Ranting and Opinion

Nationalism and Tribes

Nationalism is understandably alluring.

As humans, our natural instinct is to be tribal. We are a social animal. As a social animal we instinctively seek out what holds us together as a tribe.

Imagine this situation. You live in a tribe where crops are good, but not quite as they were. Some people are not happy, others content enough. There is a tribal power struggle.. Perhaps the previous elder has died, but there are multiple potential leaders. You want to be the tribal leader.

You want power.

A – You could just go out and kill all of the rivals. This would be a great show of strength, but is potentially divisive as some families within the tribe may become enemies and weaken your position.

B – Perhaps then, the idea is to demonstrate how you are an animal of reason. Banking on other tribe members being able to understand the long game you reorganise crop growing in the hope that you can demonstrate how the tribe can be successful with thought and planning. Some of the tribe struggle to understand this long view and are becoming frustrated.

C- Another path may be to explain to the tribe that crops are in fact failing badly, more than they really are. More than this, it is a neighbouring tribes fault. You tell the tribe that the others have no crop problems because they have taken advantage. Many tribal members begin the believe that there is a crop shortage. You promise to pull all of the tribe together to fight.

Which of these would better pull the tribe together as one?

Both B and C are positions taken up by politicians. It does not matter that this is a tribe from any point in time, its political. Both liberals and conservatives have opted for C, either in trade deals or war.

History shows that identifying the other works very well in pulling a tribe together. Tribe B quickly becomes overpowered because C has rejected reason. History also shows the outcomes.

Whatever the emblems of the tribe, be it a flag, tattoo or whatever, it’s all the same.

In the political world….. C is for cheap (and easy).

Computers Have Complicated Out Lives Very Greatly


Trump says that our lives have become more complicated due to computers.  There is an apparent need for more security.

What to say about this?  Well it comes from someone of a certain age who’s cohorts would agree.  Funny how he benefited so much from the Russian shit too.  It’s a simple destroy what you don’t understand message and I imagine very embarrassing for other Americans I imagine.




In July 2016 there was the publishing of a paper I have been working on for months at work with a colleague from Voices of Stoke.   The paper is entitled,

‘Gatekeepers – Access to Primary Care for those with Multiple Needs’

It tells the story of those suffering extreme poverty and vulnerability such as the homeless who may also be mentally ill, have substance abuse or criminality issues, and how they struggle to access services that most of us would understand as universal, GP’s.  In a nutshell, it discovered that there are barriers put in place, such as insisting upon ID or proof of address which actively drives people away from these essential services.  These are ‘gateway’ services, leading to other sorts of help beyond the GP that these service users may otherwise never access.  The word here is ‘active’.  For example, one clinic was found to be telling service users (from a hostel) that they were not in the catchment area despite it being less than 150m away.  All this in spite of all guidance from bodies such as the CQC and NHS England.

What is striking about this issue is that, from the people I was speaking to as I built up knowledge about the topic, it appears to be well known amongst professionals.  In fact, reading through academic journals I easily found a paper from 1997 [1]that identified disincentives that surgeries face when being asked to enrol one of ‘these’ patients.  This paper called for incentives to be put in place back then.  Since, nearly 20 years have passed and the same disincentives apparently exist, these being that these are complicated patients who need a lot of support, if indeed they turn up for appointments.  It may be the case that surgeries need supporting to deliver suitable services to these patients.  An organisation such as Voices can support, but are only here for the medium term and is no permanent fix.

How such a problem can exist in plain sight is another thing that is ‘active’, unless you consider doing nothing as inaction, which it isn’t if you choose to do nothing.  It seems to me that this is an issue that can actively be ignored because it is (or has been) unlikely to result in public revulsion or scandal of any sort.  One shouldn’t forget that, ultimately, public services and the shape of them and their delivery is a reflection of broader society and what it demands.  This is moderated through a process that it innately political, especially in the way that organisations are held to account.  Programs such as these are only born of social practice, fact.  It is pure folly to imagine that an organisation would actively pursue inaction on an issue without existing in an environment that facilitates it.  It seems then that the reaction to this issue, and also to the paper that was distributed widely across the health economy last week, is silence because the lack of a service is broadly socially acceptable and there is no desire to hold services to account.

So how does something that is so obviously an injustice become socially acceptable?  The paper introduces the concepts of deviancy and stereotypes and this seems eternal, back to the bible and beyond.  Indeed, this is a sector traditionally populated by the religious, seeking to question their purity of soul through living out the tale of the Samaritan.  However, there are other powers at play.  I apologise now if this seems an obvious thing to say and I certainly do not apologise if this offends certain political views but, since the financial crisis of 2008, there has been a concerted effort to identify and redefine the ‘other’.  There is a mechanism for this.  An unscrupulous politician is likely to make good hay exploiting the differences between us, this recently demonstrated well in the Brexit debacle (yes, debacle) and rise of the right wing across Europe and the States.  Other forms have been ‘Benefits Street’ and the demarcation of the poor and jobless as undeserving.  These are common reoccurring themes throughout history.  A tribal leader can emphasis the difference of the other to solidify their position.  This time politics has fed the populous bastardised concepts of ‘fairness’, such as Osbourne talking about the next door neighbours’ curtains been closed as folk head off to work.  This seems to have appealed to a part of humanity that seeks self-interest and is doused in feelings of envy.  After all, why should you keep them?  It’s not fair.  It seems that people are not interested in facts when they don’t evidence what they like to believe (like the unfortunate fact that unemployment benefits currently account for 1% of welfare spending in the UK[2]).  This has led to horrifying generalisations, also this recent politics has also prompted a liberalisation of old beliefs that for a long time had been buried under political correctness making them difficult to express in a socially acceptable way.  Osbourne’s ‘fairness’ had let the cat out of the bag, Farage ran with it.

