Here we go again…Life

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Right at the back of your mind lives a small house in which you have put every fairy tale, Disney film and TV show ending. A world in which we all get our “Happily ever after” – rewarded for the hard work and attempts at being a decent person (even though we fail on a regular basis). The problem is that that world is a lie and it takes several severe kickings from reality to start to hide that path from the rest of our brains.

I think it’s the reason we play the lottery – that ridiculous belief that it will be your turn one day even though the odds are infinitesimal. We hold on to that hope regardless how many millions to one it is your little piece of pink paper will write you a cheque for a life changing sum of money.  I’ve played every single draw for the main lottery (except one) since it launched in 1994 and the most I’ve ever won was £109, which I picked up from Woolies. Shows you how long ago that was.

And the same foolishness exists in the rest of my life. I am a pessimist by nature; I expect the worst of life. I tell myself that at least I will only ever be pleasantly surprised living like this, but instead it just underlines how fucking miserable I am being reminded of failure constantly. When a negative thing happens it just underlines the mind-set I live with. I’m not sure if the bipolar plays a part here and the view of the world comes from that; a view of the world tinted and tainted by a chemical imbalance.

Even in my dreams I am failing at things – never quite reaching the goals I want, seeing things or people I want to get to only for them to slip past me. Even my subconscious is a miserable bastard that expects the worst – what hope have I got.

And like the depressive side of my illness it doesn’t really add up. There is no logical reason for me to feel the way I do about life. I’ve been hugely lucky to have come through so many difficult experiences and to still be standing. I know just how fortunate I am to have a beautiful loving family around me and great friends who would do anything for me – even if we don’t see each other as often as I’d like. But still there is a shadow over me like Eeyore and his raincloud.

Every year for the last four, I have found myself in difficult and dark places. Not all of them were my fault but I was the one at the centre of the storm. I can’t really go into detail here for various reasons, but ultimately I find myself – for the fourth year running – in a veritable shitstorm and no protective clothing to wear. You do start to ask yourself if this is your lot. Are you the exact opposite of the winning lottery ticket? An everlasting wooden spoon stirring up trouble at every turn?

I know I’m not the only person in the world with problems and when I turn on the news and see the sadness, tragedy and misery from around the world I get the perspective needed. Only I get the added guilt that the anxiety and depression combine to make. Why am I sitting here feeling sorry for myself when kids in Aleppo are dying needlessly? Sure my issues are nothing in comparison, but you have to deal with the cards you are dealt and right now I just appear to have a bad hand. Again.

Throw in a pinch of Bipolar, a soupcon of guilt, a side salad of depression and finish off with the runaway buffet cart of fate and here we are. Another indigestible feast that will leave a bitter taste behind again. You do start thinking that you’ve done something wrong – and maybe I have. If reincarnation does exist I think I was a right wrongun last time round.

As always you batter on thinking that it can’t get any worse but at the bottom of your gut you know that something else will appear within a few months and replace the current problem. So is this my lot? Is an unending conveyor belt of bollocks the pattern that will continue? Because there will be a point where I have to hold my hands up and say “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore”.

And that worries me.

JD

The Power of Apathy

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There’s only been one topic of conversation in the classroom since Tuesday’s US Election – “What do you think of Trump becoming President?” And rather than rant, rave and have a go at the dusty pumpkin dildo I have given them all this talk which I feel is worth sharing with everyone.

This is your fault. Not directly but you are part of the problem. If I ever ask you about your opinions on politics you laugh and say you don’t watch the news or read newspapers but you did see something funny on Facebook about Trump. Some of you can’t even tell me the name of the Prime Minister or Chancellor. And I’m aware that this has always been true to a point with teenagers – but the difference now is that apathy has grown up with the last couple of generations and we face Brexit and a Trump presidency as a result.

We have a sway of people who would rather vote for Ed Balls on Strictly Come Dancing than for Ed Balls as a politician. From the comfort of our home we can be armchair pundits on events in the world and vote for pretty much anything by a tap, swipe or email address. We can sign petitions and share memes on things we feel strongly about from politics but actually go out and vote? No thanks – what’s the point?

The point is this apathy and “What difference will it make?” attitude is perfectly shown by this week’s election in America and the Brexit vote. Not only were millions of people sitting at home not bothering to vote but when you look at the overall figures of who could have voted and the outcomes the truth becomes painfully real.

