littlemerants

littlemerants has written 5 posts for

Emergency Cuts

There are certain things that should be labelled as untouchable when governments want to make cuts. In any case, when cuts are made from public services they should be made where the effect will be felt least by the people the public is serving, if you see what I mean.

So if local councils do have to cut back on things, then shelters for victims of domestic abuse, public libraries and public loos shouldn’t be affected. They should cut their marketing budget, the publication of useless leaflets about recycling budget and maybe their bonus pool. (Recycling isn’t useless, but junk mail about it is.)

If the NHS, already under attack, has to make cuts, they should be slashing IT and management budgets, not medication and front line medical staff budgets.

I think you get my drift.Vintage NHS Ambulance.  Photo: David/Schofield

Now, have you ever needed the emergency services? I have. Last year they saved my life. Good job I am in France, and didn’t have to depend on good old 999. Because it is being reported that first response police officers have been axed in their thousands since the non-elected government came to power in the UK.

What else has been reported about cuts this week? Ah, factories giving employment to disabled people are going to be closed down. A few weeks ago we learned that women’s refuges are losing funding.

Soldiers are being killed in Afghanistan and the British people want their troops brought home. It would be a logical step as cuts to defence are being made. But if it is to bring them home and then send them off to Iran, which David Cameron won’t rule out, then heaven help us all. And not to say I told you so, but I have been worried about the idea of us attacking Iran for quite a while. For the record I am absolutely categorically against war unless we are really, truly, under threat of attack. I’m not going to say I would support a policy of non-intervention like the Chinese do, but I do get a bit fed up of Western politicians trying to tell the world how to behave. It’s bloody hypocritical.

But if we were to intervene in Iran, or the Falklands, or Syria, or anywhere else (and political leaders like military intervention, as cheering on the troops stops us thinking about the things that are going on right under our noses) surely, surely, the troops will need uniforms. And weapons. And money.

Cuts. Fed up of them. As the only people who are really paying for them are you and me. Well, you. As I live in France.

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We Believe You

We Believe You is the name of the latest Mumsnet campaign, launched this week to raise awareness of rape, how prevalent it is and how many myths surround it. Please go and read about their campaign – the research they have done is quite eye opening, to say the least.

“Victim blaming” is so prevalent in our society that I honestly believe that many women are afraid to report rape and assault for fear of being blamed. I just read that sentence back and it sounds really silly doesn’t it? Who, in their right mind, would blame a woman for being raped? Well, a hell of a lot more people than you might think.

Women are criticised if they don’t dress modestly. If a woman is raped on a night-out  people will openly wonder what she was wearing, had she had too much to drink, was she stupidly wandering down an alleyway on her own.

Sound familiar?

If you’re not shocked at these attitudes let me tell you why you should be. There is NO excuse for rape. Placing even a tiny part of the responsibility of an assault on to the victim is wrong. I would like the freedom to wear what I like, walk where I want to without being told it may get me into trouble.

A society, where attitudes like this are prevalent: blaming the victims to a greater or lesser extent – is a society where rape is tacitly accepted. “No, rape is never acceptable,” you might say, and you’d be right. But it appears that we live in a society which does accept it.

That’s not a very nice thing to realise is it?Rape Pre-dates miniskirts - banner at a slutwalk.  Photo: cathredfem

Rapists can, and very often do, get away with their crimes, because our society doesn’t believe the victims who come forward. They say things like “oh well if you go out at that time of night on your own you’re asking for it”. Who say that? You’d be surprised. Men, women, of all generations, think that way.

No. No woman is asking to be raped.

How about if you then learn that in over 80% of cases of rape and sexual assault, the victim knows the aggressor. “Yeah, date rape,” you might think, and millions of us will shudder at that very phrase. Date rape. That’s not real rape is it? Not proper rape. If a girl goes up to her boyfriend’s flat she’s asking for it isn’t she. She can hardly complain if she changes her mind at the last minute.” Can she?

Yes. She can. Date rape, (ugh) or rape within a relationship is rape too. It is just as serious, just as brutal, just as damaging as any other kind of rape. In fact it can be even more so. Because you go and tell your average Joe Bloggs that you were raped by your boyfriend, or husband, or even on a casual date. Most people just won’t take you seriously. It’s not considered real rape. Ask Ken Clarke. The guy in charge of the British justice system.

So, a victim may be accused of having asked for it in some way, or her experience of rape might be belittled and treated as non serious. That’s bad enough isn’t it. But it gets worse. Because lots and lots and lots of people just simply don’t believe women when they say they have been raped or assaulted.

