Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Old Woman’s Magical Journey: A Tale for Midwinter

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As we are

“… Whenever a fairy tale is told, it becomes night. No matter where the dwelling, no matter the time, no matter the season, the telling of tales causes a starry sky and a white moon to creep from the eaves and hover over the heads of the listeners. Sometimes, by the end of the tale, the chamber is filled with daybreak, other times a star shard is left behind, sometimes a ragged thread of storm sky. And whatever is left behind is the bounty to work with, to use towards the soul-making…”
Clarissa Pinkola Estes: from “Women Who Run With The Wolves

Part One

Once upon a time… not so very long ago… lived a woman who dwelt in a world without magic.

Although, from being a girl, she had always wished magic was real, the world around told her she was silly, that magic did not exist, it was just a story and she was foolish to even think that it could possibly be real. Slowly, and because the world said it so often, she came to believe what they told her and she grew up in this no-magic world, learning its ways. In fact, she became as non-magical as everyone around her because she believed what she had been taught; that this no-magic world was the only reality that existed.

After many, many years… so many that the woman was nearing her old age, she walked down a path one day and, to her surprise, saw a tiny breadcrumb of magic lying just where her eyes were looking and it twinkled at her. At first, the nearly-old woman was very surprised. She looked around but no one else had noticed the breadcrumb because, after all, magic did not exist, did it? But there it was – as real as life – a magical breadcrumb that was clearly twinkling at her. She wondered what she should do and, to her even greater surprise, the breadcrumb of magic whispered to her. It said
“Eat me.”

The nearly-old woman had not forgotten her little-girl wish for magic. She looked around again and when she was certain no-one was looking, quickly picked up the breadcrumb, popped it in her mouth and swallowed it down. Then she went on her way pretending as if nothing had happened. Meanwhile the breadcrumb magically burrowed its way into the nearly-old woman’s heart for, deep down, she still truly loved magic.

As the nearly-old woman began ageing into an old woman, she found more breadcrumbs of magic until she had swallowed so many and her heart had become so full of magic, she knew she could no longer live in a no-magic world. So she left it behind her, travelling far and having many many adventures until, finally, she came to dwell in a remote village deep in the countryside. She had found a land where some folk believed magic was real and where her now-magical heart could sing with content. It was far, far away from the no-magic world. Here she lived alone, content in the company of many cats, and she began to learn how to live in a land where life was made of magic.

More years passed.

There came a time, one day, as the days grew short and the nights became long, close to the darkest days of winter, when the now-old woman was going about living her new and happier life, when she heard a thousand voices carried by the wind. They were crying out for help.

“Help us” cried the voices, “Our people are suffering and dying. Our children are cold and hungry; our mothers are poor and weeping, our fathers despair and although we have tried, we cannot stop what is being done to us. Justice, if you exist in the world, find and help us.”

Now the old woman had known cold and hunger, poverty and weeping, and what it was like to try to change what was happening and fail, especially when she’d lived in the no-magic world. The voices sounded as if they came from there and their cries awoke something in her heart. She wished she could help but she didn’t know how or what she could do. So she asked the magic around. Soon afterwards, she spied another breadcrumb on her path, so she quickly swallowed it down and hurried home to learn what the breadcrumb had to teach her.

That night, the breadcrumb showed the old woman why the people had been crying out of help.

“You are correct.” said the breadcrumb, “The cry comes from people in the no-magic world you left behind. They are suffering because no-magic world is destroying them. “.

The breadcrumb said that those in charge of the no-magic world actually knew magic was real but they didn’t want the people to know it. So they lied. They told people magic didn’t exist, that it was foolish and silly to even consider magic was real while, in secret, they were stealing and gobbling down as much of the people’s magic as they could. The more they gobbled, the more they wanted, and this was how the no-magic world slowly grew in size and power. The bigger it got, the greedier it became. No-magic grew extremely fat and filthy rich, becoming exceptionally mean and horribly selfish, endlessly cruel and deeply heartless, especially towards those who might be magic if they thought it could be real. With every lie no-magic told, their power got stronger and stronger until they had eaten up almost all the magic whilst truly magical people, like the old woman, became poorer, hungrier and died sooner in their hopelessness and despair.

Then the breadcrumb showed the old woman that if magic ever really did cease to exist, the whole living world would die too. The cry for help she had heard, said the breadcrumb, was a sign that the world was getting very close to dying.

The old woman was horrified. She understood exactly what the breadcrumb was saying because she had lived it. She knew how painful it was to believe the lies of the no-magic world and she feared for the future the breadcrumb had described. She hadn’t understood she’d been lied to and was horrified by what the breadcrumb had told her about the greed and cruelty of magic thieves. Eventually she asked the breadcrumb, “Is there anything can I do to help?”

Into her heart, the breadcrumb whispered:
“On the darkest of darkest nights, when the world is has breathed out the last of the old year and before it breathes in the birth of the new, in that in-between moment where Sun, Moon and stars cease moving through the heavens – you must journey to the place where all the magic stolen from the world is being held captive. There you might set magic free to help the people whose voices you heard.”

