numbers and statistics, you're going to want to pour yourself a drink and book some "me" time before investigating them.]

of course, one advantage to having iceland in the competition still is that we get to appreciate the beauty of gylfi sigurdsson a little longer:





there is an undeniable similarity in the looks of most of the icelandic players and it's not just because a somewhat limited gene pool predisposes many of them to sandy blond hair and blue eyes. it seems like everyone from iceland has what i call "the icelandic look": exceptionally bright, intense eyes, handsome features, a sort of ruggedness that speaks of access to fresh ocean air [even the inland parts of the country aren't that inland] and some intangible element that seems to announce "i'm a good and effortlessly cool person". gylfi is just a particularly perfect example of those qualities.

i'm feeling a wee bit miffed at the moment that portugal defeated poland this afternoon to become the first official semi-finalist at the competition. since i'd personally said that i thought poland were a dark horse to move deep into the competition and that i was expecting portugal to disappoint, i feel like today's result was a personal insult. [although i'd still argue that portugal have been disappointing, just not so disappointing that they've been knocked out of the tournament.]

on the other hand, having them around longer does give my eyes a chance to linger on an undeniably tasty morsel of man candy. meet ricardo quaresma:





a portuguese of romani descent, he was, in the early part of the century, supposed to be the yang to cristiano ronaldo's fat-headed yin, but somehow it just never came together. at thirty-two, he's now plying his trade in turkey for besiktas and this will likely be his last international tournament. if this is his last international hurrah, though, he's apparently decided to go out in form. while his crybaby captain has made a series of mack sennett-style blunders, quaresma has picked up the mess and put everything back together. portugal have only won two out of five games and in both wins, it's been quaresma who's pushed them [and the ball] over the line.

unlike the clear-eyed mr. sigurdsson above, quaresma's appeal is a little more... visceral. he caused a bit of a furor [and an hilarious series of imitations] when he posed nude on the cover of tv personality cristina ferreira's eponymous magazine. on a side note, if you've ever doubted that the world is completely fucked when it comes to evaluating bodies, take a good look at the magazine cover above. that's right. his goddamned waist has been photoshopped so that it looks smoother and flatter. look at the other, unretouched photo of him shirtless on the pitch. if that body needs photoshop, we are in deep, deep, deep trouble.

he also had people asking a lot of questions when he showed up at the euro tournament with two teardrops tattooed on the side of his face. the man clearly has an impressive collection of tattoos, but teardrops are usually a way of telling people that you killed people or have been to prison. and obviously, it would have been big news if a player at his level had been to prison.

thus far, quaresma has killed off both croatia and poland, so maybe those teardrops were prophetic. or, possibly, they just been he's sad about the fact that anticristiano can fluff a penalty kick, miss the ball in the box, throw a reporter's mic into a lake and still have the media stumbling over themselves to fawn over him, even while ricardo's the one doing the heavy lifting. but it'll still be nice to see him live to lift another day.

tomorrow sees wales' dragons take on belgium's red devils in the ultimate dungeons and dragons soccer showdown. here's hoping wales' brexit vote wasn't a hint of things to come like it was for their neighbours. 

28 June 2016

making faces :: inspired by "sirènes"

one of the benefits of having frequent bouts of insomnia is the fact that i eventually get frustrated and start hopping around the internet like tigger through the hundred acre wood. i say that's a benefit because, aside from listlessly glancing through sites i frequent during waking hours, or trawling social media for interesting things to read, i spend time perusing youtube, where i can let the algorithms guide me in my search for something to ward off a boredom-induced anxiety attack. [and yes, i know that i shouldn't be looking at the internet when i can't sleep, because i'm just making it worse, but there's only so long i can lie there with my eyes closed, pretending that i'm just about to fall asleep any second now.]

recently, youtube thoughtfully recommended a seven minute short film by obscure belgian filmmaker emile degelin called sirènes. degelin worked mostly on documentaries, but he did make the occasional foray into narrative film, mostly in french, with the occasional foray into flemish [belgian dutch]. his 1960 drama si le vent te fait peur ["if the wind frightens you"] was nominated for the palme d'or and sirènes won the silver bear at the berlin festival the following year.

although not widely known, sirènes was one of the first examples of the meshing of experimental film with experimental electronic music [and you know i'm down for both of those things], which makes me surprised that it's not better known. i'd never heard of it before a few days ago, but more importantly, neither had dom, who rattles of the names of directors, actors, editors, cinematographers, producers, special effects artists and gaffers with the effort most people put into remembering their phone number. he's my barometer of the unknown when it comes to film.

while short, the film is visually and sonically striking, with a predictably nautical theme and three empty-eyed ladies of the title waiting on the rocks. the music both approximates the sirens' call and jolts the viewer away from it, a precursor of things to come in both experimental electronics and jazz.

being one who loves to combine things in life, i thought i would take a stab at recreating the look of titular ladies. whereas most makeup that's associated with mermaids, the sirens' mythological great-grandchild, is filled with cool blues and greens, from icy to bold, degelin's sirens are seen only in black and white. their eyes are surrounded with smudged and softly smoky eyeshadow, set off from the lashes by subtly flicked black liner and crowned with strong brows. their lips appear natural- bold colours would show up as dark on film. their hair has a fluffy, unkempt look. these are all things i find much more appropriate to the idea of the siren, because, if she lived by the sea, with all that misty, salty air, it's likely that her eye makeup would smudge, while the rest of it faded completely and that her hair would look wild. [all this is assuming that sirens or mermaids existed and that they bothered to do a full face of makeup while they were waiting to kill off random passersby.]

so this might not be a typical siren/ mermaid look, but i guess that makes it an experimental mermaid, in keeping with the film that inspired it.





the base ::
tarte rainforest of the sea foundation :: fair neutral
nars radiant creamy concealer :: vanilla
lise watier ombre velours cream shadow :: vanille velours [used as an eyeshadow base]
guerlain météorites illuminating powder :: 2 clair/ light

the eyes ::
nars e/s :: lhasa
rouge bunny rouge e/s :: eclipse eagle
mac extra dimension e/s :: fathoms deep
rouge bunny rouge e/s :: snowy egret
mac e/s :: dazzlelight

the cheeks ::
charlotte tilbury filmstar bronze and glow :: light/ medium [highlight only]
mac blush :: darkly, my dear*
mac beauty powder :: her own devices*

the lips ::
mac l/s :: blankety

*suggested alternates :: darkly, my dear = mac blushbaby; her own devices = mac tenderling

although you can only see it properly in one of the photos, i stayed on theme with a sand dollar necklace. and while my hair has really had any problems looking puffed up with humidity, i did get a little help looking windswept from the fan we have going in the office. i will admit that i went a little easy on the lower lash line smudging, because i had to go out in public, and laying on too thick is unkind on my face, because i sadly have no ocean air or sailor's blood to keep my complexion perfect and ageless.

and just for good measure, here's a shot of my take on the look in black and white:



and finally, now that i've talked about it so much, why not take a few minutes and enjoy sirènes for yourself?



inspiration for anything and everything can come from anywhere and everywhere. 

