It’s Nothing Personal

I am not mourning the death of Michael Jackson. It’s nothing personal. And by that, I mean that’s the reason I’m not mourning. I didn’t know Mr Jackson. I don’t even know anyone who did know him.

It’s like the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The world wailed and cried. I was sorry that she had left two young sons without a mother. Likewise, I am sorry that Michael Jackson’s young children will be without their father. I am also sorry for the thousands each day throughout the world who become orphans and feel the same loss as Prince, Paris, and Blanket (otherwise known by their real names: Michael, Paris, and Prince). But grief and mourning are based upon a personal loss.

He was a significant contributor to popular culture, though I can’t say that’s necessarily a particularly laudable thing, either. I don’t know that we are better off for the moonwalk, the crotch grab, or faux militaria and the single glove. Like I said, it’s nothing personal.

I am also sad for the thousands of people who appear to be beside themselves at his death. They seem lost for meaning or purpose and shocked that he is no longer “with us”. Why it should be remarkable that a 50-year-old man who constantly abused his body with surgery and drugs has died, I don’t know.  It speaks volumes about state of world.  Those volumes make up a very sad story (again, about the world, not about Jackson).

When it comes to people I know, with whom I have a relationship as family, friend, or even acquaintance, when they mourn, I mourn, for I participate in a small way in their loss. This is why as Orthodox Christians we have panikhida services in our parishes. We share each others’ love and temporary loss in hope of the Resurrection of the Dead and the life of the world to come. We light our own candle for a loved one now beyond the veil, but we light our candles from each other and they shine together. Together we sing, “Memory eternal!”

The wall-to-wall coverage of the death of Michael Jackson cheapens death itself. It shares something with the constant images of violence and death that are the substantance of so many films and video games. We no longer see it as our common end, a pointer to our own mortality. It is a spectator sport.

Let Michael Jackson’s family and friends grieve and mourn his loss. He has secured his place in history. Let it be for us to remember that as he has become, so shall we all one day be, awaiting the Final Judgement.

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Hysterical Hatred of Heterosexual Christians

I happened upon the San Francisco Chronicle by clicking on a story from a newsfeed service. I was quickly reminded that religious hatred is not confined to Europe. In fact, I don’t think I’ve read anything so openly vitriolic and down-right nasty over here. Mark Morford – I was tempted to call him Mark Moron, but I didn’t want to stoop to his level of ad hominem – is commenting on what he calls “strange, alarmist, deeply homophobic ads” produced by the National Organization for Marriage that are running on television stations in five states. But don’t worry, he assures us, the gay marriage agenda is still on the move.

God, by the way, is a redneck. The logic is flawless. Rednecks like God. God went and set up marriage as a procreative relationship between a man and a woman. Ergo, God is a redneck. What’s more these rednecks are desperate. That is the only reason they would be producing such ads. They know the march of gay love is spreading across the land and these “terrified citizens with souls the size of marbles” can’t stop it. Now here’s my favourite bit:

Distraught Christians say we cannot possibly disobey the mangled, misinterpreted Bible when it comes to hetero marriage because, well, that’s how we’ve done it for centuries and it’s been such a tremendous success, with almost no unhappiness, divorce, abuse, oppression, depression, suicide, hypocrisy, or general misery that it’s obvious we shouldn’t mess with it.

That’s right. Christians are responsible for all the bad stuff that’s happened and continues to exist because for centuries they’ve mangled the Bible and gone all hetero. All we need to do is all love it up gay-style and the world will be a better place. Isn’t it obvious? What’s worse, they use bad actors. (Perhaps this is because all the good actors are either gay or pushing the gay rights agenda.)

Morford claims the ads are “clutching at straws, scraping bottom, leaning on the most absurd, least tenable arguments imaginable”, so he doesn’t provide a link to the legal background behind each statement in the ads. But then I’m sure he thinks it more than justified that a doctor was successfully sued for referring a same-sex couple to a different physician for artificial insemination, or that a New Jersey church lost its tax exemption because they wouldn’t allow their property to be used for civil union ceremonies, or that Massachusetts requires young elementrary school pupils be actively indoctrinated with idea that marriage and gay pseudo-marriage is the same. Yep, absurd untenable arguments that come from the redneck, heartland states of California, New Jersey, and Taxachusetts.

