Saturday, 15 November 2014

Iconic children's TV shows, often recalled with great affection

The arts have a unique ability to transport our mind off to faraway places, to excite our imagination and invite us to enjoy experiences, responses, emotions, we might never get the chance to do, in our day to day lives.  This can be particularly powerful for children.

My childhood was nothing like the idyllic scenes often portrayed in literature and film, but the magic of creative, inspiring, often pioneering kids TV, made life not only bearable, for me, but, at times, thrilling beyond belief.

Here are 3 shows I recall with particular affection:

The theme tune from the original "Belle and Sebastian" TV show actually makes me quite tearful, even now! It featured a little orphan boy and his deep attachment to a (not very scary) wild dog that roamed the mountains, which everyone was always trying to kill. A film, adaptation was released in 2013, but lacked the charm of the 1960s black and white episodes.

Innovative, in so many ways - exceptional writing, which incorporated elements of the eerie supernatural, along with transcendental mysticism, and a cast to die for!  It starred protagonist, Tarot, a heart-stoppingly dishy stage magician with psychic powers, and featured various side-kicks (Mikki, a journalist, and her brother, Chas, a photographer - in the 3rd series).  Running from 1970-1972, with series 3 repeated in 1973, everything about these episodes was cool, from the far out graphics in the title sequence, to the theme tune by Andy Brown and the iconic, stylish presentation. So many hearts broken, when a promised series 4 never materialised, I'm sure this is one show that could be successfully resurrected and lovingly reworked for a modern audience, because it remains, for many of us, the best TV show ever made for adolescents!

A one-off serial, that ran over 7 episodes in 1977, and which combined the sinister world of the occult with some rudimentary cosmology!   While protagonist Matthew Brake, naturally, lacked the obvious sex appeal, charisma and kudos of Tarot, he sort of reminded you of the irritating nerdy kid at school, everyone ridiculed, but you often had strange, secret dreams about, because your subconscious always regarded intellect to be utterly enchanting!   (To this day, if a man says "phantasmagorical" I have to stop myself swooning!)  Writer, Jeremy Burnham published a long-awaited sequel novel, "Return to the Stones", in 2012, which took me right back to being a teenager, and it's surprising, once again, this hasn't been updated, to appeal to a new generation of viewers, because the writing is exceptionally good.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Earth in True Perspective - We need to make the most of this beautiful moment in time

Earth in True Perspective

This taken from baba mail page

Everything is relative. You don't need to be Einstein to understand that. A human is as big to an ant as a building may be to him. However, the world always seems such a huge place; so many countries, cities, forests, oceans, lakes, icebergs. So many animals and species. So much history.

But ever since we developed the ability to look beyond our atmosphere, it became more and more apparent that our blue marble is tiny. Too tiny to even comprehend, when compared to other planets, stars, galaxies and the universe itself. So just to give you an idea of how tiny we really are here on planet earth, here are some visual aids.

Given that there is an infinite (or near infinite) number of galaxies, stars, planets, it is impossible to comprehend that intelligent life, in some form or other doesn't exist, or has never existed or will never exist. Only religion can be true, for that to be a fact, which is something of a contradiction in terms really.

So assuming intelligent life does exist or has existed or will exist on other planets (if religion is not a fact) this means to the vast majority of the universe, I do not exist yet, or have existed and I'm now dead.

We need to make the most of this wonderful coincidence that we all happened to be living here on this single planet, in this single beautiful moment in time, and pool our resources including love, especially love, to make wonderful things happen, even if they are gone in a universal blink of an eye.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Labour is failing to capitalise on people's disgust at Tory attacks on the most vulnerable in society reports today:

Last night we reported that John Prescott has used his Sunday Mirror column to complain that Labour are pursuing a “core vote strategy” – but it turns out that’s not the only tough reading for Ed Miliband in today’s paper.

First, there are the polls. A YouGov poll in today’s Sunday Times (£) gives the Tories a two-point lead over, 36% to 34%. While one poll can be brushed aside (as Mark Ferguson explained after YouGov showed a single-point lead on Friday), two in quick succession cannot be ignored. Not a trend, but not an outlier either.

In the Rochester and Strood by-election meanwhile, a Survation poll for the Mail On Sunday suggests that UKIP’s Mark Reckless is heading for victory, with a nine-point lead over the Tories and 15 points clear of Labour. While no one (bar Luke Akehurst) really expected Labour to challenge here, it is a seat that we held (under different boundaries) in 2005, and the 25% Survation show is a drop from our showing there in 2010. Eight months to go, underperforming on 2010 is not good news anywhere.

The Sunday Times story also reports that senior Labour figures are unhappy with the party’s direction of travel. Lord Noon, a major donor, has joined the criticism for the mansion tax policy (criticism being led by London Mayor hopefuls Diane Abbott, David Lammy and Tessa Jowell), describing it as a “hopeless and desperate idea”. Noon said: “The mansion tax is going back to the 1970s.” Noon has donated over £100,000 to the Labour Party in the last year alone, but said that the leadership “really need to buck up”.

Prescott and Noon are not the only unhappy Labour peers. They are joined by Lord Levy, a chief fundraiser to the party under Tony Blair and who recently has been privately celebrated by party sources as being particularly “helpful” to Miliband.

Meanwhile, in today's Sunday Mirror, John Prescott writes:

If a Martian had landed on Earth and said “take me to your leader” he’d have ended up a bit confused.

At Labour’s Manchester ­conference he’d have seen a party ahead in the polls and seemingly heading to victory.

But he’d ask why the atmosphere was flat, where were the policies and who’s this guy in the park called Gareth?

Then our visitor would have visited the Tories in Birmingham, reeling from UKIP defections and facing defeat, but see smiles on faces, a confident leader and policies galore.

In Manchester, Labour had a great opportunity to put flesh on the bone, with papers and TV ­channels giving Ed Miliband and his team a blank page to get their policies across.

