Why it’s fashionable to blame the victim

Do you know how I personally know that society defaults to victim blaming rather than attitude adjustment? Because there’s a million adverts on TV for weight loss products but not a single advert for a self help book on tolerance.

Out of all the topics involved with victim blaming right now that is the least newsworthy but, as a fat white dude, it is the only one I’ve experienced personally. People shout things from cars, they make snide backhanded comments and they call me an “Unfunny fat fuck” which is both alliterative and accurate as I am more passionate and less hilarious in my lovemaking.

I realise that being overweight doesn’t necessarily make me a victim, doughnuts don’t hurl themselves into my mouth when I stroll down bakery aisles. I’m not assaulted in darkened alley ways by two men who hold me down and pour buttercream into my mouth. But people don’t know why I’m big, do I have a thyroid problem? Am I diabetic? Is this an allergic reaction to unexpected aggression? They don’t know.

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(and they don’t want to come out from under their bridge long enough to find out)

Yesterday I asked what people thought was the cause in the rise of food bank use, I was looking for a reason beyond “The government”. What I was hoping for was a way we could look at it and say “it wasn’t this specific government, it would have happened under any government” what I got was justification for this article. Here’s my favourite answer:

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That’s right you heard it here first, the reason people use foodbanks more now is because more people donate food! ALTRUISM IS THE CAUSE OF SUFFERING! Last year I saw people commenting that the rise in social housing was causing the housing crisis, UKIP supporters were claiming that immigrants cause racism because without immigrants there wouldn’t be anyone to be racist to.

And who could forget the age old classic “Well what did you expect to happen going out dressed like that?!”

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(Well if you’re going to walk around with your back to people, you’ve got to expect someone to put a few bullets in it haven’t you?)

It’s a strange way of thinking but the more I dwell on it the more I get it. People’s first reaction whenever anything bad happens is to find someone to blame for it. It’s a base evolutionary instinct adapted, inadequately, to modern day situations. As cave people we would see a problem and find a solution, the problem wouldn’t be with ourselves as that was something we could fix immediately. We die because we leave our cave, ok so it’s that tiger killing us as we leave, right we need to kill the tiger. Our ability to see problems and solve them accordingly is why we evolved into the virus like mammals we are.

So cut to today and people see problems in the world around them, problems they’re not directly responsible for causing. Take the rise in food banks, your average person hasn’t cut anyone’s wages or sanctioned anyone’s benefits, they haven’t shut down a hospital or personally forced a person into a life of addiction. What they see is a problem that they haven’t manufactured. They look at the people they do relate to and think “If I didn’t cause that problem they couldn’t have either because I didn’t” it’s a very straightforward way of thinking, almost computer like in it’s logical progression

I am like this

Those people are suffering

Those other people are like me

They aren’t causing the suffering because I am not causing the suffering

I don’t identify with the people who are suffering

The people who are suffering must be causing their own suffering or they wouldn’t be suffering

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And that’s how easy it is to blame a victim. All that needs to happen is for the person to not identify with the victim, that’s all it takes.

We all do it too. The examples I’ve used are extreme prejudices and situations but how many of us have seen someone get a parking ticket and thought “well you deserved that” not knowing the situation, how many of us have seen a mother screaming at her children in the street and thought “she’s a terrible mother” rather than “Maybe she just needs someone to help” we’ve all done it because as soon as we can’t identify with that person’s suffering we’re numb to it. We have to be, our inner caveperson screams at the tiger outside the cave.

It’s a terrible problem right now. I could go on and on about what’s happened in a Tory Britain, about injustices and horror stories but really I’d either be preaching to the choir or fuelling the fires of animosity. Either way you know the story. Working class people vote Tory because they WANT to identify with them, they want to be rich and successful and have everything. Rich people vote Tory because it’s in their best interest to. Both aspects of those two society cross sections don’t identify with the suffering they see on TV. Why would they? They haven’t experienced it and they’ve worked hard their whole life, everyone else must have had the same opportunity to have that same life right?

