Are we getting the politicians we deserve?

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In the last few weeks we’ve had Michael Gove performing Wham Rap and taking selfies, Milibland taking selfies with Joey Essex and Lily Allen, Diane Abbott live tweeting Tony Benn’s funeral, Mike Russell not being honest about the legal advice he was given about Scottish Uni tuition fees, Iain Duncan Smith misleading the House of Commons on the Bedroom Tax and Welfare reforms, Nigel Farage opens his mouth and lies about the EU on TV and in Aberdeen the misuse of tax payers money to send out election material with the council tax notices. Why is it that the most sensible voice in politics in the last week or so has been Kermit the Frog?

What’s the solution Bagpuss for Prime Minister – of course not he’s always asleep, Mr Benn would be a much better idea obviously. But the serious point is we have a group of people in charge of us from national to local level who just don’t seem to understand what absolute pig’s arse’s they are making of the jobs they were voted in to do. Who’s to blame? I’m afraid the answer is us.

We don’t take politics very seriously until it directly affects us. Whether it’s voting, discussing the issues of the day or campaigning about things that have an impact on those we know and love we are all guilty of running hot and cold on our democratic rights. Turn outs of 30 – 40% for local elections let in the kind of pointless and feckless morons like Willie Young and Barney Crockett in to do great damage to our city. I’m normally a Labour man but their behaviour over this last year or so has been an embarrassment topped off with the sending out of literature to promote the No vote in September’s referendum. This was a misuse of public funds in my opinion and even though I support the No campaign this was wrong and should not have been allowed under any circumstances – all it does it motivates the Yes vote anyway.

In Scotland we have the opposite problem with the SNP spending money on promoting the Yes campaign using tax payers money. The continual lies, refusal to answer questions and to be open about all the legal advice they have been given on issues connected to the Independence debate is a disgrace. It should be a warning to those who want to separate that this bunch of chancers are just as duplicitous as the other parties and should be under no illusion that there will be a new politic in a “free” Scotland.

Last week the death of Tony Benn reminded us what a real conviction politician should be. While you might not have agreed with everything he said – few did – you have to respect the man for his passion and hard work to do the best for majority and not for himself. Yes he had his flaws and in the 80s lost his way a bit focussing on personal success at the cost of his party he did what he believed in and that should always be admired. What do our politicians of today believe in? No one really knows because until they have taken several polls of public opinion they can’t decide how they feel.

And therein lies the biggest issue. The politicians are looking to us to tell them what to think on the subjects of the day – this is wrong. We vote them in and we speak as a collective at elections. If they were brave enough to stand on solid and focussed principles and through our democracy they get voted in we can then ensure they follow through with their promises. Thatcher and Blair were both hugely unpopular but at least they had visions – no one cares or feels strongly enough about Camoron, Milibland or Clegg because they don’t stand for anything.

Maybe we need to be braver and vote for independent candidates who stand for something rather than tiny cogs of huge machines that have no voice. Maybe more of us need to stand up and be counted and seek office to stop these half-wits. You might scoff but we are only a couple of elections away from the possibility of Boris Johnson as our Prime Minister – you won’t be laughing then.

JD

 

It’s not just me, you know

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We all do it, staring into the middle distance letting our minds wander free from the worlds we find ourselves in. Sometimes we’re deep in thought trying to unravel the confusion and mystery of the day-to-day, at other points there is nothing behind the vacant stare – no purpose or meaning just the ability to be lost in the moment. Something I find myself doing more frequently of late.

I’m not pretending that for one minute I’m the first or last person to struggle with my mental health. Depression is very common – more common than most people realise – it’s said that one in eight doctor’s appointments is related to depression. Also being bi-polar is not an exclusive club either and there are hundreds trying to decide which part of the mood parabola they are balancing on. But it’s tough at times and you can only understand what it is to be you. I struggle some days just to get out of bed, never mind to function “normally” (whatever that is) and just now is a case in point. I’m in a dip that has lasted around four to five weeks and I know I’ll come out the other side, but it’s never an easy route.

Your head is an unfathomable mixture of ideas and while the meds help you to find a path through the muddle there is rarely complete clarity. This is why some days I find myself just forcing myself through the working day – trying to walk through treacle mentally. This causes frustration and anger and a lack of patience and anxiety and paranoia even and you need an outlet. This is my outlet. This blog allows me to open my head and throw everything I have onto the keyboard – it’s not always pretty, well written, thought through or accurate but it’s honest. It keeps me honest with myself because writing it and letting go of it into the public domain means I can’t hide from it or make excuses.

