Poll shmoll

Week after week political polling shows that the general populace really don’t understand the issues under deliberation, or the vast consequences that may come out of the responses. This is especially the case when it comes to ‘Welfare’ and matters European. This isn’t the entire fault of the public of course. Our confusion is not merely down to a lack of insight: even if so inclined, people haven’t got all day to find and check the facts and give them critical thought. Besides, we know how this is compounded by the questions that are asked and exacerbated by the simplistic choices of the available answers. And, of course, such distortion of the statistics provides great capital in the service of agenda.

Sky’s poll was conducted by Survation, a “polling and research consultancy with British origins… chiefly known in the UK for its monthly voter intention polls on behalf of The Mail on Sunday.'” I know I’m cynical but when Sky News commissions a poll on our EU membership, I automatically assume it’s to prove a point and that its results will be used as propaganda to vindicate policy. Goebbels would applaud….

I mean, months down the road and are we collectively any more knowledgeable about Europe‘s various ‘departments’; its present structures and their connectedness, purposes and procedures..? Of course we’re “divided” over it! We are still mostly hearing what some people say could or might happen. We don’t need agenda-serving ifs and buts, nor do we need any more distortion and scaremongering. We need the facts of what the EU provides and takes to better measure the value in what is subsumed and we need to understand our legal position and subsequent standing in global institutions for both remaining in and leaving.

Because emotion and crony bias are so insidiously woven into our political and media sources, we have surely learned by now that we have to dig underneath their blah and blether to call them out. The only way the facts are going to surface with regards to our EU position is through time and insistence. Now. Not half way through or, as has become customary, after the decision has been made. It’s time we demanded, of our domestic powers at least, that they stop positioning us.

How much longer?

I look to the mainstream media for some honest reporting and perspective – Ha!

I look to the Opposition for some counter-arguments, some persuasive alternatives – Hmm…

And I look to the Government – yeah, that body of representatives whose wages we pay to manage our common affairs and interests on our behalf. That bunch of cretins who fought tooth and nail for the chance to be in charge and will no doubt convince themselves to try again in 2015. Ha!

For how much longer do the good people of this country have to bang on about the need for repairs and new infrastructure? I shan’t patronise with a list, for it is endless – and the number of people ready, willing and able to participate in such large and essential projects is also becoming endless. But you don’t need me to explain about the scourge of unemployment, the reasons for underemployment, the plight of our untrained and despondent youth, the complete and utter waste of brain and brawn…

For how long can two or three generations live peacefully in accommodation that would be cramped enough for just one? How many people need to be made homeless before it’s acknowledged that there is not enough affordable housing? That the market value of property, for both sale or rent, is ridiculous? That the landlords are the rentiers? That we need state investment in social housing? How much longer will the Government get away with this bedroom tax abomination, given that for many, that bedroom is not an extra room at all and in light of there being no alternative housing for those who would be happy to downsize?

For how much longer are the lucky employers of this country going to have their wages bill subsidised by the government in the form of top-up benefits? For how much longer will the taxpayers put up with their hard-earned contributions going to this curious and very uncapitalist subsidisation of wages?

When is someone going to say that paying some poor sop a pittance to look after someone else’s kid so the parent can go and work for another pittance is just plain crazy and mostly serves a cold and futile ideology? Where on earth did this obsession come from that every single adult must work in some governmentally recognised capacity for it to even be considered a worthwhile occupation?

When is someone going to tell that Iain Dontcare Smith that a few disabled people aren’t going to save the economy by being made to work at some meaningless job which still requires loads of government subsidy because employers tend to have to be blackmailed into employing them? Whose needs is IDS serving?

When is someone going to ram this empty but plainly loaded “make work pay” phrase up the ivory towers of these disingenuous MPs? We all know it’s not about getting a wage you can live on, but about reducing benefits to a level on which you obviously can’t. Given the magnificent economic incompetence of this Coalition, this is a nasty attitude at best.

But then, when is the good British public going to tell this government that all their welfare reforms are cruel, given the economic climate? That if you want to weed out the genuinely feckless or lazy, you have to provide a climate in which they become self-evident rather than merely accused as such by carping government ministers and high-horsed media stenographers. Apparently “welfare’ shouldn’t be a lifestyle choice” but who is in charge and who hasn’t provided any real alternatives? When will the public ask whose “choice” it actually is?

When will the good people remind this government and media that Brits are perfectly happy to do the jobs immigrants do, that it’s not the nature of the job but the deliberately low wages these jobs come with? When will the public realise that it’s only possible to live on such poor wages when you’re single and prepared to share your accommodation with 20 other people because you imagine and hope that this will be temporary? When will government and media acknowledge that it is policy and slack stewardship which create the climate possible for both immigrants and British citizens to be exploited and undercut in their wages, working conditions and accommodation?

