Saturday, 11 February 2017

Moving On

I'm posting this so those brave and kind souls who do me the honour of following me can know where I am, should they want to.

Right now I'm in counselling for depression and anxiety. I've had two appointments, and unfortunately I'm not terribly convinced. I'll stick with it, but the counsellor nearly gave up when she felt I wasn't sufficiently open. I told her I wasn't deliberately obstructive, but that vague questions such as "tell me about your childhood" are so open that I genuinely struggle with them. I mentioned to her that I have tried to get a diagnosis for aspergers, interestingly she was sympathetic and said she felt that I was indeed displaying such traits. Unfortunately that won't do any good, partly because, as with all mental health, there is no holistic connected service. If we had that, she might be able to communicate directly with the diagnostic service and add testimony.

This lack of connection is a real problem. She has no answers to the systemic causes of mental health. I mean dealing with the structural violence that exists through the likes of the DWP. She has no power over them even though she knows I could be called in for another ESA test at any time. I had to explain to her, and not meaning to sound arrogant, that the system works against you and is created to function that way, that these people are not your friend. Unfortunately when that comes from a mental health patient to their counsellor it is less likely to be taken seriously. I can only hope she gets it. She had previously made the suggestion that I speak to Bristol City council housing to get into Bristol as the isolation where I am is a major problem. Of course that is never going to happen (and I checked online): homelessness is at critical mass and the city faces nearly 100 million quid's worth of cuts to say nothing of a chronic lack of social housing. A situation mirrored up and down the land. What was she thinking? The problem is the kind of well intentioned naivete that blocks real opposition ot this system.

To deal with my blood sugar dipping from time to time, which can be a real problem, I have tried to adopt a completely different diet. This being the ketogenic diet that's meant to stimulate the body to burn fat instead of carbs. I'm not entirely convinced that's healthy, but it seems to work for a lot of people. Waiting for the GP to actually write a letter to the endocrinologist for an appointment is expecting too much it seems,

Finally, for anyone interested, I thought I would start recording some stream of consciousness thought pieces on video to put on Youtube. This is the channel. Don't expect super high production values, I'm not comfortable being on cam right now so you get to hear my rambling tones against a backdrop of low res countryside. Not quite Pewdiepie or whatever his name is, but some people might get a kick out of it. I thought it might be fun to try and cop a style similar to the Artist Taxi Driver and his counter culture political rants: fun, relatively short (perhaps), pieces to camera. If anyone likes it, give us a like - it's gauche to ask but I thought it might be fun, while the weather and life remains dark, to try and build up something positive.

Thanks for sticking with this,

Thursday, 5 January 2017

The Dark Year Begins (2017, day one...actually day five)

This is the Dark Year; 2017. Last year took it's toll and started the trend, but I think the trouble we could see this year will be worse, with President Trump, the increasingly hapless (sigh) Jeremy Corbyn, the Tory onslaught continues, the rise of the right, the increasingly inflammable middle east.

That's not what I'm going to talk about.

Unfortunately this year I think my health is going to diminish.

What a massively self indulgent thing to say, you might, reasonably, be thinking. Of course; there are 7billion other people on this planet and a considerable portion of those are worse off than me.

But that's just capitalist propaganda; if we ignore our own problems then how do we come together to solve the greater problem of an oppressive system?

Who knows. All I know is that my hypoglycaemia, or whatever the fuck it is, has completely knocked me for six. My sleep is terrible, I'm riddled with constant hunger pangs, and when I miss a meal (I say when, but I do my damnedest to make sure that never happens) I start to feel really bad. This is not how humans should function.

Unfortunately in this consumer saccharine society finding ways to ameliorate this is phenomenally difficult. Most everything available in the shops, particularly if you live out of town, is poor quality or expensive. Getting help and support is a struggle in itself: i had to wait 70 minutes in the doctor's surgery just to be seen yesterday. What will come of the blood tests I took, who knows. God knows what's wrong with my body. All I know is that I cannot function like this: how would I hold down a full time paid job? Sure I might get lucky and find a sympathetic flexible employer within a reasonable travel distance. But then again I have to compete, in an increasingly toxic and shrill labour market, with less deficient and dysfunctional human beings. Who do you think the average employer will take on? As the economy continues to struggle under austerity (and possibly Brexit) my chances grow increasingly slim.

