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Pantomime Meets "OutNumbered" (Or - The Day My Faith In Democracy Truly Left The Building)
11/28/2016 4:51:56 PM
Last Thursday evening I went to what must be the most surreal event I have ever attended.

I had met up with someone about my "Human Library Zone" project and they invited me to attend a protest and a Council meeting (they were linked - the former was due to be discussed at the latter).

After we had trudged up three flights of stairs we found ourselves in a small "Public Gallery".  When I say "small" I mean there was hardly any room in it.

I suppose I had been a bit naive because I expected the meeting to be run like most other meetings I have ever attended.  How wrong could I have been???

Almost as I had sat down on the bench in the "Public Gallery" we were threatened with the Council having it cleared due to some other Members of the Public shouting (what I thought were) reasonable comments.  That was were the "Pantomime" bit of the title to this blogpost comes in.

I spotted what I thought was a piece of paper next to me on the bench.  When I picked it up I read it and was horrified to find myself reading what looked for all the world like a script for the meeting.  Including how the petitions were to be presented by various people.  With blanks for comments by assorted Council Members. 
I must admit the "script" was really enlightening.  Although what transpired during the "debates" was far from entertaining.

If you have never seen the British TV series "OutNumbered" - here now follows a brief summary of how it worked.

The main characters were played by two adults (who had scripted lines) and three children (who could make it up as they went along - leaving the adults frantically trying to connect what the children said and did to the script in front of them so the programme made sense to the audience).

That - Ladies and Gentlemen - was what passed as the "Democratically Representative" Council Meeting I attended.  Actually - it was more like "Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics".

What made it worse was the fake "debates" the Councillors had on the very important topics under discussion.  It was obvious that the answers had been decided behind closed doors prior to the meeting.

Let's just say that I was very glad that the children who had been brought in to plead the case for one of the petitions (linked to the protest held before the meeting) had left the building before the debate on that particular subject had started - otherwise they would have been really disappointed with the way it was discussed.

I had been under the impression that I was "Democratically Represented" by my local Councillors - that idea has been totally destroyed.

If we cannot rely on even our local Councillors to represent us - instead of looking after their own vested interests (as well as their "jobs" in the Council) - how can we be expected to rely on our national Politicians???

There are three lines from a Pantomime which I wish all Politicians would remember (usually more connected with the Baddie in Pantomimes but also applicable to the people who vote for them).

"He's behind you".

"Oh no he isn't"

"Oh yes he is" (to be paraphrased into "Oh yes - the Electorate are").

I just wish I could be sure that there was a way of restoring my faith in "Democratically Elected" government at all levels - without being so brutal as to break the system completely and start again from scratch.

The Real Question Nobody Dares To Ask About World Politics (Or - Why Polls Tell Us Nothing)
11/14/2016 3:12:48 PM
Last night I watched a very interesting TV programme with a very good argument at its core.

The programme asked the question "Will we ever have a Black Prime Minister?"

I thought it was a very informative programme for a slightly different reason to the one the Production company might have expected.

With the current uproar about the election of Donald Trump (and how the Polls got it completely wrong) - as well as the UK Mainstream Media trying to claim it is the second stage in a "Political Domino Effect" (with the Elections in France and The Netherlands being the next "ones to watch" for signs of a Populist uprising) - I remain amazed that nobody has asked the most obvious question.

"Does Democracy - in the form we are currently presented with - work in reality?"

Forget the "Electoral College" idea that the US Presidential Elections are subjected to (my brain just exploded when I attempted to work that out) - Does "Democracy" give everybody an equal say in what goes on in our "Political Scene"???

All UK Nationals who are over the age of 18 have a right to vote in our General Elections.  If you choose to move to the UK but not go for UK Citizenship or Nationality you can live here for the rest of your natural life and still have no say - even if you pay UK Taxes.  (Given a choice between keeping her Dutch Passport and getting British Citizenship - my Mum opted for the former.  That was in the 1970's.  Her mantra was "I was born Dutch, I am Dutch, I will die Dutch".  The fact she ended up living in England for longer than she lived in The Netherlands was beside the point.)

However, the programme concentrated on something which I have experienced my entire life - the challenges faced by people who are not seen as "Mainstream".  Even though I am White there are barriers which my sight raises regarding how differently others can see me.

The programme discussed the differences in how Black people are percieved throughout their lifetime compared to both their White peers and White people who have the benefit of a Private Education, access to the top Universities, etc.  Let's just say that someone from Theresa May's background has a 90 times higher chance of being the Prime Minister of the UK than a Black child from somewhere like inner city Birmingham.

We all know that people in the top jobs in the UK are all cut out from the same mould - White, able-bodied, people.

Surely, in an ideal world, your background shouldn't bar you from your ideal career choice, nor should any disabilities you may have???

Have you noticed that there are actually more Black and Minority Ethnic MPs in the House of Commons than there are obviously Disabled ones?  In fact, the last obviously Disabled MP who reached the ranks of Government Minister was David Blunkett a few years ago.

I am supposed to elect an MP from a choice of candidates who have no idea of the challenges I face in my life.  I have never actually seen my current MP in the flesh.

