Wonder Woman and Little Women

Not natural bedfellows, you might think. When I switched from viewing the first to reading the latter, it was a very different gear.

And then I did some research and thinking…

They (are) both:

 

Continuously printed American classics and well known exports

Set during a war (the American Civil and WWII)

Concerning ahead of their time women doing ‘man’s roles’

A community of women led by a matriarch (Marmee March/Queen Hippolyte)

Lived in a discrete ideal community (Paradise Island/Alcotts in Fruitlands)

Believed that women thrive intellectually and in the arts in this environment

Writers wanted social change where where women’s roles are augmented

Talk of slavery (Alcott was an abolitionist; Diana’s bracelets)

Have strong morals

Were written for children, although enjoyed by all ages

Have gay appeal

Their authors are interesting stories in themselves

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What would Wonder Woman do?

About the terror attacks this week and what happened next

 

I’d like to emphasise that’s Kabul, Baghdad and Coptic Christians as well as Manchester.

 

I predicted and worried about this – that more attacks bred more attacks and more armed police and less freedom; that the death penalty has got in though a side door and that the trial by jury at the heart of democracy is being eroded. It’s not just Canterbury and London now – they’re in all the county towns, at stations, zoos, outside libraries.

 

I don’t feel safer – I feel more wary. It puts me off doing things. I feel relieved if I’ve not seen armed police or been somewhere that expects me to be searched – a world sadly familiar to those in the Middle East and to Black and Asian men respectively.

 

Fighting suicide bombers with guns doesn’t make sense – they are planning to die and will detonate rather than let you kill them. Shooting them in the torso is just where their bomb is. So what are the guns really for?

 

Guns are bullying, cowardly weapons that give you power over others, often from a distance. They easily get misfired and when we live in a panicked environment, we can make paranoid mistakes.

 

Officers in Britain – who’ve been largely unarmed till now, like the population – were wary of stepping up to the arming call, afraid of investigations if they misuse the gun.

Good – but why only just investigations? If I carry a gun on the street, let alone use it, let alone kill someone, I’ll be in prison both sides of the trial; I may stay there.

So why should police expect to be above the law that they are (ugly word coming up) enforcing?

 

Now that children have been targeted, police are more willing it seems. “It’s the best way I can protect myself and the public,” one policewoman said. Note the order of that.

 

Many words have been poured out in sympathy already, and take mine as a given, but I will focus this post on something less said, which needs to be.

 

Before I say it, I’d like to return to an old friend of mine, one who featured early in this blog 6 years ago, and who’s getting her first big screen outing released today – yes I’m going! (‘Twas brilliant).

Yes I am wearing long boots with a heel in her honour, and guess which 3 colours?

Let us contrast her way of dealing with problems with the police:

(Note these are general WW principles and change between comic/screenwriters)

 

1) Wonder Woman doesn’t fire bullets, she deflects them

-significant morally as well as operationally

Wonder Woman is only armed with her truth lasso

(Ms Gadot has a sword but she thought guns dishonourable fighting)

Her plane is purely for transport – it doesn’t drop bombs

She befriends animals, she doesn’t use them as weapons

 

2) Wonder Woman works with the authorities and is respected by them, but she is independent and she is not part of a huge force

Unless you count the Justice League, but they tend to be outnumbered rather than outnumber their opponents. Unlike police who overkill, literally; a whole squad after one person (even not dangerous ones) which wastes resources – and police claim they don’t have enough

(Don’t start me on police using foodbanks on ‘only’ £20k… try £30 a week!)

 

3) Wonder Woman is approachable Unlike po faced armed officers who we’re afraid to say anything to, even good morning. Wonder Woman retains her humour. She doesn’t yell, especially not at the general public.

 

4) Wonder Woman is compassionate A quality not in the police and army much; it’s why their personalities and training mean that they’re not the right people to handle many situations entrusted to them. Wonder Woman’s someone you’d cry on. Not most PCs.

And she knows the difference between being tough and strong

 

5) Wonder Woman is not dressed to kill or intimidate

Her face isn’t covered; no mirror glasses, no bully boy armour

 

6) Wonder Woman has a global view, inside (since she’s living among us) but outside (since she’s alien). She can point out our follies and since she’s so old, she has great wisdom, watching nations repeat mistakes for millennia

She’d also see what’s really happening, the even more despicable terror.