27 June 2016

mental health mondays :: the long hot summer

my mental health summer home
it is that time of year, when the piercing screech of teens at the high school across the street no longer fills my ears as i sit here typing. and not for the first time, this sweet oasis of silence [although, i must admit that there is a truck either filling or drilling a hole in the road directly below me]... this sweet theoretical oasis of silence leads me to think about how much time i have and where i want to direct it on the blog. and, as has happened before, i've decided to give mhm a little vacation.

it will return, as it has before, in early september, unless there's something over the summer that i just have to write about immediately.

i figure that, with a couple more weeks of euro [and man candy], the u.k. imploding, the u.s. election drawing ever closer, and everything else that goes through my mind on a regular basis, i'm going to have plenty to keep me occupied. [oh, and there's also a writing project that needs some attention, related to this post.]

in the meantime, you can always read the mental health mondays archive. there are dozens of posts on various subjects to do with mental health in there. however, if that sounds like a lot of stuff to go through, perhaps you'd like to start with some of my personal favourite posts on the subject:

a list of things you absolutely should say to someone with a mental disorder [which was really a follow-up to my earlier list of things you should never say]

why you [probably] don't have ocd

a rumination about mass murder and pickles

the best place to live if you're crazy

a guide to discontinuing psychiatric medications [if you must]

all about omega-3s

that's probably more than enough to keep you busy for the summer, especially if you plan on coming back to read the other things i'll no doubt be posting.

as always, if you have something you'd like to see covered here, please feel free to comment or drop an email to info[at]fsquaredmedia[dot]net. we live to serve.

p.s. :: go out in the sun! vitamin d is awesome for depression! but wear sunscreen, because skin cancer is terrible for depression.

p.p.s. :: i know i have readers in the southern hemisphere. i'm sorry that i never seem to take you into consideration when i'm writing these posts. i love you all.

24 June 2016

english brexit

once you see it...
as the flood of emotion rolls forward in the wake of england's vote to leave the european union, it's clear that it is going to take a long time for wounds to heal. it's also clear that things remain [maybe not the best word to use, under the circumstances] very unclear. no one knows exactly how long it will take britain to back out of the e.u. up until last night, representatives of the "leave" campaign were quick to point out that the prime minister could either begin the official process of negotiating with the e..u. the terms of withdrawal [and saying that he should do so immediately], or that he could really speed things up by simply repealing the parliamentary act that joined britain to the e.u. in the first place. this morning, when britain has no prime minister and the pound sterling on fire, everyone is quick to emphasize that it will, of course, take years before the final split will take place.

those who awoke feeling good better about the future of their country are relishing their victory over the elites: the arrogant, monied, university-educated snobs who have for years betrayed the working man in the name of big finance and globalism. and thinking about it that way, it sounds like the sort of thing i should be happy about.

but then i wondered: at what point did education become a bad thing? when did we stop wanting our leaders to be an elite?

to paraphrase jon stewart reacting to criticism of barack obama, i want my leaders to be better than me in every way. i want them to be smarter, i want them to be harder-working, i want them to be more knowledgeable, i want them to be more compassionate, more responsible, more rational and more honest. and if not all of them can be all of those things, i want a team that collectively embodies everything that makes up for my failings. i want my leadership- in every situation, not just national government- to be elite as fuck.

so why do i feel so isolated in that belief?

it's comforting for people like me to just shake our heads and think that people are stupid and ignorant, but the truth is that the anti-elitists have a point: supposedly left-leaning parties like the american democrats or britain's labour party have sold out their poor and working-class base to big money interests and those people are legitimately suffering because of their decisions. so when leaders from the major parties descend to the level of the common man to wag their fingers and tell people to fall in line, it shouldn't be surprising when the reaction is to tell those people to go to hell.

and from the chaos, there is always someone- nigel farage, donald trump, stephen harper- who rushes in to stoke our ugliest instincts, peddling simple answers that sound revolutionary to jaded ears. it's no accident that one of donald trump's supporters was filmed saying that he didn't mind his candidate's refusal [or inability] to explain any of his policies, because the problem with politics was that there were "too many words". after all, words are the purview of the well-educated, wealthy people who've made such disastrous decisions for their countrymen. they speak without saying anything and six weeks later, thousands of jobs have been "off-shored" and you're spending billions to bail out a corrupt banking industry.

like farage and trump, these people inevitably come from the same elite background as the ones who caused all the damage in the first place, and they generally support the fiscal policies that caused the greatest pain. but they're smart enough to know that providing a scapegoat [one whose differences are easy to notice], and encouraging the public to isolate themselves from "others" makes things easier for the people in charge. smaller groups are easier to control, and pitting different factions against each other distracts from anything else that might be happening.

[oh, and to those who complain that the biggest problem with immigrants is their unwillingness to assimilate: history teaches us that immigrants fare best when they slaughter and subjugate the inhabitants of their new country without mercy. trying to maintain your cultural identity while living peacefully alongside others? ask the jews and the romani how well that's worked out for them.]

it's an effective strategy, not because we're stupid, but because it appeals to the deepest, most ancient part of our brains, the remnant of a world where things outside the immediate tribe of the common and known were often extremely dangerous. for all the polish we've put on ourselves, we are still creatures living in our caves, afraid of strange noises. and those who make exploit that are able to make us act against our own best interests.

those fighting on the side of the "remain" campaign were hamstrung because they couldn't be honest about the problems of the e.u. and globalisation, being the same people who'd brought on the problems to begin with. and that fear of admitting past mistakes made it impossible to respond to the dissembling of ukip and their ilk in a way that would have been respectful to the rightly frustrated working class. a proper response would have been to say that britain needs immigrants to save its economy as the population ages and shrinks, and that concerns about workers from poorer countries driving down wages was best alleviated by a higher minimum wage and protections for working people. even better, they could have added that the promise of freeing britons from the horror of european rules imposed from without was actually a promise to strip their rights away. but that's not a case that david cameron [or a neoliberal like tony blair] could make, since he supports neither raising the minimum wage nor strengthening protections for workers. likewise, the people who have slashed funding for research programs cannot make a compelling case that maintaining e.u. funding for science, humanities and the arts is important.

