The Green Party

Natalie BennettWhy did I join the Green Party? Because I loathe UKIP. This is not quite as negative as it sounds.

I am concerned that the Green Party may take votes from Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Labour is one of two possible parties for a Government or coalition leader. It is the traditional left wing party. The Lib Dems in coalition have been a moderating influence on the Conservatives, and have by being in Government got some of their policies implemented, such as the increased personal allowance for income tax, now supported by the other parties. The former model, that two parties fought for the centre ground, and included the radical fringes, meant that some form of national consensus was achieved, whichever party was in power.

This did not prevent strong party loyalty. “The thing is,” my father told me, while still working, “that for Conservatives it is the Country first, then the party, then myself, but for Labour politicians it is self first, then party, then country.” I lapped it up at the time.

Caroline LucasI fear an electoral result like that of Greece. It is insomnia politics- you lie awake, unable to get comfortable, either lying on your Right or your Left- so voters reject both main parties, and turn to the extremists. All sixteen Golden Dawn MPs are in custody pending trial. The extremists will find themselves as constrained by “Events, dear boy” as the others, without the experience or the mandate to deal with them appropriately.

But given that voters might reject both main parties, I want them to have an alternative other than UKIP. The UKIP message- “They’re all crap, you’re angry, vote UKIP”- is a simple way to channel disaffected voters, and I want those voters to have a left-wing alternative too. I don’t want them to be taken as votes for cutting foreign aid and abolishing the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

The large number of disaffected voters changes my calculation. I would have voted Labour to retain my Labour MP and make a left wing government more likely, but the necessity of winning back those disaffected voters from the bad men of UKIP lets me campaign for policies which can give me hope and make my heart leap, such as the Citizens’ Income and nuclear disarmament. See how those policy statements are written for adults! They are simple and persuasive.

Paths to Enlightenment

Modigliani, Mme. KislingElaine is back from India. Her friend wanted to show her his village. It was difficult arranging water she could drink, and they defecate in the open air, in a field reserved for it. She brought back pictures of the people, and we exclaimed How Beautiful! One particularly stood out, a middle-aged to elderly man. Perhaps it is that his face is unaffected, with no mask like we all wear, as Grayson Perry points out.

While still at school, Emma, later Madame Bovary, had a reputation for great piety, weeping over the statue of Mary or her rosary beads, before they got to know her. S told me that being brought up Catholic, she stared at the statue of Mary long enough to see it move- “Of course it moves! Your eyes go all funny!” praying for success in exams with her rosary round her neck. And now, for her, spirituality must be rigorously without emotion. Feelings are the siren to drag her away from any spiritual depth or insight.

If for me it is the opposite-

Here am I, typing on a blog, and I will break off to comment on other people’s, like a man drinking Carlsberg, on a bench in the town centre, haranguing the passers-by. I am afraid of the silence, so it seems to me I live my life at half-mast or less. Entering the silence, at meeting or at home, I am overwhelmed by my feelings, so at home, as if living on Modigliani, Antoniavalium, I hold them at bay by playing on my computer, getting peevish at things which do not matter.

Then I enter the silence, and feel what I feel.

Do not tell me that is unreal, or a temptation, or an immature place on a long road towards another maturity. It is where I am now, the right place to be. Perhaps it is not so for everyone: feeling is the thing from the depths of me which I have to come to know, just as the narrator in In search of lost time gets so overwhelmed by feelings he does not recognise at the time, and cannot see the humanity of others, not even his partner Albertine’s. This is my task now, and something else is yours, and each of us may have easily mastered something the other finds supremely testing. Or something. That is a possible map of the shifting territory.

That was a way of putting it- not very satisfactory;
A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,
Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle
with words and meanings.

Since I am on Eliot, I should go further- You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy– Eliot appears to support S’s view. I am where I am. On the bus going home I saw a woman quite as beautiful as any of those Indian villagers, whether her face was relaxed, or unaffected, or without a mask, or whatever it was. Had I plucked up the courage to ask to photograph her, and she had agreed, it would not have been for me to share her face here. There are always other faces to see.

