Day 4120 in the Big Brother House

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Day 4120 in the big brother house. They won’t let us sleep again.  Every time we start to drop off, they blare a klaxon horn and we all have to get up and start dancing. Becky collapsed, I was too scared to go to her. We need these food rations, another week eating just dried crackers is going to make us sicker. I’m not sure, we’ve got no way of checking, but I think we’ve all got scurvy, that’s why we’re so weak. Strange lesions have started to appear on my arms as well, I asked to see a doctor in the Diary Room last week, but no matter how many times I pleaded, the perky voice just tried to get me to talk about Hannah. It kept goading me to say something bitchy, and in the end I had to call her a ‘sow faced trollop’ just to be able to go back to the house.

Then Becky got called into the diary room. Her face was all twisted up in terror, looking at us pleading, but what could we do? She gets it the worst, I don’t know why they pick on her, maybe it’s because she made such a fuss when we first came in, she’d throw a tantrum over every little stupid thing they’d made her do, she was good telly. Now they take every chance to torment her, she cries herself to sleep at night, sometimes she wakes up screaming, and we can’t stop her; sometimes I don’t even try, she’s got reason to scream.

She didn’t come back in, but a screen opened up in the lounge, and we could see Becky, sitting on a stool, her eyes were red and wild, like they wanted to burst out of her head. She was wearing that stupid green lycra suit, so we know she was wired up to get electric shocks. They started playing Living La Vida Loca over and over at full blast, while she had to search through some cards to find the answers to trivial pursuit questions that flashed up on a screen. If she got one wrong, or took to long to answer then they sent a hundred volts through her spine. There was no reason to it, there never is, it was just about humiliating her, and trying to get us all to turn on her when she got it wrong. By the end she couldn’t stop sobbing long enough to even try and answer the question, she just curled up in a ball no the floor while they shocked her, over and over.

I can’t remember why I ever signed up to this, but I would chew off my own arm just to get my life back, just to be able to take a walk in the sunshine or to read a book. I don’t know if those things will ever happen again. In the beginning we would tell ourselves ‘It’s only a gameshow’, but we know now, this is no game, and understanding that is what will get us out. They think they’ve broken us, but we’ve got a plan. Not that we can ever talk about it out loud, but we’ve got good at silent communication, good at noticing when they aren’t around, at understanding the weak points in the walls. Little bits of information that we share through tiny gestures and glances. We’ll get out soon, I promise you that. Keep watching.

London is not OK

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I want to remind you of a few news stories that broke just before Christmas, they show serious problems with poverty in London and the rest of the UK. These kinds of stories are often in print at that festive time, I guess because that’s when people are feeling generous and donate to charities. However, it also means that once Christmas is over, everyone feels the problems are finished too, they’ve donated, they’ve done their bit. The truth is, the situation in the UK is getting worse, and donating money to charity is only a sticking plaster. Austerity measures have destroyed lives, even ended lives, and the government show no sign of stopping cuts.

The focus of some of these stories is on London, primarily because that’s where I live, so I see news stories for here, but also because London is generating some disturbing statistics at the moment. People tend to assume because London is clearly a rich city, poverty induced problems must be minimal, but the opposite seems to be true. These stories might be familiar to you, so I’ll keep them brief, but there are links if you want to read more.

How Rich Are We

Out of all countries, the UK is ranked fifth for GDP (value of all goods and services produced. Article), and seventh for where the most billionaires live (article). Out of cities across the world, London is ranked fifth for where the most rich people live (London fifth richest city ) and also fifth in terms of GDP. Most of the inequality between rich and poor comes not from money being earned, but owned wealth (ie inherited or invested in property) (Wealth in London ). For a wealthy country, with a wealthy capital city, the following problems are ridiculous.

Homelessness

new homeless article

Article

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Article

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Up until 2010, homelessness had been declining, but since then has risen every year.

People sleeping rough  numbered 1768 in 2010 and 3569 in 2015 in the Uk. So double the numbers.

