Happy New Year!

May the New Year see your resolve
Renewed and your wishes bear fruit.
May you stride purposefully into your
Future with strength and confidence.
May you have trust in your judgement
And have the courage to rise to your
Tests. May you see more light, hear
More truth, speak more wisdom and
Taste real progress.

Happy New Year!

xXx

Resolutely Futile

So we clock the next Gregorian notch
And reset our lot to resolutely futile
Promises, albeit just as well-intended
As last year’s sentimental whimsy –
As if resolve appears with perfect
Purchase only on the calculated year’s
Last day; as though all others be ill-suited
To self-betterment or harm’s arrest

Because no other day is good for stopping
Smoking, drinking, eating less and exercising
More. And no one’s ever bored by all the
Empty, drunken declarations or the stone
Cold sober tokens, are they?

Why gesture yearly, merely for tradition’s
Pressure just to fall in measure to a herded
Fashion? All that well-meant passion, fleeting;
All that cheated rationale…

Well, bugger that!

But for the want of a perilous crutch, to your
Own drum be tuned – there are much better
Waves to catch.

Britain Isn’t Eating

Britain isn’t eating and it isn’t only fleeting:
Stomachs growling in their thousands;
Weakened bodies, trembling hands – and
Anxious minds in free fall – all at the behest
Of IDS, a petty, jumped-up, self-made god,
Complete with hooves, in gold-plate shod,
To trample underfoot the poorest in the land.

It’s hand-to-mouth, from North to South;
From East to West – ‘existence’ best describes
The lives this bastard government can bring
Itself to muster. Britain isn’t eating and it’s
History repeating: clusters of the population,
Forced to choose between one outrage or
Another, quite preventable – starvation or the
Food bank.

And flanking, frozen Esther, gimp-like, grins
On point from sculpted plinth, to demonstrate
Her eager sycophancy for her hornèd clod.
The only thing upstaging either’s arrogance is
Clear delight in spiteful and relentless
Choreography. The topographic cheating means
That Britain isn’t just not eating…

Choice is all-competing: food or heating; dignity
Or vouchers; servitude or prostitution; charity or
Destitution; empty pot or pay-day loan; feed the
Car or feed the phone; school trip or a birthday
Gift; a haircut or a coat that fits…

Every day new low-pay, no-pay victims slip through
Nets with holes that stretch to endless loops and
Proxy scolds with folded arms and vulgar sanctions.
Britain isn’t eating while the poverty’s increasing by
Command of those in power who care little for the
Pointy end of choice – excepting as it serves to feed
The few in Britain who continue eating very well indeed.

Merry Christmas!

May you be bathed in light and love
May you be where you are at home
And not feel lonely if alone
May you feel warm and dry and full
May you find strength and joy and
Take time to enjoy it all
May you laugh louder and longer than you row
May you be blessed with gifts of kindness
May you know some peace of mind
And please you, have a Merry Christmas!

xXx

Winter Solstice

There came a purpose
On the world
A spark igniting
Lighting
The processional way
Integrity unfurl –
Not just for the day but
Inextinguishable
To Time’s ending
Blending,
Shining,
Earthbound unto
All Potential
Bells resounding
Manifest
Investment in
Bright stars of Hope
With scope
Immeasurable

Universe bow down
Thy cosmic knee
And lend thine ears
To upward lifting voices
Fill the void in Man
With Love and Grace –
Reflect thy beauty in
Our dream-lit faces
Set our hearts to beam
As beacons bright as
Sun at midnight; high
As noon that shrinks
The shadows, knowing
Hope gives birth –
Illuminate the Earth!

Rank Albion

It’s as though a few men got
Together and decided that:
If they really had to share
The world at all, they’d
Need to set a cap.

And so they set their tricksy minds
To shaping barriers and rules
Configuring the size and access
To their superficial gap.

They named this place ‘The Middle’
For to curb the aspiration
So that people rarely climbed
Beyond a predetermined station

Then they patted them,
Their scratchèd backs
And rubbed their hands with glee
Like they’d just invented progress
And the gift of Opportunity

And everybody swallowed this
As though it were the only way
And jumped aboard the caravan
That thinks to mark a human’s grade

Better than and less than quickly
Turned into deserving
So that some got all the baubles
While the rest did all the serving

Then the gap became unstable
And the Middle felt it sharp
But instead of blaming upwards
At the poor began to carp

And the lower ranks of Albion
Eyes wide and minds aghast
Thought of pitchforks blazing up
The higher echelon’s fat arse

Now they’re slipping down the ladder
At remarkably quick pace
As they realise their efforts
May be heading into waste

Yeah, the Middle, it might suffer
But at least it had a taste
Though it may bring little comfort
As they join what they displaced

Now reality is dawning in the
Ranks of all the strata
That success cannot be guaranteed
By merely working harder

But invariably shows itself by
Who you know and where you live
And has become so arbitrary
Something has to give

Like that Upper, Middle, Lower
Have no business still existing
That the ‘representing’ State
Should put a stop to it persisting

Because no one has the right to
Rate another’s economic worth
And no one has the moral ground
By measure of their luck or birth

And no one gets to say that some
Deserve a lesser living standard
Merely by the virtue of the chances
They’ve been handed

No one has the right to look down
On the backbone with contempt
While inequality and segregation
Steadily foment

Irrespective of the work
That middle income, so desired
Is the very minimum of lifestyle
Everyone requires

Civilised Society should not need
Designated levels
They were put there just to keep
A sense of order for our devils

And what is there to say…?

