Archives For Community

A well known politician said something similar a while ago and got some stick for it. But I am amazed by how we think we know a lot about people we only see in the media and online. Despite my experience of therapy and being a counsellor I’m always surprised by how much I continue to discover about myself. Often we barely know what’s going on in our own lives let alone the neighbour or the stranger. Yet we are often quick with our opinions, good or bad.

For International Women’s Day in 2016 there are so many global issues that affect women. There are women who have chosen to be mothers, there are women who accidentally became mothers, there are women who for physical or emotional or life reasons have not become mothers. Whether or not we are mothers we’ve all had a mother, whatever her capabilities. Many women mother through adoption, fostering or even mentoring. We are all familiar with the African saying popularised by Hilary Clinton that “it takes a village to raise a child” but in reality the village is hardly ever there.

I am thinking of the women who are separated from their children because of migration, ill health, death and divorce.  So many women have been burdened by these difficult circumstances. I think too of   refugee children; away from home and living with very little food, shelter care and safety, the basics for a decent human life. Many mothers may be making a huge sacrifice to give their children a better or safer life and that looks different depending on where you are standing.

Others of us are stressed by trying to be great mothers and using our children to demonstrate this. We forget we cannot truly create a person, it is this wonderful alchemy between nature and nurture. Our children, however we came to have them, are a gift from God.

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I chose the title because I am amazed how much we can judge each other without knowing the facts. I have two recent examples to share here. First, our son is tall for his age so people tend to assume I have brought him to the wrong group. I keep assuring them that I do know when he starts school. On another occasion I bought my child an ice cream at midday and had an elderly lady looking at me as if to say I was perpetuating the problem with obesity in the world! Little did she know that he’s a great eater who loves to be active. Truth is he hasn’t yet realised that we could have ice cream at home as he only gets it when we’re out visiting museums, galleries, garden centres and play parks.

So what she saw as the whole story was only part of it.

If women are going to continue to make advances in the world then maybe we need to care more about each other’s children, judge less, and speak up more on behalf of those who have no voice. It is time too to be gentle with ourselves. We’re all stretched by modern life, whether struggling or just challenged. And yet we are good enough and we can do well to remember this. Does any of this resonate with you? Let me know what you think/feel?

There has been a lot of discussion around class in the U.K. this week.  Although class has been less clearly delineated over recent years there is often a hint of its influence in various encounters, whether face-to-face or through the media.  Historically people fitted into one of upper, middle or lower class groupings but this has all changed.  A recent report has identified seven classes, all with various economic and cultural expectations. For myself I find that my cultural engagement is way ahead of my economic capital!

The 7 classes are:IMG_2467

1. Elite

2 Established Middle Class

3.Technical Middle Class

4. New Affluent Workers

5. Emergent Service Workers

6. Traditional Working Class

7. Precariat

For more information on the survey, the definitions and to complete your own survey check out this BBC link .  What do you think? “Are you bothered?”

I’ve noticed impatience creeping in in several areas and I wonder what that says about us.  As a counsellor I need to be patient with my clients as developing trust or bringing about healing takes time – there is no cheat.

 

3 examples of our struggle with waiting:

 

  • I enjoy listening to review shows and am pleased that they do give notice if they are about to reveal too much by signalling “spoiler alert”.  Last week I was listening to a very reputable review show podcast where John Hamm of Mad Men was being interviewed.  The whole point seemed to be to guess as much of the future of the show as possible.  By the end of the interview I knew how many series might be ahead and what the ending screen shot might be.  Try as I might I can’t now get this image out of my head.  It was totally unnecessary.  The interviewer was obviously not a fan and someone who had researched the series and probably feels they could write something similar.

 

  • Sometimes even if we don’t seek the information before hand we might get it anyway.  I am tired of hearing on the news that someone important is going to give a speech tomorrow and this is what will be said. When I have a vote to impact the future then let me know otherwise I can wait until tomorrow to find out.  More recently we had that with the budget.  (As it happened being given so much information beforehand meant that people were more alert to what had not been leaked).  It does raise the question as to when we engage with what is going on: before it happens based on expectation or after it happens based on reality?

 

  • My third example is the publication of the report looking into the causes of last summer’s riots.  I was surprised to hear on BBC’s Newsnight that the report’s authors would not be joining the discussion because of their anger that it had been leaked.  The panel was good enough but that did not seem to be the point. Here is a report that has taken so many months and effort to explore all the possible causes of a very unusual and sad incident and it’s been snatched out of those who did the work.  It’s like designing, making and packaging a most original gift and having a stranger break open the wrapping and rummaging inside. It is such a difficult exercise anyway because many people do not wish to know what caused it they just don’t want it to happen again.  We all have our preferred perspectives that blame individuals, families or society for problems.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could demonstrate delaying gratification rather than a ‘must have it now’ approach? I hope the report is given the attention it deserves by all of us and look forward to hearing from the people who carried out the research.

 

A recent award nominee shared how angry she was when someone asked about her acceptance speech.  She wanted to enjoy the glow and excitement of being nominated. I hope that more of us can develop an ability to wait and hold uncertainty.  What do you think? Do you always want to know what is coming up or would you like to be surprised when things happen?

Do we need cameras in court?

