Success or morality?

There have been many reports across the media of celebrities and sports personalities getting into trouble with the police and other authorities. This behaviour, which can occur within and without their place of work, includes drunken debauchery, assault, stealing, harassment and picking up prostitutes.

A common opinion is that because they are celebrities, they do not get as heavy handed a consequence or punishment than the rest of us. I am not sure if that is true or not and I’m certainly not justified in giving my opinion. But the recent cases got me thinking in a slightly different direction.

When it comes to celebrities – particularly those involved in competitive sports – does the line between success and morality become blurred?

For example: let’s say that you are a hardcore fan of your home side, MadeUp United. The old MadU haven’t been doing too well but this season they are flying! The miraculous has blessed your home side as they sail through the league and reach the finals of every cup. The deciding match of the league arrives. And you want your team to win so much, you know that there will be floods of tears either way. The first league win in 37 years!!

In that situation, would we all be a bit guilty of allowing lines to be blurred and accepting behaviour that we would usually condemn?

“Ref!! REF! Did you see that? Clearly a foul, ref!” you shout as one of your players hits the ground after a soft tackle.

“Play on” says the referee as your favourite striker goes tearing up the pitch. Undeterred, the defender puts in a successful challenge and your player loses the ball. Enraged, your striker turns on the defender and not only takes him down hard, but decides to give him a little kick and punch while he is down there.

“What?! A red card?! No way ref!! He was clearly provoked! Unfair tackle!! You’re blind mate!”

An extreme example perhaps. But what about us? When we watch competitions, sports, our heroes; do we excuse behaviour we usually wouldn’t?

Does success become more important than what is right?

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Choices, choices

Sometimes if sleep is hiding from me and/or I can’t manage to throw out boredom, I’ve been known to browse the games section of the app store.

Tonight was just a night for such window shopping and I combed the games section (specifically the ‘free’ category as I am just that stingy) to see what jewels I could find.

As I read the blurb and looked at the screen shots, I found myself making my decision on the basis of the reviews. And, before too long, found myself simply looking at the number of stars the game had got from unknown reviewers and if it wasn’t up to scratch, I wouldn’t bother to even look at the blurb or the pictures.

A reasonable way to act, you may say. That’s what reviews are there for, you may add. And I would agree to an extent- I would go through pages and pages of reviews before choosing a new mobile phone for example. Or purchasing something expensive like a car or home appliance. Reviewing has its place- as long as they are wide and varied of course.

But what about making a decision solely based on reviews? And reviews from strangers- not necessarily “experts in the field”?

I may be making a huge jump and delving into the rants of a late-night pregnant lady; however are we so swayed by what the world thinks that we forget that we can make decisions ourselves? Or how to make those decisions?

For many of us (and after tonight’s game searching antics it looks like I am not totally immune either) the choices we make hang on the views of others. Sometimes it may even be people that we don’t even know. In our desperate attempt to be accepted and, dare I say it, ‘popular’ in the eyes of our peers, could it be that our decisions aren’t always based on the correct principles? I would say that I am quite independent and more than capable of free thought and making decisions. But this little incident tonight has thrown me. All of our ideologies and views can be affected by the world around us- I think we would be lying to ourselves if we thought any different- but how many (or to what extent) are our decisions shaped by the thoughts and feelings of others?
Asking advice of trusted family and friends is a great thing, and I am certainly not advocating against that. But what about the advice of strangers? Advice that makes up a societal view. If such a thing exists. Or a general view. Or a stereotype. Or a prejudice.

We all have a desperate desire to fit in. We can pretend that we don’t care but most of us (at least!) really do.
I was watching a programme on tv tonight where the presenter briefly visited the village/town of an Amish community in America. Now, before I get into trouble here, I have nothing against Amish communities and I have to admit that I am very ignorant about their beliefs, customs and lifestyles. But one aspect of the report comes to mind as I write this blog.

As the presenter was talking to the Amish gentleman and asking questions such as “why don’t Amish men have moustaches?” and the man himself spoke how they weren’t allowed to have pockets in their shirts, one thing became apparent. As the question of “why?” crossed the presenter’s lips, the Amish gentleman could offer no reason beyond “well, we all want to look as similar as possible.”

