Wednesday, 17 October 2018

British people did this. Yeah. Us. FFS

Ah yes, so we're leaving, are we?
So, the current plan for Brexit would leave us worse off than as a full member of the EU. Farage wants back in, claiming there are too many lies and too much fear-mongering. Labour is apparently toothless and rotting from the inside out. The Lib Dems are providing the only real opposition but have absolutely no power base or goodwill with the British public; a British public which will fight itself over leaving Europe out of principle now, rather than sense.
So how are those pillars of the leave campaign working? Finance, sovereignty, immigration, maintaining the union... Trade opportunities (WTO, anyone)? Who was really being honest?
Campaigns for not only a vote on the final deal but another referendum are gaining huge support. And that scares the Brexit high command so much they want Farage back in a saddle he said he was sick of riding...and we all know the pedigree there - fisheries, NHS, self promotion...ooh, nearly didn't mention Boris - ah, there he is.
This is a complete shower of shit foisted on a public ill-equipped to make decisions those in power should be making. And yet, apparently, now it's the politicians who are screwing it up.
Oh, they have. Royally. Someone, somewhere, will do very nicely out of Brexit. (You know, the rich and the Rich-Smuggs.) The rest of us are about to find out just how bad this is. But we, the British public, did this.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Brexit - Stand by or Stand up?

It's been 2 years and I have still yet to hear a cogent and considered case for leaving the EU. I hear all the possibilities of potential opportunities formed of hope based on ideas of national sovereignty and disgust that we aren't treated in an even more special way by the EU than we are , but nothing that makes me think that there is any good to come of leaving the EU or maybe I missed something somewhere.
This is not about facts or cheating, lies or manipulation. This is ideological.
Have we paid a lot into the EU? Yes.
Have we got a lot out of that economic and political membership, from dispensation to special treatment to trade opportunities and the pick of expertise and employees? Yes.
Do we, as a nation, consider ourselves different and superior to the rest of Europe? Apparently yes.
Were we dictated to by the EU? Yes, but based on different agreements because of our status within the EU, along with every other member state. That's what happens in a club.
Were we lorded over by unelected European politicians? Nope. The MEPs were all elected to their various departments and parliaments, making them elected officials. Not by us, but then I didn't vote for the Tories and look where we are now. It doesn't make them unelected. They are many other things, but they are elected. 
The government is failing abysmally to negotiate with one entity and claiming the other side is being mean! How, in the name of all that is holy or damned, can we possibly imagine they'll be able to negotiate single treaties with multiple economic, political, cultural and ideologically different entities at the same time? 
At a time when we should be pulling together globally, not just nationally, the media that apparently is promoting liberalism and a hatred of democracy to fight (oh god, "the will of the people") Brexit is also fanning the fires of fascism and right wing nationalism, along with everything that entails. Thus dividing all the good that we can do in the most destructive way. 
This is an ideological war couched in political rhetoric presented by agenda-led media, no matter what side you are on, whether by design, belief, background, education or coin toss.
Changing my mind will not happen by berating me for refusing to accept something I believe to be utterly wrong or insulting me because I don't think what you want me to think. 
Insulting me is not going to work. Pleading won't work. Providing me with a plan for the future, workable opportunities that enable us to work beneficially with others in a way that will not see us manipulated and abused because of need or expediency, greed or panic is the way to go. But I see none of that.
I have been and always will remain open to the possibility that, regardless of how I voted, we will not simply survive this but thrive. However, nothing about the decision, the negotiating team and government or the current economic and political environment lead me to believe leaving the EU is anything other than utterly wrong.
I look forward to being proved mistaken, but until I am, I will fight this decision with the exact same determination that those who voted for it have to pursue closure. Not because I am undemocratic but precisely because I am truly democratic.
The decision is one that has highlighted massive ideological differences around the United Kingdom and whether we leave with a soft, hard or non existant deal isn't going to make any kind of difference to the divisions that are starker and potentially more damaging than they have ever been.
Leaving Europe won't give us the government we need, political change will. And not simply another party in charge but a shift in the manner in which politics is structured and the way in which we engage with it. Social media has given people voice without responsibility, information without substance, opinion without fact. And, as with this "essay", an easy way to speak our minds. 
Change is inevitable. We need to find a way to ensure that change benefits everyone, not just the few currently manipulating things to their own ends. 
Leaving the EU will be very good for some and increasingly hard on everyone else. But it will be as nothing if we cannot resolve the ideological fracturing of this great nation.
I haven't written this without hope or to ridicule what I think is wrong, rather with determination to stand for what I believe and the hope that we will thrive.
There's giving someone a chance and there's not standing by when it looks like it's all going to pot.
Where do you stand? Chance or pot?