Bigotry

Heather's catsWhat should I call this post? “Pure Evil”, perhaps. “The smiling Villain”- a Shakespeare reference there. “The Subtle Knife”. A woman pats herself on the back for how nice she is, and others join in; and even her victim probably thinks she is a good sort. She might think the encounter is whatever word she uses for “synchronicity”- perhaps a small miracle. The good she does- really- makes the evil more profound and tenacious.

The facts are these. Bigot Katy was extremely generous with a teenager she barely knew, a German exchange student. She took him into her home, and helped him find his feet in Seattle. Making conversation, she asked, “So, do you have a girlfriend back in Hamburg?” James replied, “I don’t like girls. I like boys instead because I am gay.” And instead of saying, “Oh, sorry, do you have a boyfriend back in Hamburg?” like any normal person, she stopped transferring groceries and just looked at him. Then she “cupped his face in [her] hands” and said “Honey, you have come to the right place”.

Oh, that touch, and the melting eye contact, and the sympathetic listening, on top of that beautiful generosity! She climbs into his head, and then tells him that gay sex is wrong, a message he has heard life long. She tells him straight out or implies that he is gay because of his distant relationship with his father. She tells him that sex is God’s good gift, but only for straight married couples, and that all his sexual attractions are evil and he will never be able to have a partner unless he finds a female one. She may imply that this is more likely than it actually is. She cripples him.

Blogging really does not matter. Leviticus 20! cries Katy. Romans 1! And her sycophantic crew say how wonderful she is, and a few others argue, and it matters not at all. But then, this. Satan uses her very generosity to maim a vulnerable child. There comes a time when we enter adulthood, can make our own decisions, and a lie like Katy’s would have no effect; but James is probably not there yet. She condemns him to pointless misery, while imagining that she “loves” him.

Skipping

(c) Andrew Hay; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationOne two three a leary
My ball’s down the dairy
Don’t forget to give it to Mary
Not to Charlie Chaplin

My mother’s skipping rhyme. I don’t recall when I learned it, and I never skipped with it, but it popped into my mind. I went Googling. Here I found alternative versions: “My ball’s down the airy” or “Up in the airy”.

“Down the airy” may be the original: the airy is the “light well” between the pavement and the basement flat of a tenement. It let a small amount of light to that flat’s windows. If you go to the coffee shop in the National Portrait Gallery, and look up, you will see you are in the airy, which has been glassed over at sidewalk level. Sorry if that’s a spoiler: I got a shock of delight and surprise, seeing it.

I don’t know if my mother saw airies, or light wells, in Putney in the 1930s. “Down the airy” makes sense, “Down the dairy” doesn’t, though it is a little easier to sing and it alliterates. If you did not know what an airy was, you might change that to dairy, or “up in the airy”, because they seemed to make more sense.

“My ball’s down the dairy” is a Googlewhack.

Reading the explanation, it seems “airy” is the original, though stated as coming from East London in the 50s, not Putney (South west London) in the 30s.

The first link has rude rhymes too. I learned The Derby Ram at school, a bowdlerised version for singing in the Music class, and a rude version for singing with the Scouts. My precise version of Aunty Mary isn’t there:
Aunty Mary had a canary
up the leg of her drawers,
it widnae come doon for half a croon,
only for Santa Claus.

Perhaps there is no “right” version.

Ace = Asexual

Pierre Troubetskoy, SummertimeOne of the letters sometimes added on the end of LGBT is A for Asexual. Here I am in our sexual culture, somewhat bemused. So often on the telly I see people go into bars to pick someone up- usually of the opposite sex, occasionally of the same sex, and it is quite alien to my experience. I read that men think of sex however many times it is an hour or a minute, and feel some relief. It sounds really distracting.

Now, on “Masters of Sex”, for the first time I see an asexual couple, portrayed as that. He is unable to sustain an erection. She suffers vaginismus, which I understand from the programme means that her muscles tighten and she cannot be penetrated. This seems to have arisen from incest when she was around twelve: she first remembered that her brother had forced himself on her, but then he told her it had been her idea, because she had not wanted him to go and play with someone else. Together they watch cosy American rom-coms, where nice people who really like each other also fall in love, and European art films where unlikeable people who hate each other smoulder then have violent sex.

