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.

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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.

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.

But I’m not going to let that stop me

I hate living in a city. It’s almost as if there is an inverse relationship between the population density and the friendliness of the people that you meet. Perhaps people feel overwhelmed by the number of potential friendship they could have and just shut down because they can’t cope. Perhaps this culture of envy and fear makes people afraid and hostile. Perhaps this culture that focuses on all the bad things and seldom even mentions the good things make people unhappy and shut off.

Anyway, whatever it is, I’m not having it! I know people don’t like it, but I’m going to smile at strangers; I’m going to talk to people I don’t know; I’m going to complement anyone I think deserves it. Tough.

I will not allow this world to twist me any more. It’s my life and I WILL smile, laugh and find beauty. Even when the media and political system make me both furious and sad. Even when personal tragedy hits I WILL work on the good memories.

There is always a primrose in flower, always a hint of blue sky, always a friend who will give you a hug when you need it. You might have to look for a good thing, you might have to wait an extra day, but it is there.

I’ve struggled ever since I came to the city. I’ve met some really nice people, but very few of them have been prepared to be friends. I lived in rural Cornwall before I came here and friendships just sort of grew, naturally.

I find the way some people won’t let friendship grow, peculiar. I find the way some people won’t even meet your eyes, offensive. I find the way some people pretend you didn’t just talk to them, infuriating.

But I’m not going to let that stop me.

Everything is Political

Some times going shopping is very difficult. Not because of lack of money, though we are a long way short of well off, but because we are increasingly aware of the fact that every financial decision is a political decision.

I am a great fan of orang-utans. I am aware that their habitat is being destroyed in order to grown more palms to process to make palm oil. Therefore I do not want to eat anything with palm oil or palm fat in it. This means that almost any processed food is out. That’s not so bad, processed food is seriously lacking in nutritional value.

But what about tea or coffee? As a confirmed caffeine addict I can’t do without it, but how fair is Fairtrade? I know Fairtrade insists that local people get paid a reasonable amount for their work, but what about other issues like, is this a crop that should be grown in this area or not? Do the farmers embrace sustainable farming practices? Do they treat their animals and other human beings well? What is their dependence on oil? And should we really be importing goods from countries that would benefit far more from feeding their own people than from gaining western currency so that they can import food from other places that probably need it even more than they do?

I hope you read that previous paragraph very carefully, because I don’t want to be accused of being unfair to Fairtrade. I’m just using them as an example to help illustrate how complex the whole nonsense of buying has become.

Additionally there is the problem of which corporations do you really want to give your money too? Nestlé is mining water from various drought stricken states in America. Then selling the water back in bottles.

Very often even when you think you have made a good decision in spending your money you will discover that the company you trusted has been bought by one of the mega-corporations, sometimes directly, other times through one of their subsidiaries that most people don’t realise has any links with the mega-corporations.

But even on a small local scale, what about having your hair cut? Do you go to your local hairdresser? Is it part of a national chain? Which companies do they get their supplies from? Are these companies you want to support? Do you really want to support the “beauty” industry (I think it should be called the “insecurity” industry, it exploits peoples feelings of insecurity about their appearance).

And so it goes on… nothing is without links to other things. Making choices is very difficult today. You could spend hours each day researching whether a company is one you want to support or not. Or you could do what most people do, ignore where your money is going and buy what you think you want. Both are still political decisions. One is exhausting and potentially very frustrating (though I guess sometimes you might find a real winner), the other is an abdication of responsibility that actually supports the status quo.

When I talk about the status quo (not the band), I do not mean a system that will protect our lifestyles, I do not mean a system that will keep us safe and comfortable. I mean the system (or culture) that has gradually moved us away from the lives we knew as children, I mean the system that is changing increasingly quickly, and becoming more and more inequitable. It is both a political and a financial system, and it exploits anyone without the wealth to protect themselves.

The financial and political systems are interlinked to a frightening degree. In America the latest election was more or less bought by the party that had the wealthiest corporations backing them. In the UK the Conservative Party and UKIP are supported by huge financial injections from people who have a vested interest (they think) in keeping the poor poor and divided.

They are people who have very little understanding of just what they are supporting. They tend to see things in terms of right or wrong. They have never stood on their desk in the classroom to discover that your perspective changes both what you see and how you see it. Life is complex, everything is interlinked, every choice can either support the current system or help to ease things in a slightly different, and possibly better, direction.

Spooning – Part 1

I’m not sure if you’ve heard about Spoon Theory (if you haven’t I strongly recommend you read this: http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/), it’s a brilliant way of explaining how difficult it is for people with health problems to do even basic, everyday activities. I personally think Spoon Theory can be expanded to the whole population.

