The day the narrative changed

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The day the narrative changed

By julijuxtaposed  12.09.15

I’m so pleased, today.  I feel like I’m absorbing the collective surge of enormous hope and expectation.  It is a new day.  It feels like a miracle has occurred but, really, this shift has been dawning for a long, long time.  Not everyone wakes up together, of course but the election of Jeremy Corbyn, as the leader of the Opposition, heralds a discernible quickening.

Will Mr Corbyn have the personal and political capacity and resources for the momentous tasks ahead?  Will his Party’s dejecteds add yet another front for him to fight?  Will the media focus on the least relevant details of every political debate and gratuitously undermine his person?  Will journalicians serve public interest and present his narratives on the substances of his arguments or will they just filter for their confirmation bias, irrespective of merit or fault?  Aside from the first, I fear that I already know the answers.

It has always made me angry that Jeremy Corbyn was the only one to put himself forward because of what it revealed about the narrowness of the Parliamentary Party Mind.  How the Party and Establishment machines would dwarf him; how he would be painted as extreme, deluded and regressive.  It worries me, too, that so much ardent and desperate expectation is invested in him; that he is hoist on a saviour’s pedestal and may be pulled down by the disappointment and impatience of blind worship as readily as by his multitudinous opponents.  The battles ahead are numerous and will be vicious.  I don’t want to see the one man to stand for socio-economic decency and integrity made a scapegoat of fearful ignorance and I don’t want all the opportunities that his new status affords all of us to be thrown away, fighting distractions.

These fears abide.  But today?  Today, I see the tide turn.  Today, I anticipate breakthrough and shifts in consciousness.  I see a humanitarian public platform officially recognised and legitimized.  Today, I see the narrative space created for social justice and practical wisdom, old and new.  Today is for excitement and Hope.

To Iain Duncan Smith – About this ‘Shake-up’..

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By julijuxtaposed – first posted 28.08.15

 

Mr Iain Duncan Smith,

About this “shake-up“. Could you please find me a job that is tailored to my abilities whilst maximising my potential; one that pays me enough that I could live, not just independently but well; sufficiently that I would require no top-up credits. Of course, I’d still need to retain the gateway awards that I was once told were indefinite and unconditional (such as my DLA and Blue Badge); that recognise how my disabilities are not going anywhere, no matter how cross and determined you are that they will. I apologise for the way my life has unfolded so unhelpfully for everybody – including me – however, I don’t know what real and beneficial work I can do that will be meaningful to Society, will end any State dependence, won’t compromise my health and will satisfy your self-righteous values and relentless need for me to justify my monetary worth within your stupid socio-economic model.

You know that bit where you say “claimants should be made to take up any work they can, even if it is just a few hours”? Well I need a job that I can do as and when I have the physical and mental resources which fluctuate, daily, according to exhaustion, pain level, concentration, the day’s commitments, your downward pressure and my subsequent social anxieties and, consequently, mood, capacity, vulnerability and efficiency. I tend to have problems – even on good days – with travelling, sitting at a desk, walking and standing and my body is deteriorating, generally and specifically – my hands, most recently, to my great distress – from years of coping with my limits and, naturally, I’m not going to get any younger, either.

I’m probably not worth the time and money of an employer who wants me at a shop till or at a desk at a call centre or inputting data, say. And my days of being a cleaner, care-worker, etc are way behind me, now. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not ‘above’ such work – I’ve done many different jobs – but the idea that I’m suitable or capable now is silly. And the notion that it’s worth the financial cost to try to enable me to do such work for an hour or two, here and there, is laughable. I’d really love an actual career but I reckon I may be a bit long in the tooth, now and that the training, itself, would likely be physically inhibitive. Besides, there are plenty of young people who need the start far more than Society should need me to compromise my health further and inevitably cost everyone more as I prostrate myself to prove my sorry lack of market value.

You know that bit where you talk about “a system focused on what a claimant can do and the support they’ll need and not just what they can’t”? Well, my best skills are now reduced to the erratic ability to communicate what is in my mind with a certain amount of eloquence. So, if you mean it about the personalised help and support then perhaps you could fix it for me to be paid for the reading, observing, thinking and writing with which I have primarily learned to content myself? I’m sure you know many who are paid handsomely for doing far less. My best times are indeterminate and unpredictable points within a given 24-hour period, according to the spoons I have, minus those I need just to get through an uneventful day. Take them away from me and I will be a husk.

