Monday, 7 January 2019

New What?

What’s the difference between a new year, a new day, a new dawn, or even a new leaf? Maybe it’s that a new year represents a time to take stock of one’s life; and challenge oneself anew. A new day is a bell to answer the call of a continuing grind. A new dawn is a joyous vision of hope for better things to come. And a new leaf is a promise of redemption.

The not so simple truth is that every second of our lives represents a new beginning. It is a new investment of time in living and pursuing life's goals and obligations. It could be just a thought or maybe the simplest action. What it represents is an opportunity for us that do something good, be someone better, and make the best way of the time and life we have. The value of newness is that we getting to experience something anew or seize upon an opportunity to take a fresh approach to something. The attitude with which we approach things is what in effect gives them that quality of newness.

A new point in time won’t make us perfect even if we pass through it on the crest of great success. And it won't make us failures even if we are confronted by challenges and setbacks. The key to making each moment fresh and relevant is to learn the lessons, step forward with resolution and make it count for us as individuals, for the people around us, and for the world as a whole.

Monday, 31 December 2018

Am I ...?

Who is the real person we are?

Is it who we are born as?
Is it our body?
Is it our mind?
Is it our consciousness?
Is it our soul?
Is it the sum total of our experiences?

How much of who we are is who we want to be and not just how we are created, and conditioned to be? Is there a separation between our principles and values, and how they direct out lives? When we adopt certain characteristics and attitudes to try and improve ourselves do they really define us or just become a reflection of how we want the world to see us; or even possibly how we actually want to see ourselves?

Can we truly be aware of who we really are or is it others' perception of us that defines who we are? As human beings at times we do cultivate idealised versions of ourselves and the world around us. More often than not it is this idealised version of ourselves that we spend a lifetime trying to project. This ideal might consist of standards and values we have learnt, perceptions of what is popular or characteristics we have adopted through trial and error. These are what over time become recognised as our personality. However, very often these can turn out to be just the mask that we unconsciously adopt as the face we show the world.

There are people whose personalities develop along a unique trajectory and are determined by socialisation only to a limited extent. Very often these are high functioning or sociopathic individuals. The ability to form and maintain a unique self identity largely free from normative determination  requires great intelligence and will. It is also a fragile construct which can shatter and fracture a person's psyche at the slightest shift in the balance.

What we are is human; flesh and bone that live and eventually die. Who we are on the other hand, is an infinitely more complex notion. Too often we are just what the world wants us to be. Some of us are outsiders trying to plot our own paths in a world demanding consensus. And there are those of us who are in a cocoon just trying to be who we need to be and survive while the world rages around us.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Minority Policing

One major disappointment I had with Obama's tenure as president of the United States was the fact that he did not do anything concrete to address police procedures in regards to dealing with minorities or reverse the increasing militarisation of the police force and law and order mentality. The culture of suspicion and profiling of minorities can't be resolved overnight but more could have been done to address the establishment tolerance for the use of lethal force against unarmed minorities.

The recent case in Chicago of the police shooting dead a heroic Black security guard who had foiled an attempted armed assault yet again raises issues about how the police are conditioned to respond to Black people. This wasn't even a case of mistaken identity. The police didn't see the assailant they were there to apprehend they just saw someone who they assumed was an assailant for no  reason other than his skin colour. This is further illustrated by the case of the police officer who shot a man in his own home and claimed she mistook him for an intruder after mistaking his apartment for hers!

There have been recent suggestions in the UK for the police to be allowed to require a lower standard of suspicion to conduct 'stop and search' checks. This is mainly targeted at tackling knife crime amongst young Black men. The supposition here is that it would be legitimate to stop almost any Black man because there is a reasonable chance that he may be armed with a knife. This ignores the fact that the proportion of Black men involved knife crime is probably too small to even add up to a whole number. The Met's inability to develop intelligence networks within minority communities is a reflection of how they relate to such communities. It also might be an unintended consequence of how the Met treats such intelligence sources when they do come forward. This sort of oppressive approach to tackling demographic groups is exactly what happens in totalitarian and fascist states.

Undoubtedly there are some good police officers and some excellent examples of community policing but there is a toxic culture in law enforcement when it comes to the perception of minority groups. This includes how they treat members of the public and fellow police officers from minority groups.

A radical and drastic programme of reform is desperately needed not only to address institutional racism in law enforcement but also to redress a culture of fear and apprehension in the perception of and attitudes adopted towards minority groups. At some point it needs to be instilled in law enforcement that there are no circumstances in which excessive force is an appropriate response when dealing with unarmed and defenceless people from minority groups. It certainly isn't a way to serve or protect them. It can only lead to alienation which creates a vicious circle of fear, overreaction and tragic consequences.

Friday, 2 November 2018


Come Friday, Go Nuts!!!

