Tag Archives: love

The Samaritan and the Priest

Another retelling for our time, based on the fact that this was the lectionary reading this week…

There was a man (or woman) lying in the road, hurting and in tatters. She cried out to a priest, more than once. It took a while for the priest to stop. When he/she did, they stayed a little while and half bathed the wounds of the broken traveller; then they accidentally but avoidably hurt the traveller and left them.

The priest hurried along to join the other priests and be praised for the policy they had kept and that they had the sense not to be involved with such a ragged person with victim mentality.

The other priests said that the priest had followed the rules. It’s better to help Samaritans, for you get more kudos for that. This priest had broken bread with the person in the road, so it wasn’t as worthy as stopping for a stranger and someone who is truly ‘other’.

Instead, the priest would preach about parables and love and helping our neighbour, and hint at her own good deeds among diverse peoples, to help with Inclusive status.

The priest would not be binding wounds themselves – that is against the Law; nor inviting into their home – even more inappropriate by priestly codes. Much better that the person lying there called the appropriate helplines for the designated systems which are set up by the Rulers to help.

Or, she could just wait, broken and starving, and without shelter, until a good Samaritan came along.

 

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A loving list for lockdown loosening

Thank you to all who spread love and hope and solidarity

Thank you to all who have the courage to speak out

Thank you to all whose musical contributions have helped raise our vibrations to love – such as John Martyn’s I Don’t Know About Evil, Only Wanna Know About Love (which I play as I type)

Thank you to all those who acted unselfishly, even if I disagree with the need to stay in, or stay apart; and those who defied it – you did what you believed was right

Thank you to all those who came into work and served us – again, regardless of what the danger really is, that perhaps believing the worst, you came in anyway

Thank you to all those in enforcement who act with compassion and common sense, and have the courage to question unjust orders; thank you to those who don’t give them

Thank you to all those who have worked so hard to find solutions, whether political or medical; and to those whose solutions listened to the people you are here to help, and who refused to create or legislate anything that harms people, the planet, or the values we stand for

Thank you to all those who printed what they believed to be true, or gave the others the opportunity to hear other points of view, and did not print what powerful others told them to, inciting fear

Thank you to all who don’t report other people for breaking lockdown rules or use apps which allow for government spying

Thank you to all who are considerate of their neighbours and don’t make this time harder through selfish noise, tempting as that may have been

Thank you to all those who are lenient, especially on those who can’t pay, and even better – those who’ve started questioning the fairness of their fees during this time

Thank you to all those who have broken down boundaries, reconnected, been resilient, found creative ways to connect and allow services of all kinds to continue

Thank you to all those who call for a more equal society; thank you for those who are helping make it

And thank you to all those who read this

Love to you all

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Tough Love isn’t love, it’s nannying

This might be a snaky logic one – a whole slither of snakes with tails in their mouths…

I did an internet search on the phrase ‘tough love’ and there were many results, from parenting and recovery (where it has its source) to foreign policy, health and government, to relationships.

None were from sources I particularly esteem.

“Tough love is no love at all” and its synonyms also rendered results in all the same spheres. There were many addiction recovery advocates who were firmly against, as well as those working/with depression and dementia who described the greater suffering this stance causes.

The first site in the latter category I found is no longer there, or I would like to have named the author and linked to it with her permission. She was hugely honest and said that she realised that the tough love she dealt in her relationships wasn’t love, but her pain, fear, her need to be right; and what she’d considered ferocity of love was really insecurity, arrogance and self righteousness.

Once she realised that real love isn’t tough, but gentle, she transformed her fractured relations.

And I thought: this woman is spot on.

Tough love is a lower energy response. It is what transactional analysists would call parent/child mode. I…your mum, teacher, ruler, boss, doctor, priest, law maker/enforcer know better than you.

