Our common humanity: are there limits to empathy?

The idea that we can be empathic rests, it seems to me, on the assumption that between us and those with whom we would have empathy there is a commonality of experience, at least in potential. I have never been starving, but I could be. I have been hungry, and I can, albeit only imaginatively, catch a glimpse of what it might be like to be hungry not just as an exception, but as a normality. There is some true sense in which I can empathise with those in that predicament, even though I have no direct experience of it. There is no fracture in the continuity of our common humanity that flows from my lack of experience of starvation and others’ only-too-real experience of it. And it is from this ability to empathise that the response of sympathy can develop. It’s of course by no means inevitable that sympathy with others will develop, and callousness and lack of will may well hijack the empathy that existed, and indeed the honest truth is that this is, for most of us, the most frequent outcome. But this is a moral failure, rather than an inevitable consequence of some kind of tear in the weft of our commonality as human beings.

As in starvation, so in the vast majority of human experience. From the commonplace to the extreme, most of us can enter into the feelings of others even where the circumstances that divide us are poles apart. I’ve never been in a serious car-crash; been on a battlefield; been blown up by a terrorist bomb; had startling good looks; been arrested; gone blind; been on X-Factor; split my trousers in public; nor indeed undergone any but a tiny fraction of all the possible experiences that there are to be had in this world. And yet, none of these dividing lines of experience truly divide me from my fellows. I can put myself in the shoes of those who have experienced these things – with greater or lesser success, I don’t doubt – but I have no sense of alienation because they’ve experienced them and I haven’t.

But there are some experiences that defeat my efforts at empathy completely. For example, I was reading this article about the difficulties of a trans-gender woman and found myself simply unable to connect. This is not about incomprehension. It’s not about lack of interest or care. It is purely about not having a clue what it might be like to have the feelings that this woman had when she was a man. And this is not restricted to situations in which one might want to be able to empathise. Today I also read about the sentencing of a paedophile and was struck by the similarity in the disconnect I felt in both these cases. I’ve had a similar thought before when reading about rapists; this inability, even via the imagination, to think what it might be like to be inside those experiences and behaviours. I’ve sometimes thought that perhaps this is not a qualitative, but only a quantitative, distinction. That there is, if you will, a continuous spectrum from the experiences I have had, to those such as these that I haven’t, and that this is merely my failure to imagine myself far enough along the spectrum. But the more I think about this, the less true that seems to me to be. There are loads of examples, even of extreme things, which I am quite able to think myself into. I have never, and I hope I never will, get so angry with someone that I physically attack them, even kill them. But I can quite easily put myself in such a situation imaginatively. Murder does not of itself cause a gulf between me and murderers. But lurking in some bushes, waiting for a lone woman to walk past, and then attacking and raping her – I simply don’t know where to begin in thinking about the state of mind required to perpetrate such a thing. Of course, such a scenario is not the one that exists in the majority of rape cases, so perhaps my lack of ability to empathise with rapists is not universal, but it certainly applies to random, stranger rape.

So what, you might wonder. So an awful lot, I think. Whenever I feel this disjuncture of empathy, this crack in the continuum of my ability to enter into the experience of another, good or bad, I hear an associated cacophony of alarm bells in my head. Because in this moment of disconnect arises the possibility of callous disregard. It is the opportunity for talk of monsters, of freaks, of perverts, of otherness. It is an opportunity we need steadfastly to pass up.


Can’t buy me love: is well-being more important than having lots of money?

The Prime Minister must at least be given credit for pursuing an idea that he has long espoused, but which might be politically very inconvenient just as the austerity medicine starts to bite. Because David Cameron wants to measure things other than wealth when trying to establish the effects of government social and economic policy on people’s perception of their overall sense of whether or not they feel that their lives are improving.

The urge to cynicism and ridicule is hard to resist. Mr Cameron might be seen to be trying to “spread a little happiness” as Vivian Ellis’ old song sentimentally put it. Whilst imposing a severe dose of real hardship, his government is suddenly getting all cuddly and fuzzy, trying to distract attention from harsh reality onto the Disneyfication of vague feel-good factors and subjective perception rather than hard statistical reality. And whilst we’re all busy gazing at our navels and wondering if we’re happy or not with our lot in life, the rich can go on getting richer untroubled by concerns about justice. But no matter, because money doesn’t buy happiness any more than it buys love, and so it’s not that our relative poverty makes us unhappy, it’s that our envy destroys our sense of contentment. Stop looking at social inequality because that leads to dissatisfaction, and envy’s a sin anyway.