And when, oh when will the good people of this country stop blaming immigrants and Europe for all the ills which plague this nation? When will it realise that Europe doesn’t just hand down some edict which can’t be questioned or modified – that governments are largely free to interpret most EU guidelines in their own ways and that that is exactly what they do. It’s called expedient political gaming when a government claims its hands are tied by Europe.

When are the good people going to tell this government that they know who makes the rules by which HMRC must operate? The likes of Amazon and Google are doing what any business would be sensible to do: maximising their profits and paying out as little in tax and other overheads as they can get away with. Who sets the rules? Who decides what ‘evasion’ is and what is ‘avoidance’?

When are the good people of this country going to rail at the government for its bigotry and ineptitude? When are the rational citizens going to declare war on short-sighted, ignorant, crass and divisive policies?

I’m not looking for answers here. This is just a rhetorical rant. Like you, I already know what I want most of the solutions to look like.

I’m tired of this myth of ‘choice’

I’m tired of this myth of ‘choice’ that says

We have to voice our preference for a school

Or shop around for fuel to heat our homes

And cook our meals. And I don’t want to deal with

Competition, guile and clout or frustration fed on doubt

For my children’s education or well-being. I just

Want my nearest school to be as good as all the rest

For no child to be betrayed nor any parent left bereft

Because they can’t afford to buy a private ‘best’.

And you can ditch that empty pitch of ‘switching’

As the glitch of penalties inhibits changes

Of supplier –

And the competition bit you hail:

Your holy grail,

Propels the billing ever higher.

Surely for the Common Good,

There are some services that should be owned

By everyone and deemed as assets to have pride in

Not on loan to profiteers. Lord, when you think of all

The years, the wasted money and resources and

Imagine how much better off we’d be now if

The stinking troughs of Thatcher and the PFIs of Blatcher

Had just never been begun…

Playing With Rights

Picking and choosing

To shore up your stance

Be it ECHR

Or a domestic chance

To do over some section

Of Society,

Be they poor or disabled,

Low-incomed – you see

As expendable our laws

And rights when it suits you –

You boot them aside

Beyond Scrutiny’s sight.

And the world watches on

Split by shock and delight

At the cynical way

You subtract as you like

With no honour,

The codes of a civilised life.

You diminish our name

And you shame –

How you shame us!

Farewell to ‘good form’ and

Fair play in exchange for

Some fancy more fitting of

Dictatorship taking every

Advantage of all disadvantage

Imprisoned in your vice-like grip.

‘The Sun’ is Low

The Sun is low; its shadow long
And unbecoming of the day.
No disinfectant shining light,
But channelling infected rays
Of everything that’s cheap and dumb,
For really, when all’s said and done
It isn’t telling anyone a thing of worth –
It serves no useful purpose
Other than to dish the basest dirt.

It’s like that clown on Facebook, who
Takes photos of their morning poo
Because it thinks its audience needs
Updates on their crappy views.

High agenda based on sleaze,
A story only gets the limelight
If it’s titillating news on A to Zed celebrities
Or serves the Rightist angst and Might.

“Place your bets and ‘ave a voucher!
Get your bread and circus ‘ere!
We’re not a public interest platform
Don’t ya know” –

Yep! Loud and clear!
Murdoch’s minions, scribal pinions,
Corporate mouthpiece at the ‘Gish’,
May you red-shift from dominion,
Lost in permanent eclipse.

Camerooned

Well you can be a private servant
Or a public serf
Who’s undervalued; underpaid…
Well –
If you’re paid at all, that is.

Unemployed – maybe disabled –
Harried, hurried, stressed, dependent
On “discretionary” gifts.
Well you can be an earnest striver
Or a bored and feckless skiver
And divided you may think you be
But in reality, you’re neither.
None of us counts for a jot –

It matters not:
We’re all in Cameron’s parking lot.

You might have means and modest wealth;
Be blessed with lucky, happy health;
Feel overtaxed and unimpressed
And yet accept this quietly enough
While you sit comfortably –

As though by “Grace of God”
You’re blessed:
If it’s not them, will it be me…?

It makes no difference though, you see:
If young or old or in between;
From Left to Right or non-believer,
None of us scores well there either.

No –
It matters not, for profit by despair:
Their rules, their game –
They DO NOT care.

What you have to be is cream –
Clotted, whipped and double thick,
Risen, separate and rich
While the rest of us are skimmed
Of all we have and hope and dare to dream.

All flattened by the fattened hands
Made victims of the dark ‘Wasteland’.
The real Reality is stark –
We’re Camerooned:
We’ve all been parked.