There are many more people homeless, but less visible, sleeping on floors of friends or in derelict buildings. It is thought that over 60% of homeless people don’t show up in figures.

However, in London the rise was biggest, from 400 in 2010 to 940 in 2015.

The other highest figure, and highest rise in figures, is in South East England.

Here are the facts and figures

2010 was when the Coalition government initiated the austerity program. It involved reducing funding for housing-related services, for example reducing housing benefit to a level that often didn’t cover rent, increasing sanctions for benefit claimants leaving vulnerable people without any assistance, introducing the bedroom tax (claimants had money reduced if they had an unused bedroom). It’s these measures, and rising rent prices that have lead to homelessness.

 

Foodbanks

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The Independent did a poll of London families and discovered that 18% have to choose between heating or feeding their family.

33% (a third) struggle to afford healthy food for their family.

14% rely of foodbanks or free breakfast clubs.

Article about foodbank use

Austerity and the wider problem

There have been reports in the newspapers this month about a lack of beds in A&E hospitals and the cancellation of 50,000 operations. This situation has clearly hit a crisis point, but at the end of last year a study was brought out calculating that 45,000 deaths had been caused by austerity measures, many of which were caused by inadequate hospital care. Substandard care for the elderly was another factor.

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Effects of health and social care spending constraints on mortality in England

Note: this has been reported as 120,000 deaths, but that is a projected figure for 2015-2020, it may well prove to be an accurate prediction, but 45,000 actual deaths is shocking enough, there’s no need to inflate it.

Thank you for reading…

Patience and Sensitivity

“I’m a very patient person,” he’d said when I moved in, and I thought that was great. I’m a very sensitive person, so we had this lovely chat about how so many other people are thoughtless and rude, and how we’d both lived with unpleasant people in the past and it was great to have found each other.

That Saturday, he said it again,

“I’m a very patient person.” This time it was when he found some crumbs I’d left by the kettle, only there was a slight edge to his voice. And I thought Whoah! It’s only a few crumbs! And I actually had a little cry, because it seemed a bit mean. He felt guilty though, so I thought we’d be alright from then on.

Then he said it again on the Monday when I left a ring around the bath, only it was more high-pitched. I said, “Well I’m a very sensitive person, and I can’t live with this kind of atmosphere,” and I slammed the door and didn’t speak to him for three days.

I hoped that had got the message through, but then again, those words, spoken through gritted teeth while pointing at the coffee splots on the floor. He didn’t even seem to see how unreasonable he was being, so I poured my coffee all over the carpet and up the doors, because all this tension is intolerable.

We were fine then, until this morning. I was just chatting to him about something at work that had upset me, while he was doing the washing up that I’d left in the sink to soak over the weekend. Everything was fine, but then he started being so rough with the washing up, that he actually broke one of the plates, and then stormed out! His anger just came from nowhere.

As a sensitive person, I need to leave for the sake of my mental health. I don’t think he’s patient at all.

Just Brush It Off! (Sexual harassment at work)

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Sexual assault in Hollywood has been a hot topic for a while now (Weinstein et al). I’m a bit slow to form an opinion, so I’ve kept quiet, but just when it seems the story has finished, a new victim steps forward and tells of some horror that happened to her (or occasionally him). I think I’ve finally worked out how I see this, so here’s my take.

On the whole, people have reacted to the Weinstein stories with disgust, surprise and anger which is good, although how surprised people have been that this happens has surprised me. Fortunately there are plenty of women speaking out to say that this is not an isolated problem, this is endemic to almost all workplaces, which is definitely my experience. However, I think there is a danger of the discussion getting diluted, with one line of thinking being:

But a lot of these experiences are not a big deal, why does it matter if someone puts his hand on your knee, just brush it off!

I do understand this line of thinking, because most of experiences I’ve had weren’t a big deal at all, and I wasn’t bothered by them.  However, the point is

                                 NONE OF THEM SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED.