“. . . . people in this country have had enough of experts” – Gove 2016

All of this has meant that a culture of blame, specifically blaming individuals or groups of people is now the vogue.  Those people are the ‘other’, they are outsiders and simply made the wrong choices in life.  What’s more, they are outside at night time, waiting to mug you or chase you with a syringe.  Any explanation that leans upon social structure and disadvantage doesn’t seem to fit and sounds tired when sat against this discourse.  Even in spite of the horrifying evidence of the misery in Syria (What?  The ‘other’ have mobile phones and X-boxes?).  It doesn’t appeal.  I think for many people who voted ‘out’ of Europe, explanations focussing upon social structure just sound like liberal whining and meddling, exactly the kind of thing they voted against.


Syria – Before and After

Right, back on track.  For me, all of this feels like a huge step backwards, the exact opposite of progressive politics.  A metaphorical book burning.  It’s incredible how quickly society seems able to unlearn things.  Until society becomes more able to accept concepts such as disadvantage and the effects of structural issues it a seems that this activesilence will continue, the numbers of people on our streets will continue to grow and the services that serve them diminish in number.  Yesterday I received a petition from a colleague about the budget cuts to drug and alcohol services in Staffordshire, perhaps a cut that could be described as low hanging fruit . . . . . . . for me it seems that we have a long way to go until society begins to see the individuals rather than a group of the other.

PS – The paper resulted in a working group at our local authority, was mentioned in the commons and was discussed on 5 live.  Not bad for an electro junky.

[1] Wood N, Wilkinson C, Kumar A, 1997, Do the Homeless Get a Fair Deal From General Practitioners? – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9519661



Bonkers vid

I Don’t know what it means?


So the people that voted for Trump were the disenfranchised white working class?  I’m not sure that’s entirely true.

I don’t profess to understand the US but there are clear lines between that and what happened here in blighty (now thankfully not the only basket case in the world).

The financial crisis, which left capitalism on life support with banks bailed out, austerity, benefit cuts, privatisation of the NHS somehow lubricated, wages stagnant etc etc.  But yet a swing to the right?  Voting for more?  This is even more so with the Trump thing over the pond.  Capitalism was shown to fail and yet, people appear to have voted for capitalism XL?

Perhaps not.  Maybe its more simple and there were two shit candidates.  Perhaps people went for the one that offered change.

There has been a lot of commentary about this.  I’ve been watching CNN which seems fairly balanced and they are having the same conversations that happened in the UK post Brexit.

There really is a desperate need to pull people together which appears to be apparent in the most unlucky places as Trump made his speech in the early hours (most likely to stabilise the markets actually).

The danger here of course is how this happens.  It can’t do under a nationalist banner.  The world learned these lessons.  The Germans were quick to point out the risks (albiet it slight of hand) and Merkel stated the terms under which their relationship with the States can only continue.

My concern is that whilst after ww2 Germany went through a period of thought and learned.  The UK, US and others like Russia never did.  They were triumphant.

Here in the UK there is still an undercurrent of pride for the empire and sense that the countries invaded largely benefitted from it (search opium wars or african concentration camps.)  It would be difficult to argue that they weren’t happy to see the UK leave.  There is a certain sense of superiority amongst some portions of the conservative right.

It looks as though we may have learn this lesson unless people engage in conversations.

There is hope though.  Whilst the more conservative out there might have their keys hung up in the right order, as Moore said, there is hope and love in the millennial generation who are happy to live in a metropolitan society which is multicultural because they don’t have this baggage.

I don’t know what this means though.  How long will it take?  However, I’d certainly put more faith in the youth as it stands.  I’d take naivety over this?  Who is naive.



Jeeesus.  These are difficult times.  I sit for far too long watching various different media channels spreading fear across all of us.  Being active in social media means being exposed to all of it, internationally so I’m well aware of whats happening with the upcoming US elections and neck deep in the worrying swing to the right here in the UK.

It wonder what it felt like to be someone caught up in the 1930’s/40s in central Europe as opinion abandoned all reason.  How did people maintain their sense of reality and not succumb to the general groundswell of hate and division?  I suppose they just shut up, or left?  I’m pretty sick of explaining facts to people who choose not to listen.  The fact they choose this reality has left me feeling a bit hopeless.  People seem to want division.  I’ve always thought that patriotism was dangerous in the same way that division through religion does the same.

I don’t dislike religion, but you can’t separate it from politics on the world stage.  I know true religious folk  who are as baffled as me and agree, only because they work on the ground and see things or what they are.  However, there are plenty of people who consider themselves to be true believers who don’t leave the house, rely on right wing media and are totally disconnected from the street.  They live in fear, spread by politicians and believe it.

Many of us can see through this and realise that gaps between us as people are being used by politicians to benefit their own aims.

I’ve decided to get back to writing music again.  There is an album coming.  I’ll bitch about stuff as it comes together.

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