Victim blaming has become the sociological norm. No matter what we think we still, as a planet, vote in the people who have the potential to cause the most damage. Labour are suggesting free school meals for every child and the only thing the right can respond to it with is “where’s the money coming from for that?!” but the Conservatives have given tax cuts to corporations, in practise rather than just policy, and funded full on wars without the right so much as suggesting maybe spending £80,000 on one missile is a crazy expenditure and don’t you think we should clear down some of our credit cards before we go shopping again darling? I know you love those shoes but we really should think about making housing affordable again, oh you know what I could never say no to you, you can have second houses for every minister rather than just getting them to Skype into any important debates they should have a presence at, we don’t need free healthcare anyway.

The fact that this viewpoint is becoming more prolific shows a shift backwards, a survival instinct kicking in as we feel the world shifting. Maybe if we stopped worrying about the tiger outside the cave so much we’d notice the one inside here with us.

Dieting (and why it’s like politics)

First off I’d like to say I am overwhelmed by how supportive everyone is. I am losing weight and whenever someone says that to me I immediately roll my eyes, it’s the same as when someone asks if I want to see pictures of their new baby or that they’re undergoing chemo, I get it you’re trying to better yourself stop rubbing it in my face. But truly I am astounded at how many people are genuinely cheering me on to become, essentially, less of me. My friends, family and just people I meet are absolutely and completely, genuinely, excited and pleased that I am losing weight, which is lovely.

But now I totally get why governments fail horrendously even when they have the best advisors money can buy.

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The first thing that happens when you lose a bunch of weight (I’ve currently lost 36lbs or 16.3kg depending on whether you use the pre or post Brexit values) is people ask you how you did it. In my case I cut out sugar, carbs and processed rubbish. I also cut out sweeteners because sweeteners have been linked to raised risks of diabetes, cancer, dementia and strokes, my opinion being if someone hands you a gun and says “I’m pretty sure I loaded it with blanks, fire it into your mouth a couple of times to check” my reply will always be “I’ll just have a water thanks”.

So people asked and I said “I’ve cut out sugar, carbs, processed stuff and sweeteners and it seems to be helping me lose weight, I also let myself have a slice cake once a week or something similar and I’m not beating myself up about sticking to it. If I’m doing it the majority of the time that’s fine but I’m not going to ruin someone’s dinner party because they made pasta” and 100% of the time people have said “Ok I’m going to do most of that but I’m not going to do all of it, I couldn’t live without this thing you’ve given up”

Which is why I think government policies don’t work.

 

The government pays a bunch of advisors to tell them what to do. These advisors are, usually and hopefully, experts in their field having either decades of experience or an extensive education in the subject they are advising on (ideally both but I’ll take one over none). These advisors write reports that they then submit to the MPs that need to make all the decisions, obviously it’s not just one MP it’s usually a committee of MPs all sat around taking in reports from various different advisors. The policies they make are based on these reports.

But…

What actually happens is a bunch of unqualified people look at the findings from a bunch of qualified people and make changes based on their opinions. They’re not taking the advice directly, it’s filtered through a level of bureaucracy and bias first before making it’s way into the government’s remit. In fact the advisors might as well not be there in the first place,

If you just Google “Government advisor” the 2nd result under News is this – Government privacy advisor quits and slams Cabinet Office for lack of support that’s a story about Jerry Fishenden who was an advisor to the government on matters of online privacy and related issues, he quit as an advisor because of how they were treated when presenting advice (bearing in mind this is what they’re there to do), he said:

“Without such backing, those officials who find the group ‘challenging’ have found it easier to ignore it, attempting instead to smuggle their inadequate proposals past ministers without the benefit of the group’s independent expert assistance”

The thing is that, as an advisor, that falls right back on him. He’s part of an advisory board on privacy, a policy is made around online privacy around the findings of the board he is on, that policy fails to achieve anything or is detrimental to the thing it’s trying to stop, he gets blamed because everything was based on his findings but really NOTHING WAS BASED ON HIS FINDINGS.

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(mistyped Scapegoat)

And this is exactly what I’ve discovered through dieting. You do something and it works, you tell someone else to do exactly the same thing, they do similar but change a bits because they think they know better, IT DOESN’T WORK and they blame you because you gave them the advice in the first place.

This is why our government doesn’t work right now. More focus is put on opinion than it is on facts. Last year’s referendum was the most important decision the UK’s population has ever made and what facts were presented? Zero. Zero facts were presented. A lot of opinions were presented, oh yes big red buses covered in opinions were presented, billboards covered in the opinions of a single racist were posed in front of for publicity, social media was awash with opinions and not one of them agreed on anything other than the people who didn’t share their opinions were idiots.

