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Sunday, 22 September 2013

What have the English ever done for us?

This morning, this was posted by someone I follow on Twitter.

I decided to respond (please forgive the bad spelling. I never type well on an iPad)

and the conversation then went down this road

Now I can't say I'm surprised. The English media are very good at portraying "broken" Britain, and telling us how bad everything is, and they just reinforce and reinforce day after day until we believe there is nothing good about this country.

And its just not true.  England is a great place to live.  Twitter doesn't give me the time of amount of characters I need to express this, so I'm going to do it here.

This is in no way a slight at @_MattP20 in fact, I'm thankful he gave me the opportunity to get this off my chest!

What is so good about England? I'll start with my initial tweet

Healthcare - The NHS, for all its faults, is still one of the best healthcare systems in the world. yes it has problems but year on year it helps diagnose, treat and cure more and more people, which in the long run is going to leave us with a significant problem cos everyone is living longer but spending long peiod of it not working due to our excellent medical system

free schools - yes, we pay tax for it, but if your argument against any country is "you have to pay tax" you're not living in the real world. the schools are an entitlement for everyone in the UK up to the age of 18 to receive a state sponsored education at institutions which have standards that they must achieve. there are many countries out there where this is simply not the case, and the underclass do not have access to basic education

benefits system - controversial, but Britain as a society tries to ensure that no-one has nothing and everyone is able to hold together the basic amenities of life, no matter what their situation. there are many other countries where people without money are simply abandoned as there is no system - no safety net - to catch them. It also ensures that people who have additional needs or their carers have the resources to be able to do this rather than have to put people into institutional care, which would be a much higher burden on the taxpayer.

public transport - buses, trains, underground, trams, in some places also bicycles, England has a multitude of government-sponsored ways of getting around. i was shocked when i lived in the US that if i didn't have access to a car or bike, i was pretty much stuck. public transport where i was living didn't exist. Now if its like that in the USA, what's it like in the rest of the world?

Freedom of speech - you can say what you want about whom you want (as long as you can justify it) and protest about anything (as long as you do it within the law). There are not too many countries that are as open and liberal in outlook to free speech as we are, and in many countries the repressive regimes ensure that the local law enforcement agencies are just thugs that enforce their rule or silence.

opportunity - SO much opportunity. the opportunity to get a better education, to get a better job, to work for yourself, to create a successful business, to take part, to play, to live your life without fear.

work - there are lots of jobs for those who really want one. look at any website, job paper, job centre and there are thousands. the problem is often the snobbery of people who don't want to do a job they see as beneath them, or think they are better off on benefits (which IS a significant problem). but the bottom line is, if people want to work, there are jobs out there. Or, work for yourself. there are tens of thousands of self-employed one-man operations doing all sorts of work, from window cleaning to music composing for video games (my brother in law). In England, you can turn what you are good at into a job. you just have to figure out how.

Cornish pasties - love 'em.

And to continue, here's a few really big ones I didn't get to before:

For all its faults, we have a wide-reaching, effective police force. We don't have to spend or lives in fear of militant groups or militias gunning us down as an example or because we are the wrong religion.

We are religiously tolerant. Even the most obnoxious, hateful, bigoted person can live here as long as they are not preaching murder, and that covers Christianity as well as non-state religions (I would have kicked Ian paisley out of the UK years ago if I could).

Women aren't nearly as repressed as they are in many other countries, although I accept that equality is currently theoretical rather than actual. but women have opportunity here.

The UK has a commitment to fairness, tolerance, open mindedness and justice. In a world where many people don't have access to fresh water, where mortality rates are high, where schools are for the wealthy, where women can be legally raped because they are property, where they don't have an equivalent to the NHS and have to walk hundreds of miles to a clinic which may not be able to help them, does England really seem like that bad a place?

We all have our own experiences of these institutions, and may well have negative views, but just step back for a minute and think: would I prefer to have been born is Somalia? North Korea? Bangladesh? Nicaragua? Namibia? Afghanistan? The list goes on.

I'm pretty sure if you go through all the countries in the world and balance all the things that England has against each of the other nations, you'll end up with a short list of places you might prefer to live.