What happens next time the DWP invites me in for an interview? If I struggle for evidence to support this health issue, just as I did with mental health issues, then the ESA process gets harder. The law of averages favours an unfavourable the fullness of time.

I'm not sure how to cope with this. Where can I go to get help when I have to wait so long just to be seen by a GP - and one who hasn't the time, or possibly even the expertise, to deal with me? Sure I can resort to the populist egalitarianism of the internet wherein a plurality of opinions and answers is given by people who may or may not know what they are talking about.

For instance, people seem keen to recommend a low carb diet. Having looked at this, I cannot imagine how I would even begin with this. Now that's not even an argument against it, in fact it's a criticism of our food marketplace and our attitudes to food: lots of affordable food is relatively carb-heavy. Bread for example is almost a given in diets. Sure you can eat healthier types of bread, but try cutting it out entirely in a diety dependent on increased protein, ostensibly (and expensively) meat.

I find the whole thing overwhelming and I'm really struggling.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Notes on Today's Strike

I shall flex my awareness of capitalism thus. So this is just an intellectual exercise to keep my socialist spidey senses keen...

There's a strike on today, in London. I don't know the full details of the dispute because of course the BBC have no interest to inform me. A dispute between ASLEF, the RMT, and some private transport concern within the city. What the BBC does have an interest in, of course, is playing clips of commuters in varying degrees of consternation and disgust.

Note that the BBC doesn't bother to ask the workers why they are striking, nor does it advocate - as it should - that said commuters go visit the picket line and ask the people themselves for the facts. Given how the working class are viewed these days, doing so would only lead to people becoming suspicious of these facts. We are in the post-factual age of course - who needs experts!

These are the issues that I have:

Firstly I mention talking to the workers themselves for a good reason: it is important to foster relations and ease division amongst the working class. This is the biggest weapon we have against the capitalists. They rely on these divisions, so by communicating with other disgruntled people in our class we can find common cause and build solidarity.

Secondly, the BBC is interested in pursuing a rather childish narrative. By talking to each side in the dispute (at different times, I notices, preventing actual dialogue), they can play them against each other. So they first (perhaps tactically) interviewed the boss of the transport provider who said that he was willing to get round the negotiating table. By talking to him before the union representative, they are able to put him on the backfoot. This they did by putting to him the claim that the boss was willing to talk, something that had never previously been the case. The rep then agrees that this is a good idea, but is confronted by the idea of calling off further disputes - if the boss is willing to talk and you are likewise then you have no reason not to call the strikes off.

But this is dangerous: calling off the strikes is a lot easier than creating them, due to our appalling anti-union laws. If the rep agrees to this - and there is no reason hie should do so given that he has only just been confronted with only the merest claim of good faith on the part of the boss - and the boss goes back on his word, then the boss can score a victory. This is because of the amount of hassle and legal nonsense required to get the strike back on. So really, the rep is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea: he's damned if he agrees because the power lies with the boss (who would only lie about reneging on a meeting - and who could prove otherwise?), and he's damned if he doesn't, as the public has been conditioned to see this as union intransigence. Back to the bad old days of the socialist lefty labour 1970's (themselves a myth).

Even if they get around the table, there is no guarantee of good faith on the part of the boss, nor that he will use this to just string things along.

However, and more insidiously, this all works in favour of the capitalist class anyway. I mentioned at the start the clips of commentary from angry commuters. Among these alleged horror stories are lurid claims (which may or may not be true) of people losing their jobs because they cannot get to work.

Of course that's awful, but who's really to blame there? No one had to sack the commuter, did they? I mean, surely their employer could see that it wasn't the employees fault and not sack them and instead work on a compromise. It's not as if the unions are striking every day is it, they couldn't even if they wanted to I imagine. So this is a plain sighted admission of the failings of capitalism, couched within what appears a reasonable claim and concern on the part of commuters. The employer would argue they have no choice but to sack, why - because of capitalism! Profit! We need a more reliable employee to maintain that bottom line! So what if you lose your job, house, family, can't feed your kids eh? That's not talked about on the BBC, only these alleged concerns.

However the real capitalist knows that by letting someone go in this way they can further the interests of their class. Sacking people only leads to more division: the commuters versus the striking transport staff. Blame is apportioned incorrectly thanks to a dog whistle blown by the capitalist class as a means to inspire further legislation, and I wasn't about to hang around to hear that rat faced dead eyed shit disturber, Chris Grayling (the transport minister) make this point. Sack the worker, sow division, call for a 'tightening' of strike laws to keep the unions in line.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Magical Thinking

Well that's that for pursuing a diagnosis for Aspergers or anything remotely similar.

