Rip it up and start again

Beanbags and Bullsh!t

Happy New Year! At least, let’s hope it is.

2016 probably doesn’t need any further publicity but one recurring theme was that it was a pretty good year for the rip it up and start again brigade: not just in global politics but in the social sectors, too.

One of my particular favourites was the conveyor belt of swashbuckling business leaders explaining that current approaches to doing good were rubbish and that charity, government or both should be replaced by people more like them.

Suck it up

One of those change makers most prominently featured on the social investment circuit was Iqbal Wahhab, founder of restaurant chains Cinnamon Club and Roast.

He published a book, Charity Sucks, as part of Biteback Publications ‘provocations’ series and turned up at the Good Deals social investment conference in Birmingham in November to deliver the message in person as part of a conversation with Big Issue Invest Chairman, Nigel…

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A poem

A poem by the poet Michael McCarthy, a friend of my mother’s.

It is one I love, the last poem in the collection ‘At the Races’.

Last Will and T.

And to you my high horse, I leave
This original saddle, the stirrups thrown in
for luck, as well as the rest of the tack.
And after you have galloped off, I leave
the echo of your hooves to the heather
and what’s left of the morning air
to the ducks in the water-lilied lake.

And I leave the ring of my doorbell
to the empty room, to the stained carpet
where Charley knocked over the soup
when he got drunk on emptiness
until he was full of light. To the rest
I leave the benefit of the doubt
Now and at the hour of my death

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Dead Squirrels

I used to bash out a blog daily.

I used to ride a horse whenever and wherever I could.

I used to hop on a plane and fly more or less anywhere given half  a chance.

I used to do these things.

Now, not so much.

Fear crept into each of these activities, taking up residence in my gut brain, chucking out whatever chemical cocktail it is that makes your palms damp, your heart flip out, your intestines clench and gurn.

This year, on the shortest of hops to Jersey, I cried.  I cried there and on the way back with only 45 minutes in the air.  I flew to Bordeaux too, crying there and back. I put my sunglasses on and tried not to sob too much.

Perhaps that might work with this lonely, anxious-making typing words shizzle.

You see, as things stand, if I write something and then step away from it for too long, I can’t bear to read it again.  I call it the dead squirrel syndrome: you know you killed it, but you can’t bear to look at it again.  Step away from the corpse for too long and it’s almost impossible to return.  Either you can’t locate it, or the stench of rotten flesh makes it impossible to concentrate on anything, let alone resurrecting the kill.

Or  worse, you simply can’t be certain now that it’s even your dead squirrel at all.

Editing the dead squirrel.  Don’t even try.

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Building a platform

I have started to ponder (lately) where I might be (in life on the generally accepted space-time continuum) had I concentrated my efforts in one sphere.   As it is, I have scattered my   energies far and wide, seen much, achieved (by certain widely accepted standards) little.

Oh, such dissipation, dissolution and dishevelment I have known over the years.

And still I am here, almost but not quite boring myself, not quite to death.

I admit, I should not be over here On Wishes and Horses.  I should be over on jessicamrussell.com where I should be writing about being the biographer of Louise Little, mother of Malcolm X.  I should be building the platform, from which to launch a book into the world.  I should for the purposes of the above both hyperlink this post and tag it to within an inch of its scrawny life.  I should pick a photo that matches my well-chosen words and the comments should flow, like I was on goddamn Facebook.

I should.

I should play the game.

I shall too.

But, not just yet.

I still, despite all the terrible odds and notwithstanding appearances, like it here.  (And if not best, then surely most.)

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Trying to make phone calls on my calculator

Not the Casio calculator I was so proud to get for my 10th birthday you understand – that is long since lost – but mistakenly trying to call someone using the calculator function on my     smart phone…

Is my phone smarter than me?  Not yet, as I am the one that has to eventually notice my error.  You’d think that any self-respecting phone of today could figure that what I really want to do is call someone…

What’s more worrying, however, is that it is an error I have made more than once.

Dammit.

That preamble is because I am still thinking about the role time plays in the human experience.  Is it a concept, an experience, a reality, or (as I suspect) just a bunch of numbers that do not help us to understand our subjective experience any better at all?

Dammit.

Is this a mid-life crisis?

Dammit.

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Totting up and tottering by

No-one in my particular echo chamber has much good to say about 2016.

Glad to see the back of it seems to the general sentiment.

It being a number, two thousand and sixteen, this one-off number that we humans have chosen to overarch this particular span of time, a stretch we like to call a year.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.

Gonna sleep on it.

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An Economic Nightmare: Keynesian Growth v Hayekian Austerity

I wrote this post 5 years ago. It’s a long post, but I think it was prescient. In it I demanded radical responses to the problems created by the failed capitalist model and the binary thinking of economists. Since then we’ve had some new thinking, but the responses of electorates have been to make sure the ‘selfish’ element of our experience is allowed to take precedence.

By the closing paragraph of this, the rise of the right and Donald Trump looks, if not inevitable, then less surprising at least.

On wishes and horses

I am no economist, as the state of my bank deficit can testify, nonetheless I have taken some time to try and understand what the hell has gone on with the global economy in the last few years. I lived through the boom and bust of the late 1980s and early 90s and my experience with credit then, gave me a good grounding in how fragile life becomes when we live on a play now, pay tomorrow basis.