instead, the "remain" side fell back on the politics of fear, threatening people with the prospect of an economic meltdown, without appreciating that people who are already struggling to pay their bills, or who are unemployed, aren't worrying about their stock portfolios or retirement funds. if anything, the prospect of economic upheaval presents an opportunity to level the playing field, knocking those arrogant bastards who are so convinced they know better down a few pegs.

even more persuasive was the promise that withdrawing from the e.u. would put control back in the hands of britons. the focus of the argument was largely on immigration, but for people who've watched helplessly as european leaders imposed austerity [which many now admit was a mistake, although they've no plans to fix it], the idea of having any power to fix their situation is pretty tempting. the problem is that politicians like farage and his tory allies believe in the same kinds of big business/ big capital solutions as angela merkel and christine lagarde. even this morning, he was scurrying away from his promise that the money saved by exiting the e.u. would be reinvested in the national health system.

in the grand clash of transnational corporate capitalism versus reactionary ethno-nationalism, i have no horse in the race. i think that power is best vested in those who have to live with the consequences of the decisions they make, which generally means keeping it close to home. on the other hand, i don't have any sympathy with those who would breed hysteria over immigrants putting too much strain on social services while cutting those services to the bone in the name of austerity. pulling power back from a distant body is a fine idea, but what's really important is whom you hand it to afterward.

in the aftermath, leaders of the scottish national party have unsurprisingly announced that a second referendum on independence is on the table. one of the main reasons that people voted against the referendum last time was nervousness about whether or not they would be able to continue in the e.u. as a separate state. last night, every riding, including those that voted "no" to independence, voted to remain with the e.u. and in northern ireland, which likewise voted to remain, leaders are calling for a vote on reunification with the republic. spain has floated the idea of co-managing the territory of gibraltar, which voted more than 95% to remain. huge swathes of the rural areas and smaller towns voted to leave, but london, manchester, liverpool, birmingham, cardiff, leicester, bristol and leeds [alongside the cities in scotland and northern ireland] all voted to remain. the most resounding victories for the "leave side" came in the working class areas of the northwest, traditionally a labour stronghold, although every labour mp supported the "remain" side. even cornwall, which voted solidly [and above the national average] to leave has nervously asked for reassurances that they won't actually lose the money that the e.u. has poured into their region. there is already a petition to demand another referendum, given the close result, and it looks embarrassingly like many people voted without knowing a lot about what they were doing.

never has the united kingdom looked less united. 

23 June 2016

how to write a '10 best' article

i recently re-posted one of those "top ___ essential albums" for the noise genre on my facebook page. i don't normally do that, but in this case, some of the choices were legitimately interesting, if questionable. as i'd hoped, it generated debate about its obvious oversights and its surprising inclusions, rather than the usual reaction such lists get. usually, the response is fifty shades of "this person is a fucking idiot" and, while a lot of the time i agree with those sentiments [at least as far as their article/ post is concerned], there seems to be little point in sharing something just so that people get angry about it. my friends have enough to be angry about without me making it worse.

my post did, however, spawn a couple of discussions about how exactly one should go about making such a list, given that music [or film, or books, or virtually any sort of cultural artefact] is something on which people hold both very strong and very subjective opinions. were there criteria that could make one list better than the others? was it even possible to come close to objectivity? is there even a point to coming up with one of these lists? so, rather than make my own list [which i do in my head all the time anyway], i thought i'd put years of music fandom and article-writing to use and write the more like space guide to creating 'all time best' lists.

my first piece of advice is simple: don't.

seriously, unless you're some sort of masochist who gets thrills from seeing your carefully composed work shredded by dozens of people or more, just avoid coming up with all-time bests. yes, it's tempting, because we always reflect on the things that influenced us, or enlightened us, or whose importance we feel should be recognised. but no one in the world is going to have our same list and anyone who knows enough about the subject to appreciate what you've done is going to be even more pissed off that your list doesn't match theirs. you can't win at this game. no one can win. so your best option is not to play.

but if you're determined, here's what i'd recommend, based on what i've seen both in terms of articles and the reactions to them.

1. know what you're talking about. the single greatest criticism that gets leveled at these lists is that the author doesn't know enough about the subject to credibly write about it. yes, everyone's knowledge has limits, but if you're writing about a genre of music that you've fallen in love with in the last year, unless you've dedicated some serious time to becoming an expert, chances are that you're going to have a lot of holes in your list. now, that's not to say that you can't work around that, but we'll talk more about that later.

2. talk about the 'why', not the 'what'. i think one of the reasons why these lists get trashed so quickly is that a lot of people who write them are content to offer just a quick description of what an item on the list is, not why it's being included. if you're going to talk about 'bests' or 'essentials', you should have a reason why something appears on your list. psycho appears on lists of greatest horror films not because everyone loves it so much [although most of them do], but because of things like its hyper-dramatic score, its gritty realism, its incredible editing [a whole scene in a shower, that shows all the horror, but none of the nudity] and its shock tactic of having the central character killed off quite early. people can watch or listen to excerpts of virtually anything online, so they don't need someone rattling off what its elements are. they need to know why it deserves to be considered 'the best', or some other superlative.

3. focus. you rarely hear griping about year-end best-ofs, not because people agree with them anymore, but because their bounded by a strict time limit. maybe your list would be different, but the list is more of a snapshot than something that claims to be a summation of years of everyone's work. this is especially true if points #1 and #2 seem like more work than you want to put in on a list few people will ever read. let yourself off easy and come up with a list that's about a very specific category of things. doing a best-of list of punk albums from the early 80s, or american power electronics acts is going to be less demanding than trying to come up with a comprehensive list of all the best releases in either category. on the other hand, if you really want to do a big, comprehensive list, refer to point #1.

4. it's ok to be subjective. if point #1 is a problem, but you still want to create a list of essentials, there is absolutely nothing wrong with making up a list of things that were influential on you and the development of your tastes, as long as you're not pretending that it's anything else. talk about the effect that an album had on you, how it changed your taste or your perspective. even if people don't agree with your choices, chances are they've experienced the sentiment and all of a sudden, what they're reading is more welcoming and inclusive. don't make enemies where you can make friends.

5. be the list you want to see in the world. this one's pretty straightforward, but create something that you'd be interested in reading. chances are that the things that annoy you about these sorts of articles are the same ones that annoy everyone else who reads them. but the reason that we keep reading them is because we are legitimately curious about what others who share our freakish tastes think.

so there it is, my debate-proof, eternal list of things that make a good list. if you disagree, it is because you are wrong.

the picture above is a page of the domesday book, specifically dealing with warwickshire. not the most entertaining book of lists, but definitely one that belongs on a list of important lists.

