Archive for the tag 'london'

Pot Kettle Capitalism

NS November 11th, 2010

I took a quiz the other day on Facebook, a bit of cheeky fun called ‘What type of Leftist are you?’ I answered a few questions and then my result popped up on the screen. ‘You are a Marxist!‘ it declared. No great surprise to me, I suppose —  I knew that my political beliefs were left of what passes for liberal these days — but Marxist? Really?! Hmm.

I know a bit about Marxism, studied it as part of my poly sci degree and have a book about it on my shelf, but I devoted a good hour or two to brushing up on its principles and figuring out whether, actually, I do have a bit of Marxist blood running through these veins.

Turns out, I do. At least partially. Regardless of whether or not I think Marxism could ever become a (successful) reality in this day and age, I do admire and agree with many of its tenets. Not those that were hijacked by dictators and despots looking for a cause to cling to and give rise to the power they so desperately crave, but the core belief that capitalism is inherently anti-proletariat and oppressive to the people, despite attempts of throwing ‘democracy’ at its wretched, greed-encased feet.

In typing these words, I keep expecting a trapdoor to open up below me, sending me into a political black hole that transports me directly back to the United States to face hanging, drawing and quartering for treason. At the very least, my nerves will be heightened when I go through US Immigration in three weeks’ time. What would they care about a simple little mommy blogger like me? Probably diddly squat. But people have been snooped on and detained for less.

So if you don’t hear from me for 24 hours after my flight was due to land, know that I’m paying the price for this post somewhere in a little room with a large woman and a pair of rubber gloves. Maybe George Bush will be there, reading passages from his new memoirs while he chucks bucket after bucket of water down my gullet to try to force me into a confession. By writing it all down here, out in the open for all to see, I save them (and me) a  lot of time and water.

As a friend of mine on Facebook said when he commented on my quiz result, “Is it legal for an American to be a Marxist?”

I very much doubt it, Stuart, but we’ll soon find out.

Anyway. The real reason I’m writing about Marxism and my frustration with capitalism is because of these student protests that took place in London yesterday, which everyone in the UK is talking about today. Essentially, up to 50,000 people turned up to protest the coalition government’s plans to increase tuition fees by up to three times the current limit, something the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg specifically said he would not do in his campaigning during the election period. In fact, he went further than that and said he would reduce tuition for university students. He then got into office and, after ‘realising the enormity of the nation’s debt’, promptly forgot that promise and agreed to screw all the students (and millions of others) who voted for him and his party.

I don’t like that a fringe group became violent and started breaking shit, I don’t think it was the smartest idea, but I can certainly fucking understand why they were so angry. Hell, I’m not even a citizen of this country (and therefore couldn’t vote) and I’m STILL angry that the Lib Dems completely screwed their supporters by bowing down to the great Tory machine. Nick Clegg is but a puppet and David Cameron has got his hand shoved so far up his felt-lined backside that I do believe he’s moving his mouth now as well.

Listening to a call-in show about the topic this morning on BBC London, I heard over and over again people talking about violence never being the answer, how we have to be peaceful and use democracy to get what we want. This, coming from the same people and the same government that is quite happy to go to war and tear apart entire countries over boundary squabbles, ownership of natural resources and to force democracy and capitalism onto those not fortunate enough to live in a country where we worship the dollar and the pound and the lifestyle that goes with it.

War in Iraq and Afghanistan = fine but breaking windows because you’re pissed off at your government = deplorable? Where’s the common sense in that? If you’re going to condemn violence amongst your own people but then use it as a tool to control, threaten or coerce other nations, you’re really just talking a load of bollocks.

We live in a hierarchal, patriarchal, class-driven society. As much as we like to pretend that we’re all open-minded and liberal and independent, we’re ruled and oppressed just as much as those living in the so-called ‘third world’. We’re just too blind to bloody realise it.

History shows us, time and time again, that those in power will not relinquish it easily. The upper crust of society — the wealthy, the male, the white, the educated, the able-bodied, the privileged — will always have the upper hand, even in our ‘democracy’ where every vote is counted but rarely matters or changes anything. After this election, I found myself thinking for the first time: “Fuck it, why vote? IT DOESN’T MATTER ANY MORE.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pacifist. I think war and violence and breaking shit is awful and pointless. But if you think you can condemn these students out one side of your mouth and wage war out the other in the name of something YOU believe in, the hypocrisy is almost more than I can bear.

So yes, I understand why these students and activists did what they did. I understand their anger, frustration and helplessness. I too want to kick at the gilded tower from where the fucking bastards are laughing at us, knowing they’ve got the keys to our cages.

But I’m afraid that while we’ve still got a Pot Kettle Capitalism instead of remaking society into something that benefits everyone, not just the privileged few, this shit is going to keep flaring up and then fizzling out. People will whinge and nothing will change, unless we get not 50,000 but 500,000 protesting, then 5 million, then 50 million.

