Tag Archives: WPLongform

It’s a Fine Line between Politeness and Progress

I am English so naturally I struggle with this fine line.

The problem I have is that, when erring on the side of politeness, there is always a little voice in my head shouting, “Hypocrite! You’re a bloody hypocrite! Don’t let them go away with that view unchallenged – whilst you’ll put yourself in a vulnerable position, how can you live with yourself knowing that person is going to loudly perpetuate that complete tosh to anyone who’ll listen???”

I’d really rather not get into debates with everyone I encounter… but then I find the most narrow-minded to be the ones who incite discussion on controversial subjects. As if to assert themselves from the start and strong-arm me into automatic concurrence.

I think it could be argued that they are spoiling for a fight.

Etiquette vs Education

Yesterday an older gentleman came round to tune the piano. Firstly, he denigrated digital keyboards as a replacement for instrumental pianos which, I must admit, I could wholeheartedly agree with… after all, digital has it’s place but is no replacement! But he “hates” it.

Then he spied my bottles on the side table… and began to harp on about how he doesn’t drink and that drink is terrible stuff and so on, and that he “hates” people who drink. Again, can’t massively argue with the negatives of the demon drink although I see no need to nobble someone in their own home. I can’t drink anyway so he was barking up the wrong tree… it’s there for my “terrible” friends!

Next it was smoking. Again, completely agree but decided at this point to say, “Actually i enjoy the occasional cigarette…”, to which he began harping on about how he hates” smokers and that he knew some old lady who had smoked like a chimney and how she was a bad person for that… and, “…she died! Ha!!” WTF??? I should have kept quiet but felt imposed upon in my own home by that point, which is just unreasonable. This conversation had only started after he had finished the job for goodness sake and my precious time was being wasted on ranting and it wasn’t constructive.

Next he mentioned a call he had to make to tune a piano, back in the 70’s. He had arrived to a group of people all smoking “that weed”. “It’s really bad that stuff – if you smoke it once it damages your brain for the rest of your life.” “You’re never the same again.” “It’s evil dangerous stuff people who smoke it are weird and bad.” “I’ve met them, there’s something wrong with them!” “It’s illegal too isn’t it?” “I hate people who do that.”

Now I have to admit that I am a defender of the medicinal properties of said weed.  I am all too aware of the issues – mainly restricted to teenage boys and folk with pre-existing conditions – but far more frequently, I have seen too many adult people benefit immeasurably to be able to accept alcohol as fine and cannabis as not. I’m yet to see anyone tangibly physiologically benefit from drinking alcohol. Relaxation and loss of inhibition don’t count.

But

I couldn’t bring myself to educate this man. However hard the little voice in my head tried, my mouth would not commit to the noose in that way. I find that the narrow minds of the loudly judgemental ignorant are what poison and destroy sense, free social discourse and progress. I mean, the guy had just told me in no uncertain terms that he hated me on 3 counts!

I find myself often in this dilemma: Educate or Assimilate?

You see this gentleman is completely entitled to his opinion and to voice it… I just feel that he should be in hand of actual facts and evidence before he makes his judgement and goes out proclaiming aggressively to anyone within earshot. I also think “hate” is a very strong word.

Progress, in my opinion, is not related to the obvious – building big shiny things, converting every daily task to technology, searching the universe… no, I believe progress only continues where folk are prepared to question daily what they have believed all their lives. We need to always question ourselves and everything around us… double check it makes sense and we’re not just regurgitating false information provided by another biased and fallible human.

He continued on, as I walked him to his car, “They are letting them in left right and centre, they are taking all the jobs they aren’t learning the language”…. If I’m honest, racism makes me mental and I didn’t want him to stay the length of time it would have taken to debate that subject and so distracted him with a bird sighting!

You would have thought that admiring native fauna would have softened him, but his finale, and I jest you not, was the following;

“Well and of course those nature shows, they really shouldn’t show any of those bits that are unpleasant. I think they should censor when animals kill other animals or when something dies, I hate it. We shouldn’t have to see that, it’s horrible and it’s not right. Not right at all.”

Goodness, we really do have a long way to go with rational thinking.

I must confess that with his final flourish he had induced a burning inferno within me that would not have allowed a rational response had I indulged it. I know I shouldn’t get so angry and frustrated but my first response (of 5 billion that were queuing up in my head) would have been – “So you’re a vegetarian then are you??????” (I know he wasn’t because he’d mentioned meat earlier.) Followed swiftly by, “Do you have any inkling of how fortunate you are to be able to hate so loudly, liberally and ignorantly???”

