Tag Archives: Social change

The Astrology of February 2013

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This post is dedicated to all those people committed to change in our world.

February is the tipping point which will move us all forward.

Remember to be kind to each other while we do this!

The Adult Territory of Desistance

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(This first appeared as a Guest Blog on the No Offence Forum – 5th October 2012)

 

Desistance is a new concept to me having only stumbled across the idea in the last week or so but it speaks to and answers a great many arguments I have had with both society and the justice system. It’s the first authentic approach I’ve found that offers adult-to-adult contact between offender and community by confronting the failures of responsibility on both sides of the relationship. In doing so, desistance offers the potential for change, transformation and healing. An offender cannot transform themselves out of that label and into desistance without similar changes within society itself. By stepping into the adult responsibilities of fault, the desisting offender calls to the same within the community. These are therapeutic concepts I recognise and am very familiar with. In encountering desistance, I met an old friend.
Whilst society, in general, makes a big song-and-dance about adult responsibilities, this is not actually reflected in a lot of its behaviour. The best theoretical structure to ‘hang’ this on probably comes from Transactional Analysis. TA talks about the different approaches to interpersonal relationships from the perspective of Parent-Adult-Child. Responsibility issues are clarified and become accessible to both sides of the criminal justice relationship, creating attainable measures for both.
For example; the traditional relationship between system and offender can be seen to belong to the ‘Critical Parent to Adapted Child’ dynamic. This is the “You are bad and must do as I tell you or else” message of the system to the individual offender who is expected to comply by adapting themselves, not simply their behaviour, to these highly critical parentally-oriented demands. That it fails ought to come as no surprise to anyone because it reinforces irresponsibility on both sides. In adult-to-adult relationships, we have to recognise that neither is going to be perfect because perfection is unattainable to honest human beings. We are all imperfect. The only difference between me and most of my community and me is that I am fully qualified as imperfect. Presently, as a rehabilitating or desisting offender, if I am taking on the adult responsibilities for my own social redemption, I will inevitably confront those aspects of a critical-parent society that refuses to take responsibility for allowing me to do this. These are the obstructions faced by both the individual offender and the criminal justice system. The beauty of desistance, both as an idea and as practice, is that it enables discussion between the two. We are required to relate to each other in order to find the way through. That desisters clearly exist demonstrates this ‘intelligent framework’ has functioning ‘legs’ capable of producing the outcomes society claims it wants. At the same time, desistance challenges that same society to transform the attitudes that actively prevent such outcomes from occurring.
One of the problems within the criminal justice system are the judgmental and blaming qualities within its structural ‘DNA’. What is certain, from a psychotherapeutic perspective, is that nothing can change whilst judgement and blame remain in overall charge. Introducing an adult-to-adult interpersonal dynamic to this system does not mean responsibility issues relating to the offences themselves are ignored – far from it. These have to remain as central issues because they are the necessary seed from which desistance can grow. Without the offence, there can be no desistance and there can be no change in either offender or the offended society. What makes the transformational difference is that the offence is seen as an aspect of the human being who is also an offender, rather than the whole of their being. A therapeutic relationship looks for what else the offender is capable of. We know they can behave so badly that they attract legal punishment but what else is there about the individual that is healthy and could be supported to the point where this overshadows the offence. This is what Carl Rogers called “unconditional positive regard”.
By utilising ‘unconditional positive regard’, the onus is placed on the offender themselves to build upon what is being identified – to diminish the unwanted and antisocial aspects of their attitudes and behaviour in favour of healthier alternatives. The choice for change becomes the offender’s adult responsibility and those who decline to take up the offer can be confronted with the fact that their refusal then becomes society’s responsibility to manage. It’s not a case of wholesale abandonment of traditional ways but of introducing a choice. Desistance adds to what exists but does not replace it. Society needs to be able to deal effectively with irresponsible criminal behaviour but a healthy society recognises that this is not the only solution.  If an offender takes up the personal and social responsibilities inherent within the desistance challenge, society is confronted by the need to provide the necessary support to make it a realistic and achievable possibility. The responsibility becomes a shared project where each party teaches the other about the problems within the collective field by identifying the personal and social factors which result in offending behaviour coupled with a joint effort to resolve them.
For as long as society and the individuals who make up that society are caught up in parent/child attitudes, we are all contributing to the creation of offending behaviour. It is a vicious circle that helps no-one and does a great deal of social harm. Excluding offenders from determining what they need in order to be able to shoulder the responsibilities of becoming a functioning adult is highly controlling, unhealthily parental behaviour. It inevitably fails those who might be capable of desistance were they given the necessary support.  From my own perspective, this is as socially irresponsible as any offender’s crime because it actively contributes to recidivism. Equally, failure to address the issues that give rise to criminal behaviour is socially irresponsible and offenders can be forgiven for thinking our political and social leaders are hypocrites because they are required to shoulder the entire blame created by poor decisions over which they had no control. In psychotherapeutic terms, critical parenting is abusive and adding more social controls on to already abusive circumstances can only create more problems than it will ever solve.
When I entered personal therapy for the first time, almost thirty years ago, I began a journey that brought me face-to-face with all those aspects of self that had failed to ‘grow-up’ into adult responsibility. Anyone who has undergone such self-examination will tell you that this is the hardest road anyone can walk. It is excruciatingly painful to discover that reality falls well short of our beliefs about ourselves. If society wants its pound of flesh from those engaged in desistance, I really couldn’t recommend this route more highly. Nevertheless, the advantage to the individual for undertaking such a monumental task is a level of self-worth and self-determination like no other. In examining our self-beliefs, we often find that those aspects we thought valuable are worthless and vice-versa. An individual who has a realistic grasp of their own value and capabilities has a very great deal to offer, regardless of how they got to that point. In fact, I might suggest that those who have direct experience of the worst of themselves and the society they grew up in have far more to offer at the end of such a therapeutic journey than those who have not. We know where the problems are because we’ve lived them and we have a better idea of effective solutions because we’ve tried them.
To become a healthy-enough and functioning adult is probably the greatest challenge as well as the greatest achievement available to any individual, offender or otherwise. Without a framework that recognises this, we create the problems we face now as a society. What we can be certain of is that the old ways of thinking don’t work and everyone, community and offender alike, is paying a very heavy price for this failure. The question we all need to ask is whether we can afford to continue to treat each other this way?
I know what my answer is. Do you?

“The Archetypal Scapegoat” – Part Four: The Goat that Escapes

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Expulsion from the Garden of Eden by Tommaso Cassai Masaccio

Before I embark upon the story of the second goat within the Scapegoat archetype or complex, I would like to briefly revisit the first one – the goat that dies. When I wrote about it here, I used a highly sensitive example that could easily have caused offence to all those involved in the events I described. I offer my sincere apologies to anyone who felt uncomfortable with it as a result. What I was attempting to do – albeit badly – was raise awareness of the very powerful spiritual component within unfolding events. Nevertheless, I would invite readers to explore some of the strikingly beautiful creative responses from the community directly affected that I have reblogged here, here and here.

