Be strong

There are many people who are being abused on a daily basis who don’t even realise it. When other people mention abuse, these people imagine the horrors of sexual and other physical forms of abuse, but it’s most pernicious form is psychological abuse. A large number of the people being psychologically abused think that either it is normal, or it is their fault, or they deserve it.

It is not normal for the people close to you to put you down, to undermine you, to attack you verbally or in any other way. It should not be normal for people in your wider circle to do so either. If they do this it is NOT because of you, it IS because of them. They have a problem, rather than dealing with that problem they are going to punish you.

Additionally, anyone who seeks to isolate and/or control you is abusing you. People who love you will support you and encourage you to live your own life as far as their self-confidence allows them to.

No one deserves to be undermined or abused in any way. But we all have to take responsibility for our own problems and actions, we need to be brave enough to reach out to other people when we need help. It is a very strong thing to do, to reach out and ask when you realise that you can’t solve your problems alone.

I wish you all that strength in those moments of self doubt, we are social animals, we are stronger together when we support each other. Jealousy and fear are what make us weak.

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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.

On Being A Parent

Being a parent is the most difficult job you can ever do. I am no expert I have only one child, and two step children. When I had my child I was aware that many people don’t think about parenting, they just repeat what their parents did to them.

My parents thought about how they had been parented (bear in mind they grew up during the world war 2). They tried to be better parents than their parents were, I tried to better them.

I started from the belief that no child asks to be born, and, whilst not everyone who becomes a parent wants to be one, they do at least have the advantage of having some knowledge of what’s going on (though I doubt that anyone fully understands just how demanding a job it is until it’s too late). So, as I had consciously chosen to become a parent, it was only right that I put my child’s needs before my own.

This doesn’t mean that I didn’t take care of myself, but that I did so in ways that I hoped would be helpful to her. I was very lucky to do a ParentLink course (before it got muddied by outside pressures). It reinforced some of my ideas and challenged others.

I learnt that saying “no” is sometimes the most loving and supportive thing you can say to a child. I learnt that I didn’t have to be a perfect parent, just a “good enough” one. I learnt that I didn’t have to know everything, or be right all the time, I just had to be honest (congruent).

I already knew that the most important thing for my child was for her to know that she was loved. I also knew that a certain amount of structure in her life was important to give her a sense of security. But I learnt to think about what I wanted her to learn from me (through my behaviour, as well as what I thought I was teaching her), and what would be the best way of helping her understand.

I already knew that many parents have little understanding of their child’s age and how this impacts on both their behaviour and what they are capable of learning. It was a steep learning curve for me, to work out just what was appropriate to expect from her. I saw mothers shouting at their children for being to young to understand what was expected from them. I had to stop myself from intervening.

I also saw mothers who had handed over all control to children too young for that level of decision making. I found that scary, I wanted my child to know something of the freedom of childhood. I wanted to allow her to be a child, and to see that I valued her play at least as much as I valued her work. I wanted to give her the time to grow up at her own pace.

I also realised that I had to provide her with a role model. There are so few positive role models, especially for girls, that I had to show her that she didn’t have to conform to anyone’s stereotype, she could be herself.

I struggled with all these things. I made lots of mistakes. But I tried.

I love my daughter very much and I am immensely proud of her. Every now and then I apologise to her for the mistakes I made, for the fact that I was also trying not to succumb to depression all the way through her childhood. And I am so grateful for all the fun we had together, and for the joy she still brings me.

And I wish I could have done more of these things with my stepchildren. But things don’t always (ever?) turn out the way you want, let alone expect, them to. I will have to live with the feeling I have let them down.

And I remind myself that very few people have a wonderful childhood. Most of us wish things could have been different. But the past is gone, and, whilst it’s shadow may still hang over us, all we can do is make the best we can of today – and make sure our children know we love them.

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.

Common Sense?

As I said on facebook the other day, “common sense truly is the least common of all senses”. I feel honoured to have many friends who do possess it, but I am afraid we may be in a minority. I find it sad to see so many people are drawn to prejudice and discrimination, I think it is because they lack feelings of self confidence and self worth.

At the moment this world is a dreadful mess. There are so many unhappy people. People who should have no cause to be unhappy. I often feel I should be doing more, doing better, or at least doing different.
But I find every day is a struggle, as it is for most people. We all do the best we can, we don’t have the emotional, let alone financial, resources to do better.

