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.






The Potential in Every Child

My good friend Rob shared this photo on facebook today:


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.

5 things more unjust than Brazil vs Croatia

The neutral would have felt there was a sense of injustice against Croatia in the football last night.  I certainly did, though I do have a Balkan bias.  In fact it got me more angry than I have about much for a long time.  You know that sense of righteous anger when you know you have witnessed some huge injustice but you can’t really do anything about it?  That is what I was feeling.  I vented on facebook and twitter a bit, and waited for the likes, comments and re-tweets to help me feel justified in my anger.

And then it hit me – why do I feel so angry about a game of football when there are so many other injustices going on in the world that are infinitely more serious than a bad refereeing decision or two.

Here are my top 5 issues (with links) that I would rather not watch or read about:

  1. That the Syrian Civil War has been going for over three years
  2. That real people, including children, are trafficked for slavery and sexual exploitation
  3. That it’s likely that more than one child on my street has been abused recently
  4. That while you have been reading this blog about 6 children have died because they were hungry
  5. That this very World Cup that many of us are so excited about is the showcase event for one of the world’s most powerful, corrupt and down right evil bunch of humans – FIFA

Of course the list could go on.  They’re just headline grabbers.  Behind all of these are individual humans, suffering horrifically.

It’s just a bit overwhelming really.  What to do?

And getting angry about football….really?

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.) 

Veterans trump Aids victims

It was in the news today that Graham Norton and his production team have been told off for wearing black ribbons in support of World Aids Day.  The reason for this is that, according to BBC editorial guidelines, “The BBC must remain independent and distanced from government initiatives, campaigners, charities and their agendas.”  Fair point.  I can understand that while a particular campaign may seem very worthwhile and uncontroversial it is almost impossible to know where to draw the line.

However there is an exception to this…the Royal British Legion’s annual poppy appeal which raises money for war veterans and is supported by every public BBC figure on all its domestic channels leading up to Remembrance Day.  Surely the Royal British Legion is a charity and surely it’s poppy appeal is part of its agenda?  I have done a quick google search but cannot see any comment on this from the BBC.

I understand that the poppy appeal is supported nationwide, almost without exception, but it does make you wonder whether the BBC allowing, and even insisting, the appeal is supported is part of some wider agenda.  It was also revealed today that the BBC led Comic Relief have invested donations in weapons manufacturer BAE Systems.  I wouldn’t want to draw conspiracy theory type conclusions from all this but it does make me sad that as a society we support war related charities and companies so easily whilst the causes that will not bring about money and power for the ‘powers that be’ are pushed down.

Screwed by Welfare

I have a friend who has had his benefits ‘sanctioned’ for making 3 mistakes with the Job Centre over a 12 month period.  His income has gone from very little to absolutely nothing.  He has no food and no electricity and not a hope of any comfort or luxury for the forseable future.  He can’t use the foodbank because he has no electricity for his cooker, for the same reason he cannot wash his clothes or have a warm wash.  He is realistically facing eviction because they stopped his Housing Benefit too.  Can you imagine living like that?

He points out he would be better off in prison because at least he’d get three meals a day and be able to have a wash.  I’m sympathetic to many of the Government’s efforts to cut back and save money but their approach to welfare benefits is inhuman.

I am convinced that Job Centres and benefits offices are deliberately incompetant to reduce the number of successful claims.  They hit their targets, meanwhile I weekly see young people dropping out of education or considering crime to avoid being destitute.  Some terrible, divisive and destructive seeds are being sown at the moment.

BUT….we must work hard to communicate to these young people that they have immense value to society and have the ability to overcome adversity. To persevere.

Our Government is failing disenfranchised young people at the moment.  But as a community we can step up and take some responsibility to love, care for and empower them.  Do your bit, no matter how small.

Tolstoy’s Resurrection Part 2: Turning a Blind Eye to Suffering

The work done by Comic Relief is brilliant.  For one night only it manages to turn the apathetic and uncaring British public into compassion filled givers of cash.  Yet I think we would agree that the good will generated through Comic Relief is a bit of an annual one off for some, and certainly the zenith of the year’s compassion levels for the rest.

Even the heart-wrenching videos of a boy band crying in an African hospital struggle to provoke more than a skin deep reaction in us – we are genuinely moved, we give a little, yet we continue to live our lives in a manner that sustains and exacerbates the horrific levels of poverty just a few hours plane ride away.

In Resurrection, Tolstoy dismantles the ethics of middle and upper class Russian society about 120 years ago.  The reader is introduced to character after character who do absolutely nothing to challenge the culture that celebrated in the economic and sociological structures that kept the rich rich yet produced millions of deaths through disease and starvation.  Even those who saw the pain, and were even moved by it, could bring themselves to do nothing to change.

My prayer for myself is that I would have open eyes and an open heart to the pain and struggle around me and that I would act on the emotional feelings I experience and actually act in compassion, instead of continuing to turn a blind eye, just to keep myself feeling better.

Do you want to do the same?  If so then right now STOP, and pray for God to transform your heart.