From within a community that was feeling undervalued and attacked, have emerged poets and dreamers, volunteering time and effort to enable the sacred aspects needed to ensure that two women’s deaths did not pass unnoticed or dishonoured. It would have been a very hard heart indeed that remained unmoved by the response of both the police nationally and the city of Greater Manchester to the funerals of PC’s Hughes and Bone. If ever there was an example of ‘sacrifice as pharmakon’ or healing agent, this was surely it. It serves as a reminder of our best in the face of the worst humanity can sink to. It is important to remember that, within the ancient ritual, the souls of the sacrificed are rewarded with immediate union with god. For those who remain behind, such events are the reminder and memory of what is finest within us, the human face of the divine spirit within, which are not just measured by our living but by our dying as well. For the community as a whole, all failings on my part have been more than compensated for by the work of those more closely involved. In this instance, I am very grateful for their corrections to my mistakes.

Nevertheless, my exploration of the scapegoat is not yet complete. We still have the second goat to study – the one who is exiled. Given the examples I have been using for this series, it is interesting to note that Andrew Mitchell, instigator of “GateGate”, appears to have exiled himself from the political debates of his party’s conference. This has greater significance because his constituency is in Birmingham, where the Conservative Party conference is being held. It would seem as if he has become an exiled goat – a mild example of what happens to a sin carrier for the community.

The exiled goat is the most familiar aspect of the scapegoat ritual in modern times and our personal response to its emergence says far more about us than we might feel comfortable with. In a world whose perceptions are dualistic, this is the issue of ‘right’ (the high priest) and ‘wrong’ (the exiled goat). When this kind of separation is occurs within a community, it is inevitable that we will be applying such divisions to our own internal selves too. We make judgmental decisions about which bits of us are acceptable or not. Many of us exile aspects of our personalities we dislike to our unconscious in our attempts to fit it with our society. We fool ourselves into believing that the problem of sin is somehow ‘out there’ by failing to acknowledge or respect our own dark side. It is worth remembering that within an ego-level psyche, when we occupy our own personal moral high-ground, whatever we may think or feel about others, is almost certainly something within ourselves too. This is why we know it so well when we point our fingers at others and can recognise it for what it is. We are talking about our true selves when our ego becomes ‘high priest’. The only time this may not hold true is at a social conscience level. This is where we can openly acknowledge both our dark and light aspects whilst working in the interests of our wider community – these are the kinds of ‘special’ aspects of difference associated with the scapegoated exile.

Where the sacrificed goat speaks to ‘unholy’ divisions within the community, the exiled goat speaks to our attitude towards ‘difference’ both personally and collectively. There is always going to be a quality of difference within each one of us simply because we all have the potential to be unique individuals. This quality of individual difference means that, regardless of how we try, at some point we are all likely to have an experience of becoming the exiled goat.

There are many reasons why an individual might find themselves in the role of the exiled goat. Within the archetypes we find the voluntary (Jesus) and involuntary (Orestes); sinners (Oedipus) and innocents (Orpheus); and we find those for whom this is a vocation – the sin-eaters, like the Aztec goddess, Tlazolteutl. In all cases, the individual involved will be marked out by some personal difference, identified by the collective as ‘undesirable’, about which the ‘exile’ can do little or nothing because it is who they are. These are the vital differences within us, within the archetype, that are capable of carrying the sins of an entire community – the exiled goat doesn’t bear its own sins alone into the wilderness, it carries everyone’s.  There is something about these differences that are ‘bigger’ than the individual and capable of bearing far more than just the guilt of personal ‘transgression’.

So what might we look for as ‘different’ enough to be able to bear the weight of collective ‘sin’ of scapegoating? The following are common markers:-

Royalty

Amongst archetypal scapegoats, many are royal in some form or another. It’s a difference that marks the individual out as special or ‘above’ the commons.  In a psychological setting, this can be termed ‘grandiosity’ when viewed negatively or it might be an emerging of social conscience within an individual desiring to give to the greater ‘good’ of the community. To act on such beliefs inevitably sets an individual apart from the collective in the same way as royalty is perceived as ‘outside’ the general whole. Both archetypal and historical examples exist of the royal sacrifice and/or exile deemed to be necessary for greater social good. This is difference as specialness.

 Physical Differences

Many archetypal scapegoats have physical differences that mark them out as ‘special’. For example, the name Oedipus actually means ‘swollen foot’ which, in addition to his royalty, marks him out as dissimilar. Others, like Jesus during the crucifixion, are maimed. Scapegoats may be ugly or deformed in some way and this particular aspect comes into very clear focus when we consider how the scapegoat complex plays out at the collective level. People of physical ‘otherness’ often become targets of collective persecution.

 Foreign

Many individuals who find themselves scapegoated, either in archetype or reality, are perceived as foreign in their difference or specialness. This applies to equally to groups if ‘difference’ within a greater society and it is not hard to name examples who have experienced this, whether it be Jews of the past or Muslims in the present.

 Magical

Within the archetype, individuals may be perceived as having magical powers. For example, Orpheus’s music was regarded as so exquisitely beautiful it caused trees and stones to weep. Jesus could heal the blind and raise the dead. A scapegoat may have a mysterious talent that can be perceived as a gift in a stable environment but which transforms into a threat during a crisis. When the community faces a catastrophe, such individuals may find themselves blamed and hunted down for the same talents, skills or gifts previously regarded as blessings.

 “Mad”

This feature of scapegoating comes from psychological differences where individual perception is seen to be so different from the norm as to be regarded as madness. This is the role of holy fool who is, in some cultures, regarded as sacred and the madness as ‘god-inflicted’. Sometimes the individual may be genuinely insane; at other times, they may simply be guilty of holding a different viewpoint from that of the scapegoating collective.

Outlaw

“The scapegoat in myth may also be an outlaw whose crime has turned the wrath of the gods against the community. The scapegoat is the one who has committed, or is believed to have committed, the murder, the theft, the rape, the breach of social taboos. But the motive behind the crime is never simple…

The crimes of this kind of scapegoat figure are different from ordinary garden variety crimes. These crimes challenge some universal authority, breaking collective law yet at the same time fulfilling a secret collective need. The scapegoat may enact the crime which all of us long to commit, which on the most profound level is the crime of individuality. The mythic outlaw is often an individual who defies the stagnant or unjust rules of society or the gods, and he or she is punished by those laws at the same time as being secretly admired and envied by the very people who have invoked the punishment.”

(From “The Dark of the Soul” by Liz Greene: CPA Press 2003; ISBN: 978-1-900869-28-7)

 

These are the qualities likely to be found within those who are individually ‘marked out’ for attention when scapegoating moves within both the collective conscious and unconscious. When it erupts as a collective social complex, this ‘marking’ takes on the ominous destructiveness of ethnic or other ‘special’ cleansing. This form of scapegoating becomes the sacrificing/exiling of entire groups which, unfortunately, has become all too familiar. Groups likely to be subject to scapegoating persecution frequently fall into the following categories: race; religion; class; sexuality; gender; and “non-human”, like animals or the environment. We can begin to get a sense of what community values are by looking at those who are sacrificed or exiled. For example, if a society routinely scapegoats black people, Muslims, the differently-abled, the poor, the mad, non-heterosexuals, women and nature, these provide very precise measures of what it does value. Using recent examples, it’s possible to perceive the outline of the offended god demanding appeasement as probably white, maybe Christian, physically perfect, rich, ‘sane’, misogynistic, heterosexually male and disconnected from nature.  As humans, we are inevitably going to fall short of such measures which means, especially within the scapegoat complex, that as one ‘difference’ is sacrificed or exiled, other individual differences emerge to be subject to the same. The complex morphs into wholesale collective xenophobic attrition capable of exterminating whole communities and peoples.

