This is Robert Llewellyn's personal blog. The views contained in here are mine alone and do not reflect the views or opinions of anyone else I work with or for. Just thought I ought to make that clear.

Friday
Nov142014

It’s not Matthew, Mark, Luke and Joan

I have an ever-increasing sense that we are witnessing the violent death throws of the Patriarchy.

I think it first hit me when I saw the footage of Pussy Riot doing their head banging stuff in a Moscow Church. The people most offended, upset and able to do something about it where a bunch of bearded men in long robes with comically large crosses hanging around their necks.

Bearded old men in the Sudan condemned a woman to death for marrying the wrong man, okay, they’ve gone back on that decision because of the international outcry, but they still did it.

Bearded old men in long robes encourage bearded young men to go and fight holy wars every day of the week.

Bearded old men in long robes try to justify the vile event of a bunch of tragic men who raped two teenage girls to death in India.

All of these old beardy blokes have one thing in common, they represent the patriarchy.

It’s got little to do with the individual religions they profess to teach, lead, have divinely bestowed upon them by a mythical bearded old man in long robes they call God.

Now, I do understand that criticizing any culture I have little knowledge of is dangerous.

Grouping together a whole race or religious group because of the actions of one or two nut bags is the job of UKIP supporters.

However, as a white, western liberal living in a privileged bubble (apparently) I have to face an ugly fact.

I’m also a man.

The bedrock of all religious belief is by its very nature, patriarchal.

(Patriarchy: relating to or denoting a system of society or government controlled by men)

It’s all about the father being in control, it’s all about a great big, bearded angry dad otherwise known as god.

You don’t have to be a scripture scholar to understand that all religion was dreamt up and written down by men.

Ooops, sorry, I mean God, a bloke, with a beard and long robes. My bad.

Check who wrote the New Testament in the Christian bible

It’s not Matthew, Mark, Luke and Joan is it?

Who wrote the Quran?

A bloke.

Who wrote the Old Testament?

A bunch of blokes.

Religion was made by men to extoll their own virtues, control their offspring and chattels, (that’s the Mrs and the cattle BTW) and lay down the law.

Many years ago I read some of theories about the dawn of patriarchy, the pre-historic connection desert people in the Fertile Crescent made between shagging and childbirth.

These theories indicate that before we started farming, keeping cattle and living in more organised, settled communities, patriarchy simply didn’t exist.

We lived in a matriarchy; as the saying goes, “the mother came first, the son merely followed.”

(Matriarchy: a form of social organization in which descent and relationship are through the female line)

No one knew and more importantly cared who their dad was but you knew who your mum was because she raised you.

The theory is, and it’s backed up by ancient cave paintings and fertility statues, women were revered and in control of their own destiny.

Scary.

I’m not saying this state of affairs was better or in any way perfect, I’m merely suggesting that patriarchy isn’t ‘the only way we can function.’

The human race is always evolving, new relationships and roles emerge and there is no ‘right’ or ‘only’ way to live together and raise children.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is going to be more interested in power than love.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is going to be a bloke and more likely a religious bloke in a position of power in your community.

The tedious argument that men are ‘naturally dominant’ only exists because we’re all endlessly told that from day one.

We are, I believe, currently seeing the tattered and despoiled cloak of patriarchy slowly disintegrate and that frightens the b’jayzus out of a lot of blokes who’ve invested their entire existence in such dated nonsense.

Any religious nutter with a brutal countenance, long robes and a beard is a patriarch, terrified of the power of women, determined to cling on to power because, poor sausage, that’s all he’s got to fill the void in his heart.

These bearded gentlemen come in all flavors, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Jew and any number of offshoots of all of them.

Big beard, long cloak and complete confidence that their particular strand of virtually the same religion is the right one.

Bit tragic isn’t it?

They are all from the same Abrahamic tradition that stems from the same bit of land on the Eastern side of the Mediterranean that blokes have been fighting over for millennia.

