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.

All Or Nothing

So the upcoming election leader debates.

Simple: EVERYONE whose name is on the ballot should be invited. That’s it.

I don’t care if you’re the BNP or the Greens - or even Al Qaeda. If you are on that ballot that means you are a legitimate option in what is supposedly a mature democracy. People can tick the box next to your name, even if you represent an odious view. Shouldn’t we hear those views? How can we ever learn what our ‘enemies’ believe if we don’t hear it - that’s oppression. That’s us being told what to think. In order to debate those who hold odious views we have to allow them to participate. Anything else is not freedom and i thought that’s what was supposed to be important?

Of course what’s really happening is obvious: Cameron wants the Greens to split the vote. He knows the Tories are unpopular, he knows he cannot win over the NHS and that austerity has spiralled out of control. So he wants to shore up his vote and have Farage be exposed by the Greens who are proving, despite what UKIP and Ofcom seem to think, quite popular.

However the bottom line is this: we are supposed to live in a democracy. That means all views should have as much of an opportunity to get heard. That this is not the case is disgusting. That powerful institutions such as national broadcasters can decide who gets to speak is repugnant to me. Either everyone participates or it is not a democracy.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

First the Worst

If ever you needed a ready and easy example of why privatisation should be avoided and indeed why capitalism should be avoided, then look no further than First. Simply the worst public transport provider imaginable. Their latest stunt beggars all belief, even for them this is a step way too far.

My local jobcentre is a bus journey away on a particular route that used to be provided, from about a decade ago (after a long absence), by council subsidy to a local coach operator. It was a popular service and remained so when First muscled in. Smelling blood in the manner of a shark they create their own route to cover that journey the side effect of which meant that the council had to withdraw because they aren’t allowed (so they tell me) to compete.

Fast forward a few years (First have only been running this route for about 2/3 years) and that route is being changed to use the motorway - completely cutting off the communities along that route toward it’s destination. That being the town that’s home to the Jobcentre. Anyone living here that works in that town would now have to quit their job, which of course creates it’s own set of shit problems. Of course the council now don’t have the money to resurrect their original service; First have come in, muscled out the competition and gutted the service.

The reason they gave me beggars belief: I was expecting some blarney about costs and profits, but apparently people complained the journey was taking too long. Unbelievably First responded not by telling these people to politely stop being selfish and to accept that in order to service everyone in the community a few more minutes would be required. They decided that, presumably to help clean up their wholly toxic public image, it’s better to throw whole communities under the bus (pun intended, with extreme prejudice) foregoing the money they’d make from those passengers, no matter how little they might regard it, just to shave a few minutes off a journey.

There you have it. Local councillors are baffled and angry. I am baffled and angry. Fortunately I’m not compelled to attend the Jobcentre presently, but I chose that one because it’s the least busy. Attending the second nearest centre is no great hardship in terms of public transport (though it’s more expensive, despite First’s ‘fairer fares for all’ consultation last year that resulted in a price increase), but the centre itself is too rough. I don’t like it. I don’t feel safe there, and I hope I don’t have to attend. I doubt First gives a shit though. This is what privatisation creates:decisions made at the expense of the community.

Friday, 2 January 2015

New Year, Vote?

Happy new year! Crappy new year! Hopefully not. Hopefully we can evict these blue-tie wearing bastards from office this year. Unfortunately I fear the cost of doing so will be to replace them with red tie wearing bastards who, frankly, have been a complete let down over the last five years. Still, all things being equal (and why would you think they are), a Labour government will at least have two things in its favour: it will slow the rate of decline hopefully enough to give us some breathing room to mount a proper and effective campaign to dismantle this broken system. Secondly they won’t be Ian Duncan Smith. While Rachel Reeves is no saint and far from what we need, and despite her apparently claiming to be tougher than the Tories (though, to be fair, that was in relation to welfare spending), she isn’t as violently sadistic and cruel as him. Few could be. However I’m under no illusion that Labour will effect real change, just a slight delay in the inevitable goal of all parties in this capitalist nightmare. That’s better than the alternative, it has to be.