Having identified those individuals or groups likely to carry the scapegoat archetype when a community experiences a crisis, it is vital to look at what sins are being exiled.

“The reason the goat is exiled is not because the community doesn’t like goats. It is because the community has offended God, and the exile is carrying that which has caused offence. This goat bears not only the pain of alienation from the community, but also the pain of alienation from its spiritual source.” (ibid)

 In addition, it is important is to explore how the individual exile responds to their situation. Some may choose to reject the exiling community:

“The exiled goat may… turn its back on the collective. The anger may be too great, and personal pride may also be involved. The exiled goat may say, “I don’t need them anyway. In fact, I am going to do everything in my power to sabotage and destroy the collective which has rejected me…” The exiled goat can become an anarchist and a revolutionary. It is the lone gunman, the social outcast who consciously chooses the role of outlaw. In its most extreme form, it is Charles Manson, who gleefully accepts the projection of the collective shadow and says, “Since you will condemn me whatever I am or do, I may as well do what I have been accused of, and justify your condemnation of me.” That response provides a form of power and a feeling of being special, and this can compensate for the humiliation of rejection. Such exiled goats are necessary to a community which is unconscious of its own sins, because they carry the collective shadow.” (ibid)

This is the realm of the terrorist whom having, either individually or collectively, experienced the terrors of rejection and exile, returns to visit this shadow upon the community who perpetrated the expulsion. This is particularly true when the ‘unconscious’ high priest mercilessly heaps communal sins upon individuals or groups who are subsequently destroyed or exiled through blame, thereby avoiding conscious responsibility for their own sins. It creates a vicious circle. As the ‘sin’ is hidden within the unconsciousness of the community itself, no amount of projection,  sacrifice or exile can resolve the ‘loss of connection to the divine’ and the failure requires more ‘high priests’ to relentlessly seek out new victims to blame. The ultimate result leads to an ‘empty world’ as one difference after another is sacrificed on the altar of this insatiable, blood-thirsty ‘god’ until the whole community is dead. Sadly, we do not need to look far for real-life examples of this being acted out in the world at the present time.

There are other choices available to an exiled scapegoat. They might refuse revenge but reject the community by choosing to remain in exile. A third option is the role of pharmakon – the exiled goat as healer. This is the goat who not only who escapes death thereby becoming ‘the one who lives’, albeit in exile, it is also the goat who returns from the wilderness seeking to win back the acceptance of the rejecting community through service to others.

It is this particular scapegoat, ‘the one who returns’, which is the subject of my next piece.

The Archetypal Scapegoat – 1

The Archetypal Scapegoat – 2

The Archetypal Scapegoat – 3

“The Archetypal Scapegoat” – Part Three: Blood Sacrifice

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The rainbow seen over the Greater Manchester Police headquarters, photographed after the deaths of PC’s Bone and Hughes (Copyright: unknown)

Author’s Note:

Due to the sensitivity of this particular subject and the example used, I sought feedback from those likely to be most affected. It was, quite rightly, pointed out that there is a danger in suggesting that the murders of PC’s Bone and Hughes were somehow ‘necessary’. This is not, nor ever has been, my intention in writing about the psychological and spiritual implications of the scapegoat archetype. My concerns reside with the possible consequences of  unconsciously ‘acting out’ this archetypal energy, given the highly destructive power this can have on both  individuals and communities in a very literal way. It is a global human pattern of behaviour actively at work in the world at the present time. The purpose of my exploration is to heighten our awareness of these dangers as well as highlighting the creative and healing potentials available to all of us when we become ‘awake’ to how we are personally affected by this archetype.

There was no ‘need’ for PC Hughes and Bone to die such appalling deaths. There is a desperate need to ensure that their sacrifice was not in vain.

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To recap briefly, in the ancient Hebraic ritual of atonement, two goats were required to in order to successfully reconcile the community with God. (See “The Archetypal Scapegoat” Parts One and Two) This piece explores the role of the first goat; the blood sacrifice. Bearing in mind that the scapegoat archetype exists within the collective human psyche, it is important to remember that the ‘ritual’ can be enacted as sacred or profane at both conscious and unconscious levels.

To begin with the sacred, we need to understand that both scapegoats – the sacrifice and the exile – are not ‘dirty’ or ‘bad’. They are holy – each goat is an agent of atonement; a vessel for collective sins by which the community reconciles with the Divine – to become “at-one” with God. The sacrificed goat serves as a ‘sin-offering’ to placate the angry god for the ‘uncleanness’ of the community. In the ritual, the blood of the first goat cleanses and makes sacred the sanctuary, tabernacle and altar which have been befouled by transgressions and sins of the people. The remains of this sin-offering were regarded at unclean and were burned outside the community.

Whilst, to modern secular minds, this might appear ancient and barbaric, it is nevertheless true that the ritual served a very important purpose because it cleansed the community of its psychic rubbish by openly acknowledging human faults and failings and taking steps to redress the balance from the worst we are capable of to the best. The sin-offering of the blood sacrifice was to atone with the Divine. Because this is an archetype within the human psyche, this cyclical pattern turns up in the history of many cultures and the blood sacrifice is not always an animal. We use humans too!

To understand why communities would enact such a ritual, it is important to realise the psychological components inherent within it. In Western culture, the greatest value within humanity resides within individual. Elsewhere the importance of the individual can be subsumed into the importance of the collective – the value is seen as belonging to the people as a whole, not to the individual themselves. To be selected as the blood sacrifice was regarded as an honour. To be chosen meant that, instead of merely being an ordinary part of the greater whole, the individual became a healing agent whose reward for their sacrifice was immediate union with God. The chosen one accepted the role because it meant they were sanctified as individuals, their sacrifice contributing to the reconciliation of the community as a whole with that deemed as sacred. They were never downtrodden tyrannised victims but honoured, holy volunteers whose gift of personal life enabled their community to survive. It is the ultimate sacrifice for the collective good, whether this is part of a cyclical cleansing or occurs as the result of some special crisis when the community realises it has lost its connection with the Divine.

In a secular, solar-focussed culture, the scapegoat archetype exists within both the individual and the collective psyche. None of us are ‘perfect’ and humanity wobbles between the best we can aspire to and the worst we are capable of. The archetype emerges during crises where we become severed from the best as a result of ‘sin’ or that which violates the essence of the sacred. Some rituals may result from ‘natural’ causes like famine or disaster but the pattern, as a psychological complex that compels us into the blood sacrifice, will always have its origins in human sin. What counts as ‘sin’ varies from culture to culture but, when the imbalance is experienced, we look for the necessary sacrifice required to redress the problem either consciously or unconsciously. We become ‘blood-thirsty’ priests, individually or collectively. It is important to remember that without the sacred aspect of the scapegoat ritual, the complex compels us into the ‘blood-bath’.

The initial creative impulse for this series came as the result of the murders of two unarmed police constables in Manchester, UK. Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone were sent on what appeared to be a routine call, only to encounter a gunman who opened fire upon them with both bullets and a grenade. If these events are seen from a purely secular perspective, their untimely deaths might have little value and we could lose the sacred potentials inherent within the situation. If, however, the sacred element is seen and recognised for what it is, their deaths have the potential to act as a pharmakon, or healing agent, for a community that has lost its connection to the Divine-within. Bear in mind that the scapegoat is an archetype, not a religion – we need look to the spirit-within both the individuals and the community involved in order to grasp the concept at its deeper level of meaning. Whilst this event may have ramifications for UK society as a whole, the elements of the blood sacrifice are most obvious within the policing community.

