Sunday, 30 December 2012

Sue Gerhardt's message on the human need for love should be at the heart of social policy for a future Labour government

Psychotherapist and author of the acclaimed "Why Love Matters:  How affection shapes a baby's brain", Sue Gerhardt gives a short talk on the way we treat babies and the implications for society when human beings are neglected from a young age, and deprived of emotional nurturing.
 
 
This sort of thinking needs to be at the heart of social policy for a future Labour government committed to a more compassionate, progressive world, and would set Labour directly at odds with the Conservatives and their ideology that we're all ultimately on our own in life and human beings don't need attachment to others and love.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Coming soon - Original Drama - "Burley & Brunt"

Excited by rumours of a new crime drama coming to our screens shortly...

"Burley & Brunt" is a series about news duo,  Burley - news presenter famous for her brutal interviewing technique - and Brunt - intrepid investigator who looks like he lives on a diet of Bourbon and Woodbines and very little sleep.

Between them they reveal breaking stories of grisly crimes no other news crew has the stomach to investigate and viewers tune in to see who Burley will reduce to tears with her heartless one-liners and what gory details Brunt has discovered, usually long before the police!

Certain to get a BAFTA nomination, "Burley & Brunt" will have you glued to your screen and begging for more (or mercy) ;-)

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Truth About Dishonesty - Dan Ariely - RSA Animate

One of my favourite talks, given the RSA Animate treatment...  brilliant stuff...
 

Monday, 17 September 2012

The link between capitalism, declining religion and selfish deceitful behaviour and how we could start to address and improve things...

Part One - The link between capitalism, declining religion and selfish deceitful behaviour...

I've previously revealed on this blog what makes people prone to lying and cheating - A recent study concluded that a culture of everyone else does it and a lack of moral guidelines in society today, such as was once offered by religion, combine to make us less concerned for the wider consequences of our deceit, and less self aware - for instance, of the impact on our own sense of personal integrity. 

The study suggested this was the real reason behind the banking crisis which has brought whole countries to their knees and threatens to continue to destabilise economies for the foreseeable future.  Changing the faces in charge won't help, you need to change the culture, researchers concluded.

The Thatcherist view of people who felt a strong sense of obligation to always play by the rules was kind of "more fool you".  Her ideology, and in fact the broad position of capitalism, is you're either a winner or a loser in life - if you don't snatch it for yourself, then somebody else will, there is no point concerning yourself with what's fair or ethical or humane.  For all the good New Labour did, they did nothing to challenge that perception of society and that perception of humanity.  People are as selfish today as they were in the 1980's, perhaps even more so.

A steady decline in faith over the last one hundred years has without doubt left a hole in the fabric of our communities, with nothing comparable to take it's place, to take on the role of encouraging people to consider the consequences of their actions.  What has taken its place is a worshipping of money for its own sake and a worshipping of celebrity and a worshipping of big brand labels - to the degree that some people even name their babies after these labels, as parents might have once named their children after saints ; I've heard people proudly declare their child is called Nike, Reebokka and even "Big Mac".

This is perhaps capitalism at it's most successful... and to the detriment of all of us because society can't evolve in an emotionally healthy way within that sort of culture.

Another issue raised from this study was that when people had the opportunity to confess to their previous cheating and lying and felt forgiven for their wrongdoing and had the chance to turn a new page that seemed to have a positive affect and for a period they didn't return to the deceitful behaviour - it is as if they got genuine enjoyment from being absolved and they wanted to hang onto that feeling - for a while at least.  Participants who never had the opportunity to draw a line under their lying and cheating just continued with the deceitful behaviour - there seemed to be no internal regulator, no reason to just stop.

This was perhaps the benefit of confession for previous generations - most of us don't have access to anything like that in our modern lives.  The challenge for all of those of us who want a fairer, more compassionate, more ethical society is how we could introduce some sort of facility for people to come clean, without fear of blame or punishment, to allow the selfish, negative behaviour to be kept in check more.

Promoting religion and building a load of confessionals in every town is probably not the answer for modern society.  The church itself has been exposed as lacking moral integrity too many times and that hypocrisy is no doubt part of the reason for this trend of turning away from religion.


Part Two - How we could start to address and improve things...

The area of personal development could offer part of the answer though.  Personal development is about broadening and deepening our understanding of who we are as people and the impact things around us have on us and the impact we in turn, have on others.  It helps us gain insight into the way we relate to others and the way they relate to us.   It can be used in our professional lives - as a mechanism for team building and enhancing our interpersonal communication skills, but it can also be applied to our personal lives - in the way we relate to our partners and our children, to achieve a more harmonious family life; it's a way of keeping us psychologically fit and healthy so that we can get on with the things we need to do and enjoying the things that give us a sense of fulfilment in life. 

Bookshops and department stores are filled with "self help" books - over 13 million of them are sold each year, mostly to women it has to be said, but slowly more men are getting interested in this area too because ultimately, almost all of us are on some sort of quest to be happy in life... 

That's books of course but what we need to look at, I think, is a way of offering people the opportunity to have group or one to one sessions with a professional mentor who can allow participants to just talk about the things that are going well and not so well in life.  Not therapy, this wouldn't seek to get into why someone was feeling the way they were - perhaps anger at their boss or disappointment in their son - it would just be a safe and confidential setting to sit down, with perhaps a cup of tea, and just offload a bit, say once a month, and then to go back to normal life having got some stuff off your chest.

Once upon a time families would have offered these opportunities naturally, every community would have had people in it who were kind, good listeners, someone to just have a bit of a moan to.  They didn't solve anyone's problems, or even offer advice most of the time, they just provided an opportunity to get the words out instead of holding onto so much negative stuff.

I think we all have enormous pressures and stresses placed upon us now - at work particularly and at school certainly and even within the home environment.  There is more need than ever for us all to have someone to talk to when we need it, as I say, not counselling as such, just someone giving you the time of day to talk about what you're coping with, the opportunity to say yeah I shouldn't have done that really... and move on...

With nothing else on the suggestions board right now, it's got to be worth considering, surely?

Friday, 14 September 2012

Second reading of the Mental Health (Discrimation) Bill. The importance of talking about psychological illness and TVs role in breaking down the taboo...

House of Commons proceedings this morning included the second reading of the Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill and an important debate it was too. 

The government hopes to significantly increase access to mental health therapies by 2015 - and I certainly think that's crucial if we're going to make life more fulfilling and less miserable for so many suffering from a psychological illness along with making the whole subject of mental illness less taboo.  Many MPs spoke of their own experiences or of those of people close to them and at a time when there is still a lot of stigma around mental illness this takes courage so I admire them for that. 

Some commented that the media had played a positive role in getting the subject of mental health into the public arena, and dramas and soap operas were praised for this.