The problem is that all my responses become swathed in a mire of, “You bloody moron. How can a person live on this planet for over 60 years and come out with such utter drivel? Forget nature programmes, it’s folk like you who should be bloody censored – you’re a danger to a rational and reasonable society, a threat to the environment and a blockade in the way of progress!!”

Instead of course, I smiled through gritted teeth as I waved him off to spread his very assured lunacy-fuelled hatred elsewhere, where folk might actually listen and take it as fact. Scary.

When he’d left, I genuinely couldn’t get my head round what he’d said. I may seem just as judgemental but it’s been a while since I’ve met anyone so entirely closed-minded, shallow and quite so vehement with no provocation. There’s some really serious sh$* going on around the world at the moment and this guy felt he should take up an hour of my life spouting crap that doesn’t even make the scale. He left me feeling frustrated and flabbergasted, guilty and doom-laden. How can he have visited such a wide variety of homes, schools, venues and locations over the course of his entire working career and not realise that people are people, you can’t pigeon-hole them or condemn and if they’re not hurting you and yours then really what’s the problem? Where’s all this hate coming from?

Ignorance breeds Fear. Fear breeds Contempt. Contempt creates Division. Division becomes Factional. Factions just Fight.

I avoided the fight but I feel like a coward. Not only did I judge a book by it’s cover – nice old gentleman, lifelong local piano tuner, moderate and polite – I had also allowed him off my turf to perpetuate his unchallenged, ignorant dogma. The media is rife with tales of horrendous evil Muslims and BNP idiots inciting racial hatred but I would like to mention the insidious, irrational, fear-induced inciting of racial hatred that goes on in all sorts of unassuming places and can even seep into your own home if you’re not careful, leaving a bad taste and staining the view for a while.

It’s a good thing really that he came across as such a throwback – I guess the fewer and further between these dogmatic and hate-fuelled individuals become… the better for us all.

I dread his return in 6 months but I suppose I could be out… or fully prepared with a Power Point presentation and an hour to spare!

evil bug

evil bug (Photo credit: acidpix)

The Loop of Inevitability

Round and Round and Round we go

“Let people learn from their own mistakes”

And so the human race is put on loop, which turns to spiral… which leads down the plughole.

I feel ashamed of us a species

Excuses for everything. Blame. Expectations of others. No personal responsibility or self-determination. Complete reliance on others – from the government to the takeaway.

Why can’t we learn? We’re supposed to have these enormous brains and be so advanced and yet we now live in a world where self-indulgence is the only goal in life. Asserting ones own beliefs to the serious detriment of others. Factionalising every pissing thing.

I feel like a spider to clinging to the side of the drain… sorry… what happened to working hard? Giving to others? Being unselfish and considerate? Accepting difference without prejudice? Making a better future? Equality?? I don’t want to go down…

I’ve lived all over for the past 15 years and am now back home. I spend a lot of my time feeling guilty… you see I’m not just ranting at everyone else about this, I have been experiencing the problems in realtime macro this past few months: The bad habits I have picked up in the wider world are; unhealthy suspicion, constant fear of crime, unhealthy fear of men, constant expectation of petty conflict, silly hangups from self-consciousness, stress and unhealthy stress management, brusqueness, unnecessary hurriedness and a strong tendency to keep to myself… Yes, not great really!!!

It seeps into your fabric without you realising and before you know it you are everything you despise.

We all sign the petitions but are we actually living the ethos? Will your son grow up to disrespect or physically hurt a girlfriend? Will your daughter disrespect and double cross other females to get what she wants? Do your children understand the meanings of reasonable and unreasonable, acceptable and unacceptable, right and wrong? Or are you just indulging them to make sure you are number 1 popular parent…. to make life easier and sweeter for yourself, sod the future?

We need to get with the program people.

I wish I didn’t care but I do.

The most important issue of all is that of men and women. Whatever label you wish to give it is irrelevant, the fact remains that equality is more important than ever.

It is rare that I am completely furious and even rarer that I wish to write it down but this is one such time. I have read far too many accounts recently, by women (usually in the USA I’m afraid…that’s just the way it is) whinging about how some man wolf whistled at them or made a comment and they didn’t feel comfortable. **&^%*$*%$£^%£^£^

This attitude is akin to complaining in front of a man with no legs that you stubbed your toe. Women who are actually oppressed would give everything they have to be in a position to tell a man where to go without being heavily punished for it. Get some bloody perspective. You can avoid being raped by a random stranger, you can’t avoid being raped by half the local police force.

