Tag Archives: politics

A Beginner’s Guide to #Ethics in UK Public Life

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Bullshit

Every so often, the UK government finds itself mired in scandals of sleaze and corruption. At present, we have a return of allegations that the UK Parliament is ‘home’ to a ‘ring’ of high-profile child sex abusers; there are lingering allegations of continued expenses fraud; and today both the Guardian and Huff Post report that the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee into Standards in Public Life  is saying “MPs should be required to undergo an induction course to teach them about the seven principles of public life that are meant to promote openness and honesty.”

For those unfamiliar with the Seven Principles of Public Life, you can find more information here.

 

So why are ethics so  important? From the perspective of a member of a presently socially-exiled social class, this is one HUGE reason as far as I am concerned:

Tories discuss stripping benefits claimants who refuse treatment for depression

We can be grateful to Dr. Sarah Wollaston, former GP now Conservative MP for Totnes, Brixham and the South Hams, – who clearly does understand the role of ethics in public life – to provide the appropriate professional response to the above.

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She elaborates on the issue of ethics in this report.

 

So given that the UK has existing standards of behaviour for public and elected officials, how is it possible that the Department of Work & Pensions floats ideas in the press that are clearly and plainly professionally unethical? Well, perhaps this might explain it:

 

A report by the committee pointed to reports that fewer than one in five of those elected for the first time in 2010 attended even one induction session, and one on dealing with ethical dilemmas was cancelled when too few signed up….

It said it understood that the issue was “delicate” as many elected representatives saw being taught ethics as “impugning their integrity and their common sense”…

HuffPost

 

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What we can be certain of, at this juncture, is that the ‘common-sense’ and ‘integrity’ of many present incumbents of public office in Westminster leaves a great deal to be desired, and this is a cross-party problem likely to be best resolved by a cross-party solution.

 

I believe that the casual breaching of ethics in public life by many of our parliamentarians lies at the heart of the social problems currently being created by the same. Whilst we have – as a country – tried to address this problem in the past, our attempts have clearly been unsuccessful because here we are again. The question in my mind is how do we manage the problem now?

 

As with any other ‘disciplinary’ problem, it is important to restate the standards likely to be applied. The Seven Standards of Public Life have been around for a while now but I wonder whether their importance has been framed correctly for our recalcitrant MP’s?

This is the frame I would use were I to be writing/delivering a training course on the topic. In addition to the reminder that those with public responsibilities are answerable to the public, I’d echo the Committee on Public Standards’ warning that those who fail to adhere to these are likely to find themselves deselected or recalled at best, or jailed at worst. Election or appointment to parliament does not come with a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card and failings in our personal public responsibility may well be punishable by the courts. In addition, those reluctant to apply the Seven Standards to their own behaviour could find themselves embarrassed by other public servants refusing to comply with orders they regard as unlawful.

 

Ceasar Chavez

 

Whilst I am certain the models used above are imperfect, they still provide a sound-enough foundation of the ethical principles that inform all professionals, whilst allowing for variations depending upon the exigencies of individual professions. When we start to see cross-professional ethical violations in matters of public political life (as with the DWP’s ‘forced therapy’ proposal which violated the ethics of both GP’s and mental health professionals), those of us who understand the issue’s importance need to ask ourselves what we intend to do about it.

 

Ethical violations are harmful to the point of criminality and beyond, wherever they may occur. When such violations are occurring in public life, the harm to the public will be extensive. As someone who could be personally affected by a DWP ‘forced therapy’ requirement, I have my own personal response to the Ministers of that department (past, present and future):

Forward Planning and

Atos and the Day of Judgment

Whilst the above were prepared for an impending WCA, the principles remain virtually unchanged because my response was designed to confront existing ethical violations within the DWP.  In addition, I’ve contacted and briefed my own MP on the matter because, in my own understanding of applying these principles, when we are faced with clear evidence of ethical violations, we must respond forcefully and vigorously to both correct and prevent them because they are always harmful to vulnerable others. I’m lucky my MP understands this; just as all those benefits recipients experiencing depression are fortunate to have a former GP in the House who understands ethics and abides by the Seven Standards, regardless of political hue.

 

This blog is for all those who want to understand the ethics involved and why they are so vital to public life, up to and including all those MP’s who missed out on their induction to public standard ethics after 2010. Perhaps those readers who think these are standards worth applying to our contemporary public life might bring them to the attention of their own MP’s. Any who persist in their failure to respect these standards, erroneously believing that ‘it doesn’t apply to me’, will still be measured by them, if not by their peers then certainly by their constituents. We don’t want them to complain they weren’t warned!

 

It really is time we all remembered how we are supposed to behave when faced with those whose behaviour is unethical.

 

What will you do?

 

 

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“Extremist”: My government’s latest ‘label’ for me!

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Door to Hell, Darvaza Gas Crater, Turkmenistan

Door to Hell, Darvaza Gas Crater, Turkmenistan

 

Watching UK parliament in action is not something I do very often because I find the levels of cognitive dissonance too great to tolerate, but there are exceptions and yesterday was one.

 

The debate centred around a request from the opposition for a Cumulative Impact Assessment of the variety of welfare cuts affecting the sick and disabled in the UK.

 

During the debate, an MP from the government benches made an allegation, repeated several times, that some of the disability activists who has been trying (repeatedly) to meet the Government to discuss the impact of cuts were ‘extremists’. The reason, apparently, is due to the fact that these ‘extremists’ refuse to accept that government changes to their personal situation are ‘constructive’. I’m not going to go into detail about this because the subject has been covered by other ‘extremists’ more knowledgeable than me.

 

No doubt, analysis of the detail of the debate will occur but I want to look at the ‘psychic effect’ this statement – this is not a blue-print for the ‘correct’ response, this blog is about the impact the extremist ‘meme’ has upon me personally. I am directly affected by what occurred yesterday and, despite all my training, knowledge and acquired wisdom, this ‘meme’ still had the impact of ‘internal destruction’ that, I suppose, it was meant to have.

 

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The government’s ‘spin’ on their refusal to reveal the facts of their welfare reform is very telling and fits with observations I have made in the past.  Nevertheless, within the social structures I dwell within, they have ‘social power’ and I, apparently, do not. The attitude and demeanour of those very few government MP’s who actually made the effort to turn up for the debate made it very clear how they viewed the folk they were debating; comply with our view or be excluded from any and all discussions on the grounds that we are extremists. Basically, this seems to include anyone who disagrees with current UK policy – no matter how lethal, harmful or damaging to those on the receiving end. Pain, suffering and death are not things the present British government need to worry itself about because it holds to the certainty of its own ‘righteousness’ – anyone who disagrees or protests becomes an ‘infidel’ to be condemned, rejected and ignored.

 

This reminds me of all those criticisms leveled at all those folk who meekly filed into the gas chambers of the Third Reich. Why didn’t they fight back or protest, goes the narrative of post-apocalyptic studies? Well, if we consider the dynamic that occurred yesterday, the answer is fairly easy to find – they had been bombarded with the kinds of messages delivered to the sick and disabled of Britain by their own unelected government.

 

BMNphbECMAENZdHIt really gets me down when I am coerced into accepting views that are based upon prejudice rather than fact, particularly when those views are espoused by those who have ‘control’ over my personal circumstances. It gets me down because I have been around this dynamic for most of my life. It could be argued that this ‘meme’ or ‘irritant’ has been a stimulus for my own growth and development – I would not disagree with this. Experiences of closed-mindedness has prompted me to explore it in very great depth. My problem is that although I have learned a great deal, many more have not and continue to perpetuate such ugly ideas to this very day.

 

The ‘Extremist’ ‘meme’ is a cluster-bomb of the psyche because attached to the word are ideas, experiences and histories that explode into my internal experience with the same devastating effect. It’s a word that, in recent times, has been used by government after government – particularly since 9/11 – to justify the most appalling atrocities against their civilians. The meme refuses to differentiate between justified objections to abuse and cruelty inflicted on innocent others and encourages those who oppose it to become as reactionary and close-minded as their oppressors.  It assumes a righteousness to the opinions of those in power that, when examined under the cold light of evidential fact-finding, can be proven to be flawed at best and downright prejudiced at worst. In the case of the British government versus their sick, disabled and vulnerable citizens, the arguments for seeing government policies as prejudiced gain ground every day, not because opponents and protestors are ‘righteous’ as such but because their protests are validated by facts and evidence.

 

BNfv1psCYAAplJnThis government ‘meme’ about folk like me seems to act like a cancer-cell within my psyche. It reproduces itself very quickly, invading and colonizing much of the hard-earned lessons of my life, reducing me to a state of ‘No-Worth’. According to the label ‘extremist’, I can never be trusted to tell the truth, no matter how much evidence; how many facts; or, even, how many predictable deaths weigh in to validate my viewpoint. The meme is not interested in facts – it’s interested in reproducing itself as fast as possible until nothing remains of those who might remove it. This meme is intent on ruling everything and everyone and destroying anything that does not accord with its distorted and corrupted world view.

 

As far as I can tell, the message it seeks to impart to extremists like me is that I am not only mistaken, I am so ‘wrong’ I am not even worthy of existence. It feeds my suicidal ideation; bolsters hopelessness and despair; and ultimately makes suicide/self-destruction personally attractive. I start asking myself “What’s the point? Give these death-dealing ideas what they want!” whilst I reexamine my suicidal methodology for effectiveness – what do I need to do to die?

