Are you in the right place?

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This is my personal blog. This is the place where I rant and witter inanely about all sorts of things that take my interest from opposition to odious far right groups to personal learning projects such as my intermittent study of evolutionary psychology or the history and development of civilisation.

If you’ve arrived here looking for information on my mental health and social care training and consultancy services you might want to click this link instead. That’ll take you to my commercial website: The Care Guy

You might also enjoy taking a look at Care To Share Magazine while you’re about it. That’s not affiliated with my business at all (or indeed anyone’s business). It’s a community of people who are interested in sharing ideas and insights into social care without any distractions from political ideologies, corporate agenda or media ‘fashion’.

Posted in All posts, Care to Share Magazine, mental health, Social care, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Civilisation 35: Pontius Pilate

Welcome to the ‘Civilisation’ blog series. This is my attempt to categorise some of history’s most famous (and infamous) names. Sometimes it’s serious and sometimes it’s silly. I hope you like it.

Pontius pilatePontius Pilate was first century governor of the Roman province of Judea. His boss was the Emperor Tiberius and his claim to fame is the execution of Jesus Christ.

That wasn’t his contemporary claim to fame though. He was widely known as a bit of a stickler for the rules and as one of the cruellest and possibly even sadistic governors Judea ever had. Pontius Pilate was no meek tree-hugger and his name was generally about as synonymous with mercy as fireguards are with deep sea squid.

Odd then that Pilate was described as merciful in the New Testament. Odd also that this stickler for Roman rules would be pressured by a delegation from the Jewish Sanhedrin into executing an innocent man without even having the guts to take responsibility. That seems even more unlikely when we realise that Pilate would have been unable to ‘wash his hands’ of Jesus’ execution. He was the only person with the authority to order his execution anyway.

Of course – that may not be the true story at all. Pilate was no stranger to executions, including by crucifixion. His reputation was for anything but leniency. He was responsible for executing various Jewish rebels and would-be Messiahs – not just Jesus so his alleged reluctance seems very misplaced indeed.

We’ll explore the reasoning behind Pontius Pilate’s ‘whitewashing’ when we consider Paul of Tarsus (whose accounts of events that he never witnessed were strongly contested by those who actually were there). None the less, Paul’s accounts were the ones that gained most traction in the minds of the gospel writers who decades later described Pilate as a weak-willed man who was swayed into the corrupt conviction of the innocent Messiah by the politically motivated Jews.

Pilate was well known for ruthless control. He preferred to negotiate but was more than happy to use extreme force to get his own way if diplomacy failed.

Little more is known about Pilate than this. Even his death in 39 AD is contentious. It is likely that he committed suicide but whether this was his own decision or whether he was merely complying with the orders of Emperor Caligula is a matter of debate. There is even an argument that he converted to Christianity (some Ethiopian Christians consider him a Saint).

You can find links to each post in the ‘Civilisation’ series here.

Posted in All posts, Civilisation, Collections & series, History, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Biffers buy back the tat that they already bought

Paul Golding of Britain First has sent his Biffer followers yet another offer they really ought to refuse. I’ve translated it for them (since they’re generally pretty hard of understanding). Hopefully they’ll realise that this is just another BF con trick…

BF magDear Biffer,
Dear Biffer wot sends me money (fash cash),

HQ recently took delivery of 30,000 Britain First newspapers

We installed a second hand printer in my back bedroom the other day.

tomorrow they will posted out to subscribers.

We printed a full 12 copies of our shitty new PDF before the ink cartridge ran out. Now then, do you remember when we asked you to send us more fashcash for our comic?

It has been an uphill struggle as dozens of newspaper printers were threatened not to print it.

Well, we took ages to print it because we wanted you all to forget about the fashcash you already sent us so we could charge you again.

This newspaper is going to be distributed by our activists in every town and city of the country.

We have so few subscribers that our 7 activists are enough to deliver the mags by hand.

It will cause a huge storm among our opponents – they have conceded online that Britain First is the only force in the country that is producing a newspaper on this scale.

Not that anybody will care (or even notice).

Our newspaper is available for yearly subscriptions and if you sign up today, you will get it through your door within a matter of days.