Actually, that’s not all cynicism, and there is a real element of the ridiculous in these notions of well-being and happiness. However, there’s more to it than that. Just because it would be possible to try and measure happiness in ways that are either ridiculous or distracting, all that tells us is that we should avoid those methods. It doesn’t mean that the idea itself is ridiculous. The fact that the Office of National Statistics has been charged with establishing a methodology, and that in so doing they are looking at international work on such measurements, should give us comfort. The ONS is not known for being either frivolous or ridiculous.

So, is there a legitimate purpose in trying to go beyond wealth in keeping track of social progress? I think the answer is yes, but with some serious qualifications. It is undeniably a true and real fact of human life that money, and the purchasing power it brings, is not the only determinant of how satisfied with our lives we feel. Whether it’s rehearsing the cliché that the best things in life are free, or our deep inner knowledge that things and stuff are not all there is to life, we know that feeling loved, supported, validated, having a sense of purpose in life, a feeling that we are making a contribution to the totality of human happiness – these things are more important to us than money alone. And, I might venture further, if they’re not, they should be.

And the qualifications? Well, take this business of the best things in life being free. Actually, they’re not. None of them. When I recently strolled along the valley of Dovedale in the Peak District, it re-energised my soul and made me feel good to be alive. It’s the kind of experience that is probably generally put in the free best things category. That would be a taxonomic error, and a big one. Quite apart from obvious matters such as if I didn’t have enough money to buy a car and put diesel into it then I would never have been there in the first place, there’s also the fact that in that particular case a lot of the beauty of the area is down to hill farming which is necessarily publicly subsidised otherwise it would disappear, and the landscape that we currently know and love would disappear along with it.

Even more important is the fact that concentrating on how happy or unhappy, fulfilled or unfulfilled, we feel with our individual lives must not be allowed to obscure how wider society impinges on us, even it doesn’t affect our own individual ability to make choices, or establish our personal sense of well-being. For example, I do not subscribe to the notion that concern about the gap between rich and poor, irrespective our our personal perch within the spectrum of wealth, constitutes the politics of envy. On the contrary, it constitutes the politics of outrage, for which I make no apology whatsoever. As long as the ONS methodology provides room for me to express how my personal sense of well-being is undermined by my unwilling participation in a society in which such extremes of poverty and plutocracy can continue to co-exist, and be permitted to get worse, then it has my qualified support. Otherwise it will be an affront to everything I hold dear, and that will not make me happy.

Is security of tenure the enemy of justice?

Earlier in the year, David Cameron did a bit of “thinking aloud” on social housing and set the cat among the pigeons by questioning the security of tenure that social housing tenants currently enjoy. Using the kind of populist rhetoric that the coalition has become so adept at, Cameron’s idea was couched in terms of “fairness”, and security of tenure was recast as “homes for life”. It’s a clever technique. Ask Mr and Mrs Bloggs if they think we should make tenure less secure, they will probably say no. But ask them if it’s fair for people to be given a home for life at the taxpayer’s expense, and they’ll almost certainly say no to that as well. Today, Grant Shapps was airing his boss’s ideas once again, and putting a bit of flesh on the bones. New social tenancies are to be offered for an initial 2-year period, after which time an assessment is to be undertaken by their landlord to see if their circumstances after the two years would still qualify them for social housing. If not, they’ll be given 6 months to find other accommodation.

When the Prime Minister first floated his ideas on tenure, I cautioned against a knee-jerk response from the left, or from the champions and bureaucrats of social housing generally. The housing crisis in England is so severe, and its problems so intractable, that just going ahead with business as usual is no more socially responsible, or self-evidently morally superior, than the loosening of security of tenure. In that previous post, I argued that one of the most fundamental problems with housing in this country is that the private market of home ownership, and the publicly-funded market of social housing operate on different financial planets, and that the flow between them is virtually non-existent. Measures such as the right-to-buy and intermediate products such as the various flavours of shared-ownership have had marginal consequences at best in terms of increasing this flow between public and private housing.

