Sunday, 16 July 2017

Doctor Who has lost me as a viewer

A few days ago I sent a letter to Doctor Who Magazine about the subject of a woman taking over the lead role Doctor Who.  A day later it was announced that the new Doctor would be revealed after the Men’s Final at Wimbledon and, today, the announcement was made – the new Doctor will be a woman.

In my opinion, this is a gigantic mistake and one that means that the show I loved will lose me as a viewer following the Christmas special that sees Peter Capaldi leave the role.

The letter below, reproduced in full, should make my feelings on the error of casting a female Doctor clear but, in case it doesn’t, I’ll spell it out here.  I am a feminist who has wanted to see as many strong female lead roles as possible on TV and in the cinema.  I also want to see more women in high positions in government and business.  The role of The Doctor in Doctor Who is a strong male character and male role model so just changing the casting from a man to a woman doesn’t make it a strong female role or female role model.  I would prefer, as a feminist, that writers create strong female characters for female actors that can grow into strong female role models, not just appropriate a male character and role model for what can only be publicity’s sake.  It does nothing to advance the argument for strong female characters and role models on TV and cinema and may well harm such arguments.

Every time there’s a regeneration in the offing the subject of a female Doctor is raised.  I have been, and always will be, against this not because I’m a misogynist but because I think it cheapens the campaign for more strong female characters on TV.  Giving a traditionally male character a female face is not creating a strong female character, it is merely giving the illusion of creating that strong female character.

If the New Series era has taught us anything it is that spin-offs are a successful possibility, not all but then nothing is 100% guaranteed.  Why then can’t a better alternative to the illusory strong female Doctor myth be a spin-off centred on a female Time Lord?

It has been established in the New Series that some Time Lords were resurrected to fight in the Time War so it is not outside the realm of possibility that Romana, former companion to the Doctor and, as established in the novels and audios, former President of Gallifrey, be important enough to resurrect.

Given this possibility and her former association with the Doctor (which would have given her a similar outlook to him), wouldn’t Romana be fired up enough to want to redeem the Time Lords in the eyes of the Universe and want to fix some of the damage caused by the Time War?  Perhaps even enough to steal a TARDIS, find a new planet as a base and, with some idealistic young post-Time War Time Lords, try to build a new Time Lord society, one without the taint of the Time War?

The above scenario would give the widest range of adventure types with Doctor-type stories and Gallifrey audio series type stories too as well as giving the series a definite mission that Doctor Who doesn’t have.  It would also give women a strong female role model that is written specifically for them and female actors a strong female character role rather than the illusion of one that a female Doctor would be.

I’m sure I have just pissed off a large number of women and/or Doctor Who fans but not by as much as the BBC and the new show-runners have pissed me off.

Monday, 10 July 2017

A solution to human developmental stagnation

The human race seems doomed to repeat the same stupid mistakes over and over again because its intelligence walks hand in hand with its stupidity.  As a species the human race fails to learn the lessons of its history and therefore sleepwalks its way to ever more restrictive rule and towards the destruction not only of itself but also of the planet which is its home.

Homo sapiens sapiens is a remarkably intelligent, creative and resourceful species but the pace of its technological advancement far outstrips its wisdom to use the technology it creates, making for a dangerous situation.

This is only one of the deficiencies of the human race however.  The other is its insistence in its belief that it has somehow overcome its animal nature and the darker selfishness of the human condition which leads to war, discrimination, hate and a narrowing of focus from the needs of society and species to the selfish needs of the individual.

Is it any wonder that there are so many divides within society?

One of the greatest gifts the human race has is the ability to create communities, to come together to serve the collective needs of that community, but it is also its greatest curse because, in creating the communities that it does, it also creates animosity between competing communities.

Communities, in this sense, does not necessarily mean a geographic community but also those communities that share common values or traits – religious, socio-economic, racial, ideological, etc.  Each community has needs that require fulfilling and each community may need, at some point, to come into conflict with another to fulfil those needs as resources are finite but the needs of so many communities seems infinite whether that is truly the case or not.

Conflict can breed the most fertile conditions for technological advancement but also widens the gaps between communities because wisdom very rarely accompanies each advancement and enmity grows.

So called democratic nations swing between Left wing and Right wing administrations, each undoing the improvements created by its opposite because of the ideological basis upon which those improvements were founded so progress cannot be made in solving the needs of the entire human population within its borders.

