Archive for February, 2008

It has often been said that violence on TV has translated to violence in real life. So do Bruce Willis, Nick Cage and The Simpson’s create real violence?
First of all, let’s look at the general outlook. I am not at all against the viewing ages set on most films and video games. They are a useful and more importantly, vital to keep some of the violent films out there from our younger viewers. For example, I wouldn’t dream of showing my 3 year old son Aliens or 300 (both of which rather graphic and violent films). That would be ridiculous (not to mention I wouldn’t get my sleep that night, as I’d be consoling him after each new nightmare). Age restricted products have kept some of the most violent and graphic items out of the hands of our littlen’s. However, what I am not sure of is if any of this virtual violence creates real violence. In the hands of younger viewers, yes, it may well do. But what about viewers that are slightly older? Furthermore, I am not using this as an excuse for any violence going on, that would be too easy.

Looking back, some of what could now be called classic television (such as all the original Walt Disney Films, Tom & Jerry and the Super Mario Brothers) was quite violent and graphic. I don’t think I can think of any Tom & Jerry episode where one of them wasn’t being hit, burnt, whacked, exploded, run over or drowned. But did that make me want to go out and do the same to an unsuspecting mouse or my poor Oliver (my cat). I am glad to say, no. I used to play Super Mario Brothers quite a bit on the Nintendo when I was younger. It didn’t make me want to go out and jump on any little mushrooms running about or on my mothers flower beds. And what about The Jungle Book? An absolute classic, with some of the most memorable songs still sung by many today (my son and I being two of them). But let’s admit, the scene where Shear Khan is attacking Mowgly is very violent. And what about the message it sends out to children about caring for babies? “Don’t wory about feeding the bub‘ today luv, just send it down the canal for the local badger set to look after and I’ll pick ‘im up on me’ way ‘ome from the t’ pub.” Does this mean I won’t be showing my son the Jungle book? In fact, it’s on his wish list for his birthday. Why? Because what’s important is the parenting that backs it up.

The reason I didn’t go out jumping on top of my mother’s flower bed after playing a couple rounds of Mario is because I understood it was just a game. Same with Tom & Jerry. It was a cartoon, and I knew that. I understood that the physics in this 4 minute clips were unrealistic. Furthermore, what would be gainned from shielding our little ones to the horrors of this life? Showing them mild violence and horror in their favourite televition programs set’s them up for the real world. This is why Walt Disney films had mild horror and violence. However, it’s every parent’s duty to make sure that their children understand this. It’s not just about violence, but every aspect of life. As a member of the Police force, I often see what children get up to unwatched by their parents. Now 90% of them are well behaved, and the next 5 % are just kids being kids (even I did some silly things as a kid). But there is always the few that let down the many. So to conclude, does the violence on our Television translate to violence on the streets? Who knows? It’s easy to sit behind a computer screen and spew a lot of babble, but it’s not so easy to police it. So the next time we blame violence on the TV for our next serial killer, let’s look back at the other factors behind in the killers’ life…


