Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Lines

It must be nice to have a job working on a TV show you like, okay you may have to put up with the odd racist presenter and a punch in the face, but it's a small price to pay to be in the presence of such genius. No?

Almost a million people (and I use that term quite loosely) have signed a petition petulantly demanding that the BBC reinstate a programme about schoolboy hijinks dressed up as motoring journalism along with its lanky provocative-for-cash presenter. Tha's about four times as many who signed the petition calling for a debate in Parliament on the effects of the government's catastrophic welfare policies. Not only that but Jeremy Clarkson is a friend of the Prime Minister, so a televisual troll and vapid bigot receives the ultimate endorsement while Cameron's own government can't be bothered to even consider the effect of their  on the poorest. We don't have the right to call ourselves civilised.

Let me be clear: Clarkson is a cunt. He may have started out as a journalist, but all that remains is a husk formed from populist outrage. According to the Guardian his most recent Top Gear Magazine article consists of nothing more than tired stereotypes about foreigners and public transport (apparently the former drive taxis universally smelling of vomit while the latter are containers of disease). Outrage isn't really the appropriate response at this point; more a sense of resignation and tiredness. I'm so fucking weary of this cretin. There is no content to his bullshit and no taxi I have ever travelled in has smelt of vomit either.

Clarkson and his tedious insipid cohorts, the sycophantic Hammond and the terminally curmudgeonly-for-cash James May, stand on a line that seems to divide society quite deeply (if that petition is anything to go by). On their side of the line is a world where people can speak their minds, do as they please (drive as they please where they please, specifically). On our side of the fence is, in their view, a stuffy repressive modern world of political correctness inevitably gone too far (the only kind apparently) and where values and cultures are shockingly mashed together with no respect for...something - even though culture is born from the confluence of older existing traditions.

Clarkson is the last bastion of free speech to the repressed fans of Top Gear who delight in his brave license fee funded health and safety checked white skinned antics. He is no more a maverick than John Wayne was a real cowboy. Instead he receives a huge sum of money to comfortably say things that resonate in a vile echo chamber of public opinion warped by a right wing media. His fans are regularly told about Muslims wanting to ban Christmas and how their kids can't play conkers in schools -a very Clarskon activity - without crash helmets, about how their white skinned daughters will be robbed of their innocence by foreigners while they themselves are robbed for their livelihoods - and thus their sense of identity - by, well, other foreigners. It's deeply sad but somewhere along the line these people lost who they were. Capitalism sold them down the river: Thatcher stole the industries they worked in and gave them to outside interests full of people they were told were better and smarter for example. Now all these people have as an ideological refuge is that side of the line, the one Clarkson, Hammond - Britain's worst presenter and a tawdry clone of the man himself (only made more pathetic by his inability to be equally as innately offensive) - and Misery Guts for Money James May.

People revel in the maverick antics of the Top Gear trio as they throw cars that aren't 'cool' out of planes, or drive around America with provocative slogans just to upset the locals. But they aren't really in any danger, not even in Argentina, the BBC and the behind the scenes staff will cop the flak, just as one of them did when Clarkson got a bit tired and felt like throwing his weight around because one of them wasn't on hand to offer him a plate of Roast Bee or something. That poor sod felt the wrath of Clarkson's faithful who variously thought that he should never be allowed to work again (no doubt subsequently complaining if he signed on) and that he had a punchable face. These are the same people that audibly guffawed when, on the televisual kleenex that is the One Show, Clarkson referred his wisdom on the issue of striking public sector workers. He felt they should be shot in front of their families. 

But it's all a joke innit. If you don't find that funny then you are on the wrong side of that line. You are a stuffy do-gooder - worse: you are a repressive force doing the common man down. Of course these people should be shot. In this age of fluid opinion and fact free churnalism of course these people should be shot. Just as when some poor shmuck working for Top Gear (and thus Jeremy Clarkson) doesn't immediately rush to his master's side like an unquestioning faithful puppy. 

I want our society to move forward but it won't as long as people refuse to move past that line. 

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Twisted System

Last night Dispatches on Channel 4 presented half an hour on the insanity of the mechanism of DWP sanctions. It is next to impossible to try and understand this system without coming away traumatised. Throughout all of this, on the broadcast and beyond, the government refuse to involve themselves in any discussion of the consequences, supported of course by the media and any useful idiots drawn in along the way.

