Notes from Yearly Meeting Ministry

You are loved, now. I have such a feeling of Love, which is a fraction of God’s Love.

Should we feel guilty, asks a white man. Guilt is unhelpful, how should I act? Can we empathise across divides?

Can I be my whole self here? Will my hurt be met by compassion? Is this a community we can trust? Can we disagree well, with our power imbalances?

Stories of individual experience are the foundations of spiritual transformation. We become aware of unseen chains.

It is not about feeling guilty but learning to love who we are and act out that love.

Shame and guilt can lead to further violence- instead, we need Grief.

I am laying myself bare before you.

I am not interested in men’s shame or whites’ shame. I am unashamed. We need accountability and responsibility.

So much of privilege is about other people’s stuff.

Did class privilege, appearing educated, help me get ESA?

We are still responsible, even if exclusion is unconscious.

I freed myself from one set of chains and put on others.

A child said, “I don’t want to be a woman when I grow up. I want to be a person.”

We are not called to be good, but to be faithful.

Being broken, I learn my weaknesses. I cry at the anger in my meeting and elsewhere. Could we live with each other in our power and powerlessness? Our privilege makes people leave.

I am proud of being Quaker in our diversity.

I took these notes, frustrated and delighted, at Yearly Meeting in London, 24-27 May this year. I am at one extreme, resenting having to explain what “woke” means. I am quite clear we exemplify White privilege. At one point I thought that no white straight man has said anything useful. It is not a “privilege” to have a good brain, it is a gift, and privilege interacts with that: whatever level of intelligence you have, being white, male and/or straight will make life easier. I felt as frustrated with some of what was said as I do with the line in QF&P 22.45, The acceptance of homosexuality distresses some Friends. That minute was ahead of its time, and now that line shows the opposition. What can I do with the distress of the privileged?

This is our Minute 33, on privilege:

We have embarked on an exploration of privilege, seeking to become aware of the unseen and unspoken chains that bind us, and affect our ability to act on our urgent concerns of sustainability and climate justice, and diversity and inclusion.

Through hearing personal stories and reflecting on our own lived experience, we have confronted our own privilege and lack of privilege. We have learned that we may be seen as privileged in some contexts and as disprivileged in others. Where we have privilege we can choose how to use it: we must choose carefully. We must each learn to love who we are, be authentic, and act out that love in the world, working in partnership to dismantle the institutions and transform the systems that marginalise people.

[A Friend objected to the word “disprivileged”, saying it was not a real word. The clerks confirmed it is in the dictionary.]

Exploring privilege can be challenging and it can be uncomfortable. We need to show each other compassion and trust. Quakers are all sorts of people with the capacity for both good and bad actions, and we find it hard to do the difficult work of looking at ourselves. As a religious society we face the obstacle of pride. Real power will come if we cease to be merely “good respectable people” and be a community that knows weakness and frailty. We must learn our weaknesses and those of our Friends to live with one another. Through our tears we can find power.

We have started our journey in different places and with different experiences. As we have laboured together on understanding privilege, we are journeying from guilt, shame and grief, to speaking of accountability and responsibility, and then to the desire for action. We are impatient: we identified both sustainability, and diversity and inclusion as urgent concerns two years ago, and we want to see change and growth.

[I am not clear we were at Unity on this. We “hoped” it was a good enough Minute. It included beautiful parts from much of the Ministry, and some of us did not seem to understand what privilege is, or see that it is an obligation to subvert it (to me, from my extreme position). “We find it hard to do the difficult work of looking at ourselves”- that was clear to me from some of the Ministry, and I don’t think those giving that ministry saw Privilege as it affects others. I don’t think all of us were committed to “learning our weaknesses”.]

We are fearful of the monsters of war and climate breakdown that are hurting our fragile Earth. We know there is pain around inclusion in our meetings. Fear is holding us back. We fear being misjudged or being seen as preaching, and so we fail to challenge the norm. We fear losing our status. We need to address our fear to begin to do something positive. We have seen signs of hope, but we have work to do, to transform ourselves, our communities and our world.

Our exploration and our journey are not complete. We have examined the privileges we have; the next steps are to see the effects they have on us, and how they make us behave.

We can take passion back to our meetings: our passionate connection to the Earth. We can take a desire to listen to those who do not share our own privileges, and to walk alongside people who are fearful of what we hope for. We can share the emotions from the inspiration and challenge we have felt as we have journeyed together.