If you assume everyone is given the same number of spoons at the start of the day, then it would be safe to assume that everyone would have the same amount of energy etc. to get them through the day. But, would it be right to assume that the playing field is level? I don’t think so. It isn’t for anything else, so why should it be for this?

So, what’s my point? I suppose it is that we all have different levels of energy, drive, health, etc. We also all have different things that we feel we need to achieve. If we use spoons as our unit of measurement we could say that we all have a different number of spoons at the start of the day, and we use those spoons in different ways… kinda seems self evident. But I’m trying to get an understanding of why some people get involved in activities of resistance (personal politics) and other people don’t.

In British society today the people at the bottom of the pile use up lots of spoons in just worrying about how they are going to survive. These are the people that the ConDem government believe are expendable because they have the least to lose. They have no security and their focus is predominantly very limited. This is one of the reasons they seldom get involved in politics, they don’t have the energy (spoons) to get involved. Another reason is they have been told they are too stupid to understand (that is someone else stealing their spoons), and they don’t have the vocabulary to get involved (there’s another spoon gone).

But there are people who do get involved in politics even though they are in the “few-spoon” situation, this is because they don’t worry about how they are going to survive. This gives them a few more spoons to play with. Some of them even borrow spoons from the future, but you can’t do that for long. They don’t worry for a whole variety of reasons, they have friends they feel they can rely on, they don’t care what happens to themselves, they feel that what they are dong is more important…

So, people who do have the vocabulary, who haven’t been told they’re stupid, what about them? Well, distraction is a great way of using up spoons. One of the biggest distractions is bringing up children. If you’re a parent, you know that your children will steal every spoon you’ve got (mostly in the nicest possible ways), finding time and energy for anything other than your family is more than a little difficult. It’s made doubly so by insanities like having to choose which school you want your child to go to.

This imposition of unnecessary choice is one of the great ways the successive governments have distracted ordinary people from being involved in politics at any level. Instead of making people choose schools, they should have been putting money into making all schools, and colleges, great to work in and great to learn in. But that would have been giving people spoons (including those very shiny, confidence spoons), and that has never been the plan.

There are a myriad other distractions, to keep people away from thinking about how they are using their spoons and whether they are using them to the best effect. Thousands of ways of using up spoons to keep people incapacitated. But personal is political, even if it is unaware. Choosing not to get involved is a political act. It is handing that power to someone else and trusting them to make decisions in your best interest.

Who do you trust to use your spoons wisely?

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…

Notes from the past…

15/10/11

I’m finally so fed up with this country and culture that I can’t keep quiet any longer. People are important. Self-respect, integrity, love, generosity, sympathy, empathy, respect, manners, the simple beauty of nature, they are all important. Money is only a tool that we adopted when barter became too complicated – can we please remember that!

Rant 1 over… more to follow.

16/10/11

Rant 2

We have media that oversimplify, stereotype & trivialize. They demonise the poor & powerless, at the same time deifying “celebrities” (who they have created in the first place). The criteria used to decide what is newsworthy is not just biased, it is warped, increasing feelings of powerlessness, fear & alienation in the naïve, uneducated (wait til that rant appears), & unwary.

The entertainment media predominantly concentrate on themes of deceit & mistrust to the point that dishonesty seems normal. To want or expect honesty & decent considerate behaviour is viewed as, at best, idealistic &, at worst, naively stupid.

“Soaps” are the worst offenders in all ways. Stereotyping characters in the most negative ways possible. Trivializing & poking fun at those who most need sympathy & understanding. They also underline their own myth that every happy experience will inevitably lead to tragedy. All in the guise (for many watchers) of reflecting real life.

Much of the media treat all their followers as if they are stupid or naïve. They offer little in the way of mental stimulation but much titillation, then wonder why fewer & fewer people engage with them. In attempting to always grab the biggest market share they have forgotten we are all individuals. We will swallow their nonsense for a while, then, inevitably, one way or another it makes us sick.

Life itself, as well as being mundane & tragic, is richer, funnier, more rewarding & unexpected than anything the mainstream can imagine.

12/11/11

I saw a comment yesterday where the person said that facebook wasn’t the place for politics. As this person isn’t one of my friends (and from what I saw of his profile, never will be) I didn’t challenge it. Personally I think this person doesn’t understand what politics is.

Life is politics. Some times written LARGE, sometimes written small. It’s about what you think is important: what you will fight for; what you will fight against. And to quote Rush “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice”

Eyes closed or eyes open it’s still all politics. To quote another of my favourite bands, Skunk Anansie, “Everything is political”.

Take care of yourselves. If you don’t no one else can.