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Poverty is the greatest cause of death and illness globally; it strangles the lives of billions of people, denying the expression of innate potential,condemning men, women and children to live stunted uncreative lives of interminable suffering and drudgery.
Our society is besieged by a series of interconnected crises.Millions of people around the world know this and are crying out for change, for a different way of living, for justice, peace and freedom. Political leaders, Prime Ministers, Presidents and the like, are apparently incapable of responding to these demands; they do not understand the depth of the anguish or the complex interconnected nature of the problems. Instead of presenting new possibilities and working for peace and social harmony, they do all they can to maintain the divisive status quo and act in accordance with the past.
After 20-plus years of being lost in the muddy centre ground of British politics, the Labour party now stands tall again as the party of social democracy, rooted in values of social justice, participation and unity. Under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is offering a positive message of hope at the coming UK election and presents a real alternative to the Conservatives.
The natural instinct of human beings is towards cooperation and sharing, but, distorted by competition, personal ambition and nationalism, self-interest and greed have become pre-eminent motivating forces, distorting action and corrupting the policies of governments.
It constitutes the greatest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War affecting huge numbers of people and demanding all that is best in us. Yet instead of compassion, understanding and unity, all too often intolerance, ignorance and suspicion characterise the response to the needs of refugees and migrants.
Consistent with 21st century politics the announcement on 18th April of a general election by Prime Minister Teresa May was a cynical move based purely on self-interest. The ‘snap election’ to be held on 8th June contravenes the fixed parliament act of 2011, which introduced fixed term elections (every five years) for the first time.
Born in Sudan, Asima fled violent conflict in her homeland and sought asylum in Britain. Poorly educated, unemployed and vulnerable, she relies on state benefits, which are conditional and inadequate, to survive.At the beginning of October her father had a stroke. Thanks to the kindness of a friend who paid her airfare, Asima visited him in Ethiopia. Upon returning to London, she discovered her rent payments had been stopped by the local authority because she’d been abroad longer than the 28-day limit. In fact she was away 30 days, two days over the regulated time.
The pressures of modern life are colossal; for young people — those under 25 years of age — they are perhaps greater than at any other time. Competition in virtually every aspect of contemporary life, a culture obsessed with image and material success, and the ever-increasing cost of living are creating a cocktail of anxiety and self-doubt that drives some people to take their own lives and many more to self-abuse of one kind or another.
Imagine a country run along truly democratic lines. In such a mythical land, what would be the role of the politician, and the nature of his or her relationship with that amorphous group paraded under the banner: ‘the people’?We in pseudo-democratic countries hear a lot about politicians serving and honouring the ‘will of the people’ – in Britain this nauseating slogan of appeasement has been repeated ad infinitum since the disastrous European referendum vote – but from where does the supposed conviction of the masses arise?
In cities and towns from New Delhi to New York the socio-political policies that led to the Grenfell Tower disaster in west London are being repeated; redevelopment and gentrification, the influx of corporate money and the expelling of the poor, including families that have lived in an area for generations. To this, add austerity, the privatization of public services and the annihilation of social housing and a cocktail of interconnected causes takes shape. Communities break up, independent businesses gradually close down, diversity disappears and another neighbourhood is absorbed within the expensive homogenized collective.
Charred, lifeless and brutal, the hollowed out remains of Grenfell Tower in west London screams of the human agony inflicted when, on 14th June, the building became an inferno.Whilst there are various theories about what triggered the fire – dodgy wiring, a faulty fridge, a gas leak – what is clear is that this disaster was not an accident, it was the consequence of a social housing policy dating back to the 1980’s, systematic neglect, social injustice and the ongoing war being waged on the poorest members of British society by the Conservative government.
This time of year Mediterranean beaches are the destinations of choice for many European holidaymakers; it’s also the beginning of the busiest time of year for the people smugglers based in Libya and elsewhere along the North African coast. July to October is their peak season — during this time in 2016 around 103,000 refugees were crammed into unsafe boats, often in the dead of night, and cast off into the Mediterranean Sea.
The existence of nuclear weapons is an ugly symbol of the violent consciousness that plagues humanity. Despite tremendous technological advancements, developments in health care and wonders of creative expression, little of note has changed in humanity’s collective consciousness: Tribalism, idealism and selfish desire persist, negative tendencies that under the pervasive socio-economic systems are exacerbated and encouraged. People and nations are set in competition with one another, separation and mistrust is fed, leading to disharmony, fear and conflict.
Anxiety and depression are at unprecedented levels worldwide and the numbers are growing. The World Health Organization (WHO) describe it as an epidemic, and estimate that 615 million people are suffering from one or other of these debilitating diseases. A staggering number, that in all likelihood is an indication only of the depth of the problem; anxiety as documented by the WHO, is primarily a developed nation’s issue. The 800 million living in extreme poverty in India for example are not polled, and are too overwhelmed by the daily demand for survival to even question if they feel depressed or anxious; so too the 500 million living on the margins of life in sub-Saharan Africa, or rural China.