But bar a mansion tax to fund an increase in NHS funding and raising the minimum wage to £8 an hour by 2020, nothing sticks in my mind.

I do remember Ed Balls saying he would freeze child benefit but I can’t see many people racing to the polling booths for that.

Both, I feel, are missing the more obvious point. Labour is failing to capitalise on people's disgust at Tory attacks on the most vulnerable in society.

I don't think it's about courting business more, or courting business less, for that matter. I think it's about connecting with our values of decency, fairness, peace, ecology and along with that presenting a progressive vision for how we'd like society to be... And presenting that, for its own sake, regardless of whether that's pro-business or not. It's pro-people!

Lord Prescott suggests it's Ed Balls who is tying everyone's hands behind their backs, refusing to allow them to make any election promises which involve spending money.  I think Balls is way off beam if he thinks most people are behind these brutal cuts, to services people rely on. 

Ed Balls, and, for that matter, his wife Yvette Cooper, are ministers the public associate very much with New Labour. This is the New Labour the electorate rejected, spectacularly, at the last general election.  Why are such people still influencing Labour Party policy so heavily? That is the question many people are asking.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Cassetteboy - Cameron's Conference Rap

1 million views, in a day - that's how hated he is!

Warning, may contain swearing, naturally... ;-) Please do share!!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

To be Sartrean is to have courage, and the anxiety he talks of comes from knowing you do not have the option to just blame someone else. Every decision you make is something to judge yourself by.

I am a Sartrean, to a large extent, but I think most people struggle with the concept that we are free to make any choice we like, but we have to live with the consequences of our actions and take full responsibility for everything we choose to do (and this is the ultimate autonomy I have often talked of.)

In my experience, most of the people I have known, certainly known romantically, struggle to find the courage to accept full responsibility for the things they do in life. They prefer to blame external factors or blame others or say they were pressurised into things, and therefore they have a lifetime of regrets. I don't think a Sartrean can ever really have regrets. You do what feels right at the time, and have to come to terms with those decisions you made along the way.

To be Sartrean is to have courage, and the anxiety he talks of comes from knowing you do not have the option to just blame someone else. Every decision you make is something to judge yourself by. So being Sartrean requires, I would say, immense personal integrity, to have good judgement in your decision making because your whole sense of self is coloured by what you decide to do.

And that's why most people don't seem to like him, but I absolutely love him. That learning to accept who you are, your limitations, maybe, leads to healthy self-love - and this where JAMism takes over from Sartre's version of existential philosophy.

Obviously I share his leanings towards Marxism, or my own take on Marxism (not Marx's version or Sartre's version of Marxism, mine can only ever be my reality of Marxist philosophy) and increasingly I find I share his view on the pointlessness of marriage, and a desire to find something which is less about owning another person, and more a cerebral coming together which then manifests itself in physical ways, and is never about feeling obliged to stay, which ultimately most marriages seem to end up being, as far as I can see. 

There is lot of insecurity in most marriages and although Sartre talks a lot of anxiety and despair, ultimately you would not feel insecure or any need to coerce or possess another person, not even your own children. They have to be free in their own right, and you have to be free of them on some level, though of course we have a moral responsibility to them when they are young. But I know so many parents who are hoping their children will grow up to have the parents' values and this is completely contrary to Sartrean thinking. You have no ethical right to want to control what your children might or might not be.

Again, one has to have enormous personal integrity not to need to actively influence one's own children. But it can be done. I think I've achieved a version of this, and people often think I'm a very odd parent. I totally accept my sons' own right to be their own person, I have never once said or even thought they should have one set of values or another set of values. They are completely free, or as free as it is possible to be,to be their own person and to make their own life choices. It has never been my place to pass judgement on them, or them on me...

I can also come across as incredibly pious... but my values are just for me, I don't expect anyone else to have my values.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Moving away from past pain and into a more fulfilling future...

I'm always very hesitant to offer my way of doing things, or my solution to problems, to someone going through a tough time.

My way has worked for me, to a large degree, but it might not work for anyone else, and I tend to believe when people find their own way of doing things, their own way of thinking, it usually has more success than just following someone else's path.

But, nonetheless, there is some value in sharing ideas, which might lead people to think about issues in new ways, and to come up with different ways of doing things, they had not tried before.  If everything you've tried seems to have failed to build your self-confidence, and bring you a fulfilling life, then you may get to the point where your mind is open to stuff you might previously have rejected.

A lot of people find they have confidence when they are younger, purely because they are considered attractive, or physically fit, and making friends and getting a positive response from the world, seems easy.

But we all age.

Some people invest vast amounts of money and time in trying to hold onto their youth, or to endlessly try and perfect their looks, in a desperate attempt to cling onto that popularity, that perceived self-confidence, but the sands of time abate for no man, or woman...  The more extreme the measures taken, to try and stay young, the more ridiculous the individual in question becomes.

Most of us have more respect for people who mature naturally, indeed there is something incredibly attractive about a person who embraces the ageing process, and enjoys the wisdom which comes with their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond.

That self-acceptance brings a deeper layer of beauty, sometimes a beauty that was never even evident, in their younger, more impulsive, more selfish days.

Self-acceptance is the secret, I have found, along with trusting your own judgement, and growing personal integrity.

Personal integrity isn't something you're born with or born without. 

There's no gene for integrity.

The psychologist, Erik Erikson, believed personal integrity naturally comes to most of us, as we reach our retirement years.  He theorised that if we had made some contribution to life, through our work, through raising children and our vocational interests, this would lead to integrity in the remaining years of life.

I think this is probably true.

But, I would also say it's about investing some time and some energy and some love in ourselves.

Certainly, this has been my experience.  When I felt compelled to understand the deeper layers of my personality, I began to accept myself more, appreciate myself more, love myself more.

All of which, probably would make sense to most people.

But in many ways, that's such an abstract concept.  How do you go about understanding yourself more, accepting yourself more, appreciating and loving yourself? And isn't that narcissistic - to love yourself?