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Fate Vs. Karma

Many people say that fate and Karma are the same thing, that they both lead to destiny and that one won’t come without the other.  In many ways, this is true, but at the root of it, both fate and karma are different.Let’s look at the similarities first:  Fate is described by Wikipedia as “Fate is destiny, an inevitable course of events”, and describes karma “as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect“.  On the surface, these two explanations are very similar.  Fate is similar to destiny, whereby things happen for a reason.  Karma also means that things happen for a reason.  So are they the same?Simply put, no.  Fate puts our lives in the hands of a greater being, or a master plan of the universe.  A Buddhist would not see this as being possible.  To demonstrate my point, lets look at gravity.  Before Sir Issac Newton sat under that tree that (fateful) day, gravity was seen as the will of god.  God wanted us to be stuck to the ground, and that anything not on the ground was a miracle (who bought the olive branch to Noah to signify the floods had finished?).  Once Newton ‘wrote’ the law of gravity, it was no longer mystical, but Physics.  When we look back at it now, it seems pretty obvious.  The apple fell not because of divine intervention, but because gravity pulled the apple down.  Similarly, events do not happen just because of some divine plan, but because of karma.Karma is not just a theological subject, it, too, is Physics.  as stated above, it is the law of Cause and affect.  You throw a ball up, it will eventually come down and hit the ground.  This is not just obvious, it’s Physics.  Even if you don’t hold the Buddhist concept of rebirth, Karma still works, logically speaking.  We can see it in the smallest things we do, like throwing a ball in the air, to the biggest things, like putting in effort at school and getting good results.  This may seem obvious to the sceptic, but is still classed as Karma to a Buddhist.  To a Buddhist, Karma isn’t a retribution or evil law, it’s plain obvious.  If you slap your self around the face, it will hurt.  It’s not because some higher power wants to see you in pain, it because you slapped yourself!  Karma, like gravity, isn’t controlled by a higher power such as the Buddha, it is just there, in the background.  We can’t seeit, taste it, smell it, feel it, hear it or detect it by any other means, until it comes to fruition.  So although Fate and Karma seam to be brother and sister, just synonyms, but in reality, they are more like neighbours: living on the same street, but completely different families.

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Commend or Condemn

Yesterday, I was talking with one of our local firefighters.  We often pop in for a quick tea break, and just to catch up.  Our topic ranged from the mundane (such as the weather) to the interesting.  One thing we all agreed on, is that the general public have an irritating habit of condemning people for the easiest things.  For example, someone (understandably) would complain that no police officer went to see them after their house was burgled because all other units were tied up with other incidents.  The angry resident sets up a local campaign to demand more police on the street, eventually, the Police relent and make plans for more officers to be available.  When the contented resident opens his next council tax bill, he is furious that it has gone up by £30.

This is obviously a hypothetical incident, but I am sure it has happened in the past.  Another complaint I am most used to by now (as is any Police Officer, I’m sure) is the phenomenon where by a member of public stops you on the street to say

“I’ve been living here for the last fifty years, and I’ve NEVER seen a Policeman on the street!”

 Exaggeration, is one of the most basic human lies.  Who hasn’t said “I’m starving, I could eat a horse!”?  Of course this is just a manor of speech, but it is still a lie of some sort.  Who hasn’t ever shook our fist at the television when the Prime minister (or any MP for that fact) and said “That [blank] has done absolutely nothing for this country, a bucket of dirty water could do better!”  This may feel true at the time, but what about all the good things the government has done?  The same goes for any service we receive, whether it be the Police, Fire service, Ambulance crews, Bank clerks, Post Office, Waiters, and so on.  Every one is someone else’s servant (to some minor extent).  As a police Officer, I serve my community.  I also serve the Local and national government, and the Queen.

This blog has two major points: The use of rightful speech, and Universal Responsibility.  We all should be using right speech (particularly if we follow the word of the Buddha).  We are also all linked in the tiniest of ways.  I appreciate i have talked about this in the past, so I will try not to repeat my self too much.

One final plea, is that whenever we are receiving seamably bad service, we go back in our minds, and try to remember the last time that person or organisation did some thing good for us.  So when you’re next in the queue in the bank at lunch time, and there is only two people serving remember they are trying their best, and that in the past they, or the organisation they represent, did something good for you.  With any luck, by the time you reach the window, you’ll have a little empathy for them, and be a little softer on them.