Not one new thought is there
Nor any feeling borne that
Wasn’t worn before
Somewhere

There is no truth unbent
Nor trust unspent
No faith without despair
No boundary that has
Never been abused
Nor tactic left unused
No hope not dashed
Nor good intent not trashed.

And never did this favour
But the perpetrating few
Who bought up all existence
For self-benefit so sick that
Every sell be airbrushed
Every well be poisoned
Every protest hushed
And Liberty forsaken while
Yet liberties are taken.

And what is wisdom’s purpose
If it doesn’t show or tell?
And what is there to say that
Hasn’t been already taught or
Fought
For
What good is a more
Enlightened Way
That doesn’t see the light of day
Because it isn’t seriously sought?

Will and Way

Why are consecutive regimes hell-bent on tinkering with the basic constructs and principles of education, health and social care? We know what we need: easy, reliable access, free at the point of service; a consistently high standard, common to all; adequate numbers of well-treated, well-remunerated and properly respected staff, who function with compassion, efficiency, respect for the work and respect for the individual. Why are these things constantly up for grabs? Did some fundamental principles become redundant at some point? No, just some dim wits experimenting with legacies and ideologies and wanting, increasingly, to endorse some commercially-weighted agenda. No, just some bright sparks who decided that citizens didn’t much care to and therefore shouldn’t need pay for anything beyond their own personal needs and that the ability of a few to afford choice was a chuffing good opportunity to promote and demonstrate an aspirational culture.

When it comes to our utilities, we have issues with considerable overlap: profit and competition touted as the sole, effective vehicles by which to drive progress yet which come with elusive accountability, ever increasing cost, questionable service and woeful underinvestment. Profit, competition and ‘choice’ in exchange for public control, affordability and accountability under the ruse that the State – we – could never have afforded the necessary investments ourselves. Well, that turned out well, didn’t it? If we had made the investments, ourselves, not only would the price to profit ratio be ours to determine but the rate and types of investment could be more bespoke to our needs than to a nefarious corporate agenda. Like being able to plump up the public pension pot instead of paying dividends to private shareholders; like being able to help vulnerable demographics through a harsh winter, for example.

How careless is a nation whose government absolves itself of responsibility by shrinking the remit of the state – us – in favour of hit-and-miss, corporatised outsourcing? How ignorantly and recklessly regressive is it to encourage a two-tier education and health system? How cruel is it to actively fuel more poverty? How negligent and patronising is a government which relies on charity to avoid social responsibility? How crazy and complacent is it to put one’s faith in and rely on the philanthropy of those who co-create the dependency? It’s quite simple: do we, the people, think this is acceptable? Or do we think it doesn’t matter?

It’s pretty simple: do we believe essentials as Education, the Justice system, Health and Social Care, Policing (and all Emergency Services), Energy, Water, etc should be left to private groups to create, deliver and administer in some arbitrary and detached fashion? Maybe those do who have never been seriously threatened by the increase in costs, loss of standard or accessibility because they could pay their way to it but Reader, the day that becomes appropriate or civilised is when everyone has an equal start, equal resources and equal capabilities. Is that even possible? What kind of a country do uber libertarian proponents think she will become as the vast majority of the population is relegated to second-, third- or even no-rate status? Just how long could such a state of affairs actually last? How much country would there be left?

I think the arguments for relying so heavily on the private sector simply don’t wash: they’re tired and misguided; they put profit, ego and power before humanity and service. Now, that may well be the prerogative of private enterprise but it is also a reason why it must be restricted in its influence over governments and its ability to hold the public to ransom.

As a People, do we or don’t we believe that all such services and utilities should be easily accessible and accountable to everyone and maintained at a high and reliable standard, regardless of who you are or where you live in Britain? And if we don’t: why? Is it pure ‘I’m alright, Jack’; a belief in ‘deservedness’ and the ability and right of some to discern it; or the prescribed view that we can’t collectively afford to pay for public ownership? It’s my belief that we can’t afford NOT to. To me, it’s common sense to split the cost between us for those things which are too expensive, impractical or downright impossible for everyone to reliably and responsibly manage as individuals.

However we proceed, this is key: the what and the why come before the how. We can discern the wisdom in our goals by the integrity of our motivation. What do we want and why? Is it justified? Then comes method. Will and Way.

