Britain 2017. What’s missing is Empathy

I’ve been thinking about the awful state of Britain at the moment. Why are we in such a sad state of affairs? I read a headline this morning – ‘Broken Britain’ – and it struck such a dreadfully sad chord with me.

On Friday I watched a video of our PM, Theresa May, being interviewed about the appalling fire at Grenfell Tower on Tuesday night this week. She was asked again and again about the victims of the fire and why nothing was yet in place to help the survivors. She avoided giving any direct answers. In fact, she basically ignored the questions and just kept reiterating what she wanted to say. It was an eight min interview, but to be honest it might as well have been one minute because all she just kept doing was repeating herself.

What I was staggered at was the total lack of compassion she showed, there was, sadly, zero empathy for the loved ones, the friends, the neighbours of those involved and for the people who had so horrifically lost their lives. Her words sounded hollow. Right adjectives but spoken with no conviction. At times you would have thought she was reading a shopping list for all the emotion in what she was saying. There was no sincerity whatsoever.

Today I was reading statements from various Tory MPs regarding cuts to fire services and their opinions on health and safety within buildings. I was also looking at their voting records. It was obvious they all share a common thread. No empathy for anyone. I do wonder what there motives are for pursuing a career in public service. It certainly doesn’t seem to be to uphold the needs of their electorate, more to do with what they can get out of the system for themselves.

By complete contrast I saw a video of Jeremy Corbyn meeting the victims at Grenfell Tower. It was natural for him to put his arm around someone in distress. If you read his voting record he has consistently voted for the interests of the ordinary people. One of his fellow MP’s, Owen Smith, who had previously lost a leadership challenge against him, was recently asked whether it was Jeremy or Labour’s policies that were so popular, he said: “It has to be both. I don’t know what Jeremy’s got but if we could bottle it and drink it we’d all be doing very well.”

I know what Jeremy has, he has a passion to make the world a better place. He tirelessly works to help and support normal people, but most of all, above everything else, he has genuine compassion, understanding and empathy.

If throughout our country there could be a real sense of compassion there would never be children going hungry, no-one would ever consider risking our National Health Service, everyone would want the elderly looked after. Housing would be a priority. There would be support for the disabled and vulnerable.

Who can go to work as a public servant and vote against the needs of ordinary people? We often hear people asking MP’s who have voted in their own interests ‘How do you sleep at night?’ The problem is that the people asking that question have empathy. They care about other people. The councillors/MPs who only vote for their own gains do not care. They can’t possibly. What they seriously lack is even the slightest compassion, an ounce of empathy for those in need.

Foundations for a good life

When will our conservative government realise just how nigh-on impossible it is to build yourself a life without having solid foundations in place?

By foundations I mean the basic building blocks of society that are there within every community for every single citizen. A home, education, health service, quality utilities, well funded public services. A life in which you feel safe, feel supported and encouraged to be the best you can be. To have the opportunities to learn skills and achieve your ambitions. No matter where you were born, who your parents are, the colour of your skin, your mental or physical abilities, you should have the same opportunities.

You cannot hope to build a successful country without meeting the foundational needs of the people first. This is such an obvious route to success, but one that has been largely ignored and undermined by the conservatives.

The government waffle on about building a country for business, for expanding exports into new markets, foreign affairs, about dealing with Brexit etc etc, and yet they are ignoring the major social problems right under their noses. These are the issues they need to address first. Don’t the government get it? It’s like they are trying to do a university degree in pure and applied mathematics but they haven’t yet learnt their basic sums!

Try asking them a simple question and it’s virtually impossible to get a straight answer. They appear to think that a condescending sound-bite will keep you down, keep you in your place. Enough! There is no more time for this type of rule.

One of the main problems I can see that needs overcoming is the constant brainwashing of people by the media. People are gullible. Most never look and explore beyond the headlines. They don’t probe, they don’t research. They do as they are told, accept the information given and head bowed down get on with their daily grind. They cannot see there is a massively different way we could be living. It really doesn’t have to be like this.

The lies we are told, again and again are the utter betrayal of common decency. There appears to be no room for honesty. Whilst the ordinary person often struggles to get by the very wealthy are continually skimming off the top.

To build a truly great society, to live a life worth living, we MUST insist that our basic needs are met. From that we can grow and flourish. We can become a great nation. We can become part of a wonderful community that pulls together, that supports those in need, that encourages everyone to succeed.

