Anghyffreddin

Mae byd yn anghyffreddin y dyddiau hyn. Mae llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig yn anghyffreddin ar hyn o bryd. Dw i’n anghyffreddin fy hunain. Mae tywydd yn anghyffredin, mae’n rhy poeth, fedra i ddim meddwl, cysgu neu wneud rhywbeth arall, dim ond chwys.

Dw i’n anghyffreddin achos dw i ddim licio tywydd poeth. Fi sy’n bobl y gaeaf. Yn arfer mae’n wych i bod bobl y gaeaf yn Gymru achos dw i’n hapus mwyaf o blwyddyn! Y prynhawn ma wnes i eisiau tu allan a sefyll yn y cysgod i darllen llyfr, ond mae’n anodd achos dw i angen diod, rhywbeth i sefyll arna, hyflif haul,  geiriadur gymraeg, ffon symudol, jyst gormod o stwff i cymryd i bell i barc yn dillad haf heb lawer o bocedi. Felly wnes i aros yn fy nhartre a darllen o blaen peiriant gwynt (fan?). Dywedais i bod dw i’n anghyffreddin.

Mae’n llawer o ethygl ar y flog ma am bod yn anghyffreddin. Mae bobl anghyffreddin yn babl arbennig. Rwan Medra i’n siarad am bod yn anghyfredin yn y gymraeg hefyd!

Llifo

Mee gen i syniad am sut i sgwennu yn Gymraeg yn y flog ma. Clywais i yr gair llifo yn can ar y radio noson. Felly, pam llai ymarfer defnyddio y gair newydd i helpu dysgu fo? Medra i sgwennu am gair newydd bob dydd a dysgu geiriau newydd i fi. Galla i sgwennu barddoniaeth efo’r gair newydd hyd yn oed.  Felly, bant a fi:

Llifo. Mae’r afon yn llifo. Mae’r bobl yn llifo. Mae pobl yn llifo tua’r afon tra yr afon yn llifo heibio’r bobl. Pethau eraill yn llifo hefyd. Mae syniad yn llifo. Mae meddyliau yn llifo. Mae meddyliau yn llifo pan dw i’n treulio amser yn amyl yr afon yn llifo. Llifo i lawr, llifo yn gryf, llifo yn dawel trwy’r tywyll o’r nos. Yn llifo drosto fo.

Beth ydy llifo? Dw i’n meddwl am dwr mwyaf. Ydy meddyliau a syniad fel dwr? Mae breuddwydion yn llifo ac yn debyg dwr hefyd. Mae ymynedd ei amgylchynu gan dwr a fy feddyliau yn teimlo fel ganddyn nhw dwr o gwmpas iddyn nhw hefyd.

Weithiau mae llif yn aros a  rhai amseroedd arall mae llifo yn gadw llifo. Llifo.

Trio meddwl yn Gymraeg

Dw i wedi bod yn meddwl am dechrau defnyddio y flog ma yn y gymraeg. Dw i wedi bod am siarad am lot o gwleidyddiaeth yn diweddara. Mae siarad am gwleidyddiaeth yn anodd iawn am iaith dysgwr achos mae geiriau gwleidyddiaeth yn ymddangos llawer o bethau gwahanol i bobl gwahanol. Felly mae bobl darllenwr hwn fydd yn ddryslud iawn a fi bydd yn ddryslud iawn hefyd.

Dw i ddim yn siwr pam wnes i dechrau efo pwnc gymhleth. Dw i eisiau trio siarad am beth bynnag dw i meddwl. Lle ydy llun hyfryd o cathod i siarad amdani pan dw i eisiau?

Dw i’n eitha newydd i meddwl yn y Gymraeg. Weithiau pan o’n i’n siarad neu sgwennu yn y Gymraeg dw i’n ansicr os wyt i mewn cymraeg neu saesneg neu y ddau! Dw i’n wedi cyrraedd i meddwl am i golwg o geiriau gymraeg mewn cymraeg, na cyfeithiad o saesneg. Ond iawn, dw i’n dal meddwl hanner yn saesneg. Dryslud, mor dryslud.

