December ADVENTure

Earlier this year I did a Bible study throughout Lent and blogged my thoughts about every day’s readings. I found it incredibly valuable and amazing that, on so many occasions, the readings were so pertinent to the events of the day.

So, starting on Monday I’ll be doing an Advent Bible study and writing my thoughts about it each day. I’m using a plan drawn up by Hamilton Road Baptist Church in Bangor, Northern Ireland.

If you want to read it with me, please do.

15 groups UKIP class as immigrants

After Nigel Farage called for the children of immigrants to be classed as immigrants themselves I have obtained an exclusive list of other groups that the UKIP leader, backed up by his chums at Migration Watch, also wants to reclassify:

– The grandchildren of immigrants. A logical extension as their parents are now immigrants, so they are now, technically, the children of immigrants themselves.

– People born on British soil overseas. It’s close enough, I mean, it’s abroad really. (Incidentally, this includes me. Which also makes my children immigrants)

– Anybody who has ever used the phrases “ciao”, “je ne sais qoi” or “schadenfreude”

– Anybody with a foreign name; e.g. Marco, Maria, Jean, Peter…

– People named after foreign places; e.g. Paris, Dakota, India, Sofia…

– People with narrow eyes. You know why!

– People who have recently been on holiday to a foreign country and came back with darker than normal skin.

– Lefties. They’re probably Russian or something.

– Paddington Bear (Peruvian)

– Doctor Who (Gallifreyan)

– Whoever decommissioned the Black & White Minstrel Show

– Scottish people who don’t have red hair (Something dodgy there)

– Caravanners (They’re essentially Gypsies)

– Anybody living in Rochester who doesn’t drive a white van

– Grey squirrels

Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it goes a long way towards explaining why 126% of the UK population are immigrants and only UKIP can solve it.

Or something.

Nigel the wide-mouthed frog

Once upon a time there was a large field. In that field were lots and lots of ponds. One pond had frogs, one pond had eels, one pond had dragonflies, one pond had carp… Every pond had a different type of animal.

For years the ponds would argue and fight over silly things and even tried to take over other ponds. After a big fight, which involved all of the ponds, the animals decided something needed to be done. So, they decided to work together, helping each other out wherever possible and letting each animal move to whichever pond they liked.

Life wasn’t perfect, but the fights weren’t so bad either and the animals felt happier and safer.

Well, most of the animals…

In some of the ponds there were animals who didn’t like having to share their pond with other animals. They were worried that they would be eaten, or not have enough water or flies to eat. Some just hated other animals.

One of these was the wide-mouthed frog. His name was Nigel. Nigel the wide-mouthed frog started telling everyone that they didn’t need to work with the other ponds. They said that it was ok to have some dragonflies and goldfish living in the pond, but recently there had been snails and pondskippers and this was bad. He said that they were bad animals and that other frogs were scared that these snails and pondskippers might start living on the next lily pad.

He said that, if he was in charge of the pond, he would give the frogs their pond back.

Lots of frogs didn’t like this and thought that Nigel was just a silly wide-mouthed frog who had drunk too much stagnant pond water. Some frogs, though, loved Nigel. They thought that their froggy way of life was going to disappear. They were scared that they’d lose their lily pads. They were sacred that a nasty snail might try to take their tadpoles away.

Nigel grinned a wide, froggy grin.

Nigel started telling everyone more and more stories about snails wanting to kill them all and wanting frogs to live like them. He told stories of pondskippers stealing all the flies and eating swans.

Then something happened. Nigel became very popular. Other frogs joined him and told more and more silly stories, promising that this pond would be just for frogs.

So, Nigel the wide-mouthed frog had his way. He ruled the pond and he sent all the other animals away. The snails, dragonflies, eels, pondskippers, ladybirds, toads and all kinds of fish went off to other ponds. Nigel had given the frogs their pond back.

But, the other animals hated Nigel and all the other frogs now. They refused to share food. They refused to tell the frogs when the meat eating animals were around.

