7 Billion need not be too many

Today, the estimated population of the world reaches 7 billion or 7,000,000,000. Thats a lot, by anyone’s standards.

Of course, it’s only an estimate, we just don’t have the infrastructure to count every single person. Even in developed countries, an error margin of 1-2% is presumed. In poorer, developing nations, especially those experiencing clear population booms, the accuracy of these figures is sketchy at best. However, the statistical consensus is not if but when. We may be already passed 7bn, we may not get there for another year but we will certainly be there soon. 50 years ago, when the world’s population was less than half the current estimates, the huge population growth we have seen in the developing world was seen as the second biggest threat to global stability (nuclear war being rightly seen as the most dangerous). Malthusian limits to the global human population have so far been proved false and I can see no reason why they should become true in the forseeable near future.

Despite the lack of food seen in many parts of the world, we see no slowdown in the population growth rates in these areas, in fact they seem to be increasing in many places. Why is this? Some would have you believe that the aid often given to these people helps fuel these growth rates, that without the aid many children would die and the growth rates would fall. This lack of humanitarianism fails to take into account the thoughts and intentions of the people involved. Nobody wants to live in a place where they cannot grow enough food to feed their families and statements like “well someone has to live there” are clearly wrong. No-one “has” to live in an area that is incapable of supporting human life. It is the misfortune of being born into such crippling poverty with their ability to relocate to more fertile lands crushed by government corruption or roving bands of local militias that keeps so many people in environments unable to support them. One of the main reasons people in these circumstances feel the need to have so many children is because of the harsh environment they find themselves in. Low nutrition rates and poor medical care mean that many children die before adulthood and those that survive do not often make it into what we would call ‘old age’. To ensure the continuation of your family line and to have the possibility of someone to care for you in your retirement you need to have many children. While these may be changing in fact, they are still entrenched in many cultural norms worldwide. A period of rapid population growth is inevitable while the cultural practices of local populations catch up with the medical realities of the present day. This was seen throughout the industrialised nations of the Victorian age and is mirrored in the developing nations of today.

Clearly ongoing charity donations for an indeterminate period of time will never solve the problems, only postpone the necessity of finding a solution. Simply removing the obstacles stated above and giving them enough land to farm will not solve these problems either. Subsistence farming by individual families is an incredibly inefficient way of producing food and will not be able to support large increases in population. People only use subsistence agriculture when they cannot afford to buy food at market prices, this is generally because they have nothing to sell in exchange (I include labour as a sellable commodity in this example). Almost everything we know about industrialisation tells us that economies of scale will always deliver cost savings to large-scale production, be this of food or any manufactured goods. The only way out of the food poverty trap for any developing nations is for them to do exactly as the name suggests, develop. If their populations have access to employment they will be able to afford the food produced more efficiently on larger farms, reducing their reliance on the developed world charities. As this development continues their demand for consumer goods will increase, thus contributing to the economies of the industrialised world. This form of development does not have to happen at the current locations of the people who need it, it just has to be made available to them as an option.

All the studies I am aware of show that it is development and economic growth that fuels a lowering fertility rate, not the other way around. If a family can be sure that their children are likely to survive into adulthood and they can afford to save for their own retirement having many children becomes a burden on family resources rather than a necessary investment. Fertility rates the world over are lowering with industrialisation but are still well above replacement rates. Even once they get down to two children per woman (currently about 2.5) we will still see growth for a generation while the children born during the above replacement rate period have their own children.

None of this can happen however without education on a massive scale. Education of both boys and girls without the hideous excuses of religious or racial prejudices and traditions can be the only solution for the poverty and hunger seen throughout large parts of the developing world. The advances made by large parts of China, India and many of the so-called “Asian Tiger” economies in the Asia-Pacific region have shown us that improving the quality of a populations education and investing in modern industry will almost inevitably improve that nation’s economic strength. Even if the employment opportunities are not yet present in the country, a well-educated, mobile workforce, willing to travel to find work is a benefit not just for the nation of eventual employment but also the home nation as money is often sent home to support waiting families.

It is for the good of both the giver and the receiver of aid that long-term solutions to poverty and hunger are found. Gifts of food and medical supplies cannot improve more than the immediate situation, foreign investment into industry without the necessary supporting infrastructure will be doomed to fail if a local workforce cannot be found with the necessary skills. Development in all nations begins first with emancipation (and preferably suffrage) then continues with compulsory education for all. If foreign aid is needed to supply this, then we, as a developed nation supplying the aid, should look beyond the immediate hardships and into the future of not just the nations being aided but also the entire world. It is, after all, the politics of the short-term that has caused and is still causing so many problems in the Southern Eurozone now.