“I will,” said the old woman and meant it with all her magical heart.
And so it happened, on the darkest of darkest nights, when the Sun, Moon and stars had ceased moving in the heavens; when the world had breathed out the passing year but had yet to breathe in the new one, the old woman stepped through her door and out into the night on a magical journey to free the stolen magic for the people crying out for help….
Part Two

“It’s a funny thing,” thought the old woman as she closed the door to her home behind her, “how similar the magical world looks to the everyday world I live in”. She looked around and everything looked just the same, only much much darker. She walked to the end of the road and then out into the surrounding fields, waiting for magic to find her. She didn’t have to wait long.

Suddenly a HUGE wind lifted her right off her feet and high into the air. Just as she feared she might fall, huge wings sprouted from her back and caught the air beneath them. The old woman found herself gliding with the wind!

“Oooooooooh! Now that is definitely magic!” said the old woman, once she’d recovered from her surprise. When she checked, it seemed that both the wind and her wings knew what they were doing and where they were taking her, and because she loved magic, she trusted and watched to see what would happen next.

She rode high in the wind for a while and then noticed that her wings were starting to carry her to the ground. At first distant, but then gradually coming closer and closer, she saw a light in the darkness. As she neared the light, she saw it came through the open doors of an entrance in a rocky cliff. Closer still and she saw a lake below the cliff reflecting the light from the doorway. The wind then softened to a breeze and the old woman’s wings glided her over the lake, where she landed on a stone platform outside the open doors. Once her feet touched the ground, her wings vanished and she stood with wobbling knees, shivering, in the light of the entrance.

Once her knees stopped shaking, the old woman took a step towards the entrance in the rocky cliff and as she did, she saw the tall dark figure of a woman who seemed to be waiting for her. So she slowly walked towards this woman and saw dressed completely in black with a Raven perched on her shoulder. When she stood before her, the old woman bowed because this was a magic journey and she knew she must be respectful to everyone she met there.

“Welcome, Daughter of Humans.” said the woman in black, “You journey to free magic back into your world. This is a very serious task. Do you have the courage for such an undertaking?”

The old woman carefully considered this question and answered,
“My Lady,” for surely, she thought, this dark woman was someone important, “I don’t know if I have the courage. All I know is that I heard a great cry for help from the world of no-magic and my heart calls me to answer. But I don’t know how to free magic. Can you help me?”

The woman in black smiled and nodded. “Come with me,” she said, “You must ask the Lady of this Land. I will take you to her.”

The woman in black turned and led her through the entrance doors into a vast rocky chamber with many doors in its walls. Leading the old woman, she crossed the chamber to another set of huge doors which opened at her approach. When the old woman passed through the doors, she saw she was in an enormous audience hall and, at its farthest end, there sat a woman made of molten fire sitting on a huge stone throne. Together, the two women approached this Lady of Fire and knelt before her.

“Majesty,” said the woman in black, “I bring the Daughter of Humans who seeks to learn how to free magic back to her people.
Daughter of Humans, before you sits the Creator Goddess of Earth Magic. It is She who knows the answers you seek.”

The old woman trembled with terror at these words, for she knew she was far from perfect, and looked down at the stone floor when she felt the sight of the Goddess pierce her, seeing through to her heart and knowing everything about her. But then she remembered the terrible cry she had heard and knew she still sought to help those people.

Slowly she raised her eyes and gazed upon the Goddess of molten fire and saw that her form flowed endlessly in hues of red, yellow, white and black. She felt heat crisp the air around her, filling the air with a scent of cleanness. She had hair of flame and a gown of smoke; her skin was smooth but black as night with seams of deep red, yellow and white; her eyes were the blue-white of the hottest flame; her lips bright, like red-hot coals. All the colours moved and flowed, and when she spoke, her voice was the sound of fire.

“Daughter of Humans, you wish to return magic to humankind?” the Creation Goddess asked.

The old woman nodded. “Yes, if it pleases you, your Majesty.”

“It pleases me.” said the Goddess, “There is a task you can do to achieve this but you must do no more and no less than that which is asked of you. Are you willing to do such a thing?”

“Yes, your Majesty,” said the old woman in a trembling voice.

“Then come. Follow me.”

The Goddess rose from her throne and moving, like fire, she crossed to another set of huge doors that opened at her approach. The two women followed.

Beyond the doors was a cave the size of a cathedral and in the cave, a silvery blue dragon whose colours flowed in the same way as the Creation Goddess. The Goddess moved to the dragon and held up a chain bearing four keys of fire; one black, one red, one yellow and one white, which she passed over the dragons head.

“You must not touch the keys. You must ride the dragon to the place where the keys belong and deliver them to the Guardians,” the Goddess told the old woman, “Do nothing more than that which has been asked of you and which you consent to freely. Do you understand this?”

“Do no more and no less than that which I am asked and consent to, my Lady” repeated the old woman.

The Goddess smiled and, with a wave of her hand, the old woman was lifted up onto the back of the silver-blue dragon. Then with a look of great Love, the Goddess turned to the dragon and said,
“You know where to go. Fly now, my beauty, and return to me when the task is complete.”