 

7) Wonder Woman doesn’t kill or use unnecessary force

She does her own undercover work; she doesn’t use assets

 

8) Wonder Woman knows when to talk instead of fight and can transform would-be crime doers. Wonder Woman believes in redemption and forgiveness

 

9) Wonder Woman thinks for herself. Hannah Arendt would approve – for she knows the peril of taking and giving orders without question

 

10) Wonder Woman

makes a hawk a dove

stops the war with love

changes minds (and hearts)

and changes the world.

 

It’s the far more effective way – not retribution, not meeting violence and fear with more.

Not weak, fluffy, unreal.

 

No wonder Ms magazine cover emblazoned: “Wonder Woman for president”.

I’d like to her preside over a lot more.

 

Finally, to what I didn’t yet say….

I was reminded this week of James Alison’s book On Being Liked and his first essay in it Contemplation of a World of Violence, written in autumn 2001. He points out that such acts are given sacred meaning and that we are sucked in collectively, policed as to what we can say (a new heresy) and given specific behaviours in response.

He encourages us to not be drawn into that, but to One who can show us a new way to see, one who subverted violence by seemingly giving into it and then overcoming it to say I’m nothing to do with this system; there is another way to live.

The One is not Wonder Woman this time.

 

 

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Challenge 25 policy – grave concerns

Gone are the days of 18 and 21 being celebrated as the birthdays when you get the keys to adulthood. Adulthood has been deferred; minatory has been extended, and that murky inbetween now a longer limbo.

Whether intentional or not, there’s incredible control here of citizens, undermining our rights as humans too, with very nanny state decisions being made.

This Challenge 25 policy isn’t just about drink.

It is used to challenge a 20 odd old buying a 12 DVD, when they are twice that age.

I have always maintained that age isn’t the factor – for we are not all automatically willing and able to cope with things because of our age, protecting young people but not older ones.

The more you forbid, the more you’ll provoke.

And once over 25 – people can buy what they want, and it harms just as much.

It has made retailers our guardians, and the ridiculous fines if they guess an age wrong means that their paranoia leads to arguments at the till. It’s not flattering to be thought younger than you are. Why do we privilege youth?!  So don’t make it sound like it’s kind of compliment: “if you are lucky enough to look under 25…” because it isn’t. It’s causing embarrassment and offence, on both sides, and also inconvenience.

We are proud in the UK not to be an ID carrying country. This policy enforces that on young people, using the frightening technologies of biometrics to learn and retain information about people. The abuse and (even for its supposed proper use) is appalling, continuing the control and following of citizens that we are so angry about and are supposed to accept – even rejoice in!

It makes me wonder if it is a way of starting ID carrying through the back door and influencing the youngest generation.

The adverts about peer pressure and drinking were much better, for they were for any age, and should put the responsibility on the consumer not just the retailer.

Meanwhile, you’ve created an industry around ID, useful for secret services and any who would abuse the system.

This isn’t liberty, this isn’t taking care of citizens, it’s another mixed message such as “we like the income that smoking gives us, but we’ll put health warnings on cigarette packets.” You like the revenue of alcohol, its profiteers are often close government friends, but you want to be seen to be cleaning up the streets.

So I don’t agree with First Minster Nicola Sturgeon that this is a step to be proud of. Scotland has been great in many ways at making sensible laws first in the UK, which then trickle down. This is not one of them.

Challenge 25 website doesn’t even have a contact – my email bounced, so we don’t know who to hold to account.

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Why the Beauty film is Beastly

Yes I mean that one – the new Disney remake of its own cartoon, where more than the cursed prince is hideous.

This is not a story about beauty being within. This is a story which perpetuates harmful and false ideas about youth, beauty and love. It says – you can be too late to find love and be forever inhumanly frozen. And this deadline is in your youth.

It says that you must find love in return to stop the curse. It hasn’t grasped that the telos of love is to love – end. Even if you are rejected or scorned, you and your love are not diminished. You can also find reciprocity in non romantic love.

Crazy Eyes in Orange Is The New Black had a better speech to give on this subject than anything said or implied by the Beastie.

