Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

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Pigeons prefer Costa coffee

Pigeons are not as stupid as you might think (see previous posts).

P1000594And now it seems they are making a moral choice about which coffee shops to frequent.

Not for them the tax avoiders but Costa coffee, owned by Whitbread PLC, and proud to pay its tax in the UK.


When the going gets tough

Data from the 28th annual British Social Attitudes report shows that rather than moving to a big society, we are withdrawing and trying to look after ourselves, perhaps becoming more resilient.

Since 1980 when the surveys started the biggest changes are:

  • 54% of people think that benefits are too high and discourage people from working – up from 35% since 1980
  • paying more taxes for public services such as the NHS and education is only supported by 31% compared to 63% nine years ago
  • Only 25% are now prepared to pay higher prices to safeguard the environment, down from 43% in 2000
  • Scepticism about global warming has grown from 25% in 2000 to 38% now

The National Centre for Social Research which carries out the surveys – over 3,000 adults interviewed for an hour each – thinks the big question is whether we are becoming more selfish and concerned with only looking after ourselves.

This reaction to austerity and civil unrest is perhaps not surprising when the working middles see bankers at the top still getting away with mind-boggling bonuses whilst at the same time seeing families who’ve never worked, and which seem to breed even more generations of welfare benefit recipients, living at the tax-payers expense in houses they can’t afford.

It’s hard to worry about others when we are worried about ourselves and our families. That’s our priority. We may be becoming more self-reliant but at a cost to society as a whole.

And part of that problem is that we have a very unequal society with income inequality the highest it’s been for 30 years. The richest tenth of our population has 31% of total income and as much as the bottom 50% put together.

It would be interesting to see how well charities are doing in terms of  contributions these days. Are people still giving to good causes?

I think there is more scepticism about just where your charity pound actually goes these days. And am I the only person who gets annoyed seeing celebrities on TV asking us to give to charities from our hard-earned income. It would be easier if they each wrote a nice cheque, which would be tax-dedcutable I’m sure, and save us the trouble of having our regular TV programmes cancelled so they can promote themselves alongside the charity.

A curse on the revenue

Witches in Romania are up in arms because they are going to be taxed.

The tax office says they earn a good living from casting spells and putting curses on people. The witches, led by “queen witch” Bratara Buzea,  are now planning to retaliate in the only way they know how – by putting a curse on the tax collectors.

The witches are thought to earn about €15,000 (£12,500), which is thirty times the national average gross wage, and are being asked, along with body embalmers and driving instructors, to register as self-employed when they will become liable to a 16 % tax rate and pension and social security contributions.

Now the practitioners of the dark arts, including tarot card readers, astrologers and mediums, will be required to give a receipt for every prophecy and curse they deliver which then has to be filed with the tax authorities.

Since the fall of communism witches have come out of the shadows;  a Hungarian Witches Association was formed in 1991 (and received tax exempt status in 1998) and a Bulgarian witch is said to have predicted the death of Princess Diana and the 9/11 attacks.

Given that Romania and Hungary have, at different times, included Transylvania – the ancestral home of the vampires – I suppose the tax collectors think it could be worse. But if I were them I think I’d carry a wooden stake in my laptop bag and eat lots of garlic to be on the safe side.

Meanwhile the catholic truth society has just published a guide on how to convert witches to Christianity. Written by a former witch Wicca and Witchcraft: Understanding the Dangers, says that young women – who make up 70% of its practitioners – are particularly attracted to the pagan religion because of the positive depiction of witches  in TV programmes such as Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the last census (2001) there were 31,000 neo-pagans in the UK of which just under a quarter were Wiccans.

The author says that there are grave psychological risks behind the glamour but that catholics should be aware that Wiccans are also on a spiritual quest. They are interested in nature and worshipping creation so that is the ideal starting point from which to convert them.

Wicca is also feminist in nature so its followers are unlikely to be impressed by what they see as a patriarchal cult which opposes women having any authority in the church. The Druids rightly point out that christianity appropriated many pagan festivals to persuade people to convert and the chairman of the Druid Network thinks the catholic should:  “talk less about ‘converting’ and ….. explain how they misled people in the past”.