The sacred element is already present within UK policing because each new constable is required to swear an Oath before they are permitted to work for and on behalf of the wider community. This is a collective requirement that imposes personal sacrifices upon each individual and sets the standards of behaviour necessary to discharge their public responsibilities. In terms of policing, the deepest sacred value belongs within the community, not the individual and is designed to protect that community from harm through prevention or ‘cure’.  The Office of Constable is therefore already a ‘pharmakon’ or healing agent for society – it is already sanctified.

In this instance, the scapegoat archetype or complex was triggered into existence by a special kind of crisis where the community itself had become so ‘unclean’ or sinful that the people had become disconnected from the sacred. Sadly, we do not have to look very far to see how that disconnection has and continues to occur within the UK police community. Whilst it is impossible to know what was going on in the mind of the perpetrator responsible, within the archetype itself both women meet the ritual requirements for a blood sacrifice. They were ‘chosen’ to answer a ‘shout’ and, by their oath, they had already accepted the possibility that they might find themselves in the role of sacrifice for the greater good of the community. From the wider understanding of the archetype, they became vessels for collective sin and the means by which the community reconnected with the sacred or divine. They became holy agents of atonement. Within this sacred dimension, to be chosen is an honour and the personal reward for accepting it means that their ‘souls’ or ‘essence’ go directly into the embrace of the Divine. Additionally, they become a ‘vessel’ for collective sin by which the community itself atones and reconciles with the Divine.

Given the close proximity in time that connects their deaths with the public exposure of corruption within the police, it is evident that the sacred element of the blood sacrifice has successfully impacted upon the collective psyche within the UK community. For the police themselves, levels of personal self-examination have been heightened as the word ‘vocation’ starts to be associated with the work itself. Although there are secular financial disputes between police and society, some constables are awakening to the realisation that they are called to this work simply because of who they are – a vocation contains a sacred quality that speaks to the best within us. Additionally, when officers were subsequently subject to aggression and verbal abuse by a member of government, the general public response was to support the police. I have to wonder if the public’s response would have been the same without the blood sacrifice of Nicola and Fiona, especially in the light of the contents of Hillsborough Report.

As a shaman, it is impossible not to notice the very close timing or synchronicity between the public exposure of ancient sins of the past (Hillsborough), a blood sacrifice and a subsequent ‘test’ to establish the veracity and sanctity of the sacrifice. However, the archetypal ritual/psychological complex of the scapegoat is not over. There is a second goat – the goat that escapes. This goat will be the focus of my next piece.

Nevertheless, given that the funerals of the two police constables are only a few days away, it is my hope that this piece contributes to and deepens the sanctity of these services, not just for the police but for the UK as a whole. We are all going to need this sacred energy if we are to find our way through the problems besetting us and we will need a ‘cleansed’ and sanctified police to help us to do this fairly.

An Open Letter to the TUC Conference

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To Frances O’Grady, the new General Secretary of the TUC

 

 

My very dear Sister,

 

You have no idea how long I have waited to be able to greet a Leader of the UK Trade Union movement as ‘Sister’. It makes such a difference to how I say the following and how it might be heard. I know you have a busy few days ahead and that your agenda was decided ages ago but very recent political changes might allow for the odd emergency motion. Even if that isn’t possible, perhaps some of the points I raise might influence future TU thinking about the problems facing all ordinary people.

As someone who is moving slowly from sickness benefit to self-employment I’m not eligible for TU membership but as a former shop steward and TU activist during the Thatcher era I’ve never lost the ‘attitude’. From what I am observing, just about every union member has reason to object to current government plans, whether they are affiliated to the TUC or not. What I would ask you, as the new TUC General Secretary, is to remember  that these problems are being faced by everyone, whether they are a TU member or not, because the hardships your members are facing are already impacting upon those living at the poverty end of our social spectrum. I doubt if you need reminding. Your grassroots membership will be directly experiencing these issues anyway.

The trade union movement and ordinary people have faced these kinds of Tory – (and, sadly, Labour) – problems before and the Coalition seems intent on following the same agenda. It starts with  attacks upon resources, which can be on the existence of work itself; terms and conditions; pay;  pensions; and/or a combination of all the above.  The TU movement traditionally responds with protest marches, industrial action and strikes which, sadly, have been known to fail miserably. Given the present Coalition government and its attitude towards the electorate in general, the possibility of further failure starts to look like becoming a miserable reality. With this in mind, I would like to suggest an addition to any actions the TU movement might be considering.

One of the phrases that has apparently fallen off the collective UK agenda in recent times is the issue of the social contract between governed and government. If I look for legislation that might cover this, I find myself looking at Human Rights law. Fortunately this continues to remain in force within the UK (for the time being) and can therefore be tested. The Act recognises peoples’ right to very basic requirements, like life itself, which are under apparent attack from our government. The existence of the Act could offer a route to challenge what is occurring if dealt with in the proper way.

From my own perspective, the heart of government attack upon the social contract resides in the repeal of the UK government’s obligation to provide universal healthcare in England.  That this has been enacted by a government-without-mandate; who purposefully disguised their intentions prior to their election; and who actively withheld advice on the changes being proposed when the matter came to be debated in Parliament, points to an intentional breach of a UK social contract that had been in place for sixty years.  Removing this right to health-care goes to the heart of both the social contract and Human Rights legislation because it affects everyone. At the very least, it ought to be subject to informed debate and any honourable government proposing such a massive change has a social responsibility to put the matter to those affected by it, if not by election then by referendum at the very least. That our present government actively chose to circumvent this democratic process in order to force these changes upon the people ought to be challengeable through the courts even if the aim is simply to require the democratic right to vote on it. If fundamental human rights are being withdrawn by government then, in a democracy, the people have to give informed consent – the people of our country were not told, nor were they asked. In fact, they were intentionally misled. This has been called “a deceitful way to govern”, particularly when set alongside the removal of accessible safeguards or advice to help those affected by such changes.

I am no lawyer but, in the past, when employment law failed to provide the necessary vehicle for problem resolution, trade unionists fought their cases via contract law. Human Right’s legislation forms part of our social contract. If that contract has been violated, then laws ought to exist that challenge this. If the TUC were to consider exploring this possibility, I suspect there is a firm chance that you would find yourself backed by the public in ways you have not been before.

For those outside the trade union movement – and particularly those outside work – it can be hard to feel a part of the ‘working class’ given the issues being fought. Strikes around pensions or pay mean little to us and this creates conflict even though the issues impact upon us all. It’s hard to work up enthusiasm about protecting public-service pensions, for example, when we can’t feed our families, heat our homes or find meaningful work. This isn’t meant to be critical of trade unions – from past experience, I can fully understand the need to address such issues – but it is a fact and it results in the unions themselves becoming isolated, which makes you easier to pick off. I know industrial action may look as though it is about money, and this can be true, but I also know that public service unions act to protect the existence of the services their members provide to us. Such protective industrial action will be under consideration by your conference this week and it is also being considered elsewhere.

