“strive to thrive, not just survive!” / “don’t change yourself to learn how to deal with the shit – change yourself to change the shit!”

 

I have had a bewildering past year or so; maybe decade too.  And maybe the long arm of bewildering reaches much further back than that.

No matter.

The summer has really topped it all.  I have recovered from eleven years of depression; I think I may be one of the very fortunate people in the world ever to have recovered from a rather wayward diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia; I have recovered my love of life; and I am even prepared to admit I have a dusty old password book that might remind one of a balding pot-bellied Hogwarts teacher’s book of potions.

But most of all I have fallen in love with people: first and foremost, I have fallen in love with a woman – or maybe sex android – who only likes working in PriceWaterhouseCooper (I assume as an accountant; but maybe other fab stuff on what’s gonna be a wonderful side!), and leaves you at the end of a great meal without allowing you to go to the toilet first, but who still manages to be the greatest, sexiest company I ever did meet; and who pretended to be my second cousin when I met her one glorious evening in Dublin, even as she knew I had made love during four of the happiest days of my life with the person she led me to assume was her mother; and yer know, this sex android or doppelgänger or stuntwoman or just another famous person I didn’t recognise (amongst many more I’m sure) I did end up buying a beautiful rose gold Radley watch for – on the instances I think it was of Google, though it might’ve been Apple (I can’t now remember which maps app I was using at the time …).

And if that last sentence doesn’t get me put away, then I don’t know what else I need to do.

And I fell in love with places too: with the city of Liverpool, the soul of my being now; and with the city of Dublin, my literary heart.

And I realised my foibles are something some people have come to treasure; and so it’s become much easier for me to treasure – and finally love – myself.

And I’m even prepared to admit I have real sexual fantasies, but as there are children probably watching at the mo’, maybe I should rein back on this particular sentence and idea – just at the minute, anyways!

And I realise I am confused, and I realise I may be mad too – but bad mad I am not; gentle, kindly, compassionate mad, if anything.

I have only ever wanted the world – this rock we all share – to work together for a greater good: a greater good which bases its essence on the sense of individual liberties we must promote, love and hold close to our everyday lives, and yet is balanced with collective action, support and affection; where difference is valued above all, by everyone who wishes to form part of this deliciously thriving and striving society; where respect for another’s choice is prime, and always maintained; and where no one – no one, I proclaim from the very bottom of my being, soul and heart! – is told they are simply to be extensions of others’ wellbeings: blunt tools to be blunted further by life’s terrible injustices.

No.

That is not the way.

That is not our way.

And it is time, I think, for us all to proactively realise that we cannot wait for others who reign over us to voluntarily give us our due; to voluntarily give us our worth.  It is a terrible time overdue for us to realise the dispossessed only become understood and good – become good in the sense of fulfilling their grand potential (a potential the universe gives each and every one of us at birth; a potential our world so frequently rips savagely away from our very flesh and bones, leaving behind as it does bleeding remnants of once magnificently youthful and ambitious aspiration) – when they have the means to stand on their own two feet and declaim righteously, yet not with a pride that might come before any fall, the truth of life, its often rank inequalities, and the foolishness of those who believe that privilege can possibly benefit the privileged.

So.

This morning I wept before my iPhone as I listened to three songs on YouTube.

The first two were different versions of “Man In The Mirror”: by Michael Jackson, who made the song so rightly famous; and by Siedah Garrett, who along with Glen Ballard we must love forever for writing its astonishingly, confusingly, demandingly and accurately lyrical beauty.

The song is both a challenge and a comfort; both a lullaby to the best of humanity and a clarion call to its dynamisms and thirsts for real and lasting change.  It requires us to change ourselves: but not as some might feel to ameliorate – where we feel amelioration is our only way out – a saddening relationship with what ought otherwise to be this glorious whirled: no, the song, its creators, those who love it, are really saying: “Don’t change yourself to learn how to deal with the shit – change yourself to change the shit!”

And this subtle difference is something I, myself, have misunderstood all my life.