I won’t repeat my argument for imposing a steeply tapered capital gains tax on the excessive and socially divisive profits that accrue from home ownership. I maintain that something along these lines is necessary if we are at all serious about making housing in this country operate as a single multi-tiered market in which the public and private sectors play complementary roles, and in which movement between them is possible. Until something is done to tackle house prices, we will continue to maintain a sharp division in our society between the housing haves and have-nots. Not that that’s the only miserable consequence. The whole financial crisis which continues to buffet us via austerity budgets and banking bail-outs is intimately connected with the South-Sea bubble in housing that we have conspired to create with our fetish for home ownership and our love affair with this one specific form of inflation.

We know that as in every market, unless we can create a more sustainable balance between supply and demand, then prices will continue to be driven up. We have to increase supply. But the Irish experience, with their 300,000 empty and unsaleable properties, should teach us that supply of bricks and mortar is not the only lever on the market. The supply of fantasy money has a role to play as well. So it is plain to see that if we really want to address our housing market dysfunction we have to build more houses, and lend more responsibly. This latter is not what we’re currently doing. Throwing the pendulum abruptly from ridiculous laxity in lending to ridiculous restriction on lending is not “lending more responsibly”.

But back to security of tenure. Whilst we have 1.8 million families (5 million individuals) on the social housing waiting list, and no immediate prospect of building our way out of the problem, then I do not see how turning an ideologically blind eye to the nature of tenure is a justifiable way of proceeding. Don’t think about this in the deceitful rhetoric of houses for life, or nebulous notions of fairness. Think about it in terms of the classic socialist values of need. If the needs of those waiting in desperation for social housing that never comes are greater than the needs of some of those already in social housing, in which version of socialism is it OK to say to the former, “Tough!”?

It’s important that I emphasise that I am not supporting the coalition’s policy initiative as it stands, because they are refusing to attack this problem from both ends. They are happy to do the bit that puts relatively poorer people in jeopardy, but they are not willing to tackle the bit that might jeopardise the interests of those who’ve made a killing out of an insane private housing market. But if they were, then I genuinely think that some kind of review of tenure is justifiable. The objective here is to try and arrive at a seamless housing market that encompasses public and private renting, as well as all the shades of outright and partial home ownership. Reducing security of tenure in social housing must be balanced by increased security of tenure in private renting. Moving from public renting to private renting should be an economic issue, not an issue of security. Finally, we need to do more to encourage and to create mixed communities. Moving on from social renting to private renting might be less daunting if it means only moving around the corner, and at the same time mixed communities work against the creation of ghettos of worklessness, impoverishment, and social pathology.

What is clear is that the housing market – as a whole, not just social renting – is broken and dysfunctional. Housing is not a means to fantasy wealth, but a means to a sustainable, decent home. If your interest is in making money, please find another way of doing it. But I do believe that the current system of absolute security of tenure in the social sector is an affront to justice. However, the coalition will not get my support for changing this until it presents it as part of an overall package for the housing problems that afflict our society so badly. There’s absolutely no sign of them doing that, unfortunately.

And now for something completely different

After a run of heavy posts on politics, sexuality, and God knows what other serious and worthy matters, a little light relief in the form of a much more trivial, but also more personal, interlude.

From as early an age as I can reliably remember, I’ve been obsessed with watches. Clocks, too, to a lesser extent, but it’s watches that really do it for me. I have no idea whatsoever about the trigger for this odd fascination. Perhaps, as a baby, I saw someone wearing one and was captivated by the sparkling reflections in the glass. I don’t know. But I do know that long before I could tell the time, perhaps before I even knew that watches had anything to do with time, I wanted one. My dad told me that I was too young, and although that was probably both reasonable and true, it had the effect of cementing in my mind the notion that watches were intimately related to growing up. I assumed that there would be an age, just as there was for going to school, when it would be permissible for me to possess what I coveted. But whereas with school the correct age was pretty well defined, that didn’t seem to be the case with watches. In answer to my constant questioning about whether or not I was now old enough, and if not, when would I be, my dad was unfailingly evasive.