Without doubt, if the trade union movement embarks on major industrial action in the face of government attrition towards our public services, in all likelihood you will be attacked using the same old divisive tactics, especially if the issues are limited to pay or pensions. On the other hand, if the trade union movement, as a whole, were to include legal challenges aimed at restoring the democratic process by demanding a referendum on the peoples’ right to health care, or whether our emergency services should be subject to privatisation, or *fill in this space*, the chances of your attracting collective public support could be extremely high. The TUC and the trade unions might not be able to do this directly, under your rules, but I doubt these would prevent you jointly creating an organisation that could.

Ordinary people have been looking for help and finding none. The Labour Party’s performance in these areas has been abysmal; too many Labour MP’s and peers seem to be profiting from these government changes to render it trustworthy. The usual cries of solidarity with Labour are likely to fall on very stony ground as far as the poor are concerned because Labour has been silent for too long and appears complicit in government attacks upon the needs and resources of ordinary people.  For the TUC, this problem is for the Labour Party address, but if the so-called political wing of the trade union movement is failing in its duty, then perhaps it’s time to create another wing, beyond the reach of party politics, that will tackle these issues.

Speaking as one woman to another, when the hungry children of our country are viewed in this way, there is a crying need for democratic change. Based upon recent behaviour, we will not be getting this from many of the incumbent parliamentarians, regardless of party. The only other existing routes for the people are through the likes of the trade union and other social movements.

As the new Leader of the TUC, I’m asking you to consider these points and lead the collective action needed to successfully challenge our undemocratic government through the use of Law. This can be done in addition to any other actions the trade union movement may deem necessary.

If the people, as a whole, know you are acting on their behalf as well as in the interests of your members, the inevitable hardships that follow can be faced together. We’ve seen this happen before during the Miner’s strikes of the 1980’s, when the women stepped up to stand alongside the men. Were the women of the TUC to spearhead a democratic initiative to force referendums on present government plans, I suspect that this phenomenon would happen again. Why women? Because they are the people who hear and feel their children crying from hunger!

These are only ideas – I’ll circulate them to see if they gain traction. In the meantime, perhaps Conference delegates would be willing to consider them too, since we’ve got them altogether.

Thank you for listening.

 

In sisterhood,

 

 

Dee Wilde-Walker

The Politics of Integrity

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HRA Lord Bingham

In a highly polarised society where opposites co-exist – ‘the rich man in his castle, the poor man at the gate’ – to strive to be balanced is probably the most subversive human adventure of all.

To observe and detail how a society gets caught up in the politics of envy, the balanced individual needs to seek out and experience each polarity that exists within it. Dualism demands there is an opposite to envy. So what on earth could it be? We can be deeply grateful to the rather cranky and argumentative psychoanalyst, Melanie Klein, for her work in identifying it.

The opposite of envy is gratitude.

If envy is the negative human expression of perceived scarcity and how we respond to it, the polar opposite will have to contain the positive human expression of perceived abundance. In this dynamic, perception is the key that holds our power to choose how we handle these natural experiences. The dance between scarcity and abundance is normal for Planet Earth, with her ages and seasons in constant flux and all our human stories, myths and legends reflect this. As human beings, we are subject to these changes whether we like it or not and any personal or individual power resides solely in how we respond.

We live on a planet that is in the throes of a Life-Death-Life transition. For those of us in Western Society, we are moving from an experience of abundance to an experience of deep scarcity. In the natural cycles, this is normal because it opens the doors for the next cycle of growth or Life. Some things die back in order to make way for the new. This brings unexpected changes as we learn to live with loss, often of aspects or people we hold very dear to us. For those who survive it, the Death cycle teaches us the value of grief by tipping us into the underworld of human experience and forcing us to make choices about how we will live in the future. Freud describes this as Eros and Thanatos – the choice between life and death. What is important here is that life is represented by the god of Love; Eros.

It is not smooth sailing on quiet seas that teaches us about who we are. We only really get to know ourselves well by enduring the storms and tempests of human experience. Death removes the flesh from our existence and introduces us to the bones of our inner selves. It is at these depths that we learn about the choices we make.

In ‘The Politics of Envy’, I explore the negative polarity of loss and scarcity when unexplored personal choices are rooted in envy. Without doubt, this is the underworld of Thanatos where there is no hiding the depths to which humanity can sink. In the realm of envy, the choice is death but this is not the only region in Hades. In therapeutic terms, laying bare the bones of envy serves a very important purpose because it moves the client firmly into the realm of personal choice. Do we cling to our egos or do we move on?

The key question to ask is “What is good about this experience?” In other words, what can we feel grateful for?

Bear in mind that, in a dualistic reality, the glass is always half full/empty.  If we can only perceive emptiness, we remain caught in the jaws of egotistical envy because any possibility for creativity (fullness) is denied. When we start seeing the opposite polarity the emptiness remains because it forms part of the reality of loss but we add something new – potential. We can deepen this potential by intensifying the experience through the perception of gratitude. That’s the theory, anyway! In practice, it can be much harder. What I can say is that it is worth the effort.

The cycle of Life-Death-Life is intensely painful and is frequently the cause of significant suffering, especially at the nadir. It is a paradoxical question, asking what might be good about this and my own past reactions have often been filled with astonished and enraged indignation! These are normal human responses to the shocks associated with deep and irrevocable loss that leave us feeling powerless. We are victims of circumstance as well as our own choices and the notion that we could find something to be grateful for in all of it produces outrage. This is a totally, beautifully normal and healthy part of human experience. The grieving process always contains rage because this is the emotion that moves us forward through the darkness. These feelings are how we explore the underworld that exists within each of us. They cause us to look around to see what is left after everything has died. By hunting down even the smallest seeds of gratitude, we are laying the foundations for return and rebirth. We are choosing life; not the old life but a new one based on the wisdom we have gathered through our underworld journey.

These archetypal processes apply to the whole of humanity and they have been very well documented by the likes of Joseph Campbell and Clarissa Pinkola-Estes. The purpose is to teach us the demands of the well-springs of human potential. They come with a price-tag because their wisdom can only be unlocked via repeated personal journeys through the underworld.

In my own experience, the seeds of gratitude come through acts of kindness and generosity between ourselves and our perception of the world. It is a momentous act of personal kindness towards reality  when we choose to relinquish our egotistical need for personal control, cease to envy and learn to become grateful for our journey through the travails and triumphs of life. In a world petrified by the politics of envy, this is an act of true power that cannot be equalled simply because it can only be achieved through the unique personal choice of an evolving human being. The new energies emerge as choice piles upon personal choice. From the underworld, we can see all those who literally sacrificed their own lives so we could learn how to do this. From the depths, we can see those who choose to be kind when cruelty was available to them too. Within the darkest places of the human psyche, we encounter fellow travellers who share their nuggets of wisdom, enabling us to take the next step on our return journey to a new way of living. We learn to share ourselves. We learn we have something valuable to share when we do this. We learn that there are better ways of living than those we thought we knew. But, for me, there is one lesson that stands head and shoulders above the rest.

The journey through loss, rage and envy teaches us who we are and topples us into the experience of grief. When we encounter deep grief, we meet our natural instincts face to face. Grief is the journey of pain and suffering but it is also the landscape of our capacity for Love. The deeper our ability to feel pain, the deeper our direct experience of Love itself because it is the only power in the universe that can make this journey and live. This is the deepest knowledge of all and it is the wisdom of the Spirit.

