How will the benefit cuts affect your children? | BabyCentre Blog


How will the benefit cuts affect your children? | BabyCentre Blog.

The cuts to family benefits and tax credits are a punitive measure against middle-income families which will not save a penny and only cause hundreds of families hardship.

We are on a single income of £35k (pre-tax) with a 3yr old, a 1yr old and another due in 5 wks. We were informed that not only will our tax credits will stop (forcing us to cut back £140 a month) but have been sent a letter saying we now owe them £577! I don’t work because we can’t afford child care and we both believe it’s our responsibility to care for our children ourselves.I don’t know how we are going to manage this unexpected bill but I would sincerely like to thump the money-grubber who decided that we are ‘undeserving’ despite the amount of NI and tax we paid prior to my giving up work to have a family. This is a stress I could really do without.

I have written to HMRC to question where they got that figure from.

Suspension of Critical Thinking, A+, & Why I’m Done with It.


Groupthink: thinking so dominated by the desire to maintain unanimity of thought in a group that critical thinking is suspended or rendered ineffective. (Chaplain, 2010, p.201)

Extrajection: attributing one’s own characteristics to another. (Chaplain, 2010, p.169)

Projection: 1. attributing one’s own traits, attitudes, or faults to others… 3. a prediction beyond the given data.  4. perceiving one’s personality traits, needs, desires, goals etc. in unstructured stimuli, such as ink blots… (Chaplain, 2010, p.358)

Psychological warfare: a general concept referring to all attempts to weaken the enemy’s ability to wage war by weakening their moral, with corresponding attempts to strengthen one’s own war potential. (Chaplain, 2010, p.366).

Groupthinking and extrajection…

In the last few months (and even years in some cases), I and others have been both witness to, and on the receiving end of all four of the above.  It seems a vast number of the Atheist movement are unable to exercise the same level of critical thinking that we demand from others or even mock people for apparent lack thereof.  This is not restricted to one side of the ‘A+?’ battle of wills, with one side declaring that what ‘A+’ is demanding (yes,demanding) already exists – humanism – and they do have a point, with some sneering before hearing them out, and the other side bull-headedly declaring that A+ stands for positive social justice and asserting that all who oppose or criticise them in any way are anti-social justice.  These assertions are rubbish.  For a start we only really have people’s online personas to go by.  We don’t really know any of the people we meet online.  We just have to trust, they are who they say they are and hope they’re not some cyber-stalking head-case.  So, that said, assuming we ‘know’ the politics of an individual that we meet, by sheer chance, based solely on a few comments made on a forum is utterly absurd.

This is where the groupthink has kicked in.  Anything less than 100% support to either side (in some cases) has become, to some, tantamount to an outright betrayal of  the ‘movement’ and condemnation of all ideas.  This is not the case as one can agree on principal with an idea and yet have qualms over the finer details.  The slightest criticism now results in slurs against characters, accusations of trolling,  and ‘questions’ about one’s moral integrity (you know, the same conduct that we condemn when we get it  from religious trolls that post on atheist threads). That’s one hell of an assumption to make about an acquaintance that you wouldn’t recognise in the street, and in most cases those making those assumptions and hurling labels around as epithets are the first to call people out when they are on the receiving end.

It is both naive and asinine to assume (or assert) that just being an atheist equates automatically to being ‘nice’.  It is equally naive to assert that those who choose not ascribe themselves to any particular cause or label are bigoted.  I have always had a humanistic outlook.  It’s how I was brought up.  I’m vocal about a number of issues about because I have neither the time or resources to apply that in a physical sense, but what I do is no less valuable an action than physically going out and ‘doing the work‘.  Many charities (such as http://responsiblecharity.org/ which I’ve been supporting Hemley on since day one) rely strongly on volunteers giving up their time to raise awareness in whatever ways they can, while other’s volunteer for the on site grafting.  Nor I do not think other humanitarian causes are less worthy of attention: I have merely had to narrow down what I do and others are free to follow their own causes: it’s not a competition.