Narcissism, in general contemporary usage, tends to be thought of as a negative human trait - selfishness, egocentricity, valuing yourself, above others, thinking you are better than other people and they are inferior in some way. Displaying a lack of empathy for others, an inability to comprehend the suffering caused to others, in pursuit of one's own goals.

But we're really talking about something therapists might call primary narcissism, which is a very healthy self-love.  Genuine love of oneself, is about having insight and compassion.  Valuing yourself, as you value others. Forgiving yourself, as you forgive others.

If you do not love yourself, how can you truly accept the love of someone elseIf you, yourself, don't think you're worthy of being loved, how will you believe that someone else is really able to love you?

You won't.

And a lack of self-love is probably at the root of many relationship problems.

As you begin to appreciate yourself more, you may even feel you are falling in love with yourself. Which can be a strange phenomenon to experience, but it is very healthy and will help you build more genuine relationships with others.

Some people find that, as they start to appreciate and love themselves, their relationships and friendships improve, the connections feel deeper and more genuine, as they, themselves feel more authentic, as a human being. But some relationships may fall by the wayside, sometimes for a while, sometimes irreparably so, as it occurs to them how little they are really appreciated and loved by someone they perhaps invest a lot of themselves in, a lot of time in, a lot of love in.

Thankfully, the growing self-appreciation and inner wisdom, make this as painless as possible.

For I have found, once people embark on the road to self-discovery and self-love, most of us don't want to come off it, such is the feeling of joy that we gain from getting to know our real, and authentic selves.

This tends to be true, even for people who might have led a negative life in the past, in fact, it can be even more profound for people whose lives involved damaging others, for damaging others always involves some degree of damaging ourselves.

So, what are the practical ways people can start to embark on a journey of self-understanding?

Many people try counselling, as a way of exploring past issues they are struggling to come to terms with.  Sometimes that is really helpful, sometimes people don't feel they make much progress with counselling.

I, myself, have had a lot of therapy through my adult years, for various things.  Some of it was brilliant. Some of it was not. Years on, I still can't see the point of some of the therapy sessions I had. Success with counselling, largely depends on the relationship you develop with the therapist.  If you have a good rapport, and feel held, as you disclose more vulnerable feelings, it will probably work.  If you feel patronised or judged, or dismissed, it is unlikely to be of benefit.

You have to look after yourself physically and emotionally, as far as you can, or any sense of healing and personal growth gets impeded by fatigue, poor diet and so on. I don't mean you have to become obsessive about living on a diet of brown rice and radish juice, and always being in bed by 9 o'clock. Some people can do that, some people enjoy that.  Something that confining, wouldn't work for me though.

But I try to get enough sleep, as  often as I can, be that 6 hours or 7 or 8.  If I feel my concentration going, as the week wears on, I'll lie in, at the weekend, till 9, and that seems to help.  Some health experts say you should never nap during the daytime, but if your lifestyle makes getting enough sleep in one go, difficult, I would suggest an hour during the afternoon, or evening, or whenever you can fit it in, might well be of benefit to you.  Our ancestors tended to sleep in two blocks of about 4 hours, sleep being induced, quite naturally, by nightfall.  But they routinely awoke after 4 hours, and would talk, visit sick friends, pray and have sex, (though not all on the same night presumably!) before going back to sleep for another 3 or 4 hours.

Similarly, you could make a commitment to drink a little less alcohol, coffee or carbonated drinks, smoke less and eat less junk food, and perhaps, walk or cycle sometimes, when you would normally take the car. These things will promote self-healing a great deal. The very fact that you are making some kind of effort, any kind of effort, sends signals to your unconscious mind, that you are starting to value yourself more, and more.  

Most people tend to find, investing this time and energy in oneself, starts to build emotional resilience.  We can cope with stress better, and a natural self-confidence grows.

For me, personally, my greatest progression has come only within this last year, through working largely on my unconscious mind, where pain from the past and current stress gets stored, but I didn't find this at all uncomfortable or distressing, as psychotherapy tends to be.  So I would like share what worked for me, in very practical ways.

To begin with, I was introduced to a hypnotherapy recording, which I was advised to listen to, every night at bedtime for a month.  And then every other night for two weeks, then once a week for another month.  Now I only listen to it, if I find myself feeling anxious.  Saying that, I don't tend to get anxious now, but I keep the recording on my iPod, knowing it's there to use, should I feel I need it.  It doesn't go on about God or anything like that (which many relaxation CDs  do, but I am a humanist so searching for God's love wouldn't mean anything to me, at all) it's just a really relaxing recording to listen to, as you drift off to an amazing sleep...
I also developed my understanding of how anxiety develops in childhood, through our parents worry and feelings of inadequacy, and how this is reflected too, by society.  I had always had a deep interest in understanding human relationships, but as I felt stronger emotionally, I gained a thirst for factual knowledge.  YouTube is awash with good little films and lectures, explaining much about this subject. Here is one example of a short talk, which is really easy to follow, and explains so much, in a way everyone can understand, without jargon..

As I thought and learned more about my wounded inner child, so I wanted to use meditation and hypnotherapy techniques to heal that pain from deep in my past.  There are many short videos you can use for this. This one is quite nice, though the music is a little distracting...
I also came across a new therapy, Thought Field Therapy, which is fascinating and offers Tapping as a very active, and fast way, to heal past pain. It is completely safe, very simple to use, and you can use it again and again, as and when you're aware of experiencing unresolved pain.  I had a private session with a therapist, which was incredible, I've not known anything so effective before. There are some excellent videos on YouTube, which are just as effective.  I especially like this one...
These different approaches really helped me to move on, psychologically, and away from the unconscious feelings and behaviours which were holding me back.

As I say, I'm not suggesting people should necessarily adopt my views, or the practices I found helpful, but some of what I have mentioned here, might lead you on to find helpful ways to deal with the aspects of your own world, which might be holding you back, and preventing you from experiencing the rich, rewarding life you deserve.

