Sunday, 1 February 2015

Time to drop the labels - WE ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS

Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Do you know what? I should always go with my instincts. I wrote Beyond the Past as a romance then changed it half way through to a mystery then it was classed as a crime book, well actually romance/crime. I should have gone with my gut and classed it as a romance but you live and learn. I fell into the trap of listening to people who I thought were ‘experts’ in the book world. I’m not arrogant enough to think I know everything but I should trust my instincts.

This got me to thinking – AGAIN.

I hate genres, labels, categories or segregation. I’m sorry if that offends people in the world but I do. We are our own worst enemies. Who set the boundaries in the first place? Who said one particular book should be this way or that way and crime shouldn’t have romance in and romance shouldn’t have crime or mystery in? I must not have got that memo.

Why is it we are so obsessed with labelling everything? Not just books but people too. One thing that really drives me insane is, if we are an equal opportunity society, why do we ask for people’s religion, race and sexuality on forms? Surely by doing this you are immediately segregating people! If all is equal then it doesn’t matter. 

We need to stop trying to put everything in neat little boxes and labelling them. The books I write I want people to enjoy. I can honestly say I didn’t give the genre too much thought with this first book, I wish I had but when you don’t think labels are ‘the norm’ you don’t put them at the top of your priority list. However it is an extremely useful lesson I have learned and thank the reviewers for pointing it out. I will think carefully about the categories of my future books.

Over the years I believe we have become so set in being trained that everything has to belong to a certain group or they are out casts to society – ironically, another label! Just think about this for a moment. From the minute we are born we are labelled, through school - labelled, in work - labelled and even in death! 

When people talk to me about how society should be I politely ask them to explain to me ‘the norm’. Why do we constantly measure ourselves up against this ‘norm’. Why are we told to conform to the ‘norm’? Nothing good EVER comes out of trying to compare one person’s life with another. For example, I don’t drink, the money I have is spent on my children and I resent going out spending £80+ on one night out. On the other hand I have friends who moan if they are stuck in on a Saturday night with their children. Which is the norm? In my view neither of us are wrong, we are just different. We should celebrate difference not run in the opposite direction or throw insults or demean people just because they don’t follow the same path as ourselves. We should embrace that people choose different paths and that doesn’t make them wrong. 

I am a strong believer that books, people, attitudes, behaviour cannot be labelled and that the ‘norm’ does not exist. For example, it is the ‘norm’ for some people to criticise, berate and ridicule people yet in our house it is the 'norm' to be supportive of all in whatever field they choose. Likewise, in our house we don’t believe we have more rights because of the colour of our skin or because generations of our family were born here in Leeds.  Whenever I hear the media use the phrase ‘third generation Muslim’ it makes me so cross. Someone born in England is English, THAT simple. Their religion is IRRELEVANT. Likewise the label ‘single parent’ which is used in a demeaning manner in the world. Why? By the very definition it means the parent has taken responsibility for their child, not abandoned them. Surely the criticism should be pointed to the non-existent parent? The one that abandoned their responsibility. As a human race we are so quick to pass judgement without looking at the real issues or circumstances and that leads to inequality and prejudice.

This is my point. As a human race we allow labelling, segregation, stereo typing. Out of that comes prejudice, followed by some with hatred. I really don’t think we have learned much from the atrocities of seventy years ago. Until such time as we accept we are wrong in attaching labels we will never be in a position to tackle prejudice, racism and radicalism. In my opinion, political correctness, along with injustice and fear of being able to speak openly have contributed to prejudice, bigotry and racism. They are not the sole causes but they have contributed to it. The only way to eradicate these from society is being able to openly discuss and debate the issues. It is a human race, global issue NOT separated by borders, language, race or religion. 

I was watching Sky News this week as I often do when I am writing – usually as background noise. The ordination of Libby Lane was on in the background. I counted in the space of three minutes the reporter mentioned the world ‘female’ sixteen times!! Now here is where I have the issue. For equality to stand, we need to stop using words like female or male as description. Libby Lane is a Bishop. She’s worked hard, made lots of sacrifices in her life to get where she is but NEWSFLASH – ALL BISHOPS do regardless of their gender!! She will never be known as the Bishop who gave her all for her faith but as the first FEMALE Bishop! LABELS!

Politicians argue religion causes wars. It is not the religion that causes the war but the intolerance of some to accept other peoples’ beliefs AND the actions of some to IMPOSE their beliefs on others rather than accepting difference. Politicians have a responsibility in all that is wrong in the world too as we all do.

In order to stop sexism, racism, homophobia and all that is holding us back as a human race, we first have to make a conscious effort to drop the language. Then take positive action to recognise people as people not as LABELS, educate our young on this basis and then, only then we may start to redress the inequalities and prejudice.

Prejudice and inequalities are often based on ignorance and what we are told to believe. I will never forget the image of a child of no more than six (maybe younger) throwing a Molotov cocktail at the police in Northern Ireland. When a reporter asked him why, he looked at him with total disbelief and said ‘because they are scum.’ Or the picture of a very young football fan with his middle finger stuck up pointing at the opposition supporters. Who teaches them? They aren’t born with this deep rooted hatred.

Education and open debate are the way forward. Let our children debate ISIS and their beliefs, however uncomfortable we feel. Let our children debate racism and prejudice because if we don’t, there is a real danger they will believe all the hype and rubbish that is written in the media and online and fear breeds prejudice. It is time we took control of this. I made the conscious effort as a parent to openly discuss these issues with my children. Wes is studying Nazi Germany and the Holocaust in his ‘A’ level History and it has been a real eye opener for him, as it was for me when I studied it. Knowledge is power and most governments are happy with an apathetic electorate that believe everything that his spoon fed to them. We are all responsible for challenging government policy and trying to change the world and not just by voting on election day. I also feel it is my responsibility as a parent to arm my children with the knowledge to combat prejudice and inequality.

Having said all this, I do have to say I was very close to quitting this week. Life is an uphill struggle for all of us and not made any easier by prejudice, circumstance and all the other things that are thrown at us. I have had to do a lot of soul searching to decide whether this life I am trying to forge is worth the criticism and the sheer brutality of some people. However, the boys need me AND why should I give up trying to change my career just because people have a different idea of what is the ‘norm’. I am not giving up because the world is against me, or so it seems sometimes. I will continue to educate my boys to be tolerant, embrace difference, diversity, fight for truth and justice and above all have respect for all human beings including themselves. Just imagine the sort of world we would be leaving behind if we all did this for our children. This is how I hope my children see their fellow human beings:

Never underestimate the power of knowledge and books. I take for granted the freedom I have to choose the books I read and the education I have had and my children are having. I want to contribute to changing the world, as an author, a mother but most of all as a human being.

Personal Goal

This week, I am working on a small, personal project and have an open day at a local university for a possible Phd study. Watch this space...

Back to the books


I took a break this week from writing because I had a real crisis of confidence. I am glad to say I am back and will be writing lots and lots this week.

I hope everyone has their best week EVER. It's a new month, so make it count.

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