And the frogs had no fish to clear the weeds from the pond. They had no dragonflies or pondskippers to eat all the flies the frogs couldn’t manage. They had no snails to eat all of the excess leaves on the plants.

Soon, the pond was jammed full of weeds and plants, so that the frogs could barely move. There were so many flies that the frogs couldn’t see or breathe. Some ate so many flies that they exploded.

The frogs were sad. They were upset that they had believed Nigel when he said that they didn’t need the other animals. They were sorry that they had made him leader. So they kicked him out of the pond and went to speak to the other animals.

The frogs apologised and said that they had changed. They said that, although things weren’t perfect before, they wanted to work with the other animals to make the whole field of ponds better. For everyone.

And they all lived happy-ish ever after.

Except for Nigel.

The End.

(With apologies to George Orwell. And apologies for the lack of illustration – I really can’t draw!)

Why I’m a bloody, bleeding heart, leftie do-gooder.

I’ve been struck recently by some things on various radio phone in shows. No, not the type where Dave from Salford spends twenty minutes arguing with Robbie Savage about whether Manchester United’s defence is simply bad or totally appalling. I mean current affairs ones where, for the most part, the public interaction is actually via text or email.

The comments which have particularly grabbed my attention are these:

1) On a discussion about Ed Milliband’s leadership of the Labour Party he was accused of not speaking about aspiration enough.

2) In an item on asylum seekers in Calais trying to get to the UK, one texted said that most of them were economic migrants and that “do-gooder liberals” were lying about it.

3) A piece on historical sexual abuse claims laid the blame at “bleeding heart lefties”.

And these comments saddened me greatly. Not because they were made by people who clearly have right-wing political views, I may not share that persuasion, but I accept that we will all disagree on stuff. Instead, I was saddened at the selfish nature of each of the comments which see personal welfare as all important and the welfare of others as something to be ignored, or even sneered at.

When did we become a country where helping others was seen as a bad thing, something to be trampled under the feet of aspiration and personal growth? When did doing good turn into an insult to be thrown about rather than a virtue which we should all aspire to? When did your heart bleeding for the plight of others become something to be accused of, rather than praised for?

This, sadly, is the language of the right. The language of the vast majority of our mainstream politicians, who inhabit that ground, of most of our national newspapers and now of many of the general public who have been told so often that “do gooders ” “bleeding heart liberals” and “lefties” are the root cause of all of societies problems (despite no truly left wing government having been in power for 35 years!) that they believe and repeat it.

We are a society which needs to look after each other, despite Margaret Thatcher’s pronouncement that there was no such thing as society, only individuals. Mrs T spoke about entitlements and obligations, and she had a bit of a point. However, the way people have taken it, the way I think she meant it, is badly wrong. We all have an obligation to look after each other and an entitlement to expect that we should be looked after by others as well.

Our society has, however, been working under the assumption that our only obligation is to look after ourselves and our family, and that others should be expected to do the same. The idea that people feel a sense of entitlement to help when needed is seen as wrong, selfish and bad, that if they are in that position then they have, in some way, failed to live up to their obligation to look after themselves and, therefore, why should we be expected to clear up for them.

Well, the reason people have this sense of entitlement is simple. They are entitled. We all are, by virtue of being fellow human beings. To deny that is to deny our very humanity, what makes us so special as an animal. We do, of course, have an obligation to look after ourselves and ensure, as best that we can, that we are able to support ourselves. However, if we are able to look after and support ourselves then that obligation extends to others as well and, as such, means that each of us is entitled to that help and support when we need it.

So, I am a do-gooder, because doing good is one of the greatest aspirations we can have as human beings. I have a bleeding heart, because caring about others is what we have been put here for. I am a leftie, because the word social in socialist describes all of us working together for the good of all of us, not just our own, individual, selfish desires.

It’s time we stopped asking ‘what’s in it for me’ and started asking ‘what’s in it for all of us’. Not just our family, friends, communities and those who, by an accident of birth, share the same nationality, but all people everywhere, regardless of race, colour, gender, creed, sexuality or nationality.