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.

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The Future…

How do you see the future? Is it more of the same dreadful, uncaring nonsense? Further and greater austerity, because we have to? Why do we have to? What are these cut backs supposed to achieve? What beliefs are they based on? None that I adhere to.

Before we assume that there is a real reason for the impoverishment of the already poor, we need to ask if the actions being undertaken by various governments will actually achieve what the politicians claim they will. And the answer is… NO, they don’t. The evidence already tells us that the espoused goals of our government are not being attained through their policies.

As that is the case, we then have to ask ourselves, why is that? Is it because the policies are ill thought out, that incompetence and stupidity stop them from being effective? Or, could it be that the current Conservative/Liberal Democrat alliance actually have a different agenda from the one they publicly assert? Are they aiming for something other than that which the media tell us?

These are frightening questions, ones that very few of us want to engage with. Either answer is horrifying to contemplate. We’re either being governed by an bunch of complete incompetents or, duplicitous bastards… It’s hard to know which is worse. I suspect the truth is that the answer is far more chaotic: there are some who are stupid; some who are liars; some who are well meaning; some who are principled; and, between them they continue to make bad decision after bad decision on our behalf.

You see, to me, the vast majority of politicians (and a large proportion of the general population) are missing the point. No longer should the government be there to govern us, it should be there to serve us. I believe that the wrong things are seen as important by people in government.

Can I ask, what is important to you? When you wake up in the morning what would you be devastated to be without? What makes you smile during the day? What gives your life meaning? I know for some people their answer will be their job, but I’m pretty sure they are in a small minority. For the majority, I think, the answer will be “other people” (I include the four legged friends in the category people).

When you, or a member of your close circle are ill, do you want to spend time weighing up which hospital is best? Or do you want to just go to the nearest one and be confident that the people working there will do the very best they can to heal you?

When your child is ready to start school do you want to spend time going around different schools, checking out prospectuses, even moving house, so that they get a good education? Or do you want them to go to the school down the road and be confident that the teachers will do the best they can to provide your child with knowledge and skills that will help them through life?

My future, the one I hope comes to fruition is one where your local school, your local hospital, your local everything, is the very best it can be. Where people come first and money gets back into it’s role of being a means of exchange. Where the jobs we do have a direct connection with feelings of self worth. Where creativity is as valuable as any other skill. Where being a caring, generous human being, makes you a role model.

Do you see where I’m coming from? I can’t pretend it will be an easy life, but I can hope it will be a future full of love and laughter, work and care, community and negotiation. Are we strong enough to make this future? I think so, if we join together and refuse to be distracted by the slight of hand merchants, who are still trying to sell us snake oil, our current government.

Happy And Healthy

So, I’m thinking the question is “what does a human being really need in order to have a happy and healthy life?”.

I’m guessing most people would include different things. But let’s start with the real basics like access to enough food to maintain health, and preferably a shelter that would protect from the worst vagaries of the local weather.

The question is what else do we actually need? I think we need people around us, to love, support and challenge us. I think we also need activities to give us a sense of purpose and usefulness. We need self respect and a small dollop of self reliance. We also need beauty, maybe human made, maybe nature.

For me, that covers pretty much everything. The interesting bit is how we go about meeting those needs. At the moment, in most industrialised societies, not all of those needs are being met. People are increasingly isolated, they interact with others via computers, missing out on the joys and challenges of face to face interaction. And like many skills, the less you do it, the less confidence you have in your ability to do it, so the more you avoid it.

People are a challenge, and a delight. A hug from a good friend is more health giving than a bushel of veggies or fruit (fresh veggies and fruit are very good for you). But, in Britain, my generation are pretty much the first generation that have not grown any fruit or vegetables as a matter of course, to supplement that which we buy. We have already lost many of the skills that previous generations took for granted.

The health giving virtues of growing your own, are not just contained in the goodness of the food, they also stem from the confidence, self respect and self reliance that comes from having done it yourself.

Having the skills and ability to build your own shelter, is another great confidence boost. I’m not suggesting that any one person should have all of every skill, this is why we need communities. We all have strengths in different areas, we need a community of people we can rely on, who can rely on us. So that between us we have most possibilities covered.

No one skill is more important than another, they all have their place… we need thinkers and planners and doers and makers: cooks; washers; diggers; builders; carvers; knitters; needle workers; gardeners; dreamers; story tellers; weavers; negotiators; the list is very long. Some people will have more than one skill, that still doesn’t make them more valuable. Hierarchy is a nasty, divisive way of thinking.

Mutual respect is much healthier. It needs to be part of the new story we are all trying to write for the future. We need a healthier, happier future. One with fewer unnecessary distractions and divisions in it. One where each one of us is valued as a whole human being.

Smile!

In this day of insanity, as so many days before, we need to hold fast to what we know to be right. We are all human beings first, even before the beliefs and experiences that lead us to feel we are different. We survived on this planet long before anyone invented money, and we will do so again, after money has faded away as a bad memory.

We have changed the way we live our lives to a point where we have little contact with the truths that previous generations understood deep in their bones. The reality that life is nasty, brutish and short, life is part of a cycle. In the midst of life we are in death. Tragic but unavoidable.

Last night I watch the faces of the people on their way home after work. There wasn’t a single smile. This is not what peoples lives should be. If you find you don’t smile on your way home, at least at the thought of what is waiting for you there, there is something fundamentally wrong with your life.