Being Asexual seems to make life simpler. Perhaps the grass is not greener for the Normals. Then there are self-named “demi-sexuals”, who cannot get aroused with another without a romantic attachment. Some say they desire a romantic relationship, but not a sexual one. I don’t know how normal “demi-sexual” is, but not being like that seems horrible to me: the thought of having a physical appetite and just using someone to scratch an itch, picked up in a bar or dating website, repels me. And seems quite normal.

Winterhalter, Feodora zu Hohenlohe-LangenburgThe lovely Sarah Harnetty followed me. She says while asexuals want the others to empathise, we have to empathise with the range of sexual intensity. It is not “us” and “them”, it is a range of sexual response. Religious rules on sex are silly because there is one rule for all, such as that a Mormon should not be alone with a person of the opposite sex. For some, that would be an unbearable temptation.

Most of the time I am not aroused, but I am not entirely over my obsession, three years later. I chatted to a visitor at the Quaker meeting, really enjoyed it, and proposed a hug. We hugged, and I felt a sudden sharp sensation in my crotch. It was nice, I think it was reciprocal, and I feel wistful about her. I remark on this as it is very rare and surprising for me. Then I met a bloke who is as keen on backgammon as I am, and since I have not had a serious partner- backgammon partner- for yonks, I asked for his phone number. He drove me home, and proposed cooking for me then having sex. He finds me “really attractive”, he said. What good taste he has.

 

White matter

Klimt, portrait of Hermine GalliaTranssexual people exhibit different brain structure. A team at the National University of Distance Education, Madrid, performed MRI scans on 24 males, 19 females and 18 female to male trans folk, who had had no treatment. They found significant differences between male and female brains in four regions of white matter, and the trans men had white matter in those regions resembling a male brain. The team made a separate study of 18 trans women, finding that the structure of the white matter was half way between that of the males and females.

Words like “superior longitudinal fascicle” may trip off my tongue as easily as base-nodule of the stria terminalis central section. It may have implications on body perception.

In 2011, the New Scientist (where I found this) suggested that trans-identifying children with such white matter anomalies could benefit from treatment to delay puberty, but no such work had yet been done. The New Scientist referred to Sean Deoni’s work on white matter development in infants, but publication considered a causal link between breast feeding and improved intelligence, previously demonstrated epidemiologically. Here is the 2011 Journal of Psychiatric Research article, on the Spanish research.

As soon as April 2011, Neil Whitehead opined that any brain differences were caused by “years of repetitive thinking, fantasy and preoccupation with body image”. Reading the NS report, “each” M-F had the brain differences, and “the female to male transsexual people had white matter in those regions which resembled a male brain”, but Artur Lajos Halmi, portrait of an elegant young woman in a white dressWhitehead says “a modest majority had brains more like their heterosexual female counterparts”. This could be evidence of lying, though the two reports could be choosing different aspects to emphasise.

Whitehead’s is a prejudiced site: its home page states that “Huge amounts of impartial scientific evidence now make it abundantly clear that homosexuality is not biologically hard-wired and that change is possible”. This is a minority view.

This is all of limited use in deciding whether to transition. The question is, will you be happier transitioned? How much do you want it, and how accepting is your society? It has some use in persuading the undecided, though people like Whitehead will oppose it. More persuasive is the fact that people want to transition. Why not just let us?

More long words: White matter microstructure diffusivity.

Historical Enquiries

The two mulesIn Northern Ireland, it is not possible to have truth and justice. Evidence will be hidden, unless the perpetrators are sure it may not be used against them. Which do we want, and who should decide? The Historical Enquiries Team of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which did not answer this question, has been shut down.

Terrorists saw themselves as soldiers, defending their communities. With pervasive discrimination, even oppression, against Catholics, this is arguable. The Quaker Edward Burrough wrote in 1661, if anything be commanded of us by the present authority, which is not according to equity, justice and a good conscience towards God… we must in such cases obey God only and deny active obedience for conscience’ sake, and patiently suffer what is inflicted upon us for such our disobedience to men. The HET has not referred any cases of killings by soldiers to the Director of Public Prosecutions, because soldiers were carrying their weapons lawfully, and firing them might be lawful too if they reasonably believed that their lives or the lives of others were in danger. Sinn FĂ©in want IRA killings treated in the same way, but use code, speaking of the hierarchy of victims rather than of killers.

