Category: politics

How long is enough?

Two recent stories have caused me to consider how long is enough?

1 – “Three years after a sex scandal involving Billy Graham’s grandson Tullian Tchividjian, Fortress Press is bringing his book Jesus + Nothing = Everything back to print.

2 One of Nicola Sturgeon’s new ministers has lost her job before even being confirmed by Parliament over blog posts deemed “offensive and inappropriate”. Gillian Martin, named as a junior education minister on Wednesday, wrote about “hairy knuckled, lipstick-wearing transgender laydees” in a 2007 post.

The forgiveness being given in one story after 3 years contradicts the outcry to the second story. I am not involved with their situation so it is easy for me to forgive, or conversely it is easy to condemn their past action and hold their views as stationary. But I find myself thinking…
How long is long enough to hold people to account?
Can people really change?
Are Christians more likely to give forgiveness?
Is forgiveness given to easily within the Christian community?

Apologies requires two parts, the first person to say “I am sorry” the second person to say “I accept”.
Being the first person to apologise is tough. I do not like that I am human and this means I am changeable and fallible (often). Life changes. I have changed. But I am constantly here. I am not a journey, as that implies my views are always changing and if I do not change then I am not journeying. I am here and have experienced life as best I can. I wondered what I would do in each situation, would I apologise and mean the apology.

It also needs the other, the second person. The other includes whoever was directly affected by these actions. The politician was talking about others in her blog, and the Bookman convinced others that what he was doing was correct. You cannot apologise if you do not know what you are apologising for. Perhaps an apology will make things ok with who they were wronging. Perhaps this represents an acknowledgement that what they did was wrong and a commitment to do the future differently. I don’t know an apology would demonstrate a changed belief, at a basic level by not having affairs or not writing blogs they would demonstrate a change. It is challenging to forgive but it is what I am called to do.

So how long is enough? What do people have to do to be forgiven? Perhaps the third person the in the situation needs thought about. The third person is wider society. We ask both people to hold office (in church and in parliament), we then hold both to an additional standard of behaviour. Where there is abuse of power or the possibility of this behaviour we say “NO” to appointment. We judge the situation and the person as we see fit. We are comfortable with the operation of a public court system where people are tried publicly, although the public most times were not offended against. But the legal system is not as important as social media and the court of public opinion. The both are guilty. Apologies may have been said, but still I judge them. I am uncomfortable with the three years in case one, as I do not think it is long enough. I am also uncomfortable with 11-year-old blogs being used as an example of the politicians views. But this doesn’t tell me anything about the people; it doesn’t tell me whether they have changed, or whether they have unrepentant carried on. I judge them based on the worst part of their existence that we know about. I was criticising Donald Trump recently, when an American youth worker told his story of asking the Trump organisation for help to make a good night for a group of young people. He was asked to Trump tower in New York and surprisingly, ended up meeting with Donald Trump. Come the night and the Trump organisation really did a great job in making the night awesome, going above and beyond for the young people. While I am not a supporter of President Trumps policies or presidential reign, neither was the American youth worker, I am aware that the picture is more complex than I see. Humans act as humans, frustratingly inconsistent.

A story for the #courgettecrisis. “What They Sell In The Shops These Days” by Daniil Kharms

This is not a picture of the shops yesterday. #Fakenews

Yesterday I was involved in a discussion about the lack of courgettes in the shops, #courgettecrisis. I was urged to shop locally and eat seasonally; i was encouraged to note the advice from a mitchelin starred celebrity chef.

Well.
I dont live in a globalised, commodified, consumerist society to shop local and seasonally, I want everything cheap and available now. As for taking vegetable selection advice from a chef who is backed by the big potato lobby…

Anyway, this put me in mind of one of Daniil Kharms stories from “Incidences”.