It may not be comfortable to have to speak up or shout back at builders or loudly embarass some loudmouth chauvinist in a shop but when did anyone say life was easy? Men get “started on” all the time for no reason and have to handle it well or face the consequences… I’m afraid we need to do the same. One of the first phrases I learn in any new country is one to shout at a man to shame him if he disrespects me. I very rarely get much trouble and if I do they know about it….as does everyone in the vicinity.

Laws don’t change things, people do.

Stand up for yourselves you spoiled inhumane bitches. You perpetuate the worst evil in the world by being so pathetic, reliant and ungrateful to your foresisters. If you can’t stand up for yourself in a coffee queue you need to go back and seriously understand where your freedoms came from. Grow a spine and contribute, it’s not like you’re staring down the barrel of an AK47.

Lead by example

Change starts at home…    you’d be surprised how many loud and proud feminists bring up indulged, nasty, violent little misogynists.

So as not to end on a rant, I must explain that it is empowering, ladies…and gents.

I am lucky in that I was always brought up to stick up for myself and others. I have NEVER been raped or had any violence perpetrated against me (ironically, other than by those closest to me) and have never yet received backlash from speaking up. There has been the odd moment of fear as a female in the city but the strange person seemingly following me could have been a drug addict, a youth or simply a weirdo… not necessarily a psycho woman-hater… however I am conditioned to expect violent rapists and fear that in everyone I encounter after dark. Did you know though that men are also in a predicament… I hear more and more that men don’t want to walk behind women in the dark, or if they are the only ones in a street, for fear of scaring them.

It is a sad old world we insist on perpetuating.

The good news is that there is definitely a light…. I see men all the time to whom I gave “what for” and most, if not all, of them have improved if not completely changed their ways. These are not just family, friends, acquaintances but also delivery drivers, farmers, cabbies, pub landlords… strangers. I’ve even brought bosses up on it… if you are worth your salt they’ll change their ways to keep you. You see, you gain respect if you stop someone in their well-worn tracks and make them think again… and that approach is not limited to the gender issues. Many folk don’t know any better until someone tells them and educates them.

Ignorance is not an offence but it is an affliction we can all help eradicate

‘Suit’ably impressed? Books n covers…

Nightmare Logic

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I love this proverb, and it’s personal.

We’re told as children that a good first impression is crucial, that is, right alongside the converse warning never to judge a book by it’s cover. Why then is it that we all head off into adulthood judging left right and centre based entirely on the threads or uniform an individual chooses to rock?

My experiences have demonstrated to me that, in the vast majority of cases, con artists, blaggers and devious sorts dress extremely well and decent folk focus on more important things. Controversial I know, and I apologise to those decent hardworking folk that are still chained to, or indeed choose, the suit and tie or female equivalent, but hear me out….

Simplistically speaking: Suits run organisations such as banks & financial institutions, dictatorships & cartels – Casuals run organisations such as farms & charities, ethical businesses & support networks.

Below…

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Needs Wants Requires Desires

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Credit: Nightmare Logic

 

I’ve been skint. I spent nigh on a year and a half living off the land almost entirely; wild brown trout, dandelion leaves, watercress, venison, brambles and blaeberries….. it was a sparse old place for that too – open hill at 1000ft. It taught me that I could survive on what nature provides, with good use of the brain and a healthy dose of cunning and guile…but most importantly, it assured me that I could live on very little money, if life threw apples at my head, contrary to all the teaching, training and brainwashing I had received previously.      Invaluable. I have also spent time in a number of “developing” countries and been humbled by the sheer ingenuity of living, and in many cases, basic survival.

You can imagine my disbelief when, watching television (a rare occasion) one evening, I stumbled across a documentary on food banks in this country and how desperately poor and hungry everyone is. This in itself is not the issue. I mean, it is a big concern but it is not my chagrin from this particular broadcast. Many people, for all sorts of reasons in and out of their control, get in a muddle – I did during the worst of my chronic Lyme, hence the foraging & hunting life. It is fantastic that there are such services, offering somewhere to turn for those most in need.

However, there was a woman being profiled on this programme who was dressed immaculately in valuable clothes with the full set of gold jewellery plus extras. I’m not sure if the irony was intended but they proceeded to let her whinge on and on about how poor and deprived she was and how she “can’t afford to feed her children”…..whilst standing in front of the largest television I have ever seen. She was in her “dining room”, leaning on a, not cheap, large dining table and chair set, surrounded by trinkets, vases and designer tat. As a trader, I did a rough sum in my head and she could have fed her children for a wee while on the resale value of her ‘stuff’. As the camera poignantly followed her ‘nearly-new, immaculate condition’, people-carrier, I genuinely questioned for a moment whether this was a new dark comedy as opposed to a bona fide documentary.