Though I’d love to give the Green party a go. I suppose the only way for that to happen is to get out and vote for them, which is ironic considering Natalie Bennett has spent a lot of time sharing panels with Russell Brand. I’m not terribly enamoured with him. I suppose it’s good that he’s championing righteous causes (such as the New Era Estate), but I’d rather he wasn’t such a cocky misogynist woo woo spouting maniac. He’s an easy target for the right wing, but as long as the people he claims to support are under no illusions about him that should be fine. Hopefully he’ll realise behaving like that isn’t the best way to go and drop the silly act.

It all comes down to what choices are presented on the ballot. We don’t have equal votes or fair representation. I may support a Labour vote in the sense it appears to be the best chance of ousting the Tories, but locally they come a distant third with no real chance of winning against either Tory or Liberal Democrat. Neither of whom are choices I want to make. Neither is Labour for that matter and I’m not comfortable with advocating a ‘hold your nose and vote Labour’ platform, but the situation - and I’m referring solely to 2015 not the longer term - is so dire because of the possibility of a Tory return (even though they haven’t won in 20 years) that all bets are off. I don’t support Labour, I think Miliband is hopeless weak and not remotely left wing nor socialist (the less said about Ed Bollocks the better). However what alternative is there? If I believed the Greens had enough of a chance of winning I’d endorse them. Of course that’s a self fulfilling prophecy but the possibility of splitting the left vote is as dangerous as not voting.

We have to vote: Russell Brand forgets one thing and that is that Tory supporters will vote. They have no truck with his ideas and the system doesn’t recognise abstention or spoiling the paper. Instead that translates into a vote against what you believe. In this case it becomes a Tory vote. That’s the worst thing that could happen, even though I support the freedom not to vote (the alternative is fascism). There has to be unified opposition to the Tory onslaught - and it is an onslaught.

My point: the situation is uniquely dire this year. We cannot risk a Tory (even in coalition) return. The cost will be too dear; we will lose the NHS for certain as well as teh welfare state (and more besides). Is it worth holding your nose and returning a Labour government if it means preventing that? Even though the differences between red and blue are practically negligible and even though it’s repugnant to have to do this, what are the alternatives? By all means hold to your principles if you don’t believe in voting for Labour, but consider the cost.

Labour has pledged to repeal the Health and Social Care act (according to Andy Burnham) as well as the Bedroom Tax. Though these are certainly welcome they need to do a huge amount more and of course there’s no guarantee they will even do these things. I know this (though I have to believe if they didn’t it would be an act of collective suicide that would make Nick Clegg look sensible). But consider the alternative.

Hey if you disagree let me know!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Dying To Work

It seems cancer with a 3 month life expectancy is no barrier to the scumbags at the DWP. Dying is to be regarded as no real inconvenience to the determined jobseeker, thanks to these idiots.

And to round it off, there's a jobcentre adviser in Britain happy to tell someone, 23 weeks into their pregnancy, they are being sanctioned. All for telling a prospective employer at a jobs fair they are pregnant (as if they could forever hide the fact).

Welcome to Britain 2014.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Even Nature Can't Escape Cuts

The cuts seem never ending with the perennial promise of more, just in case we step out of line. 

Perhaps it's a sign of the times that I, out walking, find that the local council are happy to waste money on cuts that have acutely saddened me. I'm not talking about anything life threatening here, not the reduction of support to people that need it (as seems to be the case ongoing in the UK), but instead a countryside path/cycle route/bridleway. 

The council have sent in a maintenance team to basically cut the hedges/verges and treeline to nothing. First world problems certainly, but it's just sad to see such small minded attitudes. Granted this region isn't the Amazon or the Masai Mara, it's still nature. It's wild and it should be free. But instead council jobsworths with money that could be much better spent just to make sure some leaves don't land in the wrong place.

Unfortunately this area is also rich in wildlife; it has everything from birds and adders to deer and foxes. It seems all to typical of our attitudes these days; instead of letting something beautiful through being natural, it has to be artificially managed in order to be pleasing. None of this was causing a hazard nor in anyone's way. I doubt there was a crisis of sickness though I'm sure, when I can get hold of the right people (the parish council are completely in the dark), the reason will be to manage the land better.