Dw i’n meddwl os unrhywun yn medru deall beth dywedais i, dw i ddim yn siwr fy hunain! Efallai, dylwn i trio ysgrifennu barddoniaeth, Bydd hi’n haws na hon. dw i ddim gwybod lle i dechrau. Dw i’n teimlo fel myfyrwyr ysgol cynradd yn trio wneud y gwaith cartref saesneg….

The Future – We’re all in it together

This is perhaps the craziest general election the UK has yet had. Never before have we seen such swings in opinion polls during the six week campaign period. Never before has support swung around Labour and the Conservatives, making it seem like a really binary choice again. It has also been another election to decide an internal matter about the EU within the Conservative regime.Yet it is again a negative campaign, stoking a fear of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour against a fear of Theresa May’s Conservatives. The mantra has always been towards me to vote Labour to get the Tories out for the sake of the country, no matter how poor the Labour party is So often British democracy has failed it;’s people and returned woeful UK government.

The difference this time is Corbyn. On one side there is not another slick soundbite machine or voice of a professional PR unit. Corbyn is a genuine principled politician, who only accidentally ended up as leader of his party and that is very rare these days. Yet he is a leader of a party so blinded by the mantra of electioneering that they have not supported their own leader.

In England there is no alternative, so if you live in England, vote Labour.

However we have an alternative in Wales in Plaid Cymru. A party with principles and a good leader. The Labour party in Wales has not delivered for Wales and have not supported Corbyn against the the far greater threat of continued Tory misrule. In Wales we can vote for a united principled party that has the best interests of all of this nation at heart, not just the bits that happen to historically have backed the Labour party. A vote for Plaid Cymru, isn’t a compromise of settling for keeping the harmful Tories out, but a vote for a positive outward looking future.

I know not everyone is convinced yet and in Britain we are so used to this voting for the least bad evil. This needs to change too. We desperately need a proportional voting system, to enable government to get decisions right, to find a working consensus, to not leave minority groups decide on future direction.

This is what the party stands for. Not seeking separation or division for the sake of it [?], but to tackle the systemic problem of why our government always gets things wrong. To seek change that will change the system for good so we get the right decisions for our communities and our economy. That does mean greater autonomy for the Welsh government, but also greater accountability. It means electoral reform. It means a return to looking at how wealth is created by our society, rather than as a product of diminishing society.

In the UK in the last decade there has been growth in GDP of the UK economy. However, the people of the UK (apart from a small capitalised elite) have seen our spending power fall. The proceeds of growth are not being fairly shared. We need to change this. The political system is not delivering for the people of Britain, yet this is precisely the role of the political system.

In a democracy, if you want change, you should vote for it, rather than accept an unhappy compromise of things perhaps not being as bad as they could have been. We need to look for positive change.

TO give a practical example. The health service. The NHS in Wales is not efficient, because it has no spare money to invest for the future. It’s inefficient because it employs agency staff as doctors and nurses at a higher hourly rate than those directly employed within the Health Service. These health care workers travel long distances to get to where they are needed each day.

The solution to this is not to stump up more cash to maintain this system, but to change it. If we can train more Doctors and Nurses in Wales, then the number of potential Doctors and Nurses in Wales will increase. If those workers then find they can live a comfortable existence and raise families, they will stay in the areas where there skills are required. The problem has been that there has been no investment in staff or future staff provision. Importing workers from outside of Wales, at great cost, instead of investing for long term sustainability. Of course trained staff are free to go and work wherever they want to, however we shouldn’t perpetuate a system where such workers feel they have to move elsewhere to work even if they don’t really want to.

 

Regular readers of this blog, they will know how much i write about the perils of seeing things in binary terms. It is just two overly simplified ends of an issue. If the other end exists, then this one end can never be wholly right. The question is always about finding that fluctuating balance point somewhere along the line. Binary political systems where you have to vote a specific way to keep the other lot of extremists out is just wrong. You should always be able to vote for your first preference without doing so risking your worst option getting in.