The second song is another Michael Jackson song: a beautiful beautiful video and music: “Earth Song” – for me, one of his greatest greatest ever.

It also touches me because it touches a part of my heritage which has suffered greatly around the turn of the century, and which in turn, for me, has been a cause of great direct pain – both emotional and intellectual – all my life: from the very day I was born, that is.

If you find the time, and your device allows you to see the videos below, I’d really ask you to watch all three – and if you can find it in yourself, maybe weep with compassion too.  For compassion allows us to do something practical; and that, I now think, feel and dearly hope, must be the next step which together we really all should take.

 

 

from toddlers to foreigners – a very british policy of cleansing ethnicity?

This looks planned, very deliberate, long-term and unkind.

First, in December, we had the announcement that foreign university students wouldn’t be allowed to stay in the UK to find work, once their courses were over.  This, of course, removes the benefits of continued cultural rub; of exchange; of future potential research; of human development more generally (the bold is mine):

While the NHS fee may not appear huge, it’s symbolically pandering to an anti-immigrant rhetoric. It’s one of many measures that negatively affect international students – including attendance monitoring, proposed landlord checks for migrants and credibility interviews.

Almost all of these have come along in the last few years. Is this coincidental? Or is it a systematic attempt to reduce the number of non-EU students, because of the rise of an anti-immigrant sentiment in the UK?

Systematic attempt, eh?  Well.  The proposals and objectives were limited, in this case, to non-EU foreign students.

So maybe we could be charitable and assume the government only had such students as the goal of its plans.

Without wider ramifications.

Some might have wildly argued it was edged with a desire for proactively cleansing future ethnic change.  But we’d probably have accused such accusers of being wild conspiracy theorists.

Today, in the meantime, I read this astonishing piece from the Telegraph:

Nursery school staff and registered childminders must report toddlers at risk of becoming terrorists, under counter-terrorism measures proposed by the Government.

Talk about the nanny state.  Goodness me, but Blair’s New Labour had absolutely nothing on this lot.

Anyhow.  Couple the above with the news on foreign uni students, and the accusations of proactively cleansing possible ethnic change in the future begin to seem less of the tinfoil-hat brigade.

The Home Office appears clear about where it wants to go: killing two birds with one stone, it positions the terrorism frontline in the field of education at the same time as it aims to remove as many “foreign” ways of thinking from the country.

This is surely a long-term strategy, make no mistake about it.  They’ve learned from Blair in another matter too: “Education!  Education!  Education!”  Only, this time we have a rather twisted reinterpretation.  Don’t educate to make society better.  Educate to find out what people are thinking – in the case of toddlers, before they themselves even know what that means!

In bad faith I might observe (as some on Twitter already have) the opportunities that spying on toddlers would present for a paedophile-plagued establishment.

But apart from cheap shots like that, once – at toddler level – a duty of care of such characteristics were imposed, it’d be so easy to move into judging families on the basis of what children exploringly were heard to chatter; to read into so much stuff so much other stuff; to misunderstand from ethnocentric positions the attitudes, meanings and behaviours of those from other cultures; to observe in order to prove preconceptions.

Or simply to turn angry words into fully-fledged positions – and daily conversation into a permanently self-censored balancing-act of citizens, unable, any more, to express their honest dissatisfaction about anything without fearing the serious consequences of doing so.

Spying on people doesn’t make them more likely to engage with you.

Spying on toddlers gives them every reason to distrust.

And distrustful children who grow up unclear of the reasons for being distrusted – because, for Chrissakes, they’re only toddlers! – will never, but never, grow up into trusting, responsible, friendly and confident adults.

All of which a terrorism-free society needs in bucketfuls right now.

So what’s the point?  What’s the plan?  Why is our government attacking so fiercely the very early and very late edges of our children’s development and exposure to the outside world?

What are they looking to achieve with such incompetent and counter-productive strategies?

