The Politics of Kindness, Ethics and Morality

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Respect gone mad

It’s been a long while since I blogged anything. Some might call it writer’s block but, for me, it’s more about conversation and relationship. The result of the General Election last May brought all possibility of my making such interpersonal connections with others to a shuddering halt and I fell silent. What else could I possibly say to those refusing to listen that had not already been said if not by me then certainly by others?

This huge impasse began cracking when Jeremy Corbyn stood in the Labour leadership election. For the first time in years here was someone for whom my own reality existed; my circumstance became visible in UK political discourse yet it was not enough to dissolve my internal barriers to the self-expression required for blogging. It seems I have a need for human-to-human relating to give my words enough form for writing. I discovered that it is not enough to simply hang out within the Blair's heartecho-chambers of Labour’s Left-wing who, quite rightly in my opinion, are celebrating this huge existential change in UK politics. Given subsequent behaviour of many within Labour, it’s clear the emergence of such dialogue is deeply unwelcome. It’s also clear that those seeking to have this debate are equally unwelcome. The party’s active rejection of those seeking to bring it to the policy table contributed to my own decision not to rejoin the party because, Goddess knows, I carry enough reasons to be socially rejected without volunteering myself for more. Like the general election itself, the battle over whether my humanity ‘belongs’ in UK politics had the same silencing impact over my ability to blog. The environment simply had not altered enough to include my ability to relate in any supportive or constructive way. I am grateful to Jeremy Corbyn for his refusal to indulge in the dirty aspects of campaigning and deeply saddened that his opponents seemed incapable of the same magnanimity. Until today.

Corbyn respectSo if anyone ‘out there’ is glad to see this blog back in action after a six-month plus hiatus, the man to thank is Charlie Beckett whose own blog ‘The debate about the future of the Labour Party: the best and worst of times‘ was posted yesterday on the London School of Economics’ website. I invite everyone reading this to read what he has to say as well because I’m searching for models of balanced discussion in a deeply unbalanced situation and it is simply not possible to achieve balance without giving both ends of a polarity an equal hearing. Charlie is responding fairly to the ‘Corbyn effect’. This blog is responding to the valid points Charlie is raising by introducing issues vital to the different dimensions represented by his ‘self-propelling, burgeoning swarm of enthusiasts’. And, no, I’m not going to attack Charlie for using the word ‘swarm’ but I would invite him to deeper reflection, given its present use by government to dehumanise refugees and migrants. None of us are perfect and Charlie is as entitled to redemption for his 50% fuck-ups as I am for mine. To separate ourselves from contemporary tyrannical demands for perfection is the first step on the road to the politics of kindness.

I am drawn to Corbyn because he represents the qualities I both value and need most (remembering that Jeremy also has a 50% entitlement to fuck-ups too). It is his commitment to kindness, compassion and dialogue that calls to me ~ that someone at the top of our social food-chain can and does listen to folk like me matters. It matters a very great deal. It means I’m human, capable of relationship and a custodian of positive qualities as well as negative ones. That there is human space in Charlie’s perception for us ‘swarm’ matters too because it speaks to the question of balanced debate within the Labour Party.

And UR angry about benefit fraudCharlie, by his own definition, represents Labour’s right wing. This is not surprising. His biography of social roles fits well with right-wing policies. He ‘is director of Polis, in the department of media and communications at the London School of Economics. He has 20 years of experience with LWT, BBC and ITN’s Channel 4 News. He broadcasts and writes regularly on media and political affairs and is the author of SuperMedia: Saving Journalism So It Can Save The World (Blackwell, 2008).’ He is privileged to be a white man in a social narrative that favours white men. It is inevitable that this will inform his perceptions just as being a white woman inform mine. This is not politics, it’s the reality of being human and is worthy of mention because other narratives exist based on the experiences of those who do not ‘enjoy’ the privilege of being white. In matters of inclusion, all narratives matter.