But as a mental health professional I think it's unfortunate that so many of the big stories which involve characters suffering from mental illness, portray sufferers in a predominantly negative way, with little opportunity for the viewer to feel any empathy, and it could be argued  these storylines certainly don't help the public's perception of mental health problems and how they manifest themselves.

These messages - positive and negative - seep into the unconscious completely unchallenged as viewers are sitting there with their cuppa and packet of chocolate digestives, and script writers should be aware of that.  For some, the only information they ever really get about something like depression will be a storyline on Eastenders so programme makers should have a responsibility to portray characters and their situations fairly. 

Unfortunately it's the big shocking episodes that are guaranteed high ratings though.  Here are a few storylines from Coronations Street over the past few years, and my view of how they portrayed mental illness...

Claire Peacock suffered a harrowing experience of Postnatal Depression which could have encouraged the audience to empathise with her pain.  But the character went on to abduct someone else's child; a huge number of women suffer from PND but only a tiny number pose any risk to anyone.

Peter Barlow has struggled with alcohol dependence for years and the character has to some degree been portrayed as really quite vulnerable and desperate.  But he's also seen as selfish a lot of the time and unable to care for his young son, whose life he put at risk when a fire broke out at his flat when he was drunk.

John Stape started out as an apparently charming English teacher who seemed to spend his spare time pondering poetry.  But an episode of depression led him into a cycle of identity theft, kidnapping and murder which again, reinforces the idea that depression is synonymous with danger. 

Joe McIntyre was a middleaged man who developed an addiction to prescription painkillers, which we know is a growing problem.  Again, he was portrayed with some sensitivity at first but then his life began spiraling out of control as he had to deal with loan sharks, drug dealers and attempted fraud, all leading to his eventual death.

As I say, I appreciate TV dramas want high ratings, but I would have thought within the realm of soap operas there would be some scope to explore mental health problems in a way which was more realistic and less likely to endorse the public perception that people who struggle with mental illness are best avoided.

One of the earliest soap storylines which tackled this difficult area appeared on Eastenders in the late 90s.  Joe Wicks was a teenager who suffered from schizophrenia, but his situation was portrayed in a way which was very sympathetic to the character and the agony his family went through in trying to cope with his condition.  Played by a young Paul Nicholls, Joe was a very attractive teenage lad, someone lots of viewers would have fancied and related to I'm sure.  The focus was on the character's internal nightmare, the paranoia, voices and hallucinations and the way that isolated him from the people who cared about him.  Back in 1996 this was groundbreaking stuff.

We need more stories which convey how difficult it can be to cope with a mental health problem, accessing support is sometimes not easy, not everyone who works in mental healthcare is as well trained and enlightened as they should be. 

Changing laws is obviously a huge step forward, but that by itself will not change the public perception of mental illness nor encourage people to talk about their own experiences.  In many ways, popular TV shows have a lot more power than debates in the Commons; we need to work together to break down the stigma associated with these conditions and progress towards a more compassionate, educated society.

You can watch the full Private Members' debate here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01ms0jt/House_of_Commons_14_09_2012/

Monday, 10 September 2012

PMQs in pictures - 05-09-12

Returning from his various summer holidays, David Cameron looked
bloated and tired during Prime Minister's Questions...
Declining to answer the Labour leader's questions, the Prime Minister
instead returned to his usual line that it's all Labour's fault...
Ed Miliband said the paralympics crowd had spoken for the whole
country when they responded to the Chancellor's arrival...
The Prime Minister accused the Labour leader of not being "butch"
enough; Cameron does tend to resort to personal attacks when
he gets defensive - he did this a lot with Gordon Brown...
Cameron (looking more portly by the minute) declared the coalition
was a "strong and united government", to the delight of
opposition benches...
 
The Prime Minister looked relieved to have got to the end of the
Labour leader's questions... With Andy Coulson out of the picture
these days, we see a David Cameron that's a lot less cocky...
 
 
PMQs images property of BBC

The papers are full of articles insidiously suggesting that people suffering from mental health problems are simply lazy and should get back out there to work. That's a bit like refusing someone dialysis because their kidneys are lazy!

As a parent, I find it desperately sad that so many children grow up lacking self confidence, a problem that will, for many, shape their whole lives.  It probably comes about because a certain combination of genes get switched on or off as a result of experiences in infancy.  If your parents lack confidence and self belief, then you're likely to as well.  Kids who lack self confidence through childhood are more likely to develop psychological health problems as adults.

With schools now forced to focus more on turning out standardised pupils programmed to pass government tests in order for the school to maintain its position in league tables, there seems to be less opportunity for indivdual students to flourish at what they're good at, what they're genuinely interested in - the very things which would increase their confidence through the adolescent years for instance when synaptic pruning is taking place, and the brain is physically changing as a direct result of what they're experiencing day to day.



Trying to resolve the problems that result in adulthood from a lack of self confidence is never an easy task.  Problems forming and maintaining relationships, difficulty managing moods and battles with anxiety and depression can make life miserable and a million miles from what our experience as an intelligent species on the planet could and should be.

Therapy can alleviate some of the problems - CBT teaches clients mechanisms for managing negative feelings and behaviours, Person Centred counselling allows clients to talk about powerful emotions with someone who will promote a sense of being valued as a person with their feelings being validated and Psychodynamic therapy offers the opportunity to explore childhood experiences and pain and loss throughout life in an attempt to gain insight into the deeper levels of our personality.  Understanding where problems are rooted and how behaviour patterns stem from unconscious drives and emotions, can make it easier to recognise when things are starting to slide in the future and help us make more positive conscious choices in life.

Therapy can be really beneficial, but for most people, therapy is quite a painful process to go through, in fact it's often said therapy only works when it does get to those corners of your mind where things have been locked away because they're too distressing to bear and quite often clients will attend intitial sessions and then suddenly stop because things have started to feel uncomfortable.



As a trained therapist, I know the value of these types of emotional support, but I don't believe they're the ultimate solution to a society in which more and more of us are at risk of suffering from stress, anxiety and depression due to changes in the traditional family structure and the massive increase of pressure we're forced to live with as adults. 

The most recent studies seem to suggest one in three of us now will experience a significant episode of psychological illness in our lives - that's a figure similar to our risk of developing cancer and it will need much more government committment and funding if we hope to ever tackle it successfully.  About 10% of the NHS budget is allocated to mental health problems, which is pitiful really when you consider that depression is actually the leading cause of disability in the UK.

You can't see depression like you can see someone has a physical disability so it's much easier for governments specifically and society generally to pretend it doesn't actually exist.  The papers are full of articles insidiously suggestioning that people suffering from mental health problems are simply lazy and should get back out there to work.  That's a bit like refusing someone dialysis because their kidneys are lazy!