Thanks for reading

Rowan

All comments welcome, I’ll answer as many as I can.

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Sack the Lazy

This week we hear of a leaked report, commissioned by Downing Street, recommending the laws on unfair dismissal being reformed in order that lazy or unproductive employees can be dismissed by their employers easier, freeing up space in the jobs market for more productive workers.

The usual suspects are out, showing off their dyed-in-the wool tribal loyalties, the unions have described the report as“profoundly unjust” and attacked the report as showing the true face of the “Nasty” Tories.

Despite being self-employed now, I have previously worked in several workplaces and job roles, from stacking shelves in supermarkets to scanning documents in offices to installing telephone points in customer’s homes. In each of these jobs, we all knew who the good workers were and who were the slackers. They also knew that we knew, the bosses knew, even the customer’s could tell when they were dealing with an employee who couldn’t be bothered. This is where we get to the heart of the matter. People won’t be bothered to work hard and be productive if they don’t have to. They won’t be sacked if they spend half the day on Facebook and if the work they do complete is sub-standard due to their being more interested in looking through the  endless email photos of cats dressed as ballerinas with mildly amusing captions rather than concentrating on the fine details of the report they’ve just typed to be sent out to a client, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because they have no fear of being sacked, everyone’s on Facebook all day, sacking someone because of this is victimisation. Singling them out because they aren’t able to cope with their normal workload and tag photos of themselves being sick on Dave’s birthday within the 8 office hours available is just unfair. Work will always miss out, workers will always prefer not to work. It’s good to have a large pile on your desk, it makes you look busy and makes your co-workers less likely to give you more, freeing up still more time for looking at pointless novelty items on Amazon.

What other reason is there for an employer to hire you, than to be productive? Without productivity there can be no job for the employee, no company for the employer and no product or service for the customer or client. Following this logic, surely the most important reason for dismissal should be productivity, or rather lack of it, be it directly (that of the employee concerned) or indirectly (the effect the employee concerned has on their fellow employees). Workers in any industry slacking off or coasting at a time when 2.75 million people are registered unemployed seems to me a perfectly valid reason for their dismissal. If there are job seekers who can do a job better than the employees currently at your company, why should you not be able to employ them? Why should you be forced to continue employing staff who are slack and unproductive? Why should a person who has just started a new job (and is therefore likely to be more financially insecure) have less rights in law than a person who has been working at the company for several years (and is therefore more likely to be financially secure)? I am unsure (unless it is to promote borrowing by the longer term employee on the basis that they are more likely to still have their job in the forseeable future).

I am of course not advocating a kind of revolving door policy in any workplace. This will almost always be counter productive, by removing any sort of loyalty an employee may feel towards their employer, one will always promote a kind of ‘may as well be slack for as long as I can as I’ll be sacked soon anyway’ mentality among staff. Treating employees badly will result in the best ones (the ones in demand from other, rival companies) leaving to find work elsewhere, a company with these policies will be left with a workforce consisting of people who cannot get work elsewhere, this is clearly not the way to go about running a business. The other side of this argument is that if an employee is free to move jobs (after a set notice period) in order to improve their pay and/or conditions, why should an employer not be free to change the members of their workforce when it becomes clear that some of their current employees are not working as hard or as well as they should and better or more productive ones have become available?

Of course, there are ways to dismiss staff from your employ if they break certain rules or laws but generally, if an employee does not want to leave, turns up on time, is generally pleasant but continues to do very little work, it is very difficult to find sufficient grounds (using current legislation) for their dismissal, even if there is a queue of qualified applicants from the job centre begging to be given a chance to prove their work ethic. The free movement of labour is one of the fundamental necessities for Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ to fully work, ensuring a balance between consumers and producers and, I believe, should not be prevented in its endeavours.

In these times of high inflation, across the board pay-cuts and increasing competition from overseas, as a consumer I want my products and services to be cheap, this means efficient working practices by the companies concerned. One way to improve a companies competitiveness is to ensure productive working practise by its staff, if this means keeping them on their toes with the threat of dismissal for repeatedly wasting company time and resources, I fail to see how this can ever be a bad thing.

