Monday, 29 June 2015

Experience

This morning, on my way to the butchers, I took the long way as it's a nice day. 

Don't really enjoy feeling ill though. It's hard to accurately describe the weird hypoglcyemic/metabolic problem that I have, but I know when it happens, and it did then, as bad as any other. I suspect that whatever mental health issues I have, as yet still undiagnosed, they play a part in creating some unholy bizarre synergy.

Consequently it's like experiencing a kind of sensory pressure. Stimulus becomes intense, noise merges into one monotonous experience that threatens to overwhelm while the already bright summer sun threatens to take me out of my skull. All the while I'm walking and my legs, which occasionally are feeling a little wobbly, feel like they are walking a treadmill; as if I'm being walked, not that I'm walking. In a weird way I feel that, if I stop, I'll collapse.

My thinking goes into overdrive and I'm drawn inward, my heart quickens as does my breathing in a stress response type scenario. So introspective do I become that I experience a form of tunnel vision. Occasionally I lose myself in this not particularly pleasant experience before catching awareness of the fact where my head feels like it is about to turn upside down. It's an unsettling sensation; a feeling of complete discombobulation where you catch yourself 'phasing out'. I have had this labelled 'de realisation', but, as with all these issues, I am no expert and no expert seems keen to lend a diagnosis or explanation.

I make it to the shop, which, fortunately, is empty, and I get what I need. I wanted to go to the Post Office, but the queue was such I would have struggled considerably (we will never know). I manage to assuage some of the feelings with a scotch egg. It's not ideal and these experiences are not marked by traditional hunger pangs, but with a rising sense of physical urgency as described that culminate in a need to eat. Were I to deny myself food I dread to think what would happen and consequently I have never sought to put that to the test. I don't think such speculation helpful, in fact I do not care to see people play games with their health. There really are people for home starvation is an issue; this is not a subject for navel gazing or masochism. 

It takes a good hour or so, and a sandwich as well, for my body to calm down. After which I feel pleasantly tired. This is how it always works. I do not know what causes this or why. It is simply how my body functions (or doesn't). I do not post this to compete for the sympathy of those kind enough to give me the time of day. I don't do it to compare myself to others who may have greater needs and problems. In fact I post precisely to make that point; we are all different and what effects each of us might not bother the rest. Life isn't uniform and the biology of the human body is fragile.

But the main reason I post this is because it struck me that my experience, intense as it was for me, is mine alone. I cannot persuade the Tories and the DWP and the Duncan Smiths of the world of my experience. They would not even address that experience as presented; their prejudices and assumptions would prevent them from taking me at my word.

It is a curious and unsettling fact to know that I live in a society where, as intense and uncomfortable my experience was, to others it is nothing, because that society is conditioned not to take me at my word.

...

In other, and sadder news, the passing of a legend. The masterful and creative and intelligent god of thunder, Chris Squire, bassist and singer for Yes, has passed away. Gone but never forgotten. A true inspiration.

 

Monday, 22 June 2015

After the March

I'll be honest it all seems pretty hopeless.

A government comprising some of the most ideologically challenged market obsessed and incoherent lunatics I've ever known has gotten elected. They claim they have a mandate to kick us all in the teeth because we've asked them to - despite a quarter of the electorate actually voting for them. 

How is that right? 

We have an minister for equality who believes marriage should be allowed to people on the basis of their sexuality.

We have a minister for disability issues who not only votes against the interests of those he represents, but recently applauded a court decision not to allow compensation to those his government had treated unlawfully. Denied PIP for a year these people were driven to utter desperation, including food banks and loan sharks, and yet will these 'fine upstanding people' put their hands up and apologise? Will they put their hands in their pockets and offer due recompense? Will they fuck!

We have an employment minister who believes in the death penalty and supports the most virulent behaviour of the free market; who distributes awards to businesses that pay less than the minimum wage under the guise of workfare and apprenticeships. A woman who cannot string a coherent sentence together and sounds, quite literally, like a child. Frankly, it's embarrassing. More embarrassing than listening to young William Hague speaking at the Tory conference back in the day.

But people just tolerate all this.

Despite 250,000 people marching on Saturday nothing has changed. And nothing will until those people, and the rest, do what is necessary to bring society to a stand still. The government aren't going to give a damn about the People's Assembly and it's talking heads. They haven't for the last four years, what makes those marching - with the best of intentions - think they will this time?