Huge developments in neurology and genetics in recent years have revealed so much more about why our personalities develop as they do and all of it points to a crucial need to look after people's emotional wellbeing in the same way as we would all agree that people's physical health is important if you want to create a successful society where people enjoy fulfilling lives.

The sooner those in power find the courage to talk seriously about mental health, the better for all of us.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

"Fifty Shades of Grey" has now sold 40 million copies worldwide.. We need to look at the way we seem to be saying...rough sex is sometimes OK when it's a turn on!

As a feminist woman I welcome national and international debate about subjects like rape and the exploitation and abuse of women which have appeared across the media and the internet recently. 

For too long we've been reluctant to talk about rape, unless it relates to a story involving a predatory sex attacker previously unknown to the victim.  Seldom does it get discussed in context of marriage for instance, or for that matter war, because we know male rape is being used increasingly now as an act of terror on captured soldiers and civilians - young lads are apparently particularly at risk of this form of abuse with some so injured they spend the rest of their lives wearing incontinence pads and sanitary towels as a result of horrific injuries.

Rape is a heinous crime which inflicts enormous physical and psychological trauma on victims - I don't imagine any intelligent person would say otherwise. 

Unless a man is absolutely certain a woman (or man) is a willing and consenting sexual partner of course he should never attempt to have sex with her - this protects both parties - obviously.  If he finds himself coercing her in any way he leaves himself open to the allegation of rape or sexual assault at some point after the event - we need to be emphasising this message to teenagers.  But are we?

Although rape has always existed in our society, we know sexual assaults have increased dramatically over the last couple of decades, and as it happens that seems to have coincided with a tidal wave of increasingly graphic pornography people can access very easily from their living rooms now - without the previous embarrassment of having to go to seedy looking shops to ask for girlie mags, as they would have been known in the 50s, 60s etc...

We also know that sex, including the suggestion of very rough sex, is increasingly being used as an advertising tool, such as the ad launched by PETA earlier this year which caused outrage from many women's health groups.  Please be aware before watching that this advert has an adult theme...
 


 
And then there's "Fifty Shades of Grey" - the erotic novel which is selling even faster than the UK's beloved "Harry Potter" books - over 40 million copies have been sold around the world.   The focus of the book is the sado-masochistic relationship between a wealthy business man and a college graduate, and women apparently are lapping this up... It's OK..  they say ..because the male abuser buys the women expensive presents, creams and things for her injuries, showing he does care for her, it's just that he can't stop abusing her.  A story I'm sure many women's refuges hear every night of the week "I know he loves me really...", "When he's nice he's lovely though..."

The concern for many of us is, that this type of novel is being presented as some sort of love story and the male abuser as a romantic hero.

Some have drawn similarities between scenes in "Fifty Shades of Grey" and Fred West's abuse of young girls which sickened most of us to the stomach back in 1994 - and yet 18 years on women are seeing this sort of sexual depravity as erotic.  Is that really what we've become as a gender having been dragged away from caring for babies at home from the 80s onwards and forced into fulltime work to help pay for extortionate mortgage payments if we wanted to keep a roof over our heads.  Are we losing the very qualities men still say they desire in women?

And adding into the equation also, the way in which an increasing number of young women opt for behaving like young lads, going out each weekend to get extremely drunk - staggering along drunk in the early hours, fighting with other women and throwing up in the streets - it's like a lot of women have lost all sense of self respect. 

And when you factor in as well, that both men and women have a lot more casual sex now than was once the case and one night stands are far more common, it all paints a pretty ugly picture of society where the positive values communities need to function successfully are getting more and more rare as people care less and less for their own physical safety and mental health and struggle to really respect other people either in the process.

I would suggest if we're serious about bringing the incidence of sexual assaults against women down, we need to look at this hideous mess which has evolved since the 1980s and we have to think about how we're going to encourage people to start valuing themselves again and not putting themselves in positions where they become more vulnerable to an attack.. whether that's being drunk outside in the early hours, or waking up in the bed of a stranger. 

Yes men have to take responsibility, of course they do... but so do women...  We all have to address this problem and the way we seem to be saying rough sex is sometimes OK when it's a turn on!

In the past, religion offered some sense of morality and social guidelines but I don't think that would work anymore - too many people in the church have been found to be as lacking in morals as the people they used to condemn in their Sunday sermons!

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to return to a time when women were shackled to the kitchen sink - that must have been a miserable existence for so many.  But I don't think this so-called liberation is making women happy and fulfilled either...

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Breaking Australia's silence: WikiLeaks and freedom

'Breaking Australia's silence: WikiLeaks and freedom' was a public forum held on 16 March 2011 at the Sydney Town Hall. The event was staged by the Sydney Peace Foundation, Amnesty, Stop the War Coalition, and supported by the City of Sydney.

Chaired by Mary Kostakidis, it featured speeches by John Pilger, Andrew Wilkie MP (the only serving Western intelligence officer to expose the truth about the Iraq invasion) and Julian Burnside QC, defender of universal human rights under the law.



"....Sweden has not been a neutral country for 30 years....The Swedish Prime Minister is a warmongering mate of George W Bush and has hired Bush's crony, Karl Rove to advise him on the problem of Julian Assange...."

Watch the speeches in full here

http://johnpilger.com/videos/breaking-australias-silence-wikileaks-and-freedom

taken from

johnpilger.com
The films and journalism of John Pilger

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Debates about the alleged Assange rapes are designed to distract...

Debates about the alleged Assange rapes are designed to distract.  We don't need famous faces on the telly telling us what rape is and what rape isn't. 

Julian Assange should have been more careful about who he decided to go to bed with while visiting Sweden - that's evident enough - and the rape allegations need to be addressed and answered in a court of law at some point in time, if there is sufficient evidence for a prosecution.  I don't think any intelligent person would disagree with that.

But of course Assange is right to fear extradition to the United States if aided by Sweden.  Too many good people who have spoken out against the US government have lost their lives in the process.  There is every reason to suspect Assange's life would be in danger one way or another if he found himself there. 

On 19th August a speech from the highly respected journalist and film maker John Pilger was read out, outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.  This is what he said...

