The Politics of ...

The Politics of ...

Thursday, 30 June 2016

The Young or the Dead?

I feel a little like a 19th century maiden aunt giving a young niece advice on how to have really great dirty, sweaty sex, but in many ways that is okay because the people I'm appealing to are sometimes blinded by love and high sugar content food and drink.

The old, the disaffected, the disenfranchised and the ignorant - but mainly the old - have plunged the youth of this country into a situation at least 76% of those that voted didn't want and while, in reality, the majority of them will dismiss the vote on a minute-by-minute basis, the youth of this country with half a brain will know that there is now an even bigger hurdle in front of them than they could ever have imagined. For some young people in this country there is nothing but covert rebellion, weed, sex and the same slog their parents and grandparents suffered and regardless of the social and educational reasons, a large part of it is down to parents looking at their children like they are some kind of bizarre investment and wondering when that huge money pit is either going to pay back some of the money spent on them or bugger off the family payroll.

I've worked with some unbelievably intelligent kids whose lives are fait accomplis - their fathers have stated, quite categorically that work is the way forward, none of this going to college and bettering yourself nonsense. Trying to convince these kids they should fight for their future is a cross between trying to convince a racist they should have voted remain and a real fight - you'd have more chance donning a Moses costume and trying to convince the Red Sea to part. I have friends in Corby who can point out walking human tragedies around that town - people who, had they been looked after properly by our governments, could have become someone good - people who contribute. Yes, these people didn't want whatever opportunities were pushed their way, but on estates in Corby anything coming from Westminster is viewed with suspicion and therefore anything passed down by local government has the same stigma attached; plus the children of people with nothing are indoctrinated by the spite their parents hold for the establishment.

The problem is in these urban ghettos, of which Corby and every other town in Northants (and all over the country) also have people who simply do not believe that politicians are even aware of them and whenever they do fall on their radar it's to try and make their lives harder - and frankly, who can blame them. It simply doesn't matter what you say to some people, prove to them or give them examples of why, people think governments are there to shaft us - a necessary evil.

I've met people who have conveyed to me that they truly believe this is Purgatory; that living here and now is a punishment for a previous life's indiscretions. I've met more people who have become increasingly paranoid about everything and I'm seeing scary levels of intolerance that would have been frowned upon ten years ago. The sad truth is people are ignorant because influence exists everywhere and in austere times negative influence resonates more.

The people affected by negative influence the most are the elderly and what the elderly did last Thursday was stick a massive two fingers up at their children, their grandchildren and their future generations. They weren't influenced by the fact they could be screwing up everything they worked hard for and some of them won't care. Both parties operated Project Fear, the Leave campaign scared the OAPs more while simultaneously tweaking the nostalgia gland.

What we now need is a brighter future, because for 48% of the population it looks bleaker than a landslide UKip General Election victory and what everyone seems to have forgotten about are all those kids in schools and apprenticeships who had absolutely no say whatsoever in their futures. Every 'child' under 18 on June 22nd didn't have representation and how many of them would have been subjected to their parents' or grandparents' racist invective? Many of them, living in a completely multi-cultural world, dismiss it, but others, like the kid who was resigned to leaving school at 16 and getting a job, will perpetuate it.

Politics was something reserved for 6th form when I was at school and while schools today have some politics in their curriculum, the nature of it and the passions it stirs, especially amongst left leaning teachers means it's more like a mechanics manual than a creative writing class. This is completely wrong.

I believe that politics is something that we are exposed to every day - we simply can't avoid it, yet the majority of us systematically blank it from our minds. We try not to align the two because for some of us it really is too difficult to reconcile. But it is a fact, from your shopping to your use of parks you are using politics, you are part of politics, you are aiding the economy to allow you to relax in the park. Obviously, it is a lot more complicated than that, but that pretty much sums it up. If you lived in a world inhabited by 150,000 people on a planet the size of Northampton, it might be as simple as that. Every child from the moment they are born - the NHS - to the moment they walk out of school - and onto JSA - is, in many ways, affected by politics more than you or I and yet they have no voice, because of politics.

