So much between remains unsaid.
So much space between heart and head.
And you say: Is this life? And I say: Is it?
The way we dreamed it would always be?
And each wonders: Can you ever, and will you?
And can you ever and might you?
Just once, even in a moon that’s blue,
touch the fear in me with the fear in you?
DONALD TRUMP AND BREXIT…WHY?
I have read the reactions to Trump’s Presidential Inauguration address with some degree of amazement. It is not so much the hubris and arrogance and narcissism that Trump displays, or his Inaugural Address which was also extraordinary with its ‘America First’ demagoguery and blatant nationalism.
I should suppose that hubris and narcissism are not uncommon traits among politicians. No, what is unusual here is that not only are they not hidden beneath a mask of goodwill to all men and women but they are displayed and celebrated as qualities that effective leaders require. This is both the reason we softie liberals look on in horror and the reason he attracts the voters who place great store on plain speaking, on God and Country, and on them damn elitist metropolitans with their global conspiracies.
But what has amazed and discombobulated me somewhat more has been the ferocity and plain viciousness of the responses from a supposedly liberal intelligentsia. What is coming to be known as the alt-left and particularly, women.
The extraordinary cruelty with which Trump is attacked from the feminist alt-left consists of continual reference to his physical presentation, to attacks on his sexual potency (remember all the fuss about those small hands?) To his wife’s looks with smirking reference to her unfeasibly perfect breasts. To his supposed idiocy and buffoonery and his hair. To allegations (completely unproven to date) that he is a user of prostitutes and in the pockets of Putin. Rumour gathered by some freelance spy with a dodgy dossier presented as fact. That he is a liar and deal-breaker. Even the revered Gloria Steinem in a Guardian article referred to the jelly that emerges when Trump opens his jacket. Extraordinarily rude crude and meaningless and I imagine the howls of protest from all these liberal feminists if a woman was to be defined purely on the grounds of her physical appearance. Is it not that very thing that we have all been fighting for these last thirty years? That we are judged equally upon our capacities and talents and not, like a tribe of hapless baboons focusing on our breasts and penises and bank accounts and inspecting each other’s bottoms for fleas?
The other astonishing thing about Trump’s ‘America First’ diatribe is how remarkably it misses all the chronic issues that face us now and in the not too distant future.
These can be ascribed to three external impending disasters and three internal ones. The external pressures are-Global warming and resulting climate change, chronic and mostly permanent geo-political instability, and rampant technological innovation completely outstripping humanity’s ability to integrate and adapt to it.
The three internal crises are the chronic un-freedom of children due to fears for their safety, the internal alienation sweeping the western world with huge levels of mental health problems and the growing sense of and actuality of massive levels of inequality and the birth of a hugely enriched global elite with a sense of gross entitlement that matches their ludicrous levels of wealth.
Add to this the death throes of the three major Sky-God religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam and we have an explosive mix which bodes ill indeed for future generations and the survival of the non-human world.
None of this was addressed in Trump’s speech. Indeed, it headlined a commitment to exacerbate the very crises that face humanity. It was aggressive, parochial, ignorant and stupid. It celebrated paranoia, greed, suspicion, racism, militarism and the continued exploitation and rape of the world’s resources. Imagine if instead of America First it had been called Earth First?
Let’s take these apocalyptic horsemen one at a time: It is now evident that two degree warming is irreversible. It may have been possible, if we had created a global movement to save the planet and transfer from fossil fuel dependence in the seventies, that about now we would have left the oil and gas in the ground and be largely solar, hydro, wind and nuclear in terms of meeting our energy needs. That is now a dream. Not only is every scientific community on the planet absolutely united about the coming warming but the climatic impact is unknown in terms of the complexity of the global weather systems that are held in a quite beautiful and sustaining balance of complex interrelated parts. These impacts will be shocking and will hit the most vulnerable initially. But what is most astounding about Trump’s America First speech is that not only is there no reference to this impending catastrophe but there is a commitment to drill for more oil, more gas, more fracking wherever and whenever it is to be found. A two degree rise appears even preferable to what is now coming down the road. A four degree rise? Six? A four metre rise in seal levels? Twelve? It has been a preventable catastrophe that future generations will look back on in dumbfounded stupefaction, should they survive to look.
