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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

204 Mixed-race magic…

There is something so strange going on you’d be forgiven for suspecting the existence of a parallel universe. In America, biracial families are a huge and increasing percentage of the populous but killing and/or abusing people because they are different seems endemic.

Here in the UK, mixed-race is the fastest growing ‘ethnic minority’. However, if you took an educated guess at the reasons for the recent referendum result, you’d conclude that it swung on social division and distrust of humans who are unlike us – whoever ‘us’ is (oh and lies, hysteria, ignorance and bigotry).

There are only two choices in life and we keep making the wrong one.
Humanity or Holocaust
Reconciliation or Rwanda
Simple human decency or Syria
Kindness or the Killing Fields of Cambodia
Intelligent interaction or Iraq
Benevolence or Bosnia
Building bridges or building walls

And if you are lucky enough to be living somewhere without the constant screech of missiles overhead or the fear of your family dying beneath the rubble of your home, think carefully. Had you asked ordinary Rwandans, immediately before the genocide, if they’d be butchering their neighbours in the morning they’d probably have laughed at you. If you had spoken to ordinary Germans pre 1939, they’d have been horrified at the idea they’d turn a blind eye to their Jewish neighbours being dragged off in the night.

Syrians had normal lives prior to the events labelled the ‘Arab Spring’ - 2011. They went about attending school, going to functioning hospitals, walking in parks, riding buses to their jobs. How could they know they’d be living in bloody hell for half a decade (thus far).

Here in the UK, albeit on a less dramatic scale, we seem, like elsewhere in the world to be retreating into factions and fractious sub groups. The Labour party – the so-called opposition -  has spent months infighting when it should have been standing up for ordinary people. Plus, they failed spectacularly to energetically support remaining in the EU so that Europe would stand a chance of facing the world’s real problems. Instead we’re faced with petty nonsense and years of uncertainty and procrastination. And after all the misery and infighting they still managed to keep just another identikit white bloke leading the party…

Post referendum, xenophobic vitriol has stirred up tension and meanness and some have already paid the price. On a minor scale I too experienced some post- Brexit verbal racism and unpleasantness in the days following the vote.

Recently our un-elected Prime Minister (probably to divert attention from Brexit) suddenly announced that she wants more selection in education – a more divisive system than we have now. The one we have is already more socially divisive than most of continental Europe.

Everywhere, it seems, folk are scrambling to be with others ‘like themselves’ and to exclude their fellow humans. Why?

You know we all eat, shit and die. We all fail if we are not loved. We all bleed if we are cut.

But humans are very strange creatures indeed. Fortunately. In the face of bigotry, hatred, vile acts of terror and atrocities, some humans are being really weird… Yes - in this world of division, sectarianism, racism and brutality - a lot of people are falling in love and making babies with people who are different to themselves.

When my parents had me, over half a century ago, a mixed-race family was rare here. Now it’s not.

My youngest daughter goes to a school with a wonderfully culturally and ethnically mixed intake (it is a Catholic school though we are not). My daughter’s fellow pupils are Scottish and Polish and Spanish and African and Caribbean and all other sorts. Sadly, I know many parents would and do go out of their way to ensure their children only go to schools with other children ‘like them’. Maybe it is because I am mixed race but I immediately saw this variety as a huge positive. School is not just about educating children academically it is about giving them life skills and experiences. What more important life lesson could anyone have than to understand that someone else – albeit a different colour to you or ethnic or cultural background – can still be your friend. If I had my way I would make it illegal to divide children in school based on parental snobbery or prejudice.

Our capacity for causing our fellow human beings to suffer seems limitless. The conflict and bloodshed, murder, rape kidnapping and mayhem that (please God) may be coming to an end in Colombia, has gone on for over half a century.

Perhaps attending truly mixed schools could mean that, when those children are grown, the one thing they won’t do is violate another human being just because they are different.

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BRAND NEW
Ella & the Knot Fairies is a tale of mixed race magic for young children. After spending years in piles of papers, it was posted as an online story attracting over 200,000 views in a couple of weeks.
Woven from magic, maternal love, daughters and hair, Ella & the Knot Fairies is a whimsical, fun, picture story in verse.
Do please buy a copy – either a real book or an e-book. Supporting my writing through buying any of my books also helps me keep this free blog going.
Thank you.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

203. Would you…


… throw yourself off a cliff then start trying to grow wings on the way down?