On the other hand I still live in a Western capitalist economy, some people live without debt, but they are probably the minority. I learned from the 1980s but I could not entirely mend my ways. I did learn one thing though. Don’t buy a buy now, pay later sofa – that’s just stupid.

And that’s where Friedrich August Hayek comes in. His economic theory can be loosely applied to DFS, MFI…

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Why we should talk more about mental health in farming

This article is all about mental health in the farming community. Please help in breaking the stigma by tweeting in support of farmers who suffer from mental health, using the hashtag #FarmerMental…

Source: Why we should talk more about mental health in farming

So Trump

So Brexit

So Democracy

So America

So Britain

So…  I could go on.

It’s a new grammatical unconvention isn’t it, to start a sentence with so.  Your purist grammarian would be all up in arms about it, but I reckon, after a week that delivered the world the Donald as President-Elect for the not-so United States of America on a harried shallow in breath, and released Leonard Cohen on the exhale, it will stand.

On June 24th 2016 my brain had to do some heavy cognitive lifting, and quick, to rearrange some neural networks so all this shifting had a place to go.  The world as I thought I knew it had altered radically.  In my mind, Britain was a beacon of multiculturalism and tolerance, compassion and solidarity with people in need.  I was wrong.  Britain had ignored the needs of too many citizens outside the metropoleis for too long.  Beyond our mixed and multicultural cities, people felt ignored, left behind, slighted even.  Despite efforts (I will not write best) the political party (Labour) that purported to represent their views was not just part of the disconnect, it had driven some of it along over the years.

The internet, the media: you find the same disconnect between various realities, but also increased identification and connection with people like you.  These days, if you hold a view, it is not hard to find someone, somewhere who will reinforce it.  If you should happen upon someone or something that might challenge your feelings about how your part of the world is going along, the easiest thing to do is simply click away.  Quickly.  Thus we have the world divided, as was described this week into red feed / blue feed.  Thus we have a world where an appeal to the facts of the matter simply bounce off a set of existing feelings and beliefs like hailstones on a tin roof.  We have, my friends, arrived at the Post-Truth staging post.

So Trump.  So Trump can say whatever he likes; whatever he likes about African Americans, whatever he likes about women, whatever he likes about Mexicans, whatever he likes about Hillary Clinton, or Obama.  He can say whatever hateful things he likes because the people who voted for him say* they aren’t motivated by any of those things – they are interested in his main, simplistic, nostalgic and essentially undeliverable election slogan:

MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN

It’s the same ploy the Brexiteers used in Britain to good effect:

TAKING BACK CONTROL

Both campaigns were notable for their policy vacuum, and real-world strategies to deliver meaningless soundbytes (beyond the immediate appeal to the emotions).  Sufficient numbers of both British and US electorates liked not just the sound of the slogans, but the feel of them too.  The overt racism, sexism, divisiveness?  Well, that just wasn’t the line in the sand those of us who study history and have hope for the future of the planet and humankind hoped it would have been.

The hurt this experience engenders in the ‘losing’ side has been likened to a bereavement.  The population that voted to Remain, or for Hillary, instead wake up to a country that is not what they thought, or hoped it was.  First we find someone to blame: those who voted for Trump or to Leave, those who did not vote at all.  We look at the numbers.  Hillary won on the popular vote; Brexit was not voted for by the majority of the nations that make up the United Kingdom.  Those facts comfort somewhat yet highlight that the system is messy, inconclusive.  In the UK, the question was wrong.  In the US, the candidate was wrong, the electoral college is an anachronism.  Those on the ‘losing’ side are told not to frustrate the will of the people.  Those in power like to quote that a lot.  We end up in the ridiculous situation where the will of a minority of the people is treated like holy writ and the law of the land is berated for being as it is, not as this group of people want to be.

With victory in the back pocket of the rich (posturing to care about the poor) the facts of the matter, the rule of law, the mechanics of the thing are mere inconvenience.  Post-truth, post-fact, we and they simply change the channel.

WHERE NOW?

I fear backwards.  I hope I am wrong.

I hope that these swings to the right, that seem destined to continue to play out across Europe in the coming year, are simply the sting in the tail of the death throes of the 20th century.  That they are the last chance saloon of angry white people who whilst still in the majority feel they are not, and also feel that their rights are somehow more than their fellow beings due to accidents of birth.

The alternative is ugly and dangerous and it’s already here.

So Trump.

*I’m afraid I don’t believe them

 

 

 

A few weekends ago I realised that although I have spent much of the year writing and writing, it has been all the wrong kind of writing.

I thought I might have gotten away with it though: day after day, tapping away, all wrong.

Just this once, I thought, I would be earning enough to make giving up my days to the wrongness right.

It was a fallacy of thinking.  I am what I am.  My writing is not simply a knowledge product.  It is what I think, and what I do.  If the writing is too much wrong, too often, then so is the thinking and so becomes the doing, in the end.  As I said: I am what I am.  And I must make the time to do that righter than wronger.

Which makes me feel a bit like a cross between Winnie the Pooh (existential bear philosopher) and Russell Ackoff (organizational theorist and systems god).

But that’s good.