I share a very deep empathy with atheists because what is being rejected, in Spiritual terms, are the religious constructs of envy which refuse personal experience of the underworld whilst applying its strictures to others. Nevertheless, within the core beliefs of every religion dwell fundamental spiritual truths about the human experience of Life itself. Not for nothing does Jesus teach that the only way to enter the experience of Heaven is by being born again. It is not a pretty theory; it is blisteringly hard practice. Not for nothing does Islam require Ramadan because it is a repeated experiential teaching in the power of scarcity. Not for nothing does the Buddha teach that the path through Life is found through the balance of Light and Dark. These are lessons in Love itself and they teach us gratitude for the wonder of Life itself.

Where I part with company of atheists resides in the issue of Life after Death. That anything so fine, so precious, so infinitely valuable as these lessons in the fundamental experience of the healthy human spirit-under-fire could be discarded at the point of physical death simply goes against the Laws of Nature. Nature is not wasteful. To imagine Nature casually discarding something so extraordinarily important beggars belief and falsifies perception. Given that perception dwells at the heart of human politics, to deny the essence of the healthy human spirit is to choose the path of envy. To perceive this miracle of humanity is to be grateful for Life itself in all its forms and is how we contribute towards and align ourselves with creative manifestation. This is the process of rebirth and it always has a spiritual component because the dynamic can’t function without it. The atheists can argue about this all they want but the evidence is already in. History is littered with examples of this too.

The process of collective rebirth is as inclusive as the politics of envy is exclusive. When we experience the depths of our being, we stop caring about labels and start seeking the essence. It doesn’t matter what someone is, we want to know who they are. Do I care if someone is an atheist? Not in the least! They are teaching themselves something that only they can learn in their own unique way. Do I mind about some of the hardships I’ve experienced? Of course I do! They are my precious teachers and my most intuitive guides. Am I better or worse than another? How the hell do I know! I aim to be equal because that’s all that’s left me if I am to appreciate what I’ve learned in my gratitude for Life.

Within the politics of envy, I am an unwanted exile which points to the possibility that I, amongst many others, am envied by the rich. Within this paradigm, what on earth could the rich perceive as a quality in me that could never exist in them?

Perhaps it is in the simple grace of finding it within ourselves to be grateful for who we are and not just what we have.

So, UK: Exactly How Big A Mess Are We In?

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Every so often, there is a shift in collective thinking and new minds are awakened to the collective problems we are facing together. From my observations, it would seem that we have a new ‘class’ who have just joined those of us who have been awake for a while.

It can be a confusing and difficult experience for the newbie, so this is a ‘Cooks Tour’ of the problems I believe we are all facing in one form or another.

1.     Introduction

As humanity enters September 2012, we are faced with some very serious problems that will affect us all. The crisis affecting the global economy is already at lethal levels for ordinary people and is set to worsen in the immediate future as we enter a global food crisis resulting from drought and crop failures around the world. This is already being felt in rising food costs. These are very serious problems that are affecting a rapidly increasing number of British people and are set to get much worse before they improve.

A healthy society facing such enormous problems will look to their leaders for collective solutions. Regrettably, evidence suggests that many ‘solutions’ being passed by the British government at present do not appear to be serving the public and there is increasing opinion that it favours a very small group whose main focus appears to be maximising private profit regardless of social expense.

In order to full appreciate the seriousness of the problem, it is often useful to find and apply recognised measures of healthy behaviour, both in ourselves as well as in others. By looking at healthy measures, we can begin to appreciate how ‘sick’ we might actually be.

It helps to start with people at the top because any problems here will have a flow-down effect upon the population.

2.     Setting the Standards in Government

In the UK, elected members of Parliament are required to adhere to the following, taken (from “The Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament”) :

IV.  General Principles of Conduct

8.  In carrying out their parliamentary and public duties, Members will be expected to observe the following general principles of conduct identified by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in its First Report as applying to holders of public office.[1] These principles will be taken into account when considering the investigation and determination of any allegations of breaches of the rules of conduct in Part V of the Code.

Selflessness

Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

Integrity

Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.

Objectivity

In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.

Accountability

Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.

Openness

Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

Honesty

Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.

Leadership

Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.”

 

Paragraph 10 of the same document goes on to say this:

 

“Members shall base their conduct on a consideration of the public interest, avoid conflict between personal interest and the public interest and resolve any conflict between the two, at once, and in favour of the public interest.”

 

Given that this Code applies to all UK MP’s, it might be reasonable to assume that these requirements form a part of a Social Contract to govern and if it forms part of a contract, then failure to comply results in a breach of that contact. For example, under UK Employment Law, the Contract is deemed to be an agreement between consenting adults and sets down the standards expected of both employer and employee as well as detailing how serious contractual breaches will be dealt with, up to and including dismissal.

Readers are invited to consider whether they have seen any evidence to suggest that this Code might have been broken.

3.     The Social Contract

Who ever is elected to Parliament takes on the responsibility to meet the genuine needs of the electorate. Because this area has always been a matter of interpretation, setting measures that identify these needs can be difficult. There is one simplistic measure that addresses this in general terms: Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Whilst there are disagreements about how Maslow interpreted these needs, there is general agreement that the first two fundamental needs have remained fairly accurate during 70 years of study. These are:

Physiological needs

For the most part, physiological needs are obvious – they are the literal requirements for human survival. If these requirements are not met, the human body simply cannot continue to function.

Physiological needs are the most prepotent of all the other needs. Therefore, the human that lacks food, love, esteem, or safety would consider the greatest of his/her needs to be food.

Air, water, and food are metabolic requirements for survival in all animals, including humans. Clothing and shelter provide necessary protection from the elements. The intensity of the human sexual instinct is shaped more by sexual competition than maintaining a birth rate adequate to survival of the species.

and

Safety needs

With their physical needs relatively satisfied, the individual’s safety needs take precedence and dominate behavior. In the absence of physical safety – due to war, natural disaster, or, in cases of family violence, childhood abuse, etc. – people (re-)experience post-traumatic stress disorder and trans-generational trauma transfer. In the absence of economic safety – due to economic crisis and lack of work opportunities – these safety needs manifest themselves in such things as a preference for job security, grievance procedures for protecting the individual from unilateral authority, savings accounts, insurance policies, reasonable disability accommodations, and the like. This level is more likely to be found in children because they have a greater need to feel safe.

Safety and Security needs include:

  • Personal security
  • Financial security
  • Health and well-being
  • Safety net against accidents/illness and their adverse impacts

Although it has been subject to greater disagreement and debate, I include the third hierarchy because it provides a pertinent commentary to the previous two needs:-

Love and belonging

After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third layer of human needs are interpersonal and involve feelings of belongingness. The need is especially strong in childhood and can over-ride the need for safety as witnessed in children who cling to abusive parents. Deficiencies with respect to this aspect of Maslow’s hierarchy – due to hospitalism, neglect, shunning, ostracism etc. – can impact individual’s ability to form and maintain emotionally significant relationships in general, such as:

  • Friendship
  • Intimacy
  • Family

Humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance, whether it comes from a large social group, such as clubs, office culture, religious groups, professional organizations, sports teams, gangs, or small social connections (family members, intimate partners, mentors, close colleagues, confidants). They need to love and be loved (sexually and non-sexually) by others. In the absence of these elements, many people become susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety, and clinical depression. This need for belonging can often overcome the physiological and security needs, depending on the strength of the peer pressure; an anorexic, for example, may ignore the need to eat and the security of health for a feeling of control and belonging

4.     How the Social Contract is being applied by the UK Government

a.      Physiological Needs

At present, there does not appear to be any forward planning with regard to food shortages in the UK, although the problem clearly is starting to affect our society.