People talk about how good natured the march was and how friendly it was. That;s great; I want inclusiveness, I want camaraderie and mutual support. That's how society should function. But it's not going to stop the Tories. They simply don't care. They want a compliant society, and, ironically, a good natured march works in their favour, offering a safe and thus ineffectual release without being a real threat.

That's the tragedy of it. I hate to criticise the People's Assembly. I hate to criticise the march. I feel like a complete heel for doing so, sitting here at my keyboard pouring scorn on people for acting with the best of intention. These are the right kind of people, who care enough to do...something, but I despair that they are being given false hope by a group that's not prepared to do what I fear must be done. A few well organised events here and there will offer nothing but false hope and make those who, like me, want a better society and who believe in a better politics and a better economics, feel they are achieving something when, in the cold light of day, they aren't.

A quarter of a million seems impressive, and in a way it is. I cannot and do not criticise anyone who took part. They did so for the right reasons and with the best of intentions. But they have to know that marching alone isn't enough and will never be. Perhaps this is the start, and if that's the purpose then fair enough. But I do not see anything from the People's Assembly or the TUC that hints at a prolonged campaign of direct and purposeful action. The TUC is likely to roll over as it did before and comply with the government for the slightest of gains. The People's Assembly will hold talking shops where good natured commentators will state the obvious, preaching to a choir of people desperate for change.

All of that is great. But it simply will not achieve anything. A quarter of a million is a drop in the ocean compared to the size of our society. How many people don't care? How many people spent Saturday doing other things and not really caring or taking an interest in the issue of austerity? How many have yet to feel the pinch? Compared to what's coming, if the Tories aren't stopped, we have had it easy thus far! 

Next month Osborne will unveil his 12 billion £ worth of welfare cuts. We all know these were coming and only a fool expects anything but the worst. The march has done nothing to dissuade the Tories from making these cuts. In fact I would argue it only galvanises them to believe, perversely, they are doing the right thing. In their twisted ideology they think they are mandated to deliver this pain; that it's not just what the people need, it's what they want.

There is no time for dialogue anymore. We've heard all the speeches. We all know what's at stake, and if you don't then I have to assume you agree with the infantile ideology of the idle rich. We are divided and we are at war. I have tried engaging with these people, it doesn't work. One tries to be reasonable - that is what mature reasonable people do, isn't it? But it gets you nowhere. Commentary following the march was filled with bitter indignation and ad hominem attacks - from right wing trolls who downplay their outrage by saying marching is a waste of time. They can't have it both ways.

There is no point engaging with these people, we have to treat them, as melodramatic as it sounds, as the enemy. This government, this economic system, this broken media, it all has to be stopped. We cannot survive five years of this. Things have to change. The time for talk is over.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

It's Corbyn Time

Jeremy Corbyn has been nominated to stand for Labour leadership, the greatest poison chalice of our time. He won't win of course, this is just an exercise in Labour trying to appeal to disenfranchised supporters in the wake of their rabid, post-election, right wing frenzy as the prospective leaders attempted to outdo each other in their love of Big Business. A shameful and wretched display.

Curiously the Tories seem to have a Twitter campaign going to support him.

You might think this is because they think he's a risible old socialist who's values will clearly further doom us all. Further? Labour, in government, weren't remotely socialist. Yet the Tories can't wrap their head around this and so we had the disgraceful spectacle of the red top press hysterically trying to portray hapless Ed Milliband as the Red Menace, in league with Lucifer's own, Nicola Sturgeon. In response Miliband rolled over and gave the Tories the key to the door by proclaiming he'd rather lose the election than ally with the SNP!

There's nothing socialist about labour, but in this right wing ideological shitmire anything to the left of the Tory position, even by the merest hair's breadth, is seen as screaming loony left Michael Foot-ina-donkey-jacket-on-the-picket-line socialist. Kelvin MacKenzie (that well known philanthropist) proclaimed, after the 2010 election, that we've had 13 years of socialism. How can these people say this with a straight face; do they even believe their own words?

I suspect that the Tories would rather someone like Corbyn, because they fervently and fundamentally believe his values are utterly anathema to what the people want (despite their mandate being predicated on a quarter of the electorate). Rather him than another Red Tory, like Andy Burnham or the awful Liz Kendall. I suspect they feel more threatened by the latter than the former knowing that their majority isn't rock solid and that Labour has strong support in the cities and the north.

