Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

And the Interweb says, Kill for the Billionaires.

According to the BBC news tonight, TV/Internet is now at tipping point. More people are getting news and entertainment from the web than from the static, communal TV. We are, more and more, reading, viewing, writing, playing, getting our thrills (my latest one being the fantastic Firefly) etc on our hand held devices. This is great news for teachers, writers and wankers everywhere. It is also brilliant news for democrats and those of us who want to see information and the media democratised (and Murdoch, that evil little snotter who buys and corrupts nations, broke, jailed and the key thrown away). But it is also great news for those who have had to invest huge sums in print media and 24 hour news channels in order to control the propaganda we are pumped full of and kept docile by, because they can chunk it up, buy and sell it and control what we know through devices we scroll on during every shit break or advert break. In other words, this "tipping point" could also mean more or less social control and an easily manipulated populace OR a populace more able to analyse and act.

The panic as the aristocracy shrank and equality rose during the seventies was tangible- secret right wing coups were planned and strike breaking establishment armies undermined workers struggles for the real share of the wealth of the country. Country piles were leaking and the titled were clinging on for dear life to their tumbling, unprofitable estates by their knitted and patched fingerless gloves. Wealth was being shared. The hold of the exploiter was diminishing, and they knew it. Rather than the time when the country, according to academic studies, was happiest, more equal and safest, the seventies have been almost forgotten amongst the fetid shit storm of right wing propaganda that tells us about winters of discontent, unburied dead, soviet take overs, looney leftists etc.

As we walk through X-ray spec airport security, showing your bits to a minimum wage G4S guard, previously only known in trouble torn and army controlled Northern Ireland until ten years ago, or surveillance of ordinary working class communities surpassing that by the security forces in the Divis area of Belfast or the Bogside in Derry, and as workers struggle with exponentially falling wages and increasing energy and housing bills, we should use our hand held to study that era. Go on. Do it. Don't have me spoon feed you. Learn to learn. And keep your mind free by searching, by doubting and by increasing your skills.

When workers had far more money to spend on leisure and when owning a house didn't matter, rents were low- as were energy prices and professionals and unskilled workers lived side by side in council estates kept beautiful by proud, happier, safer, well paid workers. Do I exaggerate? Well do some research from the device you are reading this on, rather than playing candy crush, wankfest.com or whatever.

And when in 1979, the Thatcherites took power, workers communities, institutions, representation and education was one of their first targets.

In the glorious, big shouldered, wine bar'd, J.R. Wet dream, and loadsa moneyed eighties, one of the Thatcherite targets in our education system were courses and syllabuses that promoted critical thinking (Thatcherite politicians had many more targets of course -miners, teenagers, the Irish, the Scots, gay people, black communities, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and 2000AD to name a few). The changes they wanted to make- from a well paid, well educated and well protected industrial economy to an economy sustained by low paid workers with few rights and few roots and a proverbial (actually, no. LITERAL-) bicycle in order to ensure they could smash community and workers comradeship; needed a workforce that did not care about its rights- only where the next Lidl loaf came from.

Thatcher and the recently deceased Cecil bastard Parkinson and the rest of the vile Tory elite began to attack "Mickey Mouse degrees." They began to draw up the National Curriculum, in which famously Thatcher ensured History ended circa 1950. And it was fact laden. Pupils were tested on memory and recall and on digraphs and semi-colons. Art in Primary schools became the study of a door in many media. And any course, degree or syllabus/scheme of work that encouraged the love of learning, social sciences and critical thinking lost funding and through repeated tabloid attacks, credibility, with the working class who through the onslaught of the new right wing project, needed to learn to think critically most.

The control of the BBC and the media ensured Thatcherites and the establishment could control news in and out of Northern Ireland. They controlled what we learned about the Falklands conflict and they controlled what the country read or saw, edited in the way they wanted, news of the Miners Strike. On occasions manipulating footage so much that rather than show striking workers being attacked by baton wielding army trained police on horseback, their retreat was made to look like a charge.

Rather than me feeding you facts, use your device to find the truth. Look it up.