State killings were covered up and excused. The Government still seeks to cover up details of cases even where state complicity in murder has been admitted. The Democratic Unionist Party, however, consider that too much pressure has been applied to “state actors” while terrorists and former terrorists refuse to be full and active participants in the process of truth recovery. From a Freedom of Information request, the HET completed 1082 reviews by victim, including assault as well as murder or attempted murder. Only 65 arrests followed, with two individuals pleading guilty, and no breakdown was given as to whether those charged were Republican or Loyalist. Evidential difficulties with prosecution years or decades later were clear when HET was set up. Relatives will not know the circumstances of a death without a direct confession, unobtainable without immunity from prosecution.

In practice, killers are as safe from punishment as they would be with immunity, but it sticks in the craw to admit that; and different groups want different murderers punished, and are unwilling to negotiate. If we admitted that there was little chance of successful prosecution, we (the people) could agree that it was better that families heard the truth about their relatives. In nine years, HET issued reports to the relatives of 2,300 casualties of the conflict. 64% were “very satisfied” and only 3% were “dissatisfied”. 3466 people died in The Troubles between 1969 and 2001.

After a damning report by HM Inspector of Constabulary, HEC was shut down in spending cuts. I would not have heard of it but for Prospect magazine.

Christian persecution

François-Guillaume Ménageot, the martyrdom of Saint SebastianChristians are persecuted in the UK and the US, for their beliefs. Gay people use discrimination law to drive Christians out of business.

It is a Christian belief that Christians should not condone gay sex. This is most important, because some Christians (including me) believe we should celebrate LGBT as part of human diversity and God’s wonderful creation. So Christian hoteliers refuse a gay couple a double room, and Christian bakers refuse a gay couple a wedding cake, and then are driven out of business by the force of law. The gays persecute them, with the state’s connivance, taking their money and making them pay costs. You cannot lawfully be sacked for being Christian in England, but you can be sacked for expressing your Christianity, for example by stating your disapproval of colleagues’ sex lives.

It is not for me to deny that is a Christian belief, as Christianity is so wide. I had a lovely chat with a lesbian URC minister yesterday- “Lesbian”? “Reformed”? Strange, and wonderful- on how we had both thought that to be Christian you had to believe in Substitutionary Atonement, but it really wasn’t necessary, and was inconsistent with God being Love; and how people want the Bible to be infallible, without internal contradiction and easy to understand. She was angry that seven people at their Synod Jusepe de Ribera, Saint Sebastianblocked equal marriage; but they will not, for ever, and it was only seven. Before she went to her church six years ago, they voted three to one that they would accept a gay minister.

I could say they should just bake the cake, but in the Roman Empire I could say they should just sacrifice to Caesar. “Render unto Caesar”, Jesus said. Because Caesar is not God, the sacrifice has no meaning. Yet we celebrate our martyrs’ courage rather than mocking their stubbornness. The only way to respond is to close the business, or continue paying damages. The law will allow nothing else, if you persist with your beliefs.

Jesus says, Do not resist an evildoer. Pray for those who persecute you. Jesus was addressing Jews under foreign occupation. About forty years later Jews intent on resisting started the Jewish Wars leading to the destruction of their temple in 70 and the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem in 135, so Jesus’ words were good advice which applies now to these Christian bakers. Resistance will only harm you.

Paul says Bless those who persecute you. Live in harmony, as far as is possible live peaceably, never avenge yourselves- for if we lived by an eye for an eye, the whole world would be blind. This is the only way to win over your persecutors.

Enlightenment

Trautmann Transfiguration“Enlightenment does exist. It is possible to awaken. Unbounded freedom and joy, oneness with the Divine, awakening into a state of timeless grace – these experiences are more common than you know, and not far away. There is one further truth, however: They don’t last. Our realizations and awakenings show us the reality of the world, and they bring transformation, but they pass. … We all know that after the honeymoon comes the marriage. After the election comes the hard task of governance. In spiritual life it is the same: After the ecstasy comes the laundry.”

-Jack Kornfield,  After the Ecstasy, the Laundry

Seeing the title in the quote, I wonder if there is any point in buying the book. This quote from One Spirit winds me up the wrong way. It postulates Enlightenment as a feeling of Joy, freedom, timeless grace, oneness with the divine, in some way different from quotidian getting and spending. Ecstasy and laundry.

