Campaigning

I’ve been worrying about the motivations of the very media friendly, and column inch rich Enough Food IF campaign.

So what is campaigning or activism, and what makes it a success?

I didn’t get into campaigning as a wee young thing. At university my spare time was taken up working to pay for my books, food, train fares home. (And I received a full grant, I can’t imagine how students get by these days).

And also at university I was slightly distant from some of my more activist student colleagues. I was shy, I wasn’t 100% sure of my political leanings, and I didn’t want to be pigeon holed, limited or forced into acting in a certain way or adopting certain behaviours. Which may not be what student politics is, but it must have seemed that way enough to me that I was dissuaded from getting involved, even though I was studying politics as my degree.

I guess the problem I had then, which I still have now, is that I struggle when my opinions are constrained by outside forces. I am lucky enough to work in campaigning, which means I have learnt to temper some of my opinions in public, but then I’m being paid to be an activist.

If you wanted me to give up my time and act in favour of your cause for free, well, then I’d expect you to a) be aligned to my way of thinking and b) give me space to talk through my thoughts on the issue in question.

And I think my overarching problem with much of todays campaigning is that you have to buy in to a lot more than the cause in question. Take the IF campaign. It sounds perfectly reasonable, and there are celebrities and big NGOs on board, what could there be to object to?

Well, its funded by the Gates Foundation, who earn millions from Monsanto, who are pretty much destroying insect life and ruining the lives of peasant farmers across the world. And, from what I read, there have been numerous discussions about how lovely it would be for the campaign to be active during the G8 visit to the UK so that David Cameron could make some positive noises about international aid.

I have no problem with the aims and objectives of IF, but I do have problems with their means.

Which brings me to my point. If the means you use to achieve your campaign ends are dirty, unethical or crowd-pleasing above end-resulting, then I have less time for you than I do for campaigns who strive and battle to work towards their goal without resorting to clicktivism or celebrities or easy stunts.

It’s my naive opinion I guess. But I want the campaigns I support to actually achieve change, not just column inches or sign-ups or celebrity endorsements.

Which is why I donate to the New Economics Foundation ahead of other organisations. As is often said but not acted upon – system change is the key to achieving real change. Not just tinkering at the edges or tweaking tiny aspects.

Call me cynical, I won’t argue.

If William Hague would like a red card…

So, William Hague thinks we should be able to show certain EU policies a red card.

That’s nice William. The BBC article doesn’t detail which policies Mr Hague would see worthy of a red card. But I can imagine… Rules on freedom of movement, on regulating industries, on environmental protection.

And I see why, from an ideological viewpoint that the Conservatives would be interested in curtailing the powers of the EU. They see it as a threat to their national power and sovereignty. I see it as a way to bring all of Europe together on an equal playing field, where every European citizen can have a stake in decisions which do have wider implications than within national boundaries.

But what really frustrates me, is it that it’s gone beyond an ideological objection to become some kind of principled position which disregards any positive implications of working in Europe, and forgets the negative implications of ignoring what after all is a position that has been agreed to across the EU so must have something going for it.

To take my examples above:

Freedom of movement – we’re told Britain will be invaded by ‘benefits tourists’ from Eastern Europe. We forget that we can travel and work freely within the EU, benefiting our economy and our cultural development. And we don’t ask why we’re so attractive to Eastern Europeans, and whether more could be done within the EU to share the wealth and thus avoid the catch 22 of countries such as the UK being attractive, despite our financial woes, because we are still better off than Hungary, Romania, Greece… 

Regulating industries – I could go into detail about energy industries and how ignoring or subverting EU rules that are designed to protect the industry whilst also looking to move to a low carbon future is digging our own grave, but, there is an example that has received far more headlines. The regulation of food production. The EU brought in laws to better regulate the production of ready meals, burgers etc etc. The UK took an opt out. And then it turned out a whole bunch of pre-prepared food has stuff in it that we weren’t aware of. What could have prevented this, the headlines screamed. Um, adopting the EU regulations?

Environmental protection – The EU is far from perfect in its environmental legislation, don’t get me wrong. But a lot of what it is trying to do at an EU wide level is essential. Fighting climate change. Reducing energy use. Protecting marine wildlife. Criminalising harmful pesticides. To opt out is to undermine the necessity of pan-European action AND destabilises the project.

So I have a plan. If William Hague thinks he should get to show EU policies he doesn’t like a red card, I think we, the people, should get to show William’s cabinet colleagues a red card when they suggest policies we don’t like. I’m thinking we’d get a lot more positive use out of our red cards than Hague would. And I’m pretty certain our use of red cards would have a positive influence, and would protect our socio-economic goods and natural resources, for the good of both current and future generations, in the UK, the EU, and globally. 

Sleep and associated risks

So it’s been a while since I posted anything. Life was busy, then we were on holiday, and then adjusting to being back in regular life.

I’ve been having a series of unpleasant dreams. They aren’t regular, but they are often. They aren’t the same, in plotting, environment of the full cast of participants. But in all of them, my mother, and if they appear my maternal grandparents, are upset with me. I have done something, sometimes a thing that the dream acknowledges, sometimes a thing which is a mystery, which has caused my relations to be angry and disappointed. And I react badly. I am forthright that I am not to blame. I am upset and angry myself at their reactions to whatever it is I may or may not have done or know I have done.

Which is all confusing enough in itself, but when I awake I feel awful. I feel that I have disappointed my mother for no good reason, and it feels unsolvable. And when my grandparents are involved, what with them being dead an all, it feels even worse.

And usually I can see where my dreams are coming from. Even the crazy anxiety dreams with random plot lines, I can see are at root just a manifestation of worry. But what are these imaginings trying to say?

