The strange misrepresentation of Chris Packham

Of all the ludicrous things I have seen in the last few weeks, the misrepresentation and vilification of lifelong conservationist and wildlife campaigner Chris Packham has to be among the most bizarre. His detractors and subsequently those who have swallowed their rhetoric have taken to portraying him as some sort of clueless, yogurt weaving hippy, rather than a person with lifelong experience and learning in ecology and conservation. Anyone with any basic knowledge of his career will be aware of how frequently he has clashed with animal lovers over some of his views which he refuses to base on emotion and instead on scientific research.

The way they are trying to present the story is that struggling farmers across the country are being forced to endure the decimation of their crops and now have to serve up their newborn lambs with a sprig of mint as a sacrifice to the insatiable evil crows who peck out their eyes.

I say crows, because despite the new changes naming 16 species of birds, it’s only crows that seem to be brought up in the argument and it is the species that two lunatics chose the leave hanging outside Packham’s home last week in retaliation for his involvement. It’s easy to pick on crows. They’ve long been portrayed as harbingers of doom and bad luck, as minions to something more evil. No one mentions the parakeets on the list. A non native species to this country, because you can guarantee that if someone had left Blu and Jewel dangling outside his house (who absolutely aren’t parakeets but what do facts matter), there’d be a lot more condemnation and probably a fucking candlelit vigil.

But here is the thing, farmers and gamekeepers have not been banned from animal control. What the fuss is about is that general licences have been revoked to curb illegal and unnecessary killing of raptors and other birds and there has been a change to the way licences are issued following a legal challenge by Wild Justice. The group never asked for outright abolition and understand that farmers will need some allowances in order to protect animals and crops.

What those opposed to this are throwing a hissy fit over, is that they’ve been told they haven’t got a free reign to do what the fuck they want anymore and if they have a genuine need to kill any of the listed species they can apply for an individual licence from Natural England, who haven’t handled the organisation of the new legislation particularly well. But the changes themselves are right, even if it’s execution hasn’t been what it should. People can’t just go around killing animals because they don’t like them. Chris Packham became involved, not to spite farmers, but after encountering a man who was shooting crows and magpies for fun, stating they were “vermin”. However, the man didn’t even own a farm or business that could be threatened by the birds.

“Oh but they eat other fluffy baby birds, they kill lambs, they’re so vicious”. The tendency of commenters making crows out to be the Peaky Blinders is utterly bizarre. You’d think they were strutting around forcing protection racket money off the farmers before snorting cocaine from the back of a terrified piglet. There is no nice way of killing animals for food, whether you are a crow or a human, no matter what you tell yourself about our methods being better. Look, the only species that is causing a massive threat to other little animals that you find cuter or more edible is us. Either we are slaughtering them directly for no purpose whatsoever, or we are destroying their habitat and introducing non native species which disrupt the eco system.

Do I support a cull on humans in order to save the rest of the world? No, because I’m not an absolute sociopath who believes that death is the only solution to our problems. That’s what the campaigners are asking for. There are other ways to control animal populations and culling can sometimes make the problem worse, like pigeons who control their own numbers according to the food source. Culling them will cause them to breed more, and will only provide a very short term solution.

The badger cull has also been proven to be scientifically ineffective with no effect on the prevalence of tuberculosis in cattle, yet those who advocate it are still hell bent on their “right” to kill them, even though it will provide no benefit other than to continue their delusion that their problems are down to another species rather than them and stop them looking for better, smarter methods. We are learning all the time that some modern farming methods are no good for us or the health of the land and we need to adapt in order to survive. Chris Packham has been involved with such initiatives before, working with farmers and not against them as they play a vital role for our environment. Many farmers are struggling, and not being given a fair price for their produce and I absolutely think that more support needs to be given to them, as well as us playing our part and rethinking the way we consume. This shouldn’t be about a battle between conservationists and farmers. Let’s face it, farmers supply most of us with the food we can’t be arsed or aren’t capable of producing ourselves and they deserve the care that they give to us.

But there are factions in those ranks that claim to speak for the whole of the countryside who will puff their chests when told they can’t behave in the same mindless way they always have always been allowed to, and the changes won’t make a blind bit of difference to them because they believe they are above the law, the same they have done with fox hunting.

That is why two crows were killed and left outside a conservationists home last week, and if your response to that begins with “yes but well, there’s two sides to the shooting licence debate and look at this picture of this poor lamb with no eyes….” then you have entirely missed the point and are inadvertently condoning shitty human behaviour. Because those birds were not killed because of land management or pest control. They were killed out of pure spite. They were killed to bully, to intimidate, and for fun and that isn’t something we should be saying that the countryside represents.

And to finish on a song as usual, here’s Fuck The Countryside Alliance by Future Of The Left.

Disobedience is not for your convenience.

Extinction Rebellion have been in the headlines almost constantly for the last fortnight. The group, who are demanding that governments across the globe declare a climate emergency before it is too late are using civil disobedience and non violent direct action to disrupt and draw attention, with the aim of getting politicians to take immediate action on the environment. So far we have seen protestors using tactics such as stopping trains, blocking Waterloo bridge and gluing themselves to parliament and the stock exchange.

