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Showing posts from April, 2012

An open letter about purpose in life

A quick note before I start writing: this post discusses, among other things, existential crises and suicide, and if these things trigger or upset you I suggest you skip this post. If these things neither trigger nor upset you, feel free to read on. If you manage to read the whole thing and then write a comment that completely misses the point, do not expect me to be particularly civil.

Dear people who know me, even just through my writing, I want to talk to you for a bit. I don't want to talk at you - and after all, what is article-writing but an extended form of talking at people? - because I feel I really need to tell you something.

Having blogged really quite extensively (for a shy and reticent person like me, at least) on suicide, and having been quite open about it with people, and it having affected me a lot, I think I need to clear some things up for people. After that, it's your responsibility.

I believe that an autonomous, sapient being can choose to die and should b…

The English Lesson

Ah, the good old GCSE English lesson. Thank the nonexistent god, a lack of options and the fact that I really suck at English that I'm not doing it for A-Level.

We sit in the great, white classroom with light streaming through the windows and the ancient radiators practically thrumming with heat, with a book and a folder crammed with notes opened in front of us; I flip through the pages, desperately searching for the last few drops of creativity, imagination, passion, intelligence, life, that make me love literature - for, despite being a philistine, I do like to read - while the teacher drones on in the background; sometimes I scribble down notes, though most of the time I can remember it. Hell, I could just look at it and start thinking hard.

That reminds me, though, of the questions we're supposed to do - core questions, extended questions, essay questions, a never-ending succession of questions upon questions - and the advice the teacher gave us, not to think, just to writ…

School Days

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(A note on this interpretation: I don't really like it, but it's the best quality I could find on YouTube. To really get the feel, grab the sheet music, a keyboard instrument of some sort, at least five willing friends, and a warmish sunny afternoon in a grassy green area, then sing your hearts out.)

Ah, school. Doesn't everyone love it? Well...no, obviously not, and I've got a very mixed relationship with mine (this is putting it politely). Exams and being at the rock bottom of the social pecking order really do not help. Debating and more particularly choir, however, do.

I love singing. I'm not great or even good at it, but I love it. More particularly, I love singing in choirs - getting to sing beautifully complex music, hearing how voices mesh together and how they clash, and all this while sharing that beautiful complexity with other people. It's better in small groups, desperately trying to sight-read the music and bonding over each member's individu…

On Life and Death

Right, so this is me being a bit of a pseudointellectual twat. Just bear with me for a blog post. You can skip over it, honest.

I believe that all living things die and that death "feels like unconsciousness" - it will be nothingness. I won't even notice I'm gone. At the same time, since I don't want to die yet (I don't fear death, I just don't feel like it right now), it chills me that one day I'm going to lose consciousness forever, and I rail against it. Though I know life is meaningless, I still ask why I was born and developed consciousness if I must inevitably lose it. At times it does look better to just die - quite apart from how I'm wasting resources just by being alive, I've also cocked up the art of living so many times I may as well just say I'm a failure and leave it there. No point in carrying on...but, strange as it seems to me, someone who's become accustomed to having no reason to live and frankly not liking it very mu…

The Nuances of Speech

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Just so you know, I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments of this picture - but that's not actually why I put it up. I put it up because today on Twitter someone said it was hate speech.
Short answer: No it's not.
Long answer: No it's not, because this picture is not seriously advocating killing the Queen and could not seriously be taken as an incitement to violence. Neither is it racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. in any way whatsoever. It's dark humour. It's not meant to be taken seriously. It's the equivalent of saying "I'm going to fucking kill [X] when he/she/ze gets home" in frustration; nobody seriously expects the speaker to grab a chainsaw and attempt to murder [X]. The same thing applies to the written word. And it's pretty damn different from actual hate speech, which still seems to get a freer pass than it should.

Atheism Is Not A Religion

"Atheism is a religion!" I'm sure pretty much everyone's heard that. I'm sure some people of any belief position hold or have held that idea, because in a twisted way it makes sense - equating belief positions to religions and saying that holding certain ideas is the same as being dogmatic. (Well, it makes sense if you concentrate on the details and ignore the bigger picture, which is disturbingly easy to do.)

Sorry to say this (not really), but phrases like "Atheism is a religion like bald is a hair colour" or "Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby" don't help. They're right, but they don't seem to get the point across.

Atheism is not a religion, it's an idea. It's the idea of "not-a-God". That's basically it - and ideas aren't religions. Atheists don't have not-God-worship services or take The God Delusion or God Is Not Great as our holy text. We don't recite not-prayers to …

Respect My Religion!

