Thursday, 29 November 2012

My application for co-option position to Penzance Town Council councillor for Penzance Central ward

I recently saw on Facebook that Penzance Town Council were looking to fill the position of Town Councillor for the Penzance East ward. It being too close to warrant an election, they are looking for suitable people to fill the void until the elections proper in May. Here is my application. Don't laugh.

Dear Simon,

It was nice to meet you in Waves on Tuesday, and after having read all the literature I was handed, I should like to formally put my name forward to be considered for the co-option position of town councillor for Penzance Central.

In support of my application, as was suggested, I offer a brief introduction.

Due to the religious and social mores of the time, I was born in Devon, but came to Cornwall as soon as my grandparents could tolerate my illegitimacy. Despite this early handicap, I consider myself every inch a Cornishman with a history of otherwise unbroken west Cornwall ancestry that stretches back to the 15th century.

My father's work took the family around the UK for the rest of my childhood, affording me the experience of schooling in Scotland and the home counties. I left school with mediocre O'level and CSE results and proceeded to work, ostensibly, in warehousing and distribution until an opportunity to move to Sweden came about that was impossible to turn down.

Whilst in Sweden, my career moved to construction and the installation of marble internal floors and stairs. Towards the end of my 7 year stay I also worked as a project manager for a train manufacturer. During my stay, I was awestruck at the efficiency and apparent ease in which the government and its instruments carried out its work, and upon my return to the UK in 2008 I started to look at how I could contribute to emulating the Scandinavian model here in Cornwall.

This activity initially moved me to blogging and Internet activism - something I still continue to do - but in the light of the current position at Penzance Town Council, I feel now is the time to 'step up to the plate' and get on with the business as it happens on the front-line.

I am presently on ESA for an anxiety issue generally brought about by the very inadequacies I deal with each day in relating to the business of British society as a whole, so I regard this application as a form of therapy and pro-active stance to right the perceived 'wrongs' that the general public appear to hold for reasons to distrust politics. I want to bring the public back into local politics.

Sometimes described as somewhat wordy, I have a tendency to encapsulate complex ideas in concise sentences; something I feel a time-pressed town council should appreciate. My political compass points me towards a liberal/libertarian position that transcends party politicking, preferring to concentrate on resolving problems common to us all rather than creating a wall of partisan bureaucracy  the ends are the means.

I suppose if I were to put forward my primary objective for my application, it would simply be to represent the interests of as many of the ward as is possible, emphasising community, growth and sustainability.

There is only so much I can put here for you to get a thorough understanding of who I am and what it is I want to achieve  so I would very much welcome the opportunity to speak with both yourself and the council and make my case in person. 

I know of no impediment to my application, so I hope that we shall meet again in the very near future to discuss whatever steps are to be taken next.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards,

Mr Tris Stock

Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng misrepresented by CNA

An article by the Catholic News Agency on Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng didn't 'scan' very well with me, so I decided to read the GQ article they were referencing to see if their story accurately reflected the sentiment of the original. There were - as is so very often the case with religiously motivated news sites - a couple of worrying journalistic traits that I would like to point out. 

In the opening paragraph, it was pointed out that;
A secular men's magazine has praised Chinese anti-abortion advocate Chen Guangcheng in its December 2012 issue, placing him on the list of “Man of the Year.”
Chen was not listed as "Man of the Year", but was one of many "Men of the Year". Their headline (GQ magazine names pro-life activist 'Rebel of the Year') was a more accurate description of the honour bestowed upon him. Reassuringly, CNA does note further into the article:
Chen is a self-educated human rights attorney who spoke out against China's one-child policy and the coerced abortions and sterilizations that are often used to enforce it.
This 'Rebel' title was awarded not - as CNA would have us believe - for his advocacy of a pro-life or anti-abortion position, but for his stated position of human rights and social justice. Indeed, it is not clear whether or not Chen is pro-life or anti-abortion at all; he states (to the effect) that he was brought up in no particular religion, but cultural references to Buddhism were practical guidelines for his position. All the evidence points to the fact that he is against forced/coerced abortion and sterilization. The two are not mutually exclusive. Of course, it may well be the case that Chen is, in fact, pro-life and anti-abortion, but having never personally heard him make such a claim, CNA is at best being disingenuous and at worst lying outright. 

In the penultimate paragraph CNA states;
Chen told GQ that his work opposing China’s one-child policy is not only a fight to protect the “rights of the unborn children” or of women, but of all people.
However, the use of the quoted "rights of the unborn children" is nowhere to be seen in the three-page GQ article, and any allusion to journalistic integrity has been thoroughly shunned. But there is more.

Interestingly, should any of CNA's readership care to read the original article, there is a quote that didn't make it in to their final draft. From GQ;

I had read Daniel C. Chung's article in The New York Times after my arrival in the United States, where he says that I should be careful about letting people exploit me to represent their interests. I appreciate his opinion, but I already have my own thoughts on this. If any person, organization, party—whatever—works to promote human rights and social justice, I will cooperate with them. Don't call that exploitation. Because exploitation would be for individual benefit.
Indeed, the very exploitation Chung had envisaged has begun to take shape in the CNA's article. It is clear to all but the most conservative Catholic that the Church does not have the best record on human rights and social justice, yet they are happy enough to co-opt this brave man to represent their own interests.