Traditions that have become so ingrained in a culture that they are not totally sure why they are there. Apart from the fact that, ultimately, they all want to fit in- to look the same. Now, I will say again that I am not running down Amish communities or individuals: I respect their way of life and discipline. And I am far too ignorant to pass judgement anyway. But is a need/desire/law to fit in, to be accepted, showcased here? Or is this simply a situation where decision is completely taken away? It is probably not life changing as to whether your shirt has a pocket or not but does the principle behind such a tradition run deeper in our communities than we would like to admit?

Sometimes decisions have to be taken out of some hands. For example, as my husband and I wait to become parents for the first time, we are not going to let our baby decide whether they should stick their fingers on a hot cooker or not. We will protect them from that danger and make that decision for them. But when they are teenagers and deciding what their future steps are; who are we to decide? How will our child decide? I doubt I would have gone to university myself were it not for the fact that the group of friends I had were applying for uni and college and I thought I would do the same. It wasn’t the background I came from, but it was the future I decided. A positive example of influence and peer pressure, but we all know that it doesn’t always go so well in other situations.

I feel as if I have opened a can of worms. Either that, or this really is a baby-brain rant. But where do the solutions to our dilemmas lie? Peers? Society? Religion? Faith? Strangers? A mixture of all those and more?

I wish I knew. Life is all about the decisions we make and the paths we choose- be that the big calls or the small calls. Our decisions define our future and there is no getting away from them. But how do we choose? Do we even know the extent of the influence others have over us? Maybe it is only when a friend has observed a relationship and is able to say “im sorry, but I think that person is having a negative affect on you…” that we can step back and look at things ourselves.

We do become more like the people we spend the most time with and their views will affect ours, positively our negatively, and improvement or compromise can often follow. And sometimes that caring friend is all we need to re-align our own thoughts.

I can’t help but think- if the direction and quality of our life is decided by the choices that we make, then surely we should be more aware of where those final decisions are originating from?

Choices, choices; how do you make yours?

Dinah

There is a little story nestled in the legends of Genesis, fighting for attention through the well-known stories of Adam and Eve; Moses and Aaron; Jacob and Esau. A little story about a daughter of Jacob and Leah; the only daughter of Jacob and Leah. Who sought the company of some women one day and found herself in the hands of a prince who raped her before asking her father for her hand in marriage. Dinah’s brothers, Simeon and Levi, found out that their sister had been ‘defiled’ (made unclean) and were incensed. When they discovered that the prince Shechem had sent his father to ask for Dinah’s hand in marriage, they came up with a cunning plan. They told Shechem and his father Hamor that they would have to be circumcised for their sister to be able to intermarry with them. So, because Shechem genuinely loved Dinah, he agreed and all the males of that tribe were circumcised. A very painful procedure for an adult male, Levi and Simeon waited until it had been done and the men were all still a bit ‘tender’ before entering the city, attacking them and killing every male. And taking Dinah back (who we can only assume had been kidnapped in some way by Shechem. Well, he was used to taking whatever he wanted, wasn’t he?), as well as looting the city. Jacob condemned the actions, fearful that the surrounding tribes would join together and attack them in response but his sons stood by their actions, asking “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?” (Genesis 34v31).

You can read about all of this in Genesis chapter 34. It is really there; in the first book of the Bible. I promise you that I am not making this up.

Jacob condemned the behaviour of his sons, Simeon and Levi. Understandable of course – especially if his intention was to make peace in the area rather than war. But, on the other hand, although the methods and plan may have been extreme; what kind of brother(s) would not be enraged by such treatment of their sister? Whether it was thousands of years ago or if it happened today?

I am not pretending that I understand rape; or the destruction that it causes in the lives of so many (too many) who are affected by it. I have absolutely no idea about this destruction and I do not profess to try and understand, or even to know how to comfort those affected; be it directly or indirectly.

But how did Dinah feel in this situation, I wonder? It was somewhat rare for the manuscripts of the Bible to mention any daughters had by the great men of these timeless stories but here the story of Dinah gets a whole 31 verses. However, her feelings and thoughts in the situation are entirely absent from the narrative. Instead, the story focuses on the rage and revenge of her brothers and the following reaction of her father.

