What’s Wrong With GM Food?

What’s wrong with GM or Genetically Modified food?

You’re probably aware that there is a debate going on about GM food – some saying that it’s perfectly safe, others saying that there are a number of problems related to either the consumption of GM foods from a health perspective, or from the environmental impact of growing GM food.

One of the main arguments used by supporters of GM food is that it’s not really any different to the genetic modifications we’ve been performing on foods for thousands of years – what do they mean by this?

Species evolve by a process known as natural selection (if you’re a creationist you’re reading the wrong blog). This basically means that the species gradually change to better fit new or changed circumstances by a process of random genetic mutations, 99% of which will convey no advantage (or usually a disadvantage) but that magic 1% actually gives a benefit which makes that individual more likely to survive and breed successfully and so is more likely to pass on its genetic changes. I know this is a great simplification on what’s really going on but it will suffice for this blog.

Then one day humans catch onto the idea of deliberately planting seeds; they’ve been using certain grass seeds for food and so the choose the biggest and best to plant. Over multiple successive plantings over many generations – as a result of this unnatural selection by humans the grass seeds have got so big that it’s almost unrecognisable – this is where modern crops such as wheat, barley and oats came from – the crops have been genetically modified to make the seeds bigger through humans constantly selecting the bigger seeds.

Roll the clock forward a few thousand years and you find a more modern human with a dilemma – he can plant tomatoes that give that give lots of large tasty fruit but they might lose the whole crop due to blight. The alternative is to plant a blight-resistant tomato that make small fruit that’s not very tasty. One day someone came up with the idea of cross breeding the two plants. You would get a big mixture of results including small fruit that weren’t blight resistant but you would also get some plants that produces big sweet fruit and was also blight resistant – if you isolate this and make sure it doesn’t cross-breed with other plants you have successfully created what is, in effect, a genetically modified tomato plant. No one will object to this or think anything other than that you’re very clever and please can I buy some of your seeds?

Now we come to what we’re really talking about – modern GM is performed by scientists in a lab – they take out all the guesswork and isolate the gene for blight resistance and put it into the plant that makes the big sweet fruit. But more than that, they could put the gene into a different species of plant that suffers from blight (such as potatoes) and make blight resistant potatoes with a big useful crop.

So to answer the original question “What’s wrong with GM food?” the simple answer is “Nothing”. The whole idea of “Frankenstein” food being harmful seems a nonsense when the science is used in this way. GM is a tool, like a hammer is a tool. You can use a hammer to build a shed or you could use it to beat someone’s brains out – if you do the latter that does not make hammers bad or dangerous. Similarly, you could successively crossbreed dogs to make a large and vicious breed; you’ve done a bad thing through your unnatural selection – that makes you a bad person but it doesn’t mean that this form of genetic manipulation should be banned.

Genetic Modification is good science – it is a great advance that could be used for great good but like all scientific advances it can also be used for great bad – nuclear fission can be used to create cheap electricity or blow up whole cities, killing millions.

The problem with GM isn’t with the science but with the use to which it is put – there are very large corporations out there who will use the science of GM purely to generate huge profits without any concern for environmental damage or risks to human health and this is the real reason GM food is perceived of as being bad and dangerous.

Some examples of the bad practices being used are:

  • Creating crop plants that are resistant to the company’s own herbicides. This is a great win-win scenario for the company because not only to people buy their seeds but they also their powerful weed-killers in full knowledge that they can saturate the environment with the weed-killer, killing every plant except for the crop plant. This is a disaster for the environment and probably not very good for the human safety of the crop, but think of the profits.
  • Creating a plant that has resistance to certain pests (usually by producing toxins). Another great profit generator but if those toxins kill greenfly or other pests ask yourself what they might do to you – maybe not immediately but over the long-term after eating the GM food on a daily basis for several years? Also, what about the environment impact? If the toxin produced kills the problematic species of wasp isn’t there a good chance it will also kill bees? And what if the GM plant naturally crossbreeds with wild plants passing on this useful trait. In the short term the wild plant may thrive but in the meantime many species of insect may completely die out and other crops that rely on these insects for pollination cannot be grown.
  • Selling seeds to so-called third-world countries is the most immoral act of all. With the aid of grants and incentives and the promise greater crop yields the countries are persuaded to stop using the seeds that have been used for many generations and buy the company’s super-seed. Problem is that when the growers try to use kept-back seed for next year’s crops they are threatened with lawsuits by the company because the seed is copyrighted. They’re told that they have buy new seed every year and very soon the grants and incentives disappear. Of course by now they haven’t got any of the seed they used to use left and the biggest irony is that the super-seeds are actually no better than what they had before because that old seed had been selectively bred for their environment over hundreds or even thousands of years. The rich companies get richer at the expense of the poor countries getting poorer and further into debt.

I’m sure there are many other ways in which these companies are exploiting the people and the environment but is it any wonder that people are (quite rightly) protesting against GM food? The science is good but the use of the science is bad – some of this GM food really is Franken-food with the potential to devastate our environment and our health in the name of big company profit. The companies have created this problem through their mindless profiteering and have thereby wrecked the reputation of all GM food – even that which has been created for the greater good.