The dragon blew a dragon’s kiss to the Goddess, so that her hair of flame flowed out and filled the air behind her. Then it moved to doors at the back of the cave that opened out into this darkest of dark nights.

The old woman clung to the back of the dragon as it flew into the cold dark night. The dragon’s skin felt like the softest and smoothest of leather, warm to the touch, with ridges she could hold on to, but the night air was chilly and became colder the higher the dragon rose into the night sky. As if in response to the chill, and arriving as suddenly as her wings, the old woman found herself dressed in warm furs of white, trimmed with furs of black, red and yellow.

The dragon flew high and then set forth towards the world of no-magic. The old woman watched the sky above and the endarkened land below and she marvelled at the magic she was experiencing. They flew for what seemed to be the longest time until the land below began to change – street lights began to appear, followed by villages, then towns. Finally there appeared a great city filled with electric light. Above the city rode a whirlpool of magic threads of many colours, and the old woman could see these were all slowly being sucked into a dark core in the centre of the city.

The dragon circled the skies above the whirlpool of magic, as if seeking out a particular thread. The old woman watched as the dragon found one of silver-blue, just like the dragon’s own colours. They flew, following the thread’s circling path down into the whirling core. The thread grew in size and as they entered the spinning centre, it became a tunnel through into which the dragon flew with the old woman clinging to its back. The tunnel twisted and turned, bright with the flowing colours of silver and blue, but the dragon flew on and on until the tunnel began to dissolve around them.

As the tunnel disappeared, the old woman and the dragon emerged into a bright, warm summer landscape. The old woman’s furs disappeared with the tunnel and she found they were flying high over a vast green forest. Slowly circling, the dragon descended towards this green earth until, eventually, they arrived at a large open meadow within the forest. Standing in the middle of the meadow stood four huge human statues and the dragon landed close by them.

The old woman looked at the statues: made of stone, the first was black as blackest of earth; the second, red as the reddest of earth; the third as yellow as the yellowest of earth; the last as white as the whitest of earth. Beside each one was a huge box made of the same stuff. Whilst the old woman didn’t know what to do, the dragon did. It approached each statue in turn and breathed a dragon’s kiss over each statue in turn. With each kiss, the colours of each statue came alive and began to flow like the Creation Goddess and the dragon. Slowly each statue awoke, looked around and then saw the dragon and the Creation Goddess’s keys. Smiling, each one reached out and took the key for their box. When the last key was taken, the chain that had been holding them vanished.

Now each magical being, for surely they were no longer statues, used their key and turned the lock, then they opened all the boxes together. All at once, the magic stolen from the people flew from the boxes and out into the world – it filled the air; it filled the skies; it filled the forest; it filled the earth; and it filled the old woman with absolute wonder. It seemed as if the whole world held its breath while watching the magic return… and then the world began to breathe in the magic.

The White Magical Being then turned to the old woman sitting on the silver-blue dragon and, lightly, with its finger, gently pushed a small piece of freed stolen magic into her heart.

“This belongs to you,” said the being “I return it to you, Daughter of the White tribes, from all of us. The voices of despair you heard came from all the Sons and Daughters of all our Earth; the Black tribes, the Red tribes, the Yellow tribes and the White tribes, for our Earth is made of Magic.”

The old woman could ‘hear’ the truth in these words and knew them to be true; magic was so much more than breadcrumbs – magic was Life itself! Without magic, all Life would die. It was a truth so great, her mind could not grasp the enormity it so she thought of the smallness of herself and her actions. She had not freed magic, she thought, magic had freed itself, it seemed to her… but stopped when she realised the White being had not finished speaking.

“We would ask one further task from you, if you are willing?”

The old woman nodded, and then said, “I would be happy to.”

The White Spirit smiled and offered the old woman another key made of a dull grey metal, which she took.

“You will return now through the vortex of magical creation,” said the being, and it raised its hand to the skies. Looking up, she saw another whirlpool of magic but this time threads flowed in both directions in and out of its centre.

“In the middle of the vortex is another locked box. We would ask you to open it. Touch nothing but the key – you must turn the key to open it.”

“May I ask why?” the old woman asked, “For surely you have already freed magic into the world.”

“This box does not release magic, Daughter of humans,” replied the White being of Magic, “This box calls to all who choose to live in a world with no magic. It calls them home. They have a rightful place in the universe but it cannot here for, as you have seen and understood, to be without Magic is to be without Life itself.”

As the final words were spoken, the dragon lifted high into the air and, once again, began to search for the thread that would take them through the vortex. This time the thread was easy to find and they were soon within their tunnel passing through the vortex except… this time there was an opening in the tunnel itself. The dragon flew through this opening and into a space which held a large, dull, grey metal box and stopped close enough for the old woman to reach the lock. She leaned forward and carefully, without touching anything else, placed the key she had been given into the lock. Turning the key, she saw the lid of the box fly open. She let go of the key as the dragon began to fly around the box and back into the vortex tunnel. She listened hard for the call from the box but heard nothing. Then she heard a whisper from the new magic in her heart saying, “That call is not for you.”