Mainstream media's fixation with celebrities, draws eyes away from the real injustice in Palestine

Despite global condemnation of Israeli terror attacks on Palestinian civilians, through the summer months, which left 2,200 dead, (many of them children) and devastated the region's housing and infrastructure, and eventually lead to an agreed ceasefire, the oppression of innocent civilians appears to be going on regardless, as it has done for 40 years.

Plastic coated, steel bullets and those famous tear gas cannisters are reported to have been fired at any Palestinians the IDF chooses to attack, including school children as young as 4 years of age, and homes and farmland continue to be destroyed to make way for more of those illegal settlements. 

In fact, while the eyes of the world were busy weeping over the relentless bombing of Gaza and the daily images being shared on social media, of children's mutilated bodies, across in the West Bank, it was business as usual, and construction was able to go on, off-camera, to satisfy the Zionists voracious appetite for land. 

As always, stories of innocent children's suffering, mean little to the mainstream media, there has, however, been a lot of coverage of incidents involving "celebrities".

When caustic comedian, Joan Rivers, declared in a filmed rant, that Palestinians deserve to die, and the majority of them, who democratically elected Hamas, are too stupid to even hold a pencil, no-one could have predicted the hideous twist of fate, as the 81 year old, who has made a living out of mocking the suffering of others, went on to experienced cardiac and respiratory arrest, during an operation to repair vocal cords.  Doctors have been reported as fearing the comic could be left "a vegetable or in a wheelchair". In fact, she might not even be able to hold a pencil, to use her own phrase.

Elsewhere, a Zionist terror attack on the streets of London, left Bradford MP, George Galloway hospitalised and nursing facial injuries and heavily bruised ribs, when an IDF fanatic launched a totally unprovoked and brutal attack on the Respect politician, for daring to criticise Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine.

Corporate media reported this vicious beating, almost as an "and finally..." piece of no real significance, but were this an attack by a Muslim extremist, on an innocent member of the public in Britain, it would surely have been treated as a terror attack, with the appropriate punishment for such a serious crime being demanded by the terrified public.

The spreading of religious hate and violence is happening insidiously, and largely under the public's radar, as world leaders sleepwalk their way into World War Three, which some are suggesting, is what they have wanted all along.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Cowardice and impotence in our leaders, drive more and more people to look for a better way of living

Reading the news online yesterday evening, I was elated to learn of the long-term ceasefire agreement, between the Israeli government and the people of Gaza, following fifty days of aggressive, almost non-stop, bombing of the densely inhabited enclave.

Clearly there is a long way to go, before the Palestinian population will be able to enjoy the full human rights, they justifiably demand, with full freedom to come and go as they wish, a lifting of the blockade and freedom to trade and so on, but a cessation to the constant shelling, which has cost over 2,000 lives, over 500 of them children and babies, and flattened much of the region, has to be a welcome sign.

As relieved as everyone is, there is also a great deal of anger, that the IDF seem to have the power to launch these attacks every so often, on a captive, civilian population, the world largely turning a blind eye…

In other news, I learned a report into the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal, revealed 1,400 vulnerable children had been sexually assaulted, gang raped, trafficked, beaten and terrorised over a period of sixteen years, their cries for help, ignored by police, because the situation was considered to be “culturally sensitive”, the perpetrators involved, being men, mainly, from the local Asian community.

Accounts like this, naturally, make me as upset as the next person.

And it occurred to me, that a similar theme links these two stories – incredible, inexcusable cowardice, when it comes to standing up to violent aggressors, through fear of being labelled a racist.  And tragically, letting a rogue state, or a predatory gang, get away with crimes committed against some of the most vulnerable people in our world, is actually likely to end up in even more racism, the neo-fascists exploiting the situation in both circumstances, as they always do.

Our senior police officers and heads of state, alike, seem utterly pathetic, contemptible and impotent in the extreme, allowing themselves to be held to ransom by a bunch of disgusting, brutal thugs willing to use dreadful racism of the past to intimidate anyone who dares to challenge their obscene behaviour today.

It’s no surprise that people are becoming disillusioned by politics generally, and politicians specifically. More and more are joining movements which seek a better way to run the world, a culture which thrives on compassion and ethics and co-operation and collaboration rather than the hellish chaos we’re enduring right now, which is always destined to be more focussed on competition and conflict.

The second part of this article will explore the way human beings have allowed themselves to be divided up into nations and faith groups, skin colours and sexual orientation groupings, the futility of that in a world crying out for people to connect and come together…

I leave for now, with a Primal Scream track, which should be an anthem for progressives throughout the world… Bobby Gillespie, of course, who was (as always) one of the first public figures to come out in early July, in support of the people of Palestine…

Monday, 25 August 2014

The 7 Stages of Grief and Loss explained

This is an update of a blog I wrote last summer.

I have been pondering loss a lot recently, watching the heartbreaking carnage and devastation which is going on in Gaza right now.

I've been thinking about how we, as observers, are experiencing the losses our Palestinian brothers and sisters are having to cope with day by day, hour by hour.

I know what it's like to lose a child.  But in my case the little girl was born dead and I had never had the opportunity to develop a relationship with her outside of the womb.  As any mother will tell you though, we certainly did develop a deep bond, through the 8 months I was carrying her, and losing her was almost too much to bear.  I could actually feel my heart breaking as the very lovely male midwife explained there was no foetal heartbeat, the baby had died, and we would now have to go through a very emotional labour and birth, knowing the only conclusion of that experience, would be me saying goodbye to my son or daughter.

So, I know what it is like to lose a child in those circumstances.

But I cannot begin to imagine the sense of abject, incomprehensible devastation of losing a son or daughter, who was alive and happy and well, a few hours ago, and has been killed, perhaps horribly maimed so that he or she is not even recognisable now, because a country has decided to inflict war on your people, misery on your family, extermination on your child.

