Saturday, 4 February 2017

Enriched by Public Services

Only the crassest and the most shallow minded consider that everything costs and therefore everything must pay its way. A way of thinking as befits a grocers daughter or some similar philistine banal mindset. We have to lift our heads up out of the mud our feet are wading through to see higher aspirations, to have hope for a better future, to be inspired by the achievements of those around us and most of all to have a vision for how all on this planet can experience a better life. Big dreams. In the real world there is not unlimited money and there are a thousand competing priorities. Put cost as your first and overriding starting point and the dreams will never even emerge. But without dreams we can never realise a better quality of life no matter how that quality might be imagined. Cost and payback are not the determining factor in a civilised society. Never to be ignored, always with a watchful eye but not the bottom line criterion that they have become.

I am ranging way beyond culture the obvious candidate for cost cutting. Yes culture of course to lift the spirit, to raise the hope even just to endeavour to reach beyond the immediate now, we need arts, we need crafts, we need music, we need graphics in all its forms to give shape and meaning to otherwise vague ephemeral glimpses beyond the mundane over familiar present day. Can we agree that culture, with its high costs and indeterminate payback, is a given must have, that frames us as civilised and not savages? If you think it is a no, then this site really is not for you, you must look elsewhere.

What I want to promote is the concept of service as an aspirational tool to achieve a better quality of life, for all. 'Service' this word is heavily overworked and has an extraordinary wide range of meanings and connotations. The common usages I want to focus on is, according to the sOED, 'Service' as conduct tending to the welfare or advantage of another and 'Service' as a branch of public employment of such body concerned with some particular work or the supply of some particular need. Service in today's climate is denigrated and demeaned, seen at best as a charity cause to help out those pitiful people too poor to do better. It didn't use to be like that, service industries were once seen as the powerhouse to lift and raise our aspirations as a nation and power us to a better more modern way of life. These are not bad or irrelevant objectives even in today's world? Being able to offer service to an individuals must be the hallmark of a democratic civilised society. Helping those in their moment of need until they can strike out confidently on their own again. Sounds like the sort of place I would like to be.

Maybe a ticket office manned to help cut through the complexities of tariffs, timetable and alternate conflicting options. Maybe a visible approachable and friendly policeman able to calm, reassure or direct, that would be nice. Of course the more obvious of a nurse with time to reassure, talk and to really understand what is troubling a patient. Or a teacher able to spend time one to one to help that one child overcome their confusion about some new topic. Service providers who are not seen as cost centres, who are required to prove their worth on a daily basis, who are not required to complete offers of help to some predetermined timeslot. The worth is there in payback dividends but not in profit returns the bean counters understand. So the list can go on, Tax Collectors able to spend time to understand the exception's and find more fitting rules, or JobCentre Advisers with the skills and time to actually understand a seekers capabilities with the realistic knowledge of local opportunities. Indeed wherever we as individuals interface with the providers of our wants or needs then there is an essential service input, an input which may not show a profit but certainly oils the wheels and helps society to move smoothly. What price do you put on that?

Services also include all the utility services, water, electricity, gas, sewers, telephones, refuse collection and the mail. Once state run they were sold off, amid a great fanfare, to companies whose driving force is profit first. Yet they are essential services, services that are at the foundation of the wellbeing to our UKplc. If any of these cinderella services are not there in place with the right capacity our ability as a nation to grow and develop is hampered. Look no further than the stranglehold the provision of highspeed broadband has on any commercial enterprise that is not located in a major conurbation. UKplc is held to ransom because it is 'not profitable' to provide in these smaller communities. Utility Services sold off because in some naive tunnel vision view of some other fantasy world, competition equates to efficiency. No. Equally, state run enterprise does not mean inefficient and extravagant. So make your choice, do you run them for profit for the benefit of shareholders, or, run them well for the benefit of the society that relies on them?

