Sunday, 26 April 2015

Looking into George...

As the political campaigning is at last coming to its end, I am so relieved and 7th May 2015 can't come soon enough. The experiences have been fascinating and the learning intense; the rewards found only in the friendly walkabouts, talks to the young and audiences that show such anger and passion - it restores faith in the wisdom of the masses and awareness that apathy is not everywhere. The audiences were well-informed, engaged and clearly undecided at hustings (debates but not really as we don't get the chance to address the other candidates' points - only each express our own... which can be frustrating) for the Country Land and Business Association at a gorgeous mansion surrounded by polo fields and in village and church halls for Age UK, Churches Together and the general public.

It was very sadly predictable in that each of the other candidates said exactly what I expected and repeated mantras, jokes and family stories at each event as if newly telling; I know there is a practicality in this but for me it felt like each new audience was not being considered for the unique one that it was. On Friday night and Saturday morning, George Osborne shared hustings with us. To put this meeting into context... I have been despising and actively opposing the harms this man has done and continues to do, since joining the Occupy movement in 2011 and becoming part of the now huge anti-fracking movement. George Osborne's father-in-law is an ardent supporter of the shale gas industry and along with George and the government, is doing all possible to get this through - oiling the wheels of planning and legislation to ensure the public do not get in the way. When I knew we would be sharing a platform, I wondered how the hell I would react. I have slept in tents in freezing temperatures, watched treasured friends and fellow activists, brutally assaulted, read manipulated press stories whilst standing amidst truths that they in no way resembled; I've watched communities in fear, communities torn apart and divided and am currently in a court case demanding around 60,000 in costs from me. And so much more, from far more vulnerable people across the UK with sanctions, cuts to allowances for the disabled and cruel measures to punish those who don't fit the category 'HARD WORKING FAMILIES'... it was always going to be tense. But...


I do a thing when I meet people for the first time (particularly those I KNOW I have a pre-formed, bad opinion of) ..I remember that each of us was born a baby and therefore, at some brief stage... I could have loved them (before life scribbled a story all over them with circumstance, upbringing, education, abuse etc.).

This was harder with George than any other human I have met. I looked as deep as I could get and found that underneath the puppet of the party was a weak, insecure man. He worked to instruction and formula and seemed to experience huge discomfort when confronted with anything that was vaguely 'off script'. It felt like he was doing what he was told and if he wasn't told - he didn't know what he was doing. Deep, deep in me was a smidgen of empathy for the little boy who feared the bullies and came to serve them.

Tragically (literally for the many he affects by virtue of his position) - the system puts people like George into positions, where there is power passed through them. At no point in the process of this political campaign (my first ever involvement with politics) have I found it to be democratic, fair or just. From the way our electoral system works (it doesn't for us) that means for some of us, our vote is only worth a fraction (this is crazy), to the vile way the parties 'play' their campaigns; this peek into the strategies politicians use was shared by Boris Johnson in 2013 and is every bit in play right now:
'Let us suppose you are losing an argument. The facts are overwhelmingly against you, and the more people focus on the reality the worse it is for you and your case. Your best bet in these circumstances is to perform a manoeuvre that a great campaigner describes as “throwing a dead cat on the table, mate”.
‘That is because there is one thing that is absolutely certain about throwing a dead cat on the dining room table – and I don’t mean that people will be outraged, alarmed, disgusted. That is true, but irrelevant. The key point, says my Australian friend, is that everyone will shout “Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!”; in other words they will be talking about the dead cat, the thing you want them to talk about, and they will not be talking about the issue that has been causing you so much grief.’
The current system of government is not about you and me, is not about people, society, community or family. We have a lot to do but I am more determined now than ever, that we cannot stop until we seize back control of OUR democracy, from the 'system' of government operating it. For now, my activism IS politics and after 7th May, I'm not sure.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Blueprint for Life...




Between 1 in 12 and 1 in 15 children and young people are thought to deliberately self-harm.

