Saturday, January 22, 2022

Westminster Bullying and Public School Culture

 The allegations of bullying and intimidation at Westminster don't come as any surprise. I mistakenly went to Oriel College, Oxford for university, and my teenage mind hadn't twigged how big a deal rowing was. One of my first experiences there was the Captain of Boats telling the assembled freshers, in his finely honed accent, that they would all be expected to join a rowing crew, with a clear message of menace and threat for those who didn't. I spent a large part of my first term, as a non-rower, waiting in fear for something unpleasant to happen. 

Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and their generation passed through public school education in the 1970s and 80s. It has shaped them, their values and behaviour. It would be no surprise if it shaped the way their government works, and how their herd of MPs is kept together. 

One recipient of a 'top' public school education wrote this

From the teachers we learned about mockery and sarcasm as techniques for social control, with our boy hierarchies regulated by banter, ranging from a sharp remark to a knuckle in the crown of the head. Attack was the best form of defence, and ridicule was honed as a deeply conservative force, controlling by means of fear, either of being the joke or of not getting the joke. There was plenty of fear to go round. The author Paul Watkins, in his memoir Stand Before Your God, remembers at Eton the huge amount of energy, in the time of Cameron and Johnson, that went into “teasing and ignoring people”. “I felt a harshness that I’d never felt before.”

George Orwell, during his time at prep school, remembers being ridiculed out of an interest in butterflies. The banter that day must have been immense. Nothing was sacred, and once we found out what another boy took most seriously we were ready to strike, when necessary, at its core.

another former pupil writesEton had other, for me less attractive, sides. I particularly disliked Pop, the self-elected club of prefects who strutted their stuff and lorded it over underlings in brightly embroidered waistcoats – the club to which Boris Johnson (but not David Cameron) belonged. This was more Game of Thrones than “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock”.
If boys learn at school that bullying and intimidation are effective ways of exercising power, and go unchallenged, it should be no surprise if they apply those lessons later in life. 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

If you're not vaccinated against covid, how much more of a drain on the NHS are you?

 According to the latest detailed Covid report and analysis, here's a simple table. The figure in each cell is how much more likely the unvaccinated are to end up in hospital overnight, or deceased, compared to those who have had 2 doses of the covid vaccine. These figures cover weeks 47-50 of 2021, i.e. 22nd November - 19th December.

Age

hospitalisation

death within 28 days

under 18

2.6

 -

18-29

3

3

30-39

4.9

15

40-49

4.4

5.1

50-59

6.3

7.1

60-69

7.6

5.1

70-79

8.4

6.2

80+

5.6

4.9


For example, in the 60-69 age group, 12.3 of every 100,000 double-vaxed people have ended up in hospital with covid, compared to 91.7 of the unvaccinated. So you're 7.6 times more likely to stay overnight in hospital with covid if you've not had a vaccine. 

In the same age group, 5.1 people per 100,000 have died who have had 2 doses of the vaccine. This compares with 25.9 people per 100,000 of the unvaccinated. So you're 5.1 times more likely to die if you're unvaccinated and in this age group. 

In simple terms, if you have two equal sized groups of people, one fully vaccinated and one not vaccinated at all, the unvaccinated group will place a 5-6 times greater burden on the NHS than the vaccinated group. 

The majority of hospitalisations in the 18-29, 30-39 and 40-49 age groups are people who've not been vaccinated, even though double vaccination rates in these age groups are 70-80%. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

My name is Inigo Montoya, you sang 'O Come All Ye Faithful', prepare to explain

 


A few words I've sung in recent days where I doubt most of us had a clue what they meant, or thought they meant something else:

Abhor

Begotten/Very God Begotten Not Created

Hark

Yon/Yonder

swaddling

Shining Throng (careful)

Troll (the ancient yuletide carol.)

Riven

Ass

Babe

Cloven

Hither/thither

Sod

Godhead

Incarnate

Immanuel

Nowell

And that's before we've got to sin, salvation, saviour, Christ, and the actual important stuff. Is there a sweet spot between the Nicene Creed and mansplaining?

Though if anyone has written a carol with the word 'Inconceivable!' in it (which you could actually weave into the Christmas narrative) then I'm all for it. 