While the XR activists have gained a lot of support from the public, their actions have also drawn a lot of criticism, the main one I have heard being around them blocking roads and holding up public transport. This is because, they say, that inconveniencing “normal” people trying to go about their day to day lives will only make the public angry and automatically be against their cause. This is from people who I’d consider to be politically and environmentally informed too. Have we really become that self-involved and short sighted that we expect such fundamental change to not interfere with our routine at all ?

I understand some people fear that if they are late for work, there could be repercussions. But ask yourself this: If workers who are late because of disruption from the protests are disciplined so unfairly, is the enemy not their boss and the system that enables them to do that, rather than environmental protesters?

Percy Shelley arguably wrote one of the first calls to non violent direct action in his 1819 poem ‘The Mask Of Anarchy’ in response to his outrage at the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, when the cavalry charged into a crowd of protesters demanding reform of parliamentary representation. It’s stanza ‘rise like lions from the slumber, in unvanquishable number, shake your chains to earth like dew, which in sleep have fallen on you: ye are many-they are few’ was made popular again when Jeremy Corbyn used it during a speech in 2017 and has since been adapted into a Labour Party slogan: For the many, not the few. The idea is that we interrupt the daily running of business and refusal to comply with certain laws, usually with the absence of aggression, in order to take a moral stance against the unreasonable actions of a government. Nowadays it is used to describe something more proactive than a simple march, but can involve anything from strikes, to refusal to pay taxes, to factory lock outs, road blocks, sabotage and occupying buildings.

But civil disobedience doesn’t even work, I hear you cry. No? It’s the only thing that demonstrably does work. Direct action has given us every civil right we have, they have never been willingly handed to us out of the goodness of the state. From the 8 hour day to the equal pay act after women working as machinists walked out of the factories because their jobs were downgraded to unskilled in 1968.

Martin Luther King was a famous advocate of civil disobedience who defied court orders and legislation he considered to be “unjust law” and said that non co-operation with evil was as important as co-operation with good. Arrest was expected. Resistance to the Nazi’s did not always mean taking up arms against them but passive resistance was still so powerful that those found guilty were imprisoned or killed. Sophie Scholl was murdered by Hitler’s regime for publishing leaflets teaching people how to passively resist, such as deliberately working more slowly in factories that benefited the regime . Similarly, Agnès Humbert, a museum librarian who was an early member of the French Resistance jailed for distributing anti fascist literature and scrawling slogans on banknotes found solace and defiance in small acts of sabotage in the factories she was sent to work as a prisoner, such as interfering with the dangerous rayon they were forced to make. Agnès would tie knots into the rayon, making the spools look normal when they left the factory floor but would make any machine they were put into break down.

Civil disobedience can involve thousands of people- From the singing revolution in the Baltic states between 1987 to 1991 where millions used song and formed human chains against soviet tanks in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania- to just one or two individuals. Last year, Elin Ersson, aged 21, attempted to stop the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker in Sweden by refusing to sit down on the plane carrying him when asked by cabin crew. She was taken to court and fined 3000 krona. Though the man she tried to save was still sent back, her actions resonated with many around the world.

Occupy ICE was another recent example of civil disobedience in the US, when activists obstructed the path of Immigration and Customs Enforcement office vehicles in protest of the practice of separating immigrant children from their parents and detaining them.

In the UK, Reverend Daniel Woodhouse and Quaker activist Sam Walton were acquitted from court after they broke into the BAE systems factory in Walton with the intention of causing criminal damage to typhoon fighter jets which were bound for Saudi Arabia. Walton said at the time “We really didn’t want to do this. I really did not want to go to prison. But there’s a moment when I saw a picture of a British-made bomb that had been used to kill children. The bomb was made after the war had begun. So we sold it in full knowledge that it would be used on civilian targets. I knew my country was complicit in that”

At the very end of the 19th century and onwards when the women’s suffrage movement began, they tried to forge change by using the system, only to find that the system was not going to allow them to do that. They were banned from attending liberal party meetings and banned from holding their own. They were loud and disruptive and artistically and mischievously obnoxious. One Irish suffragette Mary Maloney (born Dorothy James Malony) followed Winston Churchill around for a week in the 1908 Dundee by-elections ringing a large bell whenever he spoke. Churchill had made insulting remarks about the women’s suffrage movement, describing them as “hornets” and refused to apologise. It worked too, and an exasperated Churchill eventually backed down. An absolute pro at civil disobedience, La Belle Malony, as she was nicknamed after that, also once climbed the Richard the Lionheart statue in Westminster and refused to come down until she had finished her speech on women’s voting rights. Their actions did not make them popular with the public, and it wasn’t supposed to. Deeds, not words. Any support they did get was welcome. But for the most part they did not need your approval and 2019 Mary would undoubtedly be criticised for deplatorming Churchill.

Civil disobedience will not always get support of the public who say they want change but don’t ever want to be personally inconvenienced. Like the suffragettes and those fighting for better working conditions, they often were not appreciated by the public at the time, only being seen as heroes by preceding generations . You only celebrate them now as you benefit for what they fought for and didn’t personally have to see or deal with their disruption at the time.