 

I have powerful feelings and opinions about those who promulgate such memes which, no doubt, are the extremist views being complained about. It appears I can no longer demand that they back up their claims with fact because yesterday’s debate makes it quite plain that no such facts will be forthcoming. Prejudice against those who think differently is regarded as entirely justified, not requiring explanation or examination, up to and including eugenics, mass-incarceration, slavery and mass-murder. It’s a very poisonous seed designed to destroy everything that it is not and my response, at the very thought to being required to live under such circumstances, prompts me to self-destruct rather than comply. I suppose that is an extreme response to a government notion of who I am, but the meme itself is a far more perniciously destructive idea than anything I could ever dream up. My destructive impulse is turned upon myself – the death-toll of this meme in my reality will be 1 person; me. However, this meme is actually being used by those who turn it’s destructive power on others and who are refusing to even gather the information which shows how effective it is.

 

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So my question is this: who, exactly, is the ‘extremist’ here?

 

In those psyches who refuse ‘personal growth’; who refuse to countenance facts that ‘upset’ their world view; who cling to old ideas and reject the new; there exists a psychological phenomenon called ‘projection’.

 

Psychological projection was conceptualized by Sigmund Freud in the 1890s as a defence mechanism in which a person unconsciously rejects his or her own unacceptable attributes by ascribing them to objects or persons in the outside world.[1]

Although rooted in early developmental stages,[2] and classed by Vaillant as an immature defence,[3] the projection of one’s negative qualities onto others on a small scale is nevertheless a common process in everyday life.[4]

Jung writes that “All projections provoke counter-projection when the object is unconscious of the quality projected upon it by the subject.”[28] Thus what is unconscious in the recipient will be projected back onto the projector, precipitating a form of mutual acting out.[29]

Carl Jung considered that the unacceptable parts of the personality represented by the Shadow archetype were particularly likely to give rise to projection, both small-scale and on a national/international basis.

Wikipedia

 

Projections – of the ‘extremist’ variety – occur when we refuse to engage with our fears of others; when we decide our perceptions are ‘right’ whilst refusing to explore the evidence that we might be wrong. What we project has little to do with the individuals (in this case) we are forcing our beliefs upon – there will be something ‘true’ in the projection to create the dynamic – but the subsequent beliefs extrapolated from this first ‘truth’ are all about us. We have cut ourselves off from our own ‘shadow’ – all those aspects of Self we disapprove of or reject – and project these qualities onto others.

 

BKjUw8NCMAA6GiwSo what was Paul Maynard MP* talking about when he justified government refusals to meet disability campaigners like Spartacus and Pat’s Petition by accusing them of being extremists? He claimed they weren’t ‘constructive’ – that they refused to consider the ‘good’ aspects of government welfare changes. Could someone please explain to me how my suicidal ideation – triggered by yesterday’s events – is to be regarded as constructive? How is removing – at great speed – everything my society has determined I need for basic survival (like food, warmth and a roof over my head) for the last 65 years (longer than my own 58 year lifetime) to be considered constructive? And how does a complete refusal to countenance the real-life consequences of those affected by these changes render me an extremist?

 

I ask these questions for a reason. I need a reality check. I do not assume that my views are accurate. For this to be ‘true’ the evidence needs to be weighed by less-involved minds than my own. All I have is my response: a desire to die and not have to dwell in this small-minded, cruel and abusive environment where my very being is considered a negative.

 

Yes, I know I can ‘get over’ it but, frankly, why should I want to? I’ve been ‘getting over’ these notions all my life and, now, I am not well, I’m hurting and very very tired of this. I’m sick to the back teeth of having to justify my existence to those who believe they can ‘order’ Life itself and I find it increasingly difficult not to fall into the trap of playing into the projection.

 

This is my personal response. I share it with those in similar situations for the purpose of swapping notes – perhaps others feel the same way I do but I won’t know until I ask.

 

And to all those who want me to ‘buck up’ and get back into the fray? I won’t deny my feelings and I’m not going to collude with your demand that I do so because it’s the same kind of ‘instruction’ issued by those who define me as extremist. I may have extreme thoughts and feelings in response to such a projection upon me – shutting them away just renders me more liable to act on them when the time is right. At least, in the moment, I’m talking about it and not doing it.

 

You’re going to have to settle for that for now!

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* I originally attributed the ‘Extremists’ quote to MP, Philip Hammond. I apologise unreservedly to Mr. Hammond for my mistake; thank Fibromites for bringing it to my attention (see comments below). The comment was made by Paul Maynard MP.

And thank you, Creator Spirit, for enabling me to prove my genuine imperfections 😉

 

The Ethics of Obeying Orders

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Amidst the various news stories I came across yesterday were two that caught my attention. The first was a ‘note‘ written by a successful suicide and published by the family because they thought the information contained within it needed to be shared with others. Given that their decision came from one of the most painful experiences known to people, I acknowledge and respect the courage of both the author and his surviving family.

 

The second article was this: UNISON instructs its members to enforce the bedroom tax. As a former shop steward from one of the unions amalgamated into UNISON, I’m going to comment on this latest ‘advice’ to members, not only because I think this instruction is wrong but also because I believe the impact of it has the potential to cause very great harm to the ordinary  membership who are going to have to comply with it.

 

Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his outstanding art work

 

But let’s begin with the bigger picture.  I make no bones about my opinion of our present incumbents in the Houses of Parliament. With the exception of a very few, no MP of any party has yet to earn the epithet they award themselves; ‘Honourable’. The UK Government, with its now daily offerings of cronyism, corruption, personal profiteering and ideological tyrannyin all walks of life – makes it all but impossible to conclude that these elected/appointed officials have any interests over and above their own career path. As the suicide and death rates rise, it is also becoming easier to believe that the results of Austerity presently being experienced by ordinary UK people are exactly the outcomes our government is seeking. To put it bluntly, the UK government is presently pursuing murderous policies against the wider British public; employed or unemployed, healthy or not,  and there has been a stark increase in people dying unnatural early deaths as a result of government policy. Whilst it is true that not everyone lives to a ripe old age, when death is caused by the intentional actions of other people, our law is inclined to call it murder. When such murder is being inflicted on a people by a government, our law has also been known to call this genocide.

 

One of the problems we face – those of us on the sharp end of these policies – is the apparent lack of comprehension from decision-makers in all trades/professions because those involved are frequently directly unaffected by what is happening on the ground. The UNISON decision falls within this remit. From my perspective, it is as though the leaders have forgotten some very basic Trade Union wisdom about solidarity with ordinary people. They are disconnected from reality in a way that is likely to prove extremely BNVz2o2CUAEFaXxharmful to their members and it is one of the reasons why I currently place no faith in traditional ‘working-class’ solutions to our collective problems. I am not alone in this opinion but mine is based on understanding the impact our involvement has on the psyche of each and every TU member party to implementing these government policies.

 

It would not be fair to single out UNISON alone – many of our public service trade union members face exactly the same problem – but let’s use my old TU’s ‘advice’ for the sake of this blog. The mythology that public service pays better than the private sector is now just that – a myth. Decades of public sector wage restraint has eaten away any advantages that might have once existed and our services now stagger from one crisis of service to the next. These services are provided by employees who are frequently low-paid, which means that when sanctions for non-payment of bedroom tax are applied to those who simply cannot afford to pay, UNISON members are likely to be sanctioning their own colleagues – something that is already occurring within the Department of Work and Pensions. So much for solidarity amongst the membership;  indeed, I cannot think of anything more divisive to workers’ organisations. The Unions apparently seem to be unable to support their own membership, which makes any declaration of their support for other social groups highly suspect.

 

UNISON claims the following:

It is… vital to ensure that UNISON members are advised, that if they are employed to administer part of the arrears recovery process, that they should follow the instructions of their employer and that they should be advised that they are placing their continued employment at risk if they choose not to fulfil their contract of employment.

This applies whether that is the sending of reminder letters, issuing possession proceedings, applying to the Magistrate’s Court for a possession order, attending Court, instructing bailiffs or attending with bailiffs in order to secure possession.

 

It is interesting that this advice centres on the Contract of Employment, not least because there are other legal interpretations that could be made had the union been willing to contemplate them. Whilst the reader can find more details here, I want to focus on what has happened to the ‘heart’ of this Contract, bearing in mind that there exists, in law, something known as an ‘Unfair Contract’.

 

I’m going to look at this from the perspective of civil and crown servants simply because the heart of the contract between Crown and Servant has been made explicit. Please bear in mind that these are only my observations. My opinion may carry no weight in law and therefore needs to be checked.

At the heart of the psychological contract are the following conditions: respect, compassion, trust, empathy, fairness, and objectivity. At the heart of the Crown contract, a servant must demonstrate the four core values detailed below:

  • ‘Integrity’:  putting the obligations of public service above your own personal interests;
  • ‘Honesty’: being truthful and open;
  • ‘Objectivity’: basing your advice and decisions on rigorous analysis of the evidence; and
  • ‘Impartiality’: acting solely according to the merits of the case and serving equally well Governments of different political persuasions.

In addition, if a civil servant believes that that he/she is being asked to behave in a way which conflicts with the code, he/she may now report the matter direct to the Civil Service Commissioners.

It is now clearly specified that the code is part of the contractual relationship between the civil servant and his/her employer.

As an observer, I would wonder whether these legal requirements for integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality also fall upon the employer too. If they do, and there is objective and politically impartial evidence to show that the employer is failing to adhere to these requirements, I would suggest that this may go to the Heart of the employees’ Contract of Employment. It may be that an employers’ breach of the Civil Service Code could be deemed sufficient to render previously forbidden industrial action lawful especially if the action sought to impose ‘fair’ conditions, like integrity and honesty, upon government in this instance. It would probably be necessary to demonstrate that individual members of government were failing to adhere to their own Code of Conduct with objective and impartial evidence.