Finally, Public Service, another broad wide ranging category, now much maligned and held in disdain. Once the pinnacle of UKplc governance, held in esteem around the world, for its expertise, for its detachment and for its impartiality. What happened? Did we run out of good enough scholars to enter the civil services. No, of course not. A deliberate decision was taken to politicise the output of the civil service, overturning centuries of impartial advice. In this new way of thinking, unless civil services responses fully reflected the political aspirations of the government of the time, it was rejected and overturned. Such a small seemingly innocuous step but having catastrophic impact. Now there is no government edict, no report, no forecast, nothing emanating from government that can be trusted or relied on. Everything has to viewed with suspicion for political bias. There is no objectivity, there is no impartiality, everything is tainted with political expediency. Not any way to run a company let alone UKplc.

One woman overturned centuries of governance evolution and wrought chaos. Benefits? Once the initial feeding frenzy for the 'free' goodies on offer had subsided, are we better off, driven by profit for shareholder benefit? Have we totally lost the concept of service to the people to enable them to grow and blossom? Bring back Service to the People, bring hope for a better future for us all.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Normal Distorted

We live in a hyperPC (politically correct) world where we are all afraid of causing offence to one or other minority group by speaking out of turn. The media is fired up to seize on any example and balloon it into yet another demonstration of prejudice / victimisation / social discrimination with all the hullabaloo that follows. Quite right too, we all have the greatest sympathy for the oppressed or abused and willingly offer compassion to the underdog.

My problem is that by constant headlining of the trials and travails of these minorities distorts our sense of the normal. Whether it is single mums, gay partners wanting a child, disabled access, religious rites, whatever the subject the focus on their rights and proper concerns creates the impression that this is a concern for all of our society. No it is not! It is not 'normal' to be a single mum and raise children on your own. They are a minority group. The media may choose to focus on single mums for the instant high emotive appeal and easy message they make. But that creates a distorted view. The majority normal group are couples raising a family under one roof. That should be our datum of judgement and expectation. Not the travails of the single parent. Sure, some single mums are truly victims and deserve all our support but not all. Some just choose to be single for thin reasons and all the barriers should not be thrown down to help them. Our perspective that we use to for judgements should be firmly and squarely founded on the 'normal'. If the minority position overshadows and clouds our judgement we cannot come to a proper balanced view.

Gay couples, or if it comes to that post menstrual women or mid-career women coming late to conception are rich media targets to explain and justify high-tech solutions to creating new babies. But this is not the normal process. The normal way as used by the majority of adults seeking, or even just ending up with, babies, is do it the routine old-fashioned way. No scientific technology required, other than perhaps to defer the chance of success. In a world where there are just too many people having too many babies and where there are way too many babies dying for simple wants, or just as bad, babies growing up bereft of any hope of escape from intolerable conditions, why do we resort to scientific techniques to create even more? Understandably there is the scientific desire to advance our understanding and increase our skills in solving our human condition, but is that sufficient justification? Or is it driven by a selfish egoism craving for that trophy child that solidifies your status in society? By over-focussing on these minorities concerns we lose perspective and fail to consider the broader and more fundamental platform of that of the normal majority. We should be challenging the scientists right to use their ever sophisticated techniques, we should unite and focus their attention where the real creation issues are. The normal majority are getting on with it just fine.

On another tack we are a Christian based society. The overwhelming number of us subscribe to the Christian codes of conduct and moral standards. No longer are most of us practising Christian, going to church with any frequency, but the Christian background as to how our society holds together is deeply rooted in each of us. Part of that Christian background is the requirement within each of us to be tolerant and supportive of other faiths. Supportive in the narrow sense of not hindering rituals and practises of another faith but not to the extent of proactively promoting another faith. That clearly is for them. However if we take these rituals and customs of minority group faiths out of context, a minority group, and elevate each travail and setback as a challenge to the majority Christian society we again are getting the perspective out of kilter again. We are hosts to a wide range of people with a wide range of minority religious beliefs, whether Greek Orthodoxy, Jews, Seven Day Evangelist's, Muslim, Buddhist, it matters not, our duty as the host society is to be tolerant and accommodating of rituals which may appear as strange and out of place. Certainly there should be no discrimination based on a different religious belief. As guests within a host society it befalls on them as guest to constrain their beliefs and rituals, to go out and discover which of their practise cause the most unease amongst their hosts and find ways to tone it down or explain it so as to minimise the chance of causing upset. It is not for the host to set aside the majority position just to let a minority group carry on doing as it wishes regardless. If your religion requires the ritual killing of an animal, if your religion requires your girls to be genitally mutilated or submit to an arranged marriage, if your religion requires compliance with Sharia Law or your religion requires a full burka, don't expect your hosts to set aside their objectives of a free open society where women and men both have opportunities to succeed. You as a minority group in a society will have to defer to the majority expectations in the full knowledge that your desires will be met with tolerance and goodwill.