To take the United Kingdom in 2017, the current Conservative government has stoked divisions within its borders, disassembled the achievements of the previous Labour administration and created a hostile environment for the disabled community through institutional demonization and persecution of that group.  Under such conditions, people with physical or sensory impairments or mental health conditions have been devalued as human beings and seen, in the main, as worthless.  How much the species would have lost in intellectual advancement had Professor Stephen Hawking grown up under such a government.

The only way to heal the divisions created by so many communities trying to co-exist is to make decisions based on the needs of the species rather than the needs of communities or individuals.  The poor are as much wealth creators as the rich; in fact, some might argue that the poor are greater wealth creators because they are the ones who produce the goods that create the wealth.  The disabled may not be able to contribute to society in some ways but they can in others, depending on their individual impairments.  Skin colour does not make anyone more or less valuable to the species or society.

Political ideologies are more complicated to overcome but not impossible to do so.  Left wing ideologies tend to view the human condition as social beings drawn to each other and able to work together towards common interests.  Right wing ideologies tend to view the human condition as individualistic beings who need to be controlled to work together to make a society work.  Both positions have some basis in truth but, as in everything, the truth lies somewhere between the two ideological positions.  To reduce this to a simplistic statement, it could be argued that followers of Left wing political ideologies tend to think with their heart over their heads whilst followers of Right wing political ideologies tend to think with their heads over their hearts.  Either position on its own risks the society it tries to create.  One cannot use their heart to make decisions without considering the intellectual implications of doing so and one cannot use their head to make decisions without considering the very real emotional implications of doing so.  The way to overcome this dichotomy is to find some middle ground between the two approaches, a synthesis that fulfils all needs and considers all variables – a species-level approach.

The species-level approach is also the way to amalgamate the needs of the various human communities by viewing every single human being as valuable in some way thereby elevating the needs of every individual to the same level.  Every human being has the potential to be something greater than the current societies allow them to be, whether that be due to their socio-economic status or level of physical, mental or emotional functioning, etc.  Every human being is special in some way.  Every human being can contribute to the species in some way if they are given the opportunity and the resources to do so.  No one is valueless.  No one is unnecessary.

If the human race looked at technological advancement and ecological challenges with a species-level approach, perhaps it would advance to a point at which wisdom becomes ingrained in decisions allowing wisdom to keep pace with its ever-advancing intellect.  Perhaps the human race would stop turning the planet it lives on into a toilet filled with chemical sludge and a toxic atmosphere in which each breath taken holds the potential for illness or death.  Perhaps the weapons and technologies of war could be put to better use in solving the over-population of the planet rather than culling whole portions of the most valuable resource – human beings.

Using a species-level system of thought, the human race might just be able to justify its existence to whatever entity runs the Universe.  It may never be perfect but the human race could be so much better than it is now.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

A letter to the Thurrock Gazette - Mental Health Services Are Doomed

I usually wait until the Thurrock Gazette either publishes my letter so I can include the usually edited version as a screen grab or, when they don’t publish it, the letter gets a viewing but this time I’m just posting it here now because the Thurrock Gazette haven’t been printing my letters and because Jackie Doyle-Price’s minions read my blog so it’ll get back to her one way or the other.

Jackie Doyle-Price has been made Minister for Care and Mental Health which means that mental health services are doomed given her attitude to people with mental health issues in the past.  It’s like hiring a paedophile to look after children – the worst thing you could do.

I arranged an appointment for JD-P to attend a MP Work Capability Assessment as part of a campaign by mental health organisations designed to show how unfit-for-purpose the WCA was for mental health sufferers.  She refused to attend.

I asked her to attend the debate on mental health in Parliament.  She didn't attend.

In neither case did she say that she had other work on that particular date.  She just didn't care (even though she had the option of rescheduling the MP WCA if the appointment coincided with something else she had to do).

Despite send her well-written, strongly worded but respectful letters, she decided to send me an Easy Read leaflet telling me what an MP does and highlighted what she thought were relevant sections that backed up her case for her inaction but, in fact, did the opposite.  I have mental health issues but I'm not stupid or have any learning difficulties so she obviously sent that leaflet as an attack on my intelligence, revealing her own discriminatory views on people with mental health problems and her own stupidity in the process.

As she now has responsibility for mental health services, the people who rely on them are screwed.

If it gets published I will post the screen grab here and will post any replies that I get from any other readers of the Thurrock Gazette.