Sunday, 17 November 2019

The Recovery Guy's Mistress

I had a strange Facebook messenger based friendship with a woman I met in Brighton who was having an affair with the recovery guy who helped fix our car. He had been a good friend to her which ended up becoming more when her own relationship broke down. She was Eastern European and very cheeky.

My friendship with her actually caused her to break up, for a while, with the recovery guy who was insanely jealous. She ended up pregnant and unhappy and then he came to his senses and now she doesn't talk to me any more.

So a happy ending I guess.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

The Balkan Wars and Trusting the Media


I grew up in a pretty normal middle class house. A good upbringing and a happy childhood. Lots of good memories, which is a great privilege that I'm grateful for.

I lost my belief that "the media" tells the truth around 1992, aged 18, during the Balkan wars.

In 1992 I was 18 and doing A Levels at St George's comprehensive school in Harpenden. I followed the Balkan wars of 1992-1995 avidly, it was exciting, dangerous and not very far away. The further adventures of events sparked back into life by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the retreat of the Iron Curtain, yet having their roots in European history reaching back before the second world war and before the first world war.

The Balkan war essentially pitted Bosnia and Herzegovina against Serbia and Croatia. NATO was particularly against the Serbs who were seen as war criminals in this war. It was an appalling war.

It actually came as a shock to me the first time it happened. We had reports of NATO forces attacking Serbian forces and destroying so many tanks etc. Then the next day, or perhaps the day after, the media (usually the BBC I was watching, but not exclusively, I'm not an exclusive guy) would report that in fact the previous report had been bullshit. Made up, NATO propaganda, actual lies. Flagrant lies.

And then it happened again. And again.

I hadn't ever believed everything in the news, but to see "them" caught out so blatantly and so repeatedly was an eye opener.

So you can't believe anything you hear, that doesn't mean any old nonsense might be true though. It means you have to hold lightly onto what you think and know the source of your evidence, and use your mind. Who a person picks as their authorities, which voices they trust, tells you a lot about them.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

White Male Privilege

Durham University
Back in the day Durham always resented being "second tier" to Oxbridge. An offer from Oxbridge meant that an application to Durham would be automatically rejected. They wouldn't be second to anyone. 

So a Durham degree always came with a tiny serving of chip on the shoulder.

Me? I'm a university dropout. No trace of a chip upon my shoulder at all... I'm genX, I hate everyone equally. Whatever university you did or didn't go to.

Cambridge for academics, Oxford for industrialists. But still the best engineers came from Cambridge.

Oxbridge. I went mad in the same fields as Syd Barrett. That was more than twenty years ago though.

My grandfather lectured in classics at St Catherine's and my father went to Corpus Christi. He met my mother in Cambridge and proposed on Castle Hill, an Anglo Saxon hill fort. 

I proposed to my wife on top of Castle Hill as well.

I chose Corpus because it was a small college, had the world renowned Jurisprudence (philosophy of law) expert as head of law and I wanted to study law, and I was pretty sure that the family connection would help too.

I was determined to get in. Corpus entry was by interview, and I was good at interview. If they liked you they made AAB offers for A-Levels and I could breeze that. 

After the interview I knew I'd get an offer. I did. AAB. And I breezed it.

Couldn't breeze college though. Life hit me hard in between. 

Still, I passed my first year - Roman, Criminal, Civil (Tort) and Constitutional Law - and got a desmond, a 2:2.

A fun adventure, before leading to my next adventure. That was over twenty years ago now.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Intersectional Feminism

That trans women are to be supported in their struggle for their identity as women is an obvious and automatic conclusion of intersectional feminism. Intersectional feminism, as I understand it in quite a shallow way, is the contribution to Feminist thinking and philosophy largely by black women.
Intersectional feminism is, I think, the recognition of how many axes of privilege and oppression intersect uniquely in every individual. It's clearly right. Race and poverty and gender identity and the patriarchy and disability are all different axes of privilege and oppression.
It is therefore concerned with different axes of identity and how they shape our experience of life, including by being a cause of suffering because of injustice in the world.
So you can't be a feminist and concerned about the struggle of all women without also caring about poverty and race and gender identity, because of how much they also disproportionately affect women.
Knowing your privilege is very powerful because it's the closest you can come to having a clear conscience. Many people are angry and afraid because they don't know how to have a clear conscience.
Said as a Jewish, British, Socialist, Feminist, gamer, ex-homeless, ex-prisoner, cult survivor, neurodiverse, pansexual, Green, witch, ex-christian, university dropout, middle aged, middle class, white, cis, raver, mostly male identifying geek.
Therefore I can be a feminist ally not least along all the axes of privilege and oppression that have shaped me even if they're not directly concerned with gender issues. I feel like I have suffered under oppression, I identify with those that have suffered under oppression.

Socialism

The Kanji Ghost Character
Lots of my friends post memes decrying Capitalism as a damaging thing. The way the world is currently ordered, so that some people have so much and so many people suffer such a lot is clearly wrong and immoral.