Morford can only compare these ads to two things. The first are hysterical ads being produced by oil companies promoting “rabid oil fetishism and addiction”. Since he doesn’t provide a link, I can’t comment on these ads and their fetishism. The only other comparison Morford has to those radically heterosexual ads  is the “hysterics of Fox News’ fringe nutball militia”, by which he means the “nauseating and preposterous” Bill O’Reilly, Glen Beck, and Michael Savage.

For Morford, those who oppose gay marriage, produce oil, or dare to be conservative and on television are all hysterical. Seems to me the one leaning on absurd, entenable arguments and raving with hysteria is Mark Morford.

Fancy Words

The state of the English language in England is now so poor that local councils have started banning Latin phrases and abbreviations. Staff are not allowed to use them in written or verbal communication. As reported in The Sunday Telegraph:

Bournemouth Council, which has the Latin motto Pulchritudo et Salubritas, meaning beauty and health, has listed 19 terms it no longer considers acceptable for use.

This includes bona fide, eg (exempli gratia), prima facie, ad lib or ad libitum, etc or et cetera, ie or id est, inter alia, NB or nota bene, per, per se, pro rata, quid pro quo, vis-a-vis, vice versa and even via.

Sadly, I can understand that they might have to contact some people who might not be unfamiliar with quid pro quo, but e.g., i.e., and etc.? Will motorists in Bournemouth not understand that they are being diverted via St Paul’s Road? Or that the speed limit is 30 miles per hour? With so many council jobs not full-time, how will they explain that the salary quoted in newspaper ads is pro rata?

Such fancy words and abbreviations are now considered elitist.

The Price of Profanity

While Americans are focused on the run-up to the General Election, Brits are in a frenzy over a late night prank on BBC Radio 2. Now you might think that put in perspective, the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross scandal is insignificant. Perhaps it is. But in and of itself, it is quite significant.

There are a significant number of people who think it is much ado about nothing. They argue that only two people complained when the broadcast went out and that it was only the national media outlets that have churned up the froth. Listeners to the more youth-oriented Radio 1 appear to be mostly in support of Brand and Ross. It says a lot about Radio 1 listeners that they have found the abusive and obscene phone calls to 78-year-old Andrew Sachs amusing.

For those blissfully unaware, Brand and Ross placed four telephone calls to the actor whose most famous role was as Manuel on Fawlty Towers. Using the crudest language, they describe how Brand had slept with Sach’s granddaughter. They also joked that Sachs might kill himself. That’s the bit that made the pre-recorded broadcast. Senior producers who signed off on it, actually cut fouteen lines of the dialogue. Sensitive readers might not want to click here for a transcript of what was said.

To draw an American analogy, it was basically like a Howard Stern routine with all of the obscenity explicit rather than implied. The other difference is that it was funded by license payers – in other words, everyone who owns a television. Television viewer pay for all of BBC Radio, with our forced £139.50 per year charged by the government (or fines of up to £1000 for failure to pay, and roaming enforcement vans with electronic spying equipment to catch offenders). If you had to pay $240 a year for other people to listen to Howard Stern say things for which he would be fined by the FCC, you might have something to say as well.

Jonathan Ross is the highest paid performer at the BBC, getting £6 million per year for crude and juvenile humour. When over 2,000 job cuts were announced at BBC News soon after he sealed his £18 million three-year deal, Ross openy boasted that he was worth more than 1,000 journalists. Russell Brand was on a mere £200,000 for an act that is entirey based on graphic details of his sexual exploits and proclivities.

Those who support Ross and Brand believe that entertainment, and particularly language, should have no boundaries – that there is nothing actually indecent. Well, you can’t say anything about Muslims, but other than that, everything is fair game. (And the whole Muslim thing is driven by fear rather than decency.)  Worse than that, it is a philosophy that anything that gets a laugh is acceptable regardless of who is hurts or offends.