It’s the implication which I particularly am concerned by.

Belle of course is beautiful and young. Cartoon Belle was a disturbing mix of juvenile and ridiculous woman’s figure. She is the heroine who is the darling of her father and the Beast and his entourage. She gets the guy – but he reverts to being handsome and human.

Does anyone else see issues with a creature of at least 3 types having relations with a girl?

But Belle (and we) learn to love Beast in his large and furry form (the cartoon was a bison crossed with Honey Monster) so it’s not surprising that the audience is disappointed when he goes back to being a man – in the cinema I saw the live action film, there was laughter.

The catalyst is the usual trope – the old ugly hag. But she – the sorceress, showing magic is dangerous and spiteful – is young and beautiful really.

I wondered how different ridiculously caricatured Gaston is to Beast, at least as he was. Why didn’t the sorceress pay a visit to Garston?

And of course the Beast has to be aristocrat with a huge home and an estate; he is served by a retinue far greater than his household (ie just him) requires. Is he going to give anything to the community he shuns now the spell has ended? Or will they all carry on with foppish selfish debauchery as before?

The lovers are young – wasn’t Belle 21 in one version? Those Disneyfied folk tales often have such wenchlike heroines, and there’s ageism in Snow White and the Dwarfs too. Why wasn’t an older couple at the centre? And why wasn’t excellent Ray Fearon, the priest, used more? 57 year old Emma Thompson is the mature widow, when at the time of the cartoon original she was the star wench. Why is she less worthy now of being a romantic lead?

And romance is of course dinners and dances and being silly together. Are we at all convinced this is the meeting of souls and the basis for a life together?

And as for his rejoining the human world : I liked the ending of Shrek better.

Read my cinema reviews here

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Canterbury Cathedral – a place for martyrs, medieval architecture…and guns

I sent this to the Dean shortly after learning about the new regime which began last Sept.

I left time for a reply, but didn’t get one.

 

Dear Dean Robert

I was shocked to learn that armed police patrol the Precinct, and the city.

I’ve long been unhappy at your entry fee, but this is even more offputting; I won’t visit whilst this guards policy is in place. It clashes with Christian welcome and values, and either puts the symbolic mother of the established church under the civic and military control, or willingly colludes with them.

Have you read James Alison’s On Being Liked, and his first triptych about the Twin Towers? He writes that God has nothing to do with the ways of violence, but subverts them to overcome them. Yet here, it seems that we fight evil with evil, fear by escalating fear, and begin steps towards a police state.

Using weapons isn’t accountable, it’s an immediate execution that doesn’t require a court, and it’s feared that a new Becket will occur.

Promoting fear and allowing the costly rise of armed police is not the way to handle attacks and threats – although public statements claim that there have been none. Greater defence and shows of strength gives rise to more reason to make us an object of attack with continued wars, along with erosion of civil liberties. It promotes resentment of other – Muslims and Middle Eastern/Indian people, and I fear, this is strong in Kent where you have so many refugees entering. I am already alarmed by what people’s responses have been to the news about your guards – notions that Trump supporters would be proud of.

It also makes greater public resentment of law enforcers and government, and makes us more like the gun slinging US police that we have so many appalling news reports about.

Christians are called to be different. It is a less evolved, less Christ centred society that allows an increase in weapons, an eye taken before an eye has been even lost.

I am frightened at the thought of yet more repeating history (ie another Becket) where curtailment and suspicion become accepted.

I do not believe this to be the kingdom God called us to build.

I am calling for the removal of police in the cathedral and the city.

I will also be publishing my call, but I wanted to give you a chance to respond first.

Yours sincerely

 

Elspeth

My Day Out With Elspeth can be read here. You can read my review of Canterbury’s arts cinema

 

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Not tipping the velvet

I am not referring to Sarah Water’s novel but the so called voluntary extra on some services.

I’ve made a pledge not to tip.

I note I nearly added ‘any more’ so you wouldn’t think badly of me and would know that I have shown gratitude and manners and had contributed to the supposedly tiny earnings of waiters and others.

See? Because it’s about guilt.

On several levels.

And that is not my only objection.

GRATUITIES ARE GRATUITOUS!