I believe that unless changes come, and soon, there really will be a revolution. The ordinary guy in the street has had enough. Whilst the Tories strip the assets of the country and uphold the insidious belief that they know what they are doing there is an increasing awareness that all is not as it should be. Fortunately we have a different way of reaching out to people now. Increasingly the newspapers are not the only way of learning the news. Word quickly spreads through the internet, through social media, of the great injustices within our country.

The young are not as easily brainwashed as the more mature, they lead very different lives and they receive alternative information. News black-outs don’t work when social media has already plastered the actual events all over the internet.

It’s not going to be easy. Changes rarely are. There is however a new feeling of hope that is spreading, an underlying army of decent people who are pulling this all together. That is the word – together – there is not a stronger word. Together we can stand, shoulder to shoulder, shouting from the roof tops, questioning those in power, bringing about real changes.

Let’s start building a wonderful life. Let’s start with the foundations and build on that. We must not, must never be complacent.

What a topsy-turvy world

They work tirelessly, giving of themselves for the sake of others

Maybe I’m getting just a bit long in the tooth, but the longer I live the more I despair of the lack of respect and appreciation for those most deserving.

The dreadful scenes of terrorism and destruction we have witnessed in our country over the past few weeks have highlighted who are the real heroes in our society.

In recent years I have watched the rise of the ‘celebrity’ status of, on the whole, and to be frank, ‘nobody’s’. The television channels are full of reality programmes that appear to encourage behaviour that lacks any kind of morals, the glorification of a ‘perfect’ body (whatever that is?) and pure selfishness and greed. The more outrageous someone behaves, the more outlandish their attitude, the greater the publicity and the more wealth is bestowed upon them.

For a long time now we have seen the rise of the sporting legends. Those men who kick around a football and earn more in a month than the majority earn in almost ten years. The sport drivers who earn multiple millions of pounds to race around laps in super charged cars.

Then the entertainers. Sure, it’s great to be ‘entertained’ but again these people are put on pedestals for their acting abilities or their voices. Singers/songwriters often just write one or two songs that are then played for years and years and pay the artist per play. They sit back and live on their royalties, often in comparative luxury, for the remainder of their lives. Somehow, in the celebrity world, writing a good song suddenly makes you a wise person. The reverence shown to song writers always staggers me. Be cast in a popular TV programme or be lucky enough to be offered a role in a successful movie and you’re a ‘star’.

You see, to me, the heroes of our society, those who really should be revered and respected are those that care for others. The nurses, the doctors, the ambulance drivers, the paramedics, the fire fighters and the police, for starters. The less obvious, the carers who are paid a pittance to look after our loved ones. The teachers who go the extra mile to encourage disadvantaged children. The many charity and volunteer workers who keep communities together. Lifeboatmen who risk their lives to save strangers in our waters. The unpaid family members caring for their own less fortunate brothers, sisters, children, husbands, wives and parents. I apologise if I’ve missed anyone out, it is not intentional.

These are the people who should receive decent incomes and well funded working environments. The stresses they often face are beyond most of us. These should be our ‘celebrities’. Real heroes. They work tirelessly, giving of themselves for the sake of others.

Conflict of interest – another term for corruption?

The awful truth is that corruption can take many forms.  In the classic sense I am sure that most of us think of countries where corruption is rife.  Where whole communities are run by people in power who only work because of the gains they can make through their corrupting regimes. More locally, in the UK, I am sure you’ve heard in the news where planning permission has been granted because of some financial gain for the planner from the builder.  I believe it is called colloquially, a back hander. It brings to mind so many negative ideas about the people in power.  Thats the whole crux of the matter. Power.  Give anyone a little power and for some they will use it wisely, for the betterment of others, but the weaker characters, and I do firmly believe they are weak, use that power to gain control and use  people to give themselves an advantage.

In June 2017 we have so many news items where there are definite conflicts of interest between those who are elected to work in the publics interest, for example, Members of Parliament, local councillors etc and the businesses they or their families are involved in. So many issues have come to light recently where good legislation hasn’t stood a chance becoming law due to the elected person/groups business interests.