21 June 2016

if you leave

this post should properly be tagged "world wide wednesdays", because it's not a mental health mondays post at all [unless you consider international politics to be a form of madness, in which case you might be onto something]. i haven't done a www post in a while, simply because i haven't had the blocks of time free to put into researching and writing them, but there is one issue that i wanted to address and i didn't want to wait until wednesday the 22nd to do it. so here is the non-comprehensive but well-intended more like space guide to the brexit.

when i first heard about this story, i thought that the newscaster said "breakfast", which seemed bizarre. i know that the british take their breakfasts pretty seriously [as seriously as the heart attacks they cause], but it seemed excessive that they were having some kind of national referendum about a meal. then, of course, i figured out that they meant brexit, which is the successor to grexit, which never happened, but was the name given to the possibility that greece could leave [or be forced out of] the european union. the united kingdom, however, has gone farther than greece ever did and will be holding a referendum on whether or not to dissociate themselves from the e.u. on the 23rd of june.

the polls show that the race is exceedingly tight, although it should be pointed out that those same polls also said that the 2015 uk election was just as tight, up until the moment when david cameron's conservative party rolled to a comfortable majority. in recent days, emotions around the debate have risen after labour mp [and a strong supporter of the "remain" campaign] jo cox was violently murdered by a man named thomas mair, but who prefers to be known as "death to traitors, freedom for britain". that name, along with the allegation that he shouted "britain first" as he repeatedly shot and stabbed cox, has fed fears that the "leave" campaign is, at its heart, a racist scare campaign tweaked with politically correct language.  

leaders of the "leave" campaign have been quick to denounce cox's murder and to reassure people that this is clearly the act of one mentally ill man. it's tough to argue with that, given that even the magistrate in his preliminary hearing said that it was obvious he was in need of a psychiatric evaluation. however, it seems that voters aren't so convinced by the argument. within the day that cox was murdered, one poll [see earlier link] found that support for the "leave" side dropped 7%. in a race as tight as this one appears to be, that kind of shift is massive.

the referendum had already been deeply divisive, and these most recent events have pushed things still further, however, the fact remains that on thursday, voters in the united kingdom are going to the polls.

as i mentioned, the referendum fulfills a promise made by british prime minister david cameron. however, cameron is urging voters to opt to remain. huh?

you see, cameron made the promise chiefly to placate some of those in his party who very much do want to leave and also because he felt promising such a vote would help draw votes away from the farther-right u.k. independence party, who had fared well in the elections to the european parliament [although they haven't fared so well in the parliament itself]. whether or not that was a good idea is something cameron is likely to ask himself as he's awaiting results and chewing off his own fingernails on thursday evening.

one of cameron's chief arguments in favour of staying is that he negotiated a compromise with the e.u. that would accomplish the goals he had for leaving without having to go through the actual process. his agreement allows britain to


  • cap child support payments sent from migrants working in britain at a level commensurate with the government's estimate of the cost of living in the country to which the money is being sent [i.e., support money will not be sent based on the cost of living in the u.k., where it is far more expensive]. 
  • limit the benefits given to low-wage workers from other e.u. countries for the first four years that they live in the u.k.
  • continue using the pound [which has not been an issue per se, but protects the u.k. from having to bail out the euro, since they won't be using it]
  • extend special protections to london-based financial institutions, to exempt them from e.u. regulations
  • limit future involvement in the e.u., including the creation of a veto system that would allow national governments to overturn decisions by the european commission [which is not the parliament, but a group appointed by the elected members of parliament and the ones who have ultimate say over e.u. business] 
you can read a much more detailed assessment of the cameron deal here

the "leave" campaign [which includes almost half of cameron's caucus] is quick to point out that cameron's agreement is exactly that, an agreement, not a legally binding contract, which means that the e.u. could renege on their promises at any time. and they're equally quick to point out that none of those points address the two concerns that that form the heart of their argument:

  • that the u.k. is paying billions of dollars into the e.u. every year, money that could be better spent at home
  • that the union's "open border" policy forces the u.k. to take in more immigrants and refugees than it can handle, putting downward pressure on wages and straining public services. 
the financial argument is that britain pays nearly £20 billion pounds a year to the european union- more than its budget for schools and enough to build a fully staffed nhs hospital every week. the total budget of the united kingdom for 2016 is £772 billion. compared to that figure £20 billion doesn't seem like a massive investment [it's about 2.5% of the total, but we'll break that down a little shortly]. however, revenues are projected to be only £716 billion, leaving the government with a deficit of £56 billion. that's still a lot more than £20 billion, but if the u.k. were to cut its losses, it seems that it could also cut about 35% of its deficit. 

i'm being a bit facetious there, because it's not like the u.k. would just cease to be part of the european union on the 24th. yes, it's something that could be voted on immediately, but it would more than likely take a couple of years to work out all the details. [even that's just a guess, because only one country, greenland, has ever left the e.u. and you can't really use greenland as a comparison to the u.k., beyond saying they're both islands. but that doesn't mean that people haven't tried.]

but if i'm being facetious, it's nothing compared to the people who are dangling that £20 billion figure. because that's the gross contribution the u.k. makes to the european union budget. in point of fact, the u.k. gets a rebate on that amount before it ever leaves the country and then a considerable amount comes back in the form of public and private sector investments made by the e.u., leaving the net contribution at closer to £8.5 billion. the still means that britain is a net contributor to the e.u. [i.e., they pay in more money than they get out], but leaving the e.u. won't save anything close to £20 billion. 

nonetheless, the "leave" campaign has pointed out that when the u.k. joined the union, it was only nine countries. now it's twenty-eight and it looks like they're willing to let just about anybody in these days. the concern is that, as more countries, especially those from eastern europe, are admitted, wealthier countries like the u.k. will have to contribute more to prop up their fragile economies. in 2005, they were forced to reduce the rebate that they got in order to get more money into the european budget, which in turn offset the costs involved in admitting newer, poorer members. 

however, that's a little misleading, because, while there was a somewhat significant increase in 2013, britain's payments to the e.u. have increased only slightly in the last fifteen years. the gross payment has increased, but the rebates paid have increased as well, meaning that the net increase has been fairly little. and contributions look set to  decrease even further over the next five years. [side note :: there are occasional spikes in budgetary contributions due to the seven year cycle of e.u. budgets. towards the end of a cycle, projects that have been in the planning stages start to require larger sums of money as they come to fruition.] 

