Monday, 18 January 2021

The Long Road 14: Another Day In Lockdown (+2:35)

Not sure what to write about today. The weather is crap and lockdown is getting to me a bit. This was inevitable. January is the very epitome of the doldrums. I think I'm going to have a big dinner and comfort eat my way out of this morass, which is probably a bad idea. It's grey and wet, endless drizzle blown by a cold breeze that forever centres around my neck. I live rurally, perfect, you might think, for getting out of the house, except the weather is hostile. I don't want to be outside and I don't want to be inside. 

Waling around the same streets isn't really that much fun. Walking through the fields is cold and difficult. I'm not built for winter, so I just moan about it. This wouldn't be so bad but for the obvious. Here we are, and here we are going to be for quite some time. What is most depressing about all this is that the government, which could do so much, has, once again, abandoned people. I'm lucky; I have a roof over my head and food in the cupboard, but this is still difficult. We aren't meant to live like this and our social systems have neither adjusted nor adapted. Moreover the scum in power don't want them to.

Much more could have been done, but they'd call that 'broadband communism'. Providing things for people to do, access to goods and services even for free or at a greatly reduced price. All these things, not just food for starving kids, could have been planned for and prepared. We can't even manage to pay people enough to stop spreading the damn plague. So people crowd onto trains at rush hour, without masks. What on earth!

So, because capitalists can't abide letting the chance for people to see through their shitty system, we all have to suffer. Isn't that reason enough to dump it?

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Long Road 13: The Shiny Copper Penny (+2:31)

And so it came to pass that, in the months (I refuse to say...) of the pandemic, the demon masquerading as chancellor did grant a portion of the precariat a boon. Those 'lucky' enough to receive the blessings of Universal Credit were given an extra twenty pounds per week, for a time. Oh truly these are the days of salad! Iced gems all 'round!

Trouble is he didn't grant it to the bloody rest of us. If, like me, you're in receipt of a legacy benefit, which means you have yet to be transferred to Universal Credit (something over which you have no say), then you get NOTHING!


Now it further transpires that, when this effulgent boon expires (the impermanence of things), the Chancellor is considering giving a five hundred quid lump sum instead of continuing. Given that the £20 increase doesn't apply to legacy claimants, it will be a fucking kick in the nuts to give only Universal Credit claimants such a windfall. The Tories certainly know how to play divide and rule because that is an obvious (if perhaps unplanned - is he that smart?) consequence. I will spit bloody feathers if that is the case. Yes this might make me sound like a grasping pauper, thus proving Tory propaganda right in respect of the perception of the undeserving poor, but ffs!

That, considerable issue, aside, this is the shiny copper penny. Like that 'joke' where the rich man asks the bumpkin, in return for services rendered, if he'd like the shiny copper penny, or instead the dirty old piece of paper that just happens to bear her majesty's likeness. Surely, the aristocrat thinks, the bumpkin is more likely to be impressed by the shiny thing? The poor after all are quite thick you know!

It will cost the treasury more to pay a year's worth of £52 than to just give out £500 in one lump sum, which is about half that amount. This is devious, but it's what we've come to expect from these Tory scumbags. They're happy to starve kids, there's little they wouldn't do, especially to the poorest in what they almost certainly see as a time to push through such punishing social policies. We all know austerity redux is imminent.

What makes this worse is knowing poor people aren't stupid, they're just poor! This means that an offer like this is impossible: who is going to refuse, when they're on the breadline, a windfall of £500? Even if it's going to be less in the long run. People living hand to mouth - especially now - simply cannot afford ot make any other choice. Not that it will be their choice to make; this will be decided by the rich ruling elite. Labour will, of course, nod align. Snoozy Starmer has done fuck all in opposition. Tomorrow they have forced a vote on whether to keep the £20 scheme going. A vote they will of course lose as they don't have the numbers and the persuasive power. It also means it's more likely this idea will actually come to pass because a) the government will win the vote and thus end the scheme as planned and b) giving £500 is, as I've said, cheaper.

I just want nice things!

Saturday, 16 January 2021

The Long Road 12: Then and Now (+2:26)

I find myself looking back on the initial period of this pandemic. What might, perhaps insensitively, be called the honeymoon phase. Certainly there was an innocence about it, ignorance even. I came too close to the orbit of cranks. Fortunately I was able to pull away in time before being locked into geostationary around bad ideas. Some were people I'd previously thought better of, but Covid is the great revealer.