I have known Julian since he came to London and gave the world vital information about Afghanistan and Iraq, which governments had suppressed and denied.
What is always left out of the public portrayal of Julian is the moral dimension of WikiLeaks. The very mention of morality, of principle, embarrasses those who consort with great power; but ordinary people recognise it straightaway and are not embarrassed; they're inspired.
WikiLeaks is about the public's right to know, and the right to practice the kind of real journalism that has made Julian powerful enemies — enemies he should wear as a badge of courage. Indeed, the whole point about Julian Assange is courage. That's why this is a day of triumph — triumph for human courage, for principle and for truth.
Julian has not broken free, not yet, but with the help of the admirable Rafael Correa and his comrades in this embassy, he has seized back the initiative from those who think they have a divine right to rule the world and to lie and commit war crimes in our name. We should celebrate our resistance and salute Julian.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms


I love RSA Animate films, they're absolutely brilliant.  This one makes compelling viewing for anyone who works in the field of education and for parents and their children alike...



Saturday, 18 August 2012

At the very core of our being as humans, is the greatest drive of all - the need to belong and the need to be loved...

I wrote yesterday about bankers and politicians and how clinical research seems to conclude that they're predestined to cheat and lie, given the culture they operate in.

I've also written at length about Freudian theory and how insecurities deep within our psyche and embedded in infancy make us particularly vulnerable to advertisers and the capitalist, consumerist society.

But even deeper in the human psyche, at the very core of our being is a greater drive still - the need to belong and the need to be loved.  It was John Bowlby's famous work on attachment that revealed the value of positive emotional connections in our early life and we now know that babies brains physically grow differently if that ancient need to be loved and nurtured unconditionally is severely lacking from caregivers in early life.
Some of us were lucky enough to recieve the right kind of nurturing as babies and this enabled us grow up trusting people, and to prioritise our love of people over our craving for objects.  But an alarming number of us did not grow up with this type of parenting, because parents for generations now have been urged not to spoil their children with too much attention.  Parents have been encouraged to pursue their own interests - to leave the baby crying.. to go back to work when the child is still very young.. and to indulge the child with possessions as a replacement for time and energy parenting.

This is how the capitalist society has flourished - from childhood people have been encouraged to seek comfort from objects that can be bought, rather than human kindness and emotional intimacy...

But for most of us, that craving still exists...  That deep longing to be close physically, emotionally, is still a huge part of what makes us human.  A new iPhone or a pair of Alexander McQueen high heels can satisfy emotional cravings for a short time, but the pleasure of owning things very quickly leaves a hollow void for most of us.  You can't have a laugh with a pair of shoes.. a mobile phone can't put it's arms around you when you're sad...

There's some need deep in our heart.. our soul.. our psyche - call it what you will - Some people try to satisfy it with sex but sex by itself isn't enough, and frustration develops as we think we're getting close to fulfilling that fundamental psychological need but then sex without genuine love leaves us just as empty as the phone and shoes...

Addressing that need, acknowledging how much it's a part of us is a step towards feeling more complete, content as a human being.  Lots of people are so scared of the strength of that need, they try to deny it exists.. do their best to suppress that longing, become quite callous in the process.. but at times feelings of loneliness become overwhelming for these people because the longing is still there...

The challenge for us is in helping people find the courage to pursue an emotionally enriching life in preference to a materially indulgent one...

Friday, 17 August 2012

Psychologists reveal why politicians and bankers appear to be driven to cheat and lie... (and what we could do to make society more moral)

Psychologists carrying out recent experiments into dishonesty and cheating discovered that all around the world, in all types of culture, people cheat the same and their findings rejected the standard theory of dishonesty that people rationalise and weigh up the benefit of being dishonest against the cost.  So the potential consequence, fear of prison or even the death penalty, is not a very effective deterrent.

The crucial factors determining whether people were likely to be dishonest, were actually things like :
  • culture - if people saw their peers cheating and getting away with it, getting rewarded for their dishonesty, they were far more likely to cheat themselves
  • benefiting others - being convinced that others were going to benefit from their dishonesty - This perhaps explains why politicians might lie before an election, a belief that others would ultimately benefit - the lies become justified
  • being one stage removed - for instance from money, from actual cash.  People were more likely to cheat in the experiments where they got tokens which they could then exchange for cash, than experiments where their dishonesty rewarded them directly with dollars in their hand
All of this does seem to present some insight into why bankers and politicians (those with all the power in society) seem so driven to be dishonest. 

Psychologists were also interested in what was likely to make people cheat less, and it turns out that being reminded somehow of moral values before taking part in the experiments caused the rate of dishonesty to actually go down.  So being asked to name the 10 commandments or swearing on the bible before the cheating experiments caused participants to be less dishonest.  Even when atheists swore on the bible - they cheated less!

People also appear to respond more morally when given the opportunity to confess to previous dishonesty and start again - to open a new page.  And this was perhaps the value of catholic confession in the past; when you give people the opportunity to acknowledge they haven't been as good as they would like, they do seem, for a while at least, to enjoy that sense of being absolved. 

Most of us don't have that opportunity these days to disclose our darker, more vulnerable side in an environment where we won't be blamed, but we'll be understood - the possible exception being when we are in therapy - this can offer huge psychological release, to express feelings and thoughts and stuff we've done which the world outside the therapy room would perhaps judge and condemn.

So it's possible to identify why people are less honest now than they might have been in the past - a greater culture of dishonesty combined with much less focus now on moral values (when is the last time you watched a TV show which even hinted at the idea it's better to have good moral values!)

The psychologists concluded that there is little point in just changing the personnel at the head of banking, politics etc.  It's the whole culture that needs to be addressed, a whole new model needs to be created if we want our societies to regain some of those positive moral values previous generations grew up with and lived by.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Why the Poll Tax Riots and then Major's election success should serve as a warning for a less than vocal Labour Party...

I'm old enough, and ugly enough - as they say, to have lived through the last Tory administration.  I witnessed as Margaret Thatcher's unpopularity reached a thrilling climax in March 1990 when an estimated 250,000 people took to the streets of London in protest of her brutally unfair poll tax which had replaced the traditional rates system.

The riots are now famous of course for being instrumental in bringing about Thatcher's slow and painful political demise, she was finally booted out of Downing Street in November 1990.  John Major was her successor...

Like most Labour Party supporters, I believed the Conservatives would lose the 1992 general election.  Thatcher had been more than just upopular, she was hated and remains hated to this day despite being out of the limelight for 20 years.  Margaret Thatcher was far more despised than Cameron ever could be. 

John Major looked sure to face defeat but psychologists running his now famous focus groups had told him he could be quietly confident, and sure enough on April 9th 1992 he secured a 4th victory for the Tories against, what seemed to be, all the odds............


This Coalition's programme of harsh austerity measures, seeking mainly to punish the poor is arguably as unpopular as Margaret Thatcher's agenda.  The Conservative and Lib Dems Welfare Reform Bill is as extreme and sadistic as the Poll Tax was, and maybe a quarter of a million people could be encouraged to march on Whitehall to make their voices heard.