Apart from my white privilege, however, I live at the polar opposite of Charlie’s social position. The only directorship I hold is over my internal life which, if not directed wisely, has the ability to sabotage my best intentions. My criminal history bears witness to this. I tick all the boxes for social exclusion by being too ill to work, poor and dependent upon social security. I left school at 16 with an O level and although, later, I studied, qualified and was accredited as a Gestalt psychotherapist, the training I completed was never recognised or respected by socially-accepted professionals. Indeed, these days I am someone ‘not to be talked about‘. Whilst all this maybe politics, I mention it only to establish my ‘qualifications’ at the other end of the polarity created within Labour by the Corbyn debate.

Charlie clearly ‘belongs’; I, clearly, do not. Charlie is a member of Labour; I’m someone Labour is more than likely to reject if only I gave them the opportunity to do so. Nevertheless, even with all this distance between us, Charlie wants to understand more about my/our perspective and I am willing to respond to those genuinely interested in listening. This is the politics of kindness between people of difference; but this blog is about more than just kindness. This blog is also about ethics and morality, and it goes way beyond any conversation between Charlie and me.

Kindness createsTo talk about kindness, compassion or love in our current political climate is to invite mockery, disdain and accusations of weakness from many who occupy the right-wing of any political party. Were Charlie to step outside current socially-accepted political narratives, he too might experience a (gentler) version of the same. We need only look to right-wing Labour’s response to the ‘Corbyn phenomenon’ for deeply painful unkind examples of how folk at my end of this polarity are treated. If we protest, we are subjected to the most appalling responses. We are regarded as irrelevant, our concerns discounted, our lifestyles disparaged and our worth to social discourse dismissed.  Leaving kindness aside for the moment, I believe it is important to ask: is this ethical/moral?

Labour grassrootsFor the record, I am not the only one raising matters of ethics. They are being raised by those on the right of the political spectrum as well as those of us on the left. For example:

A Tory MP is challenging her own party’s approach to social security recipients on ethical grounds.

A Tory journalist is challenging the ethics of contemporary mainstream journalism.

Lawyers are challenging the ethics of government changes to legal aid and the justice system.

And when the Telegraph carries this kind of piece, precariats of my persuasion might reasonably ask right-wing Labour of Charlie’s persuasion, ‘Where are ethics and morals in your narrative?’ followed by ‘Why are they missing?‘ And if Charlie, and all well-meaning folk like Charlie, understand the points I am raising here, is it fair to ask what you each intend to do about it?

Folk Disability attacklike me are forced to deal with these problems on a day-to-day basis. It’s not me who is on the front line at present (although I’m ‘scheduled’ for ‘treatment’ in the not so distant future, given I’m on ESA) but those who are dying. Literally.

Where is right-wing morality in this?

Charlie, where do I belong in the Labour Party right-wing; those who vilify, disparage, dismiss or generally devalue all those like me who find hope in Corbyn’s narrative ~ flawed as it must be because we are human? And is that such an unreasonable question to ask?

You say we excite you. I say we’re exciting because we represent Life in the face of those who would only deliver us to death. I know, because I’m one of those who is dying.

Would you miss me if I died?

I’m not the only one.

Remember this is a white-to-white conversation.

How many other colours of our human rainbow are trapped within lethal, white right-wing narratives too?

Who else would the right-wing of the Labour Party consign to existential oblivion too…. and where did you earn the ‘right’ to do that to anyone?

And thank you, Charlie, for unlocking my silence – it is not possible express my gratitude in words.

Crazy ones

(This is a deeply imperfect blog… because it’s supposed to be if we’re human. Human beings are always a work-in-progress in my reality & this level of communication has only just been unlocked on this level of the Game of Life.)

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2 responses »

  1. Would I miss you? – oh yes deeply, as I’ve already stated I reserve the right to view you as one of my (very few) personal role models; a position I know you have no desire for and yet…for me you are a beacon of light in my dark world.

    With much love and appreciation as always, total respect xxx

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