Who could begin to understand what that must feel like, apart from other grieving mothers and fathers in Gaza.

But of course, I am hurting.  Like millions of others around the world, I feel a gaping wound open up, every time I see another son or daughter lying lifeless in the arms of the mother who cherished them, or the doctor who tried everything they could think of, to try to save them.

In the original article on Grief and Loss, I used a number of scenarios to explain what is going on at each stage of the grieving process. Now I am going to add in, what is probably happening when we are experiencing viewing these awful, mindless acts of death and destruction.

To try and make sense of that which is shocking us every time we see another image.

Many of us will have heard of a theory that states there are 7 stages of loss and grief (some psychologists say 5).  The belief is that we go through 7 different phases of dealing with any loss in our lives, and this theory relates to all kind of loss, from the relatively mundane, such as losing our car keys, to the enormous losses we all have to face in life, such as the breakdown of important relationships and the death of cherished loved ones.

Although these stages go generally in order, we may find ourselves hopping back to previous stages, and if people get stuck on a particular level, this is when there can be a sense of hopelessness, this is often the point at which someone will consider counselling to help move them on.

I will try and explain what is happening when we experience any sort of loss, including loss experienced by someone we care about or feel connected to.  Because the human brain is full of mirror cells, which enable us to empathise and experience other people's pain as if it were happening to us.

Here are the examples then:

  • losing your house keys
  • losing a job
  • end of a relationship
  • witnessing the death of a child in Gaza

The 7 Stages

1)   Shock

You're simply stunned by the event of the immediate loss.
Inability to even comprehend what has happened, senses in temporary shut-down.
"God!!"  "Shit!!"

2)   Denial

Inability to accept what's happened.  "Everything's fine!  "This can't be happening!"

Keys - They're here somewhere, pocket, bag, kitchen table!
Job - They can't sack me, they've made a mistake, someone will come in and take us over!
Relationship - She hasn't actually left me, she'll be back!
Death of Palestinian child - It's not as bad as it looks.  The pictures are all doctored.  There's two sides to every story.  It's more complicated than people think.  Distraction techniques to relieve symptoms of stress, such as watching reality TV or reading celebrity gossip magazines. Using drugs or alcohol to numb the pain.  I don't understand the situation in the Middle East.  I don't like politics.

3)   Anger

Lashing out, losing emotional and physical control, looking for someone or something to blame for the loss.

Keys - Who moved my keys! This always happens when you make me late!
Job - It's the managers' fault for losing contracts!  I blame immigrants! I hated that job!
Relationship - She never loved me!  She only wanted me until someone better came along!
Death of Palestinian child - It's all politicians fault!!  IDF/Hammas are to blame!  Arguing with people online.

4)   Bargaining

Making internal deals with yourself or someone else, or with God.  If the situation changes, the outcome will change.  Pledging to make sacrifices for a better outcome.  Revisiting the physical place of loss in the hope of a different outcome.

Keys  - I had them in the kitchen, they must be there!  OK, I'll pick up your mother, now where's my keys!
Job - I'll take a pay cut.  I'll work longer hours.  Don't sack me, sack them!
Relationship - I'll change!  Marry me!  Let's have a baby!
Death of Palestinian child - Being completely preoccupied with media, in the hope of positive news. Cutting off friends and family who don't sympathise with the suffering. Going to church, lighting a candle and saying a prayer.

5)   Guilt

Taking on all the blame for the loss.

Keys - I should have put them on the hook.  I should have got a spare set cut.
Job - It's because I had time off for my bad back.  It's because I'm 49.
Relationship - I took her for granted.  I mess up every relationship I have.
Death of Palestinian child - I should be there in Gaza trying to help.  I should be more vocal than I am.  I should appreciate my own children more. I should have voted in the last election.  

6)   Depression

Overwhelming sadness, physical and emotional withdrawal from life and family and friends, loss of hope, despair.

Keys - I can't be bothered to look any more.
Job - I'm never going to find another job.  I'm on the scrap heap now.
Relationship - No-one else will ever want me.  She was the only one for me.
Death of Palestinian child - The world is heading towards Armageddon.  All world leaders are corrupt. Ordinary people can't overpower governments.  (There may be a return to the denial phase at this point, distraction with drink, drugs, sexual promiscuity, reality TV, shopping)

7)   Acceptance

Coming to terms with what's happened.  Acknowledging the impact of the loss while recognising life has to move on.  Appreciating how valued the object, situation or person was and ultimately a sense of hope that there will be happy times again in the future.

Keys - I guess I'd better get another set cut after work then.
Job - Let's organise a leaving party, and stay in touch after the redundancies.
Relationship - We had some good times, but it just wasn't meant to be. Joining dating sites.
Death of Palestinian child - Joining groups which share your views and have positive plans.  Co-operating to make an effective protest.  Boycotting Israeli goods and companies associated with the occupied territories. Finding places to purchase Palestinian goods to support their economy. Donating money to a worthy charity. Thinking about practical ways society can be made better, safer, more secure for that region and all children everywhere. Creating a memorial.

Of course, some losses are much easier to come to terms with than others, but the belief is, that we will still go through each of these stages as we process the emotions associated with the loss.  So in some cases we'll go through all 7 stages in one hour or one day, in more devastating circumstances, it will take months or even years to feel like life is moving on.

Sometimes, people might find they always get stuck at the same stage of grief, such as anger or bargaining or guilt, and whether they're dealing with failing an exam, or losing a train ticket, or having an argument with their spouse, or missing out on promotion at work, they just can't seem to process the loss beyond that stage.  And that can be a good indication to get extra support, and go and talk to someone about what keeps happening.  Because if we can't fully process loss, it's harder to commit to things in the future, without this fear of having to deal with an ending one day.  And that fear of loss and endings, might not be conscious, so we recognise what's going on in our minds and hearts, it could be completely unconscious, and we don't even know why we are always the the one who dumps the other one, in relationships, or why we always walk out on a job.