Anyway – this is the important part. We know you’ve already paid for this but this is your chance to pay again. We want more fash cash (kebabs aren’t getting any cheaper, you know).

Subscribe to the Britain First newspaper for only £15 per year and get the latest patriotic news, events and activities.

Only 15 more fashcash pounds will get you what you’ve already paid for in full months ago. That amounts to £2.50 per issue. Or you can buy them individually for £1.00. That’s a 40% saving for NOT subscribing. Just so you know – 40% is actually ‘quite a lot’.  Alternatively you can download it for free from our sad little website. Yes, I know – we need to work on our marketing strategy. Send us your fashcash anyway.

The Britain First newspaper is bi-monthly

That’s 6 issues a year to you.

and packed with news you don’t see in the mainstream media.

and full of made up fascist bollocks that just isn’t newsworthy. That’s why proper newspapers don’t publish it. Even shit tabloids like the Daily Mail and the Sunday Sport won’t touch the crap we peddle.

As well as getting the newspaper delivered through your letterbox, the pack it comes in will also contain a special free patriotic gift (we can’t tell you what though, it will ruin the surprise).

You’ll get the tat we couldn’t sell in the online shop that we pretend we haven’t got. SHHH! Don’t tell trading standards or the taxman about the Patriot Store – we’re not supposed to have anything to do with it ;-)

EDL Angel arseYou can view the full newspaper on the link below Biffer.

Or you can click the link and see our sad little PDF for free. God, we’re so stupid. We want you to send more fashcash in return for a freebie you’ve already paid over the odds for. Mind you – you lot have already proved yourselves stupid enough to pay over and over for nothing anyway so it probably doesn’t matter.

To subscribe to our newspaper please click here or ring Graham on XXXX XXXXXX (lines open till 9):

Remember Graham? He does everything at the Britain First ‘office’. Actually he’s our only official. He does it all from a phone line in my spare bedroom in Dagenham. We pay him in leftover kebab meat and the occasional ‘favour’ from disgruntled former EDL ‘Angels’. Be quick though. His mummy says he has to be back home and tucked up in bed by 9pm – especially if it’s a school night.

Yours sincerely,

Send your fashcash to…

Paul Golding,
Paul Gold-digger

Leader
Head biffer

Britain First
Britain’s Worst

Posted in All posts, Britain First, EDL, Far right, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tim Wilson: Why I won’t stand for UKIP

Tim Wilson used to be a parliamentary candidate for UKIP. He resigned from the party because of racism. As a result his reputation is being savaged by the UKIP faithful. I blogged about his departure here.

I subsequently offered him the opportunity to put his side of the story without edit here. I’m grateful to Tim for sticking his neck out in the way that he did. I don’t doubt that to do so took courage and my way of honouring that courage is to offer him my blog to put his own version of events.

wpid-81881179_wilsonpic-2.jpgStuart invited me to write something so what I am proposing is a sort of 21st Century Apologia

I am a film-maker and Theologian. An odd combination, but I have also been an occasional goatherd, a nanny, monk and opera director. I have worked in factories and on farms. All forms of labour seem to me to be good and I believe we should approach everything we do with enthusiasm and commitment. We are lucky to be working at all!

I joined UKIP because I felt it was a new party that was destined to play a significant role in British politics over the next decade. As a gay man, I was fully aware of its reputation for homophobia and racism, but the local people I had met struck me as both charming and enthusiastic. I can say emphatically that, while I have been a member, I have seen no prejudice of any kind in the local party and in many ways it was a refreshing chance to look at hoary old issues with the eyes of innocence. It was very refreshing. There was some disunity and squabbling, but it was essentially good-humoured. I hope I have made some life-long friends in the party and I hope they see beyond the present crisis.

I had been a Tory and, while I felt comfortable in the Tory stable, I had put my nose tentatively into the liberal and labour camps, and I certainly enjoy a good debate and I am sympathetic to much of the social agenda of the left. We don’t need to agree with what our friends say in order to admire them and in politics as in life, we want to stimulate debate. More than that, I am willing to change my mind and I do not mind being the lone voice in the crowd. I was willing to give UKIP a go. Indeed, only UKIP had a policy to dump the appalling HS2 project which all other parties, for one reason or another, seem happy to go along with. That was decisive. I have seen the misery the HS2 project has already caused.