At the risk of revealing more than I intend about my mental health in childhood (and now, for that matter) when I was small I developed a theory that in order to get things you wanted, you had to wish for them with a dogged determination, and an almost moral fervour. In fact, if the wished-for thing did not materialise, then it could only be because I had not wished hard enough, or for long enough, or very possibly both. So I remember when I was about 6, and coming home on the 7-mile bus trip from school (and as an aside, could anyone imagine allowing their 6yr-old to travel alone on a bus these days? Especially on a bus with a 2 hour gap between each scheduled service?) I would often spend the entire journey repeating endlessly to myself the magical incantation, “When I get home I’m going to find that I’ve got a watch!” It never worked, needless to say, but that merely made me the more determined to try even harder the next time.

And then, one day, I did get a watch. But not the watch I was expecting. Instead of the small but perfectly formed wrist-watch that I had desired so earnestly for so long, my dad bought me a pocket-watch. I have no idea what he was thinking of. It was a good 3 inches across, and weighed a ton. I was aghast. And yet as he pointed out this was, for all that, a watch. To love it, or to hate it? After a decidedly rocky start to my first watch romance, I eventually embraced it with the love and attention it deserved. But the romance was not without its difficulties. One day, whilst jumping off some step or another during a game of “off-ground touch”, the watch flew from my pocket and smashed onto the playground tarmac, the watch-glass tinkling away before my horrified eyes. That was bad enough, but the worst bit was that my dad wrote to the school to complain about their allowing children to play such rumbustious games, from which embarrassment I never fully recovered. And then, on another occasion, I left the jacket, in the breast-pocket of which the watch was nestling, at a roadside café 12 miles away. I vividly recall getting up in what seemed to me the middle of the night to go downstairs in floods of tears to express my desolation at the loss. I learnt a good lesson though: that tears can melt the heart of the sternest dad, since mine, who’d sent me to bed with his disapprobation of my carelessness ringing in my ears, was transformed by my distress into a kindly and sympathetic consoler. Useful…

Eventually, I got the wrist-watch I wanted so badly. Strangely I can’t remember it anything like as clearly as I can recall that pocket-watch, and that may well be connected with the fact that wanting something and not getting it is almost better than eventually getting it. It’s the hope, more than the consummation, as much in watches as it sometimes seems to be in sex.

But watches have not let me go so easily. I still have the same endless fascination with them. I can even now look at a jeweller’s shop window with as much interest as my wife would a designer clothes display. When quartz watches first came out, I bought one and was immediately captivated by their uncanny accuracy. The mechanical watches I’d had would gain or lose at least a minute a day, and putting them right with the pips on the radio was a daily chore. But my first quartz watch was accurate to within 15 seconds a week. And, shame though it is to confess it, I know this not from the manufacturer’s specification, but from checking it myself! Later, I bought a watch with a photo-cell in the face. The latest innovations were the ones that I wanted.

And then, quite suddenly, I didn’t want the latest innovations. I wanted a proper watch. One with cogs, and gears, and all the things I remember from the great watch coveting of my youth. I very much hope that I have now slain forever the dragon of my watch obsession. God, I really hope so. But my release has come at one hell of a price. £1,500 to be exact. The biggest, and most crazy impulse purchase of my life. Here it is. I do hope you like it. I most certainly do.

Women leave their tits out in the sun for 40 years

With complete disregard to the protestations of dermatologists and oncologists world-wide, it seems that some young women have chosen to expose their tits to the full glare of the sun for 40 consecutive years. Well, they’ve exposed them in The Sun anyway, and the protestations have come from feminists rather than doctors. Oh, and also from  some “new men” who are incapable of letting women have anything to themselves, even moral outrage.

I have to confess that this anniversary would have passed me by had it not been for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme deciding to arrange a kind of verbal women’s mud-wrestling bout this morning, in which the sardonic male presenters were able to watch a couple of ladies (and, yes, that description is ironic, so please don’t bother to write in and fulminate) scrapping over the issue like those two famous ferrets in a sack. Oh, what fun it is for us men to see our tit-fancying tendencies supported by a woman. See, told you. It’s all a storm in a DD-cup.

So should we be celebrating 40 years of liberation in which the final traces of Victorian prudery have been rightly kicked over, or decrying 40 years of women’s objectification and the unsavoury provision of male wanking material, as was so delicately alluded to by one of Radio 4’s aforementioned women mud-wrestlers? Strangely, I don’t think this question boils down to moral rectitude and a grave decision between the right thing and the morally bankrupt thing. Actually in my view it’s about what you consider to be cause, and what effect. This business of cause and effect encompasses much more than this specific issue, and it seems to be the major dividing line in much of the discussion about the media, film, computer games and such like.

