Incendiary Divisiveness

I didn’t really want to blog about the UK General Election, I am not really knowledgeable enough, in fact, I fear that my typical cuss-filled indignant rhetoric more likely sends people careering in the opposite direction to the one I hope to inspire them to follow… but here goes.

It’s nearly 10am, it’s already voting day, so forgive the unedited diatribe in places and the brevity and incompleteness in others… I tried to give up on this when the clock went past 2am last night, but I can’t… it’s incomplete, borderline bonkers rambling but…

Over the past few years, I have tried to live mindfully and joyfully, generous in spirit as much as deed, content in the moment; adding to the goodness in the world rather than detracting from it if I can.  Not easy but amazing when I don’t balls it up.

The trouble is that my spirit animal is a Jekyll and Hyde mutant; mostly I flump happily about being a (not stinky) panda-rabbit-canary; but if poked too hard, I combust into a rabid mange-crazed miniature poodle cum angry goose, [spitting] llama-hornet.

Although I am mostly one of the calmest, smiliest, forgivingiest people I know, once I “go”…

*full-body cringes*

Yesterday I strayed onto Facebook (in my defence, it’s that time of the month, your honour) and ended up doing exceptionally well at knee-jerk reacting to something written by a childhood friend.

So here’s the VERY long read of why I am voting Labour, as the Facebook friend encouraged me to share a positive argument for who I think people should vote for in the General Election.

Too late really, and I’m kidding myself I’m influential anyways.

Dear everyone,

Sorry I knee-jerk.  My beloved Dad has reminded me since I was tiny that I can be very indignant.  I know my indignation veers towards indignity and I’m forever working on it.

It’s really hard to vote with a long term view as history shows that the country will generally flip flop backwards and forwards between Conservative and Labour and neither party will appear to make significant progress, their failures to deliver on their promises excused by the overwhelming clean up job they claim they’ve had, undoing what the other guys did.  But we should try.

It’s really hard to vote with an altruistic world view when you are fearful of what you might personally lose – unemployment benefits to tax increases to offshore tax havens – no one wants less for themselves or their families.  But we should try.

It’s really hard to vote with a clear view of what is the truth any more, not only from the mouths of politicians but also more and more, the media.  But we should try.

So I’ve partly made my decision based on views expressed by people who are experts in their field or that are backed up by data, not on political issues but real life, not on the past but on the future, and where possible, outside this tiny volatile campaigning period, for example:

Climate change is real

There’s no logic in doing anything other than hurtling ourselves forward to renewable energy as fast as we can and setting ourselves the highest possible standards for a clean, earth-friendly way of life.  Money can buy a lot of things, including bottled water, top-class sanitation, organic food, etc but not actually the key things like the right amount of rainfall at the right time so crops don’t fail.

Ultimately there won’t be enough work for all, we will have to reinvent how we distribute money

Finland already gets it… others do too.

State investment in growth is more successful than private investment

Even US Republicans see that state-owned utilities can work better for the community

Capitalism, compassionate or otherwise, is an unsustainable model.  You cannot make a profit indefinitely without someone else losing out; no one wants to lose out.  It’s highly unlikely that the same people will indefinitely lose out.  The west are most likely to suffer in the relatively near future as the “we’ll do your work cheaper” underdogs of China and India gain more momentum… honestly, the Polish immigrants really aren’t the worry regarding job theft, your boss’ boss is.

So that’s the biggies: saving the earth, having money to live on.  On balance, my views chime most sweetly with those of the Greens, Labour and the LibDems.

I have voted for both Labour and LibDems in the past.

With hindsight, my superfangirl crush on Nick Clegg (fuck off, he IS so cute) may have blinded me to the fact that ultimately the LibDems are a bit too intellectual do-good and sort of can’t-put-IKEA-furniture-together plonkerish for any long term mass appeal.  The coalition decision was so lame.  Oh Nick………

The Greens are gorgeously ahead of their time, I don’t believe society can move that fast, so whilst I would possibly vote Green for absolute integrity, it’s tactics time and so it’s Labour until we catch up.

