UKIP (aka the people’s army) have launched their campaign ahead of May’s European elections. The campaign attacks establishment thinking focusing on concerns of ordinary Brits. Who better to head up the campaign (funded by ex-Tory donor and millionaire Paul Sykes) than … Continue reading
via Hynd’s Blog http://stevehynd.com/2014/04/22/the-rather-droll-ukip-joke/
Depression tore Martin Ling away from football management, and he admits it would take a “brave person” to re-employ him
via BBC Sport - Football http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/26647517
“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”
Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.
I’m currently working on a longer treatment of “Four Futures,” my social science fictional speculation about the possible successor systems to capitalism, in a world characterized by pervasive automation and ecological crisis. That book is slotted for Jacobin‘s series; more about that at a later date.
“Four Futures” was, itself, an extension of “Anti-Star Trek,” a post that still gets some love around the Internet from time to time. The core intuition of both pieces of writing was that while we live in a world that abounds in utopian potential, the realization of that potential depends on the outcome of political struggle. A rich elite that wants to preserve its privileges will do everything possible to ensure that we don’t reach a world of leisure and abundance, even if such a world is materially possible.
But one of the things I’ve struggled with as a writer is the tendency of my more speculative writing to mine a streak of apocalyptic quiescence on the radical left. To me, the story I’m telling is all about hope and agency: the future is here, it’s unevenly distributed, and only through struggle will we get it distributed properly. I suppose it’s no surprise, though, after decades in retreat, that some people would rather tell themselves fables of inevitable doom rather than tackling the harder problem of figuring out how we can collectively walk down the path to paradise.
So of the four futures I described, the one that I think is both the most hopeful and most interesting — the one I call “communism” — is the least discussed. Instead, it’s exterminism, the mixture of ecological constraints, automation, and murderous elites, that seems to stick in peoples’ brains, with the anti-Star Trek dystopia of intellectual property rentiers running a close second.
But strip away the utopian and Marxist framework, and all you have is a grim dismissal of the possibility of egalitarian politics. You get something like this, from Noah Smith, which echoes my account of exterminism but updates it to our present drone-obsessed times. For a lot of isolated intellectual writer types, it can be perversely reassuring to think that achieving a better world is not just difficult, but actually impossible. How else to explain the appeal of Chris Hedges?
Another piece of news that recently aroused this sensibility was this Guardian post about an alleged “NASA study” predicting the “irreversible collapse” of industrial civilization. Here, via Doug Henwood, is a critique of the study itself and the lazy media that propagated it. And another Twitterer links to this, which is even more damning. In short, the study — which the original author didn’t even bother to link to — had little to do with NASA, and was a crude theoretical model based on a handful of equations. Frankly, as far as futurology goes, I think “Four Futures” was built on a far sounder scientific foundation.
What depresses me is not so much the perambulations of a crank with a Guardian blog — such people will probably be with us forever. But many people I know and like were eager to share this thinly sourced bit of nonsense around Facebook and Twitter, suggesting that it spoke to a desire for apocalyptic scenarios among ostensibly pragmatic leftists.
This fatalism is the perfect complement to the equally inane positivity that pervades bourgeois discourse, whether it’s coming in the form of self-help as dissected by Barbara Ehrenreich, or as the phony utopianism of silicon valley plutocrats. The ruling class tells us that the future is inevitably bright, while left curmudgeons reassure themselves with the conviction that it’s inevitably gloomy. We don’t win from playing this game, taking our meager emotional returns while our opponents take their payment in a much more tangible form.
The correlation between debt and depression, as well as other mental health issues, is well established. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, while a quarter of people with a mental health condition are in debt, half of the people in the UK with debts also have a mental health problem.
GPs are reporting that they are now referring people with mild to moderate depression and debt problems to debt counsellors and services instead of prescribing anti-depressants as the first course of action, as it can be just as effective at reducing symptoms as medication.
Given that the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) deals with over 7000 debt problems a day and depression costs the British economy 155 million working days a year, unravelling the connection between the two could have a significant impact for the country as a whole, as well as individuals struggling with the twin burdens of depression and debt.
How debt contributes to depression
No-one doubts that being in debt is a difficult situation, especially when it escalates to what is known as problem debt. Problem debt occurs when an individual is struggling to cope with their debt and as a result misses two or more minimum payments on at least one of their accounts.
Problem debt tends to bring its own issues: being behind with repayments results in the debtor being chased by debt collectors and affects their credit rating. This often mean that if the individual needs to access credit later, they may find that only high-interest options like pay-day loans or doorstep lending are available to them.
The stress this causes can make any existing depression worse, or even create it at a neurological level.
The mental health charity MIND highlighted the deprivation caused by problem debt in a survey, with over 50% of respondents saying that they’d gone without eating as a result. Poor nutrition itself can be another contributing factor to depression.
People who are struggling with debt also tend to end up socially isolated – partly out of guilt or embarrassment about their problems and partly because they often lack the extra cash for even basic socialising, like the bus or train fare to visit friends and family, or to keep credit on their mobile. This isolation can in turn contribute to depression, one of the symptoms of which is social withdrawal, creating a classic vicious cycle.