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Winter Solstice

What do the following Gods/Prophets/Heros have in common?

Chrishna, Mithra, Horus, Buddha, Beddou, Quetzalcoatl, Hercules, Attis, Tammuz, Osiris and Jesus.

The answer is that they are all alleged to have been born on December 25th. Is this some sort of massive cosmic coincidence or is there another reason?

The truth is that (unlike my niece) it is very unlikely that any of them were actually born on December 25th and that this day has been chosen especially to make them stand out as exceptional people.

Modern pagans (like myself) celebrate the Winter Solstice on or around December 21st because this is the shortest day/longest night of the year. Being the shortest day it means that it is also the turning point of the year – days start to get longer and so we can think of it as the day the light returns but are we neo-pagans getting it wrong?

The length of the night of December 21st is indeed the longest, but only by a matter of a few seconds, the nights of the 22nd and 23rd are equally long unless you are using very sophisticated measuring devices. In older times the Winter Solstice was seen as lasting 3 days/nights – it was as if the world was holding it’s breath, pausing in its time of longest night. In fact it was only on the night of December 24th that it became noticeable that the night had got shorter and thus that the Sun (son) was returning to strength; was effectively reborn. The other thing to remember in pre-Christian times was that the beginning and end of the day were believed to occur at sunset rather than at midnight, so Christmas Eve was Christmas evening, because evening came before morning. So to summarise in pagan terms – the nights of the 22nd, 23rd and 24th (which preceded the days) were the equally short nights and the night of the 25th (Christmas Eve – preceding Christmas Day) was the first night that was shorter.

The bottom line is that in my opinion modern Pagans are getting it wrong or perhaps trying too hard to distance themselves from Christianity. The true time we should be celebrating the returning light is the evening of December 24th (in modern parlance).

The Blame Game

Do you play the blame game? So many people do and it usually falls into one of two categories.

  1. Everything is my fault.
  2. Nothing is my fault.

Let’s look into these two separately so we can see if you fit into one or other of these categories – or maybe you bounce between the two depending on mood and situation.

Everything is my fault

Are you one of those people who blame yourself for everything? Even though people carefully and logically explain to you why things aren’t your fault, deep down inside you know that if only you’d done things differently at some point in the past everything would be OK now. “If only I’d gone/not gone to university”, “if only I’d applied/not applied for that promotion”, “if only I’d said something/kept my mouth shut”.

The list could go on and on but I’m sure you get the general idea – you have the absolute belief that if you had done something differently in the past the current problem would not exist.

Nothing is my fault

At the opposite end of the spectrum there are those people who never blame themselves – they will blame absolutely anyone and anything else but never themselves. “If only my boss/teacher/parent wasn’t such an asshole”, “if only I wasn’t absent minded/clumsy/dyslexic/dyspraxic/ADD/OCD/Aspergers”, “if only the trains/buses were more frequent/reliable”.

Whatever is is, whether it’s some person who’s ruining your life, something about you which you have no control over or something else external which messes everything up there one thing you know for sure: “IT’S NOT MY FAULT!!!”.

So what’s the answer?

You might be surprised to hear that these two apparent opposites are exactly the same – whether you’re a victim of past decisions or of circumstances outside of your control you’re still a victim. Whichever of the categories you fit into you’re completely missing the point. Blame is irrelevant – it’s worse than irrelevant it’s a major distraction from actually solving your problems. I’ve probably quoted it before but it is one of my favourites so I’m going to say it again – this is from memory so apologies if I get it wrong but it’s the point that matters.

I think it was from the BBC comedy “The Fast Show”.

Posh man in car: “I seem to be a bit lost; could you tell me how to get to London please?”

Country bumpkin: “If you want to go to London, you don’t want to start from here.”

By blaming yourself or others you’re effectively saying “I don’t want to be where I am” and “because of where I am I can’t get to where I want to be”. Do you see why the blame is so irrelevant? You are where you are – apportioning blame does not change that fact. Whether it’s where you live, who you live with, where you work or any other aspect of your life all that really matters is that YOU ARE HERE.

Can you imagine trying to plan a journey if you didn’t know or were in denial about your starting point? You’d never reach your destination, would you? So why should your life be any different? If you’re unhappy with things, the first, and most important step is to fully accept where you are right now. Only then can you start to plan your route to where you want to be.

The blame game is a mugs game. All the while you play it you’ll never get anywhere because you’re not accepting responsibility for your own life. Blaming yourself for everything is not the same as accepting responsibility it’s a way indulging yourself in self pity and making yourself a victim of your previous bad decisions. Blaming others is even worse – it’s a complete denial of responsibility and therefore of the power to do anything about your responsibility because you’re a victim of external factors. Is it society’s fault you are where you are? Maybe it is, but so what? Society isn’t going to get you out of your current situation.