This may be harsh, and who am I to judge really, I haven’t walked a mile in her shoes but I just felt she was taking the piss. Pure and simple. I understand sentimentality with possessions, but it’s not as if her late father had whittled the tv from the biggest tree in his garden or anything! Even if you allow her the jewellery on personal reasons, it doesn’t excuse most of what I saw. Priorities girl!

I felt ashamed watching this farce. I felt that this perfectly fit and healthy woman had decided that she had found an easy option in order to not lose all her pretty but pointless stuff. It seemed that for her, it was quite embarrassing to go to a food bank…..but not as bad as losing her image and desire-related stuff. Keeping up appearances, or with the Jones, in place of providing the important fundamentals to your children is wacko. Maybe it wasn’t a conscious choice and maybe she isn’t equipped but that isn’t an excuse for a situation to languish.

I understand pride but at what point do we give people a little harsh but fair constructive criticism, stop treating with kid gloves and offer a heavy dose of reality. To teach someone the skills they require to rely on themselves and support a family when they can and should, may make them feel uncomfortable for a short while but the overwhelmingly positive benefits would spread like ripples. There is a real crisis in certain parts of the country and misplaced priorities are quite a lot to blame for that. Apparently there are kids in abject poverty and yet it is rare, even in the most deprived areas, to see one without a phone, newish trainers and trendy gear (sweeping generalisation I know…but then is it really that sweeping?) I feel that people with similar circumstances to this woman I’ve mentioned, ie. not quite living in reality, should be identified and kindly educated. They are taking food and depriving someone in real need. We seriously need to get our priorities straight, en masse, and fast.

Wants and Needs are funny things.

Through my experiences, I’ve learned that I need water, food, shelter, warmth and someone to have a laugh with. I think I pretty much need a dog now too, there is a reason that humans have had them by their sides for so long. I know folk, though, who are so busy needing everything in the shop that they are forsaking their basic requirements. People with Ipads, new cars, flashy holidays, eating crap, ill-advised food to pay for shiny things. I know it’s a bore but you really are what you eat, thus if you eat crap or cheap, then so be it. Having said that, by the same rules, if you eat rich and expensive food all the time that is costly to body and wallet. Don’t say you weren’t warned. Try healthy, fresh and tantalisingly tasty – it works! *grinning*

We all spout so many proverbs and adages and stereotypes and quotes, and yet we never heed any of their wisdom.

English: Large amount of pennies

English: Large amount of pennies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves: folk sneer at small change…. I know that small change can make a big change, and my coppers collection (one pence and two pence pieces) has fed me on more than one occasion.

Put something away for the hard times: We are all paying the price for nobody heeding this shrewd advice. The bankers might be crooks but the folk who went along with it without a second thought were chancers. They helped gamble away our financial security with bad personal decisions and the whimsical priorities that go with perceived wealth. Spend spend spend…… whinge whinge whinge. It’s balance guys, if you have it all then you will inevitably have a period of scarcity to equalize.

and so on…

Where did this swathe of lacklustre, spoilt, un-empowered people rise from? One generation, that of my grandparents, is stalwart in the face of adversity, tough as old boots and self-sufficient as they come…. they can subsist on dry biscuits from 20 years ago, and positively thrive on a diet of reuse, recycle, make do and mend……and then suddenly along comes a generation that, literally, can’t function. Can’t cope, can’t manage, can’t fend for themselves.

Needs are basic; water, food, shelter, warmth…

Wants are not; soft drinks & hard liquor, takeaway food, tv & designer interiors, central heating…

Requires are important for modern life but not essential; money, mobile phone, internet, suitable clothing

…and Desires are purely indulgent. Long let them remain so – what is desirable about something you don’t serve time anticipating, dreaming about……and sometimes, never get. Often the desire has more value than the desired itself.

I’ve found that…   If I focus on my needs and much reduce my wants…… I can afford my requires and aim for my desires.

Interestingly though, many of my desires turn out to be related to meeting my needs; fresh air, walking, chopping carrying and stacking wood, lighting the fire, growing my food etc.

All of these allow me to spend more time with those I require and desire which is certainly a universal want but could really be accepted as a basic human need.

Pleasure Instantaneous

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Credit: Nightmare Logic

Instant Coffee. Instant Mashed Potato. Instant Messaging. Instant Gratificaton.

Everything in an instant.

What happened to; “All good things take some time”, “Slow and steady wins the race”, and, “the more you put in the more you get out”?

