Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Britain, sickness and evil bastards

Sparked by this:

"They have bombarded us with massive scary numbers and whispered not
so quietly about Greek-style riots if the international markets were to
lose confidence in the British economy and government.
Second, they have gone to enormous lengths to persuade everyone that the cuts
...will be fair - hitting everyone from the rich to the poor. "

They are, of course, lying through their teeth on both counts.

The "debt crisis" is illusory. Britain doesn't have a debt crisis. We have a significant downturn because our government, like many others, listened too much to Austrian magical thinking economics for the previous twenty years but we don't have a significant debt problem. Even if we did have a debt problem, austerity cuts are exactly the wrong way to address it. The "debt crisis" is a phantom, a spectre the Tories and their media buddies have summoned up to justify their real aims. That is, taking an axe to the welfare system.

The second part would be laughable if it wasn't so disgusting. Of course the cuts won't be fair. If you wanted them to be fair, you shouldn't have voted in Tories. Tories don't do "fair". They're big money bully boys, fascist financiers. Vote in Tories, you get government for teh sake of the rich. That's just how it is and always has been.

When the coalition were voted in five months ago, David Cameron said that, of course, the most vulnerable would be protected from the cuts. Was that a cold-blooded lie? Naturally. The most vulnerable are the people who will be targetted by these cuts. Again, that's what Tories do, it is their natural function in life. Tories stomp on those at the bottom for the sake of those at the top. This is as normal and predictable as the sun rising.

Want proof? Solid reports coming out of the coalition indicate that £2.5 billion is to be cut from ESA. ESA is what the government gives you if you're too sick to work. The system is already designed so that virtually no-one can claim it but still, they want more cuts. The state has been trying to get rid of sickness benefit entirely for years but, knowing that people wouldn't accept that, they've settled for making the box you have to fit in to claim it smaller and smaller. It's hardly a king's ransom. I get £125 a week and that's because my partner is listed as a dependent. And I'm on the "partly fit for work" section because ATOS (the private company who "administer" the tests, lie their asses off at every opportunity and are corrupt to teh core) don't think the "unfit for work" category exists. When ATOS were contracted to do the work, it was estimated that about 40-50% would be found unfit. Actual number was less than five percent and I'd be willing to wager that the majority of those got it on appeal. £125 a week comes to £6,500 a year and they want savings of £2.5 billion.

That's a whole lot of dead people. And that's the intention, to get people off teh rolls by any means necessary. If you can work, work. If you can't, die. Whole lot of dead people.

And I'll probably be one of them. Having Major Depression means struggling not to kill yourself all day, every day. And then there's the additional knowledge that, as an unemployed person, you're part of the single most despised group in the country (yes, more than child molesters, it's approaching societal pathology). And then there's the state trying to kill you as well. And it becomes ever more difficult to hold on or know why you should.

£2.5 billion. At £6,500 each. Lots of dead people to come. I'm tempted to leave early to avoid teh rush. The depths of this government's cold, unmitigated evil are only just starting to become obvious.

Now Here's Something I Can Really Get Behind

I think I have a problem with the campaign for same-sex marriage / marriage equality. No, not that it exists or is "going too far", that the movement is being far too civilised. Don't misunderstand, trying to get your human rights recognised through the courts and public opinion is very noble, very admirable. It speaks to the inherent civility of the movement that it is still being so restrained. But there's something about humanity that seems to only recognise a right when it's torn from the bloodied fist of the oppressor. Would Martin Luther King (whom I have the utmost respect for) have been so convincing if white society hadn't been so terrified of Malcolm X? I don't know. But I do know that when your other option is Magneto, kindly old Professor Xavier starts to look a lot more reasonable.

In other words, I think getting in people's faces can achieve a valuable goal. That's easy for me to say; I'm a big guy, trained to fight and confrontational by nature but let's be honest, a good firm smack in the mouth ends a lot of arguments. Occasionally, when discussing gay rights, I make the call to have some fucking riots. Usually, I'm not serious about that but I do think there's a lot to be said for standing and saying "this is who I am, this is what I do and fuck you if you can't take it". Why should gay guys be allowed to marry other guys? Because fuck you, that's why.

See, the public awareness campaign and the lawsuits, they do a nice job of reaching the undecided but some people, you're never going to reach. You're never going to be able to reason with them because they left reason behind years ago. And for people like that, something a little stronger is needed. Maybe I'm just not as nice a guy as some people think but my urge to yell "we're here, they're queer and if you got a problem with that, let's step outside" peaked a few years ago.

With that in mind:

Monday, October 11, 2010

About bullying, we need to talk

Advance notice: Forgive me if I get emotional here.

So, I've been away for a while. What's brought me back now has been the recent spate of kids killing themselves because they were being bullied. In discussing it with someone on another forum, I was asked if bullying was actually worse now than it was before and yo yo yo, let me speak on this 'cos I got something to say:

It's worse. Far worse. Partly, that's because there are so many more avenues for bullying now. When I was a kid, cellphones were the size of a house brick and only the wealthy or those with very demanding professions owned them; the internet didn't exist and DARPAnet (which would eventually evolve into the internet we have today) was only in it's formative stages. The only time you saw bullies was at school to a large extent. Today, pretty much everyone has a cellphone (which is not to argue that cellphones are a bad thing) and there's MySpace, Facebook, LiveJournal. There are so many more avenues of communication today. That has it's upside that I've talked about before at great (and probably boring) length but it also has a downside because there are so many more openings for bullies to get through now.

