50979-full

There are many people who cannot give praise, encouragement or a kind word. It’s almost as if they are regarded as sparse commodities that might run out.

The point is that they are a give, a gift, from one person to another (or many others), they are the expression of an innate regard for the well being of another, but not in a way that’s self denial because giving the gifts of kindness, care and consideration to another puts us firmly in the frame. We have to be there to give the gift. We are the well spring from which it is drawn up and given, we are only selfless in that moment in that our ego is necessarily muted. If it isn’t the whole thing reeks of self interest and is received as fake.

Do goodery is not the same thing as kindness and it is well said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions because good intentions are essentially egotistic. They are the imposition (usually without seeking permission) of an intervention defined by ourselves regardless of whether it is merited or even welcome.

Kindness, care and consideration are essentially other regarding and they send a powerful message that we’re paying attention.

As a community and youth worker the question came up from time to time, what is the best thing I can give my children? My response was always, your time and attention. These days, with family life under direct attack as wages plummet and work is ever more insecure, it is expected that parents work (singles or couples), and children are expected to spend a significant part of the day in child care.

At its most toxic, the pressures of life and struggling to make ends meet can lead to children growing up starved of attention (which high quality child care can pick up on and address). However, growing up with an attention deficit, can lead to a narcissistic need for attention and an inability to give it, which very much includes praise and encouragement.

However, the story is bigger than that. Capitalism is a champion of personal insecurity, it powerfully encourages narcissistic self regard and, at the same time, insecurity. Advertising, capitalism’s mouthpiece, is an industrial purveyor of insecurity.

On a side note, I use an ad-blocker in my browser and increasingly websites are blocking access if you use an ad-blocker and ask you to whitelist their site. Advertising has inveigled its way into becoming a source of income for sites and users who block adverts are rogue users who have chosen not to be the target of marketing. Not wanting to be targeted by adverts is regarded as selfish. It’s positively Orwellian and part of our modern dystopia. It’s not ok to not be a consumer beyond what we actually need and to be self determining about what those needs are. In that sense, advertising is infantilising, it’s the promotion of need above our individual self defined needs.

Needless to say, I really, really, don’t like adverts, they are the antithesis of kindness, care and consideration and self affirmation and giving affirmation to others and, indeed, self determination. I don’t like nagging and adverts are nothing if not that, especially on television, where they are subject to endless repeats at short intervals and the primary reason why I do not own a television. If companies want to pump adverts at me then they should ask me and be prepared to pay me for my participation. Currently, and absurdly, we pay for them to do it in every form of commercial media.

People have become just another product or resource. We are reduced to our usefulness in servicing the free markets through our profitability, a profitability which is a one way street. Tens if not hundreds of millions of workers across the world are profit makers but denied a share of the profits they create. Asian factories producing iPhones fitted suicide nets to prevent workers from taking their own lives in despair.

A sign of our times is the growing dysfunction of our humanity, especially online. Trolling and abuse is rampant, but that requires a suspension of humanity to treat others with contempt with complete disregard for their well being as real people. Death threats being the ultimate expression of the degradation of life, value and meaning.

C S Lewis wrote: “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

The world is crying out for want of kindness, care and consideration. We live in times where the affirmation of others and helping others are revolutionary and yet dismissed as coming from bleeding heart liberals or lefties.

On Wednesday this week (30th November 2016) a homeless man was found frozen to death. Far from finding this horrific, there are plenty of people who will be gratified that another useless eater and waste of space is dead and no longer a burden on their, self focused, narcissistic, humanity.

Against such degradation, which is promoted from the very top by government, holding on to our humanity has become something that requires our best attention. (Lord) David Freud, who is thankfully leaving the Department for Woe and Persecution, said in 2014 that disabled people are not worth a full wage. In fact, not being worth a full wage is the norm for millions of people. It is government which sets the minimum wage (or the so called new living wage which isn’t) (introduced by Labour as a protection from the worst iniquities of the market, which quickly became the industry standard), and is set as less than that what we need to live on. Money has become the measure of our worth and lack of money the measure of our unworth, disregarding entirely that the measure of our unworth is systemic, imposed by government and yet it is government that leads the way in blaming poverty on individual failing.

Resisting the tide of the degradation and erosion of our humanity has become a vital necessity for mental wellness. Today, Gandhi’s saying, ‘You must be the change you want to see in the world’, is in affirmation and in giving kindness, care and consideration and it is demanding of our best attention to survive the onslaught of right wing marketeers who are destroying our way of life, depriving us of security, homes, food, warmth and health care for profit. The most basic of human rights.

From personal experience it is like living with a gun at your head, never knowing when they are coming for you through the next iniquitous policy to deprive us of the means of survival and of life.

David Cameron said, “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.” Resisting such government extremism is the battle of our times, whether the attack comes through sanctions, depriving disabled people of vital support, being denied a pension, being priced out of housing through unrestrained housing prices and rents, denied health care and the loss of vital front line services, yet the biggest battle ground is for our own minds and our essential humanity.

We must not forsake our selves, every suicide is a cry for our humanity to fight back for everything we hold dear. And to fight together, and acknowledge that we exist through co-operation, as social creatures who rely on each other for everything, including our well being. As John Donne rightly said, “No man is an island, entire of itself… any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” The alarm bells are ringing and it is our humanity which must and does respond. It is innate, but we must protect it from being drowned out by those who mean us harm. Revolt is expressed through attention, through kindness, care and consideration, by being the opposite of their intent; holding on to our humanity with every fibre of our being and being bold in giving the best that we are, both to ourselves and to others.

When I stopped writing the letters, I’d come to the end of my resources and am still recovering. It was hard to see and hard to acknowledge that I am broken hearted and I have wept bucket loads of tears as I work to recover. It has made me realise as never before, how precious life is and yet how fragile and precarious it can be against unscrupulous forces and this government in particular. I’ve said it before and will doubtless say it again, as now… We are better than this!

KOG 02 December 2016

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-29631573

https://www.wired.com/2010/08/foxconn-rallies-workers-installs-suicide-nets/

dsc_7055b

When you stop and think about it, society, civilisation, the growth of human kind, has only been possible because of abundance and that each person, save a few less fortunate who we are perfectly capable of supporting, is capable of producing a great deal more that we individually need to live on.

Without that abundance and ability, we’d all be scratching a mean living from a recalcitrant Earth grudgingly sustaining us at the barest level of survival.

But it isn’t like that at all, though climes differ, but in temperate climes, it is hard work even containing nature. Try leaving your garden alone for a year.

Life has flourished by husbanding the Earth and its resources, though sadly, latterly, abusing it atrociously.

There is nothing mean about this earth we live on, or we just wouldn’t be here, and certainly not in the super abundance of things we’ve produced to make life not just tolerable, but, for many, extremely comfortable indeed.

So what is the problem and why are so many living with such appalling want, including here in the UK in one of the most benign temperate places on earth?

The problem, as any child can see, is that of sharing and the polarisation of wealth and resources into the hands of the few at the expense of the many.

In January 2016 Oxfam published a report that found the, “62 richest billionaires own as much wealth as the poorer half of the world’s population”

Allow me to translate that, the poorest half of the worlds population (3.7 billion people) subsist on the same amount of wealth that is held in the hands of just 62 people.

Allow me to clarify. We live on a closed system, this planet which we call home, and that super abundance of the 62 has come from this earth and all that exists here.

Whilst it is true that we are each capable of producing more than we each need to live on, no one, but no one, can produce that much for themselves. Or if they can, let them come forth and let’s get a look at this super being.

Any takers? No?

No. The way it is done is through exploitation, not just of the Earth, but of the life and the people who inhabit it.

By hook or by crook, by fair means, though mostly foul, those with the most have ensured the world is ordered in such a way as to perpetuate the polarisation of wealth and resources to ensure that they remain the chief beneficiaries of the wealth production of others.