No movement should be exempt from criticism, ever, and there will never be one that is perfect, which includes Extinction Rebellion. Honestly I have some concerns about some of those who have taken it upon themselves to be facilitators and the kind of information they want from activists and what they expect of them without always getting their own hands dirty. While it’s okay to question tactics or philosophies we find dubious, there does tend to be a sort of sneering at those trying to do something by those who share their concerns, but don’t take action themselves.

The beauty of civil disobedience is that there are an infinite number of ways to do it, and even those in the most oppressive situations have found strength and comfort in resistance, rebellion and sabotage. So maybe the next time we are stuck in traffic temporarily, held up as a colourful parade passes us by, the next time we sit discussing the finer points of political action from the comfort of the pub, we can switch our thoughts from ones of anger. Maybe instead of lamenting about why they should be protesting less inconveniently/more militantly/more passively/about something else entirely we can find our own ways to be resplendently and dutifully disobedient.

A bit of Chumbawumba for today. We still need to fight for a better world. Whether we think we can win or not.

Youth subculture is still undead

History has many examples of telling women what they can and can’t wear. We’ve been banned from wearing trousers because they were deemed too masculine and coerced into corsets and hoop skirts so we become dependent on others to help us do basic tasks like climbing stairs. In Roman times, what a woman wore was dictated by your class or social status, so you got a stola if you were deemed to be a respectable, married and likely upper class woman, or a toga if you were seen to be low status.

In the early 20th century we were told we couldn’t have hat pins over a certain length, due to our rather unladylike habit of stabbing men who tried to put their hands where they were not wanted. There have been more modern examples too. The Cannes festival came under fire a few years ago when it banned women from wearing flat shoes, insisting that they wear heels. In some countries women are forced to cover their bodies entirely while in others they can face criminal charges if they do. In short, there’s lots of people out there with ideas on what women should or shouldn’t be allowed to put on their bodies.

Now, a story from China about a young goth woman being forced to remove her dark makeup by train guards before she was allowed to ride the subway. The first guard who approached her about it then went and got her manager, with the pair of them telling her that her look was horrible. There has been an online backlash to this, with the hashtag #ASelfieForTheGuangzhouMetro springing up on twitter and thousands of other Chinese women posting pictures of themselves in full goth attire at the treatment of the woman who has since received an apology and a staff member is said to have been suspended.

However, it appears this move was maybe to appease the international attention it has attracted, as it was revealed this is not the first time something like this has happened, with a very similar incident reported in November 18 that again occurred on the Guangzhou metro at different station.

As a young wee goth myself, I was used to stares and an occasional remark. Probably the worst thing that even happened to me in the rural village I grew up in was three kids jumping put at me from behind a dry stone wall, yelling ‘Beetlejuice’ at me three times before they disappeared which I can live with and was frankly hilarious. Even when I’d turn up at the sole nightclub which played only chart songs and cheesy disco, I’d occasionally get asked why I’d turned up wearing a long black funeral veil, which I don’t think was an unfair question.

Generally, people were always tolerant, curious or both. Even when I moved to a particular rough area with a bunch of spooky friends which had a pub at the end of the street notorious for violence and gangland murder, we were sort of adopted by the local hard cases who drank there as some sort of pets or mascots. We never figured out which. When an inebriated punter in there had staggered over to us one night and hissed “freaks” in our faces as we sipped cider n blacks, a bunch of them immediately stood up defensively and bellowed the immortal line “Here, they might be goths, but they’re our fuckinggoths, so fuck off” at our tormentor, and we waved at him cheerily as he was then ‘escorted’ out of the bar.

I know that I’ve been lucky and it has not been like that for everyone. I’ve had a few mates who have taken a kicking just for the way they were dressed, particularly from punk and goth subcultures, and it is hard to forget the horrific murder of Sophie Lancaster in 2007 who died of head injuries when she and her boyfriend were attacked by a gang in Stublee Park, Rossendale, Lancashire.

The story from China ridiculous and frustrating that staff even thought they had the right to try and enforce it, but it is not at all surprising and a tale as old as time. When authorities try to control how people look through legislation or societal norms, it’s usually because of fear of the other or a desire to surpress individual and artistic expression or free thinking. It will be interesting to see what else comes out about this story, as even from the snippets of information we have got from citizens so far, it’s part of a wider picture. But ones thing is for sure, be it from goths in China to punks in Iran: youth subculture will always find a way to flourish.

You Gov survey- Nearly half of British people don’t know their arse from their elbow.

A You Gov survey has revealed that almost half of the UK can’t identify where the vagina is when asked on a diagram. It’s not necessarily the male half of the population either, and before we all snigger in feminist and mutter “yeah, they can’t find the clit either”, lets have a look at what was discovered:

So there we are. There are 45% of women who couldn’t identify where the vagina was, 29% who couldn’t find the clitoris, 43% didn’t name the labia and 55%- over half- couldn’t tell where the urethra was.

So why do so many of us not know about our own bodies? It was a terrible diagram to be fair, but we should still be able to name what each of these parts are. There were some even stranger results. 18% of women thought a tampon would have to be taken out to have a wee, and I’ve met a shocking amount of girls who didn’t know that menstrual blood and urine come from completely different holes.

