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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Good to Talk

Some people bring out the best in us, some people bring out the worst. Some people build us up, others bring us down. Sometimes we get it wrong about who does what.

In recent years I have had a crash course in the effects that the wrong people can have on our mental and physical well being. Firstly directly, and then indirectly. There really are toxic people out there, they make you sick, some of them don’t even realize that they have that effect on the people around them.

Some people are born with their brain short-circuited so that they cannot interact with other people in a healthy way, other people are so damaged by the people that they grew up with that they cannot stop themselves from damaging others. These people leave a trail of pain and destruction in their wake.

They don’t necessarily mean to. They just don’t know how to operate in a healthy, positive way. Some even convince themselves and the people around them that they are ok, that they are healthy and helpful human beings. Let’s face it, if you convince yourself first, everyone else is a doddle.

These are people to be pitied, they are in pain even if they can’t acknowledge it. They are still to be avoided. They need professional help, well meaning amateurs will find they have been drawn in and are being manipulated (professionals will not necessarily be immune to the manipulation, but it is their job, and they should make sure they have a decent support network to counteract the problems they come across).

So, if someone tries to undermine your self-confidence, even by extremely subtle means, be wary. If you find that a lot of your friendships have fallen apart since you met a new person, question why. Is it that you were ready to move on from your old friends? Or is it that this new person is trying to isolate you so that you have no one to call on? If you’re not sure, what does that tell you?

What do you make of it if someone has a knack for saying two words that then upset you for the rest of the day? Is it you that has a problem, or is it them? And if you think you have a mental health problem, please, please, please, don’t be afraid to talk about it.

Many years ago my teenage daughter said to me “everyone is messed up, in one way or another”. She wasn’t far wrong, we all of us have faults and weaknesses. Some can be worked out with just some life experience and one or two really good friends. Others need years of struggle, some even need medication (though I would always hesitate to take medication, it often treats symptoms rather than causes).

Be careful of your mental health, at least as careful as you are of your physical health. Be as kind and gentle with yourself as you would be of anyone else. And if you’re not kind and gentle with anyone, ask yourself why not. What are you so hurt and angry about? Perhaps your life would be happier if you could lose some of that anger? Perhaps it would be good to talk?

Is Violent Revolution Inevitable… And, What Should We Do About it?

I got involved in a discussion yesterday with one of my Facebook friends. He’s of the opinion that Russell Brand is right and voting makes no difference, so you shouldn’t vote. The political system is broken and all we can do is wait until violent revolution breaks out and then we can build a new and better world from the ashes.

I am of a slightly, but only slightly, different opinion. But before I can explain where I’m coming from I have to give a sociology lesson. Some of you won’t need it, but there is so much misinformation out there that I don’t dare continue with out it.

On 5th May 1818 Karl Marx was born in Germany. He grew up to be a economic and political theorist. He worked very closely, so closely that they edited each others work, with another German called Friedrich (or Frederick) Engels. They were of the opinion that society moved through a series of stages based on what they called “the means of production”. The means of production are the processes and technologies used to produce goods and profit. Marx said that each of the stages of history had the seeds of their own destruction within them.

Contrary to popular belief, what is called communism, in both Russia and China has little to do with what Marx saw as being communism, if only because both countries tried to sidestep the current economic stage (capitalism), completely miss out the stage Marx believed would come next (socialism), and go straight for the main prize (communism). Marx would never have used the term communist to describe either country’s political system. His communism could only follow what he called socialism, and was a system where the need for and the power of the state, any form of government, had withered away completely, and everyone had freedom to do as they pleased, as well as having complete responsibility for their own actions.

Marx’s vision of socialism was something akin to the Resource Based Economics that many of my facebook friends (and I) are very keen on. Where the means of production are no longer owned by the few, but are in the hands of the many, who make decisions based on the greatest good. Marx was a very complex thinker and wrote a great deal, as did Engels. They are well worth reading, if only to look for the flaws in their arguments.

Ok, so I’m guessing you can see why that expedition was necessary. I think we are not in a recession. I think that in some ways Marx was right. I think capitalism is starting to run out of possibilities. I think things could all come crashing down some time in the not too distant future. It’s not just climate change (global warming), it’s not just peak oil, there are many things that are changing and the current system, this way of looking at things, this paradigm, is not sustainable.

Our political system is one of the things that is not sustainable. We cannot continue to be governed by people who are in it only for the money. Their corruption and greed only hastens their own downfall. Their assumption that we are all ignorant and stupid only highlights their own arrogant stupidity. They might have broken our not very good education system, but we are neither ignorant nor stupid.

We are the ones who live with the consequences of their short sightedness on a daily basis. Their power over us is neither as long term or as complete as they think. Capitalism is breaking and the cracks are showing, their behaviour is part of that whole process.

I couldn’t say if socialism, in the Marxist sense, will follow capitalism. But, if we put the work in now, there may be something better, more humane and egalitarian, to follow it. There are people trying to build new systems now, so that they will be in place if, or rather when, the old systems fail.

These people are the Transition Network (http://www.transitionnetwork.org/) To quote their own words “What does Transition Network do? Transition Network is a charitable organisation whose role is to inspire, encourage, connect, support and train communities as they self-organise around the Transition model, creating initiatives that rebuild resilience and reduce CO2 emissions.

“Ultimately it’s about creating a healthy human culture, one that meets our needs for community, livelihoods and fun. We’re here to support you.

“We run events, conferences, trainings, blogs, webinars. We produce monthly newsletters, books, films, guides, tweets, and more, all with the intention of best supporting those around the world who are doing Transition.”

And I strongly recommend you check them out. They are flexible, inspiring and intelligent. They are trying to give people proper support networks in their local areas. As much as possible is being kept local, local food, local skills, local community, local help, even possibly local money. All so that there is somewhere to turn when the larger scale systems fall apart.

Modern society is both mentally and physically unhealthy. If we can embrace just some of the actions advocated within the Transition Network, we will all become healthier and stronger.

This possibility of capitalism falling apart and something new taking its place may seem very frightening, but the new things won’t be unfamiliar. They will be a different slant on things that are actually traditional and familiar. It’s as much about taking old values and ways and thinking about them in a slightly different way.

The Green Party are great fans of the Transition Network. There is a significant overlap between the ideas and values of both groups. If we can manoeuvre Green Party politicians into positions of power they will work to support Transition.

This is probably the only way we can avoid violent revolution. We might not be able to avoid it completely, but with transition in place we stand a much better chance of moving away from the wreckage that capitalism (with it’s insistence that money is more important than people) has become without too much devastation.

If we don’t vote, if we don’t stop the main parties from continuing in what has become ruinous insanity, then things will get worse. Our lifestyles will be torn apart and there may be a chance of building something better out of the ashes, but I’m afraid they will be built only after much pain and destruction.

So, in conclusion, I am suggesting that our best route forward is to embrace Transition, and vote Green to keep as much of what is good in our lives alive as we can. I would suggest that if you do not have the option to vote Green you should vote SNP, Plaid Cymru, Mebyon Kernow, Monster Raving Loony, The People’s Assembly, actually any of the small parties who can’t afford to cover the whole country, or even an independent candidate. As far as I can see it is our best hope for peace.

Useful sites:

The Transition Network http://www.transitionnetwork.org/

The Green Party of England and Wales http://www.greenparty.org.uk/

Scottish Greens http://www.scottishgreens.org.uk/

SNP http://www.snp.org/

Plaid Cymru http://www.plaidcymru.org/

Mebyon Kernow https://www.mebyonkernow.org/

The Official Monster Raving Loony Party http://www.omrlp.com/

The People’s Assembly http://www.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/