And these squabbles always involve men, boring, tedious blokes who want to impose their self claimed ‘divine law’ on the rest of us.

Tedious but sadly, in some cases we are seeing at the moment, still ridiculously powerful and dangerous.

It’s got naff all to do with genuine religious belief, which, despite my cascade of offense I do actually have respect for.

How weak do you have to be to express such fear from one woman who won’t do as you demand?

How pathetic are you that when your daughter/sister doesn’t obey your every bullying command you kill her to protect, and read this carefully, ‘the honour of your family.’

‘Oh yeah, they’ve got a lot of honour that family, they killed their daughter in the street and we all respect that.’

Hello, it’s 2014, not AD 414 for pities sake.

So as a wet liberal tosser living in a privileged western bubble, I do judge cultures I don’t fully understand when it’s brutal, stupid and based on blatantly enforced ignorance.

As privileged western liberal men we should do all we can to deride and undermine patriarchal power no matter what flavor.

We need to show by example that it is possible to be a man, to be a real, proper bloke, without mutilating little girls, raping and murdering women when they don’t obey our ridiculous demands and claiming some kind of divine superiority.

I’m not saying women are always right or in some way superior, I’m not even saying all men who believe in some sort of old-dad-god figure are brutes, rapists and murderers, but the ones who are need to be faced up to.

 

If you want to fight patriarchy - but won't fight religion - you're not fighting patriarchy.        @ aliamjadrizvi 

Thursday
Nov132014

Outrageous subsidies!

‘I don’t want my tax money to subsidise windmills!’ shouts a red faced UKIP supporting 57-year-old man who lives in an area where there are no wind turbines.

He’s at a petrol station pumping £93 worth of fuel into his slightly battered old four by four that will be able to travel just over 300 miles burning the fuel.

What he clearly doesn’t know, along with most of us, is he has already paid for part of that fuel through his taxes.

‘I know the government taxes fuel at a frankly ridiculous level, what do you think I am, an idiot?’ he splutters.

No, he still hasn’t got it.

He is correct that there is a very large tax element in the £93 he has just spent topping up his tank.

But there is also a massive cost for all of us in subsidizing the fossil fuel corporations before that fuel comes out of the pump.

These are subsidies that have been in place for decades so they have become ‘normal’ and ‘embedded’ which means we’re all used to them, we don’t see them or think about them.

A recent report in Bloomberg news puts some figures on these subsidies and they are fairly staggering.

Globally the cost to tax payers is around $550 billion per year.

This is money we numpties are giving to the largest, wealthiest and most powerful corporations in human history to carry on with their business. It costs billions to find oil fields, to explore them, carry out test drilling, move billion dollar drilling equipment into position, pump out and ship the fuel to refineries.

So these companies get massive ‘tax breaks’ and 'incentives' given to them by their employees.

Sorry, the tax breaks are given to them by the independent governments we elect to rule us, that was just a silly, immature typo.

Global subsidies to renewable energy systems? They are big too, around $120 billion a year

This is because the cost of installing renewables is all up front, once in place the running costs are minimal. Unlike the fossil extraction industries where the costs go on and on, mitigated only by the fact that they don't have to pay for the damage their products create.

With the increasingly divided debate on how we generate power in the future I discern a clear line between older white men who state with tired knowingness ‘it has to be nuclear’ and a much larger group made up of all races and genders from around the globe saying ‘it’s obviously renewables.’

It’s very hard for the average member of the public (I consider myself in this group) who know very little about the intricacies of the topic to have any hope of knowing what’s true.

Or possible.

Or economically sensible.

Or secure from international financial convulsions and conflict.

A clue maybe in the rapid increase in community renewable energy projects (I’m involved in one) and their history of supplying renewable, financially stable and long term power that is not at the beck and call of outside forces.

Germany and Denmark are way ahead in this but it’s catching on and spreading rapidly.