I remember in my early twenties when I was about to go for my first smear test, reading the leaflet they give you before, when it dawned on my that I didn’t actually know what a cervix looked like. I knew very roughly where it was, as looking at the speculum there was only one possibility really. I know some women say they can see theirs with the aid of a mirror, but mine is that far down and well hidden I’ve nicknamed it Saddam Hussain. I was kind of stunned that I didn’t know what it was even meant to look like. In school we were shown diagrams of where our internal organs are and what they were supposed to look like, but I don’t ever remember anything that had the cervix on, just a vague diagram of a female reproductive system that looked a bit like a rams head and wasn’t anything we could really relate to ourselves.

It’s hilarious but also sort of terrifying. The number of women, particularly young women aged 25 to 35 going for smear tests has plummeted, with 72% citing embarrassment, 69% felt uncomfortable with a stranger examining them, and 58% were afraid it would hurt. 37% also didn’t know what would happen during the test and ticked it as one of the reasons they didn’t go.

I know many victims of sexual trauma for who screening is a terrifying, traumatic and triggering experience and I believe more support is needed to help survivors access this, but for the majority of those missing their appointments it’s about self consciousness and shame even in the Age Of Vajazzle. Though I suppose it is hard to put a dog face snapchat filter on your vagina. Or maybe not. I’ll let you know as soon as I’ve finished writing this. Either way, with so many products and social trends telling us everything that is wrong with us and why we should pay lots of money to make it look different, it’s little wonder so many are mortified by themselves in natural form.

We should at least be able to look at our own parts and name what’s down there, if we can’t, how can we be expected to let a health professional have a look? If we don’t help people know their own bodies how can we expect them to know when something is wrong? For things like ovarian and prostate cancer, most people ignore the first symptoms because they simply don’t recognise them, which is why tackling this is so important.

Being familiar with your own body map and feeling comfortable walking around it is a matter of life and death.

So grab a mirror and blast this on in the background to get you in the mood. It might just save your life in the future. – Divinyls- I Touch Myself

Mosque shootings were perpetrated by a vicious fantasist, not a warrior.

Yesterday morning many of us sat in horror, watching the news come in that a gunman had killed dozens of people around two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in a terrorist attack.

The 28 year old was quickly named as Brenton Tarrant as he live-streamed the massacre on 8chan, leaving the number of dead at 49 so far with more currently being treated for serious injuries. He first published his ‘manifesto’ online. I say manifesto loosely. Really it was some jumbled, egotistical pseudo-intellectual rantings to justify killing men, women and children for reasons that no sane person could understand. People who pleaded with him to live. People who were just trying to pray before he murdered them.

The attacks have received worldwide condemnation, including from Pewdiepie, who Tarrant referenced in his video while sat in his vehicle, encouraging people to subscribe to his channel. Pewdiepie is a video game YouTuber who has attracted controversy for the racist and anti Semitic terms he has used in his commentaries. He has been quick to publicly distance himself from Tarrant’s actions, but not every one has been so quick to condemn him it seems.

Fraser Anning, the senator for Queensland released a statement in which he said that the attack was an inevitable outcome of Muslim immigration policy and while muslims were the victims in this case, they were usually the perpetrators, that “muslims are killing people in the name of their faith on an industrial scale”. The sly suggestion that Anning hints at is that this was just retaliation. But here’s the thing: Brenton Tarrant didn’t murder muslims in some bizarre revenge fantasy. He killed them simply because they were there. He was quite clear in his intentions during his online activities beforehand and was a self described “eco-fascist” who felt that this was his duty. 

So what is an eco-fascist? Sounds like a deeply troubled hippy on a bad Mkat comedown. It’s worse. Really it’s a movement of ethno-nationalists and eugenicists using environmentalism to thinly veil their racist ideas and distorted notion of purity, promoting that returning to our geographical roots can save the planet. Which is odd when you consider that Tarrant was an Australian in New Zealand who had Scottish, English and Irish heritage.

Eco fascism has slowly seeped into environmentalist circles over a number of years, coming into conflict with left leaning activists when they are identified. Some of their accounts contain the hashtag #efds, meaning eco-fascist death squads. Intended ‘as a joke’ of course. Until lots of people die as a result. There also seems to be an obsession with Norse mythology, which was shared by Tarrant who told viewers he’d see them in Valhalla.

Typically the eco-fascists despise multiculturalism and often talk of a need to cull the population. Not white people though, just the brown ones. Because racial mixing is another hatred of theirs. Far right groups will often take crimes that have made the news that we are all rightly outraged and disgusted by- grooming gangs, sexual assaults and murders- but focus only those committed by people from ethnic backgrounds. Regardless of the wishes of the victims of those crimes or their families, they use the public’s anger to fuel their agenda, which doesn’t usually involve genuine concern for the safety of women and girls. For the core of the Far Right, the real source of their vitriol is not assaults on white women by immigrants, its racial mixing even in happy and consensual relationships. Over the last few years I’ve seen this belief become less and less concealed, referring to mixed race people as mongrels and half-breeds and to white Islamic converts as blood-traitors.

Tarrant talked about the decline in birth rates in white Europeans, believed that immigrants were taking over, and described his victims as “invaders who seek to occupy my people’s lands and ethnically replace my own people”. Invaders. Aliens. Mongrels. Vermin. Whatever slur is fashionable in a particular point in history, they have always been chosen to dehumanise a group of people that an individual or a regime wants to harm. For Tarrant it helped him imagine he was carrying out some sort of pest control on behalf of people who are repulsed by him.