MY - July 2018

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Marathon is Snickers. And Snickers is Marathon. Opal Fruits are not Starburst.

A midday musing:

I suddenly find myself at odds with my own political, emotional and mental standpoints.

The only absolute certainty is the division that now exists between families, friends, communities, societies, nations and globally.

I hadn't realised that I had been manipulated to such an extent that I am prepared to stand up and argue at myself.

It either means I have reached parity (unlikely), satiety (probably) or just cannot be arsed (I really hope not!).

Brexit is a desperate and stupid mistake founded on flawed, "alternative" grounds and mismanaged by both sides of the argument. And yet we have no choice but make the best of it and we will, not because of an arrogant belief in our own superiority and power within the global market place, but because we will have to. It is going to hurt. We have to make it work. But we must ensure that the democratic process is followed - so, yes, Parliamentary oversight is the very least that is required. It will happen. We must ensure that those in charge are held to account.

Trump is a dangerous narcissist hell bent on personal gain at all costs. No, America, he's not in it for you, he's in it for Trump! And he is being allowed to get away with it all. So he must be challenged, forced to explain himself, required to be accountable. Just because he says it, doesn't mean it's true. So, whether you beat the Trump rhythm or bang a different beat, you have to question him, just as you did with Obama. He's not the Messiah, he's a manipulative ingrate born into the elite that you apparently voted to remove from power.

The powers that be have manipulated their populations to such an extent that "divide and conquer" has never been truer. If we turn on each other the way we are being coerced to, we will simply follow wherever they want us to go. Worst case, each "side" will be radicalised to their own potent ideologies. And that is something that I find utterly reprehensible and truly scary. The ultimate manipulation will be that of a 1930s Germany, reshaped to believe whatever the ruling force wants. If that is to happen, it must happen against forceful debate, not violent conflict. It must happen in law and in peaceful protest, not rabid rioting and vitriol.

And maybe, just maybe, good things will happen for the majority. But unless those in power are hungry enough to do it for all of us, only a few will benefit. We must make them hungry. Not the other way round. Not like they're doing right now.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Awesome BOO HOO. Theatre on the Camden Fringe

Boo Hoo - written and performed by Judith Faultless at the Hen And Chickens Theatre, on the Camden Fringe, 2016 (16-8-16)

The Hen and Chickens is a very intimate theatre, perfectly formed for honesty and individualism; there is nowhere to hide. Judith Faultless doesn't even try to!

From her opening, “awkward”, pub scene she was never going to avoid the painful reality of modern life as a single woman. No spoilers, but even the harshest of moments lend themselves to gentle comedy with raucous laughs.

Just in case you might be worried, this is not a diatribe against the unfairness and judgmentalism of society and family. It is a wonderful affirmation of humanity, individual strength, becoming a mother, silly hats and Lego!

Hanging out her metaphorical washing line of nonchalance and passion, Judith races through the complications of coming to terms with age, expectation, failure and fear with a humour that is immediately engaging and heartfelt. The audience was not just drawn in  but became a part of her, sometimes, hysterical narrative and laughter was ever-present.

Except when it wasn't. There are moments that catch the audience both unaware and expectant all at once. Her honesty is at times uncomfortable but she never shies away from it.

Adoption is not an easy topic, especially with the stigma attached to anything bearing the “local authority” tag, but social workers and councillors come in for truckloads of comic… praise. And rightly so.

