Quick Stop


This is going to be a quick post, as I’m using my iPad, and it tends to get a little crazy whenever I need to make edits!

I just wanted to stop by my blog, catch up and let everyone know I’m still here, well, not in Madrid, but in the UK.

Yes, I have returned to the UK so I can  do some volunteer work with a political party!!

This isn’t my first stint with a political party. Many moons ago I did something similar, and being given another opportunity to get involved with this type of work once again has made me happy!

If you didn’t know…………….I LOVE politics.

So, if I am a little quiet and don’t get to peruse WordPress as much I would usually, you’ll understand why.

I hope you lot out there are well and being as productive as always?!

Hasta luego and muchos besos!

 

The UK Turf War


Once again immigration is the topic of conversation for the UK, and as usual it hasn’t taken long for the UK press to revel in the delight of ‘scaremongering’ and ‘scapegoat’ rhetoric.

If the news is to be read literally though, it would be enough to frighten the pants off any level headed individual just going about their business; an influx of foreign workers stealing jobs and benefits, who plan to eventually take over the country for their own ends! Sounds sinister!

All of the talk, press and otherwise, does raise important questions though. Is this truth or merely scare tactics? Also, just how fair, equitable, free and humane does it all sound? It is immigration, but we are talking about people right and not merely cattle?

Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, but now that the UK has had to lift its restrictions to their job market, fears have escalated, by what seems like over-night, to a boiling point.  Should the UK nation be afraid, is there about to be a turf war?

I was nosing around the net, wondering if all the hullabaloo was in fact worth the media frenzy. What I wanted to know was whether the people of the UK really gave a damn about who from the EU might or might not take up UK residency. It didn’t take too long to stumble upon something curious.

The below text has been copied from an actual on-line petition set out on the HM Government website. Its creator, a member of the UK public, along with 153,811 signatories, seemed to obviously feel that there indeed would be a mass of Romanian, and Bulgarian immigrants desperately making their way to the shores of the UK.

“In 2014 EU restrictions are set be removed, allowing nationals of Bulgaria and Romania ‘free movement’ to the UK. The move is similar to the one that granted access to around 600,000 Polish immigrants to enter Britain over recent years.

Despite Bulgaria and Romania joining the EU in 2005 (Savvy Senorita edit – it was 2007), restrictions were put on the number who could move to Britain. However, those restrictions will be abolished in 2014 (Savvy Senorita edit – I.E now).

Once the restrictions are lifted all new comers will entitled to claim benefits, housing, child, job seekers etc. There is currently an estimated 1.5 million people seeking work within the two countries

The impact will also put pressure on housing, infrastructure, schools, and heath care. All at a time the government are cutting pensions, jobs, public services and the armed forces.

I request the government suspends the easing on these restrictions” 

I then took a look at the newspapers. There were ample comments left upon The Daily Mail and Guardian’s websites; replies to the articles telling the world about how our MPs feel or fear about immigration. In one such article, (posted in the Guardian: link below), it was claimed that David Cameron believes that the immigration levels for Romanians and Bulgarians is now reasonable enough; the responses to this article however provided a somewhat different perspective;

“We need mass immigration as a pro business policy Cameron is completely wrong.

Think about the benefits, house prises rise make home owners wealthier and Britain can remain competitive by getting cheaper labour.

We live in an increasing globalised world and we in the EU have China to compete with. He couldn’t be more wrong.

In addition without immigration we would have to spend an exorbitant amount training our own feckless and work-shy, and the price of house keeping would rocket.

The EU must not allow him or his party to get away with such inflammatory comments”.

These quotes demonstrate two very different ideas about immigration, both of which are actual opinions held by people living in the UK.

OK, so I know there maybe those out there who feel that any level of immigration is too high, and others who think that the doors of a country ought be flung wide open (each to their own); but isn’t there a happy medium?

What I mean is, can’t we talk immigration without becoming so emotive? Can’t we leave all the scapegoating, racism and the overly P.C comments behind, and focus on what could be the real issues of immigration for the UK?