Did Levi and Simeon carry out justice? Or was their anger misguided and was it the wrong way to go about things? To bring it into the modern day; were they right to soldier in and take the law into their own hands, or should they have waited for the ‘authorities’ (whatever your definition would be concerning today’s society) to thoroughly investigate the case and hopefully bring the perpetrator to task?

I think I am still deciding to be honest. I can understand the rage of the brothers; and at this time in history, there was no police or Scotland Yard or C.I.D. department they could report such a crime to. But, on the other hand, was it God’s will that they would deceive and enter a city to take so many lives. I don’t know the answer to that either – His views are completely missing from this story also.

Even I am being distracted from the question of the female in this story – how did Dinah feel? Especially after being kidnapped by the man who raped her afterwards. I would imagine that she felt great relief at seeing her brothers enter the city and take her home; but at what cost? Would she have been happy about the fact that there had been so much bloodshed for her cause? How would I have felt in such a situation?

Sometimes, the notion of justice is not as clear cut as we may think. The simple ideology of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ can be muddier than we would like.

Was justice done in this situation? When we think of the many ethical dilemmas in our world today, is justice ever done? Can we even tell what the ‘just’ response would be?

We would all love to have a ‘just’ society. That all would be treated fairly and with respect and that justice would be served equally. But that would mean knowing what ‘justice’ is and what justice looks like when it is meated out to those who are deserving of it. But how to we know that too? That individual I see as deserving of swift and exacting justice, might be someone that you think deserves no such treatment.

And, so, another term becomes undefined in my mind. But, hey, maybe that is ok too.

An Overactive Brain

What a shocker that was. My brain gets too excited?! Really?! Well, after being diagnosed with epilepsy last month, that’s how I like to look at it.

There aren’t enough positive slants on this condition. Well, I haven’t found many so far- I felt beaten into submission with stats with less of the “hey, I live with this and its alright!”

Now, dont get me wrong- I know that epilepsy can be really tough for some and I do not ever want to (or even seem to be) discounting or making light of that. But I would like to say that me, personally, will strive to “crack on” with the life I had always led.

Yeah, its there and, yeah sometimes the fear of another seizure returns. But if we allowed a fear of being hit by a bus to overwhelm us, would we ever step out of the house? It would be easy to mope. It would be easy to use epilepsy as an excuse for everything. Even as an excuse to stop living and simply exist instead.

But why do that?

I have not changed. And I am blessed to have great friends around me who haven’t treated me any different either. But maybe that is because I am not different. I am still me.

I am still me.

Oh, and I am pregnant too. With epilepsy floating around in my family, I was always under the impression that having children was out for us females. Imagine my surprise when the specialist nurse told us that 0.5-1% of all pregnant ladies are epileptic. Now, that may not seem like a huge percentage but let that wash over you again.

0.5-1% of ALL pregnancies.

And the notion that medication harms the baby? It only puts the chances of a baby having an abnormality up, overall, by 2%. That’s it- 2%.

Of course, the parents are the ones who have to decide whether to risk those odds- and that is a choice that will forever rest with the individuals involved- but it is certainly not the horror show I was led to believe it would be.

Well. That’s pregnancy sorted.

Im positively epileptic: and i am ok with that.

Freedom of Speech

“If either of you say ‘I told you so’ I will…”

“Slap you.”

“Yes! Slap you.”

The above dialogue was directed from adults to two young people. And by that I mean children. Eight years old at the most. Banter, I thought, until a little one lagging behind must have said the offending phrase and an adult turned round and growled the name of the child warningly.

It even scared me a little.

I latched onto the hope that it was simply playful banter. Especially when the other grown up spotted the sale corner and ushered the young people in to have a look.

“Gather in, out the way of other people.”

I strolled past, hopeful for the children, when an exclamation of “Awesome!” from one of the children gained the following from an adult:

“If you say awesome one more time, I will slap you.”

What are these young people allowed to say?? I know that was literally a two minute conversation in the wide savannah of the children’s lives but it got me thinking.

