Masonic Boom

"Crazy" "Oversensitive" "Feminazi" "Bitch" bloggin' bout pop music, linguistics and mental health issues

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Location: South London, United Kingdom

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Adopt A Peer

This morning, I woke up in a weird daze, with the vague sense that what happened last night had not happened, that it had been a bad dream, a twitter hoax, some kind of psychotic break where I imagined something which did not in point of fact happen. Oddly, the blogosphere, at least that parts I inhabit, was silent on it. Messageboards which normally hum with every political intrigue from Hackgate to the recent UK riots had nothing to say about it. Even the usually vaguely-left chatterers of the Guardian seemed to be oddly absent - the top headlines when I looked were about Michael Moore and Gaddafi. The only parliamentary news to get a header was the good news that Nadine Dorries' anti-woman anti-choice amendment had (phew!) been dropped.

So that whole thing of the Commons passing the massively ill conceived and misguided and unwanted Health and Social Care Bill, that never happened, right? RONG.

It was even suggested by some cynial types that the whole Dorries kerfuffle that got commented on and liveblogged was some kind of diversion, a smokescreen for the real damage they were about to inflict on the NHS, while our attention was diverted with some incredibly dangerous bit of nonsense they had no intention of going through with. I don't know.

But maybe this piece of news is so awful that it's just not possible to process it. Maybe it's disbelief. They can't. They won't. They promised they wouldn't. Maybe people who have grown up with the NHS have got so used to it, they can't even imagine how awful it could be without it.

Someone in my tweetstream suggested that they'd seen more support for the Save BBC4 campaign than any Save the NHS campaign. Maybe most people, healthy people just use BBC4 more, on a daily basis than the NHS we all just kind of take for granted.

Well, there's this:

It hasn't got through the House of Lords yet, so there's a chance... maybe they won't. I mean, they can't, right? Maybe people have faith that they can't really sell off the NHS.

I wrote a letter. I wrote an actual physical, stick-it-in-the-post letter. I can't tell you the last time I did that, I've got to used to signing petitions, on paper and online, and watching them do absolutely no good at all. What extra harm could writing a letter to a Lord or Lady do. I have to do *something* beyond all that clicking and signing.

Anyway, here's the text of what I wrote:

I am writing to you as part of a campaign to urge the Peers to change or reject the Health and Social Care Bill, in order to stop the NHS being broken up or having parts of it sold off. But instead of sending the form letter they suggested, I’m going to tell you some of my experiences, and why the future of the NHS is so important to me.

I was born in England, but when I was 9, my family moved to the States, and I spent my teens and my early 20s there. In my late 20s, I returned to the UK, expecting to stay only a few years, but instead I have resettled here permanently and remained here for over 12 years. Apart from the expected family and cultural connections, my single greatest reason for making the UK my home again was the NHS.

You see, I have a long-term health issue. I am bipolar. It is a treatable condition. With regular access to proper medical care, I am able to live a normal life. I work full-time (I have a good job, as a computer programmer.) I pay taxes, I support myself, pay my mortgage, and contribute to the UK economy. Thanks to the excellent care I receive, from the NHS, I am able to be a fully functioning member of society.

In the US, my "pre-existing condition" made me uninsurable. Despite the fact that my condition is controllable, the amount of care they thought I required made it almost impossible for insurance companies to make a profit off me, so I was denied insurance. I was unable to pay, not just for my long-term condition - making my mental health so unstable that I was sometimes not able to even hold a job - but for other simple, basic healthcare, such as broken bones and ear infections.

Running health care on a principle which puts profit before people means that people like me, who are capable of living normal, productive lives, are denied the chance to do so, because we are not profitable. If the NHS is changed, to echo the American system of "competition" and "profit-making" it is people like me who will suffer.

I urge you, in your debate and vote on this bill, to resist the unnecessary changes this bill would bring.

I recognise this is probably not non-problematic. I speak only for myself. I can't help thinking that maybe I'm being a bit harsh by referring to myself as only being a "productive member of society" when I am able to work, as if people who are too sick to work are somehow not? I don't mean that, I mean, working - or not working, so much as the *ability* to work, the ability to be sane and healthy enough to BE ABLE TO work is so damned important to me that I'm terrified that US-style profitmongering would strip me of it.

I had a bit of a wakeup call two weeks ago. I don't want to get into too many details, but I experienced some online bullying which pushed me into what felt like the start of another ... episode. I had some disturbing and quite frankly terrifying symptoms, which in the past have been precursors to a breakdown, even hospitalisation. This time, I recognised the symptoms. Crying and shaking, I went to my doctor. Who saw me immediately, and packed me in a cab (they kindly offered me an ambulance, but I didn't think I needed one yet) to the emergency room, with a letter to the psychiatric crisis response team. I was seen, evaluated and treated within hours. Timely intervention meant that expected breakdown did not have to occur. I was back at work within 3 days. But this is the kind of shit that reminds me sometimes, how thin the line between "functioning", "sanity", "coping" and nonfunctioning, madness, breakdown can be for me. This is when the NHS seems most real, to me, most important. Remembering what it was like, back in the States, being uninsured, when those kinds of symptoms meant a breakdown, meant getting sacked from another job, months of my life (not to mention the people around me) getting turned upside down.

I guess there's more at stake for people like me. But I don't know what I can even do.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Keep Your Culture Wars Off My Ovaries

So I said that I would write a blog post on this, because a friend of mine didn't understand why I went on a twitter rant yesterday.

Someone in my tweetstream retweeted a series of tweet by a left-leaning, apparently Movement Atheist* comedy account. In which, the topic of Abortion was referred to as a "complex issue of bioethics."