Don’t be a victim of circumstances or bad decisions – take responsibility for yourself. Accept your current position, decide where you want to be and start planning your journey.

Embracing the Inner Fool

Fool

During a recent meditation I was working on confronting my fears and I realised that one of my greatest fears was appearing to others as a fool. I think this goes back to my childhood when, as the youngest of four, I was frequently mocked and put down by siblings who ranged between 5 and 12 years older than me. It wasn’t until my early teens, when my nearest brother borrowed an IQ test book from the library, that I discovered that I was actually rather clever (managing to just beat his score) and I suppose this became a big thing with me. I suppose that since then all I seem to want to do is to try to impress people with my intelligence and knowledge. This blog is probably a good example of that; rather than really sharing deep personal insights and feelings I tend to try to share knowledge and understanding – try to lecture all you lovely people. Well you’ll be pleased to hear that I’m going to try to change this direction and to make this whole thing a lot more personal from now on. You’d thing I would have learned decades ago that being a smart-arse done not win you friends but actually quite the opposite.

So here’s a confession – I make mistakes. In fact I make a lot of mistakes, for example in writing. Any of you who have read my blogs might be thinking “no you don’t”, but that’s because I work so damn hard to eradicate the errors. Typically I read back everything I write at least 3 times – and I mean everything – Facebook updates, texts, emails and of course blog entries; but no more. It has to stop. The guards who stand between me and the world to protect me have to be dismissed. I’m sure I’ve developed a mild form of OCD over the years to protect myself from the mild dyslexia I seem to have. This dyslexia takes a slightly odd form in that if I’m writing two similar words next to each other I always write it wrong unless (as I will do in the following example) I am totally aware that I’m writing such a combination. The most common example is when I try to write “that the”, which will always come out as “the the”.

Anyway, my point is that in many ways I am a fool. Despite having a high IQ and good education I make a lot of mistakes and having Asperger’s I am often socially inept but the Fool has qualities too. The Fool is trusting, the Fool has a child-like innocence, the Fool is often unpredictable and happy for no good reason. Most importantly the Fool always has potential. Last but not least, the Fool will always be more lovable than the smart-arse so I am trying to change. I am trying to not be such a smart-arse and to embrace my inner fool. I’m starting right now but resisting the urge to correct a couple of typos and some clumsy sentence structures in this blog. I’ll also try to write more about my personal trials and tribulations in the future – no more lecturing, I promise. If I start lecturing again please let me know.

Is Magic Real?

People often ask me if magic is real or if there is any such thing as real magic. This is not a straightforward question and it requires a long and detailed answer, starting with the definition of magic.

First of all lets be clear that we’re not talking about stage magic, which would be more accurately defined as conjuring. Stage magic is a skill, it takes a great deal of practice to do well and generally involves “magical” props. It is invariably based on diversion, slight of hand and other techniques too numerous to mention. There is nothing supernatural about conjuring or stage magic – everything that happens can be explained. It can be extremely clever and it can be very difficult to understand how the magician performed a particular trick, but that’s all it is, no matter how simple or how elaborate it is still just a trick. Magic shows are very entertaining but contain no real magic.

The type of magic most people are thinking about when they ask me is the sort of thing that you might see in the popular media – the most obvious example has to be Harry Potter. You know the kind of thing – the wizard/witch has a magic wand, they say a magic-sounding word that sounds Latin-derived like “Expelliarmus” in just the right way while waving their magic wand in just the right way and the person the spell is aimed at will immediately drop whatever they are holding – typically their wand during a magical dual. Let me dispel (pun intended) this myth immediately – you will never find this kind of magic outside of books, films or TV – it is completely fictional and like conjuring can be very entertaining – I personally enjoyed the Harry Potter books and films a great deal – but make no mistake, no great wizard/warlock/witch/Wiccan or any other magic practitioner can do this kind of magic.

So how about psychics? If you live in the UK it is very likely that there is a psychic who regularly visits a pub near you who helps people contact the dead; it seems to be a very popular pass time at the moment. They use a technique called “Cold Reading” and are completely fake. If you want to know more about this please Google “Cold Reading” or watch one of the many videos on YouTube where it is debunked – Derren Brown is particularly good at “Cold Reading” but he freely admits it is a trick and regularly debunks the fake psychics who take advantage of the recently bereaved for financial gain.

Having said that – not all psychics are (in my opinion) fake. If they’re going around pubs to extort money from people then they most certainly are but there are some people who can seem to pull real information from nowhere – I’ve managed it myself on a couple of occasions; each time with uncanny accuracy. Is this magic? I think in terms of our current scientific understanding it would have to be described as, at the very least paranormal but I’m personally quite happy to describe it as a form of magic.

There is an everyday kind of magic which most people take for granted; I’m going to call it Natural magic. Strangely most people don’t consider it magical that a little dry seed can be placed in some soil and over a period of a few weeks or months a plant will appear, the plant will flower and fruit and as well a potentially producing a quantity of food could possibly produce thousands of new seeds. Just because this happens reliably and frequently is it any less of a miracle? Where in that Acorn is the blueprint for, not only the might Oak that will grow from it but for all the future oaks that may grow from the Acorns that this first Oak produces? The reproduction and growth process in plants and animals is the purest form of magic in my opinion and just because science can explain most of what’s going on this doesn’t diminish the magic in the least.

