An Attempt at Objectivity

As George Osborne’s first Conservative only Government budget was being delivered yesterday my Twitter and Facebook feeds began to be filled with anger, pain and scorn, with an undercurrentbudget_portal__7_2856733b of a deep sense of helplessness.

And I agreed with everything people were saying.  I agreed with the sentiments and my emotions resonated.  There was not a single post in support of the budget, in support of the Government, in support of the direction this country is being led.  It really got me wondering, why is it this way?  If the Conservative Party were voted into power last year in such a huge swing where are all the Conservative supporters now?  I pondered a few thoughts, maybe there is some truth in the 7 statements below:

  1. Lots of people say they don’t like what is happening to the poor but when it comes down to it they will put their own interests first and vote for what they perceive will make them better off.
  2. Lots of people like what the Government are doing but don’t feel confident to express this for fear of being heckled, or even abused, by others.
  3. There are many who benefit a little from current Government policies.  This means they enjoy a little extra comfort and security.  In comparison to the significant life changes that are imposed on many of the most vulnerable this raises no emotional response and therefore there is no impulse to express anything on social media.
  4. Nobody feels inclined to support the Government policies because they are self-seeking, income gap widening, dangerous and loathsome.
  5. Those who feel upset by the political situation have got it wrong and are caught up in a deluded whirlwind of conspiratorial negativity.
  6. It is cool to bash authority.
  7. By my own conscious and sub-conscious choosing my Facebook friends and those I follow on Twitter are skewed towards my own fairly socialist, left leaning political views.

I asked my Facebook friends and Twitter followers if there were any views that supported Osborne or the Government.  There was silence for quite a while and then a few people gave helpful responses.  The comments  ranged from factual to mildly pleased and were certainly void of any of the emotion that was featuring in my feeds.  Also, I know that those who helpfully commented also have strong misgivings about other aspects of Government policy.

I am pondering all this because my thought processes always take me down the line of anger and a desire for action.  Yet, I don’t want to indulge anger or take action for a meaningless cause.  I want to ensure I am objective in what I expend my emotion, energy and time on.

However, nobody seems to be able to come up with a strong and passionate reason for supporting the Government.  The budget and Government policies may offer small financial gains for many but these benefits are, in my opinion, woeful in comparison to the destruction that I see meted out on our communities.

I can only conclude that the anger is necessary and the need for change is critical.  If we care about our communities, and especially those who are vulnerable, then we must spend ourselves to see justice.   Action will look different for different people but I believe passively continuing with the status quo will lead to generations blighted by poverty and social exclusion.

 

 

 

 

How to solve the immigration crisis

It seems that the immigration debate has been building up a greater head of steam this year – all the bluster of the election along with the sad and worrying crises we have seen in the Mediterranean and the port of Calais.  Murderous high profile violence such as the massacre in Tunisia adds to the confusion and anger.

The news story overnight of migrants ‘storming’ the Channel Tunnel generates warlike imagery that only heightens our sense of fear and defensiveness, as we imagine brown skinned foreigners streaming through the tunnel claiming benefits, abusing the NHS and forming sex gangs.

We’re caught in a difficult position.  We want to have compassion on those in difficult situations but we see the strain with which our public services are already under – not to mention how we hate the thought of being taken advantage of by those who need no asylum but just want to live an economically more advantageous life.  We could debate the various approaches the Home Office could take but I honestly think even with the best ideas at our borders and in our legislation would barely be a sticking plaster solution.

We live in a huge and glorious world rammed with incredible opportunities and resources.  Yet what we reap in terms of immigration concerns is only the result of generations of selfish and greedy foreign policy.  We have exploited the riches of Africa and Asia, turned brothers against one another, and now complain when these damaged continents overflow with people desperate for a bit of what we took from them.  Globalisation and technological advances mean the whole world can look on as we flaunt our gadgets, cars and entertainment.

The problems that occur from people wishing to move from one country to another cannot be solved in this generation.  A stand against migration now is only going to condemn your own grandchildren to face increased tensions and issues.  If we wish to make our own country a better place then we have to start by addressing our superiority complex and begin to understand that we must help others to prosper and thrive.  Only when we seriously attend to our foreign policy, radically turn it upside down and treat our fellow human with respect and love will we begin to see the a reduction in the numbers trying to get into the UK.  Except by then, we’ll recognise the humanity in our fellow humans and be hungry to exchange our lives, culture and opportunities with our brothers and sisters from all over the world!

The Potential in Every Child

My good friend Rob shared this photo on facebook today:

Photo

That’s powerful.  We need to accept that the collective knowledge of humanity will always be limited by the extent to which we turn a blind eye to poverty.

Maya Angelou said:

“My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy.  That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors.”

That is why the hard work of teachers and college tutors in the poor parts of our towns and cities is so vital.  If you are a fantastic teacher than please think about working, or staying, in the school where you can influence children and young people who others might not give a chance to.  Your care and effort could literally change the world.

And the same goes for health workers, social workers, youth workers, the police etc. etc.   Anything you can do to pave the way for a young person to get stuck into their education is making society a better place.

Do you know any kids you can invest some time and love into?  Take a chance and go for it and you might end up changing their lives and yours.