Throughout her performance, Judith  switches from certainty to insecurity with uncomfortable and totally believable ease. The mania that surrounds the life changing decision to adopt is sensitively dealt with, and extremely funny. Audience members were left in tears and hysterics.

Judith’s constantly self-deprecating, extremely funny insecurity is as much an indictment of the society in which we live as it is ultimately shown to be a comfort blanket with which she surrounds herself.

It's brilliant. So is Judith.

I don't do spoilers. Just go and see it!

Last show on Wednesday 17th August at 7.30pm at the Hen And Chickens Theatre.

Go and see it. Seriously. GO!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

How stupid is Donald Trump?

Donald Trump.

Now, wait. I'm not going into some rant about his latest fucknurdlery, or spin off into a diatribe about what a bunglecunt the man is, I just want to posit a theory.

Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that Donald Trump, Republican nominee, presumptive President of the United States (bear with me), isn't actually as stupid, racist or indeed rich as he makes out.

Let's start with wealth. Who's actually funding his campaign? He says he is, but this self-funding idea is a bit of a misnomer. He has certainly put money into his own campaign; money that has paid back his own interests (use of his own private jet, staying in his own hotels, that sort of thing); money given as a loan, therefore hardly a payment more of a savings plan. He'll pay himself back later out of party funds, presumably. (Fact check - There are also rumours that he has received money for his campaign from companies funded by Russian interests, and specifically billionaires linked to Putin. Now, I emphasise "rumours", as they are, as yet, unconfirmed. But since he appears to placing a lot of faith in rumours as part of his campaign policy it does seem fair to highlight them here. So, let's not even go down the Chinese route, right?

Is he a racist? Well, once upon a time we looked at an unethical, white misogynist banging on about a bloke called Khan as a bit of light relief (Captain James Tiberius Kirk, if anyone needs a hint). Now, he's running for president. The fact that he refuses to denounce supremacist groups of any persuasion and possibly even accepts funding from some of them (allegedly, not proved, no button pushing please), and that they all appear to be white could mean a surprising amount. Or nothing. I'm just putting it out there. In fact, he's only really being racist about Mexicans, the whole of South America, Central Asia, the Middle and the Far East and anyone who doesn't agree with him. Damn! The man is an equal opportunities racist! Is there no end to his evil?

But wait, there is the third facet to his character that I wish to discuss. And this is the one bit that makes me wonder. Is he really stupid?

Hillary Clinton - or as the Donald likes to call her, Killary, The Devil, the witch - is not exactly "clean". She's been party to some pretty heinous voting (Iraq, welfare), scandal (emails/husband) and decision-making over the years, along with all her other political colleagues at one time or another. But she has form in politics. She knows the political system. She understands global economics, finance, international issues, domestic issues, state and national legislation - you know, the basics!

Trump is reputed to have said something along the lines of "I won't need to know about any of that, I'll have people, real people, the best people. You know, the sort of people who people tell things to. They'll tell me about what's going on and I'll make the decision, the right decision, the best decision based on these great people's recommendations. Unless I don't want to. And then I won't. Because I'll be President and America will be great again. Greater. The best. Ever. No messing. It's true. Like, the real truth only better." I'm paraphrasing a little and punctuating.

Just recently, however, Trump's outbursts have become ever more grandiose, exaggerated, personal, vitriolic, violent, accusatory, vicious. Louder. So, here's where I reckon he's maybe not quite as stupid as he has presented himself to be.

Last year, when he announced his candidacy, people thought it was a joke. Well, the joke is on everyone. However, what if it wasn't supposed to go that way? What if he thought it might just be fun; spend some money, write it off against tax, be the big man in the limelight, make some waves, get people to notice him on the main world stage, make some money and more of a name for himself as a bit of a Vegas "player" and then disappear - or whatever "disappear" might actually mean to him? But he got caught up in something. Something even bigger than his own ego. And he liked it. He liked the attention. People weren't just listening to him in the boardroom, they were listening to him all over the world. And some of them were agreeing with him. And he REALLY liked that! And he got carried away; carried away on the spectacle, the emotion, the possibilities, the attention.