In January, the UKIP candidate for South Northants unexpectedly pulled out of the campaign and encouraged me to stand in his place. This meant a speedy trip to Manchester to be vetted by the party and some dithering about whether it was wise to put myself forward at all. As a former teacher and actor, I actually enjoy speaking in public and I like the thrill of being asked interesting and often difficult questions under a spotlight, but I worried that my primary goal was to mould the future of the party – I was not fully convinced that a high-profile role at this time was right, but I was reassured by party activists that UKIP alone had renounced the system of the party whip allowing candidates to present official policy but also to give it a more specific and individual spin. I spoke about HS2, schools and financial chaos in the local council. I was selected and immediately called for vigorus unity, a concerted and imaginative drive towards the election. Time was short and I knew that a conventional approach would not be successful.

No sooner had my campaign begun, however, which I had also explained during my selection would be run almost exclusively through videos, than I found myself faced with a man called Paul Oakden, the regional Organiser whose job it transpired was to vet any form of video and to approve all printed materials. I had planned to film something every second day, banking up a host of video-chats on local and national themes. I would supplement these with small animated “adverts” which I could produce myself and completed one of these fairly early on, picking up on a conversation I had with a farmer just outside Thorpe Mandeville who said he would vote for UKIP- “but don’t tell the wife. She thinks I’m voting Tory.”

The original video is here,

I also completed my first “chat” which is here

Paul delayed and delayed his response and I think two weeks passed before I finally contacted another Regional Organiser who told me that though he would “approve my videos”, Paul would still have to “ok them officially”. A few days later I got a terse email from Paul saying that the animation suggested I was embarrassed by the party and that he could not imagine there were many jihadis in Northampton. The video chat was primarily about education, but referenced Jihadi John who had been in the news when I made the video. It was quite unclear whether Paul Oakden was approving or vetoing the films at that point despite Barry’s “approval” and I called for advice. Paul was due to be a guest speaker at an event where I was also to speak, but he was “dealing with a crisis,” did not come, and would “call me back” later that day. He did not. The weeks went by and again, in desperation, I spoke to Barry who wondered if Paul had even seen the films, or maybe he had just read the transcript. “I was slightly anxious when I read the text, but your delivery on camera was very reassuring,” said Barry. I asked a number of people locally and nationally if they had come up against the Oakden issue and some other candidates had. I was not alone, but I was depending on a quick turnaround for the approval of my entire campaign. I could not wait a week or two every time I made a video. I think I must have told someone that Paul was rude and was told that I would get no apology from him for that. I made more films and still heard nothing from Oakden. At some point, I was told that Paul thought that any reference to Islam was unacceptable. Finally, I got the following message: “videos like this are far more successful politically if they’re short and punchy. Yours feel more like a lecture, and im not sure that’s the tone you should be going for..” Quite clearly, my planned campaign was in tatters and my regional Organiser was offering very little support. I reworked the animated advert with an anodyne vocal which I submitted and got my only approval from Paul: “Very good Tim. Fine to go. Many thanks.”

Now, during this time, I had been looking at a possible lecture in an Islamic centre. It was not to be specifically political but now that I was a candidate in the General election, there would inevitably be political interest. I took advice from members of the Islamic community, again requesting assistance from Oakden and getting none. I did not want to formally accept a commitment that would then be vetoed by my regional Organiser. On a day when I met a youth leader of a local mosque, I was given confidential advice by a UKKIPer described as “just my tuppence” which involved the following line: “Avoid concentrating on Islam – your expertise is clear, and as we discussed there is a lot that you can potentially do to help the party in this regard, but unilaterally doing it during your PPC campaign may prove counter-productive to the penetration of your message.” When I requested clarification, I was again told that anything about Islam would be rejected by Paul Oakden, so that was the issue in a nutshell. I found myself defending the party line on doorsteps of course and on the internet- I doggedly, for instance, defended Roger Helmer against charges of homophobia. This is another man in the party who has made the most appalling statements without apparent criticism, and only after Mr Farrage had told us all that Helmer had now changed his views, the old man went on to advocate aversion therapy. But, this is the point- none of the people in the local party would endorse his views and I saw that as hopeful. And even among those MEPs, there are some wonderfully inspiring people who would be tremendous in any party- Margot Parker for instance.