Realistic? No. Idealistic? Sure. Delusional?

Go ask Marx.

Thursday is the new Friday

NS August 19th, 2010

Thursday for me is what some might call ‘Me Time’ but in reality would more accurately be called Outsourced Housework and Childcare Equals a More Patient and Fulfilled Mother Day. But that’s a mouthful so I just call it my favourite day.

On Thursday morning, my wonderful cleaner comes. I greet her as I scramble to get shoes on excitable children and herd them out to the car where I will transport them to Grandma’s house. I feel no existential feminist guilt for this. I look after two small, demanding children all day and am self-employed in two different capacities. If people can outsource their childcare in order to work, I can outsource my cleaning. Or both!

I know someone out there will be thinking I’m some kind of pampered, indulgent, stay-at-home mother who should be looking after her own children 24/7 and cleaning while her husband works hard to bring home the bacon, but to those people I say get off that sanctimony pony, make yourself a cocktail and hitch yourself a ride into the 21st century, compadre.

I do not cook. I do not sew. I do minimal cleaning. As of next month, my daughter will be in school all day and my son with either a childminder or his grandmother three days a week.

My kids probably watch too much TV. I spend too much time on the computer or with my nose in a book. I frequently say No to playing or chasing in order to do my own thing, or do the playing or chasing only until I get bored and decide it is grown-up time again, which is usually after ten minutes.

On Thursday, after I drop the children at their grandmother’s for the day and before I go home to a clean house, I spend an hour in a coffee shop drinking lattes and reading the newspaper from cover to cover. I go for a walk or a meander through the shops. Today, I put up a couple of flyers promoting my doula services.

I drive home. Alone. I sing as loudly as I want, drive faster and revel in not being asked a hundred questions from the back seat. I might stop into the shop on my way home and nearly forget not to park in the parent/child spots. I am able to get in and out in less than 10 minutes. Another Thursday miracle.

I open my front door in gleeful anticipation of clean floors and a gleaming bathroom. The air smells faintly of lemons. It is quiet. I can hear the clock ticking in the living room. Does that clock tick? I never notice unless it’s Thursday.

I look out the smudge-free window and admire the sight of washing flapping in the breeze, juxtaposed against the blue sky and emerald green grass. I turn on the radio and listen to my favourite radio program, Robert Elms on BBC London at noon, while I prepare lunch for one.

The Robert Elms show is a celebration of every aspect of this tumultuous city that we share. For three hours a day we revel in the numerous stories and characters, memories and aspirations which make this such an extraordinary place to live and work. Art and architecture, history, movies and language, shopping, drinking, dining and dancing all carried out to a soundtrack of music for grown ups.

On Thursday I do not have to cut crusts off sandwiches or put juice in cups with lids. I nibble at olives while I half-listen to the radio and daydream of all the places I’m going to see and all the things I’m going to do once I have not only one but THREE days a week in which to be alone.

Most of those days I will be working: doing my editing job; blogging (I consider my two blogs work in that it sometimes results in payment and because it keeps my writing skills sharp, which I still hope to utilise professionally one day); administrative work, research, study and preparation for my doula business; and general household stuff like taxes, banking, shopping, doctor’s appointments, DIY, gardening, etc..

But on at least one day each month, probably on Thursdays, I will catch the train into a new part of London or an area I’ve been but not properly explored, or to a place I’d like to visit. Somewhere along the way while out and about in this wonderful city of mine, I will do something nice for someone I’ve never met. It might be something simple like leaving a note or a small gift for a stranger to find, or helping a mother struggling with her pushchair on the stairs to the Underground. It might involve a bit of street art or guerilla goodness or a random act of kindness.

When out doing my history lessons/walkabouts/random acts of kindness, I will bring my camera and use it. With no children in tow, I will have time to change lenses or adjust  for the lighting and actually learn what my long-coveted pride and joy is capable of. Killing three birds on my life’s to-do list with one stone: fall in love with London, be a positive presence in the world and finally (finally!) learn the art of photography.

Thursday is definitely, and will hopefully continue to be, my favourite day. A day for me and only me. That, in turn, makes me a whole lot nicer to everyone else.

Photo credit

7/7: Five years on

NS July 7th, 2010

I’m a little surprised that I haven’t read more about this in papers and on blogs today.

It’s been five years since bombs tore through London’s Underground and on a single bus, killing 52 innocent people and injuring 700 more. It also marks five years since London became ingrained into every little nook and cranny of my soul and confirmed my love for and devotion to this city.

I’ve told the story before of where I was that day and what kind of emotional impact it had and continues to have on me. So I won’t tell it again. But I will never forget.

To the families of those killed on 7 July 2005, and those living with the scars and pain left behind, know you are in my thoughts and my heart today, and always.