I contacted the Patient Advisory Liaison Service (PALS) to try and sort this out after being lied to by the clinician regarding referring me to the ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) people. That never happened and she continues to deny saying she would. Of course I cannot prove this and so the patient-doctor dynamic kicks in: I'm the lowly patient, she's the expert doctor, her reputation versus mine and so who wins?

I could make a complaint, but what would be the point. I might get a nice letter in a few months time saying sorry in a mealy mouthed way, but it doesn't get me any closer to what I need. That being a diagnosis, a formal, written and recorded, recognition of the issues I deal with. Lacking that, dealing with the systems in society, chiefly the DWP, becomes more difficult. Unfortunately the medical profession doesn't seem to care about that.

We have a society fuelled by anxiety and stress that also denies mental health issues as anything other than just laziness or weakness of character. Our society is built on toxic macho stereotypes leaving no room for such problems. Combined with a medical service that is completely ill equipped to deal with these problems, except in extreme (re: suicidal) cases, and the average person is left to cope. This only normalises the levels of stress and anxiety and mental anguish that people have, no matter how debilitating or serious. In short, nobody cares.

All that I am recommended is, once again, the agency (partnered with ATOS, which says it all) called Positive Step. In lieu of a proper holistic service they have become the go-to people the NHS uses when dealing with someone who has mental health issues (of a non-extreme kind). Unfortunately, Positive Step has been dishonest about their provision: all they offer is a specific, short, curriculum of CBT, a therapy with mixed results that doesn't apply to all situations despite what they might say. This is sold to the medical profession on a lie: it is the same service whether it is sold as anxiety relief, self esteem, 'wellbeing therapy'  (whatever that is), talking therapy, mood management, etc. I have had to correct my doctor multiple times that they do not offer a multitude of different services for these different approaches and problems; they simply do one thing and one thing only. It is not a panacea by any means.

It also contributes to the general idea that one is responsible for one's own issues and that, essentially, by thinking positively and cheering up, one can overcome. That is what the CBT they offer amounts to: relax (easier said than done of course) and try and talk yourself out of fear of X (be it spiders, heights, clowns, etc). If your anxiety or mood comes from a legitimate concern: lack of income, lack of a home, society, capitalism, etc, then forget it. Yet, despite the reality of the truth of these external conditions, it is still 'your' fault insofar as you are the only one that can change anything. Perversely this is a tacit admission of the reality even though one cannot change external conditions, not at least by simply wishing them away.

We are victims of systems that, at least, predate our appearance on this earth. I was born, without consent, into a system not of my design or choosing. Yet I am expected to agree to its terms without discussion or compromise. If I struggle or fail to meet or live up to those conditions I alone am held accountable as it is clearly a personal failing. In that respect the purveyors of magical thinking believe that I, the subject, am the agent of change, or at least the author of my own misfortune. Vapid solutions, talking about personal journeys and wish fulfilling magical roadmaps to success, are offered, in exchange for government money of course by the likes of charities who should know better. They do not and cannot have the solution, yet they will not accept the reality and instead simply reinforce it by blaming the victim.

When will this change?

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Trump The Election System

Well that just happened.

Representative democracy wins out again: despite Clinton getting the popular vote (by a margin of less than 1%), straw-haired bigoted hate sausage and professional misogynist Donald Trump now has his fat fingers firmly planted (from January) on the big red button. Top of the world ma!

None of which is to say that Hilary the warmonger was a particularly palatable candidate, with her history of corporate appeasement, foreign 'intervention', and US imperialism. However, as with most elections, the difference, though measurable only microscopically, is still measurable. It's a choice between the unpopular and the unthinkable. Or at least it was, until it was made, last week, by the disenfranchised of America. They, angry white men who feel that, as the dominant power group in society, their loss, at the hands of the capitalist elite, is greater than anyone else's loss - and how dare those other groups (like the blacks, or the women, or the gays, etc) - even try and compare!

The real winner in this election will be capital, because whatever happens that's what controls America. Even if that capital is now in the vaults of Chinese banks. Trump is nothing if not a capitalist. He thinks himself the ultimate dealmaker, but that's not going to persuade Mexico to fund his imaginary wall (now a fence - and a fence is already what exists). Nor will it persuade Wall Street to support renegotiating NAFTA.