The level of debate, spin and misinformation at this election has been appalling. As indeed it was for Brexit. Surely, now is the time for some form of proportional voting system, to save the UK from itself. How much longer must we choose between two parties we don’t like.

The recent swing towards Labour in the polls and the big squeeze on support for the other parties has put me for the first time in my voting life in a marginal seat. This time it may make a difference which of the two binary options I vote for or if I choose to vote another way. The other way being a kind of rejection of the choice of a lesser of two evils.

It is a dilemma. Elections should be about building a national consensus, not dividing the country between two extreme visions and leaving one lot of extremists in total control for 5 years, a tyranny of a minority group. What else is this election but a battle between polar opposites for the moderate voter and the non-political voter. Of course neither of these two parties want to discuss proportional voting systems because they’d rather have the opportunity of power, which a big part of the problem and why modern electoral systems strive to prevent one party tyranny.  There is massive support for proportional voting in political circles, it is what the UK needs more than anything, more than Brexit, more than reducing net immigration, because it allows a country to use democracy to make the right decisions, build consensus and start making the right decisions and allowing for real long term investment in the future, to not leave one specific type of people in charge, we need government to work for everybody

The whole UK election process is very disheartening. I do favour Corbyn much more than May, even if only because he does honestly answer questions, rather than avoid them and change their view from one day to the next.  We do need the Tories out of ultimate power based on minority support. It would be nice for someone with principles to lead the country, rather than yet another political careerist. Corbyn  is coming from the right place, broadly he wants to fix the worst aspects of the UK economy, and he does seem to be prepared to compromise on areas where his views are not well supported. So if you do live in England, vote Labour!

Of course we in Wales, as in Scotland, have another choice, other parties to vote for, who believe in the importance of consensus for society in general. So if you are in Wales, vote Plaid Cymru on Thursday.

 

 

Binary School

Some people get the whole being smart and wearing a shirt and a tie thing and some people don’t. I am one of those who don’t. The best answer I was ever given was that on relevant occasions you should wear a collar and tie for the people who do get it and think it’s important and these people were family, so I learnt the times when it was expected, when you had to.

The other night I was listening to a radio discussion about the old chestnut of school uniforms. What was interesting was that instead of an advocate of no school uniform against  an advocate of school uniform, one of the protagonists argued for a balanced position, the other for strict uniform.

There is very much a middle position on this, a sensible compromise, so i was very much on the side of the gentlemen who argued for the  middle way. The most practical argument for school uniform is that it is cheap for parents to kit out their children in a school uniform. However there are educational arguments too. On the one hand it teaches that there are occasions when you represent an organisation other than yourself that you are required to dress in a particular way. On the other hand it helps children develop style, by which the child can make decisions on how to wear the uniform, which usually involves some rakish way of wearing the tie.

The gentlemen arguing for strict school uniform argued for no adornment, no jewelry, which seems overly harsh. When I was at school you were allowed one earring per ear, one neck adornment and one bracelet per wrist. Many children at my school wanted to wear more than this, but that there was a compromise, enabled compromise. It allows experimentation with style without the onus to take things to an extreme position.

I very rarely wear a suit, but I do see men who do wear suits stylishly. These gentlemen have a tendency to be Italian, it is indeed rare for me to see people in this country pull off a suit well, yet people seem to persist. I always imagined that this suit wearing thing was just old-fashioned and by the time my generation had grown up, the practice would have fallen by the wayside, but it hasn’t. Enough people still expect people to dress a certain way. Really it takes some effort to get away from these stereotypes. For example I have a bright yellow high-vis coat. Whenever I wear it, I can almost disappear in a crowd, I become unnoticed, I’m assumed to be working. rather than being myself.

Yet there continues to be a dark side to all of this. Particularly women for whom the rules are so much more complex, especially if they are in a public facing role. There have been cases of women being asked to go out and buy high heels for roles that involve traipsing up and down stairs. I have been in a situation where a female host was escorting me in high heels, which is daft and I just felt really uncomfortable.