I want to get to the crux. My worry as a father. My worry as a worker. My worry as a human being in a world where the elite tell us, as they did in Rabbie Burns day, " Broke? Fucked off with living in the shitehole we've forced generations of you into? Want to escape the fate of your mates as a drunken drug user just trying to make the greyness, the struggle to survive, the inability to escape hell all the more bearable in a haze of dreams, fights, stomach cramps and early mortality? Join the army. We take you places we want to profit from. You might die. We won't. You fight for our freedom to rape the world for our luxury lives on Necker Island and houses across the world and our heavily armed yachts... We are alright because of our right to exploit you, keep you shovelling shit and corpses, and feeding your emaciated sugar filled bodies with cheap, rancid, chemical filled, profitable puke and giving you the pretence of escape for piddly pay that keeps you doing our bidding."

Burns wrote of a young man who had lost everything when the aristocracy fenced off the common land people lived on, grew crops on and reared livestock on- the land that made them  free. Your ancestors, fenced off from stolen land ensured you now are owned. Slave wage earners. Economic conscripts.

"Oh why the deuce should I repine
And be an ill foreboder?
I'm 23 and five foot nine,
I'll go and be a sodger!

I gat some gear wi' mickle care
And held it wiel thegether.
But now it's gane and something mair,
I'll go and be a sodger!"

Now all of us have been stripped of what little we'd regained from the aristocracy post ww2, all we have is to be a soldier; a call centre slave; a fast food worker- all de unionised, powerless. Fucked.

And the mass media most of us watch, that "fourth estate" gives not a flying fuck for you. It still lies and edits and passes on fashion and business as "news." It sells you Coronation Street story lines as water cooler conversation (who has fucking time at a water cooler to talk about Coronation Street?) And it tells you Dave Cameron, Tony Blair, Ronald Reagan and multi-millionaire, many houses/cars/private planes Mrs Windsor and her God given Demi-god family are wonderful- worth dying for. Worth freezing for. Worth struggling with three jobs for. Worth killing other poor bastards, emaciated children and mothers in foreign fields for.

The Internet is ours now. But they want to fence it off. The new enclosures. Facebook, Twitter, and Google, all of them will hand over your right to know (they do in China and other places were autocratic, dictates hips and downright corrupt bastards have total control). Your children, who won't watch Al Jazeera, RT, BBC News 24 and Sky News will be caught up by the corporations, trained to buy, trained to sell themselves for low prices. The Internet, if we allow the enclosure, will leave your sons and daughters no choice but to "Go and be a Sodger." Unless our education system is made to teach them how to analyse, question and detect bullshit.

If we allow it, the right wing- the billionaires- will ensure your children will find Coronation Street (or its equivalent) the most important thing to think about outside the many hours of work, outside the killing fields and outside the plugged in world of Candy Crush or Angry Birds. Our ancestors lost the fight for their freedom to farm and live out of the factories and Corporation owned Empire armies. The Internet has given us freedom to learn, freedom to live, converse, and freedom to create community that can again fight back and help us win the world. Thegether.

Don't let them take it.

Now for episode 8 of Firefly- I do have to fit in at the water cooler.

Monday, 25 January 2016

I'm really not your problem, you are.

Some things that have annoyed me about social media lately.

I do think being PC is a good thing, - it amounts to doing your best to understand perspectives, oppression and privilege - but when it is use to shut people up, by lefty on lefty, it is not a left I feel part of.

And using the fact we all have billboards to express our views to say "your views are giving me a mental illness" is beyond vile (this has been levelled at me by a couple of people).

I don't follow nazis. Their views would annoy me to the hilt. I warn my family about the fact that they may get annoyed at my political views, so they can decide whether to follow me or not. If "Ann. Oyed from Annoyed-ville" (or to ensure I am not the target of the "you are a fucking misogynist" mob - Angry Bob) hasn't not got the sense to unfollow/block me, they either don't want to and want to be annoyed, or they really don't understand social media (or reading for that matter).

I don't call you a capitalist pig for flaunting your plate of Jamie Olivered, pretentious Otter Livers and fucking Cous-Cous on Twitter- in front of the rest of us struggling with Internet bills.

Who you follow-or read- is your choice. Same goes with me- I choose not to read certain people. I also know friends views can annoy me- but I respect them enough to either unfollow, not read or if they are reasonable folk in real life I will discuss/debate and/or argue with them.  Most lefties I know don't bother themselves with Mein Kampf - if my bleating on about my opinion on the wrong approach in Scottish politics literally drives you to Prozac - stop reading my posts.  Simple.