In terms of death and mourning, as a general guide, psychologists and counsellors would expect it to take about 2 years to come to terms with the death of someone close, who is actually in our lives, a parent or grandparent, sibling, partner, child or close friend.  When the first set of anniversaries come around, their birthday, wedding anniversary, anniversary of their death, we can find ourselves back at the anger stage for a while.  By the second anniversary, the sense of loss will usually have lessened considerably and be replaced with some level of hope.  When people are still deep in mourning, 2 years on from the death, some benefit might be gained from getting help with coping with the sense of grief.

As I write this, of course, my thoughts and love are with the people of Gaza.  We continue to apply pressure for a peaceful resolution and a fair future for all Palestinians.  -xx-

Friday, 22 August 2014

If you care about what's happening in Palestine, here are six pages you absolutely should be following on Facebook

If, like me, you are deeply concerned about what's happening in Palestine, the following Facebook pages will give you a wealth of information and latest reports, a place to connect with others who share your views and values, suggestions for how you can get involved and maybe even make a few new friends.

Please feel free to add further suggestions in the Comments section.

  • Follow the links
  • Click Like 
  • Click Follow
  • Get Notifications 
  • Click Share

Eran Efrati, 29, was born and raised in Jerusalem. After graduating high school he enlisted in the IDF, where he served as a combat soldier and company sergeant in Battalion 50 of the Nachal Division. He spent most of his service in Hebron and throughout the West Bank. In 2008, he was discharged and joined Breaking the Silence, an organization of veteran Israeli soldiers working to raise awareness about the daily reality in the Occupied Territories. He worked as the chief investigator of the organization, collecting testimonies from IDF soldiers about their activities. He also guided political tours and to the West Bank and worked to educate Israeli youth about the reality of being a soldier in an occupying army. His collected testimonies appear in the booklet “Operation Cast Lead” and their most recent release “Our Harsh Logic”. Since leaving Breaking the Silence,he is a researcher into the Israeli military, the U.S. military and the arms trade ,his investigative reports appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian. Today he is active with the Israeli groups Anarchists Against the Wall and Boycott from Within.

Rania Masri is a human rights advocate and environmental scientist. She is a national board member of Peace Action, a member of the board of directors of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, the Arab Women's Solidarity Association's representative to the United Nations, and the coordinator of the Iraq Action Coalition. Rania has written about peace and justice, racism, the sanctions Against Iraq, and the occupation of Palestinian lands in local, national, and international news magazines, and has spoken extensively at conferences and universities throughout the United States and Canada. She has been interviewed on numerous networks, including CNN, Fox National News Channel, Pacifica Radio, Radio Canada International, "Voice of America", Washington DC's "The Round Table", Arizona's "Perspectives on America," California's "Middle East in Focus," NPR national, NPR's Talk of the Nation, and several NPR affiliates. Rania has a doctorate in forestry from North Carolina State University, and a Master's in Environmental Management from Duke University. She is currently the director of the Economic and Environmental Justice Program at the Institute for Southern Studies.

Ilan Pappé, whose PhD is from the University of Oxford, is professor of history at the University of Exeter in the UK, and co-director of the Exeter Center for Ethno-Political Studies. Until 2007, he was a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Haifa. Pappe, a Jewish Israeli, born to a German Jewish family in Haifa in 1954, has been described by the Palestinian Salman Abu-Sitta (a prominent writer on the Palestinian right of return) as "an honourable academic with integrity and conscience". He is one of the Israeli "new historians", a group of historians who are so-called because their writings, based on access to material recently released by the British and Israeli archives, has started to undermine myths about the foundation and early years of the Israeli state, myths that were promoted by an earlier generation of Israeli historians who were more concerned about building up the self-image of the new state than in historical accuracy.  Dr. Pappé is a member of the Advisory Board of the Council for Palestinian Restitution and Repatriation (CPRR), an organization which declares that "every Palestinian has a legitimate, individual right to return to his or her original home and to absolute restitution of his or her property."

Miko Peled is a peace activist who dares to say in public what others still choose to deny. He has credibility, so when he debunks myths that Jews around the world hold with blind loyalty, people listen. Miko was born in Jerusalem in 1961 into a well known Zionist family. His grandfather, Dr.  Avraham Katsnelson was a Zionist leader and signer on the Israeli Declaration of Independence.   His father, Matti Peled was a young officer in the war of 1948 and a general in the war of 1967 when Israel conquered the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and the Sinai.  Author of "The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine"

John Pilger is an Australian-British journalist based in London. Since his early years as correspondent in the Vietnam War, Pilger has been a strong critic of American and British foreign policy, which he considers to be driven by an imperialist agenda. The practices of the mainstream media have also been a theme in his work. His career as a documentary film maker began with The Quiet Mutiny (1970), made during one of his visits to Vietnam, and has continued with over fifty documentaries since then. Other works in this form include Year Zero (1979), about the aftermath of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, and Death of a Nation: The Timor Conspiracy (1993). Pilger has long criticised his native country's treatment of indigenous Australians and has made many documentary films on this subject including The Secret Country (1985) and Utopia (2013). In the British print media, he has had a long association with the Daily Mirror, and from 1991 wrote a regular column for the New Statesman magazine.

Noami Wolf Author, social critic, and political activist, Naomi Wolf raises awareness of the pervasive inequities that exist in society and politics. She encourages people to take charge of their lives, voice their concerns and enact change. Her international journalism includes the investigative report “Guantánamo Bay: The Inside Story” for The Times of London, and as a columnist for Project Syndicate her articles have been published in India, Philippines, Egypt, and Lebanon. She’s a frequent blogger on The Huffington Post and writes cultural commentary for The Guardian, The Washington Post, and Harper’s Bazaar.  A graduate of Yale and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, Wolf was a consultant to Al Gore during his presidential campaign on women’s issues and social policy. She is co-founder of The Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership, an organization that teaches leadership to young women, and The American Freedom Campaign, a grass roots democracy movement in the United States whose mission is the defense of the Constitution and the rule of law.

