Five giants unleashed

Upon a blasted heath, or in a very dark corner of a smoke filled room, or around the kitchen table in a Cotswolds mansion at ‘kitchen supper’ time, plots have been ruminated over, designed and put into action. Cold stone hearts drive the calculated rationalities of bureaucratised, intellectually bereft mindsets who can not see further than their own bank balances and a slow descent into senility. Horizons of expectation and hope have been so lowered that they barely reach the fetid scum ring line of a misused toilet in a backstreet brothel in Rochdale. Pettiness, fear and misanthropy are the guiding principles of social policy that not so much gets developed as oozes from under a slaughterhouse door like a pool of blood specked vomit looking for a dog. Blank eyes, behind them a vacuity of such sucking force a black hole would be jealous of, stare with barely concealed contempt at the need to think about social responsibility. The only thing they see is a gold coin being held in the hand of a starving child, a gold coin they think is rightfully theirs and therefore the prising of infant fingers from which can be justified. Tears do not move them, anguish is ignored, pain is relished as being good for building self reliance and character building. ‘Top Cornflakes’ rise to the top in the face of such adversity.

And so it is that families are shirkers, and homes paid for over 30 years must be sold. Pooling risk, so that individuals may be spared the trauma and bankrupting expense of personal tragedies, is anathema now. Beveridge’s five giant evils awaken, stir, blink, the reports of their death somewhat premature. They’ve been given new life by the austerity defibrillator and the life giving infusion of Brexit. Squalor surveys the landscape and smiles with delight at both gilded and burning towers; Want is pleased to see repositories for foodstuffs proliferate across the land like pustules on a teenagers face; Idleness delights itself as it transforms into a new form of gig activities which strengthens Squalor and Want’s grip around the citizen’s throat. Sickness revels in its ability to inflict its pain unequally and with increasing force, while Ignorance cannot believe the ease with which it has captured so many Oxbridge educated minds.

Ministerial nightmares pave the way for the dismantling of both Beveridge’s and Bevan’s dream. “I have a dream” has been replaced with “go fuck yourself, you lazy skiving (migrant) peasant”. Another dream, “The British Dream” drifts into our space like a wet vindaloo and Guinness generated fart. The dream only includes nice white people in the Home Counties and bits of Cheshire. ‘I’m alright Jack’ is now ‘I’m alright Rupert’ as Jack is far too working class and is not aspirational enough. Aspiration itself is the new Jerusalem upon a green hill far away, but upon closer inspection only a few have been given the map showing the hill’s location.

The blasted heath is deserted now, the smoke clears and the last supper in the Cotwolds has been eaten. Five giants stomp across the land while the plotters retire to Tuscan homes, comforted by fat pay checks and bonuses for setting them free.

Thoughts and Actions

Photo by Christian Spies on Unsplash

A new categorical imperative has been imposed…upon unfree mankind: to arrange their thoughts and actions so that Auschwitz will not repeat itself, so that nothing similar will happen”.

Theodore Adorno in Negative Dialectics.

After 1945, Adorno returned to Germany following his escape to the United States, and was dismayed at the silence and denial of far too many Germans of the horrors they had witnessed or taken part in. Many in positions of power and influence were silent about Hitler, and Adorno’s countrymen appeared still to be bending the knee to power:

The inarticulate character of apolitical conviction, the readiness to submit to every manifestation of actual powers, the instant accommodation to whatever new situation emerges, all this is merely an aspect of the same regression,  If it is true that the manipulative control of the masses always brings about a regressive formation of humanity, and if Hitler’s drive to power essentially involved the relationship of this development ‘at a single stroke’, we can only say that he, and the collapse that followed, has succeeded in providing the required infantalisation”.

Germans were not the only ones to be infantilised. It is my belief that in many countries this process occurs. It matters not in small countries, except of course to those who experience it. However, in those countries that have nuclear weapons and a military-industrial complex it is highly dangerous.

The infantilisation of the American public was to have its own tragic consequences in the 1960’s. The lessons regarding the conditions allowing the rise of national socialism seemed to have been already forgotton.