Widely distributed, locally owned renewable energy has, I firmly believe, a very key role to play in our energy future. And the subsidies for this?
Piffling in comparison to the massive payouts the big fossil companies are chomping through.

Maybe if we stopped handing out dosh to these chaps, we might have a bit more to build an infrastructure we can genuinely depend on. Silly idea I know. 

Here's a bit more detail on the how's, why's and excuses used to fork out billions to the hyper-rich. It all makes perfect sense :-)

 

 

Sunday
Sep282014

Diaries

I have a window in my schedule.

Time for a little calm reflection after 58-and-a-half years of seemingly frantic activity, 21 years of parenting and a very busy week.

Inspired by a dream last night I dug out a dusty box from at the back of a cupboard in my office and found these.

The box contains my diaries from 1970 to the late 1990’s. After that I started keeping a diary on computers.

These 27 books of varying size are all crammed to the covers with handwriting.

They don’t all relate to a specific calendar year, some periods are sparsely recorded in contrast to the occasional 20 or 30 pages describing one day.

Unlike the diaries of say, Tony Benn or Peter Ustinov, they are not full of wonderful anecdotes about famous or powerful people, revealing insights into our political history or anything resembling great literature.

Okay, there’s the odd reference to someone you may have heard of, but they are mostly miserable self-obsessed scribblings about how rubbish I am, how incapable I am of finding love, how I’ve failed at everything I’ve ever attempted to do, how poor I am, stressed, tired and forlorn.

Thankfully, every now and then, even I am surprised by the insights I had into my own personal politics, my hypocrisy, embarrassment and social awkwardness.

Some of that is quite poetic and brutally honest.

I knew then and I know now nothing in these diaries was ever written to be published if for no other reason than they would make very dull reading.

There are screeds of pages where I try and work out stories, where I have arguments with myself about what it is I’m trying to say and the best way to say it.

 There are half written plays, sketches and songs dating back to the late 1970’s,

There are rants about homophobia, racism, sexism and the brutality of the ever-growing corporate controlled globalized free-market economy.

So in a rather ungainly and self-obsessed fashion they do record how the world has changed in my lifetime.

It’s not all for the worse even though things seem fairly shitty at the moment.

The easiest thing to do, the lazy UKIP reaction is to trick yourself into imagining it was ‘better in the old days.’

As someone who was around in the old days, let me make one thing perfectly clear. It was shit in the old days.

It’s a teeny tiny bit better today than yesterday, and tomorrow will be fractionally, infinitesimally better than today.

Saturday
Sep132014

Empty Nest

It hasn’t really hit me yet but I know it’s going to.

21 years ago I became a father to a wonderful son. 18 years ago I became a father to an incredible daughter.

My son left home a few years back but we see him regularly, he lives in Bristol which is only a 30 minute train ride from home.

This morning I drove my daughter and her best friend to the local train station and she set off on an 8 week Euro-rail adventure. After that she plans to go to Australia for…. a long time.

(Her mum is Australian and she has an Australian passport)

This morning I didn’t cry as her train pulled out of the station and I waved forlornly from the empty platform, like many men I seem to experience delayed emotional responses to such dramatic changes in life.

When my dad died it took me a couple of days before I suddenly burst into tears, when my mum died the tears arrived sooner but still a couple of hours after I held her hand as she took her last breath.

I am very well aware that my role as parent hasn’t ended but there’s no denying it, as I sit in an empty house things have really changed.

When the school bus rumbles past our house in the morning I don’t have to get in a panic and scream ‘you’ve missed the bus... again!’

I don’t have to go on holiday in the school holiday period, I don’t have to sort mountains of laundry or cook a very complicated meals for 4 consisting of one vegetarian, one gluten allergic and a mass of ‘I hate cabbage dad, you know that!’ complaints.

I am also in the position of suddenly having to communicate with my wife again, but communicate about topics other than our children. I don’t think I have anything to say!