Tipping has put me off taking the services of industries who expect it. No I don’t get into taxis. I have as few haircuts as I can. And I don’t eat out so much – and I’ll choose a pub where oddly it’s normal not to tip. But in a café or restaurant it is expected, for offering the same!

I note in America that people can feel fearful. People have even been chased and shouted at because of not tipping, or even not tipping enough, and published stories add to that fear, such as in this BBC article. The one at the start speaks ill of the girlfriend and the waiter.

I don’t think it’s just the US where we worry about tips. Non or low tipping customers think: Will they say anything? Will I feel I can come back? Will I get a worse service next time? Do they try and sense the tippers, and treat us accordingly?

Because our service should never be dependent on us paying more for it.

And why does a hairdresser think it’s acceptable to be tipped but not other retail? Hairdressers are an example against one of the usual reasons for tipping – that staff aren’t paid enough.

One fork of that argument is that taxis and hairdressers actually charge rather highly. £35-50 – for work taking under an hour – is usual for the most basic hair services; a quick dry trim might only take 10 mins and thus still add up to the same hourly rate.

That’s up to 7 times the minimum wage, and not for the highest end of salons. And don’t forget the self employed (let alone unemployed) who don’t see even the £7 per hour stipulated in Britain.

And hairdressers want to charge at their discretion as you sit in the chair – one even says they can add 50% – and then expect a little extra….?! And I’ve heard them say – if you have more than 2 inches off it’s a restyle and will cost twice as much!

Taxis seem to start at £4 – even as I climb in – and I can travel up to £250 miles by prebooked train or budget coach on what they would charge for 5-10 miles at evening rate.

So why do they need fares rounding up? Especially as taxi drivers can be ungracious. We will return to the service actually given in a moment.

The other of my original forks was for service staff – the hotel porter, the waiters. They often just get minimum wage and sometimes less, and it’s hoped that tips make their earnings up to something liveable off.

But is that our worry, as customers? By all means campaign for fair wages, but why should we have to fill in where employers are failing, and are using social controls to manipulate the public into making up their shortfall?

National insurance, sick pay – all the duty of the employee – not the diner!

 

Here is my bottom line:

charge what you need and pay your staff enough.

 

The tipping industries are hardly cheap for customers, even before the “gratuities”!

There is also some more sinister bottom lines regarding tips:

Tipping is tied into capitalism. It says: hard work is rewarded (is hard the same as good?) and that value can only be shown through money.

It is also feudal and controlling. I watched a few films recently and saw how tipping by the rich made the servile classes do their bidding. It meant – I can buy you to do whatever I want. It said – you will do what is unreasonable and even immoral. I can buy superior and preferential treatment.

It suggests that tippees are a class below.

Now they are subverting that and become the ones whom we the clients feel beholden to.

But in other cultures, tipping is insulting. I think it is for both parties.

Tipping doesn’t actually improve the service; the staff don’t know what they’ll get anyway – by the time the tip comes, the service has been done. A survey found that the tip made very little difference to the quality of service.

Tipping is also divisive among friends. As I slide some coins onto a plate – feeling resentful as I’d already paid more than I’d budgeted – I wonder if my companion thinks I’ve not done enough. The last trip to a cafe ended in a discussion about tipping as we divided our bill. One meal ended with a friend calculating my exact tip and that has stayed with me some years, making me wonder about eating with that group again.

So what is meant to be a nice experience ends in a row, or at least unsaid judgement.

And as I sit in a salon, arrive at a hotel, eat my meal, ride in a cab, I’m wondering: will there be some kind of discord at the end of this? Often these are leisure and pleasurable things but I’m not feeling that. I may fall out with the service provider but also any companions.

And that is wrong.

I don’t also like the 10%+ service charge added at meals because the full price should be in the food bill – you are not charged more for a great retail experience or proofreading. And asking for the ‘discretionary’ amount to come off the bill often feels awkward.

Many places have done less than you expect, not more. The last time I ate out, my food took an hour to arrive. Staff are frequently slow to acknowledge or offhand or rush you.

Don’t cinema staff, shop workers, ushers all work to give us a good experience too?

It’s not even true that it’s small vs big businesses, for many places hoping for tips are big chains. And again, customers shouldn’t be paying their legal requirements for them.