Ironically it's the politics of someone like Jeremy Corbyn that Labour desperately needs. Another five years of a lightweight carbon copy of the Tories, even if slightly softer, is not good enough.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

The Self Indulgence of Mental Health

One of the most pernicious aspects of poor mental health is how others don't understand. How can they? Unless you live with these feelings, for example, you cannot know what it's like any more than I can know what it's like to be born a fish. People tend to think, in my opinion, that the sufferer is merely feeling sorry for themselves; at worst they are being selfish.

It isn't like that at all. For example, though I'm not entirely, sure I believe two people I know are planning on getting married. My friend, who would be the groom, doesn't know about the issues I face (even words like that are misconstrued, though what else can we use but words). We have never spoken about mental health and I have never raised these issues; it's not something one blurts out in conversation and, while he's a nice guy, he's not the sort of person who'd really understand. That of course is a judgement, but then, again, what else can we do to negotiate our way through the world? We have to judge situations, current and future. Sometimes we fail, sometimes we don't. Unfortunately poor mental health affects that success rate.

I'm assuming that, depending on the nature of the event (i don't see it being a church do, but then it's not up to me), he will invite me; either to the full thing, or to some kind of reception. To most people this is an exciting proposition and a kind gesture. To be invited to share someone's special day is what most people regard as an honour. I accept all that.

Unfortunate it also stirs up an inner tumult of dread. While I care about his special day and wouldn't under any circumstances want it to be anything but perfect - I'm not a monster nor, in my opinion, am I selfish - the thought of mingling with people leaves me utterly cold. I don't feel I have anything in common with the other people (to be brutally honest, I don't really think much of his partner, she's rather small minded and even a bit racist, but that's a subject for another day). The idea of sitting in a party room full of people I don't know except for a few, expected to perform the usual social role intended and generally be 'normal' sends me into a complete panic. 

I don't know why I am this way, I can't reasonably articulate it, and that's why I say people who have no experience of this cannot understand it. You either get it or you don't, and, thanks to the popular ignorance of mental health, which has persisted for far too long, most people don't. Consequently my need to consider my own well being will be seen as self indulgent at best. Since I will be seen as not having any physical - that is to say 'genuine' - restriction my behaviour, should I bottle out, be seen as totally selfish. But it's not like that at all. How can anyone convey the crushing weight of intense feeling? No matter how smart or 'grown up' you are, you cannot know this without experiencing this. 

You cannot reason it away. This is my biggest problem with treatments like CBT: the idea of using reason to de-construct negative mental health sounds rational and practical. But in practise it is a catch 22: my experience was that, in order to use reason one must separate oneself from the effect of negative thinking and feeling. If one could do that then there'd be no problem in the first place!

Ironically, and to conclude, what could be more self indulgent than a large blog post where one person whines about fearing a social event that may or may not happen. That of course is the problem. I could waffle on for page after page about this, but if you, dear reader, do not understand this by now, then you never will. Of course that sounds equally arrogant and horrendously narcissistic. I can't help how mental health problems are perceived; we live in a society where, still, depression is seen as a lack of self discipline and a well of excuse making; not the black dog those who've experienced it know it to be. 

It is like trying to explain colour photography to a person who cannot see except in monochrome. Even then, all the analogies in the world are a poor substitute for the lived experience of mental health. Given the desperate state of our austere society there is little hope of this changing.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Britain's Hardest Grafter

Apparently not a joke; this is, as I'm sure most now know, a TV programme to be aired on the BBC. Clearly another divisive poverty porn exercise in the obscenity that is the Christian Work Ethic and rooted firmly in capitalist notions of winners and losers. Literally in this case, because those poor saps who aren't awarded the title, at the end of what will surely be a plug for some grubby gangmaster's business, won't be seen as winners.

I'm betting that business will belong to someone like Charlie Mullens the millionaire plumber who has surfaced in recent years with his 'common sense' view of reality - or what passes for reality in his gutter press programmed mind.

Britain's Hardest Grafter - and what happens to Britain's Second Hardest Grafter? He or she will be treated no different than Britain's Least Hardest Grafter. This is a sick fact of our striver and skiver society: close only counts, as they say, in horseshoes and hand grenades and so you're either the best, fulfilling your potential, or all your effort is for naught and you might as well not have bothered. What does that say about self worth? How does that foster a healthy cohesive society? But we don't have a society, we have a pyramid scheme where you're either a failure or you're the Pharaoh.