the "remain" campaign has warned that billions of dollars will be yanked out of the u.k. economy and cost thousands of jobs, which sounds pretty scary, but it assumes that there would be no benefits to e.u. countries maintaining its current level of trade with the u.k. that's just silly. the u.k. imports more goods from europe than it exports to them [and the gap grows every year], and no business owners in their right mind are going to want to give that up. more likely- really, the only possible solution- is that part of the "brexit" package will include terms for settling a new trade agreement that allows the u.k. to continue trading with the european common market. 

norway and switzerland are both non-union members who have trade agreements with the e.u. in order to access the single market, they pay money into the e.u. budget, which is what the u.k. would expect to do if they leave. so how much would that cost? the "leavers" say "a lot less than what we pay now" and "remainders" say that it would be about the same, but without all the benefits of membership. in fact, kind of depends on which example you take. as of 2011, the u.k. was paying roughly £128 per capita for membership in the e.u. at the same time, switzerland was paying about £53 per capita to participate in the single market. however norway was paying £106 per capita. neither of those countries are the u.k., but it raises an interesting, deeply confusing point: the cost would likely be less, but how much less is hard to calculate. [read more]

also worth considering is what the money that goes into the european budget actually does. one of the great complains against it is that the e.u. does little with the money except create more bureaucracy and there is certainly a lot of money put into regulatory bodies. the pro-brexit site open europe estimates the costs that those european-driven regulations is in the tens of billions for businesses in the u.k. most interesting, however, is the list they give of the five costliest regulatory bodies. 

four of the five initiatives identified are ones that protect the rights of workers and protect the environment. that's not terribly surprising, since europe are to the left of the u.k. on a lot of issues that involve employment and the environment, and there's nothing to stop the u.k. government from enacting its own rules with the same effects. but it raises the question of what exactly the "leavers" are trying to get rid of. as it stands, it seems like the chief enemies are workers with rights, the environment [including things like protected species and conservation areas] and possibly human rights in general, since the government has committed to repealing the law that forces britain to accept decisions of the european court of human rights as precedent. [side note :: the court of human rights is not part of the e.u., so the referendum will not affect the u.k.'s participation in that body. but i do think that the fact that so many of the people who want to opt out of the e.u. also want to opt out of following the court is worth mentioning.]

wow. all of that and not one mention of the only thing that seems to be on the minds of most voters: immigrants. well, there is a reason why i've left this to the end, which is that i was hoping that you'd go through all the dry number-y stuff before getting to the thing that most likely to set off powder kegs of emotion. when mr. deathtotraitorsfreedomforbritain shot and stabbed jo cox to death, he was not doing so because of a disagreement over gross versus net contributions to the european budget. 

when people were calling attention to the fact that the uk independence party had made a poster in favour of leaving [the party is not a participant in the official "leave" campaign, but is running its own parallel campaign] that resembled a piece of actual nazi propaganda, it was not a poster about the detrimental effects of european regulations on the u.k. 

this is a very touchy area and the reason that politicians are using it is precisely because it drives up the emotional temperature. fast, cheap travel and enormous differences in earning potential have brought cultures into closer and closer contact and this has frequently raised tensions. the idea that a referendum on whether or not the united kingdom should remain part of the european union will somehow resolve tensions about immigration, cultural change, reasonable accommodation and the legacy of colonialism, is facile. 

nonetheless, there are clearly implications for immigration whether the u.k. votes to stay or leave and they should be addressed. 

the case put forward by vote leave, take control is that the influx of immigrants into the u.k. is untenable and will eventually bankrupt programs like the nhs [national health service]. their estimate of the net number of immigrants into the u.k. per year is 250,000. others put the number at closer to 300,000, but suffice it to say that it's in that ballpark. [net immigration is the difference between the number of people who arrive versus the number of people who leave. the actual number of immigrants into the u.k. is, of course, higher, but is partly offset by departures.]

so, in a country with a population of 64 million, how big a deal is another 300,000 per year? canada, with a population about half that size, receives about 250,000 immigrants per year, the vast majority of them in or around just three cities- vancouver, toronto and montreal. now, canada and the u.k. are clearly different, but the idea that a country simply cannot handle that number of immigrants relative to its existing population is clearly wrong. in both countries, immigrants on the whole pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits and the strain on social programs like health services is made much worse by government cutbacks than by increased demand. 

between 2011 and 2015, the population of the u.k. increased by around 1 million, which means that the only reason why the country continues to grow is because of the 250-300,000 immigrants it allows in per year. countries with aging and declining populations are at risk of losing social services, because they no longer have the tax base to support them. so far from causing problems, immigration may be the only thing that is saving britain's social safety net. 

that said, the conservatives came to power promising to reduce the number of immigrants it admitted to 100,000 per year, so it's clear that they're not coming closing to meeting that target. and since they did receive a majority, it's not unreasonable to assume that's a target most citizens want them to hit.

but it's not just the number of immigrants that is an issue, but who those immigrants might be. in the age of perpetual terrorism, taking measures to protect your citizens is just common sense. and with attacks in france and belgium still fresh in all of our minds, one could understand why the e.u.'s free-flowing open border policy makes some people uncomfortable. and while it's true that border crossing have been strengthened in the wake of those attacks, the best way to guard against terrorists, or other criminals, since terrorism isn't the only, or even the biggest crime problem europe faces, is not to let the bad people in to begin with. 

now, we're going to leave aside commentary on how a lot of terrorists are homegrown in europe, or about how restricting certain people because of their religion or ethnicity is racism, no matter what authorities call it. that's not because those aren't important issues, but because they're secondary to issues of immigration into the united kingdom from europe. 

about half of the immigrants that enter the u.k. every year come from the e.u., so any discussion about these immigration rules only refers to the 150-180,000 from european countries. 

in order to allow people to move freely and easily within the cramped space that is europe, the e.u. created something known as the schengen area, a region where citizens of any of the participating countries could travel without having to show passports or go through other border controls. for the purposes of travel, the schengen area functions as one country. this makes things a lot easier for people who do business in multiple countries [which includes people who work and live in different countries], but it does create potential security risks. it's easier for criminals to move around and do business undetected, for instance, as long as they hold a european passport. and it rests on the assumption that all countries will be equally vigilant and incorruptible when it comes to letting people in. 

now, the europeans aren't completely unaware of the risks. countries who join the e.u. are obliged to join the schengen area, but they also have to prove that they're capable of maintaining certain standards. bulgaria and romania, who joined the e.u. in 2007, have had their admittance to the schengen area blocked, because of concerns about corruption, the presence of organised crime and their preparedness to handle the expected number of immigration requests. cyprus has held off on joining schengen until its own, sometimes violent, territorial dispute is settled. so it's not like there aren't safeguards, it's just that those concerned with the effect of immigration in the u.k. don't necessarily trust bulgaria to check who should be moving to britain. 