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(I think you people have seen this image before. That's because it's one of my favourite religion-related ones.)
I very frequently get told by religious people to respect their religion whenever I open my mouth to protest "Actually, no, I don't want to be forced into sitting in chapel for three-quarters of an hour when I have better things to do with my time" or something along those lines - basically, any defence of atheism or secularism seems to get me a telling-off for being disrespectful, which is obviously the worst thing in the world. So, if you're the kind of religious person that would do that, I've got a couple of questions for you.
Why is your idea (since religion is an idea) inherently deserving of respect, especially when there are more holes in your holy book than there are in Swiss cheese? Why does my idea not deserve equal respect - in other words, why do you get to trash it without fear of reprisal? And if your idea's so good, why doe…

On Learning

I'm a bit of a geek - well, a lot of a geek. I've been a curious, inquisitive little thing since I was very young indeed, and so far 11 years of schooling haven't managed to stamp it out. I read when I wasn't supposed to read; I lost myself in a book instead of doing pointless work or playing with the other children (and now you can see why I got in trouble and was bullied a lot as a child). I asked about funny things called atoms or why bromine crept up the side of the container. I just...I just always wanted to learn. I always wanted to question. I always wanted to find things out for myself, the school curriculum be damned.

In a way, I suppose, I'm just an overgrown child - at least, I never really grew out of that bad habit of asking "why?" and "how?". Nobody managed to get it out of me...I'm incorrigible, I am. I've never grown out of my terrible habit of learning, and to this day it plagues me. I can't sit down and do menial po…

For the Children!

That title, my dears, is the rallying cry of...well...a fuckload of people all seeking to push an agenda, mostly not a good one, and looking to do so via invoking children, supposedly so sweet, innocent and deserving of protection.

Now, I'm a misanthrope and for various reasons I would make a shit parent, so I don't really think kids are sweet. I was a child myself, and apparently my memory's still good enough to remember things in detail, so I don't think they're innocent either (if they are, that innocence is going to vanish into nothingness very very very very very very very very quickly). As for being deserving of protection? That alone I can agree with, if only because innocents are entitled to at least some level of it.

However, I don't think things like censorship (that the for-the-children brigade push quite forcefully) are in anyone's interest, let alone that of children. That, though, is a blog post for another time, and for now I want to talk abo…

An Apology

I feel like I owe a lot of people an apology.

First of all, I apologise for myself. I apologise for having said and done some really stupid, hurtful and judgemental things in my life, and I apologise because I'm fallible. I'm going to fuck up and hurt people and be stupid and judgemental again, and that's just life. I apologise for having put a lot of people through a lot of shit. I apologise for having believed stupid things and acted on those stupid beliefs.

I apologise for white people having a shitton of white privilege and doing stupid, racist things. I apologise for white people crying "reverse racism" or acting oppressed because we have to give up our privilege. I appologise for stupid white people doing stupid things to get out of admitting we're in the wrong and in the process making ourselves wronger.

I apologise for abled people being stupid, patronising or ableist. I apologise for abled people saying stupid and harmful things about the rights to l…

On Privacy

It may come as a shock to some of you that I am a rather private being, and it may be even more shocking to you that I quite like my privacy.

I suppose one or two of you will flat-out deny that I want privacy - I mean, come on, I have a blog. According to that line of illogic, I must therefore be an attention-seeker who neither wants nor deserves any measure of peace and quiet. Others will say that the only people who want privacy are those with something to hide and that by having something to hide (i.e. not being totally virtuous), I forfeit my right to have something to hide.

Let me just say that this isn't some great, profound, moving diatribe against the governments of the world for snooping on us. Other people have done that before me, and they've done the subject more justice than I could ever hope for in my writing. This is quieter, I suppose, and more personal.

I believe that everyone deserves privacy in their personal lives, or to put it more accurately, if they'…

Why I Am An Atheist

This was originally written as a guest post for AtheistRollCall.com and can be found in its original form there.

I suppose I first started off being an atheist when I was a child; I was an immigrant, born to immigrant parents, and we lived in London, a fairly multicultural place. My father used to tell me Bible stories, I suppose to  pass on his cultural heritage to me, but I don't recall ever believing them and my parents certainly didn't pressure me to do so. I lumped them in with fairy tales and other fiction - I mean, talking snakes?! Oh, please. It didn't hurt that my parents and I never went to a synagogue, not even for special occasions, and that if we did venture into any place of worship it was never to pray to a God.

I didn't believe, but never really openly identified as atheist until I read The God Delusion; I didn't think there was a God and wasn't really comfortable with being told that unfounded belief was a virtue. I don't think anyone could…

I have faith in you.

I will try very hard not to make this a piece of so-called "inspirational" bullshit. I myself can't stand that stuff; I can see through platitudes like broken windows - full of holes. Having a low bullshit tolerance and an almost unhealthy attraction to the authentic and relatable don't help either.

Anyway, I suppose I should get to the point - and my point is that I have faith in you.

OK, I'll admit it, if I were reading this article I'd start fucking laughing. Why? Because...well...I don't even have very much faith in myself. I'm a socially inept teenage girl who spends far too much time on the internet and considers herself so far down on any social scale she probably fell off the bottom and is still going strong. That's not exactly inspiring of faith. Even when I do try and do something useful (and right now I'm being a bit of a lazy shit because I'm not occupying, marching, or trying to organise something) I don't feel particularl…

Loneliness

I really hope I'm not being an ass here; these are just my personal experiences. I am privileged in ways relatively few people are, and I don't lose sight of that. White privilege doesn't make my life harder or alienate me. Cis privilege doesn't make my life harder or alienate me. Upper-class privilege doesn't make my life harder or alienate me (indeed, one grows used to living in a comfortable, fashionable little bubble of small-minded people). Being able-bodied and able-minded doesn't make my life harder or alienate me. This...I suppose you might call it a gift...does alienate me, and it does sometimes make my life harder.