(22) What They Sell in the Shops These Days

Koratygin came to see Tikakeyev but didn’t find him in.
At that time Tikakeyev was at the shop buying sugar, meat and cucumbers.
Koratygin hung about by Tikakeyev’s door and was just thinking of scribbling a note when he suddenly looked up to see Tikakeyev himself coming, carrying in his arms an oilskin bag.
Koratygin spotted Tikakeyev and shouted: — I’ve been waiting for you a whole hour!
— That’s not true — said Tikakeyev — I’ve only been out of the house twenty-five minutes.
— Well, I don’t know about that — said Koratygin — except that I’ve already been here a whole hour.
— Don’t tell lies — said Tikakeyev — you should be ashamed to lie.
— My dear fellow! — said Koratygin — Be so good as to be a little more particular with your expressions.
— I consider … — began Tikakeyev, but Koratygin interrupted him:
— If you consider . . . — he said, but at this point Tikakeyev interrupted Koratygin and said:
— A fine one you are!
These words put Koratygin into such a frenzy that he pressed a finger against one of his nostrils and through his other nostril blew snot at Tikakeyev.
Then Tikakeyev pulled the biggest cucumber out of his bag and hit Koratygin across the head with it.
Koratygin clutched at his head with his hands, fell down and died.
That’s the size of the cucumbers sold in the shops these days!

Sunday Schools and Government Inspections. #politics #religion

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There has been some discussion over the English Department of Education policy for Out-of-school education settings: The policy is part of the UK Governments counter extremism policy. You can read the call for responses to the policy which includes the policy proposal and some questions the Government are wondering about here. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/480133/out_of_school_education_settings_call_for_evidence.pdf

What is this policy about?

That’s a great question. It’s a policy which fits with the UK Governments wider PREVENT strategy, (that’s a policy to tackle terrorism and extremism). As part of that the government is going to “work to reduce the risk that children and young people are exposed to harm and extremist views in out-of-school education settings “ (p6).

Why target out-of –school education situations

Well schools are regulated, and harmful practices are ways to get the school closed or teacher involved barred from working with children and young people, and out-of–school provision is not (p6).

And they are dangerous?

The government is saying OFSTED (the English schools inspection body) and Local Government bodies are making the case that they need to be checked out. Highlighting concerns over the Health & safety of premises, also “There have been reports of unsuitable teaching materials being used, and evidence that no suitability checks are being conducted on staff to ensure children are safe” (p6). The make an example of the so-called Trojan schools in Birmingham, UK.

That sounds Bad. What are unsuitable teaching materials?

While discussing good out-of-school settings they say:

We want these settings to continue to provide children with learning opportunities whilst putting in place a system which enables intervention in those cases where out-of-school settings fail to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. It is right to expect children to be in a safe environment and somewhere which does not teach children views which undermine our fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs (p7).

So an unsuitable teaching material would be something which is undermining our fundamental British values. Democracy, the rule of Law, Individual Liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. Do we get to vote on those fundamentals are the British fundamentals, or are they just decided for us and put into law by the government?

They are decided for us by the government. In a very democratic way which we should respect.

Quite. So okay I think what we do at our thing like Sunday school just about gets through, how does the policy work when and if it comes into practice.

As you are in Scotland and it is a policy for England, you do nothing.

What if I live in England. (this is on the world-wide web, and some people in England could be on the internet).
Two options.
1 – go rogue. (I will refrain from outlining the consequences of this, but suffice to say that would be viewed dimly.)
2 – the government will make a way for you to register your out of school setting.

Every Sunday school setting ?

When referring to out-of-school education settings, we mean any institution providing tuition, training or instruction to children aged under 19 in England that is not a school, college, 16-19 academy or registered childcare provider.

(p6)
So that includes churches Sunday schools.

Hold on all of them? that sounds like the state is going to register all Sunday school style events and all Sunday school style event staff in England.

Not quite

we propose to focus resources on where children receive intensive tuition, instruction or training out-of-school, which are closer in nature to other regulated settings and which potentially have greater impact on children, and might pose a greater risk to children (p10)

further

Intensive Education could be considered anything which entails an individual child attending a setting for more than between 6 to 8 hours a week, bearing in mind that this could be over an hour every day after school or on one or both days of the weekend … [or] might establish themselves to provide ‘intensive’ education but less frequently, or for a fixed period of time, for example during school holidays or in the run up to exams (p10).