So I don’t ask, “Is it right or wrong that The Sun has reserved its third page for the display of tits?” but rather, “Is this the expression of something, or the cause of something?” In general terms, I think in answer to the latter question I veer towards the expression bit rather than the cause bit. Partly this is because I think it’s true, but in a way it’s more that I think it keeps us away from intractable and largely unhelpful arguments about whose view should prevail, and what is and isn’t offensive, and to whom. I’ll come back to this, but first, let me set out my sense of what is cause, and what is effect.

The “traditional” feminist critique of The Sun’s page 3 was well expressed in the programme this morning. The position is that this display of women’s bodies for the delight of men is giving a message to men that women are significant only to the extent that they are a means to male sexual arousal, and a message to women that they are put on this earth only for that purpose. I suspect that those messages are indeed at the heart of page 3 and similar soft porn in advertisements, entertainment, and the media generally. But I doubt very much that these messages are causing those attitudes, but rather that they are simply being reflected back into the society from which they came in the first place. Taking the mirror away doesn’t make an ugly face beautiful, and looking at an already ugly face in the mirror doesn’t make the face uglier. Exactly the same arguments apply in the case of violence in film, television and computer games. There may be some few vulnerable individuals whose violence is triggered by viewing such material, but for the vast majority of those who are driven to act violently they are not so driven by looking at violence, and that those who are not driven to violence in the first place do not suddenly become so merely by watching it. Violence in entertainment reflects the violence of our society, but it doesn’t cause it.

The problem with seeing cause and effect in the reverse direction is that it leads to authoritarianism. It leads to calls for the banning of this, that and the other. It leads to calls for the prevention of offence, and the criminalisation of the giving of offence. This gets us into all kinds of difficulties, and often leads people into inconsistency and perhaps the unwitting cultural arrogance that suggests that what they think is right should be imposed on the rest of society. Inconsistency because those who argue against, say, the censorship of art or books often demanded by radical Islamists are entirely happy to argue for censorship of things they don’t like – perhaps tits on page 3. Cultural arrogance because in a free secular society, one person’s sense of right or wrong cannot ride rough-shod over the opposing views of others.

So on this dubious anniversary, I’m happy to express my own distaste for the values and messages promulgated by The Sun via its page 3 boobs. And my distaste for The Sun starts there, but trust me, it doesn’t stop there. But I don’t think that The Sun is the cause of those things that I find distasteful in the representation of women. And so I won’t be joining in any calls for banning the tits – although I would like to make it clear in this public forum that no copy of The Sun has ever accompanied me into my toilet.

Out of control? Something is, but it isn’t the Housing Benefit bill

It’s time that the coalition’s rhetoric on housing benefit was challenged. They continually repeat that the housing benefit bill is out of control, and use the anecdotal evidence of Mayfair residents (usually immigrants to boot) receiving more in housing benefit alone than most people earn altogether as some sort of “proof”. That proves only that the government would rather pander to popular prejudices than deal in the facts. And the facts are a lot less sensational, a lot more troubling, and very much less easy to deal with than the “how unfair is that?” justifications would imply.

So, the facts. In the period 1996-2010, the cost of housing benefit grew on average by 4.8% per year. Of that total figure, 2.8% was a result of inflation, so the real terms increase was 2%. The actual number of claimants rose by only 0.7% per year. If that is out of control, then a lot of other things are out of control as well. A major contribution to increasing housing benefit costs is made by rent increases. Another myth is that private landlords have been profiteering out of the system. Unfortunately once again, the facts do not paint so simple a picture. Across the same period, council rents increased on average at 5.1% per year, housing association rents by 3.2%, and private rents by 4.2%. The increases in the first two categories were directly the result of government policy as all social housing rents are regulated. The Labour government wanted council rents to rise more quickly than housing association ones because housing association rents were generally higher and they wanted to close the gap.

