Yes, Francis, I am the Selfish One

Pope Francis (a life-long bachelor) had said recently that people who don’t have children are  »selfish ».

I am proud to be selfish in this matter. It’s in fact my duty to be selfish. And I am a Catholic.

I have a genetic condition which makes it much possible that my children will have a worse life than I have. I was the lucky one with my condition, I have an university degree and I can work. Many other don’t have the capacity to do these tasks.

How is this selfish to not have children when you know that they could not have 100% of their chances of their side to have a good life? I don’t see it as being selfish, I see it as being wise – as having an head of your shoulders.

Sadly, with comments like that, the Pope seems little-minded. Little minded, which is a sad thing considering all the wisdom that he could bring with his post.

Considering the #CharlieHebdo tragedy, let’s make satire more alive then ever

The Charlie Hebdo massacre is awful.

Awful because it represents the worse of some people may do. Whatever their faith or political ideology, hurting or killing people people that  »offended » you or is crass and a sign that you are a coward.

Awful because it’s a proof of how some people may think that the sword is mighter than the pen.

Awful because the people working at Charlie Hebdo had a great role in society which is that their job was to be satirists. They were professional jestors, and they were doing well by using satire on everyone. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Blacks, Whites, Asians, politicians, they take a laugh at all sides and it’s a good thing. I agree that some cartoons are funnier than others, but who really cares? Their power is to make you laugh, think or start a conversation. This is their job.

Sadly, it is very difficult for a publication like Charlie Hebdo to survive even in some western liberal democraties before of lawsuits or of things such as human Rights tribunals which make self-censorship a viable option for those who don’t have unlimited funds.

This is exactly why free speech is important, because without free speech (even for people you hate) how could you communicate any other liberty?

Back to the Future 1974, the British Political Edition

In a few months, the UK will be in a general election.

Nobody know how this could turn out because some parties have fallen off and others had made sizable gains.

As senior partner in the coalition, the Tories are not high in the polls, however they are able to remain popular with their leader and economical competence. David Cameron is the most popular of leaders in a group of unpopular leaders, and this could be a gamechanger. However, no doubt that their low support is an handicap.

Conventional wisdom could lead us to think that Labour will be the one benefiting of the slump, however Labour poll figures had been frankly terrible. The party is even losing some constituencies that they have won in 2012 (such as Scotland). Their leader is a liability and the party in opposition has problems.

The other thing is that Labour support seems to be eaten on multiple fronts. With UKIP among working class voters, with the Greens among social liberals and with the SNP in Scotland.

UKIP are an interesting case. They have won the European election and two recent by-elections and they seem to have eaten support from all sides of the political spectrum. Not unlike the rise of populist parties all over Europe, UKIP voters are sick and tired of old parties.

A new trend is that Labour is starting to panic with UKIP rise in their home turf, mainly because that Labour starts to realize that working classes are hardly social liberal. They are attracted to UKIP because Labour is seen in their communities as the  »old rotten » party. In a place like Rotherham, Labour is seen as toxic, and with the rise of alternatives other than the Conservatives, traditional Labour voters are looking elsewhere.

The Liberal Democrats will probably have an awfully low popular vote next election if polls are right. The good thing for them is that they seems to be doing well in the constituencies where they have an MP especially if their main opposition is the Conservatives or UKIP.

The Greens had also gone up fast in the last year having even more support today then the Liberal Democrats.

In Scotland, the SNP could perhaps have a record number of MP in Westminster. Their recipe is quite similar to the Lib Dems or UKIP, as their policies seems to differ based on where they are running in Scotland. They play Labour card in red constituencies and in other constituencies, they want to look like Tartan Tories.

But the most interesting thing about the 2015 election could be with the difficulty of Labour of trying to please the Red UKIP vote, the Green vote and the SNP vote all at the same time. Nobody know how they could do this without having big contradictions.

With a political situation like that, could this be 1974 all over again?

Mental health: the last taboo?

Mental health is indeed something very important, which had become impossible to understate today.

According to a recent OCDE study, people unable to work because of mental health issues cost the UK economy £70 billion each year with 40 per cent of all people claiming for disability benefits due to psychological issues.

But who is mental health so taboo? Perhaps it’s because that unlike cancer or somebody who have a physical handicap, we are unable to see mental health problems even if they are hurting many people. We tend to see them as something which  »could go away » by thinking about something else, unlike physical handicaps. Sadly, this phenomenon is still visible among people The other big challenge is that psychiatry and psychology is a science which is involving very fast, and yet, there are many things still left unknown.

A sad, but common phenomenon is that people at the workplace, or among friends are not keen on talking about mental health because they don’t to be seen as weak, or not wanted to be seen not to be able with to do correctly their tasks at work because of their mental health condition. Some people are very open about mental health, but sadly, some people still have big misconceptions about this.

On a more personal level, I have suffered mentally since a young age even if I consider myself the lucky one. In 2003, at 14, I was sectioned by my own will at a psychiatric hospital for weeks. I must take medication since I have done a massive depression and a psychotic crisis when I was 13 in Spring 2002 while still having periodic depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) problems. I was lucky to have help, but sadly, there are too many people who don’t have help because they are too scared to get it.