[To me, the obligation on me as a white person is to recognise white privilege, and work to correct it- not just to challenge overt racism but to help remove barriers to full inclusion, recognise and welcome BAME leadership. I feel the “Where are you really from?” question others and excludes people, and Quakers ask it. One should not have to explain ones heritage to people on demand, even if sharing about our heritage can deepen our knowledge of each other.]

We call on Friends throughout our Yearly Meeting to continue this work in our meeting communities, to deepen and extend the work we have done, so that we can be the community we need to be to face the future. We encourage local and area meetings to share their insights.

[I stood to propose an alteration to the Minute, and was not called. I don’t know whether making our division more explicit, as I wanted, would have improved matters. I feel that combating privilege is our Leading, yet not everyone is united with it, any more than initially all Quakers wanted to divest from the profits of slavery.]

We ask Yearly Meeting Agenda Committee to discern further how we can take the next steps to meaningful action, to be put before our Yearly Meeting Gathering next year.

The Brexit Party

I have just had the Brexit Party leaflet for the EU elections on 23 May. It is Fascist.

What would “honouring the referendum result” mean, exactly? It would mean listening to what campaigners for Leave said in 2016- such as greatly increasing the funding for the NHS, or seeking membership of the EEA (the “Norway Option”) as Nigel Farage does in this video. None were calling for “No Deal”. It would mean recognising the small majority for Leave, and not simply ignoring the desires of 16.1m voters.

Why is it fascist? Because of the Leader-worship. Only Farage gets more than two sentences in it. There is a large photo of the man, looking more like a frog than usual.

It is full of lies. “The Brexit Party will restore trust in politics.” No, the Brexit party has no MPs and is set up to be no more than an angry protest group. The only thing it stands for is leaving the EU, on “WTO rules” which would mean tariffs charged on goods traded between the UK and the EU, and an end to our “Just-in-time” manufacturing. To restore trust in politics, we need politicians who tell the truth and act in the interests of the people, by producing good quality public services. Farage’s mixture of bluster and fantasy can deliver nothing.

Though Farage has no policies beyond that, he has airy promises: “Let’s put the principles of Trust, Honesty and Integrity at the heart of our democracy”. That would involve silencing Farage. He wants the principles of Hate, Anger and Fear at the heart of our politics. What does he say? “Betrayed… humiliated… failing MPs have defied 17.4m of us… Politics is broken. Enough is enough.” What does the rest of the leaflet say? “Betrayed… Taking ‘No Deal’ off the table is bonkers… Failed… Damaged trust in our democracy… our country humiliated…”

The stab in the back myth. Though it is good to see his sister attack Jacob Rees-Mogg: “The Conservative Party has failed… and damaged trust in our democracy”. May’s deal failed generally because of his posturing, and that of his “European Research Group”. These hard right campaigners hate each other almost as much as they hate the people who vote for them.

The UKIP leaflet is quite as evil as Mr Farage’s, but with an added dollop of fuckwittery. Brexit has been betrayed, they scream. Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Green & SNP MPs betrayed you. I don’t know if they forgot Plaid, but that is rabble-rousing. Caroline Lucas is one of the most intelligent, principled and energetic MPs we have. Trying to foment resentment in this transparent manner is wicked. It too has a picture of the Leader, but I needed to google him to make sure. Openly and repellently racist, this wotsisname has a poor selfie in front of a sign reading AXE LADY HAW HAW.

I shall vote Labour, even though they are not yet opposing Brexit. At the last election in the East Midlands, UKIP (the far right) got two seats, and the Conservatives (the hard right) got two: 40% of the seats on 26% of the votes. Labour got one. Greens and Lib-Dems had 127,839 votes between them- their votes combined would not have entitled them to a seat, but being in the centre or left, had their votes gone to Labour there would have been two Labour MEPs and only one Tory. Splitting the Left vote only helps the hard-Right.

There are two sites which purport to advise who to vote for, as a tactical vote to Remain. I searched for tactical vote remain and came up first, with Remain United nowhere. Remainvoter’s recommendation in the East Midlands is highly suspicious. It recommends voting Green, who came fifth last time. They say this will get one LibDem and one Green Remainer MEPs, one Labour and two Brexit. I don’t believe them. Remain United recommends voting LibDem, for one LibDem remainer MP. Your Green vote would be wasted. I am sorry to sound paranoid, but who is behind remainvoter?