Just one final note of despair. In bald terms 20% of our populations are disabled in some degree or other and only 1% of out population are wheelchair disabled. A pretty small number, 1% against 99%, right. Disabled toilets are designed around the needs of wheelchair users as defined by the gold standard reference. Selwyn Goldsmiths 'Designing for the Disabled'. The author goes to considerable lengths to emphasis that each disabled person requirements are different and that there is no one suit all arrangement. Behold the Building Regulations lay down standardised disable toilet arrangements that are deemed to suit. Sense the irony? Of course disabled people should not be discriminated against and should be free to travel and move around freely without constraint. To counter discrimination there is a legal requirement that premises open to the public shall provide wheelchair suitable toilet facilities. That speaks for the 1%. The 99% other people also have a right to move around without constraint. The toilet they most frequently encounter in all the shops and public spaces, apart from the very few municipal conveniences left, will be designed for wheelchair disabled use. A toilet which will not suit many of the wheelchair users it is supposed to be designed to help. Wide open out doors. Extra space for a person to stand beside the wheelchair, space to side transfer from chair to seat. Hand holds, alarms, seat height heights, elbow action taps, basin and mirror height accessible from chair. Cosy for those wheelchair users that just happen to have the right handicap to suit that particular arrangement. As a member of the 18% or so of the elderly population I can confirm that the ability to hold on until a suitable public toilet can be located diminishes with age and begins to become critical. We have urgent needs to be met. Not to wait in a queue until the one oversized, occupying the space for at least two cubicles, unisex facility is free. There to be confronted with appliances set too low at that risk back damage from stooping, or fumbling with flimsy elbow fittings or even worse a toilet out of commission because the disabled friendly levers and handles just cannot cope with high public usage. It is ended up all-about-face. The majority, the normal person on the street has to accepted compromised facilities which are slewed to suit the needs of a very small minority of users.

A wide range of high principled objectives have resulted in completely distorting the wide spread recognition of what it is to be normal within the broadband of the majority. The majority now identify themselves from the narrow perspective of the small minority groups point of view. It is all an Alice in Wonderland distortion.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Right to Dissent

For many the acts or terrorists are so heinous, such a threat to civilised society, that any measures  that might thwart their evil deeds is fully justifiable. Under this blanket of fear the Government gets a free ride to introduce its innocuous sounding IPB, Investigatory Powers Bill, better and more correctly known as the snoopers charter. A Bill which grants powers that the European Court of Justice has already stated contravene basic human rights. The Government is granting itself the right to open, read and store any electronic communication it chooses, from anyone to anyone. A blanket right to listen to phone calls, read EMails, anything sent electronically is open book to them.

Totally justifiable you might say if it stops another terrorists attack that we have been warned to expect any minute. Except of course a terrorist to one party is a freedom fighter to another party. All depends on your point of view. The Establishment, the upholder of the status quo, gets to label all dissent against it. Any group of people that gather and agree to disagree with the Establishment will be labelled but that label can range from 'protesters' to 'pickets' to 'mob' to 'uprising' to 'revolution' and so on all the way out to the extreme fringes. What we do know is that the Establishment will always seeks ways to supress dissent, any dissent. The only possible restraint will be their perception of public support and how far they expect to be able to 'manage' it. By manage we mean of course to bend, swerve, falsify, distort events and news to shift perceptions.

With this snoopers charter the Establishment, our Government elected to serve us, has given itself powers which enable it to monitor all dissent from what ever source and for what ever motive. Anything that suggests it is contrary to Government intentions, will be flagged. Once flagged, all participants, all associates of participants, all previously contacts of participants will be scrutinised for possible intents. All their past and present actions and comments will be reviewed in the light of possible threat, signs of contrary thoughts, evidence of lack of support for the Government aspirations and will be re-examined for assumed indicators of future actions. The data mining, the algorithms, the 'Case Officer'  will be working with so much information there will no scope for subtleties, for nuances or even common sense. So that jest, that floating of an idea, that game of devils advocate, that day dreaming, that idle speculation are all at risk of being taken out of context, just bundled up as proof against you. Just remember you cannot ever prove innocence. 