 

There will be differences between a civil service/local government Contracts of Employment but they will be written down somewhere because this is how public servants function – everything is written down, or should be, because it allows for public scrutiny and the ‘heart’ of the Contract will contain the same standards.

 

Knowing these things, I look at the UNISON instruction and ask how the BMGmmISCcAE1_Mcpsychological ‘heart’ of the contract is being met by asking some union members to cause severe hardship to other union members for the sole purpose of keeping their job? I also ask how well Ministers issuing these instructions are complying with their own side of the Contract. In fact, from where I am standing, it appears that any living, beating heart has been torn from the living body of the British public… that no Heart exists in that realm anymore which, by logical progression, means that public sector staff are being instructed to deliver a heartless service to the people.  That my old union, UNISON, is instructing members to comply is about the worst thing it could do under present circumstances, not just to its own membership but also to the public at large.

 

There is one element that seems to be missing from the union’s thinking and that is the issue of ‘unlawful instructions’. No employee is required to obey unlawful instructions – simple. If an employer starts to issue unlawful instructions, an employee is actually required to disobey them – the reason? Because if we obey unlawful instructions, we become an accessory to crime and are guilty ourselves. Certainly, to take such a path will be fraught with dangers and dismissal may certainly feature within the experience whilst the case is fought through law but that is still no reason to refuse the solution, not least because our refusal will impact upon our psyche.

 

How is an employee likely to feel if, as a result of their unions advice, they become responsible for the prosecution and likely homelessness of one of their colleagues? How are they going to feel, day after day, dealing with the suicidal distress of the public? I wonder how Stephanie Botterill‘s case-worker feels because, in complying with government instructions, they may have violated their own heart and the damage this causes to the pysche of otherwise-loving people is as extreme on the inside as it is on the outside. The suicide note of David Somers describes the effect of treating other people as if they have no instrinsic worth:

 

I really have been trying to hang on, for more than a decade now. Each day has been a testament to the extent to which I cared, suffering unspeakable horror as quietly as possible so that you could feel as though I was still here for you. In truth, I was nothing more than a prop, filling space so that my absence would not be noted. In truth, I have already been absent for a long, long time.

 

This stuff eats away at our very soul until all life is extinguished. We end up carrying, personally, the guilt of others until it destroys everything within us that we value:

 

You must not blame yourself. The simple truth is this: During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity. Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply can not come back from. I take some pride in that, actually, as to move on in life after being part of such a thing would be the mark of a sociopath in my mind. These things go far beyond what most are even aware of.

 

When I departed my trade union/local government life, I went into the psychotherapy business and learned, sitting with those who entrusted the tender aspects of self to me, exactly what happens to people who face this kind of systemic crime. The harm visits every generation afterwards. What we choose to do now will affect your children, their children and all the children who follow after. The decisions we make today have that kind of power.

 

And I have to ask myself, is this what UNISON intended when it instructed its members to collaborate with a criminal government? If it isn’t, then the union better reconsider its actions so far.

 

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“The #UK Human Cull: Progress Report” #NotSatire #EvidenceBased

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The red areas are doing significantly worse than the national average (source: BBC)

 

Today, the BBC is reporting on this: “Longer Lives” – you can find the report here. The aim of this post is to identify how the UK elite report on this with a particular emphasis on what they have failed to include. So let’s start with the BBC’s report first:-

 

The local variation in early death rates revealed in a new league table for England is “shocking” and must drive action to improve health, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

Public Health England’s Longer Lives website, which ranks local authorities, shows people in north-west England are at the greatest risk of dying early.

Mr Hunt said the data could be used to tackle smoking, drinking and obesity.

Labour called for a “One Nation approach” to end health inequalities.

 

In fact, Jeremy Hunt – the UK’s Health Minister – is reported as going further:

 

Mr Hunt said: “This shocking variation in early and unnecessary deaths means people’s lives are needlessly cut short, and that cannot continue unchecked.

“I want areas to use the data released today to identify local public health challenges like smoking, drinking and obesity and to take action to help achieve our ambition for saving 30,000 lives a year by 2020.”

Local authorities are being given £5.4bn over two years for public health.

 

Now isn’t that nice of Mr. Hunt? Or is it? A very quick look at the statistics tells a very different tale. Fortunately “Longer Lives” gives us the figures and you don’t have to be a mathematician to work out exactly how far Mr. Hunt’s ambition extends.

 

So, according to the statistics (and do check my numbers – I do make mistakes), 456,342 people died under the age of 75 between 2009-2011 (3 years) which becomes 152,117 deaths per year. Therefore to reduce this figure by 30,000 a year by 2020 begins to look rather a poor ambition to have, especially when the same Mr. Hunt happens to be privatising the NHS. Those figures take on a very different flavour when we look at how long we are going to have to wait before we save just these 30k people from an early death.

 

If we use present statistics, between now and 2020 (152,117 x 7 years), to ‘save’ our 30k over ONE MILLION PEOPLE (1,064,521.1) will have died. That’s a rather alarming fatality rate to attain Mr. Hunt’s ambitions. What we also need to bear in mind is that another report, “Walking The Breadline” and published by Church Action Against Poverty and Oxfam, provides some very telling statistics of its own which point to the likelihood that present early-mortality rates are set to rise very rapidly – here’s their explanation of why:

 

“We estimate that over 500,00 people are now reliant on food aid – the use of foodbanks and receipt of food parcels – and this number is likely to escalate further over the coming months. This is substantially higher than the headline figure of 350,000 supplied by the Trussell Trust, as at least half as many people again are provided with food parcels or other forms of food aid by non-Trussell Trust food banks and other emergency food aid projects.”

“Some of the increase in the number of people using food banks is caused by unemployment, increasing levels of underemployment, low and falling income, and rising food and fuel prices.”

“More alarmingly, up to half of all people turning to food banks are doing so as a direct result of having benefit payments delayed, reduced, or withdrawn altogether. Figures gathered by the Trussell Trust show that changes to the benefit system are the most common reasons for people using food banks.”

“There is clear evidence that the benefit sanctions regime has gone too far, and is leading to destitution, hardship and hunger on a large scale.”

“The growth in food aid demonstrates that the social safety net is failing in its basic duty to ensure that families have access to sufficient income to feed themselves adequately. The exponential rise in the creation of food banks reflects a growing problem and only delivers mitigation. Food banks provide a vital emergency service to the people they support but they do not address the underlying structural causes for the growth of food poverty”

And widening the issue to other sections of our society, CAAP and Oxfam go on to say: “It is unacceptable that whilst thousands are being forced to turn to food banks and millions are unable to meet the rising cost of living as a result of the Government’s austerity programme, wealthy individuals and corporations continue to dodge their obligation to pay their fair share of taxes.”

 

In other words, we have a problem with poverty in our country. It is interesting to note that the BBC reporting of this fails to mention or highlight that there is a connection between poverty and early mortality.  Funny that, because its in the report itself.

 

FireShot Pro Screen Capture #041 - 'Home' - longerlives_phe_org_uk_#are__par_E92000001

I wonder why the BBC would leave something as significant as the above out of it’s reporting? I don’t suppose it might have something to do with this?

 

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When activists say that the BBC has become the propaganda wing of the Tories they make a fair point. In abolishing the NHS, under the shelter of BBC non or slant reporting, what contribution is this likely to make to our early mortality rates in England? For clarification:  I am using the word “Tory” advisedly. When I say Tory, I mean those who are or intend to profit from this. I do not include those who are politically Conservative because I believe they will be as appalled as I am. To fully understand what is happening, I recommend you read what the CAAP and Oxfam have to say. I add my own voice to their report and others have added their voice to mine. How many people have to say this and die before those with social and public responsibility begin to act on it?

 

As far as I can see, a large part of the British Parliament has forgotten the true meaning of public service, even though they attained their parliamentary posts for the express purpose of serving the public. One of these responsibilities is a duty of care to ALL citizens. I don’t need to explain this responsibility to those who already understand it – those who need to have it explained to them are more comfortable in the private sector because their inability to understand renders them unfit for public office.

 

So, in a climate where poverty is one of the major contributory factors of early mortality, how does Jeremy Hunt and the BBC discharge their Duty to the Public? They blame the usual suspects – obesity, smoking and alcohol. Since we can already demonstrate an absence of salient facts by the BBC, let’s look at what the CAAP and Oxfam have to say about them…

 

People on low incomes in the UK pay higher prices for many essential goods and services than people who are better off. This is known as the Poverty
Premium. Save the Children has estimated that it costs the average low-income household an extra £1,300 a year, as they pay more for food, fuel,
finance and other goods and services.
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The Poverty Premium is related to food poverty in a number of
ways. The creation of large superstores and out-of-town shopping developments have driven local, independent retailers out of business and left the poorest people in ‘food deserts’ without access to affordable, healthy food. Superstores are difficult to reach for people on low-incomes; 85% of households with weekly incomes under £150 do not have a car. The poorest people in the UK are paying more for their food than their richer counterparts. Research has found that a list of the cheapest available selection of groceries was up to 69% more expensive in some of the poorest parts of the country than in stores belonging to the same chain in richer areas
14
At least four million people in the UK do not have access to a healthy diet; nearly 13 million people live below the poverty line, and it is becoming
harder and harder for them to afford healthy food. Lower-income families in the UK have cut their consumption of fruit and vegetables by nearly a
third in the wake of the recession and rising food prices. At the end of 2010, lower-income households were buying 2.7 portions of fruit and vegetables per person, per day, compared to the average household which continued to buy about four portions per person, per day. These rates are likely to have declined further in the past year, as inflation has continued upwards and household incomes have shrunk.
“In the most deprived part of the borough [Westminster], life expectancy for men is 17 years shorter than in the richest part of the
borough. If I went to Glasgow it’s even worse – a 28 year difference in male life expectancy. Life expectancy in the poorest part of Glasgow
is 8 years shorter than the average male life expectancy in India. That’s how bad health inequality is in the UK.”
Sir Michael Marmot (Director of the International Institute for Society and Health)
Poor families are not only hit with the problem of how to put food on the table in the short term, they are also suffering the double injustice of the
long-term effects of food poverty. People who are forced to live on an inadequate diet have a significantly increased risk of developing serious health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes; they are also more likely to suffer from stress, ill health, poor educational attainment and shortened life expectancy. Poor children suffer
from lower nutritional intake, bad dietary patterns, hunger, low fruit and vegetable consumption, and problems accessing food in the school holidays.

