Tuesday, 17 March 2015

So, I am so incensed about various issues this week that I don't know where to start. Shall we preamble? I want to get back to discussing things in more detail, but let me get some things off my chest to begin with......

I have been pursuing my family tree again. I am stuck with my three x great grandfather who, despite saying in each of the censuses that he was born in a particular place in 1806,remains without the attribution of a baptism. In the end, the problem may boil down to one of non-conformist records being secreted away somewhere where no one can see them. This problem confounds many an ardent family tree researcher, an impenetrable barrier to generations past. But why isn't it law to deposit these records in an archive somewhere? As things stand, records can be kept out of public view or knowledge; kept by chapels who regard documents as their own property to be kept away from us and, ultimately, lost to family history forever. (I know one such person who keeps chapel records from a deconsecrated chapel in his attic where they moulder until the day he dies when who knows what will happen to them? )It really is a scandal isn't it... and typical of the church in all its facets. Somehow the folks, who over the centuries have been born and lived and died in attendance of a religious institution, who have genuflected to it and feared it,who are the cannon-fodder, as it were, who perpetuate the institution, its life-blood and succour to its ministry, become in their death the property of the chapel, to be chained to oblivion if the chapel so chooses. Yet they are OUR relatives. Our antecedents have given them life and they have given us ours, but we have no rights when it comes to honouring them through family research. They are locked away.

We talked in another blog about the Church of England burying the dead according to a hierarchy: those with headstones have their grave-plot recorded , those without are not documented. That represents just how much we church goers over the centuries mean to them... The church is there for THEM, not for us, we are simply there to serve the continuity that the church requires and when they are done with us, they don't give a damn who is buried in their churchyards. It's that simple.Genes versus memes. Flesh and blood coming out second best to religious doctrine.

So what else am I concerned about this week? Well, how about the government's Prevent Strategy? I'll come back to this, but suffice it to say that I am incredulous at the sheer idiocy of the whole shambles. Let's apply a bit of logic: Prevent is supposed to deter disaffected youth from drifting into terrorism and reclaim those who have strayed, back onto the straight and narrow of good old British values! What a laugh! If we are so upright, why on earth are young Muslims such easy prey to radicalisation? And didn't the Iraq war have something to do with it? But we are assuming that our government is capable of thinking aren't we? Or did we know that they don't know a thing about basic psychology? Look, you have a young person who has been radicalised and you want to purge his or her mind of it. With me so far? So to de-radicalise them you have to talk to them, right? You have to find out what they think and why they think it in order to challenge them? But here's the rub: THEY can't talk to you because what they are thinking is imprisonable! ...There was a young man on the radio a few days ago who had been released from prison on licence. He was put on a Prevent program. If he had revealed what he was really thinking he would have been sent back to prison!So he kept his thoughts to himself.Now, did Prevent, therefore, his inner-most thoughts not evinced, believe that this young man had been deradicalised?! Are we to take it, then, that secret thoughts make us innocent and spoken thoughts make us guilty? Is this really the criterion whereby to judge? (It reminds me of government plans to render some mental patients guilty of crimes before they are committed and , of course, is the reason why imprisonment without trial becomes morally defensible....) So look, in this sorry little story you can see one of the many problems inherent in deeming a thought to be equivalent to an action. Let's get back to this soon.....
Next blog:Misattribution of intention.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Why Improve Oursleves?4

I was lucky enough to catch Rosa Monckton`s documentary "Tormented Lives" last night on BBC 2. I was really struck by Rosa`s compassion and her disposition to relate to people in an accepting and non-judgemental way and I really hope that this documentary`s powerful expression changes things for people.

Of course, I have talked about why we need to bully others, both as individuals and as a society, in my blogs many times, covering the abuse of women, the elderly and children. We saw in the program how bullies, very much in their raw, animal state, victimise those who are obviously weak. I have explored previously why certain people, or groups, are picked on, by whom and for what motive. I am not going to go over that ground here because this blog takes a slightly different angle in regard to my previous blogs entitled "Why Improve Ourselves?"