At about the same time, I learnt of the verbal assault on Humza Yousaf in Scotland. I was appalled. Humza is a colourful and dynamic politician whose first appearance in the Scottish chamber caused a sensation because he wore a Sherwani and also a tartan plaid. In so many ways, our views coincide, particularly in concerns about the loss of the Tier 1 visa which means foreign students who come to study here are tossed out of the country the moment their course finishes and they have no chance any more to spend two years or so practicing the skills they have learnt here and- by the way, paying tax! It is one of the many attacks that have been made on foreign students in the guise of “reducing immigration”.

The Scottish MEP, David Coburn, who also aims to enter Westminster, had talked about “Humza Yousaf or as I call him Abu Hamza”. Abu Hamza is a convicted terrorist, the man with hooks for hands, and Humza Yousaf is the Minister for Europe and International development in the Scottish parliament. Hamza and Humza are both variants, I think, of the arabic word for “strong”, but that is the only similarity and I do not think Coburn is an arabic scholar. I felt Coburn’s jibe was an insult; it was racist and frankly also Islamophobic (if that is actually a word). There was an outcry in Scotland about this, and Farrage was asked for his response. The leader of UKIP dismissed this as a joke and I despaired. I tried getting in touch with the UKIP hierarchy but every time I found myself faced with the same problem- I had to consult my Regional Organiser. At the same time, members of the local branch sought guidance and again there was precious little movement from Oakden. Within hours, events catapulted me into the arms of the media. There was a further report in Scotland developing the theme that this issue was just a joke and Humza and I agreed that it would be helpful if I spoke in his support to the Daily Mail. I called Oakden and left a message on his phone to, at least, call the Branch chairman, and then I did a telephone interview. It was clear once I had lambasted Coburn that the real problem for me lay in the issue of the joke. Quite simply, a joke is defined as something that causes laughter. If it fails to do so, it is not a joke- it is an embarrassment at best and an offence at worst. I have no problem with Monty Python making jokes about faith- it is their business to be funny and we would be the poorer society if we suggested there were subjects that were out of bounds to comedy. But, and this is the decisive point: a senior politician is elected to office in a position of authority and dignity. He has no right to poke fun at my religious beliefs or those of my neighbour. If he is extremely clever and witty, which dear Boris Johnson is and the sad Coburn demonstrably is not, then maybe humour can be a part of his presentation, but personal attacks remain out of order. It is like giving a teacher licence to mock the pupils- it is altogether unacceptable because of the position of authority and power the teacher assumes.

Added to which, was Coburn incapable of realising that a joke about race, or a joke about Islamic names squares very badly with the media image of UKIP as a racist party. It is not me who brings the party into disrepute, but Coburn.

I felt that criticising the leader of my party meant decisively that resignation was the only honourable thing to do. I also felt that that Humza’s case is more far-reaching than mine. He is already doing the job while I am a would-be politician stumbling towards an election, emasculated by Oakden. Mine was a sacrifice well-worth making if that helps to ram home the fact that this so-called joke is worth the sacrifice of my political career. That is how seriously I view it and how seriously I expect to be taken. I drafted what I thought was a careful document, making sure that I levelled no criticism at the local party members and also pointing out that the HS2 issue had been decisive in both my joining the party and standing for selection as a candidate. I had also been co-opted on to the committee and a clean break therefore seemed appropriate. There was no point in discussing this: the die was cast. The more I thought about it, the more astonished I was by the situation: here was a man, a senior UKIP ranker, mouthing off Islamic slurs while I, a lesser ranking member was effectively gagged and we were both fighting seats in the Westminster election. What message did this send save that a great religion that has survived nearly 1500 years can be mocked by a UKIP ranker with impunity- and that, at a time, when Islam struggles with its identity and the West struggles with the rise of terrorists who hide behind Islam. I asked myself who was the better equipped to speak about Islam? Coburn or Wilson? And could I say something within UKIP to set this right? No. I had been gagged by Oakden from talking about Islam! It was silence or speaking out for a man I admire, but more than that – speaking out against prejudice.