On the BBC right now is a documentary on the Vietnam war. It should be required viewing. One tragic note is the willingness of many young American men to sign up and go fight ‘communists’ with absolutely no idea what they were doing or why. They had no history of colonialism or the role the US pre-war, and they relied on ideas about American flag waving exceptualism. Many believed they had great leaders and that they all were fighting a just war. The poor working class and blacks were drafted and over represented in the ranks. Not until the draft started hitting the middle class did opposition to the war move from ideological to self-interest. It remained the case that white middle class status, and money, protected many from the nasty, brutish and often short life in the front line. US tactics in bombing and clearing villages amounted to genocide and was counterproductive. It acted as recruiter for the North Vietnamese. The US metric for success was ‘body count’ in the absence of clearly identified strategic targets. It often did not matter whose body ended up as ‘body count’.

Infantilisation helped create the Vietnam tragedy, increasing infantilisation of publics since then underpinned the wars in Afghanisation, Iraq, and Libya. No doubt Putin infantilises Russians in order to establish and maintain his own fiefdom.

We don’t need an Auschwitz when we have heavily armed hubris.

Despite Stephen Pinker’s description of actually reducing global violence and war, I fear that right now, in 2017, the manipulation of the masses is bringing about a regression towards our more base natures, and is based on an infantilised political culture that is ill equipped to prevent another Auschwitz. We have people who can barely discuss politics without recourse to cliché and banality; we have many only too willing to accept the erosion of freedoms, the junking of human rights, in the name of security; and we have knee jerk unthinking reactions to existential and humanitarian challenges which are often the result of our own actions. It is not Pinker’s description of reducing violence that is wrong, but the conclusions we might draw about future peace, based on inductive logic, which might prove fatally flawed unless we continue to address Adorno’s ‘thoughts and actions’.

So, what thoughts and actions are now required to uphold this new imperative outlined by Adorno?

 

Reject ‘Great Man’ history and leadership, and look who supports him. Hitler came to power with the full support of the ‘supermanagers’ of the business elites. He was elected. It was not a Nazi coup.

Be sceptical towards notions of heroic militarisation. We laugh at parades of military hardware in Red Square or Pyon Yang but suspend such judgment as to the true nature of military hardware in our own armed forces.

Be suspicious of references to national mythologies and symbols. We love the Zulu story but forget why we there in the first place. We cite Agincourt, Crecy, Trafalgar and Waterloo as triumphs but forget what the wars were about.

Be critical of the overly simplistic demonisation of others. The North Vietnamese were swivel eyed donkey headed communists rather than fighting a colonial war; North Koreans are uncritical or oppressed followers of the Dear Leader rather than fearing a foreign power who killed 20% of the population in the last war; the Chinese people are poised to impose empire through economic domination rather than recovering from a century of Imperial domination by western powers.

Consider the difference between patriotism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, and supremacism. When does pride in a country elide into hatred, mistrust and fear?

Prevent security from becoming the overriding driver in the public sphere? What are we being secured from and what is being lost? Do we want the police to be armed and asking for our papers? Do we want airport security at railways stations? Is all of the security proportionate?

Challenge ahistorical accounts of current achievements. Ask how the cities of London, Liverpool and Bristol became global centres of wealth.

Remember colonialism, imperialism and slavery have always arisen and have to be defeated in each generation.

Learn about political ideologies, philosophies and theories.

Ask power upon what basis it demands our obedience.

Stop knee jerk reactions to new challenges. Migrants fleeing war pose serious questions about our humanity. This requires humane reactions.

Accept the plurality, diversity and fluidity of culture, that culture is dynamic and changes in time (temporally) and in location (spatially). Englishness and Britishness’ have always had diversity within them and they are not defined by old maids cycling in the morning mists. Fish and Chips was foreign once and have we forgotten the origins of Tikka Masala?

Critique the communication of class based, ethnic based, gender based manipulations through press and broadcast media. The Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Sun have owners with an agenda, we do not have to accept their world view as generally applicable to everyone in this country and it is not treason or unpatriotic to be a republican, suspicious of the police or queer.

Understand that terrorism has its flip side: freedom fighting. Nelson Mandela was a terrorist according to Thatcher. We talked to the IRA. Our history in Empire brought forth insurgencies, uprisings and terrorism. They are mostly settled now. History is written by the winners.