but here's the thing: none of that matters, because the u.k. isn't part of the schengen area.

although it's required now for e.u. members to join, when the area was established, the u.k. and the republic of ireland were allowed to opt out. people coming to either country from europe have to go through the same border checks as i do [and they don't get to stand in the much shorter "commonwealth citizens" line at heathrow]. as of 2004, the u.k. signed on to the police and security provisions of the agreement, to benefit from information sharing, but that's it. 

congratulations. you made it. this was a really long post, but here you are and it's almost over. 

the economist has referred to the entire referendum campaign- including both sides- as "parochial and vacuous". i haven't seen enough of the coverage to say one way or the other, but it does seem that there are a lot of statements being tossed around that are either half-explained, misleading or inflammatory and none of that is helpful in a situation that calls for serious thought. i have found some extremely good materials online, many of them through the bbc, who have a cache of all sorts of information, including a convenient summary of major issues and the positions of both sides of the debate.

i imagine that if you're eligible to vote, you've already decided how, but if not, please take a moment to look around [the linked articles in this post explain things better than i ever could] and take a moment to think about what would be lost and gained by leaving the e.u., because it is an important decision with ramifications far beyond the u.k. and even europe. 

choose wisely and well and good luck on the 23rd.

19 June 2016

armchair centre back :: ultraviolence and underdogs

riot, the unbeatable high
so, ten days in, and we have a sense of how euro 2016 is unfolding. or unravelling, as the case may be. the entire event has been marred by some of the worst displays of fandom in recent memory, including bloodletting in marseille and a steward nearly getting his hand blown off while trying to clear the pitch of firecrackers. i'm not sure what this is supposed to accomplish, but it's more or less amounted to several teams getting sanctioned by uefa and threatened with outright disqualification if there's another incident in any of the stadiums with their fans. of course, it also raises questions as to how, amidst all the supposed security, fans have been able to smuggle in explosives, especially in light of the fact that both uefa and the french police have been bragging about foiling a terrorist attack aimed for the belgium v. ireland game. [you know, it wasn't all that long ago that the terrorists in that equation would have been from ireland.]

[side note :: the people responsible for the violence are a class of fans known as "ultras". they're more akin to hardcore nationalists than sports fans, although they support local teams as well as national ones. they revel in the adrenaline and violence of a sporting event in ways that most people find frightening, often hiding their identities in anticipation of being involved in illegal activities. you can read what they say about themselves here. if france was caught off-guard by the presence of ultras at the euro, they have no one to blame but themselves. russian authorities apparently passed on the names of known troublemakers among their fans and german border police turned back a group of balaclava-wearing travelers, warning their french neighbours that others who were smart enough to take their fucking masks off before reaching the border could have slipped through. watch a chilling but fascinating documentary on the mix of sport and politics that make up ultra culture in serbia right here.] 

irish and swedish fans sang abba and partied together
thus far, the list of countries under threat of sanction includes england, russia, turkey hungary and croatia, the latter being the ones who almost blew off a steward's hand. the croatian violence was actually intended to get the country's detested, corrupt football association in trouble and to get them fined, however it arguably cost the national team a win in a game they were leading until minutes after the disturbance was quelled. meaning that croatia missed the opportunity to qualify for the tournament knock out round with a game to spare. i still think the troublemakers should have been returned to the stadium to face the wrath of the rest of the croatian fans. [you can now add albania to the list of bad fans. when they scored their only goal of the tournament this afternoon, there was a visible flare launched in the crowd. very safety. much dumb. wow.]

all that looks bad for the fans, but it looks terrible for france and uefa, especially in marseille, where police seemed surprised to find out there was a major international tournament going on. the fact that authorities seem to have been reactive rather than proactive has meant that fans have more or less been operating on the honour system. some fans, notably sweden, ireland and wales [who received a twitter high five from the tourist bureau in bordeaux], have shown themselves to be very capable at adulting, even while enjoying sport. others have ended up with a face full of tear gas. it's all rather unseamly, especially since the tournament itself has been a lot of fun when people weren't getting burned and bludgeoned.

none of the teams have been embarrassingly bad, something that was a concern because more teams were included this year. there have been a shocking number of goals scored within the last ten minutes of games, which makes for excitement. there have been upsets [i'm looking at you, hungary]. the most lopsided matches were 3-0 wins for spain and belgium. everything else has been pretty tight. [3-0 might sound like a substantial victory for this sport, until you consider that, in the copa america that is taking place right now in the u.s., chile defeated tournament favourites mexico 7-0 last night. that, friends, is a shellacking.]

suck it, england. people like having us around.
looking briefly at what dom and i predicted, we're doing fairly well. we're still pretty convinced that germany is going to prevail. [i was disappointed both the mannschaft and poland seemed to hold back playing against each other, probably understanding that they both had a good chance of winning their third games, having both already won their first. decent strategy, but not the most entertaining thing for viewers.] spain have been at the top of their game and do look go far in the tournament. france have cruised to victory twice, although it's been less a team effort and more the dimitri payet show. at 29, payet may be a late bloomer [for club and country], but it seems like he can't stop blooming.

we are both feeling smug about the fact that portugal have fulfilled our expectations as the most overhyped quantity of the tournament. anticristiano ronaldo missing a penalty shot is already one of my highlights of the summer. my secondary prediction that belgium would fail to find their rhythm is a split result, with them getting humbled by lowly hungary and their trackpant-wearing keeper, then spinning things around for one of the tournament's most dominant displays. i swear that there are body doubles of the entire team and they're alternating which ones get on the pitch. [which raises the question of what french authorities are doing to protect everyone from a possible invasion of pod people disguised as the belgian national team.]

most journalists seemed to have italy pegged as the most likely to disappoint this year and while i will say that i probably underestimated them a little, my predictions for them have been less wrong than those of the professionals. behold, i am better at this than people who know what they're talking about. my choice for tournament "dark horse", poland, do look set to advance, despite the rather tepid game against germany. count on them grinding out results rather than dazzling.

and, in honour of some of the surprising results thus far [still looking at you, hungary, but you can throw in albania, iceland and northern ireland as well], i figured i should share some of the surprised morsels of mancandy i've spotted after carefully reviewing each team's offering.

adil rami :: france




french by nationality, corsican by birth, moroccan by parentage and stunning by any stretch, rami caught my attention during the very first euro game. apparently, he's been with the national team since 2010, but an injury to national teammate raphaël varane has seen him bumped up to the a-team. makes for nice viewing during france's games now that olivier giroud is sporting that despicable hair mask. free the face!!

