Archive for the ‘UK’ Category

What I’m angry about

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Like many other people who voted for us to remain in the EU, I’m shocked, upset and angry right now. But I think it’s important for me to make very clear what I’m angry about and what I’m not angry about, who I’m angry with and who I’m not angry with.

And it has taken me a few days to calm down enough so that I’m able to think clearly enough to write this.

It is now clear to me that whether people voted to leave or to remain is not important. The important thing now is what people voted for.

Anyone who voted for a cohesive, prosperous future is now part of the solution. We can, and must, all work together to ensure we have a cohesive, prosperous future. Some people who voted to leave really wanted this. Some people who voted to remain also really wanted this.

Some people voted to leave because they were protesting against an establishment that has let many of us down. Some of those who did that are not entirely happy with the result – some thought that remain would win so convincingly that their vote would be a protest only. Some thought that the protest was worth it to make the government see and hear their anger and discontent. I do not think this was a very sensible thing to do. I certainly understand the sentiment.

However, some people voted to leave because they wanted to cause division. They wanted to spread hatred. They wanted to create a society where it is acceptable to racially abuse people, where beating people because of their accent is entertainment of an evening. This is NOT acceptable. This makes me angry. These are the people I’m angry with. This is what I am angry about.

The other group of people I am most angry with are the leave politicians who KNEW all the time that the things they were saying were LIES that were DELIBERATELY calculated to DECIEVE the people into voting to leave. It was only half a day after the polls closed when the three biggest lies were admitted. The £350M that they said we spend on the EU per week that should go instead to the NHS is not £350M and will not go to the NHS. The reduction in immigration is unlikely to happen at all. A reduction in bureaucracy is also unlikely to happen because we will need to adhere to the same regulations if we still want access to the EU market.

Some people believed these lies. Some of the people believed these lies because they genuinely wanted a prosperous future and really wanted an additional £350M to go to the NHS. Some people believed these lies because they are worried about their ability to work; or the ability of their children to work and they genuinely believe that immigration is the cause of this problem.

Some people believed these lies because they are ignorant, intolerant, racists who would cling to anything that would justify their desire to voice their fear and their hate.

But let me be clear, when Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, et al, lied to the British public they lied to all of us. They are the ones I am most angry at. Their deception which will help them and hurt all of the rest of us is what I am most angry about. The fear and intolerance they have spread is evil and must not be tolerated. They must be held to account. They must be stopped.

And this is where all of us who want a prosperous future come into play. Despite 52% of those who voted (not 52% of the people registered to vote and not 52% of the people eligible to vote and not 52% of the population) voting to leave, not all of those people voted for division and intolerance. In fact, I am certain that the vast majority of them did not. It is dangerous and divisive for us to make this lazy assumption.

So I think we should not worry about who voted for us to leave. Instead we should worry about who wants a prosperous future.

Here are the first few things I can think of that we can all do to help.

  1. Write to your MP about issues that matter (like protecting the rights of workers or forcing big business to pay its tax, or spending more money on the NHS, etc).
  2. Do not stand idly by and passively condone racism and intolerance. We must make it very clear that the United Kingdom does not accept this kind of behaviour.
  3. Start your healing and the healing of those around you (regardless of whether they voted to leave or remain) by cultivating and spreading love, care, compassion, acceptance, and community.

The EU Referendum – Part 4 – Why I want to remain

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Why am I voting to remain a part of the EU?

I am a human being. I am a global citizen. I see other people and I think of them as being the same as me. I see differences of race, religion, gender, eye colour, hair colour, etc. But I don’t see these differences as being important.

The UK as part of the EU is a step closer to removing national borders. To working towards a world in which all people have the same access to opportunity regardless of the colour of the passport or the name of the town in which they were born. If someone from Romania wants to come to London to look for work to make their life better they should be just as welcome as someone from York coming to London to do the same thing. If it really is the case that people from the EU are coming to the UK to drain our health service (which I don’t believe) then I would welcome them, because all people should have access to good healthcare regardless of who they are. And if we can’t improve their health system, the least we can do is offer them the use of ours.