This is from Wikipedia:

UK Foodbanks

There has been rapid growth in the provision of UK foodbanks since the financial crisis that began in 2007. Most UK food banks are co-ordinated by The Trussell Trust , a Christian charity based in Salisbury which serves as the UK’s only food bank network. Trusell’s first food bank was established in 2000; in 2004 they only ran two. [15] [16] Before the financial crisis, food banks were “almost unheard of” in the UK. [17] [18] In 2007 / 2008 there were only 22 food banks in the Trusell network; by early 2011, Trussell supported 100. As of May 2012, they had 201. By August, 252. The rate of increase has been rising rapidly. In 2011, only about one new food bank was being opened per week. In early 2012, about two were being opened each week. By July, Trussell had reported that the rate of new openings had increased to three per week, and by August, four were being opened each week, with three new food banks being opened in that month for Nottingham alone. [19] [20] [21] [22] Demand for food banks is expected to increase even further when cuts to welfare come into effect in April 2013; several councils have began looking at funding foodbanks to increase their capability, as cuts to their budgets mean they’ll be less able to help vulnerable people directly. [23]

Most UK foodbanks are hosted by churches. About a third of their food comes from supermarkets, with much of it donated by individuals. Trussell Trust aims to provide short term support for people whose needs have not yet been addressed by official state welfare provision; those who have been ‘falling into the cracks in the system’. The Trussell franchise has procedures which aim to prevent long term dependency on their services, and to ensure that those in need are referred to qualified outside agencies. The charity suggests that the credit crunch caused an upsurge in the number of people needing emergency food. Since 2010, demand for foodbanks continued to increase, and at a more rapid rate, partly as austerity began to take effect, and partly as those on low incomes began to draw down savings and run out of friends they of whom they are willing to request support from. Unlike soup kitchens [24], most UK food banks are unable to help people who come in off the street without a referral – instead they operate with a referral system. Vouchers are handed out to those in need by various sorts of professional, such as Social workers, health workers and housing officials. The voucher can typically be exchanged at the food bank for a package of food sufficient to last three days. A small number of foodbanks have been set up outside of the Trussell system, in part as they dont like having to turn away folk without referrals. [19] [25] [26] [20] [21] [15]

People who turn to food banks are typically grateful both for the food and for the warmth and kindness they receive from the volunteers. However sometimes food banks have ran out of suppliers by the time they arrive. Some find it humiliating to have to ask for food, and that the packages they receive dont always seem nutritious. Some food banks have tried to respond with innovative programmes; London street food bank for example has began asking donors to send in supermarket vouchers so that those they serve will be able to choose food that best meets their nutritional needs. [27] [16] [28] [21]

Britain’s prime Minister David Cameron has welcomed the efforts of food banks; Caroline Spelman , his Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has described food banks as an “excellent example” of active citizenship. Labour MP Kate Green has a different view, feeling that the rise of food banks reflects folk being let down by the State Welfare system, saying “I feel a real burning anger about them … People are very distressed at having to ask for food; it’s humiliating and distressing.””

At present, the UK Government appears to be relying upon charity to meet the most fundamental human need of all; food. Whether this policy meets the criteria of social responsibility in a time of crisis remains to be seen but given current forecasts by the World Bank, if there are no government-led responses to these issues soon, it is likely to be failing in it’s duty to the public it was elected to serve.

We can also add a housing shortage and soaring energy costs to the list British people’s physiological needs.

Without food or, in a climate like ours, shelter and warmth then we can reasonably expect people to die. Whether this consequence is already occurring is a matter that needs to be examined by those involved.

b.      Security Needs

The impact of shortages upon peoples’ physiological needs have a direct consequence upon the security of society. Food shortages are known to result in food riots and such events have already been predicted for the UK. An absence of socially responsible initiatives from government is likely to contribute towards such unrest.

When riots occur, as they already have, a healthy government and public would look to the police in containing the immediate problem and restoring public safety. Given the present unrelenting political pressure in favour of privatising Britain’s police services and the already implemented reduction of publicly-funded front line staff, it might be worth considering whether the police are actually capable of meeting this expectation anymore. If we listen to the police, they are raising these concerns themselves. A further concern to the public would be whom this privatised police force would serve especially as some elected officials, in other parts of the world, have openly referred to the police as ‘their private army’.

Further, the demand for health services arising from the failure to meet basic physiological needs is also likely to occur. This is will be happening at a time when the National Health Service is also being subject to unrelenting political pressure to privatise too. If we listen to those involved, they are already reporting the consequences.

To this, we must add the following:

  • reductions in social welfare payments to the sick and disabled via ‘assessments’ utilising methods of questionable ethics .
  • requirements for the unemployed to work, without pay, in order to continue to be eligible for benefit payments. That profitable private industry is the recipient of this unpaid workforce also raises ethical questions regarding what is or is not in the public interest.

This is not an exhaustive list – many other issues have been left out – nor are the issues dealt with in depth because they have been very well addressed elsewhere. Clearly, even with these limitations, there is a very serious picture emerging about the factual condition of British society that is not being thoroughly addressed, as far as I can determine at present, by those whose responsibility it is to do so.

It is my opinion that one of the biggest obstacles to addressing the above is current party politics and this includes all the main political parties of the UK. These problems become much clearer when viewed from Maslow’s third hierarchical need.

c.       Love and Belonging

Each individual will have their own interpretation of the meaning of these terms. In social terms, however, this level of need refers to social inclusion and appreciation.

The following are a list of links that explore various forms of social inclusion in the UK:

http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/very-definition-of-irony.html

http://www.brucelawson.co.uk/2012/hard-working-tory-mps-on-lazy-british-workers/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/marketforceslive/2012/aug/22/sse-investors-applaud-price-hike

http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2012/08/22/rolling-in-it-the-mps-making-six-figure-sums-outside-parliament/

In the light of the above, it would be reasonable to conclude that social inclusion of all the UK population does not register high on our present Coalition government’s agenda. What is more disturbing is that those political parties whose public duty would be to act as a break to Coalition policy, or to act in opposition, have significantly failed to do so. By failing to act, it would also be reasonable to suppose that present government policies are a result of cross-party consensus. If this supposition is true, then the British people are facing a constitutional crisis alongside all the other crises now occurring.

5.     How this crisis has occurred

When faced with effectively managing this kind of crisis, all contributory factors have to be considered whilst trying to identify workable solutions.  Some factors, such as the food crisis, are beyond human control whereas others, like political agendas, remain firmly within it.

In my opinion, it seems that to all intents and purposes, the UK Coalition Government has chosen to abandon the general public interest at a time of great need. According to the MP’s Code of Conduct, this should not occur:

 

“Members shall base their conduct on a consideration of the public interest, avoid conflict between personal interest and the public interest and resolve any conflict between the two, at once, and in favour of the public interest.”

 

But given the impact of present government policies what is now regarded as ‘public interest’ does not appear to be especially inclusive , as the following links clearly show:

http://socialinvestigations.blogspot.co.uk/p/mps-with-or-had-financial-links-to.html

http://socialinvestigations.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/the-telegraph-think-tank-and-very-dodgy.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/8442756/MPs-who-repaid-expenses-got-money-back-in-secret-deal.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/aug/20/tax-inspectors-clash-mp-expenses?CMP=twt_gu

I would suggest that when MP’s apparently fail to adhere to the standards of the Members Code of Conduct, either individually or collectively, it inevitably follows that the public will suffer the kind of abuses to human needs outlined above. I would also suggest that failures to address the problem point to high levels of collusion amongst those empowered to call transgressors to account.

