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Labour. Not just angry, also disappointed

Oh the Labour party. I am a new member, and I am bitterly disappointed.

I didn’t want there to be a leadership contest, but I finally joined in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote. I joined because I was worried that if there was a contest for the leadership, they might not let people join to vote after it had started.

That went well.

So, there’s going to be an election. And I can’t vote. Can’t afford it.

But there is at least the appearance of one good thing, in that the challenger, Angela Eagle, is a woman and not straight. (White. You can’t always get what you want.)

Except there’s a straight white dude all of a sudden. Owen Smith, whoever the fuck he is. Who has to reassure people that he’s normal, presumably so people don’t get the idea that lefties or women or ‘the gays’ could be anything but a token or a short lived aberration.

And lo and behold, a few days after Mr Boring Right Wing White Guy turns up, a deal is done, and even the token is gone. Despite the fact that she took all the media flak for a solid 3 weeks. I don’t like her, I don’t like the fact she didn’t have anything to say, or any apparent politics, but at the very least she should have been allowed to finish what she started.

Even in 2010 when Diane Abbott ran, she was allowed to stay to the end. It’s telling that, even though she’s a better speaker than him and their politics are very similar, it took Jeremy Corbyn, a straight old white guy, to win from the left. And even then, the decades-old short-lived relationship between Abbott and Corbyn is used to smear both of them; he accused of helping her out and she of using him to climb. As though Diane Fucking Abbott isn’t capable of twice her highest office without any pale male support.

So Labour, I have joined. Because our country’s political system makes it all but impossible for change to the left to happen any other way. But don’t take my membership money as praise. Don’t interpret this as a blessing on your current configuration or attitudes.

Your shit is fucked up.

The trauma of chronic illness and the DWP

In case you didn’t guess from the title, I’m gonna be talking about the process of engaging with the DWP whilst very ill and how badly it sucks. If you’re fragile around this stuff, take care when reading.

I’m currently in the process of my second application for PIP. I last applied in April 2014, and it took them until August 2015 to lie their way to deciding, despite all the evidence I gave them and the incredulity of everyone I’ve told about it, that I deserved zero points and no money. 

This time I’m doing the whole application through my local Citizen’s Advice Bureau. I contacted them at the first opportunity, and requested a home appointment to fill in the form, but they couldn’t fit me in, so this morning I had to get up two hours before my normal wake up time, take two buses, and spend a very long time going through the most private, painful, and embarrassing details of my life to try, for the second time, to get some of the support I am entitled to.

So. Up at 8am. Lots of coffee. Out by 9.15. appointment at 10. 

The appointment was supposed to take two hours. The occupational therapist I see at the CFS/ME service isn’t happy for our 45 minute appointments to happen without a 5 minute break in the middle. And I ended up being there until almost half past one.

Tom was able to be with me until 11.30am, but then had to leave due to our ongoing washing machine saga. (Seriously Indesit, it’s been three weeks. We have lots of dirty clothes!) By the time he left I had already had to move off the chair to sit on the floor due to fibromyalgia pain.

Shortly after Tom left I stopped being able to speak properly and had to start singing my words.

At 12.00 I was able to take additional anti panic medication over and above my standard daily dose.

That was also about the first time I burst into tears without really even knowing why.

At about 12.25 I started playing a number game on my phone to try and stem the rising panic. It worked for a while. 

I was still singing my words. The CAB worker told me about his choir to try and calm me down.

Side note. He was really fabulous. Like, really good. Stayed remarkably calm for all the weird and ill I was throwing around all over the place. When I said I’d had input from rape crisis checked immediately if I wanted him to hand over to a woman. Told me about his choir when I was crying rather than get upset or annoyed or expecting me to be able to carry on before I’d stopped crying. So mega huge thanks to the CAB for being awesome.
But there’s only so much you can do to mitigate how awful this process is.

So yeah. Still can’t talk. Singing my words. 

A little before 1pm I get another crying jag. After that I can’t even sing anymore. 

I start pointing at previous paperwork, and typing on my phone.

We finally finish the form. It takes me a full two minutes to sign, print and date because my hands are shaking so much.

He goes to photocopy All The Things. I fall asleep leaning against the wall. When he comes back I slap my face to wake myself up and his mask of calm cracks for the first time. I’m too tired to cry again.