Former London Mayor Boris Johnson speaks at the launch of the Vote Leave bus campaign, in favour of Britain leaving the European Union, in Truro

(GIANT RED OPINIONS)

We have, as a country, started the Brexit process and yet we still don’t have any actual facts. We don’t know how trade is going to be affected, whether freedom of movement across the EU will still happen, what it’ll do to our economy etc etc. It’s all guesses and opinions.

The fact is we need a government based on facts, we need less opinions and bias, less selfish policy making to help ourselves and more to help the country. Less infighting, more experts and definitely a couple of scientists up making decisions rather than people who think you can ignore a portion of the facts if they don’t fit into your world view.

It’s strange how we’re quick to dismiss things that don’t fit into our opinions, like the fact that aspartame has been linked to melting your brain and growing tumours in your stomach because we like the taste and drinking it feels like we’re doing something to make things better without actually doing anything to make things better.

Basically what I’m saying is if you’re going to make a decision, look at the facts and only the facts. Alter your opinion based on those facts and don’t disregard things that have been proven just because you don’t feel like they fit in with how you think. Opinions are like nipples, everyone has at least two and no one needs to see them in a Starbucks.

 

Bad Comedian

Two years ago I was a bad comedian.

Actually that’s not entirely true. I wasn’t a bad comedian but in my own opinion I wasn’t good. I’d watch back sets of my own performances and cringe at myself. Thing is the audiences liked it, I was getting a lot of work and basically my career was on the rise but that only made it worse.

My problem was the material didn’t matter, I was doing jokes about stuff that wasn’t important to me. Sure here and there were a couple of bits about my family but overall it was a bunch of jokes about penises and poo. Again it’s fine for some comedians, it’s just that I’d wanted to be a different type of comic. I’d grown up with Billy Connolly talking about his childhood, Robin Williams discussing his addiction and mental health issues, Eddie Izzard opening the UK’s eyes to transgenderism and Victoria Wood championing feminism. Later on I would find Louis CK, Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Tim Minchin, Brendon Burns, Richard Pryor, John Oliver, David Cross, Maria Bamford, Mike Birbiglia and more but right there at the beginning of my love affair with comedy it was story tellers with issues.

I’d grown up with these people, I wanted to be like them, and right there in the middle of the career I’d worked so hard for I felt like I was failing. I started to hate my work, it wasn’t fun to write anymore and that meant the performance was all very stale. I felt like I was letting myself down but worse I was letting those iconoclasts of comedy down.

It couldn’t go on like that, I couldn’t hate doing the thing I’d loved my whole life. I’d worked so hard and it felt like the thing that defined me slipping away. I mean if I wasn’t a comedian what was I?

So I changed. I forced myself to write about subjects I felt like were important. You know what happened after that, you’ve followed me because of the change I made. Before that I was another comedian making jokes about the same subjects. It’s alright for some but for me personally it wasn’t enough and that showed in the work.

In no way am I saying that I’m even close to those heroes of mine that inspired me to do standup but I feel like I’m getting closer, that I’m on the right path. I went to see Louis CK last year and 3 of his jokes were similar to jokes I’d been developing for my show, that was incredibly encouraging. I mean I had to ditch 3 bits that I knew definitely worked but still it’s great to know you’re thinking in the same way as your idols.

This week I did a solo show at Leicester and it was full. People came who had seen me the year before or who followed me online. It was exceedingly flattering to be in a room full of people all agreeing that the comedian I was now was so much better than the comedian I was then. Those comedians I looked up when I was growing up changed my mind about a lot of things and I’m hoping that now I’m starting to make as much of a difference as they did.

Thanks to everyone that came on Tuesday, it was incredibly humbling. Next year I’ll be doing 3 dates because of how well it went. Until then here’s some very short snippets from the show.

Bigger tree?

While twitter went mad with whether or not you should torture a baby to save a terrorist, I’ve spent most of today arguing with racists. It’s really opened my eyes to how ignorant you need to be these days to be a bigot.