granit xhaka :: switzerland




arsenal snapped him up before the tournament even got started, which isn't surprising since the team seems to have a hotness quotient much higher than their premier league rivals. he has this kind of adorable, clean-cut boy next door quality that i don't normally go for, but i'd happily have him living next door. he also has the most perfect eyebrows i think i've ever seen, which means i have both lust and jealousy in my heart. two deadly sins for the price of one!! [oh, and if you were watching the game this afternoon, xhaka went through no fewer than three shirts during the match. even opposing players want to tear his clothes off.]

emre can :: germany




one of my favourite things about any liverpool game is getting to see emre can [pronounced "chan"] hustle around the field. of course, it's also nice just to sit back and look at him when he's not hustling, when you can appreciate those penetrating eyes and beestung lips. and he's now old enough that it's not illegal to do so.

aaron ramsey :: wales




teammate gareth bale might get all the attention as a player, but let's face facts, the man looks like he's barely out of the trees. aaron, on the other hand, is legitimately a male model when he's not playing for club [arsenal again!] or country and it's pretty easy to see why. unlike the rest of the world, i actually like his new platinum 'do, but i think he could wear a wasp nest on his head and still look good. oh, and he's also a huge advocate for animal rights, because being hot, rich, young and successful didn't make him attractive enough.

tl;dr: here's what i'd like to see happen going forward at the euro

less violence from fans of all nationalities
continue with late goals
continue with surprises from underdogs
more ripping of shirts and feel free to start on pants

gorau chwarae cyd chwarae

15 June 2016

making faces :: sweet and savoury bites

as i mentioned in my initial review of bite beauty's amuse bouche lipsticks, there are some new shades that have been released for summer. the collection, featuring six new shades is called "sweet and savoury", three that fall into each 'camp'. the sweet shades are lighter and softer. the savoury shades are intense and deep. i've heard different things about the status of these shades: some say all are limited, some say all are permanent, still others say it's a mix, but even then, i've heard different things about which are the limited shades. it's all very stressful and confusing, because i wasn't sure which shades i should pick up to ensure i didn't miss out.

in the end, i selected two, which was difficult, because in this small collection, bite has managed to overcome the one niggling concern that i had about them. i've mentioned before that the biggest reason i don't rush out and buy every single bite lipstick is because i find a lot of their shades are just too easily matched to colours already in my considerable lipstick cache. with "sweet and savoury", they have broken through into the realm of very original shades, including ones that are offbeat and ones that are understated.

in the end, i went with probably the two most eye-catching shades, one sweet and one savoury [because i'm a libra and obsessed with balance]: "lavender jam" and "kale".

"lavender jam" is a bright blue-toned purple, that will pull more blue on those with cooler undertones. there's a slight grey cast to it that keeps it from looking neon, which is nice, since a lot of these types of colours are made with a white base, something i'm increasingly convinced looks good on no one. i think that this shade would look amazing on someone with cool, slightly muted colouring, someone who falls in the light summer, true summer or dark winter sci/ art seasons. it's still a bit daring for anyone, because the colour almost glows from within, another thing that makes it very distinctive. i think that auxiliary beauty hit the nail on the head when she compared the colour to hydrangeas, a flower that has already inspired a blog post for me.

lavender jam
lavender jam

the formula is very good, in keeping with what i've come to expect from the amuse bouche lipsticks, but i found that this one had a tendency to appear a little uneven if i didn't take the time to get it right. it wore evenly enough, which is a relief, and left a faint lilac-purple stain after a few hours.

i didn't even bother making comparison swatches for this shade, because i knew right away that i have nothing similar. remember what i said about my extensive cache of lipsticks? it is a pretty amazing thing when i have to throw up my hands and admit that there is nothing close enough to even warrant a comparison.

my savoury choice was "kale", which is certainly one of the most talked-about shades bite has ever released [not least because they gave titillating hints about it on social media before its release]. it's a deep, dark green with a lustrous sheen, like a steamed or sauteed version of its namesake vegetable. [preferably with olive oil and a hefty amount of garlic, because otherwise, kale doesn't appeal to me very much.] in the shadows, it can read as black, but when any light hits it, you can see the green depths twinkling away.

kale
kale
dark colours can appear patchy, but this one is a knock-out. it was almost completely even after a single light pass and stayed that way. seriously, i think it would have stayed looking just about the same the entire day if i hadn't eaten. and even then, there wasn't a lot of colour removed. this is one of the longest-wearing lipsticks i've ever encountered. when i removed it at the end of the day, my lips were still left with a faint stain. i had to exfoliate them to complete remove the colour.

now, canny readers of this blog will remember that it wasn't too terribly long ago that i ordered a dark green lipstick from rituel de fille, which raises the question: how many dark green lipsticks does one girl need? despite the fact that i was drawn to "kale" like a moth to a vegetable-based flame, i was vaguely nervous that it would be more or less the same as "chrysalis", which is still practically new to me itself.

l to r :: kale, rdf chrysalis
however, they're very little alike at all. "kale" is a lot darker and it's a cooler, bluer green, whereas "chrysalis" is more of an olive-tinged forest green. "kale" is also quite glossy, whereas "chrysalis" is matte. i was a little surprised at how different they were, until it occurred to me that i'm never surprised when i find a distinctive berry shade, and i have about a thousand of those already, so why should i be surprised to find variety in dark greens, where there are only about three in the world? [i know there are more, but i also don't literally have a thousand berry lipsticks. i swear.]

the more pertinent question is, "how often am i going to wear a green lipstick?" in this case, i refer you back to my comments about "chrysalis", which are appropriate: strange colours are clearly having a moment right now, which is fantastic as far as i'm concerned, but which can make one feel a little self-conscious. if you're someone who wants to try her luck with a "freaky" colour, but are a bit shy, using a dark shade can be a way to ease into the weirdness. dark lip colours, as dramatic as they can look, don't scream "i am green!! hear me roar!" in quite the same way. [at the same time, i wore "chrysalis" to a show a while back and one of my friends complimented me on wearing such a cool shade, so you're not totally losing the shock effect.]

