Posts Tagged ‘Society’

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What is privacy in the 21st century? Have we redefined the parameters of what should and should not be for public consumption?

The staple diet of most these days are reality TV shows that provide fly on the wall access to the homes of celebrities, the inner workings of football clubs and play by play commentary on the medical conditions of many who would previously have baulked at the mere thought of discussing them within the privacy of their own doctor’s surgery.

So what is privacy? What do we now consider the boundaries of what is for me to know and you to find out?

I can’t be too hypocritical about the subject; hence me asking questions, rather than pontificating from a standpoint of moral or ethical superiority. This blog serves as my medium to engage with others (you) and share ideas and beliefs about whatever subject I would like to discuss.

Social media gives us all an opportunity to instantly share the most random of thoughts, our instinctive reactions to our experiences and to sate our voyeuristic urges by eavesdropping on the conversations between public officials, captains of industry and the celebrities who – like us – seem to have forgotten the art of having a private conversation over the phone.

Perhaps our ideas of privacy have softened following the revelations and education we have all received over the past decade; where we have seen that the realms of what we considered confidential, private – secure – no longer are.

Phone taps, voicemail hacks, identity theft, credit card clones, scanners, Trojan virus’ and the piggy backing of a broadband signal. What once we thought was for our eyes and ears only seemed to be no more than a click, send, submit or accept from being in the hands of someone else.

So perhaps, like any immune system, we have built up a resilience to seeing privacy invaded and now no longer feel quite as perturbed as we would have in the days when a quick phone call meant finding change and leaving the house to find the nearest, cleanest, telephone box that was in working order.

Maybe the Katie Price’s, Kim Kardashian’s and Big Brother attention seekers have reduced the threshold of what we now consider to be private.

Could it be that we no longer worry about who could be peering through our curtains when we can log on to the Internet and stroll down anyone’s street via Google Earth? Street view allows us to walk up to the front door of nigh on any house on the planet and, if you forgot to close the door, peek inside your garage or count the new Coy you put into your pride of place fish pond.

Twitter, Facebook, My Space, Tumblr, Instagram – you name it, you can update to it. Privacy – who cares? There is so much to delve through that we will all probably get to a point where we reach access overload.

How ironic. We could reach the point where we have so much access to the inner thoughts and microscopic movement of all we know – or don’t – that we might not care to look anymore.

Perhaps the privacy we once held so dear will return to us – when we can no longer stand to log on and take a look.

How long before “Private – Keep Out!” becomes synonymous with “Who Cares – I don’t want to know!”?

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The Decline of Decency

Posted: February 28, 2012 in Social Commentary
Tags: , , ,

I am not quite sure what happened to the age of innocence, but I have a good idea about what is happening to the age of decency.

I have a good idea and I do not care for it at all – not one iota!

With each passing day I seem to despair more and more at the absolute torrent of hateful and abusive vitriol people seem happy to vent at complete and utter strangers.  Whether it be via the medium of social media; an online discussion forum or more alarmingly, towards the person on the other end of the telephone.

Every day seems to bring a new low in a catalogue of lows in the decay of what used to be commonly expected as basic human decency.

I frequently ask myself the question “when did it become acceptable to disagree with someone’s opinion with a bile laden response that makes you catch your breath or makes you wince at the venom injected into the expletive; the offensive insult, the comment designed to do nothing other than hurl as much disgust or disdain in one spiteful and deplorable statement?”

Some responses are nothing more than a single worded response; whichever single word will cause the most shock and pain.

When did it become so shameful?

When did respect and decorum so abjectly fall from grace?

I do not know who to blame and I have to admit that I do not particular have the appetite or energy to start apportioning responsibility to any particular person or group of persons.  All that I am certain of, is that it is a crying shame that so many feel so invulnerable behind the keyboard – so invincible that they would pour forth such hate without any restraint.

It is a shame and it is an indictment on what has and is continuing to become of our society.

Perhaps it was always this way.  Perhaps the electronic age merely opened up the gateway; enabled a medium to reach out across the globe, instead of across the garden fence.

All I know – is that it is a shame.

Shameful.

Something about which we should all be ashamed.

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Last week I found myself sat watching Diagnosis Murder, yet another extremely cheesy and annoying daytime TV show that makes me cringe whenever Dick Van Dyke opens his mouth.  I sat with my customary cynical TV snobbery in place, raging inside at how ridiculous the programme was and the crime it represented to good TV drama.