With the power to collect and interpret as they choose ideas at their very point of inception the Government gives itself the ability to step in and take avoiding actions. Actions that can range from isolating individuals, surveillance, planting of decoys, warnings all the way to arrest search or other life disruptions. They put themselves in the position to totally control any developments as the initiating ideas and membership grows. They are all seeing, all hearing and only they get to decided on the rights or wrongs.

If it stops another terrorist its okay then? Any dissent? You may not agree with the Coal Miners actions to save their industry.  You may not agree with the sit-in at Greenham Common. You may not agree with the HS2 protests. You may not agree with collect actions against the Single Past the Post system. You may not agree with the discontinuation of the Monarchy. You may not agree to bring an end to Party Politics and reinstate direct and accountable democracy. But you must agree the right to dissent from the Government is paramount. Dissent which can only be by collective action, actions that may fly close or even beyond what the Government of the day decrees legitimate. We should never ever give up our right to revolution as a final resort. Our right to collective action should be free of Establishment intimidation. Our friends and all the people we come into contact with should never be put under the microscope of suspicion just because we choose to dissent. Any more than our own innocent pasts should never be subjected to prejudiced retrospection just because we shared an EMail with the parent of our daughters friend who just happened to be radical. Dissent is what keeps us safe not the Snoopers Charter.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Trophy Children

It strikes me that there is an all pervading expectation that adults have an ordained right to have child as and when it pleases them. No questions, this is an absolute, I want a child, I want it now so why are you not making it happen? Nature of course is very complicit in this and more often than not, sometimes to all-round consternation, pregnancies come along easily. That is for most young heterosexual couples. Just because perhaps it can be too easy to conceive we mistake that as a right to conceive. Now children are great fun, through them we can rediscover and enjoy once again our childhood, through the contacts made around children we can slide easily into new social circles with multitudes of opportunities to boast, display our child or parent skills and engage in all manner of one-upmanship contests and with a child as entry ticket we can exalt in all manner of events and occasions. Should the child's needs clash with your ongoing adult life there are plenty of opportunities to park them out with all manner of educational enrichments to boot. Or failing that option then just parking them infront of a TV or a computer console will ensure you can get on with those essential adult tasks with the minimum of distractions. So good to have children around, it feels right, familiar and is after all what every other couple expects. You are conforming to the social norms. You have child, purrr.

When child mortality was so high in the past, the supremacy of new life, any new life, was paramount to the survival of the nation. We are in a different era, there are too many of us on this planet, beyond what it can renewably sustain but we each want to add our child into the pool, to reproduce and further increase this pressure of just too many people. We have outgrown our planet. The sanctity of life is no longer a prime issue, instead we should be thinking deeply about the quality of the children we already have and even more so about those children that might come in the future. Those that are born to carry our genes forward, what should we set as a benchmark when considering all the deprived children, the maimed children, the children born with life challenging abnormalities, the children yet to be born or at the moment of conception? We should want all our children to be self-confident, enthused and full of hope as they launch out into the world. Sure children are highly resilient and can overcome the most dreadful of beginnings but they do carry those emotional and physicals scars, from that childhood, into their adult lives to pass on reflections of their horrors endured into the next generation. So with a reduced pool of children going forward we should want to encourage that the most assured and confident children carry our genes forward and not the scarred and maimed.

