Social Distancing and Shops

I went to a supermarket the day before yesterday for essentials. There were signs up, there were stickers on the floor. We’re over two calendar months into lockdown and going the shop the other day was basically like going to the shop at the start. What do I mean?

People aren’t following the signs. People aren’t following the stickers on the floor. The shop assistants aren’t best placed to police this and for a whole host of reasons, uppermost among which are their own health and safety and the fact that they aren’t being paid danger money!

People aren’t following the protocols because the directions aren’t clear. People are tired, anxious, confused, afraid and in a rush. They go around the shops sort of, kind of, partially adhering to what they’re supposed to do – but what they’re supposed to do is borderline farcical.

I think that we should move to many, many more online delivery drivers (with socially distanced deliveries and PPE) and greater Click and Collect facilities. I think we should have drive throughs at supermarkets where you can go with a list and pass it in and then go park up – in 15-30 minutes your shopping will be brought to you. I do not think we should be letting people just wander around shops if being near to each other is what is spreading this virus that is killing people.

Why wasn’t this done in the first place?

Black Lives Matter

I wrote this a few days ago but did not post it until today because I am a white, self-published author with 236 followers on Twitter: I did not wish to be thought of as somebody trying to gain from the discussions around racism and; I did not think that any of my 236 Twitter followers were waiting to read what yours truly thought about the matter. Please see the final paragraph of this post for more on that.

I am posting it now because even if nobody ever reads this and even if there are some who think poorly of me for saying it, I am going to say it: Black Lives Matter, we need to end racism now.

The confusion that white people show towards the Black Lives Matter message at once astonishes and horrifies me. I have written elsewhere about other matters that do have a bearing on this subject but I want to keep this post focused just on Black Lives Matter.

I once went to a talk about Pride in Canada. The speaker of the talk detailed how Black Lives Matter disrupted the 2016 Toronto Pride and framed the entire event in terms of “well of course Black Lives Matter but there’s a time and a place” – (I do not wish to put words into the speaker’s mouth so please understand that this is simply how I took the intent of their words as a member of the audience).

That moment gave me the clearest microcosmic picture of how even well-meaning white people engage with the injustices that people of colour face every day – of course it matters but we were talking about this other thing just now. What could be more urgent than finally putting an end to racism and the inexcusable evil that is perpetrated in that ideology’s name? People are living shortened lives filled with oppressions from the casual to the official and some of them are being killed on purpose to serve an idea.

I am a white trans woman in Britain – I am not the person who should speak about this. White people need instead to listen to people of colour and white people need to believe people of colour when they tell their experiences. Only then will white people see that actual, practical steps must be taken to end racism – not something must be done, not thoughts and prayers, not hand-wringing or blog posting or anything else that’s performative.

It’s okay

When we consider rich people, we must realise that their wealth directly comes from the impoverishment of countless poor people.

Not all rich people start out this way. Some people get rich by having a skill that makes them marketable – they make or mend a thing and that making or mending is difficult to do, and in the time between that skill finding paying customers and the value of that skill degrading as more and more people acquire that skill and so its relative value lessens, the skilled can become wealthy.

But to become wealthy and to stay wealthy, one must extract value from others – that is to say, one must convince other people to produce more wealth than you pay them for it, and for you to take the profits. This much is well understood and is uncontentious.

But rich people only get to stay rich because there are poor people – the people who were directly or indirectly affected by the accumulation of wealth by rich people. Housing is the most direct example of this.

In the UK we have enough empty homes to house all of the homeless people. We won’t do this, however. We would rather see unimaginable numbers of people live foreshortened lives marked by stress and poverty and for some, homelessness, to pay money that they can’t afford to other, wealthier people just so that they can have somewhere to live. We have an entire class of people (called landlords) who merely take from others and feel justified in doing so. They take money, they take financial freedom, they take happiness, they take futures, they take years off other people’s lives so that they can live sybaritic existences and they convince themselves that they have worked for this, that they have earned it.