Thanks for reading

Rowan

All comments are welcome, I’ll answer as many as I can.

Be Careful what You Wish for in North Africa

We have recently witnessed the death of the self-styled Colonel Gadaffi in Libya. A man who was universally despised throughout the western world. A man whose name was synonymous with terror & tyranny throughout the early years of my life. A despot who our intelligence services have led us to believe was involved in state-sponsored terrorism against Americans and other Westerners throughout the 1980s.

Following the revolutions in Tunisia & Egypt as well as the popular uprisings in some other Arab states that have become known as the “Arab Spring”, his fall from power and eventual death have been broadcast on 24 hour news channels around the globe, with almost pornographic interest in pictures of his (possible executed or lynched) body bringing the violent and repressive story of his rule and governance to an end, legal justice for his victims or their families no longer being available.

His removal from power, along with all other long-standing dictators in the region, will certainly be of long-term benefit for the populace of the country if the redistribution of oil wealth (started by Gadaffi but often used to buy loyalty from local clans rather than actually benefit the citizens) can be continued and extended to encompass the large numbers of young people present in the country. It is these young people, present in huge numbers and highly vocal and active throughout the region, who now have the power of peacemaker or warmonger, to modernise & develop or wallow in conservatism. At first glance, the use of Facebook & Twitter to co-ordinate demonstrations & protests which are then recorded on mobile phones and uploaded to YouTube, would tend to suggest that the large youth populations present in these countries want to live in modern, developed, wealthy societies. However, the removal of dictatorships is never without price, the power vacuum left behind will always be filled by competing factions, some of which will be conservative in nature. Not merely numerous, young people are also much easier to radicalise, especially when, after several years of freedom, their country appears more lawless, less prosperous and more influenced by foreigners than before.

The real risks to the stability of the region come not from the immediate political violence, which will likely occur sporadically throughout all the nations of the Arab & North Africa region who manage to overthrow their dictatorial yoke, but from the unrest that grows organically inside any society with large populations with no work, industry or prospects, feeding from the envy of money & opportunity so clearly present in the images being broadcast to them from our side of the development divide. Our role, as members of the developed world, as those with the resources to help, is to ensure that members of these societies are not left behind. We must ensure that these people are not exploited for cheap labour and left with nothing to show for the resources and services they sell us, be they oil, cotton or tourism. A balanced style of development is important to ensure a “have & have-not” hierarchy is not allowed to form. Industrial development is only a part of this. Free movement of money, goods and the mobility of labour both within and without both the nation and the region are possibly more important.

As powerful as statements like “only two modern democracies have ever been at war” are (UK & Finland, WW2 – a result of our treaty with the USSR, no shots fired), history is also littered with the shattered dreams of countless failed states after flawed political systems designed for incompatible cultural value systems have been thrust down from above onto unwilling local populations by foreign powers in order to secure spheres of influence, replacing explicit colonial power. The continued collapse of these regimes, mostly in Asia or South America, after revolutions from the opposite side of the political spectrum, only goes to show their unpopularity with large sections of the local population. Suggesting that a democratic system would by necessity be any less unpopular, given the amount of external aid often necessary in modernisation and the influence on government policy this implies, is at best foolish. This is not to suggest that democracy should be avoided because the populations concerned have no experience of it, I warn however, of the dangers of predicting the behaviour of people from differing cultural backgrounds and no history of contributing to foreign policy or “Realpolitik”.

One of the fundamental concepts inherent in the very foundation of democracy (the political system espoused by Western governments as the best, fairest and most desirable form available), is the concept of freedom of conscience. The idea that a person may have a differing view to yours and that both are equally valid. Complementary to this is the concept of freedom of expression, or “free speech”. No society call truly call itself a modern democracy without at least a basic semblance of these rights in law available to all its citizens. Criticism of another’s opinions and views as exercised under the above rights is another necessary liberty available to all citizens of democratic societies. Essential to all of the above freedoms is the security provided by the protection of the rule of law. This is not just important within nations but also between them.

The history of our freedom makes it no more valid than any other nation’s and our views no more important than theirs. People will always try to do the right thing for themselves and their families and loved ones, we should not be surprised if others do not agree with us about the right course of action and should not try to use bribery, blackmail and coercion to force them into doing as we please. Thats how we ended up with many of these dictators in the first place.