Trump has assembled a cabal of oil, gas, big pharma and big agro and military interests that beggars belief. A group of right wing ideologues funded by billionaires and secretive think tanks and global banking interests will now be running the biggest economy in the world. It is the supreme irony that it is the sense of being left behind and forgotten that permeates the American working class in their rustbelt that has put this corporate global elite in charge of the American machine.
Geo-political instability sounds punchy but it is in fact like a creeping disease. The Calais jungle, mass immigration, Syria, Isis, the middle eastern time bomb, the Russian expansion west, China, the massive corruption that infects much of Africa and Asia. The impending fracturing of the European Union, people smuggling and trafficking, sexual slavery. And atop it all sits a heartless organised criminality that feeds off the poor and the dispossessed like a vampire. The impact of this on children is almost too unspeakable to contemplate.
The Syrian refugee crisis is a result of terror. Of the terror of men, women and children slaughtered in their beds, hospitals, in their markets and schools and at prayer, deliberately targeted with hideous weapons such as barrel bombs and chlorine. Bashar Al Assad and Vladimir Putin have brought back atrocity with a vengeance. Isis has brought back a medieval barbarity to the battlefield and proven an attractive death cult for young muslim men as well as a hideously effective fighting force on the battlefield feeding on rape, murder and dreams of paradise in the arms of virgins.
None of this is going to change with America First, in fact it’s all going to get a lot worse. Terror works well for autocrats and ideologues. It works well for the Trumpist cabal. It works well for the Putinistas.
To be continued:
A good lie ain’t easy by Nico Lee Reviewed by Tony Dougan Mega Dodo Publishing 2016 Available March 2017 from Amazon and other 'real' bookshops
Full disclosure. Nico emailed me after reading my book reviews on Amazon and my blog- heartofbalance.blogspot.com
As a non-professional writer and poet who has been writing all my life I am terribly needy for validation and recognition. Add to this mix the querulous vanity of the artist and the chronic empathy needed to create and you have a spaniel with a pen wagging his stupid tale at the slightest tickle behind the ear. So of course I agreed to write an independent review of Nico’s novel and only later was I once again reminded of the sheer bloody hard work that reviewing entails. Of the necessity of the utmost care. Three readings and a score of meditations later here is the review.
READING 1: Oh my God! Oh my God! OMG!
I am so courteous to exclamation marks I always open the door for them and doff my cap to any question mark I come across and flatteringly compliment its graceful art of balancing on the single ball while issuing an interrogation. Nico Lee has no such respect. He herds vast regiments of exclamations without cease. He summons legions of question marks to roll off the end of the sentence like lemmings. He uses trios of full stops everywhere. The grammar is beaten, thrashed, humiliated and genetically modified into strange hybrids.
The non-sequiturs head off into the sunset on a train of three dots…
What is this book about? A road trip ostensibly but a road trip possibly across the highways of the author’s subconscious?
Reading this book has been like spending relentless hours with a mildly autistic, overly well-read teenager who is hanging’ with his homies who have all misplaced their ritalin.
It’s like H.P Lovecraft sired a child with Jack Kerouac and then found Ezra Pound and William Burroughs had swapped it for their baby at the Maternity Unit in downtown Providence. The brood mare-the surrogate mother-being Poppy Z Brite with a sperm donation from Thomas Ligotti-(or did Poppy seduce him following a literary conference in Lallaland, Mississippi, mistaking the bookish horror jock for a promising serial killer?)
Who are these three brothers and a mysterious English girl hurtling from town to one stop town across a highway to nowhere? They are Boyd, William and I. And the girl is Sarah:
‘She laughs, sashays to the bathroom on chubby calves.
“I’m gonna take a shower now honey, y’all wanna join me?”
I follow, too tired to argue.’ WTF?
There follows a poetic discourse on burlesque involving a cross dressing John Steed from ’The Avengers’ then, fifty lines later:
‘When we get out of the shower Sarah puts on the glasses that make her look like a tougher Johnny Depp but still…nothing much, nothing much.’
It means the anatomy of burlesque involving John Steed in a corset took place in the shower!
I am a discombobulated reader.
There follows a series of discourses on film, politics and literature. One example:
‘I’ve only started to use the word ‘presidential’ as an adjective to describe my penis since Obama got in.’
And in conclusion: ‘…I bet George W. had a small cock, especially for a Texan.’
