So now I understand…

29 02 2008

Midlands Today this lunchtime reported with great enthusiasm the case of a teenage boy from Ghana who had been brought to Britain along with his father to have a life saving operation.

The boy, who needed a new kidney has had it donated by his father following a conference in his native Ghana. At this conference Felix Yeboah stood up in front of hundreds and made an impassioned plea for help. The British doctors who were at the meeting took pity on Felix following his ‘brave and inspiring’ speech at this conference and hastily arranged for him to be brought to Birmingham’s very own University Hospital to have this operation.

Which is great for everyone connected to Felix, and I’m delighted for everyone connected with him and his family.

Yet I can’t help feeling a bit flat by it all. My mind quickly wanders back to Ama Sumani, of whom I blogged earlier on this year. Sumani, who was already in Britain, was deported back to Ghana when her visa expired. She had treatable cancer, and was recieving dialysis in Cardiff before officials stepped in. Now back in Ghana she has, or will shortly become, just another statistic. Just another death.

Britain’s Border and Immigration Agency deported her because there was the facilities to treat her in Ghana. This article says more about the whole case, trying to work out who should feel the guilt.

I’m left wondering that if there is the facilities to treat a woman of cancer in Ghana, surely there must be the facilities to carry out a kidney transplant too? Or is this too much of an assumption- I’m willing to be corrected.

For me there is one simple difference. Felix is a fresh faced young boy, full of enthusiasm (he talks of becoming a doctor and playing football), Ama is a 39 year old woman, full of fear but, apparently not as much promise as Felix. At least that’s how it appears to me. Is this how the world should be? As Midlands Today so rightly pointed out, kidney disease is a big concern in Ghana, and were it not for this conference Felix would almost certainly have died within the next couple of months. I am not quite sure how the doctors justify saving one young boy over any of the hundreds and hundreds of others who need similar operations. I’m not quite sure how they can have the right to decide that one person is worth more than another simply because the former has the gumption to speak publically about his plight.

There are but two options then. Firstly is the harsh, but fair way of not bringing anybody over. This way means that everybody still suffers, but no-one has had to make a decision on who should live and who perhaps shouldn’t.

The second way is to save one person every six months (or however long it will be until the next story of a similar nature breaks). At least then there has been some action taken, and someone has been saved.

For me, I think I fall into the first camp. I couldn’t justify picking any one person to live, and by definition, hundreds of others to die, simply because that is not my right. Explaining why one person is more important than any other is not something I can actually do, especially when I know my decision will be a death sentence for the others. I don’t believe in God, and therefore cannot work out who should have that right, if anyone at all; but I do know that for me personally, I wouldn’t be comfortable with making the call.

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In the dark: the life of the Bullet Magnet…

28 02 2008

So good old Harry is living his dream of killing the Taleban in Afghanistan. And the army, as well as the royal family tried to keep the public in the dark about this. Sensibly in my opinion. The trouble is, much like communism, it was reliant upon everybody agreeing to it. And, as is so often the case with the press, they simply will not.

Being fair, apparently all the British media obvserved the royal family’s wishes, it was the foreign papers who let the cat out of the bag. I can’t be bothered to say that much on the subject, I just thought it was a naive approach to assume all the media across the world would let this story lie. Obviously they wouldn’t, and as soon as the story became public, it was a race to report on it as soon as anyone could. Harry cannot like being such a target for either the media or the Taleban, but, as a sensible man, he is aware of the dangers of both.

I’m just left wondering which he finds worse. The media, or the Taleban. It must be a close run thing.

Editors Note:

Having posted this yesterday, it is disappointing to see that as soon as the story was leaked Harry was removed amid “concerns for his safety”. This is rubbish. Of course there should be concerns, he was in Afghanistan fighting the Taleban, there’s fewer hostile places on Earth at the moment. I feel sorry for him. After all, if he has trained to be in the army, and he is not being allowed to do it, then what can he do?