But Labour MPs cannot continue to sit on their hands and complacently assume David Cameron is already throwing the 2015 general election away.  We're fairly sure Cameron won't be leading the Tories then anyway, most people share the view that it'll probably be Boris Johnson.  Do Labour think Boris Johnson is less appealing than John Major was back in 1992?

Everything in politics these days is played out on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and rolling news and that irritating Skycopter which buzzes over the London skyline like a particularly persistent  wasp.  Boris Johnson with his wacky one-liners and bizarre bedhead barnet is made for this world.. Young voters are naive enough to lap him up and you can be sure their iPhones will be bombared with vote B-J messages, in all probability paid for by Rupert Murdoch.

The Shadow Cabinet need to replay 1990 and then 1992 and have a long hard think!! But please, not too long!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Ultimately it comes down to the health of millions of ordinary people versus the wealth of a few big corporations

Like a growing number of people, I do not accept that capitalism is the only way to run a western economy.. I don't accept that some people always have to be poor in society.. I don't accept that every person who isn't wealthy has to do a paid job, for long hours and often to the detriment of their own health and the health of their families.. I don't think education should be reserved for rich kids, I don't think it's right that governments can sell off our beloved institutions like the NHS and I dont think it's civilised to wage blatant attacks on the unemployed, the sick and the elderly...

So what do I believe in...

Respect yourself.. respect your fellow humans and other creatures.. respect your planet... Adopt the philosophy that says ...I am as good as anyone else, and no better than anyone else...

Ethical economics, working together -
The obscenely rich need to be weaned off their addiction to capitalism, consumerism and the exploitation of human beings, other creatures and the planet for the sole purpose of satisfying their endless greed. If you can't produce it without inflicting misery on someone or something, somewhere, then we really don't need it, be that the latest iPhone, lipstick or drug to "cure depression"...

Leaders with integrity -
I'm never convinced by the anarchy argument (too many egomaniacs run anarchist groups for my liking...) so I can see that good leaders do benefit society as things stand at the moment. Many in positions of power do however seem to have a shocking lack of empathy and compassion and this can be seen in the way the coalition government has been so nonchalant about attacking the poor, the sick and the elderly, regardless of how brutally cruel most of us consider those attacks to be. Chronic lack of empathy tends to be indicative of severe personality disorders - these people are not well equipped mentally for governing others and need to be encouraged away from politics and other positions of power, for the good of mankind.

Health Service, Education and Ethical Care for the Elderly -
In a civilised society all of these things are provided to a high standard and completely free... paid for out of general taxation. What is taxation for if not to provide these essential elements of a compassionate society. Without access to health, education and elderly care there is no civilised society.

Low carbon housing available at genuinely affordable rents -
It is not civilised to live in a society where some people have 3 or 4 homes and some people have no home at all. Those with extra and 'holiday' homes they seldom live in should be encouraged to forgo these luxuries in life that society really can't sustain. New houses need to be built with sustainability in mind and also at the heart of planning needs to be consideration for people's mental wellbeing, concrete jungles contribute more to mental illness than anyone will admit.

The Citizens Income in place of inhumane means tested benefits -
Under this approach every person leaving school would get a basic monthly income - enough to meet basic needs but not enough for luxuries like holiday homes and 3 cars on the drive. This would be paid automatically and a person could then choose to top that up with a paid job, or work in a voluntary capacity for a cause they might be passionate about, they might choose to stay at home and look after their children or they might prefer to go into education or pursue other activities to enhance their sense of fulfilment in life such as art and culture. All four main parties are said to accept the Citizens Income will inevitably come in one day because, for one thing, it's more cost effective than the deeply flawed benefits system. Only the Green Party and Labour appear to have party members who openly embrace the idea at the moment, but the day will come and I'd have it sooner rather than later.

Commitment to society's mental health -
Mental health problems are on the increase again, with latest figures suggesting around one in three of us now will suffer a significant spell of psychological illness in our lifetime - so that's a similar rate to the figures for cancer. There is a relatively simple way to reverse this trend but politicians don't want to know about it, partly because terms of office are only 5 years long (so future governments may reap the rewards of a current administration's investment in mental health) and also mental illness as an industry is worth billions. But mental illness, including addiction, personality disorders, depression and anxiety could be solved, to a large degree, for future generations by ensuring that all pregnant mothers are psychologically well throughout pregnancy and in the months and years after birth. That includes support with any psychological problems, it also includes making sure these women have their physical needs met such as adequate housing, good nutrition, good social support and a general good quality of life. For so many pregnant women the exact opposite is the case and this is, in fact, the root of many of the mental health problems we see in society today - if you don't care for the mother, you are in fact neglecting her baby too. We know from studies that pregnant women who suffer prolonged stress will produce high levels of cortisol and norepinephrine and this is tranferred to her baby's blood supply and affects its developing brain - it changes the actual architecture of the fetal brain with the amygdala (the emotional centre of the brain) growing larger than normal. This will make emotions harder to manage - the child (and then adult) will physically feel negative emotions more intensely but will find it harder to register positive emotions. Children whose mothers were stressed in pregnancy have a much greater predisposition to addiction later in life and they will also struggle to form secure attachments, as babies to their care givers and as adults to their friends, partners and their own children too, so the cycle goes on. Therefore it really makes sense to look after pregnant mums, particularly those who are less well off and don't have a good support network or the love of a reliable committed partner. Society at the moment actually punishes such women for getting pregnant in the first place!

These are just a few of the relatively easy ways we could increase our individual and sense of collective health and wellbeing. They're ideas that could be quite easy to sell to the voting public - what's not to like for goodness sakes - all that is missing is the political will from those currently in control of the levers of power, those who are unfortunately all too often bankrolled by the huge corporations whose own continuing wealth relies on a large number of people having miserable lives.

Ultimately I guess it comes down to the health of millions of ordinary people versus the continuing wealth of those few big corporations...

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Boris Johnson is like the drunk uncle who dances to "Satisfaction" and chats up all the bridesmaids at weddings... and actually that could be a real worry for Labour...

"....In the USA in particular, the  electorate in recent years has tended to show a warmer response to candidates who seem approachable and even flawed.  George W Bush's garbled talk and alcoholic past seem to have made him more, rather than less acceptable, whilst both Al Gore and John Kerry, with their more aloof and intellectual personae, struggled to win hearts and minds..............

Until the recent election of Barack Obama, in the last thirty years the only Democrats to succeed at the Presidency were Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, who both came from less privileged family backgrounds, and whose 'smartness' was cloaked with the persona of Southern charm and their emotional ability to relate to other people - a trait shared by Obama...."

In Chapter 7 of her book "The Selfish Society - How we all forgot to love one another and made money instead" psychoanalytic psychotherapist Sue Gerhardt explains how the act of voting is not a clinical, reasoned process but for the vast majority of people the decision of who to give their vote to comes instead from the emotional centre of the brain, and is essentially an unconscious process.

