To TMO or not to TMO

There have been a couple of incidents at the rugby world cup where use non-use of the TMO (referring referreeing decisons to video evidence) seem to be influencing the game in a way they shouldn’t be.

The fact that video replays are shown within the stadium when play has stopped, allowing players and fans to see if a referee has made a wrong decision is wrong, refereeing is a hard enough job as it is without such scrutiny.

TMO is used at the world cup and the six nations and has become part of the game at international fixtures. However, it should not change the way the game is played and make it different to playing at club or amateur level.

The first incident occured in the opening match between England and Fiji. Fiji appeared to score a try, the ref and the linesman were behind the ball and a try was awarded. This is normal at club level as the the probability is that a try has been legally scored. Then, a slow motion replay was shown on the big screen which clearly showed the Fijian player knocking on just before the try line. The ref then (as the kicker was preparing for the conversion attempt) stopped play and referred to the TMO, and the decision to award the try was reversed. Even though technically it wasn’t a try, it only wasn’t due to the TMO rules, hence changing the game. TMO should only be used for marginal decisions where the ref is in doubt or unsighted. To be consistent then  every try would have to go to TMO.

The TMO rules need changing as at the moment the TMO can only be used in specific circumstances such as  to pick up foul and dangerous play, which is good for ensuring player safety. However TMO can’t be used for penalty decisions, this has an affect on the game as  teams are then encouraged to take penalties instead of pushing for a try. There are too mnay penalties in the game as it is in my opinion, more should not be encouraged.

Which brings me to the other incident, in yesterdays quarter final match between Scotland and Australia. It was a superb match, with 1 point separating the teams with 90 seconds to go. Scotland messed up their own lineout, it appeared to be an accidental knock on followed by an accidental offside. Everyone expected an excitign final scrum with an Australian put in. Instead the ref awarded a penalty, a wrong decision, that affected the outcome of the game in the final minute. The ref has to make an on the spot decision, but couldn’t be certain it was a penalty or not, if it’s not clear a penalty shouldn’t be awarded. Here was a situation where whether it was a penalty was unclear, so perhaps should have been referred to the TMO. The ref could, however, have asked the linesman if they had seen anything.

As a supporter of the Welsh national team I have seen the odd wrong decision lose us games. Having said that, watching at home on the telly I’ve also seen penalties awarded to Wales, we shouldn’t have, Refereeing is tough and wrong decisions are simply part of the game. However again thsi incident was shown on the big screens at the game, the crowd and the ref watched it and saw that a wrong decision had been made. This time the ref couldn’t refer to the TMO and potentially reverse the decision. This is the inconsistency, why TMO for a try and not a penalty? It will be interesting to see how the IRB respond to the use of TMO in this world cup.

As a fan of rugby, such things do ruin games as a spectacle for the supporters. It was a great contest to watch. For Scotland, coming close to getting to the semi-finals is heartbreaking, to lose the match in the final minute by a wrong refereeing decision, doubly so. It’s tough on the victors, Australia, too, as they are seen as not progressing by winning the game, but by being lucky with a refereeing decision, celebrations are then muted. It leaves a sour taste in the mouth for the neutral too ( I was of course supporting our comrades in Scotland).

Finally and incidentally, I do not condone the abuse the referee has received online. Completely uncalled for, as i said a very tough job and in a game such as rugby you are never going to get every decision right. So, use the TMO where there is doubt and don’t show replays in the stadium (part of the fun is watching a replay at home after a match and seeing what happened at all the breakdowns.

Advertisements

The Great British Housing Crisis

There has recently been much media coverage of the British ‘housing crisis’, as if people had only just noticed, the crisis arguably began in the early 1980s and has continued ever since.

The situation prior to the crisis, what perhaps was considered normal, was for homes to cost 3 times the full time workers salary. People could take out mortgages over 25 years and pay around 20% of their incomes servicing there mortgage and still have money to save or invest. There was also a rental sector, with relatively secure tenancies and rents were reasonable. Then there was social/council housing, for those unable or unwilling to enter the private housing market. There were the experimental housing estates of the 1950s and 1960s, which many tenants moved from as they were poorly maintained  and the councils housed difficult tenants in them, all of which led to estates becoming ‘sink estates; areas of high crime.