Mending Wall

28 02 2008

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulder in the sun,
And make gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there,
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

-Robert Frost, 1915





So it was me?

27 02 2008

The blog which I used to write for, has (at least it had earlier) exploded. Not literally of course, or there would be a whole lot of cyber-space mess for someone to clean up. But in terms of views, they are about double what they were when I was writing. Which leads me to conclude that it was me that was responsible for the viewing figures. Hmm. Nonetheless, I would encourage people to look at it, and enjoy Cory’s own brand of satire.





Hundreds of years…

26 02 2008

…Of academic reputation have gone up in smoke it seems to me. I found this on the internet, and didn’t quite believe it. I firstly had to check it was not April 1st. Thankfully it wasn’t. Then I had to check it wasn’t a prank. Again, perhaps unfortunately, it wasn’t.

The official website confirmed it, much to my disappointment.

I cannot understand it. Not even a little bit. These people at one of the most renowned universities in the world, have decided in their infinite wisdom, to study why people believe in God. What is more, they have been given £1.9 million to work it out. Can I have just half of that if I give the answer right here and now? Please?

From what I can gather, ‘god’ as an entity serves two purposes:

1. It is a way of dealing with death.

2. It is a way of dealing with life.

Firstly, it is to help people believe there is life after death. That there is something else, something which should be looked forward to, rather than feared.  God makes things good, if we are good then we will spent eternity playing blackjack on one of the millions of tables in heaven. For example.

If we are bad, we go and join Satan and grow rather fond of fire. Simple, isn’t it?

And to me this is a redundant argument. I think, judged by today’s standards at least, I have been ‘good’. At least, I haven’t murdered anyone, or slept with my neighbours dog. I haven’t done enough to justify being sent to hell at least. Which, because the middle ground all but disappeared after the Enlightenment, means I’m off to heaven. Now if God is a) all knowing, and b) all forgiving, the fact that I haven’t prayed every night for all of my life shouldn’t piss him off too much. Therefore, he will, perhaps begrudgingly, have to welcome me into heaven, regardless.

Which leads me onto point two. Believing in God is a way to justify why we are here. It is not enough to simply accept we are, and make the most of it. There are another two aspects to this I feel. Firstly, God is an explanation for human existance, and, by definition, any animals existance too. God, therefore is the meaning of life. God is why we are here, and why we are made the way we are. Secondly, God is a reason to live life well. When I say well, I mean looking after others, being charitable, not murdering anyone, or having elicit affairs with your neighbours dog. For example.

Running further with this, our physical form, our bodies, are effectively borrowed from God for the duration of their existance with the proviso that we do not abuse them. God created everything as a reflection of itself, so we should not destroy these miraculous creations, as we will be offending God. When they reach their expiry date, then our soul is free to join God and discuss whether we should take over Pluto.

Whether or not you have picked up on my cynicism about religion is not my concern. I will tell you now, in black and white, I think it’s all tosh. If God created us, then God created logic too. My logic says that God does not, and cannot exist. Yet it is one of those wonderful things which cannot be proved or disproved. What sort of deity creates people who are inclined to dismiss it’s presence? Maybe just a few screws loose…

Anyway, after that highly controversial rant, I am expecting my cheque from Oxford in the post tomorrow.





It’s just a game…

24 02 2008

There is something in sport that is still human after all. Eduardo’s horrific break yesterday served to confirm that for me. The genuine shock and horror that reflected on all the players faces during the match was really frightening for anybody to watch. The tackle, of which there are now numerous videos on YouTube (despite it being deemed too horrific to repeat during the match coverage) was awful. That Eduardo broke his leg is not anywhere near the full story though.

Arsene Wenger, somebody who I have a lot of time for, insisted in the immediate aftermath that Martin Taylor, the hapless offender, should be banned from the sport for life. He later, thankfully, retracted this statement, explaining that in the heat of the moment, he had overreacted. This is perfectly understandable, one of his players had just had his leg shattered and may, at this stage, never return to football. It has reminded me of other such things: There was David Busst of Coventry in 1996, there was Luc Nilis of Aston Villa, and, more recently, there was Djibril Cisse and Alan Smith.