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Who is really suffering?  Me, or some one with a excruciating terminal illness?My work allows my colleague and I to ponder on many things.  Most nights it will be whether we think so and so will manage to arrest such and such, or if a certain youth is going to become trouble or not, and more often than not gasp at the incredible stupidity of some human behaviour.  But every now and again, our topic of conversation turns a little more intellectual.  Such as the other night.
Whilst patrolling some of our quieter streets, we were talking about the incredible capacity of some of our animal companions, in this particular case, dogs.  I was explaining how one of my dogs had become a veritable Lassie and helped a couple of parents find a lost child, without any particular training.  This reminded my colleague of one of her dogs, who alerted someone that one of the horses had collapsed (and sadly, died).  It then came to my attention that the topic had changed to terminally ill animals, and had me wondering: if some one (or some animal) is terminally ill, and in extreme pain, would it be right to end their suffering?
I posed my colleague this moral dilemma: if a loved one (human or animal) was terminally ill/injured/crippled to the point where their life would be terrible suffering, would she consider euthanasia?  Her answer was simple, if it was a dog (or any kind of animal/pet) she would, if it were a loved one (mother, daughter, son) she wouldn’t.  Her reason?  It’s easier to be unattached to an animal/pet.  A living person is harder because the attachment is stronger.  I think it would be safe to assume that this is a view shared by many.  Pets and animals are loved, but not in the same way as a child or parent.  Because they are not blood related, it is easier to detach ourselves when the time comes.  Another consideration is the responsibility we have over our pets.  Most owners have a feeling of responsibility toward their animal charges for everything from health care to lodging (I am not counting people who abuse their pets because they are “dumb animals” of course).  This sense of care for the animals’ well-being is exhibited if we have to make tough decisions on their behalf.  This responsibility is taken away, however,  with a human because they have the ability to make their own decisions (most of the time), and therefore our responsibility for their care is diminished (but not gone).
From a Buddhist point of view, this discussion is finished before it even started.  Killing of any kind is undesirable, what ever the motivation.  If our reason for killing someone was to “put them out of their misery”, it would be a misguided motivation.  The Buddha’s first teaching was that of the Four Noble Truths.  In this, he explained that all life is suffering.  In a sense, I am suffering now, writing this (although I do enjoy writing for you, dear reader).  Therefore, if I was to kill some one because I believed it would alleviate their suffering, I would, with this reasoning, have to kill myself because we are all suffering.  One kind of suffering is no different from any other, except for the manner in which we suffer.  Our lives are propelled by Karma, good and bad, which determines our current and future lives.  We will all be suffering until we reach nirvana.  This is the reason we try and escapeSamsara, by attaining enlightenment.Please understand, I am neither for or against euthanasia, and I am not judging anyone who does, as it is not an easy decision to come to.  These are only by personal opinions from what I believe would be a Buddhist perspective.

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As written in my last post, I’m reading a book by Pease and Pease.  The latest chapter talked about why we lie, and the form of lies we tell.  And it made me think: Is it possible NOT to lie?Baring in mind that one of the precepts I am (trying) to follow, lying is one of things I should be avoiding.  And as far as I’m concerned, I have been.  Until the book illuminated another type of lie I hadn’t thought about.  For example, when we are given a gift that we don’t like/need, we should smile, say thank you and not say anything… Right? well, that would be good manners, yes, but it would also be lying.  Our children are often given mixed views on this.  They are severely scolded for lying, but should the above senario happen and they answered with the truthful answer (in fear of being chastised again for lying), they are immediately shouted at, told to say sorry and even thank the person for their lovely present.  So in essence, they can’t win.  They are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.  So what is the right answer?  I think depending on who the giver is, you could thank them for the gift, but explain that it really wouldn’t work/suit/need it, and ask if it is possible to return it in exchange for something more useful (at least that worked for me last Christmas).Strangely enough, this topic of conversation came up this afternoon.  My Father-in-law and my son were playing with some cards on the table.  My Father-in-law gave him a compliment like “Oh, you’re getting better at this, aren’t you?” to which my son replied (without hesitation) “Yep!”.  This made me laugh, thinking there was no modesty there, but then thinking about it, he would be lying if he was modest.  If someone is good at something, they should say they are (without crossing the line into bragging).There is several types of lies to consider.  There is the:

  1. The White Lie: something said to “keep the peace” between friends, loved ones and strangers, to stop any emotional discomfort, like saying thank you for the present we really don’t like.
  2. The Beneficial Lie: A lie told by someone in an attempt to help others, like a doctor prescribing a placebo.
  3. The Deceptive Lie: One used by some who is trying to benefit from the lie, like lying to the Police officer who pulled you over for swerving all over the road (a falsification), or when you hear that some one is going to cheat in an exam and withhold it from the examiner (a concealment).
  4. The Malicious Lie: something said to intentionally hurt feelings, or to gain the upper hand (like a Daughter shouting that she wishes her parents were dead during a heated argument).