I’m not a fan of instant. I love freshly ground coffee, homemade mash and long evenings with my friends. I prefer open fires to central heating, choose stairs over lifts and get more pleasure from books than from films. I guess I’m the tortoise to the majority’s hare. From where I’m sitting, it seems the focus has become the instantaneity itself, rather than the potential benefits from performing the task in an instant. I also reckon our brains take a little bit of time to catch up and thus spend most of the day under heavy fire without a moment to properly take things in… process…. do the internal filing. The constant alert status our bodies have to maintain in order to handle the sheer volume of bleeps and ringtones and alerts and reminders, requests, comments, emails, texts….. By the very nature of instant, we’re just filling each day with too much distance run and thus falling into a constant state of mental exhaustion.

What’s the rush?

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  Quote: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off        http://youtu.be/HbR7axof1wk

We say, “life is short”, “life is precious” and yet we’re diverted from the actual act of living by all this technology and our inability to moderate our compulsive behaviour. One day we’ll look up from texting and googling and realise our lives have passed us by…….and we’re suffering from self-induced vision impairment.

I do appreciate that many people choose to live in a constant blur and ‘instant’ probably seems incredibly helpful. I understand that to those the blur is the buzz. When I lived in the blur I still found instantaneity unfulfilling. Rushing here and there, cramming so much in that none of it left an impression other than the blur itself. In our shared house in the city I introduced a weekly ritual of getting together and cooking a big roast dinner. Whatever form of instant sustenance we had lived on during the week would just keep us right till the much anticipated Sunday roast, which would in turn keep us right through the next week of instant, unfulfilling fodder.

We seem to want to cancel out the delicious and tantalising anticipation that comes with waiting for something we desire. That frisson in your stomach or rousing of the palate. What’s wrong with feeling hungry for a few minutes more? Why should someone stop mid-discussion to text a reply to your inane question about next week’s meeting? Do you really need to tell me for the third time that you’re en route? Anticipation even sounds good when you roll the word around on your tongue, it’s almost onomatopoeic.

I’ve always found that anything done or decided in a rush is usually a recipe for leisurely repentance. I find that substance is lost through speed and instantaneity… Not only do we lose the thrill of anticipation but also the joy of quality and attention. How can you give your best in an instant?

Halve the quantity, double the quality. Shouldn’t ‘instant’ free you up, not swamp you?

I live as slowly and simply as I can without being some kind of hermit weirdo, ambling around the fringes of society, eyed suspiciously, out of touch and shunned. It’s quite hard actually. Stepping into the blur every now and then, to try and maintain a sliver of balance, is like stepping into the path of an oncoming train. The onslaught of demands in order to maintain the instant culture is an assault and I feel as if I’ve been trapped with a load of hyperactive children for the duration. Constantly demanding every inch of me. Never listening properly. Always on to the next thing. The problem is that I literally can’t jump in with both feet and join ’em. I’m too busy experiencing life to have the time to let everyone know what I’m doing every five minutes, with accompanying photographic evidence. I’m having a dance while my coffee is brewing. If I say I’ll be there next Thursday, I will. That’s it. Unless I contact you and let you know otherwise.

I miss my friends who are too busy texting. I miss sharing the jeopardy of using a map. I miss the relaxed assurance that noone around us is taking photographs. I miss debating a point rather than googling it. I miss simple. I miss slow. I’m bored of people ripping the heart out of adventure with their satnavs and gps. I’m frustrated with the number of social interactions that leave me feeling I could have better spent my time, as my companion was constantly on their bloody phone. Perpetrators of phone-related rudeness, which is pretty much everyone, should understand that to the other person in the room, the one whom you have bothered to meet up with, it feels as if you’d rather be somewhere else. Now, if that is the case, I only speak for myself here, I’d rather you gave me back my precious time and we didn’t bother in the first place. Don’t be ‘polite’ on my account.

My phone is a tool. Nothing more. It massively facilitates part of my life and my work but doesn’t dictate my day. I don’t drop everything the moment it demands. I love my friends but most of them, nowadays, are like crackheids – slightly wild-eyed, totally distracted and completely addicted. Even a light-hearted ribbing makes them defensive and protective of their “preciousssssss”. Don’t get me wrong, the information and capability in our hands is thrilling, humbling and mind-blowing…… but balance and moderation are soothing for the soul.

Let’s down tools once in a while and share a pleasure that is only growing scarcer and more precious; our undivided attention.

Absolute Rubbish. Species suicide is not painless…

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Rubbish. Litter. Trash. Garbage. Waste. Refuse.