 Then, he wasn’t just a candidate. He was the Republican nominee. Amid all the lights and name calling, the belligerent battle cries against Muslims, Mexicans and Clintons, he was suddenly in a situation where he might genuinely become the President of the United States. And suddenly it got real. No games. No all night pool parties with senior diplomats. Shit just got serious and, rather than scared, I think Trump faced a realisation. He would not be a good President. He would, in fact, be the absolute worst kind of president. Not just nationally but internationally. And so he started to look for an exit strategy. The more ostentatious his remarks, the more violent and absurd his outbursts, the more dangerous his rhetoric would become, the less likely the rest of the nation would vote for him. Not stupid, see? Just trying to get out of something that had got too big and too real, but do it in a way that people now expect of him. Finally making himself unelectable by being even more of the person people think he is!

So, in conclusion, Trump may not actually be stupid. Well, he is, obviously, but he’s trying.

That’s the kind, sympathetic, it’s all for the greater good bit that this was all about.

In reality, he’s tapped into a vein of horror from which the world may struggle to recover. And if Trump is genuinely a stupid, rich, racist with a global megaphone, those who believe in him, support him and champion him are even scarier for wanting him to lead them.

But hey, my country just voted to leave Europe and is performing political cannibalism on itself. Go us, go US, go UK! Or just go to Canada. Please Justin, can I come in? I’ll be nice. Honest.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Could we, maybe, just be a bit nicer to each other?

Inspired by our irrepressibly noisome Parliament’s status of being anti everything the other lot says and Zac Goldsmith’s pathetic smear tactics in the Mayoral Election playground. WARNING, I wrote this so expect utopian ideals and generalisations.

How can we teach our children not to bully or be judgemental or hurtful, spiteful, rude, greedy, negligent, selfish, angry, suspicious or mean, when so much of our media, from magazine to broadcast and tabloid to social media, is given to reporting exactly that so often it has become normal? The leaders and politicians we should be able to look to for guidance and direction no longer see good, just what they can attack. (e.g. Labour agreeing with the Government on staying in the EU, but refusing to say they actually think the government is right about that, rather they just attack the methods and procedures. Just say you agree with the premise but not the detail. Start from a positive then debate the rest!)

In the face of all that, how do we teach our children tolerance and understanding, inclusion and openness and give them a chance for empathy, friendship and awareness of others and their surroundings? This is not some liberalist battle cry (God forbid, it would be more of a meek murmur!) but instead a reason for globalisation; true globalisation – not the bastardised, purely capitalist “let’s just create a market and shit on anyone who disagrees while fleecing them for every penny and destroying cultures and people because they aren’t financially valuable enough to keep” movement that it has been. It should be an opportunity for people all over the world to see each other as people, not as an ideology to be feared and bombed or a policy to be bitterly fought just because it came from someone wearing a red tie not a blue one.

Why has it even got that far? For true globalisation everyone needs to behave in a decent manner, not like a greed-driven robot.  But then, I’m one of those wishy washy, meritocratic, liberal-champagne-socialists who likes trees and wine and people and the environment.

Is it too much, then, to ask that we stop trying to fight everything?

Wouldn't it be interesting if, for just one day, the whole world just stopped fighting, had a cup of tea and got to know each other? Yeah, the utopian ideal. Nah, fuck it, let’s just bomb the shit out of everything. 

Because that’s worked so well up to now.

We have so much to be proud of and there is so much good being done all over the world. Let’s promote that for a change. And not simply because a celebrity is running a million miles on a hamster wheel, smearing themselves in palm oil and drinking carbonated Amazon water - laudable and applaudable, though that is - but because people do good stuff all the time!

I’m off to walk in the grass and hug trees. Or drink a lot of wine. Maybe both. But I’m not going to rip someone’s heart out through their eyes because they don’t agree with the way I wear my hat. My shoes, on the other hand, well now, that's a different story!

Scum and cream both rise to the top. You just need to work out how to skim. Even scum can fertilise. 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

We cannot do this any more. So what can we do?

This started as an essay about the benefits black hole and how we should be utterly ashamed of our government. But as I wrote, I found there was more to consider. So I did. But I haven't gone as far as perhaps I might, simply because I'm not writing a book, I'm writing a blog. 