Resignation meant that I would no longer face the MP Andrea Leadsom on a panel this coming week, an event I had been eagerly awaiting. She is a lady who campaigned vigorously against HS2 and then, when it came to the vote, knowing her party would disapprove of active revolt, took at trip to Brussels. That is the problem with the party whip system and frankly our heart should go out to people whose passions are thwarted by the thugs in power, by the arm-twisting or the promise of public office. If something is right and if we tell the electorate we will do something, we should be in a position in the 21st Century to stand for our beliefs without fearing our careers will be in tatters for doing our job! Because that is the issue- we stand for election and enter parliament or the council through a particular door, Tory, Labour, Liberal, UKIP, but once elected, we represent all the electorate and I think the promises we make individuals and groups in the constituency should be binding, and the stories we hear decisive in how we act. If our party loyalty matters, then it must mean our party has a duty to put the best case. We should never be whipped into obedience or forced to run away. We should be convinced by principle and be prepared to take the hard decisions even if this means falling on our sword.

I neither regret joining the party- I thought I could change the debate and I thought -and still think- that racism and prejudice are not central to the UKIP identity; nor do I regret leaving, though no one can quite prepare for a media maelstrom. But, at present, the party is controlled by a hierarchy of has-beens who slipped into office during the last few years when frankly there was very little choice to be had. I agree with another Scottish man who resigned his seat a week or so ago- there are bullies in the party and they have power. But bullies also exist everywhere. Politics is a natural place for the thick-skinned and the schemer, but I believe it is also the place for people of principle and integrity and I will support such people with a passion no matter what party they champion. Humza has my vote and I have paid a very high price in this election, but I believe that there is certainly a future after this- despite some very nasty personal attacks by party members against both me and my partner who (I have to add because it has been revealed in a spiteful blog) is a torture victim and I should have thought has suffered enough. Some things should be out of bounds in politics and it is high time UKIP and others recognised that fact. I intend now to focus on repairing the damage caused by Mr Farrage’s tendency to dismiss what he does not understand and Mr Coburn’s evident silliness, I have no doubt that both men regret their decisions and maybe in time, Mr Coburn will quietly retire (which will give us all much relief) – I will use my energies to do something positive and if I have the chance to enter politics again, I will be all the more fearless in what I believe

Posted in All posts, Far right, Politics, Religion, UKIP | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Privileged glimpses 11: Risk-free is impossible

life without riskThis series of blog posts first appeared a few years ago on a now defunct blog called ‘Care Training’. It was inspired by the training maxim of ‘making the unconscious conscious’. It is intended to take what really ought to be the most basic principles of health and social care and put them down on paper. The series isn’t only an exercise in stating the obvious though whatever the title might suggest. It’s actually intended as a philosophical foundation manual for workers and informal carers to help them get their care ‘on track’ and then to keep it that way.

 Risk free is impossible – managed risk is the way to go.

Individual v Organisational risk

There is much more to the notion of risk than meets the eye. Many care workers think that it is their job to prevent service-users from taking any risks at all but this is not possible. In fact, even if it was possible to prevent people from taking any risks it would not be the right thing to do.

Life without risk would be life without living. It is only through accepting a level of risk in our daily lives that we are able to do anything at all. In fact, even doing nothing is risky. The risk to mental health from boredom and unchanging routine is as great as the risk to our physical health from inaction and lack of stimulating activities.

All activity, from making a cup of tea to crossing the road or even going to the toilet must involve some degree of risk in order for the service-user to maintain or develop skills. There is always a risk of failure when learning to do new things and on occasion that failure can result in some form of harm.

The trick then is to help people to understand the individual risk they are proposing to take. If they cannot understand it (for example if their mental capacity is impaired) then the risk becomes an organisational risk. In that case the organisation that creates the risk/activity for them must manage that risk to bring it down to manageable proportions. This does not necessarily mean remove the risk – simply manage it.

Obviously some things carry more risk than others. An activity that involves crossing the road with supervision might be considerably safer than the decision to go sky-diving but the principle still holds. The task is to make the risk manageable.

