Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Thinking about working together to combat violence.

They’re still going on about the new Duchess of Sussex, the actress formerly known as Meghan Markle, being a champion for feminism. Well, good for her. I hope she can continue to do so. Meanwhile, in France they seem to be taking it very seriously. Men can now be fined for wolf-whistling women in the street or making making offensive comments, even if they think they are paying the women concerned a compliment. This is part of new tougher legislation to combat lecherous behaviour. Those who break the law will face on-the-spot fines of up to €750 (£655). France's president, Emmanuel Macron, said the law was meant to ensure "women are not afraid to be outside." Personally I have never objected to the odd wolf-whistle but I do think measures need to be taken to prevent men from going too far, following women down the street and so on. President Macron himself, though, gets some stick for not being egalitarian enough.

The Brexit fiasco continues apace. Nobody seems to know where it will end. An Israeli academic, Yuval Noah Harari, has written a book in which he singles out the EU as a model for how national interests can be balanced and what is at stake if it fails. He doesn’t think much of the idea of Brain leaving the EU. “After centuries of terrible bloodshed, French, Germans, Italians and Britons have finally built a mechanism that ensures continental harmony – only to have the British public throw a spanner into the miracle machine,” writes Harari. “We have a global ecology, a global economy and a global science – but we are still stuck with only national politics,” he adds. “To have effective politics we must either deglobalise the ecology, the economy or the march of science – or we must globalise our politics.”

I was a little miffed at an Israeli giving us advice on how to run things but then I went on to read that he is not best pleased with his own country’s performance lately. He lectures at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and was critical of the killing of Palestinian protesters. “If every nation thinks about itself, then who is thinking about the global problems?” he said. “I don’t see Israel making any significant contribution to confronting the main challenges of humankind.”

Here’s a link to an article about him and his book. There are some interesting bits about the failings of religious schools in Israel, in which little real science teaching takes place. Fundamentalist education of any kind is never really inclusive.

Over in Texas they have had more trouble with school shootings. The lieutenant governor of the state has said that violent video games and films, abortion and divorce are behind the US school shooting epidemic. He said: “Should we be surprised, in this nation? We have devalued life, whether it’s through abortion, whether it’s the break-up of families, through violent movies and particularly violent video games, which now outsell movies and music. Psychologists and psychiatrists will tell you that students are desensitised to violence, may have lost empathy for their victims by watching hours and hours of violent video games. Ninety-seven per cent of teenagers, according to psychiatrists and psychologists, watch video games and 85 per cent of those are violent games.” 

Since television was first introduced into almost every home there have been warnings about the stuff available to watch making young people violent. I tend to agree that there is a certain amount of desensitisation. And I know that there was not as much stuff around when we were kids but when we ran about playing cowboys and Indians or Germans against English, I am pretty sure we knew the difference between games and reality.

What still worries me much more is the availability of guns. This latest troubled young man used his father’s legally-bought weapons. Why were ‘t the guns locked away where the 17 year-old could not get them. If there are no guns available to use, no matter how much influence violent TV shows and computer games have on you, you can’t actually take that violent action.

On a day when people have come together in Manchester to remember the victims of last year’s bomb, we should all be working on reducing violence in the world.

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