The rest of my opinion is formed wholly from 1) those of my beautiful (autistic) daughter –  like how for her it’s an unalterable unswervable truth that these guys and these guys and these guys and all the other refugees like them have as much right to be saved from the sea as this guy who was out surfing and the press coverage should also be proportionate and the effort we make to save them, to listen and understand should be equally so – and 2) the journey of being her mother.

We spend years teaching our kids to be nice, play fair, share, say sorry, listen… but we don’t do that so much any more.  Did we mean for them to to be nice, play fair, share, say sorry, listen only to people like them?  I hope not…

Many people laugh at the idealism and purity of kids, saying “it’s not the real world”, but I think it could be and I want it to be…

So… why the autism thing?  I’m supposed to have stopped writing about the autism thing.   #actuallyautistic people, don’t beat me up, I’m not doing the whole “autism Mum” thing.

When I was going through the autism diagnostic process with my daughter, or trying to, I experienced for the first time what it’s like when people just don’t believe you.  When the look in their eyes changes to skepticism and judgement and they stop listening.  When their long-held belief system is triggered and no evidence to the contrary will help.

I am white, my husband earns a great salary, my parents are teachers, I went to a grammar school, I live in the constituency that I was born in: it has returned a solid Tory vote probably ever since there were Tories and votes; I moved back here when my daughter was born from my edgier London Borough of Lambeth home partly to be closer to my parents but, yes, the Ofsted “Outstanding” primary school catchment area was what finalised our house search criteria and I’m 5 minutes drive from a Waitrose.

I am privileged, and however hard I try I reckon I am subconsciously making judgements like I am entitled beyond what I can probably even understand.

This is not social commentary, this is about a penny-drop moment.  Despite my lifetime of ease, yes, ease, absolute ease, and control, I was suddenly powerless, stymied, ignored.  My daughter and I had been put in a stereotype box: “older middle-class parent, only child, spoiled princess, a bit of tough love and a reality check needed”.  Dismissed.

Fuck yeah, that was a reality check.  If a grammar school educated woman (who was on the debating society, even) who’s held senior management level jobs and travelled globally with her work cannot articulate herself sufficiently well to a SENCO or a paediatrician to bust past their outmoded beliefs, how the fuck is someone already judged as from a minority going to get the support they need and deserve equally?

If you don’t think we ALL judge minorities, then check out these Harvard implicit bias tests and then think again – go on – I actually cried at some of my results.

So, from that point, I decided I would believe people.  Listen and believe; fight my inner, subconscious judge whenever I could.  OK, there will always be cheats and blaggers but not many, not really, most people just want to live decently…

So getting to my point rather circuitously, the one thing that has influenced my vote more than experts or data was attending the AGM of the National Autistic Society of which I am a member.

In the auditorium that day, I saw people who were absolutely broken.  Not because they were autistic and disordered, not because we are all judgy-faced and the NAS needs to do more snazzy awareness campaigning, quite simply because of the Department of Work and Pensions and the recent rapid, inhumane changes to the benefit system.

I listened and listened and frankly there was no way you could not believe what was being said.  But it should have been unbelievable because it was so incredible, capability assessments that meant you lost your benefits because you didn’t attend the assessment when in fact you were incapable of getting to the assessment… refusal to accept email correspondence, insistence on telephone communication from people who as part of their disability could not adequately express themselves verbally…

Inhumane and appalling.  It was so upsetting, I was SO naive and privileged.  I was so guilty of ignorance.  Fellow human beings in our own country, supposedly protected by our laws: desperate, defeated, devastated.  It was a whole other blog post, nope, a whole blog, many blogs of stories… not just the lack of compassion but the levels of cruelty, just in that one room.

Lives discounted, destroyed.  People with nowhere to turn other than a small charity that tries its best to support them.  I cried when I got home.  I was so ashamed of us all…

So, I cannot in clear conscience vote for The Conservatives and I find it hard to focus on the positive “sell” for any one of the other parties over the passionate overwhelming desire to stop the current government making any more decisions that negatively impact those who need help.  Brexit and everything else pales into insignificance.

We are all such haters, me included, so angry…

“Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members – the last, the least, the littlest.”

