Not everything is about money

I’ve just seen an article about a local council overspending on agency workers for it’s children’s services by £865,000. Schools, the NHS, all sorts of businesses are dependent on agency workers. No one seems to see them as obviously the most expensive option. Why are they obviously the most expensive option? Well, not only are you paying the worker, but you are also paying a fee or percentage to the agency as well.

I appreciate that it is getting harder and harder to find staff that are willing to work under current conditions, but I can assure you that is only nominally to do with wage rates. It is predominantly to do with unrealistic expectations that employers have of the time and energy that their workforce are supposed to give to their work. Hours are too long, paperwork is too extensive, the scope and detail that are expected are completely unrealistic, out of hours work is excessive, too much time is tied up in meetings that serve no useful purpose, holidays are too short… I could go on.

But the biggest issue of all is that workers are not respected by their employers, neither are they trusted. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be safeguards to help encourage professionalism, I’m saying that when you have good staff you should respect and trust them. And if you really want to save money, you need to make sure that you employ enough people to do the job and cover maternity leave, annual leave, emergencies… even if it looks wasteful on paper, I can guarantee that in terms of mental health (employers and staff) and work place atmosphere, it will pay dividends.

Not everything is about money, even when people say it is.

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Not “government”, representation.

This “British” society is not good for anyone. It is not working to anyone’s benefit. The majority (only just) party is working to disassemble the safety net that is the welfare state. They are taking away the means of survival for the most disadvantaged, they are reducing the possibilities for the merely poor, they are making life a misery for those in work, they are reinforcing the mentally (and physically) destructive behaviours that make them think they have a right to destroy other people’s lives.

We need to stop calling them “the government”. They have no right to make decisions that go against their constituent’s interests. They are our representatives. They are supposed to represent us, not work to destroy us. They are not given their positions through god’s will, they are voted for by the electorate. Sometimes the electorate is both misinformed and misguided, we need a more honest and reliable media, one that prides itself on it’s integrity, one that sets itself against abuse in all it’s forms, one that sees titillation for what it is (playing to the lowest common denominator), one that respects it’s readership/viewers. And we need a government that embraces these values too.

We need to work towards a healthy and kind society, one that we can be proud to be part of. We also need a way of triggering a general election when it is obvious that the current majority party is not representing the majority of the population.

No Easy Answers…

It would be nice to believe in easy answers, but I don’t think there are any. The imposition of capitalism on nearly the whole world is at the root of our problems. The idea that money is what the world revolves around is central to how most people live to ay. We have lost sight of so much that is central to making us feel worthwhile, making us feel good about ourselves.

If we were to remove the current government from office, what would they be replaced with? We have seen the disasters that have followed revolutions in the past. And always in violent confrontations the most violent wins out. This is not what we need.

If we were to disband the IMF (oh please, I wish we could) how long would it be before the governments that it has infected with it’s capitalist corporatism realise that it has sent them down the wrong road?

What we need to do is not be violent, nor be passive and accepting, but to educate… to work to get people from as many walks of life as possible to see that there is nothing more valuable than a human life (or any other animal); that we need to value each other for who we are; that economics is just a way of trying to understand the movement of money, not a value system to run the world.

Empathy, kindness, compassion, love and understanding are what we need. The ability to see that people make bad choices, not because they are bad people (most of the time), but because they don’t understand what is happening for others, or why other people are important. They lack the emotional maturity to understand that other people are both real and important, not just tools to be used and the discarded.

We don’t need money to have a good life, an abundant life, full of love and laughter, we need people for that!

This too shall pass…

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m struggling. My depression hasn’t left the building like I thought it had. The many and varied atrocities committed by our government, the precarious situation globally, and one or two personal stressors have got me down.

Don’t think I’m giving in without a fight. I have my lovely Tim and the wonderful Shelley G Shepherd, some fantastic friends and relations, who help buoy me up with their love and support (thank you all). I take great solace from nature, even stuck in the middle of this city.

But the world has gone so far down the wrong road, the current British government more than most, that my personal emotional resources are currently at a low ebb.

Because of the changes made by Ca-moron, Osborne, IDS (such a nasty disease) and their cronies, I’m going to have to stop being self-employed… just before Christmas. Not that we spend much on Christmas, but now we can’t spend anything.