Can you imagine having such a traumatic and life changing experience, and turning to the people around you for support and them not believing you? And when it goes public (because there’s nothing the press love more than a nice juicy rape case) the onus will be on you, the victim, to prove you are the victim. And often people won’t believe you. Lots of people. People who should be helping you, like the police. Some will, some won’t. You don’t want to have to deal with the people who don’t believe you.

A case in the news recently that I blogged about several times was the chambermaid in New York who accused Dominique Strauss Kahn of assault. Regardless of what has happened since (and no, he wasn’t cleared, there were issues with the evidence) the reaction in France when he was arrested was shocking. I blogged about it here.

The Mumsnet campaign makes for some pretty depressing reading. It is the 21st century and rape, how it is treated and how easy it is to report it, hasn’t changed all that much. Far too women are still being raped. And far too few cases are being reported. And even fewer convictions are happening.

It’s very  very sad.

Workfare Slavery

Earlier this week it was seen that Tesco were (apparently mistakenly) advertising for permanent slaves. tesco logo on the side of a store to illustrate an opinion piece on workfareOops. In fact I believe the slavery contracts are supposed to be temp only. So, whatever, does anyone fancy going and working night shifts at Tesco for free? You know, learning really valuable skills that will look great on your CV? No? Well, I hope for you you’re not unemployed because you may actually not have the choice.

Anyway, there was justifiable outrage. There are calls to boycott Tesco. It’s a good reason to boycott them. Another good reason. If I lived in the UK I wouldn’t set foot in the place. For me it is the most despicable of the supermarkets, ruthlessly bullying farmers and small business owners in its quest for profit.

Other businesses are falling over each other to tell the world how they will not use Workfare. Tesco are mightily embarassed. They are working 24/7 furiously deleting critical posts on their Facebook page.

Tesco are not the only bullies outed by this furore. The world is finally opening its eyes to the government’s schemes to starve people back into work, to thieve back the benefits from those who need them most. The Department for Work and Pensions, led by Ian Duncan Smith are still churning out abhorrent policies which seem to be a deliberate attack on the most vulnerable.

What can you do? Not much actually. Write to your MPs, tell them how appalled you are at the government sponsored slavery and other initiatives aimed at stealing from the poor. Lend your support to the Boycott Workfare campaign. Boycott companies who are benefiting from the disgusting schemes.

And remember the Tories will not do anything to help you and me. It is all about helping the rich people. They may have squealed a little about the bonuses of the bankers a few weeks ago. But honestly? A few people’s bonuses aren’t going to change anything. Bonuses, despite what the press said, don’t create the recession. They may be pretty huge sums of money to you and me, but they are in fact peanuts in the whole scheme of things. Rich people are getting richer under the Tories. Which is fine. Nothing against rich people at all. It’s just when the government steals from the poor to enrich its friends that I feel very very very nauseous.

Strikes

A rant about strikes. Or not.

Living in France I know all about strikes. We get them regularly. Now I work in Luxembourg the only effect of strikes I notice is when the cross border commuters can’t get the train so they make the traffic jams even worse.

During my many years in Paris and its surrounding area my life was very regularly disrupted by strikes. Paris isn’t Paris without some protest going on somewhere. Strikes are a nuisance and yes, they are expensive to the local economy.

But we are very lucky to be in a position to complain about strikes. We are very lucky that trade unions are there to protect workers. Can you imagine if there was no way of workers getting their voice heard? If they had no representatives? You don’t have to dig very far back into British history to see what life was like before workers had reps and rights.

Reading the Daily Mail and listening to people rant on the radio you would think that most Brits believe that workers shouldn’t have the right to strike. Which is a very frightening mindset, and if the Tories get wind of that mindset you can expect more attacks on workers’ rights. Remember how Thatcher is best remembered for, other than being a milk snatcher, breaking the unions? Was that a good thing? Read articles like this one by Simon Heffer, and note how in point five he wants to do is abolish the minimum wage for young people. Look at point eight.

Now we are lucky enough that Simon Heffer is not a policy maker in the UK, but there are people in government who think like him. They think that those of us who do the underling work are worthless, and shouldn’t have rights. We have got above our station. Especially those who, God forbid, educate our children and care for our sick..

I am not sure if I agree with the civil service striking over pensions yesterday. I haven’t read enough about it. But before you complain about how your life is being affected by those strikes, please stop and think about what life would be like if we didn’t have the right to strike, and if we didn’t have trade unions. Working hours, maternity leave, the right to paid leave, various equality laws…

Yes strikes are a nuisance. But life without them would be unthinkable.