(check the first few minutes of this house of lords video where Lord Nash assures Lord Storey that Sunday Schools are anticipated as being under the time limit, as are one-off residential events.)

So closer in nature to a school type education model, and over 8 hours a week per child. Phew, I think I am safe.

Phew indeed.

So whay are people so upset.

Well on Thursday, this man, The head of OFSTED, said that every religious learning setting in England would need to be registered, (at around 11.22 on the video).  This would seem to contradict the Lords comment above. Although this ambiguity is perhaps indicative of the fact this is proposed policy, not enacted yet. If he is right though, the Sunday schools of any church in England would be registered and also could be a target for inspection by OFSTED, the results could be their staff could be barred from working with children or the entire thing shut down. of course OFSTED may also find them to be Outstanding and commend them on their practice.

yes it could be ok I suppose, but I am not sure i like the idea of the government have a register of people who believe things, is there anything we can do about it.

YES – these people want you to write to your MP and ask them calmly and politely to go and listen to the debate in parliament about it. As I live in Scotland and my MP cannot vote in this matter I am not going to write to mine about it.

Ok. But doesn’t it concern you at all?

Not really. The church where I help with youth work is registered with the government as a licence entertainment venue for concerts, and for gift aid already. All leaders with children & youth work are registered through child protection systems with the governments child protection check system. Registering that we have a Sunday school and who the staff are is not really an issue as the government already has access to all that information. Also I think this type of move fits into the ongoing narrative within Scottish youth work of the professionalization of the youth work staff. Youth work staff are encouraged to voluntarily become members of the CLD Standards Council for Scotland.

Where it does raise some issues for me is around how much of the youth work I do within the church which is learning (i.e. similar in nature to school based learning) and secondly How I feel about being externally validated / approved for this work. That is something to think about, not be feared I would guess. What should a Sunday morning event for young people look like in nature and is an educational lens the best way to view this work?

reflecting on the election – #GE2015

beentovoteSo the responses to the general election 2015 are long and varied. For myself, I like my reflection with a sense of humour so here goes with a brief round-up of responses.

American PJ O’Rouke is on the money with “A Point of View” for BBC Radio 4 – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-32657761

The more explosive reaction, with many expletives, comes from the Bugle podcast, (Jon Oliver & Andy Zaltzman) https://soundcloud.com/the-bugle/bugle-292-a-career-defining-election this made me laugh substantially!

As did the Dead Ringers take on the election. Broadcast on the day after the election, it does seem a bit raw but is remarkably spot on, while taking everyone for a laugh. (For this show it does help if you have a working knowledge of the political characters of the last election and the hosts of the “Today” show on BBC Radio 4). http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/fricomedy

perhaps the most disappointing satirical take on the a events of the election came from The Daily Show who seem to have missed the mark with their segment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qt8gEvGJe_I

anyway enjoy listening.

Stop South Lanarkshire changes to free bus transport to school. #localpolitics

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In these heightened times of political attention. That major parties are falling over themselves to tell how they will circle the tricky square of reducing the deficit while promising not to raise taxes, it is a magic act worthy of Penn and Teller. This ability not to raise taxes and keep providing services is a dream for every administration everywhere euphemistically wrapped up it terms like efficiency savings. The problem with this is that after 5 years of efficiency savings the gains do not match up to the amounts needed to balance the books. In Scotland the SNP administration managed to negotiate such magic with the local authorities, Local authorities agree to provide the same service, for a budget set by the SNP on the condition of no council tax rises to fund this.