It has also served to prove that in the modern big-money world of professional football, there is still a part to play for humanity. There are some things more important than the match. The players, every time, should come first.

However, I am not suggesting that football should be made non-contact, or changed in any way. I think people have to accept that these injuries, as sickening as they may be, are still very much part of the game. They always will be, especially as the game becomes quicker, and the stakes become higher.

Wenger’s reaction to Taylor was completely over the top, and distinctly out of character for this well spoken Frenchman. It simply goes to show how much he cares for his team.

For what it’s worth, I do not, and cannot believe there was any intent on Taylor’s part. As Alan Hansen said on MOTD last night, Eduardo was simply too quick for Taylor, and a freak injury happened. Arsenal should now concentrate on two things. Firstly is helping Eduardo through this injury. Secondly, they should now be even more inspired in winning something this season, for him. Like Man Utd did for Alan Smith (The FA Cup I think?).

Sometimes though, there are bigger things than tropies, or football matches, and this injury has served to prove that to me again.





Flavour of the month…

22 02 2008

So, we are at that time of year again. The constant heckling by people who really, really, really want me to vote for them, or their chosen candidates in the Guild’s oh-so-great elections. Buoyed by the recent surprising success, those in the Guild will, maybe justifiably think that this year representation of the voters in the elections will be at an all time high. Without wishing to burst any bubbles, I’m inclined to disagree. These elections are so much different to the previous vote. Then there was a simple yes or no (or abstain, but only a comparative handful of people chose this route).

Now there is selection. And this is a huge problem. No longer have you got every member of the guild campaigning for their political futures. Instead you have a contest. And their challenge is to attract voters with their (not so) witty slogans as well as a colourful poster and maybe, if you are lucky, some form of policy. And there are, at least for the bigger roles, a few different candidates.

Asking people to make a decision based on policy is something much harder than asking them to save something I believe. The people of the university have shown themselves to be apathetic time and again, and the one anomalous result was the last vote. I think (but am willing to be corrected) there are about 28-29000 students at UoB. Those in the Guild celebrated like it was 1999 when they achieved over 10% of the students turning up to vote. There were 4010 votes cast for the referendum. That’s (according to Redbrick figures and my maths) just about 14% of the population.

Great.

I cannot see them matching that again. Which is why I agree in part with this article. But only in part. I agree that students are a-political. And I agree that it is nice to see refreshing policy politics take the stage rather than party politics which so frequently dogs our systems. However, I’m not so sure that this apathy can constitute a jump to being “not that radical”.

To me that is like saying that the tribes of the Amazon dislike football. How do you know? Has anyone asked them? I very much doubt it. The argument that those who are ‘radical’ (this term is something which gets thrown around too much) would have made themselves heard already is something which I do not buy into. Put simply I believe that those whose political outlook is ‘radical’ are afraid. They are afraid of being typecast by ignorant members of the higher authorities.

“Oh you have a view which is similar to the BNP’s? You must therefore want to eradicate everybody who isn’t white, and gas all the jews…We aren’t going to let you do this, we will stamp you down first!” (disclaimer: I do not condone the BNP and it’s racial policies at all).

These higher authorities came out in force last night to watch the public debate. About free speech. I won’t enter this argument again, but will note that common sense won. The higher authorities are dead set against people who hold radical views. I maintain that whilst there is ‘too extreme’, someone with a slightly more radical view prevents our increasingly centre-ist society from becoming sterile. Boring. Personality based. Radicalism is a good thing in society in general.

Having completely wandered from my initial thinking, I will make a swift return to the point. For the next few weeks I am expecting invites to 2oo or so different facebook groups. I am expecting to be given a small rainforest of paper explaining why it is so simple to vote for x or y, and I really should do it. I am expecting student politics to suddenly become the most important thing in the world, and I am expecting hardly anybody will care.