Xenophobia in the British press

Xenophobia is rampant in the British press, and particularly in the Daily Mail.

I have always refrained from writing about Richard Littlejohn basically because I don’t know where to start. I tend to try and avoid his awful column because for one thing, I like to look after my blood pressure, and for another thing I am never quite sure if he is real. I mean, is he not some sick parody the Daily Mail have concocted for us to make us froth at the mouth?

 

But there comes a point when even sticking both fingers in my ears and shouting “la la la” isn’t enough to help me switch off from something he has written.

Will just go back a step.

The Daily Mail is well known for being phobic about most things:Richard Littlejohn writes for the Daily Mail about how frustrated he is.  Y'know, with women and lefties and that.

-pretty much anything that a woman does;

-muslims;

-socialists and communists and anything else that can be construed as being slightly left wing;

-people who make use of the welfare state and claim benefits of almost any kind;

-Europe;

…should I go on?

The Express is similar – I smiled to see that they believe themselves to be leading a “crusade” against the EU.   I wonder if they would be so willing to use this word so lightly if they revised their history.

The Daily Mail hates France, unless they are talking about the parts the middle class expats enjoy.  Its columnists like to refer to Sarkozy as a dwarf like Napoleon and they like to go on, and on, about how the French surrendered during the war.   No, not the recent wars.   We’re talking about the one which finished well over 60 years ago.   They have recently taken up German bashing too.

Stupid rant, song or poem by Richard Littlejohn from the Daily Mail

DailyMail.co.uk

But on the 18th November Richard Littlejohn surpassed himself, writing a very bad rhyme about both the French and Germans, but mainly the Germans.   Here it is if you can stomach it.   It is accompanied by a shocking cartoon, depicting Merkel among others goose-stepping.   Basically inferring, under a veil of humour, that the Germans and EU are akin to the Nazis.

I have had to re-read it several times, which has been so painful on very many levels.   I don’t understand how people can agree with him, and I don’t understand how he got paid to write such inflammatory crap.  Although it’s supposed to be humour there is a very nasty undertone.   Glee at economic worries?   Veiled references to the war?   Incitement of hatred, and fear of our neighbours?   Tick tick tick.

I am actually full of admiration for Germany.   Not at all for what happened during the war, of course, but how they have rebuilt themselves since.   I was in Frankfurt recently – stayed overnight, had dinner at a restaurant and used the airport.   I was so impressed, once again, with the people and the efficiency.   They are so welcoming, so kind.   One bloke on the bus appointed himself our tourist guide,  although he didn’t speak brilliant English – he just wanted to point out the things he was proud of.   Isn’t that great?

Another guy struck up conversation in the restaurant – he was stuck overnight with his tour group as his flight was cancelled.   Did he complain?   No, he just took it in his stride.   No-one else in the group was heard to complain either.   They just raised their eyebrows and laughed it off.   It was refreshing.   Can you imagine the grumps in a British airport hotel if a large group of people were stuck there when they wanted to be in Cuba?

So why is the press so anxious to stir up not so recent history and encourage its readers to hate, or be fearful, of our nearest neighbours?   What is the point?   Who does it help?   And why oh why are they allowed to print such inflammatory stuff?   Free press yes.   Racist press, no thanks.   The same article adapted to be about a minority group would be quite rightly slammed across the board.

So why is it still acceptable to be racist against the Germans and French?   Covering up racism with a light sheen of humour (though if anyone really finds it funny then I will despair of my mother country) is wrong.
Living in France as I do, it is when articles like this come out that I am ashamed to be British, because thanks to the world wide web these types of articles are picked up on and translated, and even in France when journalists mention the Daily Mail they do so with a sneer.   The fact that it is such a popular website does nothing for our already pretty tarnished reputation abroad – they are starting to believe that we are all like that, but last time I looked Britain and its people are tolerant and welcoming.

The Daily Mail likes to huff and puff about ‘political correctness gone mad’.   Their recent articles on Europe show that they believe that vile rants about our allies are acceptable and to be encouraged.   I hope the rest of the country isn’t listening to them,  because articles such as this one by Richard Littlejohn aren’t politically incorrect (said with a smile and a wink).   They are inflammatory, racist and bigoted.

We have a lot to learn from our European neighbours.   It appears that tolerance is one thing.   And, if this is considered humour, I would say that Richard Littlejohn could learn something about sense of humour from the Germans.

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