 

The report goes on to comment about how the government, which claims there is no money for poor people, has been dealing with what welfare system remains to us.

 

In recent years there has been growing concern about the hardship caused by an increasingly harsh and punitive benefits sanctions regime
.
In 2010, in response to the Department for Work and Pensions’ consultation
21st Century Welfare (Cm 7913), a number of consultees raised concerns that
if conditionality is increased, protections must be put in place to ensure that vulnerable people are not penalised.
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At the time, Oxfam’s UK Poverty Programme warned that the new sanctions regime being introduced alongside Universal Credit would “expose people to the risk of destitution. Removing benefits and leaving people with no income will result in extreme hardship for them and their families.”
25
In April 2011, The Guardian published an analysis of DWP statistics which showed a 40% increase in the number of people who have lost their Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) between April and October 2010.
26
In October 2012 a new JSA sanctions regime came into force, which  introduced a new and ‘more robust’ system, with low-, intermediate- and high- level sanctions. A broadly similar sanctions regime will be introduced under Universal Credit (the revision to the entire benefits system which the DWP started to roll out this month). Just three months later, in January 2013, an internal DWP ‘scorecard’ leaked to The Guardian revealed that more than 85,000 sanctions had been applied or upheld against JSA claimants in one month alone. This would translate into more than a million sanctions per annum, against a total JSA caseload of just under 1.5 million.
27
Most of the policy debate on sanctions to date has focused on the extent to which the sanctions regime is fulfilling its primary purpose in promoting ‘good behaviour’ on the part of benefit claimants. More recently, there has been a growing controversy as to whether Jobcentres have ‘quotas’ for getting people off benefits. As a result of this debate, the Government has now agreed to set up an independent inquiry into the use of sanctions,
which is a welcome move.
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However, to date there has been little or no Parliamentary debate, or Government or Parliamentary research, on the wider impacts of sanctions in terms of generating material hardship, stress or hunger

 

As for smoking, when the anti-smoking lobby finds it necessary to lie to get its message across, I start to wonder whether that is propaganda too. With alcohol, Tory policy has never been in the public interest. Perhaps if the poor weren’t treated so badly, they wouldn’t need to smoke or drink as much as they do because these are activities designed to ease pain; drug addiction has a similar cause. I wonder why a part of our public is in such pain in the first place. At the same time, the Tories have put precariats outside the protection 0f the law.

 

As a retired shop steward, I can tell you now that public servants caught lying, stealing or involved with corrupt practices get the sack and are prosecuted – or they were back in the day and this is why.

 

A Public Servant, whether elected, appointed or employed as, has a duty to serve ALL members of the public because not all members of the public are able to speak for themselves and that duty is a “Duty of Care”. Society is a huge web of human complexity and people have experimented with a variety of different organisational models in order to manage that. The last time one of our neighbour society’s experimented with the particular model of ‘social management’ detailed above, the global community deemed it to be criminal. Arising out of those global lessons came a Woman’s Law – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights – and its a Woman’s Law because Eleanor Roosevelt gave birth to it. At the same time, the working class men of Britain created the Welfare State – which is where the people learned about Public Duty and personal ethics. The Welfare State is also Woman’s Law because every improvement we saw, after it’s inception, took care of British Women and Children. Margaret Thatcher began the process of stealing it from us. Let’s have a look at how far the Tories have gone with what she and Ronald Reagan began. This is the US but the UK won’t be far behind

 

 

I began this post, I realised how little I knew about tax avoidance, so I asked my twitter pals for plain-english (which most Precariats understand) suggestions. My friend, Steve Walker, has shared this this this and this (thanks Steve) and everyone recommends the Tax Justice Network. What there isn’t is a Precariat guide to exactly what the Tories have been up to. Nevertheless, the fact remains that they are getting richer whilst, at one and the same time, they are intentionally depriving more than a million people of the means to a natural life-span. In fact, the public are already being told, by the BBC and Tories in all our political parties, that over one million in poverty will lose their lives early by 2020 due to the debunked and deadly gods of Austerity. If that isn’t a declaration of intent to commit wholesale murder of the poorest people in Britain – but more especially, England – then I really don’t know what is.

 

Every single way precariats come at this problem, we see the same thing.

 

Public Duty has never been about the money. Public Duty carries a sacred responsibility that is understood by atheists because it is intrinsic to a healthy human being. The bottom line is we don’t treat people this way – not if we’re truly British because Gandhi told us so (apocryphal) . Perhaps Gandhi was wrong about a lot of British men but he was right on the money when it comes to British women.

 

To the British men – young and old – who’ve been strutting their left-wing credentials and proposing people’s assemblies that look remarkably like the old ones, I say this:

“Your methodology failed with Thatcher and it will fail again because I’ve yet to see it sustain a win. You fail because you don’t speak Precariat – you speak Working Class. As the rich got richer, the poor have gotten poorer. We can’t be working class because there are no jobs ON PURPOSE! The working class ‘leaders’ are now suspect and so are you if you are not at the sharp end of this.”

 

Then I’d ask this question. Given that I had a heart attack last November, what do you think of the DWP decision to call me to TWO Work Capability Assessments in the 10 months immediately following? What do you think it might do to the likelihood of my being one of the statistics of early mortality? Does this violate my Right To Life and could it be considered psychological torture? If it is, do I get to stand on the same platform as you? Have I earned the right to be heard? Is your life on the line? Because, if it isn’t you won’t know what you’re talking about and anything you say about us can only ever be secondhand. If you haven’t lived it, you don’t qualify.

 

Then go have a look at the Human Rights Act and ask yourself what you intend to do about it. You are not doing this for the glory, you are doing this because  women and children, alongside all our other vulnerable peoples, being forced into hunger, homelessness and early death by downright evil people and that cannot be anything but wrong.

 

And once you know what it is you need to do – GO DO IT!

 

 

Idle No More UK

Idle No More UK

 

One final point: I don’t believe all money-rich people are Tories but there are an awful lot of sheeple who are mesmerised by the lies and propaganda. If you aren’t one of them and you are money-rich, then now is the time to start giving it away to women. Keep what you need and give the rest away without strings. The women will take care of the rest – honest men included – and woe betide any woman caught misappropriating or misusing this without reasonable excuse. Self-serving misuse is no longer regarded as reasonable. Money is a tool, not an ambition. I say this now because tomorrow I might be dead and I’d regret not saying it when I could.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Precariat advice on dealing with closet fascists

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Yesterday, a fellow precariat posted this on the internet. I don’t know who this brother is or whether he has acted on his feelings but I know the rage he feels about how he has been treated because I feel much the same way when I am suicidal. If he has committed suicide, then his blog speaks the same language as Stephanie Botterill and Vicky Harrison. Indeed, if this brother does take his own life then, in truth, it might be a kinder ending than experienced by some in his position given the way the impoverished and homeless are treated by some in our community.

 

BIuqy41CEAIw50CLet’s be quite plain here – when the number of deaths, per week, due to Welfare Reform, had risen to 73 last October, we can make an educated guess which way those numbers have gone since the latest round of welfare cuts kicked in last April. This is murder-by-government.

 

When I worked as a psychotherapist I attracted, for some reason, a statistically-significant number of clients who were the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. The fact that my professional supervisor was German enabled me to deepen my knowledge of what went on under that facsist regime. During one discussion, I pointed out to her that there had been many other holocausts since and asked why, in her opinion, the German version was so bad. She replied that, for her, the fact that the wholesale murder of people had been done by an elected government – it had been systematic and ‘legal’ done in the name of an entire country’s people – therefore carried a far greater ‘weight of sin’. Whilst I wasn’t certain I agreed with her at the time – I hadn’t lived the experience then – it is much harder to disagree with her now. I mention this wisdom, learned over twenty years ago, because it has informed me ever since and might suggest that I know what I am talking about when I say that the British parliament is filled with fascists in all of our political parties.

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When we – anyone, really, not just precariats – is faced with others who believe our only value to our community is by being dead, one of the first things we might try is communication. This is a fascinating exercise for anyone who has tried it. In the UK, Spartacus tried. The outcome is detailed here and matches my own experience. True fascists avoid such conversations – even if they are ‘obliged’ by standards and rules to listen. It’s an interesting avoidance because, once we force the issue (usually following months of ignoring us), they switch the focus from content (“You are systematically killing people”) to ‘process’ (“You aren’t being polite so I’m not going to talk to you”). I’ve always been interested by the emphasis those with murderous intent place on politeness, although it’s taken me years to see how this process works well enough to put it into words.

 

There’s an example of this occurring at the moment. A collection of our church leaders in the UK have demanded an apology from Coalition ministers for their misuse of statistics as a means of demonising the poor. The same church leaders have worked hard, alongside other anti-poverty campaigns, to counter this propaganda but seem to be having as much success as Spartacus, the courts and the EU. It doesn’t matter how much evidence well-meaning people present; how many laws we enforce; how many petitions we sign or how many protests we attend – the government isn’t listening because it doesn’t want to.