The problem with magic is once you know how its done, it looses it lustre. the mystery disappears and you can see whats happening behind the smoke and mirrors. Currently my local authority is considering how to balance its budget. so it has made a couple of changes, it has changed the provision of registration services for the area, concentrating the provision within the Hamilton area of Scotland, (too much local protest). It has removed free milk from primary school children replacing this with cold water. The current proposal is to remove existing free bus transport from young people who live within more than 2 miles but less than 3 miles from the school they attend. The council have the right to do this, as the legislation from the Scottish Government specifies a legal obligation to provide transport for young people 3 miles or more from the local secondary school.

Yet I disagree with this decision. The area I live in is predominantly rural, with 70 per cent of people living in 20 per cent of the land. I am within the change zone, meaning my soon to be young people would be required to walk to school should the change go ahead. For part of their proposed walk to school the young people would have to walk alongside the A70, a major trunk road for South Lanarkshire and the main route from Ayr to Edinburgh. The part of the A70 the children would walk alongside would not have a pavement, the side of the road with a verge means crossing at a major junction which has no crossing helps such as traffic lights or a crossing of any kind.

To me I think making cuts like this and the free milk in school is asking for trouble. The council I think is hamstring by the basic agreement with the Scottish Government and have no way out (And political party which came into power would be foolish to do away with this arrangement). The local council look like the bad guy stealing the Milk while the government who sets the budget amount for each area, can blame them for the cuts.

It strikes me we need to better hold our elected officials to account. The guy who ran the BBC programme Newsnight in an interview recently said what we want to hear from our elected officials is along the lines of “here is our plan, now let me tell you the 4 worse options which when faced with made this the least worst option.” I have no doubt that if this cut is avoided a cut will fall somewhere else and will seriously affect another persons quality of life, but in the absence of a larger conversation, the absence of actually asking the electorate how they would engage with this budget and service requirements. The only way to engage is to object.

So I signed to object and would encourage you to as well. You can to here https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-south-lanarkshire-changes-to-free-bus-transport-to-school

#politics – one of the classic blunders … never get involved in a land war in Asia

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You only think I guessed wrong! That’s what’s so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders – The most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia” – but only slightly less well-known is this: “Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line”! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha…

Vinzzini, The Princess Bride.

Today (Thursday) marks the1987 American release of The Princess Bride into cinemas. Possibly the finest film ever. Also with some very prudent advice for our political overlords – never get involved in a land war in Asia. It’s the best known of the classic blunders.

Tomorrow the UK Government decides if the UK Air Force should bomb (ISIS, ISIL or IS) positions in Iraq and Syria. (It’s a land war in Asia).Last year the UK Govenrment plan to aid the syrian rebels was defeated by MP’s. This year the word is bombing in Iraq is ok, but in syria will probably not get through.

It is hard to comprehend the situation of lands whos names are exotic and who are distant to the reality of my life. There is no doubt the ISIS fighters are being ruthless. There is no doubt that this is having a direct impact on people who live in this region and those who work in this area. Life there is brutal, hard, and beyond my frame of reference.

The good guys and the bad guys in this situation are not clear, particularly in the case of Syria where ISIS is bad and the regime of Assad is just as bad. I don’t know how to respond well.

My starting point is that violence is wrong. Killing people to take what you want is wrong. Very very wrong, KIlling people because they have killed people to get what they want is also wrong. Killing people is just wrong.

Yet every year we spend millions of punds at a government level on things to kill people, on the chance that they may want to kill us and take our stuff. In 2014 I don’t want to be bombing other countries in the name of defence. I don’t want to kill anyone in the name of national security. I do not believe the only language these people understand is violence. I don’t believe thats true of any human being. (Your wrong on this one, Mr President.)

The wee boy this morning watched the news report on this at breakfast and commented.
“I don’t blame them for wanting to destroy Britain”
“Why?”
“It’s only fair, we’ve been bombing them for ages.”

And thats the problem, History. That’s what’s leads me to have doubts that the UK and America are the people to sort this out. How much of this killing is due to the way the UK and USA left things after their last attempt to protect our national interests. Historically we have a really bad record on this stuff, yet we continue to follow the same script, adopt the same behviours and the results are the same.