Don’t laugh at the seeming out of touch buffoon who abuses race, class or gender for public support of his political campaign. The buffoon may have powerful allies in the background.

 

If we don’t act and think critically, we are making it easier for a Strong Man to argue we should ‘take control’ and be ‘great again’ in order to lead us into the abyss.

 

 

Family Shirkers

Photo by Benji Aird on Unsplash

 

Family Shirkers

 

Front page of the Daily Mail October 2017:

 

Britain is a ‘selfish’ society where families shirk their duty by ‘outsourcing’ the care of their elderly relatives, a Government minister has warned. Phillip Lee, a GP, said families needed to face up to ‘uncomfortable’ truths about the demands of looking after elderly parents or grandparents, rather than expecting the state to care for them. He said society had become too ‘selfish’, with help delivered only by workers who were ‘paid to care’. He said the UK was becoming an ‘atomised’ country that failed its most vulnerable – and it could learn from how the Muslim and Hindu communities look after their elders”.

Why did an anti welfare state, pro austerity, patriarchal national newspaper print this in bold on the front page?

Why has a Government minister put this out? Why has Theresa May allowed this minister to say these things? Why is this the latest plank in the Tory strategy?

One reason is Boris of course. We need to be distracted from ‘clearing away bodies’.

Another is fear. They fear a Labour resurgence.

 

Another is that they need to continue to gather support for cutting public spending.

 

Another might be post Brexit concerns that care staff who are EU nationals will not be here in enough numbers.

 

An atomised society? The Doctor however points to the causes of the ills of society to its victims rather than its perpetrators.

 

‘A selfish society’. Who is he referring to? The nurses who work overtime for no pay? The firefighters, alongside many other workers, who have had a pay cut over the past 7 years ? Women who give up an income to look after children? The army of retired volunteers who work across a variety of charitable organisations ? The RCN calculated that unpaid overtime by nurses saves the NHS about £360 million per year. How selfish is that. The bastards.

 

Is he referring to the top 0.01%, many of whom have enjoyed a massive increase in wealth for merely owning stuff, inheritance, luck and engaging in speculation?

 

Those that enjoy the fruits of finance, rentier and crony capitalism?

 

No. He means ordinary people dealing with myriad social and economic pressures who no doubt also include the ‘just about managing’. Except, in his eyes they are not managing well enough by adding neglect to the list of sins they daily commit.

 

If there is selfishness in society it can be found in the unwillingness of many in the capitalist executive (CE) and their friends in the political power elite (PE) to value and pay for caring as labour vital to keeping everything else going. This activity is also known as ‘social reproduction’. Capitalism recognises only two domains: The Public and the Private, in which labour is a commodity to be bought and sold in a market. Strip away the social, political and technological complexity that sits upon ‘cash for labour’, and you are left with this base relationship.

 

Capitalism does not recognise the other two domains: the household or the commons. In the household, labour is expected to be given as a gift. There is no cash nexus in the household. The commons is merely a resource to be used. Care is a commodity in the public and private sectors, but as a product of labour it merely stands as a proxy for labour and therefore is a cost which reduces capital accumulation. Just as capital tries to reduce wage costs, it has to reduce care costs through wage control. If capital can shift care back into the household where it is a gift, then it magics away a cost. Patriarchy assists in the ideological work required to shift care out of the public sector and back into the household. Religion based patriarchy is a powerful tool in this process, in that you can get women willingly to sacrifice themselves to the family in the name of holiness and love. Under capitalism, thus is sacredness made profane.

 

The need to reduce cost requires an attack on graduate professional nursing alongside devaluing what nursing is. Graduate nurses are expensive to employ.  Ideally, and ideologically, what nurses do should be done for free or for minimum wage because it is ‘merely’ care that does not require a degree, and is something all women can do.

 

In order to control the public finances the CE and PE are dismantling structures which have supported people in times of disability, illness and unemployment. This is done because they fear capital accumulation will be jeopardised if the national debt is not paid off. This ‘systemic structural selfishness’ thus places the requirement for capital accumulation above the needs of those requiring care. As a result, care is provided in many cases on low wages, terrible conditions and quite often as a gift freely given, a fact exploited by employers in care homes and hospitals. Health and Social care is conceived of as a capital cost rather than as fundamental to individual and social well being.