“Freedom of expression is the right of every natural person, even if a person chooses to behave irrationally, to express his or her insanity”

-M Gadaffi, The Green Book

Thanks for reading.

Rowan

As usual all comments are welcome, I’ll try to answer as many as possible.

You’re not a traveller, you’re a Crusty

Another story in the news this week has been the eviction and clearance of the Dale Farm caravan site in Essex. It’s an issue which seems to have polarised opinion, but not in the way you would necessarily expect. I’m not really sure why racial persecution experts from the UN have been appearing on Newsnight to complain about the failure of planning proposals on a green belt site, but they have.

If this was about race or ethnicity it would clearly be wrong but I don’t think it’s helpful when the UN guest speaker says something along the lines of ‘treating people the same is not equality’. Well, no that would be equity and there is a subtle difference but having equity before the law is one form of equality and this is a legal case. Also, having laws which control a person’s lifestyle choices cannot in my view be defined as having any sort of racial element. I am also unaware of any religious doctrine followed by travellers on this or any other site that prevents them from complying with local planning constraints.

That’s the discrimination argument finished as far as I’m concerned, lifestyle choices are exactly that, choices. If you choose to live in a way that is defined as illegal by the democratic process you have no right to complain when your actions are forcefully stopped. You may feel the law is unfair but we have several legal processes for dealing with those complaints. You may feel that the land is not being used but there are sound societal reasons for having green belt planning constraints. Nobody has the right to do whatever they please with something they own. The effects of your actions on both those around you and also those in wider society are the reason many laws exist. However much you feel your lifestyle choices should be permitted, when they impact on other people’s lives in a way that they feel is negative, there will always be a clash. If those impacts are felt to be sufficient, legislation is inevitable.

I think I’ve summed up why this cannot be described as discrimination, now for some observations. One of the main reasons that traveller sites are unpopular with the general public living in the local area is to do with waste. Whenever you get groups of people living together in a small area, you get rubbish and detritus. This needs to be removed by someone, if the site is not legal, it will not be (and should not be) removed by the council. It seems a peculiar human trait that while we may love the places we live we cannot be bothered to remove our waste to a distance whereby it would no longer damage our enjoyment of living there. In other words, traveller sites always end up full of rubbish, rubbish smells and attracts rats & other vermin, this cannot be pleasant for anyone. What is it about these types of travellers that they want to have the option of moving on whenever they please but they never actually want to go until they are forced to. If you’re not going anywhere, why not live in a house? If you want to travel, why not travel? If you just want the option to move about regularly, why not rent? Most of us did it when we lived in an area we didn’t intend to stay for too long. If you have chosen a lifestyle which has rejected the concept of a permanent home, you cannot have any grievance when your chosen temporary pitch is removed from your possession.

Of course it must be said that most people, when faced with a forced eviction, act in a responsible manner. If your caravan is your home, you surely wouldn’t want it to be damaged while you put up resistance, fighting a lost cause. The majority of the 400 or so people originally living on the Dale Farm site have left already. There are, as of this morning, about 50 protesters still present (estimated). I think protesters is a telling word because most of them had never even heard of Dale Farm before the media coverage of its eviction had begun. Many of these people seem to be those that have become known as ‘professional protesters’. The sort of people who seem to feel strongly about all sorts of causes, almost all of which are opposed to both the official policy of our democratically elected government and the generally held opinions of the public on both a local and national level. The sort of people who will do their utmost to prevent the construction of a road bypass through the countryside to lessen congestion in villages because it will damage the surrounding land and will then protest against the removal of illegal developments on land which would otherwise have been left for nature to absorb. People who will protest about the government’s lack of spending by randomly vandalising the buildings in their immediate vicinity, increasing emergency policing costs and thus reducing the amount of available resources to be spent on the causes they claim to champion (oh the irony). People then, whose opinions really don’t matter because they are wholly dependent on being a ‘protester’ on being ‘anti’ whatever the current mood may be. Not people who actually hold opinions in their own right, based on an understanding of the facts, an idea of what may happen in the future depending on choices made now and a general feeling of what feels right, which is how most of us get our opinions. Not people who have jobs and families and contribute to society in a meaningful manner. Not people then, who I feel any obligation to listen to or sympathise with whatsoever.

Thanks for reading.

Rowan

All comments welcome, I’ll try to answer as many as I can.

Is Incitement worse than Perpetration?