(prejudging) prejudice as part of the human condition

Nigel Farage apparently claims we are unconcerned about using racist vocabulary, at least as far as the Telegraph reports in this article today.  The paper then digs out a 2013 study, which says the following things:

The headline result from the study was that 30 per cent of respondents described themselves as racially prejudiced. Here is a breakdown of the results, showing which groups are most likely to admit to some sort of racism.

And there follow three graphs which make for interesting viewing.  Before we continue, I suggest you view!

*

I’m more interested in the fact that these people admit to racial prejudice than that they are racially prejudiced.  In truth, I’d prefer to drill down a bit more and, of those who openly admitted to racial prejudice, find out which think this is bad or not.

I’ve always had this feeling we are all inevitably prejudiced.  To assert this is not the case is to compound the negatives of the situation.  That people with degrees should claim to be least prejudiced is, to my mind, neither a virtue nor a vice but a cloak made of shame which serves to hide deep-rooted realities.

If this train of thought is fair, the more educated you become, the more capable of hiding your rough and unready edges you are.

It’s not just that prejudice is a part of the human condition; prejudging prejudice is too.  In a sense, prejudice has two faces: one, the reductionist and purely negative one people like Farage love to smother around; the other, a necessary prejudging of our environment – a shorthand, if you like – which allows us to get by in a fast-changing, often confusing, world.

When does prejudging become prejudice?  It’s a good question.  There are a lot of them about.

When does localism become nationalism?  When does privacy become secrecy?  When does dissent become treason?

All of them good questions, with highly challenging answers.

What’s undeniable, at least to my mind, is that if we cloak, degree-like, our attitudes with fine words, then we shall never come to understand those others who are unable to speak so cogently.

And this is unfair.

*

One final train of thought I stumbled across today – this time from the Spectator.  Giving examples of where this has not taken place, the article’s author concludes by saying:

[…] It is surely not unreasonable to expect internet companies to be as vigilant against terrorism as they are against paedophilia.

My immediate response is to assume that whilst paedophilia may be considered a crime against individuals (though the Savile case and other recent revelations seem to suggest that perhaps a war of sorts was being waged at a far more societal level), terrorism is always a crime against a civilisation.  Not only that: paedophilia is far easier to define, whatever the nation-state you occupy; terrorism, meanwhile, does sadly, even today, find its definition inflected by history, ideology and point of view.

A private corporation which depends on individuals for its income will always choose to rid itself of paedophilia before it does of terrorist verbiage, precisely because the latter depends on the history, ideology and point of view I mentioned – and, in so depending, is therefore more difficult to cover in the online legalese of webby terms and conditions.

Paedophilia, meanwhile, is (I assume) equally revolting to all civilisations, wherever they find themselves – and so simpler for an Internet company to typify and reach the decision to exclude.

Are the above two cases further examples of the slippery and uncertain dividing line between prejudgement on the one hand and prejudice on the other?  I think they may be.

In the case of paedophilia, it’s prejudice that necessarily operates – especially as for most people conclusions are reached in the absence of personal experience.  The situation is so grave as to make us react with our emotions full-on, even though all our knowledge is second- or third-hand.  We cannot think in a measured way about such situations: they are too awful to imagine.  Yet such prejudice allows us to reach logical positions: this mustn’t happen now; it mustn’t happen again; it shouldn’t have happened in the past.  Let’s stop it.

In the case of terrorism, the situation is far more complex.  Those of us who find it impossible not to support the state of Israel will never find it possible to describe Palestinian terrorism as freedom-fighting.  And with the positions reversed, the quandary is equal.

*

So we see that the people who work for the state on our behalf, and whose job it is to take ultimate decisions over the lives of others, must in some way strive to step away not only from prejudice but also from prejudgement.

Even the latter’s not enough to take decisions with the necessary objectivity.

From prejudice to prejudgement to simply, flatly, judging, the line of progression isn’t an easy one to pursue.

A progression which no one can really achieve unless they fully admit first their instincts to prejudgement at the very least, and more than likely prejudice too.

As I say, a part of the human condition.

You don’t need to be educated to recognise your permanent faults, either.

You just need to be humble; which ain’t an easy task for anyone.

And maybe least of all for the educated.