The dragon flew and flew. It flew through the tunnel and out of the vortex above the city of no-magic. It flew high in the darkest of the dark night skies. But on this return journey, there was no need for furs; the old woman’s new magic kept her warm. Finally, the dragon began to descend and when they landed, she saw they were in the field above the old woman’s street. The dragon lowered its head so the old woman could slide safely from its back. When her feet were securely on the earth, she turned to the dragon and gave a bow of deep bow of gratitude and respect. Then, standing back, she stood and watched the glowing dragon rise again and fly off into the darkest of the dark night skies.

As the old woman walked slowly back to her home, she saw that her village was also glowing gently with returning magic. And when she opened the door to her home, the old woman knew her magical journey had come to a close… but the world’s journey into magic was only just beginning.

In all the worlds containing magic, this is known as a true story.

“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”
Charles de Lint

Cawfields Quarry, Haltwhistle, Centre of Britain

Cawfields Quarry, Haltwhistle, Centre of Britain. Boxing Day 2014.

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On torturing the poor and hungry #ToriesMustGo

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Torture

I wrote the following blog after reading Jack Monroe’s account of her experience of giving evidence to the All-Party Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty. Before I continue, I would like to make it clear that Jack has not seen, nor given any consent to my posting this and therefore bears neither responsibility nor blame for its contents – that is wholly and entirely mine. I stand by my blog and I’m grateful I’m not the only one to have had a powerful response to the piece. Nevertheless, she only has to ask and she’ll have a no-obstruction removal. Her needs take precedence to mine and I do not want to add to her problems.

Psychological tortureJack Monroe has been fair game for politicians, especially the Tories, since she began using her platform to speak for the hungry poor. In that time, Edwina Currie has reduced Jack to tears live on TV. To her discredit, Sarah Wollaston was vanguard to an attempt to destroy her social achievements following Jack’s point of fact tweet concerning David Cameron’s behaviour. There are probably plenty more but after reading about the treatment Jack was subjected to by this Parliamentary All-Party Inquiry she is, in my opinion, eminently qualified her to speak plainly about the standards of parliamentary behaviour.  The shocking quality contained within the content of her narrative amounts to psychological torture in my understanding of mental health and the treatment of someone clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress.

cameron out 13It is a matter of synchronicity, that Jack’s piece was published the same day as the report into the CIA’s use of torture. Here is Glen Greenwald who is far more knowledgeable on the matter than I.

On the same day, David Cameron visited Auschwitz, which prompted this post from Mike Sivier at Vox Political.  I agree with everything Mike has to say but would particularly draw attention to the following information contained within his piece:

Work capability assessor asked why depressed claimant had not committed suicide | Vox Political, and

The work capability assessment and suicide – a.k.a. ‘chequebook euthanasia’ | Vox Political. You can find more information about ‘nudging’ here.

cameron out 11Finally, it is important to know that there are direct links between the CIA Torture Report and the British government’s treatment of our hungry poor via the psychologists involved.

“Why aren’t you dead yet?”…. on Human Rights Day.

I have drawn my own conclusions.  I leave you to come to yours. For information: I will be raising the matter with my MP since I see he is a part of the Inquiry, which makes this an all-party problem concerning both Houses.

Meanwhile,  here’s my tribute to the courage of Jack Monroe.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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Today is Human Rights Day. It’s also the day Jack Monroe went public about her experience of giving evidence to The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hunger and Food Poverty.

It took a few hours for my feeling response to her piece to make itself known. Emotional intelligence is not like intellectual knowledge. The intellect is a top-down process where the mind goes first and other human responses come later. Emotions are different. They are felt first and float up to intellectual awareness in their own time, hence the time needed to begin to understand both how I was feeling and why. Now I know and my fury seems as if it knows no bounds. To understand why, we first need to consider how Jack described her experience of appearing before this committee:

My head in my hands, choking out words, tears rushing down hot, humiliated cheeks, I raised my head to look at the array of varying expressions looking back from the other side of the room; a Labour MP, two Conservative peers, and a Conservative MP looked back, a mixture of horror and sympathy as I publicly crashed and burned. Fear and humiliation and self-loathing leaping on me like a set of hyenas, as I sobbed: “I can’t even answer my telephone, any more. If it’s an unknown number, if it rings early in the morning, or I don’t know who it is. I can’t even open my own front door. It’s not the same front door, as the one I sat with my back to, morning and afternoon, cowering as bailiffs battered on the other side of it. It’s not the same phone number. It’s not the same front door. I’m not in debt. There are no more final demands, no more red capital letters, no more threats. But … I can’t even open my own front door.”

She continues

I gave evidence at the all-party parliamentary group inquiry into hunger and food bank use in the UK a few months ago, one of over 1,000 pieces of evidence heard by the committee – expecting to recount a story told and retold at party conferences, charity events, radio interviews, to journalists, again and again and again over the past two and a half years. But the APPG wanted more than ‘hunger hurts’. They asked, probed, dug, questioned, opening up the old wounds, and made notes as I trembled in my seat, recalling nights of wrapping a baby up in a vest and a babygro and a dressing gown before putting him down to sleep. Of going to bed shortly afterwards because there’s nothing else to do, and it’s dark, and cold, and you sold the telly, so you go to bed at 7pm and curl up beside him and hold him, because it feels like the only good thing you have. Of being asked, very quietly, by a member of staff at my local children’s centre if a food bank referral form would help us out “for a little while”, as she noticed us having seconds at lunch, and thirds, and three or four sugars in endless cups of tea, of offering to wash up and boxing up the leftovers to take home, away from the eyes of the other mums in the group.