I hope most of us agree that we should say ‘enough is enough’. Now.  These words should be obsolete. Frowned upon like swear words. Defunct.

“We live in a culture where people are more offended by “swear” words and middle fingers than they are by famine, warfare and the destruction of the environment.” RSIFFIAOI 

However, instead of a ceasefire, these words are inducing a new gold rush as the vultures swoop in to ‘handle’ our ever-increasing, careless pile of rubbish, for cash. A burgeoning industry may not want a fast diminishing resource, but all these words like, ‘industry’, ‘financial markets’, ‘economics’ are, in fact, just words.

If there’s no clean air, clean water or productive topsoil then everything else is just gravy mate.

It’s our own fault entirely. We’ve been relying on “They” for far too long now. The all-seeing all-knowing superhuman omnipotent “They”. The problem is that “They” have had plenty of time in “power” and yet things are just going from bad to worse. It’s time we accepted that “They” can’t help us and we need to turn to “We”. “We” need to step in and get things back on an even keel. The earth is our home and we should treat it as such, we live in a global village nowadays, let’s act like it.

We, as a species, a population, a culture, a community, are slovens. We have a beautiful home, the earth. What are we thinking? Throwing our beer cans and sweet wrappers behind the sofa, broken electrical goods strewn over the surfaces, manky piles of plastic filling the sink, broken glass, putrefying food and something’s definitely burning….. and it’s toxic!

I am gutted that I have lived in the era of the “throw away culture”, “disposable products”, “replace, upgrade, replace”. A time when shopping is classed as a hobby. I’m pretty low impact but I can do better. I performed a long-overdue self-intervention at the beginning of the year: we have reduced our ‘rubbish’ by about 75%. Interestingly, simultaneously reducing our consumption of unhealthy food, drastically.

You see, the litter in your hand is one small part, but the trail of destruction, firstly to produce the damn wrapper and then to make it disappear after use, is mindblowing. Out of sight, however, is no longer out of mind…or indeed out of sight any more.

Let’s take stock;

Our oceans and seas are full of harmful plastic

Our rivers and lakes are diluted with harmful effluent and runoff

Our air is polluted with harmful fumes and chemicals

Our precious topsoil is being systematically poisoned, eroded and rendered useless.

So, that is how we treat our most precious resources, the three elements essential for life. And really all in pursuit of our own selfish desires and wants. We’ve taken credit that can never be fully restituted and, very shortly, will make a triple-dip recession seem like a walk in the park. It may have escaped the notice of the majority but humans are only human. We can’t survive without clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and clean, healthy topsoil to grow food. The shiny things are making us go doolally and stop thinking straight. An Iphone can’t literally feed your children. A jewel-encrusted ring won’t actually produce fresh water to hydrate you. A £50 note is, in reality, only useful for a tiny bit of short-lived warmth if burned or to blow your nose on. Perspective is maybe a privilege, I don’t know.

I was shocked and terrified into understanding this, at the tender and impressionable age of 5, and I can highly recommend it as an effective preventative method! My parents had always been incredibly strict about rubbish, littering and the harm it does to our environment and wildlife, but it was two graphic videos shown at school that grafted images onto my brain capable of producing guilt and disgust at the mere sight of discarded rubbish. As a little girl, the cute little hedgehog, strangled to death through getting caught in beer multipack plastic rings, coupled with the visual impact of an enormous landfill site, was the last straw for me. You see it’s not just the big, far away environmental problems that are affected but also our little fluffy creatures and beautiful birds, our fish and frogs, shore and sea life. We are sh**ting on our own doorstep: polluting our own water and contaminating our own food. Filling our own backyard with junk and scrap and old toys and rusty metal, glass and plastic.

Instead of competing to decide who has the best “room”, we need to cooperate in cleaning the “house”. The communal areas get especially bad as they’re so well-used. The metaphor goes on and on really.

I think that individual power and responsibility is demonstrated well by   http://www.avaaz.org/en/    Avaaz is a petition site and it gets results. It has millions of members and a direct action approach. It shows us that if each one of us does something small today, like click a button on a petition or recycle a bottle, the overall effect can be staggering.

The “Broken Windows Theory”, introduced in 1982 by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L Kelling can be applied to the litter problem:

“The broken windows theory is a criminological theory of the norm-setting and signaling effect of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior. The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime.” Source: Wikipedia

It makes sense. If one piece of rubbish is chucked on the ground, more will inevitably follow. The locals will feel more ‘rubbish’ about where they live and probably only add to the downward trajectory through disillusionment. Once pleasure and pride have left the area all the other bad elements creep in. I reckon, simplistic as it sounds, that if we all cleaned up the place and kept it looking nice then everyone would feel better whatever their circumstances, more care would be taken to maintain and pride and pleasure restored. Better to be unemployed/ill/skint in a clean and beautiful place than with the added misery of living in a tip. It’s not a quick fix for all the world’s problems but it could certainly be a significant start. The positive ripple effect could prove quite surprising. If we don’t try then we will literally suffocate under the weight of all our waste.

