The festive break, ‘transitions’ us into a new year and is an important symbol of renewal for me; if the holiday goes well, I can feel myself ‘energised’ – in a new, creative conversation with the future; but that didn’t happen this year and I’ve been blaming the ‘Omicron Factor’. Altered daily routines seemed to ‘derail’ me – the rhythms of sleeping, eating, socialising etc got disrupted – I became increasingly disorientated; even the weather lost its bearings – 15 degrees in December! Yesterday, 6th January, was the Christian feast of the Epiphany, the ‘twelfth night’ of Christmas – when, traditionally, festivities would climax and end. I’ve put away my Xmas cards and my wee pretend Xmas tree – but I feel ill-prepared to face the dark months.
On matters of mental health, I have the highest regard for the actor/writer, Stephen Fry; he has bi-polar disorder and is President of the Charity, MIND. The nub of his advice is to slow down, take longer with each mundane task; shut out surplus noise, particularly the most strident voices. I find Fry’s exceptional ‘course knowledge’ comforting.
It was so mild on Ne’er Day that, after lunch, I put on my garden togs for a couple of hours. On my knees with a trowel, it still surprises me how effortlessly I can find meaning and purpose through the natural world. In his poem, God’s Grandeur, Manley Hopkins captures this ‘constancy’: “…The soil is bare now, nor can foot feel being shod. And for all this, nature is never spent; there lives the dearest freshness deep down things.”
I paid two domestic bills in December, electric and heating oil, both significantly inflated by global prices; The Resolution Foundation’s warning is entirely credible – that millions of households are facing ‘a cost of living catastrophe’ this year, estimated at £1200. How will the Govt choose to mitigate this for the poorest households? It is clear that Boris Johnson has lost authority – but to whom? It appears that his right-wing ‘authoritarians’ have joined up with his self-styled ‘libertarians’ who regard the PM’s Covid leadership as a ‘public health socialist state’. Are the Tories headed back into another regime of ruthless austerity; dark (and cold) months ahead?
In January 2020, a dinner was organised in London for about 80 journalists and think-tanks – quickly labelled the Brexit Battalion. This link is to someone called Winston Smith on Threadreader, who has taken the time to produce this snapshot of today’s right-wing elites and their enablers – how they connect up in the public realm – exert influence.
I often wonder if the stress of the pandemic will feed demand for a fairer, more progressive society. Our media is predominantly right-wing biased, but this Conversation article finds that a majority of people (who believe they are in the minority) strongly prefer a progressive future with grassroots leadership. It’s important that these people realise they are the majority.
Discussing the future of adult social care involves the roles of Govt (both national and local), the private sector and the third sector. I found this a helpful article in the New Statesman, warning that the language of community power is too often used to paper over the cracks of ten years of austerity; many community action networks need re-activated.
For those of us who seek a post neo-liberal world, this article by Prof. Tobias Debiel is encouraging; he argues that both the Covid pandemic, and the climate change crisis have the power to cause socio-economic transformation. Firstly, by the state’s curtailment of individual freedoms, for the common good; and then by challenging the neo-liberal credo of market mechanisms.
“Desperately Seeking Wisdom is a podcast for those of us who want a simpler, more fulfilled life, but haven’t quite got there yet”. Episode 1 featured BBC newsreader George Alagiah, whose cancer was first diagnosed in 2014. Asked what piece of wisdom he would give, he spoke about the need for people to think more collectively: “I think it would be to constantly ask the question – what can we do together. I spent a lot of time in Africa and, in South Africa, they have a word Ubuntu. It’s the idea that I’m only human, if I recognise the humanity in you. There’s the collective notion of life – which I think we’ve lost.”