Reported in the news earlier this week were a number of failed court appeals regarding the harsh sentences of some of those convicted of taking part in or encouraging the riots seen throughout England this summer, particularly in the London area. It can be seen from the sentences passed and comparing them to those handed down in previous cases that the judges in the original cases gave much harsher sentences than those that would be expected for similar crimes occurring in otherwise peaceful circumstances. This is not, as some media outlets would have you believe, a “new-found sentencing policy“, but has been in place for several decades. The context in which a crime took place has always been taken into account and crimes taking place during periods of public disorder have long been subject to heavier punishments.

The stories most often reported involve the two men in their early twenties who were convicted of inciting public disorder on Facebook and were then each sentenced to four years in prison. Sorry to get all Daily Mail about this but I happen to believe the Court of Appeal was wholly justified in its decision to uphold the judgments from the original case. Those of you who feel that the inability of these men to inspire any followers into actually rioting should be taken in to account in the sentencing will not agree but I believe it is the intention, rather than the execution of the crime that should be the deciding factor when it comes to prison terms. Surely we shouldn’t be giving time off for being a bad criminal? We’re not talking here about men who failed in their criminal activities because they couldn’t bring themselves to go through with it, or because they had a change of heart and realised the error of their ways. We’re talking about two young men whose lives were so empty and pathetic they convinced themselves it would be dangerous and exciting to get a group of their peers together and copy those ‘hardcore hoodies’ from London by vandalising small Cheshire towns. There was no change of heart here as they were arrested when they turned up to their own non-existent riot. Why should they in effect be rewarded for the lawful behaviour of their local citizens? A lawfulness which they tried and failed to disrupt.

Does anyone feel that the attempted suicide bombers of July 21st 2005 should have been given lesser sentences because their bombs did not explode? Clearly those from July 7th could not be prosecuted due to their own deaths but is attempted murder really a lesser crime than murder? I believe not, unless the criminal act failed due to a lack of conviction or alternation of disposition by the perpetrator. Does a thief stopped by a security guard at the door of the shop deserve a lesser punishment the one whose goods make it as far as the car boot sale? Would a judge go easy on the burglar who left all the platinum jewellery in the box thinking it was silver and thus worth less than the gold? More examples can be given of these but in the end it comes down to your personal belief on the importance of the actual criminal act or the motive behind its conception.

There is of course another reason for these harsh sentences, prison terms are not merely punishments for those convicted. Of this they are almost wholly ineffectual when used on ‘low-level’, non-violent offenders. The other major reason for the severity of the penalties in these instances was to act as a deterrent for those contemplating similar actions in future. I am generally of the opinion that strong sentencing on its own does little to deter would be criminals because nobody commits a crime thinking there’s a good chance of them being caught and convicted. However, when the evidence is posted all over the internet for public consumption on a network as infinitely traceable as Facebook and the would be perpetrators are not career criminals used to avoiding detection by those in authority, I believe having a regime of lengthy prison sentences will deter many (who may have considered it this summer) from posting about similar events if and when public disorder erupts again. They will now be fully aware that recent precedents have been set, that using social media rather than going door to door will not lessen your prison term and that being a brain-dead moronic idiot with no life, no friends and to whom nobody listens is no excuse for trying to cause large-scale robbery and vandalism.

If financial and political events throughout Europe are to be taken as signs for what may befall us in future, while we watch events unfolding in Greece and other mediterranean countries. Those of us who believe that violent disorder is only ever destructive and damaging to any cause one may have for protest and that working together towards solutions for the problems we all face at these times is the only reasonable way forward may well be glad for any deterring effect these sentences may have had.

Some of the details in this piece may be inaccurate due to poor reporting of the facts and my own inability to find the truth and I apologise for this but I do believe that my arguments still stand.

Thanks for reading.

Rowan

All comments welcome, I’ll try to answer as many as I can.

What’s the point of Jesus?

I can’t see one, let me some up the story of Jesus from a christian point of view:

Firstly, you have to understand the concept of the trinity; god the father, god the son & god the holy spirit/ghost. These are all aspects of the same god, not separate entities. Different names given to the same supernatural being dependent on circumstance. Therefore Jesus was not the son of god in a way that made him separate or less divine, he was god made man. This is not an idea that I’ve come up with to fit into my own heretical theology, this was decided by the first council of Nicaea in 325 CE, which gave us what is known today as the Nicene creed.