They may have worked to buy a domicile. No amount of that work entitles them to 1/4 to 1/2 of another person’s take-home, after-tax pay just for somewhere to live. It is obscene in the most wretched, unpalatable sense there is. It is the same vile, deadly joke perpetrated on the poor every month. The consequences of not having the money to be in the audience are eviction. A life just thrown out into the street because a landlord could not extract enough of somebody else’s waking life from them in the form of money. Remember, most of us are paid by the hour.

Landlords occupy a level in the pyramid scheme of our economy that funnels wealth to the very top and leaves millions to suffer in one of the richest countries in the world.

How can this be?

The promise is that if you work hard, that if you save, that if you study, that you too will live a life of middle to upper-middle class comfort and that you will be okay. Your comfort will come at the cost of some other people and they will be poorer and have less opportunity and health and well-being than you, but that’s okay, because you won’t have to see them.

That’s the deal.

Money is both imaginary and finite – though numbers are infinite, money is not – well, it is, but confidence in it isn’t. When much of the money in an economy enters the accounts of people who are already so wealthy that they literally have nothing to spend the funds on, people at the bottom of the pyramid suffer. Everybody strives not to be at the bottom – but in a system with no effective safety net, somebody will be at the bottom – a whole lot of somebodys, in fact.

So our employment comes at the expense of others. Our affluence comes from the work of others. If we too get to be rich and stay there, our obscene wealth directly causes the misery and death of others. But it’s okay, because we don’t have to see those people or the effect that their being at the bottom of the pyramid scheme is having on them.

We need UBI and we need a cap on just how wealthy people can become.

Anything else is just anonymised murder.

Universities

This one time in late 2018 or early 2019 I had to give a 10 minute presentation at a job interview for an Admissions Officer post (the job I had when I became disabled) and was required to speak to the topic of challenges in HE in the STEM subjects.

I did a pretty good job of researching the issues at play. I covered Brexit, I covered gender disparity. I focused on finance.

I told a stunned interview panel that, based on the marketisation of the UK HE sector and the differences in the scale of our economy relative to population base vs the US, that the US HE model that the UK government was intent on chasing (exacerbated by the strangling of HEFCE funding under the Tories – they did the same thing under Thatcher) and the rate at which we were growing student debt would mean that the HE sector would, absent major policy change at the governmental level, cease to exist as the panel knew it inside 20 years.

I did not get the job.

I look at the backlash from people who now see themselves as paying customers instead of students (because we let the Tories, kicked off by New Labour, make HE a cold, cash in, cash out transaction) and I see that my prediction looks likes it’s starting to hold water. I hope I’m wrong; that policy changes, and the HE sector is returned to free-at-the-point-of-use provision like it used to be (and like the NHS should be) and that my beloved HEIs are saved.

But Tories.

I got tired

I just clicked on a favourited link thinking that it was legitimate historical content.

The link took me to a Holocaust Denier article that I was going to include in an essay that I was going to write about how certain things should not be up for debate, because allowing the right wing or neo-Nazis or the Alt-Right or whatever appellation they’re going by these days to “debate” things is simply an invitation to them to shout as loudly as they can that whatever their poisoned mind has been deluded into thinking is true actually is (and never mind the embittered mental gymnastics or indoctrination or plainĀ  bigotry that they had to be subjected to to believe what they’re saying).

But I got tired. I didn’t get tired of reading this sort of thing, though it is exhausting to walk in the twisted gardens that the right-wing landscapers lay out. I didn’t get tired of it all as one might find one’s interest in a subject wanes as it is merely data that can be picked up or put down at whim as it ultimately doesn’t affect one; I am a disabled trans woman – these things directly affect me, as the right-wing wishes that I and people like me did not exist. The attacks on the two minority groups that I am part of have seen such untold misery that hate crimes against both groups skyrocketed and the UN themselves tried to intervene to stop the deliberate destruction of the thousands of people directly affected by official policy. Whether I am interested in this or not, it affects me. My interest did not wane.

I got tired of people outside of the groups directly affected by the right-wing simply not engaging with stamping the ideology out, and falling for the tricks that it uses to worm its way into polite society.

I once had an intelligent man I respect a great deal say to me that he believed that everything should be up for debate. He is not part of the disabled or trans demographics and so has not lived through the concerted attacks that we have lived through that have ramped up in the last decade.