November 25, 2011

 

I am surprised that the government are thinking of allowing cameras into court.  It seems so unnecessary and once it starts it would be difficult to reverse.  The trend will be for cameras in more places.  As a judge asked recently, “what would be the purpose?”  Is it a deterrent or a way of informing the rest of the population?  It is unlikely to serve as the former and the population already have access to information about how the courts work.  Does witnessing sentencing give us confidence in the system or encourage us to sit in judgement of others where we then imagine we know everything about them.

 

Justice has always had to be seen-to-be-done so nothing has changed.  Is it that we have no trust in professionals anymore?  Do we now need to see the shame, pain and humility (or arrogance) on the guilty person?  What’s next, public flogging?  There are many conspiracy theorists out there that need to see everything before they can believe it, and pandering to that is not the way to take our communities forward.

 

It seems to be that it is already difficult for ex offenders to make their way back into being a fully paid up member of society and public labelling of their image cannot help that problem.  Also, so many offenders are young people who may be able to turn over a new leaf but with limited positive experiences of life and poor expectations from society they might become less likely to reform.  When we’ve heard of their crimes and seen their faces the mental image stays with us.  Although willing we may find it just too difficult to give them another chance.

 

My fear is that it would be like having the OJ Simpson trial on a continuous loop.  There will also be barristers playing up to the camera, auditioning for their cameo role or mini series.  Maybe instead of justice being done we end up with a downplaying of the complex nuanced aspects of a case and the overdoing of visual aspects and easy sound bites.  Have we not got enough real problems to sort out in our communities without putting limited resources into a whole new policy and procedural setup?

 

This seems to be about demonstrating the punishment to those involved in the recent riots.  We seem to want to put people into boxes and not allow for change, personal development or transformation.  We seem to be so focused on shame and punishment that we’ve forgotten about rehabilitation.

 

Our attention needs to be focused on reducing recidivism rates through better use of rehabilitation, education, guidance, therapy and mentoring.  People need a reason and a hope to try to improve their lives and being globally known, as an offender will not help their motivation for change.

 

The whole experiment might backfire with offenders getting more street-cred the longer their case is seen in the media.  Notoriety may be its own prize and provide opportunity to be recruited for bigger jobs on the inside.

 

There is such a potential for negative impact when there is no harm in leaving things as they are.  People will still be convicted and the details will be in the newspapers and anyone of us can go to our local courthouse to observe if we fancy it.  Nothing needs to change.

 

Footnotes:

  • Broadcasters would benefit; as here is another reality show they do not need to script or be creative with – it writes itself.  And they may be able to raise advertising revenue to meet the interests of their audience.  Security alarms anyone?

 

  • Many, though not all, barristers and judges may like to be seen in their best light – all dressed up and clever and authoritative.

 

  • As the audience we struggle to keep our reality and fiction separate at the moment.  Actors get heavily criticised when they take on difficult challenging roles.  Life imitating art and art imitating life will become even more indistinguishable. No harm is done by leaving things as they are.

 

What do you think?

 

Team GB and expectations

August 29, 2008

What a ride the olympics has been!  Team GB’s medal haul has given us all a much needed lift.  It’s amazing how our individual psyche is affected by the national mood, whether we are community minded or not.  I have been truly impressed by the individual stories of dedication, effort, practice, motivation and team work.  So many of us give up so easily nowadays and its wonderful to hear stories of people becoming triumphant after injury, illness and loss.  

I do feel for the shy participants who just want to perform and then recover privately yet every moment is observed and recorded.  Some seem so dazed afterwards – whether on a high or a low – that they are not sure how they feel and struggle to explain it.  They need to go into such a private psychological space to believe they can win and yet we expect them to talk about their events as though they are observers like us. Being on the inside must be incredible but not something us non medal winners can ever experience.

And what is it about expectations.  There are tables equating so much money spent with so many medals. But what about human error and vulnerabilities? Haven’t we noticed how wrong our predictions often are across so many different sporting events?  Human beings are not machines and a slight change in the wind …can have a big effect on the outcome.  Not only did we have expectations but as these were being surpassed during the games we kept expecting more so the pleasure for the single achievement was less. How could you not get a medal if everyone else you trained with got one?  And suddenly, for some, silver was not good enough. ?!  Sure you want to contribute to the team effort but a medal, of any metal, is a huge achievement.

Expectations can affect us non olympians as well: it seems the better we perform more is expected of us.  This may be why some of us – young and old – do not seek to be outstanding in anything because of the pressure to then keep to that standard.  We could probably all be brilliant at something.  I myself prefer a range of competencies over narrow brilliance but I love to see such incredible feats of brilliance displayed. And how do we encourage participation of ourselves and others even when we are neither competent nor brilliant?  Can we put in the effort as beginners even when we feel inadequate?

local talent

August 29, 2008

Sometimes we get caught up in thinking that we are incredibly busy and everything is expensive.  These are two things that most people would agree on.  Yet that is not always the case.  Last night I had a lovely evening that was neither rushed nor expensive – it was almost surprising in its simplicity.  We went to 2 music performances for the price of 2 drinks! Yes that’s right.  We walked to the venues. We walked home. Entry was free.  And we felt good about supporting local talent.  As much as I love seeing the big acts in the big stadiums its nice to know that there is so much pleasure in the small, local and unknown acts.  I recently heard a comment that the more global we become the more we desire local connections and I feel connected to that. Thankfully we can have both, no need to choose.