This might not, in the face of it, be seen as corruption per se, but it is an insidious form of using power for the increase of their wealth and not for the greater good. We have, for example, Tory politicians telling us downright lies concerning our NHS. They publically announce that they will invest in the NHS, but behind closed doors they are stripping the assets. See The Naylor report. It does not make for a comfortable read. The planned ‘secret’ privatisation of the health service has thankfully become public knowledge. The tangled web of lies and deceit are almost unimaginable. The public lose out and the wealthy, in the know, make a fortune.

The same has to be said for the privatisation of public services. How on earth can it ever make sense to sell off something which is nationally owned to profit making companies whose boards of directors are often linked to those publically elected to ensure the safe delivery of those services? ‘Consultants’ are paid vast amounts and it then transpires that they are again linked to yet more publically elected officials. The ‘system’ allows for this coercive, and quite possibly, corrupt behaviour. It is, sadly, rife.

So how do we, how does anyone stop this? The only way we can challenge and undermine this is to publically out these individuals use our democratic votes to admonish them from service.

Sadly, very sadly, I think there always will be greedy people.  People who think that they have found a way to make easy money, no matter the cost to others. People who want their own way, to go against laws and legislation by offering to pay officials.

The only hope we can ever have is to call out the perpetrators and insist that rigorous investigations are made. There has to be more transparency, more collective agreements within institutions, more stringent legal actions and penalties for those who are culpable.

Explain the difference between socialism,communism and anarchy!

Back in 2014 ….. Well yesterday was day one of ‘blog a day’. I thought it was a bit of a tough call, trying to come up with a blog about naming a currency. However, today, wow, the guys at WordPress have surpassed themselves.

Some kind soul decided that nothing would be better than to confound us daily bloggers with this wonderful exciting topic: Explain the difference between socialism, communism and anarchy.

My first thought was can it get any more difficult or dull? Which saddo is behind these daily blog ideas? But, the more I pondered on this, the more I came to realise that I’m quite a politically minded woman with some fairly strong views.

It’s difficult to be objective about different political ideologies when I have only ever lived my life in a capitalist society. I can look up socialism, communism and anarchy on the net. But, does it really give a true interpretation of life under their rules? I suspect not.

I live in a capitalist country, and if you look up capitalism it sounds pretty good. It is supposed to be a ruling system that encourages an individuals economic growth. From that growth the idea is that we individuals can enjoy enormous freedom in all areas of our lives. But, how true is that statement? How many people truly have the opportunity to enhance their lives just through their own volition? I have lived for well over 50 years and I know very few people who have been in a position to use their talents to make major improvements in their lives, or the lives of their families. I know I am generalizing, but, it appears to me that those in power tend to have had the best opportunities from the very beginning of their lives. I find it is rare that someone from a disadvantaged background has exactly the same opportunities as one from n privileged one.

One of my friends and I have often discussed our society. We both feel a great sadness when we realise that at its core tends to be an overwhelming desire for more and more materialistic trappings, more consumerism, more consumption, rather than working towards a fairer society which looks after its more vulnerable.

It seems crazy to me that someone who chooses a career of care, for example, nursing, is paid far far less than those in the public eye. Here in the UK we have ambulance drivers and firemen who cannot afford to buy the most basic homes for their families. These are people who work tirelessly to help others. If you look at our celebrity culture in the west, it appears that anyone who can sing, act, or kick a ball around a football field, can earn vast amounts of money. Even those who are celebrities, just because they have been on a reality show, earn huge amounts compared to people who are employed as the backbones of our society. Surely that just shows how capitalism has failed.

Now, if you then consider living under communist rule, from our western capitalistic viewpoint, everyone in a communistic society should be paid the same. We gather they should live in standard accommodation and expect the same levels of education, healthcare etc. I wonder how true that is? It sounds like utopia until you realise that some people are hard workers and others are clearly not. Some are highly intelligent, some are not. How would you feel if you worked exceptionally hard and were paid the same, had the same standards of living and lifestyle as someone who shirked as much as possible? What would be your motivation to study or enhance your skills? How would you feel if you felt that no matter how hard you tried you could not improve your life? My overwhelming feeling is one of personal imprisonment.

My favourite aunt was a staunch promoter of socialism. She felt the ethos embodied total fairness and equality for all. A society where the working classes and minority groups are considered worthy. A constitution that rules for a fair distribution of wealth. She was dismayed at the lack of support for socialism by the ruling classes. How easy would it be for those wealthy in the capitalist countries to agree to re-distribute some of their wealth? I would say nigh on an impossibility.