I’m not saying that there’s nothing I can do, at all or that I think I’m not a worthy human being. I’m saying I can’t jump your petty false-economy hoops and that I’m worth more than that. We all are. And I’m not saying that I’m more special than anyone else, either. I’m saying it has taken me a long time to create a productive life that I can bear, with the resources I have and that my well-being is more important than your shameful social experiments. I’m telling you that I think I would rather die than live the empty life you would prescribe for me. I will not be a scapegoat for your ignorance.

Dear Lib Dems

Posted on May 27, 2014 by julijuxtaposed 
Dear Lib Dems,
 I know you’re heavily distracted right now but you and your leader seem confused about what has gone wrong.
You got excited. You thought, like most of the people back in 2010, that this was an economic emergency and that you had a public service duty to negotiate a coalition in the ‘National Interest’. Perhaps it is that you were naive; perhaps it was the long, oh so long awaited chance to be in power that made you blind during those early, heady days.
 You have acted, ultimately, as the front men, the shills, the appeasers and apologists for your senior partners. You’ve voted with them time after time, irrespective of whether it was in the citizens’ interests or even ethical and sensible. You have contributed to the increasingly desperate vulnerability of every single group bar the ‘I’m alright, Jacks’. [And don’t you dare think to yourself: “but we’ve lifted (blah number) over of the tax threshold” or that 24/7 childcare and free school meals or whatever your particular defence is today, are wondrous salves and believe yourselves righteous.]
You have upheld and then perpetuated a crony status quo. You’ve relentlessly tinkered with and demolished so much, so callously and with real ignorance. You’ve continued to subsidise profiteers with taxpayer money rather than facilitate a liveable income for the majority of the workforce. You built misery instead of houses. Courted the establishment rather than served the Commons. Turned Social Security into a capricious game of fare-well-if-we-say-you-can roulette. You’ve done nothing meaningful to address the real problems of increasing serfdom, asset stripping, the corporate tax fiasco, accountability of once public but now private service/utility provision. In fact, you align yourself with a senior partner who has the intention to do the opposite. You’ve avoided everything the sane and ‘common’ person on the street would have you fix and chosen, instead, to support and vote through the kinds of cruel, divisive, patriarchal false economies that so typify Tory mentality.
A year or so into your partnership, here on the ground, those who did not previously understand economics and finance were travelling a steep learning curve. We came to realise that, although this was indeed an emergency, you were being utterly disingenuous and wilfully obfuscating about a varied and complex set of causes and, therefore, about any appropriate solutions.
You thought that because you kept on message that we would not deviate either. You assumed we were all swallowing the mainstream stenographic tripe. We weren’t. We were educating ourselves elsewhere.
A truer picture began to emerge: Labour hadn’t just ‘created the mess’ – not on its own. It had taken time. Thatcher’s Tories arguably started it; Blair’s Labour ran with it and now, with your willing assistance, Cameron’s Tories were and still are, running amok. We learned that Labour’s general culpability was really no more than any other Western government’s. We learned that none of you actually understands how to, let alone cares about constructing and facilitating an economy that works for the citizens.
So, while you were busy feeling chuffed, we were learning new words and concepts and getting our heads around a new acronym every day. We were learning about limitless leverage, derivatives, LIBOR and other price fixing, bubbles, Ponzis, High Frequency Trading, Credit Default Swaps, paper gold, depraved banksters and traders, Investor State Dispute Settlements, vested interests, politics as a wealth-creating career and investment vehicle, fiat currency Wars.. It was and continues to be an astoundingly long list.
We learned that what private collateral there is is so insufficient as to be emasculated and that you are so ignorant and irresponsible that you will sell any public asset you can think of – be it in physical existence such as Royal Mail or packaged as a financial service such as student loan books. We discovered that The City was a hub for everything from the pretty shady to the downright fraudulent. And, under your ‘helpful’ governance, still is.