My Facebook/blog/ Twitter account is not "mass media." It is my views expressed to a very small pool of people. My Facebook is closed to those who are not my friends, facebook or otherwise. I am a teacher. I try to ensure my privacy settings are high. So if you are reading it, it is because you are a FB friend. You have chosen to be.  If it annoys you, unfollow or block. I won't take offence. It really is not that important to me that you disagree with me. My blogging, facebooking and tweeting is used as a journal/ notebook and sometimes as something to share with like minded people.  And sometimes just a place to be silly or rant to the world.   If you rant back - I take it for granted you are on message - you like a rant - you wont be making an appointment with a therapist after we have traded the finest points - angrily - on whether or not 300 people make a movement.  Or on whether or not we should have the full stops in R.I.S.E. or S.S.P. (Rise/SSP).  Get a life. 

I rarely post in groups, but if I do, I expect people to agree or disagree comradely. I don't call you names, you don't call me names. Be passionate - I know I can be.  Be sarcastic, sardonic etc.  But belittling and nasty?  Fuck off.  You don't understand the game - go find other people to use your shitty hatreds on.

I recently messaged someone who I felt had gone too far in attacking a friend (who I agree with and disagree with in equal measure) who then removed the post. The insult did not become a slagging match and I appreciate that. I understand some peoples need to feel superior to others in how they use their "pc'ness", but please, do that with someone else. From now on, the stupid "ism" folk will be ignored.  Certainly take to your high horse on issues that you are passionate about, but just remember we all type from our horses.  Changing minds and hearts to your superior view is not done by labelling people as "forever fuckwits," unable to change or see your light.  Go read Freire - or if you WANT to abuse those who know less than you - become a crap Primary School teacher, because young folk condemned by labels will never surpass your superior knowledge and wonderfulness.

As for creating monsters of the left; enemies of the party; and using adjectives mindnumbingly idiotic to describe someone's views and perspective that is different from yours, well just stop it. You look like an idiot and are single handedly, amongst your social media friends and audience, wrecking any plausiblity your cause could have had.

Now go get some fresh air or straighten that mobile phone hunch and lift your gaze to the world around you.

People need to learn to step back and take a walk in real life sometimes.

I'm away to get my lunch.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Rise King is in the Altogether

I read the piece in The Record today on "The New Left Alliance," Rise. I have nothing against either of the candidates interviewed-in fact I have huge respect for Colin Turbett- nor have I anything against the policies laid out.

However, I won't be ticking the Rise list on the ballot sheet in May. This is for a number of reasons, not least how this project was launched upon the membership of the SSP.   The Machiavellian tooing and froing of Frances Curran and Colin Fox, and how they manipulated new members, has isolated, insulted and denigrated many comrades, many of them who have been working towards a left mass party for years, some irreparably lost to national politics. I won't support it because of how some have been treated and I won't support it because both the self selected and labelled, "Team Rise" and SSP have corrupt structures, that have played on new and young inexperienced comrades in order to basically create something that in any public sphere would be jumped upon and lambasted by democratic socialists. The SSP structures so well re-designed AFTER the Sheridan fiasco have been shut down by a small group of people who were not involved with the United Left Platform formed to save the party. And Colin Fox, as he so often says, is, despite the SSP constitution not allowing a "leader" nor allowing a Spokesperson to have his or her place for more than two terms, is the longest surviving leader of a Scottish political party nearly 11 years, to be exact. The excuse was that the party had reduced numbers and no one else came forward to take over. Perhaps Colin might announce in May he is standing aside and allow a real election to take place.  Going by the fact the NC illegally (according to the present constitution of the party) adopted a new constitution on the word of a select few that the old one was unworkable (nonsense) and Colin's love of the limelight, I doubt it. But perhaps he will surprise me and others after his defeat in Edinburgh as a Rise List candidate.

It's what comes AFTER  May that matters.

I have really thought long and hard about my political loyalties. I've thought about jumping ship. My loyalties aren't with the SNP enough to join, there are too many right wing folk in there, despite the many comrades there I have met over the years, too many dodgy "beliefs"; I could not be in the same party as some of the capitalist Greens, though again, many in there I would happily call comrade; but I AM in the same party as Colin Fox, Frances Curran and others that I trust as much as I would trust a hungry Python.