~Cardinal Roger Mahony

Other rambling thoughts that are part of this but too tired to edit in effectively:

People who are not autistic still tend to say “autistic spectrum disorder”.  Autistic people are not disordered, they are simply different; you can believe what you like but if you actually believe THEM, that is what they say – I believe them, being different to the ‘norm’ is hard enough.

We have to recognise our tendency to stick with our beliefs over others’, even when those others are better placed to decide what is true and right… and we need to recognise this at the ballot box particularly.

The ‘norm’ isn’t even a reliable measure: 100 years ago it was normal that UK women didn’t have the right to vote; 50 years ago it was normal that homosexuality was a crime; 20 years ago women still paid full VAT on sanitary products and we’re still a year off the zero-rate implementation…

Muslim is normal, black is normal, wanting nice things is normal, expecting good healthcare that is free at the point of delivery is normal.  When seeking guidance and support, when telling your fellow countryman that your life is becoming untenable under the current Government, it is NOT normal to be treated with suspicion, to have your reality doubted and questioned.

Normal is a construct at best, flexible, ever-changing, affected by place, time and perspective: majority versus minority; being in a minority is hard enough.

Boris Johnson is just as crap as Diane Abbott but he’s a white man and she’s a black woman.  Let’s shrug about him and persecute her.

I’m in a couple of minorities: the stay-at-home Mum, the home educator.  Hardly the most persecuted, I’m not moaning, but it’s opened my eyes more and more to how people make assumptions and hold negative damning opinions based in little to no fact; how rumours and sensationalised nonsense spreads so much quicker than the dull truth.

Autistic people can tend to struggle with social and societal norms – from school to the workplace and wider – this is most often seen as a deficit, an anomaly… it’s so easy to stand in a position of what feels like superiority, to label, sum up and judge.

Yet anti-depressant prescription levels have doubled in the last decade.  From 2014 to 2015, UK anti-depressant prescriptions increased by 3.9million to 61million.  The next largest leap in prescription numbers was for “antisecretory drugs and mucosal protectants, used to prevent and treat gastro-intestinal ulcerations” AKA Omeprazole and friends, feeling the reflux burn, anyone?

It seems we are not just ignoring but now medicating ourselves against the ever more overwhelming inhuman environments and expectations we are creating.

We’re becoming ever more numbed.

Expectations for the high levels of energy and emotional wellbeing the ‘normal’ Brit should maintain in an increasingly pressured and toxic existence – large class sizes, testing and SATs, public transport conditions, open plan offices, 24/7/365 consumerism… let alone zero hours, what about all the standard contracts that automatically opt us out of max working hours legislation, we don’t even mention those, that’s “normal” – increasingly unrealistic expectations for ‘normal’ people to cope with – we’re under such a barrage that we’re firing up our primitive self-preservation instincts when we’re in no real danger at all.

We’re becoming ever more selfish.

Creativity is being cut out of the curriculum, playing fields are being developed on, fuck I don’t have time to tell you all the things that scare me, I would need to commit to a whole manifesto and although my Mum and a few others think I should go into politics, actually it would kill them if my smutty slutty past and drunken wayward behaviours were wider public knowledge so erm… (temporarily puts head on pillow for micro nap)…

So I’m voting Labour.  Please don’t write that off as “well she’s got a disabled daughter, she would vote Labour”… It was not an easy decision: they are the party that puts my right to home educate my daughter most at risk.

Home education is not a lifestyle choice for us, my daughter’s sensory processing problems are severe enough that she cannot remain dressed for the hours required for school attendance without devastating consequences for her quality of life.  If home education becomes outlawed in the UK, we would have to emigrate.

I’m gambling that with Brexit and everything else, they’ve not got time to prioritise that in the near future…

Simplistically for my daughter’s freedom, I would be best voting Conservative, and I still can’t.

4 thoughts on “Incendiary Divisiveness

  1. Well said! Anyone with a social conscience I hope would vote for Labour. The reason I vote Labour is because I believe in a fair society that supports those who are less able. You articulated your reasons very well! xx

    Liked by 1 person

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