Different people deal with their issues in different ways and for me this is my pressure release valve. Some people don’t understand that and question my motives and why I share as much as I do – I can understand their point of view but I don’t have to agree with it. Also there seems to be a pressure or expectation specifically in education that your voice and opinion shouldn’t be heard beyond the building you work in; again I disagree. While I understand that there are issues pertaining to privacy, protecting those I teach and work with and of course the institution I’m employed by – I’m still an individual human being and need to express myself freely.

I’m not, and never will be, defined by my job; life is too short for that. For me this is about individuality, free speech and also as a coping mechanism for my battles with my own mind, and you have as much right to disagree with that as I have to state it. I’m not trying to harm anyone or anything with this blog – it’s for and about me: selfish, egotistic and introverted – but with a reason behind it. Being an educator comes well down the list of labels I hold in life – I’m a husband, father, son, brother, uncle, brother-in-law, son-in-law, grandson, nephew, friend, musician, blogger and many, many more things first.

Then the question arises how many others you see staring into space are battling their own inner demons. If you stop and look at the other people around you in the traffic jam, or in the supermarket, they all have issues and problems they are fighting their way through. Never for one minute think that you are the only one. We all have a world that lives in the middle distance and perhaps we should remember that before judging others and making claims to know people. There’s only so much that can be understood from a dozen words in passing, a look or a nod in the morning.

Remember that others will look at you and make assumptions as you do to them – if you can remember and achieve to live without doing that, then tell me how it’s done because I’ve yet to manage it myself.

JD

Under the radar

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I think this is the longest gap between blogs I’ve had since I started this last year, but the reason is I’m not in a great place at the moment and wittering on every single day about how shitty I’m feeling wouldn’t make for great reading. It’s difficult when your head is as empty as mine is at the moment because there’s so much to do but I just can’t find the focus I need to spur myself on. It becomes a vicious circle: feel like shit > no motivation > can’t get things done > fail at things > feel like shit.

There are little glimpses of light that you have to grab hold of and get things done in otherwise it’s conceivable that you would get stuck in the loop and never escape. From job hunting to trying to motivate myself to do jobs round the house there’s no energy or impetus in me just now. We all know that job searches – especially when you want to take a side step outside your current career – will take time and patience and you need to be able to accept that there will be knock backs on the way. It’s easy to say, but in the current dip I’m in it compounds the negative and you can’t see past it to the next chance.

The worst bit is you become bitter about everything. Deep down I know that I need to get my finger out and be proactive, but the rejection emails and phone calls do make you shrink back and start to look at others in well paying jobs and jobs they love as “lucky bastards” that don’t deserve it when the majority of them do and it’s just me that’s the problem. You also find little patience for those around you and their mistakes and problems – it’s such a selfish thing to do, but it’s hard to escape it.

The consultant assured me last week that I will come out of it, as I always do – and I know I will but the longer it lasts the tougher it is to see any sign of light at the end of the proverb. Little things that shouldn’t be annoying start to become more noticeable; updates on Facebook, adverts on TV, news stories, people in the street – all these insignificant things make me angry, resentful and negative about myself. And I can hear you shouting “Give yourself a slap for f*ck sake and stop feeling sorry for yourself” but if it were that easy I’d have done it by now.

There are a couple of potential positive stories that could be the steps up and out of the current low that are happening over the coming days and I really hope they are both positive and rewarding, but with the mind frame as it is I have already found the flaws in them before I even reach them.

Fingers crossed things improve soon. I need a fresh start, a new lease of life and things to look forward to. Maybe by the end of the weekend I’ll have reasons to be cheerful as Mr Dury put it.

JD

 

Hitting the Wall

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Two things hit me today – that I’ve got a seven year old son (he just can’t be that old already) and that I’ve hit the patience wall with work. Both are big reminders that time is passing but I feel like I’m standing still – or worse, going backwards missing out on a world of opportunities.

Jake’s seventh birthday means a few things to me: one my little boy is not longer little, he’s growing up and becoming his own person more and more; you can see that definition of character growing daily. He’s my miracle – the boy that might not have been if things had gone differently with the cancer treatment. While he drives me round the bend, I am unbelievably grateful for him in our lives and his enthusiasm for life is one of the things that keeps me going on days like this when I’m at my lowest ebb. I really don’t know where I’d be without my family and friends.