Of course the programme will be dominated by the personal stories, carefully edited into emotional bite size mental comfort snackfood for the masses. Dave, with his gaggle of one-too-many kids-and-an-xbox, will be pitted with Steve who Works Really Hard After Losing His Mum To The Big C. Dave's inadequacies and failures will be exposed by comparison to Steve and thus Steve will be the hero and Dave the villain. Toss in a few token 'foreigners', a Pole and a Muslim, for good measure (because, you know, them Asians have a good work ethic innit) and the great British storyline will unfold, under the auspice of a bunch of coke-addled 'meeja' Jack Whitehall lookalikes.

There is nothing real about this. It's intended for the same audience as Benefit Street; the same prurient armchair moral forecasters and curtain twitchers. People that have a huge hole in their souls that they are willing to fill with this kind of manipulative rubbish. What possible insights can an edited docudrama offer into today's labour market? It's victim blaming; they will set up Steve to triumph in a series of ridiculous workplace environments and use that inversely suggest that anyone who fails, like Dave, will be the author of their own demise. There will be no real examination of the nature of these workplaces, just the rewarding of Steve and his struggle against adversity - in fact the harder the job, the shittier the workplace - the sweeter his success and the more powerful the message of autonomy. No questioning of the policies of rich business owners like Mike Ashley the billionaire who keeps everyone at Sports Direct on zero hours, for example, or the dungeons of Amazon where people are forced to run marathons in unlit warehouses to fulfil ridiculous quotas only to be subject to a body search at the end of their shift (because the working class are all thieves).

It's misdirection in the guise of self development. The same crap that American lifestyle gurus peddle in order to live in opulence while telling you that your struggles on unreasonable wages are of your own making. 

Poverty Porn never seems to get old. Britains' Hardest Grafter: because if you can't live on £fuck all and you aren't willing to work in shit conditions for a millionaire EU whining plutocrat tax dodger you aren't working hard enough. At the end of each week Moloch decides whom to eliminate from the show (sorry, I meant to say 'experiment', because the BBC would like us to believe this exploitative shite is insightful); the least productive worker in the faux-factory they intend to create will be eliminated. Presumably they will have to shuffle off to the suicide booth in order to become Soylent Green for the rest. Nothing is wasted. This is after they are forced to explain their lack of productivity to the programme's chosen Work Council; justifying the last few miserable seconds of their unproductive lives before being reduced to something useful at last. I imagine that, along with Charlie, the board of the Work Council will comprise the latest iteration of Emma Harrison (we haven't heard from Hayley Taylor in a while), that Welsh twat from the Call Centre, and Joffrey Baratheon, first of his name.

What will they make in this factory? What fake products? Or perhaps this is some satire so elbaorate and so pernicious that I have failed to grasp its true subtlety. Maybe they make, in the manner of Dr Evil's modern empire, miniature models of factories. 




Sunday, 31 May 2015

Slouching Onwards

Tomorrow it's another trip to the GP to probably waste my time on the fruitless quest to get a diagnosis for a condition that I don't even really understand. There seem to be so many 'neuro diverse' (and I'm probably misusing that term) conditions that diagnosis is impossible; I suspect most such people probably have bits of all different conditions - different being the issue. These, like me, I feel, are people that just feel permanently and detrimentally out of sorts. It's difficult to explain, like trying to imagine what it's like to be a cat for instance, but it's been there throughout my entire life. Unfortunately the one time I try to get this recognised I'm forced to deal with a system that is prejudiced against recognising anything that might be seen to inhibit one's productivity; one's ability to fit into the mainstream mass production line.

I don't really think I have the energy to get into it with her tomorrow. She'll most likely keep me waiting; this GP has a habit of keeping people waiting for at least 90 minutes if not longer. I'm sure that can't be permissible, but, despite complaining, they never do anything about it. "She likes to take her time with her patients", that's commendable in principle, but it's not her time, is it.

I haven't heard a damned thing from the Work Psychologist since before Christmas, if I recall correctly (I probably don't, to be fair, but it feels that long). I've emailed her twice to no avail. Where could she be? Perhaps she's been moved on, shunted to a different department, or a different office elsewhere in the country. The emails didn't provoke an automated response of any kind so I assume it's still active. She could be dead, or abducted by aliens for all I know. More likely is that the department has been shrunk to the point of (even more) uselessness. Regardless I'm on my own now. There's no real interest in providing any support, and in this new era of dispassionate conservatism, I don't imagine mental health services are going to be bolstered any.

