Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Raoul Moat

Raoul Moat was a human being. He is now dead.

I have no sympathy for him, but an awful lot of empathy for a mentally ill individual in whom the switch got tragically flipped. I felt the same way about Thomas Hamilton after the Dunblane massacre. Predictably, there are now large numbers of people shouting and wailing about what a monster he was, how he was a beast, an animal, not human. And they are all spectacularly missing the point. Something has gone disastrously wrong for these people, something massive and, fairly literally, mind-blowing, in order for them to do the things they do; and it is something for which the potential exists in every one of us, because we are all human beings just as they were. The same is true of the Nazis in Germany in the thirties and forties, from Hitler down. They were not subhuman in any way (and how ironic that people sometimes use that particular word to describe them, showing their complete obliviousness to what was wrong with Nazism).

The human mind is enormously complex, perhaps the most complex thing in the Universe, certainly one of them. And cases like Raoul Moat's, or Thomas Hamilton's, should encourage us to try and find out what went wrong in theirs, not simply to condemn them and try to distance ourselves from them by pretending it couldn't happen to us. The whole, tragic point of these cases, and of that of the Nazis and many others, is precisely that they ARE human, that they are exactly like us, and that therefore the potential for that behaviour exists in each and every one of us. We ignore that at our peril.

Monday, 12 July 2010

It's been a while.

Well, that's the World Cup over for another four years. Or two years if you count the qualifiers. Spain won, as I had tipped from before the start of the tournament (not fishing for compliments, almost everyone did).

For the last month I have done precious little else. Not only Dodophobia but all my other online activities have been neglected, well other than my online grocery shopping, which has suddenly stopped being neglected and been restored to its previous prominent place in my life, on a temporary basis. I have seen lots of football matches and heard many a vuvuzela, while supporting ABE, or in other words Anyone But England. And ABE in fact won the World Cup a good fortnight ago when Germany took England to the cleaners and left the English moaning about the unfairness of not being given a goal when the ball crossed the line. Well, a little bit of delayed justice there as they were given a goal when the ball didn't cross the line in 1966, which led more or less directly to them lifting the trophy.

SOME other stuff has happened, though, mostly (I'm sure to no one's great surprise) involving Susan. My niece, Karrie, is over in New York City right now visiting Susan for her summer holidays. And today, they went to church (!), along with my other niece, Cheri, to listen to some gospel music. A damn good excuse, I feel. Karrie has had her first reuben sandwich, at the Edison Hotel. The reubens are truly vast in there, so they ordered one and halved it, and Karrie ate her entire half, which as she has the appetite of an unhungry mouse tells its own story.

Susan recently found something online which suggested to her that she could not get a marriage visa if I was receiving benefits. As I am, that would mean we would be unable to get married. So I headed to the local Citizens' Advice Bureau to ask them about it. They cleared things up very quickly: she cannot stay permanently IF she causes any FURTHER reliance on state funds. In other words, we may not claim any benefit for her or because of her. That will mean a couple of phone calls once she is living here, because I have to tell them about any change in my circumstances, such as having a wife live with me, and that would normally lead to an increase in benefits. So I will have to call them to sort that out somehow, so that they know she is here but don't give us any more money. She is not allowed to work for the first six months-- logical and rational they ain't-- but once she is she can get a job and we can stop claiming benefits at all, other than my Disability Living Allowance which is not income related. And as my total benefit amount is just marginally below what I was earning in my last job, there is no doubt that we can live on it for those six months without any difficulty.

My wee nephew Robbie had his seventh birthday today. I was delighted to learn that on their recent holiday in France, he declared himself to be "feeling creative" and worked a bit on the book he is writing, which it turns out is about five cheeky monkeys. He's a bit of a wordsmith, that lad, loves language, bought a French phrasebook before they travelled out there. For the last two Christmases, my present to him has been a thesaurus. When he received the first one, he was astounded and amazed to discover there could be a book about words and it rapidly became his favourite book, which he would take to bed with him and read before going to sleep. Not your average five, six or seven year old, our Robbie. He's a normal wee boy other than his love for and ability with words, his wonderful level of vocabulary; he's not being hothoused or anything. He has the attention span of his age group, for instance, had difficulty staying with it for very long when I played him at Scrabble recently (might well have had something to do with the fact I was ahead of him-- just barely, to stretch him a bit) but his behaviour was totally normal for such a young 'un. He adores his language, though, adores words. And his uncle couldn't be prouder of that.