Work is a great trick. Whilst people can and do produce more than their personal needs dictate, the value of their labour is translated into a pay packet which bears no resemblance to the value of their labour and what they produce.

Falling wages have now reached such a poor level that millions work for less than they, as individuals, need to live on, let alone their families. We now, since 1999, have legislation for a minimum wage which is set below the level of individual subsistence.

Professor George Bain put it like this, the National Minimum Wage, “heralds a fundamental change to the labour market in the UK. There will be a floor to wages in the first time in this country, eradicating the worst cases of exploitation.”

Exploitation, but only the worst cases. Exploitation, however, continues to reign supreme in the way the human world functions.

The Earth and the value of human labour continue in all their super abundance, which are exploited for all they are worth.

The problem in dealing with this is in our perception of normal. We’re so damned used to being exploited, it has such a deep history, that it makes it extremely hard to properly think about it, let alone do anything about it.

I have been bollocked many times for being unrealistic; my lack of ability to just accept things the way they are.

“Come on Keith, that’s life.” Oh, and that makes it everything ok, does it?

“You just have to face facts.” Really? Which ones?

“Keith, you’re such a dreamer.” Hmm, don’t you have to be asleep to do that?

Why bother with building development, medical and pharmaceutical advances, with leaps in technology, science (for goodness sake), if we are meant to accept things just the way they are?

Douglas Adams was right, that’s just talking cross eyed badger spit.

Inequality and exploitation exist because human kind, and a very small section of human kind in particular, have designed it that way and go to extraordinary lengths to keep it that way.

Theresa May has said ‘free markets and tree trade’ are the best way to lift people out of poverty. That joyous abandonment of restraints on markets and trade, however, does not extend to those who work to make it all possible. Every worker being paid less than a living wage is, at the very least, being constrained by law and by force when they get a bit too uppity, to maintain their exploitation as wealth producers to profit others.

Unlike taxes, which are ostensibly extracted for the common weal, profits are extracted for less laudable purposes. Just 62 people have managed to extract an awful lot of wealth that is held by them to the exclusion of all those who produced it. And these days, people like Philip Green will even nick the contributory pension pot of those he has exploited to make himself obscenely rich.

This is beyond sense or reason. It is insane. But open your door and look outside and, wow, doesn’t everything look incredibly normal…

I really do think this appalling normality needs a wee bit of a shaking up. The problem is that it is a quirk of our nature that we are strangely resistant to change even to our own very great cost. We accept the changing seasons, perfectly normal, but we fail to grasp that the too long season of the exploitation the earth and everything in it and on it is long overdue for change.

Exploitation is a prison of human design and it is being ramped up at an appalling rate by those who benefit so richly from it, including governments, who should be regarded and treated as entirely corrupt and rogue and enemies of the people, who sadly vote them into power (for want of anything better).

It’s got so bad that even the Earth is groaning under the enormity of the pressure of greed. We need clear minds and better answers to, what is, a ludicrous situation that cannot possibly sustain itself for much longer. The answers, however, are never going to come from those who benefit from the perpetuation of greed, the answers lie with us and having the will, determination and strength to pursue a different path for a future, not just worth living for, but for any viable future at all.

We have to consume to live, that’s a given, but producing, caring and sharing are very different to grab what you can and make sure you hang on to it by fair means or foul. Avarice and greed, no matter that they are now lauded by the powerful as virtues, are still vices to anyone with a modicum of common sense.

KOG 29 November 2016

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/jul/27/uk-joins-greece-at-bottom-of-wage-growth-league-tuc-oecd

http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/observatories/eurwork/articles/the-uks-first-national-minimum-wage

Theresa May Says U.K. Will Be a ‘Global Champion of Free Trade’

Save

Save

Save

Save

img4157

Last Sunday I read an article on the cost of badger culling. It is enormously costly, between 2012 and 2014 we paid £16.8 million to kill 2,476 badgers, that’s £6,785 per badger. In Wales, where they use vaccinations, the cost per badger is £293, that’s £6,492 cheaper per badger, a saving of £32.5 million and 5,000 badgers alive and hopefully well in Wales.

When I shared this on Facebook, I made a comment that the Tories like culling, which reminded me of my very first letter to Cameron in which I wrote, ‘Clearly your contempt for the people of Britain can have only one logical end, so why not begin the cull now?’ Actually, they had already started but I was just waking up to just how devious and appalling the government was and still is.

Despite their dishonesty, what I had to learn to do was believe the evidence before me and extrapolate from that what their plan was based on the evidence on the ground. The badger cull holds a lesson.

As far as evolution is concerned those ‘in power’ regard us on a par with badgers and consider themselves higher, if not highest, on the evolutionary scale. Iain Duncan Smith said that they call us stock. He meant that, just stock, and you can do anything you like to stock because stock don’t have a say. Badgers, cattle, sheep, humans – stock.

The evidence is right under our noses, but how hard is it to see it? It beggars belief, even when the evidence points right at it. With badgers it’s shotguns, for us it’s economic, how many more have to die before we believe the evidence?

How cuts are targeted: people in poverty – 5 times the rest of the population: people with disabilities – 9 times the rest of the population: people with severe disabilities – 19 times the rest of the population. Sanctions, exclusive to poor, sick and disabled people, deprive us of the means of survival. Remember David Clapson? He was sanctioned for missing a Jobcentre appointment and died of diabetic ketoacidosis because he could not afford to keep his insulin cool as he had no money to run his fridge. He died with £3.44 in his account, no food in his stomach, though a pile of CV’s was found near his body.

We are consistently told how huge the benefits bill is and that we just can’t afford it. According to figures from the Centre for Welfare Reform, “The real cost of benefits and pensions is very low, 86% is paid straight back to the government in taxes. The net cost of benefits after taxes is really only £25 billion.” After circulating in the real economy supporting and boosting trade and jobs, 86% finds its way back into the tax pot. What that means is, if someone is receiving Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) of £73.10 a week, once it’s been used to scratch a mean existence and gone full cycle, the actual amount of money that people on JSA get to cover their needs is £10.23, the rest is just the tax imposed on living. In real terms, David Clapson, whose job seekers allowance was £71.70 a week, died for £10.03 after tax.

I don’t know how many times I was bollocked for writing Letters to Number 10, usually in private messages. Who did I think I was writing to the Prime Minister in the way I did? And that’s the problem right there. People unthinkingly submit to authority. It’s ok for governments to kill people, they do it all the time. Of course they don’t do it themselves, they get others to do it for them and they don’t pay for it either, we do, which includes the soldiers who go to fight their bloody wars. We’re not just working stock, we are the cash cow that pays for government to do everything it does.

We pay their salaries, their expenses, their food and drink, their golden handshakes, their knighthoods and gold plated pensions and we pay them to kill us. All perfectly legit in our ‘representative democracy’, voted for by a dubious but supposed voting majority.

As Frank Herbert wrote in ‘God Emperor of Dune’, “It takes a pretty dull policeman to miss the fact that the position of authority is the most prosperous criminal position available.” Governments, media barons like Rupert Murdoch, bankers, corporations, kings of commerce, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces  – the Queen.

So habituated to authority are we that when some corporation or council or government official writes to us to tell us we owe them money, most people just pay it without challenge, because authority invokes fear. The notion that we are innocent until proven guilty is alright in theory, until the TV licence authority comes knocking demanding to know why we haven’t paid our TV licence, or the bailiffs comes to throw us out of the only shelter we have or steal our possessions.

We’re surrounded by authority, we’re trained and educated in obedience to authority, and those who question authority are regarded as dubious freaks. Not respectable or respectful. Of what? Someone dressed in a suit and tie, a uniform, or with an unsigned warrant, a demand?

Theresa May said that we are policed by consent and that the police are there to protect the public and to protect property. Really? Try that little nugget on the police the next time you’re stopped by them, they do not take kindly to smart alecks who question their authority. They are trained to exert authority and we are trained to surrender to it. It’s written into the DNA of our culture.