A rumination on Moby Dick is followed by: ‘When I first read Conan-Doyle (there is no hyphen in the name) I conflated the falls with the Rickenbacker guitar. Images of Moriarty falling to his death double-tapping the flight of the bumble bee.’ This is genuinely funny in a neurotic way and the book is full of such ‘comedic’ moments.
Then on page 67 Sarah drops a bombshell:
‘I…I think I might be pregnant…’
I read to the end like a dutiful digger of holes and start my review questioning the very premise of the book. My review begins:
‘The narrative mania rolls like an express train of punch-drunk narration that negates both plot and descriptive nuance. Who are these characters but ghosts that hurtle out of the author’s pen onto the page as barely disguised simulacrum-neuroses opportunities for the authors divagations?’
And most embarrassingly of all: ‘Where is the intellectual glue that binds sentence to thought? Where is the dialectic in the work that must drive STORY?’ OMG!
I hate writing critically negative reviews, because I know the care and hope and intelligence that goes into making a work of art. So I decide to sit with it for a while and read it again. For some reason the book has unsettled me and sits like a worm in my mind. Like a cracked mirror it is facing me with my own, earlier acknowledged, servile relationship to language. Why can’t I, like Nico Lee, kick it against a wall till it breaks? Why can’t I pull it into unlikely shapes until it screams? Don’t all the great makers torture their material until it submits to their will? Isn’t this how it becomes true?
And the kicker: Why can’t I be this original?
So that’s it. I eventually realise that this is a great little book! The divagation’s of the writer ARE the point. They are relentlessly sad and funny little sonnets and this is as much a work of poetry as prose weaving little descriptive dramas around a barely seen core of confused gender and sexuality, the fear of parenthood and settlement, death and loss and the growing sense of alienation in the post-modern world. The meme of Evil Knievel’s great and crazy Canyon leap. Get this:
‘Reading. Reading Raymond Chandler. Reading Marcel Proust. And Gertrude Stein. Reading Chandler, Stein and Proust. Will probably. Not definitely. But certainly probably. Reading them together, en masse. As a block. As a Bloch? Proust joke, unnecessary? (Yes).
I digress. Where was I? Oh yes. Reading. Reading in Sarah’s beloved old British Library. Or on a train, or in a hotel. Reading. Reading Proust. Reading Chandler. Reading Stein. Reading Chandler, and Stein, and Proust. Reading them all at once. Would probably. I say probably. Probably only. Probably only but here’s the confirmation. Reading all three. Reading Chandler and Stein and Proust. Would probably make you think in very long paragraphs, full of short repetitive sentences.’ Brilliant!
Reader! Read it! I urge you!
Dirty industries spend more on politics, keeping us in the fossil age.
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 19th January 2017
Make America Wait Again. That’s what Donald Trump’s energy policy amounts to. Stop all the clocks, put the technological revolution on hold, ensure that the transition from fossil fuels to clean power is delayed for as long as possible.
Trump is the president corporate Luddites have dreamt of; the man who will let them squeeze every last cent from their oil and coal reserves before they become worthless. They need him because science, technology and people’s demands for a safe and stable world have left them stranded. There is no fair fight that they can win, so their last hope lies with a government that will rig the competition.
To this end, Trump has appointed to his cabinet some of those responsible for a universal crime: inflicted not on particular nations or groups, but on everyone.
Recent research suggests that – if drastic action of the kind envisaged by the Paris agreement on climate change is not taken – ice loss in Antarctica alone could raise sea levels by a metre this century, and by 15 metres in subsequent centuries. Combine this with the melting in Greenland and the thermal expansion of seawater, and you discover that many of the world’s great cities are at existential risk.
The climatic disruption of crucial agricultural zones – in North and Central America, the Middle East, Africa and much of Asia – presents a security threat that could dwarf all others. The civil war in Syria, unless resolute policies are adopted, looks like a glimpse of a possible global future.
These are not, if the risks materialise, shifts to which we can adapt. These crises will be bigger than our capacity to respond to them. They could lead to the rapid and radical simplification of society, which means, to put it brutally, the end of civilisations and many of the people they support. If this happens, it will amount to the greatest crime ever committed. And members of Trump’s proposed cabinet are among the leading perpetrators.
