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activism economics Housing media Politics Privatisation women

CRISIS!

From “argh, toilet roll!” to “argh, petrol!”

A mild disturbance in the supply of absolutely anything we’re used to buying every day has more political impact than, say, people losing their homes, children going hungry, abused women being locked up with male sex-offenders, asylum seekers drowning in the channel, the govt selling our services and infrastructure to foreign businesses, climate change wrecking our world before our grandchildren can live out their lives – any of the things I’ve ever tried campaigning about, really.

Attention seeking

I don’t think answers like ‘people are stupid’ or ‘people are greedy’ help much. It’s about where most people’s attention is, most of the time. Most of us usually have our heads down, ploughing through ‘what needs doing’ in the face of a huge range of obstacles from lack of funds to people not answering phones to illness and disability. Everything that disrupts the battle is a ****ing nuisance to throw ourselves at in determined fury.

Do you remember all those extraordinary ideas, songs, lectures, meetings and above all community support projects people thought up in response to lockdown?

Time to think

The time people need in order to think reappears when everyday buzz, pressures and demands stop. Those people we briefly learned to call ‘essential workers’ just had to go on working ( some called lockdown ‘where the middle class stay home and the working classes bring them things’ ). Those whose lives were already in extreme difficulty – for example in insecure housing, in prisons and refugee hostels ( not the homeless though – the government briefly made the effort to ‘get people off the streets’ ) – all those people really had their noses rubbed in how bad things are…

… but the salaried classes, the service, financial and what have you workers – all got used to not being able to go where we want or buy anything we want at a moment’s notice, and started THINKING.

So I’ll be getting on with the community organising, the networking and the educating and the production of books, more aware than ever that these are the vital political acts. How about you? Have you thought of any other things we can do….? (comments section below)

Just keep thinking about how this government, the government that does not care one jot about destroying businesses and jobs, or creating poverty, or stranding the old and the sick, was so desperately, desperately keen to avoid another lockdown. What is it they’re scared of?

THINKING.

PS This blog started life as an FB status post, and got the following comment, which struck me as absolutely on the button…

Aaron McConnell wrote:

In an individualistic society, most of the time we’re encouraged to live in our own heads. And on those occasions where the problems of others manage to permeate our thoughts, we’re also encouraged to think “oh well, they must have done something wrong”, and at that point the concerns and suffering of others can be dismissed as fair because they’ve brought it upon themselves. Taken to an extreme, that logic starts to sound like: “everyone on benefits is an undeserving scrounger… except me, when I was made redundant through no fault of my own.” We’ve all heard that kind of thing.

The anger and panic you allude to in this article I think springs from that mindset. When people who think like that find themselves swept up into a crisis that wasn’t of their making – and they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong – the first explanation they reach for is that someone else must have messed up; and the consequences of that mistake are falling unjustly on the people who had no part in making it. That prompts anger, and creates a strong incentive to blame others.

It’s very easy to ignore something when it’s not affecting you directly.

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activism Housing Politics Uncategorized

How to be patriotic

I spent this morning at work in my garden. A very, very British thing to do, weekend gardening.

I spent this afternoon listening to Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Burgon talking about patriotism and national security. How quickly we forget what it was like when the good guys were getting to do all the big political speeches.

Patriotism is looking after the people and the land around you. Community work and environmental work, in other words. Oh and gardening, of course.

Security

National security is about dealing with the threats the people are facing. What threats are our people facing? Climate change, pandemic, global conflict – so build relationships across the globe to address global-scale problems, recognise that you can’t put a fence round one little island in the North Sea to stop viruses, extreme climate events or nuclear missiles at the border.

We need to stop UK companies selling chemicals and weapons to the countries creating the conflicts, causing the disasters, driving the refugee tides. What other threats do our people face? Shortage of housing, of wages, of food – so we need to build council houses, create jobs, pass laws making food a human right, and look at how we produce and price food. What else? Threats to our health service? so we need to re-instate and re-fund the NHS. Where will the money from all that come from? I know, says Jeremy Corbyn – let’s use the billions the current government are planning on putting into creating weapons to feed more wars.