The last form of magic I’ll mention comes under a broad category which I’m going to call the power or magic of intent. This would cover many chapters in books on magical practice and would include things like Wicca spell casting, ritual magic and chaos magic and probably many others. I’m lumping all these together because really they are all just different means of focusing an intent. This is another form of magic with which I have had direct experience, both accidentally and deliberately. Let me relate the story of how I once performed Intent magic accidentally:

One of the jobs I worked in there was a senior person who was not nice. This person was unkind to so many other people, humiliating them, degrading them, verbally abusing them etc. Even though I was not personally a victim of this person to any great extent it made me very upset that so many people were being hurt. I’d read a bit about magic and was a believer in the whole “threefold return” idea, so I was very aware that it would be wrong of me to try to directly inflict any kind of revenge on this person. I came up with the idea of creating a fiff-faff (a bit like a voodoo doll) to represent the person and then put it in front of a mirror, so that any ill they did would reflect back on them. I hoped by doing it this way I would not be subjected to any threefold return because I had not directly harmed the person but merely put them into a position where any harm they attempted would bounce back on them. To cut a long story short, it worked; within a few months a new senior management team came in and most of what this person had been doing to others was being done to them and within a few months the person was no longer employed in this place of work. There are two important things to mention though. Firstly, I never actually made the doll or put it in front of a mirror. I would often think about doing it and visualised it intensely, so the intent was there but I never actually did it (which is why I called this accidental magic). Secondly, I did face comeback for what I did. I’ll not go into detail but there was most definitely a price to pay.

So I’m calling this magic Intent magic because whatever form it takes, however it is practiced, are all forms of focusing the intent. This is a very real form of magic – it’s never quick but if there is sufficient focus it is effective and, in my experience, always comes with an unknown price-tag – you’d better be ready to pay!

Do you know of any other forms of magic that I’ve not thought of? Do you know ways of performing Intent magic without having to pay the price? Please let me know in the comments section.

 

Scientifically Proven

“When someone seeks,” said Siddhartha, “then it easily happens that his eyes see only the thing that he seeks, and he is able to find nothing, to take in nothing because he always thinks only about the thing he is seeking, because he has one goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal.”

― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

The phrase “Scientifically Proven” is one we come across a lot in the western world. It is often used in the advertising of products to impress you that the product will indeed do what it is meant to do. It is not limited to advertising though, newspapers and news websites will also use the phrase – perhaps to convince us that certain practices are healthy or unhealthy and numerous other websites and blogs will use the phrase to convince us of one thing or another.

Is this a problem? Well yes it is and for a number reasons. Firstly, by definition, nothing is ever “Scientifically Proven” – science (in its proper use) does not prove things. Scientific method involves iterations of observation, theorising and testing. This means the scientist observes some particular phenomena or behaviour (eg. an apple falls from the tree to the ground), comes up with a theory as to why this occurs (eg. gravitational attraction), tests the theory (eg. do objects of different weight accelerate towards the earth at the same speed) and continues testing, observing results and refining the theory until the theory seems to be proven. In theory, each iteration will bring the scientist closer to the truth but one can never be certain that it is the whole truth. Newton’s theories of motion held good for about 250 years until Einstein came along and pointed out certain limitations. The point is that according to scientific method a theory is never fully proven, it is always a best-guess given our current abilities to observe and test, thus the term “Scientifically Proven”is an oxymoron – nothing in science can ever be proven – by definition.

Secondly we come to the way science is now being viewed by not only the general population but also by the media and even the scientific community. Science has effectively become like a religion – you either believe in it or you don’t, you have faith in scientists and scientific proofs or you don’t. In fact if you ask a scientist to convince you that what he says is true he will demonstrate the validity of the scientific method he used but if you don’t already believe in the scientific method this is meaningless – science is only valid within its own scientific parameters in the same way that any religion can prove what it says is true only if you are already a believer.

I’d like to take this analogy of science behaving like a religion a stage further. According to scientific method nothing is ever completely proven but equally, nothing is ever completely disproved – everything should be questioned continuously – there can be no sacred cows in science. As a scientist, try questioning climate change. Well, actually don’t, because if you do you will be mocked, discredited and vilified. You will be treated like a holocaust denier – either evil or a madman. You will never get funding for any scientific work you ever want to perform in the future – your credibility will be gone, as will all your scientific standing. Much the same is true if you try to investigate the supernatural, ESP, telekinesis or telepathy – you will never get any funding for your experiments and your reputation as a scientist will be shot to pieces. Fellow scientists will point fingers at you and laugh in the corridors at conferences – “that’s so-and-so, the one who’s trying to prove telepathy is possible”.