And as your friend, sibling, partner, counsellor, I also assume a role of power over you. The playing field is tipped, and you’re slipping to the bottom end. You’ll fall off unless you do what I tell you to. I, with my greater experience, training, qualification (do you have that, really?) and the position I’ve been given (by you?), have rights to do this.

I explored a judge’s right to have power to enforce medical treatment – which I think should be zero – and this is pertinent as we face this multicountry viral problem. I’ve been researching vaccination, aware that what we may assume is a must and is safe and good for us may be something quite else. It is another example of the state’s power over us, taking sovereignty of our own choice and bodies away from ourselves to a ruling class that many of us didn’t meaningfully choose. I’ll have future examinations of the necessity, type and role of the state…

The Nanny State answer is the assumption that they – leaders and scientists and doctors – know better than I what is good for me, and then the really manipulative one: you (or your kiddie) will harm me (or my kiddie) if you don’t have this vaccination. Thus I’m going to need to make you to somehow, by fines, exclusion, or injection by force. You know the last of those is rape?!

Nanny States aren’t, for me, the ones that ban public smoking but those that have sin taxes – such as on sugar, which I’m not convinced is the evil made out to be (I’m far more worried about the unnatural substances in our homes) – and attempt to stop eating on public transport; those with laws about age restrictions, wearing helmets, and yes, whether we have to have particular tests and treatments… in short, narrowing our choices from how you cross the road to what shots (of any kind) we have. I note that there’s inconsistency: compare the UK and the Netherlands: one bans cannabis and prescribes motorcycle helmets; the other bans jaywalking and prescribes ID carrying.

But like all these others, nannying comes from not only arrogance but fear. It says – I dare not give you choice because I don’t trust you; or what I really mean is that my power over you might be diminished if I gave you choice, and you might not choose me or do what I say, and then, I’ll have no confidence. I don’t really have much in you, or in the possibility of other possibilities.

It might say: I feel responsible, or perhaps, more truly: someone else will hold me responsible and I can’t handle the guilt (or bad stats or telling off) I’ll get if I don’t intervene.

Nannying leads to tough love, for it says – you must do this my way, or there are repercussions. On even an interpersonal level, it’s often about punitive measures or exclusions, perhaps hoping that it makes the recalcitrant return to prescribed behaviours. Of course, there’s a chance of harming them and your relationship irrevocably.

The prescriber, the nanny, the tough lover isn’t prepared to see that their idea of right, truth, best practice and what this person (or people) need isn’t necessarily what they think; and that their way of getting it might be closer to a grown up tantrum than anything we might seriously call policy. I will arrest you, fine you, turf you out, not speak to you, stop your money, invade you, watch you, drag you to where I think you should be…

Often, this is into a system which in itself needs scrutiny. I’m alarmed that homeless people as well as those on benefits and deemed to be addicted or ‘a danger to themselves’ are told: this is what you need to do to get our help – you may not have asked for it. They often have to sign a non negotiated agreement. And there’s often ‘loved ones’ who push towards these systems.

Such systems themselves need tough love.

As this time will show us more than ever, there’s not one way to do things, and the way that we’re used to doing them may not be shown to be a valid one. There’s subjugation of will, the normalisation of the nonconformist, the use of threats and force to gain desired outcomes – desired for those dictating and enacting it, not those on the receiving end.

Does this really come out of care? There is a fear of loss, but this is actually exacerbated by tough love behaviour rather than alleviated. If you’re ill, and someone tells you that you must undertake prescribed procedures in order for them to continue with you, you not only risk them not continuing with you but in not continuing – for such a response jeopardises recovery. And what you enjoin might actually have a deleterious affect. You don’t know everything about another person and we are all so diverse. That’s why I’m a passionate advocate against one size fits all solutions and systems, to this virus and to what we build after it.