I get the idea that when you are working you are not supposed to be stylish or express yourself. You are there to be the organisation you are working with, so you wear the uniform to blend into the background, so your personality doesn’t distract from what you are doing. However does this really have any meaning in most modern organisations, as surely we are usually trying to attract peoples interest, to be novel rather than bland?

The middle way is interesting, as those with a developed sense of style seem to have a lot of fun, like children with school uniform of doing just enough to blend in and just enough to stand out. These are the skills that a moderate school uniform helps develop. I at least get school uniform now. I am coming around to the idea that style in clothing and fashion in general is about this finding a reaction to recent past styles, to conform to where things are whilst expressing a difference in a new direction. After all being able to express yourself is important for your own well-being. The difficulty with style is that there are those few who are naturally really thoughtful about it and have a well developed sense of style , whilst people like me blunder around shops wondering how on earth to replace my tatty old garments. You have to wear clothes, it’s too cold most of the time, so having some sort of style is unavoidable and people will make judgements about how you look. So, it is really important that as a society we do what we can to help young people explore this and school uniform does seem the best way of doing it.

Boxes on Wheels

At the risk of being the instigator of the classic afeared conversation starter at a party:’What are you driving at the moment?’ This leading to a conversation about cars you are desperate to escape from. A lot of people are interested in cars and I don’t really get it, I am one of those people who view cars as a convenient and often necessary way of getting around. Really, the lines of traffic all going the same way just suggest to me that it would be simpler and more efficient having a comprehensive public transport network. However public transport in the UK at least is rubbish and the solution the world is heading towards is self-driving cars, which isn’t a terrible idea.

Cars have two big advantages, you can go where you are going quickly when you want to and you can choose a car to suit you as an individual. This choice of car has led to massive design efforts, marketing development and driven technological advancement, notably in fuel efficiency.

The thing is, with cars, like most other consumer products, makes me feel like an outsider, rarely do I feel that anything is marketed at me; I’m a white male , this shouldn’t be happening to me! What I require from a car is simply comfort, but I include in that having a semi-decent stereo. It just seems that there is huge amounts of development of unimportant features and comfort is only considered as an afterthought. I’ve about to move to a city again with a new job, so until I find a new place to live, I’m lumbered with up to four hours commuting every day. Anyway, on my car, one I’d picked for comfort, the windscreen wipers broke, so I left it at a local garage to fix and was given a courtesy car. The courtesy car was one of them superminis, just really uncomfortable for a tall chap like me. What I noticed was how much it drank petrol, due to a really low gear ratio. What this made me realise is that I have a preference for medium size cars. I have this preference because beign a rural person most of my journeys are over an hour long, the nine hour drive from Mid Wales to Fife in Scotland was a regular thing when I lived in Scotland. So perhaps this is why I value comfort, ease of driving over long distances and fuel efficiency. However I can see the point of a low gear ratio supermini, they are great for driving around cities: they are nippy (you can change lanes  and turn tight corners quickly and easily), the low gear ratio makes them really efficient  at sub 30mph driving and they are easy to park. Having a medium size car it’s always frustrating driving between 25 and 30mph, not quite fast enough for 4th gear but inefficient in a high revving 3rd gear. So, my courtesy car was great getting out of the city, but hopeless on the 45 to 60mph cross country drive.

I’m not a terrific driver but I do enjoy it, when I’m not stuck behind something (so I only have to worry about my own driving and not the person in front of me) it’s just nice to be able to have the excuse to listen to the radio for extended periods. I do like the idea of self-driving cars, but it will utterly change what we do on journeys and should radically change how cars are designed, once the need for humans to take over from the computer is eradicated. This worries me because, at the moment I can find a car that suits me and how I drive, simply because there is so much subtle diversity in makes and models of cars. However I fear that once the marketeers take over and a possible end to the owner-driver model (I imagine a system where most of us will effectively use driver-less taxis), that cars will become less comfortable and my needs will not be catered for. Us rural types have it bad enough in being ignored in most technological advances, we still don’t rely on 100% mobile phone signal coverage. Indeed rural people need cars to survive in a way town and city dwellers don’t; because urban dwellers have most needs near-by and public transport for medium to long distance journeys. Yet, as I have written in the past, even cities are getting harder to live in as shops become more spaced out, I even read somewhere that housing near supermarkets is more expensive.