I know “this too shall pass away”, but just at this moment I feel more like a mountain has been dumped on my head. I WILL get over it. I will continue to try and persuade people that we need a kinder, less judgemental world. There is (as Gandhi said) “enough for everyone’s need”, we need to sideline and marginalise those who are driven by greed. Not with hatred but with a sorrowing compassion. They are truly unhappy souls, I wouldn’t trade my depression for their unhappiness.

So, my friends, to all of you who are finding these times hard, know that you are not alone. We are the many (maybe even the legion) working for a better, kinder, more generous world. And know that I, and all our fellow travellers, are holding your hand.

Wrong On Both Counts

I was talking to someone the other day who has to claim JSA. They aren’t happy about it, but they can’t find a job. They’ve been put on something that bears the title of a course, but it isn’t a course, it’s a series of meetings where they are coerced into producing their CV in a variety of different formats.

From what they were describing it seems to be an exercise in duplicity. The CV that they are expected to produce does not bear any resemblance to their real experience or even personality. They are supposed to sell themselves, not to be honest.

I find this disturbing. How about young people with no experience and poor education? How are they supposed to sell themselves? They have no experience to inflate, so they will have to lie outright, rather than exaggerate (which is bad enough).

Those with poor educational results can’t make them look good without lying. And a mismatch between claimed skills and educational attainment is going to raise a red flag for any potential employer.

Worst of all, if someone does get a job using one of these misleading CV’s they are unlikely to be able to live up to the expectations of their new employer. This means they are unlikely to keep their job. Also they will not get a good reference when they try to get their next job.

The whole exercise seems to me to be a waste of time for both the person I was talking to and the person they have to meet, as well as being a complete waste of money. It also reinforces my belief that our British government thinks that we are all liars, and that they think lying is an acceptable thing to do.

For most of us they are wrong on both counts.

‘moron Again!

The newly re-elected British prime minister has just made an extraordinary statement. He has said “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone’,” !?

What is that meant to mean? That the government has the right to intervene in our lives when we have broken no laws? This from the party that eschews the “nanny” state. Do this bunch of over-privileged, socially isolated, socio and psycho paths really think that they have been given a mandate to tyrannise the whole of Britain?

He wants new laws to “crack down” on people holding minority extremist views! People who don’t conform to the great British consensus. I think you translate that to mean “anyone who doesn’t agree with Dodgy Dave and his mates”. Will you look after my family when they come for me?

Apart from the self serving, xenophobic, divisively, dividing subtext to this utter bollocks, I’m intrigued by who he thinks is going to enforce Dave’s law? He’s consistently cut funding to both the police and the armed forces, is he going to start a new private enforcement body to do his dirty work? Because as quiet as they are, he’s not popular with the official bodies who might be expected to do it.

What a sad, paranoid world Dave must live in. It’s such a shame, Britain used to be a haven for people who needed a safe place because their ideas were radical, or before their time. People have come here through the centuries to get away from persecution for their beliefs (mind you a lot of the early emigrants to America felt they were persecuted).

Britain has never been a perfect place, it never has been a beacon of hope (don’t let them kid you), it’s just a convenient little island which used to bully every other country it met. It’s politicians (and some of it’s population) still haven’t gotten over their delusions of grandeur. There are good things about this collection of countries, but expect frightened people to be trying to get away from the knee-jerk actions and paranoid rantings of the government the rest of us will probably have to put up with for the next 5 years.