PS if this post makes no sense to you, then you need to watch The Princess Bride. 




Monday, December 13, 2021

Covid Test Kit Nativity

 

As seen as the St Peters Church Nativity Set Festival, running Mon-Fri this week 10am-12noon and 2-4pm, at St Peters Church, Coronation Avenue, Yeovil. Do pop in, if you're in the area!

Thursday, October 28, 2021

£1,866,666 for a youth club?

Here's another corker from the Budget yesterday: "we’re providing £560m for youth services, enough to fund up to 300 youth clubs across the country."

Firstly, funding for youth services has been cut by £1bn since 2010, so this restores about half of what was taken away.
Secondly, what? This is £1,866,667 per youth club. Our parish has 2 youth groups, run by a part-time youth worker, plus volunteers, in church premises. Even if those groups were run by 2 full time youth workers, in hired premises, it would only cost £50,000 a year.
So either:
a) Rishi is promising to fund youth work for the next 38 years
b) Most of this money will go on building youth centres (daft idea - hire other local premises and support them instead)
c) Most of it's going to be spent on consultants/managers.
Seriously, give the money to the Church of England (or any church network doing youth work). We're in every community, we already have 900+ churches running youth groups of 25 or more at a fraction of this cost. We have premises. And we have continuity, so youth clubs will be less at risk of death by the annual local government funding cycle. £560m will pay for the equivalent of 2.3 full time youth workers in 1000 places for the next 10 years. That's enough for 3,000 youth groups, let alone 300.
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Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Random questions

 Q1. Would we want as our prime minister someone who can be as easily bullied as Keir Starmer? One day he is, rightly, celebrating the contribution of Jesus House in London to overcoming vaccine scepticism within the ethnic minority community, along with their food and other relief programmes. Then following a complaint from a Labour LGBTI+ pressure group he disowns them and pulls a video complementing their work. It seems that, no matter what you do, if you don't hold to a particular line on sexuality then nothing else really matters, including saving black lives. 

Q2. Can we come up with a better title for the founder of Islam? Coverage of the latest school cartoon protests in Batley, in the mainstream media outlets, had universal references to 'the Prophet Mohammed' with a capital 'P'. I'm not sure how many people outside Islam would accept the title, let alone the capitalisation. He claimed to be a prophet, and many believe him to be so, but an even larger number believe him to be mistaken, to put it kindly. The Quran flatly contradicts both the Jewish and Christian scriptures, if Mohammed is who he claims he is, then Jesus isn't, and if Jesus is who he claims he is, Mohammed isn't. And if the Prophet Mohammed, then why not the Lord Jesus - a title absent from the BBC and elsewhere even at Easter. Mohammed of Mecca? The so-called Prophet Mohammed? Mohammed the founder of Islam? Any other suggestions? 

Q3. Has anyone actually read the racism report in full? There are over 250 pages in the report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. Nearly all of the quotes and media coverage on the day of publication can be traced to pages 6-8, the Foreword by the Chair of the Commission. Dr Sewells careless comment about a 'positive story' emerging from slavery wasn't very clever, and unfortunately it's spared lots of people the effort of engaging with the report. The report recognises both the reality of racism, and the progress made in the UK over the last 50 years. It repeats in several places a warning against a victim mentality - of low outcomes becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy because ethnic minorities believe the system is more stacked against them than it actually is. That's not to say the system isn't stacked at all, it is, but incidents of racism and race conflict/protest make the news more often than instances of harmony and progress, so its easy to internalise a pessimistic story because that's the story we're regularly told. The dropping of the BAME catch-all definition makes sense as soon as you see the data broken down at a deeper level: with high educational achievement and wage levels relative to white people within certain ethnic groups, whilst other groups (e.g. Black Carribbean, but not Black African) faring amongst the worst. That leads to questions about culture (e.g. culturally, Bangladeshi women tend not to go out to work, which depresses average household income relative to other groups), family structure (fatherless families much more common among Black Caribbean, but very rare amongst Indian extraction families), and geography - members of the same ethnic minority communities do better if they live in London than in the North. 