As for the Cat Boyd vehicle, there is no way am I going to be in an organisation with folk who will brand you misogynist, a scab or whatever discussion crushing "ism" they have rolling off their keyboard or tongue to shut you up (and although Boyd has been attacked for stupid reasons on social media by some, I found out via an email to the SSP National Secretary, that she is not immune to making the old personality attacks when she is not happy with someone's stance or objections to her or her teams machinations) So, although good folk are in the "alliance" and the SSP; using one of Tony Benn's questions about democracy- "can I vote you out?" I can't vote Colin out, nor Shafi (the registered leader, selected by a small group of people- not the whole membership), Curran or Boyd. Neither can any of the membership of the SSP or Rise. The new young and inexperienced membership have either lapped up the nonsense that Rise has no leaders, or they are all exclaiming how beautiful the emperors new Robe is (as are more experienced folk who should know better- and probably do, but are so desperate for left representation, they let it lie or go along with the pretence). The acceptance of this deformed democracy is really concerning- especially from parties that are supposed to be about democratic socialism.

Well, 'the King is in the altogether.'

So I am staying well clear of both, nationally, until post #SE2016.

No doubt some in the SSP (who have wanted to purge the party of those who can't go along with Colin's farce) and those who are Unquestionable "Risers," will have an ism or a mental health adjective for me in due course. It's what many of us have become awfully, dreadfully, disgustingly used to throughout 2015.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The fight against Scotland's nukes is an internationalist fight.

I'm not a nationalist. Neither is nuclear fallout, radiation or indescriminate weaponry.

The odd thing about those from SNP, SSP, Greens and those with other political outlooks who campaign to kick Trident into history is that, even though the huge majority of them in Scotland are pro- independence, their anti nuclear stance is far from nationalist.

A few years ago, I was driving towards the England Scotland border towards home in East Dunbartonshire. As I sped along the road, I caught up on a car that was flying a huge Jolly Roger and had signs stuck all over it proclaiming danger ahead, nukes out and "Death to Trident." The to was scored out and replaced with "with."

I soon caught up with the deadly convoy the internationalist was warning me about. Grey lorries, carrying a deadly nuclear cargo through towns, villages and the English and Scottish countryside. It was the first time I had seen them, and their menace reminded me of the time I was in a traffic jam behind a military landrover in Belfast from which a squaddie was pointing his gun straight at my car as I pulled up behind them. Unlike the worry that a single bullet may hit me, the thoughts of an accident as I passed the lorries and crossed the border, made me worry about my family and friends.

The dangerous convoys of nukes still make their way through our towns and villages - the most recent videos are HERE.

Nuclear war or accidents know no borders. And our fight to rid Scotland of the weapons (and the energy) is an internationalist fight. It is one that, WHEN won, will make our whole world that bit more safe.

I have been a body amongst thousands, protesting at Faslane, on George Square and writing letters, making banners and videos protesting these vile weapons and the costly, dirty and deadly energy. CND was the first "political" organisation I joined, 36 years ago when I lived in Northern Ireland, a place without nuclear weapons or energy. But it was during the Cold War- a time when we all knew the internationalism of dreadful war and the ultimate weapon.

If we in Scotland manage to kick Trident off the Clyde, I will still be a CND member. I will, like that single car protesting that deadly cargo crossing the Scottish border, protest the existence of these murderous weapons and these dreadful cargoes endangering our world, wherever they are housed.

Be an internationalist, join CND and write to all of your representatives protesting these convoys and the existence of these weapons. It's a fight for the future of humanity.


Saturday, 16 January 2016

We'll be wearing Leather pants (Colin Fox and I)

The yule season was quiet, but blissful. I had a shite start to 2015, but 2016 has seemed that little but better as my toe makes circles in its, so far, calm (ish- I'll get to the politics soon) waters.

We are renovating the house- the box room has at last been beautified, as has our bedroom. The teenager has made his into a joiners workshop... And keeps it locked. A mistaken glance in yesterday had me scraping my eyes.