Though I understand bullying and victimisation from both first-hand experience and careful observation of life around me, I am always shocked to see the affects of it. Of course, bullying in schools is no better for the attention it receives and with time-old opportunities to bully the sick and the elderly, nothing changes very much. Why would it? Unfortunately, there is a societal need for it as well as the systems to enable it and systems to protect the perpetrators. We are all complicit in this.. My blogs "Teachers who Bully" show how a closed system like a classroom, for example, is a training ground for what we see in our wider society in the adult world.

Anyway, back to this blog: it struck me during Rosa`s program that our society's ubiquitous tolerance for bullying begins with small behavioural lapses that seem so ordinary and innocuous. And we let them go. Behaviour in schools is appalling.Children in mainstream education aren`t taught how to behave in a polite respectful manner and where they slide, are not pulled up for it. There is no one to care about such basics as saying please and thank you, or holding a door open for someone.Still less for a child calling another child a hurtful name. Indeed, as I discussed way back, the bullied child is more likely to be treated as a misfit, a psychological problem, than the bullies, proving that as a society we in fact SUPPORT bullying.

So what`s this got to do with the behaviour of the bullies in Rosa`s program? Simple, the behaviour of Rosa`s victimisers has slid way beyond the omission of a please and thank you.They have spent years in an environment that, frankly, allows them to vent their animal drives however they want to. Basically, it`s animal expression.

So you have to catch all aspects of behaviour early, in primary school. In my view the threshold cannot be drawn at bullying, it has to be a threshold that desires basics, as part of a process to de-animalise our behaviour from the very small issues upwards.To do this you can`t just take out certain behaviours you don`t want, 5 or 10 or 15 years too late, you have to cultivate a nature that cleaves to higher values of respect and courtesy, and a desire for approbation. What does "desire for approbation" mean? Well, it means you have to CREATE children who wish to please and wish to be helpful. But look, input has to match output, which it certainly does not in mainstream education.You just can`t get the sort of kids you want in society by telling them what to do: you have to example it! That means that classrooms should not reflect the animal nature of the outside world, survival of the fittest, children should never fall victim to group runtifictation at school, none should be left behind educationally, none should be sent to the educational psychologist when they are bullied.... I could go on. The point in the obverse is that, of course, one, just ONE example of how society operates, the classroom, demonstrates to all the children in the school that THIS is how society works. Are we then so surprised that they go out and overtly copy what is being exampled from the day that they start mixing with other kids and adults outside the family?

I think that we should always try to improve ourselves, to escape our animal nature as much as we can and Rosa`s bullies show us that. If small things were important I think that all of us could enjoy better lives, but we really have to wake up to things that are almost invisible to our rightfulness-radar.What we don`t apprehend is just off the screen, I`m afraid, causally. Rosa`s bullies have been taught, by example. The animal behaviour they exhibit carries with it the fire of resentment born out of received disrespect and projected failure that keeps them fuelled up.

If we expand this logic we can see that all behaviors are important and significant and we see that any improvement is worth it in any area or with any issue. But, but, but, we must try to see that OUR societal framework engenders the bullying we disapprove of in others. Not just that some kids are disadvantaged -by the animal function of a classroom or by the social, financial or educational status of their parents, but that our whole system is riddled with our animal needs to compete and gain position over others. If we look at what really happens in schools, the survival of the fittest at work right in front of our eyes, we can see that Rosa`s bullies learned their behaviour from everything we show them: certainly from the way schools make a percentage of children fail, the use of psychiatric labels given to various misfits,etc.

Take a look around you...

Of course, raising ourselves above our animal state, our animal soul, is one of the main themes of one of the primary texts of chassidic Judaism, the Tanya, by
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. In my discussions I am going to come back to religion in this context.