But that’s still not the end of it. Supposing, for the sake of argument, we accept the phrase “Scientifically Proven” as having some validity in certain limited circumstances. Even in this very limited use of the phrase there are still problems. Whenever we look at any scientific study there are many questions that need to be asked. A good example was when a certain cat food manufacturer started saying 8 out of 10 owners say their cats prefer our brand in their advertising (this has become so famous now that there is a British comedy panel game named after it – “8 out of 10 Cats”). They were hauled before advertising standards board and forced to qualify this phrase because it ignored all the owners who said their cats didn’t have any food preference, thus it had to be modified to 8 out of 10 owners, who expressed a preference, said their cats prefer our food. But even that isn’t enough – for such a statistical claim you need to know all sorts of other facts, such as:

  • How many cat owners were questioned?
  • How were these owners selected – do the selected owners represent a good cross-section of cat owners in general?
  • How were they asked about their cats’ preferences – i.e. was it a leading question?
  • Have any other studies on cat food preferences been carried out and did the results agree?
  • Can the results of this study be reproduced by independent scientists?

This kind of issue isn’t limited to statistical claims either. When a scientist claims any experimental results their method needs to validated. I recently heard the claim scientists have proved that organic vegetables are no better for you than factory farmed vegetables. This surprised me somewhat so I looked more deeply into exactly how they had reached this conclusion. It turned out that they had selected four common nutrients and tested their levels in organic and non-organic carrots purchased in three different supermarkets. They found that the percentages of these nutrients did not significantly vary across the carrots tested. There is so much wrong with the conclusions drawn from this test that it’s hard to know where to start but I’ll try:

  • What about all the nutrients that weren’t tested?
  • What about the levels of herbicide, pesticide etc., why wasn’t this tested?
  • What about other vegetables?
  • What about other sources of vegetables?
  • Was the amount of time the vegetables had been on the supermarket shelf taken into account?
  • Was the amount of time the vegetables had been in transit to the supermarket taken into account?
  • Was there any kind of study on the health of individuals eating organic vs. non-organic vegetables over an extended period of time made?

The list could go on and on because there was just so much wrong with this study but the big problem is that both prominent newspapers and trusted websites reported it as a scientific fact. “Don’t waste your money on organic food because it has been scientifically proven to be no better for you than cheaper non-organic food”. Oh yes, and there was no mention of the impact the different growing techniques had on the environment.

That’s still not the end of my objection to terms like “Scientifically Proven” and to be honest with science in general. Don’t get me wrong – in general I do believe in science but unfortunately, like communism, it looks good on paper but in practice there are all sorts of problems with such things as the egos of scientists and the financing of scientific research. Until quite recently this was much less of a problem but nowadays science is expensive and it’s very unlikely that someone is going to fund science unless they can make profit out of it. Combine this with the ego of the scientist (not to mention the desire to maintain their reputation). All too often, rather than trying to disprove a theory, scientists will focus all their energy and resource on proving a theory – often as not this may even involve ignoring things that question the validity of the theory or even discarding completely results from tests and trials that don’t match what they want to see or what their sponsor is paying to see. An unscrupulous scientist can prove or disprove just about anything if he or she is selective about what they test, how they test it, and which results they present.

In conclusion, science, like almost everything else in life, can only be trusted as much as the people and companies performing the research. Like everything else in life it is open to misrepresentation, misinformation and abuse and unfortunately, as morals decline and desire for profit reigns supreme, scientific integrity is very much on the decline in many areas. The bottom line is that you must not take sensationalist headlines at face value – you have to use your common sense and intelligently assess the values of any claims. Science may be becoming more like a religion but scientists are most certainly not gods.

Lost

“We’re on a road to nowhere,
Come on inside,
Taking that ride to nowhere,
We’ll take that ride.”

Talking Heads – Road To Nowhere

I am lost.

Totally lost.

I no longer have any clue what to do, where to go, who to talk to, how to proceed.

I’m sufficiently well-read to understand not only that the world is broken but to understand why it is broken, how it came to be in this state, who is responsible for it and that it can only get worse.

But I don’t know what I or anyone else can do about it and, as a problem solver, that seriously rankles me.

I know that as an individual I can avoid buying into the death dream that the western world is dreaming, I can consume less, avoid the slave goods of major corporations, buy local, buy organic etc. etc. but no one cares; it is too little to make any difference.

And besides, it alienates me from the rest of society.

I could try to influence my local community – perhaps I could start a regular meeting of like-minded people.

Tried that.

On the rare occasions I could get a word in edgeways I was interrupted, contradicted and generally ignored or put down. I am not a charismatic person, people rarely want to listen to anything I might have to say. I read, think and understand many subjects and issues but everyone thinks they know more than me so don’t want to listen. I feel like Cassandra from Greek mythology – a person granted the gift of prophesy by Apollo then cursed such that no one would ever believe her.

I try to talk about important issues in the local pub but people have read the newspaper of their choice and think they know better because they’ve seen it in black and white – never mind the fact that newspapers are owned by the enemy, by the very people who are destroying the planet and so are nothing more than outlets of propaganda. And besides, it’s far more interesting to talk about Celebrity Bake-off, Saturday’s football results or how immigrants are stealing all our jobs, isn’t it?