There is healing which harms,

remedy which ruins

imperatives impair

Real love gives freedom and agency and respects choice and differentiation

Love is gentle, not harsh; it sees people as equals to cherish, not inferiors to instruct

Love doesn’t have requirements, especially not self serving ones

Tough love is no love at all, but need

Well, the snake has been more singular and straight than I expected, but we need to keep mindful of serpents, and keep being wise and asking questions…

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A message for ministers and a dream for all of us

A version of this is being shared with various ministers and newspapers:

I ask for measured measures about the virus. I’m alarmed about draconian steps and proposals. I am calling on all ministers to be proportional and wise, to not silence dissenters (who may have some valid points – after all, such a surreal situation deserves scrutiny), and to be aware that any enforced measures (such as testing, closures, bans, treatment, seizure or lockdown) have deleterious effects and decrease public trust and sympathy. Isolation creates economic and health crises. There’s a real threat of swift starvation for those in poverty. Quarantine can mean greater loneliness or relationship stress – from passive smoking to abuse. Mandatory vaccination is a human rights issue: not only is it abuse to insert a foreign body against your will, we don’t know what that body really does and if it’s yet safe. It also assumes this is the only model of healthcare, and we are aware that it’s a lucrative one. We have the inalienable right to our own bodies and to the care we choose. (I support natural medicine – the greater use of which would take the pressure off national allopathic medicine’s resources and allievate earnings loss amongst those workers). Many people are in fact voluntarily following official advice; and there’s a social collateral element which assists with that. The aggressive use of enforcement officers makes a democracy into a tyranny. I would like to see this country lead in its handling, by recognising the need to associate and to continue to allow us make our own informed sensible considerate choices, and that we can’t be together apart.

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I’m aware that the measures aren’t being followed by all and that there’s a belief that not doing so endangers not only yourself but others, and that governments have the right to take measures to enforce where safety is concerned… but that comes down to whether the establishment has executive powers over our own sovreignty, what model of government and healthcare we should have… all of which I’ll be taking up in forthcoming posts…

 

My dream… reverse no touch

In my dream, it was the opposite of what we’re asked to do. Instead of trying to avoid touch,  keeping far apart, avoiding physical affection…this was where we hugged and clasped the hands of even strangers if they were willing, for each touch was an act of healing and solidarity, and we needed to spread love to all.

It’s why there’s something counterintuitive, and perhaps suspicious about this.

Surely healing comes through touch, not avoidance? It feels like the premise for a dystopian sci-fi.

It recalls one: Metropolis where although the workers stand close in a lift, their heads are bowed and they don’t see or speak to one another, and they’re resigned to their minion life.

I fear that this distance will become standardised, that we’ll rely more on electronic transactions – which, unlike in person ones are trackable – and that this fear and wish to be a good citizen will make us more compliant and malleable generally. It’s a classic totalitarian sign to break up meetings and/or to require state permission to have them.

So as we try to be responsible and resist the spread, it’s good to be aware and to find other ways to connect.

Before things got stricter, I took a spread the love walk, silently and intangibly sending love to all those I passed (at the requisite distance) to their homes and offices, even their parked vehicles. I also greeted some strangers, smiled, and warmly thanked those that keep services open. And it made me feel happy too.

And if I sound naive – why should germs and fear have power over God and love?

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I’m aware that much of the world has gone into lockdown since I wrote that, and of the belief that being out is selfish because it spreads the disease. I’ve actually been out little, and I respect the health of others, but I have been doing some research from pandemics to papers to priestesses and Pasteur, and I am seeing different possibilities emerge, as I’ll share anon…

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Why Valentine’s day is wrong

I am fed up of the 3 days we have where commerce makes us feel we must dine out and buy cards and gifts to show our love: to our romantic partners and each of our parents. In Britain, there was a short lived attempt to introduce a nicely spaced Grandparents’ day. (Note the other three are in February, March, June; this was intended for September).

It makes those without those feel a great sense of lack and loss.

It makes other kinds of meet ups quite difficult at those times.