(Intermission: here's a very different view of the CRED report)

The late Hans Rosling spent his life trying to educate Western audiences out of an outdated view of poverty, which saw the world split in two: the prosperous West and the poor. He argued it was both more complicated, and more hopeful than that, and that too many of us were still living off a picture of the world that was true in 1970 but way off the mark by 2010. Despite its flaws, perhaps the Commission report is trying to do the same on race. Unlike Sam Tyler, we are not stuck in 1973. Those guys kneeling on the football pitch just before kick off, a lot of them are millionaires. 40% of NHS consultants are from an ethnic minority background, as is the Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer and shadow Foreign Secretary. 65 ethnic minority MPs were elected in 2019, in 2001 it was 12. Rosling never pretended poverty wasn't a problem, but he wanted people to see that things were getting better, to motivate them to see how things could be better for everyone. And if you see yourself as a victim of circumstance and irreversible institutional prejudice, how high will your aspirations be? Schoolteachers will testify that one of the biggest factors in educational achievement is expectations and standards - and the higher the horizons both for the teachers and for the students, the higher the attainment tends to be. Twitter makes it easy to a) simplify and b) scapegoat. What if reality is a bit more complex? What if its important to listen to voices we might disagree with, and data which might challenge our worldview? 

Friday, April 02, 2021

Good Friday - Still Happening

 In the 2000 years since the crucifixion of Jesus, the human capacity for inflicting unspeakable pain hasn't dimmed. We are still as broken and fallen as we ever were. David Alton writes powerfully of how the fake trial and sadistic torture and death of Jesus are duplicated across the world right now:

Last weekend, on Palm Sunday, radicals acting, not for the first time, in the name of religion, laid bombs in a church – this time in Makassar in eastern Indonesia, injuring twenty people.

This week, the most important in the Christian calendar, is a favourite target of jihadists. Recall the Easter Day bombings in Sri Lanka in 2019, and the Easter murders of church goers in Lahore’s Gulsha-i-Iqbal Park, picnicking after their Service.

But for many the agonies of Good Friday are a daily occurrence.

Think of Northern Nigeria where Leah Sharibu, a young schoolgirl, remains in the hands of Boko Haram, having been abducted, raped, forcibly converted, and married. Since last Easter, more than 3,000 Christians have been killed in Nigeria – a country which last year received an average of £800,000 in UK aid every single day.

In Pakistan, another Commonwealth country, Maria Shahbaz is just one of around 1,000 Christian and Hindu girls, aged between 12 and 25, who are abducted annually – with impunity. Ten years ago, Shahbaz Bhatti, the Christian Minister for Minorities, was assassinated. No one has been brought to justice. During the same period, Pakistan has been in receipt of £3 billion of UK aid, little of which reaches beleaguered minorities.

Think, too, of the personal Calvaries of China’s religious minorities: the genocide against Uyghur Muslims; the incarceration of Christians in Hong Kong;  Tibet’s suffering Buddhists;  murdered Falun Gong practitioners ; bulldozed churches and arrested pastors – such as Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Church, now serving nine years in prison.

In neighbouring North Korea, another atheistic regime has created  what a UN report describes as “a State without parallel” .  A North Korean escapee from one of the concentration camps was a witness at a hearing I chaired in Westminster. She told us: “They tortured the Christians the most”.

There are twitchings of recognition from the UK government towards being part of the solution, the Truro Report into global persecution of Christians reported to the government in July 2019. Hunts successor Dominic Raab is saying something about China, rather than nothing. But as with most issues, covid has taken up most of our effort, thinking and priorities over the last 2 years. 

One of my favourite movie lines (bear with me) is from The Negotiator, "You have no idea what I'm capable of", from Kevin Spacey's character. In the case of Spacey himself, it turns out we didn't. Good Friday shows us both what we are capable of, and what God is capable of. It faces us with the dark heart of human evil and violence - everything from sadism at school to genocide - and the astonishing hope of a God who can reach into all of it and redeem it. The Lord of the Flies meets the Lord of Glory.


Thursday, April 01, 2021

Easter Playlist

 Derri Daughtery & friends 'Beautiful Scandalous Night' Mark Heard 'Lonely Road' Iona 'When I Survey the Wondrous Cross'

The Choir 'Enough to Love' Newsboys 'God's Not Dead'

Sorry about the ads, can't even escape them at Easter!