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!)

Don’t get fooled again.

Do you ever wonder why you even bother? Why you talk about the important stuff, try to get your point across, highlight the fear and prejudice being perpetrated around you, only to go unheard and ignored? Why you try to promote love, only for people to choose hate?

That’s pretty much how I feel right now. The European elections have seen gains for the fascist Golden Dawn in Greece, a win for the National Front in France and, closer to home, the populist UKIP in the UK. These parties have flourished on three big selling points; anti-EU sentiment, anti-establishment rhetoric and, strongest of all, anti-immigration policies.

Sorry… not anti-immigration. I mean anti-immigrant.

There is a huge difference. Anti-immigration, which forms part of their policy (singular), is the idea that letting too many people into the country causes an excessive strain on public spending and services, meaning that there is less to get around for those already in the country. It’s an understandable argument, although when immigrants pay more in tax than they take out of the economy and are statistically less likely to claim benefits, it’s also a poor argument.

Because it’s a poor argument, these parties rely on the latter tactic. Anti-immigrant. We should feel uncomfortable about having Romanian neighbours because they are mainly criminals. There are 25 million out of work Europeans who all want your job. Foreign immigrants are diluting our culture, identity and way of life. This isn’t an argument against immigration as a concept, but a tactic which uses fear of the unknown, in this case people from other countries, to bypass the logical arguments against them and automatically leave many people feeling that something as a “bad thing” because it is to be feared and worried about.

I have friends who genuinely are scared of “what is happening to our country” and the “erosion of the British identity”. However, I haven’t heard what actually us happening and how this erosion would be a negative thing.

There are as many UK citizens living in other EU countries as EU citizens in the UK. The main difference is the multicultural aspect which, to many of us, is actually a positive. The rich diversity of human life coexisting on one small set of islands, learning from and teaching each other about language, custom, food,  art, music, fashion and so much more is surely to be celebrated. This isn’t an erosion of identity, but an evolution of it.

Yet, many have chosen to swallow the line from these populist and far right politicians. The gains they have made have been dramatic (although not quite the “earthquake” the media keep stating) and the mainstream parties are talking about learning lessons from this. I pray thus means how to fight back, not how to bow down to them, but I’m not holding out any hope.

One of the lines used a lot recently is how the UK is a Christian country.
Great! Let’s act like one, then.

“And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 GNBDC)

“I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes” (Matthew 25:35 GNBDC)

“He must be hospitable and love what is good. He must be self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” (Titus 1:8 GNBDC)

“That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19 CEB)

Is that clear enough? Love, hospitality, caring for strangers in a strange land. This doesn’t mean ignoring immigrants who are criminals or a threat to our security. Those issues must always be addressed. But we must also treat people as people as people. Human beings. God’s children. And we must fight against this increasing culture of hatred amongst our politicians, media and, yes, ourselves.

We have to fight back. We have to campaign,  speak out, argue, educate and vote against this politics of evil. We have to stand together, act in love, but in utter defiance against hatred. We have to make this the “Christian country” that people queue up to tell us that we are or aren’t.

This isn’t leftie ranting. I’m appealing to left and right wing people. Religious and atheist. Young and old. Man and woman. Gay and straight. English, Irish, Scottish Welsh and any of the many nationalities who inhabit our islands and the rest of Europe. Vote against the EU or for it. Vote against established parties or for them. Just please, please fight against prejudice in all its forms. We are all better than that.

Vote! Please!

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(Picture by @davewalker. Go to davewalker.cc)

It’s the European elections, everybody!

I know, you can hardly contain your excitement. Please, try to simmer down a bit though, for I have sobering news.

At the moment we have a choice. We have a choice between several different groups of parties who offer different things depending on what you’re after. Some offer a good, solid choice and some offer no choice at all. Some offer even less than that.

To start with, we have the big three. The Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem conglomerate who have been around the block and in power between them since Bruce Forsyth was a lad. We know what they stand for (much the same thing on many issues), we know what we’ll get from them and we know what we think of them. They all take an active role in trying to shape EU policy and, by extension, those UK laws the EU has a say over.

Now, many of us are fed up and disillusioned with these behemoths of British politics. They try and fail and try again and fail again on an endless cycle, getting our hopes up, initially fulfilling, then dashing them once more. Most are happy to vote for one of these three and, if you are, then great. Taking a role in our country’s future, even if only by voting, is important and I’d urge everyone to do it. However, if you want to vote, but are fed up with the LibLabCon stranglehold then you still have choices.

In Scotland and Wales we have the nationalist parties,  SNP and Plaid Cymru. Both are giving an alternative voice which concentrates particularly on prominence for their nations within a wider Europe. They advocate close working ties with the EU and, again, taking an active role. Both top choices for a vote.

We then have parties who promote themselves as “patriot” parties, such as BNP and Britain First. If racism, hatred, fear, lies, intimidation, ties to violent neo Nazis and all round vile human beings are your cup of tea then these are the guys for you. If this is the case, please take a long hard look at yourself. And I hope you’re otherwise indisposed on polling day and unable to make it out to vote.

We then have UKIP. Nigel “friend of the common man because I’m one of them” Farage and his band of faceless people who never get to take the stage away from big Nige for fear of appearing, you know, insane. Now, I can actually see where they get their votes from. The EU is far from popular in the UK and mass immigration, however overstated the issue has become, is a concern for many. However, as I wrote here, the UKIP way of addressing these issues is by fear rather than proper debate. The other problem I have with them, though, is their attitude to the European Parliament. Their voting record is a disgrace, either not turning up or intentionally voting against proposals as a form of protest. This has led to them voting against attempts to protect workers, women and animals. That’s not democracy, it’s the political equivalent of picking your ball up and going home in a huff. It achieves nothing other than ensuring that this who vote for them have even less of a say in the way Europe us run than they already think they have. Ludicrous. If you want to put in a protest against the EU then wait until the general election, when the real power is decided. Then read the UKIP manifesto. Then wonder why the hell you considered voting for them.

Finally we have the Greens. Parties (different ones for England and Wales, Scotland and NI) who are different to the big three, who offer more than the latent racism of the extremists and the pathetic whinging of UKIP. Parties whose voting record in Europe has helped the environment, workers’ rights, women’s rights, social justice and many other things which affect us all. They sit in the European Parliament with the other Green parties, one of the largest groups there, who recogPpnise that the EU is far from perfect, but are willing to work with it to get things done whilst working for reform at the same time.

That’s where my vote is going and why. I’m not a member, I’m not campaigning and I’m not asking you to do the same. Just asking you to vote, and vote wisely. Look at what’s on offer, listen to what they’re actually saying and how they’re saying it. Vote for hope, for people, for a future. Don’t vote for hatred, fear and exclusionism.

But please, vote. Because if you don’t,  there are those more extreme elements who will. And it’ll be all of our fault. 

P.S. If the National Health Action Party are standing near you, consider them, too. The NHS is being systematically destroyed and they’re fighting back.