How does poverty help people? 

This is control. That's all it is. This is the worst kind of authoritarianism: selective and exploitative. It just goes to show the utter hypocrisy and ideological bankruptcy of the right who have no compunction abandoning their ideals when it suits them. That is capitalism. This is what is in store at the general election; if one thing is certain it's that capitalism will win - even if that means fashioning some nightmare coalition across the apparent political spectrum in this country. After all the Libdems claimed to be left wing for so many years and they were quick to use the excuse of 'national interest' to grab power, to maintain capital's control over our lives.

This system uses poverty against the people in society. That is what is happening.

One heartbreaking case on the broadcast was a single dad of two schoolkids dependent on food parcels because his ESA was stopped. Non attendance of the Work Programme was the reason, in complete ignorance of his very obvious physical discomfort. A fused hip and a spinal hernia left him in clearly pain. But not only that he was also a victim of the Bedroom Tax to the tune of £28 a week which consumed the risible sum of money that the DWP left him with (I'm not sure of the full breakdown of his benefits, it's not important, nor any of my business really). The priority for the DWP - the government - was not to ensure that this man and his children were able to feed themselves and have shelter, but to make sure that what they deem he owed is paid back above even those considerations. The sense of desperation was palpable, he is now in rent arrears for the paltry sum of a hundred and twenty odd quid.

It is more important that, no doubt with the help of some Mitchell brothers style goons, the government gets its pound of flesh from this man than he and his kids eat. 

What does that tell you about capitalism? That money is more important than people. That a government can create a debt, in the form of the Bedroom Tax, out of thin air and trap a vulnerable man and his dependants for the rest of his life. 

And they will tell you this is the right thing to do; that it is helping people. 

There is not one shred of evidence that a single person, through the mechanism of sanctions, has been helped.

None of this even begins to address the inherent corruption, exposed by the PCS (who, even so, don't seem interested in actually doing anything about it). We all know that there is a rancid culture of setting targets, however it also appears there is a culture of ramping up conditioinality on those who do what is required of them. Such people are to be treated with increased harshness until, presumably, they ineivtably trip up. 



The DWP, under the stewardship of an ideological tyrant, wants people to fail. 

Clearly the government does not want to help people.

In fact I'm not entirely sure what it wants. I suspect there is no ultimate goal here; it is simeply about using social security (welfare is an Americanism) as a political football. The right believes it can exploit the existence of a safety net endlessly to maintain power. However that does imply that the Tories don't want it desotryed completely, which seems incongruous. You might be forgiven for thinking the Tories want to remove benefits entirely. They may well do, but that's because their ideology blinds them and makes them stupid. They don't realise that social security provides...security. If everyone is forced into poverty what's to stop them turning on the rich or turning to mass crime. If that happens the middle classes will turn on the Tories for making them feel unsafe in their little enclaves. So the truth is that the more intelligent (so to speak) element of the party (and I don't necessarily include Duncan Smith and his cohorts within this) want some form of social security to exist. However that element is to be abused to keep them in power, thorugh demonising the poor and making the faithful afraid of the poor. It's a small price to pay, in their minds, for low wages and the commensruate labour market insecurity.

Meanwhile people such as the case above are just collateral damage. Nobody within government will care. He will be trapped by a system that has been brutalised into something dark, that is no longer there to help but to harm.

Monday, 23 February 2015

The State of Greed

The arrogance of politicians goes on.

Is this ever going to change? Both sides of the house are at it if Channel 4 are to be believed and the camera, as they say, never lies.

Some people say this is about their pay implying that they don't get enough. I don't actually care what they get paid, but it's relative. They have no right to complain when they vote for pay rises that are ten times what they begrudgingly offer people in jobs like nursing. What is it that has bred this culture; this notion that being a politician, which should be an honourable role, isn't enough or that it's a means to a lucrative end?

Serving the community and society should be a privilege. But in this country it seems that it has ever been the sole refuge of the privileged. We have career politicians who place themselves in line for a peerage so they can see out their time in the Lords, unaccountable and unelected. They claim that being a Member of Parliament demands a lot of their time, which is quite likely, and then find the time to take up positions on boards 'advising'. This means they use their position and the connections made to gain advantage in return for cash. 

