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!

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The Days When Everything Is Too Much

I would like to explain how I experience depression, it’s important to recognise that not everyone experiences it the same way. My experience of depression starts with a gradual disconnection from some of my feelings, the good times just don’t feel so good, the things I’m sad about don’t plunge me quite so far. To the outside I seem quite normal, apart from sometimes I don’t engage properly when in conversation, I don’t seem to have heard everything that was said, I’m distant and vague.

Gradually this all gets worse until I feel like I’m living in a very foggy day, everything is deadened, everything is damped right down, and I have retreated to a tiny corner of my mind where hope is hard to find.

Any attempt to engage with the outside world, however, is terrifying. It makes me physically sick, I get panicked, I can’t breathe, I sweat and shake. I can overcome it, but it takes all my will power, and because of the level of difficulty I can seem quite angry to anyone I interact with.

I feel like everything is too difficult, I feel completely overwhelmed, I feel like I have been buried alive. I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m trying to reach out to those of you who do understand, so that you know you are not alone.

I’m also trying to reach out to those of you who don’t understand, to help you see that depression is not the blues, not a bad day, but a life threatening illness. You can’t just switch it off, most of the time you don’t even realise that you’re ill. You can’t just “pull yourself together”, it’s not that simple. Talking to someone is really helpful, but not if they are going to judge you in any way.

It’s an illness, and you can recover from it. I’ve gotten over it before, and I will do again. But, not everyone does. Not everyone is strong enough to hold on until their own mind starts to see a way out, starts to see that there is hope, starts to blow the fog away and feel things fully again.

This information is here so that it is easier to empathise with people who are depressed, so that you understand you cannot make that person better, you can be there for them, you can listen to them repeat themselves for the 200th time and not judge them for the fact that they are stuck. But neither you, or they, can force a change, it has to happen when their subconscious mind (back brain) is ready.

And there will be days when they seem fine, and then suddenly they are back at the beginning again. And there will be days when they are angry at everything. It’s not your fault, it’s not theirs either. And there will be days when they don’t want to engage with anything.

Just remember, both the good times and the bad times pass, change is the one constant in our lives. And it’s good to embrace that change, and work your way forward to a better place. It’s where I’m aiming at. See you there.

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.

Role Models – Episode 1

I am very lucky to have known a number of very lovely people through out my life. Generous, empathetic people. People who cared about others. Before I was born my parents took in a couple of youngsters who had problems at home. I know who they were, I know very few other details. I know my parents did the right thing for the right reasons.

My father cared about other people, he would cry (and I’m very proud of him for that) whenever he heard or saw anything about a child suffering. He was over-protective of his family, but we forgave him, because we knew he loved us.

He couldn’t bear to hear of any kind of injustice, and would get furiously angry about all sorts of things. But I can’t remember a single occasion when he got angry with me.

He was lovely, difficult, but lovely. He has been dead for 30 years now. I still miss him every day.

My first mother-in-law was also lovely. She was smart and generous and would always give people the benefit of the doubt. And if they proved they didn’t deserve it she wouldn’t bad mouth them, she just wouldn’t have anything to do with them.

She was good to me, she stood up for me when I left her son. She understood that I respected her for having made choices I couldn’t make, and I believe that she respected me for having made choices she couldn’t.

She had an understanding of human nature that more people should share. She was tolerant and that which should be tolerated (we’re none of us perfect) and angry at that which was wrong, though she was more likely to be angry at the behaviour than the person.

She’s been dead for 15 years now, and I still miss her too.

The other person I want to talk about was my great grand mother. She was 80 when I was born. She was bloody minded, awkward, and delightful.

My favourite memory of her, is visiting her with my mum when I was very small. She had a big, old fashioned, wooden, adjustable armchair. She was under 5 feet tall, she had a hunched back from osteoporosis, and she was quite frail. I can remember her picking up the wooden armchair, turning it through 90 degrees and collapsing into it. She then said to my mother “… dear, do you think you could make the tea? Because I don’t think I can manage it.”

She lived until she was 100 years old. She was always a sharp as a knife and knew her own mind. In her own way she was as tough as they come. I have many happy memories of her. I said when I was a child that if I was going to take after any member of my family I wanted to be like her.

I don’t dare ask… 🙂

Christmas to New Year with stress…

Lots of people talk about the joy of being with family over the Christmas break, and if you have a lovely, warm, loving family, who you see eye to eye with, I’m sure that can be true. But let’s be honest, there is tension in most people’s families, and some families seem to see Christmas as an opportunity for outright war.

If your family isn’t at peace with itself, the extra stress of expectations can be tinder to any potential argument. Those expectations don’t even have to be unrealistic, they just have to not mesh perfectly with what actually happens.

We also have a culture that is obsessed with blame rather than understanding. Blame is a destructive thing, self awareness, as well as taking responsibility for one’s own actions and the consequences of those actions are the positive way of approaching things when they go wrong. Being able to say “it was me and I apologise” is just about the healthiest and most grown up thing you can do, if it’s true.

Being aware that none of us is perfect is a really good starting point I find, especially when spending time with other people who you are not going to be able to escape from for a while.