We should be aware of a range of concerns that impinge on whether or not the children we choose to have occupy this pole position of assured and confident. Same sex couples are biologically incapable of having a child sharing genes from both partners. Surrogate genes are just that, apart from many other issues, the motivation and or selection of genes thus acquired has to be questioned. I go further, the right environment for a child to grow is within that tension between the male and female roles. Only here can the child truly explore and understand this complex relationship and learn where they fit within these complimentary but almost opposing models. When career choices and or the ability to afford a home pushes back the mothers age for a first child beyond the early thirties in to the forties and even further on into the sixties, the risk of foetal errors increases as does the inability to readily conceive. If the career is the first choice then the honour of creating the genes to be passed on should move over to others fully committed to the mother role. Nowadays the stable family unit is no longer the norm instead serial partners with half-siblings are the new units. There are many strands to why this is occurring. The key issue is that a family unit that has overcome the tensions that arise between the male female bonding is a stable model and a good environment for child development. A pairing which, for whatever reasons, fails, leading to separation and new pair relationship to be formed, damages the children involved leaving them scarred, confused about their identity and their self-worth. This does not bode well for their development or their induction of future generations. Just because a woman is a natural mother with an inexhaustible appetite for yet another baby to care for, does not automatically mean that she is the right choice. Beyond some number there are just too many children in one family to be given full attention and the woman's body cannot recover from successive pregnancies, leading to runt babies. A final thought, we be protective of our gene pool and make sure, short of breeding for specific characteristics, that inherited defects, such as cystic fibrosis, are not passed.  

Nothing could be further from my intention that any couple wanting to have a child should be prevented. Perversely, such is life, the most unlikely child parent circumstance may well turnout an exemplary child. The State can and does choose to influence how society responds to issues. Often using taxes as a way of nudging behaviour in a direction. So I have nothing more in mind than that. A nudge, a financial incentive, where the outcome favours the emergence of a self-confident, enthusiastic and hopeful new adult. A tax regime with a nominal tax credit for any children during the first three years. After the third year the child tax credit cranks up significantly until a substantive level is reached only to taper off from sixth form until it ceases on graduation. However there are key criteria. The genetic parents must still be in a viable live together relationship, else it reverts to base nominal level. The benefit for all children in the family tapers off sharply with each succeeding child after the third.

I sense howls of protest, discrimination, fault, blame, victimisation but society does have to make choices. It has to promote what is in its best interest, not the individual interests. Individual respond and make life style choices based on the freedoms they perceive society offers them. Singles parent should not be on the choice list, IVF should not be there on demand. Serial Partnerships should not be on the same footing as a longterm stable marriage. The trophy child should be confined to history. We have to make choices. We should choose carefully to ensure the children we do have emerge healthy, bright-eyed, confident and eager to take on tomorrow's world, carrying us along with their enthusiasm.

ps: Initially this was just going to be a post in just airing some passing thoughts. But the more I considered the more I realised this is a mainline political theme that strikes at the core of our society. So this Blog is the better location. I hope you find it.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Small Fry, Big Pond

In this global world we live in there are two power houses who between them control, manipulate and set the agenda for all the other Nations. They are of course China and USofA, except China is just getting into its stride and poor USofA is running out of puff and can now only bluster, pretending it still is in its prime. There are other potentials in the wings watching the drift and looking where the most advantage can be achieved by forming alliances, Russia, Middle East and the rest of Asia. And then there is Europe. Of all the those waiting in the wings Europe has the most potential to step into the vacuum left by USofA's loss of virility, if only it could sort itself out.

Europe needs a dynamic and cohesive core that sets aside trivial national interests and effectively works together for the greater good. That is the promise, a promise yet to materialise. It really doesn't help to have UKplc whingeing on the sidelines for ever moaning about being in, or wanting out, or being in but only partially in with an opt out clause. The powerhouse core with an industrial commercial muscle behind it is clearly France, Germany and England. Not diminishing the contributions of the other allied countries but that is where the EU strength lies, these three nations.

It totally beggars belief that any sane person can seriously contemplate UKplc trading as a sole Nation could stand up to the rest of the World and seek to amend or change trading terms. Even if, with a miracle wand, suddenly all the associated Commonwealth Nations fell into line we still would be a trading irrelevance. With out any power to influence we would be totally subservient to what the other world powers decide are the standards and terms of trade, a total capitulation. That is not my UKplc history. We have a long commercial and industrial history that should be key and influential in setting world agendas. But not if we speak alone, only if we are in step and in tune with our close European partners. A true meld of our strengths.