This insight should alert those of us on the left who seem to be assuming that just because the coalition government is held in very low public esteem, this inevitably means Labour will romp home with a respectable majority come May 2015.

This might be true if the current Prime Minister were to lead the Conservatives into the next general election; George Osborne and David Cameron have very little credibility on the economy now and their brutal attacks on the most vulnerable have earned the Tories back the title of The Nasty Party once again...

Rumour has it that Boris Johnson is the favourite to succeed Cameron to lead his party and while he obviously comes across as a bit of a bumbling fool the Labour Party would dismiss him at their peril I think.

As Gerhardt points out, and I completely agree with her, the public like someone they can relate to, someone they feel like they sort of know, they don't mind the mistakes, there's a sense of reassurance that you won't be so ripped off by a bloke who seems down to earth and can laugh at himself even more than you laugh at him.  This perhaps sets Johnson aside from say Neil Kinnock who the media loved to portray as a bit of a loser (but who actually had a very able mind.)

I wrote recently that in my view the Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee would make an excellent leader of a left leaning party because she can hold her own against the best of them on economics.. education.. social affairs to name but a few, but she also happens to have a very likeable personality.  She can be matter of fact and tell it straight with no frills and she can also engage female communication skills too and express genuine compassion when talking about human suffering.  She's greatly respected and much loved and I think she holds the role of the nation's sort of surrogate big sister.  She'd look out for you if the bully's at school were nicking your dinner money...  Something about her feels very safe and reliable...

Ed Miliband meanwhile seems to have this geeky but genius little brother persona.  You'd never take him to a pick up joint, he'd cramp your style too much.. but if you were going to a pub quiz you'd want him on your team to secure the 200 quids worth of HMV vouchers at the end of the night - and you'd probably get them too!

Boris Johnson clearly has bucketloads of charisma, but he does come across as a bit of an amateur who's making it up as he goes along.  And the sort of amateur who tells everyone he hasn't got a f-king clue what he's supposed to be doing but he's having a great time anyhow!  Johnson is like the drunk uncle you always get at weddings, who monopolises the dance floor for the whole of "Satisfaction" and spends the rest of the evening getting tanked up at the bar and saying "My how you've grown" as he drools over all the bridesmaids!!

And that could be a problem for Ed Miliband if come polling day the electorate feel disillusioned with grown up politics but instead feel in the mood for a budget family wedding with a p!ssed up pubsinger!....

Quote taken from "The Selfish Society - How we all forgot to love one another and made money instead"  -Sue Gerhardt, 2010

Monday, 30 July 2012

...I'm a realist... most of us don't have love lives like that...

Those folks down at The Guardian have been getting pretty frisky of late, with a recent in depth (!) article on Britain's oldest lap dancing club, a story about dateline love and a piece telling us that 100,000 condoms have been shipped into London 2012 to keep everyone safe and unfertilized between competition heats... 

My visits to The Guardian website are mainly confined to the Health, Children, Social Care and Voluntary sections - no  team is more dedicated to keeping the plight of the most disadvantaged in the spotlight.  Friends and associates must surely bore of me tweeting my praise for Polly Toynbee, Patrick Butler and their colleagues, but really, at times The Guardian's been more of an opposition than the official opposition!  (Actually I'd be quite content to have Polly and co moving into Downing Street in 2015!)

But I digress, back to the business in hand...

So today I stumbled across their Sexual Healing section, where you can get interesting advice from Pamela Stephenson Connolly (yes, her from "Not The Nine O'clock News" who married that comedian guy who goes on about prostate examinations).. You can share your concerns about wives who don't want sex, boyfriends who've never had sex and father-in-laws who are addicted to watching internet sex on your sofa!

She's pretty liberal.  I'm no Mary Whitehouse, I think human sexuality is something to relish and celebrate and explore and talk about and write about and generally feel great about.. sex is an intrinsic part of who we are, as adult humans... 

But it does concern me, as a feminist (with a little "f") the nonchalant attitude to pornography Pamela Stephenson along with many others, seem to convey these days.  I mean pornography, that's like the sex industry isn't it... that's using people..  women.. like pieces of meat... That's encouraging men to see women as sex objects.. I thought we tried to enlighten men about this sort of thing back in the 90s...

Erotica on the other hand is incredibly sexy I would argue.. and doesn't involve the exploitation of women or anyone else...

So now you might be thinking.. Hang on... pornography.. erotica... what's the difference?  Isn't one just a more acceptable word?  Aren't they exactly the same thing??

And I would argue no, they're different in an important way but it's never easy clarifying that difference...

The Oxford dictionary defines pornography as:
printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate sexual excitement
 
and erotica as:
erotic literature or art
 
That seems to be saying that pornographic material involves actual people having actual sex for the purpose of sexually arousing other actual people...  And it appears to be saying erotica is more of a portrayal of sex.. Characters are not physically engaging in sex, they're acting out a role, as if they were and the sex in fact happens in the audience's imagination...
 
So a medical textbook containing photographs of the naked human body is not pornography because its purpose is not to sexually arouse the reader...
 
A passage of text describing a sex scene, even quite a graphic sex scene, is not pornography because the sex act doesn't ever happen in reality...
 
A homemade video of two people making love, distributed around for others to watch is pornography because they really did have sex and they really meant for others to get turned on watching them have sex, as gentle and loving as that may have been...
 
Erotica should never involve itself with human trafficking, slavery, prostitution and the exploitation of children...
 
Pornography all too often does seem to be entrenched in that very murky world.
 
In an ideal scenario, none of us would ever think of using porn or erotica of course... we'd be so busy having mind blowing exploratory sex with our devoted lover, we couldn't imagine desiring something outside the relationship to turn us on...
 
But I'm a realist... most of us don't have love lives like that... or if we do, not for very long...
 
There is a strong argument perhaps for relationship therapists suggesting the use of material to spice things up if things have got a bit boring in the bedroom department...  I'd question how long a couple can really go on like that though... with him thinking of Billie Piper and her thinking of Mickey Rourke (OK.. a young Mickey Rourke!)  I think there's likely to come a point in time when they'd both just realise their love life was a bit of a sham.. and that wouldn't be any different whether our couple was watching "Lady Chatterley's Lover" or "Drink My Pee"...
 
All the same, for ethical reasons, I'd personally still prefer therapists to suggest fictional material and not porn but the debate will I'm sure continue to rage on because sex, as I said, is such a vital and healthy part of our lives........


Saturday, 28 July 2012

Danny Boyle's beautifully crafted London 2012 opening ceremony might prove to be as potent as the '68 Black Power Salute...