The seven year milestone also reminds me that time is passing quickly – it feels like he’s been around forever, but at the same time he’s only been here for a short time. I was almost thirty and three years in teaching with all these great ideas of where I’d be in the future – yet I’m still sitting in a classroom looking at the industrial painted tone walls, rickety chairs, badly drawn posters and a view of the world outside my window that I’d rather be in than here. I know they always say the grass is always greener – but somewhere it must be. There has to be the belief that I can escape this self made prison and find the rich vibrant lawn I’m seeking.

Job hunting is difficult. My first opportunity fell through because of changes in the company and there is such a high level of competition in the market just now it’s hard to see a JD sized gap in a different industry. I’m not regretting leaving Secondary for Further Education because without the move I wouldn’t have realised just how much I need to move on, but I am struggling to see the pathway through to a destination. Companies insisting on experience and specific knowledge means they are more likely to fill the vacancy with a pre-trained person than take someone on and mould them to fit the job. Someone like me.

I’m more than aware that this feeling of being trapped is a common one and that very few people “enjoy” their job, so I’m not asking for sympathy. It was my choice to come down this road and I have to work with the situation I find myself in. But it would be nice to be recognised as a possibility, a prospect, an option in another field and career. The thought of sitting behind this desk looking out into the sea of blank faces and the small handful of students who continually ask the same inane questions on a repeat loop while my dignity, self respect and sanity all disappear is something i can’t face. Even returning here after the upcoming Easter Holidays is too much to consider right now.

It’s not the people in the department, or even most of the students. It’s me – I need to move on and do something else with my life.

Any offers?

JD

Peter Pawlett Baby – Bare Faced Cheek!

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In the last 24 hours there have been two brilliant uses of Social media – one for fun and one serious – but they show how great a tool these sites can be (rather than the dire Neck Nominations we endured a few weeks ago).

The first is the fun – A campaign started by Aberdeen F.C. fans to try to get the song “Don’t you want me Baby” by the Human League to Number one on Sunday since the fans changed the words to “Peter Pawlett baby”. Over the last couple of months the song has become a huge favourite with the fans and watching the success in the League Cup final on Sunday past I did wonder why the song was ringing out around Celtic Park. Now it’s all clear and in today’s midweek chart the song is already sitting at number 21.

Local stations have been playing it and supporting the campaign but today it went national with both Scott Mills on Radio 1 and Steve Wright on Radio 2 singing the Dons fans version on their shows this afternoon. Off the back of a (boring game but) fantastic win for the team it’s a great bit of fun for fans and players to enjoy the lead up to the parade through Aberdeen this Sunday – and a top ten hit would be the cherry on the cake.

On the serious side there has been a trend for “No Make-up Selfies” from girls as each model then nominates their friends as women unite to spread the word, raise money and awareness for women to check themselves for breast cancer. As someone who knows many people who have fought and won against cancer I know how important the self examination can be. Well put it this way, if I hadn’t check myself I might not have been here to write this.

I wonder though how many men check their chests? Around one in ten cases of breast or chest cancer is found in men and they need to be aware of the checking procedure too.

Here it is for both sexes:

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So buy up your songs, take your selfies, check yourself and see your GP if there’s anything unusual there and of course make a donation to one of the many brilliant Cancer charities out there to support campaigns and research helping people across the country.

JD

Losing the will.

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With everyday that goes by at the moment I find myself wondering more and more how the hell I ended up in this situation: surrounded by idiots. I fully accept that to others I too am an idiot, but as they have already been classified as idiots by me and this is my blog – I win.

Driving to work today I saw no less than five people texting and driving – well that’s what I assume they were doing as their eyes and hands were aimed towards their crotch and the only other option is not really something i want to think about. The other factor about these people is that they were all women. There is a gender divide as it’s usually men who are actually making calls while driving, which is stupid enough, but it always seems to be girls who have to text while at the wheel. If Darwin’s right we should be a few bodies short soon.

Then there are the conversations I have to listen to on a daily basis. I thought the TOWIE-speak was a joke but people actually, literally, totally, actually, literally speak like that. Rather than say they went out to a restaurant they say things like “I had a Cosmo’s – you jel?” This was the point I had to stop myself shouting obscenities or jumping over desks to hit the offending creature. Language should develop and evolve but there are times I wonder if some of it is actually, literally, actually regressing to the level of idiotic babblings of fake tanned imbeciles on a substandard TV channel.