The government absolutely relies on public obedience, the docility of the majority and goes to enormous lengths to ensure it. Remember the Battle of the Beanfield, the miners strike, Orgreave, Occupy and Tarpaulin Square, the evisceration of the Unions?

We have a supposed ‘human right’ to peaceful protest, here’s the rules, “Organisers of public processions are required by law to notify police AT LEAST 6 DAYS BEFORE the event occurs, of the date, time, proposed route and the name and address of an organiser. Completion of the form 3175 satisfies the legal requirement to notify police of a public procession under sections 11(1) and 11(3) of the Public Order Act 1986.”

‘Human rights’ are subject to conditions, the chief one being obedience. How does the presumption of innocence stack up against the presumption of obedience? David Cameron said, “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone’.” That makes a mockery of the expression, ‘if you’ve done nothing wrong you have nothing to worry about’. The government doesn’t have to do away with the human rights act, they disregard human rights anyway, on a routine daily basis. If the government can deprive us of the means of survival, we have no right to life, as David Clapson and tens of thousands of others have found out at the cost of their lives.

Sanctions kill, legitimised by the authority of the government, yet Damian Green condemned Ken Loach’s film, ‘I, Daniel Blake’, without having bothered to even see it, bleating that it’s ‘monstrously unfair’. That must surely be the supreme arrogance of the man in charge of the DWP horror factory to bleat, ‘It’s not fair’. Is that the best he can do? Why doesn’t he go up to Ashton Under Lyne this Thursday and meet up with Charlotte Hughes outside the Jobcentre for their weekly protest and try saying it there? I wonder how his authority would look faced with real people on the ground suffering under this governments vile regime?

Those at the top are not used to being held to account. Iain Duncan Smith has a habit of ducking out of back doors, as he did in Bath at a protest I attended to celebrate the occasion of his visit to the Jobcentre, not even prepared to face us from the safety of his chauffeur driven car, meeting up with it only after it had safely left the scene of his crimes.

It is we who must find courage in the face of adversity, those who create our adversity rarely display any courage at all beyond the cloisters and safe protected haven of the Westminster bubble.

KOG 14 November 2016

If you think the Conservatives can be trusted with the economy, look at the cost of the badger cull

http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/library/by-az/briefing-on-how-cuts-are-targeted.html

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/killed-benefits-cuts-starving-soldier-3923771

http://content.met.police.uk/Article/Organising-a-protest-march-or-static-demonstration/1400002380711/1400002380711

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/britain-is-too-tolerant-and-should-interfere-more-in-peoples-lives-says-david-cameron-10246517.html

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/damian-green-never-seen-i-9166462

https://thepoorsideoflife.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/exhausted-and-thursdays-demo/

Save

dsc_8456d

Every day the battle lines are drawn
The dice are thrown, the choices made
As fears and doubts play loud inside
Where will I stand in sorrows gaze
As the death toll rises in this land
My tears fall and I demand to know
Who dares play god with other people’s lives?

The people who fight wars do not make them
Men in grey suits decide where we die
Sending our young to kill for freedom
For patriotism, Queen and country
Yet those same men imprison those
Who march on the streets for freedom
Playing god with other people’s lives.

I never dreamed I would live to see
Days such as these as a plague of death
Invades our streets and homes and lives
In an ideological war against us
In the name of austerity
Imposed by those who decide our fate
And play god with our lives.

They tell us we’re all in this together
That we must stay the course
That their plan is working
These people who have never been visited
By want and fear and loneliness
Who are proud of their great record
Proud to play god with other people’s lives.

Courage is born in heartbreak
And fear gives rise to strength
When the tears dry and yet remain
A lake inside that cannot be emptied
I must walk on and continue the fight
For peace and goodness and love
And never play god with other people’s lives.

I have yet to discover what freedom means
Chains are not always visible
And prison walls are not always made of brick
I must decide when freedom is won
Because if I do not feel it in my heart
And know it in my being
I must still stand opposed to those who presume to play god with our lives.

KOG 11 November 2016

homeless

What makes Ken Loach’s ‘I, Daniel Blake’ so powerful is where the plot impacts on life. Most films and documentaries take for granted certain elements of life, like eating and shelter. Such things are assumed, a meal – at ‘home’, in a cafe or restaurant, and access to a home, cafe or restaurant which means having the wherewithal to afford and be in those places. These are assumed cultural and societal rights or norms which the ‘plot’ does not need to establish, they are taken for granted.

‘I’ Daniel Blake’ blows that right open (as much as I have as yet seen), these foundational norms can no longer be assumed. They are stripped bare, revealed as fragile and vulnerable.

The means, the wherewithal, is no longer anything that can be taken for granted, the door to that security is slammed in our faces by a DWP ‘Decision Maker’, an ‘other’, and that is terrifying, stupefying, an assault on our lives.

That loss of power over our basic securities has been weaponised against us and we get no say in the matter.

Money is the token of access, our ticket to belonging, our legitimacy, without which the door to life closes and we realise that we have been excluded. There is no handle on our side. The government, the DWP, the Decision Maker, have rendered us persona non grata, a non-person, leaving us staring into the void.

Homeless people gravitate to human habitation where all the social structure exists for modern life and scrabble for scraps from society’s table, but the right of access has been removed. We become unwelcome strangers, unwanted, shamed and humiliated. We may even be fined and criminalised for being there, the exclusion is complete. No money, no membership, no entry.

Exclusion means even scratching through litter bins is shunned, it is a misuse use of society’s system of waste and rubbish facilities, looking for a morsel in the waste of others. It may have been a burger 10 minutes ago, but once discarded it is no longer food, it’s rubbish, and picking it up and eating it is offensive, disgusting and embarrassing to those who ‘belong’. It is not because people are reminded of the fragility of life, it is that they are offended and ‘turn their noses up’ to such aberrant, distasteful, behaviour.

The ‘fragile life’ idea has a romantic appeal which is not borne out in practice, the notion of ‘there but for the grace of god go I’ is clear to some but not most people. But it is not the grace of god which arbitrarily imposes, condones and supports social exclusion, endorsing the righteous, it is a structural exclusion, the will of ‘man’.

Were it the grace of god then activism would be unnecessary, it would be merely precarious divine fate over which we have no control. And who are we to presume otherwise? Under such grace, poverty is fine, homelessness is fine, starvation of children is fine, every social injustice is divine in origin. It isn’t.

If I plead with god for the poor and do no more, then I am essentially giving in to futility, sacrificing my innate power to act to divine caprice. It’s entirely self defeating because I am self evidently equipped to act. I might just as well ask god to look after and brush my teeth for me when I am fully equipped to do it myself.

I may be less clear about what I can do about social injustice, what effective steps I can take, but it behoves me to grapple with the complexities of life, inequality, social justice, social exclusion, not abdicate my will and abilities and choice to an ‘other’.

Rising injustice has seen a rise in the use of the term ‘Karma’. This is a lot more than merely actions having consequences, which is self evidently true. This use of Karma assumes some kind of universal power of justice beyond our control. It’s god thinking in disguise without the religious overtones. But it is essentially disempowering because it is an excuse to do nothing, because something else will sort it out. It is fateful thinking which in human terms is not helpful in the slightest other than in the comfort it gives in invoking it. It’s essentially a cop out at a time of obscene human made attacks on social justice. The war on the poor is flourishing and karmic reprisals (or even just some kind of balance of power) are conspicuous by their absence.

In fact what we are experiencing is the unaccountable power of the few over the many, holding the poor to account by robbing them blind as wealth inequality is driven through the roof. And it’s brutal. As Ken Loach said, “The present system is one of conscious cruelty. It bears down on those least able to bear it. The bureaucratic inefficiency is vindictive and hunger is being used as a weapon. People are being forced to look for work that doesn’t exist.” More than that, people are being knowingly deprived of the means of survival and, as current head of the DWP, Damian Green, said, “We are building on the record of Iain Duncan Smith, who over six years poured his heart into welfare reform – as did his successor Stephen Crabb… We should be proud of that record.”