God, seeing that people aren’t obeying him decides to go down to earth in order that he might persuade them to behave better. He seems to have told a number of people beforehand, who wrote the books that would become known as ‘the prophets’ in the old testament, so he’d clearly been planning it for a while. Despite claiming biological descent from David on his father’s side (to the community at least) in order that he fulfil the prophecies, he also claims a virgin birth, which was necessary to fit in with some of the other stories he’d previously told the prophets. Here’s my first problem, why is any sort of birth necessary, other than to fit in with the prophecies? Surely an omnipotent god doesn’t actually need a mother, maybe it’s just to persuade us he’s actually a real man, although he spends the rest of the gospels trying to prove how different he is to other men.

Anyway, after his birth we have some stories about Jesus with John the Baptist, when he appears to be a follower of John before the temptations in the desert. Again, if he is god, why does he need to be baptised and how can he be tempted at all? Once he’s finished being tempted to use his powers by one of his fallen former angels, he begins the main part of his life. This seems to consist mainly of a series of miracles, healings, parables & their explanations. An omnipotent god is using magic to persuade those around him that he is more powerful than other teachers & healers of the time (and there were plenty) who were also performing similar feats to impress their followers.

It would also appear that not long after his descent to earth, god decided that in order to get those pesky humans to obey his laws, he’d have to make them easier to understand, less complicated. In fact, why not just get rid of almost all of them? Why not throw out all the dietary laws? How about letting people work on the sabbath and reducing the commandments from ten to just two? Introduce a couple of laws based on forgiveness, discourage divorce, usury and business success, could the people of earth be trusted to follow these? Well clearly the whole prophecy fulfillment, virgin birth, miracle thing wasn’t really working. I mean he had 12 close guys and there were quite a few followers hanging around listening to his teachings in various places but they probably listened to all the nutty teachers, there’s not much evidence of any large homogenous group specific to him. If the gospels are to be believed, he would seem to be pretty unpopular with the majority of the established jewish community. What do you expect if you’ve been brought up to belive that only by obeying all of the seemingly unending torrent of laws in the torah can you earn the grace of god, then this new guy comes along saying you don’t need to do all that, just do these couple of things and you’ll be fine, how would you react?

Clearly most of the religious leaders at the time didn’t believe him to be anything more than a deviant, trying to corrupt the local populace with his abandonment of traditional law. ‘I know’, says god, ‘I’ll get myself killed and resurrect myself, that’ll show ’em’. Nice move god. Sacrifice yourself to you so that their sins will be forgiven by you. Well they do say he works in mysterious ways but It seems quite a roundabout way of doing it. Anyway, what’s next? Oh yes, the resurrection. I thought the point of this was to prove to the non-believers that he was actually god and not just another wacko wandering the streets pretending to be the son of god (we have loads now, why would it have been any different then?). Seems to have been a bit of a mix-up here, maybe some crossed wires when discussing a plan of action with the angels but he doesn’t seem to have appeared before many people who didn’t already believe in his divinity before he died. Apart from reaffirming the faith of those who had believed in him in life, he doesn’t seem to have done much else once resurrected.

Forgive me if I sound facetious but if those who knew him and believed he was the son of god in life, doubted his rebirth until they physically saw him with their own eyes (although he must have looked a bit of a state because most of them took a while to recognise him), cannot I, who certainly never knew or even saw him in either life or death, be forgiven for doubting? Or are the disciples & Marys permitted their doubt on the basis of not having had two thousand years of dogma shoved down their throat throughout their childhood?

As far as I can make out, there may well have been a teacher around at that time in Judea, who claimed to heal (placebo is a wonderful thing) and who mainly taught that being nice to each other and breaking the odd religious taboo was a better way to live than following the letter of the law but being a total arse. Apart from being a way to get people to believe his teachings were from a genuine holy source (virgin births and resurrections are common in god & demigod myths), it could also be understood that despite his death, his teaching (and therefore his spirit) was still with his followers after the crucifixion. However, the whole christian church seems to be based on dogma, with various factions warring over minutiae rather than just generally being nice to each other.

I may not believe in god but I think I’m a better christian than most who do.

Thanks for reading

Rowan

All comments are welcome, I’ll try to answer as many as I can.

You’re only fat because you want to be

The first thing some of you will have done when you see the title of this piece is have a quick look at the photo, you will see that I am clearly carrying a few extra kilos and may well think that I’m not really in a position to discuss obesity. I would have to counter that despite having lost several kilos since that photo was taken I know exactly what has caused my weight gain, me.