Media Rules

Many of us read the papers or watch TV and assume there is some kind of gatekeeper watching any and every thing that is published. We assume that such a gatekeeper evaluates every item that is published against certain criteria that we never fully formulate even in our own heads.
We expect out and out lies to be seen and stopped before ever they reach us. We expect the many and varied media to be both honest and transparent. Why we do so is a mystery as virtually none of them are.
Why is it that even the most cynical, hard bitten, hard-headed thinker is convinced that because a certain newspaper printed it it must be true? That the news on a particular TV channel is both complete and completely unbiased?
The media of all it’s hues employs many fine and honest people, who are well intentioned and fair minded. Unfortunately, like the rest of us, they have to pay their bills. The people who bankroll them have certain expectations, and they will only continue with their support if those expectations are met. And, whilst biting the hand that feeds is a fine old tradition, one can only go so far before that hand is withdrawn.
This doesn’t mean that everything in the media is a lie, it means that everything in the media should be evaluated against the knowledge that there is a bottom line. Additionally, there is a paradigm of “what is interesting to the audience” that limits what is reported. The news, as Terry Pratchett so beautifully put it, is very often the “olds”. (As a matter of fact his book “The Truth” is woven through with an insightful critique of the media, which is not surprising when you know that Sir Terry worked in newspapers for a number of years.)
But it isn’t just what is reported, or even if it is reported honestly, that is an issue. What of the things that aren’t reported at all? What of the things that are so oversimplified that they become a misrepresentation? What of the things that are over-reported and become distorted because of that?
The media doesn’t have to be dishonest to mislead us. It has it’s own rules, it’s just they are not necessarily the ones we think they are, let alone should be. What they leave out is often more important to us as individuals than what they put in. Whatever they currently focus on inflates it’s importance in most people’s minds, without them consciously evaluating why.
And we are encouraged to think that the things that are not reported are not important or are delusions of “cranks”. As a cranky crank I stopped reading newspapers many years ago, reading between the lines and evaluating every sentence became tiring and unrewarding.
Finding the wholesale trivialization and distortion of a large proportion of the population angered me. Reading articles that were blatantly designed to stir up hatred and divide the population further infuriated me. The whole blame culture made me ashamed, but not as ashamed as the blame the victim culture that the current Conservative/Liberal Democrat government encourages.
Iced on the top of everything else is the prurient celebrity obsessed culture. Which raises unfortunate individuals to a precarious pedestal and then knocks them off, often in the most unkind ways possible.
I find it deeply upsetting that firstly these poor souls are raised up, supposedly, above everyone else; that their private lives are then scrutinised with a magnifying glass; and then, when they are found to be human, they are cast aside and ridiculed. We might want heroes and gods, but can we not be kinder about it. It is not fair to expect anyone to meet the impossible expectations of the celebrity media.
But in addition to setting some people up for a painful fall, celebrity culture is negative in another way, it trivialises and devalues our lives. It tells us we are not important. And we are important, every single one of us is vitally important. No one is more important than you are, and don’t you forget it!

Insecurity

In Britain today insecurity is endemic. Our current society promotes it. There is a decrease in job security; the benefit system is now a lottery with claimants waiting for the moment when they will be sanctioned and left with no way of buying food or paying bills; families are split and spread around the country (if not the world); additionally, there is seldom a community that anyone can fall back on.

It has often been the case that governments have viewed insecurity as a useful tool in controlling the general population. This is because of a couple of basic misunderstandings. The truth is that a government’s role should NOT be one of control. Also, insecurity is only effective for control when it can be maintained at a certain level.

Once insecurity reaches a certain point it becomes something else, it becomes hopelessness, total disconnection. People who are either hopeless or disconnected are not easy to control. Governmental response to such people is to marginalise and/or criminalise them. They do this because of the first misunderstanding (the government’s role should NOT be one of control).

Over the generations the role of government has been distorted and twisted. If we look back to Athens we find something very different from “democracy” as we experience it. Not that we could, or even should, replicate it now. It had it’s own flaws and inconsistencies. But it’s intent was different. It was an attempt to make decisions for the whole community without being reliant on a system rooted in “might is right”.

“Might is right” is how you get a monarchy. You maintain your monarchy by adding some mumbo jumbo about the “divine right of kings”, and then prop it up with the “old boy’s club”.

In Britain a version of democracy was grafted on top of that. It’s not surprising that it has become a form of control that works to support those that have at the expense of those that have not.

And we come back again to insecurity. The “haves” know that their position is not secure, so they use their greater access to governmental positions to try to bolster themselves. Their understanding of the world is warped though by their financial privilege, and the belief that some people are more important than others.

At the other end of the scale, that belief is echoed, and those who have little believe they are worth less and gradually move away from mainstream society. Some are very angry, and an angry person who believes they have nothing to lose can become violent very rapidly.

This is a violence that is increasingly near to the surface. It is a violence that is unlikely to be directed to any positive end. It is an unnecessary violence and a violence that will hurt everyone. It is created by “man’s inhumanity to man” as Burns said. I, for one, am looking for a different answer. A way to assuage people’s insecurity, to recreate community, to reconnect individuals with each other and the wider world.

We all need to be more confident in ourselves, we all have something of significance to offer. None of us is worth less that anyone else. We can turn away from the negativity and nihilism of mainstream politics and media. We can invest in ourselves and Transition to a kinder, more supportive world.