I got tired of having to educate people on why it’s dangerous to debate things that are settled questions when those settled questions relate to a person’s right to life and dignity. I got tired of having to justify my existence in myriad tiny ways and to adjust the way that I am seen by others before I am taken to be a person.

I deleted that web favourite.

I will not write the essay on Holocaust Deniers that I was going to – linking it to the Gender Critical movement and to the ideological thrust that has seen it permissible to process disabled and poor people to death. I will tackle the subject in other ways.

Though I got tired, I have not given up. The Right-Wing seeks to destroy and subjugate everything that does not look like itself and it feels justified in this. Their right to live with their delusion does not force us to accommodate them, because to accommodate them is to begin bargaining which of us should be sacrificed to their idol of homogeneity. We must stamp out their pernicious lies wherever they are spread.

A thought about intelligence

I think that it is a common experience for people when they encounter one another (and then continue to know one another) to assess their own intelligence relative to the person that they are encountering. People will tend to feel either more or less intelligent than the person that they are measuring themselves against, though there must be occasions where a person measures themselves against another person and considers that they are equals in the intelligence stakes.

My thought about intelligence is though that what we perceive as intelligence is really just shorthand for a nebulous arrangement of ever-shifting factors; a person’s confidence (in all of the ways that can manifest, adjusted by experience, support network and means), a person’s education (access to training that worked for them), a person’s past traumas or lack of them, a person’s current stress level, a person’s ability to recall interesting or pertinent facts, a person’s preoccupation (or lack thereof) and so forth. All these things will impact people’s perceived levels of intelligence relative to another. We are often too hard on ourselves or another person when we measure them and consider one of us more intelligent.

The thought then is that intelligence is often down to patterns of luck and nothing intrinsic in the person being assessed.

Mental Health

I realise that I haven’t posted here in a long time. Some of the reasons for that are about to become apparent – the rest of it doesn’t matter.

I wanted to write something about mental health and about getting help if your mental health is suffering.

Usually this sort of thing will start with appeals to look after your mental health and to seek help with it if you are suffering, and that is all solid and very sound advice. But there is a thing that often doesn’t make the final edit of this sort of thing – a person can be suffering and refusing help, not because they don’t want it, but because they haven’t the wherewithal right now or they aren’t ready. For a host of reasons, a person can just keep on keeping on not because they are stoic or trying to be unyielding, but because they literally cannot deal with the thing that is bothering them.

In some cases, the thing that is bothering a person might be so well buried that even they aren’t aware exactly what it is; they just live with it ticking away in the back garden; a hillock in the lawn that they avoid for reasons they can’t quite define.

For me, I ran from the thing that was bothering me. I was like a little steam ship trying to outrun the kraken that was chasing it. The bow waves from the beast and its tentacles roughed the sea and the little ship violently bobbed and yawed and pitched in the water and the people aboard were thrown about and badly injured. The captain called for full ahead and the engineers stoked the boilers up to full capacity and for a while they put distance between the ship and the monster. They even went faster as they burned all the fuel. Then they began to slow down, so they burned the furniture, the wall hangings, the curtains, the booze, the money in the pockets of all the passengers – anything to keep the little steam ship ahead of oblivion.

But no little ship can run forever.

I didn’t even know what was bothering me, simply that it was, that it always had and, presumably, always would. Until one day it dawned on me. There it was. That was it.

And sighting the kraken again at last, the captain and the engineer and all the passengers knew that they had burned through everything and that they could run no further. They had had a good run, they agreed. They would have toasted the moment but the alcohol had fed the furnace long ago. They hugged and shook hands and watched the beast in the water come for them as the captain turned the little ship to face it.

The little ship was doomed.

On the horizon there came another ship. The wireless operator aboard the little ship had finally done what everybody had tacitly agreed ought not be done – asked for help. Rescue was on the way. The people aboard the little ship just had to hold on.

If you are suffering, please ask for help when you are ready to face it. Help will find it harder to catch up to you if you’re still running; you have to be ready to turn to face it. The kraken is monstrous and cannot be survived alone. Get help.