It is clear that those involved see no problem with their actions and have every intention of imposing further hardships upon those whose needs it refuses to recognise, as evidenced by the following tweet from one of the Government’s ‘think-tanks’, Policy Exchange.

Under this kind of aggressive thinking, unless or until the situation changes, ordinary people can no longer expect any realistic support from their government unless individual MP’s personally choose to place their constituents needs above those of their respective party’s policy. It can be noted that this is starting to occur but whether this marks a true change in political thinking remains to be seen.

If that change were to take root, there is already one strikingly successful solution that could be considered as an alternative to current UK policies.

6.     A Part of the Solution

 

These are all very serious issues that seem to be stuck for ideas when it comes to solutions.

Whilst there are undoubtedly questions to answer about who is responsible and what needs to be done to prevent this occurring in the future, the problem with such discussions is that they do not materially contribute to resolving the immediate problems we are facing. These need to be dealt with at local level. If my neighbour is starving, it is not my MP in Westminster who sees this, but me.

During the last eleven years, I have lived amongst the poor and excluded as one of them. What I have noticed are the high levels of unexpected creativity and practicality when these groups are asked to resolve problems affecting them directly. This can prove to be particularly successful when those involved are given the resources to do it. Such resources may have initial investment costs but these more than pay for themselves over the longer term. Unfortunately, many workable solutions that might be produced by the poor for the poor are likely to be disregarded or dismissed in favour of a form of accepted thinking that is demonstrably failing society elsewhere. The first issue that needs ‘unsticking’ is the belief that those currently labelled ‘undesirable’ or ‘excluded’ have nothing to offer a country in crisis.

The second issue that needs addressing is the assumption that the prevailing ‘Westminster’ view of society is the only opinion available. What may suit London and the South East does not suit other regions. Imposing Westminster solutions will inevitably fail if the region itself has different ideas. Enabling and resourcing regions to support their local communities on their own terms falls into the kind of investment described above. Such investment contributes to the local economy thereby reducing unemployment whilst, at the same time, creating needed social infrastructures tailored to met direct need. These are the politics of social inclusion.

Finally, there needs to be recognition that the private sector may well have something socially worthwhile to offer. Not all those working in the private sector are crooks and liars indeed some are already stepping forward to assist others. In addition, the private sector offers greater legal flexibility than the public. The public sector is only permitted to do that enshrined in law and no more. The private sector may do anything provided it is not prohibited in law. Were a private company to enshrine social and corporate responsibility as part of its operational practice, it may well be able to meet community needs above and beyond the ability of the currently-structured public sector. Such companies have done well in the past so there is no reason to suppose they wouldn’t do well now.

Even in these straitened and increasingly difficult times, there are still opportunities for ordinary people to taken control of their immediate needs if they understand the chance is there and are willing to take the risk. All that is necessary is a change in thinking followed by a change in action.

What we can be certain of, given the evidence above, is that to continue to depend upon Government for solutions at this present time may to prove very hazardous to the life, health and safety of society. Given the impending global famine, it is also likely to be true that the time for discussion is rapidly coming to an end.

These are the problems I can identify with any clarity. The true extent of the problem is far greater and is affecting everyone. Nevertheless, I hope you have enough information now to arrive at your own educated answer to my opening question.

Swapping Notes

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This is being written during the lunar eclipse and is a brief summary of what I am noticing.

1. I believe the energies I described here are occurring, despite the deflections and avoidances of the UK Supreme Court. The imagery I used – of a river flowing into the sea – may not be entirely accurate. Nevertheless, the meeting of waters of different densities (eg: fresh water meeting sea water or variations in salinity) to create a distinct ‘barrier’ for a while before they intermingle. (See below for an example – where the waters of the Baltic Sea meet those of the North Sea)

It may ‘seem’, in the world, as if everything is ‘carrying on as normal’, but I don’t believe this is true. Two very distinct energies are meeting and a natural barrier is in formation.

2. My second reason for believing this are as a result of what I notice occurring in Egypt. Following the Egyptian Court’s decision in the case of Hosni Mubarak and his co-defendents, protests in Egypt are occuring again.

This is a picture of Tahrir Square on June 2nd 2012. There were also spontaneous protests in other Egyptian cities. Yet I noticed something strange occurred – and I was not the only one.

That the Egyptian government attempts to censor the internet during protests is already established. That it appears to be occurring again, and not just in Egypt, ought to be of considerable concern to those committed to democracy and freedom.

I am inclined to agree with this conclusion.

Egypt is not the only example. The same patterns are obviously emerging with the UK with the Leveson Inquiry and its fallout, in US local elections as well as the Presidential election where what appears to be a choice for the electorate is, in fact, no choice at all. For the purposes of this blog, I will stop my examples here, but it is not difficult to find similarities elsewhere in many countries around the planet.

3. As the divide between those ‘in power’ and ordinary people continues to widen into different densities so, too, are ordinary people being faced with the consequences of their belief systems. The rise of neo-fascism is of deep concern to all those who fail to ‘fit in’ to this now murderous energy. As a round peg declining to fit into a square hole, we are also likely to be coming face to face with this separation of densities in our immediate environment, within our families and within our relationships – both personal and social. This process has been predicted. The problems we are facing as a collective are now finding their way into our direct experience and we are likely to be making some life-changing decisions in the coming weeks.

In my own experience, I am finding that my capacity to trust others is being shaken. What we choose to present to the world and who we truly are can be two very different animals. We can only really begin to see this during periods of conflict. How do people behave in such environs? Do they say the ‘right’ thing yet fail to walk their talk? Is the road they choose the one I choose? Are they fair-weather friends or can they be relied upon to do what they can to help when the weather turns foul?

Probably the most powerful question to ask is “How do others behave when we disagree with them?” I look for the ability to agree to disgree because I know my perception is limited even though it may be a great deal broader than others’. Those I would like to trust will see things I can’t because they have a different perspective but this difference doesn’t make either of us ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. In my reality, our differences enable us to create a broader inclusive viewpoint where Truth might be identified more easily. When we are free to disagree, without loss of relationship, we are both seeking a greater Truth than we might otherwise find alone and the Truth found is more reliable because we have not sought to browbeat the other into choices that go against personal understanding. The best outcome is to discover together that we were both right/wrong at the same time. This is the deepest meeting in human terms because we are helping each other grow in those places where we have not been able to see clearly. Speaking personally, I believe that if we are able to achieve such encounters with people from other cultures than our own, we are on a path to uncovering global truths.

Some people are simply not able to do this.

If I am reading the energies I see correctly (even if my metaphors are mistaken), then those who share the same ‘water density’ with me will be experiencing their own version of this process. My suggestion to us is we hold to our personal ‘truths’ as powerfully as we can because this will enable us to discover, first, how deeply our ‘water’ has been mixed with ‘oil’. This is a separation process that is natural to the planet and need not be feared. As we separate from ‘oil’, we will begin to fine-tune our energies into the variable water densities most suited to our nature.

There may be some urgency to this separation, simply because it seems that some of the human oil-slicks we have been dealing with, on all levels, seem to be in danger of igniting.

(Many thanks to @nagoul1 for permission to post his tweets)