I know, right? Dangerous.

However, I thought nonetheless.

“Children should be seen and not heard.”

“Children have the right to speak up.”

“We need to build confidence in children.”

“Children’s opinions don’t matter.”

What are we teaching our children? With such a mix of messages, how on earth can we expect them to know what we expect of them?

Freedom of speech is all well and good – but how do we expect a generation to grow up and stand up for what they believe in if we hush them regardless of what they say?

On the other hand, with the Scottish Government passing bills on Offensive Behaviour at football games and being able to imprison people for up to five years for the things they say at a football game, where will it end?

I must say, at this point that I fully support the Scottish Government’s attempts to stop sectarian behaviour and violence surrounding football – it is truly a contemptable fact that individuals will fight and argue over sport and it should not happen under any circumstances.

Coming solely from the angle of free speech; if this is where a bill begins, where will it end? Although the Scottish government website does state that it does not stop individuals peacefully sharing their faith or criminalise jokes about religion (or otherwise) which does protect freedom to some extent. But is this the start of a spiral that begins with football games and ends with strict, complicated rules about what we can and cannot say?

Do we hush up young people when we shouldn’t? Or do we confuse them with our rules?

Our country is in trouble with politics.

But with only about 61% of the UK population turning out to vote at the General Election in 2010 (http://www.ukpolitical.info/2010.htm) I think it is safe to say that British politics is in trouble. Particularly concerning our young people as only 44% of those aged 18-24 decided to vote. Could it be (tenuous as it may sound) that our hushing of young people encourages the growth of a non-voting generation? If children are suffocated in their sharing of opinions, does that grow a desire to shift away from the same in their adult years?

I know there are many reasons around why voters choose not to vote, but I would argue that we have to grow an open space to share opinions, expore viewpoints and make informed decisions from a young age. Thus allowing them to grow in confidence and being equipped to share their opinions and genuinely feel as if their views do count in this world.

Not slapping our children when they speak would definitely be a good start.

Communication

“Have you ripped your vest?”

“How?”

“You’ve got a hole in the back of it.”

“I’ve got a hole in the back of my vest?”

“Aye.”

When conversations are longer than they need to be, it always makes me giggle. Above is a genuine conversation between two people I shared a train with one day. I love listening to conversations that go around the houses- although I do admit that taking part in them can be really frustrating, especially when you are trying to get somewhere! But it makes me think- in everyday conversation we can all go around the houses before ending up at our destination.

But change that to text language, which is on the rise as the favoured prose of young people, and its a very different story. “missd U 2day, call l8r”. Short, sharp and straight to the point.

I wonder where language is in all this; and where it will be. In many ways, we are writing more than we ever did through the joys of Twitter, Facebook, texts, emails and even blogs like this one.

But what language are we using? Our language changes – it always has; that’s what makes it alive- and we all move with the times. Microsoft Word, for example, insists on correcting me for putting a ‘u’ in ‘colour’ and an ‘s’ in ‘prioritise’. And so Americanisms encroach on our English. But text language will soon take over too and we will find speed will become increasingly more important than flair.

We may even lose those beautiful silent letters so stolen from our Latin and French ancestors.

We may be writing more, which is great. But at what cost?

Joyous Jubilee?

What are your thoughts on the monarchy, I wonder? Love them? Hate them? Totally indifferent?

Whatever your thoughts, or even your politics, there is such a great atmosphere in the air, as street parties happen, as entertainment rolls on in the local square and as people seek to reach out to their neighbours. Cooking and baking is piled high on tables on the streets as more residents come out of their homes and add more to the plethora of goodies to choose from.

A local street party

People from all over get involved in community crafts as huge towers are constructed out of cardboard boxes and raised high in the square. People chat, amicably and warmly and catch up on each other’s lives; even if they saw them just that morning. Maybe for others, old friendships are rekindled or repaired as the opportunity arises to talk about everything and nothing, all at the same time.

A tower made of cardboard boxes – and it got even bigger!

Love it or hate it, the Jubilee celebrations have created something really important, and often missing from our twenty-first century lives.

Welcome to Community.