Like many, I was far from excited at the prospect of London 2012, mainly because it was clear this Olympics more than any other before, had been hijacked by huge corporations such as McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Adidas and BP and promised to be a very ugly celebration of capitalism more than anything else. Ironic too, I thought, that these big organisations tend not to embrace the idea of competition in their own field of flogging crap to us...

After a relaxing day spent wandering around Bath in the sunshine, I found myself in a very good mood yesterday evening and thought I'd watch a little of Danny Boyle's opening ceremony before heading off for a shower and early night... I'd heard a bit about the live farm animals and country bumpkin setting and to be honest it all sounded a tad twee... boring even... But nonetheless I thought I'd watch the first ten minutes or so...

Like everyone else of course I remained glued to my sofa for over 3 hours as Boyle's portrayal of everything that has made Britain great, unfolded before our eyes...  No glorifying of wars and empire days, instead it was a tribute to the blood, sweat and tears of ordinary working class people whose labour and love has tirelessly strived to improve the society we were born into...

Some Tories were apparently incensed that they seemed to be watching a £27m Labour Party political broadcast - it wasn't of course... if Labour Party broadcasts were as good as this, Labour wouldn't be in opposition and we wouldn't all be suffering in David Cameron's miserable vision of society...

It is fitting that "Danny Boyle" "London2012" and "NHS" have all spent the day trending on twitter and public opinion has been almost unanimously positive of last night's show as people relish the opportunity to unite in a sense of pride and appreciation, made all the more potent against a backdrop of current Conservative cruelty...

For all the opposition to the Coalition's cuts to vital services and benefits, it has sometimes felt like those of us who endeavour to hold the government to account would still struggle to get people out to vote en masse come the next general election... spirits are battered through stress and fatigue and cynicism about politics seems to prevail among the general public...

But last night was a masterclass in how you connect with ordinary people... how you tap into their sense of identity, their values and their dreams and evoke empathy and a deep desire to belong to something they can believe in. 

A few weeks ago I tweeted that this Olympics was unlikely to offer us something as magical as the 1968 Black Power Salute...

But last night Danny Boyle used art and culture to enlighten and inspire and unite people across the country... He's probably sealed the fate of the Tories and Lib Dems come May 2015, and they probably know it... 

Bless that man, and everyone who played their part in bringing his vision to life.

The Camerons enjoy Danny Boyle's Olympic opening ceremony...

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Happiness report exposes government's lack of concern for people's wellbeing...

The government's "Measuring National Wellbeing" report  seems to reveal, as we might expect, that the people who have the highest sense of happiness are those who are physically and psychologically well, enjoy the benefits of a secure relationship and home and don't live in fear of debt or have to suffer the tedium of doing a job they can't stand. 

So why then is this government implementing policies which clearly jeopardise the health and wellbeing of so many. 

Attacks on the NHS clearly have a detrimental affect on people's physical health. 

The housing benefit cap has already seen thousands of families losing their homes - the very stability The Office For National Statistics concludes is important for a happy society.

The highest rate of unemployment since Mrs Thatcher's time in office has left families unable to pay the bills and increasingly turning to "pay day loans" just get through to the end of each month. 

Attacks on education mean that vast numbers of talented people are now denied the opportunity to fulfil themselves academically and increase their chances of doing a job they enjoy and feel rewarded by.

And all of this unnecessary pressure is inevitably causing stress and anxiety in people's relationships, making a happy marriage much harder to achieve than ever before, with all the negative impacts that has on children in those families.

The epic failure of David Cameron's Big Society project has led to charities being starved of vital resources under the naive belief that wealthy individuals would simply step in to take that responsibility on. It hasn't happened - established charities which have been supporting people in their local communities for many decades are closing on a weekly basis!

And the epic failure of George Osborne's economic policy is embedding misery into the lives of millions while those very highest earners, the people the Tories love so much, are enjoying the luxury of a tax cut!!

The time is fast approaching for us to unite behind a single message - this government is waging war on it's own people simply to satisfy the greed of those who are already obscenely wealthy.  Their weakness though, is their arrogance.  Like any playground bully they don't believe anyone's got the balls to stand up to them for fear of having themselves attacked next.

The sun is very hot this morning but soon enough the school holidays will be over and all our thoughts will turn to christmas and those dreadful winter bills including that fuel duty rise.  We need now, more than ever, to work together to get this coalition out of office before they damage the nation's wellbeing any further.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

You need a cuddle? There's an App for that!

For all the amazing, sometimes life-changing, gadgets we have in our everyday lives to keep us connected to others - mobiles, laptops, tablets, gamestations, iPods - as human beings we're becoming more and more remote and isolated. Studies show this, but also most of us are aware of it to some degree in our own lives.

There was a piece in the news recently about a generation of Japanese teenagers who are opting for a reclusive existance.  They chose to interact with other humans digitally from the safety and familiarity of their bedrooms rather than going out and meeting up and experiencing the joy of having a good time in the physical world with other people you get on well with.  They're  living under the illusion that all their human needs can be adequately met by machines.  You need a cuddle?  There's an App for that!

As society becomes less friendly - more rules, more surveilance, more perceived dangers - people inevitably turn inwards for a sense of wellbeing rather than reaching out and attempting to physically connect with others but of course that leaves us feeling unfulfilled on a very deep level because for over a million years man has been a very social creature.  Our brains are hardwired to attach from birth, to other humans who will care for us.

This change in society and the way people connect with one another has all come about very fast.  Ten years ago most of the people I knew only used the internet for looking up specific information or sending emails to companies or a very small number of friends who had embraced the technology.  A few of us used social network facilities like the AOL chatrooms and joined in with debates on forums, but on the whole most of my friends and family had no idea what those things were or how they worked. 

These days almost everyone under the age of 80 is on Facebook - and a growing number of retired people are joining all the time. 

And of course it's been a dream for the advertisers - they now have access to consumers virtually 24/7 - feeding our insecurities, suggesting we're not quite good enough as we are, but if we just dye our hair this colour or start wearing these trainers or have an operation to correct things that are wrong with our bodies, such as breasts that aren't as big as men fantasise about, then we'll be more likely to attract affection from others.

The very opposite is true of course.  As people descend into a cycle of attaching emotionally to objects, they inevitalby feel less loveable for who they really are without all the exterior wrapping.  They come across as shallow as they start to judge others also on what car they drive, what mobile they have and how much they earn.

And for all the material possessions and relative wealth compared to say, our grandparents era, depression and anxiety keep rising.  Figures show it's now one in three of us who will suffer an episode of depressive illness at some stage in our lives, so it's very similar to the statistics for cancer!