Farewell to Prince Philip

Go on, give him a couple of minutes thought, or however long you generally spend on someone you’ve heard of, who’s died. Patriotism, and national security, depend on us recognising that no one person is more important than the others, but keeping faith with the rule that every single one does matter. Let us hope that the current generation of young royals will put the monarchy idea peacefully to bed now – maybe when their gran passes on.

Our job

Meantime, we – all of us – need most urgently to find out how to get control of the rest of the elite who are wrecking the world – the aristocracy, the billionaires, the privileged, public school set who think they own the country. Please put your mind to it, and help with finding the ways. It’ll take all of us – and it’s the most patriotic thing you could be doing with your time.

This seems to be playing in my head, so here it is – you’d better listen to it too.

Oh, and this….

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activism Corbyn economics Housing media Politics Uncategorized women

Extreme blog post

What we’re all gradually realising…

We’ve been warned and warned about extremism … meanwhile, whilst asking teachers and nurses to do the downright impossible, and the rest of us to panic over the day’s headlines – maybe Mr Cummings, or the arrival of a few desperate asylum seekers, the government has had a free reign to take our attempt at a constitution to bits, set up any kind of Brexit it likes, and sell off anything we still own, all the while blaguing their way into one of the worst covid-19 scenarios in the world.

Newspaper headline: 'Cummings draws condemnation from across UK society
Cummings draws condemnation away from the rest of the govt

Now, we’re angry. Now, we know who the real extremists are, and we’re all running in circles (without leaving home) trying to work out what to do about it. As a popular cartoon yesterday asked, is Laura K covering for Cummings, is Cummings covering for the govt? Is the govt covering for Murdoch? … is there another layer, called ‘the deep state’?

Did Cummings go travelling to further this or that scurrilous political or business plan? Yes, quite likely he did but how many years will it take us to work all that out? I’ve wasted a whole week’s thinking on it and now I’m bored with it.

Boris Johnson attempts an apology

Extremism

Was supporting Jeremy Corbyn extremism? Is supporting Boris Johnson extremism? What about supporting XR? Or Julian Assange? Or sex-based rights? What about losing Domestic extremist tea towelpatience with lockdown, or saying there’s no point in sending your kids to school? Is Piers Morgan an extremist? Who cares! What the Cummings story did is push a lot of people over into ‘who cares’ but – would it be extremism to include in that mood not caring about what the media wants us to think?

Maybe real extremism is blaming whoever we’re encouraged to blame, or refusing to work with someone as soon as you find they take a different line to you on party politics, or Brexit, or religion, or one of the other things we’re so good at falling apart over, or maybe it’s spreading the propaganda we read in the less tabloidy papers, or just being noisy and angry because it makes us feel better. Maybe we’d better give all that up right now.

There is another option

If you haven’t already, take some time out to listen to Laura Pidcock and Noam Chomsky.

 

 

Or if you prefer a book, get hold of a copy of ‘The Shock Doctrine’ by Naomi Klein. It explains that the government wants a never-ending crisis-scandal-disaster. It wants us running in circles getting angry with people at random. It takes our minds off the real enemy. Come election time, we’ll be back to battling over whether we like the blue cardboard hero or the red cardboard hero, or whether to ignore both if the green one’s in with a chance.

Activists with 'broken heart' placards commemorating those killed by DWP austerityOne  conclusion from watching the Pidcock/Chomsky interview is that we ought to give ourselves a break from arguing the toss over establishment figures and ballot boxes. Let’s think about our own, local resources. Many towns did remarkably well setting up local covid-19 help schemes. Generally, they are the same people who’ve been running foodbanks and all the rest of it – they did it no thanks to the govt, or what was said on telly.

Local ACORN team 'taking what's ours'
Properly socially distanced activism

We ought to do this all the time. Local networks coming together, doing their own thinking, doing local activism on issues that matter to them and choosing their own political education – and then doing more thinking, activism and education. And then more – it’s fun and it’s necessary. And let’s make sure the education we choose shows us the big picture, because we’re not just patiently doing the government’s job for them, but building our own way forward (we can still go and vote too, come the time but we don’t have to work ourselves to death over some party or candidate who wouldn’t walk half a mile for our sake).

Healthy extremes

The people’s extremes are about dodging the establishment ‘mainstream’, about focusing on localism and internationalism, instead of the Westminster-generated, big name ‘news’ in its blinding spotlight.