The man is a bloody monster! Proud of causing children to starve? Proud of depriving disabled people of the means to even walk let alone live an independent life? Proud of stealing the means of survival from people as a punishment. Proud of the return of Victorian poverty related diseases and others, malnutrition, gout, rickets, tuberculosis, scurvy, mumps, scarlet fever, cholera, diphtheria and typhoid? Proud of tens of thousands of deaths? Proud of the millions of emergency food parcels handed out by an ever increasing number of food banks. Perhaps we should be campaigning for the return of public floggings.

The proud record of Tory brutality since 2010 is an outrage and yet I am utterly convinced of Green’s sincerity as far as this is concerned. He is an abject failure as a human being and certainly unfit to hold office, yet in July this year the Tories had a 16 point lead over Labour. How is this possible or even credible?

The elevation of Donald Trump to president has revived the old ‘dumb Americans’ trope, I’ll just hold their beer as they laugh and point. If life was a car, millions of people in the UK, it seems, are asleep at the wheel because we’ve already driven off the cliff. Of course the Tories will fall eventually, but how many more lives will be ruined and snuffed out before they do?

To every single person speaking out and acting for change in whatever way time and ability allows, my utmost thanks, we are the light in the wilderness, no matter what they do and no matter what they throw at us. The Tories and all neoliberal right wing leaning people and apologists are a terminal wrong and a stain on the world.

Find whatever peace and souls ease that you can to give you strength to carry on fighting. You are not alone even though isolation and division are things that the Tories work hard to force upon us. Life is not a competition, yet cooperation, care and support are now revolutionary acts in Tory Britain.

KOG 10 November 2016

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/nov/23/ken-loach-benefit-sanctions-jeremy-corbyn-food-banks

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/new-tory-welfare-chief-damian-8977533

https://www.theguardian.com/healthcare-network/2014/aug/08/return-victorian-diseases-gout-tb-measles-malnutrition

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/25/childhood-rickets-vitamin-d

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/labour-leadership-tories-conservative-party-poll-vote-intention-theresa-may-jeremy-corbyn-a7156381.html

tealweb1b

The moment when I realised that the Tories were politicising hate came during George Osborne’s conference speech in 2012 in which he said, “Where is the fairness, we ask, for the shift-worker, leaving home in the dark hours of the early morning, who looks up at the closed blinds of their next door neighbour sleeping off a life on benefits? When we say we’re all in this together, we speak for that worker.”

All in this together? Except those sleeping off a life on benefits, after an excess of drink and/or drugs and partying was the implication. Setting up resentment and hate against ones neighbour was a triumph out of which was to come Channel 4’s ‘Benefits Street’ and a whole raft of what became known as poverty porn in the media.

Osborne could have said, ‘Where is the fairness, we ask, for the shift-worker, leaving home in the dark hours of the early morning, who looks up at the closed blinds of their banker next door neighbour sleeping off a life on bonuses after crashing the global economy?’ But he didn’t say that, nor about tax evaders, or corporate profits made on the backs of workers on minimum wage, or money lenders and payday loan sharks ripping off people on poverty pay whose earnings do not even cover the week. Osborne was putting the writing on the wall, the target for austerity was the very people he sought to divide and sow resentment amongst.

Poor hating (and ‘othering’) was on its way to becoming legitimised and mainstream, wilfully and knowingly promoted by the government. It was an almost overnight success as the government launched its all out attack on the poorest and most vulnerable people in Britain. The war on the poor was on, left without any defence against hate speech and hate crimes, unprotected in law, excluded from all protections and legal redress. In other words, fair game.

The next set piece inciting and stoking the state sanctioned flames of hatred, came a year later with the launch of what are now known as Theresa May’s ‘racist vans’, these were accompanied by immigration officers randomly and illegally challenging non-white people on the London Underground demanding they prove their right to be in the UK. The outcry against this was robust, their assault brief, but the damage was done. Legitimising hatred with a short sharp shock worked wonders. All people need is a little nudge to get them going in the required direction.

And to keep them going, a year later poverty porn flooded the air waves. Benefits Street became the first of many programmes and series denigrating the poor and people on benefits in particular.

I am unsure when Social Security began to be faded out and replaced with the more pejorative ‘benefits’. ‘hand outs’, ‘welfare’ and ‘welfare dependency’. Social Security was inclusive, these new terms were divisive by intent as Cameron talked about slashing benefits and attacked what he called the ‘culture of entitlement’ (he probably even believed it) amongst poor people.

The Tories came up with the mantra of ‘making work pay’. Austerity was predicated on this as workers were stripped of employment rights, wages frozen or tanked, legal protections trashed. Making sure work always paid meant ensuring that the benefits system was as inhuman and punitive as possible, which had been a steady progression from the late 90’s but stratospherically escalated from 2010 by the DWP under Iain Duncan Smith.

Smith made it his holy mission in life to incentivise people into work by depriving them of the means of survival, through the sanctions regime, including the dismal amount the law stipulates that people need to live on. Smith insists to this day that sanctions are always applied fairly, as a last resort, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Sick and disabled people are not exempt from the sanctions regime and deterioration to health is expected. The DWP guidelines stipulate that, “It would be usual for a normal healthy adult to suffer some deterioration in their health if they were without: 1. essential items such as food, clothing, heating and accommodation, or 2. sufficient money to buy essential items for a period of two weeks.” A vulnerable person is one who would suffer more than this, it suggests, adding: “The DM (decision maker) must decide if the health of the person with the medical condition would decline more than a normal healthy adult.”

Perhaps those exterminated in the witch trials during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries might have looked upon such guidelines as benign, although many have wondered whether the DWP will reintroduce the ducking stool.

People have died in their thousands, so many that the DWP blocked publication of any updated figures. A Freedom of Information Request by Mike Sivier was ignored until the courts forced the DWP to release the figures although well past the deadline set by the Information Commissioner, having dragged their heels for nearly three years, and even then produced fudged figures which were all but useless.

It is hard to credit that this is Britain in the 21st century. MP’s act as the aggrieved parties, protesting that we, including some MP’s, have it all wrong and are talking nonsense. Iain Duncan Smith maintains that there is no causal link between sanctions and benefit deaths and use of emergency food banks, dismissing the evidence as anecdotal or supposition. First hand accounts and witnesses are good enough for the court system, but not good enough for the DWP’s secret penal system which imposes penalties far in excess of the UK’s court system and far more of them.

Mental health problems are on the increase, and why would they not be? This is what it is like living in a dystopian reality, a society that is as dehumanising and as unpleasant as possible, like George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ but this is no fantasy novel, it is the living reality for millions of people in Britain today.

In less than six years Britain has been transformed into a modern dystopia, for millions of people it is a living hell and a hell that they themselves are blamed for creating. Poverty is a treated as a personal failing, sickness and disability are treated as malingering, work is spun as a health outcome, depriving people of the means of survival is called fair, homelessness is treated as antisocial behaviour and begging a criminal offense, subject to instant fines. Councils are looking at fines of up to £1000 for begging and rough sleeping. That’ll solve the problem, eh?

This is an orchestrated plan against those who by accident of birth are poor by those who by accident of birth are well off and privileged. Is it any wonder that the Tories want to scrap the human rights act when they have already legitimised prejudice and hatred against poor, sick and disabled people and Cameron’s ‘swarm’ of immigrants?

What can we do? Firstly we must recognise that this is a physical war but it is also psychological warfare. The government spends millions of pounds of our money to pay for its Nudge Unit, or Behavioural Insights Team, and a small army of advisers, PR wonks and spin doctors. Much, indeed most, of the mainstream media is fully complicit in this travesty, it is either too insipid in its response or actively fuels and promotes the desecration and subjugation of the lives of ordinary people.