As someone in poverty myself, I can fully understand where Jack is coming from. Each time a brown envelope comes through my own front door, I always experience panic even before usually discovering they are not addressed to me. Whilst my own ‘trauma triggers’ are not the same as Jack’s, they produce very similar responses. We are not alone – there are thousands, maybe millions, of British people likely to feel the same way as we do, each for our own individual reasons. cameron out 2

The roots of the word ‘trauma’ comes from the Greek:  traumat-, trauma wound, alteration of trōma; akin to Greek titrōskein to wound, tetrainein to pierce, and they inform our psychological understanding of what it means to be traumatised.  The traumatised individual is understood to experience the following:

“The essential psychological effect of trauma is a shattering of innocence. Trauma creates a loss of faith that there is any safety, predictability, or meaning in the world, or any safe place in which to retreat. It involves utter disillusionment. Because traumatic events are often unable to be processed by the mind and body as other experiences are, due to their overwhelming and shocking nature, they are not integrated or digested. The trauma then takes on a life of its own and, through its continued effects, haunts the survivor and prevents normal life from continuing until the person gets help.”

Source

In her own words, Jack Monroe meets the psychotherapeutic definition of a woman experiencing post-traumatic stress as a result of her personal experiences of poverty. Under such conditions, it takes a very brave woman to publicly and formally step up to the social responsibility of giving evidence to an all-parliamentary-party inquiry into hunger and food poverty. I have nothing but admiration for this young woman balanced only by my furious professional disgust at her treatment when she did so.

So let’s examine how these parliamentarians treated at least one of the witnesses who appeared before them.

We already know how members of both Houses regard Britain’s hungry poor. For example, the following occurring during a House of Common’s debate on foodbanks in December 2013:

As Fiona MacTaggart, the Labour MP for Slough, described how people battled over end of day bargains in her local Tesco, she was almost drowned out by laughter and jeering from the government benches.

Ms MacTaggart could barely be heard over the braying as she described how the supermarket had been forced to draft in extra security and asked “Isn’t that a shocking sign in the 21st century?”

Labour MP for Copeland in Cumbria, Jamie Reed told The Mirror: “I regret to say the laughter from the government benches says more about this issue than words ever could.”

Source

cameron out 3Not for the first time were reports of the suffering inflicted on the poor met with such disdain by the same government that inflicted the traumas in the first place. So anyone who gave evidence to the Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty knew they were likely to be facing at least some of the abusers who had inflicted their trauma. It carries the same emotional charge that is known to impact the victims of rape when they face their rapist in court in order to secure a conviction. Just like rape victims, the experience can be as bad as the trauma itself… just as Jack described.

There were over 1000 witnesses to that Inquiry. No doubt some were representatives of organisations involved in helping our impoverished hungry. It is one thing to represent such an Inquiry with professional information as, indeed, Jack had planned to do herself: ‘I gave evidence… expecting to recount a story told and retold at party conferences, charity events, radio interviews, to journalists, again and again and again over the past two and a half years.’ This is psychologically

Click pic for source

Click pic for source

manageable – it allows our coping mechanisms to remain in place whilst still imparting the necessary information for an Inquiry to draw formal conclusions without causing further trauma or harm to the witness themselves. But the Inquiry did not permit Jack Monroe her boundaries or psychological protections: “…the APPG wanted more than ‘hunger hurts’. They asked, probed, dug, questioned, opening up the old wounds, and made notes as I trembled in my seat…” Factual information and trauma reporting were not sufficient; these MP’s wanted to see blood and made certain than they got it. If they could do that to Jack, who else did they do it to? What support was offered to these witnesses, after these baying-for-blood poverty and hunger voyeurs had finished tearing them open to reveal the still-bleeding traumas beneath their precarious and fragile coping mechanisms? Were they offered access to counselling or therapy in order to recover from their ordeal or were they, like Jack, sent home with wounds raw and untended? How many were sent back to the very same poverty they were reporting to these parliamentarians that seem to me to be indistinguishable from vampires?

SturdyAlex on poverty tourism

Click pic for source

As a former psychotherapist, I regard this as unethical, unprofessional, improper, dishonourable, unprincipled, cruel and unscrupulous behaviour towards victims traumatised by the same group of perpetrators, now claiming to be undertaking an Inquiry into how bad it has become. It’s as sick as rapists cross-examining their victims in court. In my book, it quite likely amounts to psychological torture. That well-paid, well-nourished, subsidised, all-expenses-paid professionals should demand that their victims bare their wounds for all to see whilst they remain safe, secure and snicker in their ivory tower is obscene. If all those who gave evidence of their personal experiences of hunger and food poverty were treated like Jack, then the perpetrators of the trauma permitted the traumatised no defence, no protection and no support whilst they fed on the suffering of their victims under the guise of ‘collecting evidence’.