I want to ask the powers that be, and the people;

Can any country allow mass immigration? Does any country have the capacity to offer that? Is it economically viable? Could they offer employment, housing, services and support (et al) to everyone that comes to, and resides in the country?

Is immigration a one way street – the people from the poorest nations moving to the richer ones? Is immigration about making money for a country or spending money? Do we all really have freedom of movement? How many people would up-sticks and re-locate to another country? Is that even possible with the economy and the lack of job opportunities? Also, EU countries differ from the UK; different languages, educational requirements, alien benefit and health care systems which not every resident will have access to.

Why is the UK immigration fears/policies subject to mass interjection from other countries? Why has it become such a contentious subject? Every country has its own ideas regarding immigration, yet, I don’t see every country being asked to explain themselves. Is UK immigration a national or international issue? Whose country is it to govern, and make those decisions about immigration? Have the UK Government merely become some middle man in all of this, without the real power to decide what happens in their own country? More importantly, does anyone care what the public think and want?

Is the UK a ‘soft touch’ for the world? Is the UK being racist in its cautious approach to immigration?

Is the UK Government trying to appease everyone, and pleasing no-one at the same time? Is immigration a way of making amends for a shady past history as ‘colonial conquerors’, do they feel guilty?

Has the UK given up on its people – do they invest enough in what resources and talent they already have? Why would the country require an extra work-force from abroad, when the UK already has those who are in need of training/re-training, educating, employment, self-employment, good wages and steady/secure jobs? In fact, can the UK Government deal with the issues/changes and problems the country already has? Are they actually taking on too much responsibility by accepting more people they won’t be able to ‘do right by’?

Will there be a mass exodus from one country to another? Will the Romanians and Bulgarians swamp the UK, and take over the country? Why do people live in fear of immigrants stripping the country bare? Immigration is nothing new for the UK; it has always been multi-cultural and accepted people from far and wide, why then is the country now so angst ridden?

Is immigration a good business and economic policy? Is it investment and profit? Is it more people claiming benefits and abusing the system, sending money back to their families in Romania or Bulgaria? Is it escalation of crime? Is is merely public cynicism and distrust? Is it greed and shady dealings? Is it appeasement or enlightenment?

I personally feel the UK cannot close the doors to immigration, but there are certain discrepancies with how the UK handles the subject. I don’t doubt that UK immigration and policies per se are being vetoed or strangled by the EU. I question though, who benefits from all the upper echelons (in the UK and EU), wrangling amongst themselves because of their own agendas? Well, it isn’t the people they are supposed to represent and that is for certain.

I believe immigration has become a convenient red herring in many ways, an issue placed before the public to distract from the real issues on the table, the real failure of those in charge.

With or without immigration, the UK still has serious issues; how is the Government going to convince the UK public that they can do what they say they will? When all the scapegoating and smoke screens have gone, what is left? A Government who doesn’t really know what they really stand for, and which way to turn in any crisis without squabbling like children.

I wonder, when there is nothing to fight over, what remains to fight for?

I will leave you with a quote (another reply) to that article in The Guardian (I mentioned earlier in this post: link below);            

“The UK is not concentrating on “job building” it is penny wise and pound foolish, driving wages down to a minimum base and sitting complacently on a million unemployed and millions under-employed. We have so many things that need replacing and repairing, upgrading and restoring here, but the governments we have seem happy to suck up to businesses who cream profits off-shore and let the citizens scrabble around in the mire for part-time low paid work.

We have work that needs doing, but lack the courage to invest in our people to improve the quality of life for everyone”.

Check out the article at: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jan/27/cameron-romania-bulgaria-immigration-reasonable

Freedom Of Speech?


Everyone has got something to say about how free their speech should be.

However, peoples beliefs, ideas and notions about freedom of speech seem to be in conflict with what it actually is.

Well, what exactly is freedom of speech?

To clarify the mystery let us look at the Wikipedia definition, just so we know we are all on the same page, so to speak:

“Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas using one’s body and property to anyone who is willing to receive them. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, as with libel, slander, obscenity, sedition (including, for example inciting ethnic hatred), copyright violation, revelation of information that is classified or otherwise.