I’ve used Brenton Tarrant’s name in this piece to avoid confusion as to who I’m talking about, but I will never utter his name again. He doesn’t deserve the notoriety.

Like many, I’ve shed a few tears of sadness and rage the last two days. To look at the face of three year old Mucad Ibrahim breaks your heart, but the image of one of the victims being carried out on a stretcher pointing his index finger to the sky also broke me.Because my grandad used to do this. It symbolises the unity of Allah, a way to say praise god. He did this when he won at the bookies, when I passed my exams, when he found out I’d been seizure free for couple of months and he did it one last time as he lay frail in a hospital bed moments before he died.

I’m not Muslim and never have been. He never minded that. He was as loved and as ordinary as all the people at the two mosques in Christchurch yesterday. Missing him is still so unbearably painful as it will always be for their families but at least I was able to prepare for it. I could accept that he had come naturally to the end of his life and it was simply time for him to leave mine.

The vile, hateful human who killed 49 people yesterday is not a soldier as he likes to imagine. He’s just a vicious fantasist who took their lives for no reason other than hate and ego. There was no purpose for what he did other than to make the world darker and scarier. It’s up to us to make it light again. Strange Fruit- Billie Holiday.

Because this song isn’t just a dark part of history. It’s also a dark part of the present.

Shamima Begum: Sad reacts only- emojis are not for mocking dead babies.

Yesterday it was revealed that Jarrah, the son of Shamima Begum has died at less than three weeks old after he contracted pneumonia.

You can’t have missed that she is the British Citizen who travelled to Syria aged 15 to marry an ISIS soldier after she and two other friends were groomed online. She made the headlines while still pregnant as she wanted to flee ISIS and was attempting to get back home.

I wasn’t going to read the comments when news broke of Jarrah’s death. I really wasn’t. But then I did, hoping I’d be proved wrong and found that things were far worse than I had feared. Even before he had been born there were comments saying that he should be killed, others saying that even he should not be able to come to Britain because he- a helpless infant- was a threat to our national security. Yesterday I saw laugh reacts flood in as rumours that he had died emerged and were then confirmed. Others, while not daring to speak outright hate on a baby have shrugged and muttered. “ Well it’s sad but what about the children killed at the Ariana Grande concert”. Exactly. We are angry and disgusted at their deaths, why are we not angry and disgusted at deaths of babies born in camps because of them? Why are we not angry and disgusted when ISIS operatives groom our children online, lure them abroad to be sexually exploited and murdered.

Several people remarked that she should be investigated for the deaths of her three babies as it was suspicious. I’m not sure where the internet have been imagining Shamima and Jarrah to have been living recently.Whether they have been picturing her in the Hollywood Hills rather than a refugee camp in Northern Syria . Aid workers at the camp where she and her child were living have said that conditions are dire. It is very cold and there are not enough tents, food or blankets. Other children have been dying there from lack of resources, malnutrition and disease and will continue to do so while the conflict rages.

What struck me as odd though, was there there were literally hundreds of comments implying that the child didn’t exist in the first place. There have been pictures and filming of Shamima with her son, and journalists who have interviewed her reporting that they had seen Jarrah when he was a few days old and had been healthy at that time.

So why would so many people be denying that he even existed? They were quick enough to believe him real and deny him entry to the UK when he was still alive. Because it eases discomfort and conscience to now believe he was figment of her imagination, a ploy for her to return home and further proof of her deviousness. It helps them to not have to admit that the media circus they were part of-that Sajid Javid pandered to- meant Jarrah was never given a chance and that was utterly cruel.

If Shamima Begum were to return to the UK I don’t think she’d be much safer than she is in Syria anymore. The Home Secretary and the media have seen to that. People who claim to despise ISIS and their brutality have actively expressed that they hope their soldiers find her and rape and kill her in their next breath. ISIS hate Shamima Begum and want her dead. If you do too, what exactly does that that say?

Happy International Women’s Day- We’re always going to need it.

It’s International Women’s Day, yay! Let’s burn our bras! Or not, because they’re fucking expensive and lots of us are just using tit tape these days. So how are you celebrating? Going to an event, listening to something by your favourite female musician or just telling your favourite lasses that you love them?

No matter. Whether you are going all out, or doing nothing at all, when the subject of IWD comes up you will inevitably hear “Why do you need an International Women’s Day now” or “Won’t it be great when we don’t need one any more”.

Well, here’s the thing: we are always going to need one.

If you enjoy relative freedoms you will be made to feel guilty for paying tribute to such days by a roll of the eyes and a “God what more do you all want”, or the obligatory “Make me a sandwich” (Fun fact. Sandwiches were invented by a male aristocrat, so why not try forcing the rich to make you one instead).

If you look around the world there are certainly marked differences in the emancipation of women. You could argue if you are in the west, like myself, that we have it pretty good compared to the struggles of our sisters around the world who could be imprisoned for dancing or killed for refusing to marry or because they were raped.

We still need it for them. For those who are the very most oppressed. We need it for the women in those places who are standing up alone and fighting it, regardless of the risk posed to themselves and their families for doing so. For every soldier in the YPJ resisting both Daesh and Erdogan.