I could write a blog about it. This one really surprised me. I wrote about my cancer and got dozens of readers. I wrote about how tough life can be for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome and got hundreds of readers. I wrote about how the world in broken and my readership plunges down into single figures. No one wants to know about it.

Or I could sign petitions? Really!!! Let me tell you all, you can sign 1,000 petitions a day and tell everyone on social media that you’ve done it but you really are just wasting your time – nobody cares, nobody listens, nobody wants to know.

Write a book? Well I’m not famous so the chances of me getting a book published are incredibly small but even if I managed that feat why should I expect anyone to pay money to read 300 pages when they won’t even read a few free pages on a blog about it?

Speak to the young people? My own children would never listen to me so I don’t think I’d have much chance getting larger groups of young people to listen to me but even if I could I’d be accused of trying to radicalise and subvert them.

Write about it on Facebook and get your friends and friends of friends to share it? Tried that, wrote a long piece about the Badger Cull – wrote it from the heart. Asked friends to share it, expected friends to share it.

They didn’t.

Protest marches? These have been completely neutralised by a lack of media reporting. You could join 100,000 people marching on parliament and 99% of the population would never even know about it, so it’s as if it never happened.

What about more extreme, less legal protest? The press will make you into a nutter, a joke, no one will ever take you or your cause seriously ever again.

So how about really extreme measures? Ah, now you become a terrorist. Not only will you and your cause be utterly condemned but you’ll be locked up and your cause made illegal.

I’ve got an IQ in the 150’s and am great at finding solutions for difficult problems. I’m well-read and quite well-travelled. I’m a free thinker who can think outside the box. I’m broad-minded and willing to consider pretty much anything.

But now I’m lost.

The only thing I feel I can do is learn skills that will help me survive when it all breaks down (which it will – I don’t know when, but it will). But wouldn’t it be better if we could stop it before that happens?

So to the dozen or so people who might read this I ask the questions.

What can I do?

What can we do?

How can we get everyone to stop dreaming the death dream and start dreaming a dream of life?

Ideas and comments will be welcomed, platitudes will not.

“You and me are just, little fishes,
And their ain’t no way we can improve our lives.
You and me are just, little fishes,
Swimming in a rising tide.”

Patrick Fitzgerald, Little Fishes, from the album Grubby Stories.

All Change, Please!

At a time when most of my friends seem to be plunged into the depths of doom and despondency I feel strangely uplifted today. All is not what it seems and I sense that the powers of evil have suffered a serious setback – the Dragon of Albion is stirring and this time I feel it will finally awaken.

Abraham Lincoln famously said “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” The Leave campaigners really thought they could fool everyone but I now think this is backfiring on them in a way no one could have predicted.

We need to go back in time to get some idea of what Boris Johnson’s real motives in supporting brexit were. Johnson was two years ahead of Cameron at Eton and he shined there, though the situation was somewhat reversed at Oxford when Cameron came out with a first while Johnson only managed an upper second. It is clear that Johnson has felt for a long time that his intellectual superiority to Cameron meant he should have the top job – make no mistakes, these guys are not friend or even friendly rivals – they are bitter enemies. Johnson’s decision to support brexit was completely out of character – he has long been a europhile and a strong supporter of the EU. His real motives for supporting brexit was his personal quest for power; for the top job in the UK and above all getting rid of Cameron, who would clearly have to resign if the vote went against him. There was an interesting article in The Independent back in February which you might like to read at this point:

No doubt his [Boris Johnson’s] calculation this time is that his undoubted genius for self-promotion will allow him to get away with this latest dicing with danger…

So we have the situation where Johnson is willing to gamble our country’s future on his own personal ambition and on his revenge against Cameron; and superficially it looks like he has succeeded because Cameron has resigned leaving him the favourite for the top job. But Cameron is no fool; his decision to leave the invocation of article 50 to his successor means he has passed the poisoned chalice on to his rival without taking so much as a sip. Cameron leaves the top role with his reputation largely untarnished – he fought the great fight for the good of the country and was only defeated by the lies and deceptions of his rivals. He can go and retire on his mountain of money or take on pretty much any top job he wants.

Wait, did I just say “lies and deceptions”? Well if one thing has become clear since the result was published and even before the dust settled it is that the majority of the claims of the “Leave” campagne have since been denied by its members.

  • A vast reduction in immigration – well actually brexit will probably make very little difference
  • An extra 350m a week for the NHS – well, it’s actually only £276m after our discount and then we get £100m back in grants for scientists and farmers but even the net £176m that we’re left with is unlikely to go to the NHS
  • Ah, but we will be “Getting our country back”, won’t we? Well that’s a pretty vague statement really but if we want any decent trade deal with Europe we’re going to have to accept all sorts of rules and regulations (not to mention immigrants) from the EU – with the only big difference that we’d no longer have any say in those regulations.