I’m all for positive action to achieve REAL social equality but we cannot expect everyone to jump to and support every cause and project around especially if there is a ‘by fair means, or foul‘ clause attached to it.  THAT does not sit right with me.  It should be ‘by fair means, or not at all‘.   If we cannot do it honestly, then how are we fit to criticise other injustices? Just because an individual does not support our chosen project or cause, it does not mean they are lacking in empathy or necessarily ‘against’ us, or any number of negative connotations someone might dream up and hurl at someone else in order to defend their own position.  That is NOT debate.  That is NOT discussion. That IS browbeating and guilt tripping and those who engage in the practice should feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves.  Character is judged through action, and actions like that, I find sickening and I will not be a party to them.  Nor will I be tricked through, omission of information, into putting my name to a project which cannot live by its own standards of behaviour.  People will have their own reasons for joining in or not joining in: none of us are accountable to any but the laws of the lands we live in, and our own consciences. We give to charity and volunteer our time in other ways but must we therefore leap on the A+ bandwagon? No. It’s up to the individual and nobody has the right to guilt anyone else out of following their own conscience in favour of some hair-brained agenda or other.

When somebody disagrees with a course of action, or claim being made, it does not make them a libertarian or right-wing, or anything else: all it means is they disagree.

This is war psychology and it generally paired with projection as a result of group think, when other members cannot think of a valid counter-argument.  As we know, groupthink situations occur when there are a minority of critics/proponents of a course of action within a group situation and the majority is determined to either force, or not to allow, a change in either action or attitude.

Generally, on the online forum situations, it comes in the form of accusations of dishonest motives and projection undesirable traits such as aggression and other trolling behaviour, which weren’t actually there but were attached to the accusation in order to justify discounting any criticism.  It is used to attempt to discredit opponents and avoid giving an answer which might show the user of this tactic in a less than favourable light, rather than admitting that the criticism might actually be valid.  Other group members will chip in to argue the toss and try to bully any and all opposition (which is usually in the minority) round to their way of thinking by hurling labels around, and making negative assertions about their character.  When this fails the aggression is projected back on to the critic and they are threatened with banning (rather than just banning them) in an attempt to silence them and claim a virtual and public victory.  Any supporters of the minority voice are equally shouted down.

Suspension of Critical Thinking, Failure to Adhere to Equal Standards, & General Lack of Consideration for Others (when no longer convenient to need)…

It seems that the first project of A+ is in the planning stages: transcription of atheist podcasts and videos for the deaf and hard of hearing.  It’s a good idea.  My one concern when I first learned of this project, via Greta Christina’s blog, was that the producers of these videos and podcast would be consulted (a fair few in the atheist community are in strong disagreement with the A+ movement – or their conduct toward critics – and may understandably object to their work being tampered with by the off-shoot group).  I wanted to be sure, so I could make an informed decision before offering my assistance and then having to withdraw it after a disagreement, that if a video-blogger’s or podcaster’s decision was ‘no‘ then their wishes would be respected as they have a justified say over who does what to their work.   I did not suggest transcription should not be done. In fact, I repeatedly stated the that the project was a good idea.

My support for the idea was consistently ignored in favour of trying to shut me down with accusations of  ‘derailing‘, ‘dumping on a project‘, ‘being aggressive‘ (I was on the receiving end of the aggression btw), ‘sarcasm‘  (I’ll give them that one) etc.  Yes, I am sarcastic at times,  especially when pointing out such blatant hypocrisy.  Okay, it’s not a problem which has occurred yet, however I work on a philosophy that prevention is better than cure.  If you pre-empt potential problems and plan for their avoidance (like not deliberately circumventing people’s personal autonomy over their work, for instance), the problems are less likely to occur.  I can see their attitude of “we’re going to do this regardless of what anyone else thinks, and if a few people’s rights get trampled on, it’s for the ‘greater good’, so they and everyone else can stop whining” is going to cause them a great deal of problems.  I will say this, if the A+ers truly care about social justice as much as they claim to, then the protection of everyone’s rights should be paramount to their concerns: they don’t get to ignore inconvenient truths whenever it damn well suits them.

The people orchestrating the project seem to disagree with the importance of a private person’s authority over their work. They ‘won’t let the project be bullied like that’ (because producers objections to their work being co-opted without their prior knowledge or against their wishes is obviously ‘bullying’ behaviour, isn’t it. The same way objecting to having bogus religions (tautology, I know) down our throats is ‘persecution).  By that they mean they aren’t planning on giving people even the opportunity to refuse participation, but instead to just charge ahead regardless and impose it on people whether they like it or not. Besides any legal considerations, asking first is just a basic common courtesy that any of us would expect to be treated with. What is so heinous about asking for some simple good manners to be exercised? Do they cost anything? No. Do they hurt? Not the last time I checked.