He thinks himself a maverick, but only because daddy Trump's casino chips have bailed him out and only because daddy Trump let him the means to leverage more time and money to try and build his shitty empire of bricks and racism.

The problem is this awful representative system, whether in the US with it's clearly broken electors, or the Westminster aristocracy here, is all we currently have. Whether we like it or not, there will be an election by, at the very least, 2020. If we don't vote against the Tories then we vote for the Tories - a fact the radical left ignores at our peril.

It's an unpalatable truth, but the system will continue regardless of how we feel about it; there is not, at present, the revolutionary willpower among the working class to force a change. I wish it were not so. This system is broken across the board.

The truth is that there are differences between the major parties, even between Clinton and Trump, and these need to be exploited for us to gain anything. It is most certainly a case of holding your nose and voting for the lesser of two evils because anything else is seen and used by the system to put our enemies in power: Tory voters will always vote and so anything that splits opposition to that, be it not voting or instead voting for a smaller party like the Greens, will only strengthen their position. The thought of another Tory majority, likely stronger than the present one, is unbearable. That cannot be allowed to happen and is, in my opinion, the over riding priority.

I do not like this reality, I wish it were different, but it is not. We know what happens if the Tories return, it's what's already happening with the deaths of the poor and the sick and the dismantling and destruction of public services. This we can see, we don't need speculation. On the other hand, while there are many Labour representatives with blood on their hands as well, we can reasonably speculate they will not be as bad as the Tories - and that's what it's about. It's an awful shitty choice, but, fundamentally, it is the only choice. It's also one that comes with many caveats; for example, if you live in a safe seat then there isn't much you can do, although you lose nothing by marking a cross on a piece of paper, a job that takes ten minutes of your day. You might as well at least try.

Not least of all, in fact most importantly of all, revolutionary work need not be compromised or interrupted. Using this system does not mean endorsing it, that would be a facile assumption. It is simply a recognition of the reality of the moment. Either we use the system or it uses us.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

What the Hell is Success, Mr Green?

A cap on total benefits received by a family that has already driven people into (or further into) poverty is hailed as a success by the man now committing to a further reduction in that cap. This is reality: the redefining of terms to fit an agenda baked into the minds of the media manipulated masses. Not just a success, but a 'real success'; telling you that this is something you can take to the bank, unlike the incomes of the poor.

"“By making sure that those people who are out of work are faced with the same choices as those who are in work, the benefit cap has been a real success,” he (Damian Green) said."

In a way that's true, but only because of the degree of in-work poverty that now exists.

But what choices does Mr Green want the poor to face that they aren't already facing, and if this sort of 'tough love' is helpful why not apply it to colleagues in Parliament? Maybe they would perform better or make better choices (at least when it comes to paying themselves eye watering pay rises or taking out frivolous expenses claims for antiques and house-flipping).

The poorest already face the reality of choosing whether to eat, heat, or feed their kids. They have to send their kids to school with bigger holes in their bellies than on the shoes they can't afford to replace. What choice is being championed here and how does it help them get out of that situation?

How does this kind of poverty, directly attributable to income cuts, get fixed by further cuts? Is this government or homoeopathy?

He continues:

“By lowering the cap today, we are ensuring the values of this government continue to chime with those of ordinary working people and delivering on our commitment to make sure work pays more than welfare.”

The values of a group of people with no special claim to authority other than the dubious outcome of a media driven election. As if authority over others can be justified on the basis of a notion of shared values. What are these values? They are noteworthy by their absence. This is a popular trope: assert the notion of values, as a desirable trait in oneself or one's society, but never articulate what they are. It's used effectively - unfortunately - against outsiders (eg Muslims, refugees, war orphans): ie these people are incompatible with our values. I think we can all guess what those values are from the behaviour of successive governments, this one by no means least of all.

Does work pay more than welfare? Is this an admission of the failure of the concept of wage labour? It is predicated on the idea that no one will work if they can claim welfare instead so by making welfare so pitiful that option is stifled and made unattractive. But that presumes an admission of the undesirable qualities of wage labour, that we have to bully people by making the alternative (surely a false dichotomy: the choice should never be work or starve) so awful. And yet these are the same capitalists who, in the next breath extol the virtues of work as the great panacea when they cut the incomes of the sick.