Of course compared to now it was a more pleasant environment. This is January, staid and cold. March of 2020 was pleasant weather. At least the initial lockdown period, the entry into the dark pandemic world smoothed by fulsome weather. People were fresh, eager to help. The natural world was reacting by reasserting itself; fewer cars and fewer planes. Nature is the great healer. Until then the norm had been the rat race, pollution and stress. Initially, with the lockdown and despite it's disrupting upheaval, those things were eased. People couldn't work, so roads became silent, skies became clear, and people could take time out. The nice weather helped. But not right now. Maybe again.

Now people are tired. Ten months of utter mismanagement, mixed messages and denial have left us shell shocked. When this ends there will be a great reaction; forces conspiring to realign to the waking capitalist norm will be bought to bear against those born of the suffering. How can we go back to selling off the NHS after the blood spilt by those working in it? Will they, like the veterans of world war 2, want a return? That period saw the birth of the NHS and the welfare state. Our current government will be looking, first and foremost, to sacking it. They will cry crocodile tears while telling us they have little choice but to balance the books by breaking our backs. This cannot be allowed.

Communities came together, at least I'd like to think, initially. But the government breeds cynicism with terrible exemplars and rank hypocrisy. Ever the epitaph of starving kids; twice having to be bought to heel. But not by HM Opposition, but a young soccer player. There is shame to go around. 

We are a long way from Spring. But the journey is inevitable. The road is paved with difficulty and death. Like a bus ride past an endless car crash. Winter is a time of great testing, but none more so than this. The sad part is that most of us saw this coming at the tail end of last year. We knew, but the government wouldn't listen. They will never listen; even more the roads are busy again, people are out (myself included). Public transport in London is heaving during rush hour. This journey is deliberately being kept in first gear because of the lack of support. 

At the end of this a great vacuum threatens, caused by the exposure of our government's utter ineptitude. What threatens to fill it is down to us: either we build a better world and fight to keep the positives necessitated (at great cost) by this crisis. Or we lose everything once and for all.

Friday, 15 January 2021

The Long Road 11: Eclipse (+2:22)

Today was supposed tpo have been the next appointment with Fedcap employment. It didn't happen. Unforeseen circumstances was the reason given. No further explanation. This is now the third failed appointment, even if the majority have been for genuine (health) reasons, on the part of my advisor. Honestly, perhaps even unfairly, I am not impressed. 

I have asked to be assigned a different advisor, which is happening. But to be honest, there was no rapport with whom I had been with until today. I see no point continuing if that's going to be the case. You have to have someone you are confident with. Perhaps it's much to ask, but someone that's inspirational and warm. I've no idea about her personally, or whether she has a glittering track record as an advisor. I don't really care. I'm not going to be working with her anymore, there was nothing to work with. TO be fair, given the times we're in, some slack must be given. That's fine, but then, what's the point?

While searching for their course details, so I could email them and ask for a different advisor, I came across this testimonial on their website. I thought I might dissect it here. I have no idea who Bryan is, and if Fedcap has genuinely helped him, then that's great. I'm not interested in denying positive experiences, but everyone's circumstances are not the same and one of the problems of schemes like this is the assumption that one size fits all because the consequence is that  you get blamed if things don't work out. You're either failing to engage or not being honest. This is because these organisations are incapable of a broader social analysis, one taking into account the balance of power between groups within society. One that has an understanding of class relations, something so vital. Also, it is important to understand the nature of these testimonials and the language dployed.

There's a problem right away; The headline claims Bryan has secured a job. However the article says that he only managed to secure a temporary work experience placement. There is no indication as to whether this did lead to full employment, what the job was, whether he was even paid (I hope so!). Times like this are going to be rough; even if he did get that job where is he now? This article was written in October. Things are much worse now, two lockdowns hence. There is, sadly, every chance he has lost his job, if he had one. We don't know. I'm not sure why they wouldn't share more details if the outcome was as positive as they claim, so my feeling is that it wasn't a full time work. Instead they will claim it had other positive benefits. That may be true, but we'll see how long those last when he hasn't got a wage and is still dependent on the DWP.

This article caught my eye for two reasons; firstly Bryan is on the spectrum. That speaks to my experience even though it is extremely unlikely I will ever get the chance at a second, proper, diagnosis. That is something I am just going to have to live with. Secondly, the advisor, Lorraine, has the same name as the one I was seeing. Now that may be coincidence, but I choose to believe otherwise. Even if it's another, their performance ought to be similar.

Bryan was referred to a specialist, within the service (presumably); Sophie (don't know her) who is an "occupational inclusion specialist". This term is new to me. As far as I can tell it's a fancy term for a work coach. So no different than bog standard Jobcentre personnel, it seems. This is the description of someone who has this job within the same company. No idea who they are either; I found this by googling the term:

"Experienced Administrator with a demonstrated history of working in the professional training & coaching industry. Skilled in Customer Service, Performance Management, Employee Training, Time Management, and Leadership Development. Strong information technology professional graduated from Sutton centre academy ."