This is only going to change if we do away with a financial system that breeds this kind of thinking; that creates the career of politician that erodes the position of public service. We could start by shutting down the Lords including all the vastly subsidised services within (the wine cellars and fine dining). We don't need a second chamber and to claim it holds the Commons in check is a nonsense given that government stuffs the Lords full of supporters anyway. If a bill needs proper scrutiny then give it scrutiny. But that would require politicians to attend and anyone looking at a picture of the disgustingly dismal government turnout during the WOW petition debate will realise how corrupt it is. What is more important a discussion than that? When even the minister responsible can't be arsed to attend something is deeply wrong.

We would also need to dismantle the systems of privilege throughout society. This is not just about the abused expenses system which is something that's easily fixed really. It's about the private institutions that cover our legislators in money in return for whatever. It's about the schools that the elite and only the elite attend that are breeding grounds for subsequent candidates for the high ranking positions in our society. We might have a few 'commoners' that make it into Parliament but few of them are ever likely to become PM compared to the Eton Mess that rule our society.

We must break the back of this system. Britain seems unique in mixing capitalism with aristocracy. This is a toxic mix that leads to this bizarre worship of big business and the veneration of the 'entrepreneur' class. This in turn gives us such phenomena as Dragons Den wherein a number of wealthy people sit in a warehouse surrounded by their money lauding their success and fighting over the hopes and dreams of the bedraggled and be-suited wannabes that apply in the hopes they will receive the blessing of at least one of these 'dragons'. Why do we worship these people when we do nothing to support creativity or art or culture?

The modern world has become the playground of the rich to the point of absurdity. We have powerful institutions that exist to protect the interests of big business who routinely whine that schools should exist solely to train people in shelf stacking or till operation (rather than train people themselves). Where is the institution calling for schools to provide knowledge for the sake of learning, art appreciation, understanding of music, philosophy, etc. Public services are a football to be used to generate disdain in the public mind as a precursor to inevitable privatisation: a highly short termist approach benefiting the few at the expense of everyone else. Like the privatisation of the Royal Mail.

Sooner or later this house of cards will crash. Ultimately it will be technology that forces a change. Maybe we will actually create nanotechnology and move into a post scarcity economy. Or maybe cheap energy will take the burden. Or maybe we will all have Star Trek replicators. Or maybe financial systems that gamble on food and resources will plunge their owners and those who play them into darkness, crashing into society like an asteroid into the planet. Who knows when that kind of change will happen.

Or it could be sooner: ultimately I believe 'we the people' still have the power. The problem is there isn't the will for the masses to come together. That's why we need the unions to call a general strike. Unfortunately I don't see that happening any time soon. 

Somehow the frustration in society will find an exit; pressure will force it to explode and when it does it will be ugly. Ukip supporters may not like the protrayal of race riots in the 100 Days fiction, but that is where we are most realistically headed. Someone will snap, something will give, and again the politicians will have blood on their hands.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Business As Usual

I couldn't sleep (as usual - at least late night radio is somewhat interesting) and on the radio was Labour's latest proposal: double the duration for paid paternity leave to 4 weeks. Innocuous enough, you might think, but of course the voice of Big Business would not be silent. The BBC (for it was they) were ready with a quote from tedious toad faced free market apologist Mark Littlewood (he's another non entity from another capitalist think tank). His cry of wolf was that the cost would have to be passed on to someone somewhere, either cutting the workforce or dumping on to the consumer. This is despite Labour qualifying the idea explaining that it is paid centrally, from government.

Well so fucking what? Going along with Capital's straw man, as set out by Littlewood, if your profit has to take a hit in order to meet the needs of a human being in your employ: so what? It's an extra two weeks, this is not gonig to be something that happens 365 days a year for all time for everyone. 

Oh but won't someone please think of the profit line? Why? Profit is supposed to be that which a business makes on top of its costs. Turnover minus costs = profit; isn't that correct? So why is profit so important. As far as I can tell it's so you can ultimately sell your business in an act of loyalty - the kind you demand from your workfroce - so you can spend your days sitting pretty in the sun. No social good at all. 

Someone will claim that, through this convoluted nonsense, people's pensions are funded. But that is only because that's the way the market has been rigged. That's how the rich and powerful that run capitalist societies (like HSBC for instance - who will doubtless get away with their tax evasion crimes) stack the deck. In ohter words, it doesn't have to be that way and thus it is unfair to deflect valid criticism accordingly.