To work together in harmony, willing to surrender local interests for the common good requires trust. Trust can only be fully founded within societies that have common, similar, parallel cultural and moral codes. Where the word expressed can be confidently taken to mean what it says and not to be confounded by some off the wall interpretation germinated in another different set of cultural values. Unless black is black or white is white or truth is truth only then can trust flourish. I feel that bond with Germany, we share of lot of European history, I share that bond with France we fought against each other or together many times, I feel a bond with the Netherlands. I recognise a lot of common similarities with Italy, Spain, Sweden, reaching out further I begin to get uneasy, too many cultural differences and response at variance with my expectations to feel truly comfortable. By the time we get to Estonia, Croatia, Latvia or even Cyprus I am saying, whoa, I have absolutely no idea where their priorities are, their approach to integrity or commitment, where their deep instinctive loyalties lie. I don't know them and therefore cannot understand them as societies, irrespective of whether they fall under some label called Western Europe. This then is the issue I have with the EU.

The founding aim to re-unite Western Europe all under one umbrella is laudable. Fine as a loose trading partnership, a forum for reaching agreement on unity and support. But tied in to one united monetary and legislative system, no several steps too far. We need a two tiered EU. The core of tightly bonded nations, willing and able to surrender their individual pasts and work cohesively together. When they get their act together only then to expand, cautiously, brining in a new partner at a time. This is the EU vision I can support, a vision where UKplc has to be committed and in. A EU where the referendum is irrelevant, the only alternative to commercial suicide and where xenophobia just does not arise.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Not that lone voice

I have been going on about how the Political Parties have subverted democracy to their own power cause. See: The Political No Vote, Political Wilderness, Living a Now Life. I choose not to select a Party and if I am not able to Vote for a person to represent me, me not their party, or am not able to vote for None of the Above then I will not Vote. In parallel I object to being reduced to making the illiterates mark of an 'X' to signify my choices. In this day and age we are capable of expressing and uniting on a far wider and complex range of thoughts, opinions and agreements. An 'X' says nothing. Going on about it but apprehensive, was I unrealistic, too idealistic, too remote from the nitty gritty of every day, just an oddball with a soap box.

Turns out, thanks to, of all publications, the New Scientist - We the People (see also A Vote for Change) that I am not alone! Across the democratic world there are thousands of people with similar thoughts all looking to find better ways of applying democracy in practice. People with very similar ideas actually trying out and trailing alternative ways of enabling the everyman to contribute to a consensus view. Vindication! With Facebook and Google claiming to know before I do where my interest lie why oh why have they not promoted these other organisations onto my news feeds? Surely it cannot be that no advertising income is being generated by peoples democracy? So join in the discussion, you and I are not alone, there is a movement out there of like mind people. We just need to connect with them.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Nothing to Live For

When each day drearily unfolds exactly as the last day, unremittingly, never changing, the same lack of options, the self same lack of certainty of food, lack of warmth, lack of change of clothes, life is miserable. When you cannot afford to be with friends, or worse old friends shun you, because you are not able to keep up with their exploits, then life is deeply despondent. When you mooch around waiting for those endless minutes to pass, you see and watch from outside all those other people, people just like you but better off, able to have nice things to use, able to mix and buy stuff with or for each other, able to have friends and make plans together. Without it life is worthless, there is nothing to live for. For why? You never had their chances, maybe a stable home, progress to higher education, opportunity to prove you can do better the next person, someone to confirm that you are doing okay or any combination of some or all of the above if nothing more extreme.

The one missing ingredient above all else is, hope. With hope that makes tomorrow a possibility. Without hope life is not worth living. If life is not worth living any other options becomes attractive even addictive. To shoplift, steal, joyride or just wreck whatever. Gain some local pride or notoriety and join a gang to graffiti your presence in the world and intimidate those not of your group. Or surrender to terrorism, get swept up in a cult where you at last have recognition and cadre amongst your own kind. A chance to gain hope even though in a hopeless endgame!

Hope requires so little yet can surmount so much. A helping hand, even that is more than needed, just a chance to change some small aspect of tomorrow is a starting point. A point from when hope can at last flicker back into being and with care can be fanned into a strong desire. Yet we, all of us, that have, have to give so there can be hope. A sustainable hope that is not extinguished by the very next stumble. With hope we can save all those around us, living amongst, that have lost the will to live. We just need to get back to a fair and equitable life style where everyone of us can hope to succeed. Where success does not depend on your pocket, or your families wealth or connections but simply on your ability and willingness to try. Now that gives me hope