Thus a rising housing benefit bill was actually a deliberate part of government policy, both Labour and Conservative, over a quarter of a century. Sir George Young, who now pops up again as Leader of the Commons and a member of a cabinet fixated on the “out of control” benefits bill, presided in the early 1990s over a deliberate policy of encouraging housing associations to manage property on behalf of private landlords (a policy called HAMA) in order to compensate for the lack of progress on building new properties for social rent to make up for the losses arising from his own government’s right to buy policy. Housing benefit was intentionally used as a way of funding the problems arising from increasing homelessness. In other words, this is not about a system out of control, but rather a system that has been used as a deliberate arm of government policy, but which is now deemed to be too expensive. Sir George of course knows a lot about how expensive it is to maintain a property in London: he claimed expenses of £127,159 between 2001 and 2008 to cover the £1,400 a month interest charges on his mortgage. Quite a bit more than the average wage, don’t you think?

But in truth, individual cases of excess, whether they are of politicians milking the expenses system, or a few large families living in swanky areas on housing benefit, are not a good guide to policy-making. What is important is the impact on average claimants in average places. Many of the changes being proposed are in fact not to housing benefit (paid to social housing tenants) but to the local housing allowance (paid to tenants renting in the private sector). To give a typical example: a single unemployed person on job-seekers’ allowance, paying a private sector rent of £100 per week in an area where the local housing allowance (LHA) is £109. Under current rules the LHA is set at the median rent, and if that is higher than the actual rent the claimant may keep the difference (this was introduced as an incentive for claimants to find lower rented properties). So in this case the person is keeping £9 per week to help pay for other living expenses. Next year that will go, so that person will only get benefit for housing of the actual rent. In 2012, the LHA will be based on the 30th percentile, which in this area is set at £98, thus losing the claimant a further £2 per week. If in 2013 that person is still unemployed, their LHA payment will be reduced by a further 10%, losing them another £9.80. This is what the benefit reforms mean in practice. This individual will lose over £20 per week in benefits, and will most likely eventually be evicted. If that job-seeker is under 35 years old, they will also be hit by the imposition of the shared room rate, and will lose a whopping £40 per week. It is poor people losing what might seem like small absolute sums (but for them huge relative sums) and tipping them from just about surviving to plain destitution and potential homelessness. It is hardly much comfort to say to such people, “Well, find a job then” at a time when jobs are almost impossible to find.

The changes to housing benefit and local housing allowances are going to hit lots of people who are already at the margins of our society. It’s not housing benefits that are out of control – rather it’s politicians’ cavalier disregard for the consequences of their policies which needs controlling.

Hold the front page – something unimportant’s happened

I was going to write a post on the astounding news that Prince William and Kate somebody or other are going to get married. Before I heard this important news, I was about to write a piece on the torture compensation agreed by the Justice Secretary, and before I heard that, I’d been intending to deliver some wisdom on Ireland’s banking and sovereign debt crisis. But as in all things, politics is the language of priorities (or perhaps it was the other way around) and so torture and debt must give way to nuptial bliss. Or at least, they must if the bliss in question is that of a royal personage.

Well, imagine my dismay when, half-way through that post, I was made aware of something very much more significant than a Prince’s decision to stop committing fornication. [Oh, sorry, my lawyers have apprised me that I have no evidence for that last statement, and that the official line is that the royal member has remained securely zipped in the royal trousers these last three years, or however long it is that Bill and Kate have been fooling around with one another.] So the royal wedding post has necessarily been set aside. I may return to it when the whirlwind of other more important news has subsided. But at the moment, I cannot give it my attention.

No. I know something important when I see it. And ironically it concerns another Kate. One Katie Waissal, she of X-Factor fame. Apparently this waif has been 3 times left wallowing in the final two acts after the Public Vote, and yet every time she has been saved, allowing her to fight on another week. This is a scandal! What hold does she have over the show’s producers? By what outrageous means does she frustrate the great British public’s clear and consistent wishes? This needs investigation, and very possibly a full public inquiry. Who cares about a few discontented Muslims being encouraged by watery means to reveal what they did last summer? So what if the Irish have spent too much and saved too little? How could a Prince’s wedding possibly be seen as more important than this conspiracy against the will of the people? Democracy demands that Katie Waissal and her hold over X-Factor be investigated impartially and…

No! Stop! Something really important’s just come up. Hold the front page! Stop all the clocks! Everyone, stop what you’re doing and listen! This is really, really, important! Unbelievable as it might seem I’m in an agony of indecision. I can’t decide whether I want a ginger nut or a chocolate digestive with my afternoon cuppa.

Blogger in biscuit decision hell!

Phew. That’s better. Nearly made a song and dance over the wrong issue…