In their careers so far, they have championed the fossil fuel industry while contesting the measures intended to prevent climate breakdown. They appear to have considered the need of a few exceedingly rich people to protect their foolish investments for a few more years, weighed it against the benign climatic conditions that have allowed humanity to flourish, and decided that the foolish investments are more important.
By appointing Rex Tillerson, chief executive of the oil company ExxonMobil, as secretary of state, Trump not only assures the fossil economy that it sits next to his heart; he also provides comfort to another supporter: Vladimir Putin. It was Tillerson who brokered the $500 billion deal between Exxon and the state-owned Russian company Rosneft to exploit oil reserves in the Arctic. As a result he was presented with the Russian Order of Friendship by Mr Putin.
The deal was stopped under the sanctions the US imposed when Russia invaded Ukraine. The probability of these sanctions in their current form surviving a Trump government is, to the nearest decimal place, a snowball’s chance in hell. If Russia did interfere in the US election, it will be handsomely rewarded when the deal goes ahead.
Trump’s nominations for energy secretary and interior secretary are both climate change deniers, who – quite coincidentally – have a long history of sponsorship by the fossil fuel industry. His proposed attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions, allegedly failed to disclose in his declaration of interests that he leases land to an oil company.
The man nominated to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, has spent much of his working life campaigning against … the Environmental Protection Agency. As the attorney general in Oklahoma, he launched 14 lawsuits against the EPA, seeking, among other aims, to strike down its Clean Power Plan, its limits on the mercury and other heavy metals released by coal plants and its protection of drinking water supplies and wildlife. Thirteen of these suits were said to include as co-parties companies that had contributed to his campaign funds or to political campaign committees affiliated to him.
Trump’s appointments reflect what I call the Pollution Paradox. The more polluting a company is, the more money it must spend on politics to ensure it is not regulated out of existence. Campaign finance therefore comes to be dominated by dirty companies, ensuring that they wield the greatest influence, crowding out their cleaner rivals. Trump’s cabinet is stuffed with people who owe their political careers to filth.
It was once possible to argue, rightly or wrongly, that the human benefits of developing fossil fuel reserves might outweigh the harm. But a combination of more refined climate science, that now presents the risks in stark terms, and the plummeting costs of clean technologies renders this argument as obsolete as a coal-fired power station.
As the US burrows into the past, China is investing massively in renewable energy, electric cars and new battery technologies. The Chinese government claims that this new industrial revolution will generate 13 million jobs. This, by contrast to Trump’s promise to create millions of jobs through reanimating coal, at least has a chance of materialising. It’s not just that returning to an old technology when better ones are available is difficult; it’s also that coal mining has been automated to the extent that it now supports few jobs. Trump’s attempt to revive the fossil era will serve no one but the coal barons.
Understandably, commentators have been seeking glimpses of light in Trump’s position. But there are none. He couldn’t have made it clearer, through his public statements, the Republican platform and his appointments, that he intends to the greatest extent possible to shut down funding for both climate science and clean energy, rip up the Paris agreement, sustain fossil fuel subsidies and annul the laws that protect people and the rest of the living world from the impacts of dirty energy.
His candidacy was represented as an insurgency, challenging established power. But his position on climate change reveals what should have been obvious from the beginning: he and his team represent the incumbents, fighting off insurgent technologies and political challenges to moribund business models. They will hold back the tide of change for as long as they can. And then the barrier will burst.
How to lead, care for, and inspire great work in a social work team. (hint-probably works for all teams!)
A recent Social Work Essay was invited by the Recruitment Company-Liquid Personnel with a £1000 first prize so I entered. I was not shortlisted but here are some of my less bizarre thoughts on the subject below.
“The average ‘career lifespan’ of a social worker is just 8 years. What can be done to increase engagement among social workers and keep them in the profession for longer?”
My title is:
How to lead, care for, and inspire great work in a social work team.
Mirror a loving family under pressure.
Train, support, develop, stretch, and trust.
Use authority with great care and sparingly.
Continually recognise and celebrate good work and achievements.
Make lots of space for laughter. Share food a lot.
Make lots of space to meet and share.
Continually emphasise-service-to service users and each other.
Resist cultures of overwork and presenteeism.
Always accompany a negative criticism with a positive solution.
Insist that negative feelings are shared and talked through.
Continually emphasise personal and professional safety.
Grow and invest in your workers over time.
Be clear about the team’s Mission Statement.
Have whiteboards everywhere-magnetic ones!