How depression contributes to debt
The same MIND survey on debt and depression found that 66.2% of people they spoke to said that mental health issues were the main reason they were in problem debt. Meanwhile 65% felt that living on a low income had contributed to their financial difficulties.
When depression is severe enough to affect someone’s ability to hold down a full-time job long-term, it seems obvious that this will cause financial problems such as being unable to cover expenses like utilities breaking or even needing new shoes.
Meanwhile, if someone is unable to work because of serious depression, the government welfare reforms can leave vulnerable people without money while they wait for their ESA WCA or their PIP application to be processed. This can lead to running up payday loans or missing essential payments for utilities or rent, which then become priority debts.
Depression can also contribute to debt in other ways. In many people, it manifests as cognitive disruption or “freezing” that can make something as seemingly simple as opening bills difficult, if not impossible. This means that even just going into an unauthorised overdraft or not setting up a direct debt to cover credit card minimum payments can snowball a small debt or non-payment charge into a much larger sum.
Dealing with financial problems can be stressful for people without mental health problems. If people have cognitive disruption and physical fatigue, common symptoms of depression, calling banks or credit card companies and filling in forms can seem impossible to do without support.
There seems to be a two-way causality between debt and depression. What is clear is that the widespread problems faced by people with depression indicate a need for more holistic mental health support.
Courtesy of Elizabeth Grey
April 14. Today, four good reddit comments. Related to one of the subjects in my last post, Sivel comments on psychedelic drugs, describing how your personality gets taken apart and you can put it together differently, how the drug is a tool that can either help you or harm you, and how to reduce the risk of a bad trip.
Psychedelics should be viewed like climbing a mountain. The mountain peak has its appeal with the sublime feeling of standing atop it if one is daring enough to get there. And while some may find the experience meaningful a lot of people will only find themselves way too fucking high on a big rock. But most important is how the mountain does not move, it does not feel or love, and so it does not care if you live or die on it. The only feelings it will give you are the ones you reflect off of its steep faces.
KF2 explains depression with a role-playing game metaphor, in which a magic cloak gives you immunity to everything bad and also everything good, so you feel nothing and stop caring, you can’t take the cloak off, and your original injuries can’t be healed.
Depanneur defines fascism, using a narrow definition that confines it to the early 20th century. Basically fascism tapped into the alienation of industrial society, the longing of WWI veterans for the strict order and community of military life, and the desire of the middle class to participate in a revolution without losing their perks. Of course the alienation of modern life remains unsolved, so we could do something similarly scary in the future, but fascism would not be the right word for it.
James-Venn imagines a technological singularity that is similar to the Great Oxygenation Event more than two billion years ago:
Through us, the process of life itself is escaping the biological limitations of ‘life’. What may be around the corner isn’t artificial life. It is life, just in a new form. Life is a mathematical process currently operating on biological material. It is a process which could operate far more effectively on digital and mechanical life forms.
I like the general idea, but his weakness is being unable to imagine the existence of something for which he can’t imagine the particulars. I think mechanics would be a step back from biology, and digital logic processors are unalive no matter how big they get. But our computers might serve as tools to create a new kind of physical medium through which some deeper principle of aliveness could manifest. Or computers could help us create a new technology that would enable our “selves”, our continuity of perspective and memory, to transcend the world as we know it.
For a lot of deep thinking on this sort of idea, check out this Ribbonfarm post from last month, Immortality in the Ocean of Infinite Memories.
Ahead of BBC’s ‘Protecting Our Parents’ series, John Kennedy highlights the demanding and often undervalued nature of social care work.
Tonight BBC 2 will be showing Protecting Our Parents, the first of three programmes highlighting the challenges we face in caring for our parents and grandparents. The programme will look at the perspectives of older people, relatives and those working in health and social care.
I will be watching, and hoping that the programme gives a fair and honest description of what is wrong and what needs to change. There is no doubt that the pressure on our health and social care systems will continue to grow. We need a plan or we risk increasing misery and harm. One thing is clear: we’re all getting older. The misery may be someone else’s today but it will be you and me tomorrow.
One of the key factors in the crisis is not just our societal indifference to the needs of our frail older citizens but also the incredibly low value we put on the work done by the more than two million people who work in health and social care – particularly social care. Whilst we will all sit and watch BBC2 full of righteous indignation at the plight of the most vulnerable, we should also reflect on the fact that our social care workforce is the least well paid of almost every other sector of the labour market. We seem to value everyone else more than these essential workers.
A new JRF report highlights the physically and emotionally demanding nature of the work and the importance of valuing people for what they do. It explains some of the other things besides pay that can help staff to feel valued (below):
"Working conditions and organisational culture are essential parts of the overall approach to ensuring low-paid staff feel valued and satisfied, recruitment and retention of talented staff is maximised, and the continuity of care associated with quality is maintained."
It seems utter common sense to me but how can we expect our care workers to value and respect us if we show such little regard for them?
As part of my year-long Care home inquiry I have commissioned a number of pieces of work – some already published and some in due out in the coming weeks. I would be very grateful for comments and views. Please leave comments below, tweet me or share your thoughts on my Care home inquiry Facebook page.
Protecting Our Parents airs tonight on BBC 2 at 9pm.
Read more about my Care home inquiry.