Recently there was a story about a gentleman named Paul Marshallsea from Wales who was 'caught' wrestling a shark while in Australia that was near to attacking kids in the sea. That's not the interesting part about this story for people like us, however. You see Paul was in Australia, apparently staying with friends, because he and his wife had been advised to take a break for health reasons. Paul had been working running a youth centre for many years prior to the involvement of the private sector and a boss culture that had led him to physical sickness due to stress. That he happened to be on the beach when a shark was spotted while on sabbatical is irrelevant.
Unfortunately Paul's mistake was claiming ESA while away. He's paid into the system, so why shouldn't he. Upon his return, and having heard about his herculean sea-bound exploits, his new bosses decided that he wasn't genuinely off sick, but was larking about under the sun, despite the advice of his doctor. His services were, predictably, no longer required.
This story made the news, for obvious reasons. I heard about it on radio 2 when Jeremy Vine, an increasingly shrill man with no patience for facts, figures or for giving interviewees time to properly tell their story. Paul was talking to J-Vi and explaining the situation. He was also followed by a psychotherapist who spoke of her utter incredulity at the decision and that undertaking physical activity shouldn't preclude stress. Besides he was on holiday to get well, so why would it be uncharacteristic that he should therefore get better while on holiday? Isn't that a bit like saying that, because someone has a plastercast on their foot, that there's nothing wrong with it?
What was really sad about the whole interview was the predictable audience reaction. However the level of nastiness from the judgemental curtain twitchers that bothered to text and email their 'thoughts' was nothing short of appalling. Who takes pleasure in calling for the dismissal of someone from their job? Who would want this man who, upon returning home, was eager to get back to work? Do they want him to be a burden on the state.
A couple of days later, on the same show, J-Vi had what I can only describe as one of the most bizarre guests. Former Tory Mike Buchanan (no, I've never heard of him either) has set up a political party under the tired misapprehension that men and boys (his party is called, rather eerily, Justice for Men and Boys!) are now the losers in post-feminist Britain.
I don't think I've ever heard such a vacuous load of misinformed rubbish in my life. It blows my mind that people actually think this, in an age of lads mags, sexualisation and misogyny and chauvinism. Men are still dominant in society and people still think women should be seen and not heard - preferably with their knockers out on page three in some cases.
Again there were plenty of people calling in to agree with this clown. Plenty of people brainwashed by the tired reactionary media that they, as white men, are the oppressed minority. If it's not women coming to stop them from doing whatever they want (which is to say selling Keep Calm and Rape Her T Shirts, looking at page 3, or generally being sad misogynists), it's foreigners, muslims and gays, probably.
Something has gone terribly wrong in this society and it's the media that's to blame. Once upon a time it was easier to ignore the machinery of the likes of Murdoch and the print media. Nowadays these people not only own the print media, despite it's apparently parlous state, but they have 24 hour rolling news channels. They are ubiquitous and they are courted by those willing to sell their principles to sell these repugnant values for a sniff of power and some cash. Whether it's the tedious arrogance of Dickensian businessmen like Farage, or Prime Ministers from Eton, the message is the same: be afraid, they're out to ruin your life. Doesn't matter if it's people fighting for their rights or actual terrorists. The media plays you against yourself as it does you against everyone else.