We can continue to sleepwalk into this emergency but I don’t want to come with you, I don’t want to be there when the air is cancerous, the water deadly and food so scarce it hurts. I don’t want to witness the inevitable civil unrest, oppression, fighting, violence that goes with diminishing resources. Look what happens already with the non essentials, like crude oil and palm oil, gold and diamonds and now imagine for one second, if you dare, the level of desperation when it is our very essentials for life – air, water, soil – that are threatened. This is not a scare story or some hippie conspiracy, it’s a simple equation of Supply and Demand. If we taint and diminish our Supply whilst exponentially increasing our Demand…….well, let’s just say I can see why more and more people are praying fervently to God for miracles. That’s usually what happens as a last resort in a disaster isn’t it? Unless the miracle comes, like yesterday, and is literally “alakazam – all rubbish be gone, all water be clean, all air be cleansed and all topsoil restored”, then we might just have to take responsibility ourselves. We’re old enough and ugly enough to clean up our own mess.

I can’t say I’m enthusiastic for a slow and painful demise but we live in an era where numbers make change and it just doesn’t feel to me like the majority notice, understand or care. With insidious infection, symptoms are often ignored or overlooked until they overwhelm, at which point it can be too late…

If you think cleaning up isn’t a matter of life and death, think again.

 

‘Suit’ably impressed? Books n covers…

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I love this proverb, and it’s personal.

We’re told as children that a good first impression is crucial, that is, right alongside the converse warning never to judge a book by it’s cover. Why then is it that we all head off into adulthood judging left right and centre based entirely on the threads or uniform an individual chooses to rock?

My experiences have demonstrated to me that, in the vast majority of cases, con artists, blaggers and devious sorts dress extremely well and decent folk focus on more important things. Controversial I know, and I apologise to those decent hardworking folk that are still chained to, or indeed choose, the suit and tie or female equivalent, but hear me out….

Simplistically speaking: Suits run organisations such as banks & financial institutions, dictatorships & cartels – Casuals run organisations such as farms & charities, ethical businesses & support networks.

Below are a handful of examples for each (anyone offended by being on this list can back off – type your name into a search engine mate it’s there for all to see);

Suits = Stephen Hester (RBS Group), Rupert Murdoch, both George Bush-es, Peter Voser (CEO Shell), Bob Dudley (BP), Vladimir Putin, Tony Blair, Berlusconi

Casuals = The late Anita Roddick (The Body Shop), Richard Branson (Virgin), Dale Vince (Ecotricity), David Ritter (Greenpeace), Ricken Patel (Avaaz), Matt Flannery & Jessica Jackley (Kiva.org),

I reckon you can see the pattern emerging now, can’t you?!

Here are a couple of my own examples of classic suit v casual behaviour, they are purposefully vague but absolutely true;

There was the very wealthy but unostentatious British aristo’ and his equally wealthy son who entered a car dealership to buy two very expensive (couldn’t care less what type, sorry) top notch vehicles. They were dressed casually and when they approached the besuited puffed-up salesman (probably on a standard salary plus bonuses) he treated them with disdain, entirely based on their clothing, and lost himself two sales that day. Who’s the mug? The pretentious suit wearer or the low key Lord?

I attended a wedding a few years ago, thrown by a Lord for his Honourable daughter (Not bragging, couldn’t care less but the detail is important!) At the reception there was a man who stuck out like a sore thumb. He was dressed immaculately and driving a brand new Bentley – to the untrained eye, clearly a well-to-do, perfectly placed within this setting. There was something just a little too immaculate about him for my liking, something not quite right. When I googled him it turned out he was an international conman who was trying to talk the Lord into giving a lot of money to some sham project somewhere abroad. The guy had almost managed to con his way on to the international space station for goodness sake! (Try and control that tiny feeling of admiration, he was no harmless rogue.)

My parents, just before I was born, bought a derelict property for our family home. When my Mother first visited after the sale had gone through, she was alone and could smell bacon. Rounding the side of the house she saw a tramp cooking his breakfast and freaked. She told him he was trespassing and should leave immediately. As she was getting on with things she noticed him returning and went to deal with it. As she got closer she realised that he was carrying a large brown envelope. He proffered said envelope and explained that she had obviously dropped it on her way in. That was her told: Inside the envelope were thousands of pounds worth of staff wages, in cash, untouched.