The Thatcher government introduced the policy of ‘right to buy’ (though the Labour party had tried to introduce the policy in the 1950s), whereby council tenants had the right to buy their homes at a substantial discount on the market price (up to 50%). The idea of owning your home rather than renting now became appealing to a wider section of the population. In my view, the policy in itself is a good one, however what the government failed to do was replace the houses that were sold with new build social housing, this really is what caused the housing crisis. There remained spare capacity in property available in deprived areas of towns and cities, slowly this spare capacity disappeared without replacement.

The fall in the numbers of social houses was exacerbated with the perennial failure of private house building to keep up with demand. Demand was rising as the number of households increased and to a lesser extent population growth. The rise in the number of households was caused by social changes. Social changes, such as the rise in the divorce rate meant the traditional family home became two homes and young adults living independently for longer periods before marriage.

Demand for housing exceeded supply, causing rapid house price inflation, an inflation that far exceeded economic growth (wages, GDP, inflation) and was not a reflection of the underlying health of the British economy, although many on the right claimed it was. This has continued for 35 years. The people of Britain have adapted to these changes, absorbing the effects of the crisis. There has been a general trend of a decrease in the space or the square footage, taken up by individuals. New builds are smaller and smaller, existing housing has had rooms divided into smaller ones to pack more people in, all at the cost of individuals living efficiency. People have moved into the empty homes in the deprived areas and moved to live further and further away from their place of work. More importantly the amount of peoples income spent on housing has increased, from around 20% to up to 50% of income. Really, I think it’s quite crazy to spend half you’re income just to put a roof over your head, when it doesn’t take half an individuals life work to build a house.

Why are the British prepared to spend so much money on housing? The housing crisis has been growing for a long time. Younger people have felt a desperation to own there own home as relative cost increased further, rather than waste their money paying the profits of a landlord or a financial institution, especially when in the long term, over a lifetime, buying over renting still saves a lot of money.

I noted in the news yesterday that the average England and Wales monthly rent is £816, The average house price is £178000. The mortgage repayments, over a standard 25 year mortgage for this average house is £858. Basically, the cost of paying rent and a mortgage are essentially the same. So, it is always advantageous to buy instead of rent. The percentage of people in the 25-35 age group, when traditionally people buy a family home is falling, What frustrates young people is to get a mortgage a 10% deposit is required, this is frustrating to achieve, when they are renting at £800 a month and need to save for a deposit on top of this, knowing that when they do get a mortgage there monthly outgoings then fall. It’s a catch-22 as they longer they take to raise this deposit the amount required increases as house prices and rents continue to rise, All this in an economy where wages are stagnant.

This barrier to buying, doesn’t apply to the asset rich, who can find a deposit. The phenomena of ‘buy to let’ landlords became common. You simply paid the deposit and over 25 years the mortgage was paid off by the tenants renting the house and suddenly you have a valuable asset to sell. so, a whole industry of private landlords who made a lot of money out of very little work and no contribution to the productive economy. Because the expansion of this practice itself led to house price inflation, both encouraged it and hit the productive workers who lived in these homes.

The failure of private construction companies to supply the market with new build homes is a contributory factor. Friends of mine who live and work in continental Europe encounter locals who are find it strange that the British tend to live in old damp housing, rather than move to new builds. The answer is that new build housing is of lower quality than old housing and situated on estates that lack local pubs and shops and transport connections, they are relatively isolated. and as such command a lower market price than old housing. The majority of new build housing is constructed by a cartel of large developers, who build to minimum build quality standards, the houses are small and designed to a minimum specification of living needs, so they have limited appeal, generally those who can only afford new build. Much of this housing suffers from poor sound insulation and lack the ability to deliver real living needs. So, the traditional Victorian terrace house is superior as a place to live even if it costs a lot more to heat in the winter, really the UK should build new terrace housing in the same medium density style but with modern insulation methods.

A consequence of this hyper inflationary market has been social segregation, only those on high wages can afford to live near the places of work that pay high wages and have access to good social facilities. London and the south east of England has particularly borne the brunt of this hyper-inflation. There has been a scramble for people of my generation to enter the housing market before it’s too late, itself contributing to the inflation.