I really feel we should all be able to represent ourselves in Government.  After all, "Democracy" comes from the Greek "Demos" - of the people.

Just over a week ago we commemorated Guy Fawkes - who was caught after the failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament.  Now - I am not for one minute suggesting we should have a re-run of that event.  What I am suggesting is - we find a system of Government where everybody can represent themselves and their own lives.

I remember an advertisement aimed at encouraging people in the UK to go out and vote - it suggested that if we didn't vote we would let the Extremists in.

There was one thing about the US Presidential Elections that I wish we could see over here.  In some States they had another box on the Ballot paper marked "None of the Above".  I - for one - would be more happy about exercising my Right to Vote if that appeared on UK Ballot papers for all Elections.

First Past The Post (the current UK Electoral System for General Elections) is definitely not representative.  Proportional Representation is only slightly better as we are still forced to choose between candidates.

Having "None of the Above" would be a clearer indication of the feeling in the Nation.

However, my ideal scenario would be to create Total Democracy and allow everybody to represent themselves and their own choices - with a small (unpaid) Panel to decide the major issues of the day.

Not only would this free up a lot of funding (no reason to pay Parlimentarians vast sums of money) - it would also create more of an even playing field as far as the ability to achieve Equality for Everyone is concerned.

How can people who have no experience of life in the "Real World" be expected to make Laws which benefit everybody???  How can the "Career Politicians" have any idea of how the world has moved on since they became an MP???

We need to claim "Politics" back for the people it is supposed to serve.  Otherwise there will be more generations of people who feel left behind through no fault of their own as they watch the companies they work for close without any credible alternatives being put in place, or who find the system for applying for Social Security too difficult to bother attempting and live in poverty as a result, or who find themselves in jobs which are totally unsuitable (unstable pay, crazy contracts, bosses who waste no opportunity to make them feel too poorly to work, or employment which is unsuited to their health) with no obvious means of escape.

We need to somehow become a country where the people who are on the margins of Society are the ones who have the real power to change things for the better.  They (or rather - we) are the ones who could make a positive difference for everybody if only we were given the chance.

Ports And Corners (Or - Why You Could Say I Am A Geographic Link Between My Parents)
11/3/2016 6:31:34 PM
I suppose you could call me a "hybrid" (don't worry - my Mum beat you to it).

I think I told you before that my Mum and I both have her native city on our Birth Certificates and in our Passports - she has the word "Rotterdam" and I have the international Dialing Code for the same city as my Birthday (31 October - or 31 10).

However, there is another thing we have in common - we were both born in Port towns.  Well - OK - Rotterdam is more of a Port City but at least Kings Lynn is still a Port.  Not only that but Kings Lynn is a rather special Port.  It is the only current Hanseatic Port in the UK.

Kings Lynn also forms a nice little link with Leicester (where my Dad was born) - just drive west on the A47 and you will eventually end up there.

However, there is another slightly odd kind of link between Leicester and Rotterdam.  Or - should I say between England and The Netherlands???

Allow me to attempt to explain.

I realise my French is very rusty but I seem to remember that the word "Port" is door in French.  I also know that "Hoek" is corner in Dutch.  (If you want to ask a Dutch person where to find the nearest Port - your best idea would be to ask for directions to the nearest "Haven" which literally translates as Harbour.)

No - this is not going to be a sermon on the subject of the pesky Brexit negotiations.

Nor is it going to be a comment about the Immigration debate.

Forget the idea of the world being full of different countries and far away places.  At one time the world was nearly all joined up by land which was in places where there is no land today.  (It wasn't until I saw "QI" last week that I learned Doggers Bank was actually a peice of land which linked the UK with The Netherlands a long time ago.)

If the world keeps changing shape we might find ourselves slightly closer to places like Russia than we might normally expect.  You cannot really have a "Cold War" between Russia and the US if Alaska has moved so far that the only way the Russians are going to be able to keep the US out is if they borrow an idea from Donald Trump and build a wall to keep them out.  (Apparently that idea isn't as farfetched as you might think - Alaska is moving towards Russia at a rate of 25 miles per year.)

In a funny way I miss the idea that The Netherlands and the UK are two parts of the same country - just with one lot having a dialect which is about as comprehensible as Glaswegian to most English-speakers.

I know it is a long drive from Leicester to Kings Lynn - and an even longer one to Harwich (the journey by train isn't exactly quick either) - but I love the idea of being able to look out of a window and being able to have an undisturbed view of boats and sea.

Yes - I am the daughter of what you might call an "Immigrant".  In fact - depending on which country I am standing in out of England and The Netherlands - I am the daughter of two Immigrants (Dad lived in The Netherlands when he met and married my Mum).

I might have been born in England but I have always felt more at home in and around Rotterdam.

We cannot choose where we are born or where we grow up.  However, I am thankful that my parents brought me up with a knowledge of both England and The Netherlands (as well as teaching me the language which I think is the most expressive when I hear it spoken).

The only way we are ever going to get proper peace in the world is if we mix with people from other countries and learn about different cultures.

You cannot get more of an opportunity to mix with people from other countries if your parents come from different countries themselves.

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