You can connect with me, also, on Facebook or Twitter

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Kelly McGonigal TED Talk : How to make stress your friend

Incredible TED talk given by health psychologist Kelly McGonigal

Kelly McGonigal talks about the biological response we know as stress, and how it's been drilled into us from health care professionals that stress is bad for our health, to the point where  so many people are getting stressed about being stressed.

She offers scientific evidence to back up the value of a more natural relationship with stress, so that we are again in control of our bodies.

She talks about my favourite hormone, Oxytocin, and its role in promoting physical resilience to stress.

Brilliant lines from her talk!
  • When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage 
  • And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience
  • Stress gives us access to our hearts
  • The compassionate heart finds joy and meaning in connecting with others
  • Under stress, your pounding physical heart, works hard to give you strength and energy  
  • And when you choose to view stress in this way, you're not just getting better at stress you're actually making a pretty profound statement   
  • You're saying that you can trust yourself to handle life's challenges 
  • And you're remembering that you don't have to face those challenges alone

Now watch her talk for yourself, and see if you too, can start to feel differently about stress!

Three powerful speeches about the crisis in Palestine, that will blow you away

A few weeks ago, a group of us watched these three talks, and were completely spellbound...

And we were so moved, we started finding our own ways to protest against Israel's illegal occupation, and to use our own talents to keep sharing information and raising awareness, because, as the first speaker warns, we ignore the plight of Palestinians, at our own peril...

Anti Semitism is not anti Zionism.

I read this articulate piece, written by the Admin, on the Official Eran Efrati Facebook page, and feel inspired and compelled to share it everywhere...

Anti Semitism is not anti Zionism.
Anti Zionists do not believe they are inferior.
They do not believe in oppression of others.
They do not believe in obsessive nationalism which makes their country better than yours.
(Nationalism and obsessive patriotism by ANY country in this day and age is an unhelpful scourge on the earth)
They do not believe in systematic corruption and crippling countries in wars and debt to make immense profits for themselves while ignoring the poor, destitute, the harshly done by.
They do not treat people like they are just another business transaction.
They do not believe in racism.
They do not believe everyone but themselves should get off this planet.
They do not believe in wanting to strip the world of peace and harmony by ruling politics, banking and media with lies, unfairness, scams and trickery.
They believe everyone is equal.
If you believe everyone is equal then you are an anti Zionists- you just hadn't given yourself a name yet.
If people still somehow can't understand, then they are unwittingly mind-controlled racist Zionists (regardless of their nationality, race, religion, social standing, whatever) unable to think for themselves, supporting destroying the earth and supporting the upheaval of it- economically, fiscally and racistly- they too, just hadn't given themselves a name yet.
They have one now.
The masses are Zionists by proxy- swallowing up the propaganda they are fed by Zionists to take the heat and focus off the masks they wear, and they ignore and mindlessly dismiss the harsh realities which enables them to forget that they have more in common with us than with their own Zionist oppressors.
They have become mindless sheeple.
They can be saved with re-education.
Zionists don't even like or respect the very people who defend them and do their dirty work for them- they only like and respect other Zionist Jews.
#AntiZionist #LoverOfAwakeAntiZionistJews


Please feel free to share it too, as often as you can, to educate, inspire and help people find the courage and confidence to talk about the injustices they see around them.

Please do Like and Follow the page I read this quote on:  Official Eran Efrati Facebook Page

You can also, if you would like, follow me on: Twitter oFacebook

Monday, 18 August 2014

Four reasons why the world has united in compassion and love for Gaza, and in condemnation for Israel

As millions of human beings around the world feel compelled to express their outrage at Israel's latest wave of military attacks on unarmed civilians in Gaza, both the Israeli government and personnel serving in the IDF, have seemed genuinely surprised by this outpouring of condemnation for their aggression. A Channel 4 News blog reported, serving Israeli soldiers asking the news crew, but why does everybody hate us?  Which of course seems astonishing to most of us, having been exposed to the endless sea of heartbreaking images of dead and maimed children, some lying peacefully, almost as if they were asleep, but for the tell-tale abrasions over their faces, others so badly mutilated they're almost unrecognisable as the little human beings they once were.

It is hard to see how anyone could not feel sorrow, compassion, guilt for the colossal loss of life, Operation Protective Edge has inflicted on the Palestinian community, indeed the sense of loss we are all feeling right now.

News about the conflict is known to be heavily censored within Israel (and to a lesser degree, also censored around the world, within mainstream media) and it would need to be, to keep attracting the 100,000 young Israelis who join the IDF's conscription programme, each year. There is a growing protest movement among Israelis themselves now, although as one person recently tweeted: But how many of them would happily give their homes back to the Palestinians they belong to? 

Perhaps more than we think.

But not enough.

Israeli government spokesmen have hit out, at the world wide movement to boycott produce grown in the occupied territories and within Israel itself, claiming people who get involved with the #BDS campaign are as damaging to the state of Israel, as Hamas and Hezbollah, by constantly "delegitimising" Israel, through refusing to recognise it as a trading partner.

Which much please #BDS campaigners no end, and that movement is certainly growing all the time, with the Buycott app among the top downloads now for smart phone users.

But what has compelled ordinary people, in their millions, to use their voices and take this stand, and get involved in this political conflict, at this particular time in history?  After all, the conflict as we know it, has been going on for nearly a hundred years, dating right back to the infamous Balfour Declaration of November 1917  (Read more here.) And for those of us on the left of politics, the problem of Israel (as John Pilger calls it, rather than a problem of Palestine) has been a feature of much debating, campaigning... since we were teenagers.

But what has suddenly made so many people, people not normally interested in politics, identify with the humanitarian crisis happening in Gaza this time?