*OK, I can hear the intake of breath from some of my friends over that, even as I write it, so let me please explain the difference between atheists and Movement Atheists, why I have no problem with the former at all, and rather a large suspicion of the latter. Atheists are people who do not believe in god. That's all! The end.

Movement Atheists are the ones who are so convinced of the Utter Irrefutable Truth of their philosophical system (usually attached to tenaciously, almost religiously held beliefs in the omni-competence of Totally Objective Western Science) that it's not enough for them to merely reject religion themselves, they will not rest until they have argued, bullied, shamed, or otherwise converted everyone else to their philosophical system, and, you know, the hell with other individuals' experience of spirituality, community, and the pesky cultural traditions of the 7/8 of the world that are not Western, college educated, middle-class, white men.

In short, Movement Atheism is often almost indistinguishable from another group of self-righteous, overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male fanatics so convinced of their utter rightness that they use it to uphold the privilege of, well, white middle class males over "ignorant" and "backwards" cultures around the world. I mean, does that sound historically familiar, at all?

picture of white missionaries surrounded by African children

Oh. Right. Their sworn enemies.

So. This is the Culture War. In one corner is Science and in the other corner is Religion and according to the philosophical landgrabbing of *both* Movement Atheism and Fundamentalism of various creeds, never the twain shall meet. Like chalk and cheese. Like oil and vinegar (except without the delicious salad-enhancing properties that characterise successful blends of the above, like many, many people manage to reconcile science and religion with no more problems than reconciling, say, mathematics and other humanities like poetry.)

Which brings us back to Bioethics which I found such an immensely unhelpful term for the discussion of abortion that I was reduced to an inarticulate rant.

See, I learned the term Bioethics way back in high school, where it was generally used to describe and discuss the morality of the scientific use of animals and plants. So that's the first connotation I associate with the word - that this is how MAs see women, and discussion of the right to bodily autonomy of women. On a level with genetically modified wheat, and cloned farm animals. Yes, I'm aware that technically, the prefix "Bio-" means all living things, but the connotation, reinforced by words like Biodiversity, Biofuels, Biomass, is that it means non-human life. Words related specifically to humans get different prefixes, such as "Anthro-"

Philosopical concerns related specifically to *males* - they're not called Bioethics, they're just called Ethics. Try typing "bioethics of circumcision" into wikipedia and watch it get redirected to "ethics of circumcision." Words and their connotations have power. Men are people; women are... other.

Even the updated dictionary definition of "bioethics" is inappropriate. "Bioethics is the study of controversial ethics brought about by advances in biology and medicine." Abortion, as an recorded medical practice, is nearly 5000 years old. How is a procedure known to the Ancient Egyptians supposed to be a quandary brought about by "advances in medicine"?

ancient relief showing Egyptian surgical tools

(I know, I'm technically not supported on this on this discomfort - supposedly Assisted Suicide is a "bioethical" concern, despite being documented even before the death of Socrates.)

But Bioethics just seems to me, an inappropriate term to use when describing Abortion. Abortion is not about technology, or advances in medicine, it is about the right of women to control what happens to, and in, their own bodies. "Bioethics" frames it as something technical, something sciencey, and places it firmly within the Science camp of the Science Versus Religion!!!! culture wars.

And there are women, and womens' autonomy, placed yet again as another pawn in someone else's philosophical territory wars.

Because guess what? There are many, many people who identify as religious, who belong to or even lead churches, synagogues, temples, etc. - who are Pro-Choice. I know them personally - my Roman Catholic former housemate, who works for a womens reproductive rights organisation. Mine own mother, a priest (C of E), and staunchly Pro-choice, taught me the joke "if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament."

Framing this solely as a "Science v Religion" war is 1) hugely insulting and devisive when it comes to Allies who support the Pro-Choice position and 2) the whole "most of the people who are anti-choice are religious, ergo all religions are anti-choice" is an illogical and frankly wrong-headed assumption on the level of "All dachsunds are dogs, ergo all dogs are dachsunds!"

pugs dressed up as hot dogs, but still, not dachshunds

And like I said above, I *distrust* Movement Atheism. MA's god-head leader is an unmitigaged racist and bigot not to mention is a massive sexist douche with a propensity for making rape jokes. Even self identified progressive female atheists have expressed discomfort with the level of sexism and misogyny in Movement Atheism and if you want a quick lesson in exactly how much the Skeptic Movement does not give a shit about the concerns of women, just google "ElevatorGate".

So when I see Movement Atheists redefining the bodily autonomy of women as "bioethics" and lining it up as another pawn in the great Science V Religion Wars, I feel about as comfortable as I feel when the US Military uses "women's rights" to justify the invasion of oil-rich Middle Eastern countries.

Sunday, September 04, 2011


Reading this blog, and seeing how I've neglected it recently, it makes me realise something: I used to spend a whole lot more time, and energy and effort, trying to explain my behaviour. Not rationalise, not justify, not excuse - just *explain*: This behaviour, which may look incomprehensible to others, happens because I am feeling X, Y and Z.

Did it do any good? Not really. People draw their own conclusions, they project their own situations. "That is not the way that I feel, in fact, I could never even conceive of feeling or thinking X, Y or Z, therefore you must be lying or ~making it up~, and I will now tell you how you *must* be feeling, to be doing that, if you were *me*." Never mind that I've spent 40 years in this body, in this brain, in this set of experiences, and they have known me for a few months, mediated entirely through a messageboard format which strips context, culture, affect and emotion from everything that I say.

So I eventually gave up explaining.

Did the projecting and the accusing and the condemning stop? Of course it didn't. But at least I wasn't wasting my time, my effort, and all that emotional energy of trying to justify my very existence to people unwilling or unable to listen. What a relief.