Localism and internationalism – there are real human stories to be found at those two extremes. With real humans in mind, we can leap-frog over what the government, the television and the newspapers think we should be worrying about.

Does it work?

Let’s consider the contrast between Pragna Patel’s speech here, where she cheers on a global rising and the gradual coming together of women’s movements…

 

 

…and Arundhati Roy and Naomi Klein here, where Roy concludes that people just don’t rise up.

 

 

 

Which one do you believe?

Yellow jackets being extreme in FranceMaybe the point is that a massive rising of the people is not necessarily a crowd running down a street. Maybe it’s a tidal wave of new thinking and co-operation that we’re aiming for.

It only takes a few people an hour or so to set up a local action, it only takes a few minutes to set up a pol-ed watch-party – but each time you do it, you’re adding power to the movement – and every time you set one up, ask each of the people who take part to set up another one of their own. And if you remember to take photos, and film speeches, you can get on social media and make each action grow and spread and inspire more people…

Local action

The point Roy missed is – The Tipping Point. People don’t rise up, right up until they do. And what brings us to that point is persistent local activism and political education.

Corbyn addresses a crowd of thousands

Remember the energy and the numbers at the peak of the Corbyn movement? We were nearly there – and although the Corbyn project failed, its gains in the population are not lost. It wasn’t a waste, all that activism and pol ed. We now have many, many more people with experience in taking the initiative and working together – keep going. Keep going until we have enough people, ready enough, willing enough, that the initiative is all ours.

And at the other extreme

Pragna PatelOne of the things Pidcock and Chomsky mention is a plan for a new international. Pragna Patel wasn’t imagining things when she said women’s action is going global. Lockdown does not change what millions of women have learned in the last few years. Keep your eye on the women and also, keep your eye on Sanders, Varoufakis and others. I hope that conference Chomsky mentions (The Progressive International Conference, in Iceland in September) isn’t really in Iceland – no more jet-set politics please! I hope that really, it’s going to be hosted in Iceland and held online, where it can be seen globally – but whatever.

Localism and internationalism are the healthy extremes, they are the people reaching out, and together, we have the widest reach. Have plenty of international stories in your local activism and pol ed. Find out what the people’s movements are doing in South America, in France, in India, communicate with them, learn from them and then act local – let’s learn planet-sized politics because after all, we have a whole planetful of people who need saving from the real extremists.

Dominic Cummings pictured inside a Nato summit he wasn't supposed to be at
Extremely annoying and distracting

 

Some good sources for pol ed until we can get back to real world films and face to face discussions…

The Spirit of '45 by Ken Loach
Well worth a watch

Stories from home and abroad

Socialist pol ed from the Labour Left Alliance

Blogs and podcasts by and about women at FiLiA

… but the choices are endless – just get Googling.

 

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activism economics Hastings Housing Labour media NHS Politics Privatisation Uncategorized

My post-lockdown manifesto

(It’s a work in progress – I want to hear about yours, too.) What do we change, what do we scrap – what can we do?

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activism economics Hastings Housing Labour media NHS Politics Privatisation Uncategorized

If…

Thoughts for VE Day…

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Hastings Housing Politics Uncategorized

No, no, no, no … Yes!

The normal and natural human response to development plans is ‘NO!’ This is primarily down to human nature. I have said very wordy ‘no’s to most planning proposals when consultations come my way.

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activism economics Hastings Housing Labour Politics Uncategorized women

The Housing Headache

On Sunday, Councillors Leah Levane, Tania Charman and Andy Batsford spoke to the Labour Women’s Forum about the housing problems people in Hastings & Rye are facing.

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Emergency! First aid instructions within

Our NHS has nearly gone. The destruction, which started long ago now, is nearly complete. It’ll take a general election to save it but there’s something we have to do first, and we need to be doing it now…

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Election Housing Unite

A suitable MP?

Can you imagine living in a house in a super-fashionable little corner of a south coast town without having any idea of house prices? Can you imagine being responsible for the people of that town during a housing crisis and being so blasé about house-prices that your casual estimate of their value is over £150k out? That is what just happened to Amber Rudd. Watch this…