Truly, is there anything in the darkest recesses of human ‘nature’ more sickening?

Should any member of this inquiry think to defend their actions towards Jack and the other victims, I invite you to STOP NOW and discover how it feels to be defenceless because if you weren’t perpetrating this abomination, you were enabling it. There is no defence to either. What Jack Monroe described in her column today is indefensible on all levels of interpersonal or social relationship, and it’s high time you learned what that feeling is like because you won’t change until you do.

EXCLUSIVE- “Corrupt, toxic and sociopathic”- Glenn Greenwald unloads on torture, CIA and Washington’s rotten soul - Salon.com 2014-12-11 16-37-01

cameron must go 2

Why #CameronMustGo marks a decisive change in UK Politics

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Worst times of life

Definition of decisive in English:

adjective

1. Settling an issue; producing a definite result:the archers played a decisive part in the victory’,a decisive battle’
2. Having or showing the ability to make decisions quickly and effectively:she had an image of being tough and decisive‘; ‘he handled the situation in a calm, decisive way’
Oxford English Dictionaries

Saturday 22 November 2014, at 6pm, marked the beginning of a new phenomenon in British politics as the hashtag #CameronMustGo took off into UK’s twitter. Cameron must go sI doubt that either Jon Swindon or Jenny Howarth imagined what would happen next. Usually twitter events that  trend do so for a few hours or a couple of days before the energy abates and other issues move in to take top billing. At the beginning, #CameronMustGo trended within the hour – a result counted as a ‘win’ for creators even when its trending is brief – but this time something different occurred; 24 hours later it was still trending… 36 hours… 48 hours… 72 hours… . By this time, it became clear #CameronMustGo was doing something very different. Now at the time of writing, two weeks later, #CameronMustGo has yet to leave UK’s twitter trends. In truth, no-one could have predicted this – to the best of my knowledge, this is unprecedented in UK twitter history.

The mainstream media only began its reporting around the hashtag following outrage from some, mainly Tories, over Jack Monroe‘s tweet (below),  even though the point had been made before by others long before she posted hers Cameron must go t(My thanks to Vox Political for covering this in detail).

It is worth noting that, as far as the mainstream media was concerned, the phenomenon of the hashtag itself became secondary to reporting establishment fury towards this outspoken lesbian single mother who has actually achieved, by dint of her own efforts, something the Tories claim all benefit ‘scroungers’ should be doing – getting herself successfully off benefits and creating a new job for herself.  As an observer of this twitter ‘row’, it would seem that even this achievement is conditional on the individual silencing their opinions of their social ‘betters’ and when they fail to do this, to expect reprisals, like the attempts that were made to get her sacked from the achievements she had already earned. The conditions being placed upon the socially excluded when it comes to entering ‘mainstream’ society need to be noted because they become relevant later on.

It took 5 days of trending for before the #CameronMustGo hashtag began to be reported.

Cameron must go fThe first detailed response from UK broadsheets came from the Telegraph. There are a lot of problems with this piece, not least that it is filed under Women/Women’s Politics and is written by a woman of colour. For a start, it seemed to me that its author, , had been set up to take any flak the piece received over a problem that had clearly been created by white men. David Cameron’s government has been consistently dominated by rich white men and it’s behaviour is deeply unfriendly to both women and people of colour. Placing a woman of colour in the vanguard of defending the white male establishment against the twitter charges emerging in #CameronMustGo is highly suspect and smacks of the same kind of psychological avoidance suggested by Jack Monroe’s tweet on disability.

Notwithstanding the above, the content of the piece is ‘enlightening’:

‘The hashtag is not linked to anything that our Prime Minister David Cameron has done lately. It isn’t tagged to any particular news story. Nor has it died a slow death since it kicked off on Saturday. Rather unusually for social media trends, it is stubbornly sticking around and just won’t go away….’
‘Is this an honest representation of the UK electorate – suggesting that Cameron has some major issues if he wants to win the General Election – or is just the work of angry left-wing activists who want to take down the PM?…’
‘I can’t help but think that this hashtag isn’t a genuine representation of the British population’s beliefs – it’s something created by left-wing activists who are hoping to use the power of social media to get rid of the Prime Minister. As they said, they wanted it to “go viral”…’
‘…most of the tweets seem to be from people who know each other and they’re all about the same issues such as majority are about cuts to the poorest people in society, large cuts to the NHS, the increasing reliance on food banks, and the increase in the cost of living….’
‘…says Ian Dunt, editor of politics.co.uk. “Twitter is usually made up of young people, students. That hashtag is the instinctive kick against the dominance of the print media [which is typically more right-wing]. It reflects the way Twitter has a much more left-wing centre of gravity than the written press.”…’
‘“If it was about something then maybe,” says Dunt. “But nothing’s actually happened. The list [of complaints people are sharing] is pretty standard left-wing complaints – they’re all legitimate but they’re not new….’
‘The problem with this hashtag is that it says more about Twitter, and the way we use it, rather than Cameron or the voters. As Dunt says, the social media site does seem to have more left-leaning tendencies, and in this case, it has been hijacked by activists….’
‘It’s not an example of the public getting really involved in politics – if anything it’s the same people using the same hashtag repeatedly to try and get their point across. They’re obviously entitled to do this, but the problem is that all other voices are drowned out….’
‘That’s why this hashtag is nothing more than a mob attack on the Prime Minister – rather than a genuine collection of legitimate concerns by real people with no vested interests.
How you make others feel

So, after an unprecedented 5 days of trending on twitter, those tweeting on the #CameronMustGo hashtag become a mob of young left-wing student activists with vested interests who, despite ‘legitimate’ complaints, offer nothing new or authentically genuine regarding the concerns of real people. Much like the response to Jack Monroe, the overall tone suggests #CameronMustGo supporters should know their place, shut up and go away because they are irrelevant.