We tend not to have to spend extended time with other people, so we have lost many of the skills our forebears developed through communal living. I can remember days before central heating and computers, when we spent most of our winters in the living room together trying not to fall out. It was there that we learnt the skill of keeping our mouths shut.

So, if your family is one of those dreadful toxic experiences, give yourself permission to avoid them. Christmas alone can be a joyous, peaceful, fun experience. If you work at making it that way. And many people who have families will envy you the opportunity to be peaceful.

Also bear in mind that whilst you may enjoy the hurly burly of your family interactions not every member of your family will necessarily agree with you. It may seem like gentle teasing from where you are, but the person being teased may find it to be far more challenging and unpleasant than that.

Be gentle to those around you when you know they are under pressure. They may lash out, but it probably has nothing to do with you. Lots happens in other peoples lives that we will never know about, these things are often in their minds when they are unhappy or under pressure.

Christmas and the new year put us under huge pressure, we need the people who care about us to be just a bit more understanding of our difficulties.

The End Of My Nose…

The end of my nose isn’t too far from me. I’m quite pleased about that. However, I do try and look beyond it pretty much all the time (I go cross-eyed if I don’t). It worries me that so many people, especially people in positions of authority, seem not to even try.

That which is obvious to me may not even be visible to you, because my life has furnished me with different experiences to yours. This is good. It would be the most terribly dull world if we were all exactly the same. But to live in a world where we are all different means that we all need to try and see things from a perspective other than that of looking down our own noses and stopping at the end of them.

I don’t want to walk a mile in your boots, I do want to be able to imagine what it would be like to do so. Even if I did walk a mile in your boots my experience would be different from yours because I am not you. But I have a good imagination, I would probably do a better job of imagining than I would of fitting into your boots.

What is needed are empathy and understanding, to put ourselves in the position of someone other than who we wake up to be every day. It isn’t always easy. I struggle to understand people who lack empathy, and to be brutally honest, it’s hard to see why I should empathise with them, but I try. I think I achieve a limited success. I can see they are damaged individuals, and to a certain extent I feel sorry for them, but not very because of all the pain they cause other people as they trample on feelings and manipulate and abuse their way through their lives.

The other problem with not looking beyond the end of your nose is that you can’t see the bigger picture. For some people this must seem wonderful, they can focus on one little detail and build their world around that. These kinds of people seem to delude themselves into thinking that this makes them feel safe. I can’t see that it does, because lurking in the background of their consciousness is the awareness that they are ignoring most of the world. I would expect this to make them feel very scared and insecure.

Then there are all the people who think they see the bigger picture when they don’t. They are looking from a particular perspective that means that much of what happens is blocked from their view. People like these will often try and belittle you and influence you to compromise your morals, because they believe the bigger picture is more important than you. This is not true.

The bigger picture is stitched together from all of us, all of our behaviour, all of our lives. Each one of us makes a unique and important contribution to the bigger picture. This is where Gandhi’s saying that “you have to be the change you want to see” makes perfect sense.

So, be proud of the end of your nose, it is an important place… and then look beyond it. 🙂

What Could Be

I’m very tired of living in a city where many people are too scared to look you in the eye. They are too scared to engage with you even in the simplest ways. I’m not sure what they are scared of. But my experience has been that when you engage with other people, they turn out to be other human beings. I’ve not met any monsters or aliens by making eye contact with other people as I’ve walked down the street.

This inability to engage comes over to me as rudeness. It costs so little, in the way of effort, to be polite. It makes a huge difference to everyone involved to when that effort has been made. It can change a really difficult experience into a pleasant one. It can change a pleasant experience into a really lovely one. It is almost always worth the effort to be polite.

People will tell you that manners are to do with respecting other people, but this is only part of the story. Manners are also to do with self-respect. Actually, manners are more to do with self-respect than they are to do other people at all.

How you, or I, feel about ourselves impacts on everyone we come into contact with. People who don’t like themselves can be really difficult to be around. But I’m not looking to allocate blame. The blame game is unproductive and self-defeating. It hooks everyone into staying in the same place, calculating and allocating blame.

Negative ways of thinking seem to be being reinforced by the trash in the media. Blame, fear, bad manners, selfishness, are common place in all aspects of the mainstream media. This is because these negative ways of thinking stop us from realising how unhealthy our culture is, how much we have become lost, where the real problems are.

The real problems are not other people, most other people are just like us, struggling to survive and make sense of this mad world we find ourselves in. The real problems are how the wrong things have become important. Do you know someone who has, at some point in time, lost all their worldly goods and status? Have you ever talked to them about it?

If you get the chance, do listen to them.

I had a student many years ago. A nice man, lovely wife, interested and interesting. One day he told me about how he had lost everything, money, status, his family. He didn’t regret any of it. He said it had made him realise what was important. He had rebuilt his connections with his family, and made a new life that he found fulfilling.

He’s not the only one, I have met many people over the years who have rejected what they were told was important, they built their lives around what they knew to be right. Not because they are selfish, quite the reverse, because they are generous and caring people. These people are the true heroes of our time. They are trying to spread love and understanding. They are trying to live by values that make sense of the world as we should all understand it.

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.