Now, here’s a thing. 

I genuinely believe that if you can work, you should work! This, obviously requires there to be work available that pays a living wage and removes the need for benefits. I just thought I’d throw that out there. But there’s more.

I have a question.

Since we are being told that our huge budget deficit requires enormous, sweeping cuts to public spending, how much will be enough?

There are all sorts of figures being bandied about; £20 billion worth of cuts required from June 2015, on top of a currently undisclosed figure since 2011; £12 billion on welfare alone; multiple billions to be cut from public service, pensions, parts of the welfare bill. But in all this, there has been no definite figure. Much has been said about cutting the deficit; but cutting it to what and in relation to what? Modern day Governments run on deficit. Depending on how you interpret national budgets, debt is how governments fund themselves, either by owing or being owed – taxation, loans, investment in debt.

The arbitrary nature of the statement, “cutting the deficit”, requires no final figure, therefore leaving the abuse of those who require public funding to survive open to extremes, hence the absolute evil of Osborne’s austerity plans.

Would it not be better to simply come out and say that as far as conservatives are concerned, if you are sick, disabled, unable to work, or simply claiming any form of benefit you would be better off dead. God forbid you should be considered a cost to the country. No one wants to hear it, but it’s not going to make anyone like or hate the conservative government any more. To use language that an Osborne or a Duncan Smith can understand it’s nothing more than semantics, really. It’s pretty much the same as using the word “immigrant” to label anyone who isn’t indigenous but must be considered inferior to the indigenous people. Just semantics. However, consider this. Since Ian Duncan Smith’s DWP reforms have taken hold and the various schemes for removing public spending on disability have been enacted either via ATOS or Maximus, over 3,000 people have died - 2,380 people died in the first 6 weeks after the initial assessments were carried out. A fact that IDS and the “Conservative Management Team” did not want to acknowledge. It’s impossible not to consider the possibility that, for all that the changes are being couched in terms of managing efficiencies and debt, they are also tantamount to a cull. I know that’s a harsh thing to say, but if you’re not alive to claim benefit that you would otherwise be entitled to, the DWP doesn’t have to pay you, so, to them, it’s a saving – especially since that money can be counted against the Osborne-required cuts.

So, what of managing efficiencies? There are those who have been on benefits for a long time, who, perhaps, shouldn’t be; able bodied, capable people of working age and acceptable health who would rather do nothing and receive housing, income and child benefits, meagre though they may be. None of us like that idea. Actually, I’ll come right out and say it again, if you can work, you should work – assuming availability of employment and a living wage.

Certain media outlets would have us believe that they are in the majority, these heinous excuses for people sponging and scrounging worthlessly from the State, living in council houses surrounded by flat screen televisions, branded trainers, games consoles and tickets to far flung holiday destinations. The truth is very, very different. For 2012/13, benefit fraud stood at between £1.2 and £1.6 billion, depending on whose figures you prefer to employ. That sounds horrendous, but is actually LESS than 1% of the total overall benefits and tax credits expenditure of the UK. According to figures from the Department of Work And Pensions (Ian Duncan Smith’s own “personal” empire) some people didn’t actually receive what they were entitled to. When I say some, I mean enough to total an underpayment of benefit to the tune of £1.4 billion. That’s pretty bad, especially when you consider that, officially, an estimated 30% of those errors (both in overpayments and underpayments) were as a result of “official errors”.  So, either benefit fraud was less than the underpayments or very marginally more. Scary thoughts. The government actually lost nothing. Really. In fact, it may even have made money on those underpayments.

I’ll leave that for now.

We have a government that champions its businesses not its people. That’s why we have a disparity between the minimum wage and the living wage. How that is even possible, I cannot begin to accept. However, we are forced to listen to the “poor” business owners who claim their wage bills will increase exponentially if they have to pay more than the minimum wage – about which many are griping anyway – thus making their products more expensive and causing them to be less competitive. So, what would they consider the correct price for their product? A price that makes them competitive in external markets but will eventually bankrupt them because they would not be able to continue providing those goods at that price, or a price that reflects the costs of the country in which that product is made?