It started with this joke (thanks to Ignacio Lopez for the pic):

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A couple of facebook groups stuck it up and shared it with a few thousand people which is lovely. What isn’t lovely is loads of people saying Muslims are coming over here and raping everyone, I was like “Woah! Are they? I didn’t know?! They haven’t even asked me out let alone tried to force me to have sex with them, what’s wrong with me?” I was hurt. If anyone was going to be doing all this raping I should have at least felt threatened right? I had to check this out so I googled it. I typed in “Which ethnic group does the most raping in the UK?” and there it was first hit Government office of statistics and it turns out that the people doing the most raping in the UK was white British nationals at a staggering 86%. I was shocked, how could this person have been so sure of their numbers yet been so wrong even though it had taken me 0.0034 of a second to find the correct answers. I had to correct the guy because he was definitely going to feel embarrassed

So I go back to this guy, I cut and paste the statistics so he doesn’t even have to look at the site but I also link him there so he can know I’m for real and he comes back “they’re lying”. The office of national statistics AND multiple rape support charities are lying? Jeez ok so I do some more googling and find out that it’s the same from all areas AND 90% of all attacks are from people close to the victim meaning it’s not just people arriving from overseas suddenly coming over here and raping the first person they see.

Well he’s not happy about that, he goes crazy. He is not a happy bunny. It doesn’t make any sense though, he had a fact but it turns out that fact is wrong and I’ve found, with very little research, the truth. You’d think he’d be happy that he hadn’t said it out loud at a party and really embarrassed himself right? But no he couldn’t fathom that Muslim immigrants, by definition, weren’t rapists. Sure some are but so many more white British nationals were that it would be more accurate to say “White British men are rapists except for these ones over here”.

We live in a world where you can’t avoid information, it takes effort to be ignorant. Even if all you did was watch TV every day you’d still get a reasonably balanced point of view so in order to be a bigot you have to specifically IGNORE ALL INFORMATION. Why would anyone do that? Why would someone ignore correct information? The answer, as with everything, is fear.

We’re afraid of responsibility.

We can’t get a job because of immigrants, not because we haven’t spent time getting the qualifications or getting out there and trying to get a job or even starting our own company, No it’s immigrants stealing what’s rightfully ours. There’s crime in the streets, can’t be other people like me because then one day it could be me so it must be those other people who don’t look like me. There’s a long waiting list for me to have a routine operation, can’t be the government I voted for because that would mean they weren’t everything they promised to be AND I WOULD BE WRONG so it must be immigrants.

We live in a world where we don’t take responsibility if we don’t have to and when presented with facts contrary to our opinion instead of saying “oh wow I didn’t see it that way before” we get angry because it must be wrong, we couldn’t possibly be wrong it must be the facts. IF I’M WRONG ABOUT THIS WHAT ELSE AM I WRONG ABOUT OH GOD PLEASE HELP ME? There’s no God and the church covered up sexual abuse of minors? I REFUSE TO LISTEN!

It’s not just the right that’s like this, it’s the left as well. Here’s an article about how women empowering their sexuality is transphobic if that sentence made your head explode that’s because it’s ridiculous. Sure we’ve got a long way to go until LGBTQ rights are established and they’ve had a long hard slog of it but that doesn’t give anyone the right to take away someone else’s identity WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT THEY’RE SAYING IS HAPPENING TO THEM! They don’t want to take responsibility for their own feelings, it’s easier to say “I feel offended, it must be those people who are offending me” rather than “Everyone has a right to feel empowered about themselves”. God forbid we ever let people feel comfortable in their own skin when we’re still struggling with our own identities, am I right guys/girls/other!

People say we’re post truth, that we live in a time where everyone can believe whatever they want and fake news is just as valid as real news in the general populace’s eyes but I say that’s inaccurate. We don’t want to know that the reason we feel this way is due to our own insecurities, we don’t care that actually we’re projecting onto a group or individual just to make our own fragility justified.

We’re not post truth, we’re post responsibility.

I’m not like you

Don’t look at my skin and think that I’m like you. Don’t say it’s ok to be racist and suggest I do racist jokes because “they’ll find it funny too”. Don’t say “you don’t need to be PC here” when talking about treating people with a different ethnicity as equals. 

Don’t look at my gender and assume I think it’s ok to treat women as second class citizens, don’t shush a woman in a conversation with “shhh love men talking” and expect me not to verbally dress you down for your obvious misogyny. 

Don’t look at my body shape and assume I’ll be ok with you calling me and everyone else fat or thin or any other derogatory term you can think of for someone who doesn’t look like you and if we’re being honest you could stand to lose a few pounds too.

