Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Friday, 27 April 2012

A total shower.

AROUND this time last year, the world moved.

The planet moves in space all the time, of course, but the times that people actually get up off their bums and give it a shove in one direction or another are rare.

Humans have a mixed history of doing things en masse - for every example of a peaceful uprising there is a Kristallnacht to remind us we do appalling things too. But the Arab Spring of 2011 seemed to be all good.

Deposing dictators - check. Popular uprising - check. Largely peaceful - check. Captured by people with smartphones - checkety check.

It hit a stumbling block in Libya, and again in Bahrain and Syria where the bad men had time to realise what was coming down the pipe, and get their tanks in a row. But in Egypt the bad man was so surprised by the strength of feeling in a largely middle-class population that in the end he capitulated. He was arrested, and has been in court to answer for decades of crimes.

A bloodless, righteous coup. What wonderful stuff! Well done the human race.

Except democracy is not a natural state, and in the vacuum which followed the peaceful siege of Tahrir Square the generals regrouped, and then the fundamentalists got enough of a toehold among a disaffected and disappointed population that the first elections saw them into parliament.

Where, this week, they've all decided to be a bit worse than the bad man they got rid of.

There have been stories about new laws allowing men to have sex with their dead wives which aren't actually true, but the laws which are being suggested are just as icky and wrong.

During Hosni Mubarak's dictatorial regime lots of bad things happened, but because he was a crazy there was some accidental good stuff too. One of them was that women were allowed the right to seek a divorce or separation from their husband, under an Islamic law called Khula.

She had to reimburse him for whatever he provided her during the marriage (bit cheeky if she can't work) but he has to pay for the children, and they can remain with her for seven years after which point they can live with whatever parent they choose.

No-one in their right mind divorces willy-nilly - especially if they have to repay him for all the crap jewellery he bought - but it enabled women who were abused, beaten or otherwise mistreated to get themselves and their children out. Before that law, it took 10 to 15 years, the husband could refuse, and even after divorce the wife often had to remain living with her ex for financial and social reasons.

Egypt's new rulers want to end that right. It wants to remove Egypt from international treaties on women's rights, remove the quota for female representatives in parliament, and make it legal to marry a girl of 14.

It didn't say that on the side of the tin, did it? 'Contents: one Arab Spring. May spring backwards in time by eight centuries.'

Egypt's National Council for Women (have we got one of those? I'm not sure we do) has kicked off and is campaigning against the changes, which are being backed by hard-right religious groups with names like Coalition for the Family. Coincidentally that's exactly what the same kind of loons in the US call themselves; Mitt Romney has more in common with the Muslim Brotherhood than he'd like to admit.

But what if it actually happens? What if, all across the Arab world, the single bad men who were in charge have been replaced with groups of bad men all egging each other on to see how medieval they can be? That's not just going to affect women or minorities, that's going to be World War III.

You might think, 'well, that's Egypt, can't happen here'. But this week we've got anti-abortion activists accusing the British Pregnancy and Advisory Service of genocide, we've got a tied vote in the House of Lords because half of them couldn't be bothered to take part in legal aid reforms which means poor people won't be able to seek civil injunctions against violent partners, and the only female who meets with universal national approval is one who doesn't speak.

This week I was invited to meet a group of 14-year-old girls as part of a project teaching them about what professions and role models are available to them. It was great fun, but most of them were stunned that I swore, told them to fight for the things they believed in, and said the celebrities they're all taught to look up to were idiots in real life. When I told them Justin Bieber thinks 'rape happens for a reason' I think I broke their hearts, but it needed to be done.

Democracy, freedom, and rights, don't just fall out of the sky like rain. They're a wall you have to build with backbreaking labour and toil in order to keep yourself safe from those who want to take it all away. Women's rights are just one brick in there, along with things like freedom of speech, voting rights, and protection of children. But if you start taking bricks out the whole lot comes down.

And it needs regular maintenance if it's not all going to wash away some day.

The trouble with springs is that they're often quite rainy.

Brollies out, ladies.


Anonymous said...

glorious nutters unite

jconnibeer said...

Foxy, I think I love you.

Anonymous said...

I whole-heartedly agree with all of this article except you comment about abortion. I have 4 children (1 is disabled) and as a science teacher I view every baby in the womb is a life. Following on from that abortion on the scale allowed in the uk (190,000 per annum)it is genocide. I don't have a google/wordpress etc account so have posted as anon.