 We learned that ‘neoliberalism’ was shorthand for ‘capitalism, right-wing, corporate’. We saw that Neoliberals love power and money much more than people. We realised neoliberalism is what’s undermining people and the planet and that it is the obstacle to our sustained well-being. The well-being of billions. We looked around; made the connections. It made us imagine a slope towards fascism as a very possible 21st Century consequence.
We began to understand the whole obscenity. You didn’t. Or you just chose to ignore it. It has to be one or the other because we, out here, we’ve managed to at least grasp the rudiments in spite of the concerted attempts of powerful mainstream politicos to hinder our understanding.
 Back in 2010, when you sat down to negotiate, you (must have) realised how unpalatable the reality of a junior partnership in a Tory coalition would be if you were to maintain your reputation – which, as you’ll remember, was not bad at all. You could have shown integrity and told the Conservatives to form a minority government and that you’d support them where you could. You should have. But, even if I give you the benefit of the doubt and believe you were truly earnest and noble in your intent, once ‘in’ you would have had even better opportunities to learn at least the same things as were we down here. One would think you’d have had an epiphany by the end of that first year. And what did you do? You carried on as though the Tory narrative was almost faultless. For four years.
 Every time you were called out on it you patronised us as though we were too stupid to know what was good for us. And, not content with that, you now justify your behaviour on the back of ‘recovery’. You seem to think you are, or soon will be, vindicated. Here, on the ground, those of us who have been busy trying to live under your ‘helpful’ governance; those of us doing all that learning: we know this is a recovery for those who need it least; a recovery built on bubbles, corruption, cronyism and the serfdom of the masses. The real shit has not even hit the global fan and there you are, trying to sweep our own dirt under a shifting carpet. It’s a fiat recovery, based on fiat ideology, carried out by fiat authority.
Liberal Democrat doesn’t really shout ‘integrity’ now, does it? ‘National Interest’? Yeah, if ‘national’ means ‘Westminster’ and ‘interest’ means ‘self’.
And now you think you’ve done so badly in the EP Elections because of your debate with Farage. Ok, that really wasn’t very impressive… your better arguments were not just lost amongst the crude populism of Farage but you demonstrated that you really do not understand that those people who take issue with the Union, do so for rather different and more sophisticated reasons than the xenophobic, corporate, anti-intellectual platform that is UKip. You were the only party with the integrity – AND platform – to defend the concept of Europe and you wrecked it by wasting time repeating rhetorical catchphrases and endorsing a retarded sycophancy for the technocratic status quo. You seem to think that anyone who sees Europe as having or being a problem, views it through the Tory/UKip lens. You really have to stop listening to hysterical mouthpieces. And we don’t all want to leave Europe just because we don’t agree with you, either. It’s the technocracy, the receding democracy, the neoliberal bullying, the corporatisation, the commodification of our lives that we hate, not the Social Chapter, nor ‘red tape’ that acts for Common Interest, nor our fellow Europeans. You need to understand that for a great many of us, the problems we see in Europe are the same problems we have with our own, successive UK governments; the same problem we see in nigh-on every country on the planet, in fact.
Seriously – that TV Farage-Clegg trip: that was just a recent straw out of a bale’s worth. But why would you see the connection between these points when you can’t seem to even see them individually? Some of your party are even tabloid-riven enough to suppose that getting rid of your leader is the solution. Nick Clegg might be the authorised face of your toxicity but, my gods, if you think we don’t know all your higher profile names or your collective voting record, you probably should all just give up – right now. It’s a global economy supported by a neoliberal attitude and our country is in trouble because our own politicians, economists, and media are of the same means by which much of this infernal crash came about. You have failed because you cannot appreciate either the details or the whole picture and you have failed to recognise that the electorate increasingly does.
There is much satisfied vitriol in the country at your fall from grace. On the surface it’s deliciously tempting and quite understandable. You brought this circus to town. But it’s also a tragedy. It’s a tragedy for your once rational, honourable party and a serious blow to an already dwindling faith in our democracy.
Regards, Juli

Education: What if..?

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Education: What if..?