Would you step blindly into the path of a three lane highway on the basis that you have some headache pills in your pocket?

Would you punch your neighbour because he is smaller than you and has something you want and then be surprised if he takes every opportunity to try to get his own back?

Would you burn down the house you live in because you want heat and light right NOW?

Would you poison all the children in your local park because there is financial gain to be made from the land?

And finally, if the children in the next street were suffering, would you ignore their plight and go shopping for a new handbag?

OK – I know this sounds like one of those warning ads about pirated DVDs but this is exactly how the human race is living right now.

Whether it’s the environment, war and conflict, the global economy or personal health and wellbeing, we are being totally idiotically crazy.

Scientists, commercialists and politicians like rushing forward with plans for how we can ‘manage’ situations, ‘limit’ damage, ‘offset’ (for example) environmental harm. They are indignant when, during wars, one side or another does not play by the rules i.e. killing people in a way not approved by the UN (see blog 43. Killing them Softly). No one in a real position of power is yelling out the unpalatable reality – no one with clout in the mainstream is pointing out that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. No one with moral command is speaking truth to power - we have to STOP.

PREVENTION IS THE ONLY CURE.

And we are doing the most fantastic job of fiddling while Rome burns.

The UK is a perfect example of this mentality. At a time when international conflicts are decimating civilian populations, the world is on the tipping point of environmental devastation, economic implosion and catastrophic global health crises are threatening civilisation, we were launched into Brexit.

Brexit is political spaghetti which will muddle the national energy, possibly for decades. And the so-called opposition here are playing at a kind of politics that would embarrass immature 12-year-olds. (Apologies to all 12-year-olds).

Globally it is estimated that 33% of all cancers and childhood diseases are now linked to environmental pollution factors. Here in Britain a report released this year, headed by The Royal College of Physicians estimates that air pollution alone is causing 40,000 premature deaths. And yet hopes for economic recovery are being firmly placed on that most powerful of carcinogens, Consumer Spending – buying crap.

In the UK, as with many developed countries there is an energetic and admirable focus on finding cures for major diseases. And humans are actually great at being brave in the face of adversity. Sadly, they are also great at being deluded, irrational and believing what suits them.

Prevention is kind of boring. Moderation is a real yawn. Stopping something happening – as any Hollywood action movie will demonstrate – is never as exciting or motivating as fighting something that has happened or is about to.
With regard to health, the idea that we can rely entirely on drugs is bonkers. We still haven’t found a cure for the common cold.

It’s also important to remember that drug production – like a lot of everything else in this mixed-up world, is motivated by profit – which is why we have Viagra but no cover-all cure for malaria (see blog 97.) And if you think drugs are going to come along in time to save us from all the illnesses and diseases mankind is brewing through self-destructive behaviour, try blog 54. Glaxo Smith-Kline is not the answer. We Are and get real.

We are told that genetically modified crops are the answer to the world’s food shortage. The fact is that there is currently enough food on the planet for everyone but it is not distributed fairly. So how would more ownership of food production by multi-national companies help? Here’s another idea, what about growing food rather than, for example, tobacco.

We cannot simply medicalise our way out of cancers and diabetes we have to keep people healthy by providing good food not adulterated by manufacturers. We need clean air and water not adulterated by the overuse of diesel and plastics (see blog 194 Beside myself beside the sea) And we have to stop chucking stuff away just so we can replace it with a new shiny thingy.

As I outlined in blog 155 – with the world in the state it is in – spending on a designer handbag (for example) is a sign of failure not success.

What else can I say – wake up and smell the coffee?

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And on the positive – remembering there are wonderful creative folk in the world - I have permission from my good friend Jo Butler to host this short indie video (No Idea Complete) on which she did composition and piano. Enjoy

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I’ll be taking a break next week Tuesday 20th so help yourself to some posts in the archives. Back again Tuesday 27th.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

202. The TAT Economy. What is it and should we be scared?

The UK is a Tat Economy. More so than ever since Brexit.

It’s a house with no foundations, a suspension bridge with no suspension. Britannia is running a marathon without a support bra; unsustainable and ultimately sore.

Scanning the headlines of those newspapers whose rich tax-exile owners supported Brexit everything in the UK garden is – apparently – rosy. Scratch a little deeper and the stony, poorly fertilised soil of this supposedly burgeoning economy turns out to be -  consumer spending. Sift through some more mucky statistics and you will note that there are more UK households in HUGE amounts of personal debt than ever before. Many people in the UK are now economic zombies; the financial walking dead.