A tip may be offered for exceptional service – no that doesn’t mean that taxi driver who helps you our of your wheelchair with your kids. That’s normal service, and people with special needs shouldn’t pay more. Kind words – especially written – should go as far. I was going to say, to a manager, but again, hierarchies come in, and it’s about garnering favour of superiors.

It’s pointed out by tip banning restaurateurs that a successful meal is due to more than just the person who serves you, and so letting the waiters take it all isn’t fair on the rest of the team, and that does include managers.

We should give good service due to pride in our work and caring about what we do. A tip shouldn’t buy us.

Tipping becomes about corruption – I’ll serve you only if you cross my palm. I’ll buy your service, whatever I ask and however I treat you.

I note several campaigns to end tips. That BBC article above includes several studies (the £25,000,000,000 tip industry being the most striking) and a link to this succinct comedian Adam Conover’s stance on Why Tipping Should be Banned

It’s one I’m now joining.

I suggest finally that big chains and those already charging highly are being greedy, but small cafes could just add 25p to each item. No the big spenders and large groups shouldn’t have to pay even more. But I bet this small increase would help with the deficit of losing tips.

Those who’ve already banned tipping and pay staff properly are the places I am attracted to visiting.

 

 

 

 

 

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Upward Spirals

I had many versions of a change of year post. 2016 was the year that Canterbury Cathedral had armed guards posted outside and Britain’s Snoopers’ Charter was finally snuck through. It was the beginnings of extreme disorder acts, curtailing non mainstream opinions. It was also the year that the Snowden movie came out.

 

Wherever I’ve given my attention, whatever era or story I’ve gotten into, I’ve found a pattern: control by the establishment. I heard a discussion recently which asked – even if the controllers change, the pattern seems eternal. Can we ever expect different?

 

The answer is yes of course, and that we should. Rather than a turning wheel that simply crushes all underneath it, it’s a spiral. You’ll know that I like spirals. In the sequel, I explain why I chose to call my first pair of novels Parallel Spirals and how it comes from my view of history – our own and the world’s.

 

Each one of those eras I read about moved on. The floodgates burst, despite the efforts to hold in the water of change. Yes, there was a new dam built, and another, but they burst too. And there is a difference in the water system – there is progress.

 

We may feel that the current dam is an especially scary one and seems reminiscent of dams that we hoped we’d burst forever.

 

But perhaps this is an especially significant twist of the spiral, because there is a new kind of water beyond this dam.

 

All these stories reminded that often it begins with a few. It begins with a few being different and brave, and it begins with a few not being brave or thinking and just following.

 

Snowden reminds us that those in the 1940s doing so were tried as war criminals – not just those senior officials, but those doing ordinary jobs. Those who just did their duty, out of fear or conformity, but who did it nonetheless.

 

It was a clear call to those now – from reporting under Prevent, to all the other forms of bullying and right up the scale. What is your part in this regime?

 

I am told that numerologically, 2017 is a year of new beginnings and thus clearing of what no longer is healthy. So I am encouraged, rather than discouraged that history has always cleared away and that our spiral does progress. Let it be a twist to be proud of.

There has even been one since I wrote this.

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Street Cat and Feral Heart: why I stopped supporting the Big Issue

It’s been a time of social justice films. Whether or not they are actually just is another matter.

I’m not going to analyse the quality of the films, although I will say that the two I saw this week were not films I especially rated.

One was My Feral Heart about a man with Downs syndrome who befriends a man who does community support work as a punishment for his involvement in animal welfare activism. What I got from that was the incredibly dreadful way that care homes treat people. The carers might mean well, but they have no idea about dignity, or that those who can’t communicate as they do or have the same motor skills are not less able to think and feel.

A Street Cat Named Bob is far too popular – unlike the smaller release film above which I saw at a festival and made a point of supporting.

Unlike I, Daniel Blake, or My Feral Heart, the protagonist’s situation is one we may struggle to sympathise with – for James is a homeless druggie. The cat with matching hair helps us be endeared. But I felt for Baz, the other homeless guy who James rejects and then finds dead of an overdose. We might too push away this snot nosed needy young man whom had no one to mourn him, no one to fight to put him on a recovery programme. It’s the Bazes that I really worry about. I worry how many there are. But I have heard statistics that say there are far less dying of illegal drugs than prescribed ones.