But we can do a lot to start to reverse this trend.  For instance, in becoming aware of how much significance we attach to the things we buy, the things we absolutely must have and the example we might be setting our children.  Do we need the latest iPhone as soon as it comes out? - Do we need expensive shoes we struggle to actually walk in because the heels are so high? - Is that new BMW really going to get us a fantastic girlfriend?

Look at your life and ask if the possessions you own are genuinely giving you a sense of wellbeing that will take you into old age.   Or do you actually just crave something as simple as a real cuddle from a real person who loves you for who you are?

Monday, 16 July 2012

When this coalition government wages war on parents, particularly poorer parents, they also wage war on the children growing up in those families...

A study by american psychologists a number of years ago, revealed that 85% of the messages adults give toddlers are negative...  "you can't manage that"..  "you mustn't say that".. "you horrible naughty child".. "do you want a smack?" etc...

A child's brain, in the first 3 years of life, is soaking up information like a sponge.  With very little experience of life to challenge the views of parents and other adults, the child absorbs and internalises messages as absolute fact.  Children are looking at this stage, for the adults in their lives to give them essential information about themselves as little individuals and the world around them.  If mummy says I'm disgusting, then I must be disgusting...

Parents don't mean to be so cruel, but most of us will deliver roughly the same type of parenting we received as little ones.  Traditionally if you came from a middle class family that was likely to be a nurturant form of parenting.. lots of attention and encouragement to develop as an individual.  

If you were born into a working class family you were more likely to receive an authoritarian form of parenting where children are pressurised to conform to the rules around them and are more likely to be controlled with smacking for bad behaviour than offered an explanation for why something is wrong...

Most of the parents I know have made a genuine effort NOT to be like their own parents, and that works fine when life is ticking along happily and everyone in the family is well.  But under stress, parents find themselves suddenly reverting to the old models of parenting they got and they're less likely to be patient and understanding and more likely to lose their temper...

John Bowlby, back in the 50s, offered the insight that if you don't make sure the parents basic needs are met, then they will struggle to meet the needs of their children, which of course makes total sense...

And when this brutally heartless coalition government wages war on parents, particularly poorer parents, they also wage war on the children growing up in those families, which I'm sure they know very well.. and they do it anyway!


Sunday, 15 July 2012

Rise in suicides as the government continues to slash services.....with a smile

Official statistics show that 4,517 people took their own lives in England and Wales through 2010.  Around 75% of those were men although studies show that men and women think about suicide in roughly equal numbers...

Working class men who have more than one child and who are over 45 years old are at particular risk and the government had actually planned to launch a suicide prevention strategy last week, but sadly decided to postpone this until September.  I guess they felt they were too busy making sure the bankers and lords were OK to worry very much about working class fathers...

The coalition's cuts are having a particularly devastating effect on men.  The loss of jobs and slashing back of tax credits hits them particularly hard for a number of reasons.

  • Studies show that men tend to gain self-esteem from getting respect from their peer group, in other words going to work - Women are more likely to gain self-esteem from their personal relationships than from the work they do - our brains are hardwired quite differently in this respect.
  • A man in his 40s who loses his job can experience not only the sense of shame of not being able to provide for his family and maintain everyone's living standards, but also the loss of a sense of purpose.
  • Men who lose their jobs also often experience a loss of identity as their whole lives have been geared up to being a good reliable family man who provides the things needed for a comfortable stress free life.
As Polly Toynbee keeps reminding us, we've still only seen the tip of the austerity iceberg, there's around 85%  of the cuts still to come!

Wait till we get to winter and added to all our current worries will be those rocketing fuel bills... and petrol duty of course set to rise in January.  They say that people only overthrow governments at the point where a significant number are struggling to feed their families and keep them warm. 

It feels like we're actually edging ever closer to that day...............

Friday, 13 July 2012

Kamikaze Cameron's Big Society Scam...

"Aspirational waffle designed to conceal a deeply damaging withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities to the most vulnerable." This was how the Archbishop of Canterbury described David Cameron's flagship Big Society project back in 2010.  Two years on, and I imagine most people would completely agree with the view held by Rowan Williams.

At best, The Big Society sought to take us back to a pre-war era when charitable causes were set up by incredibly wealthy individuals and institutions (there are inevitable questions about whether these people accrued their wealth through ethical means!) and a community's poor were expected to feel grateful for these acts of charity.  But the wisdom of hindsight has shown us that all too often these unregulated, unaccountable organisations set up to help the disadvantaged, harboured a host of dirty secrets such as the wholesale abuse of innocent children.

At worst, The Big Society's mission has been to deliberately starve established worthy causes of funding, so that today's obscenely rich can sweep in and exploit the poor, the disabled and the unemployed for their own selfish financial gains. 

It's as if Cameron has become so obsessed with gratifying his obscenely wealthy friends, he's lost the ability to be rational.  He's becoming quite kamikaze in fact (watch any recent PMQs) and ultimately that lack of rationale is likely to bring about a downfall as dramatic as Mrs Thatcher's in 1990. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Politicians have no idea how unfair life is for those at the bottom...

I was a real loner at school...

A pretty smart kid from a pretty poor council estate I just didn't fit in anywhere - my middleclass fellow students seldom included me in their social gatherings and frankly I was glad about that...

Like most of my classmates I had dreams of going to university -  I wanted to study Psychology and Politics, I thought I would make a good war correspondent (analyse that one!)  But there was little encouragement for girls from working class homes to take that path and instead I was ushered into college to learn how to type and do shorthand - still clinging to my dream, I told myself these were essential skills to learn for the career I had ahead of me...

At the end of that year there was still no talk of uni... instead I was assigned a Youth Opportunity Programme advisor who quickly got me a job in a local factory answering the telephone and typing memos.  It didn't fulfil me at all but everywhere around me were the messages that this was what girls like me did.  More than once I was told "don't get ideas above your station" so I didn't...

As a Labour Party member through the 80s and into the 90s I fiercely defended free education for those who did have the opportunity to go to university, this was such a fundamental principal I'd always held dear - people have a human right to as much education as they desire -  This would have been around the time David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband were getting their free degrees, funded by my taxes while I was working in jobs with poor pay and conditions.  I always told myself I would have children one day who would be bright enough to go to university - so in my mind, it all seemed kind of fair...

Last summer my own son got excellent A level results... Raised by a single mother who works part time and living for most of his life in a run down private rented house at the rough end of town, he deserves so much credit for his achievements and proves all the Daily Mail bigotry quite wrong...

Having thought long and hard, and despite all my encouragement, he decided not to go to university but instead to get a job and pay his way...

Politicians have no idea how desperately unfair life is for those at the bottom...

Or perhaps they do..............


Piss Factory - Patti Smith
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6aUbrZYjYE