The Labour position makes sense. It is possible to honour the referendum with a deal with Europe in the interests of the British people, rather than a few shadowy billionaires. Their headline is Vote Labour to bring our country back together, as an antidote to the hate and fear spewed by Farage and his ilk. Labour would keep a close relationship with the EU that protects workers’ rights and environmental standards. If we can’t get changes to their bad deal or a general election, Labour backs the option of a public vote. This is because the Hayekist Tories have done a deal to decimate public services, which left-leaning Leave voters would not want. We cannot just ignore that Leave won the referendum. However, we would not vandalise the British economy. I am grateful for Keir Starmer’s insistence on a confirmatory referendum before supporting any Brexit deal, in the talks which are now defunct.

We need international co-operation to end the climate crisis, the death of our oceans, and the current mass extinction. A Tory bonfire of regulations and taxes in the interests of the hyper-rich could just kill the planet. With Tory leadership contenders also talking of “Betrayal” and “Humiliation”, we need trust and hope. Only Labour can provide it.


“Debating” abortion

I shall swallow twenty quinine pills today; I feel a bit peculiar down there, south of my midriff… I assault myself with hot water and blood-curdling instruments, I shall fight patiently and relentlessly until you are once again returned to nothingness… it’s only just been a week, and already I am exhausted by the whole performance. But I shall bar your admission to life.

This is Etty Hillesum’s diary, explaining her self-induced abortion. If there were others involved, she does not mention them. As a Jew in Amsterdam in 1941, she could not have a child. As the US supreme court’s “Trump Judges” have decided they can ignore precedent if they disapprove of the original case, the stage is set for the repeal of Roe v Wade. “Heartbeat” laws are misnamed. There is no heart, and no heartbeat. There is no cardiovascular system. There is a group of cells which will divide and form a heart later, and there is electrical activity there.

I am appalled at the thought of Etty Hillesum’s self-induced abortion, and the risks she took. I quoted her in a comments thread, saying women will have abortions whatever the law is, and the response was, But surely you would accept that it would greatly reduce the numbers of abortions?

Well, yes, I would, probably. There will be misery in other ways, unwanted children, less consensual sex. But the risks women will take, the pain they will suffer, the damage they may do to themselves does not move the person. The commenter, after all, sees them as criminals.

He is perfectly logical, in his own eyes. What is odd is those who support abortion but oppose the death penalty. The life of the innocent in the womb is expendable, but the life of the heinous criminal is inviolable. That is easily refutable, but the refutation does not get through to him. The conscious, living, breathing human being, capable of repentance indeed who has possibly repented, and is possibly innocent anyway, may be kept in prison but should not be killed, because that makes the community as bad as he is. The 3mm long embryo has some nervous tissue, but in no sense a brain.

It seemed to me that conservatives opposing abortion do so on purity grounds. The community should not be responsible for abortions, because the community should be kept pure of such sin. So it should not pay foreign NGOs that even mention to women that abortion is possible, and health insurance should not cover terminations because then the companies, and indirectly other policy holders, are paying for terminations. So the argument that better sex education reduces abortion does not matter to them. Safe sex, too, is impure. They do not want to reduce the number of abortions, only to put the doctors and the women beyond the pale of society.

Society is where the Good people are, so the pro-lifers have no understanding or empathy for those on the margins. There are ways and means to control ones fertility, wrote one. Yes, but not in a domestic violence or coercive control situation. Women try to leave such situations, and have difficulty with this.

So there is no abortion debate. There are people righteous in their own minds who oppose it, and can come out with all sorts of phrases to justify their position, but who do not care about the suffering of the adult they can see, just the value of the embryo they cannot. (You’re an embryo until the ninth week after fertilisation.) And there are people who have no hope of politics, such that they vote for the candidate who is toughest against abortion. God knows what doctors will be able to do about ectopic pregnancies.

Like the trans “debate”, there are two emotional positions. My heart goes out to the woman who needs an abortion and who cannot have one- in Northern Ireland, for example. These things are a matter for the woman and her doctors. It is none of my business, and not a proper matter for legal restrictions: women will not be able to get unnecessary abortions. But that is an emotional response, not a purely logical one. And the idea that a fœtus has value, even if it has no brain, so that a woman should take it to term and watch it die after the cord is cut, is also an emotional position. Trans women should be tolerated, or trans women should be expelled, are also emotional positions. We decide based on who we see as our community, and on emotional grounds. Then we rationalise, and the position embeds as our rationalisations multiply.

The murderer is beyond the pale of the conservative’s pure society, so entitled to nothing. To the liberal, Terence still applies: Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. I am human. Nothing human can be alien to me. I cannot draw a line around my society. It includes the refugee and the psychopath.