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Parliamentary Privilege and a Jaundiced Judiciary

The recent case of a member of the House of Lords using parliamentary privilege to name Philip Green as the businessman who had gone to court to block the reporting of the non-disclosure agreements (NDA) he had entered into with staff employed by him raises issues of the role of the courts in promoting fairness and equality. It would appear the court decided the NDAs were entered into willingly and therefore should be considered valid and lawful.

I was brought up to believe that courts are meant to dispense justice with the objective of reinforcing social values and norms. It is hard to believe that NDAs entered into as a result of one party’s improper conduct should be considered worthy of protection over any consideration of public best interest. The fact that NDAs are very much the province of the rich and powerful raises the question of how fair it can be in real terms. And when it is used to buy the silence of workers who might have been wronged by an employer then it feels manifestly unfair.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Assaulting the American Constitution

The American constitution is revered because it was supposedly drawn up by honourable men to protect the liberty and dignity of all Americans. It is amazing how over the years that honourable intention has been left to a less than honourable partisan political system to uphold. Even more stark is that the subject of the current Supreme Court confirmation is a person who is far from open and trustworthy, and may possibly sitting on the Supreme Court and delivering interpretations of the constitution that will have an impact for a lifetime.

A lot of Brett Kavanaugh’s response to the sexual assault allegations seemed to depend on the absence of evidence and corroboration of the claims; and the fact that the Republican Party has a majority on the committee conducting the hearings. He was content to belittle Dr. Ford’s credibility and berate the Democrats on the committee without really making any effort to address the issue of his conduct on the night in question. He denied being at the party but didn’t really give an alternative account of exactly where he was on the night.

Kavanaugh was happy to invoke pity and sympathy for his family, while not making any effort to recognise or acknowledge the need and right of victims of sexual violence to speak out and be given a fair and compassionate hearing. And this should hold true even in cases of historical sexual assault. He had no problem making a direct reference to his daughter while diminishing the validity and significance of Dr. Ford’s account of the sexual assault she endured. And this in the week Bill Cosby was sent to prison after being convicted of sexual assault. It has to be of some concern that this is a man who will be expected to influence the course of law on gender and racial equality for the next thirty to forty years.

It is no surprise that Donald Trump very much enjoyed Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony. He would have recognised his own attitude to truth and personal accountability in Kavanaugh’s strident declamation of the confirmation process. In fact, he had compared the sexual assault claims against Kavanaugh to the claims that were made against him during the presidential elections. I’m not sure whether that would have done much for the public’s perception of Kavanaugh but it certainly seemed a chest beating moment for Trump.

If Americans truly have as much regard for the constitution as they claim then they must be a lot more discerning about the people they choose to up hold its values. If women cannot be made to feel safe when involved in political and judicial processes then a large portion of Americans cannot be considered to be truly free.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Which Way America?

Nationalistic politicians controlled by special interest groups. Right wing groups and individuals directing hatred and violence at foreigners and minority groups. Discriminatory and brutal law enforcement and criminal justice system. A culture of abuse and exploitation of women and young girls. Religious leaders exploiting their followers for money and power. Mass media that celebrates transient and superficial celebrity. Communities that are deprived, under educated, self destructive and losing touch with the mainstream.

Sounds like a fictional dystopia? Well, this is America!

This is the age of Trump; the culmination of long periods of social discontent from almost every section of America, eras of political mismanagement and a perceived loss of power and stature in global standings. Trump has become synonymous with untruthfulness, prejudice and ego driven self interest but the American malaise started long before his muddying of the waters. From two terms of GW Bush, to Sarah Palin being selected as a presidential running mate, to Obama's battles with Congress America has been teetering on the edge of a far right cesspit.

There is no doubt that America needed change. And certainly change that the people could believe in would have been nice. Unfortunately, that was change that Obama couldn't quite manage to make good his promise of. And change under Trump appears to be regressive, hate filled and brutal. So what are the chances of things changing for the better? And exactly how is that going to happen?

The upcoming midterm elections are not showing any convincing signs that the Democrats quite know what they need to do. It isn't entirely clear if they have figured out that the people who hate politicians far exceed those who hate Trump. If they are going to defeat Trump in the presidential elections they will need to choose a candidate who is good over a good candidate. In Hilary Clinton they had a good candidate, who they hoped would benefit from the Clinton name and legacy. Unfortunately in the eyes of the electorate she just wasn't a candidate they could relate to as a good person.

It is difficult to tell if America is at a crossroads right now but it is very right to say that the country is in turmoil. There is a growing alienation felt among those minorities who feel the government and establishment does not represent them in any way. There is also a tidal wave of seething fury in those who feel they need to take back control of a country they feel is becoming less like they imagined or wish it to be. It is no coincidence that whenever circumstances place either of these mindsets in close proximity of each other violence erupts.

Deposing Trump would bring some small satisfaction but it will not solve the conflicts and discontent that has started to break through the veneer of civility that has held it in check. In order for either group to start feeling safe a lot more will need to be done to tackle prejudice, crime, violence and social deprivation. Unfortunately these are generational problems and America is no closer to solving them now than it was just before the Civil War.