First posted on December 8, 2013 by julijuxtaposed

What if we were to agree that all humans have value that lies way beyond their financial capacity and academic intellect?  That it is obscene to reduce people to nothing more than a unit of monetary worth?  That artistic, sporting and practical abilities be as valid?  That the higher intelligences such as empathy, grace and kindness be seen as strengths, not weaknesses?  That education is its own reward rather than merely a means to someone else’s ends?

The point of a structured period of compulsory schooling should be to facilitate the awareness and understanding of a complex world to children, not merely the ability to pass tests and march to the beat of the latest diktats of fashionistas, inept governments and corporate drummers.

What if we decided that we didn’t want to have to choose which school to send our children to?  What if we didn’t feel the need to?  What if we made sure there were enough state schools at every educative level, easily accessible to every child in the country?  And what if each and every one of those schools were of such an excellent standard that only fools and radicals would seek to pay extra to send their children elsewhere?  What if our state schools were so blooming good that every child received the highest possible standard of education and every parent and employer knew it?  What if teachers were trusted and valued as highly as are the expectations placed upon them?  Any worth their salt would be clamouring to work in such an amazing public sector.

And why the rush to bring our children to employable maturity if emotional intelligence cannot keep up?  (Indeed, why the rush if there are insufficient jobs to even require their labour?)  It hasn’t been coined as ‘childhood’ for nothing.  We are adults soon enough and it lasts, hopefully, for a very long time so why are we heaping panic upon pressure upon stress on our kids?  To compete in the global race to be grateful automatons?  It is part of being a child that s/he should be in a hurry to grow up but it is the job of adults to temper that impatience, not to concede and actively demand they do.  If we really are all living longer then let’s make it a life worth living by getting right one of the fundamental building blocks of a confident, prosperous people.

Education is supposed to facilitate self-confidence and the ability to learn; to encourage critical thinking, curiosity and a love of learning.  Thus, though school cannot teach absolutely everything, if it has done its job properly, it shouldn’t need to.  Education is supposed to reveal an individual’s potential.  In order for this to be achieved, schooling needs to provide the opportunity, time and space for a child to discover what that might be.  Teachers need the freedom and scope to assist and appropriately indulge or signpost that opportunity.  The next generation are the future, the continuum of the human race.  Our children are our legacy.  Not in the sense of property, but as the living arrows of Society’s bow, to paraphrase Gibran.  Could there really be any task more worthy or vital?

And what if we were to decide to phase out faith-based schools?  What if we said that doctrinal faith should not be prescribed to children with little or no escape or counterbalance?  Perhaps our society would lose an excuse for the oft-cited sense of cultural division if the doctrines of cults were retired to their temples.  The point of a secularist/pluralist society is to achieve and uphold equality under the law and in a multi-faith and no-faith country like ours, that makes Faith (which is not exclusive to Orthodox Religion) a matter of personal rather than public policy.  It does not negate nor deride it but recognises that not everyone has it and that no one faith is superior to another.  Religion, like Politics, is a living history, based on theory and belief.  In schools, shouldn’t it be reflected, explored and debated as such, under the umbrella subject of Philosophy, rather than passed off as though its teachings were fixed by empirical data or as though it were the sole route to ‘God’ and the only expression of a spiritually and consciously lived life?

In fact, what if we decided that any school, within or outside of the state system that was intentionally selective about its admissions or adherence to a compulsory, base-line national curriculum should not qualify for funds from the Public Purse?  I don’t mean barring schools from adding subjects to a mandatory curriculum – I’d have loved the opportunity to learn Latin, or even circus skills, actually – I’m talking about the ridiculous notion that a minimum national curriculum is not necessary; that schools should be able to opt out of any of the recommended subjects, particularly such issues as drugs and sex and relationships.  This is not acceptable.  Students need to know they share a common level of knowledge and that they are not being cheated of vital information or a major life skill.

Obviously it is not the place of a free society to dictate to individual adults the manner in which they live, so long as it does not harm another.  Neither, therefore, what individuals do with their income.  It follows, then, that it is unwisely authoritarian to take away the freedom to choose and pay for exclusivity.  But I would happily – very happily – see governmental policies that rendered it superfluous.