The last two types are obviously the worst kind of lie and should be avoided at all costs.  But from a Buddhist point of view, would it be ok to tell the first two.  Some hardliners may say that you shouldn’t tell any lies, or suffer the Karmic consequences.  But is this really possible?  A good point was raised by a comment left on another post by a reader that I’d like to reproduce here:

“A house is on fire with the children inside. The father lures them out with promises of candy.”  (dougrogers)

If asked if this kind of a lie was wrong, I’d have to say no immediately, think of the consequences of not acting.  But what is the difference between this lie and a daughter wishing her parents were dead, as in the above example?  It is the intention that brings about Karmic retribution (in my eyes).  If I were to not lie, and the children stuck inside the burning house died, what then? Yes I could say that I wouldn’t get bad Karma because I didn’t lie, but would that bring the children back?  Similarly, should the parents of the girl who’d wished them dead (out of anger) had a horrific accident, how would the girl feel?  I think that it is always wise to be mindful of our intentions when we lie.  If they are not a 100% selfless, we could reap the negative Karma.However, is it possible to be a 100% selfless? That is a different topic…

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Firstly I apologise for my lack of presence, I have been working hard recently and been very tired on my days off.  Not that that is an excuse, but there it is…Whilst on my break, and to try and turn off from the constant blurt of our personal radios, I have been reading a book which I was bought nearly a year ago and has been sitting on my shelf waiting to be read.  It is (or rather was) the latest book in a series of books by husband and wife team Barbara & Allan Pease called “Why men don’t have a clue and Women always need more shoes”.  They have been helping people understand the opposite sex for nearly as long as I’ve been around, and have done an excellent job.  I could go on to explain when I first read their books, why they are such bestsellers, and why they make the topics so easy to understand, but this isn’t a book review (although it’s not a bad idea… watch this space?).  What I will say, is that they explain why men and women are so different and help resolve possible relationship breakers.  I recently read a statement that made me re-read again and again.  They were talking about men making jokes on serious events like, for example, 9/11 (you’d have to read the book to understand), but what they said was:

“We don’t choose to be offended… …Choosing offence is a negative choice, like shame, embarrassment or hurt.  These choices may show others that you have low self-esteem, aren’t in control of you own emotions or are not prepared to face a situation”

It then suddenly struck me that whenever we have a negative emotion, say for example anger, we have chosento be insulted, even if it is a unconscious choice.  It then reminded me of another book I read about Buddhism (surprise, surprise) saying that the unconscious or ego will stop at nothing to stop you from attaining enlightenment.  For example, when we have a brief moment of free thinking, our ego will make up some kind of situation to keep us ‘entertained’.  I have have often caught myself thinking up of situations where I star as the hero, catching a thief or burglar.  It’s one of the ego’s ‘tricks’ to keep us in a dream world and flatter us.  However, I digress.  If we choose to become insulted in someones joke, behaviour, or actions, we are just adding to our stress.  If we try and take an objective look at the joke, we may even find the funny side of it.  If we don’t, then we can just not laugh.  It’s that simple!  it bowled me over as to how simple this was.  I have been trying it out for the last week, and I can confidently say it works… more or less.  Let’s face it, I’m (we’re) only human.  I’m not saying this always works, especially in a full blown rage of anger (my son has certainly proved that several times over the last couple of days), but once I no longer see red, I re-evaluate what I was angry about, and it seems an over reaction.I hope you choose to take this approach too, and let me know if it works… it would be interesting to see if it has worked on others.  Good luck, and more post to follow, I swear.

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