So where does all this leave Johnson and the Tory party? Well Cameron only agreed to the referendum in the first place to keep the party together, back in the last election campaign there was a big danger that the party would be damaged by a large number of extreme right-wing defectors heading to UKIP. This would have split the right-wing vote and would have probably have lost him the election but now that we will be leaving the EU what will happen to the Conservatives? The rift has not gone away and whoever takes over is likely to be on the right of the party leaving a large number of Tory MP feeling disgruntled. But even if the new leader can hold the party together how will the electorate feel?

Well the vast majority of the electorate are normally quite happy to bury their heads in the sand most of the time – they really don’t care what’s going on in the country so long as they can go down the pub to drink beer and watch football with their mates or stay in and watch soaps and reality TV shows. But the Leave campaign has changed all that; they’ve stirred up the sleeping dragon – they’ve told the populace that things will get better if we leave the EU, that we can get rid of all the immigrants, that we can revitalise the NHS and that we can reinstate a true democracy in the UK. As the dragon stirs, lifts its head from the sand and looks around it is already realising it has been duped. As things move on the dragon is going to get more and more angry, as it realises that all the promises were lies and that things are not going to get better; as their beer gets more expensive, as tax go up, as they lose their jobs…

How long before there is a vote of “No Confidence” in the government and how will the Tories fare in the next election when they’ve gone against the will of 48% of the voting public and lied to the other 52%?

It’s the same old story – western thinking has led to people thinking of things in isolation rather being interconnected. It has made people think that they can put ambition and self-promotion ahead of the concerns of everyone else.

BIG MISTAKE!

My friends, sit back with me and watch history unfold, these are truly interesting times with all the positive and negative connotations that implies. There’s a storm a coming that’s going to sweep everything along in its path and give us a fresh start. Keep the faith and batten down the hatches.

Update 30/06/2016 12:15 – So less than an hour after I posted this Boris Johnson has announced that he will not participate in the Tory Leadership ballot. He has recognised that this is a no-win situation and passed on the poison chalice to the next candidate. He’s a clever man, without doubt, but clearly his ambitions have been severely damaged by all this – karma doesn’t normally work this fast.

Making Waves

Have you ever just sat on a beach or in a boat watching the waves? I know I have many times but what exactly is a wave? You may already know this but in case you don’t I’d like you to know that when a wave passes the water only moved up and down, so the wave travels forward but the water doesn’t meaning the wave isn’t water it is a wave of energy being transmitted through the medium of water. If you have trouble visualising this think of a Mexican Wave at a major sports event – everyone stands up and sits down at the right moment giving the appearance of a wave travelling around the ground but the people in the ground just go up and down, no one moves around the ground, just the wave does so the whole question of what a wave is becomes harder to define.

So why am I wittering on about waves? What have waves to do with the web of life and all that sort of nonsense that I usually write about? Well, what if people were like waves; nothing really to do with their body but just like some sort of pulse of energy that that makes temporary use of the atoms on the earth? Before you completely dismiss this speculation let me give you a few facts about the body you inhabit:

  • 98% of all the atoms in a human body are replaced every year
  • Roughly every 16 days pretty much all the water in a human body is replaced
  • Not a single atom in your body stays there forever and there is a 100%
    chance that 1,000s of other humans through history held some of the same
    atoms that you currently hold in your body (not to mentions other animals and plants – even extinct ones)
  • You get a new suit of skin every month
  • You get a new liver every six  weeks
  • The lining of your stomach lasts only five days before it’s replaced
  • Oh, and you’ll grow about 590 miles of hair in your lifetime

So perhaps now you’re starting to see what I’m getting at – your body is not the same age as you are – it’s like a 1,000 year old axe that’s had 20 new handles and 15 new heads – every part of you is regularly replaced so what exactly are you? Thousands of your atoms have been changed just while you were reading this.

This is where we we come to the web of life bit:

  • We are the earth and the earth is us. In the average lifetime we’ll consume about 35 tons of food – that’s 35 tons of plant and animal material passing through our bodies and replacing the atoms we were temporarily holding.
  • We are the water and the water is us. In the average lifetime we will drink about 15,000 gallons of water, replacing every drop of water in our bodies about every 16 days.
  • We are the air and the air is us. In the average lifetime we will take about 700 million breaths – about 1,000 breaths per hour – that’s an awful lot of oxygen being taken in and carbon dioxide being breathed out over a lifetime.

So when we pollute the earth, the water and the air we are polluting ourselves because those elements are destined to be a part of us at some point in our lifetime and that’s true whether you’re a beggar or a billionaire.

Herbal Remedies – Natural Misunderstanding

Firstly I want to talk about some of the claims that are being made for herbs and other natural remedies – it seems that hardly a day goes by without one of my friends or one of the groups I subscribe to posting on Facebook about some herb and how it can cure a plethora of illnesses. Let’s have an example or two to get my point across – I pick these purely because they have been on my news-feed recently.