I try not to be conceited or boastful, and I suppose I frequently fail, but, well, I can see things and make connections that other people miss...I'm not psychic, people call it intelligence. Now I make a box of rocks look like a Nobel laureate, but for some reason people think I'm smart, and it's not just through faking it. Tha…

Why I, as a young person, am angry

Firstly, let me just say that I was inspired by some socialists. (Before you get up in arms about this, I consider them moderate and I look up to them.)

I am an angry person. I have been angry since I was old enough to experience unfairness (though still too young to know the words for it), and I will be angry until I either run out of things to be angry about or run out of energy to be angry with. (I know that prepositions aren't supposed to go at the end of the sentence, but it makes more sense that way.)

My anger is focused on many things, but one thing stands out above all: the sheer, dirty, cruel injustice of the world and how it cannot be justified. I won't focus on that today, though. I'll focus on why I as a young person am angry, and here's why.

I'm angry because the government is screwing me out of a job, an education, a home of my own, a healthy life, in the name of ideology and incompetence. I'm angry because I'll have a worse quality of life th…

Critical Feminism

Big, important notice: I am a white, cis, privileged woman. So if I do something stupid, call me out on it. Please. I would sincerely rather get flamed the fuck out of a couple of times for being an oppressive dick than ignore all criticism and keep hurting people and things.

I almost stopped calling myself a feminist. Not because I'm sick of man-hating, hairy-legged, strident, tyrannical termagants - if you haven't worked it out yet, feminists are the ordinary people you pass on the street - but because I'm sick of something else; quite a lot of this something else, actually.

I'm sick of transphobia, cissexism, the throwing about of white privilege like a bouncy ball, the denial of intersectionality, white feminists comparing everything to slut shaming, the marginalisation of people of colour, the marginalisation ofworking-class women, that go back decades and are still around today despite claims that we live in an equal society. I'm sick of them and I cringe eve…

An Independent Woman

Here is something which might shock you: I am a woman who is capable of thinking for herself.

I'll wait for you to fall off your chair or spill your drink or have a heart attack or something (not that I want you to do any of these things). Go on, go on and be shocked.

What? You're not even surprised? Not even startled? Of course women are capable of thinking for themselves, you say, congratulating yourself for supporting the liberation and emancipation of women everywhere.

I for one judge people by their deeds and attitudes, not by their words, and what I see is the very same people who claim to think that women can be independent-minded are also the ones who think that because I'm a woman, and quite a young one at that, anything that they don't like about me is because I've been corrupted by books and men (which probably says something about the kyriarchy wanting to keep women stupid, since then they can't rebel, and under control - sexually and otherwise).

It…

So Pretty!

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One of the things that annoys me bitterly (this makes sense...somehow) about tourists of a certain age who like to pootle around quaint little towns and villages is their exclamation of "It's so pretty!" and their denigration of the younger generation, who perhaps prefer another, less romantic-looking settlement. There seems to be this sense that they can't possibly understand the beauty of the place where they live and that they're far too absorbed in shallow pursuits like shopping and cinema-going to truly appreciate how quaint and wonderful things are.

I confess to being a city-dweller, and a Londoner at that. It's where I grew up, and while I don't particularly like the noise, the fact that it's crammed full of people, or the utter dreariness of the suburbs, I do quite like not having to travel very far to see opera or theatre or go to a protest or shop (which I try not to do very much of these days because consumerism is selfish and exploitative…

Stop Fucking Swearing!

I know rather a few people, most over a certain age, who have what can be politely termed issues with my frequent use of profanity. In less polite language, they think I should stop fucking swearing so much. They turn up their noses at it, saying that it's unnecessary, that it reduces my effective vocabulary, that it'll just teach me to swear at every turn and that - most annoyingly - I am influenced to swear by the men around me (because obviously, as a woman, I'm pure and innocent and incapable of doing anything without a big, strong man putting it into my head, right?).

Let me deal with each of these claims in turn and then explain just why I like to use profanity. First of all, a language that contained only necessary words would be a very poor language indeed. Even Latin, which is quite a straightforward, no-nonsense language, can still be quite flowery and embellished - far more flowery and embellished than English, in fact. Latin is a clean, terse language, yes, but…

I think too much.

"Do you know what you're getting into?"

This is the question others ask me and that I ask myself a lot. It's sometimes condescending, sometimes concerned, sometimes asked with the implication that if I don't know what I'm getting into I shouldn't be getting into it.

The truth is, I don't know what I'm getting into with absolute certainty and I never will. I'm 16 and have less worldly experience than I need, most of which keeps getting contradicted just when I think I vaguely have a model of the universe worked out.

I'd like to think that I'm not stupid, though, and that I can learn from what I've done in the past - and I have done quite a lot. I have learned from hard experience what I should not do and these days I'm not the kind to naively fall for the first thing anyone says. I have also learned that the places and people I thought were safe can be the most dangerous, and I've done things that would shock and worry most …