Another major social change has been work tenure. The older generation generally had ‘jobs for life’ where people could work for the same firm all their lives, taking on senior roles as their skills and experience increased. This is no longer the model, nowadays workers is contracted to a handful of years, so people move around the UK and the rest of the world to work. This has led to the idea that when buying a home to have it near by a range of potential businesses and customers, so a job can change but the home needn’t change. The resulting pressure on the transport infrastructure of increasing long distance commuting meant that homes near good transport hubs increased, distance from place of work no longer matters, it’s the time spent traveling that is important.

People are afraid to move, even when this will increase their living standards. This is partly due to the cost of £5000+ simply to sell your home and buy another elsewhere. An unwillingness to move to an area where property prices may drop relative to other areas, partly due to fear of not being able to move back home is house prices change. A consequence of this is that people living in and around London don’t want to risk moving away for a great work/business opportunity as they fear not being able to move back to home to their friends and family. This has encouraged the phenomenon utilised by several of my friends of buying a home in London or elsewhere, renting it out and using the rental income to pay to rent somewhere else, giving them flexibility in where they live in exchange for the awkwardness of being a landlord and renting at the same time.

All this social change has led to the political establishment appearing to finally realisie that housing is now the UK economies biggest problem, affecting productivity and recruitment. If you are a firm based in London you are well situated for producing products for a large local market and international connections are easy to set up and maintain. The cost of these advantages has largely been absorbed by the workforce, keen to hold a well paying job. however productivity is low as workers spend hours every day on cramped trains or stuck in traffic jams, this makes them tired and stressed and hence less productive. It is difficult to recruit staff as highly skilled people, who don’t already live in the South East are unable to afford to move to the area, unless wages rise. Such wages have risen, which further exacerbates the problem, the crisis is now being discussed because firms can no longer afford the staffing costs, especially in the sluggish post-2008 world economy. the workers and financial institutions have decreasing disposable incomes and no savings to invest in innovation.

Outside the global financial industry and the South East of England, these problems caused by the housing crisis are also manifest. The social division of areas has caused people to flee to areas with cheaper housing costs. This drove up housing costs in other industrial hubs, creating tensions with the local population, again pushing wages up to fund the increasing costs costs of housing for workers. The effect of this that a new business may have a great product and skilled staff, but cannot sell the product cheaply because wages are so high. The British have absorbed rising housing costs by cutting their disposable incomes to the hilt. Many firms now manufacture their goods or use cheaper labour in call centres countries like India to manage their sales and customer service because they can’t do it locally, because of the housing crisis. Essentially it is hard to develop a business in the UK in a globalised world, because the costs of living is too high. The British people have suffered and made the best of the housing crisis, but it has reached the point where it severely impacts the British economy generally.

The UK’s failure in tackling the housing crisis is simply bad economically. Capitalism works through supply and demand, open financial transactions and a free market. The problem is that housing is not part of a free market in the UK and never has been. Economies work well by having good levels of liquidity: Basically I buy goods from company A, they buy goods from company B, company B buys goods from company C, I work for company C so some of .the money comes back to me. However when each company pays wages to it’s staff and half of that money disappears to financial institutions/ asset rich landlords in housing costs. The problem is that the money made by the financial institutions doesn’t go back into the economy, it is spent on acquiring assets, including housing, further reducing liquidity. The asset bubble has finally hit the financial institutions, they no longer invest in economic growth as there is no liquidity to grow the businesses, instead they buy assets, this bubble will surely burst sometime soon as the British have borrowed to the hilt to to maintain living standards in the hope that things will get better. In a cold country, people have an innate fear of homelessness.

So, what is the solution?

1/ Build more housing. Firstly the government builds more social housing. Any money paid by the tenants over maintenance costs allows the tenant to buy a portion of the home every month, this money can then be invested in more social housing. Secondly change the planing system, allow qualified town planners to zone land and make planning applications quick and easy and ensure developments are properly planned, with green space, space for local business to develop and for social facilities, such as shops and schools, i.e make new estates places where people can live, build communities, rather than have to travel somewhere else to take part in social events. Thus zoning will be based on community needs rather than the lowest bidder.