The Bob story is true. And of course I’m glad that James found a way off the streets and off harmful drugs – both sorts. But there was much I found ingratiating. One was his writing success, when he wasn’t even a writer. Many writers – me included – work for years, perhaps in poverty, until they gain recognition. I can understand how other Big Issue sellers and buskers would be resentful of the attention that a ginger tom gave James.

The shows that James’s ultimate success is that he has bought a property, in London, Europe’s most expensive city.

It reminded me of The Soloist, another true story about a musician living on the street, this time in LA. And I was angry too at the rules that Nathaniel – that’s the Soloist – was made to subscribe to by hostels and other helpers.

Just like Luke was expected to in the residential home for those with learning difficulties. Just like James was by his support worker and the Big Issue Office.

Are none of these aware of transactional analysis, and that it’s more than the special needs guy that it keeps in nappies?!

I understood why Nathaniel wanted to keep out of the system.

I have always sympathised with homeless people and often bought the Big Issue – I’ve also offered them articles.

I hate that the Big Issue is ‘a hand up not a hand out’. I’ve often asked what our issue is with the idea of giving for giving’s sake, without expectation of the recipient or expecting something out of it.

It’s called grace.

I also hate that the Big Issue is resocialisation into the world of capitalism, where you become useful by selling- a frankly often unwanted magazine of varying quality – and by learning about profit.

The way the Big Issue is portrayed here makes me decide not to support it again. I care about the people selling it. But if the office is full of blunt tough love and lots of rules – including CUTTING SELLERS’ SOURCE OF INCOME over a squabble about selling patches – then I will find another way to support those without homes.

Note again how patches are about territory. I saw Swallows and Amazons – the original – for the first and last time, and these children of military parents were claiming and defending territory in their games, making rules, making leaders to obey without dissent.

James not only lost his Big Issue selling, but he was banned from busking by the police for being the victim of an act of aggression. Busking is how James survived. (Unlike Daniel Blake, no mention of benefits offices here). If he was caught busking, James would lose his recovery programme.

And Joanne Frogatt’s Val was angering – are support workers that bad or is it just how they always appear on the screen? Why did he hug and thank her when she’d been horrid to him in the hospital and forced him to be on a prescribed, profit making drug which is harder to come off than the one he was trying to give up?

He had to go to chemist for a regular dose of methadone or lose his support programme and his disgusting home that only a homeless person would be glad of.

I noted how public his reporting to the chemist was – so that his almost girlfriend learns he’s on drugs when she comes in to shop and sees him taking the familiar little cup.

The Bob cat film also pertains to be about animal rights, but the intrusive procedures that deprived Bob of his intimate parts infuriated me. If we did that to a woman, we call it genital mutilation, if we do it to an animal we say (as in the words of Belle in the film) it’s giving the cat a chance to survive. It’s all about territory and fighting – just like both druggies, buskers and Big Issue sellers.

And all this done by a charity who gives ‘care’ for free and then sees James give his week’s food money to a harsh receptionist for the drugs he didn’t know he’d have to pay for. Cat drugs that is, prescription post operative ones.

Unlike Daniel Blake, which was clearly indicting the system, I wasn’t sure how My Feral Heart or A Street Cat Named Bob wanted their audience to feel. Was I meant to like these support workers? Was I meant to feel grateful for the organisations and institutions which these protagonists got embroiled in?

Was there not a critique of the police’s busking ban, the Big Issue’s selling ban (like benefit sanctions) and general tone towards its sellers, the animal welfare charity, the care home and that an independent man who’d looked after others is forced into?!

Has this not caused a furore about how prescribed drugs are creating a revenue out of those on proscribed ones, and are causing them as much harm?

I’ll have more to say about pro and prescribed drugs another time.

PS I wrote to the Big Issue for comment and didn’t really get any defence, save to say that James chose to be involved in a recent magazine and has a good relationship with them.

 

 

 

 

 

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I, Elspeth Blake

No, that’s not my surname. You’ll have worked out real one by now. But I’m showing solidarity with the film I’ve just seen – I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach’s latest instalment in the Cathy Come Home mould. More humorous I think than that 1960s docudrama, but I hope that this feature film has the same social impact.