If in general you feel like you can't accomplish anything because someone tells you to do something, then what will you ever do?
It doesn't sound to this observer like Chen is the type of person that has much respect for authority, and if he has the cajones to stand up to the Chinese government, it is unlikely he will have much respect for the authority of the Roman Catholic Church's positions on human rights and social justice. But CNA is never one to let misrepresentation cloud the 'truth' of their own agenda.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Quote of the day - Christopher Hitchens

I am going to get this printed on a T-shirt.

Rt Rev Justin Welby speaks in defence of 'doing God'

Not even installed as the Archbishop of Canterbury yet, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, spoke out against the idea that religious beliefs should “disqualify” people from giving opinions on politics or other public matters. The Daily Telegraph reports;
He urged Christians not to be afraid to refer to their faith, despite an assumption that they should “excise” their beliefs from their minds when holding public positions. The bishop made the remarks in his first speech since being named as successor to Dr Rowan Williams, who will step down as leader of the Church of England at the end of this year.
It is not so much the assumption that religious thought plays no role in opinion on political matters, but just they should bear in mind that in a modern and dynamic nation as ours is, that the thoughts and feelings of the majority are also considered (this being the nature of representation). To ignore this growing reality is to act irresponsibly with regard to one's public position.
In a wide ranging address, he spoke about his hopes that Christians would not be afraid to ”do God” - a reference to the comment of Tony Blair’s former press secretary Alastair Campbell about discussing religion in public.
Of course people should not be afraid to 'do God', but this is not the issue here. What is at issue is the fact that people's religious convictions are still afforded an unwarranted privilege despite the populace's intentions leaning all the more against it.

He highlighted the appointment of a US Supreme Court justice about whom a senator said Roman Catholic faith “would not be a problem” as long as it did not affect his opinions.
“You might think that that was so improbably absurd as to be howled down with hysterical laughter, but it was not, it was seen as a serious comment.”
Comparing the UK and America with regard to religious conviction in our respective political realms is risible; Welby compares - without the slightest hint of his ignorance - UK legislators with those appointed to carry out different legislation on another continent. One that is considerably deeper mired in the religious right-wing's totalitarian maw than our own.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

'God cannot restore the dream of marriage'

Firstly, I would like to apologise for my absence of late. I could go into details, but let it suffice to say that meeting a lovely young woman recently has been playing on my mind to the detriment of my work.

So this is today's report.

I have been in an extended battle with a regional newspaper here in the south west, called The West Briton. A weekly publication, there appears in my news reader at least one religious screed each week being passed off as news. I have posted on this before, but I refuse to give up, so I am submitting another article for inclusion as a response to this example of religious shit-baggery.

It has been said by David Ward on these pages, that marriage could ' be compared to the Olympic gold medal that we would all love to attain, but the commitment, dedication and singleness of purpose required makes it much easier to sit in the stands and settle for less'. Upon reflection, it is an unrealistic proposition that merely serves to shore up a confused understanding of either the institution of marriage or the process of elite sporting competition.

Whilst it may well be widely accepted that we all wish for a burgeoning relationship to culminate in the committed, dedicated and singular purpose Ward speaks of, the analogy begins to unravel when one considers that the two relationships being compared are not like-for-like. The goal of a successful personal relationship neither implies the failure of other's efforts, nor rewards one relationship over another based on the performance of its participants.

The Olympics also suggests a level playing field; something that some relationships are neither guaranteed, nor so much as recognised. The world's churches consistently oppose certain forms of relationship, and governments are only slowly introducing compromise legislation to afford these a 'foot in the door'. Unless it can be established that  'non-traditional' relationships have less value than 'traditional' ones, then there is no reason a representative government should not afford these equally valid rights in law. The churches are free to discriminate at will, and will no doubt continue to do so.
A touch-paper issue around the world, gay marriage, neither harms 'traditional' marriage, nor does it mean that it is a slippery slope that will lead to the moral decay of society. No one wishes to hinder the rights of heterosexual relationships, and no one is asking to marry their pets. If marriage is such a strong institution, what harm could possibly be cast by more people wishing to have access to it? Unless, of course, those that oppose equal rights for all people, feel that other's rights are not as worthy or 'right'. That is not their call, though. They are called rights for a reason. One does not get to vote on whether one person's love and commitment for another individual has more value or integrity, any more than if we were discussing mixed race or interdenominational marriage.
But what of 'traditional' marriage? Most religious believers (and some non-believers) might say that it is 'between one man and one woman', but this certainly isn't represented in scripture. In fact, marriage remains undefined in either testament. There are  numerous references to man/woman marriages, and homosexuality is largely seen as an 'abomination', but then after these Deuteronomical references we are introduced to Solomon (alleged ancestor of Jesus) who had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Is this the tradition theists want to champion?

What is the big deal about tradition anyway? If it were so important, we would be entombed in an unchanging and stagnant society without any hope for our betterment. Wallowing in our self-righteous 'knowledge' that things simply cannot get better than that we have inherited from our ancestors. we don't do that, though. We are a modern and dynamic society that has a bent towards, at least trying, to make the world we live in a better place. Quite how denying homosexuals the same rights as heterosexual couples fits in with that picture, I am sure I do not know.

So what can God do to restore the dream of marriage? Unless he runs for Parliament, not much, it would seem. For although we are the creators of our own destiny, sadly our system still means that we have yet to afford basic human rights without resorting to voting on them. Hardly seems credible, but there you have it.