So it's worse now but it was always pretty bad. Remember that kid in school who didn't fit in? The one that most people pretty much isolated and ignored? I was that kid. I was slightly overweight, bookish, dyslexic (I know that seems a contradiction but dyslexia has many forms and mine only really affects my writing) and, hard as it may be to believe for those who know me now, rather timid. So I was bullied. I was beaten down pretty much every day between the ages of about seven and fourteen (when I suddenly gained fifty pounds and discovered wrestling). And there's the dehumanising taunts, name-calling that targetted my intelligence, my sexuality (years before I was even aware of it), my ethnicity, everything. Kat tells me that girls are just as bad, they just use taunts instead of beatdowns.

There's some stuff about bullying that adults believe that really needs to be debunked because I got told it as well. If you stand up to the bully, he doesn't back down, he hits you. If you hit him back, he goes and gets his mates and they all hit you. Bullies aren't necessarily stupid or insecure or underachievers. In my experiance, they're likely to be of normal intelligence and the exact opposite: So cocky, arrogant and overachieving that they believe they have the right to dominate others. The bully isn't socially isolated and without close friends. They're usually charismatic and collect friends eager to do their dirty work for them. And while I'm sure some of them are abused kids, many aren't. The bully doesn't pick on you because he's jealous of you or threatened by you or anything like that. A few individual cases might be all of those things but for the most part, the bully picks on you because he can.

A couple of years back, two girls here committed suicide due to bullying and teh press threw a fit. Stories about the "hidden cancer of bullying", big tearful headlines, the full works and I can remember feeling outraged. No, not because of them in particular. I'm sorry for them, of course but I've seen the story too often to be unusually moved by one or two cases. No, what outraged me (apart from the ever-present, maddening use of "cancer" as a metaphor. Guys, you're trained writers, FIND A NEW WORD!) was that it was only now that people noticed. It was only when the victims were photogenic little girls whose portraits could be splashed across front pages and you could concievably envision as reincarnations of the Christ child, only when there was actually blood on the classroom floor, only then did people actually pay any attention. Where the fuck were they for the previous thirty years? Were where they while hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of kids were having their lives destroyed? Where were they when those kids carried the damage that shit did to their minds into psychologist's offices around the world? Where were they when the victim wasn't some photogenic little angel, when the victim didn't have a straight A average and doting parents who thought the sun shone out of their blessed little behinds?

And, of course, I know where they were. I know exactly where the bleeding hearts and self-appointed moral guardians were. They were sat at the back of the class. Maybe they were laughing, maybe they were cheering the bully on, maybe they were hoping the bully didn't notice them but they didn't do a damn thing. And when some little angel (excuse me while I spit) tops themselves, they cry "oh, the humanity!" and rend their garments and tear at their hair and say how awful it is, someone should do something about it. And then tomorrow's paper rolls around and there's some new outrage and they go quietly back to sleep and forget about it because there's always a story important enough to go on the front page. And across the country, the kids that they just gave up on, the ones they think should brawl with the bully and his pack; those kids cry themselves to sleep every night if they can sleep at all or they sag off school or they cut themselves while their parents dismiss their emotions as teen angst, shoved their feelings in a little tickbox that they can safely ignore. And if the parents care at all, the advice they give is useless. My parents gave useless advice. It was Grimmer who bothered herself to go and raise hell about it.

Kids are animals, you see. Vicious little balls of spite and entitlement, all Ego and Id. It's the job of parents, of families and schools to train them to be something better. But, as Larkin said, "they fuck you up, your mum and dad". A lot of us aren't doing so well with raising kids these days and the old familial structures that meant kids were raised by an extended family, they're gone now. Thirty years of live to work and stagnant wages and shorter vacations and shrinking social safety nets, they've destroyed those family structures. And the schools, well, they're too busy pushing Little Johnny (who's a decent kid but a little slow) through this week's high-stakes test to get concerned about their student's life. The attitudes that allow bullying to happen, that cause it to happen, begin with families and you can't support lower wages, shorter vacations and a shrinking safety net and call yourself "pro-family". I was trying not to involve politics in this but fuck it, there it is.

Bullying is a weird thing. Everyone knows it happens but no-one's willing to acknowledge how much it happens or how deeply it affects people. Some people get over it, they go on to live perfectly normal lives. But a lot don't get over it, not entirely and not ever. I'm 34 now and I started cutting back when I was a teenager as a way of dealing with my emotions. I'm a bright guy, IQ somewhere between 152 and 165 depending on the test and with the mental clouding my meds cause and, when I let things get to me, I can still hear those voices calling me stupid because I could barely write (in fairness, dyslexia is much more recognised these days). I'm mentally ill, I know that and so, I'm maybe an extreme example. Most bullied kids probably won't become mentally ill or, if they do, it'll not have any connection (I'm very, very unclear on how much connection the two had in myself) but they'll carry the emotional scars of it. And still, no-one wants to expend time or money to tackle the issue. They want to teach kids how to cope with bullying instead of stopping the bullying itself. This is somewhat akin to shooting the looters in the aftermath of Katrina; it might help the immeadeate poblem but it doesn't exactly tackle the cause.

Anyway, that's me said my piece. Went on longer than I wanted, got more emotional than I intended and probably swore more than I should. But there it is, the die is cast.