It was the school holidays and there were lots of teenagers in my local park. I sometimes spot them meandering home, but I rarely see them en masse as it were. Blind to the bluebells, peacocks and glories of nature all around us, they were glued to their palm-sized screens. What were they so engrossed in – some kind of game or trivial video, a map of the park perhaps, unnecessary given the proliferation of signs? Are they texting, e-mailing, or trawling through the Internet, or all of the above? If one did not know what these shiny seductive objects were, one might think that they controlled the person, rather than the other way round. And to a large degree they do.
Poverty blights the lives of billions of people throughout the world: in developing countries, where it is acute, and industrialised nations, where it’s hidden but growing. It rises out of social injustice, makes exploitation and abuse inevitable, brings death and disease, robs people of opportunity and dignity, feeds anger and resentment.
A silver lining of action and fury is bubbling inside the prevailing gloom that is the election of Donald Trump. His presidency may prove to be the final straw in the decades long assault on brotherhood, human kindness, cooperation and society inculcated during the Thatcher/Reagan era; the ultimate action that triggers an unstoppable popular uprising, uniting people in common cause against the abhorrent ideals that are causing despair and anger amongst millions of people. A global campaign, based on and calling for unity, tolerance, cooperation and social responsibility.
Imagine you wake one fine morning and find you are living in a war zone, aerial bombardments are a weekly occurrence, family members have been killed, tortured or imprisoned and the children’s school destroyed. You love your country, but frightened and desperate you decide to leave in search of a new home, in a peaceful place, where you can study, work and have a chance to live out your days happily.
Migration is a major political and social issue throughout Europe; in the UK it is a highly emotive matter, distorted by the rabid right wing media and irresponsible politicians.The numbers of asylum seekers (people fleeing conflict and persecution of one kind or another) arriving in the UK are small, tiny in fact.....
Over and above the greed and corruption of wealthy and powerful individuals, the leaked ‘Panama Papers’ revealed the need for a worldwide, standardised tax code, as part of a radical new global economic model. Not globalisation – which is ideologically based, designed by the ruling elite and set up to serve the interests of national and multi-national corporations and banks, but a new and just system designed to meet the needs of everyone, with sharing and social justice at its heart.
There can be little doubt that we are living through an extraordinary, and in many ways unprecedented era. Times of uncertainty and tremendous upheaval for sure, but also positive times, in which large numbers of people are becoming energised and politically engaged. Political parties in many countries are fracturing, as internal differences surface and the old dualities of left and right fail to respond to the needs and demands of the people.
Food, like shelter and health care, is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a fundamental right of all people, irrespective of circumstances or income. And yet one in nine of the global population does not have enough to eat – despite the fact that there is enough food to feed everyone.
As a world community we have agreed that everyone has a right to a home, (article 25 of the UNDHR makes this clear), however, like many such ‘rights’ – food, adequate health care, good education for example, the ‘right’ to a home is dependent upon your ability to pay for that right.
Fleeing war, persecution and acute poverty, men, women and children have been arriving in Britain for generations. They come in search of peace: for work or education, and to build a decent life in a country were the rule of law is observed and human rights are respected.
We all want peace, don’t we? Peaceful relationships and communities; an absence of violence and conflict: a World at Peace. This is surely everyone’s heartfelt desire. Without peace nothing can be achieved, none of the subtler essential needs of our time...
Friday 8th May, we woke to the depressing news that the Conservative party led by David Cameron had been re-elected as the UK national government. Depressing unless you’re living in a house worth £2 million or more – and didn’t want to pay higher property tax that is...
Besieged by civil war, poverty and violent repression, huge numbers of people are risking their lives making the hazardous journey from Tripoli or Benghazi across the Mediterranean to Italy. Crammed into unsafe, poorly maintained vessels,...
Internationally ignored, life in Eritrea is brutal and shrouded in secrecy. The world is indifferent. The regime trusts nobody – even the UN’s special rapporteur on Eritrea, Sheila Keetharuth, has been denied a visa. Last year she stated: “basic tenets of the rule of law are not respected.”...
Depending on who you listen to and how it is defined, worldwide income and wealth inequality is either more acute than it has ever been, or the gap between the rich and the rest is narrowing. The numbers may be distorted by conflicting statistics but what is indisputable is the shadow of extreme poverty...
You can see it glistening in colours red, white and blue, smell its choking fumes through the fogs of ambition and greed and mac-taste its convenient food; fast and furious, no time to waste, to pause, to question and wonder...