 

What interests me is the peoples’ response. Speaking as a precariat, with my brothers and sisters unlawfully suffering and dying in their tens of thousands around me, I want to know when our ‘supporters’ are going to wake up to what is really going on around them and understand that apologies will never be enough. To truly apologise is to acknowledge our wrong-doing, provide restitution where possible and never commit that sin again. Show me the evidence that our parliamentarians understand this because, with the exception of a very few, I see no sign of such awareness. What I see are these ‘people’ not giving a toss for what anyone else thinks and carrying on regardless, whilst closing their minds on the grounds that we aren’t being polite. Exactly where does this behaviour fuck off in the minds of our middle-classes?

 

The Wannsee Conference (Berlin 1942) on the “Final Solution”…

“ushered in the final stage of escalation of the extermination policy – the incorporation of the whole of German-occupied Europe in a comprehensive programme of systematic annihilation of the Jews. The evolution of such a programme, once intiated as a planned operation, rapidly gathered pace in the spring…”

Ian Kershaw: “Hitler, the Germans and the Final Solution” 2008

Following the publication of the first of my precariat pieces, I came across a blog by Dan Silver which, in its own academic way, says that we will not achieve any meaningful social change without talking to those presently excluded from social discourse. As a precariat, I would agree entirely but for three reasons: firstly, precariats have experienced nothing but being ‘talked at’ scaled_full_c82403f5ec81a55b08fb– only the few actually listen; secondly, if you want us to listen to what you have to say, it might help if you started talking in plain English and, finally, any conversation has to be translated into action, otherwise why should we waste our time and intelligence with you?

 

There is a very big problem that gets in the way of any meaningful communication between various sections of our community and that resides in emotional intelligence and experience. Unless someone has actually experienced the underlying intent of our all-party UK government policy, you are going to have to take our precariat word and evidence that it is already murderous and many don’t ‘get’ this. Those in more comfortable circumstances (like having a sound roof over your head, a bed to sleep in and food to eat when you are hungry) won’t have experienced the feelings that erupt as a result of not having them. These are the people who complain about our precariat ‘attitude-problem’. To those I would say this – if someone is systematically trying to kill me, how the fuck am I supposed to feel?

 

workfare-stick-upAs a psychotherapist, I learned that anger is the healthy response to abuse. As a precariat, I am not supposed to express this anger, so what am I supposed to do with it? According to the fascist doctor I met in prison, I’m not supposed to feel anger at all! Well, that can fuck off for a start. In human terms, anger is the impetus enabling our ability to change things that are unhealthy for us. So when the comfortably-off chattering classes start bitching about my attitude, that tells me they don’t want anything to change that might affect them even slightly – like the discomfort of listening to those they have systematically silenced whilst colluding with our wholesale murder. You see, that’s the thing about precariats – we have a tendency to call a spade a fucking shovel.

 

Th problem continues closer to the precariat class too. The working class are getting hit as hard or, in some cases, harder (although I haven’t seen evidence that they are dying in the same numbers as precariats). They also have a history of organising themselves – which is what they are doing now. As a former Trade Union official, I’ll wave to my comrades of the People’s Assembly; recognise our common enemy; and then say this:

BKIsb8jCYAA0XQl“You are not going to change a fucking thing until you get right down to the bottom of society. Your Peoples’ Assembly fails to include the precariats because, hey, we’re going to cost you money to listen to us. You’re going to have to shell out for bus-fares to get precariats (and, for that matter, your poorest TU members) to your meetings. Perhaps you may need to feed us too. Remember that when you go out for a pint afterwards, if you want us there you’re the one that’s buying because we can’t afford to. In rural areas like mine, you may need to give me a lift back to my precarious home because the buses stop running early – or, if my worst imaginings come true, back to my tent if it’s still there when I get back. This isn’t some kind of socialist replay of ‘our glorious past’, we’re slap bang in the middle of a fascist government implementing wholesale murder.

 

scaled_full_3c3cdc5606510b56ed22Has the People’s Assembly got any plans for how to care for our existing homeless or is that something that can wait until our glorious revolution has been won? If that is what you are thinking, you’re as bad as the fascists and you’re still learning the lessons of how the German people ‘didn’t know’ about the Holocaust. ”

 

At this point, I would probably walk away from the mic because I would hope, at least, I’d been talking to folk who are half-awake and not closed down entirely. To carry on in that vein would meet my own definition of impolite.

 

The thing about true change or growth is that we have to start with grim reality and this is as true for personal as well as social transformations. For as long as the population is governed by what it chooses to believe rather than what is real, nothing changes. We have to be as disillusioned, disenchanted and authentic as we can be if we want to change the world. Those uncomfortable with my kind of authenticity are those who, at present, collude with murderers. For those who ‘getting’ what I am saying, take a look at this and then see how you feel. What you are feeling gets deeper and stronger the further down the social scale we live, because every other bloody class above us is saying the same thing whilst, at the same time, passing the buck of blame down too. To the rich, I’d like to say ‘I feel your pain’ but, hey, precariats have our own and it’s bigger, better and definitely more colourful than yours. To the rich, I’d say that I’ve never seen such a bigger bunch of incompetents than you and if that’s what your expensive education taught you, I’d be closing those establishments down. If all you can come up with is more of the same, get out of the fucking way so the people can do the job you refuse to do.

 

As a retired psychotherapist; as a practising shaman; as part of what I believe are my social responsibilities, I have to exercise tolerance but I tell you this – there is a moment where my tolerance for irresponsible social cruelty to others crosses a line into absolute refusal to play your game of social niceties. I hope inactive non-precariats start to feel deeply uncomfortable with my self-educated, intelligent and eloquent stare coming right back at you from the Abyss because you won’t change without it.

 

We can make changes right now to how we behave but those changes have to be authentic and meet a real need. Waiting until you’ve organised this; or prepared that report; or had a discussion; or whatever other delaying tactics you choose to employ is no damn use to anyone. If your imagination can’t stretch to what you, personally, could do why not take a few lessons from those who know how to.

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Who knows – one day you might discover that you were wrong about those you despised.

 

If nothing else, that would be a step in the right direction.

 

 

 

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The Gift of being Precariat

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Yesterday, I published a blog about the likely reality between my ‘society’ and myself come September. It’s a very bleak piece because, in order to describe it, I had to face social attitudes and opinions that are extremely harmful to the pysche and soul of those involved. That I am not alone in what I am facing is measured by the comments, reblogs and tweets that emerged afterwards. For all this, I am deeply grateful for it indicates I am writing from a place that affects the many, not just the few. This is what I was aiming for. Thank you all so much for telling me I got it about as right as one human being is capable of doing when telling truth to power.

 

Because next September has yet to arrive, I cannot know what form this future will take. Our world has suddenly become highly unpredictable – what we once took for granted now dissolves into grains of sand as we reach to grasp it. This truism applies to both the natural and man-made world. Everything has become precarious, including our natural environment.  The planet and her people have begun a transition from which there is no return. It follows – in my own mind, anyway – that if we are to find living human solutions to the difficulties we face, our answers are likely to be found amongst those familiar with living precariously. It’s easy to find us. We dwell amongst the silenced, the ‘managed’, the excluded, the trivialised and the dead. We come in all colours, all ages, all genders, all faiths and we can be found in all nations.

 

BD4JOtXCYAAQ6PWThe precariat are told, by the man-made systems we live under presently, that our worth can only be measured in money for which we are required to give up our capacity for imagination, exploration, wonder and love in order to dwell in the limited ideas of the self-interested few.

 

So who are these ‘few’ who seek to rule life itself? In the UK, if we are to believe what the mainstream media tell us, those few exclude most women; have difficulties with ‘immigrants’; dislike children; loathe the poor; and despise the imperfect. When we remove all these exclusions, we are left with a handful of largely rich white men and their cohorts. When we look at what this handful actually produce, we see Nature (on whom we depend) poisoned or destroyed to this God of Money; we see women and children (our gateway and future) purposefully impoverished to death; we are invited to participate in our own mass murder by hating each other; but, most of all, we are persuaded to believe that theirs is the only reality available to us. This is a lie – a lie so big, so outrageous, so relentlessly all-encompassing and pervasive that it beggars belief we even consider that it might be true. Yet we have.

 

In the UK, we now live under a hierarchy so extended that reaches from the place I was in yesterday when I wrote my blog to the corridors of The Grove in Watford where the Bilderberg Group are currently meeting. The elite is global. It follows then that the lies are global too and some of us have believed them in the past. Some of us still do.

 

It is said that the greatest coup the Devil ever pulled on humanity was to convince us he didn’t exist but there is an interesting rider to the tale of the devil. In Jewish mysticism, the Kabbalah, it is understood that Satan/Lucifer is God’s most faithful servant because his role provides the necessary choices for humanity to exercise our free will. Satan therefore enables each and every one of us humans to freely choose between Creation and Destruction. Our choice becomes our personal responsibility and refusing or relinquishing our choices to others becomes our responsibility too.

 

Amongst the precariat, as far as I can see, every effort has been made by this human elite to remove our freedom of choice. In yesterday’s blog, I could demonstrate – with evidence – that the choice being given to me by the UK government is a life of pain and suffering or death. In fact, it’s a ‘no-choice’ being inflicted upon millions in order that a ‘favoured’ few can do exactly as they please in the most destructive way imaginable. It’s a choice I refuse, regardless of how colonized I might be.