Most of the big problems we currently face are global problems (peace, development, the environment) and I believe it is only through global solutions that we’ll be able to make things better. Working as part of the EU is a step closer to working towards global solutions.

I don’t believe the EU is any less democratic or any more bureaucratic than the UK. And even if it is, the way to solve that is to work within the system to change it, rather than to leave.

I want to live in a more globalised world where people are valued because they are people. So I am voting to remain.

The EU Referendum – Part 3 – How to decide?

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Of those who will vote, I think most have already decided how they will vote. And you will hear different things when you talk to people about why they have decided the way they have decided.

People are talking about immigration, cost, healthcare, jobs, crime, wages, benefits, security, innovation, bureaucracy, sovereignty, human rights and legislation. They are also talking about kettle voltages and straight bananas!! (For those not familiar, there are stories about the EU dictating to the UK about how straight or bent our bananas are allowed to be, and about what voltage our kettles are allowed to be – at least one of these is probably true.)

Almost of all of these arguments are presented by both sides. Both claim that healthcare improves if we vote the way they want. Both claim that wages and work opportunities improve if we vote the way they want. Both sides claim we will have more trade, will be more secure, will have more influence internationally, etc.

So how do people decide?

People (myself included) claim that we have decided to vote in one direction because we believe the arguments in favour. However, I think that what actually happens is the opposite. I believe the arguments in favour of remaining in the UK because I have decided that I want to remain. And I think this is what we are all doing.

We are each (whether we know it or not) making the decision to leave or remain based on one (or more) underlying principles that we hold dear. We then use these other arguments to justify the decision we have made.

I’ll get to my reasons in the next post.

The EU Referendum – Part 2 – The right not to vote

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

In the UK, we have the right to not vote. In Australia, we don’t. Well, that’s not entirely true. It is legal in Australia to go the polling centre, get your attendance recorded, collect a ballot paper and then leave it blank before putting it into the ballot box. But you must attend – or pay the fine.

In the UK, voting is not compulsory. People may register to vote if they wish (and are eligible). And once registered, they may vote, if they wish. But there is no fine if they don’t.

There are pros and cons to this. In the case of the EU referendum, not only do campaigners have to convince people to vote to leave or to remain, but they also need to convince people to register and to actually vote.

People voting to change the status quo are probably more likely to actually go and vote.  Though if it is close or if it looks like the people wanting change may win, then this might encourage more people to vote.

It is also worth noting, that when Australia had a referendum in 2000 about becoming a republic, not only was a two thirds majority required, but also a two thirds majority of states. I believe in this vote in the UK, it is simply who has the most votes regardless of how close it is.

I’m not sure which system is best. I’m just interested in the differences.

While I’m on the technicalities of the system, it is probably worth mentioning again, that I’m really not happy with the UK’s definition of ‘secret ballot’. In the UK that means no one looks over your shoulder when you vote. Your ballot paper however, has a number on it that links to your name. It is possible for the authorities to track who (or what) you voted for. I’m not that bothered in this case because I’m happy for the whole world to know which way I am voting in this election. But I am very unhappy that voting is not truly secret. (I’m also not happy that many people in the UK don’t know this.)

The EU Referendum – Part 1 – Who should decide?

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

There is a referendum coming up soon (23rd of June 2016) in the UK, where we get to vote on whether we stay in the European Union or leave it.

And this brings up many questions.

Perhaps the first is whether this is a decision which should be made by the general public.

On the one hand, democracy is based on the principle that the people should have a voice in decisions being made on their behalf. This is an important decision and it will affect the lives of all British citizens, so it is only right that the citizens should have a say.

On the other hand, it is a complex issue and is perhaps best left to the experts to decide which option really is the best.

I am not an economist. I am not a lawyer. I am not an expert on immigration, or human rights, or benefits, or the health service, or terrorism, or security. I honestly do not know what all the implications are of leaving the EU.

And I am certain that this is true for the other voters as well.