"kale" is dramatic, but it's very flattering on my cooler colouring, which makes me feel like i could be comfortable wearing it in a number of situations. it's not ever going to pass for natural, but it's not going to read as clownish, either. if anything, i think that "lavender jam" is the more risqué of the two shades that i picked up, because of its brightness.

so how do these two beauties look in use? a little like this:



i find that you can see the slight unevenness in "lavender jam" if you look at these photos. i'd go so far as to say that you can see it more in the photos than you could in real life, but perhaps that's wishful thinking on my part. i've combined it with shades from the urban decay naked 3 eyeshadow palette and nars "sin" on the cheeks. the vibrancy of "lavender jam" makes it a little tricky to match with other colours and i don't feel like i've hit on the perfect combo yet. this one's not bad, but i just know i can do better.



like a lot of vampy shades, "kale" does best when it's allowed to take the lead. i paired it with rouge bunny rouge "gracious arasari" and "solstice halcyon", and a touch of illamasqua precision ink liner in "wisdom". yes, i like this colour very much.

i'm happy with both of these colours, particularly "kale" and i rather suspect that, budget permitting, i could be tempted by other shades in this collection. there's an inky dark blue and a luscious, earthy dark brown on the savoury side and a smoky deep lavender and a remarkably original mauve-taupe nude on the sweet side. all seem very appealing and, in case i haven't made it clear enough, these are some of the most original shades in the bite beauty line up. go forth and indulge, i command you. 

13 June 2016

mental health mondays :: fundamental


oh boy. there were a whole bunch of topics that came to mind over the last two weeks, based on scientific articles i've gone through, or stories that have shown up in the news, or just interpreting things that have been tossed around on social media, but finally, it comes down to the horror of last night in orlando florida. this is something that's rattled around in the back of my brain every time i've heard about someone going berserk in the name of christianity, islam or anything else and i feel that it's something that needs to be addressed both publicly and within the psychiatric community: is religious fundamentalism a form of mental illness?

that might sound like a scary gauntlet to throw down. after all, most societies are organized around the principles of religious belief. for instance [and à propos of the attack in orlando], many people have difficulty accepting homosexuality not because it is dangerous or unhealthy [factually speaking, it is neither, unless you factor in the danger posed by hate crimes], but because it contradicts the religious principles that underpin many of our society's core beliefs. when you subtract the prejudices imposed by religion, a lot of things that were previously forbidden become open for debate. like wearing clothes made from more than one fabric. or homosexuality. the bible [or rather, the old testament, which forms a basis of judaism, christianity and islam] proscribes both of those, with roughly equal force.

taken from the point of view of an atheist [one who believes that there are no "gods" or life beyond what we experience] or an agnostic [one who believes that the existence of gods is irrelevant to how humans should live], there is no reason for homosexuality to be feared or condemned. nor is there any reason for drug use to be condemned, so long as it does not cause significant harm to the user or others. nor is there a reason for certain foods to be proscribed, again, assuming that there is no greater harm caused by consuming them. this is all a very contentious area, but there is one common denominator: it is not acceptable to condemn anything without some rational reason for doing so, and religious beliefs alone do not constitute a rational reason. [in fact, religious leaders themselves have made it pretty clear that those who perpetrate crimes like the one in orlando over the weekend are not acting in the name of faith, or any other noble cause.]

thus has the question i raised earlier come to mind: are there certain forms of religious belief that cross the line into psychosis? i'll give you a spoiler alert as to my position on the issue: yes, there are, but we ignore them precisely because we feel they are protected on account of being religious. no. certain beliefs are dangerous to the general public and they need to be called out as such. the belief that people deserve to die because of their sexual identity is a glaring example. so is the belief that women should be subject to different rules than men. as is the belief that those who believe things that are different have lives that are less valuable. think that's just so much liberal hooey? let's consider some of the primary symptoms of psychosis:


  • delusions :: perceived threats or feelings of persecution that are not real
  • messianic complex :: belief that the person is, or is acting on behalf of a savior
  • unconventional beliefs :: thoughts that most people would discount as bizarre or without foundation
  • command hallucinations :: where one is compelled to act on the orders of an unseen other


i've drawn these points from a few different places, all of which have some claim to expertise on psychological issues. and while there may be some debate on what the "average person" or "normal person" is, it's worth considering that the legal system of democratic countries is always based [at least in theory] on the perceptions and actions of the so-called reasonable citizen. we judge others all the time based on whether or not we think that their actions align with what could reasonably be expected of a person in the society. and yet we routinely place actions- any actions- that are inspired by religious beliefs as somehow outside the continuum of rationality.

the culprit in the orlando massacre claimed to act on behalf of isis, but possibly because he felt they shared his delusion that homosexuality was an abomination and deserving of violent retribution. republican lawmakers and [until recently] presidential candidates ted cruz, mike huckabee and bobby jindal appeared at an event headed by a religious leader who believes that homosexuals should be put to death by law. [in the interest of fairness, cruz later admitted that it was probably a mistake to openly align himself with a person who held those views.]

my point is that the views of isis and kevin swanson aren't particularly different, nor are they "normal". most those who don't support marriage equality, or who have qualms about gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, or even those who don't understand how transgenderism works don't think that lgtbq people should be put to death for who they are. the vast majority stop at "they're going to hell". therefore, the belief that lgtbq people should be put to death is bizarre [well outside the normal scope of thought] and without factual basis. it is also delusional, in that those who profess those opinions often conjecture that lgtbq persons have special rights or powers not conferred on others, something which is demonstrably untrue. [in fact, they are much more likely to be the victim of violent crime simply because of who they are, among other disadvantages.] and if one carries out a massacre like the one in orlando, or like the many others directed at gay clubs/ safe spaces, it is most likely because one feels either commended to do so or excused from culpability in doing so by a higher power.

goodness, that seems to tick a lot of the boxes that we normally associate with psychosis. so why do we keep giving those who cloak themselves in religion a free ride. as mentioned above, the very people who most agree are tasked with setting the earthly "rules" for religion reject such actions. if the vast majority of religious leaders say that such actions are abominable, why do we accept the word of one person who says that his [or hers, although i'm sorry to say it is "his" in most cases of violence] in terpretation is the correct one? why do we hesitate to tell someone that their interpretation of religion is perverse, when, if someone were to express similar views outside the bounds of religion, we'd have them locked up?

i normally try to point people towards help or solutions with these columns, but i have to admit that, in this case, i'm at my wits' end. i don't understand why we are so eager to apply the terms "nuts" or "psycho" or any of the pejoratives associated with mental illness to virtually anyone in our lives who acts in a way that we don't like, but we give a pass to those who invoke religious beliefs. most democracies embrace freedom of religion as a fundamental right, but i do not understand how that becomes freedom to interpret your religion in a way that justifies harming others. such actions are not religious [according to the leaders of the invoked religions], but a perversion. they are no more reflective of the religion invoked than david berkowitz's murders are of the thoughts of dogs. so rather than describe them as religious acts, we should call them by the term that we so eagerly assign to similar actions that do not invoke a major religion: people who espouse this sort of violence are mentally disordered. the beliefs that lead them to violence are delusional and dangerous. such people are psychotic and need treatment before they harm others.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...