Well in my opinion the land has managed just fine up until now. It doesn't need councillors with money to waste interfering. It just makes me sad to see even something as simple as a hedge along a country lane being fiercely cut back. Is nothing sacred anymore?

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Not Much Help

So the Work Psychologist tried to speak to the asperger diagnostic person, but to no avail. That ends a five month diagnostic process ending in failure; a process that is deeply flawed when it comes to adult diagnosis. If you cannot or will not diagnose the individual as they are, then what's the point. Surely if I had what they wanted - a full developmental history from childhood - then I'd already have a diagnosis. Everything else would be anecdotal and probably dismissed, as I have been. 

The last conversation I had with the Work Psychologist, who has done nothing else, featured more of her telling me how great I am, which is of course no help at all. It's like telling the condemned man you cooked him the best meal he'll ever eat. Telling me how much you think I can do whatever I put my mind to doesn't actually tell me how I can do that without any support. 

All she could do was give me the number for yet another social enterprise, this time Alliance Homes, who, I'm guessing, are a housing association. There are a number of these organisations and I've spoken with a few of them, all to no avail. I do not imagine they will be any different. How can they be: they don't have any real power to change the system, nor any influence over decisions made within it. Like the Work Programme (these are the sort of groups that become providers) they can't create opportunities, and have no expertise in mental health, learning difficulties or autism spectrum issues - or anything health wise. 

I am meeting them next week, but I don't have any expectations anything will come of this. I am fully expecting things to be twisted and my position misrepresented. This is what happens now: the individual is always the scapegoat for his situation. He is either lazy, stupid, or ignorant. Always something of his own making. If society cannot get past such superficial attitudes then I don't see how anything can improve.

More likely they will recommend me to visit Positive Step (again) whom they, I'm sure, will know to be the local purveyor of mental health solutions. They will of course have no idea whether CBT, the only thing Positive Step offers, is suitable or even effective. In fact it seems CBT is being pimped by the Jobcentre.

I've tried the 'Beating the Blues' programme. This is what Positive Step offered when I first dealt with them (they have no in-person programmes I could get to, though it would be exactly the same curriculum). I seriously question the efficacy of this programme for anything except minor phobias: like dealing with a fear of spiders (unless you live on the Planet of the Killer Spiders or something). Dealing with more existential problems, such as depression in an era of crisis capitalism and neoliberal class warfare and social engineering overseen by cruel hypocritical greedy aristocrats, requires something else entirely. 

When I tried the course they featured a number of case studies to illustrate
each part of the programme and how it works. One of them was a struggling single mother who's biggest issue was her lacking income. It was quite telling that, in the end, the best they could offer, from her experience of the programme, was that she was reportedly feeling more positive. That's great (assuming it was true - never mind what became of her which we do not know, so how effective the long term prospects are is anyone's guess), but it won't pay her bills, rent or buy her food; exactly the sorts of crises that lead people to feel depressed in the first place.

Essentially the programme tries to teach that you need to develop an objective awareness, in the moment of crisis (such as when you have a wobble about not being able to buy food for example), so as to step outside of yourself and deconstruct your thinking. This is why I say it's useful for minor phobias because we know that, say, encountering a spider in the bath isn't a permanent crisis in the way being sanctioned is. Thus you can, after momentarily calming yourself, realise that the spider isn't a horrible agent of death out for and capable of eating you while you sleep. 

You cannot deconstruct what you can't control, and as the article linked says, you can only be taught to acquiesce. To accept your shitty lot and attempt to make peace with the agents of that system (assuming they aren't of the ilk that will sanction you at the drop of a hat) and take the banker's deal, Noel. Aside from how immoral that is, it's not going to help your self esteem. But they don't want you having self esteem (that breeds confidence which breeds independence of thought), they want your compliance. In that way you can be held responsible for all the failings of the capitalist system, as is the lot of the sick and the poor currently.

Oh and just to remind readers: Positive Step work with Atos (maybe that will change to the new guys, Maximus)!