IDS

In Danced Stupidity,
Instantly Dissembling Since
Ingrowing Deference Syndrome
Invariably Displays Superiority,
Icarian Dreamed, Selling
Inglorious, Doggedly Spurious
Inaccuracies, Deliberately Spun
Into Damning Spite
Igniting Derision So
Insistently Driven Since
Insidious Diatribe Seeks
Increasingly Determined Scapegoating,
Invoking Duff Suppositions,
In Desperately Shortsighted
Idiots Dithering, Signifying
Incredibly Dangerous Sophistry
Infinitely Dealing Some
Ingredient Drivel, Serving
In Delight Such
Inane Detrimental Shite
Inciting Dismal Service
In Denial’s Succour
Ignorantly Deigned, Successfully
Inviting Deathly Shame.

Education: What if..?

What if we were to agree that all humans have value that lies way beyond their financial capacity and academic intellect? That it is obscene to reduce people to nothing more than a unit of monetary worth? That artistic, sporting and practical abilities be as valid? That the higher intelligences such as empathy, grace and kindness be seen as strengths, not weaknesses? That education is its own reward rather than merely a means to someone else’s ends?

The point of a structured period of compulsory schooling should be to facilitate the awareness and understanding of a complex world to children, not merely the ability to pass tests and march to the beat of the latest diktats of fashionistas, inept governments and corporate drummers.

What if we decided that we didn’t want to have to choose which school to send our children to? What if we didn’t feel the need to? What if we made sure there were enough state schools at every educative level, easily accessible to every child in the country? And what if each and every one of those schools were of such an excellent standard that only fools and radicals would seek to pay extra to send their children elsewhere? What if our state schools were so blooming good that every child received the highest possible standard of education and every parent and employer knew it? What if teachers were trusted and valued as highly as are the expectations placed upon them? Any worth their salt would be clamouring to work in such an amazing public sector.

And why the rush to bring our children to employable maturity if emotional intelligence cannot keep up? (Indeed, why the rush if there are insufficient jobs to even require their labour?) It hasn’t been coined as ‘childhood’ for nothing. We are adults soon enough and it lasts, hopefully, for a very long time so why are we heaping panic upon pressure upon stress on our kids? To compete in the global race to be grateful automatons? It is part of being a child that s/he should be in a hurry to grow up but it is the job of adults to temper that impatience, not to concede and actively demand they do. If we really are all living longer then let’s make it a life worth living by getting right one of the fundamental building blocks of a confident, prosperous people.

Education is supposed to facilitate self-confidence and the ability to learn; to encourage critical thinking, curiosity and a love of learning. Thus, though school cannot teach absolutely everything, if it has done its job properly, it shouldn’t need to. Education is supposed to reveal an individual’s potential. In order for this to be achieved, schooling needs to provide the opportunity, time and space for a child to discover what that might be. Teachers need the freedom and scope to assist and appropriately indulge or signpost that opportunity. The next generation are the future, the continuum of the human race. Our children are our legacy. Not in the sense of property, but as the living arrows of Society’s bow, to paraphrase Gibran. Could there really be any task more worthy or vital?

And what if we were to decide to phase out faith-based schools? What if we said that doctrinal faith should not be prescribed to children with little or no escape or counterbalance? Perhaps our society would lose an excuse for the oft-cited sense of cultural division if the doctrines of cults were retired to their temples. The point of a secularist/pluralist society is to achieve and uphold equality under the law and in a multi-faith and no-faith country like ours, that makes Faith (which is not exclusive to Orthodox Religion) a matter of personal rather than public policy. It does not negate nor deride it but recognises that not everyone has it and that no one faith is superior to another. Religion, like Politics, is a living history, based on theory and belief. In schools, shouldn’t it be reflected, explored and debated as such, under the umbrella subject of Philosophy, rather than passed off as though its teachings were fixed by empirical data or as though it were the sole route to ‘God’ and the only expression of a spiritually and consciously lived life?

In fact, what if we decided that any school, within or outside of the state system that was intentionally selective about its admissions or adherence to a compulsory, base-line national curriculum should not qualify for funds from the Public Purse? I don’t mean barring schools from adding subjects to a mandatory curriculum – I’d have loved the opportunity to learn Latin, or even circus skills, actually – I’m talking about the ridiculous notion that a minimum national curriculum is not necessary; that schools should be able to opt out of any of the recommended subjects, particularly such issues as drugs and sex and relationships. This is not acceptable. Students need to know they share a common level of knowledge and that they are not being cheated of vital information or a major life skill.

Obviously it is not the place of a free society to dictate to individual adults the manner in which they live, so long as it does not harm another. Neither, therefore, what individuals do with their income. It follows, then, that it is unwisely authoritarian to take away the freedom to choose and pay for exclusivity. But I would happily – very happily – see governmental policies that rendered it superfluous.