I'm not suggesting that any child under the age of twelve should be forced to suffer 'lessons' about politics, but once a child enters Year 9 they should get a mandatory one lesson a week, rising to two in Year 11. Before you start arguing about bias, just remember that kids are subject to political bias whenever there's an election on, whenever something happens that effects their parents. Whenever something unique like a referendum happens, so they're not going to be exposed to anything worse than they see at home; but that isn't really a starter here. My little experience in education saw something I really didn't expect - Conservative teachers; there might not be that many, but they exist. If schools have to or chose to put Politics on their curriculum then they employ politically diverse teachers and if that seems a bit radical, think of it this way - kids share everything with each other and now more than when I was at school because of electronic devices and social networks; teachers sharing personal beliefs is always something special, it forms bonds, and more importantly kids listen to 'secrets' with all ears; if they think they're sharing something it sticks and it focuses minds much better than pawing over books. Politics should be about discussion, debate and demystification as well as how and why it works and what it does for us.

I was asked once by a young guy why we paid taxes. I thought it was a weird question until he quantified it. We pay Council Tax, we pay VAT, we pay fuel tax, we pay road tax, if people die they pay inheritance tax, we pay taxes on house purchases, we have to buy a TV license, and then there's pensions and National Insurance, taxes on fags and booze, we even buy lottery tickets, where does all of this money go and then you have income tax, which is the biggest chunk of the lot. I suddenly realised that young people simply don't understand and that's because they are not educated about it. We send our kids to school and they leave and are thrown in the deep end without adequate preparation. This is a society that will allow any 16 year old to have a baby, but not vote until they're 18. If you didn't understand how society worked you'd probably wonder why we leave our kids so under-prepared and even if you do understand it...

Evil politicians might want less people to be interested, because lower turn outs mean bigger chances of winning. If compulsory voting is not on or ever likely to be on the agenda then we have to start educating our kids about politics, even if it bores the shit out of them. The daughter of an old friend recently had a lesson at school - she's Year 11 - and it was about council taxes, pension schemes, insurances and being aware that planning for the future is something school leavers should really be thinking about - not all the time, because knowledge is not necessarily power, but it does remove the huge amounts of anger and frustration exhibited by the youth when faced with such trials as benefits, rent agreements and single living. Schools are kind of gearing up kids to be at home now, focusing on careers again but not teaching kids about the perils that face them, especially if they have radical parents; and I mean 'radical' in the term they view their children as earners rather than learners.

Stop perpetuating myths, urban legends and prejudice by allowing them to view their parents' opinions with objectivity; if we continue the way we're going huge swathes of the country won't even bother to vote and less and less people will feel compelled to venture into politics and it will become like it was in the 19th century, lots of rich and privileged people screwing you down and the people feeling helpless, worthless and alienated. If you are a parent and you value your kids' futures, then you should start to encourage them to be interested. It's kind of a duty if we want fairer representation in the future, when many of us will have retired and will be worrying about pensions, houses, food and our limited futures.

Lower the voting age to 16, or raise all legal ages to 17; at 15 a kid is facing at least three years of education ahead, but 16 and 17 year-olds face four or five years of not having a say in their future and by the time they do they're not interested. Get schools to promote student councils, that have to be run to include all, and that means some of the dodgy kids and even some from SEN or the disenfranchised - give them a voice and some responsibility and watch them shine and more importantly watch them assert positive peer pressure. You don't have to radicalise students to get them interested in the future of their country, you just have to make them think (and know) they will have a voice.

It's time to engage and involve the young in tomorrow.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Last Word

Worst Case Scenario

The country decides to leave the European Union. What could happen?

The stock market could crash and there could be a massive run on Sterling, devaluing Britain by as much as £40billion over night.

This will spark an emergency budget to put safeguards in place should the arse fall out of the economy.