Anonymous said...

As a science teacher you must be aware that the world is over populated and cannot sustain the ever growing numbers of humans. Surely it's better that unwanted babies are not brought into the world. Ultimately nature will cull human numbers if necessary through disease and famine; it seems to me that it is more humane to allow women to have the right to choose (a right that you exercised) than to keep bringing unwanted children into the world. Abortion has always been around. Let's fight to keep it safe, whilst educating women on how to prevent it from becoming a procedure they suffered.

Fat Jacques said...

Great post Foxy. Needs to get a wide audience.

Anonymous said...

Posting anonymously, for obvious reasons.

At 17, the daughter of a long-time alcoholic, with a combination of anorexia and bulimia (not eating, barfing whenever I did), working two jobs, attending full time college, confused, I unwittingly chucked up my contraceptive pill, had sex and became pregnant. As much as whole sorry string of events dogged me for years, I can hazard a pretty sparky guess that I wouldn't be here now were it not for my right to choose to abort, which I did.

While I think it's impossible to say whether a termination is "right" or "wrong", I think the right to choose is precious and correct.

Excellent piece Foxy. Putting on my wellies, keeping the faith.

Anonymous said...

As a science teacher, you don't know squat about english. Do you know what Genocide means? Genocide is that aim to destroy in whole or part based on ethnic, religious, racial or national group. Trying to kill all catholics. That's genocide.Trying to kill scots. That's genocide. Trying to kill the english, That's Genocide. Allowing abortion - pull the other one.

Anonymous said...

Like Science Teacher, I agree with with everything above, except the comment about abortion.

There is a worrying trend amongst some liberals, to revel in the ideas of death, and dress it up as rights.

The right to kill an unborn baby. The right to end a life prematurely, due to illness; Euthanasia for the old and unproductive; withholding treatment from neonates because of 'quality of life issues'; the 'eradication' of Downs syndrome, by selective abortion; the idea that those with severe physical disabilities should not live as their 'quality of life is insufficient. The idea that those with severe mental illness are 'better off dead.' The idea that population control justifies the elite deciding who lives and who dies (or is never born)

In other words, a total loss of humanity, where a culture of death exists for those not useful to society. (as decided by the liberals)

The place where the left meets the right. All based on the idea of the liberal elite being best placed to make qualitive decisions for others on whose life is worth living and whose is not. It is interesting that some of the most reviled Nazi atrocities, eugenics etc, were popular ideas of the fabian left/liberals too. And still are. Espoused in the past by the likes of Wells and the Bloomsbury Group and now by their modern contempories such as an ex-lib dem MP and a certain TV Nature Presenter. Who recently advocated euthanasia for the old to control consumption of resources (whilst naturally exempting himself - he is over 80, but considers himself a useful member of society)

With these liberals, it is always the same. The clarion cry is that it is 'empowering individuals'; but always leads to the same end result of someone else deciding whether I should live or die. From the unbon baby the the disabled person and all points inbetween.

A scary, terrfying world. Death with caring smile. Being told it is for your own good as your life is taken from you. I wonder how many foetuses would volunteer for death given the chance to speak for themseleves?

Not a world I want to live in!

thegreenelk said...

[First time reader, pointed here by @Susan_Rae1. I hadn't really picked up from the 'fox' epithet (or the bloody huge red/black logo at the top) that you were a woman until about half-way down the article. I'm not really sure what that says about your writing style, me, or the world we live in - but I quite liked the feeling]. I agree entirely with the article. Life on this imperfect planet is messy. Having a brain that was designed to recognise patterns and put things into neat groupings makes the imperfection of the day-to-day struggle hard to deal with. On the whole I'm feeling positive about the Arab spring. Yes, things may get worse for many people in the short term, and that's not nice, but the people now have a level of self-determination (don't want to use the democracy word). They have also learned that if things aren't going the way they want them to, they can affect a change. This single lesson gives me hope that progress, however faltering, was made last year.

Anonymous said...

Pity that the majority of comments here focus on abortion as I found the role model aspect to be the most powerful. Foxy I am so pleased that you have attended these types of 'workshops'. Currently I despair at the role models our kids have. From music 'icons' that tell their followers they eat four meals a day plus snacks while in truth they have a fag and an apple a day, to the footballers / actors that think it is fine to sleep around and abuse women. Obviously these professions also have decent people but they don't tend to be the ones getting the paper inches. Well done for getting out their and trying to change things :) (KK)

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