Most people would think that anarchy means that there is no order, no rules, no governing body. However, looking at this from a totally different viewpoint, you might even think that it could actually work. Instead of a centralised government, a country run with pure anarchistic rules, offers more of a collaborative system whereby all citizens have to be responsible and be able to compromise to achieve what is best for everyone. It is almost like a series of local committees which all come together for the greater good. The community itself would set its own standards for moral values, much like a family does now. Was this the type of rule that was prevalent in the tribes of the Native Americans or in deepest Africa? Possibly.

I do believe there is not one perfect solution, not ‘one size fits all’ political constitution. If we were all born with the same capabilities, the same intelligence, the same desires, it would be so easy. We are not a planet of robots. That is the problem. We all have our own individual views, which is what makes us who we are.

I sincerely hope that one day, throughout the world, the average Jo, the backbones of our societies, the vulnerable, the much talked about but seldom heard, silent majority, will be heard, will be considered worthy, will be able to enjoy a good standard of living.

If mankind could all just live by this one rule: ‘treat others the way you would like to be treated‘ and that was carried throughout society, from local councils right through to our world governments, wow, now that would be a perfect society.

Our lives, our hopes

Instead of just accepting the status quo I am pleased to be part of an increasing group of ordinary people who have emerged to research and question the authorities. Following years of austerity policies, which have consistently placed the burden of financial cuts on both the most vulnerable and our public services, we are no longer content to sit by and watch the injustices unfold.

People from all sections of society have become increasingly weary of the political hierarchy which is overseen/driven by the wealthiest in our society.

Whilst we are all individuals, and our thoughts will have been shaped by our own life experiences, I do hope this blog will go some way to put forward new ideas without alienating anyone. I hope to try and bring some understanding of the way our lives could be if only those in government would listen, and, more importantly, learn from ordinary people.

How can anyone ever consider that inequality is a good thing?
What makes people think they have more of a right to a good life than others?
Which is the best way forward for us to build a fairer society?
When can we hope to achieve our aspirations?
Who decides who should gain and who should lose?
Why do governments consider the vulnerable less worthy?
Who gains from an unequal society?
Does democracy actually work?
Who are the real saboteurs of justice?
Will anyone ever listen to us?

Housing Crisis Britain June 2017: The Problem

To be in expensive temporary accommodation or at worse to be homeless, marginalises whole swathes of our society.

At long last people seem to be waking up to the largely hidden injustices within Britain, one of the most important of which is the dreadful lack of housing.

Being born in 1956 I grew up in a very different country to that which I see now. There was a real feeling of hope when I grew up. Even with the inequalities which faced most women in the workplace, there were still opportunities for most people to achieve their aspirations.

I was born in North London but my family moved to Essex when I was only six weeks old. My parents were both brought up in council housing and spent the first five years of their married life renting three rooms whilst saving for a deposit for a home. My Dad was a glass blower and my Mum was a part-time secretary when I was young, so not what you would ever call high earners. Can you believe that with strict budgeting they were able, in their mid twenties, to buy a detached bungalow with a wonderful garden for us to play in? That same bungalow was sold ten years ago for a price in excess of £300,000 and is well beyond the reach of ordinary working class families.

In 1965 we moved to Twickenham, just outside London. Mum and Dad bought a very nice three bed semi overlooking a green. All our neighbours were working class families with children. Dad was still a glass blower and Mum then worked part-time in local estate agents. We were not rich and had to be careful with spending, but the point is that those houses were affordable. Several of my friends lived in council houses which were roomy and well-built and again had lovely big gardens.

Mum and Dads old house in Twickenham is currently on the market at just a shade under £700,000. How many ‘ordinary’ families can possibly hope to buy a house with these crazy prices?

House prices have underlined the utter greed of our society. The estate agents earn commission on the sale prices so they push prices as high as possible. Lenders have continually turned a blind eye to the ridiculous valuations. Land owners have charged increasingly exorbitant prices. Totally unchecked greed.

In 1980 council houses were beginning to be sold off to their tenants under Conservative policies. I remember hearing the news on the radio and had, wrongly as it turned out, assumed that the income from the sales would be re-invested into further social housing. Instead of that the money was ‘ring-fenced’ and councils were not allowed to use that money to re-invest in housing. Rather than re-writing the whole sorry story this a link to an excellent article 
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/aug/26/right-to-buy-margaret-thatcher-david-cameron-housing-crisis

Nothing has been done to halt the lack of housing. What chance do young people have of setting up a home, possibly having children and progressing with their lives under these disastrous circumstances?