But then, just like a bucket of cold water, the plot develops into a storyline highlighting the disgraceful practices of HMO’s; those, in my mind, hateful organisations that were spawned under the Nixon administration – with the explicit purpose of making money out of medical health; of ensuring that profits are possible if care is withheld.

The fact that HMO’s still exist to this day beggars belief.  The fact that this bastard offspring of a President that was impeached from office for ‘high-crimes and misdemeanour’s’  is still dictating the life expectancy of those in need of urgent medical care, makes me sick.  The fact anything that mandates a physician needs to withhold care, until they have checked if the patients insurance carrier will pay for said treatment, is legal, leaves me with a feeling of despair.

When money meets medicine, I wonder what happens to Primum non nocere?

And it is this same sense of foreboding despair that continues to engulf me when I think of the Tory plans to introduce privatisation to the NHS.  In fact, Tory plans to privatize anything, after the resounding success of their previous privatisation programmes in the Thatcher years, actually fills me with tangible fear.

The NHS is in a mess, of that there is no doubt; the system is definitely in desperate need of an overhaul.  However, who, other than a Tory MP, honestly believes that the National Health Service would be better off if large health organisations were allowed to tender bids to snap up the more lucrative elements?

Who seriously thinks any good can come from the old boys network chopping up the service so their friends can make millions in the coming years?

The NHS is a mess, but it was created for a very specific reason, to cater for a very specific need.  It was introduced with an explicit mandate to provide care based on need, not the ability to pay, and that need has not diminished one iota since the NHS first appeared.

I don’t know what the future is for the NHS, but I fear that Tory privatisation would be something we would all live to regret – most likely in our time of most urgent need.

Driving home from work today I heard a news bulletin that spoke of the governments plans to simplify the state pension scheme.  The idea is for there to be one single-tier state pension instead of the complex and somewhat inexplicable version that is currently in place.

As I continued to listen an expert, I can’t remember what she was an expert in, stated that her fear was that the government would back-track at some point and fail to follow through with this new proposal.  I guess she was still reeling from the news that the government had a pause for thought moment on their, again, controversial plans to revamp the NHS.

And it was here, in this world of unease and uncertainty about whether or not this government, or any government for that matter, would stand fast and draw a line in the sand about pensions that made me think, not for the first time, that I, and many others of my generation, face the entirely realistic prospect of having to work until we die.

I’ll say that again – work until we die…

The age of retirement has moved more times in my lifetime than I am comfortable with; each time creeping that little bit closer to the magic life expectancy for a UK male or female.  Whilst I have to admit that I am concerned about the prospect of brain cells dying off if they aren’t to be engaged by the day-to-day grind of going to work, I think I am more disheartened, no – not disheartened, aghast at the thought the age of retirement may well make it to the other side of 80 by the time I am due to retire – if fate should be so kind, or cruel – depending on your outlook on life, to let me live that long.

I mean, what an utterly depressing thought – that you could work your entire life, being the dutiful citizen that we all know you are, whilst continually seeing that dream of retiring to the sun or the coast, country, <insert dream here> become more and more of a pipe-dream because there are not enough funds in the public coffers.

Not enough money in the pension fund…  How many times have we heard that in the past decade or so?  Black-hole in the pension fund being another; whether we are talking about a private fund or the chancellor balancing the books.  So you could be forgiven for asking why you should continue to make contributions if you are merely tipping your hard-earned cash into what might potentially be a monumental money-pit.

In fact, someone did ask me that very thing; someone who had previously asked me why I paid payment protection or bought extended warranty’s, long before all the consumer affairs programmes started to shine the spotlight on those companies that were basically defrauding the public of, again, their hard-earned cash.

This same person asked why they should pay into a pension fund when the government would provide them with one anyway; that the government would look after them when they reached old age – that they may as well put the money they earn into a bank account, as they’ll be means tested at the age of retirement anyway.

It kind of made me wonder then and it continues to make me wonder now – what if they are right?  What if the security of a modern-day pension is in actual fact a fallacy; what if we all face the prospect of having to work until we die?  And if we do, should we not spend our money now – rather than leave it in that fund, only to be swallowed up by that black-hole?

 

 

 

I finally finished reading ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ today and can honestly say that I think I am going soft in my old age – I say old age as though I am approaching my twilight years, when I am in fact a sprightly thirty-six years old.