Around the same time, the BBC finally reported on the hashtag. Their take looked like this:

‘…People using the slogan have also been targeting The Guardian and BBC Trending to try to get media coverage for the trend – and so boost its popularity further.

So could this be the beginning of a new phase of British ‘hashtag politics’? No, according to Andrew Walker, co-founder of social media analytics company, Tweetminster. “I give it two weeks,” he tells BBC Trending.

He says hashtags can quickly become popular on Twitter, but it’s difficult to keep a campaign rolling, as new catchphrases are coined and catch on. And while social media is effective at influencing local politics, it’s less effective at making a big impact on national politics, where voting behaviour is hard to shift…’

They tried to bury usIn summary: ‘Nothing to see here, move along now. Class dismissed!’

Unfortunately for the mainstream media’s ‘establishment’, the hashtag has continued to trend consistently since then and will meet Tweetminster’s predicted two week deadline today. Given that #CameronMustGo has not done what it was told to do and ‘go away’, how has the media dealt with it since?

There was a fact-checking piece from the Spectator which accurately challenged some of the images being used but here’s the thing about twitter. In my experience, twitter is remarkably self-correcting. Point out that information or images are, in fact, incorrect and the twitter I follow changes its behaviour. I’ve seen far fewer pictures of House of Common’s attendance on the #CameronMustGo hashtag since Isabel Hardman‘s piece was posted which, in my opinion, is a very good thing. If the hashtag is to continue, let it be as factually accurate as possible, and let’s be grateful to Hardman for raising the issue without insulting those tweeting on it. The same cannot be said for others.

Cameron must go 22Yesterday, to mark the hashtag’s fourteen days in the twitter trends, the Daily Mirror – the tabloid that supports the Labour Party – posted this:’Why #CameronMustGo MUST GO – We fact-checked the hashtag that has been clogging up your Twitter feed’. The piece leads with a blog from a journalist with Lib-Dem leanings who finds the hashtag difficult to fathom. The Mirror then goes on to fact-check only 12 of the issues being raised and finds that only 4 are accurate. It fails to suggest that tweeps use twitter’s ‘mute’ function to clear this ‘clog’ from their TL – a simple enough remedy for those with objections.

Given that the hashtag has been covering a multitude of issues, the fact that the piece cherry-picks only twelve points is highly informative. Given that firefighters, police, doctors, civil servants, disabled, people in poverty, poverty campaigners, etc etc have been tweeting accurate facts on it for two weeks is completely ignored. Based on these 12 points alone, the Mirror concludes that the hashtag itself must go. To be honest, I lost my temper when I read it – it was as insulting a piece as that produced by any Tory paper towards those tweeting the direct experiences of the now lethal consequences of Cameron’s government.

The last criticism I saw yesterday came from Guido Fawkes (never let it be said that this blog censors!) who claimed that because #CameronMustGo failed to register in polls, no-one cared about it. I’ll return to this point but first; with such overwhelming all-party consensus from the UK ‘establishment’, how does anyone arrive at a balanced opinion on the matter?

This is how I do it.

Tory preelection promises 2010To begin with, no-one is perfect – no-one! We all make mistakes no matter how hard we might try not to and #CameronMustGo is no exception. The measures I use acknowledge mistakes but focus more on how it is dealt with it once the mistake has been identified. The self-correcting nature of those I follow on twitter – you will have to make up your own mind about yours – means I’m willing to allow for error but I unfollow or block those who persist in knowingly tweeting misinformation. For those who make a lot of mistakes, I use a 50% tolerance measure – to allow for our imperfect reality as people – although the vast majority don’t require this. It is for this reason, I fully support #CameronMustGo, even with factual errors, because the accuracy of the information I see on my timeline falls well within that 50% margin.

When it comes to David Cameron’s government, the Westminster establishment and the mainstream media, however, the balance looks very different. Indeed, the levels of misinformation, manipulation, propaganda and barefaced lies emanating from these sources has become so bad during this government that its hard to know who to believe. Here are a very few examples (believe me, there is a veritable mountain range of factual evidence):

A list of official rebukes for Tory lies

Media Manipulation of the Masses: How the Media Psychologically Manipulates

The Westminster establishment’s margin of error is so high and tests my tolerance so deeply that I have ceased watching Cameron must go mtelevision, listening to the radio and trusting our established media unless or until their information has been cross-checked by more reliable sources. That Westminster now routinely and unethically manipulates what information is available to ‘real people’ is firmly established in fact.