Just imagine how empty your life would be without risk. If we need to take risks in order to have a fulfilling life is it not just as important for our service-users?

Just as nobody has the right to remove risk from your life so you do not have the right to remove all risk from the lives of your service-users.

Types of risk

However – you really do have an obligation to manage the risks taken by those service-users who do not understand the risks they take and sometimes to prevent the more extreme or unnecessary risks.

So we need to determine:

  1. Is it an individual or an organisational risk?
  2. Is the risk manageable?
  3. What are the ‘reasonable foreseeable’ outcomes?
  4. Do we need to prevent the person from taking this risk or can we support them in it?

You can follow the entire blog series as it develops here.

Posted in Abuse, All posts, Care, mental health, nursing, Privileged glimpses, Safeguarding, Social care | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Clarkson’s been canned

Jeremy Clarkson has been ditched by the BBC following his outrageous behaviour. Here’s a summary of the investigation’s findings.

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He may be wealthy and he may be popular but he’s not exempt from society’s shared standards of common decency.

Posted in law | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Privileged glimpses 10: Sympathy isn’t usually helpful

This series of blog posts first appeared a few years ago on a now defunct blog called ‘Care Training’. It was inspired by the training maxim of ‘making the unconscious conscious’. It is intended to take what really ought to be the most basic principles of health and social care and put them down on paper. The series isn’t only an exercise in stating the obvious though whatever the title might suggest. It’s actually intended as a philosophical foundation manual for workers and informal carers to help them get their care ‘on track’ and then to keep it that way.

I spoke with a colleague recently about a difficult situation she had to deal with at home. It doesn’t matter what the situation was. It’s enough to say that this lady considered that she was being treated unfairly and unreasonably by a family member. So far as I could tell (having heard only one side of the story) I’m inclined to agree.

The temptation was to sympathise with her. That often feels like the most human, most compassionate response to another person in distress. It’s how we show that we care, how we demonstrate understanding and, perhaps most importantly, it maintains rapport. When we sympathise with people we usually find ourselves ‘on their wavelength’ and that feels good.

Unfortunately though, however good it may feel sympathy is far from positive. In reality it’s usually very destructive. Here’s why….

When I sympathise with you I’m really telling you what you already want to hear. I’m reaffirming what you already think:

Sympathy empathy“Yes it is awful and you’re quite right to feel that bad about it.”

Sympathy locks us into the same emotions and beliefs as the other person and that’s not a good place to be. I can’t help you to move on and solve problems if I’m wearing the same emotional blinkers as you.

Of course, it is true that people really do have a right to feel bad when things don’t turn out as they would like them to. But it is also true that you don’t have to feel bad as well. You’re not obliged to join in.

If you resist the urge to sympathise you can keep a clear head without risking being drawn into the ‘doom and gloom’ thinking of the other person. This means that you will be free to explore other explanations and solutions. You can problem-solve and you can encourage others to do the same.

Sympathy acknowledges that people are right to feel bad and that traps them:

“Oh poor you. I’d feel awful if that happened to me.”

Empathy is a much, much more helpful proposition. Empathy acknowledges that people have a right to feel as badly as they want to but then it asks:

“But why would you want to?”

Empathy acknowledges and validates problems and emotions but then moves on to find solutions. Sympathy merely validates distress but offers no help to overcome it. In fact sympathy risks prolonging distress.

Don’t ‘do sympathy’.’ Do empathy’ instead.

You can follow the entire blog series as it develops here.

Posted in All posts, Care, mental health, nursing, Social care | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Why oppose the far right?

Someone asked me yesterday why I spend so much of my time and energy writing about the far right. The answer is simple enough. I need to be able to sleep at night.

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Imagine what would happen if the likes of Britain First, UKIP, the BNP & the EDL were left unchallenged. What sort of world would we be living in 20 years from now? What sort of society would be left for our children and grandchildren?

Quite simply, I oppose the far right, the neoNazis, the nationalists, the religious extremists and the racists because my conscience demands it.

Will you?

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Posted in All posts, Britain First, EDL, Far right, Nasty Nick Griffin, Politics, Religion, UKIP | 1 Comment