They call a cab for me and it comes. While getting in I fall. I felt the bruises forming on my knees, elbow and shoulder, but only noticed the ruinous tear in my top later. Tom met the taxi and after crawling and head butts from the dog, I am home.

So. Something like this, a day like this, is undoubtedly traumatic. 

My care plan went out of the window. The support structures and carefully calibrated limits of everyday life as a seriously and permanently ill person just can’t survive contact with the intense requirements of the ‘How Your Disability Affects You’ form. 

Today was awful. But it’s not unusual. 

To be ill and in contact with the DWP is to be constantly retraumatised. 

On Monday I got a text message reminding me to complete and return my form. As if I could forget. 

When I got home there was a letter from the DWP reminding me to complete and return my form. As if I could forget.
This kind of thing happens again and again, and there is always another battle to fight. Trauma on trauma. 

The ill and disabled are being repeatedly traumatised and made more ill in an effort to spend less money on them as a distraction from giving more money to people and organisations that can buy nice lunches for politicians.

I don’t even know what I’m trying to say with this post. Except that this is happening, all around you, ever​y day.

I’m so tired.

What does money even mean? The Panama Papers

You might be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss even is about the Panama Papers. Over the last decade we have lived through increasing evidence that money isn’t even a real thing. Tyler Durden’s ideas from Fight Club, where he preaches that money is just a number on a computer screen, are easy to believe.

But money does matter. And it is real. Kind of.

Because money, although in itself just an idea that we’re all forced to live with, does represent something very real. Work. Money is the way that we keep track of work.

We know this because we never exchange money for money, not really, we only ever exchange money for work.

For hours spent in a field, in an office, at a factory, in a mine, behind a till, on the road. The cash we use to pay for things only exists because, at some point, somewhere in the world, for some purpose, one human being did something that another human being wanted.

Before we had money, we bartered. We would do a straight swap. This much grain for these many sheep. And broadly speaking, the thing that was equal there was the number of hours work each group of stuff needed before that swap.

This is why we pay lots for books, but little for stacks of plain paper – the book represents more hours, because it had to be written and checked and edited and so on. Both the book and the stack of plain paper also represent hours of work in tree logging, wood processing and paper making. But, per page, the book is (or should be) more expensive.

Each pound or euro or dollar or yen represents an amount of work that has been done.

And this is why money offshore and in tax havens matters.

James Henry of the Tax Justice Network said yesterday that there is “At least 21 to 32 trillion [US] dollars of individual private wealth offshore.”

Let’s take the low figure – $21tn.

If we write it out long form, that’s $21,000,000,000,000.00.

Which is a staggering amount of money. If you divide it up, that’s $3,000.00 for every person on Earth.

Looking at that, it can be easy to just stop there, and think of the $3k figure as something that can just help us understand what a huge number 21 trillion is. But it’s not just a huge number. Because every one of those 21 trillion US dollars represents an amount of work that has been done.

Now. Let’s think back to the barter example. The farmer and the shepherd exchanged their grain for sheep. They didn’t need to keep track of it for later, because it was a straight swap. They only need money if the farmer wants the sheep, but the shepherd doesn’t want anything from the farmer. The shepherd then needs an OIU from the farmer that he can give to someone whose stuff he actually wants. This third person can then go to the farmer and say that they want the grain the farmer would have given to the shepherd. Money is just easier.

You might notice something though. In the above example, the IOU doesn’t exist for very long. Everyone gets what they want quite quickly, and the IOU doesn’t hang around for ages, with the farmer wondering how long he has to keep a few sheep worth of grain around in case someone walks up to his front door tomorrow with the IOU.

We have $21tn worth of IOUs sitting in savings accounts. Savings accounts that don’t just not belong to governments, but are all but out of the reach of governments. That money is locked away. (Although hopefully not forever.)

This means that for every person on the Earth, there are $3,000 worth in hours of work that should be waiting to walk up to their front door.

In the UK, $3,000 is about £2,000. For my husband, that’s two months work after tax.

If we scale that up for the number of people on Earth, that’s 1.167 billion years. That’s a quarter of the way to the death of the Sun. That’s a lot of work.

It gets worse though, because the UK, relative to most of the world, has high pay per hour.

The UN says that about 20% of the world’s population, 1.2 billion people, live on less than $1 a day. Three thousand days is eight years and two months. Without weekends. I don’t even want to think about how many lifetimes of the Sun are owed to the people of Africa.