I find it difficult to justify not paying someone a living wage. That’s like saying “we’ll put plastic joists in this building because they’re cheaper than steel. They’ll crack and collapse, potentially killing people, but they’re cheaper.” Pay people a living wage and they can afford to come off benefits, pay taxes, buy goods – maybe even your goods – at prices that reflect the cost of the country and the manufacture of those goods (e.g milk, chicken, honey, clothing in the UK). That’s the thing about living in a so-called developed economy. It is more expensive than living in a developing one.

But I’m getting off the point in order to emphasise the point I’m making.

We have a huge benefits bill in this country. We have an enormous public spending requirement, of which benefit payments are just a tiny proportion. But to attack the weakest, those who genuinely require help, who cannot live without assistance is utterly abhorrent.

This is why I want to consider the shame of having allowed a government to come to power that has the destruction of the welfare system at its core, not that it would ever admit to it. I can’t help but feel anger when I read that people are being told that, despite needing 24 hour care, they should wear incontinence pants so that their inability to control their bowel movements didn’t prevent them from working. These are human beings who require our help and our care not objects for degradation, humiliation and disposal. And not targets for blame.

Mr Duncan Smith, Mr Osborne, Mr Cameron, you don’t see what you’re doing because you don’t want to. I want to believe that you started on your quest for megalomaniacal glory from a point of principled politics; that you wanted to serve the nation in which you live, the society and communities into which you were born. I want to believe that. I don’t. I believe that your only reason for staying in power is to perpetuate the power of the few. Genuine politicians, genuine people with real passion for their environment and their people scare you.

I am ashamed that we put this government in power. But I am also ashamed that we were left with no choice after a succession of greed-orientated power mongers from Thatcher to Blair to Cameron. Of course we need strong businesses to build a strong economy, but if that is only to promote the greed and financial growth of a tiny minority, what good is it to the country? What good does it ultimately do?

Change will come, because it will have to. We cannot continue like this because it will ultimately lead to our destruction, either in a return to serfdom and slavery, or revolution and mass destruction. There are better options:

1/ Understand the need for an economy to be of benefit to a nation. You cannot champion one facet of a society and claim it’s making things better when it is actually destroying the society itself. Tax relief for non-dom companies must cease. Opportunities for tax avoidance must be blocked. That’s how you fill the deficit. (Banking, foreign business, housing investment)

2/ Treat those who require help with respect, dignity and care, not brutalisation, demonisation and humiliation. We are a nation of people who do care about each other, our families, our neighbours and our friends. And as we perpetuate a society that cares for itself, so we in turn become stronger. (Welfare, NHS)

3/ Teach people that greed is not the ultimate glory. Education is the most dangerous thing to a government intent on control. The more we educate ourselves and the generations to follow, the better chance we have to develop understanding, tolerance, care and beneficial growth, without the ultimate need to own everything. What a challenge that would be for marketing and advertising agencies: transfer your knowledge of and skill for creating need for the unnecessary to generating need for what is actually good, beneficial, peaceful, caring and long term. Garner a shift from “what can I have, I want that!” to “what can I give? I can help!” (Education, involvement in society/community programmes)

You know what, if I can see these things, then so can those in power. And if they see it and do nothing about it, then they have made their choice. I don’t believe it’s the choice we want. I do believe in us. I do believe in a UK. I do believe in people. I do believe we can change the way our nation works. But we need to be led by those who see opportunity that isn’t simply based on a bottom line.

For the Conservatives to care so little about those who need the most care, is vile and destructive. It's evil. It's hateful. It must be stopped. 

Please get out there and read Manifestos and pamphlets, articles and comment. Listen to as much of the media as you can stand. Then make your own mind up. I don’t expect you to agree with what I’ve said, I'm not sure I even want you to because I want to learn, too, but if we start with debate, we genuinely have a chance to make educated decisions. And I really look forward to that. 

(Inspired by the Chicago Boys, Iceland, the banking crisis and the fraudsters' escape, Ian Duncan Smith, inherent human greed and evil, the incredible resourcefulness of humanity and a belief in good.)