We need it to celebrate the many battles we have won and recognise how far we have come and to remind ourselves of what we came from.

We need it for the same reason we still need our other days. May Day, Black History Month, Pride, and Miners Galas. Because no matter what progress is made or how much things change, there will always be those who seek t exploit us and try to take away the freedoms that have been won by us and those before us.

Look at the threats to the NHS and the human rights act here in the UK right now. Look at how we are making women who have more than 2 children through rape prove their trauma to the DWP so they can afford to feed them. Look how the rise of Christian fundamentalism in the US and how the Trump administration is currently trying to drag it into a Handmaid’s Tale style dystopia as it enables rapists and denies access to women’s health programmes through defunding. Look at the difference in Iran compared to how it looked before the Islamic revolution in 1979. We think when we win freedoms that they are ours for good. That we always progress. But fights like this are never over as history has shown us time and time again.

So happy International Women’s Day, here’s to many more where we recognise ourselves as warriors and not just as victims of oppression- Remember, it was lasses who kicked off the Russian revolution. There’s so much more to do.

Don’t let the #spycops inquiry go undercover

I have written about the ‘spycops’ scandal before, almost a year ago. If you are not up to speed about this, and you would be forgiven if you aren’t as there has been very little about the issue in the mainstream media of late, spycops are police officers who have infiltrated activist communities causing a catalogue of violations of basic human rights in the process. It made the news when one of them, Mark Kennedy, who was also known as Mark Stone, among others, was discovered to have been in a relationship with a woman for 6 years who had no idea of his identity. Several more officers were then also unmasked, some of who had married and had children with their targets.

So why am I revisiting now? Well because sadly not a great deal has changed in the last year with regards to the inquiry. This is by no means the fault of the participants and their supporters who are fighting fiercely for justice. But since the inquiry has been in the hands of Sir John Mitting who is chairing it, he has done nothing but stall the process and show unbelievable bias toward the police by refusing to allow basic information to be released which would allow the process to move forward under the fallacy that it would put the officers at risk with no care for the women who have already been harmed by their activities. His deliberate sabotage of the process by not allowing live streaming of proceedings as there is with the Grenfell inquiry, forbidding the cover names of officers to be revealed or even the full list of which groups were infiltrated means the inquiry will now not be fully underway until at least 2020.

Then there was the Lush campaign who tried to bring the public’s awareness to the inquiry and what it was about. Instead of being sympathetic to those who’s lives have been turned upside down, who’s hearts have been broken by their actions, it turned into a public backlash against Lush, fuelled by the police who stated it was an anti police campaign. Reactionaries everywhere took it upon themselves to leave negative reviews for Lush and harass their staff. When I went into my local store I was told by one of their employees that when she had went in that morning, she had an officer waiting at the door who told her that she had to take the display down. Which of course they had no powers to make her, but their intimidating behaviour meant they were not left with much choice. Imagine if the public had used that misplaced outrage to support the victims instead. Maybe we wouldn’t be where we are at now.

Andy Coles, another former spycop, who lied about his age and coerced a young and vulnerable animal rights activist is still allowed to serve as a Conservative councillor and the governor of a school as if we would find this acceptable if it were any other kind of sex offender. Now many people look decidedly uncomfortable when I say this and claim I can’t label undercover police having sexual relationships with the people they are spying on without revealing their identity as sex offenders. Here is why I absolutely can say that- It is written in law, in the Sexual Offences Act 1956;

You cannot give informed consent if you have been deceived as to the real identity of your sexual partner and it is ludicrous to suggest that you could.

Tonight at 20:30pm on BBC Wales investigates there will be a documentary, Undercover Cops- abuse of duty about this very thing and I would defy anyone to not feel utter revolt at the stories you will hear. One of the women, Rosa was in a relationship with an officer called Jim Boyling who she had two children with and eventually fled to a women’s refuge because of his abuse. It will be available on iPlayer afterwards, so make it your business to catch it.

There are few important points to bear in mind when talking about this issue with others, particular with respect to some of the things that were said during the Lush campaign. Firstly, this in not a case of a few bad apples who took advantage of their position as is often made out. They didn’t abuse their power, it was entirely tactical and given approval from higher up. Andy Coles even wrote a manual on how to manipulate activists into relationships. Secondly, talking about undercover police abuse is not anti police. For starters there are former spycops who are assisting with the inquiry who are prepared to give evidence. It is about the tactics used by the National Public Order Intelligence Unit and the Special Demonstration Squad, not policing as a whole. I often hear people say we need undercover work to catch organised criminals and child abuse networks. No one is denying there needs to be an element of this to catch such people, however these two units were not involved in that. They were specifically there to target activists, mainly from environmental, animal rights and anarchist groups. Many of who had never committed any crime- which brings me on to my next point. It doesn’t even matter if they did. Some activists may have been breaking some state laws- Social change has never ever happened without it, but it was surely low level. This doesn’t justify what has happened to them in the slightest. Be aware of your Just World fallacy. If you don’t know what that is, look it up. It’s something we are all susceptible to on different levels. It’s a psychological phenomenon whereby when we see suffering or injustice we believe that the victim is on some level responsible or did something that caused it to happen. It’s not always outright victim blaming that we fall into, but studies show we consistently believe that we do this as a way of self protection. Because if it can happen to someone else for no reason, it could happen to us. I saw this a lot last year, with people saying that activists “shouldn’t break the law” (even when they didn’t) or suggesting that the activists must have known about their partners true identity.