I live in England and I love it here, for all its flaws. I wouldn't live anywhere else (with the possible exception of New Zealand)

And I'm Scottish.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Blurred Lines = Rape Anthem

I know I'm not the first person to catch on to this, but how is it that Blurred Lines - a song which is essentially about a man wanting to have sex with women who he assumes want him - is such a popular track?

It might as well be the anthem of the rapist. In years to come I suspect it will be.

In fact, here's a link to an article where the lyrics are compared directly to the very powerful images from Project Unbreakable (a site where sexual assault victims write & hold up words their abusers used during their rape).

From the Mouths of Rapists: The Lyrics of Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’

What gets me about this is the unbelievable level of ignorance from the world in general.

Let's start with the writers. Do they really believe this abusive dross they are writing?  Does they really think it is appropriate to effectively boast that they like to have sex with women who seem unwilling but  actually want sex?

Then on to the producers. I know that in our corporate capitalist world there are no morals where making a profit is concerned, but pushing this onto radio & TV stations across the world when it is clearly pretty appalling content is despicable.

Thirdly, the radio stations themselves.  My workplace has a radio on quietly in the background, and in 1 day I heard the song play 4 times on one of our local stations, so I am quite sure it is being played at least as much on the national stations and broadcasting its horrific, not-even-morally-ambiguous message at anyone within hearing range of a radio, including an awful lot of impressionable youngster.

But the thing that annoys me the most - the people make me the angriest about this song's success - are the people who have bought it, who sing it without thinking about it, who bop away to it quite happily as they don't actually listen to what its about.  It is a case of brutal levels of ignorance giving appalling messages a platform.

I actually brought this up in my office full of women the other day, and of the 4 I managed to involve in conversation, 3 of them really liked it and none of them had any clue about the lyrics.  When I pointed out the lyrics and what it seems to be about, they were all horrified and asking how it gets on the radio. Because of people like you!!!

It makes me sad and angry that as a society we seem to actually encourage this behaviour and language, and yet when as a country we stood up to say NO to Simon Cowell and the X-Factor culture and made Killing in the Name Christmas No 1, many radio stations refused to play it as it had swearing in it.

So, that's  a public protest against domination of the music industry by Cowell land his cronies banned for swearing, but a sexually aggressive song passively promoting rape OK'ed by by society in general and played everywhere.

And I do mean everywhere. At this moment in time, its pretty much the biggest song in the world. It has been no 1 in over 40 countries and has been at no 1 in USA longer than any other song this year.

Isn't that sad?  Really, really sad?

I don't know if there's anything I can do about it other than help spread awareness, but I'm really pleased that not everyone in the world is just passively accepting this sexist bullshit. (see the link below)

Universities ban Blurred Lines on campuses around UK

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Opening up: Asperger's & the new job

Its Day 4 of the new job, and while I am still waiting for that diagnosis (see previous blog) I have already made sure that both my line manager and the person I will be working most closely with, one of the office deputies, are aware of my situation.

On day 2 they decided to have a 10 minute chat with me about how it affected me, whether there was anything they could do to help and how it would manifest if there were issues.

I was really happy that it felt like someone was taking an interest without taking a negatively slanted view. Indeed, my line manager said that after she thought about what it meant, we could do with a few more with a touch of Asperger's in this line of work. It felt good :)

So, onto the job itself.  Mainly I am chaecking the structure of a data system and adding information to it under a strict set of guidelines with some complex user-tools.

Which means it suits me down to the ground.

I decided it would be nice to create a quick list of Pros and Cons comparing this job to the last one, and the results were as follows

  • It pays less
  • I don't have to deal with the horrific bitch who ran the last place
  • My commute from door to desk is 8 minutes
  • I am working in the same location that my wife is undertaking her teacher training and work placement
  • My level of responsibility is significantly lower
  • I am not responsible for other people
  • It is less stressful
  • Communication is much more open and honest, so there is very little politicking going on
  • There doesn't appear to be any "us" and "them" within the department
  • I can park 2 minutes walk from my desk
  • There are gym facilities on site that I can use
  • There is a library where staff can hire out DVD's. for free :)
  • The atmosphere is much more laid back
  • I get 4 days more holiday than I got at the old place, and thats at the starting allowance!
  • There don't appear to be any periods that I can't book holiday during
OK, I'm only 4 days in and it already looks pretty good!