That is such a dreadfully sad statistic. Children without hope. Children in despair. What is it that is causing the rise of mental health issues for so many? Aside from the pollutants, industries, additives, pharmaceuticals and other factors that can affect our mental health, maybe there’s something in the way  we live and the example and options we offer our young .  

I recall those childhood wonderings about what it would be to grow up;  hearing about school, work, falling in love, marriage, children etc. I waited each time at the end of conversations about this scenario, this ‘blueprint for life’ - thinking there would be at least another option, if not a whole set of multiple-choice blueprints to choose from.

I didn’t hear any real choices – just success or failure based on matching up to the blueprint

My mum was loving,  fabulous and successful  in her career but she too had the blueprint; doing her best to be the shape it required and help my sister and I to be too. We act with good intent, not wanting our children to be outside society and wanting to make the journey as smooth as possible. There is no malice in shaping our children to fit because this is what life looks like, if you grew up according to the blueprint  - but there is harm.

The confines of society have closed in so much that there are fewer exits and where they lead, grows smaller and smaller. We live anti-nature – shut-in buildings, ritual working patterns,  societal norms,  structured politics and probably most damaging of all, limited boundaries of education that attempt to create those shapes for humans to be - in order to fit the blueprint. 

I know so many out-of-shape people

Of course we can go rogue… live life away from the norm but it is far from easy and getting more difficult all the time. There is little common land to disappear to, few incomes that aren’t attached to a ‘regular job’ etc. So odd-shaped people spend lifetimes trying to squeeze, stretch and bend into places, spaces  and states of being that will always be ill-fitting… and eventually, maddening.

Mental Health has been in the news more recently than at any other time I can recall. Statistics warn:

  • Suicides rates show that British men are three times as likely to die by suicide than British women
  • Self-harm statistics for the UK show one of the highest rates in Europe: 400 per 100,000 population

Of course this is a health issue that we need to look at from a medical perspective but much more than the diagnosis and treatments – the biggest concern is surely:  

What are the causes and how can we address them before the harm starts or is beyond remedy?


The world is dramatically different than the one I knew as a child and yet the blueprint remains pretty much the same. We can see that as a species, we are capable of amazing creativity and ingenuity and yet here we are, stuck in austerity, in debt, discontented with our systems of government, at war, in poverty and often, feeling the huge sense of hopelessness at it all.

BUT…

As technology races ahead, social media gets us talking and the internet provides ready-resources of information and learning,  people WILL challenge the blueprint. Each day though, suicides, over-medication and self-harm are stealing some of the most creative, feeling and unique minds from us. History reveals that the brightest inventions have come from those with wilder minds; the untamed Einsteins, Teslas and Da Vincis (would they have been medicated as teens in order to get them to conform to an homogenized norm and stop fussing with crazy ideas?). 

Change can't come soon enough and it has to include a review of the blueprint so we can start to set ourselves free.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Harmonising...

What a week of contrasts and high points (not a low one anywhere thanks to being surrounded on each day by inspirational, resolute others).

Went to Green Party of England and Wales​ Conference in Liverpool from Friday to yesterday ... with a perfectly timed break from the newness of this 'political' - back to the uplifting warmth, solidarity and recognisability of activism on Saturday in London for #TimetoAct2015.

I say 'contrasts' but actually - there were many threads of sameness that ran through it all too...



 ..from the incredible way this political party does policy making (I likened it to a calmer version of an Occupy London​ General Assembly). EVERY one had a say if they chose to have it. NO policy was dictated by any central body - but had been raised from initial idea stage by an individual, nurtured by a working-group that formed around it, put to an online forum for refining and eventually... if it got through the sometimes frustrating but exacting and necessary human-filter - made it to the floor of the conference for a vote. I was in total agreement with some that came to the vote - and not at all sure about one or two others. BUT I trust the process, I trust the ethic at the heart of this party and I know, I may not always be right (ouch lol!!).