But if we don’t act, men women and children will die. We can say we are in a blunder. That we fell into a classic mistake. But how do we get out of it well. Can we allow the world the sort itself out and hope people won’t do bad things to others or is. What are we willing to sacrifice for change. Is one childs life in the top of Iraq worth the price of peace tomorrow?

That is a big question which I don’t have an answer too.

Sometimes I think being a politician is fun and you have a great ability to change things and make things better.

Sometimes I look at the decisions politicians have to make and thank God I don’t have to be the one choosing which is the least bad option.

#IndyRef – Politics as a state of flow

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The recent #indyref in Scotland has been breathtaking. The volume of sources, thoughts, perspectives, interviews and comments has been tremendous. This ongoing noise has led anyone trying to keep up struggling.

As someone who keeps a distance on such things, it was amazing to see. This amazement has carried on in the day after the referendum. But with the political argument moving now to London and Westminster village again Scottish voices appear to be sidelined as a form of English devolution becomes the big storyline. Leaving some in Scotland worried that after the “no” vote Scotland has lost its place on the London political agenda.

I was reading this morning on the concept of flow by Csikszentmihalyi. (From here on in “the Russian dude”). The Russian dude studied flow from the 1960’s through to the 1970’s publishing his book on it 1976 and more since.
He defined flow as being associated with 9 characteristics:-

A balance between challenges and skills;
Clear goals;
Immediate feedback;
Intense concentration;
Merging of action and awareness;
Loss of self-consciousness;
Time distortion; and
Experiencing the activity as intrinsically rewarding.

For the Russian dude the first three are the conditions of the flow state, (challenge-skills balance, clear goals, immediate feedback) the remainder are the characteristics of a flow state.

The more I think about the firehose* of the political focus upon the independence referendum, the more I consider it induces a state of flow in those associated with it. The links between the conditions of Flow states and the IndyRef are legion, the balance between challenges and skills, the challenge of convincing people and having the skill to pull it off well. Clear goals, the yes no disguising slightly the clear goal of maintaining/gaining power. And the immediate feedback of daily polls, a different one in each paper, and even minute by minute tracking of TV debates.

Yet the characteristics of Flow could be recognised in the performance of the politicians. Intense concentration, the hours with PR people to ensure you blandly answer the question you want to answer while subtly ignoring the one you are asked. The merging of action and activity, the loss of self-consciousness, a sense of control, time distortion and experiencing the activity as intrinsically rewarding, were demonstrably evident.
electric blue brain in hands
The question has to asked is a high level political existence actually a deep flow experience or is it a serious of what the Russian guy calls “almost imperceptible microflow events”. My guess is that normal politics are the microflow events, but the big things like going to war, a referendum event, are the pure deep flow. That’s what makes politics appealing, and power and responsibility desirable.

The question s how much of what goes on within this flow state is actually conscious action, and how much is just flowing. How much awareness is presented for what is happening out with the flow event, and how that is perceived by the public and those out with the flow state. If there is a difference, it provokes 2 questions.

1 – should the politicians be allowed to get to a flow state by their acolytes?
2 – if they achieve deep flow, should the politician be held to promises or pledges made in that space.

On the first one. no. I think flow can be a very helpful state where the innate person, their political phronesis all come to play together.

Considering the second one. Is more marginal. we recognise that as a society, things said in the head of the moment, can be explained by such. Buying things on the internet have special protection so it can be rejected at a later date. The agreement of Statement have an Eschatological element to them. For the politician in a flow state I think any promise, pledge or guarantee is deserving of a 7 day cooling off period, from the electorates side. How many no voters if you had to retake the vote today, would still vote no based on the reaction tot he devolution discussion which has been portrayed by westminster in the last couple of days?

Moving on requires trust and integrity, leadership and responsibility, does decisions made in flow give us that? It strikes me that flow is something which can be used well. it can help a political practitioner to say the right thing at the right time, but i have many doubts about wether the political animal one out of the flow state can always deliver the promises they made. whether the tune they make in one specific location at a specific time (Edinburgh, in a Scottish conversation) can be made real in another space, (London, in a UK conversation). Flow may allow you to operate at very high level but it also has the ability to bite you on the bum.