It’s important that the people affected by state abuse feel heard and held. Imagine how it would feel to find out your partner, or your best friend was being paid to spy on you, for simply caring about environmental and social problems. Imagine that person fathered your children. We can’t really. We can’t fully understand how isolating and devastating that must be, so we need to be as invested in this as they are. If it is not scrutinised now, it could be someone you love, or even you next. It should never have happened to anyone in the first place. The message we will give is that we accept this abuse of citizens. Share everything you see on the subject and comment to keep it current in a world with a 15 minute attention span. Keeping it in the public eye is important.

Also visit for more information about how you can get involved, be that campaigning or donating to legal costs. We owe it to them and to ourselves to defend civil liberties, fight for the truth to be uncovered and accountability to be applied.

A pill to make you numb, a pill to make you dumb….

We frequently cite the horror stories of the insurance based health care system in the US when we talk about the need to defend the NHS, but the problem that most of us haven’t realised is that it is no longer a philosophical debate about something we might one day ourselves face- it is already starting to seep under the door. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced it, but needing health care or medication and not being able to get access to it for any reason is a terrifying experience. However, this is a reality that is playing out for an increasing number of people in the UK today.

Last year it emerged that the NHS was to cut free prescriptions for many over the counter medicines. They pitched it to us that ‘wasteful’ prescriptions such as homeopathic remedies were being scrapped to pay for things like cancer treatments, but the list included medicines for conditions such as conjunctivitis and cystitis which can be serious if not treated properly at the earliest onset. Cutting access to medicine is not a new idea. It is already here and has been for years. What this will do is merely embed the policy, normalise it, and lead to further sanctions in the future. I have both epilepsy and asthma. Currently in England, I can receive medication for epilepsy free on the NHS if I needed it (which mercifully I don’t at present), as can diabetics. That isn’t the case for people with asthma, even though all three of these conditions can become life threatening in a matter of seconds. Three years ago a 19 year old woman called Holly Worboys died from an asthma attack as she struggled to afford inhalers on a low income. In a survey by Asthma UK it was found that three quarters of diagnosed asthmatics struggled to pay for their medication. Holly’s death isn’t an isolated one. Over the last few years, the news has been filled with countless stories of people who have lost their lives as a result of benefits sanctions, all with names and loved ones who’s lives have also been ruined from grief.

As with all atrocities committed in the name of austerity, further cuts will only ever affect the people that need it the most, and the latest move is sure to have an immediate, direct impact on the health and wellbeing of thousands of people. Lack of access to early treatment will also lead to more serious long term medical conditions, which ultimately leads to bigger financial implications later on. This is why I have never understood cuts made to early intervention services, be it medicine, domestic abuse, homeless prevention, or mental health. These schemes have always proved to save costs in the long run as they lessen the impact on hospitals, policing, courts and social services.

But I’ve come to realise that this government’s weaponisation of poverty is not just real, it is entirely deliberate. A tired and sick population doesn’t fight too well against the violence they continue to inflict on its citizens and land. Police forces in Manchester and Lancashire police have admitted that they have given intel on disabled people involved in peaceful protest, including the anti-fracking demonstrations which serves no purpose other than to intimidate. We are told constantly how grateful we should be to have freedom of speech, but how free is that when the authorities threaten to remove our means of survival either via benefits or wages if we step out of line? In the age of welfare sanctions, people already living well below the poverty line are being charged £20 in many parts of the country for doctors letters giving them the proof that they need to claim. It was estimated in a 2017 that 120000 people have died as a direct result of austerity, yet still the government ignores this and continues to put further impositions on those who have the least.

Then there is Brexit. The toxic, massively self-destructive drunk uncle who tells increasingly ridiculous stories about his non-existent achievements that you are dreading coming to your wedding. You can’t do anything to stop it because your mam invited him and now no one in the family is speaking to each other through arguing about it. Brexit is set to massively disrupt our access and import of thousands of medicines. But before you put your fingers in your ears and yell “project fear” at me, as indeed I myself might have done a year or so ago, have a look at how the currently system works. Ingredients sourced in India are then transported to factories in Europe to be made into medicines, which then go to wholesalers for distribution. They are not something we can grow in our back gardens in whatever Dig For Victory fantasy Boris Johnson is trying to sell us. If anything it would look more like a Breaking Bad style meth lab in your kitchen as you desperately try to make penicillin from a YouTube video while the kids cry about having to eat nettles for tea again.