When we look hard enough we can see that our governments keep us under pressure and isolate us as much as they can. It means we don’t have the resources to do anything about them or the systems they attempt to impose on us.
Currently our system seems to attempt to destroy self confidence and feelings of self worth, self respect etc. especially in the young. The education system is under constant pressure to under educate and undervalue the very people it should be supporting and building up.
The welfare system is designed in such a way that it is difficult for people to get the benefits they are entitled to. There is no automatic payment of entitlement, but a constant stream of hurdles and disruptions, that make survival all some people can manage (and others can’t even manage that).

This is all backed by a political system which doesn’t penalize those who deliberately misuse their power. They see their system as a fair entitlement, even though they have far greater resources at their disposal than the people they vilify and demonise. The slackers and the shirkers are not in the grass roots, they are at the “top”.

Added to a corrupt and self-serving government we have a media that has bought titillation over information. Over the last nearly one hundred years, since the inception of the BBC in the UK, the televisual media has moved further and further from it’s stated aims of informing and educating. Instead of revelling in the huge variety of audiences that are available to them, they have constantly focused more and more on the lowest common denominator. Instead of inspiring, TV is numbing. And they wonder why their popularity is waning.
We are immensely complex beings when we are allowed to be. For our mental health we need to indulge in a variety of activities and interests. We are multi-dimensional beings, not cogs in a big machine. But there is so little recognition of this that it is not surprising that many people feel they have no interest in the culture that they live in.

What we see from the people who should have our interests at heart is basic divide and rule philosophy. This is typical short term, short sighted thinking. We are all human and we are all in this boat together. Sometimes we need specific space to work through issues, but male, female, young, old, gay, straight, any skin colour, any physical or mental health problems (or lack of them), any religious affiliation (or not) we are on this beautiful planet together. and we need to see where we have shared interests in keeping both ourselves and our planet alive and thriving.

To counter all this negativity, all these attempts to drive us apart, all this pressure to conform to a more and more limited selection of stereotypes, we need to combine and subvert. We can do that. We will all benefit from doing that. And, we can do that with love and forgiveness in our hearts. Forgiveness for those who did not understand, did not see. They have problems and demons that make their lives too difficult to look up, to see the bigger picture.

Understanding will have to serve for those who did what they have done, who have been short sighted and selfish, with awareness and deliberation. And that understanding will give us a starting place to build our society so that such people can never hold positions of power again.

We can build a better, more loving world, we need to do that firstly by taking responsibility for ourselves. So many people seem not to be aware that only I am responsible for my actions, no one else is; I am not responsible for anyone else’s actions, they are.

In all honesty I can’t make you do anything you really don’t want to, and you can’t make me do anything. We can exert pressure on each other that may make us feel that we have to, but everyone has a sticking point, beyond which they will not be pushed.

If we talk to each other, if we are willing to see each other as valid human beings, we can learn new things, not by force, but by negotiation, mutual understanding, and, compromise (compromise is not a dirty word, unless you are talking about compromising your moral stand point).
Compromise is how humans (and many other animals) get on. It is meeting in the middle and everyone giving a little bit of ground, so that no one is standing on anyone else’s toes. Give and take, balance, mutual respect…

That has to be a good starting point. It seems like common sense.

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.

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.

The Real Meaning Of Christmas

Now, I’m not a Christian, so I don’t celebrate the birth of Christ. I’m not a religious person at all, I’m an Atheist. I spent years and years trying to believe and failing, so I hedged my bets and called myself Agnostic, then I thought, I have to come out of the closet and declare myself what I know I am. I am an Atheist.

I’ve had conversations with people who think that if you don’t have God (whatever that means to you) in your life then you can have no moral standards. I have to say that my moral beliefs have been with me pretty much through out my life. I also have to admit that I haven’t always managed to maintain my own standards and I have spent some considerable time beating myself up because of it.

Eventually I learned to forgive myself in the same way as I would have forgiven someone else. It took a lot of doing, and there are one or two things I still struggle with.

So for me Christmas is not a religious experience. Neither is it a consumerist experience. I never have had much money, and I never have bought into buying people’s love. I don’t want anyone whose love can be bought, and anyway I don’t believe “real” love can be bought.

My pleasure comes from seeing my friends and family enjoying themselves, I certainly don’t enjoy stress and rows. So for me the Yuletide celebrations are about people being happy and relaxed. I’m very fortunate in not having to cook a Christmas dinner, so I’m spared that stress. I’m very fortunate in having a family that has realistic expectations both of presents and behaviour.

There is no one I have to spend time with who is an belligerent drunk. No one who expects the world to revolve around them and then gets stroppy because it doesn’t. No one who thinks they should have a better present than…

You get the picture. I’m a very lucky person. I love Christmas (whatever name you choose to give it). It’s warm and cosy and pleasant, just a bit too much food, a little too much drink, quite a lot of laughter, and lots of love.

What more could you ask for for Christmas?