 

Underpinning this is the ideology of the patriarchal traditional family, in which the (male) breadwinner supports the (female) carer who looks after children and elderly parent. Social conservatism aligns with the political economy of Austerity. In short, you can cut public spending by getting women back into the home to provide unwaged, unpensionable care work as a gift to themselves, to their family, to society and to the economy. If you can designate nursing and social care as low skilled women’s work, it is easier to push it out of the public sector and back into the household.

 

The good doctor is a patriarch living in an affluent bubble cut off from the social and economic realities of millions of people’s lives. He projects his own values onto everyone else without considering if people are able to take the opportunity cost of lost wages.

 

His reference to Muslims and Hindus is interesting. Put aside that this is a sweeping categorisation, how exactly do these families look after their elderly? The picture is changing as some Asian families respond to changing social and economic realities. I don’t know if it is simply about their ‘family’ values, although it is often reported that this is a key aspect of caring for parents at home. However, do those values operate within large families were there are many children to take responsibility among them, and where women stay at home or work part time? If this is the case, is this the lesson we should be learning – have more children, don’t move away, women to leave the labour force? What if women do not want to pay the ‘motherhood penalty’ (could be 10-14% for maternal leave and taking 5 years to catch up) or in the case of parental care, the ‘daughterhood penalty’?

 

 

I think the narrative behind this ‘shirker’s’ comment is the current long running story: “There is no magic money tree, Labour crashed the economy, we have to pay off the debt”. When you want to pull the plug on financial support for social care you have to come up with a more forceful moral argument other than ‘there is no money’. The Tories realise that more and more people do not believe them when they say there is no money. They have seen for example an instant ‘bung’ to the DUP. The Tories realise that more and more people know that the banks, not Labour, crashed the economy. They also know that more and more people know that a national economy debt is not the same as a Household debt.

 

So, arguing for continuing Austerity is electorally more and more looking like a busted flush.

 

The Tories are getting desperate, they need a new narrative, or more correctly, to reinvent the old one.

 

The answer is to repeat and fall back on the ‘moral underclass discourse’ which asks you to think about strivers v skivers, welfare cheats, benefit scroungers and now add to that list we have ‘family shirkers’.

 

It is part of Thatcher’s ‘No such thing as society’ narrative. The pooling of risk through general taxation and then state spending to spread the financial burden across the whole population is ideological anathema to many, but not all, Tories. They prefer that only individuals and families should provide social care, with a minimal (affordable) input from everyone else.

 

This is not just about money…it is a deeply held ideological belief and moral position about who should care for whom. Of course, how that is paid for cannot be disentangled from this moral position.

 

Watch out for more stories about how ‘selfish’ children are abandoning parents in ‘sink’ care homes to ram home this ‘moral neglect’ narrative.

 

This will be done without referring to issues around geographical and social mobility, precarity in employment practices, house prices and affordability, wage stagnation, the cost of education, the disappearance of pensions, restructured families, family size, gender roles, inequalities in health, social inequalities, parental leave issues, employment attitudes and gaps and the level of consumer debt.

 

Instead, as with benefit cheats, there will be a focus on dysfunctional family relationships, a ’cause’ rather than as also ‘symptom’ of much bigger issues.

Of course families will want to, and do, provide care. Dr Lee knows this. But he is tapping into deeper moral intuitions in order to facilitate the cutting of the social care bill.

 

Andrew Dilnot in the Lancet lays out a less sensationalist argument:

 

“First, there is a fairness argument. In universal health-care systems, such as the UK’s National Health Service, the financial burden of health care does not fall on those unlucky enough to need it. Money is raised through a progressive tax system, and used to provide health care free at the point of use. If it is right to act in this way in the case of, for example, someone with cancer, why is it right to expect someone with dementia or acute arthritis, who cannot look after themselves, to bear the financial burden of their own care?”

 

“Second, there is a market failure argument. In the case of health care, in the absence of universal state provision the alternative is private insurance, which is available in most countries, and is seen at large scale in, for example, the USA. But this alternative is not feasible in the case of social care. The uncertainties surrounding the possible cost of social care provision are so great that private insurers do not and will not make such cover available. Therefore, in the absence of state activity, individuals cannot pool their risk, so that although most of them will not face high and extended costs, they are all left facing that possible worst case scenario. This scenario is terrifying for individuals, and very inefficient. If the private sector cannot pool the risk, the case for the state taking that responsibility, at least in part by providing social insurance, is very strong”.