2/ Discourage use of housing as an asset business. Homes are places for people to live and not as a resource to be exploited. A way to do this is to tax purchase of 2nd properties at say 20% of the market price, to help fund social house building and then a land value tax on the property. This will give people buying a home to live in an advantage over the asset rich.

3/ Change the laws for homes, give people the right to a home. If someone suffers becoming unemployed and defaults on their mortgage, the state should buy  the property at the purchase price or the current market value (whichever is lower) and allow the occupants to live in the property, it becomes social housing, so when the occupants regain employment they continue buying the home, of the government.

4/ Improve the building regulations, make homes more energy sustainable and sound insulated. Set minimum space standards per person.

5/ Encourage social mobility, eliminate stamp duty and streamline the conveyancing process, enabling people to move home without incurring a penalty. This will aid people moving closer to their workplace and retired people away from transport and employment hubs

6/ Deal with negative equity, provide assistance for those who were unlucky to take on a mortgage towards the end of the housing crisis. But no support for those with an excessive square for to occupants ratio (to discourage speculation)

7/ Implement these solutions cleverly, maintain the market by managing a reduction in house prices at around 2-3% of market price year on year until a house costs 3x average wage. A sudden house price crash would be more damaging.

Of course, the housing crisis won’t be solved until the asset rich establishment realise that the whole economy will crash, rather than maintain a grip on political power to maintain the ever increasing cost of housing.

The Perils of Sociobiology

The study of community ecology and animal behaviour is a fascinating pursuit because there are myriad ways in which populations sustain themselves and adapt. It is also fascinating to apply this knowledge to the behaviour of humans. However there is the risk of false correlations, as human society is in many ways a different beast, for example describing behaviour as ‘natural’.

The question of how humans society appears similar and how it differs from the society of other primates or pack animals is interesting. Organisms that live in groups benefit from cooperation in various ways. In evolutionary terms there are mechanisms which serve to promote such behaviour, indeed behavourial traits become part of the evolutionary process. Perhaps the key difference with modern humans is that we no longer live in closely related groups, human society is now global, resources are moved around the globe via international trade.  How individuals share resources is no longer a simple transaction, for example very rarely does someone give a sack of grain in exchange for a computer program)

Whilst humans can be described as a single community, there are sub-divisions, some genetic (race) others behavioural (communities of people who think in a certain way, such as religious groups). However the distinctions are increasingly blurred. The process of evolution perhaps only occurs in interaction between behaviours.

In any cooperative action for mutual benefit there is the ‘free-rider’ problem. Any rule based exchange system can be manipulated for the gain of an individual or group of individuals within the community. In evolutionary terms, this is useful as this may result in innovative behaviours to solve problems, indeed many natural societies tolerate a certain degree of such behaviour. There are also mechanisms for controlling anti-cooperative behaviour, so these behaviours come with a cost. For example the free-rider is shunned, excluded from social benefits. In natural systems such deviant behavoiur is tolerated as the deviant is a family member and there specialised behaviour ultimately contributes to the sustainability of the group.

In a globalised human society, the free-rider will often be something outside of a communities control, an agent on the other side of the world for example. As such any social control mechanisms of anti-social behaviour are curtailed. In a glabalised market, for a consumer to detect free riders and negative market forces upon them is also difficult.

Furthermore the post-industrial economy has made transactions so complicated, that the ability to control, to reign in free-riders is curtailed. Modern capitalisms concern is maximising profit for the individual or corporation, often without making an equal contribution to the needs of the community. Essentially whole industries of free-riders have been created. It is the proponents of the free-riding mentality (a behavioural trait) that are in positions of power and control in society, whether as governments or large corporations. There is little social control of the free-riders anymore, the ‘free-riders’ are in power. The individual lacks influence, often having no choice but to work for a free-rider to be able to obtain food and shelter and often work harder than they would if they were to build their own shelter and grow their own food.

Humanity has created some useful devices for facilitating mutual cooperative behaviour in society, such as religion, nationality and democracy. However the power and influence of these agents has been in decline in the Western world. what is the consequence of this? Is humanity ceasing to be social animals or a global society, as individuals shun familial or local groupings to join wider global groups that are antagonistic to their familial and local groups?