No matter how informed we are, we are not experts. And, there are some questions that I think no one knows the answer to. And we won’t know them, until it all happens, we can only make best guesses. So perhaps it should not be for us to decide, but for those who can exercise expert judgement.

But this is a moot point. The referendum is happening. We are deciding.

Working in Banking

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

I am back in London working in the banking industry.

I am working as a business analyst for one of the world’s biggest banks.

I am doing this because they are paying me obscene amounts of money each day. And with that money I can go to Uganda later this year to teach. I can use this money to give myself some financial security. I can use this money to help me to do more volunteering or development work next year.

It is a good use of my skills. My line manager is fantastic. The work I do on a daily basis is helping to improve the way the bank meets its regulatory obligations (and that’s about helping customers and about doing the right thing).

But even though I’m in the good bit of the bank, I am not happy about this. I do not like working in the banking industry and I think I probably won’t again. I find the entire industry to be very unsettling. And with only a few exceptions, I find the people and the culture to be uncomfortable.

But they are paying me enough so that I am able to support the work that Volunteer Uganda are doing. I am able to contribute to education and sanitation projects. When I have a particularly bad day at work I come home and donate to Amnesty or Save the Children or I loan money via Kiva. And I am able to go out to Africa later this year. It will be nice to be travelling again.

Back in the UK

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

I’ve been back in the UK for a day and half at time of writing. And what a day and a half it has been.

I’ve brushed my teeth with tap water. I licked my fingers when I was eating cheese on toast. I ate cheese on toast. I ate cheese and it was even better than I remember it! I have used idioms and slang and spoken quickly and mumbled. I have worn socks. I have used toilet paper. I have had hot showers. I have clean feet. I chopped vegetables and a piece of mushroom feel from the chopping board to the bench and the bench was clean enough that I could pick up the piece of mushroom and throw it into the frying pan with its mates. I have lain in bed rejoicing in the peace and quiet (no ceiling fan, no monsoonal rain, no dogs, no shouted arguments, no religious observances). I have walked along the pavement and looked up at the buildings rather than down at my feet to see what I’m standing on. I’ve made myself cups of tea whenever I wanted them (with no sugar). I’ve drunk soy milk. I’ve been to a pub. I’ve washed clothes in a washing machine and they smell wonderful! I’ve watched crappy TV in English!

And most importantly, I’ve met up with some of the most wonderful people in my life. I’ve talked, I’ve laughed, I’ve joked. I’ve made new friends.

And I’ve danced. And words fail completely to express how incredible it was to be dancing again.

I loved my time away. I’m looking forward to going back again next year. But I’m really enjoying being back.

One of the wonderful consequences of my exceptionally transient lifestyle is that I spend a lot of my time rejoicing in the newly remembered wonders of my current location. And it has the added benefit of giving my friends something to laugh about each time I get giddy about drinking tap water! 🙂

Going Home

Friday, August 1st, 2014

I’m going home (for some definition of home – in this case, London) in September. My flight is booked for the 29th.

There are several reasons for this.

I knew when I booked my return flight for February that there was very little chance of me going back on that date. But I really wasn’t sure what things were going to be like out here (from the point of view of productive work for me to do). Plus, there are issues in my Indian family and I wasn’t sure if or how they would affect things. And I wasn’t sure how much I was going to miss the UK. And I wasn’t sure when/if I was going to run out of money.

And the result of all of these considerations is that heading back on the 29th of September is the right thing to do.

The Behaviour Management programme that we have been running here has been a great success and we want to run a follow-up programme with these schools and the same programme (with some improvements) in new schools. We’d like to do that at the start of the next academic year, which is June 2015.

In order for me to be able to be back here in June next year, I need to go back to the UK early so that I can earn some money to fund me through next year. If I go back in February, I won’t earn enough before June to be able to come then.

Plus, I am missing the UK and my friends there (as well as all the usual things that I miss: clean feet, tea with no sugar, bread, cheese, toast, brushing my teeth with tap water, hot showers). Of course, these are all important but I’m used to missing them all and they’re not enough to make me actually want to change my flight.