Money that is moving is being useful. While it’s moving, things can get done. People do work, and have work done for them in return. But when you put money to one side, it stops being useful. It sits like water in a bog. It goes bad.

If we look around us, pretty much anywhere in the world, it is possible to see work that needs doing that is not being done. Usually because somewhere along the way, there isn’t the money to do it.

What the Panama Papers are very clearly showing us is that there is the money to do it. That money exists. But with the help of politicians and tax codes around the world, that money has been allowed to go stale in private offshore accounts.

We need that money. We are owed that money. Not because we want to keep it ourselves and become the new dragons, but because of the work it represents.

There is so much around us that needs to be done. So many people who need help. So many ecosystems at risk, both evolved and engineered.

As a planet, we just can’t afford to have that much potential work, potential good, sat around on computer screens in tax havens, going stale.

Zika virus help for those who are pregnant or at risk of pregnancy

Over the last week or so, I’ve noticed a lot of news about the Zika virus. And as a person with a womb who has worked in neonatal care, the effects and the risks are terrifying.

The prospect of having a child who is largely or entirely dependant on care for the whole of their possibly short lives is daunting. Sometimes disability is unavoidable, and those affected (like myself) should obviously be loved, cared for, and encouraged to live as fully as they can.

But to know that disability is preventable, and to know how to prevent it gives us, I believe, an imperative to do all we can to give parents and children the best start in life.

So. Here are a list of charities, organisations, and campaigns that are helping to prevent microcephaly and at risk pregnancies across the affected regions.

I have focussed on pregnancy and abortion because the search for a vaccine will, I believe, be the more high profile issue. I don’t want those at risk of pregnancy, miscarriage, or whose foetuses are at risk of microcephaly, to become collateral damage. They are not a way of keeping score or tracking the scale of this disease.

1. Women on Waves (CN: website uses gendered language)

Women on Waves are a charity who provide medical abortions within the first 9 weeks of pregnancy. They are providing free medical abortions to those who can prove they have been infected with Zika. You can donate here.

2. Umm, well there isn’t a number 2.

Really. One organisation is all I could find offering abortion services to those at risk of a Zika affected pregnancy. And no one offering contraception.

If you know of any other organisations that should be added to the list, put them in the comments and I’ll add them to the post. Please.

There is, of course, plenty of noise from people wanting to persuade governments to change their policies around contraception and abortion. But that’s long term stuff, and doesn’t help those at risk, who need it now.

So please. Share this post around. Women on Waves (also known as Women on Web) have been getting quite a bit of press, but I’m sure they won’t mind more donations.

And if you are in a position to start an organisation or campaign to provide contraception and abortion services now to those at risk of a Zika affected pregnancy, please do so! I will publicise the shit out of you, and I won’t be alone.

Shapes, boxes and abandoned art

We are beings of potential.

We are beings of growth.

We are who we are. Who we have been. Who we may become.

We are the leftover shapes of the guides and containers that have been placed within beside and around us.

We start. And we move. And we grow.

We become ourselves. Start to show our shapes. To acquire the contours of those around us.

They stretch us. Nourish us. Contain us.

They can take us to heights of talent and skill that leave us breathless with delight.

They can point us to understandings of the Earth and its inhabitants that grow our ideas of who we are and how we live in this beautiful damaged world. 

They can squash. Stunt. Prune.

Take passions from a shout to a whisper. Push us on paths so narrow we fall.

In boxes so small and tight that dynamite becomes the only way to fight.

I will never be the person I could have been.

I will never fit the box that was made for me.

I will, always and forever, be incomplete.

A collection of influences and potentials to delight and confound.

A work of art forever being refined, and in the end abandoned, not completed.

And so will you.

Protected: Rattling (poem)

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Poly Means Many: polyamory and feminism

Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts will be found at www.polymeansmany.com . This month, our topic is “ polyamory and feminism”.

While thinking about what to write for this, I came across this fabulous comic on the Everyday Feminism project that I wanted to give a 1-up to.

It doesn’t make mention of the issue of polyamory and race, and of how people of colour can be relatively invisible within the non monogamous community. I’m sure there are other axes of oppression that are also missed out, however that is the one that jumped out at me.

That aside, this is a really good introduction to how one can experience oppression in one axis (like being in a non monogamous relationship) and still be relatively privileged compared to others.

That’s all I’ve got for this month, but in my defence, that comic is really good!

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