Whilst it is understandable that people, perhaps isolated, alone and afraid, wonder why no one is doing anything, a complaint I have often seen and heard. Millions are doing something every day, donating to food banks, volunteering, protesting, providing food and shelter, organising to block bailiffs, offering advice and advocacy help, working and reporting in the alternative media, reporting and sharing on social media, Union activists and political movements like Momentum, creating videos and documentaries, writing letters and articles, staying in touch with people in distress and offering support and care, a kind word, a hug, a shoulder to cry on. Every day.

The sun never sets on caring, The Samaritans are available 24 hours a day to those struggling and in despair, they can be called free at any time on any phone on 116 123 or visit their website http://www.samaritans.org/ for local branches.

Why are not people uniting to a common cause? Because our actions and movements are organic, working at many discrete levels, without coercion, self motivated, democratic, doing what we are willing and able to do. Resorting to moral compulsion and maybe patriotism (which itself is a form of compulsion) or appealing to civic duty will not serve us in any way. We are already a vast army of the willing, no matter how seemingly disparate, players in a system that is rigged against us. Economic warfare is as deadly as any war and as brutal, whether people die from a bullet or by being deprived of the means of survival, the result is the same, thousands die. Is death by deceit and corruption any better or worse than death from a bomb or bullet?

Make no mistake, we may not wear the uniform of state, or be armed and trained to be blunt instruments to fight their wars of subjugation and terror, but are we not warriors?

Never think for one moment that compassion and kindness, care and consideration are weak or that words are not mighty. After all, the war they wage against us is promoted and legitimised by words, albeit weasel words on which they spend millions in forcing their hateful words and ideology upon us.

Just before my visit to Bath Police Station in 2014 to lay charges against Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud, I had a moment of clarity in the shower, just words, ‘The Shoestring Army’, right out of the blue. Time has shown me what they meant. We are all that army. There are no joining fees, no recruitment campaigns, no conscription, we are an army of ordinary people, by right of birth and life. Our enemy does not understand us, cares nothing for us and has values very different to ours. They prize wealth and privilege above all else, I prize life and that is what I stand for in all its complex wonder. Life, our oh so brief time here, is to be treasured. They have no idea what that means.

Lord Freud summed it up very nicely, “people who are poorer should be prepared to take the biggest risks” as they have “the least to lose.” In other words, we are expendable, he and his kind are not.

He is wrong, of course, but he’s not just wrong, he is an ignorant sociopath and on the wrong side of life and living.

We are better than that.

KOG 07 November 2016

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/politics/2012/10/george-osbornes-speech-conservative-conference-full-text

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/jul/29/go-home-campaign-illegal-immigrants

Random visa checks at Tube station in ‘racist van’ area

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/apr/01/language-welfare-social-security

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/jun/25/cameron-tories-slash-benefits

https://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/default/files/jrf/migrated/files/Welfare-conditionality-UK-Summary.pdf

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/13611707.display/

DWP told to publish ESA deaths report, after two-year delay

http://www.disabledgo.com/blog/2015/06/dwp-ignores-watchdogs-deadline-over-benefit-related-deaths/

https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/resources/benefit-sanctions-britains-secret-penal-system

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/more-councils-threatening-homeless-people-7465087

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/more-councils-threatening-homeless-people-7465087

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/nov/23/lord-freud-welfare-poor-risk

DSC_1607.jpg

In Prime Ministers Question time this week, Theresa May indulged in a rather clever piece of deception which effectively told us that in their view those on benefits are very much second class citizens if barely citizens at all. Here’s what she said, I’ll break it down afterwards.

“What is important is that we value work, we value getting people into work where they are able to work, but we want a system that is fair, and it is a system that is fair both to those who need the benefits, but also fair to those who pay for the benefits through their taxes. There are many families struggling to make ends meet who are paying for the benefits of others. I want a system that is fair to them as well.” – Theresa May.

She preceded that with the following, “And crucially, the point about Universal Credit is making sure that work always pays. As people earn more they, err, as people work more, they earn more.”

The first thing to understand here is that those who are in work and struggling to make ends meet are unlikely to be paying income tax. The income tax threshold is £11,000, anyone earning under 11 grand is not paying income tax, but along with their sisters and brothers on benefits, they are subject to all the other forms of taxation, like fuel duty and VAT, that everyone pays regardless of whether they are in work or not. A report by the Equality Trust in 2014 found that the poorest 10% pay 42.92% of their gross income in taxes as against the top 10% which pays 35.43%.

Here, however, is where we fall foul of the scrounger rhetoric so beloved of this government. What they appeal to is the feeble minded idea that benefits are not a legitimate income which the vast majority will contribute to over a life time. What the Tories do is freeze frame on benefits recipients as if they have never, do not now and will never, contribute into the tax system. We all contribute to the tax pot and the poorest most of all because all the income of poor people is dispersed back into the economy and not into saving accounts and off shore tax avoidance/evasion facilities. All the income of poor people is money that is working in and for the economy.

Poverty has increased dramatically under the Tories, the Office for National Statistics found, ‘Almost a third of the UK population fell below the official poverty line at some point between 2010 and 2013’. That is around 19.3 million people, imagine the effect that has on tax receipts. Small wonder that George Osborne couldn’t balance the books. The imposition of austerity effectively strangled the tax receipts from those whose rely on their entire income to survive, much of which feeds straight back into the tax system. Alleviating poverty feeds the tax pot. If companies were forced to pay an actual living wage, not only would that end the practice of subsidising businesses through in work benefits, 42.92% of those wages would go directly into the tax pot. Working tax credits cost around £30 billion in 2015. That’s one hell of a corporate subsidy. Imagine saving that and the extra that would be generated by a real, and generous, living wage.

Please note that Theresa May corrected herself from saying, ‘as people earn more’ to saying, ‘as people work more, they earn more’. Of course they should earn more if they work more, duh, but poverty wages are poverty wages and it is wages that need to increase, not hours, but May isn’t interested in increasing wages, she’d rather give charity to businesses which, I remind you, cost tax payers £30 billion in working tax credits in 2015.

May said that we value work, she said nothing about valuing income from work. She uses ‘fairness’ in just the same way Cameron did, divisively.

The way out of poverty is to pay more, a fair days pay for a fair days work and a benefit system commensurate with survival, which Universal Credit is not. They could not play the scrounger rhetoric if we lived in a more equal society, it is only because of extreme inequality that they can create such divisiveness amongst poor people and, of course, fuel hatred against ‘immigrants’. The struggling working family is the same as a family struggling to survive on benefits, they are both victims of the Tories driving poverty catastrophically upwards as a matter of policy.

What May wants, as has been the case since 2010 (in fact, decades), is low wages and even lower benefits. Poverty is very good for business and victim blaming, hating the ‘other’, is very good for keeping the masses distracted from demanding social justice. Distracting 19.3 million people from demanding social justice and keeping them in poverty takes a very good PR team and a complicit media and May’s performance in PMQ’s this week was nothing more than a lousy PR stunt. Her fairness is fairness most foul. What she wants is people in insecure work on poverty pay, what people want is decent money to live on.

No one, other than a complete arsehole, resents paying into a benefit system that pays well if everyone is getting decent pay on which they can actually live comfortably. Inequality fuels discontent and poverty is dismal whether in or out of work and more people in the UK are in poverty who are working than not. What is the government doing about that? Worse than nothing, they are driving people downwards and increasing poverty to catastrophic levels, driving people into despair and suicide. You won’t hear work and pensions secretary Damian Green calling that “monstrously unfair” as he called Ken Loach’s ‘I, Daniel Blake’ which highlights the injustices in the benefit system which Green is in charge of, though he didn’t bother to actually see the film.