The Tragedy of David Cameron

This week was the Conservative party conference and their leader, David Cameron’s speech. Initially I was disgusted and appalled, then today on re-reading his speech, I had this uncanny sympathy for David Cameron, I felt sorry for him, he just seemed such a tragic figure.

I should be old enough not to shocked by anything politicians say or do anymore. For Cameron to take the words of his opponent, Jeremy Corbyn, out of context and blatantly lie about his views and make accusations based on these lies, was simply disgraceful. Corbyn said that it was a tragedy that Osama bin Laden wasn’t brought to trial, Cameron spun this to say that Corbyn was a supporter of Osama bin Laden. I fully expect the media and the commentariat to misrepresent people and facts, that is the nature of modern politics, however, Cameron is someone who is a political leader of the UK, whose actions affect the reputation of the UK abroad. I am embarrassed for Britain by his ‘leadership’.

The remainder of Cameron’s speech that could have been made by any politician of the left or centre too. I understand that political parties can simply use rhetoric to appeal to the centre ground or swing voters, whilst voters should look to the politicians actions, the implemented policies, which usually tell a different story, this is why political speeches are interesting.

The thought occurred, that Cameron may actually believe his own rhetoric. He may really believe in holding the union of the United Kingdom together, to create a level playing field for people and businesses, for peace and prosperity in the world, for family, for community; these values are shared by proponents of the majority of political and religious creeds. The tragedy is that Cameron has failed to notice that the policies his government enact and those of the political right have been damaging the British economy over my lifetime.

It is concievable that that Cameron has not understood the incompatibility between his rhetoric and his policies. Cameron is a man whose life has been surrounded by people of his political persuasion and such groupings mutually enforce each others beliefs, tell each other that what they think is ok, that it is reasonable. So it is possible that Cameron really believes that Corbyn is a threat to the British society, without seeing that he himself is just as much of a threat. This explains how extremists become deluded by their groups ideas, rather than a wider picture. That such delusions occur in society, whether it’s members of a political ideology, a religious sect is the real tragedy to be guarded against. This is why i believe it’s important to keep exposing yourself to people who think differently to oneself, to avoid this tragedy.

To me, it is so ‘obvious’ that the ideas of the right are wrong. Simply examine the state of the UK housing crisis, is is good that an ever higher and higher proportions of peoples incomes be spent on housing, all this wealth ends up in the hands of the bankers and the very wealthy elite. The right wing consensus these days is that laissez-faire capitalism, the interests of big bunsiness/ corporations are the only aspect of the economy to be promoted and supported. I don’t understand how people can believe in this with a truly open mind. The entirety of the economy has value and should be supported if a healthy prosperous economy is achieved.All areas, including big business, small business, labour, education, science, health, transport, the arts, housing, all have parts to play in a healthy economy and no one sector can provide for all the others. If this plurality does not occur all the power and wealth ends up in the hands of an asset rich few, no-one invests in growing the economy or improving society, merely that one sector, in this case corporatism, continues to to raise the financial value of it’s assets to the detriment of the wider society.

As in any good tragedy, the protagonists suffers by damaging the very thing they love. The case of David Cameron seems to be a true tragedy.

Food, Family and Fun

Last night I watched “How to live to a hundred” on the television. The argument put forth is that a traditionally based lifestyle helps keep people happy and healthy, that Food + Family + Fun [community] = Happiness. Whilst the ‘modern’  post-industrial economy of Western Europe is actually causing a range of modern diseases such as diabetes, cancer, food allergies and social diseases leading to mental health problems. I tend to agree, it backs my long held view that much of how modern society operates is really unhealthy and just seems loopy. It is why i have struggled to find my place in society. It is simply better to work with nature, rather than against it, the answer I believe lies in evolutionary biology.

Food

The modern western diet differs from the traditional diet in a number of ways: It consists of high quantities of meat,  often meat of poor quality produced industrially and intensively. Food is often processed and contains artificial compounds such as preservatives. This industrialisation of food means food is nutritionally poorer and lacks flavour, so often processed food contains high levels of salt and sugar to compensate for this lack of flavour, these high levels are beyond what the human body can cope with.