 

Well in response, the Doctor argues that individuals and families should bear the burden rather than shirking their responsibilities. The real target is not shirking families, it is of course the ‘cradle to grave’ welfare State.

 

 

 

Sex and Thugs and Gun Control

Photo by Thomas Tucker on Unsplash

Sex. Authority. Nanny. Spanking and Masochism.

All traits probably to be found in the breasts of certain Posh and blond Tory spokespersons, and their fellow travellers. These men , and it is usually men, are both architects and victims of the ‘repressive desublimation’ they want for us and themselves. They want to punish themselves and to amplify their autoerotic impulses through punishing the country, for what is austerity but puritanical self loathing and punishment as redemption for unfulfilled, and prohibited, sexual sins.

Through the offer of gratifications, repressive desublimation removes the energies otherwise available for a social critique; and thus to function as a conservative force under the guise of liberation.

In other words, deeper psychosexual tensions within the individual need to find a gratifying release which for some is Austerity for others it is guns, both are touted as in some way providing liberation and freedom in an inversion of morality.

“Suppression of the natural sexuality of the child…makes the child apprehensive, shy, obedient, afraid of authority, good, and adjusted in the authoritarian sense; it paralyses the rebellious forces because any rebellion is laden with anxiety; it produces, by inhibiting sexual curiosity and sexual thinking in the child, a general inhibition of thinking and of critical faculties” (Wilhelm Reich 1933).

Authority, and its fear, are repressed sexual impulses manifest then in obedience and conformity. Love of ‘Monarchy, Military and Middle England’ are manifestations of unfulfilled sexual desires which are both exciting but repressed as dirty. On the outside we are clean, we wear clean uniforms and we conform to then outwardly express cleanliness because we are trying to fool everyone, especially ourselves, and that our inner dirty little secret must stay hidden. In extremis, this is turned into authoritarian control for everyone, because they fear they can’t control themselves.

Scratch the surface of a conformist authoritarian and you will find a dirty little wanker terrified that he has been caught out.

We do have restrictions to protect third parties from the actions of ‘free’ individuals. In the case of guns, apart from a questionable emotional attachment to semi automatic weapons, there is no reason for a civilian to own such military hardware. By all means buy and own sport handguns and sport shotguns but within a strictly licensed and controlled environment. But military hardware? No, I argue you should not own one.

Never.

Not even in rifle clubs.

There is darkness there. Look deep into your soul, really deep and I think you’ll find psychosexual issues at the root of much of gun ownership and gun worship. It’s a penis substitute for weak or bullied people who perceive lack of control in many areas of life, and thus have a deep emotional drive to show to the world and to themselves that they are people to be reckoned with. They then rationalise this psychosexual inner drama by externalising it and referring to spurious notions of liberty, rights and second amendment bollocks. It’s a small wonder this does not happen more often as more and more Americans begin to feel national impotency in the eyes of a laughing world, adding to their sense of personal impotency.

Shooting one off shows ’em eh? Still got it, still got a hard one in my hand.

What turns a person on about a powerful tube that ejaculates material at the stroke of a finger?

Shooting inanimate objects in controlled sporting conditions in ranges is probably not based in sex, but I strongly suspect that is the case for owning an AK47* in Nevada.

So, no, Mr Trump, this is not ‘pure evil’. A category so shorn of explanatory power that it’s as useful as showing a pair of shaved bollocks to a judge in order to support your claim for leniency.

 

 

*insert your favourite grouping of letters and numbers.

Safe and Effective Staffing: Nursing against the Odds

The Royal College of Nursing has just published a report  this September (Borneo, Helm and Russell 2017) on staffing. This followed from a previous report in May 2017: ‘Effective staffing –  the real picture

The RCN also provided evidence in Scotland in July 2017.  Half of the survey  said patient care was compromised by insufficient staffing on their most recent shift. These claims emerged in a submission to Holyrood’s health committee on the 2018/19 draft budget.