This year in England and Wales, Valentine’s day coincides with the school half term holiday; the saint’s day falls in the centre of the week. That means that expensive booked up meals reign for up to 10 days, and two weekends. Just in case you should try to sneak your partner out for a meal on a different day, with a normal menu. No discount vouchers are accepted at this time. Despite creating demand, they expect we’ll pay more. And then there’s all the treats and activities aimed at lovers. And it can feel awkward to go out not in a romantic couple; you can worry how you’re seen at the cinema with a person you’re not dating.

Part of me is angry at the idea that the world is about being – like the animals in the ark – in a two. Couples are normal, families are normal. People existing outside of the romantic mating pairs and their offspring and wider circle – involving more pairs – are odd.

But there are many of us who don’t fit the two by two model. We might be single – for now, or a long time. We may not have children. Many families have repartnering which means that you’ve more than two parents and more than two families who join at weddings. Some of us believe that you can partner with more than two. Not everyone partners with the opposite sex.

And all that is fine. But sometimes it can feel hard, or something to have to justify.

Some of us question that whole why two people for life paradigm anyway.

Having just been to a wedding, I’m very aware of the love industry. Some of it’s about keeping the tradition of marriage fashionable, for cohabitation doesn’t involve much for business to benefit from: no dressing up, venues to hire, catering, flowers, photography or planners. It’s also work for priests and registrars, and for lawyers.

Although traditionally religious people are often those in favour of marriage, marriage as an institution is not in the Bible. The Old Testament/Jewish part is all about affairs and polyamory. Jesus and the most prolific New Testament writer appear to be single.

St Valentine might well be canonised by the church for he encouraged people to enter the sort of relationship they endorse, even though it was counter culture to do so, like resisting his festival is today.

Marriage has historically much been about a business transaction as any kind of real partnership. Today, the legal part is emphasised in the service – I’ve even seen a bride given the certificate as her property to stop her husband selling her. No, I didn’t time travel and I was still in Britain.

And Valentine’s day is about finding someone that you can marry and then showing the person you married…well, the love isn’t so important as the trappings. The actual relationship we have, including the physical one, is something harder to sell, so we invent ways that can be translated into trade. A ring. A meal. A ticket. Something comestible.

I love that there’s also Quirkyalone day today. That doesn’t mean that you are alone, in any sense, or always will be. But can’t today be about ‘celebrating love, wherever it is found’? I pinched that sermon title from Trevor Dennis, dean of vice at Chester Cathedral, and I use it about my novel.

I’d like to broaden that remit to all love, in any relationship, including for God and ourselves.

Today isn’t a day to book out your restaurant and for your museum (Saffron Walden!) to have kinky adult craft classes, and create a sense of longing and misfit, guilt and exclusion.

Fill the cinemas and cafes with your non heterosexual exclusive romantic couple units.

That can include units of one.

Your love nor your worth is nor shown by the stationery and floristry you received today.

Nor whether you’ve had an ivory dress/special suit and a ring and a piece of paper to show that state and perhaps church (or another religion) sanction the relationship you’ve entered.

(Go and watch Michael Winterbottom’s Jude if you need convincing re the ‘bit of paper to tell me I’ve got to love you’).

Today is simply the middle of February; it’s also Ash Wednesday – don’t start me on that! – so whether you’re eating yesterday’s pancakes to defy the Church, having ash imposed on your forehead, having a special meal or meet up, or a day much as usual for you, as SARK says:

You are seen, you are known, you are loved.