Cayenne Pepper, apparently, has the following talents:- Anti-Irritant Properties, Anti-Cold and Flu Agent, Anti-Fungal Properties, Migraine Headache Prevention, Anti-Allergen, Digestive Aid, Anti-Redness Properties, Helps Produce Saliva, Useful for Blood Clots, Detox Support, Joint-Pain Reliever, Anti-Bacterial Properties, Possible Anti-Cancer Agent, Supports Weight Loss, Promotes Heart-Health, Remedy for Toothache, Topical Remedy (source: http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/benefits-of-cayenne-pepper/).

Herb Robert, “…has been found to be helpful in the treatment of certain forms of cancer and also in boosting the immune system…” “…is a source of germanium, and germanium has a special role to play in the body because of its unique ability to make more oxygen available to the cells…”  “… a good all-rounder and preventative tonic…” “…provides antibiotic, antiviral and antioxidant help…” (source: https://theholisticworks.com/2012/06/01/the-miraculous-healing-properties-of-herb-robert/)

Nettle Tea, Boosts the immune system. Supports urinary tract, nervous system, respiratory tract, digestive and endocrine systems. Fights coughs and tuberculosis. Loosens congestion and opens bronchial airways in people with asthma or allergies. Counters arthritis, rheumatism, tendinitis and other disorders or muscles and joints. Helps with individuals suffering from diabetes (reduces blood sugar levels). Natural diuretic which helps to lower blood pressure (credited to http://livelovefruit.com/ – though I couldn’t find the article).

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to knock herbal remedies and I often partake of nettle tea (fresh from the garden I hasten to add), but what I am balking at is the huge number of benefits that are being claimed. Now I don’t claim to have researched all the above claims and I’m sure that there is an element of truth in every one of those claims – I mean anything with a mild anti-oxidant property can claim to “help cure cancer”, but I strongly suspect that if these were products being advertised in the media then the Advertising Standards Authority would have something to say in the matter. The real point here is that anyone with any sense reading these articles has to doubt some of the claims and so then starts to doubt the whole article and by association herbal remedies full stop – it makes everything sound like Snake Oil. Herbal remedies are good, they help with some conditions but eating a few Dandelion leaves isn’t going to cure cancer, heart conditions, diabetes, the common cold/flu or any other medical condition.

But now this leads me on to the second part of this article and that is about the whole way we treat our herbal remedies – which is that we treat them exactly the same as we treat non-herbal medicines.

The main thing wrong with western medicine is that it thinks a pill can cure everything when in fact most of the pills proscribed only treat the symptoms and so, many people seem to think that herbal medicine works the same way. If you have a headache an Aspirin may help – oh no! Cries the herbal fanatic. “Don’t take Aspirin – here, chew on this piece of Willow bark instead.” But it’s the same thing – if you simply substitute a herbal remedy for pill from the pharmacist you’re still just treating the symptom, not curing the illness – not treating the real cause. Got a dose of flu? Sage tea will probably help to cure it but if you want the symptoms to go away then Day/Night Nurse is the way to go – it won’t cure your flu, in fact by bringing your temperature down to make you feel better it will probably make the flu last longer because it’s preventing your body from healing itself. And this is really the key point – your body heals itself. Let me say that again, this time in big letters.

Your body heals itself

No tablet from the doctor or pharmacist will cure you. No magic plant will cure you. The only way you will ever get better is if your body heals itself so if you want to help your body to heal itself you have to help your body, not fight the symptoms it is producing to try to heal itself.

Herbal remedies, if chosen appropriately, can help but if you’re living on a diet of junk food and diet cola it’s probably not going to make a lot of difference. It’s a bit like the difference between chemical and organic agriculture. Chemical-based agriculture treats soil purely as a medium to physically support the plant, nutrients necessary to make the plants grow quickly are supplied through chemical fertilisers, but the plants have poor pest/disease resistance and so have to be regularly sprayed with more chemicals to keep them alive. Organic agriculture on the other hand feeds the soil with organic material and it is the soil that feeds the plant all the nutrients it needs to grow healthily and so it has much better resistance to pests and diseases – this is nature’s way. If you live on junk food (or just a poorly balanced diet) you’re treating your body like chemical agriculture treats the land. Your’re getting calories and protein from your food but not all the nutrients your body requires. You can take vitamins to help but that’s really just like chemical fertiliser so you’ll still get sick and when you take pills to get better the analogy is spraying the crops with chemicals to get rid of the pest/disease.

The big question here is “do herbal remedies help”? And the answer has to be “well that depends”. If you just want to stop taking drugs from the pharmacist and substitute a herb with similar properties then you’re going to be disappointed; it is very likely that the herb will be much less effective. If, on the other hand, you have fallen ill and consult a qualified herbalist, they will offer you advise about diet and lifestyle as well as recommending some herbal remedies to help your body back into balance so it can cure itself. If you follow this advise about diet and lifestyle then the herbal remedies will most certainly help you to get better. Don’t listen to the Snake Oil salesmen – herbs are not a panacea for all ills nor will they ever be a substitute for a healthy lifestyle but if used appropriately and respectfully they can help.