Being an ally

I feel an obligation to be an ally to other disadvantaged groups. I like to think that trans folk, and LGBT more generally, would see the value in that, as together we are stronger, and we know the experience of being an outsider so should wish to mitigate it for everyone. I like to think that any civilised human being would understand the value of diversity.

I hate to think of humanity as everyone for themself, a survival of the fittest struggle. It is a mark of increased civilisation and maturity to abhor the idea of an out-group, to have fellow-feeling with everyone, and indeed the whole biosphere. More co-operation is always a good. Everyone gains when everyone is included. “Whatever you did for the least of these you did for me,” says Jesus.

In thinking about being an ally to Jews against antisemitism, I see from both sides- the ally to Jews, and the trans woman supported by allies. I am reading in order to learn more, and find beautiful things:

Dara Horn wrote in the NYT: Since ancient times, in every place they have ever lived, Jews have represented the frightening prospect of freedom. As long as Jews existed in any society, there was evidence that it in fact wasn’t necessary to believe what everyone else believed, that those who disagreed with their neighbors could survive and even flourish against all odds. The Jews’ continued distinctiveness, despite overwhelming pressure to become like everyone else, demonstrated their enormous effort to cultivate that freedom: devotion to law and story, deep literacy, and an absolute obsessiveness about transmitting those values between generations. The existence of Jews in any society is a reminder that freedom is possible, but only with responsibility — and that freedom without responsibility is no freedom at all.

So it is in my interests to be an ally. I find cosmopolitanism attractive, as an antidote to the blood and soil nationalism of Batten, Farage, Yaxley saying “I want my country back”. I am not a little Englander- Vaughan Williams is wonderful, but not a patch on Beethoven or even Bartok. Some peaks of non-European culture are mine, and I benefit from engaging with Hokusai or The Tale of Genji. Jews’ freedom to be Jews and my freedom to be trans are inseparable, but our freedom makes all more free: supporting minorities is enlightened self-image. Farage does not want to do anything for his countrymen, beyond giving them worthless myths. When he whips up hatred and fear in order to get votes, no-one gains.

As an ally I will see differently. I have read Augustine’s confessions, but remember little of them. For me Augustine is “Make me chaste, but not yet”, Original Sin and Substitutionary Atonement. A Jew might recall his treatment of Psalm 59- he says of the Jews “do not kill them”, but the context is of the enemies of God- allow them to live, as a dread reminder of God’s wrath.

The beauty of Amos Oz! I love his story about being the child throwing stones at soldiers in uniform with guns, though in his case British colonial troops. It does not mean he was a supporter of the Intifada, but a supporter of a two state solution. He wrote, Israel is a refugee camp, Palestine too. The conflict is a tragic clash between the right and the right … both nations don’t have another place to go. Crusade, Pogrom, Holocaust, exile, two thousand years of persecution and murder. So I am against anything which makes the continuing presence of Jews in Israel impractical, so against BDS.

I feel an obligation to be an ally to Jews because I am a member of the Labour Party, which faces a continuing stream of allegations about antisemitism. We desperately need a Labour government to reverse the damage done to the social fabric by the Tories, and Mr Corbyn’s pacifism might reduce some of the damage done by “defence” contractors and spending. And his admiration for JA Hobson, without condemnation of Hobson’s antisemitism, is wrong. He should apologise for it. He has greater prominence than he had in 2011 when he praised Hobson, so things come to light about him which went unnoticed before. And an obligation because I am British; we did damage as the colonial power with our divide and rule policies.

I do not think Quakers are antisemitic, but our engagement with disinvestment from the Occupied Territories means I feel an obligation to be clearer about the boundary between legitimate support of the Palestinian people, and antisemitism.

I have also read about “philo-Semitism”, which Jews may see as suspect. It is clearest in the extremes, with US Evangelicals supporting the State of Israel in order to bring forward the Rapture, from which I discern how being an ally in ones own interest may repel Jews. So: I don’t have a right to define the boundaries of the group, or groupish behaviour.

That being an ally involves Respect comes far more clearly to me thinking of antisemitism than of transphobia.

Here am I, being an ally. I love Richard Rohr; and yet find this sentence about Etty Hillesum rebarbative. In The Universal Christ chapter 6 he writes, although she wasn’t a Christian, she was highly spiritual in the best sense of that term. She was an utter realist, devoid of self-pity, and with an almost impossible freedom from need to blame, hate, or project her inner anxiety elsewhere. Without desiring to patronize her, I would identify Etty as a person Karl Rahner would’ve called an “anonymous Christian”. Rohr may fear that his audience think Christians uniquely enlightened by God, more than he needs to with me, but the implication that anyone should be surprised that a Jew was so wonderfully spiritual is offensive.