David Cameron - growing increasingly unpopular - resigns and triggers a leadership battle in the Conservatives, where those in favour of Leave become the leading contenders, people with an extreme right-wing leaning and who have publicly stated that the cuts to public services are not deep enough and are unlikely to channel whatever piddly amount is saved from leaving into those services and the excuse will be the fall in stock and the fiscal effect on leaving.

Not a lot else will happen during the first two years as our government attempts to negotiate trade deals and discovers that it cannot accept any existing deal without allowing the freedom of movement - just ask Norway or Switzerland. Except, some things will happen, socially.

As one political reporter (Norman Smith) said, 'Whatever happens it will change the face of the UK'. He knows, as do many others, that the extreme examples of xenophobia exhibited throughout the campaign will spill out onto the streets, probably whatever the result. The referendum has allowed prejudices to be almost acceptable, as like-minded people congregate to castigate and show extreme opinions that align them with some of the worst terrorists and this will affect foreign migrants in this country, who will be stuck in a limbo, not knowing what the immediate future holds for them.

The scary thing is if intimidation begins (continues) and starts to drive EU migrants (and others) out of the country, there is an idiot minority who will view this as a victory and once it starts 'reclaiming the country' will become something that the far right will begin to practice, because if we vote to leave then the lunatics will really be in control of the asylum. You might not care about the economy (you really should) or bureaucracy (there's probably more of it in UK law than in the EU) or even the migrant issue (depending on who you believe it's either the big issue or not really a concern), you might just feel it seems the right thing to do.

That hangnail - you know if you bite at it you'll end up making your finger bleed and sore for a few days. You know that pulling at it is the stupid thing to do, but you do it anyhow and you'll probably do it again. This isn't a hangnail, this is like cutting off your nose to spite your face. This isn't a frivolous thing; this isn't about getting one over the government, or screwing David Cameron, this is self-harm. Ask yourself this: the UK might be a better place out - that fairy tale might come true and Boris & co., will be right. It might not change much at all and you might shrug your shoulders and say 'Meh', or... it might be costing you your job, your children's jobs and futures, your pockets and purses, your civil liberties and you might wonder what the hell has happened and who can you blame for it?

If you vote Remain and nothing changes will it be that bad? But just think, for a second, put those feelings to one side and think about the future, what if it all turns to shit? What if your house devalues by 35%? What if your pension disappears either through lack of money or a corporate raider like Philip Green? What if there are no jobs, no money sloshing around the economy, no cheap goods - what if you can no longer buy what you want or at the right price? People don't want second best, but they sometimes have to accept it - but it tends to be their choice; if you never have the first choice any more and pay more for what you have to have, is that better than it is now? Do you really really want some kind of mythical independence if it is going to cost your kids their future? Can you truly live with yourself if you are one of the people responsible for the isolation and bankruptcy of our great nation?

Vote Remain.

Monday, 20 June 2016

More Than A Feeling

You are 14. You have just met the most fantastic boy/girl. Inside 24 hours you are in love; smitten and wrapped in a warm fuzzy sensation no drug can really truly replicate. When you profess your love for this other new and brilliant person in your life, you are looked at in the same way you were looked at when you were six and farted at the dinner table. "It's how I feel!" You plead with your mum, who knows, all too well, what you are experiencing.

You are 21. It's Grand National weekend and you like a flutter on the Grand National. It's a national pastime, innit? You saw the runners and riders a week ago and you had this sneaky feeling about Bold Future. You think it is going to win. It's 25/1. All week you convince yourself that the odd feeling - that may well have been wind - when you first saw the horses' names is the feeling; the one that is lined with gold.

You are in your 50s - not quite in the baby boomer generation, but old enough to remember the world of three TV channels, ringing telephones that were simply just ... telephones and men with leather patches on their elbows and shoulders of their brown corduroy jackets. You have been 'a European' for 4/5ths of your life and the other fifth you were so young you had no real comprehension of the world around you. Contrary to popular belief most kids that wander around the world up to the age of about 10 do so with an awe-inspired open-mouthed acceptance. You are influenced by what you hear more than what you see because people don't have a tendency to shove pictures in people's faces to continually emphasise a point the way they do with words. Words stick, just ask the mum who inadvertently mutters the word 'fuck' almost under her breath and now has a child running around the house shouting FUCK at the top of its voice.