The other thing that is making me happy today is this: I have discovered that my former workplace have made my position redundant. Why does this make me happy? Because it reinforces my claim that they were trying to force me out, and it would mean that a case for constructive dismissal is more likely to succeed.  Added to that is the fact that they had a round of voluntary redundances a few months ago. I inquired informally about VR and was told that my position was too important to be made redundant, and so i was not eligible.

So, my former boss lied to me, denying me a redundancy payout, then bullied me out of the job and made my role redundant. 

I think i might just be talking to my union rep and possibly my solicitor very shortly.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The endless fortnight!

Last week I attended my final session with the psychologist team responsible for my diagnosis. They were very nice, very supportive and made me feel at ease. For the first time I can remember I went into a situation knowing that I didn't have to wear my mask, didn't have to watch what I said or how I said it. If anything, being careful of what I said and how I said it would potentially hamper the process.

At the end of the session they said that they couldn't tell me anything until they had made their diagnosis, but the lead professional did say that given the evidence, the diagnosis of Asperger's was a very real possibility. But it might take up to to 3 weeks for them to make their diagnosis, at which point they woudl get back to me for one final session where we could discuss the outcome.

That was a week ago.

I'm not sure how patiently I can wait over the course of the next few weeks. to me, the question of aspergers was resolved long ago. i mean, i wouldn;t call myself anonymous aspie if I didn't think I was aspie, but there is always danger in self-diagnosis that there is a professional that will come along and argue with you.  My problem is that, no matter how sure I am that I am aspie, until I have a confirmed diagnosis from a medical professional I will not be happy.  Basically, its not good enough that I know the answer, I need someone to acknowledge that I am correct (which is, sadly, part of my Aspie brain - "VALIDATE MY ANSWER! CONFIRM MY CORRECTNESS!")

I know its not long but it is becoming the longest wait fo my life, longer than waiting for my kids to be born - no, wait, they were both premature. That's not a good example - longer than waiting for the next series of Game of Thrones!

2 Weeks. I should know by October. That's not too bad, right?


Friday, 13 September 2013

Topsy turvy world

What a few weeks its been!

I had a meltdown at work. A full-on, screaming,  body-shaking uncontrollable rage meltdown which resulted in me going fully overboard, quitting my job and storming out.  There's more to the story, and it involves me putting a formal complaint in against the head of the department and working out my notice once in was assured that I wouldn't have to work with her.

But it was awful. I have never felt so out of control, so helpless and so frustrated and so ANGRY! I swear that woman deliberately goaded me into the meltdown, just so she could fire me due to my reaction.

Anyway, I left.

So, jobless, panicking, wife starting college, daughters just started school after summer holidays. For someone like me who thrives on routine this was as traumatic as it could have been.

So I work out my notice and on the last day, last Friday, I still did not have a job to go to. Terrified for what the future was going to bring for me and my family I left the workplace almost in tears. I was happy I wouldn't be going back there to work with that bullying, discriminating bitch, but just so worried.

And on Monday I had an interview, which by Tuesday had become a job offer and by next Monday will be back to full time gainful employment.


It just goes to show that sometimes throwing yourself into the abyss of uncertainty can have positive consequences. I have taken myself so far out of my comfort zone by doing this, but I think in the long run it will have positive benefits, not only taking away the stress of working in that place for that woman but just for the experience of having taken a leap of faith and have it work out.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Process

On 21st of August, in a small, secluded little collection of buildings, I began my assessment process.

It has taken a year or so to get to this point, and the outcome is not guaranteed, but I have no words to describe the immense sense of relief to be talking to experts, discussing Aspergers as a condition, to be undergoing diagnostic process, to be able to just let go and tell someone who might understand just how hard it all is on a daily basis; how hard it is to care, how hard it is to make sure I am giving appropriate responses, how hard it is to keep control of my tongue and make sure that I'm not inadvertently offending the world.

I have seen them 3 times and they have decided they have all the information they need to consider what, if any, diagnosis there will be.  While they couldn't say for sure, they did say that there is a very good chance that Aspergers would be the diagnosis.

And I got an odd rush of emotion; sadness, anger, anxiety and relief. I had to take a few minutes to sit in the car on my own quietly just to let it all sink in.  Finally, maybe, I have a framework to help me understand myself. But isn't it funny that I need someone else's permission before I can fully grasp it?