Housing is possibly one of the most important issues that any government must address. Too many unscrupulous rich landlords have been able to get away with letting properties in appalling conditions. Nowhere near enough social housing has been built and the majority of the young in our society cannot even consider leaving home until they are in their late twenties or even older.

To be in expensive temporary accommodation or at worse to be homeless, marginalises whole swathes of our society. How can you possibly look favourably to the future when you don’t have a home?

An alternative solution?

From the off I have to say I am not and never have been a housing minister.

However, prior to becoming chronically ill and having to give up work in my early forties, I held a responsible financial position in a reasonably small but successful private company for 20 years. From the late seventies through to the late nineties I had to make decisions every week which didn’t just effect me, but which also affected the twenty or so staff we employed.

Rarely would we find ourselves sailing through calm seas, there always seemed to be some type of crisis to throw us off-course. Recessions, inflation, housing booms, housing busts, exchange rate changes, interest rate fluctuations, budget cuts, even wars etc. etc. It was not always easy.

My life was a constant round of budgets, cash flows and accounts. I had to adjust and adjust, then re-adjust as the sales went up, as the sales went down, as regulations changed, as raw materials became more expensive. More importantly, we often had to find alternative ways to keep the business going. We often went against usual business norms. We invested in new markets when our current markets went into recession. We manufactured as much as we could in-house to keep our costs down and avoid paying excessive profits to outside suppliers. We even made our own boxes for packaging our products and sold the surplus! Oh the joy of it!

Now, almost twenty years on, and often not able to get the energy to even get up most days of the week, my mind still works in the same way. Its like no-one told it that it really is ok to switch off.

So …. I have watched, in total dismay, the dreadful housing crisis that now faces Britain. Not enough houses have been built. Not enough social housing. Those that have been built for sales the open market are generally well beyond the reach of ordinary people on what are, unfortunately, falling wages. The conservatives actually consider that a property with a price tag of £450,000 is affordable. Well it might be to those who are fortunate enough to be born into wealthy families, but certainly not for the majority.

With an average salary of £28,000 there is no way a family can afford to buy a home for such crazy prices. Three times salary was the norm for mortgage borrowing for decades. At that rate a mortgage of £84,000 would be offered. There are very few places, if any, in the UK where prices are that low.

So … there has to be another way forward. There has to be. A different way of utilising social housing budgets. People have to be given the opportunity to put down roots, to make a permanent home and build communities. We have, in this country, had a love affair with bricks and mortar style of building. In many other countries however, they live very comfortably in wooden homes.

I’m not talking garden sheds here or the post war pre-fab homes. Take a look at the lodge type properties you can rent all year round for a holiday throughout the UK. These are light, bright, spacious well insulated homes. Manufactured using modern materials, they will, at worst, with virtually no maintenance, last at least 50 years. The build cost is far less than a conventionally built home. They could be placed on land that is unused, i.e. ex-military bases etc, land that already is designated for future building, and further brownfield sites that could be available.

If the government itself actually set up its own manufacturing of these homes they wouldn’t be paying profits to private companies and I daresay the costs could be reduced still further. If, for arguments sake, only four standard designs were built, from one bed homes to four bed homes, the savings could be advantageous.

There is also a desperate need for housing for the disabled who require one level homes. These would be ideal. If, also, ‘parks’ were designated for people who required physical assistance, how much money could be saved by having a central hub of carers, rather than them spending so much of their times travelling between patients?

Loneliness and isolation is becoming a massive problem for both the disabled and the elderly and again living in a purpose built community could enhance many lives. There have been many successful privately run assisted living developments. These are great, but not everyone can afford to buy.

Family communities could be formed where there were facilities for children, for nurseries etc. With permanent homes people would feel settled and secure.

Other countries have considered new ways to alleviate housing needs. One town in Canada has totally eradicated homelessness. They have actually found that whilst it gives people wonderful opportunities to improve their lives, the actual financial savings of not dealing with the problems of the homeless, have been far in excess of what they imagined,

Nothing is ever perfect, but for the people living in dreadful overpriced, cramped sub-standard hones, this could, I believe, be a possible way forward.