...to the fascinating way I have seen the activism and movements I am honoured to be involved with - grow to encompass swathes of people from 'everyday life'. This growth is more significant by its 'types' than its hard-to-measure numbers; the 20,000+ #TimeToAct Climate March on Saturday was dusted with the most beautiful familiar faces from the anti-fracking movement, Occupy, Green Party, Friends of the Earth, Black Bloc​ and social justice movements BUT it was mostly, more vastly made up of 'everyday people' breaking from 'everyday lives' because everyday life - is no longer tolerable. Each who came had clearly seen injustice and was moved to make a stand, step into an unknown and insist on being part of the solution.


...and then, it was my birthday yesterday and I came home to the gift of warm bed, sanctuary, family and a much desired day in. Along with the best Facebook wall I could hope for - it was messages of happy birthday and above all support and encouragement of friends from the many parts of my life that seem to be finding a distinct harmony.

My birthday wish has been granted too many times to dare wish for more... much love. Namaste Tina xxx

*Some favourite speakers at #TimeToAct were the powerful Francesca Martinez​ (will find a link to speakers I hope to share shortly), the straight talking, human-before-politician that is Caroline Lucas and Laurel - this one though will take your breath away with the beauty of honesty and freshness of delivery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3zR0SHvZFo


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Activist Vote

As activists we have rallied together at marches, networked hundreds of thousands to petition time and again, created camps with strangers and bonded for a just cause – we have tackled the problems we see from a multitude of angles and in many arenas from roadsides, campsites, power-stations and art galleries to council estates, the streets (whose? ours!), the steps of St Paul’s, Trafalgar and Parliament Squares. We are the many outsiders and within Westminster are the very very few who hold/dictate/create the power to arrest us, intimidate us, legally bind us and prohibit our right to be heard, our right to participate.

The government is an arena we have yet to act within.

Politics is deliberately distant, removed from regular life to green-seated space of baying, booing, harassing impoliteness. The subject of politics is not considered the stuff of wonder and up until recently, I considered it so far removed from me, I chose not to engage. Now though I choose to get to know it, see how it currently works, pick at its seams, confront it and work with others, to find ways to unravel ourselves from its corrupted grip. We have to do this because no matter how loudly we protest, how deeply we plead, how firmly we act – the power to keep stopping us, is currently wielded by those elected to our government by too few voters.

In order to disengage – we will first have to engage.

Even if (like I did) you think it pointless, feel hypocritical because you know you are feeding something bad… maybe we can weaken it with a lot of good? Voters are encouraged to choose Red or Blue this time or was it Blue or Red? We’re told there’s no point doing anything else because you’ll always end up with one or the other – but this ‘implied inevitability’ serves the status quo and means voters choosing as part of a strategy, rather than with truth. 

Overwhelming anything with a good flood of honest determination, has effect and that’s what WE could do. And even if you don’t think it will matter – what harm could it do just this once/one more time?

Vote as activists.

Our government isn’t working for us and hasn’t for as long as I can remember. It is infested with lobbyists and special interests, the revolving door between office and industry spins as fast as the media manipulated myths. The practices, procedures and rituals make it inaccessible for all but the ‘political shaped’ people to get in. This time though is different – we have an opportunity to use all that we’ve developed on social media as activists, all that we’ve learned about how to find truths and expose lies as activists, all that ‘sense’ we’ve nurtured as activists and make a charge at this arena – via the vote, before it gets so bad, other means become necessary.

Trade agreements, potentially dangerous technologies, wars, sanctions, diplomacy (!), policing, healthcare, education, social care, farming, regulation… THESE things are under the control of government. It is imperative that we work together now, to ensure decisions made in these matters, are influenced/made by people acting with honour NOT self-interest.

Choose carefully, research well and then… vote as an activist, with truth and determination. 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Not to influence you but to explain, why I am voting Green:

I expect dreams, along with hopes got cast as ‘whimsical folly’ around the same time that we started living in ‘an economy’ - as opposed to communities, families - humanity. It’s sad to read policies by political parties that focus everything back down to the economy of everything – the price of life, the cost of education, the expense of care.