The big issue I have is that the standard definition of Capitalism is something like "allowing private ownership and trade". The standard alternative is Communism defined as "property and trade controlled by the government". Or something like that. Maybe industry instead of property. That definition of communism is straight Marxism, which is that the means of production should be owned by the workers.

And that's a failed ideology. Soaked in blood. Disaster capitalism with self-righteous clothing.

Every Capitalist state in the world has some degree of state ownership and welfare system etc. So effectively every government is Socialist to some degree. The question is just how much, but Socialism operates within Capitalism.

So I really equate Capitalism with free market economics. And that is actually a science, a study. There's only limited rules, and places where you can change things at a macro level. International trade, interest rates etc. I don't see "Capitalism is bad" as a very useful contribution to understanding our situation.

The most useful GCSE I took for helping to understand the real world was GCSE Economics.

Personally I espouse voluntary socialism as a life philosophy rather than a political philosophy. I despise partisan politics. As for the evil which is clearly there, well consumerism is a good name for part of it. Or just plain greed.

Speaking as a Jewish socialist; when I was growing up Jewish and socialist were synonymous. But my grandparents were poor academics. So I guess socialist was a given anyway really.

My Grandfather left and rejoined the Labour party a whole bunch of times when I was a kid. He would leave in protest at something or other, and then rejoin so he could leave again in protest about something else.

It's one of the reasons I can't be bothered to close my Facebook account as a protest.

When I use the word socialist I guess I use it a whole lot like my Opa used the word socialist.

As a sixth form student at St George's School Harpenden, doing Maths, English, Physics and Further Maths A-Levels, I gave political speeches to the school as a socialist. In a safe Tory seat I was unusual, again. I wasn't the candidate for the mock election as I was considered unelectable, but the candidate was unwilling to do the speeches. He was the son of the head of sixth form. Mr Grenfell-Hill. Short and eccentric he reminded me of Willy Wonka and I also had public speaking lessons with him and some sixth form girls. We entered the local Round Table public speaking competition and didn't win. Third round I think, or second I forget.

The son of the head of sixth form was the boy who gave me a copy of Plato's Symposium in a coach on a school trip. He went on to become a purveyor of fine wines and a Tory councillor.

St George's was one of the few remaining state boarding schools, although there weren't many boarders. Mostly children of army folk. As I'd joined the sixth form I didn't have to wear a school uniform, for the first time. My mother bought me a green woollen suit, secondhand originally from Harrods, I abhorred it.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

The Jesus Centre

Before the Northampton Jesus Centre opened in 2004 I was tasked with researching community needs in Northampton and laying out the vision for a centre to serve the people of Northampton.

I visited a whole bunch of other community centres around the country and many projects serving the community in Northampton already, both for inspiration and to understand the needs in the area and different ways of meeting those needs.

A drop in centre for the homeless was already planned, piloted in one of the commercial properties attached to the cinema. I helped two of our local members setup and start running a mums and babies group called Little Ark, initially running in a community hall.

My report on the needs of Northampton outlined a vision of "holistic care", trying to meet as many of the needs of individuals we served. Alongside this was a vision of empowering our members to use their skills and vision, plus develop new skills, to serve the people of Northampton.

The not-so-covert aim of the Jesus Centres was to find new victims to join the community.

I continued to work, paid one day a week, as Community Liaison and Service Development coordinator for the Northampton Jesus Centre until 2010. My time was split between organising new services and assisting those running existing services, creating and administering a feedback system for measuring achievements by the centre including outputs (food given, lessons taught etc), hard outcomes (job found, accommodation found etc) and soft outcomes (new skills learned etc), and liaising with the charity sector in Northampton.

With community fading and virtually gone (except for the scrambling of the remnants of the cult to move properties into a new trust to avoid compensating those harmed by the cult) the funding for the centres has now dried up. The landlord of the Birmingham Jesus Centre has recently kicked them out due to not wanting to be associated with an abusive cult. Looks like the Northampton Jesus Centre, formerly the deco, is now fading too.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Love Hurts


Whilst there's truth in it I slightly disagree with the quote attributed to Liam Neeson in the image above.

Love opens you up, it opens you up to yourself and to other people. If you love someone you start to feel their pain, that's empathy. Everyone hurts. You can't love someone without feeling pain. And it opens you up to yourself. If you've been numb, dulled yourself to your own pain, then love will hurt. The difference is that it's a good hurt, it's the hurt that brings healing. Love allows you to accept and to let go of your pain. So love definitely hurts, because life hurts. It's just that there's beauty in it too and the beauty does actually make it worth the pain.

A deeper secret. The healing comes not from being loved but from giving love. Often of course it's only through being loved that we're really able to feel love. Because love itself is so beautiful we can't help loving it. We respond with love and that's how we find our healing, how we unfurl and our own beauty is revealed. The beauty that's in everyone. Who we really are.

To be able to love is the most beautiful thing in the world. Worth living for and maybe even worth dying for. We only find it in the struggle to be free. We're freedom fighters. The fight is the freedom and the freedom is the fight.

I don't think you die if your heart breaks. I think you die if you don't let it break.