You are in your 50s and that means you're not too far away from something that seems almost ridiculous - retirement. What you are looking at is your pension, your security and your family (not necessarily in that order, but politics has a tendency to re-prioritise peoples lives) and whether or not you're going to get NHS treatment in the future, because if you haven't started going wrong, it's sitting around the corner waiting to pounce. For the first time in your life you are actually actively thinking about the future, because you've flushed 50-odd years down the toilet and you ain't got that much time left to replay it all again. Tell a 16-year-old he should stop smoking because they will suffer for it when they're 50, they will, almost quite rightly, point out that that's over 30 years away and you didn't listen to the people who told you the same thing.

You might be younger and be reading this thinking carpe diem or death and glory, but trust me, it's like death and taxes, it is something you will do and when you do it's usually with worst case scenarios just to ratchet up the fear factor. You will slow down. You will see time pass without real comprehension.

Now, I'm gobsmacked that we've had 16 years of the 21st Century already. I mean, where did that go? It's like my world has been encased in a select bubble that because it is ageing with me I'm only aware of the numbers. So with that in mind you realise without ever realising it while it is happening that your life becomes reasonably ordered and steady and staid and even a bit boring, but usually it is comfortable and bollocks to going clubbing this weekend, my legs are aching from doing the gardening... It. Just. Happens.

Therefore what you want from the future is that unconscious security you've been experiencing since whenever it started. At least that is my feeling. I'd like that unconscious security to be in Wigtownshire and involve as little work as possible and I'm sure everyone else also has their idyll knocking around in their heads. I'd like to make one last adventure in a life that, compared to my father, has been relatively conservative (SMALL C) despite my belief that it's been more cosmopolitan than many people I've met. I feel that a move will be the best thing I can do with whatever life I have left; the idea of something new doesn't, in the slightest, fill me with dread, but an electric current-like frisson of possibilities and positives.

But, you know, I have COPD, which isn't going away and a history of back and shoulder problems and no private pension to speak of. The wife has family she needs to be around because of her mum's ill health and moving to Scotland would be a massive movement of everything away from everything we know. Still, it's a feeling I think needs to be tried, even if it goes extraordinarily tits up.

What I've just been talking about is what an enormous amount of people I have met on my travels think about the EU Referendum. Obviously not that exactly, but because it is a feeling they have and it doesn't matter how much you can prove to them that the most sensible thing is to RemaIN/Leave, they have a feeling, goddammit! You can't argue with feelings. Look what happens when you question feelings: "Boss, having spoken to that Jimmy Savile fella I've got a nasty feeling he's a wrong'un." And feelings, especially when they've been precognitive, tend to stick in your mind. The 50,000 other feelings that were so wide of the mark they're exiting the known universe next week are always forgotten about. Benign feelings tend to mutate into rose-tinted nostalgia.  Feelings are what are likely to drive even the most responsible of people and of course if everyone with feelings were exempt from voting that would leave the psychopaths...

It doesn't matter what you see that suggests what you do is going to essentially butt-fuck you for the rest of your life, because if you remember that girl/boy you fell in love with when you were 14, you know that you would have walked 30 miles over broken glass in bare feet just to put matchsticks in her shit and that is what this is like. Yes, so I sank my life savings on Bold Future and it broke its neck at the first, I have the rest of my life in front of me. I feel that voting out is the best thing and even if that means my life will become one long continuous nightmare of poverty, alienation and hate...

The 14 year old boy/girl is now 54; he/she is 100lbs overweight, has umpteen children, varicose veins and piles. She/he lives in a housing association shed and thinks having the new iphone is more important than feeding the kids healthily. The words 'sausages', 'Mersey' and 'tunnel' are often used in connection with her. Do I need to carry on?