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Kate Winslet 3: patterns in her lovers

Further (and probably final – for now) musings on the 20 year career of Ms Winslet…

 – the short term intensive relationship

Titanic, Labor Day, The Reader, perhaps Finding Neverland; the first two are a matter of days in isolation – one on a voyage, the other, a weekend; the next, a summer

– Her loves set her free

They’re often childlike men and not macho – Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) in Titanic who spits and runs and has a boyish aspect, though an inner maturity and sortedness; James M Barrie (Johnny Depp) in Finding Neverland who dresses as a Red Indian and wears spoons on his nose at dinner – truly his Peter Pan; Bilal in Hideous Kinky does handstands and magic tricks and has little sense of real responsibility or adult relating; Miles in The Holiday; Brad in Little Children wants to skateboard and play ball, and isn’t comfortable in his relationships or responsibilties. In The Reader, her lover’s a teenager half her age. In Iris, John Bayley’s perhaps a little bumbling and eccentric and less experienced in relationships; Iris looks after him in a childlike way until her illness; in Enigma, Tom’s a genius in meltdown. Monty in Mildred Pierce is less boyish physically, but he’s a playboy in both senses; he leads her out sexually, but he and worldly wise Wally contribute to Mildred’s downward arc. I am not sure Monty can be said to contribute to Mildred’s rise in confidence or business success – rather, he reaps its rewards.

Note how often chasing, fights, games come into the halcyon days with her loves – Jude, Iris, Eternal…, Titanic.

Jack, Bilal and James bring her character out; Kate’s character brings out John and Michael; in Eternal…, Clem embodies what’s in Joel’s head.

The only macho man so far in Kate’s career is in Labor Day, where Frank’s the controlling one, although he does a traditional women’s thing – he bakes and feeds the family, but then ties up Adele and plays baseball, the right of passage to manhood also in A Kid in King Arthur’s Court, and in Little Children. I would say that another Frank in Revolutionary Road is controlling – but then, his behaviour leads to demise. Note that Leo’s role here is a reverse of his Titanic one.

Ruth disarms PJ of his machismo in Holy Smoke.

Men who give her power and encouragement lead her forward – Jack lets Rose come onto him and take the lead, and he contrasts with her controlling Mum and fiancé by giving Rose the tools for a life of freedom and fulfilment away from stricture.

By working together as equals, and Hester and Tom solve the Enigma.

Kate’s played a woman interested in other women (even subtly, tangentially) 4 times:

Heavenly Creatures is all about a female friendship that’s arguably love (though it’s too complicated to simply call lesbian); in Holy Smoke she dances with another women and kisses her sensuously; Iris is bisexual, and so’s Hester in Enigma, whose drive towards solving a mystery with Tom is because both have feelings for Claire (in the book it’s more obvious). And then, there’s Veda in Mildred Pierce, a hard to place mother daughter relationship where Mildred has physical thrills around her daughter and kisses her on the lips, and fights like a spurned lover. In the novel of Little Children, Sarah had a relationship with a woman before she met her husband.

Her loves are her undoing

Like Shakespeare plays, Kate’s onscreen loves come mostly in two categories, often not overlapping:

Those drive her mad or to near death; and those who give her new life (tradegy/comedy)

The former are in Heavenly Creatures, Hamlet, Jude, Quills, Revolutionary Road, Mildred Pierce

Marianne’s first love in Sense and Sensibility is her undoing (the charismatic, handsome, playful libertine Willoughby), but the second, older love (Colonel Brandon) is reliable and moral.

– Escape through imagination, travel, learning

This is recurrent and the most empowering: even if it goes wrong, it’s due to forces or society.

In Heavenly Creatures, Pauline and Juliette create worlds, but are severed through paranoid families and schools and a legal system

Jude‘s advanced through learning and geographically moving, but classism and judgement about marriage creates poverty leading to tragedy and parting

Travel and the search for the spiritual (which involves some imagination and reading) empower Julia of Hideous Kinky and Ruth of Holy Smoke.

The desire to travel – and not getting it – thwarts April in Revolutionary Road; and its lack is behind the problems of Maddie in Quills and Adele in Labor Day; but it opens up possibilities for Rose in Titanic, Iris in The Holiday

Reading is the solace of Maddie in Quills, whose goodness in life comes from vicariously not being good on the page, and of Hannah in The Reader. Iris Murdoch’s whole existence is around words and worlds – academically and in fiction.

