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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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!

Publishing… 2

I feel like I have looked at thousands of websites to do with publishing and self-publishing. They all seem to have pretty much the same information and very similar expectations. Some of the self-publishing sites seem to hark back to the old “vanity press”, who would publish anything for a fee. Some seem to be more aware that not everyone has any money to put up front.

The thing is that the profit margins on most publishing are pretty slim, and getting slimmer. Conventional publishers are still trying to find that next international best seller. They don’t seem to remember that a surprisingly large proportion of publishing houses started because someone believed in an author that none of the existing publishing houses would take a chance on.

The years when a new creative talent would be encouraged and nurtured are long gone, not just in publishing but also in music, and, I suspect, in all the other creative arts. All these “creative” industries are no longer in touch with creativity, they are focused on the bottom line (money).

My bottom line is, I don’t have any money, I have very little time, and I don’t want to be a media superstar. I just want the chance to have my voice heard by a few more people than I can reach from my front room.

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.

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.

A Picture of A Different Life

Modern Western society is focused on the short term pursuit of sufficient income to have a “good” standard of living. The longest term anyone ever really thinks about is the life of their mortgage, if they happen to have one. Many people have a severely limited income, they only look as far as their next “pay” check.

We have lived through the time when we were told to “get on your bike” if you wanted to work and there was no work in your area. Families have become dispersed and fragmented. The idea of being rooted in a place is the preserve only of the extreme ends of the economic ladder. The richest, because they can afford to do what ever they please and live where ever they please; the poorest, because they cannot afford to give up the tiny toe hold they have.

Everyone else is almost constantly on the move. Many people commute for several hours a day to go to work. They don’t necessarily live where they want to, but they live where they believe they can afford to live. Many people have holiday homes, where they spend as much time as they can “afford” to, away from their daily grind. And both these groups squeeze those who were born in that area out.

The cost of living in different areas is seldom addressed when people look at moving house. The extra tax of living in a rural area comes in the form of fuel prices. There is seldom any useful form of public transport any more. And anyone not able to drive themselves, for whatever reason, is stuck paying premium prices for everyday goods.

Everything revolves around money. What very few people remember is that money is merely a token to make bartering easier. It has no intrinsic worth. Nowadays new money is created by a bank on a computer in the form of a new debt. And then people wonder why there is a debt crisis. What else could it be?

There are very few people who are happy with their lives the way they are. So then the question becomes “do we have to live this way?”. Well, I don’t think so. But we would have to redefine what is important on a pretty much world wide scale. It’s not so much about creating something new, more about reclaiming some old ways and giving them a new twist and a new shine.

It’s not about abandoning science, we need science. The scientific, analytical mind is a wonderful thing. But we need science that is not bound by where the next “pay” check is coming from. Science that can look at a longer time scale than week to week. We need to think both big (maybe very big) and small (so very small). We also need a science that cannot be bought by the big corporations to give the answers they want; a science that will insist on looking at potential long term effects before even considering the possibility of trying things out outside of the laboratory if there is the least likelihood of ill effects.

It’s about returning to real values, long term values: the value of land; clean air; and clean water. For too long we have been dictated to by the supermarket chains with their illusion of choice. For too long our governments have bamboozled us with assertions of choice where none is wanted, and pretence of concern where none is felt.

People are laughed at for caring or believing. But we all believe in something, even if it is only ourselves. We all care. We sometimes care about the wrong things, but that is better than not caring at all. Most people are thinking, caring beings, but they have been lied to; misled; and deliberately confused. They have been put under pressure and forced away from their support systems so that they have neither the energy nor inclination to question or fight against what is going on.

People are not healthy because this is such an unhealthy way of living. We need to re-embrace healthier ways, both physically and emotionally. We need lives that are full of good food (local food), good friends (local friends & distant friends), time to appreciate things, time to create things, time to grow things.

Ivan Illich talked about deskilling society, that is what has happened. People have been taken out of their environment and thrust into a place of employment, where their natural skills and knowledge are not valuable or valued, so they are vulnerable and more easily manipulated.

For those who remember “The Good Life” with it’s theme of rural living in suburbia, there is probably some part of you that still hankers for that crazy possibility. Rural living isn’t for everyone, but it would work for far more people than the few who realize it. Our roots are in the land. We belong to it. We need it. Without the good earth we all starve.

I’m not rejecting technology, I am rejecting our current culture of greed, I am rejecting money (especially in the form of debt) and I am wholeheartedly rejecting our current political system. There is a better way. It starts with each one of us valuing ourselves and each other. It continues with each one of us valuing the land and the bounty it can bring us.

Mentally Well?

It’s mental health awareness week. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. We have a government who seems to be quite happy to send it’s own citizens to the very depths of depression, even to suicide. And the government’s behaviour seems to be rooted in a total absence of empathy, which seems pathological in its completeness.

What to do? If we lived in a true democracy (a true democracy is where every one who has the right to vote, has the right to vote on every policy decision) then there would be ways we could vote against their insanity. But we don’t. As I have explained before we live in an elective dictatorship. In the recent past no government would dream of behaving the way the current Ca-moron band of chums are.

Lets go back to the origins of our political system. After the usual local structures of power we eventually ended up with a monarchy. Not a great political system, but a common one. We had one particular king who pissed his mates off big time. Eventually, after they had tried being reasonable with him, they strong armed him into signing what has become know as the Magna Carta. This was an agreement between the king and his lords.

This agreement is the root of our current political system. This is a problem because, it wasn’t about respecting ordinary people, it was about safeguarding the position of the already privileged. All through our history until very recent times the vast majority of laws passed by what became parliament, have been about keeping property safe, or about keeping money in the right person’s pocket.

There has been a certain amount of fairness built into the system, sometimes even intentionally. But the law in Britain has always left something to be desired as far as the unprivileged masses are concerned. Never more so than now.

We are entering uncertain times. Predictions of doomsayers from the 1970’s and 80’s are finally starting to look like they really are coming true. We really are starting to run out of oil. The world is poisoned and struggling to make enough pure air and water to keep the humans alive.

If we are to save anything we need to be acting in a proactive way. Putting improved (for our survival) systems in place. What we have is a reactionary government that is so scared of the world, they want to cocoon themselves in money, because that will make all the nastiness go away. They don’t realise that their own thinking is mentally unwell…