Wealth inequality is evil and poverty is a monstrous and unnecessary evil. Poverty serves no one, no, not even the super rich. No one wants to see homeless people on the streets; people reduced to abject beggary. We may disagree on why, for the well off it may upset their delicate sensibilities, for those who are homeless and  for those who care it is heart breaking. Ending poverty and wealth inequality should be the number one priority in a rich industrial nation, instead it is pursued because it creates vast profits for the few at the expense of the many. Social justice is treated as the ravings of left wing, socialist, Trotskyite, Corbynista, dogs. The rabble, as we’ve been called. That way it can be safely ignored by those with a vested interest in promoting inequality for their own self serving ends and for those who just get off on hating others without the bother of waking a single conscious brain cell, including trolls who are paid to spread hate and issue death threats against those with a social conscience.

People fear to stick their heads above the so called parapet, but what is that parapet? Writ large in unseen writing upon it are the words, ‘Social Justice’. It means, to be brave enough to state an opinion that might upset someone, but some people deserve to be upset if they care nothing for their fellow humans and, indeed, all life.

As Florence Reece wrote in 1931, a song that reaches down the years to this day, ‘Which side are you on?’, a version of which by Billy Bragg is included in the final link below.

KOG 14 November 2016

https://www.gov.uk/income-tax-rates/current-rates-and-allowances

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/jun/16/british-public-wrong-rich-poor-tax-research

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32812601

https://fullfact.org/economy/welfare-budget/

https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/dec/05/oecd-ineqaulity-report-uk-us

http://www.jrf.org.uk/data/work-poverty-levels

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/feb/19/number-of-suicides-uk-increases-2013-male-rate-highest-2001

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/ken-loach-damian-greeni-daniel-blake-comments_uk_58199b31e4b0e43b59aca504

Save

serveimage

In the early 1970’s I returned to my home turf of the London Borough of Hillingdon (LBH) having spent a couple of years working for an outdoor adventure company, learning and eventually qualifying to be a canoeing instructor and river leader. Those two pivotal years were spent in the company of a mixed bag of raving lunatics who introduced me to my first rapid by filling my kayak with beer and telling me to get it down the rapid to our watering hole for the day without losing it by capsizing.

I had not seen the rapid and from my kayak it appeared that the river disappeared past a line across the river into who knew what kind of maelstrom accompanied by a great deal of busy water noises and the tales of the savageness of what awaited me, all of which had reduced me to a bone melting state of terror. I had been warned to stay in the centre of the river at all costs. Bastards! A bathroom duck could have navigated that rapid and I learned that this was the standard introduction to Symonds Yat on the River Wye and to never overlook the chance of a good wind up.

Returning jobless to LBH I began working for the council on a tree gang. Our job was to fell all the Elms smitten with Dutch Elm disease in the north of the borough. I was young, I was fit and the money was great because we made damned sure we hit our bonus target every week. I enjoyed both jobs, the first setting me on a path I was to pursue for the rest of my working life, and the second working with a great team, earning good money in the great outdoors. The Tories would have been proud of our tree gang, we treated it as a fitness training camp and the work made us very fit and well indeed. But that was not the point.

The point was to earn money and when they cut our bonus time to impossible to reach targets all but two of the gang resigned for having the royal piss taken out of us, not unlike what the shower of charlatans currently in government are doing with their ridiculous rebranding of work as something essential to good health and peddling the ‘value of work as a health outcome’. It never was and never will be, but, hey, as long as they keep saying it, people will believe it. Reality takes a back seat to a dialogue of meaningless gobbledegook from a government stealing the life out of our bones.

Jeremy Hunt is the latest snake oil salesman to jump on the ‘arbeit macht frei’ bandwagon, following in the boot heels of Iain Duncan Smith before he resigned his post to work on his image adjustment programme as champion of the poor. Smith was the man who was clearly inspired by a trip to Auschwitz in his years as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

They hope that in dominating the dialogue with their twisted dogmas, they can persuade us that somehow we’ve got our real lived experience all wrong, in much the same way that they brand pensions as a ‘benefit’, an entitlement that we pay into out of our real earned wages over our working life times.

Living on state sufferance is the new normal, as David Cameron said, “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone’.” We are living by government dictat with whatever complete nonsense they decide to make up and force down our throats via a complicit, stupifyingly bad, media.

The expression, ‘you couldn’t make it up’ is now meaningless, they are doing just that. They peddle the lie, as Jeremy Hunt has with his, “With all the evidence showing that work is a major driver of health,” spoken with beaming wide eyed sincerity, or insanity, with not a lick of sense in a single word he says.

In my local Tesco the other day, I said to a friend on the till, “how’s it going?” “Living the dream,” he replied.

The government pursue their fantasy world of reality, made in their own image, with all the intensity and fervour of religious zealots, seeking to discredit our lived experiences and eliminate our lived reality and, indeed, eliminate us and our inconvenient lives if we are not profitable to them.

The very idea that Iain Duncan Smith or Jeremy Hunt gives a damn about work as a health outcome is too ludicrous for words. It would be laughable were it not for the danger of that turning into the unhinged cackling of dribbling insanity and of becoming permanently mentally deranged, like them.

Opening our minds, even for a moment, to their twisting of reality is incredibly dangerous. We are forced to counter with reason when they deserve nothing better than a good twatting with a baseball bat. Even mocking them is too good for them, giving them the pretence of credibility that they are even worth mocking. The trouble is they have got their hands on power and no matter that they are feeble minded fuck wits, we have to take them seriously, long enough to try to be rid of them once and for all.

David Cameron played a blinder when he established a fixed term parliament. No prizes for guessing whose interests that served. Many have called for a general election but why would Theresa May call a general election when all she has to do is sit tight and create as much ruin as her party sees fit till 2020?

Oliver Letwin was right, the NHS will not survive this parliament. How many times and in how many ways does it need saying? Jeremy Hunt isn’t a health secretary, he is a disease and he is hell bent on eradicating our NHS, no matter what nonsense comes out of his mouth. He’s a liar and a thief as is his corporate chum and chief executive of NHS England Simon Stevens. They are signing off our NHS as I type. Privatisation is a done deal.

The Tories have rained ruin on the lives of ordinary people. Damian Green, successor to IDS, has called Ken Loaches film, ‘I, Daniel Blake’ (although he hasn’t even seen it), “monstrously unfair” to which Loach has fittingly responded, “If they don’t know what they are doing to people they are incompetent and shouldn’t be in Government. If they do know what they are doing then they are not fit to be in Government.”

Exactly!

Cameron lied his way into and through his time in government and the unelected Theresa May is doing the same. That is not legitimate government. Those who play us false are themselves false.

KOG 02 November 2016

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/oct/31/sick-pay-and-work-assessments-to-be-reviewed-jeremy-hunt-reveals

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/britain-is-too-tolerant-and-should-interfere-more-in-peoples-lives-says-david-cameron-10246517.html

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/i-daniel-blake-director-ken-9176668

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/dec/30/oliver-letwin-a-career-in-gaffes

dsc_6826b

Iain Duncan Smith is not happy with Ken Loach’s film ‘I, Daniel Blake’, he says it focused only on, “the very worst of anything that can ever happen to anybody.”

Dr Simon Duffy on behalf of the Campaign for a Fair Society, published by The Centre for Welfare Reform, found that due to cuts in benefits and services the burden on people in poverty was 5 times the rest of population, the burden on disabled people was 9 times the rest of population and the burden on people with severest disabilities was 19 times the rest of population.

The Child Poverty Action Group found that 3.9 million children were living in poverty in the UK in 2014-15 and the Trussell Trust reported that 415,866 children were given three-day emergency food supplies between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2016.

In his 2015 budget speech George Osborne said, “So those who oppose any savings to Tax Credits will have to explain how on earth they propose to eliminate the deficit, let alone run a surplus and pay down debt.”

Lastly, Lord David Freud, one of the chief architects of the welfare reforms, said in 2012, “people who are poorer should be prepared to take the biggest risks” as they have “the least to lose.”

All of which merely provides the background for this piece but not the point.