I noted that this film about the welfare system chooses to base its story in an inner city, round a manually skilled older man with a medical condition, and a single mum. People we can feel truly on side with without any controversy.

But they’re not the only examples of those hit by state support’s cruelties.

These issues are found in the country too, and with people you might not guess. I’ve been in rooms where we talk about ‘the poor’ as those out there, statistics in particular postcodes. But they were in the room too. I was one of them.

Katie in the film takes 2 years to get a real home – and nowhere near the place she’s from. If you’re not in the vulnerable group of old or young, ill or disabled or with children, support of any kind can be even harder to get.

What struck me is the coldness of the system, the attempt at breaking you or resocialising you. Not just you the claimant, but those behind the desk.

Those in officialdom have lost their humanity.

They need to regain it – their ability to think, to feel, to question. This film is a good start.

I’ve often said that those in various corporate roles don’t understand any other kind of work and are almost robotic in their adherence to rules and shocking in their stupidity.

Are they chosen for those qualities or do they come after the years of employment in government offices? They are removed from the public – call centres, automated phone messages, PO box addresses, the internet with preset answer boxes that won’t send until you put in what they want. Quite often these decision makers (‘adjudicator’ was thought too big a word by the DWP, though it remains in the tax office and ombudsman) are also unnamed, as are trustees of grants for those in need, such as Charis – who have no understanding of the grace of their name. As I pointed out.

I have my own story to tell, but I don’t yet feel ready to tell it here. Of course, I have another which I have told. I also began a TV series script on a comedic satire on the world of work. My Near Professor Sally Gababa is in a different situation to Ken Loach’s Daniel and Katie – an academic misfit of middle years without children or illness, or not one that’s understood – which makes her life such a struggle.

I still recall the name of the jobcentre staff I lampoon.

I do remember nice ones too, and I’m glad that I, Daniel Blake shows one. There are those that helped make the film.

Rather than feeling depressed, I felt energised: The people on the street in solidarity with Daniel when he sprays his appeal on the wall. The packed cinema. And whether those people me had ever suffered what Daniel had – and you can’t tell or guess demographics – they came. They saw. And they clapped. They’re on side.

We need a system that’s likewise, where appeals are not rigged (read PHSO – the true story for more on that), where citizenship doesn’t have to be earned in narrow ways, where we’re not valued for the taxable income we generate. Where we’re not to fit drop down menus and preset boxes. Where, as one staff said to me of my claim, we make free use of the form. Where staff too are not faceless and also support us instead of being a mindless, soulless bullying chain. Where we’re not graded on a point system, where we’re not intimidated and intruded into.

I like the idea of citizenship being about grace, not earning. It’s the theology I have and it’s also the society I believe in. Even those who support Citizens’ Income sometimes talk about deserving – ie fitting their patterns. But I want a world where ‘paying your way’ and rejecting charity are no longer signs of dignity and worthiness; where we don’t have to put our time into categories of work and leisure, living to do the former to deserve a little of the latter. Where we’re not justifying ourselves and our existence to another who won’t be challenged.

“I, Daniel, Elspeth, [your name]” is a statement of individuality, of personhood. As Daniel says, we are not a government given number or term for those who need to use the system; we are ourselves, and we are worthy.

And we look to those who really drain resources, and that’s not those at the benefit queue, but quite the other end of society. There’s far worse handouts and passive income (benefit claiming is not passive) than the dole.

Daniel Blake didn’t tell me anything much new. If you don’t know about the system, go and see it. If you’re in it, go. And if you judge those in it, go. And if you work in it, go.

But let there be a discussion that is wider than just the issues of the film and those I can touch on here. And let there be, as with Cathy Come Home, the sea change that is needed.

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Other self published authors’ wisdom

“We read to know we’re not alone… We write to know it…”

Yes I am quoting yours truly – though the first bit was from screenwriter William Nicholson.

It’s good to find other writers and those who also chose to self publish and give advice and support on that.

Joanne Phillips is generous with her advice, which you can read here. I hope you’ll also discover her books too.

She posted of another writer, Jan Ruth, who wrote a brilliant piece subverting the negative self publishing attitudes.

I’ll be sharing more of my own thoughts on this and the rest of the world soon

 

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