Remembrance Sunday, war, tolerance, and community

Today I am respecting the war dead, and living too, hopefully you can take some time out to do so also. remembrance poppy Sometimes I think that war is so much more honest than most of life. Once you ignore the propaganda and strip it down to vital days like today, it’s stark and unambiguous; it says ‘this person is dead’, ‘this person died’ and there’s no way anyone can argue with that. But how we got to that point is through dishonesty and disrespect, trying to pull societies somewhere that we have no right to pull them; feeding voters spin to elicit legitimacy. So it’s more important than anything to respect the living and each other, to be tolerant and understand that this isn’t a competition. Life is not dog eat dog. War is not good. Fighting is not kind.

29 (and ten years ago, I)

spent a month by the dockers and the Saints,
then lusted after pricey trainers in the Lanes.
Came home to the old place but no old friends,
felt old new pains start again.
Lost hope and grip and chance and love and self respect.
Pressed stop, ejected, then tore up the tape.

Gave up

Bottomed-out, took baby steps and left the nest.
With prickly nerves, I lived a foot above my head.
Met people kind enough to take me as I was,
though geeks discern none – they see with no ‘because’.
My jump was higher than I honestly believed,
but I still spent a month sure I’d been deceived.

Got paid and found that nothing really ever changed.
Nearly lost the reigns and put on loads of weight.
Found myself and cried and gave the boy a hug.
Looked for reason, found a song, fell back in love.
Now I’m looking round but ought to look ahead,
’cause Google thinks it’s forty years until I’m dead.

Exam result joys and blues

Life is long and opportunities do not end at 16, nor 18. Grades at school represent one facet of intelligence. You are not defined by the grades you get. If you did not get the grades – honestly – you are in good company. Some of the most interesting and intelligent people I know did not get particularly good grades at school. What’s more, in the real world you often see school-intelligent people just not ‘getting’ how business and people work. Successful entrepreneurs often buck the trend of education success = business success. There are a whole load of different ways that people with different kinds of ‘intelligence’ can succeed. Do you somehow just ‘know’ how to talk to people? Do you ‘get’ what makes a good party a good party? Can you quietly understand what’s actually happening in a given situation? Do you have a gift of making a child feel safe and empowered? None of those and countless other things require you to understand trigonometry…

What schooling success is changes too. With every generation we have some Government and/or Education Secretary who attempt to change everything in the name of their own legacy. The goalposts move within the period of time it takes us to start primary school and leave secondary/further education. How we are tested changes; how we form classes changes; what we should aspire to – educationally – changes. Nothing about school is as important as who you are as a person and how you come across. Nobody is restricted in making a good first impression. And for one’s first job, a good first impression is the thing to make.

So don’t despair or feel bad in anyway about what you read on a few pieces of paper and even if you don’t feel like the you’re the person you’d love to be – you have so much time! There are so many different ways to get to a place where you’d like to be. Think back to what you were like when you started your A Levels. That first day and those nerves and look at what you’ve learned, off your own back, about the world in that time. That’s two years. Life is a lot, lot longer than two years!

Rotherham sexual abuse and British values

Discussions on the Rotherham sexual abuse continued today as hundreds of suspects including two Rotherham councillors have been identified by senior investigating officer Steve Baldwin. On Channel 4 News, Nazir Afzal, the former Chief Crown Prosecutor of the Crown Prosecution Service for North West England appeared progressing his points from last year on ethnicity and child sexual grooming and abuse.

He and Cathy Newman seemed in consensus on both white British males being the majority of perpetrators of sexual abuse in the UK, and also that in Rotherham the majority of men in street-gangs abusing girls as young as 12 are of ‘Asian appearance’.

It’s been almost a year since Professor Alexis Jay’s inquiry was published and it almost feels like a sea-change is around the corner, if not only because publicity is abundant right now.

There are arguably some closely cutting truths and lessons for British values, these are two that stick out:

  • British racism created the need to walk on eggshells and be ‘politically correct’. Did this give those street-gangs a cushion and a ‘hall pass’ for their actions amidst fear of breaking political correctness? And being seen as racist? Muhbeen Hussain was firm in his shock, making a point to ignore excuses and expel Muslim solidarity with the perpetrators. But many confirmed this.
  • British values of the 1970s onwards seemingly dictated that abuse victims be ignored and swept under the carpet. Professor Alexis Jay’s inquiry and subsequent discussion has lambasted the wide social acceptance upheld by the bureaucratic, police and social care systems. I lambast the values of the British public at large.

Britain is not a country with an uncaring heritage. But the children of the World War generation were a bridge between a polarising ‘all in this together’, post-war era of socialist adjustments to British life, and now – whatever you call this multi-coloured; loud; fast; busy and vibrant time. Blame is unnecessary for confusion over a multi-cultural Britain that one did not grow up in and for all the sweeping generality of a ‘societal value’ in nuanced British life there are always people who will make a stranger a warm cup of tea, even if they do not know how to confront a social-demographic disruption. But it was wrong that those who had already fallen through society’s cracks were further ignored. It is a facet of our modern collective heritage that is as disgusting as football holliganism.

Cultural values evolve and just as with the Jimmy Savile abuse, some persist that ‘times were different’. Is that the case? It must be hard to believe that the things you hear whispered in pubs and lectured about by outspoken, shaggy haired liberals with clipboards or wide-eyed conspiracy theorists were actually true. It is hard to believe that people we see, people we live near and with, are capable of such barbarism and self-gratification by means of piercing pain, hellish isolation, torture and life-destroying terror that they put the victims of their actions through. Victims who were children, in all likelihood looking to older men for solidity and affection, if looking at all.

Britain needs to learn, it needs to look into the eyes of the most vulnerable in our society and see that just because the shape of some people’s lives is so different to our own, it doesn’t mean it is not true. Britain needs to redevelop community, hell… Britain needs to give a shit. Britain is a strength in the world for morality, at least that’s how it is seen.

But for all the bell-ringing, society is a monolithic cargo ship not a sailboat. And it takes time to turn. Evolution, not revolution.