Will the resignation of Russell Brand and the £1 million discipline of Jonathan Ross change the face of entertainment? No. Willing the BBC become a more decent place? Perhaps for a time, while everyone holds their breath waiting for the furore to settle. Sadly, I think that the values that underpin the glorfication of profanity are well entrenched, particularly amongst the young, and this creates a vicious cycle. The media panders to the profane and the profane become evermore acceptable, creating a greater appetite for it in entertainment.

The Pride of Britain

This is a disgusting country. After dealing with really nasty teenagers today, I came home to read this story about an incident in Derby. Rather than relay it to you, I’ll copy the first bit of the story:

A suicidal teenager was taunted until he jumped from the top of a city-centre car park by a crowd of baying shoppers who had gathered in the street below.

In a shocking indictment of modern Britain, youths passing in the shopping street yelled at Shaun Dykes to kill himself over the course of three hours.

At least one bystander allegedly taunted the 17-year-old by shouting: ‘How far can you bounce?’

The A-level student eventually plunged 60ft to his death from the multi-storey car park after police negotiators tried in vain to talk him down.

Then, in a final sickening act, some of those responsible for the abuse outside the Westfield shopping centre in Derby apparently clamoured to take pictures of the teenager’s body from behind the police cordon using their camera phones.

Yesterday, police branded the mob’s behaviour a ‘shocking reflection on society’ as they joined community leaders and concerned onlookers who were at the scene of Saturday’s tragedy in condemning the crowd’s behaviour.

Crime and Crime Prevention

Today’s pustules on the butt of society are Adrian Hutchinson and Keith Buckley.

They got 26- and 28-year tariffs with their life sentences for the murder of a 62-year-old man who refused to hand over his mobile phone during their fifth robbery of the evening in Oldham town centre. As reported in the Daily Mail,

After Mr Smith refused their request for a cigarette, Buckley punched him in the face before the pair dragged him to a darkened yard, threatened him with a knife and demanded his property.

The 62-year-old had only bought the phone a week earlier and refused to give it up, but was put in a headlock and hit and kicked repeatedly, causing fractures of the skull, cheek, jaw and larynx.

Taking his phone – which was later sold for just £20 – the pair left Mr Smith dying where he lay, and his body was not found until 17 days later.

Hutchinson and Buckley aren’t teenagers – they are 25 and 22 – but their prior convictions go back before that. Hutchinson was first convicted at 11and before he was 16 he had nine convictions for arson, assault, and burglary, but never received any time behind bars. It was 29 further convictions later that he was finally jailed in 2004. He got four years for burglary, robbery and assault.

But never fear, the Government is here with a new solution for the growing crime problem. It now wants to hold schools responsible for curbing crime, as well as teen pregnancy and all other lifestyle issues. How well they meet 18 new targets for improving and policing pupils’ lifestyles and well-being will be included in their Ofstead (school inspection) reports.

Surely once schools are encumbered with even more non-teaching responsibility, the next generation of Hutchinsons and Buckleys will be redeemed. Our hope is the the expansion of bureaucracy and the micro-management of everyone’s lives.

The Evil Continues

Ryan Herbert and Brendan Harris were sentenced today for the murder of Sophie Lancaster. With their so-called life sentences Herbert got a 16-year tariff and Harris got 18 years.

Ryan and Brendan got much less than what they deserved, but that penalty isn’t available in this country. As I mentioned to one of Ryan’s supporters, who left a comment here today, the judge said, “This was a terrible case which has shocked and outraged all who have heard about it. At least wild animals, when they hunt in packs, have a legitimate reason for so doing, to obtain food. You have none and your behaviour on that night degrades humanity itself.”

The sentencing of these thugs should not lull us into thinking that Britain is a safer place. Without even leaving the Northwest of England, the Daily Mail today has the case of Julie Pickford. She was asked a boy to stop throwing popcorn at other passengers on a tram. “Without warning, one girl stood up and punched her in the face and then a mob of up to 30 teenagers joined in, punching her and stamping on her. . . With blood streaming from her injuries and £50 stolen from her handbag, she was thrown off the tram at the next stop in Sale, Greater Manchester.”