I don’t like it. That much I know. And the more frequently they come around, the less I want to sleep. Which is very foreign to me, because sleep is my safe zone. What happens if sleep becomes distasteful, unpalatable, unsafe?

Check your privilege

Recently the very awesome Shelagh McKinlay introduced me to the concept of ‘checking your privilege’.

It’s been rattling around in my brain for the past wee while, and I like idea increasingly as time wears on. 

It’s like a less fun version of the playing a game as a straight white male is the easy option analysis which I have mentioned before.

However, less fun may also equal more practical and inclusive.

So, at the risk of being entirely subjective but without suggesting this list will be comprehensive in any way shape or form, or that the order of factors means anything (at this stage), or that in and of themselves these characteristics hold merit or not, I would like to start a collection of characteristics for which you should ‘check your privilege’. If any one of these things applies to you, then when thinking about the impact of your words, deeds or opinions, stop for a moment to consider walking in the shoes of a person without that privilege. The more of the characteristics you can apply to yourself, the more you should be considering others without those privileges before you offer your thoughts, opinions, actions, to the world. In my opinion. 

I’d be interested in comments, additions etc.

Check Your Privilege

White

Male

Straight

University educated

Finished high school

Employed on a permanent, full time contract

In a (loving, nurturing, caring) relationship

Able-bodied

Mentally healthy

A home owner

On the electoral roll

Solvent

Attractive

Good family relationships

A licensed driver

A passport holder

Have experienced travel abroad

Physically healthy

Part of a network of friends

Access to the internet

Own a mobile phone

Own a television

Own a laptop or tablet device

Have taken a holiday away from home in the past 12 months

Happy Birthday Prozac!

In recognition of the 25th anniversary of Prozac the media have been engaging in their customary ‘analysis’ of medication for depression.

Browsing the BBC website (as you do), I clicked through to this article, hopeful that 25 years on the state media provider would offer a pleasantly less than critical appraisal of a drug that has treated millions of unwell people.

Ha! More fool me.

So then when I saw an early evening tweet from Scotland Tonight asking for experiences on Prozac, I decided to bear witness, and let them know that my experience has been wholly positive and that Fluoxetine is a drug which corrects a chemical imbalance in my brain and enables me to function in a way that was impossibly difficult without the drug. (It’s not easy now, but it is undoubtedly less difficult).

They didn’t acknowledge my tweet, so I tweeted a couple more responses, variations on a theme. And then they did read out the first tweet on the programme. But it started me thinking, and weighing up the coverage.

And, medicating for depression is still seemingly unacceptable. According to mainstream media, and the internet (if you don’t look hard enough). I have lost count of the interviews, reportage, websites, blogs, whatever, that I have read that claim that ‘talking therapy’ is the best solution, and even if drugs do work, folk should still be talking. Talking talking talking.

But what about being listened to? Which brings me back to my tweet to Scotland Tonight. I thought about their non-acknowledgement and asked them (again via twitter) how they felt about asking vulnerable people to share experiences via a public forum and then not even acknowledging the testimony. They didn’t respond to that. Now I know this is stretching a point, but don’t request information from people who admit they are struggling with (amongst other things) self confidence, and not give them the appreciation they will be subconciously asking for by providing that testimony.

And… maybe talking isn’t always the answer. In fact one of the major symptoms of my depression is avoiding conversation, and certainly talking to a stranger about my feelings was not something I was even half prepared to think about, for fear of a complete collapse. So I took Prozac for two years before I was even slightly ready to consider talking about my mental health. And then it was essential that I was taking the drug whilst I underwent the CBT. And then there was no way I was going to survive without CBT if I wasn’t taking Prozac.

Which all goes to say – This is a drug which stabilises me. It isn’t something I ‘use’ for fun, or as an alternative to thinking cognitively about my behaviour. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve felt stable. Not normal. Normal is not something I aspire to, I just want to be able to function in society – to be able to engage in small talk, to have self-confidence and to leave the house of a morning. I wish I had found it years ago, decades ago frankly, and then I wouldn’t have lost so many friends or missed out on so many experiences because I was too anxious to leave the house and interact with the world.

So, I have a request. I know some people don’t find that Prozac suits them, and that some people’s experience is worse than awful, and that there have been suicides linked to Prozac. BUT, for some people it is a life saver, a hugely positive alternative to a life of unexplained sadness and anxiety. And I worry that it is hard to find those positive stories, and that the media skew their reporting against what is, at the end of the day, a massively succesful treatment. There are caveats, as there are with all medications, but I just wish I could see or read one story that accurately reflected my experience.

Oh and, please don’t employ the pejorative ‘use’ in relation to Prozac. No-one ‘uses’ chemotherapy or drugs to relive the symptoms of alzheimers. They take a medication to relieve their condition. And so do I.

Advertising 2

Okay, now this is an advert that when I first saw it I was amused at the ridiculousness, and then I discovered others were too.

But they keep running it – and developing it.

The ad in question: the EDF dancing poo.

Who? Who in their right mind thinks this is a good promotional tool?

Advertising

There are some adverts which make me imagine a room full of ad execs, exhausted after weeks of testing different scenarios, just being like ‘ah, fuck it, this’ll do’. Because I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind thinking the idea for the advert is actually worthwhile.

Today’s choices include:

The Cuprinol shed paint advert where the couple are awakened by a crying shed. The male half of the couple tries to pacify the shed with a bottle of milk, but sensible female partner realises shed needs a coat of paint. Hmm. Yes.

The advert for washing at cold temperatures where ‘sometimes mother doesn’t know best’. I think the wearing of red (without it fading) is meant to be significant but the sheer inanity of the ad just makes me want to wash my clothes at whichever temperature I please. Oh, and don’t get me started on why, as a feminist I am annoyed by this ad.

More to follow…