I know I sound like a snob, a luddite stuck in a time where people spoke properly, used common sense and had an understanding of how a conversation or language actually worked. And to be honest I hold my hands up and admit that’s probably true. I had a discussion with a former pupil the other day about how teenagers are always told they need to better themselves. She said it was unfair – I pointed out that she was told this by adults who maybe wished they had paid more attention at school themselves and that youth was wasted on the young.

It all comes back to role models for me. Look at the people who you looked up to as a child and how that shaped you as a person. We have all gone off the rails at times, pushed boundaries and even laws, experimented with life and all it has to offer but there was core to us that always kept us reasonably sane and “normal”. I’m not sure we have those role models in the same way these days and adults to them are just older versions of themselves.

When I think back to my childhood, adults were old. No-one’s parents were a “milf” or “dilf” and grandparents were Roald Dahl-esque creatures who came from another time – no genuinely another time altogether that no longer exists outside of history classrooms. Now adults are young, you only seem to get old after retirement and even then the grey hair brigade are as fashionable and well kept as the generations below them. The role models of today are so different to our generations that it is understandable that “the youth of today” is not sure who to look up to.

Stupidity is the gift that rolls from one generation to the next – always has, always will – but working with teenagers and young adults there is a bravado about being an idiot, not knowing things, being thick and proud that goes against everything I do this job for. We are always better if we have knowledge and understanding of the world around us – not necessarily academic knowledge, but it doesn’t hurt. Why is there a generation who feel that it no longer matters if they fail? Why do they not care, or even celebrate failure?

One reason is the system in which they are being taught is no longer fit for purpose – either in Scotland under the dreadful Curriculum for Excellence or in the UK under Michael “Pob” Gove’s vision of education. It doesn’t equip the kids for further or higher education and it certainly doesn’t make them ready for the workplace – so what does it do. I find it harder each time I’m asked by students how the work they are doing benefits them not to say “it won’t really”. Yes there are the basic skills we must ensure they have, subject specific knowledge they need for the next academic step and the info they will need for their job, but there is a lot of wasted time and opportunities.

So what is it? What’s to blame? Education? Parents? Society? Government? Joey Essex? All of the above? Maybe that’s the issue – looking for a scapegoat instead of fixing the problems. Maybe we need to be better role models as adults, teachers, parents and grandparents and stop asking the kids why they are doing so badly.

Larkin was right you know.

JD

 

It’s not about Jagger

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Why do we only refer to people by their connection to fame? In the tragic suicide of designer L’Wren Scott all the newspapers and wider media are concerned with is the cancellation of the Rolling Stone’s tour in Australia and not the battle with mental health that a talented woman has lost. Is it more important we focus on Sir Mick because are too stupid to see the relevance of the story – or is it more that without him it’s not a story but a sad moment for all who knew her which is both personal and private.

We don’t seem to accept the world these days unless it has a “celebrity” link. From advertising to alleged news we are told the story from a perspective of fame, notoriety and celebrity – and I’m more than aware this is not new as we have had newspapers reporting on the rich and famous as long as the printing presses have rolled. But then there are the occasions where celebs miss the point too. Look at Scarlett Johanesson’s Soda Stream endorsement and how the lack of understanding of how inappropriate her support is when the Soda Stream factory sits on Palestinian land the Israelis are illegally occupying.

In this specific case we must leave those involved to deal with the situation themselves and not live through the lenses and column inches over the week or two it will take to lay her to rest. There is no story for us – and the cancellation of a few gigs is nothing compared to a human life – any decent fan would understand this. We need to put things in perspective and stop aggrandising stories like this by the most famous person they knew.

L’Wren Scott was a hugely successful designer in her own right and to limit her to “the girlfriend of Mick Jagger” is degrading to her as a woman and to her as a fashion designer. Already the journalist’s phones are red hot from all the calls to famous friends to get their thoughts from Nicole Kidman to Madonna, Naomi Campbell to Angelina Jolie – how do they feel? What are their memories? The papers are already raking through her life to pick out the reason for her suicide: Debt? Split from Mick? It’s none of our business and the papers need to leave the family and friends in peace.

If you or I died in unusual circumstances such as these, the only time the story would be more than a byline in a newspaper or on local TV news would be if we were friends or associates with someone famous, or even had a brush with fame ourselves – and I understand the interest and the need for a wider audience to be found for these outlets. For the front pages of the Mirror, the Mail and the Star today to all show Sir Mick moments after receiving the news in full-page photo is disrespectful and intrusive.

And the press wonder why we loathe them so much.

JD