It’s just the whole marketing of cars, still seems to be largely at men, about features and image, completely irrelevant things to me. However I have spent my life not being part of the market, always finding the things I like at the fringes, in the small independents. Actually, my new job is really strange, it’s the first time I’ve ever worked in a proper office and I sit in meetings discussing marketing campaigns, I have to rely on doing lots of statistics to discover what customers apparently want, rather than any innate ability to know what the majority of customers want. It’s such a different world as is the world of commuting by car. In the past I’ve always managed to find ways of either using public transport or even walk to work (that was so nice).

‘Starman’ 1947-2016 RIP

Let the children lose it

I was very sad to hear of the passing of David Bowie this morning, an artist I love whom has helped me understand this crazy world that little bit better. Listening to his music helps me feel that it okay to be perturbed by the world, that it is positive to let go and get angry at the world sometimes. Bowie was perhaps the most popular artist for all the outsiders of the world.

Let the children use it

I have also been heartened today by the outpourings of admiration and mourning of Bowie, by so many people. I simply wasn’t aware quite how many people’s lives Bowie has touched with his music. Bowie wasn’t a simple artist, he commented thoughtfully on so many aspects of life and he has helped lots of people use those reflections to make sense of their own lives. Bowie was, for an outsider, immensely popular, because the majority of people are outsiders in many various ways, so people used his music to help them understand that it was okay to be different and more importantly to openly express those differences. Really, it’s been a wonderful where all the fans and appreciate just how many of us there are of his music have been able to share their thoughts

Let all the children boogie

Of course, it wasn’t just the artistic expression of facets of life that made Bowie one of the true greats of rock music, it was the music itself. Bowie’s music whilst innovative still had great tunes, great bass lines and is music one can return to again and again and feel free to dance and fully embrace the music. Like how as people after reflection upon ourselves, confirming that we are ok as people, we can let those troubles go and have a good old boogie.

I was very lucky to see Bowie in concert in Seattle, USA, to dance to the music I grew up with on the other side of the world, in another country where their were many other people who shared in the Bowie magic.

 

Trump for President?

Foreign elections are often viewed as light relief, to the more painful machinations of the idiots of our own political class. Instead of using humour as a coping strategy, it is possible to relax a little more as we are a little less affected and thee is some comfort in  things being just as stupid elsewhere. Sometimes characters come along, such as Donald Trump that provide much material for mirth, until you realise that he is being taken seriously in some quarters.

The revelations this week that Trump advocates Muslims in the US wearing identification and being barred from entry to the country, is essentially fascist, drawing scarily accurate parallels with the Nazis. What has happened? Did my grandparents generation go on a massive war against the Nazi regime for nothing?

The Second World war created the post war consensus, a sense of solidarity throughout society. It has been argued that this consensus is fading, with negative consequences.

It may be an indirect consequence, but when I was younger politicians used to argue the case for their proposals, rationality and reasoned argument were important. In recent times, such rationality has been lost, policy has been framed and argued for in populist terms, rather than its true effect on the economy. For example, The UK had the Labour parties PFI reforms, an insanely bad idea, however they fitted the popular narrative at the time, they appealed to the demographic the Labour party needed to appeal to, to stay in power, so PFI was implemented and the UK taxpayer is still paying for them.

Last week the UK parliament voted on joining the bombing of ISIS in Syria. The actual argument for the campaign was very unclear, however the rhetoric from the government was that: ‘Well we might not have thought this through, like we didn’t think things through before the Iraq war of 2003, but look, the US and France are doing it and ISIS are bad guys right?’

The problem with this, is that it’s beginning to go beyond just trying to be popular (though that is bad enough), instead it seems that politicians are creating their own populist causes, with the full backing of the mainstream media.

