Sunday, 26 April 2015

Looking into George...

As the political campaigning is at last coming to its end, I am so relieved and 7th May 2015 can't come soon enough. The experiences have been fascinating and the learning intense; the rewards found only in the friendly walkabouts, talks to the young and audiences that show such anger and passion - it restores faith in the wisdom of the masses and awareness that apathy is not everywhere. The audiences were well-informed, engaged and clearly undecided at hustings (debates but not really as we don't get the chance to address the other candidates' points - only each express our own... which can be frustrating) for the Country Land and Business Association at a gorgeous mansion surrounded by polo fields and in village and church halls for Age UK, Churches Together and the general public.

It was very sadly predictable in that each of the other candidates said exactly what I expected and repeated mantras, jokes and family stories at each event as if newly telling; I know there is a practicality in this but for me it felt like each new audience was not being considered for the unique one that it was. On Friday night and Saturday morning, George Osborne shared hustings with us. To put this meeting into context... I have been despising and actively opposing the harms this man has done and continues to do, since joining the Occupy movement in 2011 and becoming part of the now huge anti-fracking movement. George Osborne's father-in-law is an ardent supporter of the shale gas industry and along with George and the government, is doing all possible to get this through - oiling the wheels of planning and legislation to ensure the public do not get in the way. When I knew we would be sharing a platform, I wondered how the hell I would react. I have slept in tents in freezing temperatures, watched treasured friends and fellow activists, brutally assaulted, read manipulated press stories whilst standing amidst truths that they in no way resembled; I've watched communities in fear, communities torn apart and divided and am currently in a court case demanding around 60,000 in costs from me. And so much more, from far more vulnerable people across the UK with sanctions, cuts to allowances for the disabled and cruel measures to punish those who don't fit the category 'HARD WORKING FAMILIES'... it was always going to be tense. But...

I do a thing when I meet people for the first time (particularly those I KNOW I have a pre-formed, bad opinion of) ..I remember that each of us was born a baby and therefore, at some brief stage... I could have loved them (before life scribbled a story all over them with circumstance, upbringing, education, abuse etc.).

This was harder with George than any other human I have met. I looked as deep as I could get and found that underneath the puppet of the party was a weak, insecure man. He worked to instruction and formula and seemed to experience huge discomfort when confronted with anything that was vaguely 'off script'. It felt like he was doing what he was told and if he wasn't told - he didn't know what he was doing. Deep, deep in me was a smidgen of empathy for the little boy who feared the bullies and came to serve them.

Tragically (literally for the many he affects by virtue of his position) - the system puts people like George into positions, where there is power passed through them. At no point in the process of this political campaign (my first ever involvement with politics) have I found it to be democratic, fair or just. From the way our electoral system works (it doesn't for us) that means for some of us, our vote is only worth a fraction (this is crazy), to the vile way the parties 'play' their campaigns; this peek into the strategies politicians use was shared by Boris Johnson in 2013 and is every bit in play right now:
'Let us suppose you are losing an argument. The facts are overwhelmingly against you, and the more people focus on the reality the worse it is for you and your case. Your best bet in these circumstances is to perform a manoeuvre that a great campaigner describes as “throwing a dead cat on the table, mate”.
‘That is because there is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table – and I don’t mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. That is true, but irrelevant. The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout “Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!”; in other words they will be talking about the dead cat, the thing you want them to talk about, and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.’
The current system of government is not about you and me, is not about people, society, community or family. We have a lot to do but I am more determined now than ever, that we cannot stop until we seize back control of OUR democracy, from the 'system' of government operating it. For now, my activism IS politics and after 7th May, I'm not sure.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Blueprint for Life...

Between 1 in 12 and 1 in 15 children and young people are thought to deliberately self-harm.

That is such a dreadfully sad statistic. Children without hope. Children in despair. What is it that is causing the rise of mental health issues for so many? Aside from the pollutants, industries, additives, pharmaceuticals and other factors that can affect our mental health, maybe there’s something in the way  we live and the example and options we offer our young .  

I recall those childhood wonderings about what it would be to grow up;  hearing about school, work, falling in love, marriage, children etc. I waited each time at the end of conversations about this scenario, this ‘blueprint for life’ - thinking there would be at least another option, if not a whole set of multiple-choice blueprints to choose from.

I didn’t hear any real choices – just success or failure based on matching up to the blueprint

My mum was loving,  fabulous and successful  in her career but she too had the blueprint; doing her best to be the shape it required and help my sister and I to be too. We act with good intent, not wanting our children to be outside society and wanting to make the journey as smooth as possible. There is no malice in shaping our children to fit because this is what life looks like, if you grew up according to the blueprint  - but there is harm.

The confines of society have closed in so much that there are fewer exits and where they lead, grows smaller and smaller. We live anti-nature – shut-in buildings, ritual working patterns,  societal norms,  structured politics and probably most damaging of all, limited boundaries of education that attempt to create those shapes for humans to be - in order to fit the blueprint. 

I know so many out-of-shape people

Of course we can go rogue… live life away from the norm but it is far from easy and getting more difficult all the time. There is little common land to disappear to, few incomes that aren’t attached to a ‘regular job’ etc. So odd-shaped people spend lifetimes trying to squeeze, stretch and bend into places, spaces  and states of being that will always be ill-fitting… and eventually, maddening.

Mental Health has been in the news more recently than at any other time I can recall. Statistics warn:

  • Suicides rates show that British men are three times as likely to die by suicide than British women
  • Self-harm statistics for the UK show one of the highest rates in Europe: 400 per 100,000 population

Of course this is a health issue that we need to look at from a medical perspective but much more than the diagnosis and treatments – the biggest concern is surely:  

What are the causes and how can we address them before the harm starts or is beyond remedy?

The world is dramatically different than the one I knew as a child and yet the blueprint remains pretty much the same. We can see that as a species, we are capable of amazing creativity and ingenuity and yet here we are, stuck in austerity, in debt, discontented with our systems of government, at war, in poverty and often, feeling the huge sense of hopelessness at it all.


As technology races ahead, social media gets us talking and the internet provides ready-resources of information and learning,  people WILL challenge the blueprint. Each day though, suicides, over-medication and self-harm are stealing some of the most creative, feeling and unique minds from us. History reveals that the brightest inventions have come from those with wilder minds; the untamed Einsteins, Teslas and Da Vincis (would they have been medicated as teens in order to get them to conform to an homogenized norm and stop fussing with crazy ideas?). 

Change can't come soon enough and it has to include a review of the blueprint so we can start to set ourselves free.

Mad Enough Yet?

Are we mad enough yet? Any of the headlines about the report by the IPCC on our damaged environment on this planet... could just have easi...