That is the point of this piece, however much you hear people say how unfair it is that some people can eat what they want but never gain yet they only have to ‘look’ at a sausage for it to go straight to their hips, you know that by ‘look’ they mean eat and eat and eat. Nobody gains weight by eating less that their body uses and nobody can lose weight without eating less than their body uses. One cannot escape from these simple facts. Whilst it may be true that not all our resting metabolic rates are the same and there are a minority of people for whom medical problems may make weight control more difficult, I still feel no sympathy. If you’re gaining weight you need to eat less or do more, there’s no getting away from that simple formula, no ‘magic bullet’.

It seems to have become very fashionable in the modern world to blame a person’s weight, not on his or her love of pies but on the manufacturer or server of the pies. This has led to more and more information on food packaging and now on many chain restaurant menus. This can help to an extent, one may want to know whether to have the triple quarter ponder or the double-decker mega-burger but if you’ve already decided on a burger before you get to the restaurant, you can’t be that bothered about the calories to start with and does anyone really go to a burger restaurant and have a salad?

The people to whom this information is intended however, will pay no notice whatsoever to any labelling. Here we arrive back at the title of the piece, you’re only fat because you want to be. Of course I don’t think that many people actually think ‘I want to be fat’ but when given the choice of being fat and stuffing your face full of pies & chocolate every day or controlling your weight by a combination of self-control, unwanted exercise and a diet consisting mostly of vegetables that my even my dog turns his nose up to, it’s not surprising that many of us find the fat choice more appealing.

Most of us seem to know, however, what the right choice is and stop ourselves from making the wrong choices too often, either by filling our fridges with fruit & veg or joining a sports team to pressurize ourselves into regular exercise. Many people seem to have decided that they don’t want to be fat, that they will do their best to take the tough choices, that they want to be healthy later in their lives. It isn’t difficult though, to find those who’ve decided not to do this, they’ve decided to go for the easy, short-term option. To eat now, pay with your health later. It would appear that these people have never had so much help to make the right choices, from ‘traffic lights’ on pizza boxes & cake wrappers to slimming clubs or celebrity diets. Yet still they’re all around us, mega-fatties everywhere, blocking the entrances to kebab shops, overflowing their seats on buses & trains and most importantly clogging up the NHS which we all pay for.

I know some of you will now be thinking that I should leave these poor people alone, that I wouldn’t want to be in their position so I shouldn’t judge them. Despite not wanting to be fully in their shoes, most people would want to be able to eat whatever they want whenever they want with no feeling of guilt or remorse, with no thought to the future whatsoever. Maybe this is what makes these sort of people so detestable. We live a responsible lifestyle, working hard and paying our taxes toward a health system that treats those who have been irresponsible their whole lives without a care for the future until they develop type 2 diabetes or heart disease in their 30s. The biggest problem I have is this lack of foresight is that many of these people seem to show contempt for the very concept of looking after their bodies, deciding that it’s just too hard. We all treated our bodies poorly when we were younger but giving up or cutting down on things you love is not as hard as is commonly perceived, it’s all about how much you want it. Will power is just about desire, if you really want it, you will be able to do it. I managed to give up smoking without too much difficulty, my wife managed to lose about 40 kilos (about 90lbs) over the course of about 2 years by joining a slimming club. There’s nothing special about us, we just wanted to do it and did it.

It may not be much consolation but evolution has fine-tuned your body to be fat in the modern world. Imagine, if you will two tribes in Africa many thousands of years ago. One tribe loves salad, the other loves meat. The human brain needs huge amounts of calories to keep us alert and to get these calories, the salad eating tribe essentially have to become grazers, eating nearly all of their waking time. The meat-eating tribe will be able to get their calories much quicker and have more free time to do other things like procreate. More of the meat loving tribe’s genes and culture will be passed on to the next generation etc. All animals are genetically programmed to choose the higher calorie option of any food choice given to them, storing any excess as fat to help cope with leaner times. Here’s the problem, modern farming and food transport techniques have ensured there are no longer any lean times for us in the developed world, we have to find a way to beat our nature in order to insure our health. Choosing against your preferred food option and doing unnecessary exercise are obvious ways to do this.

But in the end it all comes down to how much you want it.

Thanks for reading

Rowan

Any comments welcome, I’ll try to answer as many as possible

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