Family

I have wittered on previously about the importance of acceptance for humans in society, family provides that. I’m living with my father at the moment and it is simply nice to share meals together at the kitchen table. One of the reasons I was unhappy in Surrey was because I had to eat meals by myself in the bedroom, which is simply wrong, but many people are thrust into this position by the economy. Due to economic diversification, people often have to move away from their family to take on jobs and one person abodes are expensive. This modern way of working detracts from humans ability to take pleasure from eating and sharing food as part of the enjoyment of eating.

It does annoy me sometimes that i took decisions at quite a young age that led me to be ‘mostly vegetarian’, rather than conform to the mainstream diet, as sometimes my father and I have to cook separately to stick to our dietary choices. This phenomena is compounded by food allergies and different diets, I don’t think most people know how to provide a meal that will satisfy everyone at the table, yet I feel it is important that everyone should know how to put on a collective meal. Having a collective meal is fun

Fun / Community

Cooking together and sharing food at the dinner table is an enjoyable social event. When I was working in the forests of Madagascar, the whole team would sit together for dinner, the conversation flowed and it was a hugely enjoyable experience, even if only to see what those on cooking duty had managed to produce from our limited resources (rice and beans, supplemented with mangoes or breadfruit that had been gathered during the day, we had zebu (type of cow) once in two months and that was a real celebration). Human beings are social animals and interactions between the local community are fun. There is a special something about an event that draws the whole community in, which offers something to everyone, this has value in ensuring communication between generations and social groups. The example is of  summer fayres, where everyone comes to together to eat, play games, sing and dance together (and provide talking points about performances in the ladies over 40 sack race!), Fun and Community, where everyone is free and encouraged to make a fool of themselves is important. Sadly such community events are dying out as people retreat into only socialising in there own social circle.

Happiness

It isn’t possible to go back to a time when people physically lived off the land with their family, socialised in the village and the wider world was the ‘here be dragons’ of faerie tales. However human beings lived for millenia in such societies, it is what our species evolved to cope with. I think the problem is partly that we are living lifestyles that genetically we are unsuited for. It’s only a few generations since many people no longer had physical labour jobs, a few generations since we began eating industrialised processed food and very recently since we now spend parts of our lives not in family units.

Many of the elements of a traditional lifestyle are possible, but often difficult. People claim not to have time to cook properly as they have to work long hours and may spend hours every day simply traveling to and from their place of work. People often don’t have the time or space to maintain a kitchen garden or a similar physical project. People sometimes don’t put the time and effort into maintaining family units and consequently that may fall apart.

Processed foods are I believe to blame for the rise in food allergies. Humans tend to like salty food as humans lived for millenia with low Sodium diets and more Sodium was required for health. Now our diets contain too much Sodium salt, this has health consequences as the body struggled to metabolise  so much salt. Hence, processed foods are putting pressure on out metabolisms they haven’t had a chance to evolve with.

There is much talk of a establishing a work/life balance. In a traditional society, such an idea is absurd, as work involved your family and community, the family and community contributed to your work too. Post-industrial work is largely not like this so generating time for family, for social activities is paramount, however, the modern economy makes it harder and harder for people to find this time and hence people become unhealthy and less productive, it’s the crisis of the Western world in the 21st century.

When to sing the national anthem as a patriot.

When I first left home and lived in England, I had a circle of English friends who stated that they weren’t patriotic and that nationalism was a bad thing. I was initially surprised at this as I’ve always been a patriotic Welshman and regard it as a positive thing. As with any political, religious or cultural creed, patriotism has both positive and negative elements to it. Like anything else, Patriotism, it is about striking a balance, learning how to make use of the good elements and dismissing the bad elements. It is an interesting concept, because whilst every culture is different, there are many common threads to patriotism. Again, like anything else, people should be wary of allowing positive elements of any creed to lead uncritically to bad elements.There have been a few recent events that illustrate my views on patriotism:

The Rugby World Cup

In Wales, rugby is our national sport, and supporting rugby is part of our culture. The established patriotic position is of the ‘local rival’ type, The Welsh patriot supports two teams; Wales and whoever is playing England. This is similar to the New Zealander who supports the All Blacks and whoever plays the Wallabies (Australia). People from countries, such as England, often don’t quite get this as their patriotism is different. I think it’s a positive outward looking stance. It means that at certain times support is lent to the team of any country in the world, enabling increased cultural understanding and new relationships.