I could recount stories ad infinitum, but I won’t. The point is that, having grown up believing one should dress ‘suit’ably I have met nothing but smokescreen from those that do, and I’m not impressed.

A carefully presented image is often a cunningly crafted disguise.

Even amongst my fellow ladies, I wonder how much genuine work they do and contribution they manage to make when they spend, literally, hours pruning, preening, painting, and perfecting. I am female and quite understand the wish to look presentable, good even, but I would never achieve anything if it was my sole distraction which sadly it is to many of my peers and contemporaries. And once you’ve preened and perfected, you then have to protect and maintain, protect and maintain. Where’s the time for fun, experience, life, love, work? I think if anyone calculated the average time served in front of a mirror nowadays it would be eye-opening. If you are vainly, incessantly concentrating on yourself and your image, does that really count in your favour as a decent and contributing member of society? An evolved being? A success story? I find it incredibly tedious and, along with the heavy tinge of competitive perfection, totally nauseating. There are women I encounter who visibly despise me because I couldn’t care less how much their outfit cost or where it came from, I’m not interested to go to the bathroom every five minutes to talk about and reapply makeup and I don’t subscribe to beauty over brains. And, to be clear, I am no oil painting – I just hate missing life.

I feel sorry too for the man who falls for a slim, large-breasted woman with long, luxurious eyelashes, flawless skin and long, thick voluptuous blonde hair…….only to discover that she is a slightly plump, flat-chested woman with very short eyelashes, a bit of acne and a few freckles and short, mousey brown hair. At what point does ‘self-improvement’ become deception? Why are men barracked for mentioning that this may be a tad unfair? I know I’m losing support from the ladies fast for saying this but come on girls, there’s no merit in over-selling yourself and then being an unavoidable disappointment. It’s a lose-lose situation and you aren’t going to attract a compatible mate anyway if you’re not yourself. I know men who love flat-chested women, others who love wispy hair, stretch marks, love handles and freckles, hairy bits and crooked bits and all sorts. Men are human too did you know, even though they try and hide it.

I’ve never been short of work, never lost a job, never felt short of friends, never felt short of male attention and I’ve also never worn a suit. I haven’t yet found a reason to, and yes I do have to attend meetings in London on a regular basis, other than in the case of men and out of respect e.g. weddings and funerals. I have, however, been eyed suspiciously, treated like a potential thief, been looked down upon, disparaged and sneered at. I’ve worn hooded tops all my life (not all the time, mind) and not just for sport – it hasn’t made me carry a knife and intimidate people – I get a cold neck and ears and find it useful for wind protection! If I don’t wear mascara (which is probably over 50% of the time) people seem to think it is acceptable to say I look ill/peellywally/tired, and that’s those I know and those I don’t. Since when was it offensive to be white skinned and natural? I realised I was feeling the pressure when someone said, “why are you putting on mascara?” and my automatic response was, “so I don’t upset or offend anyone”!! My point is that not only is the suit stereotype of ‘hardworking success story’ outdated, but so is the casual stereotype of ‘lazy good-for-nothing troublemaker’.

The clothes that I choose to wear DO have a huge effect on my own capacity for work, but not how you might think. If I’m trying to conform (we all do it!) I feel uncomfortable, distracted, self-conscious and, to be honest, shallow. Diverted from what is important. My attendance in the ‘Ladies’ increases ten fold and I feel exposed and vulnerable. If I dress for my own purposes, (don’t get me wrong I’m clean and tidy, unprovocative and avoid being malodorous), I concentrate well, contribute wholly and focus on the job in hand. We are not all the same but we are all human and I notice the same traits in my friends when they come to stay in my home of no expectations and the pressure is released. Smiles form, shoulders drop, tensions ease and order is restored.

I’ve learned over the years that to most accurately judge a person’s nature and true intentions you must look deep into their eyes. Look properly and you’ll see the fear, desperation, anger, evil intent or great kindness within. Go with your gut and you shouldn’t go far wrong. Not all men in suits are sinister and neither are all hoodies. Look in their eyes and not at their labels. The tide needs to turn; away from lauding the expensively dressed spin doctors with power in their hands and greed in their hearts, and towards embracing the ragtag bunch of integrity-filled ‘what you see is what you get’ folk, putting all their energy into doing a proper and respectable job, usually for the greater good as well as themselves.

Having said all that, I love a man in a tux!