THE WAY IT ISby William Stafford There’s a thread you follow. It goes amongthings that change. But it doesn’t change.People wonder about what you are pursuing.You have to explain about the thread.But it is hard for others to see.While you hold it you can’t get lost.Tragedies happen; people get hurtor die; and you suffer and…
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Source: The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1989)
A Poetic for Sociology
The Haunting Of Social Things
We live the social electric
The air we breathe is social.
The tiny things and the major things.
The social haunting of life in vast time and space.
The social is natural and the natural is social.
We do things together, drenched with people,
attuned to others: there is always the other.
And the haunting of social things.
We make social life stuffed full of the possible
yet we dwell in our habits, the patterns and structures,
the predictable positions we trap ourselves in.
The prisons that engulf us, a daily haunting.
Pounding patterns of structure and wobbly worlds of meaning.
We are prisoners, puppets, and people. Always fragile.
World making actions, and resistance, rebellion-
in worlds not of our making that haunt till we die.
Ubiquitous differences, divisions,dominations: the inhumanities of people.
A haunting ‘matrix of inequalities’: generations at war,
gendered classed races, sexy nations disabled.
And the troubled pathways of excluding and exploiting, dehumanizing and disempowering.
At the brink of a change- a world seething with gushing movements.
Pasts, presents and futures collide in the moment.
Where did it come from and where is it headed?
Cyber capitalisms in global ferment haunting the world.
Standing amazed at this chaos and complexity
of the humanly produced social world;
and its joys and its sufferings,
we celebrate it and we critique these hauntings.
Yet the dreadful dullness of professional knowledge.
Its earnest desire for respectability and order,
abstractions to kill you. Standards to die for.
A dark cloak thrown over the mind.
We need ‘the tricks of the trade’ : practical questions with practical answers.
Rich descriptions and explanations of dense social life.
An intimate familiarity through all the senses.
Explore and respect the empirical world. And look for it hauntings.
We dwell in social tensions, conflicts and contradiction.
Observing schisms, thinking paradox,
and struggling with opposing paths: living with the contradictions.
The hard trick of dealing with them in our lives.
The vast multiplicities of social life: Contested. Contingent. Creative.
And thriving. Progressing. Regressing. Sometimes surviving.
Incorrigibly plural. Intransigently vast.
The complex tales how we order our past.
And the blindness of human beings?
The taken for granted need not be taken for granted.
Doubting the familiar;
living with radical doubt.
Yet all we know is incomplete and open,
Necessarily provisional, partial, perspectival.
Reality is inexhaustible, too complex and dense to be fully comprehended
No finality. Or closure.
The dream of a better world haunts sociology.
Empowering lives and imagining utopias.
More justice in each generation?
A flourishing life for all?
A dialogue: being personal, being political?
Passionate knowledge? A garden to cultivate?
A quiet catharsis of comprehension? With the other?
Haunted by doubt, love and hope.
A book to start the year with……
STRANGERS DROWNING LARISSA MACFARQUHAR This has to be the best book I have read so far this year! It is the story of ‘extreme do – gooders’, obsessed altruists who push their lives to ‘moral extremity’, wanting above all to solve the world’s problems in a directly practical way – and to be…
Liberating Generations: a new paper in a new book
A new book has been launched this week. The Ashgate Research Companion to Lesbian and Gay Activism provides scholars and students with a comprehensive and authoritative state-of-the-art review of the current research in this subject. Each of the twenty-two specially commissioned chapters develops and summarises their key issue or debate in…
Cosmopolitan Sexualities: Hope and the Humanist Imagination
Cosmopolitan Sexualities is now published My latest book was published in May 2015 by Polity Press. You can find details and a study guide for it by clicking here or the tab at the top: Cosmosexualities It is reviewed in the Times Higher Education here, along with my ‘full profile, at: Review’ From the cover:…
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.
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.
Transplants and the Total Life Experience: On the 10th Anniversary of ‘Becoming Ill’
Today, March 9th, marks the 10th anniversary of my ‘illness’. It is this day in 2005 I was rushed to hospital in Santa Barbara, diagnosed with ‘alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver’, told to give up drink or die. It was also the day I first heard the word ‘transplant’ It…
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?”