They have decided that their project is for such a good cause that it trumps the rights of any objectors and that this web-page has given them a legal free-pass to transcribe the work of private individuals with or without their permission. Never mind that the site refers to in-video closed-captioning* (rather than full and separate transcription located elsewhere and out of their control) of commercially produced video media, and says nothing at all regarding podcasts or radio broadcasts. Add to this the fact that those, referred to in the article, who objected to the legislation were registered entertainment companies. They were not private individuals expressing their own views on blogs on the internet.

*Doesn’t YouTube already have an automatic in-video closed-caption function anyway?

Other Sources

Well said, Jen!


How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism | Blag Hag, is the latest post by FTB’s ‘Blag Hag’.  It is well-reasoned and clearly articulated.  I would like to write my own thoughts but have no wish to flood her comment thread with a lengthy answer.  I feel that would be rude of me.

Here goes.

Firstly, I am aware that many among us do not believe there to be an atheist movement, as such. That’s fine, but a lot of us do feel that our collective group has become such a movement (me being one of them) for real equality, and that should be acknowledged too.  I don’t pretend to represent anyone, nor do I assume that anyone is trying to represent me.  I use this blog as a place where I can say things as I see them.  If people want to listen or agree with me, that’s great.  If they don’t that’s also fine.  What none of us get to do is prescribe a set way of seeing things and then go about, shunning, ridiculing, harassing, belittling those who disagree with us.  Isn’t that something else ‘we’ claim to be against?

There are many issues requiring attention, none of us have the time, energy or inclination to follow all of them, but ‘we’ are not the only group who cares.  Nor should we by any means polarise ourselves into one-issue-activists, limiting ourselves to single causes, and turning an otherwise noble concern into some sort of bizarre competition.  It’s not productive and, as much as I hate to say this, it makes us all look ridiculous.  ‘We‘ fight hard against the idea that we are all petty, angry, amoral people, with no inclination or reason to think beyond ourselves and the issues that affect us directly as individuals. So why, within our own movement, can we not apply that same attitude?  When we criticise other groups for in-fighting and hypocrisy, can we not just take a non-rose-tinted look at our own collective behaviour?  It’s simply illogical to assume that we are immune to the same group dynamics as every other.

Not being the ‘all men are predators and therefore a threat‘ type of feminist has earned me a certain degree of contempt, as if I am somehow being half-arsed about it.  The sad fact is that the moment that women openly own the term ‘feminist‘ a they get a great deal of grief from both people within the ‘movement’ as well as from without.  My own creepy cyber-stalker (just as a for instance) is just the ‘one-issue only’ anti-feminist type mentioned in the linked post and above. It’s the reason he’s hounding me. He’s the sort that believes in the non-existent level ground, so it’s okay to hound women online, because he believes that’s what gender equality means. Women might well be more equal before the law than they were 30 years ago, but socially that equality is just a veneer hiding something very ugly and it’s not limited to the atheist movement, it’s everywhere.

If we are going to try to claim the moral high-ground in the ‘good behaviour stakes’, over the religious fanatics we stand up to as a ‘movement’, then we really need to clean up our own act (as that same movement) and stop trying to pretend that it’s not happening, stop attacking the people who speak out when it does, stop attacking the deniers because they are lucky enough not to have been through it and are in a privileged position so cannot empathise with those who have,  and actually sit down and have a reasonable discussion about what can be done without having a dig at rival bloggers at every given opportunity over a disagreement. It has been noted by members our ‘group’ that some of the most hateful and spiteful comments have come from bloggers complaining about said abuse, against even the most innocuous reply.

We should have realised by now that Atheism doesn’t automatically lead to humanism.  We keep saying that atheism says nothing about a person other than their lack of belief in god. Ayn Rand was an atheist, and still managed to be a hateful, selfish bitch. Why is it such shock, then when we find out that not everyone in our group is a nice, reasonable person?  It’s because we keep repeating to our selves ‘we’re better than them, we’re not like the (insert religious group)‘ as if that will magically erase what’s happening right under our noses.  Because what’s happening here in our own group, isn’t ‘as bad’ as the worst extremes we hear of in the news, it gets dismissed as somehow irrelevant and those who do complain get dismissed as overreacting whiners.  THAT IS NOT ON!  The ‘ignore it, they’ll go away‘ comments aren’t helpful or productive either, because of what is NOT happening.  What is not happening is bullies and stalkers – as well as the people who go along with them – being called out and exposed.  It puts all the responsibility on the person being targeted to be ‘the bigger person’.  It’s a couched ‘stop whining and go away‘.  It essentially lets bullies off scott-free while those they target are subjected to further dismissal, abuse and ridicule, and it ultimately empowers the bully to continue.

