NARRATIVE POWER: A SHORT INTERVIEW In this short interview, Ken Plummer tells a little about his new book. Q: Why did you write Narrative Power? Narrative has become a contemporary buzzword: everybody’s talking about it. There’s now a vast amount of writing by academics in all kinds of different disciplines from literature and the…
The day Jo Cox was murdered, the Daily Mail ran a shrill front page story about migrants, stoking fear and hate in the referendum campaign. The story was plain wrong — but instead of remorsefully retracting it, the Mail just buried a tiny correction in the paper. Our democracy relies on media that tells the…
Click here for the UN World Aids Day Website The latest news from the United Nations came out on November 24th ( in anticipation of World AIDS Day on December 1st). 1.2m people died from AIDS in 2014, down from 1.3m the previous year and from a peak of 2m in 2005. But the…
Things can only get better! Another day we need hope!
There has been huge damage to lives in this country over the past five years, driven by an absurd austerity argument and anti-humanist economics. But worse, unashamedly and almost celebratory, the worst is yet to come and bigger cuts are on their way. Humanity once again has shown its darker side, supported and encouraged by the British media.
The Conservatives have specified just over £1bn of the £12bn of cuts they intend to make in the first two years of the next parliament. These will hurt the poor: a freezing of working-age benefits, a reduction in the benefit cap (from £26,000 to £23,0000); the removal of housing benefit from 18-21-year-olds claiming jobseekeer’s allowance. Not good news. Even so: what of the remaining 11 billion?
Here is a reminder are of just a few of the terrible things that the last Government has done and which they can now carry further.
- Poverty will continue to grow: not only we have been ‘going backwards’ and witnessed ‘the rise of mass poverty’ (Lansley and Mack, 2015:Ch 2), the government has scrapped the accepted understandings of relative poverty and waged an awful campaign to blame the poor. The poor are now the ‘skivers’, the ‘drinkers’, the ‘broken families’ – Mr Iain Duncan Smith has worked hard to redefine poverty so that it ‘blames the poor’; and the press have gone along with him. Historians and sociologists have long documented this mode of dividing the poor into the respectable and disreputable poor: and this government has adopted this divide and rule strategy its limit. It is bad enough to lack money: you don’t need the stigma.
- The housing problem will get worse. A bedroom tax has hit families and communities and has not helped alleviating ‘the homes’ problem. Indeed homelessness has increased (nearly 2,500 people sleep out across England on any given night); and there is now a recognised major housing crisis. Housing has become impossible for first time buyers and schemes introduced by the government have benefited renters?
- The Health Crisis Continues – this government forced through the Health and Social Care Act, 2012 as the biggest re-organisation of the NHS since 1948 . Bold indeed, as it was not even in their Manifesto. Being a Coalition government might have suggested a little moderation but they rushed it through in their first year. Those who work in the health services have never been more demoralised and by most accounts the change has been a disaster. What will they do now? Watch this space.
- Hunger grows: One Million plus are on the food banks, which the government sees as a good thing. I had thought we were over this stage of poverty in advanced industrialised society, but no! It might have been good for the United States ( one of the most unequal societies in the world!), but surely we did not need it.
- Work has become unstable, with ever lower pay and declining rights. The Coalition boasted there are more people in work (2 million!), but the conditions of this work have become increasingly unbearable and untenable. Zero hours Contracts earn less than half the average age (£326 compared with £482)The number of people paid below a Living Wage has increased by more than 400,000 in the last 12 months.Is this the kind of society we want to see in the future- with workers living in minimal and insecure conditions?
- There have been cut backs in all the services of ‘working people’. The most deprived local authorities have seen cuts of £220 per head, compared to £40 per head in the least deprived (Hastings, 2015)A 2015 Rowntree Report on the Cost of the Cuts shows that: Local authorities in England lost 27 per cent of their spending power between 2010/11 and 2015/16 in real terms. Some services, such as planning and ‘supporting people’ (discretionary social care with a preventative or enabling focus) have seen cumulative cuts to the order of 45 per cent. People are beginning to notice the impact of the cuts with an increasing proportion of households finding services inadequate or unaffordable. (Hastings et al 2015). These cuts have been made very widely and have left the social fabric of the UK in a bad way. We find closure and/or heavy cuts in
Elderly care homes have already been slashed between 2010-14 by nearly a fifth, whilst the number of adults receiving local authority care services has been cut by nearly a third from 1.8m to 1.3m. Yet the demand for care home places is rising inexorably as the number of over-85s is forecast to rise by 60% by 2035.
Legal Aid Benefits for the needy have been severely cut – especially for the Disabled.
Probation service, has been more or less closed down.
Prisons (which are now at their fullest despite the lower crime rates)
Local Libraries closed
Local arts closed
Women’s Refuges closed and so on….
- ‘Our’ wealth has been sold off. We have now witnessed privatisation of health, crime, care and education – by stealth! We are getting used to the great sell of- whereby new profit based companies ( whose identity is not always transparent) become part of the sell of the state, companies whose motives is profit and who often can be shown to have failed. See James Meek’s study Treasure Island: Why Britain now Belongs to (2015 2nd ed Verso) looks at privatised mail, railways, water, electricity, health and homes; and shows how a real shift has occurred between the rich v the poor.
- Our culture is becoming sleazy. It blames the the poor and scapegoats the immigrant,and is encouraged in this by a media which led the campaign to get the conservatives back to power. It cannot be trusted yet it pervades our lives.
- Inequalities will continue to grow as the rich will get even richer: most of the conservative policies have facilitated this. We seem now to be living under a Plutocracy: the rule of the rich and the richest.