 We've had a wood burner fitted down stairs and a fireplace  fitted in our bedroom. Bathroom next and my partner and fellow time traveller (always forward- sometimes draggingly slowly, sometimes quickly and sometimes, like holidays, like fucking greased lightning on speed and five gallons of 5++ strength coffee) is now talking about an extension, though the Christmas engorging has added extensions to both of us which have been condemned and hopefully will be torn down by the time of my 50th in February. Middle aged, with a mortgage, a family car, a dog and responsibilities... Who'd a thought? I'm thinking of getting a motorbike, a number of tattoos and hitting club land in leather trousers. 50 is the new 20. Midlife crisis are for my 60's. Time to live fast... Or at least "make it last... Dying young is still an option, but staying pretty ain't.).

And my once obsession with my party, the SSP, has floundered on the dawn shoreline of the latest expulsion of green, rancid gas of Trotskyists who have inferiority complexes -not all Trotskyists have these- most are reasonably sane. Only the ones who rely on SWP fuckups, ( and fuck ups who are ex-SWP, and some who deny ever even thinking of those three letters placed beside each other -which is a lot of ex-SWP types)... That dawning fetid orange refresh sign that is the online abuse and insult to everyone's intelligence, "Rise."

The party that has no leader (Jonathon Shafi); that is grassroots (grass roots students, professors, ex-swp organisers, PR companies, journalists and professional politicians); that will "take the fight to the SNP," according to SSP spokesperson and definitely not leader Colin Fox (who after spending all week fending off curious journalists because of his sharing a list with a woman who lied for Tommy Sheridan in court,has been ringing around SSP organisers assuring them the SSP are in control of Rise) but want SNP'rs list vote; the party whose friendly online activists will condemn you as misogynist, a scab, pale male and stale, a conspiracy theorist, mentally ill etc etc if you ask them questions about their organisation; the party that is not a party (but is registered as a party -regardless of the fact it did not have to); the party that forgets the past because "it happened 5 years ago and 'we 30, 40, 50 year olds need the votes of young folk who five years ago were fighting over Pikachu and the blue one that flies and looks like a painted dog turd -and that is exactly what Rise is. In my opinion.

Will the principled left survive this nonsense from people who just before the referendum campaign were condemning socialists who agreed with Scottish Independence as Nationalists? Of course it will, in other parties or none-or lying low in the SSP... The Principled left will be on the streets, but not trying too hard to get Colin, who wavered over what way to jump during Sheridan's wrecking of the left between 2005 and 2007, into an office in Holyrood, those days are gone, Foxy. You are donning the leather pants and dad dancing to Snakehips Ft Tinashe & Chance and it really looks sadder than a Flock of Seagulls reunion tour.  

In Glasgow, Rise will man (and woman- shit, this gendering of roles is a fucking nightmare- perhaps by even THINKING that, I'm worthy of a Rise online attack) stalls in Buchanan Street, next door to Shafi's mates on the SWiP stalls. There will be banter. There will be number swapping, cigarette smoking, joking, back stabbing and petition signing. And Govan, Drumchapel and Yoker will never know what the big orange signs on the tables where studenty types hide behind were all about.

Happy belated New Year.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

You don't know your Tables?. You are a failure of a human being...

Time to turn the Tables and look away from China for an educational model

I am definitely far from convinced that Tory testing of children's recall in their new compulsory tables tests in England, is in anyway "progressive." Thatcher attacked education that encouraged critical thinking. The arts, media studies and even history were all attacked by Thatcher and her anti-social henchmen.

This Tory Government continues to do that and at the same time attacks working class access to education. I hope Angela Constance nor Nicola Sturgeon is tempted by this idiotic, classist nonsense.

The present playing field and success criteria is very much in the favour of the middle and upper classes who will prosper. Working class families, struggling with two adults working or with the problems that low pay and poverty bring, do not have the time to drum facts into kids. Schools struggling with cuts and huge classes will have to go the way of huge hours of robotic Chinese rote learning. And we know how that ensures the continuance of a privileged political class.