The thing is, Harper Lee told her tale so convincingly; crafted her characters so well, that I found myself becoming quite emotional as I realised the story was coming to a conclusion, leaving me with a sense that I was going to miss the daily events taking place in Maycomb; in particular, those affecting the Finch household.

In a previous blog I wrote that the threat of censorship of the classic novels from our past meant book readers should seek out To Kill A Mockingbird, before it was adapted to fit into our ever increasingly politically correct world.

However, I now implore book lovers everywhere to indulge in the wonder of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel, just because it is a marvellous piece of literature that each and every one of us should take the opportunity to behold.  The lessons it teaches us about tolerance, equality and human rights are much more profound, much more articulate and altogether more wholesomely genuine than you will ever find in a thousand episodes of Jeremy Kyle or Sally Jessy Raphael.

If ever you wish to see the naked truth of a subject, look at it through the eyes of a child. Harper Lee obviously knew this; as the entire account of what happened to the inhabitants of Maycomb are told to readers by the innocent, brutally honest and surprisingly perceptive Jean Louise Finch – affectionately known as Scout.

Through the four years chronicled in To Kill A Mockingbird, Scout takes a voyage of discovery that ultimately teaches her what life is about, but also allows her to teach us what life should be about. I won’t divulge any spoilers, but when Scout realises she has finally met the reclusive Boo (Arthur) Radley for the first time, her greeting “Hey Boo…” literally brought a lump to my throat and immediately made me smile.

You see, it was also at this moment in the book, the final act; when we hear the Sheriff declare his intent to protect Boo Radley’s way of life and Scout’s moment of self-reflection, that my mind wandered as I thought of the observation I hinted at in another blog ‘Square Peg, Round Planet’.

I noted that there would be no such thing as humanity if we were all the same and that being different to everyone else was in fact, alright.  It was therefore quite a surreal moment to finish this book, so soon after posting that blog, and feel that Harper, all those years ago, had penned this novel, with characters who would make such a similar observation – thus allowing me to me happen upon a literary message in a bottle; a virtual lesson left waiting for me in time.

So please, go out and pick up a copy; see what lessons Harper has in store for you – if you find no messages in its pages, fear not – the enjoyment you will get from the experience will mean you will in no way feel it was a waste of your time.

Just when I thought the age of innocence was dead, no – correction; fossilised, I was introduced to the amazingly simple game of yellow car.

That same, sometimes moody, other times hilariously entertaining 16 year-old that I spoke of in ‘Could You Be a Social Worker?’ shouted out “YELLOW CAR!” and then thumped me in the arm.

Now, I am sure you can imagine my surprise and confusion, as I had no idea why she had a) screamed out ‘Yellow Car’ nor b) unprovoked, hit me in the arm.

Well – let me explain, because Yellow Car turns out to be one of those games children play; the kind of game you thought was long since a far and forgotten memory of the school playground. It also proved to be a refreshing reminder that the console generation still knows how to have fun without the need of a microchip, battery or your hard-earned cash.

The rules are very simple:

  • Spot a yellow car first (yellow, not gold, not lime nor any other colour close to but not actually yellow).
  • Shout out “Yellow Car, no take backs” (to lay claim to the prize before your competitor spots the same car).
  • Then gently tap (tag) them on the arm. I say gently as you don’t want to go around punching people, that would be wrong – especially children.
  • The ‘No take backs’ is one of those innocent rules, that could only exist in a child’s mind, that means you can’t just hit them back.

That’s it, nothing more complex than that. You just go about your day, or journey, just waiting to see that yellow car (first); seeing who can gain the highest score.

You don’t even have to tell your unsuspecting opponent about the game, the rules or the fact you’ve started to play (unsuspecting victim).

Now, I should point out that you probably shouldn’t play yellow car with someone who is driving, as that would be dangerous; you want their eyes on the road, not roving the back streets looking out for yellow cars. You also wouldn’t want to tag them on the arm when they should be keeping the car pointed in the right direction on the road.

There is something else you should be wary of; children do not like to lose and children will assume the game never stops. I say this as someone who now walks around like Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau – waiting for my very own Cato to jump out at me from nowhere; her presence announced only by the paralysing words “YELLOW CAR!”

Oh, and if you were thinking of playing this in New York, you might want to pick another colour; Yellow Taxi Cabs might make the game more an exercise of endurance than one of anticipation and ‘fastest person on the draw’.