- and more…….
This is one of those dark days for humanity as the British Election results gives little sense of a more human, caring world. But we have been here before. It is yet another day we need hope.
Oh cruel world!
Humanity’s inhumanity to humanity is haunting the ballot box.
Welfare states tumble
Health services crumble
With austerity conniving.
Rich get richer
Poor get poorer
With markets driving.
Suffering is ignored
With prejudices thriving.
Oh cruel world!
Humanity’s inhumanity to humanity is haunting the ballot box
Against Austerity Austerity is anti- humanist. It takes money and wealth as the starting point rather than people. It celebrates usury, credit and the rich. It erodes human value; and soon becomes insensitive to the widespread suffering of human beings that it generates. Austerity invariably fails – making for more hardship and inequality. The…
INSPIRATIONS:MARTIN LUTHER KING
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the central figure of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s in America. A Christian Humanist who believed in the power of non-violence and love, he was assassinated by a lone gunman on 4 April 1968 on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee as he prepared to attend a rally in support of striking sanitation workers.
April 4th is my birthday and so his assassination is always a date for me to remember.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, and a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.
I find his compilation book A Testament of Hope remains an inspirational book.
Announcement of forthcoming seminar 50 Years of Essex Sociology: A seminar sponsored by the Department of Sociology and the Centre for Intimate and Sexual Citizenship ‘The Making of the Modern Homosexual’ Revisited A discussion between Ken Plummer and Jeffrey Weeks and other contributors chaired by Gregg Blachford and an update with Róisín Ryan-Flood. Thursday March…
INSPIRATIONS: ERICH FROMM (1900-1980)
I first encountered the work of Eric Fromm as a graduate student in the 1960’s through his influential and best selling work, Escape from Freedom/ Fear of Freedom (1941). As he summarisese the book:
“There is only one possible, productive solution for the relationship of individualized man with the world: his active solidarity with all men and his spontaneous activity, love and work, which unite him again with the world, not by primary ties but as a free and independent individual…. However, if the economic, social and political conditions… do not offer a basis for the realization of individuality in the sense just mentioned, while at the same time people have lost those ties which gave them security, this lag makes freedom an unbearable burden. It then becomes identical with doubt, with a kind of life which lacks meaning and direction. Powerful tendencies arise to escape from this kind of freedom into submission or some kind of relationship to man and the world which promises relief from uncertainty, even if it deprives the individual of his freedom.” (Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom [N.Y.: Rinehart, 1941], pp. 36–7
As I recently have been reading a magnificent biography on his life by Lawrence J. Friedman, I increasingly realise how he has been a persistent, quiet influence. Of course he fell out of favour with many ‘hip’ theorists because he is an outspoken humanist; but his work does seem to have had a world wide impact- even now. He introduced me to the important idea of bridging Freud with Marx. An early Freudian (and a life -long clinician) , Freud soon disowned Fromm’s humanism ( Fromm turned to a theory of ‘characterology’- about how people’s personalities are shaped by their society). He was also an early Marxist ( and life-long socialists activist), and a member of the Frankfurt School – a key figure in assisting their move New York under the Nazi threat; but here again his humanism put him in disfavour too ( Marcuse wrote a scathing influential attack on him and his work). Some of his later work is seen as a little superficial – The Art of Love is perhaps his best seller. For me though he sets an agenda for a humanist psychology making a bond between the human being and society’s regulation – the damage that is usually done here and especially so under capitalism. Love is the answer.
Lawrence Friedman’s new book on Fromm – THE LIVES OF ERICH FROMM: LOVE”S PROPHET (2013) is a marvellous intellectual biography and well worth reading.
No Other Way
There’s no other way
That’s what they say.
Economics must put money before people
And medicine must put profit before health.
Education must put management before wisdom
And religion must put war before love.
Technology must put machines before environments.
And politicians must put power before care.
We must follow the way things are done.
There’s no other way
That’s what they say.
But what if economics valued feelings
And medicine fostered dignity
Education aimed for all to flourish
And religion wanted better worlds for all
Technology looked out for justice
And politicians put people first.
If we would just be kind and care for each other.
Then we would have the road less travelled.
A much better way
Than the way they say.
There is never only one way.
This was my little contribution to Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet which has just been published.
Global Chorus is a groundbreaking collection of over 365 perspectives on our environmental future. As a global roundtable for our times, in the format of a daily reader, this book is a trove of insight, guidance, passion and wisdom that has poured in from all over the Earth. Its message is enormously inspiring, and ominous in its warnings. And yet, united in a thread of hope, its contents are capable of helping even the most faithless global citizen to believe that we have the capacity to bring about lasting positive change in our world. Places at this roundtable are occupied by writers, environmentalists, spiritual leaders, politicians, professors, doctors, athletes, businesspeople, farmers, chefs, yogis, painters, actors, architects, musicians, TV personalities, humanitarians, adventurers, concerned youth, concerned senior citizens, civil servants, carpenters, bus drivers, activists, CEO’s, scientists, and essentially those who have something thoughtful and visionary to say about humanity’s place upon Earth. Compiled for your reading as a set of 365 pieces, Global Chorus presents to you a different person’s point of view for each day of your year.
Contributors to Global Chorus have provided one-page responses to the following line of questioning:
“Do you think that humanity can find a way past the current global environmental and social crises? Will we be able to create the conditions necessary for our own survival, as well as that of other species on the planet? What would these conditions look like? In summary, then, and in the plainest of terms, do we have hope, and can we do it?”