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

Monday, 19 November 2012

Face, meet palm.

IT'S Monday. It's still not Christmas. And everything is buggered.

People being slaughtered, porn everywhere, predatory paedophiles rampant, females storming the Church of England, Special Forces heroes banged up and terrorists skipping free.

And yet at the same time all is exactly as it's always been, because Monday is the day of reheated news. Generally from Sunday, sometimes last Friday, and occasionally from about 800 years ago. Allow me to explain:

1. Missiles are flying between Jews and Arabs. This has happened suddenly, is very worrying, and kills children. Yet it has been happening in one form or another fairly regularly since 1948. That's 64 years of the same news as politicians majestically fail to fix a very tricky problem. What does this teach us? Probably that the missiles should be pointed at politicians, and not before time.

2. Children as young as 10 are being arrested for rape which the NSPCC says is "undoubtedly" linked to online pornography. Maybe, but it's also linked to other things, namely parents who do not block their children's internet use and adults who are so keen on watching porn on the internet themselves that what used to be on the top shelf is now a few taps away on a keyboard. Yet kids have always passed around dirty mags and books, and we didn't all go on to become rapists. What's changed? Only the ability of victims to make a complaint and be taken seriously, which means we have to say it's a good thing children as young as 10 are being arrested for rape. And that'll never take off.

3. Predatory paedophiles lurk around every corner. It started with Jimmy Savile, it's been blamed on being Tory, and every older man is a danger to children. Except people with paedophile tendencies form less than five per cent of the population, just as they always have. It's got nothing to do with politics or sexuality, they're young and handsome as well as old and ugly, and four per cent of them are women. The main reason this disorder features in the national consciousness more is research on it started in earnest in the 1980s, the same decade the law was changed to make it easier to report and prosecute child sex abuse. It gets talked about more often because it can be, not because there's more of it. And why do we have to define them as predatory? Is there a kinder vegetarian version which can't really be bothered?

4. Sexual assault is apparently all right if you're a bloke. Dave Lee Travis was arrested about allegations of unwelcome physical advances and later told reporters it was "cuddling" as well as "of course I have groped a woman's breasts - I'm a man... but I have never walked up to a woman and groped her without her knowing". Dave, Dave, Dave. A cuddle is consensual, groping is not. The fact she was aware of it does not make it acceptable. Although I understand his unease at being nicked by the Jimmy Savile squad 40 years after the event, it is tricky being the female in that situation. To speak out is to invite insults and accusations of petty militant feminism, but to keep quiet and shrug it off is to condone it. It's a sticky wicket for all concerned and one best avoided by, for example, not touching the breasts of anybody who's not actually snogging you back. This has always been the case, and was as true in the 1970s and it is today unless you're a QUACK QUACK OOPS idiot.

5. The Church of England is about to vote on allowing women bishops. It has taken a mere 475 years since the church was formed for its members to get around to reading the Bible and wonder whether, since Jesus apparently included a woman among his disciples, someone with ovaries is capable of talking to a higher consciousness about something other than what she did all day and agonies over her hair/bum/shoe options. The fact the church is still arguing about this might explain why only 2.7 per cent of the population still bothers with it.

6. The internet, which was set up to enable the free exchange of information, is being sued for freely exchanging too much of the wrong kind of information despite the fact the internet is used primarily to disseminate stupidity, as any search for David Icke will prove. This kind of fact-enforcement may be entirely reasonable, but it is available only to the super-rich which means that, much like the internet, it will start out well-intentioned and could wind up stopping people speaking altogether. If you're poor and someone calls you a paedophile you'll have to ask them nicely to delete it, but with libel laws which date from the 13th century you can't expect much else. There's no appetite for reforming something 700 years out of date no matter how knackered it is, but then it's rich people who'd do the reforming so perhaps it's just as well.

7. An SAS sergeant who forgot he had a gun he shouldn't have is serving 18 months in military prison. This is unreasonable, but then so is the fact that something which would be a crime in civilian life is tried by a military court which has fewer rights of appeal or guidelines for punishment. Our soldiers get treated harsher than their peers outside the services, exactly as they always have, as though they were Coronation Street actresses who toughen up with a spot of persecution. And they wonder why they have to advertise.

8. Abu Qatada is the nation's most hated man. He's been accused by unnamed security sources of inciting murder, homophobia, anti-Semitism and religious hatred. Yet he's never been charged or tried for any of those offences and is, according to our rules, an entirely innocent man who has spent seven years in jail for things no-one's been able to prove. This would be shocking if only we hadn't done the same and worse to people in Northern Ireland, Kenya and South Africa in recent history and more of our own many times for centuries. The right of Habeas Corpus, which entitles an accused to trial or freedom, was established 800 years ago in 1215 and we've been ignoring it ever since. Makes me feel like bombing a few things myself.

9. Doctors have found a gene that dictates what time of day you die, so long as you die in a bed. Thanks, but I don't want to get old and dread the arrival of 5pm every day even if I can celebrate 5.01pm with a gin. Some science is not much use.

10. If we all hate corporate tax avoidance - and who doesn't? - the only thing we can do about it is not use Starbucks, Google, eBay, Amazon and Facebook. Only that's never going to happen, and big companies have been allowed tax deals and to bury their profits overseas legally for, er, centuries. I don't like Philip Green but I do like Top Shop, which means I'm contributing to the problem with every pair of jeans. I'm not going to stop and nor is he, which means the best way you can make sure all the super-rich people pay their share is to slap a sales tax on everything or at the very least on yachts, foie gras, champagne and Bentleys. Philip Green eats more cake than the rest of us, by the look of him, and it might be the best way to make him pay his share. Pay tax, get cake. He'll buy that.

You see? Everything is knackered, nothing goes the way it should do or makes any proper sense, and nothing really changes. Before you know it a one-trick pony entirely lacking any star quality will win the X Factor, and everyone will get tetchy about it without remembering Gareth Gates, Steve Brookstein, Matt Cardle, Shayne Ward, Michelle McManus, Leon Jackson, zzzzzz...

And then it will be Christmas, and next year everything will be different.

Except on Mondays.