The Village SoapBox
Ron takes another critical look at current problems!
1. Whistle Blowers
We must be thankful that there are people prepared to risk their own jobs and future in order to draw the attention of the public to matters which they consider are not right. Looking back on last year we had:
Mr Morrison, a civil servant in the security service who said you could hear the laughter ringing through the corridors of Whitehall when Tony Blair made his statement in the House about the 45 minute threat from Saddam Hussein.
There was the Ambassador who spoke out against the serious violations of human rights in the former Soviet state of Uzbekistan, and met with the disaproval of the Foreign Office.
And the diplomat in the Romanian embassy who complained that the Home Office were giving visas to people that the embassy there had considered unsuitable.
There was also the woman who drew attention to the unsatisfactory auditing of the accounts of the European Commission. And there were probably others.
What happened to these well motivated and principled indivduals? They all lost their jobs.
On the other hand you will remember Mr Scarlett who was largely responsible for the erroneous and misleading security report on Iraq. What became of him? He was promoted!
I fear that this may be the most dishonest government in my lifetime.
2. Religion (again)
In last month's Soapbox I suggested that the religious were not under any direct threat from secularism but rather that the danger lie in the antics of the zealots in the established religions. I wrote that in late November/early December and it was interesting to see how it was demonstrated to be true when Sikh zealots forced the closure of a play in Birmingham. Personally I was appalled to see the violent mob succeed in their aim, and even more appalled at the acquiesence, if not support, by the police and politicians, both local and national. We should not and cannot allow violence or the threat of violence to determine the outcome of any dispute.
I am no less concerned at the present aim of the government to introduce legislation against inciting religious hatred. Whilst I understand the need to outlaw inciting a mob, there is a very real danger that such a law could be used to prevent the free discussion of ideas and theisms, which is something that we have cherished as a right in this country in recent times (Although I believe the law prohibiting blasphemy still holds. This too should be removed from the statute book). If the objective of the proposed law is to avoid giving offence to followers of a religion, it is misguided. We have always relied on good manners to avoid giving unnecessary offence, nevertheless there are times when we are offended or, perhaps when we give offence, in so many ways. Why should giving offence to a religious believer be privileged by its own law?
Recently I spotted two articles in the newspapers with the following headings: "Why is Religion on the Rise?" And "The Christian Soldiers are on the March". Combining this with the rise of the religious right in the USA and the events in Birmingham I am beginning to wonder if it is secularism that is under threat.
We are constantly being told that we need immigration in order to maintain our economic growth. It is interesting to note, however, that in recent years immigration has been averaging close to 2% p.a. and, over the same period, the economic growth has maintained a similar percentage average. This would suggest to me that the net economic benefit to the existing population is just about zero. In the next five years government figures indicate that we should permit and expect immigration of two million a year, which is of the order of 3.6%. In my simple mind this would suggest that we will need to have an economic growth in excess of this figure (which seems an unlikely occurrence) if we, i.e. those of us here now, are to experience any benefit. By the same argument economic growth less than 3.6% will mean that we will be funding the immigrants. I believe we should be asking if we really do need another 10million increase in our population in the next five years with all the implications that this has in relation to transport, schooling, health care etc. Especially so since we seem to be unable to satisfactorily meet the demands of the existing population.
Regular readers will know that I am very sceptical as to the extent to which global warming is due to the so-called greenhouse gases. Truth is that global warming is a result of the presence of certain gases in the atmosphere together with natural causes but the relative proportions of their contributions is not known. The following extracts are from a talk given at the Royal Institution before Christmas:
"But there may be a time when our Sun ceases to be our friend. There is evidence that just a few centuries ago something happened to the Sun. During the 17th century the Sun ran out of sunspots. At the same time the Earth chilled entering what is termed the Little Ice Age...........There is evidence that even today our Sun's behaviour is unusual - that it is going through a high of sunspot activity unprecedented in the past 8,000 years, that is since the end of the last Ice Age. It could be that the Sun is having an influence on the warming we may be observing. If we ignore this and focus only on greenhouse gases we may be missing the moving force behind climate change. We cannot ignore the Sun."