Superhero!

I began this blog as an experiment, and the experiment continues, a Lent challenge if you will, though Lent was not the inspiration. Or maybe it was – some people talk of taking up, rather than the watered down ‘giving up’. It’s interesting to be completing this initial stage – this is my ‘Launch’ post on Easter Saturday. It was a blend of releasing my inner superhero, he’s in there somewhere, finding my authentic voice and creative writing.

It has worked, I’ve been a superhero – I had a starring role in a worldwide spectacle with many more ‘important’ people wearing their own superhero capes, worn a cowboy hat through Central London, had a ride in a Bentley with a chauffeur, met the big cheese in his Palace, spoke in the House of Lords, gave a speech to hundreds of people at Trafalgar Square, often on an empty stomach and with no comforting chocolate to fall back on, and announced my superhero status standing on a table in a central London wine bar. Apart from the last one I did all these things as part of my work. I would have had all these work commitments anyway, but not with my inner superhero telling me to go for it. In fact I haven’t posted one of my blogs here because the piece I wrote became one of my high profile speeches.

I’m glad that I’ve done it and Dark Lord also has a Twitter account 

@DarkLor51551926

I am now exchanging comments with Christians who have posted Bible verses and messages about ‘sin’ on the Jesus and Homophobia guest post https://rabbnoir.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/jesus-and-homophobia/. Nothing new there but I can express myself freely. This is the beginning of a journey.

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Oh No it Isn’t!

It’s a mainstay of key times in the Christian calendar – Christmas and Easter – the fulfilment of ‘prophecy’! But it’s completely contrived, apparently Jesus started it as he used scripture throughout his ministry. He even said that the Old Testament prophets spoke about his death and resurrection. They didn’t! How could they? They had no idea, there is no prophecy about Jesus in the Old Testament. Most of what we have heard about prophecy is *completely wrong*.

Except in a very few places, scripture is always written after the events being recorded (and that’s assuming that the events happened). By the way, I’m writing this in church on Good Friday. Usually the accounts are written *long* after. Coming to the Good Book thousands of years later it is tempting to see it as an historical sequence with earlier prophecies being fulfilled, but they aren’t! It was written down later, it’s easy to talk about prophecy when you’re talking about the past.

Prophecy is something else, the Word of God for a particular time, a message for the moment. The famous mentions of a ‘virgin’ (not!) and a child being born in Isaiah were for the people who heard it then and have *nothing* to do with the time of Jesus, or Jesus himself. This idea of Jesus fulfilling prophecy then goes on to shape some wrong ideas about Jesus, which he rejected himself, the idea that he was ‘Messiah’ or ‘King’.

How has all this happened? The clue is in Jesus (duh!), he re-used or recycled scripture to show how it inspired him. Not to show how these words were directly about him. You can imagine him pointing to the Isaiah scroll in the synagogue and saying, ‘Look, this bit here, this is about me!’ No? Me neither. But his followers do, they lack sophistication.

‘Prophecy’ was used because it offered a good fit, no one had to work so hard to make the case about Jesus, because the prophecy could do it for you. Yeah, right! Look closely and it all falls apart – Jesus wasn’t a king, was he descended from King David, who knows? He didn’t bring in peace, or have a long reign or re-establish the kingdom. This was such a powerful and persuasive paradigm (or pernicious) that Jesus’ followers even invented prophecies that weren’t there in the original scripture. Yes, the whole thing is basically dishonest and false! And who will say it? Well, I guess you haven’t read it anywhere else. And you’re hardly likely to hear it in church.

No Room on the Road?

‘Coexistence is futile’, as a group of superheroes (the Borg) didn’t quite say. Coexistence, harmony, peace are all difficult. War, violence, dangerous conflict seem so much more normal. We celebrate peace when it happens, though it took the maker of explosives to give it the importance it deserves, it’s rare and we have to fight for it, please don’t excuse the violent metaphor. Many superheroes work for peace, but it takes a tremendous amount of thumping to bring it about!

People sometimes talk about war on the road – cyclists vs. pedestrians and the mighty car, or better still, juggernaut against everybody. We don’t talk about peaceful streets, though we do have ‘traffic calming’, islands of calm on a dangerous highway. It needs calming because it’s deadly out there. Sometimes ‘calming’ makes people worse, they drive aggressively in the calm zones and make no allowances for the elderly and infirm struggling to cross the road. We associate calm with peace but some of the protagonists have not been pacified.