When you understand the truths of the natural world, you also understand that it is important to make your life as rich (not materially, but emotionally) as possible. To make sure you smile as often as possible; to be creative whenever you can; to be out in nature whenever possible; to often be with caring, interesting people; to be alone, at peace, when you can; to pursue things that interest you; to help others; to do mundane jobs when they need doing; to learn new things; this kind of variety all helps to make your life richer.

When I was a child I had little self confidence, I was also painfully shy. I had firstly to learn that I could stand on my own two feet, that I was capable of looking after, not just myself, but also others. That I was capable of at least as much as most other people.

Secondly, I learned that I didn’t need to be shy. Many people are only interested in themselves, they tend not to even see other people as real. People who are interested in you fall into two camps, those who are genuinely nice people, and those who need to use you to prop themselves up. The only ones whose opinion you need to care about are the genuinely nice people, and you don’t need to be shy with them, they’re not judging you.

We need to re-root ourselves both in nature and in genuine, caring relationships. We need to relearn that we are capable beings with abilities we would never have guessed if we hadn’t actually tried them.

We also need to step away from the awareness that there are so many people out there who know so much more than we do. All that awareness brings us is insecurity. We don’t need to be insecure. Insecurity is a wedge between people, it pushes us apart. It means that instead of valuing what we’ve got, we focus on what others have, or have achieved.

Each of us has a unique way of bringing things together, a unique way of looking at things, we can all create ripples, not tidal waves. But ripples can travel far and, if repeated often enough, create real change.

So, smile! You have much to smile about. Create ripples, the world needs to change, more now than for many generations. Be the change you want to see, and be joyful about it.

People are our lives

I have a small problem with one of my shoulders. It’s not serious, most of the time it’s little more than uncomfortable, occasionally it’s painful. The doctor and consultant both want me to have physiotherapy. The local hospital can do it, but I have to wait “up to 26 weeks” before they will send me a letter inviting me to contact them to make an appointment.

So if you were wondering about how meaningful targets on waiting times are, I think I can confidently say, they are completely meaningless.

Now, I’m not criticising the people who devised this wonderfully creative way of keeping them and their staff out of the shit, I know how creative one can get when backed into a corner, I’m criticising the nonsense way of approaching health care as if it is a business rather than a service.

I believe the main reason that the NHS and all the other services are struggling so much is because they have been shorn of their most valuable resource, staff.

Business theory is that employees are your greatest expense, and that if you can “downsize” your staff then you will make more profit. This only works in businesses where the staff are not committed to their work, where they do not work because they love what they are doing, but where they work because they “have to”. And even then it only works in a very limited way.

For a service where care of other people is the raison d’etre most staff work because they care, then when they are put under pressure to work as if it is a business they lose their will to do anything very much.

As in so many other areas, the problem is much more with government and management psychology rather than the service itself. So much of modern life revolves around the mistaken belief that money and economic theory (and it is only a theory) rather than the knowledge that people are important… There’s not a society, a family, only the rest of nature, without people.

People are our lives: community; care; consideration; sympathy; empathy; friendship; love; without these things, we are nothing.

Austerity… Part 1

My parents were born in the 1920’s. They lived through the war. They understood real austerity, austerity because of practical circumstance. What we are living through is NOT austerity for any practical reason, but a form of desertification imposed by those who already have far, far more than they need.

Children are dying from malnutrition in Western Industrialised societies in a time of plenty. It is a time of plenty for those who have decent, well paid, long term employment. In that group I would include the mainstream media, upper echelons of corporations, and politicians.

People who have never been without have no understanding of what it is like to have the washing machine break down just before christmas, and then having to choose between the washing machine and christmas presents for family.

They have no understanding that visiting relatives for a few days has to stand in for a holiday because there is no way you could afford to pay for any kind of real holiday.

And it very easy to sit in judgement of those who have less than you do for the “bad” choices they make. It is very hard to understand why people buy things instead of healthy food; why the very poorest drink, smoke, dye their hair, take drugs. But the stereotype is not accurate, and there are reasons for those decisions.

When you are frightened and feel insecure what do you do? You get a blanket and some cushions and make a nest. When that is how your life is, all the time, you buy things, more things, things to try to make a nest that makes you feel secure. And because the food you eat is inadequate, you never quite grasp that it is your mind set that you need to change, because your brain chemistry makes it very difficult to think clearly.

When your reality is awful and you can see no hope of changing it, you feel the need to blot it out, at least for an hour or two. So you drink, you take drugs. You can’t really afford them, so that makes you feel worse, and, for some, the spiral begins.

The more desperate you feel the more you need to do something to lift yourself, the less it works, the more desperate you feel. And some just give in. Others finally hit a bottom that is so low they can start a new journey, to a different reality. A different way of looking at the world. Rejecting the pressures imposed by wider society to conform to the materialistic claptrap of the TV and papers… the very media people who have that decent income.

And so we live with this artificial austerity, knowing that some are not effected by it. And resentment grows. Do they not realise that they are creating a tinderbox? Or is that what they want, to give them an excuse in the eyes of their believers to “crackdown” on the very poorest and most vulnerable?

And what do you want? Do you want to live in this tinderbox? Do you want to be part of, and party to, this insanity? We cannot avoid being involved to a certain extent, we need food, we need clothes, but I think we need to look back to the realities that my parents knew, before the coming of the supermarkets (who have created some of the problem). It seems to me we need to think once again of both community and self-reliance. We need to be building an alternative, kinder, more local society, either to avoid the explosion, or to be there to support us when the explosion happens.

For help with that https://www.transitionnetwork.org/