Friday, 30 September 2011

A rubbish suggestion - £250 million for your vote?

Yesterday it was announced that £250 million has been released to enable councils to reintroduce weekly bin collections.

When bin collections were reduced to fortnightly in many areas this sparked outrage and reports of increased numbers of rats etc in areas where rubbish was left out for extended periods of time.  But the motivation for doing this was to increase recycling, and as time has gone on people have no doubt become used to the fact that their rubbish will only be collected fortnightly.

Ordinarily I have no doubt that this move would be welcomed.  However, in a time when essential services to the vulnerable  as well as education budgets are being cut, I can't help wondering whether this is badly timed, and whether this has more to do with winning votes and popularity rather than the need to re-introduce an essential service.

If there is £250 million to bring back weekly collections, what has been cut to fund it? 

In the scheme of things, £250 million across all councils isn't actually that much money.  But in a time where services, some of them essential, are being cut, surely we have to ask why something as trivial as bin collections is being given priority and funding over services as essential as transport for disabled children.
One might be forgiven for cynically suggesting that bin collections affect us all and are therefore more likely to gain more popularity, whereas many of the services being cut are services that the majority of us will never have a need to use, and therefore have no impact on us.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Ignore the warnings, pay the price.

, Yesterday a British man, Michael Cohen, lost one leg and was left with the other badly maimed when he was attacked by a Great White shark off the coast of Cape Town in South Africa.

The shark had previously been sighted in the water, warning notices had been put up and the beach was closed.  Two people had warned him not to go into the water because of the shark, to which he had responded that if he was taken to "blame me, not the shark."

Within seconds he had been attacked and is now in hospital, having lost his right leg. 

The press appear to be largely unsympathetic to his plight, with the circumstances prior to the attack being reported in all papers. 

But there is surely a broader issue to all this.  This man will now have to stay in hospital for some time, and will no doubt have to undergo months of rehabilitation to help him adapt to his new disability, not to mention surgery to repair the damage to his left leg. 

He has become disabled, and all because he was too arrogant to listen to the warnings and clearly thought he was invincible.

Valuable resources will now be taken up to help this man back to a state where he will be able to lead a normal life.  Yet it could be argued that it is because of his own stupidity that he is now in this position. 

There is no question that he should of course receive the help he needs.  But is it wrong to have little sympathy for a man who became disabled after knowingly going into the water where a Great White shark had been seen just minutes previously, and falling victim to it? 

And what of the shark?  No doubt there will be calls for it to be hunted down and destroyed before it claims a human life, and yet the shark was just doing what sharks do - looking for food in its own environment, it didn't really do anything wrong. 

Michael Cohen has paid a high price for his arrogance and stupidity.  What price will the shark have to pay?

Monday, 26 September 2011

The right to vote, without the right to drive herself there.

Yesterday it was announced that women in Saudi Arabia would be allowed to vote from 2015.  This has been seen as a welcome step by campaigners who have been campaigning for greater rights for women in the Arab country.

The first time women will be allowed to vote will be in municipal elections in 2015.  But does this really mean anything?

In Saudi men and women are strictly seen as unequal, and currently the sexes are segregated.  It is also illegal for women to drive cars, or to be seen with any man who is not a relative or her husband.

Given that women are clearly not permitted to think freely for themselves or to act as individuals independent of men, I can’t help wondering just how independently women will be allowed to cast their vote when the time actually comes to do so, or whether they will be expected to vote based on the principles of the household into which they have married.

As women are not allowed to drive or travel independently, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that while they may have the right to vote, they will not be given the means to do so by virtue of the fact they have no other rights.

The right to cast a vote is worthless if the caster of that vote does not have the right to live as an individual in her own right. 

Monday, 19 September 2011

Death - an occupational hazzard of being a burglar?

This weekend a man was stabbed to death in Stockport after apparently attempting to burgle a house. It is alleged that the man and his accomplice attempted to enter the house wielding a knife, and that the owner tackled them and stabbed one of them to death while the other fled the scene.

The home owner was initially arrested on suspicion of murder, and has since been released on bail, meanwhile the friends and family of the deceased man have been laying floral tributes outside of the house he was alleged to have been burgling at the time of his death.

Now the question has been asked numerous times whether it is right that a home owner should be able to kill an intruder who is attempting to burgle them, views do obviously differ on this point but generally the view is that as long as it is only reasonable force then if someone is threatening you or your family then if you kill them you shouldn't be prosecuted.

But surely another question that we should ask is whether, if you decide to go out burgling other people's houses, then the potential to be killed or at best seriously injured by a terrified homeowner is just an occupational hazard?

Some professions carry risk of death or serious injury. If you join the police force there is a chance you will be injured in the line of duty. Many of our troops have been killed and seriously injured in the line of duty. Even being a bus driver carries the risk of injury/death when we consider the number of accidents on our roads each year.

But the difference is that we need these professions. So while someone might not choose to be a police officer or to join the army or drive buses, we need people to do these things, and sometimes the people that choose these professions will end up hurt, or worse in the line of their work.

But being a burglar is a choice that only the burglar makes. We do not need burglars - burglary is, in fact, illegal. And therefore, by choosing to burgle other peoples' properties, the burglar has already done so in the knowledge that, if he is caught, he will face the legal consequences of his crimes.

It is therefore surely not unreasonable to think that if you choose to be a burglar, then you do so in the knowledge that you will anger the owners of the properties you are burgling, and that at some point one of them might actually get angry enough to inflict a serious injury or even kill you.

Getting caught and sent to prison could be seen as an occupational hazard. So why not also the homeowner deciding to defend himself/his family/property.

Killing someone is never an ideal outcome. However if that someone is breaking the law and is already somewhere they shouldn't be they did have a choice.