The only argument left is the special pleading from small business. The problem here is that, yes, a case can be made in favour of small business in such cases; it's an easy example to make because it sets up capital as the underdog. The reality is that these entities, while they might technically be businesses, are really no different than the people I'm defending: the workers, the poor, those who do not have the capacity or the resource to fight their corner in the market (never mind the rigged market that is capitalism). To regard Mr Smith who runs the Local Business Shop as a fully paid up member of UK PLC - as someone who has a voice among the ruling classes or any real authority - is a mistake. He is no better off and suffers the same economic and systemic depredations as the working man in the labour market. Just because he runs a Local Business Shop is immaterial.

So clearly the message is: if you're working class, you shouldn't breed.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Explaining Problems

I spoke to the Clinician again, complete waste of time of course. She's not going to change her mind and I can't say I'm surprised. So either I speak to the Patient Advisory Liaison Service which will be no more effective in persuading her to change her mind, but it's what she's duty bound to recommend, or I go back to the GP and ask for a second test. 

How that will happen I don't know. She is a member of the only local service (other than private services that of course won't be cheap - nor anything close) and previously said that a second opinion was out of the question because she had discussed it with her colleagues and they'd all decided. Naturally.

So I will have to go back to the GP, which I will be doing in two weeks. I'm not remotely confident, they don't understand these issues at all. The fundamental problem with these sorts of issues (let's call them mental health problems, it's so much easier) is that they are very personal. An individual grows up with his mind the way it is, particularly in the case of issues such as Aspergers and the like. However your brain is wired, it forms the way your experience of life is shaped. That means you don't know any different and you don't know, necessarily, whether what you experience is problematic because you have no basis for comparison. So you go through life struggling - a bit like a blind person bumping into things they can't see. 

It's only as an adult, or t least with the wisdom of years, that you start to think "hang on, other people aren't experiencing things the way I do. No one else seems to find life such a struggle intrinsically". (That is, there are people who do struggle, obviously, way more than I, but those struggles are born of specific conditions, usually imposed - benefit sanction for instance.) So you start to examine and learn what might be the cause, even if your studies are not informed by proper knowledge of the field.

However translating those experiences into a clear soundbite for a GP or a clinician, or even a Work Programme god botherer, is difficult - particularly when you have to penetrate the prejudices of such people. So you find yourself banging your head against people who have been conditioned, particularly in respect of the unemployed, to downplay these problems. Nevertheless the reality remains and the individual struggles.

Until mental health provision can adequately deal with these difficulties it cannot even begin to provide help. When you further impose cultural values (ie "get a job, that will cure you") and do not actively hear what the patient is trying to tell you. Or when you have a diagnostic process that can't deal with adults and doesn't make an effort to tease the full scope of the patent's difficulties you aren't going to get anywhere. I don't think the testing process did either of those things: a picture book of flying frogs maybe a recognised tool (I’m not suggesting the clinician was a quack), but it's no good for adults for example, especially when there is no provision on  hand for dealing with adults who cannot provide an objective life experience to be cross referenced. My life experience is my own, it's in my head; it's not separate from me.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Fragments

The other day I rang the Autism Spectrum Service (the people that tested me) to make a complaint. I don't think the testing process was up to the job. Asking me to look through kids picture books or play with toys from a Christmas cracker or watch dodgy videos of people having a dinner party cannot be a proper test surely (it's something called ADOS apparently). 

What they are looking for is whether my results or behaviour, in respect of these situations, is consistent with the results given by people they know to have a positive diagnosis. So it's a bit like going to the doctor and being told on the basis of a stuffy nose and a headache that you have a cold. The doctor doesn't know for sure, he's making an educated (to a greater or lesser extent) guess. In an ideal world he would be able to sample your blood or DNA in some fashion and know for sure. This isn't how neurodiverse/ASD (again whatever you want to call it) conditions are diagnosed. All of this means that sometimes some people are going to fail to get a diagnosis because it's guess work; some people - particularly in adulthood I would think - can progress through the experience of testing in a way that convinces the diagnostician they are 'normal'. Whether I am such a person I do not know. Not knowing is a particularly frustrating characteristic of this whole experience.