The general atmosphere of nastiness is not called for. And, as I said, yes I have been on the receiving end of it. Some of the deniers though (not all of them men), are in the privileged position of not having been on the receiving end and so, in their view, there is no problem to address. When your home address is published online by a rival blogger (totally disregarding your right to privacy), or you are receiving rape and death threats (nothing merits that) for objecting to a pathetic chat up attempt, a woman has every reason to be furious. If someone impersonates you in fake profiles, continuously emails you to gloat, starts blogs about how ugly you are and uses stolen photos of you, you have every right to be angry.  Blogging does invite comment but it is NOT, under any stretch of the imagination, granting ‘consent’ to harassment or to become a  punch-bag for verbal or other abuse, any more than my walking down the street or waiting for a bus or train ‘invites’ lude gestures, comments and cat calls from strangers.  That sort of thuggish behaviour is not a compliment, its sexual harassment and it’s very intimidating especially if I’m out with my two small children. If that had been something I had been subjected to at a workplace, I would be within my rights to complain and expect to be taken seriously, so why should any women have to ‘put up with it’ in the street or at events?  In an ideal world women wouldn’t have to deal with it at all and wouldn’t  have to keep reminding the world that we are people, regardless of where we happen to be at the time.

The hypocrisy is glaring, that if and when women behave (it does happen and its equally – not more – vulgar and unattractive) in the same appalling way (gestures and shouting across the street etc), social convention means that not only are the women and the behaviour denounced and decried from all quarters – especially in the male dominated tabloid press and popular media – but feminism and feminists automatically get the ‘blame’. Meanwhile, men behaving in such a way is STILL largely accepted (on a social level) ‘as ‘par for the course‘, or ‘just one of those things‘ and that we should just grin and bear it, and pass it off as ‘men being men‘. Or, in even worse cases, it is even cheered on as some applause-worthy display of masculinity.

Not all men are like that. My husband isn’t, nor are the men in my group of friends, family and loved ones. Am I to arrogantly assume that they and my male readers are somehow the exception to a rule? No, but nor are you responsible or accountable for the actions of your entire gender. All ‘we’ can do is call out shitty behaviour where and when it occurs, put the deniers (politely) in their place, because rudeness is not going to make ‘us’ any better than the perpetrators of the abuse we criticise, and try to police ourselves, as individuals, not to allow disagreements, which do happen, to descend into petty, tit-for-tat squabbles.  If the elevator issue of last year had been allowed to simmer down, maybe it would maybe have remained a slight overreaction (but it was no less alarming, considering  what her talk had been about) to an ill-considered chat up attempt.  It hasn’t been allowed to, and given the level of animosity toward women who call harassment out, and as people are STILL having a go at Ms Watson long after it should have gone to rest, yes, she has my sympathy and support.

The Danger of the Single Story.


We are all guilty of this.

Before I met my husband, the only information I had about the countries in Africa came from western literature and news reels which came only from the European perspective. Since then I have realised that not only is that literature unfairly damning of Zimbabwean capabilities, but the news is about the political situation is vastly exaggerated. Why that is, is a story for a different post but think about it: when is the last time you heard about something positive about Zimbabwe? I can only speak about what I know about it, and only had my incorrect impressions corrected through meeting people who lived there and by visiting there myself, but marrying a Zimbabwean born UK national, and a single visit does not an expert make.

I was talking earlier with my in-laws about how my husband’s step-mother assumes we are made of money and can afford to upsticks and visit her and my husband’s father and brothers in Zimbabwe (or Australia where my brother-in-law lives) whenever the fancy takes us, without any constraints on how much time my husband can take from work (regardless of how many times we have assured her otherwise). After watching this, I realise now that she is also the victim of only hearing one story: the story of the wealthy British, with all mod cons, money to spare and not a care in the world, outside our own four walls. On a visit to us several years ago, she was alarmed that our home was not as big as she had imagined them to be and when we visited her and my father-in-law I found out why but that is also another story and one which I am not comfortable discussing on this blog.

Next time your read a novel, or hear a negative news story, think about how it could have been presented from the other side, then again and again.  Don’t just take what they say at face value. Critical thinking is not only applicable to science (or history), it applies to every area of our lives but when all the evidence we find points in a single direction, we freethinkers are also vulnerable to falling prey to the single story.