What can I do, as an ally? I can learn, and I can speak out- as I do here.

Helpful beliefs

What you believe may be helpful or harmful not so much as to whether it is true or not, but how it helps you to navigate the world. If natural selection is true, we form our beliefs in a way inherited from ancestors who formed beliefs which aided them to survive and reproduce. Possibly, false beliefs may profit those who believe them. For some jobs, objective assessment of truth matters in the job itself- doctor, forensic scientist, police officer- but they might be able to be truthful there, yet hold false beliefs which do not directly impact their work.

I place a high value on truth. Possibly, that inhibited my acting in my own interests. I wondered, “Am I transsexual?” I assessed that by my understanding of the concept of transsexual, what observers considered it entailed, but now believe it is in part socially constructed and the important matter is the desire to transition. How should I judge people who habitually deny the truth?

Yuval Noah Harari writes that fiction helps people. Peugeot as an entity, rather than as a group of people and physical assets, depends on belief. The “Good-will” of a company is based on belief in it as an entity. Religions help people trust strangers, and co-operate.

Traits come in a range of strengths. People are varied. So, just because your ancestors held their beliefs in a particular way, and had offspring, does not mean that you will. I have no children, and neither had my uncle, who only married late in life, or aunt, who never married, and died in her early forties. Some inherited trait may be holding us back. My sister has children.

People hold contradictory beliefs. A belief may be useful for some purposes, but not for others; so you might ignore it in contexts where it is harmful. For the creationist doctor, scientists are arrogant fools when they disprove Creationism, but believeable enough when they research medical treatment. Or at least his suspicions of scientists do not result in angry denunciation, when it relates to his job.

Creationism in Christians could draw the community together. The community values belief in this sibboleth, and because outsiders despise it they have an Out-group to define themselves against. They might collect arguments for their position, building community.

It affects their understanding of wider society. They observe that there is a large group of people whose profession is (they believe) to make illegitimate conclusions from sparse, contradictory evidence, but who assert those conclusions with a high degree of confidence and despise the Creationists. Believing that so many people would have a professional interest in asserting falsehood would decrease trust in wider society. But perhaps they would not work out the full implications, which would cause cognitive dissonance.

I have been wondering about this after a Creationist wrote, I have solar on my roof, and I drive an electric car. I take better care of the environment than most, and have a smaller carbon footprint than many… all it would take is one large volcano eruption to put us into a persistent Global winter. I can find no assertion of persistent global winter from volcanoes, though that was one result of the Chicxulub impact. The second largest eruption of the 20th century, in Mount Pinatubo, put gases and solids into the stratosphere only for three weeks, but sulfate aerosols persisted for 3-4 years. The troposphere generally cooled, but warmed in winter. So says NASA: I don’t know how trustworthy he finds them. They have to be careful of truth while engineering rockets, or the rockets would not work. In 1816 the Tambora eruption in Indonesia created a “Year without a Summer” in the US and Western Europe. That would have been observed, by Christians, so have a high degree of credibility, but the connection is made by scientists. That was the largest volcanic event for 1300 years.

His understanding of science is grievously affected by his creationism, which requires him to disbelieve scientific knowledge and distrust science as practised. He misunderstands about volcanoes. Yet he behaves morally, as if climate science were true.

It is clearly easier for a science denier in one field to be a denier in another. Creationists are more likely to be climate deniers.

Possibly I overvalue truth. Trust in climate science, and indeed the scientific account of the history of life on Earth and the development of the Universe, is part of my trust in wider society. It feels like seasickness when someone denies the clear truth, either a Creationist or a conspiracy theorist. I feel angry when someone I know asserts that Saggitarians have particular traits, Diana was assassinated, or the World Trade Center was demolished by explosives rather than planes. I feel I depend on being able to discern truth. I don’t, really. The world is a complex and confusing place, and weird things happen. Knowing the age of the Universe does not make it more controllable.

Passing, or masking?

Trans people are often ambivalent about passing. Just because someone is courteous, does not mean that you pass- it could mean that they were not transphobic! If you pass, you may be worried that someone will read you, your secret will be out and you will never be seen the same again. So we pay out vast amounts for facial feminisation, for surgeons to grind away our foreheads and shape our noses, or perhaps masculinisation. The thought of a surgical scar across the top of the head, even if covered by hair (mine wouldn’t be, but by a wig) was enough to put me off.