Last night, I was watching on the telly an interview with a prominant Trump supporter. The interviewer asked ‘I live in London, I know for a fact that there are no ‘no-go extremist zones’, so where does Trump get these ideas from?’ The interviewee, after coughing and spluttering a bit, said that well, it was possible that in cities like London, such areas could exist potentially’. Trump’s argument collapsed as his premises were proved to have been made up. Some months ago, Fox ‘news’ were claiming such areas existed in Birmingham, they later admitted the error and apologised.

These days, losing an argument isn’t the end of the story, losing a rational argument no longer matters, what is important is the narrative. This is the problem, this is why many in the UK are really scared of Trump winning, because people often vote in idiots, look at the UK prime minister! Scarred because it is this populist changing of the narrative, picking a scapegoat for all the countries supposed woes, that led to the rise of the Nazis, with popular support.

It’s not the rise of politicians I personally don’t support, that bothers me, it’s the loss of rational debate and discussion that concerns me. To many who think about politics, it is often exasperating that there are so many things to work through with political opponents before you get to the actual issue, political discussion requires a great deal of patience and listening. The issues seem so obvious to those so politically inclined, that often the issue isn’t listened and responded to with opponents. This exasperation can lead to labeling opponents as being stupid. Often arguments in the media and from contemporary politicians mainly concern calling the other side stupid as a side show away from the real issue.

Of course, most people are not stupid, most politicians are a lot less stupid than they act in public. Do we really want flamboyant characters as leaders who make terrible decisions, but we like their narrative, or rational thinkers to make decisions?

 

 

 

Listening Styles

I have often wondered about how other people listen to music, what drives what music people like. As a teenager the top 40 singles seemed important, as was my confusion about how great tracks faired less well that rubbish singles.

There is a considerable amount of research focused on these very questions. I stumbled upon research being conducted by David Greenberg and his theory of musical taste styles here. This theory is that people have a preference for listening in an empathetic music,  systemising music or a combination of both. Empathisers focus is on the artists thoughts and emotions, Systemisers focus on patterns and rules, whilst combiners balance these two styles.

My initial thought was combining is how I listen and I kind of assumed everyone did this. On the other hand I listen to music from a wide range of genres and have been described as having eclectic taste in music, most people don’t generally have this broad taste.

This musical preference theory isn’t entirely straight forward as all music contains emotional content and systemic content, great music merges this two facets seamlessly. Music is an amazing, richly complex art form and i would argue very difficult to assign content between these two styles as everyone listens differently.

Having said that, I do get the idea behind this theory. However what perhaps distinguishes the serious music listener from the casual listener is flexibility. Listening to music is cognitively a complex process and one that develops the more music is listened to. Empathetic music, in perhaps it’s purest form, is the singer songwriter, singing about there personal experience of life with a simple chord based guitar accompaniment. This form of music I very much enjoy. In listening to this form, I reduce my focus on looking for systemic patterns and increase my focus on the emotional content of the words, I change how I listen to suit the musical form. On the other hand, a complex piece of instrumental music is perhaps the pure form of systemic music, however it is from listening to the patterns, where rules are broken that the sense of the composers and performers emotional content emerges.

Whilst people listen to music in different ways, simply concentrating 100% on the music in a full open way, is not the only way music is listened to. for example the playing of a church organ before a religious service , some people will be listening intently, for others it will help set there mood in preparation for the service. most of the time, people rarely listen to music fully intently. Music is often the backdrop at a party, sets the mood during a scene in a film, something in the background whilst we are working or driving a car. some music suits these less intense listening moments better, sometimes concentration is expended on expressing the music through dance, where listening is only a part of the enjoyment of the music.

The experience of music is how it is heard, rather than solely the artistic output of it’s creator. The composer is important, it is there musical expression that forms the statement of the music. For some musicians the lyrical content is there main focus, for others it is the structure of the music. It is up to the listener to appreciate where the composers focus lies, to focus on that. I like great songwriters where the musical content is quite simple, here the song is important. I like bands who play with the musical content and have poor lyrics, here the music is important.  My point is that listening is an active process, it is flexible to the style of the music, sometimes the quality of an aspect of piece overwhelms any personal preference for musical style.