The point being, what kind of people beat up on the poorest and most vulnerable people in society? There is no accident here, no error, this is government policy, to pick on those with the very least and the least able to defend themselves. Coupled with a complicit media which set out to monster those on benefits with great success, the entire body and power of government has attacked, and continues to attack, those who live the most fragile lives in Britain.

Only a couple of weeks ago, I spent an evening with a good friend, both of us in tears. His partners younger brother, in his twenties, had hung himself. The coroner, in talking to his family used the expression, “Under the circs,” repeatedly. Text speech to a family in the bottomless pit of grief and devastation? What on Earth is happening? Are we becoming a nation of zombies, our dead not even worthy of whole words like ‘circumstances’; just another suicide? Yes it was a totes traj, now move on.

Has Ken Loach featured someone hanging themselves in ‘I, Daniel Blake’ (I have yet to see the film), because that is the worst that did happen to that young lad? I am not laying the death of that young lad at Iain Duncan Smith’s door, but what I can and do lay at his door is that he is an architect of misery, deprivation, hunger and want as a Government Secretary of State, and even though he has now resigned, the devastation has been passed into new hands and continues.

The Tories are well known as the party of the privileged and members of parliament do not suffer want. Iain Duncan Smith has no place criticising ‘I, Daniel Blake’, any more than an architect would have any place denying the experiences of those living in misery in a building designed to be hideously awful as a dwelling.

I was devastated when David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister without a backwards glance. The Independent reported that he walked off into a life in which he will ‘earn £1.5 million from (his) memoirs and £50,000 per hour giving after dinner talks’. What about lying to parliament that disabled people would, of course, be exempt from the bedroom tax, and the 2015 election expenses scandal, austerity, food banks, sanctions, (the list is enormous)? Nothing! He has simply turned his back on the nation.

During his six years as leader of the Tory party, Cameron appointed and supported those who brutally set about demonising and hounding poor and vulnerable people. He behaved like the privileged rich boy he is, especially during Prime Ministers Question time which was a circus of mockery, jeers, jibes and sneers as far removed from the realities of ordinary people as it is possible to be.

As a film, I, Daniel Blake does not appear to be saying anything that has not been said tens of thousands of times in the six long, brutal, years since 2010, but Ken Loach is saying it as a brilliant, inspired (and inspiring) film maker.

The very simple truth is that we, ordinary people, are being abused and denigrated, our intelligence insulted, our living presence denied in the most patronising and most brutal ways imaginable, our lived experience dismissed, our voices ignored, our needs for food, shelter, warmth, stolen, sanctioned and denied us, our health and public services privatised. And why is this? In essence it is that capitalism (neoliberalism) has turned its rapaciously greedy eye on the vast untapped wealth of the nations taxes, dutifully extracted by law and paid by the vast majority of ordinary people, and strenuously avoided by those who hunger to fill their already overflowing coffers from the public purse.

The word is ‘greed’, in the pursuit of which our lives simply don’t matter. Greed, which would quite happily suck the marrow from our bones, already sells our blood for profit (‘Plasma Resources UK, which provides blood supplies to the NHS, has been sold to Bain Capital, a private equity firm set up by (ex) Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.’ reported in 2013) and robs us blind.

Yes, poor people suffering is good business. Recently Concentrix lost its contract for causing chaos in the tax credits system. Paid by results, they falsified claims against ordinary people using ‘the flimsiest of excuses to end tax credit claims’. Whilst tax credits have been taken back, in house, by HMRC, the insane race to privatise everything continues unrestrained.

Our publicly funded, free at the point of use NHS, is currently almost dead in the water as the race to privatisation reaches a critical stage with the launch of 44 STP ‘footprints’ which are going to be a disaster for health care provision across the UK. Of the 140 full A&E hospitals in England in 2013, most will close leaving somewhere between 40 and 70 to deal with emergency situations. It is simply not credible that lives will not be lost, travel time, and delays, alone will account for many before even arriving at hospitals which right now are already at breaking point.

Our lives are forfeit for private gain. And who is to blame? If you believe government and the media, the prime culprits are ‘Immigrants’. Yes, they are peddling that bullshit like fury.

So the question is, how is this happening?

It is happening by stealth, deceit and outright lies. Whatever Iain Duncan Smith says, this brutal cruelty and destruction is routine, it is planned and orchestrated by government and private interests aided and abetted by a complicit media and they are literally playing with our heads. They don’t care what effect any of this has on us, our lives and well being simply do not matter. Tens of thousands are already dead, they care nothing for the psychological impact on us. Mental health? What is that compared to profit?

Does all of this beggar belief? It should, because our beliefs are defined by the past. The legitimacy of government, the supremacy of law, the orderliness of society, the social order. Parade the Queen down the street and the masses will throng the sidewalks waving flags and bunting. They’ll even pay with their own hard earned money to celebrate the Queen and never stop for a moment to ask why?

Ask what the Queen has ever done for you and you’ll find yourself in a field of lean pickings.

However, what the Queen may or may not have done for me is not something that keeps me awake at night. What does keep me awake at night is how abysmally badly we are regarded and treated by our inglorious leaders, currently led, by divine (dis)appointment, by Theresa May. Austerity isn’t merely an idea, or academic concept, it informs policy, and in particular, it informs policy directed at me/us. If the government has done anything well, it is the cruelty and brutality of their austerity pogrom bringing want (and death) to the doors and the lives of the most vulnerable people in society.

I am constantly aware that at any time the government can and will bring out some new pestilential policy to attack our lives. As a relatively newly retired man, I do not, and cannot, regard my pension, a pot I have paid into all my working life, as secure. The government lumps pensions in the ‘benefits’ pot and as such pensions (like all so called ‘benefits’) are fair game for cuts. Benefits, like WAGES, are marked by insecurity, given on sufferance with little or no security. Workers and non-workers alike have had security stripped away. What Cameron called, promoting social mobility.

All of this torment and cruelty is predicated on a ever failing market model of privatisation based on greed. The wealth goes upwards and the brutality comes downwards along with all the market failings which we end up paying for as well.

Part of the mythos of our time is the impotent voices of ordinary people. Yet the same means of communication exist for each one of us as for our enemies, the Murdoch’s and politicians of this world. What they achieve in a wealth dominated communications market, we have in a sheer weight of numbers communications market. Images and words have power but somehow we’ve been persuaded that our words and images don’t count. They do. It’s just another myth that we need to discard. It’s a simple question, who benefits from our silence? So the answer is to create as much fuss and noise and disobedience as we possibly can and give it too them, not least because it is good for us, it’s good for our mental well being and its good for everyone else. Yes, even for those who still buy the Sun, they are the most vulnerable to suggestion, to the prevailing tide, the popular wave of public sentiment, as Murdoch knows only too well and exploits for all he’s worth, because that’s the kind of arsehole he is.

Like it or not, we’re in it for the ride, they have made sure of that by creating hardship and leaving us no choice other than to accept it, kill ourselves or fight back. I refuse to accept it and I refuse to kill myself and I like the third option a whole lot.

KOG 30 October 2016

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/i-daniel-blake-iain-duncan-smith-ken-loach-response-criticism-benefits-sanctions-film-unfair-a7384306.html

http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/uploads/attachment/354/a-fair-society.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/chancellor-george-osbornes-summer-budget-2015-speech

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/nov/23/lord-freud-welfare-poor-risk

http://www.cpag.org.uk/child-poverty-facts-and-figures

Latest Stats

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/david-cameron-to-earn-15m-from-memoirs-and-50000-per-hour-from-after-dinner-circuit-a7315496.html

http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2013/07/19/privatised-nhs-blood-services-sold-to-mitt-romney-s-company

https://www.civilserviceworld.com/articles/news/tax-credits-problems-%E2%80%9Cbigger-concentrix%E2%80%9D-hmrc-chief-jon-thompson-tells-mps

https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2016-10-18/debates/16101828000001/ConcentrixTaxCreditClaimants

http://999callfornhs.org.uk/footprints/4592357931

dsc_8533a

We are the prisoners of finance, of wealth and, more truthfully, those who revere wealth above all else, who seek ever greater wealth no matter the cost to individual lives, communities, nations and the world.