A typically long winded way of saying 'work coach'. It doesn't scream specialist to me, in perhaps the same way that being an 'occupational therapist' does, for instance. Make of that what you will, but it speaks to just how these companies big up themselves in articles like this. Already we have doubts as to how their client fared, now we have over inflated hyperbole to describe bog standard work coaching. These phrases also morph and mutate over time and keeping up with it all is exhausting.

The essence of my problem with this article is encapulated in this opening sentence:

"Bryan was diagnosed with Asperger’s which affects his confidence and he struggles with routines and adapting to new ones. "

This seems to diminish a condition that is life long and, to whatever degree, all encompassing. It informs how you interact with and see the world. It isn't merely an issue of 'confidence', but work coaches love to talk about confidence building. Everything gets reduced to this simplistic approach. While it is important, it isn't the simple solution: just make Bryan feel more confidence and he will be a success - as defined by your organisation. Aspergers isn't an illness and it shouldn't be seen as a negative thing, it is just that Aspies are different. The only reason that's a problem (for the most part) is because our society wants people to operate a certain way; to play specific roles with specific interactions etc. Now obviously a full explanation and examination of the neuro diverse experience is beyond this article, but then isn't that the point? You can't just reduce it down to mere 'confidence building'. that's patronising and unhelpful. I've spoken with work coach types that espouse that. It's not enough because it doesn't address the individual's place in the social order, nor the nature of that society and how it operates (including economically, since people need to procure essentials).

The last point I will make is about the language used. Language is important, it is able to control and shape the discourse. This is all the more potent and important when the relationship between speaker and listener is hierarchical, as it is between work coach and benefit claimant. There is a power differential, which is what makes the integrity of that relationship all the more vital. If there is no trust, no warmth, no rapport, then I don't think it can work. When I talk about their portrayal of aspergers I'm referring to this sentence, for example: 

"Lorraine referred him to occupational inclusion specialist, Sophie to help him with his health and wellbeing barriers. "

Not only does this traduce the lived experience of a cognitive makeup, one's entire psychology, but it commodifies it. Packaging it up into something they, hopefully, can deal with. Something that can be sold to those they work for and those they aspire to help. "Health and wellbeing", like confidence, become products. Things that can be used to achieve the desired result. Your history, experience, yoru entire relationship with society and everything within it ("but the sun is eclipsed by the moon"), are reduced to this entity; this language that has a currency within the political ecosphere. It's about wellness/wellbeing. It's about removing 'barriers'. Aspergers isn't a thing you (can) cure, nor should it be because there is nothing wrong with you if you have it. It's like the fit notes the government created out of the old sick notes; by focusing on what it is perceived you can do, we can ignore what you can't do. 

Orwell would be proud.

And everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

The Long Road 10: Points of No Return (+2:17)

These are the times in which we live. The great pandemic of 2020. Our leaders have failed us. They are not there to govern, but to rule. To make this their playground. One now that is infected. Moving forward, as we do so, slowly, we must now fight. As never before. There will be, in the period subsequent to this suffering, a realignment. A sharp reaction, pulling the yoke back, tighter than before. People have seen how vital the NHS is, a worse outcome the Tories could never wish for. Our eyes have been opened, or should have been (for many this will not be the case, and they must be approached), there is no return. I have often wondered, as you have I am sure, what it is to live through a period of perceptible dizzying change.

Consider; what support has been given throughout? These fuckers have gripped the levers of power more tigtly than ever before. We stand in the playground of giants, yet we are bigger than everyone of these clay-footed monsters. We just give them the power over us, like nightmares. Although many have been furloughed, many more are still forced into work that isn't essential or could be done differently. It isn't. Some of course have received the help they deserve, but it hasn't been enough - and it has been offered through gritted teeth by a man richer than the Queen. How can this be acceptable? Cabinet ministers only act to help children when faced with vote-jeopardizing shame. Schools were only shut at the last minute with no provision to help staff or pupils. Labour's now-prescient plans to offer what the media risibly calls 'broadband communism' are of course dismissed, yet children are forced to stay at home while the government cries crocodile tears about education. To translate, the mean the rental income from schools and of course the danger of a new world being seen. One where the systems and hierarchies of old, they benefit from, are pulled into the disinfecting light. The truth is shone upon their claims and are found wanting.