No harassment, no matter how small, makes the world a better place, and while most instances might be nothing much, the accumulation of many many instances makes life more difficult than it needs to be, it drives a wedge between people, it wears them down. In a workplace the focus should be on the job, with a degree of professionalism as the norm. And each small instance makes the big, serious instances more likely to happen, because they normalise wrong behaviour.

For me there are two straightforward demands that should come out of this, and apply to all people of any gender and in any job:

  • Professionalism should exist in every workplace, and no sexual intimidation should ever happen. No one should have to fend off unwanted advances. Focus should be on the job, it shouldn’t be sexual at all. (I realise there may be exceptions, after all many people meet their partner at work, but I don’t think it’s extreme to say that actual sexual interaction and banter should be kept outside work, so that people can choose if they are part of it or not.)
  • A level of polite respect should exist between strangers in the street. No one should be demanding attention from strangers without good reason. No one should be shouting any insults, personal remarks or trying to touch a stranger. This also goes for racist or disablist comments too, or just personal comments to a stranger, why is it necessary?

I’d be interested to hear if you have some disagreement with those requests, maybe you think they’re too extreme and controlling. I believe much of how we treat each other (superficially, at least) is down to habit rather than some innate ‘rightness’ or inevitability, and so if the current habits are harmful, we need new ones.

So anyway, when people shout about the smaller incidences that have happened to them, it is not because somebody touching you on the knee is traumatic (usually, anyway), it’s because there needs to be a change to how we treat colleagues and strangers, and that includes the small stuff.

But why do the protestations have to be so shouty and demanding? Why can’t everyone make the point calmly?

This applies to not just this issue, but a few other matters of discrimination affecting small groups. It’s natural to recoil when you hear someone being unpleasant, even about  a legitimate grievance. However, I believe it’s essential to be shouty in order to bring about change. The thing is this:

PEOPLE DON’T LIKE CHANGE

And altering how people work together and interact, is a massive undertaking. In the past mistreated people have reasonably and calmly expressed that there is a problem in how they are treated, which sometimes lead to others thinking ‘Oh yes, that seems unfair’. However, because people don’t like change, just thinking this didn’t alter their behaviour at all. Everything stayed the same.

It seems the only way to get people to change is by making ‘staying the same’ more distressing than making a change. An effective (if highly irritating) way of doing this is by being loud, obnoxious, demanding and unrelenting. This is what I believe we are seeing at the moment, and it seems to be working. When change happens, which certainly seems more likely now than ever before, then all the demanding can stop.

However, my opinion is always a work in progress, if you spot any flaws in my thinking, or have anything to add, please comment below, I look forward to hearing your take on this…

 

 

 

Not his Wife

Stanley was sitting in his favourite chair wishing he’d learned how to smoke a pipe so he could really enjoy not moving, when the woman who wasn’t his wife came home. She was wearing the right face to be his wife, and the clothes looked familiar, but without doubt, she was someone else. If he was asked, he’d have been hard pushed to explain exactly how he knew it wasn’t his wife, but it was a sense as fundamental as gravity, and the more she moved about the house chattering about the queue at the Post Office in a way that was similar, but not the same, as his wife, the more he knew.

Stanley was a polite man, and the woman who wasn’t his wife seemed so certain of who she was, that after some quizzing that got him nowhere, he decided to let it go. Still as the days passed, a resentment grew. She kept moving the furniture round, and she cancelled his subscription to his model aeroplane magazine. She even bought broccoli and expected him to eat it. With each new and inappropriate behaviour, he felt lied to and manipulated, it just wasn’t on, but then she made lasagne.

He’d always liked lasagne before he got married, but his real wife’s cooking was dubious at best, and she made a watery, insipid dish; but his new not-wife made her lasagne crisp and tasty, so he decided, on reflection to just let it go. Aren’t we all imposters of one kind or another, he thought, philosophically, before wondering where the sofa had gone.