The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR states that “[e]veryone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”. Article 19 goes on to say that the exercise of these rights carries “special duties and responsibilities” and may “therefore be subject to certain restrictions” when necessary “[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others” or “[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals”.

Interesting. Interesting also to note I have emboldened certain parts of this text, to comment on obviously, as on the this humble piece of the blog-stratosphere, I have the freedom to speak my own opinions.

The first point to consider states that we have the right to; “Communicate one’s opinions and ideas….to anyone who is willing to receive them”. To me, this statement does not mean forcing your opinions or ideas upon those people, who frankly couldn’t care a less. As we all know, we all have our own ideas and opinions, and of course as is human nature, and the difference of being different, they all differ from time to time. What a shock!

Why then do some people think they have a right, or a duty, above and beyond us mere mortals, to shout their ideas and opinions loudest of all? Why do some people wish to drown everyone else out, and force others to shut up and concede to them? Where is the freedom of speech in that ethos? What makes one person, or people, think their ideas and opinions are superior, and are worth listening to more than anyone else’s? “[e]veryone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference”, that is what the definition states loud and clear. Perhaps then these people who wish to subdue everyone else, really ought to educate themselves on the premise of freedom of speech, before they speak!

In other words; if you have something to say then make it worthwhile, otherwise, please just shut up and leave other people alone! We’re not listening if we don’t want to, as per our right, according to freedom of speech!

“The right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations”. People often disagree with this, but then of course these people also don’t wish to hear or be informed about other people’s ideas and opinions either. Some people only really want to hear what they want to, and would indeed censor anyone who conflicted with their own ideas and opinions. So, once again, where is the freedom in that??

I would like to know, what is absolute freedom anyway?? Also, why do some people think that their freedom is more important than anyone else’s? Could it be that people claim there ought to absolute freedom when they themselves are censored, because they have something horrible, threatening, bullying and insidious to shout about? Maybe.

This leads me directly to what is censored, and why of course; “the exercise of these rights carries….. special duties and responsibilities………and may…..therefore be subject to certain restrictions……. when necessary……[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others….or…..[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals”. Does this clause, that can limit the freedom of anyone’s speech seem reasonable??? For me, no.

Before people accuse me of having petty despot fantasies, hear me out; this is my freedom of speech after all!!

Consider what damage words can do to a person, their life, their reputation, their happiness and security. Many of us may indeed recall a school-yard bully, who didn’t resort to violence to inflict pain and rule with terror, but only words. The sort of words that are better off never being spoken. The type which are threatening, nasty, damaging and damn right insidious.

Extrapolate this example then into the wider-world, and imagine what damage words, uncontrolled and misdirected can do. The answer is, plenty of damage.

Shouldn’t we all then have a responsibility to edit our words? Consider the content, quality, quantity and intent before we fire the loaded weapon, and expect everyone to just sit back and be OK with it all? If we aren’t willing to allow other people’s words to just fly past our ears without response, then why should other people afford us such courtesy?

I think the moral of this tale is; choose your words carefully, and always, always, expect a response!

The Servitude Of Service


I possess a fascination for all things historical, but especially those things which relate directly to my own family history.

Unlike most of my peers I took an avid interest in the stories that my grandparents, and great grandparents imparted to me about our families lives. They talked of a different time, a different world, but nevertheless what once transpired, what became collective experience, created a sort of ripple effect upon the lives of subsequent generations. This impact was so severe, the effects remian evident today.

My family is of mixed heritage and fortune. Some are Irish, English and of course Welsh. They have been rich, poor, immigrants, miners, ladies maids, officers, gentlemen and in business. Some have lived abroad and others never left their home town. They spoke foreign languages and played musical instruments, skills which they never thought to teach to the next generation.

In all of this history, throughout all of the stories two threads were always woven the deepest; poverty and domestic service.

Apparently one in ten of the current UK population had an ancestor who worked as a domestic servant. Not so surprising I think considering the perpetual imbalance between wealth, the staunch class division and poor educational standards of the past, if not the present too.

Poverty was, and is of course very real. Although now there are mechanisms in place to help alleviate such misfortune, in my grandparents and great grandparents lifetime this was not always the case. It was a very real threat to be poor, to be below the bread-line.