There is nothing reasonable about what is going on, this global asset stripping has all the hallmarks of a religious cult in which sense and reason are entirely absent.

It is being perpetrated by people who believe, as an article of faith, that they deserve the wealth of the world because they believe in their inherent superiority and genetic worth over the common masses.

The death toll in Britain is un-numbered, no one knows the true toll that poor people have paid, quite simply because of the knock on effect of policies of endless punishment and impoverishment of poor people and their communities.

Most damning of all is that the price that poor people pay with their lives is considered to be irrelevant. Poor people are a drain on wealth they are not worthy to receive. Even if people are, supposedly, lucky enough to have a job, millions of poor people are paid the minimum that companies can get away with, enough to keep their noses to the grindstone but never to rise above their poverty. They are kept in want, enslaved in a system of exploitation from birth to the grave.

Knowing nothing else, deprived of security and protection, in the certain knowledge that they can be dropped in an instant because there is always someone else prepared to take their place, the working life of poor people is nothing more than indentured slavery; bound to a system they feel powerless to change, bound by want.

They say an army marches on its stomach, of course it does, an army is people, without food or access to food, we starve. No one in their right mind would starve an army to incentivise it to fight better, yet that is exactly what is being done to poor people through the loss of employment and legal protections and a welfare system that is now predicated on punishment and deprivation to incentivise them to work hard. Deprived of the means of survival, what really happens is that people die, many taking their own lives in despair. Across Britain lives are winking out daily, in silence, measured only in the grief of family and loved ones, but rendered invisible politically and by a media dominated by those who fully endorse the culling of poor people and the eradication of ‘useless eaters’.

The release of Ken Loach’s film, ‘I, Daniel Blake’, which I have not yet seen, has ignited audiences (and those yet to see it), as a true representation of what poor people across Britain are experiencing daily. How is this credible, for many , sight unseen? It’s credible because its Director, cast and crew are credible.

Michael Gove said, whilst campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union, “people in this country have had enough of experts.” He was wrong, of course. What people are sick of is those who pose as experts driven by self interest and greed. An a Ipsos Mori survey showed that ‘academics come behind only “friends and family” (57%, compared to 72%) in terms of whom people trust on issues related to the referendum’. What people don’t trust is people like Michael Gove, a self serving politician and corporate PR wonks, posing as experts, who are paid to deceive us.

Ken Loach, then, is as important as his film, the one hangs on the credibility of the other which gel and combine, making a seamless combination. Those who denigrate the film also denigrate its Director, dismissing him as ‘hard left’, just as they denigrate anyone and any movement that fights for social justice.

Those who support Jeremy Corbyn have been roundly attacked as ‘Trotskyites’, ‘thugs’, ‘rabble’, ‘entryists’ (whatever that is supposed to mean), ‘Corbynistas’, ‘dogs’. That’s what the self serving elites think of ordinary people, heaping insults on us with impunity, supported even by the BBC. As a Corbyn supporter I have no time for petty insults being levelled against me, they are just so much bullshit promoted by those for whom democracy is threat to their self serving agendas and who seek to promote division amongst ordinary people to further their own ends and lucrative careers. They are the kind of experts that I have no time for because they are experts in greed and selfishness.

Mark Kermode, film critic for the Observer, described ‘I, Daniel Blake’ as ‘a battle cry for the dispossessed’. We are both in need of a battle cry and a rallying point and if that is what ‘I, Daniel Blake’ achieves it will be most welcome in the war against the poor that has been waged throughout time.

If Britain was ever great (it is far from that now), it was made great on the backs of the lives of ordinary people. Margaret Thatcher sacrificed Britain’s coal reserves and industrial heart to beat the workers and Britain’s strongest Union. She called the miners ‘the enemy within’ and sent the massed forces of the state to brutally crush them. That was the miners reward for the enormous wealth they tore from the Earth for the mine ‘owners’ at the cost of their lives and well being. Generations of miners served the nation, the owners served only the profits they made on the backs of miners. Who was the enemy?

Everyone with a lick of sense knows that the banking crisis and global crash of 2008 was an inside job. They had sold debt, as credit, like there was no tomorrow, and then sold junk debt as AAA rated investments, until there was no tomorrow and it imploded. The world was taken by surprise precisely because it was a well hidden inside job, anyone who warned of an impending crisis was ignored.

And who has paid for this inside job? Anyone??? Well, more like everyone, except the bankers. And no, ‘we’ didn’t bail the banks out, the government bailed them out with our money and who has been forced to fill the black hole left by this exclusively public robbery? Well, yes, everyone, but more than anyone, the poor, the people who are dying in droves. Poor, sick and disabled people, vilified, cut to the bone, sanctioned and hounded to death.

Shurely there must be shome mistake! Nope, there is no mistake here, it is a matter of public policy relentlessly pursued by successive governments, the media, local government, corporations and the ‘free’ markets. Over half the worlds wealth is in the hands of 1% of the population and the flow of wealth upwards is increasing daily.

They say, ‘to the victor belongs the spoils’, coined by New York Senator William L. Marcy. That has, up until now, included the writing of history, languishing and spun in the hands of the victors. Thanks to Tim Berners-Lee the high ground of history and, indeed, the present, is no longer the exclusive domain of the rich and powerful. The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists of Robert Tressell are no longer feeling philanthropic towards their, so called, masters and betters. There is a reckoning to be had, one that is long overdue.

The tide is turning and the powerful are desperate, holding on like grim death. Cries against the under dogs are sounding ever more strident. Sales of Rupert Murdoch’s Sun, his xenophobic mouthpiece, have fallen below 2 million, though, they hope, digital subscriptions may soften the blow. Meanwhile the rise and rise of independent media sources is stratospheric. Independent news source, The Canary, brain child of Kerry-Anne Mendoza, entered the top 100 UK Media Publishers (at 79) in July this year and The Canary is far from alone. No day is complete without a visit to, and alerts from, Mike Sivier’s ‘Vox Political’ and regional news site and online magazine The Dorset Eye is unique, as far as I know, in offering a democratic voice to ordinary people of all walks of life and ability.

I’ll spare you any kind of list, that’s not the point. The point is that empowerment of the people, by the people for the people is growing, it may seem slow, but then the elitist power structure has been long in the making and is well established, but it is shaking, not least from healthy and growing public skepticism. And rightly so, the main stream media is now largely made up of spoon fed, often PR led, news releases to corporate owned outlets which are increasingly under pressure from the inevitable job cuts and dwindling resources by those whose focus is profit.

And there you have it, the privatisation of wealth, which, we are told, is good for all of us, offering more choice and better, more efficient, services which these days only the most gullible believe any more. The minimum wage panders to the private sector which reaps enormous profits at workers expense offering workers less than the minimum required for them to live on. Such companies are the real benefit cheats, leaving the welfare state to subsidise their parsimony towards their ever more insecure work forces. Like much of the private sector, it’s daylight robbery and that is what is happening to our once great public services, like our NHS and front line services and our system of social security which is currently killing people at a terrifying rate, whilst offering lucrative contracts to private companies to do the dirty work of a government that likes to avoid getting blood on its hands or take any responsibility for the carnage they wilfully create.

The future, if we are to have one at all, lies with us, ordinary people, with a vast range of skills at our disposal. The government has betrayed us, the markets and the private sector have no reason to support ordinary people, quite the reverse, the legal system is not going to suddenly come to our aid, nor the police, who have been used time and again to stifle protest, not aid it. However you feel about it, we’re it. The UK government has prostituted itself to the ‘free’ markets and private interests, and, as with the banking crisis, it is we, the public who get shafted. The least we can do is oppose, resist and expose and be ready for whatever comes next.

KOG 26 October 2016