The term used by autistic people, masking, gives a different view of the matter. Why should we (or they) pretend to be normal, just so normal people are not discomposed? This account of an autistic breakdown is a good example:

To be autistic is to live in a world where everything is too loud, too smelly and too bright, populated by people who say one thing and get angry when you fail to realise that they really meant something different. At the same time, your brain is struggling to keep track of and process the stimuli constantly bombarding it. Your brain and body then shut down and go into overdrive at the same time. Adrenaline courses through your veins. You are swallowed in a cloud of panic and cannot help but scream and sometimes lash out at others or even yourself.

That’s a clear example of the social model of disability. The autistic person does not melt down because of autism, but because of the need to mask her or his condition. Ideally, before meltdown, the autistic person would be able to reduce the sensory overload in some way, perhaps by withdrawing. Either other people nearby would notice and take care of them, or they would notice that it was getting too much. It seems the shame and exhaustion afterwards are socially enforced rather than natural. You have tried to mask too long, and that is exhausting. So, of course you have a meltdown. It should be nothing to be ashamed of.

Masking. You are different, and you hide that, because you know mockery or worse will ensue when your difference is discovered.

Autistic people devote energy to masking, to pretending to be normal so as not to disconcert the neurotypicals, when stimming or other ways of relieving the pressure would enable them to use their gifts far more productively. That we NTs demand the “normal” behaviour rather than being kind and accepting of their weaknesses, so their gifts may shine, is our loss as well as theirs.

If only we could just be people! There is no need to pass, and you would not be judged according to how well you conform. I could enjoy looking striking, without fearing the second glance that read me as Trans therefore Bad. I could be myself more, not wanting to conform so much (not that I want to conform, particularly).

Masking makes you safe. Masking avoids perturbing the neurotypicals, or the cis-het folk. We will all want to mask sometimes, even if only to go places where we would be less safe when read. But masking is a burden we take on, for no-one’s benefit really, from the stultifying social pressure to conform. If people could reveal their diversity more easily, everyone would be happier.

Everyone moderates their behaviour, in order to fit in, to a greater or lesser degree. If only we were freed from that burden!

My country and its values

Was Great Britain ever my country? Like Nigel Farage, I was born in Britain to British parents, and educated here. I see he did not go to university. He says “I want my country back”, and now follows in the footsteps of bankrupt fascist Nicholas Griffin, former leader of the British National Party, by attempting to foment race hatred in Oldham. Griffin failed to get even one local councillor elected there.

In a speech in Pennsylvania, he said, Let me take you to a town called Oldham in the North of England where literally on one side of the street everybody is white and on the other side of the street everybody is black. The twain never actually meet, there is no assimilation. These, folks, are divided societies in which resentments build and grow.

He does not actually mean “black”, but “Asian”. The town has an Afro-Caribbean community, which is integrated as far as Griffin, Farage and their ilk allow. I met with them at my church. It has an Asian community, mostly in particular areas rather than one side of a street. I met with Asian-heritage people at work. I went to the homes of Black Asian people. I counted them as my friends. Farage is wrong. We met, ate together, played together.

Farage writes of the values that underpin British civil society, but gives little hint of what they are. A National identity based on our Judeo-Christian heritage. But some of my best friends are atheist. This seems to exclude: what about our Islamic, Buddhist, Sikh and Hindu heritage? And, historically, Christians have been homophobic: what does he think of that?

Theresa May named British values when she was Home Secretary: regard for the rule of law, participation in and acceptance of democracy, equality, free speech and respect for minorities…

Everybody living in this country is equal and everybody is free to lead their lives as they see fit. We are free to practise any faith, follow any religious denomination, or ignore religion altogether.

You don’t only get the freedom to live how you choose to live. You have to respect other people’s rights to do so too. And you have to respect not just this fundamental principle but the institutions and laws that make it possible. Democracy. Equality. Freedom of speech. The rule of law. And respect for minorities.

We must always take care to distinguish between Islam – a major world religion followed peacefully by the overwhelming majority of one billion Muslims worldwide – and Islamist extremism. Islam is entirely compatible with British values and our national way of life, while Islamist extremism is not – and we must be uncompromising in our response to it.

Freedom and co-existence, and uncompromising opposition to the Enemy Within. At the same time, her Home Office was implementing its “Hostile Environment”- the actual words they used- to expel British citizens and people with a right to be here, because they had not retained particular paperwork. Records of National Insurance payments were not counted.