Wages are determined by factors that have nothing to do with welfare. Indeed the latter is an important function of the modern industrial capitalist economy as seen in places like Britain and it shows the ignorance of the Tories who tinker with this at their (and certainly our) peril. A small reserve army of labour is required to keep wage bills low and to keep the working classes that are employed in line: this is your fate, they say, if you lose (ie quit - at least to their eyes) your job. You will end up in poverty hell and that is your punishment.

Of course it's also important for the Tories to be seen to deliver on their commitments - that alone is worth more than a functioning society because it makes them seem credible. In fact the more dysfunctional our society, the greater the value of that credibility.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, Green reiterated this point, saying: “By the far the best long-term route out of poverty is to have a job

Fatuous. I would imagine inheriting a vast windfall is probably the best way out of poverty. It's also the best way into the Tory party. Considering the amount of in work poverty that exists. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (chart below) more than half those in work are also in poverty. I find it impossible to accept that Mr Green doesn't know this, which makes the idea of Tory authority all the more odious: unjustified authority depriving people in the community of the means to live. This is not just abhorrent it is murderous.

Green said: “Each statistic represents a person who has moved into employment and can now enjoy the security and dignity that work brings.”

There is no way this can be verified. At best it would be assuming evidence based on anecdote: a claimant would have to say they are starting work as their reason for ending the claim, but that alone wouldn't constitute proof. In fact the DWP won't check. I suspect most people use this reason, even if it's not true, because it's the most expedient and acceptable answer, given if only to get the DWP off their back, which may well be why their claim is ending anyway. 

 To assume people are moving into employment is just intellectual dishonesty. Who can blame people for ending their claim this way? I've done the same thing myself.

As for security and dignity? The evidence speaks for itself. Given how the Tories have treated the notion of a minimum wage I think we can reasonably and assuredly dismiss their idea that work = dignity. There's nothing dignified about forcing people to sell their labour in a rigged marketplace, one they have no control over anyway (if they did, they'd hardly need to be in that position in the first place).

PS: apropos of nothing, fuck Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.

(Quotes from here)

Sunday, 6 November 2016

First the Worst (nothing changes for the poor)

This is a picture perfect example of everything wrong with our society and how the least affluent are treated. It involves a certain public transport provider with a piss poor reputation, everyone knows of whom I speak, but let's call them First. I could think of more appropriate and entertaining names, but...

So last week, and with dismal inevitability, First increased it's fares again, hiding these changes behind a restructuring of their fare system. Their stated reason for this is to encourage folk to eschew paper tickets in favour of smartphone technology. It doesn't occur to them of course (and the entire reason for this post) that not everyone owns nor can they afford a smartphone. I certainly can't (I despise the damn things anyway, but that's another story).

Apparently, and because of increased complaints regarding punctuality, it was decided, in the rarefied echelons of Chatauex First, the reason for this was because of the time taken to issue paper tickets to customers. Obviously this is horseshit because they know full well they cannot avoid issuing paper tickets in sufficient quantities to make their service more efficient.

I accept that traffic conditions, in gridlocked Britain, are beyond the purview of First to address - this is a cultural shift that our society, sooner or later, is going to have to make. But that's another topic entirely.

Essentially what First has done, to persuade people to use the tech it prefers (assuming the system is reliable of course), is offer a discount to people buying tickets via smartphone. These tickets are then presented via a scanner and this is apparently more efficient.

They do offer an alternative: you can buy a smartcard similar to oyster cards. The problem here, aside from not actually telling people how, is that only a small array of tickets are available this way, none of them include the tickets I want. You would also have to make a minimum purchase of some kind: you couldn't just load a single journey, such as I make, onto the card. The consequence of this is that, the single journey I want to make, is now 50p dearer. This is separate from the cost of buying paper tickets. So not only are people without the preferred technology penalised, but the tickets are themselves more expensive. This is because...restructuring - who knows, their explanations make no sense. A journey that cost £3.50 last week, now costs £4.00 for arcane reasons.

Here then is that picture perfect example: poor people don't have access to expensive phone and app technology and yet they are the most likely to use public transport. On top of that they don't always have the means to pay the minimum entry fees required to make use of oyster cards and the likely such cards will require a certain level of ticket/price to be deposited at a time. Whereas I can buy a single ticket for my journey on the bus, that will not be an option with these cards, even though the poorest need that flexibility more than most.

It is this hubris that is at the heart of corporate Britain and it must be addressed.