 

I refuse to regard my fellow precariats as having no value or worth because I know it isn’t true. At the hands of precariats, I have found infinite kindness and generosity; humour and humanity; wisdom and experience. Without them, I wouldn’t be here to write these words. In their company, I have found respect, understanding, compassion and mercy, regardless of the labels the elite requires me to carry around in order to scare the sheeple. Amongst the precariat, I have found my experiences shared by others who – from their own unique perspective – validate my ideas, feelings and intuitions about the problems we face. Within the precariat I have found authenticity in a world-gone-insane and my biggest response is gratitude. Gratitude for simple gifts and kindnesses given freely and without strings, simply because the need is present. In fact, I’ve learned more about life, survival and gratitude from the precariat than I ever learned elsewhere.

 

This is the clue to the essence of the choices we make. When we understand the pivotal power of our choice, we begin to understand the path we have chosen. To illustrate; exactly how grateful do you believe our elites are for all the sacrifices, deaths and destruction experienced by our precariat peoples? Your answer will tell you everything you need to know about what and who we face.

 

scaled_full_39c37e6881276af1a83e“And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror”

Leonard Cohen

The Heart of the Social Contract

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We don’t hear much about the social contract these days but, growing up under Wilson and Callaghan’s Labour Governments, I used to hear it all the time. As I understand it, the social contract governs the relationship between government and people; it defines the responsibilities a government has to those who elected it in a fully functioning democracy of adults – we have to be 18 years old to vote. The electorate are adults. Within a healthy social contract, the government has the responsibility to act on behalf of the whole of the electorate. At least, that’s what I absorbed in my Guardian-reader family home. I didn’t take much notice of contracts or law at that time – those only came alive for me when I was the Staff Side Secretary (NALGO) for Westminster Council during the early 1980’s.

 

NALGO’s National Education Department ran three-day residentials on Employment Law, assisted by a very able National Legal Department, and I attended one of these in Motherwell. What I learned over those three days has stood me on good ground ever since and this was one of the things I learned.

 

A contract is made in ‘good faith’. It requires that both sides behave honourably. A Contract of Employment can be terminated by either side if the other can be shown to have breached the heart of a ‘good faith’ contract. Breaches were detailed in the negotiated and agreed disciplinary procedures and the worst ended the contract through dismissal, constructive or otherwise. How that would work with a Social Contract, I’ve no idea – best talk to a good lawyer about that. So I hope that I’m addressing intelligent people who don’t need me to start joining up the dots for them because you have your own minds and opinions. This works much better if we are all thinking for ourselves and coming to our own decisions.

 

One of the features of being both Convener of the Social Services Shop Stewards (awarded 50% secondment/TU during my tenure), followed by two years Staff Side Secretary (with 50% secondment /time-off for TU activities during my first year but which rose, on a personal basis only, to 100% for the rest of my stint) is I found myself ‘presiding’ over a great mix of people, working in different professions, under one ‘roof’. My job, as I saw it, was to make sure their voices got heard in the right places. It didn’t matter which department the person seeking help came from, or how many there were of them, it was my job to ensure that the points they were making were heard. Yes, it was a Tory Council just before Shirley Porter’s leadership. She ran the Highways & Works Committee when I was there. And, yes, there were the Tory and Labour wannabees but amongst other councillors were genuine hardworking people also doing their best to serve their constituents. I did a lot of business with them and, more often than not, we found that we had a shared concern. As Staff Side Secretary, I could enable real debate towards finding mutually acceptable solutions. Not always, but often enough for the Council to up my time off for trade union activities. I was told that I helped the good functioning of the Council and was easy to deal with. If I was dealing with a problem, it got solved using the Contract of Employment coupled with goodwill. Apparently I had this effect where everyone wanted to agree with me. When I went to run the in-house union at the Corporation of London, we rarely agreed and they lost because they didn’t know what they were doing. If I ever wanted to manifest such ability again, it is now.

 

One of the advantages of being a professional in a number of different fields is understanding the common ground between them.  Within each profession, there is a social contract because it is simply not possible to be any kind of professional without it – public or private. It may be worded in different ways, addressing specific address issues related to the work, but there is always the element of ‘good faith’. Until a professional can be shown to have demonstrated ‘bad faith’, we are obliged to believe what we are told. It’s called professional courtesy and it is a common element throughout. That’s the theory, anyway.

 

The problem with individual professions – like Council departments – is we can become myopic, seeing the problem from only our own point of view. It’s a Staff Side Secretary’s job to listen to as many of you as possible and then ‘shake’ you with the overall picture. As professionals, I ask you to take this bigger picture back to your ‘departments’ and talk to your ‘membership’

 

This week has been a revelation of behavioural standards amongst professional politicians in this country. For example:

Michael Mansfield on Human Rights in the hands of Grayling (who has since silenced Probation Officers in the Social Media) and May (Guilty of ‘Contempt of Court ‘). Would any professional care to come to an opinion about whether their idea about a social contract on Human Rights is anything like ours?

This is Latent Existence on the Parliamentary debate (or whateveryoucallit) on Ministerial refusals to meet with the Disability Activist Community group known as Spartacus. Does this qualify as professional behaviour?

This appears to have caught Ministers at the Department of Work and Pensions running a covert scheme to purposefully remove entitlements from those in need for purposes of statistics.

And this is the Labour Party supporting the Tories’ evasion of legal duty through a retrospective change of law. I give thanks to my God there were honest professionals in the House of Commons who could model good behaviour . And I thank Owen Jones for telling us Miliband’s real reason for sitting on his hands… again.

 

These are the issues I see… from this week alone!

 

From every professional viewpoint I can muster, I see persistent breaches to the Heart of the Social Contract between the UK government and the people of Britain to render it broken and beyond repair. I have consulted widely and have found agreement in surprising places.

 

What I want to know – from everyone who reads this – is what you intend to do about it? I don’t care who you are, if you understand the professional difference between right and wrong then you have a social duty to do something to correct social wrongs committed by those now unable to maintain any semblance of good faith in their public duties. THAT’S WHAT YOU ARE PAID FOR!

 

And I don’t know what it is you’re supposed to do. You’re a professional – I shouldn’t have to tell you. As the Personnel Manager at Westminster once said “We employ adults.” What I will tell you now is that if you don’t do something sharpish, and we leave these monstrosities in charge of the country, I’ll either be dead or destitute alongside thousands of others at the very moment when we all enter a famine. By that time, no-one will be safe, not even you.

 

On 1st April 2013, Britain is going to be thrown into the Shock Doctrine. The problem with this doctrine is its predictability – use it too frequently and people start to throw off the affect. Understanding the Shock Doctrine immunises you and enables you to keep functioning when you were supposed to be immobilised.

 

I invite you to examine the evidence here and in your own experience, take up your professional social responsibility to ‘good faith’ by acting in the public interest.  This problem has never stopped of its own accord; it has always needed to be stopped! If there is any country on this planet that understands that, it’s Britain!

 

Now, what are we going to do about it?

 

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“Us and Them”: #Tories, #Women, #CasualStigma, #Envy & #ESAEndGame

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Whilst this is essentially an activist’s blog, I’d like to begin with a tribute to my cat (pictured above). His name was Jasper and he disappeared a few days ago. My intuition and local knowledge tells me he won’t be coming home again. Whilst I do my utmost to see the positive in others, I also have to face reality. The village I live in is cruel to cats. It’s a local thing – we have pigeon fanciers and other residents who poison or shoot them. In the past three years, I have lost three cats to this ‘final solution’. Jasper is the latest.

 

Cats have always found me if I have not been finding them first. We have an affinity to each other and like each other’s company. Jasper found me after my second cat vanished and my neighbour’s cat was poisoned. He was an opinionated criatura. He didn’t much take to the female cat I was asked to rescue or the kitten she produced but he never lost his affection for me. He would come to me in my distress and offer affection freely. My lap was his home and my bed was his next best choice. He took no nonsense from dogs and he made friends with all the local cat-lovers, visiting homes and seducing free meals out of each. And he was too young to have died naturally.

 

As an animal lover, we have to accept that our animal companions will leave us simply on the grounds of life-span. But they leave a hole in our souls when they do that is filled with grief. Now I have a Jasper-shaped hole in mine and it affects how I respond to human events. Yesterday was filled with those.

 

As some of my twitter follows are aware, I’ve been engaging with a Tory councillor recently. In truth, we have found we have a great deal in common, particularly when it comes to seeing trying to the best in people. Our difference – and it is a very great one – is that she can see the best in individuals but struggles to see any value in groups that are not her own. She is an intelligent, imaginative woman, who is committed to her local community – which is not mine (Tories are few and far between where I live). I can see the value of her chosen profession because I took a similar route out of my own problems when I was younger. Where we part company is in the matter of community.

 

From my perspective, the purpose of becoming an all-round ‘professional’ adult human being involves, at some point, a letting-go of personal ego for the ‘greater good’ of the community. It is a process of self-sacrifice which, if you happen to be the person inside the experience, teaches us that we are far more than just our ego. We learn that every time we do something, we affect and impact upon the entire living web around us. My own version now includes being willing to die for others like me – and I am not alone in this. Yesterday, whilst my Tory friend was explaining why she wanted me to learn how ‘not to envy’ those who are financially successful, another woman whom I really admire was putting her own life on the line for others in her position… again. If you want to understand why, check out #ESAEndGame on twitter. The voices there speak far more eloquently than I ever could about the depth and extent of the problems we are facing. I have made my own contribution but there are many others with similar tales who have been less fortunate than me. The fact that, following my GP’s intervention, Atos cancelled my WCA assessment and the DWP recategorised  my ESA claim (which, to my astonishment, means an increase in my benefits) was only made possible by the hard work of people like @Suey2y, the Black Triangle campaign and many other individuals, known and unknown, seen and unseen. Their work was done, not for personal gain – all the campaigners want is enough to live on – but for their community. All that effort, intelligence, wisdom and experience given freely to those in genuine need, without charge – to me, this is the best a human being can aspire to and I feel honoured to be in their company. The sad part is that I believe my Tory friend doesn’t understand this and I fear I cannot teach her. All I can say is that, on a personal level, if I had to emulate either woman, I would choose to be like @Suey2y everyday of the week and twice on Sundays. I have tried the route my Tory friend is on and, for me, it “grows no corn” – hers are the teachings of selfishness, as far as I am concerned, and I’ve done my best to leave those behind me. With all due respect to her, I aspire to become someone better than that. The rewards of selfishness do not interest me anymore.