Isolation in body and spirit causes demise; keeping on metaphorical corsets means loss of mind and self, and ultimately, life.

It’s meant to be a warning to do differently, I think, rather than suggesting that bohemianism is destructive, so stay conventional: I think those stories say the reverse.

Breaking out of that gives the autonomous women Kate regularly chooses a better life, a life to the full, and is one of the reasons I enjoy watching her and following her career.

Next season will be Juliette Binoche to go with her new film, A Thousand Times Good Night

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A Village Affair by Joanna Trollope

1980s Wiltshire, England: a new young family joins the prosperous conservative village of busy bodies and committees… but Alice finds herself drawn most into the gentry’s wayward daughter Clodagh… 

This story would work better if it were not about lesbians. There is social collateral around this subject. People reading it are likely to be one or be affected by them. Whereas a novel can give great support and understanding to real life issues, this book seems to say that lesbians are shocking and unsuitable as realistic partners. At one point – late after the affair is discovered – Alice tells her father in law that love between women has always been belittled and made to seem a bit foolish. That would be true of this book.       

The reactions of everyone in the story give credence and permission to all the bigots to carry on being shocked and judgemental. Only teenage Michelle resigns her work at the shop in protest; and the only other kind person is pushed away and makes little effect on others. The overlooked father in law sounds like he is going to sympathise; but he says: if you’d married a better man, this wouldn’t have happened. At the very end, Alice is comfortable and independent and her snooty friend confesses how Alice is missed. And the new local vicar supports her. But it’s many pages too late.

If this had been a hetty affair, a selfish liaison that makes someone come alive would make sense. But love between women is something else, and I wonder if Joanna understands it. Does she not realise that many women come out after several years of marriage, to realise this is who they are, what they have hidden about themselves? She makes Alice ripe for this, a young unsure woman from an unhappy home who feels safe and adopted by her boyfriend’s family and accepts the life he offers but never feels quite right. There’s no hints about feelings for women until Clodagh bursts out hers presumptuously.

Clodagh and Alice are not given a chance to talk about whether they could live together realistically. We know that Alice’s children adore Clodagh and that she is involved in their family in a practical way. The affair comes up without a conversation and dies again in much the same way.

I hated how passive so many are against the nosy control of others – Lettice feeling she has the right to tell Clodagh to get a life; the vicar calling inlaws and a doctor to give powerful drugs to make Martin sleep, parents arriving on doorsteps without permission.

Although the affair does mean a new stronger start for Alice, that Martin finds the right woman, and that Alice’s parents have a better relationship, there are many who lose out. Martin’s family are banished and have no growth in their own marriage and lose the mother or their grandchildren who was like a daughter to them. The villagers aren’t really ever challenged over their reaction, nor learn from it. And Clodagh is on an aeroplane, alone, to God knows what but the god of the story gives no clue; her fierce heart broken, but not really having learned or gained anything else.

I was also unsure about Joanna’s storytelling style. The beginning is slow – there’s nothing to draw us in and only at the end of the 1st chapter do we see that Alice is mysteriously upset. The style is short and not great writing to start with. We don’t meet Clodagh for 70 pages. There’s a lot of back story – ch 2 is filling us in on the parent’s lives like a biography. She gives details about carpets, hair and plants which sometimes slow down the e/motion. When she does give us action and dialogue, it is often in doubly past tense –  “he had said” – putting up glass, making us feel we’re watching a live event on video and are not really there.

This scenario might have been chosen for its taboo and tension, but I think it has done damage, and has perpetuated the struggles of gay women in the midst of Thatcher’s section 28 law into modern times when I hope we should know better and to give this complex situation the understating and support on all sides that it deserves.

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Erotic Justice

This is the name of a book by Marvin M Ellison, an American academic theologian.

(I resisted the pun I could make about the title of my other blog on banking.)