So – let’s unravel that tantalising, tangled creeper of a phrase ‘consumer spending’ because this is – we are told – the magic that is keeping the economy’s bean stalk in the air.

Basically consumer spending means people buying a lot of shit they don’t need and didn’t want until advertisers persuaded them otherwise and they are buying on credit (someone else’s money). It means guys buying gadgets they may play with once and golf equipment they are never going to use. It means women paying to get their nails painted and buying clothes they wear once and shoes they then carry around as they stumble home from boozy nights out with the girls after buying drinks none of them can afford. It is credit card spending at 90 MPH, debt at a depth of 1000 fathoms. It’s fiscal hell on toast.

Gambling in the UK is endemic, a barely concealed quagmire of economic fragility that is sucking many families down. Despite the plague of separate-you-from-your-money advertisements for everything from bingo to online poker, the smiling men and women featured in those brightly coloured fantasy montages, are the biggest lie out there. If Jo Public wasn’t so anaesthetised by having his face forever in one screen or another it would be more convincing to show someone smiling after they’ve just been diagnosed with bowel cancer than when they have just gambled away a year’s rental in ten minutes.
None of it is enhancing people’s lives. And in fact debt is a major source of stress-induced mental ill health.

A huge part of the UK economy is based on buying Tat, rubbish, crap. Promotion and advertising has gone nuclear as a result. You cannot purchase the most innocuous item in a shop without being asked for your email address (usually under the guise of mailing you a receipt). You will then be bombarded with promotions. If, like me, you are unfortunate enough to have an old yahoo account you will know it has become almost unusable due to the sheer volume of advertisements that explode onto the screen whenever you log in.

Continually manipulating people to buy tat they don’t need is an industry in itself. It takes a massive reservoir of resources and money and ingenuity and effort to get folk to eat stuff that is bad for them and watch crap films and buy new clothes every week, buy three pairs of trainers even though they never go to the gym, buy complicated coffee machines – (you can’t just put it through a filtre?) buy things that blend your fruit/veg - because why - your teeth don’t work? In fact, there is an inverse equation that I find helpful. The harder someone has to work to sell you something you didn’t know you needed, the more likely it is to be crap.

Rabid consumerism has been normalised so efficiently. When did a new sofa every few years become the norm or two/three annual holidays abroad?

But – at the end of the day – coffee shops, nail bars, disposable clothes and food-for-entertainment does not make for a sustainable economy. Yes, people are spending, they are spending like crazy – people are addicted to spending. But lots of folk are addicted to smoking and alcohol and drugs – and we know how that pans out.

You know I love my analogies so here comes another one. The economic buoyancy of the Tat Economy is like being kept afloat in stormy water by a cheap, punctured dingy. Right now, the holes just happen to be so clogged with detritus that the air won’t let out. But when it does… Oh boy. No bouy-ancy.

It’s not so long ago that the only hefty personal debt most adults would ever have would be their mortgage. But they were borrowing against something that benefited them on a daily basis and eventually the home would hopefully be mortgage free and worth something. Then having a flashy car became an ‘essential’ even though the vast majority of us live near buses and trains and cycle-ways. A car became another thing people would borrow heavily for albeit that it ruins their health haemorrhages money and devalues from the second it is driven out of the showroom. 

But – and especially since higher education became a lucrative way for the government to keep young people out of the unemployment figures – debt has become the norm. We are training young people to think being in MASSIVE amounts of debt is normal. We have an entire generation that have started life under the hefty yolk of colossal debt that some will never crawl out from under.

And while this may be all fine and dandy for those mopping up the money as it is flushed down the toilet by ordinary people, it is ultimately a social earthquake waiting to happen. The fault line runs through every town village and city. If you think *fracking is going to rock our world just wait and see the cracks that open up as the hidden debt breaks through.

Since the Industrial Revolution strong economies have been based on production and investment in infrastructure. Workers were valued because they could deliver that production. Now – it seems – ordinary citizens are just a way of funnelling money from lenders to profiteers. Tat is the cheap trick by which that alchemy takes place.

But a Tat Economy is a deadly thing. It is a sick thing.
Our Tat Economy is cardboard boat adrift in an acid ocean.

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Thanks for reading
*Casey & the Surfmen is now available direct from bandcamp