On Tuesday the diagnostician will be contacting me (at least that's what was agreed). I doubt any good will come from this since they are unlikely to believe they have made a mistake (if that is indeed the case) or that their testing process is flawed when dealing with adults, or whatever. There is also the issue of the 'Non Verbal Learning Difficulty' condition flagged by the Work Psychologist which the diagnostician variously decided was not a thing and then was.

There is an online test one can take called the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ, like IQ I suppose) which was designed by other experts (so it claims). I was not set any test by the diagnostic team anything like this. Having undertaken this test I scored a result that is well within the result consistent with a positive diagnosis. I know it is an online test, but it's based on an actual test; so why is this test not valid, but asking an adult to look at pictures of frogs flying on lily pads is? Is this bias? Is the AQ test discredited or is it just the choice of these particular diagnostic people?

The greater problem is that there is no holistic approach to all this. Regardless of the outcome the diagnostic people are not part of the DWP and will not, under any circumstances, deal with them irrespective of my circumstances. I tried to explain to them the problems of claiming and dealing with the DWP and trying to find a suitable job, but they can seemingly do no more than wring their hands. Conversely the DWP, the Work Psychologist at least, is the opposite. She is part of the DWP and knows about claiming, but cannot make a diagnosis. 

Until we have a system that plugs all these different aspects and services into a communal whole how can people ever expect to be helped. All these are interlocking aspects comprising one's life experience and cannot be examined viewed or judged alone.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Death By Drawing

And now I will weigh in on the Charlie Hebdo situation.

It is a perverse world where freedom of expression, which is vital to the DNA of a functioning healthy society, allows people to choose oppression. I see a lot of women dressed in the accoutrements of Islam in Bristol, there is a sizeable Somali community from where they come. I have no problem with their background, but I do resent having to defend freedom when that freedom is wasted. If you choose oppression, by sublimating your will to that of a legendary figure who’s supposed edicts include gender tyranny then I will defend you, but I will not respect you for it.

It is a strange world where people can be so convinced of not just the existence of a figure from mythology but of the veracity of his commands and beliefs, which themselves are supposedly from a deity we cannot see, communicate with or interact with. The extremists would have me believe that their prophet existed, but that he was a conduit for a being so powerful he does nothing to help those that will kill in his name (a god who rewards them in the afterlife with things that are taboo until they get there). Not only that but that this man deserves worship above all who live to the point where to represent him in visual form, in however benign, is to invite and legitimatise your own murder. This is the total surrender of one’s conscience and will to the point of mental incarceration.

Clearly there is a clash of cultures and we must not give these murdering maniacs what they deserve. They seek to divide us and there are, I’m sure, all too many that will be willing to point to any Muslim, moderate or hardline and hold them as personally accountable as the murderers themselves.

Unfortunately there is a responsibility on the part of all Muslims to realise that the beliefs and practices they hold have consequences. If a woman in the west chooses to make a lifestyle choice that converts them to Islam that’s great, but they must understand that there are countries where women have no choice but to cover themselves on pain of death. This is not a wacky fashion statement that someone living the easy life of a western intellectual can make as part of some anodyne personal journey of self improvement. It is the difference between life and death. Women in these hardline Islamic environments are treated appallingly and freedoms are few and far between.

The problem is deeper than Islam however. One day Islam will evolve, just as Christianity has (had to). Even so there are still plenty of Yahweh believers, particularly among the upper echelons in the society of the world’s most powerful superpower, who are dangerous - perhaps even more so given the power of America. Not for nothing are they known as the American Taliban: senators who make policy that rebukes actual science, who happily trash the environment because of money and apocalyptic beliefs (God will sort it all out come the Rapture), those that resent sexual equality and diversity; even racial differences. These are just as unevolved as the tribal superstitious in the middle east who, by some tiny margin, at least can justify their beliefs by being the victims of American oppression. When a drone drops on your family leaving only you alive you could - could - be forgiven for being open to radicalisation.

In this mess there’s a lot of blood on a lot of hands. I don’t think the magazine is to blame but it publishes its cartoons - as it has every right to do - knowingly in a climate of islamophobia. That’s the unfortunate part of this. Those cartoons are a reaction to precisely the sort of thing that happened and it is important to highlight the horrible nonsense of advocating violence in response to pictures. If the extremists didn’t respond in customary fashion they may well have garnered more sympathy because of that climate of islamophobia and caused public opinion to effect a more natural and less oppressive (and less violent) a change.