The philosophy that is at the base of Green Party policies didn’t do this. It felt like hope and painted pictures recognisable from my dreams. It’s why the media are struggling because it offers a broader, long-term set of aims that would be reached for step by policy step at a time. Not a list of promises wrapped in bravado with wriggle-room jargon, targeted at demographic voting types.  It said things like:

“We believe that:
A system based on inequality and exploitation is threatening the future of the planet on which we depend, and encouraging reckless and environmentally damaging consumerism.

A world based on cooperation and democracy would prioritise the many, not the few, and would not risk the planet’s future with environmental destruction and unsustainable consumption.”

And…
“The pursuit of economic growth as a force driving over-exploitation of the Earth must cease to be an automatic aim of human societies. We should instead aim to develop sustainable economies, which improve well-being focused on human values rather than consumerism. Traditional measures of economic activity, such as GDP, should be replaced by new indicators that measure progress towards this aim.”

And…
“We reject the view that wealth can be measured solely in monetary units, a view which allows its adherents to think it consists primarily of the results of human labour. This error has caused successive governments to pursue objectives which appear to increase the nation's wealth while in fact they reduce it. Symbols of wealth, like money, reinforce the error and dominate political decision making. Economic growth is a poor guide to human welfare.”

And…
“Power is simply our ability to be effective, but it takes different forms. 'Power over' is dysfunctional, succeeds only at the expense of others and should be limited and contained. 'Power to', or empowerment, is our potential to co-operate and take control over our own lives. 

Organisations which have based themselves on empowerment have found that they are as successful, if not more, at achieving their aims, and have delivered considerable social and environmental benefits. However, 'power over' remains the dominant force in our hierarchical, competitive society. We have to engage with it, but we do so only in order to transform it. This requires changes in law, culture and economics.

And…

“We do not believe that there is only one way to change society, or that we have all the answers. We seek to be part of a wider green movement that works for these principles through a variety of means. We generally support those who use reasonable and non-violent forms of direct action to further just aims.

Our beliefs will bring us into conflict with those committed to material affluence, the accumulation of power and the unsustainable exploitation of the Earth. We are always ready to negotiate with those who oppose us, and seek fair settlements that respect their needs for security, self esteem and freedom of choice.

We will even work with those who disagree with us where sufficient common ground can be found to do so. However, we do not seek power at any price, and will withdraw our support if we are asked to make irreversible or fundamental compromises”

Friday, 30 January 2015

Favour & Influence...

Thank you to all who have made it possible to raise the deposit of £500 and cover some of the publicity costs by raising a wonderful £1,249! Reality is though that with George and his fortune to challenge, this campaign needs more and as there are just 2 days left on the Crowdfunder Campaign - I'd like to ask again if any can spare whatever they can to help. 

Running against George Osborne in Tatton presents an exceptional opportunity and a huge number of challenges - reaching out across the area to ensure residents are aware of the principles, policies and values of the Green Party of England and Wales is no easy task. Although I find it the saddest truth that politicians can make lies sound believable by wrapping enough paid-for marketing round them ...it happens; I need to have a 'fighting fund' that can at least get me venues for public meetings, printed material, mailings (£800 to cover one mail-out to this ward alone!) and cover costs of making this all possible. 

It is often obvious that donating to a political campaign buys favour and influence for the donor - and I'd like to assure you that your donation DOES indeed do that... my interpretation of what you'd like in return, is genuine representation in government for UK residents - not corporate interests. Many small donations from many people, represents a democratisation of the fund-raising side of political campaigns and is a whole lot more honest and moral than taking huge amounts from a few who will want favours and influence in return. 

If you can support through the Crowdfunder campaign page, it would be great - thank you x

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Rallying Call...

