Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Government Aim To Make Philanthropy Pay

This enlightening article from The Telegraph reveals new philanthropic plans in development by the coalition. Potentially, every time you use a bank card or take money from your bank account you will be asked to make a charitable donation. Pin machines will be forced to ask you whether you want to 'round up the pound' and give the surplus to charity. It's all part of the effort to create the 'Big Society' and won't we all feel better for it?

Well, no. Not really.

I am a fairly philanthropic person myself. I drop money into boxes when I have change to hand and occasionally give money online. I try to be well-informed about events and organisations and in the new year I'm considering volunteering for one of several deserving causes (I hasten to point out that this is a personal choice and not one encouraged in any way, shape or form by Mr Cameron and his shabby ensemble). What I detest are the charitable organisations who approach you in the street with their clipboards aloft, determined to cajole you into making a monthly payment to the charity of their choice. This will be a similar scheme on a giant scale.

I can see it having one major repercussion. In my eyes, poor innocent cashiers will take the brunt of any irritation stemming from this question. The less refined amongst us will look up from the machine and make a smart and scathing remark. Nobody likes being told what to do and the pressure is always on when those machines ask you a question you want to say no to. In restaurants when they ask you whether you want to leave a tip (and then charge you the 'standard' tipping price) there is always the knowledge that the server can see you pressing the red button. Will this persuade people to give money they don't want to (and in some cases can't afford to)?

You can't tell people what they should do with their income. Alright, the official argument will be that this is merely encouragement but many people will feel pressured and annoyed by this move should it be put into practice. They will see it as a government ploy to make up with donations the amount they are cutting in the charitable budget. Personally, I think we are a selfish bunch of people. We'll throw money at a charity in order to alleviate any guilt but we won't volunteer at a soup kitchen or deliver food to the elderly. As the article points out, how does this scheme make that situation any better?

We're a fragmented country. Some of what David Cameron is attempting to do I admire. Encouraging those dependant on welfare is good in theory, as is repealing the Human Rights Act (if he ever gets around to it). However, most of his decisions aren't based on a genuine regard for the people of this country. He's trying to save money.

This is simply another one of those tricks. Unfortunately, if it passes into common usage it will be one of those things which never goes away. After all, the public can't begrudge a little more of their money being given to charity surely?

I think if they take much more then it will become a huge issue.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Stop Talking About Terry Jones

It seems simple enough. If you stop giving media coverage to an extremist individual whose outrageous speeches are usually only heard by a congregation of fifty or so people then there's every chance the extremist individual will disappear into the ether. After all, he just wants attention and the world media is currently playing right into that trap.

Most people know the name of Terry Jones by now. He is the US pastor who threatened to burn the Koran on September 11th this year in protest at radical Islam. The amount of coverage he garnered was ridiculous for a man of his standing yet the American public and beyond continued to watch him from a distance and marvel at the way one man could not only disrespect another religion so violently and vehemently but also show a complete disregard for the potential disasters he could have caused. Since then he has tried to qualify his views by saying that they apply to so-called 'radical Islam' only. The trouble is, Jones has yet to qualify what he means by 'radical' and I suspect his views on that change depending on which interviewer he is speaking to.

Now it has been announced that the English Defence League (EDL, a group who protest their fascist label at every opportunity) have invited him to speak at one of their rallies in the UK. These rallies have previously resulted in violent clashes between the EDL and groups such as Unite Against Fascism. Jones joining such a rally is indeed a coup for the EDL and Home Secretary, Theresa May, has revealed that she would try banning him from the UK on the grounds of national security.

Mr Jones must be laughing at the world. From one well-calculated publicity stunt he has gained the attention of several major governments. He is considered such a threat to our society that we Brits are trying to stop him setting foot on our soil. In the meantime, he is headlining on every major news site in the country, has a section in all the newspapers and is easily recognisable. I've even written this blog about him.

Yes, I'm adding to the problem but this is a widespread issue. We consistently give room to sensational stories in the name of free press. All this does is publicise organisations we'd rather weren't on public display. The furore surrounding every rally the EDL holds is a prime example of this. Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time as leader of the British National Party was the media offering a sensational slice of television that basically turned into a rant against the BNP. It was never about opening the floor to a lesser party; it was about showing a vicious argument on national television.

Do you remember in school you were told to ignore bullies and they'd eventually go away? Thanks to our reluctance to do that with Terry Jones he's now here to stay.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Students Have Lost Any Public Support They Had

The scenes of protest and destruction in London last night by my fellow students makes me feel ashamed to be honest. Yes, they were angry (and justifiably so) but there is clear evidence to suggest some people attended the march with the specific intention of causing trouble. After all, who routinely carries around baubles filled with paint for protection? What yesterday will be remembered for is not the travesty of the fees rise as it should have been. No, it will be the image of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall looking shocked as their Rolls Royce is attacked by rioters.

At the moment we don't know how many of the protesters were students and how many were thugs looking for a fight. But that won't alter the public perception that we have thrown our toys out of the pram in the most idiotic fashion. If we are the next generation and the future of our country then it's a worrying measure of our intellect that we resort to violence to illustrate our points.

Public support towards students has been thin over the last few weeks as frustrations have mounted. It was clear a while ago that the vote was going to go the Coalition's way. Many members of the public see students as an over-privileged work-shy collective who don't want to pay for their own education. Unfortunately, I agree with them to an extent. Some people expect a free education because their parents had a free education. This ignores public debt, an increase in the number of people going to university and the fate of many graduates in so-called 'softer' subjects. However, the majority of students seem willing to pay fees but aren't happy about the cap trebling in this manner. A lot of the anger is based on the Liberal Democrat pledge. If they hadn't signed that piece of paper these protests would've been a lot more controllable and muted.

Whatever the arguments for and against the fees rise, they've ceased to matter now. We've actually given the Coalition their strongest weapon yet: why should we be allowed to go to university when our reaction to something we don't like is to attack the heir to the throne? The Royal Family are not part of our political system. They deliberately stay out of it and as such they did not deserve to be attacked in that manner.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Perspective Please

There has been a lot of talk over the last twenty-four hours about our nation's 'shame' at failing to secure the 2018 World Cup. I, for one, find it quite unbelievable that everybody is paying this much attention to a sporting event which (depending on how corrupt you think the game is) we never had any chance of hosting in the first place.

It's sad, yes, that we won't get the economic boost of a second major sporting event in the next decade. It's disappointing that the media apparently (and I use that word with care) scuppered our chances of success. However, it is not half as 'shameful' as some of the other things occurring in our country.

Personally, I find it shameful that our troops are so ill-equipped in Afghanistan. Whether I agree with the war there or not, I detest the idea of our government sending anybody out there without the strongest hope that they will return and therefore funding them properly. It's reminiscent of sending soldiers to fight in WWI with barely a thought for their safety.

It's shameful that our politicians are prepared to sell their principles for their shot at power. It's shameful that two pensioners have frozen in this terrible weather over the last few days. It's shameful that our transport infrastructure cannot cope with this weather. It is NOT shameful that we failed to win a bid for a sporting event.

There is no shame in that and I think people may be confusing shame with disappointment and anger. By all means, be disappointed that we have failed to bring revenue and publicity to this country. Feel free to be angry that Fifa's seemingly corrupt nature has deprived us of the chance. But, please, don't be ashamed of our country for that when there are so many more important things to be ashamed about.