Ask yourself this, especially if you have a feeling about this referendum. Are you really prepared to risk everything you have and everything your kids might have on the basis of feeling it might be the right thing to do?

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Little Britain versus Great Britain

As we hurtle towards June 23, I can't help wonder if this is no longer a referendum about staying in the EU and a referendum on just how racist this country is. Of course, I'm always utterly bamboozled when I see Indians or Chinese or West Indians being racist and yet I have been reliably informed that the Indians and the Chinese have loathed each other for a damned sight longer than there's been English speaking people in this country. Racism isn't simply a reserve of the British, but something that is remarkably parochial, colloquial and regional as well as being focused on simply colour, culture or religion.

I grew up with English people telling Irish jokes and before that most Canadians making jokes about 'Newfies' or people from Newfoundland: if there was an Irish joke doing the rounds, it became a Newfie joke. Argentinians take the mickey out of Patagonians who in turn take the piss out of those crazy native indigenous Welsh speaking locals. Sometimes it's just a bit of a lark, other times it causes wars and even genocide - racism, whether casual or intended, is something pretty much every person on the planet has had a thought about and whether this xenophobia is inherent or something we've developed as more of the world becomes known to us is a subject for an anthropologist or a archaeologist...

In general terms, for anyone who really wants to know the 'facts', there are umpteen reputable places they can seek them. Both sides of the argument can state their cases, claim 'facts' and extrapolate on these 'facts' and build their own project fear (if ever this government's agenda of putting fear at the head of the table was ever more apparent...). Today a man called Anand Menon, who works for a company that process actual facts and was answering questions based on the information his company has gathered as opposed to being loaded with any political rhetoric or personal bias, pretty much answered the question that people who care about this referendum are probably more interested in. No One Knows! He said that if we remain very little should change and evidence will back up that the economy will re-stabilise and that it will be business as usual. He then said that no one can possibly give anyone an actuality after June 23 because no one knows whether the current government, in its form, will be in charge and, more importantly, no one apart from the people in charge will know what they will do given whatever scenario they eventually settle on.

I'd like to think that's what I've been saying all along and in one or two cases people have accepted this and said they would look at more details to understand things more; however as we draw closer to the day the subject is fast becoming a vote to decide just how racist a country we are, because, quite simply, migration and migrant workers is the subject that the ignorant only care about. They are basing their decisions on 'feelings' rather than common sense. You can categorically prove Remain is the best way, but for them, this isn't the case and they'll come up with the same reason, worded differently, when all they really need to say is 'you can prove to me the sun is a donkey's cock and I'll still believe what I think because it suits me' and when it comes to people who don't speak English there's a lot of people out there who offer up hundreds of reasons why they're not racists and yet can't help sounding like a Nazi party member. The referendum has stirred up fervent and unpleasant xenophobia and a strange kind of neo-nationalism.

We have allowed ourselves to become so judgemental, largely because of social networks, that we're not even modest about our dislike of bloody foreigners and if there isn't a mass brawl or riot (or another vile murder) before the 23rd I will be surprised, because tensions are building so much now that I borrowed a friend's description of it being like a 21st century English Civil War.

If immigration, migration and foreigners honestly mean nothing to you at all in this debate, then you deserve a seat at the table and your beliefs should be respected, unequivocally. If you're not prepared to look at the facts; the completely verifiable facts that currently, based on the proposed points system UKIP are promoting MORE NON-EUROPEAN PEOPLE COME TO THIS COUNTRY THAN EU MEMBERS. Sorry for shouting, but we are not being flooded out by unwelcome foreigners, we invite in over 60% of the ones who don't have access to ... er... free access.

The press and the government have made such a mess of the entire EU PR that Cameron and co are now backtracking on a lot of what they said publicly and in the Commons about the positives of migrant workers, possibly showing that perhaps the respect I afford politicians is misplaced and perhaps they only ever look like they're playing a long game when all they're doing is muddling along. The damage they are doing to the country could be irreparable.