In September 2016, NHSI published a report  stating that demand for nurses was outstripping supply while providers responded by hiring more agency nurses.

Roy Lilley commented upon the RCN 2017 report and his conclusion is devasting:

This report says to me the profession of nursing is over.  The damage is done.  Read this and no-one will want to be a nurse. The future?  De-skilled.  Care provided by health-care assistants, apprentices, technology and a handful of real nurses trying to hold the ring. My conclusion; don’t go into hospital if you can possibly avoid it.  Don’t have an episode of mental illness and on no account put yer-granny in a care home.  Nothing and no-one is safe.  Even more important; don’t let your kids or your partner consider a career in nursing; it’s an exhausting, exploited profession… going nowhere.  Expect tears, more tears, stress, pressure and life to be easier working in a salt-mine”.

Given that commentary, I thought I’d take a look myself. Is it a bed of nettles or roses for nurses?

In the forward, Janet Davies (RCN CE and Gen Sec) stated:

  1. Over 50% of the nurses said their last shift was not staffed to the level planned and that care was compromised.
  2. 33% stated that care had to be left undone.
  3. 66% are working overtime each shift with no pay.
  4. Tea breaks are missed.
  5. Some patients are without dignity and some dying alone.
  6. Reports of burn out and sickness.
  7. Many question their future.
  8. Many had raised concerns only to feel ignored.
  9. For the first time more are leaving the register than joining
  10. EEA nationals are leaving.
  11. 1 in 3 are due to retire in 10 years.
  12. International recruitment is plateauing.
  13. In 2009 the proportion of RNs in Adult wards was 62%, it is now down to 58%.
  14. 20% of RNs were temporary staff.
  15. Unpaid time worked by nurses equates to £396 million annually.
  16. Safe and effective staffing is the exception not the rule.

This current report was based on a survey based on 30,000 responses. The RCN asked people about their last shift or day worked in health or social care. The majority of shifts, 97%, captured in the survey were in May 2017, after any winter pressures.

 

Lets be critical of this later report, because Tory ministers will be. It was a self reported survey and so open to respondent bias. It could be the case that only the disillusioned answered the survey and so skewing the result. The responses are subjective and not verifiable with objective data. It reported only on the last shift they worked in May and so could be open to bias, that shift may not have been representative. The report’s publisher, the RCN, has a vested interest and is not possibly a disinterested party.

While some of these points have merit, the results however indicate that there is some validity to the responses because they fit with other data such as that of the NHSI 2016 report. The King’s Fund (2017) states:

“New data highlighting an increase in the number of vacant NHS posts in the first quarter of 2017 underlines the pressure on the NHS workforce as a result of growing workloads and staff shortages. This is affecting staff morale – one of the top two concerns reported by NHS finance directors in each of our last four quarterly monitoring reports“.

The Safe Staffing Alliance  argues that:

Evidence shows that 45 per cent of wards in England are operating at unsafe levels. When you add the 27 per cent drop in district nurse numbers over the past four years, and the fact that 25 per cent of nursing directors are only in post for one year, it is little wonder the health service is in meltdown“.

Just two of the many quotes from the survey:

I feel that I am totally burnt out. Don’t think I can continue to work at this pace. I have resorted to anti depressant medication. I am seriously thinking of retiring next year as I will be 60 after 44 years in the NHS

“I feel exhausted, demoralised and do not want to go back for another shift”

Care is political. Responsibility rests with Jeremy Hunt who has presided over this for years. Pointing a gun in his back is Osborne’s Austerity. This is a direct result of the strategic decisions taken at the highest levels of government. Ministers blather about ‘more nurses’ and try to kid us that ‘more’ is the same as ‘enough’.

At heart is an ideology that undervalues nursing, that seems to think they are too expensive and not necessary (educated uppity nurses), and that actually individuals, families and care assistants could be better placed to do the job.

I cannot see the current Tory government budging one inch on this. They are fixated with Brexit and the deficit. I shudder to think of it, but perhaps when middle england wakes up and via the Daily Mail start to rant, perhaps and only perhaps something might be done.

 

 

Borneo, A., Helm, C., and Russell, J. (2017) Safe and Effective Staffing: Nursing Against the Odds. London. RCN.

Photo by Melinda Pack on Unsplash