(*Firehose is the term applied to the whole unedited output of public twitter, delivered in real-time. very few people have this access and very few companies have the ability to process this amount of information. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/apr/16/twitter-buys-gnip-firehose-analytics-apple-topsy)

#IndyReF songs 11 (for the moning after) – Friends by Adam Buxton

F-R-I-E-N-D-S, do you really need them? Yes!
If you haven’t got a friend, then you’re just you.
There’s half as many things that you can do.
Who’s going to tell you that you’re not a brat, if not your best friend?
Do you recall when we did that? Yes!
Sharing – the brilliant jokes we’ve had throughout the years (good times together).
It’s not the same when you’re not there.
Friends.
Alalapupulala.

#IndyRef Songs – Song 10 – Life in a Scotch Sitting Room, Vol 2, ep 6. by Ivor Cutler

(This is a small blog series using songs to ask questions about the upcoming Scottish independence referendum. Not intended as anything beyond lighthearted.)

Song 10 – Life in a Scotch Sitting Room, Vol 2, ep 6. by Ivor Cutler

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What’s the song about?
I have no idea. its a kinda pastiche of all your worst concepts of growing up “scotch” in one musical item. brilliant though. I think its clear that thats not a policy for education that will get voted for in this referendum.

What questions are similar around the referendum?
where has the humour gone in this campaign. Why do we hamstring our politicians, and not allow them to be outlandish, to have suggestions based on surrealist theories. the grassroots yes people seem to be happier, more likely to have a laugh, but this can often transfer into boisterousness which those supporting no at once both annoyed by and jealous of.
Why does the school only seem to have fish on the menu on Fridays, in a fish and chips combo. More fish would make our children more intelligent? no the Telegraph says it so it must be true.

What conclusions can we draw about the independence referendum vote?
we want politicians who are politicians not rounded people. We don’t want someone with a sense of humour with their finger on the button. we want them to run the government but not be our pals. Is that fair? is that making sure the right person does the right job? would you vote for someone who made you laugh rather than their policies or ideas? would you vote for someone who’s ideas made you laugh, and go “thats brilliant?”
Fish would, fish are intelligent, and literate, thereby by extension so are those who eat them. Vote for fish people, thats the way forward.

Video

#IndyRef song 9 – Heatwave by The Blue Nile

(This is a small blog series using songs to ask questions about the upcoming Scottish independence referendum. Not intended as anything beyond lighthearted.)

Song 9 – Heatwave by the Blue Nile

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What’s the song about?
It about a heatwave. and how that equalises everything. its kinda unclear whether the heatwave is desirable, why is it rolling down on the young and foolish, or a undesirable, why is it picking on the young and foolish. to be honest its a song about global warming. Questioning why we are looking after self interest in this global catastrophe. Possibly is it all about Moses in the desert, and asking if all this upheaval is really worth it. (I am not sure yet what its about, but I am pretty sure its one of these things.)

What questions are similar around the referendum?
Does it matter if we are governed by Edinburgh or London when the larger issues are geo-political requiring major cross border agreement put right? Would a separate Scotland and rUK voice at the UN or EU actually carry more weight than one “bigger” voice
Would my tomatoes grow better if I was walking through a desert? (they’ve been rubbish this year).

What conclusions can we draw about the independence referendum vote?
that actually for all the noise and bluster, it matter very little. We pay taxes to someone – we will dislike them and their policies. we pay taxes to someone else – we will like them and their policies because we agree with them. all the while the world will get get warmer, then it will cool down. oil will run out, new oil will be found. Life as we know it will conversely continue, and never be the same again.

are we rich or poor,
does it mater anymore?
Heatwave.

Can this be all we will desire?
Straw houses in the promised land
Why is it time for taking sides?
When all I say and do is take too many chances

My tomatoes may very well grow better in a green house and with a heatwave.

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