 

Interestingly, at the same time, the #MHChat twitter community also took to the airwaves on the subject of #Envy but not before @MentalHealthCop had created the hashtag #CasualStigma. That a serving police officer dedicated to providing a professional service to the public could come up with something so thoughtful and compassionate is wondrous to me. That he can see the connections between the casual stigma directed at women ( #EverySexism ) and what he sees in his own job working with those who have mental health problems restores my personal faith in the police as a whole. He sees the overall problem this kind of stigmatisation causes and has done something to raise our awareness of it in his own field. He could have chosen selfishness – many police officers do – but instead he’s given voice to a largely silenced community, mislabelled and misunderstood, perhaps because he knows that we can change nothing for the better without listening to everyone involved, not just those with money, power or influence. Which leads neatly into the subject of envy.

 

Whilst I do know something about the subject of envy, last night’s #MHChat helped me clarify the distinction between an envy that is benign from that which is malicious. Envy is a feeling that arises from lack. We experience it when we see others with talents, skills, abilities or ‘stuff’ we do not have ourselves and everyone will have these feelings at some point or another in their lives. None of us are exempt. It’s what we do with those feelings when they arrive that makes the difference. Benign envy understands the feeling as an indicator of where we need to grow next. When we envy, it remains possible to look to see how the envied got that way. As one of my old therapists put it; “Take a look at what the person had to do to get to the point where you envy them. Then you can decide whether you are willing to make the same effort yourself. If you’re not, then be grateful that someone has so you can enjoy their expertise and, if you are willing to make a go of it, be grateful to them for showing where you need to grow.” Benign envy is open to envy’s cure: gratitude. I suspect it is this version of envy my Tory friend is referring to when she talks about Labour envying her party. Malicious envy, on the other hand, is a very different criatura altogether.

 

Malicious envy occurs when we see someone with something we believe we can never have. The sense of loss created in us by this realisation triggers a furious rage. Somewhere along the line, we decide that if we can’t have it, they can’t either and we launch an envious attack in order to destroy the ‘object’ that highlights our ‘loss’ (note the dehumanising that occurs here). We treat the envied as our enemy – even though all they are probably doing is getting on with their lives. The declaration of war comes from the envier long before the envied realises what is happening to them and the results are usually catastrophic. Envious attacks contain no mercy. To effectively destroy the quality we envy, we must destroy the human being who has this quality. To justify our actions, our total lack of mercy or compassion towards the envied and the bitter resentment of our envious attacks, we must reduce that whole person to someone despised. Our selfish self cannot permit them to exist in our world – we want them gone, removed, dead, obliterated. The very existence of the envied is offensive to us because they are reminders of our inadequacy. When such feelings run rampant through governments, we start to see genocide.

 

Is there a cure for this? I really don’t know – it’s a personal choice. Are we willing to acknowledge the appalling outcomes of our darkest feelings? Not everyone is, but if we’re willing to try then a good place to start is with our own experiences of being envied. We all have those too. We have all had experiences of being envied; where others take an unexplained but intense dislike to us and act on it. Remembering what that felt like is a route to having empathy for the object of our envious attack. When empathy finally arrives – which must include an acceptance of the darkest of our nastier emotions – envy shifts into benign mode where it can be therapeutically transformed into personal growth. However, if an envier refuses to learn and persists in such destructive behaviour, then their behaviour needs to be managed, usually by the police and courts, because uncontrolled envious attacks are, literally, crimes. There are no boundaries to a full-blown envious attack and people often die as a result. For those interested in these subjects, #MHChat is suggesting a causal link between envy and next week’s topic of #Bullying – why not join in!

 

There is one aspect of Envy Dynamic that is worthy of attention here. Those who have explored this in greater depth that I describe it thus: the relationship between envier and envied can be likened to a rope-bridge between two mountain peaks. Within the dynamic, the envier severs the bridge ropes on their mountain top but then blames the envied for the lack of bridge. It is the ultimate win/lose, where the envier ‘wins all’ and the envied ‘loses all’. This is why envious attacks are so destructive and it stems from profoundly deep level of selfishness that believes itself to be justified and our actions, justifiable. It is my own understanding of the deeper dynamics of envy that leave me despairing about my Tory friend.

 

On a personal level, my friend understands benign envy as a spur to personal growth but get her on the subject of money and, from my perspective, she espouses opinions that are very firmly based in malicious envy. From what I can understand (and I may be wrong), she believes that folk like me envy Tory wealth and what we really need is to learn how to get our own. Very little compassion exists for the human elements of this demand. If we don’t, then according to the Tory Party propaganda she uses, it becomes justifiable to inflict the casual stigma of skivers, scroungers and other personally destructive epithets to people like me in order to confirm our lack of any material worth to society. We become leeches to their material wealth and this must not be permitted. I suspect she regards me as the exception to this rule because I have stepped beyond her labelling and have become human to her. In doing so, I have surprised her because I don’t appear to envy those that have riches. She’s right. I don’t envy them at all. In fact, I look at their behaviour and find myself repulsed.

 

I have no problem with people making money. My problem resides with those, who I believe envy folk like me, for whom no amount of money is ever enough. When it spins out of control it looks like this. How does anyone need so much money? How many houses, islands, continents, planets, does one ego need in order to prove their ‘worth’? To me, this is a level of personal selfishness that knows no bounds and has no problem depriving countless others of their very real life needs – food, shelter and a valued place in society. There is no honour in stealing your ‘worth’ from the vulnerable, hungry, needy and destitute. Honour comes from what we can give to our community regardless of money. @Suey2y and @MentalHealthCop have honour because they give of themselves freely to the communities they serve. Even very wealthy people can have honour, as Joanne Rowling has already demonstrated by falling off the Forbes list by giving her wealth away to charity. In all these examples, the qualities of mercy and compassion are plain to the naked eye and they provide a sharp contrast to the merciless attitudes and actions of our Tory-led government.

 

In all things, I aim to be spiritual and I have learned this: where any form of Mercy and Compassion are absent, there evil dwells. Jesus – who lived the destitute’s life – teaches that we can serve Love or we can serve Money, but we can’t serve both. He is the one, so it is claimed, who said “The love of money is the root of all evil”. Each and every authentic Spirituality I am aware of teaches that true worth depends on the quality of the Spirit within each person, no matter who or where they are in the world. In Spiritual terms, how much money we have in the bank is irrelevant.  In fact, too much money has a corrosive impact upon the individual, because as their money grows so does their selfishness. Do I envy these rich people? Not a chance! My aspirations are rooted in my yearning to find acceptance and belonging in an inclusive community that recognises my value even as it sees my failings. If we have to use money, then let’s relegate it to its proper place – a simple means of energetic exchange within a healthy community. It is the same kind of exchange the planet shares freely with humanity and all other forms of life that dwell within Her. Only our narcissistic egos fail to see the value in this sharing and, like the tyrant Holdfast, seeks to gather it all to ourselves. But no individual ego is capable of experiencing this quality of sharing. Ego’s are too small, too limited, too selfish and, frequently, too lazy to make the effort to grow our Soul beyond the fascinations of self to the wonders of being part of a living planet. We learn these lessons when we dispense with our ego in favour of transcendence.

 

In reality, we are not separate from the planet we live in. We are an evolutionary miracle with, in my opinion, a far-too-high opinion of ourselves – especially in the West. The West’s Cult of Narcissism, however, severs us from this experience by destroying the rope bridge between self and soul by envious attacks upon anything that contains the Spirit of Life. Don’t believe me? Then it’s time you made the effort to research this yourself. Perhaps, in time, you may learn to be grateful for all those ‘valueless’ people who simply want a fairer distribution of this unearned and hoarded wealth. You see, when we understand community we realise that no single person is ever ‘more valuable’ than another and certainly not to the degree that current monetary wealth or corporate interests appear to be claiming. The endless destruction of people, habitats, environments and animal life, committed without mercy, bear all the hallmarks of an envious attack. I’m not interested in money for its own sake – God knows, money is finite because its influence ends with death. I’m interested in the kind of Spirit that will accompany me after death.

 

If, during life, I need to make use of money then what I seek is enough to meet my needs as a functioning and contributing adult member of my community; from people to work to cats. I, for one, need no more than that. In our present world, however, I take very strong issue with those who believe I should make do with less simply to satisfy their personal and misplaced narcissistic demands for something as ultimately meaningless as money. To them, I would say this:

 

I have not deprived you of anything. I don’t need to – you’ve done that all by yourself. If you envy my Spirit so much, why don’t you strive to find your own instead of seeking to destroy mine? And if you refuse the effort, who is lazy; you or me?  Discover your own capacity for mercy and compassion for all kinds of others instead of just you and yours! Learn the kind of humility you demand of me because, from where I stand, you don’t look humble at all! I may be no better than you but, beyond doubt, I am definitely no worse! Finally, if you want to fund the same level of Spirit I am exhibiting here, albeit imperfectly, then the end game will be to give away your money because you will no longer need it and the community can put it to better uses than you will ever find on your own.