I have other issues as well, equally ignored; a metabolic problem that is labelled as 'functional hypoglycemia', but I don't think it is. It could be a simple allergy, but there's no real interest in finding out. I would have thought, having participated in a number of blood tests to find out over the years, they would have found out. I have been repeatedly, alarmingly so in fact, told I'm NOT diabetic. Maybe I am, maybe they are wrong, though that would be a staggering level of incompetence. All I know is that I have a short fuse when it comes to hunger and that, when I get hungry, it needs to be sated or I feel very dodgy. The frequency with which this happens during the day can vary quite considerably. The upshot is that, in the workplace, I would struggle. If I were my own boss or working for home in some capacity (no help with that of course) it would be easier. These subtle realities are lost on all concerned. 


Thursday, 21 May 2015

Short Sighted

It's frightening how brainwashed people are.

I hate to use that word, 'brainwashed', because it makes me sound like a conspiracy theorist. I'm not. Capitalism isn't so much a conspiracy as a system that powerful people endorse out of simple self interest. The tragedy is how that self interest causes misery for everyone else - and people don't care.

But people refuse to believe that this system is as broken as it is - yet the Tories have a majority government with only 24% of the electorate. Yet nobody really complains because nobody likes a sore loser and capitalism promotes the winner/loser mentality in everything it does. This is essential because it's easier to marginalise dissent by branding such voices as belonging to losers - people who have some character flaw of their own making (also important - everyone is the author of their own misfortune).

People have also been conditioned to believe that negative thinking - criticism - is to be denied. No one wants to hear someone who feels sorry for themselves; self pity is for losers and one must pick oneself up by one's bootstraps, no matter how miserable their lot. Of course this is absurd, the misfortune of someone like Donald Trump, who made his 'fortune' off the back of hundreds of millions inherited from his dad, are quite different from someone facing eviction because of the Bedroom Tax. Yet the former will be among the first to advocate the bootstrap mentality to the latter, despite having no clue as to the reality of the latter's struggle. Sickening really.

This feeds into the idea of low wages. If you want the most obvious example of how capitalism is so pernicious and so broken then consider how it uses the state, via welfare, to subsidise wages. The fact that people are seemingly content to put up with this situation is telling, and yet the idea of living wage should be the very heart of all social contracts. If one cannot afford to live a decent standard of living on their income then something has gone, and is, very wrong. Not only this, but by allowing
the state to subsidise employers you are subverting your own winner/loser (aka striver/skiver) mentality.

A society where it is the norm to earn less than it costs to live. That is the ideology of capitalism.

Even worse it feeds into the idea that everyone can be an entrepreneur. This is the age of dragons - capital D. The five predators sat in a gangster's hideout with conspicuous piles of money sat next to them. Now the DWP (capital D) are in on the act, advising people to become self employed without telling them that doing so could jeopardise them financially if they start claiming tax credits without a credible business.

But the capitalists don't care about that. Instead they get to make claims regarding a rise in the number of businesses starting up (they won't of course report how many failed nor the personal consequences of failure). This all looks great for the system and the government who can say Britain is booming. Look at how free people are to chart their own course in these difficult (boo! Labour! Boo) times. But this apparent freedom is deceptive; we don't have a strong economic foundation - why else is Cameron issuing forth another 'emergency' budget in July? That's unprecedented, although one of the reasons is to catch Labour on the hop while they are still rudderless. These are not fertile times, even for experienced business types, and you can hear people in discussions talking about how they can't pay their staff a living wage and about how they are themselves, as directors and owners, having to live on the breadline. 

This affects the whole world; capitalism has allowed the population to increase where reasonable considerations would have prohibited this. I don't want to be telling people they can or can't have kids, that isn't the point. But people, particularly women, are sold the idea that having children is part of the complete human experience, part of being successfully; like buying a house or a car. One must have a family. Capitalism doesn't seem to care how many people are on the planet, and, as with self employment and the love of business, it doesn't care if it's sustainable. This is the fast route to poverty, just look at places like India where squalor seems to surround rich enclaves in cities.

This is a house of cards and sooner or later the wind is going to blow hard.