In conclusion, if you have one thing to do today, perhaps that talking to someone to your entourage who seems not to feel good psychologically would be a very good initiative. Because for something like mental health, the best prevention and help should be good at a grassroots level within people you know firsthand.

When you are in a crisis, it’s easier to get help from people near you – and this considering how some are too shy or scared to be judged to talk about it.

#Ferguson, a town in Missouri

There is no doubt that we have seen the worse of many people in this Ferguson case.

Both the city police, the county police, the county judiciary had done what they have supposed not to do. On the other hand, the politicians in the county have been clueless just like the people (who have generally from outside Ferguson) who think that destroying the city is a good way to further their cause. When someone is destroying every business in a place like Ferguson, how would this bring a better life to the people there?

But the problem is not only in Ferguson. In a place like Chicago, there is an enormous amount of violence. Teens get injured or killed almost every day in Chicago. The vast majority of the victims are African Americans and yet you see little coverage in the national media on this. Sadly, could we say that cases like that only have media coverage when they are between people who have different skin colour? Because it’s agreeable that this is a real problem, but it’s also good for sensationalism and to have good ratings.

And yet, people from aboard should refrain to judge too much the situation in the US. In the UK, in France, and even in Sweden, there are cases like the one in Ferguson. There were riots in the last few years in all those places because of similar events like in Ferguson. One can think of the violent riots in France in 2005 who started because a young man was killed by a policeman in France.

What could be done?

In the short term, to put a video camera on policemen would be a good option.

In the more long term, however, I find that ending the war on drugs could be the only good way that minorities in the US have a better life. Less Americans should be detained, and especially considering that African Americans are over-represented in jails all over America. A great number of those offences are related to drugs. This would be a good starting point.

The UKIP pope?

I am a Catholic. I went to Catholic School from kindergarten to the end of high school. Many Catholic I know have a love-hate relationship with the Church, as even if they go to churches often, they see the Catholic church as one major reason why they are so prosperous today. Let’s remember that for centuries, the Church had done massive things in education, healthcare and charity.

But with time, I became close to being a lapsed Catholic – or if you want a Catholic by tradition. The fact that the church had difficulty reforming, that it accepted for a long time that it was fine abusing children all were examples that made me found the Church toxic.

Having seen him in person, Jean-Paul II was a good pope, mainly because he fought communism and was a massive symbol in Poland against the Stalinist-like dictatorship.

Unlike many people, I was lukewarm with Francis as a pope. He didn’t inspire me much.

Two things that he have done lately had made me change my mind:

The fact that he was the first pope to do a formal outreach to people who are autistic is a splendid initiative. I am autistic and it’s a good start that the Church stops living in the darkness in this subject.

The second thing is the speech he made lately to the European Union. He was incredible. Why? Because he used his position and the quasi-immunity associated with it to piss everyone off. Very few could do that – and he did it in a great matter.

Rather than have a nice little speech saying that everybody is nice and happy and full of platitudes, Francis was able to be critical of the European Union as an institution saying it was bureaucratic and out of touch with the people. This is not unlike the popular opinion of many in Italy and in other European countries.

And yet, as much as the Vatican is also bureaucratic and out of touch with the people, possibly because of his non-European background, Francis was able to reinvigorate the debate on the role, the policies and the powers of the European Union.

This is why that perhaps the UKIP pope will be an interesting pope. It’s still too early to see where he is going, but Francis will be an interesting pope – this is certain.

A Warning about the Snoopers Charter

Forget her passage on the Desert Island Disks, Theresa May had made the headlines lately.

As Home Secretary, Mrs. May have proposed that police and security services will get new powers as the UK faces a terror threat « perhaps greater than it has ever been ».

She also says in a that the  »UK is engaged in a struggle that will go on for many years ».

A panoply of measures was then put on the table from  »counter-radicalization measures » to  »forcing firms to hand details to police identifying who was using a computer or mobile phone at a given time. »

There is no doubt that everyone wants to live in a safe society. But as Benjamin Franklin said centuries ago: Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

This is exactly the main problem with these measures, their powers are so immense and the wording is so imprecise that they are easily be overused for purposes other than  »terrorism ». In the US, the NSA  »snooping » case was important in this regard, because it leaded to assumptions that these agencies are beyond the law. It’s very difficult to even know anything about their budgets and operations because it’s classified.

The  »permanent » aspect of these measures also makes it make look like something straight out of a George Orwell book.

It’s not the realm of conspiracy theorists to think that these powers will be sooner or later abused because those working in intelligence are human after all. It could be tempting for only one person to use this data to make damage to a person or an organisation they don’t like. Even if you have  »nothing to hide », this organisation or person could perhaps be you.

Any conservative, liberal or libertarian in Britain, should be wary of these measures, and especially considering that very few people in the mainstream political parties are against those measures.

To see someone like Ed Miliband who is keen on criticizing almost everything the coalition government does having lukewarm opposition to these measures, make it even more chilling.