As a teacher, the most important thing to teach is an understanding of tables, division etc- not hammering children who do not have the skill of recall. My own recall is terrible. But I understand tables, division etc. When I was young, there was a concentration on rote learning (a pre seventies hangover). I thought I was shit at maths because my recall of tables was terrible (I needed room in my head for stories and imaginary worlds and tree climbing skills). I failed in primary school to learn tables by rote.  I still struggle – though can muster up the rhymes well enough to teach.  My next failure was when my friends and I were split into different schools – the Intermediate, (for eejits, we used to say) and the Grammar school - the Academy -  for those who passed their 11 plus.  I felt like a failure most of the way through High School, even when I did well.  I felt, wrongly, that the education I was getting was second rate, because the Academy got first rate everything (and their school grounds just LOOKED better than our seventies style, rundown build).  And I went on to fail most of my O levels. 

When I re-sat my maths 'O' level in my mid twenties, with a brilliant teacher, I actually found maths fun and not the horrific thing that knotted my stomach after all. As a teacher, I really hate seeing kids who are talented thinkers and creative beings, made to feel shit in recall tests.  They need to be avoided.  And if needed (as sometimes I don't doubt they are), they should not be done so in a competitive way in which children with skills beyond recall are made to feel like failures. and they should most definitely not be standardised by any Government.

I watched the news of this new tables test being announced and two supporters, both whom had been privately schooled in tiny classes, struggled to recite tables or give an answer to a table.  

And I watched in horror as Education secretary Nicky Morgan said that action will be taken against teachers who don’t come up to scratch. This is surely a Government passing on ITS failure to address equality in education kicking the professionals who struggle daily with inadequate resources in crumbling schools and huge class sizes.

So what is this test for?  Is it to help?  Is it to improve teaching and learning?  Or is it another idiotic attempt at diverting our gaze from the real problems of inequality and poverty?  If inequality in education is really their target, why not reduce class sizes?  Why not stop the charitable status of private schools?  Why not ensure the amount of money spent on educating their own children is the norm across the country?  Are they really now saying we should adopt the Chinese model of huge class sizes all reciting the law by rote?  Or is that just for children of plebs?

We test our children constantly.  We test them to the death of their creativeness. Finland – the country that ranks highest year after year in educational standards, has the least tests for children, and infact does not formally test children in Primary school at all (in fact the first standardised test children do is when they are 15!).  Finland is a model of equality, trust and of happy children.  

Here is a prediction.  Schools that perform well in these tables tests tests will be in middle class areas – or they will be private schools. Children whose parents can afford private tuition or have lots of quality time (something rarely measured as an equality indicator - but surely a hugely important one) will get through the latest indicator of status.

Schools that have a large proportion of children like a little girl I taught in an area of deprivation in Glasgow, at a guess will not do brilliantly.  She, despite her mother being a drug addict, prostitute and who used to sell her school uniform in the local pub in order to buy drugs or drink, at seven years old used to get her older brother ready for school and to the (at that time free) breakfast club for one of their only meals of the day - the other one being the school dinner. She who would survive on streets of inner city Glasgow - running wild until late at night and then getting herself to bed and up again the next day, dressed, brother up and into school on time, will she thrive under these new education policies of the Tories?  I could recite more recent examples of this resilience and intelligence and desperate, desperate poverty, but that would not be professional.  I hope that wee girl, now 19, is out of what could become a desperate circle of struggle and deprivation.  At a guess and because of the Tory cuts to a lot of the services that might help her escape, she is a statistic somewhere.  These are the children who will have yet another finger pointed at them telling them they are shit at something else.  Tory education policy on tables will not help her.  Nor will it help any teachers confronted by that nowadays and digging into their pockets to feed and clothe such pupils (and this I have witnessed).

In my opinion, if every child left primary school able to do complex algebra and recite logarithms, the Tories would be attacking their inability to place a comma perfectly on a line. There would be a punctuation test that would ensure children's confidence in language and expression was crushed. The tories do not want to address the real problems in our communities and schools.  They want to blame teachers, doctors, soldiers, the weather and Jeremy Corbyn for all of their failures.

We should be fighting to ensure our children are taught how to disseminate propaganda, problem solve and recognise lies, robbery of their rights and question question question.  We should ensure children leave Primary school with a love of learning – not the ability to pass a test or play the system.

The Tories are brilliant at what they do. They represent their class magnificently. They ensure privilege and class division continues in so many subtle ways. Stemming the working class from thinking outside constraining selective recall tests is another attack on democracy. A small one? Not in my opinion. Attacking confidence and the ability to express thoughts is regressive and oppressive and classist.