How many times can I say the same thing? I won't tire of it though; it is a vital message. As vital as the meals Tory donors are now profiting from providing. Money that the government spitefully gave to them, and not the families. That is teachable. Kids will learn more from that than they will from what Gavin Williamson wants for them. 

The best education is revolution.


Wednesday, 13 January 2021

The Long Road 9: Another Day of Liars Starving Children (+2:13)

Another grey day in the country where children are collateral damage for the Tory agenda and Brexit. Crying Matt on the morning news is nailed to the wall by, of all people, Piers Morgan. Despite Piers being a thundering piece of overbearing shit, he seems the only "journalist" willing to hold these liars to account. Crying Matt crumbled when asked if he regretted voting against feeding starving kids. Yes, we live in the age where we should debate everything, where there are two sides to every story; just as Tim Martin's Covid denial leaflets exhort. This is of course utter bullshit, there aren't two sides to whether kids should be fed (never mind during a pandemic). There's the right thing to do, and then there are evil scumbags.

I believe Brexit could have been postponed. The transition period, at the very least, could have been extended. Our government should have focused on one crisis: the pandemic. It chose to continue with Brexit and I can't help believing that this was partly intentional. Disaster capitalism is served by them hiding what they knew would be unpalatable (once the truth was out, as is slowly becoming apparent) within the folds of a greater crisis. I'm not suggesting this was a conspiracy. It's simply they saw the situation and acted accordingly. Now they can blame Brexit's failings on the prevailing economic conditions. In other words, a good day, lasting ten months and running, to bury bad news.

The covid figures for the last couple of days appear to show the start - hopefully! - of a decline. Hopefully the lockdown is starting to have an effect, although it feels totally presumptuous to say that. I choose to...hope. Even so, thousands more will die. That cannot be avoided; deaths follow on from hospitalisations, preceded by infections. Thus, because of the high rate of infections over which this lunatic regime has presided, we will be looking at another 25,000 dead by Spring. That is a hell of a toll.

With that in mind, this has to be the start of something revolutionary. It's been said before, but we cannot go back to business as usual after this, This is the start of a brave new world, these are terrible birthing pains and so they must not be for nothing. To coin a phrase, another world is possible. It has to be. So much more will be lost than a hundred thousand of our lives; the Tories will come for everything. Brexit is already the beginning of the end of workers rights and hard won terms and conditions. All that faces being swept away in the next couple of years. We're only a water of the way through this Parliament and they are already starving kids. We cannot let them continue. We must fight, there is no alternative. A better world awaits.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

The Long Road 8: Another Grey Day In Which Kids Are Again Starved (+2:08)

Today I am feeling it. There's an annoying feature in Blogger where the cursor, at the start of writing, is one character further to the right than it should be. I can't work out why and every time I write I have to delete that space, otherwise the paragraphs aren't uniform. It bugs the shit out of me. It's like an itch you can't scratch. Like when carpet patterns don't align correctly. I've been that way for years. When I was a kid I used to gaze into them like the Penguin's umbrella. Phenomena like this would have me equal parts transfixed and frustrated. Something wrong with the world that I cannot fix. This is why I believe myself to be on the spectrum. Sadly I am alone in that.

It is another grey day in Winter. One of many; we aren't even half way through January. The pandemic is like a slow weaving tapestry unfolding all around. Our government will never get a grip on things, we are doomed to remain in holding patterns for a very long time. It's like having an itch you cannot scratch; or a carpet pattern you cannot unsee. 

The best thing this government could have done, assuming this was ever more than rumour, would have been to cough up that £500 'free' money to everyone. I have no idea if Sunak ever considered it. Unlikely, as he's a filthy rich banker whose entire worldview depends on people not getting used to such things. By people I mean the rest of us, of course. Go out, spend it in the click and collect economy. Spend it at Amazon, from whom the government will collect no tax thus rendering the entire exercise pointless. At least you can get something you like to help pass the time.

And.

We're back to starving kids. For the third time. These bastards have to be dragged kicking and screaming for a third time. There really is nothing more to say at this point. This is how they are. It will never change. These people are just evil; giving a contract to provide food for vulenrable kids, during a pandemic, to donors is one thing. Letting them pocket the vast majority of that contract and using as little as possible to provide a sorry platter of half wilted, near the knuckle, muck is dehumanising and degrading. I could rage for hours about this, but today I'm tired. I'm just not surprised at any of this and you can bet your bottom dollar this won't be the last you hear of this. I could also say that every Tory should hang their heads in shame, but what would be the point.

There must be an accounting though, at some point. 

The Long Road 14: Another Day In Lockdown (+2:35)

Not sure what to write about today. The weather is crap and lockdown is getting to me a bit. This was inevitable. January is the very epitom...