Not every country is democratic, and not every country allows people to “lead their lives as they see fit”. Mrs May is an ally to Saudi Arabia, promoting the arms sales which enable the Saudis to bomb Yemen into famine. So her British Values are for British People, not for foreigners, just as the British Empire was a tool of oppression and wealth extraction under a veneer of brotherhood in a “Commonwealth of Nations”. Hypocrisy has always been a British value; and while dangerous humour and satire is, thumbing our noses at those in power, that is international.

In contrast, here are Will Hutton’s Labour values: the recognition and celebration of international interdependence in the pursuit of justice, solidarity and fighting climate change; tolerance of the other and joy in diversity; commitment to equality and enfranchising workers.

I believe in human rights. The Conservatives want to restrict human rights law, by fixing it in 1948 rather than allowing it to be living and developing. They name certain rights granted which they oppose, such as the right of prisoners to vote, or to have some hope of release at some time in the future. They want the European Court of Human Rights no longer to bind UK law. They state in their policy pdf that they want more power to deport people.

When Mr Farage got his country back, after the Referendum, I felt I had lost mine. Now I feel it belongs to neither of us in that way: we cannot demand that it be inclusive, or hostile to Muslims and immigration generally. There are all sorts of people here, each with a voice in stating what their values are.

You Be You

What happens when you let a child explore their curiosities, predispositions and inner creativity beyond their gender? The answer is clear: they’re allowed to be the best versions of themselves. You Be You is a charity seeking to break down gender stereotypes from primary school level.

They say, “We want every classroom to be a safe, supportive, open environment where children can explore their interests and express their feelings.” That is, they want children to develop as whole human beings, not shamed or restricted for who they are. Because the stereotypes which oppress us are seen as normal or natural, in school and out, teachers need trained to see them and combat them. Now, there is a pilot of their training at two primary schools in London.

Much of this is around empowering girls to be active and assertive. On their news page, there are two articles from May 2017 about girls playing football and girls and the Outdoors. The first article on their useful links is “Girls lose faith in their own talents”, and among the research papers is “Parent gender roles at home and child aspirations”. I am glad I was taught to aspire to university, less glad that my feelings were not valued so I chose the wrong course to do there.

They write, Interventions mostly focus on women and girls, but we need to focus on men and boys just as much. Why don’t more men take a lead role in parenting and go part-time at work? Why don’t more men become teachers and nurses? Why are men more likely resort to substance abuse and violence as a response to stress, anxiety and depression than women? Why are roughly 3/4 of suicide victims men? Both men and women suffer from gender inequality.

Women and girls should not be blocked from achieving, should be able to value their talents and have those talents seen and developed, should be able to be active in any role they choose. Yes! Hurrah! What anyone in this valuable work wants for boys is less clear. We want them happier, more at ease with themselves. But, do you imagine boys cannot be happy following masculine stereotypes? What, none of them? Who do you want to benefit? Aha: If we don’t start teaching boys that it’s ok to express themselves, nurture others, and show vulnerability, we’re never going to chip away at the walls women keep running into in adulthood.

In Resources for parents, there is a list of books, including “Stories for Boys who Dare to be Different”, which includes a picture of Grayson Perry in a frock. The alternative type of hero is a man who checks his privilege and who is kind, selfless, courageous and not afraid to stand up for what’s right.

There is a blog. This has lots of useful stuff, such as a study showing that children whose friendship groups emphasised traditional gender stereotypes were shown to have lower well being than others. Those who chose ‘being tough’ as the most important trait for boys, or ‘having good clothes’ as the most important trait for girls, had the lowest well being of all.

It seems the pilots are about to start. Even in a school full of enthusiastic, creative teachers, and is really committed to supporting the mental health and personal development of its pupils, teaching about “feelings and kindness”, stereotypes remained, including the idea that housework was for females.

Even their own children follow the stereotypes. They don’t fit gay and trans children, but just possibly there may be some “normal” kids they fit. I wonder how much anyone can bring forth the natural child, shorn of stereotype, and how much the training challenges the stereotype whether it is “natural” to the child or not.

I don’t know how much masculinity and femininity are social constructs. Nature and nurture interact like flour and eggs, and girls might be trained to be more assertive- if the nurture is different, and the child remains “feminine”, is that from her, or from other influences the trainer could not control? I have no idea. I know these matters are fiercely disputed. There remain restrictions on women, as on BAME people and LGBT.

I wish them well. I hope a trans child would flourish in the environment they wish to create. I hope none would be told they did not need to transition in this gender-free world, if they asserted they did. In any case, as a child, as a soft apparent boy, I would have benefited from it.

The joy of demonstrating

At one point, I was not marching so much as shuffling, the crowd was so densely packed.