Doing nothing says everything

NS January 21st, 2010

Did you know that the Metropolitan Police sent a message to every woman in the UK yesterday?

What, you didn’t get yours? Well, it didn’t come on paper and through the letterbox, admittedly (that would contravene its environmental policy and administration budget, you see), but we can all understand —  loud and clear and in no uncertain terms — what that message was. It went something like this:

Dear Birds Women of the UK,

We are sorry we were caught regret the honest mistakes systemic failures and staggering inactions on our part which led to what seemed like a nice guy serial sexual predator John Worboys (aka the Black Cab Rapist) carrying out countless attacks over a period of years on drunk slappers numerous victims, none of whom we believed when they came forward.

While we take allegations of sexual assault not at all seriously, the investigations stemming from these female fairy tales allegations were completely inadequate not quite up to our usual piss-poor high standards. For this we are totally unrepentant sorry and have resolved to get the media off our backs make changes at no all levels of the department, including a new unit specialising in regret sex sexual offences committed against whiny feminist bitches women. At all times At this time, we do not feel that any further disciplinary action against the officers in charge of the utterly failed mismanaged investigations is deserved needed.

Fuck Thank you very much,

The Boys Met

I’ll just pause while you refocus your eyes after all that reading between the lines (ahem).

Obviously, that wasn’t the exact wording, but you get the drift. If you are of a more exacting nature and wish to read the nauseating excuses comments from deputy chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) Deborah Glass on why the body decided to only issue the officers with written warnings, see below.

“I think on the evidence available the written warnings outcome was right,” she said. “They are a serious sanction requiring officers to accept they have breached the police code of conduct and have failed in some way. People will say, if you cannot sack them what’s the point? But there is still a point, there are important points around learning here. It is not about slamming the Metropolitan police. This is their wake-up call.” She acknowledged that had the police officers at the centre of the inquiry not committed “serious errors of judgment” and “missed crucial investigative opportunities” when Worboys could have been stopped before he went on to assault more women. “There’s certainly a likelihood that if they had followed up lines of inquiry he would have been in custody much earlier,” she said.

Whew! And here I thought that written warnings were just a weak, one-digit tap on the wrist: not even akin to a slap! Thankfully we have Deborah to explain that, actually, writing the words ‘You were naughty…but carry on as you were” in an officer’s file (perhaps alongside a frowny-face doodled in the margins) is an adequate reprimand for “serious errors of judgment” and other perfectly understandable breaches of professional misconduct like laughing at the victims, failing to follow up crucial leads or interview any potential witnesses, failing to fully investigate Worboys or obtain a warrant to search his home and, most of all, failing to believe that anything could or even should be done about it.

For the Met and the IPCC to act like this was some kind of shocking revelation and that the individual officers in question conducted themselves (and the investigations) in an unusual, non-sanctioned manner is absolute and utter bullshit. For as long as they have been reporting sex crimes (a long time) and for as long as they have been police officers themselves (not such a long time), women have been belittledharassed, bullied and disbelieved by the boys in blue. Those meant to protect the people and uphold the law have often been accused of protecting one another from criticism and even from criminal charges, despite compelling evidence to the contrary. They have botched other serial rape cases. The rape conviction rate in this country is the lowest in Europe, a measly 6%.

This is not a recent phenomenon.

Why, just as recently as 2003, a Met rugby team put together a magazine for its players with sparkling sexist gems such as: “Why did God invent lesbians? So feminists wouldn’t breed,” and “Women: can’t live with them, can’t force them into slavery,” not to mention “How do you know when your wife may be dead? When the sex is the same but the washing starts to pile up in the sink.”

But hey, I need to lighten up, right? It’s all just a bit of harmless fun and in no way influences the way these men think, behave or do their jobs, yeah? Tell me it doesn’t contribute to rape culture or the belief that a woman who reports a sexual assault is to be shooed away, fobbed off or altogether discredited unless she has irrefutable proof, has been battered to within an inch of her life and/or is a ‘respectable’ white woman who hadn’t been drinking, wearing revealing clothing or flirting before she was violated.

If you believe that I’d also like to talk to you about tropical jungles in Siberia and ocean-view property in Nebraska. Call me.

Hell, even the Guardian reporter from whom this information comes in today’s paper (and who, on the surface, seems quite repulsed by it) subtitled his article, “Boys will be boys. But shouldn’t the boys in blue know better?” suggesting that men naturally feel and think these things about women (by the way, it’s called m-i-s-o-g-y-n-y) but that, as police officers, these guys should have hidden it better.

So thanks, Met police, for the fucking pathetic half-hearted attempt at making yourselves blameless accountable, but your words, I’m afraid, hold no value. Your actions speak louder and ring truer than any statement you could ever make.