The Malignant Gulf

The ability of those who insist on popping and squeezing us into deserving and undeserving boxes is so simplistic and crass as to be almost impressive. But, because people tend to believe what they want to and, because any belief a person subscribes to can be encouraged and confirmed by someone, somewhere, it’s easy enough to polarise people with the cheapest of generalisations and the most narrow or distorted of evidence. Of course, for this to be successful the discourse has to be superficial and stereotyped and requires a lot of efficient labelling. People love labels: it makes them feel they have the entire measure of an idea, a circumstance or a person. And nearly every one of us participates in the game to some extent. Yes, it can be benign shorthand between peers but mostly it is a malignant device, more concerned with revenge and punishment than persuasion and which serves to constrain everyone by widening the gulf.

Now, polarisation can and should be a vital and positive state because it provides a gap into which opposing views may encounter, inform and enrich each other. This is exceedingly useful in discerning one’s own personal ideals. It requires, among other things, an honest inner dialogue, access to information and the freedom to be temporarily confused or ambivalent without being afraid of the outcome at which one might arrive. It is perfectly possible, normal and reasonable to hold opposing thoughts and feelings simultaneously and indefinitely – or at least until you are tested.

However, apart from the ‘confused’ and ‘indefinitely’ part, this is not what is happening in the national conversation. In fact there is little conversation at all: rather we are talked at and down to by those who are spiritually and emotionally impoverished. People who lean Left are accused of being Marxist, envious, naive, dependent etc; those who lean Right are presumed to be elitist, neo-liberal, crony capitalists, pull-the-ladder-up types. Classical is pitted against neo-classical economics; big state versus little state. Blah, blah, blah.. Who cares? Who doesn’t? None of them are entirely right; none of them are completely wrong. But for as long as those in control see any and all of this as just a competition to be won; for as long as people try to find the solution based on selected chunks of history and adherence to worn out labels – well… we’re not going anywhere far or fast.

Behind the polarising of a nation lies fear: fear of being taken for granted; fear of not having a fair share; fear that our lives are at the mercy of others. This is a very real fear and a truth for around ninety-nine percent of the population. That covers nigh on the entire political spectrum – from left to right.

Obviously there are extremes and yes, it’s undeniable that currently we are being chauffeured dangerously to the Right – by many quite deliberately created opportunities, I might add. This is the political spin game and isn’t it obscene? We all know this: we all know this is dumbed-down governance, aided and abetted by dumbed-down media. Expedience grounded in seeming ideology. And do you know…? Sometimes I wonder if they’re as ideological as we perceive them to be: isn’t that also part of the game? Because, well… you’ve got to ground your bullshit in something… so why not a trumped up moral judgement? Why not pretend that economics is an empirical science? Why not use divisive tactics? Why not make everything black and white? Why not mislead half the populace into believing they are carrying or being carried by the other half? Why not only pander to one part of the country? That is the game and we are the angry, pathetic but cooperative pawns.

Why are we still allowing ourselves to be played like this? And why are we content to have our own needs so temporarily met at the expense of everyone else?

The Left is struggling to form a palatable alternative voice and vision and there are moves afoot to improve their messages – what the hell took them so long…? But, even if, no, when they get back into power – and Gods know we need the Tories out – it will be three to five years tops and we will be right back here again, arguing over which wing is better; which wing understands economics; how big the state should be; that we are badly served etc etc. Because these aren’t just times of acute crises, requiring emergency action: these crises are the result of chronically bad politics supported in no small measure by inadequate education.

We just go round and round and down and side to side – isn’t that a spiral? Well it’s not progressive, anyway.

People are rarely so absolutist through and through. Most people travel in both directions along a spectrum of opinion. They vary their positions according to context, experience, understanding, imagination and emotional intelligence. I’ve discovered that I lean left on many, maybe most issues, but I don’t run the country and the country is not run for me alone. I understand why people might shudder at the ‘loony Left’ as much as I shudder to hear the ‘righteous Right’. I know I will support the Left sufficiently to remove this dreadful Coalition, but I wish to high Heaven for a harmony. And that will require a more constant consensus than either the Left – and definitely the Right – can galvanise.

I long for the day when the discourse is not about what some theorist or philosopher said: it’s become about as useful as citing the Bible. I long for the day when politicians, media and active citizens drop their heavy reliance on the words of dead people who only ever had half an answer and were products of their time, not ours. It’s not that History has nothing to teach us – of course it does! History is fascinating and vital, provides perspective and creates a narrative for how we arrived here. It’s not that such events or thinkers are irrelevant: it’s that we are held hostage to them. If we can’t understand, define and describe our world, our circumstances in our own terms and words, craft our own solutions – start from here – then perhaps we are not ready to progress in any meaningful way. This is our era; our narrative. We should live a continuum of sustainable, positive progress, not a static, even retrograde and most insane mundanity.