Corporations are suing our governments and institutions over the pesticide ban. We must act in defiance

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Pixabay: mariananbu

When it comes to evil corporations, Bayer is near the very top of the list. In the 1980s, it was directly involved in the deaths of literally thousands of people by knowingly selling HIV-contaminated haemophilia medication to an estimated 10,000 people in the US as a cost-cutting technique, many of whom later died from AIDS. As recently as 2019, it settled (without admission of liability) to pay out three-quarters of a billion dollars because it had been marketing a drug which it knew could cause fatal internal bleeding and hadn’t told anybody about it. And its product Roundup, the most widely-used herbicide in the United States, is possibly carcinogenic to humans; the jury is still very much out. …


Thoughts on trauma, social constructionism, and confusion

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Pixabay: skeeze

What do you think of when you think of post-traumatic stress disorder? Perhaps images pop into your head of Vietnam War veterans returning home and being offered no support by their government, suffering until silence around the war was broken many years after the fact. Or perhaps you think of the First World War’s name for it, shell shock, and how misunderstood it was and remains today. You might think of how horrific war must be to able to cause, according to some estimates, the suicides of 50,000 to 100,000 Vietnam War veterans — far more than the number of Americans who died during the conflict. (Other estimates sit at around 9,000, still an insanely high number.) …


It wasn’t for the health benefits or because I ‘know I should’

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PixabayArmitas

Bernard Black, in perhaps one of the most famous scenes of Black Books, said of smoking lots of fags and drinking lots of wine:

Well to be honest, after years of smoking and drinking, you do sometimes look at yourself and think — you know, just sometimes in between the first cigarette with coffee in the morning to that four-hundredth glass of cornershop piss at 3am — you do sometimes look at yourself and think… this is fantastic. I’m in heaven.

It sums up how I feel about smoking and drinking pretty nicely, even though I am fully aware of how bad smoking is for my physical and drink for my emotional health. The good thing about my own health is that it’s my choice whether I ruin it or not. And that’s why I would never quit smoking for those reasons — because I don’t have any responsibility to anyone but myself, and the joy I get from drinking and smoking far outweighs the guilt I feel for the state of my lungs and liver; and anyway, I can just do a bit of exercise and watch some Scrubs and I don’t feel depressed any more. …


Thinking too much has a bad rep, but for a writer it’s as useful as reading

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Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’. Photo: 139904/Pixabay/Pixabay licence

Brooding is one of the unhealthiest things we humans do. Well, maybe that’s an overstatement, considering war, rape, Viktor Orbán and chain smoking — but it certainly isn’t good for you. It’s not only a symptom but also a cause of both depression and anxiety. It can lead people to self-medicate with, for example, alcohol, or to binge-eat to deal with negative thoughts. It’s one of six things Steve Ilardi’s TLC programme recommends needs to be overcome in order to beat depression, and his is perhaps the most successful programme of its kind. …


There’s no shame in having met your long-term partner on a dating app any more

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Pixabay amrothman

My nan and granddad, may they rest in peace, had a traditionally romantic love story. Nana, ever the working class hero, was waiting tables in a little cafe in West London. Pops, then a teacher at a local public school, spotted her one day and for months ordered his lunch there while hiding behind his paper, spying on her (in a way that, if told correctly, could lend this story a more stalker-like quality than a romantic one). Finally, he mustered up the guts to ask her out after a perpetuity — and she turned him down. And yet, as was the wont of young men of a certain generation, he didn’t give up, returning regularly to the cafe and asking her out, presumably taking her way to be indicative of success, even if her words weren’t. …


If you want to see reality in multi-camera format, you have to come back across the pond to the UK

*SPOILER WARNING FOR JUST ABOUT EVERY SITCOM EVER*

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The stars of Three’s Company. Pixabay: 272447

Perhaps there’s something to be said about the old trite maxim (double tautology noted) that Americans are positive go-getters and the Brits grumpy fuddy-duddies. We don’t like generalising at the best of times, but when you compare Scrubs to Black Books or Brooklyn Nine-Nine to The Inbetweeners or New Girl to Peep Show it does seem to be rather true: Americans love a happy ending, and us Brits? We just want to see people who are as miserable as we are.

But why is this the case? Can it really be true that the American public yearns for escapism so badly they don’t want to see their own lives reflected on the screen, and the British hate themselves so much that’s all they want to see? Or is it more that Americans find pleasure in other people’s joy, and the British in the pain of someone you might pass by on the street? Stephen Fry said it rather nicely (as if he ever says anything badly): the ‘life is improvable’ mindset of Americans (personified in the American comic hero) stems from the country’s Protestantism, in which one is constantly attempting to be better and get closer to God. This feeling survives in the still-ultra-religious USA of today, which also just so happens to be the world’s foremost superpower. The British comic hero, in contrast, is beset on all sides by the failure and embarrassment of his country and, by extension…


The poorest will suffer most for a problem the rich are failing to solve

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PixabayFree-Photos

Whoever told you everyone is responsible for the climate crisis obviously doesn’t read the news. Companies burning down the Amazon for their palm oil; almond growers massacring bees to make their milk; Bayer spreading biodiversity-killing herbicides and poisoning rivers. The list of multinational corporations that don’t give a toss about the environment seems endless, and recent statistics suggest over 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions can be sourced to just 100 different companies.

Why is the onus on us, then, to change our lifestyles? We are the ones berated for not switching off our lights, for using plastic bags, for turning the water off while we’re brushing our teeth. …


Being intelligent is hard work and the payoff isn’t always worth it

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PixabayPexels

So you’ve just done something really stupid. No, like, really, brain-numbingly idiotic. Something like dropped your keys down the drain because you were carrying too much stuff. Or not taken your hat out with you out of stubbornness about having to carry it around, only to find out it’s arse-cold. Or voted to leave the European Union and started believing it makes a difference that your partner’s a Virgo and you’re a Pisces.

But the thing is, you’ve got a Master’s degree in Communications, you’ve just been promoted at a cool little startup on the outskirts of the city which is trying to make the insurance game more environmentally friendly, and you spend your evenings learning about nice new gluten-free vegan recipes you can cook while listening to non-fiction audiobooks. …


Businesses need to fundamentally change the ways they operate, and soon.

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PexelsNegative Space

When browsing articles that discuss building an ethical business model, they often point to the same thing to focus on improving: company culture. Ethical business owners should tell their employees exactly what they expect, and enforce their policies with strict reprimands if someone steps out of line. Make sure as a CEO or founder, you abide by the ethical standards you set. Be honest, be transparent, have integrity. Refine an internal reporting system so that whistleblowers’ identities are protected and those who suffered from an ethical breach are swiftly helped. …


Sometimes a tiny event can push your life in an unexpected direction

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Photo by Serhat Beyazkaya on Unsplash

I once sold a suit to a woman’s son while I was working at Marks & Spencer. From what I remember he was applying to join the military, and needed to look good for his interview; where I was living at the time is full of British Armed Forces bases. While he was trying on his chic new suit, I got chatting to his mother, who astutely observed that I was probably only working at M&S temporarily while I figured out what I was doing with my life. …

About

James Matthew Alston

Peter Hitchens once told me I have no sense of humour. Twitter/Insta: @JamesMAlston Bookstagram: @thebibliographer

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