I should tease out my understanding of the concept from my reaction to the individual words. It is possible to have the feeling of being Present, when joyful, for example walking under the trees towards Greenbelt recently. Rather than “Chaos of thought and passion all confused” all seems integrated, with perception, emotion, thought and purpose all pointing the same way. It lasts a moment. Or, I get stressed and I get relaxed, and relaxation feels nice but is not necessarily Enlightenment. Similarly, Presence in washing up. I turn my attention to the task in hand, and it becomes beautiful. I delight in the sensations of the light on wet plates.

I would like to be more relaxed in the stressful situations. It seems to me that in those Presence moments my emotions are acceptable, and I do not spend energy suppressing them.

Raffaello, transfigurationOh, Christ. Even joy can be dangerous. An evening with my parents in Inverneill stands out, when we were relaxed and happy together and it seemed a moment of eternity, a Discovery. We all felt it. Dad proposed going out to the pub, to make the moment linger. Mum demurred, knowing it would not. After attempts at happiness through following conventional recipes, we had found it by accident. I did not know what my feelings were because none of them were acceptable, in my teens, but that evening I did, though it would have been hard to put into words.

I feel fear or anger when these things are appropriate, and I fear my fear and anger, because expressing them has been dangerous to me. I have said this here before. The situation is far worse from my Wrong feeling than from anything external. I know that if I feel fear like this I will die, so learning to flow with the fear is difficult. That would be the freedom and timeless grace. The Divine would be me inside, and ego-conscious me accepting not resisting it.

I have learned to accept joy. I can learn to accept fear and anger too. Ecstasy, an intense discovery, becomes quotidian, a continual process of learning and falling away. It is not that we build tents for Moses and Elijah, but that we see them walking with us.

The blue marble

Apollo 13- view of EarthImagine that the World was only a few feet in diameter, floating above a field. People would come from afar to wonder at its waters and its creatures, and they would protect it and care for it as it is unique. The poem is over-optimistic: someone would charge admission.

It is true, of course. The world is unique and beautiful- but we have to make a living out of it. At best we use it, and sometimes we use it up. If we use it all up, we take from our descendants, but sometimes we transform it, and the wealth we create gives us leisure to care for it. And sometimes the dash for economic “growth” defecates in our living room.

You see I am in two minds. In the Quaker meeting we had to decide how we meet together, and we barely reached consensus after some bruising expressions: our experimental way had all these insuperable objections, one “felt very strongly” our usual way is just so much better, and the other was just bad. I felt we reached consensus by surrendering to stupid objections, which is less than we are supposed to do. If you say it is bad, it sounds better if you say why, so “Of course” there should be a break in the middle, and if it is not we Cannot Possibly do that again. It was worse that people from one meeting strongly objected to our experimental way, and people from the three other meetings all supported it.

I incorporated the objections into the experimental way, in my view making it worse, and we sort of agreed. It did not feel like loving unity in the Spirit. At the end, D stood up, and talked of a Friend forty years ago who said that he often thought of resigning his membership. J, who had been attending as Elder, felt better about it, and after phoning her I felt better too. We move towards a better way of being in AM. It is my way to want Success Now, or I feel a failure, but life is all being and becoming.

When we spoke on The Environment, by contrast, we all felt a Sustain liferosy glow. We could all agree. We stated our concerns, and felt upheld by the others’ concerns. Some produced pretty phrases, which I incorporated in the minute. I should not disrespect this, it is worthwhile, but it is so much easier when we agree.

Someone speaks more forcefully if s/he feels s/he is not being heard. I try to persuade- some might call this winsome, some manipulative- with questions and suggestions. Inarticulate feelings should be just as valuable. Discussing the Swarthmore lecture, the task was to write a message from our meeting in ten years’ time.

 There are people you don't know
     and will
          and will love
There are people you know 
     changed in ways you could not imagine
          yet will see are Right
There is the Room, the building, the garden.
There are issues to concern us,
     but yours don't, now, they are all right.
LOVE
upholds us.
Love unites us
Love transforms us
Love ennobles us.
Everything is alright. 
I believe; help thou my unbelief.