As someone who does my best to stick to facts, the choice between those who, although they make mistakes, are willing to correct/self-correct and those who believe it is perfectly acceptable to persistently lie, mislead and manipulate presents no difficulties at all. For all its inevitable faults, #CameronMustGo points to the possibility that I am far from alone in my choice of who to believe.

The second issue that informs me is that of emotional intelligence (EI), which seems to be profoundly lacking within the Westminster establishment. No-one cares about #CameronMustGo, claims Guido Fawkes. In EI terms, nothing could be further from the truth. To grasp all the infinite strands of information now woven into the hashtag by over a million tweets is a vast intellectual exercise, each subject requiring its own trail of evidence. The intellect has to divide, separate and exclude in order to grasp any particular subject. As a function of human expression, intellect is quite unable to comprehend the whole and, as individuals in a national political setting, we have to rely upon wiser others to fill the information gaps we ourselves have been unable to fully understand. Nevertheless, humanity also functions at a feeling level. We have feelings about being lied to or misled. We have feelings about those who steal from or harm the vulnerable. Our emotions inform us about our vulnerability to abusers and abuse, both in the short-term – like a single-issue hashtag – but also in the longer term if that abuse is repeated over and over and over again. It is our emotional intelligence that is capable of embracing the entirety of the problem when our intellect fails to grasp its enormity.

by Ijeoma Oluo (link in pic)

by Ijeoma Oluo (link in pic)

It is emotional intelligence that underpins the success of #CameronMustGo, just as it informs the black communities in America about their relationship with the police; just as it informs the poor, unemployed, sick and disabled about government attitudes towards them. It informs public sector workers whose jobs provide for society’s needs. It informs women particularly because we are the socially nominated custodians of emotional health and well-being for both present and future. It is also emotional intelligence that is most feared and derided by those who function solely from their intellect.

Emotional intelligence is concerned with relationship – how we relate to ourselves, to others and to the planet we live with. EI says clearly that how we relate is vital to our survival and when we fail to relate, something or someone living dies as a result. Lastly, emotional intelligence enables us to differentiate between those who are anti-ethical to ‘feeling’ from those who are not.

#CameronMustGo is an emotionally-intelligent hashtag. It’s big enough to embrace ALL the social issues created by the Cameron must go 13Coalition, together with all the preceding governments who were enablers of what has already been done to the ‘real public’ under this parliament. It is inclusive where single-issue hashtags are not. It is heart-felt intelligence in the face of intellectual heartlessness. Those who participate in the wisdom of EI fully understand what is occurring when the establishment tries to dismiss the hashtag, even if they might not grasp it intellectually to begin with. The value of #CameronMustGo over the last fortnight is that when tweeps don’t quite ‘get’ what is being shared, they can ask and become informed. The hashtag has been a valuable educator because it has provided a ‘one-stop-shop’ of detailed factual information for those who want it and a tremendous enabler of much-needed emotional expression for people living under a government that seeks to repress anything and everything that fails to make a profit for their corporate friends or themselves.

So when Guido Fawkes claims no-one cares about #CameronMustGo, he could not be more in error; when Radhika Sanghani claims the hashtag does not represent real people, she could not be more mistaken; and when the Daily Mirror says all it does is clog up your timelines, they prove Douglass on civil disobediencethey haven’t the faintest idea about what they are seeing. #CameronMustGo is the reasoned, tolerant and emotionally intelligent response to an establishment that clearly despises all those it places outside its very narrow version of rich white male social acceptance. The levels of publicly expressed disdain, dismissal and class bigotry have been quite extraordinary and alarming.

From an emotional intelligence perspective, #CameronMustGo has been a social media confrontation with the UK establishment over its long-term abuse of the British public. The establishment’s arrogant and high-handed response points to a remarkable absence of self-awareness, regret or – dare I suggest it – repentance. This is the tolerant interpretation. dogend votersThere is a far darker message that needs to be drawn, in my opinion.

If any of those actively trying to shut the hashtag down do appreciate the points I’m making here and still think they are perfectly entitled to do so, then the real people of my country are in very serious trouble because we are dealing with active abusers intent on further harm because they believe they are perfectly entitled to whatever it is they intend to take from us by force.

As any survivor of domestic abuse will tell you, maybe they won’t kill you when you try to change or end such abuse, but the chances are they will. At present, the levels of political abuse inflicted by the establishment upon ordinary people is killing us by the thousands. With the intellectual divide-and-rule control of Westminster over the mainstream media, there has not been an outlet that enabled a sustained coherent collective response from real people about what has been done to us, let alone what they plan to do next. Perhaps it was an issue of timing. Nevertheless, and probably quite by accident, Jon and Jenny stumbled upon the perfectly-imperfect, frequently accurate and often passionate hashtag #CameronMustGo and enabled all of us to bring our voices together and send a message to government that we have had enough of their lies.

Look at what we have achieved on twitter in the last fortnight, against all the odds, and maybe together we can start to appreciate how amazing we really are when we’re listening to each other and not what the elite would like us to believe.

Persistance