 

If we must judge envy, then let’s judge the consequences rather than the feeling. If my assessment that current Tory Party policy is currently fuelled by malicious envy towards ‘outsiders’ has any basis in fact, then we ought to be able to know by looking at outcomes. Last night’s #ESAEndGame twitter storm – which trended as the UK’s No. 1 for a time –can provide all the evidence necessary. There are other examples: #EverydaySexism #CasualStigma #Racism #Bullying to name but a very few. When people suffer and die in such ways, the fingerprints of an envious attack are not hard to find, especially when accompanied by blaming, justification and mercilessness resentment. This dynamic appears at all levels; from government policy to, in my view, the selfish interests of pigeon-fanciers who have no problem killing their neighbour’s cats. Today, that last one is enough evidence to satisfy me.

 

Goodbye, my beautiful cat. I still love you, Jasper – you were my friend-in-need and I am grateful for all the time we did spend together.

 

As for my Tory friend, she will have to make up her own mind.

 

 

Cautious Optimism: “Women under a flag of Truce”

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A Woman

 

Every once in a while, life gives us something precious even though it might not appear that way at first.

 

A few days ago, I logged on to Twitter to discover a friend deep in a ‘heated’ exchange. My friend, like myself, was born into the Labour Party Tribe and I watched her struggling to communicate with an elected councillor from the Tory Party Tribe. As I have some experience of ‘doing business’ with elected Tory councillors, I joined in when my friend began to struggle and began my own exchange instead. This blog is one of the outcomes and, I’m hoping, will be one amongst many.

 

Party politics in the UK – and probably elsewhere – is a battle between the two major political tribes, Labour and Tory, which stem from two very different root systems. Loosely described, Tories traditionally represent successful individualism within society whereas Labour draws its power from the collective groups who are often employees of Tories if they are not working within what remains of our public services. Unless circumstance requires that members of the Labour and Tory tribes work together, the two often don’t have much contact with each other and this absence of relationship contributes much to the deepening divisions between the two. Please bear in mind that, presently, these are very real ideological battles and very real people are dying as a result.

 

What drew me to the struggling exchange between my friend and this Tory Councillor – Nadia Cenci – was her willingness to remain within the conversation. Here was a Tory genuinely engaging with people outside her own tribe. I have a great deal of respect for anyone willing to make such a move and did not want to see such a potentially valuable resource go to waste. What I wasn’t prepared to do was engage from within the traditional battle positions. I needed to find new ground where we could meet ‘under the flag of truce’. In the following days, Nadia and I negotiated ground where we could do this. For those who may be interested, the root of this truce is buried deep in good manners. Neither of us are going to have all the answers. Neither of us are perfect but both of us are deeply concerned with the ‘health’ of our respective communities and the very serious problems we, as a whole, are facing. As far as I can establish, we are both looking for genuine, workable solutions and are willing to learn from each other beyond the present frame of UK party politics.

 

The ground I use when I talk to Nadia belongs to women. The traditional politics of tribal power within the UK, regardless of allegiances, is male-oriented. In other words, it is designed primarily by and for men – of all political parties – which means that the needs and interests of women have been sorely neglected. As women, we are subject to the same kind of harassment and derision if we step outside the loosely defined ‘Rules of Acceptable Behaviour for Women in a Man’s World’ and we are going to face the same struggles to resolve the social problems now besetting us. This is common ground for any woman, in my experience, regardless of whatever might divide us in other ways. For my part, I know that I cannot creatively contribute to conflict resolution unless I feel safe enough and I bring this wisdom to our ‘kitchen table’. If I need to feel safe enough, then it is important to ensure that all those involved feel the same way too because, in my own mind, we are not likely to reveal the really important issues without it. And the really important issues? Amongst women, these are likely to dwell within our feelings because women draw on our knowledge of emotional intelligence in order to find resolutions.

 

To access the knowledge and wisdom of emotional intelligence requires safety and in human relationships, that is built upon mutual respect; the recognition that everyone brings something valuable to the discussion. At the beginning, when distrust is most likely to derail such truces, having good manners allows each individual to find their own safety in their own way. It reminds me of those first meetings with psychotherapy clients. Most people (who can afford therapy) only turn up in a therapeutic consulting room when everything else they have tried has failed to resolve their problems. A new client is frightened, confused, and desperate enough to choose to encounter a stranger who might be able to help them. One demand they place upon themselves is the expectation that they must trust the therapist from the very outset. Emotional intelligence says that they are asking too much of both themselves and the situation. Sometimes my clients would be able to articulate this ‘trust requirement’ and my response was to say this was not my expectation of them. Trust is earned, not given – what makes the real difference is a willingness to trust. In my experience, this awareness of earning trust, together with good manners and if appropriate, humour, are the basic tools to creative human interaction – bring them to a women’s truce and we may have a genuine opportunity to negotiate a big enough peace for everyone; women and men, children and elders.

 

Bear in mind that this blog is about creating boundaries of safety for two women of different tribes at war with each other. As one of the two, I believe it helps to be as clear as I can be about my own motivations and to ensure that, as a matter of mutual respect for the individual, Nadia feels safe enough to express her own self before we ever move off into exploring new directions. From my perspective, my new travelling companion has already surprised me and her willingness to explore our collective problems whilst remaining true to herself is a genuine delight. Without Nadia’s suggestion, this blog would not have been written – already we are creating new ways of interacting. This is mutual creativity where one inspires the other. Additionally, Nadia is as willing as I am to make this a public exploration via the social media as well as a personal relationship. This means we can invite other women to observe, to participate if they wish and to share their own wisdom, especially when we ourselves stumble or find ourselves caught in the leg-irons and traps of outdated thought-forms.

 

In a human world that places so much emphasis on death and destruction, that two women from warring tribes can come together and thrash out enough of an agreement to create a potential region of truce seems, to me, little short of a miracle. That Nadia is a woman who is open to the possibility of miracles suggests that, together, we might find more.

 

If that isn’t grounds for cautious optimism, then I don’t know what is.

Probation and Rehabilitation

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“But the river remains unchanged, sad, refusing rehabilitation.”

                                                                    James Kirkup
                                                                   ‘No More Hiroshimas’

With privatisation proposals for Probation now on the government’s agenda, the campaign to keep the service public is getting into its stride. Amongst the service’s supporters, a great deal of emphasis is being placed on the role Probation plays in the rehabilitation of offenders. Whilst it might come as a surprise to some, these claims are technically unlawful.

To understand this point, we need to appreciate the legislative difference between the public and private sectors. No public service can exist without legislation that explicitly states what that service is empowered to do. When the legislation is in place, what is specified is all that service permitted to do. It is not authorised to do any more than the legislation permits. This is the legal difference between public and private. Private organisations can do pretty much anything provided it is not prohibited by law. It is a small but extremely important difference and I was taught this by the legal section of NALGO (now Unison) during my time as a shop steward.

This becomes relevant because when the Labour government enacted the NOMS legislation, it removed the word ‘rehabilitation’ from Probation’s terms of reference in favour of the term‘offender management’. This means that any rehabilitative work Probation might lay claim to falls outside the purview of the law. Simply put, if those employed by Probation are engaged in providing rehabilitative services to offenders, they are in breach of the legislation and possibly open to the charge of misappropriating public resources. If you doubt this, check it out for yourself. This legislative removal of ‘rehabilitation’ was the executive explanation supplied by one Probation area when dismissing a formal complaint that changes to my supervision were causing significant harm to my rehabilitation. It was made very clear to me – Probation does not ‘do’ rehabilitation anymore. Even if front-line staff aren’t aware of the impact this change has made to their work, their senior managers certainly are. Therefore, until the word rehabilitation is restored to UK legislation governing Probation, any claims of success merely point to the fact that employees are acting beyond their powers, i.e. unlawfully.

 

This creates an interesting situation. Technically speaking, this means that any offender who has successfully rehabilitated or desisted since NOMS came into existence has done so in spite of the Probation Service and not because of it. At the present time, such a suggestion might not sit comfortably with those proclaiming the service’s rehabilitative successes. Notwithstanding the legal position, these repeated claims also contain a remarkable blind spot in Probation’s view of itself. It is as though the offender ceases to have any involvement in their own improvement – the credit for our success accrues solely to our Probation supervisors. It is hard to put into words how profoundly disrespectful such attitudes are. How dare you exclude me from credits in the very hard work of my own rehabilitation! How very dare you! It explains my personal difficulty in finding any level of support within me for Probation (a problem that does not occur elsewhere with either the equally beleaguered police or prison services, I note.). When all my personal effort is so casually disregarded in favour of a service’s self-importance, I hope my ambivalence might be forgivable, especially when those claims also point to a public service stepping beyond its legislative powers.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve encountered some very fine people working within Probation and with whom I would gladly share the credit for my rehabilitative successes – if it were lawful for them to have helped me. But it isn’t. Was I to do that – especially in the light of the executive reply I received to my formal complaint – I could be placing them at risk of employment sanctions. That is not how I repay personal kindness. Instead, the service needs to be held accountable for their failure to comply with, or explain the impact of, the change in legislation and its impact on delivering rehabilitation to offenders. Additionally, the government needs to be called to account for blaming Probation for failing to deliver on rehabilitation when, lawfully, the service has no authority to provide it.

 

No doubt someone somewhere will pick up on this apparently minor but highly significant point of law and challenge it using Human Rights legislation. After all, to legally remove offender access to rehabilitation is inhuman and forms no part of a mentally healthy society. This is an issue Probation must address if they are to avoid the charge of hypocrisy, especially remembering that ignorance of the law is no defence.

 

In closing and especially for those practitioners who think it’s OK to ignore this legislative change in their own work, it might be worth remembering that thinking the law doesn’t apply to you suggests that you are no better than those you supervise.