The critic may say, that it’s not very nice for the English to be hated. The English are not hated though, the English are our friends and neighbours, there is simply a healthy rivalry with them. It’s the same thing in football, I’m a Manchester City supporter and ‘hate’ Manchester United, nonetheless I have many friends who support Man United,Ii think they are a little ‘misguided’ (have a slightly different set of priorities in how there support manifests itself, but it is essentially the same thing).

There are mild irritations that are experienced by Welsh supporters. The British media extensively covers  the performances of the English teams, any win seems to be  reported as the ‘greatest victory’ and any loss, the ‘greatest crisis’, it is difficult to ignore all this, when it is something you have no interest in. Though, generally the Welsh quite understand why UK wide media would cover it as England has a population of over 50 million, compared to the 3.5 million of Wales.Having said that it is a healthy thing to have a set of media opinion that you ignore, as having a healthy disrespect for the bias opinions of the media, of people with different.  opinions. It encourages one to work things out for yourself.

Perhaps the difference is expectation, England expect to win. I don’t have this, in Wales, we don’t expect to win, so any victory is all the more sweeter, the case in point being Wales’ recent victory over England in the Rugby World Cup! It’s the same with supporting Man City, I still don’t expect the team to win, even now we are a successful top of the league outfit, this generally isn’t the case with supported of Liverpool or Man United.

The problem with expectation of winning it that it implies superiority, which is a bad thing. The easiest bad trap to fall into with patriotism is superiority, the idea that your country is the best, has the best culture and way of doing things. Perhaps the Welsh can be patriotic, much more easily than the English, because as such a small country, on the Western periphery of Europe with a hilly terrain, the  Welsh are not concerned with ‘being the best’, rather being the best we can be.

I am a proud Welshman, it is my favourite country in the world, it is the best for me personally. I love Wales, not for any specific attribute, but simply as it is home, it is my culture and I understand it better than any other.  Good patriotism is very akin to family, it roots us and gives us confidence in belonging to something before we discover who we. Much like families there are aspects we love and aspects we hate, but it is an inescapable part of us, a relationships we don’t choose. As an outsider, i have become aware of many distinct ways i am different to others or the ‘mainstream’, but country, like family grants an automatic membership of a group. It some ways, this sense of being an outsider when the British media carp on about England, is something the Welsh have in common and being an outsider is part of the nationality, a nonconformity, which is useful. It is I believe important to belong, to know you are not crazy, yet able to be yourself and confident not to be in the mainstream.

I am always fascinated by people who come to live and work in Wales. Some people fall in love with Wales, some merely find it interesting and some realise they dislike the place. Everybody is different and value different aspects of life. No-one should take offense that their country or themselves as an individual is disliked, but they should take comfort when they encounter people who love them.

National anthems

The other thing that is a mild annoyance with England national teams is the anthem. England don’t sing an English national anthem, they borrow the British anthem ‘God Save the Queen/King’. Generally, when the British national anthem is played, I stand up and sing along. However I am silent when it is played for the English national team, because whilst I respect them I don’t support them. so, there are occasions when I sing and when I don’t.

Cultures are perhaps differentiated by how the concept of freedom is defined. It is interesting that people of political creeds say the same thing: “I am a socialist/liberal/conservative because I believe in freedom”. Almost everyone believes in freedom, indeed this is often expressed in the words of national anthems. True freedom is I believe impossible for human beings as social animals, there is always a balance of ‘freedom to’ and ‘freedom from’. A balance of different elements is sought to maximise individual freedom and each political creed goes about it in a slightly different way.

Sections of the  British right wing media went into a frenzy when Jeremy Corbyn, the new Labour party leader, didn’t sing the British national anthem at his first official engagement as party leader, because  he is a republican. In Britain is a widely held view that everyone is free to choose whether or not to sing the national anthem or indeed behave in a patriotic way. Much of the media didn’t respect Corbyn’s choice not to sing as an example of this freedom. It is sad that this man felt obliged to change his stance and sing the national anthem simply because of his status as a national leader and an appeal to mainstream electorate. This doesn’t send a message about the freedom the British value to the world does it?