At another, I could enjoy the dancing and the costumes.

I marched with an Irishman, and there were Irish tricolours about. One good thing to come from a hard Brexit might be the reunification of Ireland.

I took this, a statue called “Flight”, as a deliberately arty shot. I had to sit on the ground, and the woman with the placard good-naturedly held it up, but I did not quite get the placard to appear in the sculpture’s hand.

I was uncomfortable, marching from about 12 at Oxford Circus tube until about 5 at Waterloo. I coughed till my back muscles ached. Domi brought along lots of sandwiches. She has also had to get six months’ supply of insulin, as she does not want to die of Brexit. She has dual nationality so will be able to remain in the UK, and retain freedom of movement.

On Sunday morning I felt low, as did H, who had put me up Friday and Saturday nights and gone ahead on the march. But, there were a million of us, and the videos from the helicopter are inspiring- they cannot just ignore us. Those of us who wish to Remain in the EU will be encouraged, and that includes MPs. I feel my morale improving. We have done something worthwhile.

Love and Hope in London

The march was an outpouring of love and hope. We showed our love for our country and its people, and our hope, that institutions might allow people to work together democratically, rather than through the unlimited power of corporations. We showed our trust in individuals, and will for their freedom, moving across the continent. We showed our belief that diversity is a strength, and that hearing other voices and different perspectives blesses and teaches us.

A million people must have an effect, to strengthen and encourage those working for a good outcome from this torturous process, and dismay those working for a bad. As citizens with votes, we have a voice, we matter, and we showed where we stand. Others will make the decisions, mainly in Parliament, but they cannot simply ignore us, or the 5.7m who have signed the Revoke Article 50 petition.

Lucy asked me about the moral basis for the march. Why should you get what you want? I could not articulate it, and it has led me to think through my rights as an individual in the polity and what I think elected politicians should or should not do. This is a rough stab at a political philosophy:

The Referendum, in which 17.4m voted to Leave and 16.1m voted to Remain, is not binding. Certain people will play up its moral force, but there are many attacks to be made on it, including that the Leave campaigns breached electoral law, and made false promises, and that many Leave-voters voted for a closer, more supportive society in the UK which Brexit could only make less likely. It does not relieve Parliament of its responsibility to act in the interests of the country.

I have a voice, and this platform where I can say what I want to a tiny audience, and other platforms where more will see what I say: 470 upvotes for a comment on the Guardian website shows a considerably larger audience. All these different voices influence voters and politicians. Of course money will have an effect, but law should limit that, in preventing the monopoly of the Murdoch empire over British and other news media, in making the sources of the money transparent, and possibly preventing foreigners from influencing the political process.

Politicians seek votes and gain influence. The two party British system where one party has a majority and can command the assent of Parliament limits our democracy. In 2015 the Green Party had a million votes, spread across the country, and only elected one MP.

Emotion and stories make a larger part of the foundation of political power than rational predictions of likely arguments. “What do you want?” is a question answered emotionally. I want that closer, more supportive society- greater equality, more money for the NHS, more control for people over their own lives. The poison of the far right, now in the Tory party, is to channel that emotion into unreality. We wave the flag and feel good about ourselves while public services crumble and publicly owned assets are stripped away. The 4chan troll still living with his parents wants to “Own the Libs”, to feel powerful, even though the policies he supports make it even less likely that he will have a productive life. Our hope and solidarity should be used for the good of all.

There are legitimate differences in politics. There is tension between the freedom of the few and that of the many, of the few like James Dyson to build great corporations on the strength of their creativity and of the many to have enough to live a good life. I have a vague idea Nietzsche would not like my opposition to oppression of the many for the good of the few, and beliefs may vary about the percentage of GDP which should go to public spending, what we want as a society, and how that is raised.

There are tactics and strategies in politics which I condemn. It is wrong to lie. It is wrong to pretend to seek a Good- eg, “take back control”- when that means something else, control for the corporations rather than the elected government. Politicians should engage the hope and love of people, our wish for a better life and a better world and our belief that these things are possible, rather than our fear or resentment.

I marched because I believe the EU is a force for good in the world, and that Britain can have a voice in it. I marched for diversity, for my friends from other countries who have made Britain their home, for regulations in the interests of consumers, workers and the environment, for common action to mitigate the coming mass extinction. I marched for solidarity. The EU is not perfect and we can make it better from within.

This is a blog. It is a sketch. I have not thought this through and expressed it all in coherent words, I have put down my initial thoughts. Please comment. Let us make our ideas better, together.