People couldn’t survive on benefits, they didn’t truly exist as we take them for granted now. People had scant opportunities if they were poor, often becoming a domestic servant or indeed being admitted into a workhouse was their only option.

When people now think of domestic service, the imagery which might spring to mind is the popular Downtown Abbey series or, as I prefer the 1970s British television series Upstairs Downstairs.

Yet, neither of these programmes are a true reflection of what life was like as someone else’s servant.

Below stairs gossip, flirtation, autonomy, opinions, democracy, individuality, freedom, holidays, good food, parties and camaraderie are all fictitious story lines to create good television.

A servant was seen as the other, them, the underclass. Even looked down upon by fellow working class people in other professions.

Servants new their place. They didn’t deign to question their place or to challenge their betters in society. They were the silent majority in the UK workforce.

Mistreatment was normal. Sexual, physical and verbal abuse was common place, and not always at the hands of their ’employers’ either.

Servants were often under paid, they held no employment rights, they ate left overs, were permitted no free time or holidays, no sick leave and no entitlement to medical care. They could be sacked for illness or any minor misdemeanour without reference, they couldn’t marry, their wages would be docked for anything broken or food wasted. They were controlled by their masters and mistresses, but also by the strict hierarchy of the below stairs staff chain of command.

Plus, it was a 24/7 365 days a year job or grind, with no real scope to develop or progress.

The life of a servant in comparison to other people in other forms of employment was vast. Being a servant was a different kettle of fish. Nothing compared then or now to what these people experienced and were subjected to.

A good servant would be deferential, know and accept their place, display loyalty, follow unquestioningly, never be seen to want or expect more, surrender themselves to be used and abused.

All of this indoctrination still lingers somewhere in my genetics, so much so, it frightens me! Yet, it doesn’t inspire me to listen or to comply, but to rebel.

My families history in service heralds as a warning. It made my family question their status, life, desires and wants. They were not comfortable ‘doffing’ their cap to their betters. Subsequent generations learnt the lessons of those in service, they were inspired to be the complete opposite of what their heritage and ancestry had told them to be. No longer were they content to be seen as somehow less of a person because of their class. They wanted their children to achieve, to be educated, to progress to go out into the world and claim a stake of it for themselves.

This whole rebellion against servitude in service still remains, as I have stated previously. I know it is derived from, and linked to my families experiences as house-maids, laundry-maids, ladies-maids and cooks. I suppose such ingrained ideals and attitudes just can’t be over-thrown at once, they tend to make an impression.

I look at my ancestors lives and still think; no one will treat me like that, I won’t be anyone’s servant.

I suppose this attitude should be celebrated, but, it also has a sting in the tail. It could be seen as a ‘chip on my shoulder’.

Any time I perceive I am being treated like an underling, I cannot accept it, it infuriates me. I have actually left jobs because I felt as though I was being treated like a servant and not an employee! No, I was beaten or whatever else, but sometimes employers do treat staff like usable and abusable, never ending resources. They often forget we are humans with rights. It can be all too similar to how servants were treated in the employ of Lords and Ladies. The echoes of these times too close for my comfort. In my opinion the attitude of the ‘master of the house’ hasn’t altogether left society, merely mutated into another form of abuse of power.

Sometimes though, I find myself envying the servants life. It was certain, it was a path deemed destined and people knew nothing more. Their aspiration were not as complicated as ours are today, their disappointments therefore not as many. It was what it was, a means to an end.

All things considered we look back with the luxury of hindsight, and think that they had to be thoroughly miserable. Yet, I actually believe they wren’t.

Who are we to really judge their lives on our standards! The other side of the coin can present another set of questions; is it better to be master of your own uncertain life, or a servant knowing your place, your path? Or, is it the case that we are all merely servants conning ourselves into thinking we have miracously become the masters? What in fact are we masters of? In reality how far has society fundamentally progressed since the time of domestic service?

Servants and masters, masters and servants; isn’t it all really the same thing in today’s world?

Learning Gender Roles Via The BBC


The BBC have recently been accused of sexism with their remake of children’s classic Topsy and Tim.