So what of coexistence? Another odd notion, foreign even. The Dutch can do road safety, cyclists are privileged and cars aren’t allowed to impose themselves. Of course where things really are calm then calmer modes of transport predominate. We see it in reverse in this country, a small percentage of people use their bicycles for regular transport. Who wants to ‘get on their bike’ when they have to share the road with hurtling steel death boxes. We still manage to kill an unheroic number of pedestrians, cyclists and car drivers on the roads every year. It’s encouraging to see the cycle tracks on roads in cities, better still where it is separated by a kerb or an island of safety. But they highlight how we can’t get along safely, though granted some cyclists, like car drivers, aren’t fit to be on the road. If people drove considerately and according to the spirit, or even the law, of the highway we wouldn’t need safe routes, either on or well away from the road. Are we solving the problem or perpetuating it?

We do need to put ourselves in the other person’s rubber. Very few things do not benefit from being able to share in the other’s experience, whether a place of worship or a mode of transport. Sometimes people need to be plucked out of their situation and brought to their senses. Admit it, we all do. And not with malice. We can imagine the superhero gently stopping our raging road user and extracting him (or less likely her) from the vehicle and taking him to bicycle boot camp or car control training. Now most cyclists do also own a car so have little excuse, the other way round is less encouraging, many car drivers have access to a bike but are too lazy, or scared, to use it.

So we must ask ourselves, do we want to coexist? Can we put all the nonsense behind us and do it properly, give way, yield, have patience? Yes, we can. But all this is a metaphor, it could be anything, any scenario where we look down on the slower, the less ‘successful’, the foreign. All the negative behaviour that we act out both conceals and reveals what’s really going on. Almost inevitably ego is behind it all, it can be a dangerous force, it might knock you off your bike, or crash your car. Take care out there!

‘Just Like Me’

… except there isn’t, there’s no one just like you, everyone is different, unique, even twins. And yet … so many things drive us towards similarity, a house, a partner, 2.4 children. That doesn’t sum up everyone, but then those who are single, or who have no children are a little strange, those without a car, except those who live in London. Fashion has us wearing the same as other people, we buy our underwear at M&S or, if we’re different, Agent Provocateur, along with lots of other people who are similar to us. In school no teenager wants to stick out, one of the worst things is to be different, odd, wearing hand-me-downs or something which is strangely different.

All very superficial, but then there are other superficial things that cause, or have caused, great turmoil in society – not getting married (e.g. witches), not eating pork or avoiding alcohol, wearing clothes commonly worn by the opposite sex, finding the same sex attractive, being a different colour, coming from a different country (though many of us do ultimately). For those who are older, signs which say ‘No Blacks, No Irish’. You’re not like us, you’re odd, you’re a threat (perhaps we can admit that there aren’t that many of you but you’re taking over). Also from another era, ‘Over here, stealing our women.’ Why do we think that we own things, or people, that don’t belong to us, or the intangible things which have developed over time, but somehow we want to be preserved like listed buildings – culture, warm beer (everyone’s drinking cold beer at home and the pubs are closing), the Church of England (though we don’t want to go there).

Scapegoating and stereotyping, the scapegoat was sent out into the wilderness (the place of evil) with the sins of the people on it. The scapegoat is a myth or a metaphor, but it often becomes a terrible reality, with awful distressing karmic irony those who gave us the concept of the scapegoat became the scapegoat of ‘Christian’ Europe (or the appalling ‘Christendom’ – Christendoom more like!). Christendom was another terrible thing that worked on sameness, a whole society, culture and empire where people had to be the same, no pagans, heretics and witches (there probably weren’t any witches, just women, people like anyone else, with a superficial gender difference, just think of the scapegoating, past and present and future, no doubt, which means we need International Women’s Day, grrr!), no Jews, no gays. Until Martin Luther thought differently, he wasn’t the first, though some of his predecessors had been executed for being different. He was a kind of (flawed) superhero, he spoke up for difference, nailed his declaration of difference to the cathedral door. He still had a problem with those who were different – Jews and ‘Turks’. His contemporaries were the same, Calvin burnt those who disagreed with him.