Encourage familiarity and pleasure in research.
Create the practice of always cascading training.
Insist upon loyalty to the team as a basic expectation.
Sometimes play music in the office.
Shared lunch is positive but never obligatory.
Encourage your social workers to take breaks and go for walks.
Have regular group supervisions on complex cases.
Train your social workers to be at ease with authority in safeguarding cases and to project it with confidence but also with compassion and understanding.
Make supervision an exciting, challenging but ultimately affirming experience.
Be a leader-servant.
Encourage the keeping of a professional journal and file-including all training, qualifications and Continued Professional Development hours.
Treat all bullying and disrespect, racism, sexism and oppression as if it were a disease from whatever source.
Have Friday lunch together in the pub regularly.
Treat all students as custodians of the future of the profession.
Create gold stars and Employee of the Week Awards but with much humour and laughter while subversively celebrating outstanding work.
Stand up for Social Work as a profession for heroes and wounded healers.
Have at least one suit for court-the best you can buy-Navy blue is best.
Teach yourself and your team to become the best possible writers.
Read and critique each other’s written work. Remember the best writers are always the best readers.
Always, always carry a notebook and pen.
Learn to be and teach everyone to become, great note takers.
Become expert in using technology.
Use Evernote. Scrivenor. Devonthink. Ulysses. Todoist. Wunderlist. Word. Mindjet. Pages. Powerpoint. Keynote. Excel.
Always ask for the other point of view, likewise advice. One of the most common things to hear in a social work office should be ‘what do you think?’ Director or Social Worker-No matter what your role.
Meditate every day.
Physically exercise and take care of your body through fitness and nutrition.
Every social worker of eight years experience should be a highly trained and confident-
· Meetings chair
· Report writer
· Counsellor and therapist-Child or adult or both
· Events organiser
· Presentations specialist
· Possessor of brilliantly developed interpersonal skills
· Court Expert
· Mediator and negotiator
Pessimism is not a good mind-set for a Social Worker.
Practice the facial expressionism of a good actor so that from the back of a Court you leave a judge in no doubt of your feelings.
A successfully managed worker is one who is excited about coming to work in the morning.
Be proud of being a Social Worker. Encourage pride in the profession.
Consider your Senior Leadership Team as having the best of motives. Understand the hugely difficult decisions they must make in this time of Austerity.
Senior managers! You need to communicate Austerity much more effectively.
Be a master and mistress of Email courtesy.
Too high caseloads mean low quality work-understand it is an inevitable equation that will lead to the loss of good people.
Review all your professional priorities at least weekly.
In order for doing to be effective it must be preceded by thinking and planning.
Never sign your name to anything you don’t believe in.
If anyone ever tells you Social Work is about covering your arse, they don’t understand it.
Regard vulnerable children and adults as priceless works of art are regarded by museums. Not problems but the reason for your professional existence.
Avoid management-speak like the plague. Use language to be clearly understood. Avoid acronyms and abbreviations.
Social work skills are gradually accrued over years of practice and study. At about eight years a social worker is coming into their power to make excellent independent decisions. If they leave the profession at this point you lose not only them but all the knowledge that is in their heads when they walk out the door including the mysterious value of their intuition. It is irreplaceable and to lose it is to fail as an organisation and as a profession. Staff retention needs the profession’s best minds. NOTE: staff retention needs a better title more descriptive of its various elements. How about- ‘The joy in the job Project?’
Social Work is not about processing forms-it is about transforming lives.
Regard an Ofsted Inspection as an opportunity to show off! Celebrate it! There’s nothing worse for social workers than to be contaminated with the fear of a Senior Management Team on the brink of an Ofsted visit!
Let us articulate as a whole profession what we see as our future role in our society. Let’s be a bit more pushy about it!
Join the British Association of Social Workers (BASW). Get involved!
We don’t do this bizarre and wonderful job for the money. Certainly not for the prestige. Not for the popular acclaim!
Maybe we just want to do something valuable and worthwhile? To give back something? Maybe we love humanity? Maybe we have traces of brokenness in our own lives that spurred us on?
A myriad of reasons and maybe no reason we can articulate yet.
But it’s a damn fine thing to do, this Social Work! We should be proud of ourselves! We should be proud of each other!
Quite simply, when we speak the truth of what we do, that is how we will keep on doing it.
Go well, and shine brightly!