Don’t look at anything about me and assume I want to be a part of your hate filled world. When challenged don’t make out like it’s “just a joke” because I can show you millions of people repressed by those so called jokes.

In fact the only thing you should do is educate yourself or shut the fuck up. 

I’m an adult (and the one in the pink shellsuit)

“What’s for dinner?” my kids ask and I think “Yeah what is for dinner, oh shit I’m the adult, I’m meant to decide that!” that and a hundred other moments are when you realise that you’re the one people are looking up to now.  I haven’t quite got the habit of buying a week’s worth of shopping all in one go, instead going to the shop every day on the school run to pick up stuff we need for dinner, that way we waste less but mostly it’s because I don’t have the same attitude to shopping that my mum did, which was similar to someone competing on extreme shoppers angry at retail staff edition. 

When I was growing up my mum would take me and my brother to the shop. We’d either be in the trolley (shopping cart to non UK readers) or I’d be pushing my brother along in the pushchair (take a guess non UK readers). One time I hid my then 18 month old brother behind a bunch of plants, still securely strapped into his chair, and assured my mother he was gone now and we shouldn’t worry about him. She’d fill the trolley with food and we’d pay for a week’s worth, normally around £100, then take it home and unpack. That seems crazy to me now. £100 a week?! There’s a whole person more in our family and we spend half that! I know families spend that much these days but with inflation that’s an equivalent spend of £259.33 today. My mum was spending an equivalent of £260 a week on 3 of us and a dog!

Lets get some background going here. My mum was a single mother, my brother and I were looked after a lot by childminders and babysitters just so she could go out and earn enough for us to have a good life as well as childminders and babysitters. We had a nice house, clothes, holidays etc but it never once occurred to me to ask my mum why she would always wear the same clothes or never buy herself anything not absolutely necessary. Only now as a parent myself do I understand and I want to go back in time, grab my tiny 11 year old shoulders and scream “MAKE HER A BETTER MOTHER’S DAY CARD YOU SPOILT PRICK! SHE DESERVES AT LEAST A PARAGRAPH OF YOUR RESPECT AND LOVE!” because no matter what you say kids are selfish little things that don’t understand what their parents go through and nor should they.

So the fact that she would make sure we had that food in the house and we never wanted for anything made me complacent, I’m not going to say lazy because I’ve always been a hard working guy it’s just that maybe I didn’t used to understand how things really worked in life. Like when I got to my uni I had to guess how a washing machine worked (with coins) and how much powder to put in (not half the box), plus I learned that people will steal any food they find in a communal kitchen no matter how many pubes you put on top of it. I thought I was self sufficient, I had a part time job with full time hours that I did as well as my degree so I thought I was doing ok. Then I ate nothing but bread and beans for 3 months and called my mum to come and do some shopping because I didn’t have £100 a week to spend on nice food, hell I didn’t have £100 all in one place until I was well into my 20s.

Not because I didn’t have a decent job or anything like that but just because between the time my mother was buying that level of shopping and me having my own kids, prices went through the roof and wages went through the floor. My mum got into a pretty high up IT position because she had a qualification in French, nowadays you can’t even get into an entry level French interpreter’s job with a qualification in French, you can’t even get a job selling French bread with a qualification in French. We used to give people who couldn’t do anything else the trolley (shopping cart) pusher jobs and nowadays we have people with master’s degrees doing it, there are middle aged men and women with a masters in molecular biology pushing trolleys to supplement their zero hours university teaching job which means you now need a degree to get those jobs so we’re about two years away from there being degrees in trolley pushing and vomit cleaning. Bachelor of Grocery Container studies, BGC hons.

Even now, aged 34, I can’t spend over £1000 a month on food and groceries! Who can?! I mean who can that doesn’t own their own newspaper or tax haven based online shop? When does it get to the point where an adult can just drop that kind of money on weekly shopping? Does the fact that I can’t do that mean I’m not an adult yet? I feel like an adult. I pay taxes and bills that seem extraordinarily high for things that regularly fall from the sky. When there’s a noise outside that could potentially be a murderer, demon or Jehovah’s Witness I’m the one that goes to check. I feel like an adult but maybe not as much of an adult as my mum was. I say was because the other day she made a cake filled with smarties and another that had fudge pieces in the mix and really that kind of behaviour isn’t very adult at all.