Not on my street

Twice yesterday I was hit by how incredibly comfortable my life is.

The first time was when I watched one of those ‘one second a day’ videos.  This one is different to any I have seen before though.  It shows the devastating impact the encroaching evil of war has on a little girl.  The unique perspective on the whole thing is that the little girl is British and war has come to the streets of Britain.  I think it would have spread like wildfire on social media if it wasn’t for just how terrible the reality is – there are little girls like our daughters, sisters, nieces, granddaughters, goddaughters, neighbours etc. who are caught up in the brutality of war and, for the vast majority of us, we probably don’t really care because they’re on a different continent and maybe because they have a different colour skin.

The second time was when I turned out the light last night after reading some more of The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer.  I’d just read a section that describes the utter mundane, terrifying, lonely and dehumanising existence of someone living on a mental health ward.  As I lay there in the dark I realised there were thousands of people  all over the country experiencing that terrible existence right now – stigmatised by society, maybe abandoned by family and friends, controlled by medication, institutionalised.  Lying in the dark.  And again, we don’t truly care that much because it is such an unreality to us.  There will be someone living with the terror and hopelessness of mental illness probably within 50metres of where you live, yet we don’t see it, and it passes us by.

Unjust society

About 2600 years ago a man stood up at the gates of a temple and delivered a crazy speech that should have motivated those that were listening to stop doing evil to the poor and vulnerable and to restructure their society  so that everyone was dealt with fairly. They didn’t and their country went down the pan.

It kind of reminds me of society today to be honest.  Generally, when I talk to people who would probably describe themselves as middle class they admit that they have hardly been affected by the cuts, if at all.  Where they are affected it is usually only luxuries they are having to forego.  However, if you were to survey the most vulnerable or many of those who haven’t had the privilege of a full education then you would find story after story of people who are being pushed into poverty.

That people are having to resort to using services such as foodbanks is terrible.  But what worries me even more are the seeds that are being sown.  I heard of an estate where all the Family Support Worker posts were made redundant.  These may not be classed as vital services for the community but the good that these professionals bring cannot be measured in a few short term outcomes.  If you prevent one family from slipping into poverty and empower their children to complete their education then you are paving the way for health, good relationships, achievement and general well being for generations to come.

We have a responsibility as individuals to live lives that bring justice to one another.  And our elected government has a responsibility too.  The government’s sneering attitude to the poor has been documented in the media over the Christmas period.  I’m really no expert nor informed on the most effective campaigns.  However, we can all keep our eye out for petitions etc. and we can all write to our MPs in the run up to crucial votes about policy change that effect social justice.  One specific example is to see if your MP is in this list of MPs who voted against investigating why foodbanks are being used so much at the moment.  If they are, give them an earful and get your friends and family to do the same!

We can be the change that we want to see.

(You can read what the man referred to at the start of the post said in chapter 7 of the book of Jeremiah in the Bible.  I do believe as a society and as individuals that we are complicit in some of the accusations in verse 9.) 

Storm brewing for the Lords

I read this morning on the BBC that Lords clock in and out of the Houses of Parliament for short periods just to claim the £300 daily expenses rate.

The culprit is a certain, before unknown to us plebs, Lord Hanningfield.  He explained what happens when questioned about his own expenses.  I bet he’s popular in the House of Lords bar at the moment!  In July he claimed £5,700 for attending parliament but never voted or took part in any committees.

He justifies this by saying, according to the BBC, he spent half of the £300 daily fee on expenses and so did not really make any profit.  Eh!?

Since when is £2,850 extra bonus income not profit?

Some rough maths:

£2,850 per month x 12 months = £34,000 per year for extra ‘expenses’

According to parliament.uk there was an average of 484 attendees in the House of Lords last year.

£34,000 x 484 = £16,456,000 = lots of wasted money gone to rich people = angry public 

Lord Hanningfield with an expensive looking dog

 

Carlos Tevez

Carlos Tevez having his community service order rescinded actually makes me want to cry.  There was something ‘just’ about a rich and powerful man with an ego having to get on with some hard work for the community to make up for the fact that he felt he was higher than the law and for putting other people’s lives in danger.

So to have the order changed to a £3000 fine is staggering.  It’s the equivalent of a young person on benefits swapping community service for a fine of £1.12.  The moral of Carlos Tevez’s time in England is that whatever the rules are you can screw them.  What message does this send to the millions of young football fans?

I often get annoyed by celebrities but usually there’s not much point moaning.  But this Tevez decision goes a lot deeper than an overpaid sportsman getting his own way – this really betrays the truth that we’re in a society where money and power trump justice and respect.

Could anybody with a law or justice background explain the sense in the outcome?  I see this decision provides no deterrent to others, does nothing to rehabilitate Tevez, does nothing to protect society from Tevez, does not act as retribution to Tevez and brings no sense of restoration.  What other purpose of punishment is there?

The judge ruled that Tevez could swap punishment because his move to Italy was ‘out of his control’ because Manchester City sold him.  Surely any employer should expect that if they are giving a contract to someone who still has a sentence to serve then that sentence will need to be respected.  If Juventus have bought him and he has to go back to England to serve community service for a few weeks then it should be more fool them.  Alas, no.  What money wants, money gets.