So, this morning, when the first Formula E race was taking place in Beijing, my mind was elsewhere and I don’t feel guilty about that, I’ll watch the next one.

 

However, taking into account all the heartache, the happiness, the mess, the laughs, the sulks, rows, struggles and joy my family have brought me in the last 21 years, I feel like a very lucky old bloke.

Tuesday
Jul292014

Show Me The Money

 Owen Patterson, what a fine upstanding man, now he’s out of government he can finally tell the truth.

That is of course, the truth according to the richest, most influential lobby group the human race has ever been confronted with.

They work together, they have a bottomless pit of funds and of course, they are aggressive because they have an enormous amount to lose.

Am I talking about the vicious communist cabal of green environmentalist Clarkson baiting bully girls who claim to know everything and who gave the recently sacked ‘Environment’ Minister such a hard time?

Am I talking about, to quote Mr Paterson, the “mutually supportive network of environmental pressure groups, renewable energy companies and some public officials who keep each other well supplied with lavish funds, scare stories and green tape.”

No, I’m not.

I’m talking about the multi-billion, multi-national hydrocarbon industry who quietly pump gargantuan funds through our political system through lobbying and lavish expense accounts to support ‘charities’ like Lord Nigel Lawson’s laughable ‘Global Warming Policy Foundation.’

Well, laughable if it wasn’t so incredibly well funded and powerful and has the inside track to the powers that be and is clearly having a great deal of success.

Who gave Paterson a very lucrative speaking gig the moment he got the boot from the Cameron Cabinet, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, quelle surprise.

Restoring balance and trust to the climate debate. Doesn't that make you feel safe and reassured.

Nothing new really, Paterson has been their best spokesman for the entire time he was in the cabinet.

Just a quick side-note. Lawson and his henchmen will not reveal where the funding for this ‘charity’ comes from. In fact it’s so well dodgy that their charitable status has recently been withdrawn

So let’s just step back from the heated debate for a moment, not get emotional about it and have a look at the two groups opposing each other on this jolly old energy matrix - climate change debate.

On one side you have the world's, indeed the wealthiest corporations in all human history. Forget Apple and Google, the really big money is still in fossils.

These are the chaps who extract hydrocarbons, ship, refine them and sell them.

They make massive profits for themselves and their many and varied shareholders including many of us with pensions.

They support the civilised world as we know it, their work, and I’m not being funny, their work is vital.

We are all utterly reliant on the job they do.

If they didn’t extract oil we wouldn’t have computers, phones, cars, medicines, roads and millions of other things because they not only make petrol, diesel and aviation fuel, they also produce plastics, pharmaceuticals and fertilizers.

They also produce all the world’s hydrogen for ‘clean’ hydrogen fuel cell cars but that’s another issue.

So that’s one side, I think we can all agree, no matter what our opinion or outlook, these corporations are likely to be keen to maintain the status quo, make sure they can still operate and make money and are capable and prepared to spend big to undermine any negative influence on their activities.

On the other side you have a ragbag of pressure groups, governmental organisations, university departments, very small energy companies, opinion formers and local activists.

Now, I read through that list and I’m not seeing big money.

I’m not seeing powerful executives with massive off shore bank accounts and the ability to bully, bribe, cajole, threaten and pester world leaders.

I’m seeing a bloke with a sign outside a coal burning power plant, a woman with a sign outside an oil company headquarters.

I’m seeing students shouting about drilling for oil in the arctic, or local people challenging the fracking companies, the tar sands projects, the more and more drastic efforts the hydrocarbon industry are having to use to keep the oil flowing.

So when Owen Paterson, his paymaster Nige Lawson and their sweaty cabal of loud mouth right wing nut bags tell you things like ‘renewable energy just isn’t viable,’ I merely want to suggest that we should consider whos beneftting from this successful doubt sowing campaign.

Say it enough times, as Fox News understands in the USA, say it enough times and people will believe you.

Show me the Money. Show me the Money!