It was claimed by parents that the BBC misinterpreted the original children stories, and chose instead to reinforce traditional gender stereotypes, which were being aimed at very young children. The charecter Tospy is a little girl who is seen baking princess cakes with her Mum, while her Brother Tim is informed baking is not for him. As a boy he can play outside on his bike or help his Dad with “mans work”.

I wondered, as I have on many occasions before, how do we learn our ‘gender roles’? Is it nature or nurture, and how can we be sure?

Thinking of my own childhood, I recall never being compelled by my parents to be particularly ‘girlie’, and naturally I wasn’t this way either. I was always encouraged to just be me, and perhaps by being a headstrong child who knew what I liked, pressures to be ‘girlie’ (if they existed), never affected me. I therefore feel surprised that in the 21st century children are still being encouraged to mimic, and reflect, what their own parents deem to be acceptable gender specific stereotypes. It just seems almost self defeating and rather odd.

Why would any parent force their child to be anything, and ruin their own child’s ability to blossom and develop naturally, free of preconceived ideals laid down throughout the eons?!

What is so terrible about girls playing with cars and bikes, and boys playing with kitchens and dolls? Surely having diverse skills and interests make for more rounded and capable future adults?

I know if I had children, I would indeed encourage them to be them; who else can they be after all!

Don’t get me wrong, their is nothing wrong with traditional gender roles, if those people performing those roles are happy enough to do so. Yet, there is nothing wrong with mixing it up either!

Living in Madrid I see many more examples of the conventional family unit than I do in the UK. The wife cooks, cleans, takes care of the house and kids, while the man works, is head of the household, applies the discipline and often the education of the kids. This is almost expected and seen as the social norm.

Now my household has never been quite like this, to the surprise of the people I meet in Spain. People are shocked that I am interested in politics, and also that my degree, career and writing all have a political grounding. I have actually been told how unusual it is for a girl! Obviously they haven’t heard of Emily Pankhurst, Simone de Beauvoir, Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher, Naomi Wolf and Hilary Clinton; what about Eva Perón?

For me, applying any expectations upon a person, especially at a young and impressionable age, just becomes a simple case of the self fulfilling prophecy. You get what you expect. Women and men then become merely caricatures of their gender, nothing more than that! How can we then argue they are naturally as they should be?

Have women actually been able or allowed to genuinely break through that “glass ceiling”? Not if the 21st centuries depiction of gender is the reference point; a woman’s place is still at home, while the man still belongs to the world. This has to be true, the BBC even think so!

To be serious, in recent years it has been a giant step backwards for men and women alike. Adverts, marketing, media and society in general have peddled the over sexualisation of the younger generation. This has drip fed a generation with gender specific notions of beauty, relationships, sex and availability, youth, frivolousness, self obsession, celebrity culture, diets, gossip, fashion and materialism.

So, maybe reverting to the stereotypical gender roles is only the natural step forward from this re-education?

For me I feel it is difficult to distinguish, and therefore state concretely, how much of nature actually plays a part in a child’s socialisation, self perception and development. Especially with all the dross floating around their environment.

Think about how difficult it is for us as adults to really separate ourselves, and our choices from all the expectations applied upon us, what we have seen, learnt, experienced and absorbed into our psyche?

If it is so difficult for us as adults, the question then remains; how can a child?

Nature v’s nurture, for me there is no real contest to contest!

Peace In Our Time


A little quote I forgot I even wrote, and was reminded of today by Julien of ‘Mirrors Of Encounters’.

“Peace is a conundrum; often sought and rarely found”
Bex 2013

I feel that these words are ladened with relevance at this moment in time, considering the heated debate regarding the fate of Syria.

Anti Human Trafiicking Ad


A new concept to raise awareness of the global issue of human trafficking has just been released. An advert, which was filmed in the Amsterdam red light displays the ‘reality’ facing many of the cities sex workers.

What do think about adverts to raise awareness on such issues?

Does the advert make its point clear enough? Is it ‘hard hitting’ enough?

Will this raise new awareness about the global issue of human trafficking?

Take a look at the Youtube link to the advert, and give me your opinions please.