In the EU vote:

UK Electorate eligible to vote – 46,501,241

Voted to Leave – 17,410,742

Voted to Remain – 16,141,241

Spoiled Ballots – 26,033

Did not vote – 12,949,258

In the US Election:

US Electorate eligible to vote – 231,000,000

Trump – 60,071,650

Clinton – 60,467,245

Others – 6,180,868

Did not vote – 104,280,237

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m no maths whizz but these stats show two things: Brexit was only voted for by 37.4% of the UK and only 26% of Americans voted for Trump. So they didn’t carry the day; it wasn’t a landslide victory and despite what politicians tell you it is not the will of the people – it’s the will of those who voted for whatever they are advocating.

I know this is common sense, and I’m also aware many will be shouting at me that this is how democracy works and not voting is still taking a stand. That’s where I call bullshit.

Not voting, not caring enough to put a cross in a box, pull a lever, press a button is a disgrace. Today we celebrated those who have given their lives so we can be free to enjoy democracy and our communal view is gradually becoming “So what?”

I’ll tell you what – look at your payslip: tax, National Insurance and pension payments. Look at your kids – schools, child benefit, tax credits. Look outside; roads, street lights, police. It’s not difficult to understand that everything we do is driven by politics and if we don’t care or can’t be bothered then when the police numbers drop and the local A&E shuts and the street lights are put out at night to save money and your kid’s school is threatened with closure don’t you dare suddenly decide to get involved, because you’re too late.

You should have been paying attention and shouting when the politicians at local, national and international level were standing with a manifesto on which they wanted your votes. When they take office don’t just sit there and accept that life has to be this way – challenge the status quo or a decision you think is unfair or unjust. We have become lazy and indifferent.

Why?

Because they don’t listen to us? No probably not to the dozen people who took to the streets or the hundred thousand who signed an online petition. Why would they. But if you fill their inbox and postbox with questions and requests for information and clarification then they are truly accountable. Just because they are elected doesn’t mean for one minute they are finished with us.

That’s the attitude we seem to have now. Not good enough.

If there is a vote coming up you need to ensure your MP, MSP or MEP knows your views – that’s their job to represent you, even if you didn’t vote for them.

It is a self-fulfilling prophecy to be apathetic about something as important as politics because if you don’t care, then why should the politicians? They know they don’t have to turn up to debates or speeches if you are never going to check/ask/need something from that decision.

Brexit and Trump happened because people felt they had something to vote for – a voice that echoed theirs. Yes, part of the problem with Brexit is it’s hard to stir up passion for the status quo but you will lose it if you don’t stand up and say something when it really matters. And yes Clinton wasn’t the most palatable candidate we’ve ever seen for the Democrats but with the choice they had surely it wasn’t beyond the wit of the more than one hundred million voters to make sure it wasn’t The Donald.

I look at the current situation in politics and wonder why our leader of the free world is a reality TV star with no experience. I see our Foreign Secretary in the UK as that idiot that was funny (for the wrong reasons) on Have I Got News For You. I see 1960s cartoon character Nigel Farage leading the charge for Brexit and befriending the day-glow fucktrumpet billionaire.

Is this what we have become? A world who will only vote for the same people we can vote for on TV, tweet from our smartphones or Facebook Friend? If it is then we need a new revolution where policy matters. Where people matter – not frivolous personalities and stupid soundbites. Where policy matters – not redundant rhetoric or quiz show appearances.

We need to stop this cycle of apathy because you just need to see how fucked up 2016 has been – and we caused that. You and Me. Sharing a picture on FB is not enough. Setting up or signing an online petition is not enough. We need to step away from the virtual world and start living in the real world again where there are real dangers and issues.

The rise of the KKK. The need for the hashtag BlackLivesMatter in 2016. The amount of Food Banks in the developed world. The wars in Syria and Yemen and Iraq and Afghanistan. The refugee crisis in Europe and Africa and the Middle East. The gap between Rich & Poor expanding like never before.

I know, I see the irony of me putting this on a blog. I’m as guilty as those I’m complaining about in many ways. But in others I’m not. I always vote. ALWAYS. For local, Scottish, UK, EU elections or referendums. They matter. They really matter and will have an impact on your life. I joined a political party for the first time this year. not because I agree with everything they say, but because i believe in the core values and want to help shape the ideas they produce. I want my kids to grow up in a country and on a planet that gives a fuck.