But there is a new element in the mix this time. Dancing. I have REALLY been missing it. And there is a showcase in London in October. Now, there are lots of different dancing events all the time, so missing the London showcase would not be the end of the world, and that’s not something to change my flights for. But since I was changing the flight anyway, arranging things so that I’ll be back in time for the showcase seemed sensible. 🙂

The issues with the family here are certainly having an effect as well. Not to the point that I want to leave, but the issues are a definite source of worry.

So here is my plan for the next two months. The current batch of volunteers finish up at the end of August. There is a Keralan festival (Onam) at the start of September, then I’m hoping to take Johnson and Lisba to Sri Lanka for a couple of weeks for a holiday! (And for me to meet up with lots of my Sri Lankan friends.) Then back to India for the end of September and my flight back to the UK on the 29th.

Then it’s London and working and dancing and catching up with people till the start of March. Then Cambridge and Easter Revision till the end of April. Then back to India again in May or June to do it all over again!

And everything in this plan makes me very happy! 🙂

Missing Dancing

Monday, July 14th, 2014

I have been in India for about two months now. I have done some dancing practice about 10 times in the past two months for about 45 minutes each time.

This is wonderful.

But this is not enough dancing!

I have been watching dancing videos practically every day (I have videos of my dances from Istanbul) but have not been able to dance every day.

I am really missing it.

I talk to Kate once a week and she tells me about how she’s getting on with her dancing. So it’s very nice to hear that everyone is going well. The lessons are still happening. Kate is having the same issues with frame in Ballroom and hips in Latin that I have. The world continues to turn in my absence (this does not surprise me). The instructors have apparently not forgotten me yet. The other students are progressing and having fun. So all is right with the world!

I am trying to find time to dance. And when I do find the time it is certainly worth it!

And I can’t wait to get back to London and get back into the studio! I hope I haven’t forgotten too much by then, or developed too many bad habits!

Family, Religion and Elders

Monday, July 14th, 2014

I am told here that Indian culture is good because they value family. This is usually a commentary on the fact that I’m not married and don’t have children.

And yes, Indian culture values family though I don’t agree with many consequences of this ‘valuing’. But that is a whole other story. For the purposes of this post let’s just say that I agree that Indian culture values family. However, in my culture, I was brought up to value people with families and people without. A person who does not have children is not a wasted, tragic, pitiful figure to me.

Indian culture respects religion. Now, the more I learn about religions the less I think anyone should respect them. That again is another story. But for the moment, assume that I think religious tolerance is a good thing, and assume for a moment that India practices that (some people almost do). However, in my culture, I was brought up to respect people with religious beliefs (regardless of the religion) and to respect people without religious beliefs. In the communities I live in having a different religion is ok (unless it is Islam), having no religion is not ok (though it may be preferable to Islam, depending on how religiously intolerant the person I’m talking to is).

Indian culture respects its elders. This is a duty of citizens as spelled out in the Indian constitution. However, in my culture, I was brought up to respect people who are younger than me as well as people who are older than me. I was also brought up to want to try to earn the respect of people younger than me, rather than simply demanding it solely based on age.

I do not want to say that my culture is better. I don’t believe it is. I don’t believe Indian culture is better either. I believe that there are some aspects of every culture that are wonderful and there are some aspects of every culture that are terrible and there are many aspects of every culture that are somewhere in between.

The point I want to make is that I’m fed up with being told (directly or indirectly) that I come from a morally bankrupt culture that is full of broken families and has no respect for family, elders or religion. Because I do not believe this is true!

Caveat: I am in a very narrow and specific sub-culture here. And it may be that the views and practices that are common here are not common in other parts of Trivandrum, Kerala and India. And it may be that there are sub-cultures in the UK/Australia that do not respect family (and non-family), that do not respect elders (and youngers), that do not respect religion (and non-religion). But all of the above is valid when comparing my personal (Kath) culture with the culture of these Christian, coastal, fishing communities.