At the moment, a prescription costs £8.60 in England. It’s been over a year since I was diagnosed with asthma and I have only just been told about the prescription prepayment certificates that are available by my pharmacist after the medicines I required due to a bad chest infection that nearly put me in hospital came to over £40. The certificates cost £104 a year or £29.10 for three months, but that will cover all the prescriptions you require during that period and is worth getting if you have regular or multiple prescriptions. Some respite maybe, however even this reduced rate is too much for people who are struggling and we are seeing an increase of patients on low incomes admitting that they are going without vital medicine in order to be able to pay for other essentials. Saving it only for ‘emergencies’ as Holly Worboys was trying to do with the last dose of her inhaler. Her family and charities are calling for asthma medication to be made available for free. This I fully support, as no person should lose their life so needlessly. But all prescription charges should be scrapped as they are in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. More so, politicians should be made criminally accountable for creating a situation where supply chains could be halted or delayed because they lied about having any plan that could be actualised effectively. With Brexit it doesn’t matter if you voted leave or remain, no one voted for the catastrophe we are currently facing. Let’s stop with mechanically repeating learned soundbites like “Brexit means Brexit” and “project fear” whenever someone points out facts with obvious concerns that need to be addressed. None of us voted for what is coming and reluctance to admit that the outcome of the referendum is going to be a disaster because we feel it makes us look bad is not a good enough reason to blind ourselves to the facts. The only people looking to benefit are the ones who should be truly ashamed of themselves: The rich politicians and CEO’s who didn’t want to be made to pay more tax and made a catalogue of undeliverable promises to get what they wanted. They will never starve or be denied medicine, because they’ve already created strategies on how to save themselves, but not the rest of us.

Safety is one of the most basic requirements in our hierarchy of needs. It’s not something we should be allowing the state to vote on or health bodies deciding for us. On who is allowed to get well and who doesn’t. Who gets the latest, more effective treatments and who can’t. The health of us as a population is something we should all be concerned with.

Sickness has ripple effects on us all and it is in our interest to look at health collectively. Don’t enable self serving, obnoxious incompetents who couldn’t switch a kettle on by repeating their piss weak catchphrases for them. Hold your representatives accountable, don’t keep calm and stop fighting with your mate who voted the opposite to you so you can direct your anger where it’s needed.

Revolution Time- Liberty

MP’s just voted to give themselves yet another pay rise and we’re just about done with them.

So, for the fourth year in a row, MP’s have voted to award themselves another pay increase. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, and really, I’m not. But each year that they laugh in our faces like this, I do find myself getting angrier. The increase means they will get an extra £1368 a year each from 1st April. This is after the massive 11% rise they gave themselves in 2015, the 1.3% in 2016, 1.4% in 2017 and 1.8% last year. An MP’s salary is now £79,468, a massive £13,730 increase since 2010, and that doesn’t include expenses and allowances on top of that.

Many moons ago, I was a waitress. Scratch that, I was a terrible waitress. Particularly when it came to silver service. One afternoon, aged 17, we had a very large and wealthy party come in, and as I was serving Sunday lunch, I dropped a large piece of broccoli into the open Louis Vuitton handbag of an elderly lady who was dining. Rather than doing the mature thing and admitting my mistake, I simply pushed the bag further under the table with my foot and prayed the woman would blame herself and assume she knocked it in herself.

I was never caught for the misdemeanour, but if I had of been, how do you think my conversation with the owner would have gone?

“You can’t just cover up a mistake like that and blame someone else, it’s bang out of order”

“You’re right. I’ll resign”

“Good. How about I offer you another position instead. Maybe restaurant manager”?

“Sound, yeah. Do I get a pay rise”?

“Well that’s entirely up to you Bandita, what do you think”?

“Aye. We’ll make it a good one too. Those moats don’t clean themselves.”

It sounds ludicrous, but it isn’t a far stretch from what happens in the House Of Commons. In no other employment in the country is it acceptable to drink on the job while making landmark decisions that affect the entire UK and beyond, fall asleep on the middle of meetings and scream abuse at your colleagues from across the room. Nowhere else would you be allowed to employ your spouse for doing absolutely fuck all in order to squeeze more money out of a public purse.

George Osborne would roll in looking like that one kid you used to find trying to lick their own eyelids on the morning of the after party and you and your mates would all realise that not one of you actually knew him and had no idea how he got in. Yelling , jeering and deliberately loud laughing to drown out the opposition’s words is standard behaviour, yet if you did that anywhere else you’d likely be sacked for gross misconduct or a written warning at the very least, while they in the blink of an eye will demand that us proles be ‘civil’ if we dare get ideas above our station and challenge them.

Westminster is the only workplace where they will think nothing of kicking off when cuts to their champagne is suggested, yet will vote in cuts for the disabled and the nations poorest people. Last year taxpayers paid £2.7 million to subsidise bars and restaurants in the House of Commons last year.

A few drinks clearly gives them enough Dutch courage to then look us dead in the eye and say “All in this together”. If they are public servants, why can’t we see their annual performance reviews? Why has Michael Gove had so many roles that we are half expecting to see him in the next Oasis line up? Wouldn’t he have just been deemed unemployable in any other universe by now?

It would be funny if the rest of us weren’t having such a hard time at the moment trying to navigate a very unsure future for the UK. It would be funnier if a homeless man, Gyula Remes, hadn’t died outside Westminster not three months before.

So next time someone at work suggests a dress down Friday or Christmas jumper day for charity, suggest a “behave like an MP in the House Of Commons day” instead. I can’t guarantee you won’t end up slapped or in court for what ensues, but it may hit home what an easy ride we are giving a spoiled kids club with too much power.