I’ve taken this article down for now as I want to give the subject – kink/BDSM – some more thought before saying my public views. My initial reaction was confusion as to how eroticising acts of humiliation, subjugation and pain could be healthy and loving. I neither want to be judgemental or prudish, or to hurt those I may meet who are part of this world by seeming to reject and condemn them or at least, a part of them. But I also want to stand up for what I think too, and for principles I believe are important.

It’s a hard balance to strike, and I am not sure I have got it right yet.

(See the next post on Whistleblower for a related topic).

 

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I Love You Phillip Morris

The trailer and DVD packaging suggests a laughathon but this is misleading. Those wanting a lighthearted, feel good escape movie will be confronted by some heavy material, including heart break and terminal illness – dying is in the first scene. And those not wanting a silly buddy movie will be wrongly put off a true story which is touching and has some important issues.

It’s those issues that make me write.

The DVD extras make no mention of a campaign to release Steven Jay Russell, who has been in prison in solitary confinement for 13 years. His crime officially is for being a repeat offending con man and escapee. However, being in Texas and under Bush’s presidency, the film hints that the real reason for this severity might be his homosexuality.

Russell says ‘nobody gets hurt.’ In fictional con movie The Brothers Bloom, another Steven says ‘the best tricks are where everyone gets what they want’. The crimes committed are mostly impersonation. Although never trained as a lawyer, Steven Russell performed very well as one. He says in the film to the judge that he didn’t want to see his client – ‘a humble woman’ – roughbeaten by the slick serial litigator for the other side. The judge saw his point – and so do I.

Reading this week about the early King Henrys of England, it emerges that the power of law came from this era – something still in force in England and therefore arguably taken to America by settlers. Many of us internationally feel angry with finance and government at present. The other pillar, law – a ‘service’ many of us can’t afford – is in cahoots with other pillars to enforce a system that often isn’t just. Law should be about justice and protecting the innocent, but so often it’s an expensive form of bullying and is more concerned about property than right. That Steven used it for his own ends is what many people do anyway. He wanted to release his partner from prison – who had served on a minor offence, so he impersonated those who had the power release Phillip. He helped the ‘humble woman’ win her case.

But mostly Steven was motivated by love. It was often twisted into materialism where Steven believed money and gifts buy happiness and that obvious status symbols are our birthright and the signs of success. His partners – Phillip at least – didn’t need that life to believe Steven loved him or treated him well, and it ultimately led to over a decade of separation. Steven made money by putting large amounts of his company’s money in high interest accounts whilst it sat there between transactions. That to me that is acumen, not a crime. It didn’t seem to be hurting anyone – unlike the financial problems of now. He lived the life of investment bankers – and yet very few of those have suffered, especially not those at the top. Instead, their country has bailed them out with public money. Although Steven took a large cut from that fund, it was interest that wasn’t being made without his resourcefulness and the company benefitted as well as him. What would have been better was to have told the board rather than do it secretly – although one asks if the board would have let him keep any of it and if they alone would have benefitted from his idea instead. It seems the fierce punishments for fraud really relates to the value put on money and possession.

Another real life conman was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me if You Can. His reward was to be head hunted for a new career that utilised his gall, not punished for it. Why is Steven Russell so different? One wonders if what really upsets the establishment is not the innocent people are duped but that their precious professions are tainted by unqualified outsiders who can ape them and do just as well. It is not that I condone con artistry – and was shocked at his feigning AIDS – but that the punishment for Steven is far too high. He has not harmed anyone. The watershed at end of the film might have changed him, as he realises that that high lifestyle is not necessary and that being a conman hides from being his real self. Instead of being able to put that into practice, he has been locked away for all but one hour each day since 1998, separated from Phillip and the rest of the world.

 His sentence is a ridiculous 144 years – the number beloved of Jehovah’s witnesses and the book of Revelations – more than most serial killers and sexual abusers.

This is disproportionate punishment and is another misuse of public money as well as warped justice.

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