Just in from diplomat, John Ashton was at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office as Representative for Climate Change from 2006-2012.
From:John Ashton
Sent: 24 January 2015 17:24:0
All
...My impression is that, all of a sudden, things have become fluid. But we must seize the moment because they will probably get stuck again after the IB votes. It’s important that the rally turns out to be bigger than people inside the bubble expect.
Best to everyone - hope to see some of you there!
John

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Hello everyone.
Friends of the Earth have just told me that they hope to get up to 200 people out for this on Monday. I really hope we can all do a lot better. Here's why.
Those who want to turn our country into a fracking playground have so far proceeded by stealth. They have got much closer than would have been possible in a healthy democracy to turning their dystopic fantasy into reality. The votes coming up on the Infrastructure Bill will be the first opportunity to make a political choice at national level to apply the brakes.
At the top of their Party machines, each for different reasons and reflecting different combinations of negligence and intent, all three establishment parties have, as it were, been putting Cuadrilla first not people first. But finally more and more MPs are realising either that fracking really is a bad idea and/or that the political cost to them of welcoming it could be much higher than they thought. All of a sudden things are more fluid inside the Palace of Westminster than they have ever been. That is true to an extent for the Conservatives and Lib Dems; but the stresses seem to me to be even greater inside the Labour Party. Now is the moment to strengthen the hand of those in all parties who want to stop the bandwagon.
With luck and effort we could even emerge from the best few days with the beginning of a de facto moratorium on fracking. That would have been unthinkable until very recently. But a lot of effort is still needed.
So, for anyone who has been thinking about expressing themselves on fracking but has not quite found a voice, there will never be a better time. A few hours over the next few days, and especially on Monday, will almost certainly pay bigger dividends than days or weeks of effort later on.
I became drawn to this issue because there is a deep political contradiction between a two degree climate policy and a drill baby drill energy policy, especially when the aim of the latter is to open up new resources, supply chains and vested interests. It is simply impossible to be in favour of fixing the climate and of fracking at the same time.
Meanwhile on the front line, up and down Britain, some of our real heroes and heroines have been risking everything to draw attention to the threat fracking poses to their communities, and to mobilise people against it. And the more I see of this the more it seems to me that this question is also at the centre of everything NEON stands for. Without wanting to put words in your mouths, I suspect we would all like to Iive in a country where people experience politics as something they are part of, not as something that is done to them against their will and interest. But for most people now facing a prospect of fracking in their community that's exactly how it feels.
For that reason, victory on fracking will also be a significant victory in the wider struggle.
So if you can possibly spare the time, do please come on Monday, even for a few moments. Please also encourage others to come.
If you can't come but have a bit of time at the weekend, please do anything you can think of to bring people to the rally and get messages to MPs.
And I really hope, when we are there, in thousands not hundreds, in full accordance with the law, and with peace and grace in our hearts, we can make a noise that will be audible not only in Old Palace Yard but in the Chamber itself.
When I was a civil servant I was occasionally accused of being too passionate. I make no apology for being passionate about this. But I hope I have expressed myself in accordance with the values, rules and culture that we are trying to build together in NEON. For anyone who may be curious about where some of the passion is coming from, I attach a speech I gave in Dublin last week (which also touches on earlier NEON conversations about spirituality).
With best wises to all
John
Details of rally in this extract from FoE message:
Can you help build a massive rally against fracking on Monday 26 January, 12.30pm-3pm, in Westminster? Full details: see this facebook page.
On 26 January MPs will be voting on the Government's Infrastructure Bill containing, amongst other things, amendments proposing a ban on fracking and the Government's controversial proposal to allow fracking under people's homes without permission. We want MPs to hear an overwhelming NO to fracking.
Please join the facebook event, share it among your friends, and invite anyone who can to come along.
The rally is jointly called by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Occupy Democracy, Frack Off London and others. Speakers so far confirmed include Caroline Lucas MP, Bianca Jagger, Tina-Louise Rothery and Vanessa Vine (Founder, Frack Free Sussex and BIFF!).
The vote comes just two days before Lancashire County Council decide whether to give the go ahead for Cuadrilla to frack in Lancs. If the Lancashire fracking applications are approved, it will set a precedent for the rest of the UK. (The momentum created by today's recommendation by Lancs planning officers that Cuadrilla's applications be rejected is great but it's definitely not all in the bag yet!)
Please join us outside Parliament to send a loud message to MPs that Lancashire and the whole of the UK is not for shale.