The Church isn’t doing this any more, it is not big or powerful enough, thank God!, but just think what it would do if it still had power. There would be no Sunday Trading or civil partnerships and we can see how it reacts to equal marriage, except for the Quakers. But then we have secular conformity, which is where I started, best not to be too religious, or too odd, and people still aren’t happy with the ‘Turks’, either those who share their religion or the country that wants to join the EU. Maybe Christendom has never gone away, its hold over people is too strong, suddenly we want to start defining Europe in Christian terms (as if Islam was never part of it), we want to nail our Christian colours to the racist mast by saying that those who are religiously or ethnically different don’t belong, they are a threat to our ‘Christian heritage’. Unexpected perhaps, they are hardly Christian, though Christians were once (some still are) like them. QED, sadly. Let’s embrace our difference and those who are different, let’s all be different together. 

What kind of Society?

Society is fluid, it reflects those who make it up and the other impersonal factors which create it – the market, legislation, financial constraints. It evolves, though some would say it devolves. People’s behaviour changes and the things which people enjoy – pubs close and coffee shops open (everywhere!), churches empty and supermarkets fill, hunting and smoking are made illegal, Sunday opening and gay marriage (we hope) become legal and accepted. Different groups within society may almost feel themselves at war with each other ‘aggressive secularists’ vs. ‘close-minded conservatives’, ‘militant atheists’ vs. ‘pushy fundamentalists’.

What kind of society would we like? Ever been asked this question, what about in a group with people of a range of different views? How could we ever agree? Perhaps we elect politicians to do this for us – it immediately sounds wrong – but we are responsible for it. Politicians have some great ideas, or think they do. Personally, I think Liberal is the way, reduction of inequalities (maybe creates less work for superheroes through a happier society, who knows, it’s not likely to happen, that’s why we have superheroes) and so on. But politics is more about privilege it seems, just look at the expenses scandal. They should have all been thrown out. But no, it would have caused chaos, and it wasn’t as illegal as regular crime or expenses fiddling in other industries. Bullshit! Answerable to no one? It looks that way. Tony Blair had his war despite 1 million people marching through the streets of London and even he knows that he was wrong about the reasons for war, even if he would still do the same thing if he had a second chance.

But Government doesn’t represent all the people (and perhaps they are ‘playing with bad ideas’), election turnout has declined, only 65% of people voted in 2010 and only 59% of votes cast were for the coalition parties. So we have a Government that was voted in by 38% of the electorate. Oddly, perhaps this is a good thing, we don’t have one party doing its own thing for 4 years because it has to discuss with its coalition partner. Presumably this is more constructive than the ‘discussions’ with the Opposition. What good does posturing and performing do? Being collegiate and consensual is the way to go, my company is a coalition of difference.

One gap in our society is the voices of those who are not heard, just think of the boy who calls Superman at a time of crisis. Of course he could hear him, despite being far away. Government needs to listen to those who have not voted for them and not voted at all, they are not there for their followers, those who think like them. The whole thing needs to be done differently. The Opposition leader should be brought into the Cabinet. There should be a Minister for Conscience and Humanity. Parliament as a whole should go on a team-building course together and do some debate training. Would it be too frightening to govern better, as if it was important? And politicians need to get in touch, not just an out of office Michael Portillo, and experience the lives of the unemployed, those with disabilities. Of course they should go on a full course of Diversity training, as should those running the Church of England. Most of all, they should encourage a national conversation and become a listening government and show the rest of us how it’s done. Or else!

Fake!

Everyone loves a pretty face. But fake is the new gorgeous. You’ve seen them all around you, young women, not just made up but faked up. It’s impossible to tell if they’re good-looking through the layers of make-up in unearthly hues, sometimes sickly yellowish tints. They don’t want anyone to see what they really look like, do they have really bad skin, are they secretly ‘ugly’? What is the attraction of the artificial, of fakery? Do the men in their lives like it, must we assume that they do? Perhaps it’s egalitarian, democratic, a template on which the face is drawn. Better to be judged on your cosmetic skills than your genetic make-up, or minor imperfections. No more freckles; plucked and polished, ‘real’ women are hairless, yes you can be ‘perfect’.