If you are still apathetic then I don’t know how else I can convince you. But when you see the images of Russia moving further into Ukraine; see more violence against those who have emigrated to our country; see the dismantling of the only healthcare many in the us have; the images of the melting ice caps and you shrug your shoulders – then you deserve what you get.

JD

Dear America

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How’s the head? Bet it’s a bit sore today! What were you like yesterday with all that craziness? I hate to be the one to tell you, but you may have drunk dialled your boss last night and told them to fuck off.

You’ve fucked up.

You decided to stick it to “The Man” without realising that Donald Trump is the very epitome of “The Man”. Now you have four years of Cinnamon Hitler to foist upon the world. Thanks for that.

Your supporters want you to bring back prosperity and opportunity when we all know that the economy is finely balanced. Improve infrastructure, roads, bridges, schools, veterans’ care, the military, colleges, business, commerce, Wall Street, international trade all need money and where will you find that? In the same ledgers that underline your numerous bankruptcies?

Trump isn’t the answer – unless the question is what would a Wotsit look like if it had athlete’s foot? He won’t be able to wave a magic wand and reopen industries or factories or Motortown.

He wants to get rid of Obamacare. He wants to tear up the Climate Change agreement from Paris 2015. He wants to roll back decisions on Abortions. He wants to “unpick” – his words – the work Obama did in his 8 years. Where were we eight years ago? In the worst economic crisis for a century.

He won’t solve the issues caused by immigration – if they were ever “solvable” don’t you think another country in the world would have found a way to do it fairly and humanely already? The issues you moan about – of people coming to America to build a life – if the very thing you were built upon. Your culture is a rich tapestry of different voices, ideas, inventions, people, backgrounds. But after over five centuries you think a wall is the “solution”?

He thinks a good guy with a gun can sort out a bad guy with a gun. He wants to introduce “Extreme Vetting” for anyone coming into the country and a temporary ban on all Muslims – all 1.6 billion –  until we can “work out” the problems. He thinks mocking disabled people in public is okay.

But you know what is the worst thing about this decision you have made? You’ve not just told Washington to fuck off, you’ve told the rest of the world to as well.

You’ve elected a man who is a racist who doesn’t like his neighbours – yet many immigrants voted for him.

You’ve elected a man who is a fascist – he doesn’t even know the first amendment’s provision that no-one can be persecuted for their religious beliefs – yet many muslims voted for him.

You’ve elected a man who only views woman as objects for looking or grabbing at – yet women voted for him.

My generation and many before have looked up to you. No more. The idea of the American Dream is in the heart of your culture, now that dream that anyone could become President has been shown to be true – looks like you got what you wished for.

The dream has been tarnished for decades – even centuries. From John Steinbeck to Harper Lee, Ernest Hemingway to Mark Twain we know it’s never been perfect, but it’s been a nice idea. Now it’s just shattered. You decided that fear was more powerful and palatable than hope. That by pointing out all the negatives around you and making you think they were all forced on you by politicians you fell for the oldest trick in the book: The politics of fear.

You told your political elite what you thought of them. I could do the same to you right now because I’m furious that you would be so small-minded as to vote for him.

But instead I’ll say this:

You had the chance to stop things before they got out of hand. You chose to sit and laugh at the silly man with the silly hair who said silly things. Now you’ve just put him in charge of the former head of the free world.

You haven’t started on the road to making America great again you’ve done the exact opposite. You are now a joke, a dangerous one, but a joke nonetheless. The respect other countries had for you will now be diminished.

You decided that because Hillary Clinton was a woman she couldn’t win. She had the experience, she’d done the time, she’d devoted her life to serving her country – even putting that on the back burner to support her husband’s Presidency. But she made a couple of mistakes and she has a vagina so Trump trumps her. Around the world we are collectively shaking our heads at your judgement.

You are about to enter one of the most insular periods in your history and that will lead to poor judgement on foreign policy, risk terrorism both homegrown and from ISIS, and begin the alienation from the world. Putting America first under Trump isn’t a positive thing – he’s doing it at the price of ignoring all others. It will also mean your economy will be damaged. Already markets are uncertain and the talk of ripping up trade partnerships is a huge concern.

And you may ask how I can say all this with any kind of certainty?

Simple – we did the same thing in June with Brexit and look at where we are now. Difference is our decision has a long way to go and can still be stopped. You just gambled everything on orange and the betting has closed. You lost and so did we.

JD