The question is whether there is actually a preference spectrum here. My music collection in comparison to others may place me somewhere on a spectrum line between emotion and system. However it is more complex than that, i listen to different styles of music depending on the time of day, my mood, what else is going on in my life etc. such lifestyle issues may influence where I appear on such a spectrum, for example, I love classical music, but don’t tend to listen to it whilst driving because the high level of background noise from the engine, means that changes in volume, which form an integral part of the music are lost, so the more time i spend driving changes where on such a spectrum I would be. Another example is that peopel may be pushed towards emotional content due to poor speakers, where gross musical effects are more important than subtle ones.

 

Fighting Extremism

To my eternal shame, when I was a teenager I was somewhat racist. I thought that people from different races and cultures, had different morals and because of this should not integrate into my own culture. I grew up in a community in rural Wales, which back then was exclusively white Caucasian with a Christian background, a monoculture. Racism does exist in this community, even today, because some local people think that the way things are done around here are somehow better than that which occurs in the rest of the world. The media is partly to blame for describing bad news in such a way as to lay blame on a community that locally is not fully understood.

Fortunately, Wales is a multi-cultural society, the capital city, Cardiff, historically a major world port, attracted people from all around the world. All it takes to debunk any notions of that people from other cultures are less moral, it to talk to them, and understand their culture. From this increased understanding comes the realisation that any cultures moral system is no better than any other, every culture attempts to be moral.

People fundamentally are very different, however certain traits are more common in some races and cultures than others. It is these demographic differences that leap out to outsiders. It is crazy though to then immediately judge that culture for these differences, based on only a very partial understanding of that culture.

This craziness, this leaping to generalisations does happen. For example, if say an Afro-Caribbean man comes to the culture and makes a minor social indiscretion, people often then extrapolate from this one instance to blame an entire race for this minor mistake, because they are the only Afro-Carribbean person they have interacted with, so based on their experience, 100% of that race are seen to have this negative trait. Of course, anyone should know not to form conclusions based on one experience. It is sometimes difficult to assert if people are just criticising an individual or an entire community.

This phenomena of judging without understanding happened to me recently in the wake of the Paris attacks. Certain people I know, who are Atheists expressed the opinion that it was religion that was to blame for extremism. I explored what they were saying with them, I conceded that it does happen that some religious people do become extremists, but not all. In any case extremism occurs in atheist cultures too. The point is that these people had leapt to the generalisation that religion in itself caused extremism and they didn’t really understand what faith is, what prayer is. It is people that cause extremism, not religion. Really, the concept of cultural relativism is so important.

People cause extremism by making judgements before having a good understanding of a culture. Groups of extremists then gather together who share these same naive views. Extremism exists everywhere.

The debate in the UK this week is how to tackle the extremist group ISIS. The question is portrayed as should the UK bomb Syria, where ISIS have political control, in addition to bombing ISIS in Iraq. Syria is already beign bombed by various other cultures. It seems a cosmetic change in policy and arguably a distraction from tacking extremism. However governments can’t defeat extremism, people must defeat extremism. How do people fight extremism?

Firstly, we must not be quick to judge.  Acknowledgement that our own and all other cultures are imperfect. To be wary of the easy answers peddled by politicians and the media. To commit to study the other culture in depth to see if there is any truth in these easy accusations.

Secondly, to not tolerate intolerance. To not allow extremist views to propagate, to challenge the views of people in our communities, to not allow extremist views to become acceptable. Really extremism shoudl be tackled worldwide, in every community, globally. Only then will extremism be deafeated.

The war on terror, isn’t really about bombing people or restricting peoples movements. The war on terror is in hearts and minds of those around us. Extremism has to be beaten locally before any community can genuinely help at a wider level. Already, since the Paris attacks, Muslims in the UK have been physically assaulted and abused. The focus should be on talking to these extremists attacking British Muslims. By doing this the cause of extremism can be tackled, rather than the symptom, terrorist organisations.