What drives it? Why is the fake desirable, is it literally desirable? Or is it conforming to a celebrity, airbrushed standard? Don’t *real* men prefer *real* women? Though sooner or later, perhaps it’s already happened, men will be faking themselves up.

Perhaps it’s protection – you can’t see or judge me, what business is it of yours what I look like? But in the process surely they lose sight of themselves, only unadorned while asleep, taken in and imprisoned by their own ‘improved’ appearance. Hopefully, it is entirely their own choice, it would be better that way. But is it down to men? What are men’s expectations, what do men look for – individuality or conformity? Someone real, or who resembles a mannequin? Or is it the fashion industry and airbrushed images of women in magazine? Where even the old look young. Though it’s rare to see pictures of older women, and they too have made themselves into impossible versions of themselves.

Yes, we must avoid reality, there is no place for getting old, saggy, wrinkled, spotty, blotchy, all the inconvenience of being real! Why be real when you can be fake? Someone has a lot to answer for! Is it one person or yet another example of market-forces. The market serves no one but the market, it has no care or concern, it doesn’t exist to make you better, or ‘prettier’, it just has better and more compelling ways of extracting money from you. Tempting as it might be to wash off all that pointless and counter-productive make-up, change needs to be made elsewhere. The Campaign for Real Ale worked, perhaps it’s time for the Campaign for Real Women. Maybe the ‘fakery of the face’ is the market fighting against feminism, crapping all over those important messages of self-worth – there is no ugly, you look OK, gorgeousness is inside, not a face powder.

We’re all responsible, we all contribute to market forces. But, the market has a runaway momentum. We need conversation instead of commerce, dialogue not dollars, freedom not fakery. Can we stop the rot? National No Make-up Day? What do men need to do? I can tell you what to do but you need to embrace the real for yourself, seek the real, be real, look for real and say ‘Fuck to fakery’.

Picking on Women

So many people have an opinion on women – what they should do, or not, what they should wear, their role – they’re less keen to say how men should be, what it means to be a man, why men are standing in the way of women. The mindless yobbo who rips off a woman’s hijab in the street, or spits at her, might want to tell us that Muslim women are oppressed, if he can string two words together. It’s an extreme example, but it materialises in more civilised parts of society, the people who bang on about women’s oppression but don’t talk to women, who never lift a finger to reduce oppression. Female politicians have gone on record recently to tell us that it is endemic in the Houses of Parliament.

Of course, no one can pick on some women, like Wonder Woman and Cat Woman, male superheroes would need to look out if they were on the wrong side of those two!

There is of course clear sexism and perhaps the less clear misogyny which underlies it. Some of this is driven by privilege and inflated ideas of male importance, usually with a foundation on some pretty serious male inadequacy – how many ‘important’ men who demean or have no place for women at their level are dependent on the efforts of ‘support’ women who organise them. Some of this problem is structural – male thinking institutionalised – men can often be structural while women are more importantly relational. The structural excludes while the relational includes. Women often have a genius for working around the structures, leaving men to do the ‘important’ things while they get on with the *real* work.

What kind of changes do we need to see women running things more and put some flesh on the bones of equality of opportunity? Women bishops is a good example – Priests and Bishops are already persuaded that women Bishops should be appointed. However, the drag of activist opinionated laypeople has prevailed so far. This is why we need to do more with equality and *exterminate* the excluded areas. Why should religious institutions have an equality get out? Why should there be provision for those who have a problem with women? Surely there is a superhero answer to this one, the Queen as Supreme Governor (Super Governor), the most senior woman in the Church could lay down the law, after all it’s not as if God is running the Church! Anyone who stands against women Bishops could be sent to the Tower, or forced to attend a week’s Equal Opps training.

It all shows how some people let their twisted brains override reality, where their hardline opinions are self-reinforcing, interpreting the world through their pricks. It also shows how structures can be bound and gagged by privilege. A structure can only fight against reality for so long, it’s the ignorant who maintain it. It was 200 years after the anti-slavery victory in the USA that the Black Civil Rights movement brought about real change. Inhumanity and inequality needs something special to challenge it, in the meantime a lot of people need to be embarrassed, straightened out and brought face to face with their own problems without scapegoating and oppressing others.