A number of things have fallen into place this time, giving us a unique window in history to bring about change, in a way many of us didn't dare hope for, in decades gone by.

The first obvious factor is the use of social media now, particularly Twitter.

Back in December 2008, as the IDF were launching their Operation Cast Lead (which would go on to see 1,400 Palestinians killed, the vast majority of them innocent civilians), there were less than 10 million regular Twitter users, world wide, and the service was nowhere near as sophisticated as the experience we now recognise as Twitter. Today there are more than 270 million active Twitter accounts, and sharing information, photographs, video footage, news articles and blogs, is both extremely easy and instantaneous.

This latest conflict has been replayed, moment by moment, in real time, across the world, the graphic and distressing images of children, killed and mutilated by Israeli bombs, have been re-tweeted hundreds of thousands of times.

Real little children.

Girls and boys.

Sons and daughters.

Just like our children.

Out playing in the street one minute.

Dead, the next.

Missing arms and legs.

Faces blown off.

Hardly recognisable as the sweet little things they were, just a moment ago.

And all this is being experienced on a moment by moment basis, by millions of users of Twitter, all following the #Gaza hashtag or #Palestine or #BDS or #BoycottIsrael.

Back in 2008, most of us got the majority of our news from our daily papers and the news channels when we happened to be at home.

Not any longer.

Firstly, we can all get BBC News 24 and Sky News, along with RT, Al-Jazeera and Democracy Now! on our smart phones and iPads.

At home, at work, on the journey to work, during coffee breaks, as we lie in the bath at night and even in bed.

And that's just televised news.

For most of us, now in 2014, the first place we go for the latest news is Twitter.  If something is happening out there in the world, someone will be tweeting about it, and big human interest stories, such as the bombing of the al-Shifa hospital, went viral in minutes.
There is no longer time for editors of corporate media channels to censor what is getting out. Twitter has been so brilliantly irreverent of established news outlets, and so effective at what it does, and the way live rolling news is delivered, literally into the palm of your hand, that Sky and the BBC simply cannot compete with it.

Indeed, some, such as Channel 4 News, actively embrace this new method of gathering and delivering news, and Jon Snow took a team out to Gaza, at the end of July and was tweeting reports, as and when he experienced the situation, because that's what people wanted.

Real news, in real time.

Not a sanitised, edited, version of what the BBC thinks we can cope with or what Reuters thinks we have a right to know.

So that is the first significant factor in the way people have engaged with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza right now.

Secondly, we have a growing generation of young people all around the world, who are naturally, and healthily cynical, sceptical and totally irreverent when it comes to the establishment in their particular country.  And particularly, this is true for us in Britain, where the past few years seem to have exposed the recognised establishment - the Church, the Government, the Police, the Press, the Banks - all as endemically corrupt.  And most people under the age of 30, see no reason at all why they should show respect for these so-called pillars of society.
And this same revelation has been going on right around the world, so we have seen the rise of activist organisations like Anonymous and the Occupy movement. And all the attempts to discredit those activists and dismiss their campaigns and protests as a load of hype, have failed. The movements continue and go from strength to strength, with each new scandal they expose, within the corridors of power.

The third reason why so many people have responded to the crisis in Gaza with an outpouring of compassion and love, is because many of us... no, most of us... are living with some degree of oppression too, from our own right-wing governments.  Clearly not to the degree victims in Palestine are having to cope with, thank God, but we can easily connect with their suffering, their anger and resentment too. There seems to be a world wide agenda, by the rich and powerful, to inflict misery, in whichever way is possible, on the vast majority of its citizens, always the most vulnerable citizens.

The disabled.

Physically and mentally.

People of colour.

The unemployed.

The homeless.


Single mothers.

Students from poor backgrounds.

All attacked in various ways by a right-wing government controlling a right-wing press.

Or is it the other way round?

It's not fair, and people have had enough.

The forth element, I think, which is growing all the time, is something that I have written about on this blog many times in the past, and that is a desire within so many of us, to build a better society.


The desire for a nicer life for all, a life where we can fulfil ourselves, in whichever way that feels meaningful to us.

Less stress.

Less illness.

Less isolation.

Less conflict.

Conflict in our working lives and conflict in our personal lives and of course conflict on the world stage. All of it drains so much from us, physically and emotionally, so that life is just about surviving, when it should be about growing as a human being.



Building healthy relationships with others, and a healthy relationship with our self.

Links to some of the previous articles on  this blog, on this subject:

You Need a Cuddle? - There's an App for that!

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

Have you had your dose of oxytocin today? When was the last time someone gave you a really good, warm, genuine hug?

Depression, attachment and love

Sleeping next to someone you love reduces stress and can even protect you from heart disease and cancer

These are the reasons I offer, to explain why so many of us have become actively engaged in the protests against the oppression of innocent civilians in Gaza and the West Bank.

I suppose we also hope that if people around the world can come together in their millions, to exert pressure on leaders, to force Israel to sign a peace deal and adhere to the UN Resolution 242, which requires Israel to withdraw its forces from illegally occupied territory, and back to the 1967 borders, then we will have confidence in making our voices heard collectively, where other atrocities are going on.

Some say that's incredibly optimistic.

Many of us feel, we have to try.

As the researcher, and activist and public speaker, Eran Efrati summed up in a lecture recently:

"What's going on in Palestine, is a humanitarian crisis..... All of us want to be in the right place, at the right time, when history is knocking on the door, and history is knocking right now, really loud, in Palestine.  We need to be on the right side of this humanitarian case."

Clearly, so many of us are feeling this too.

I'll leave you with some links to look at, some people to follow and some online groups to join to meet like-minded people:

John Pilger- Palestine is still the issue

FB Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK)

FB International Solidarity Movement

Stop The War Coalition on FB

Official Eran Efrati FB page

Palestine Campaigns on Twitter

Dr Belal Dabour on Twitter

Dr.Bassel Abuwarda on Twitter

Where ever you are,

Have hope,

Stay safe.