Category: Noticed in the news

As long as we have HOPE

As long as we have HOPE

katniss prim hands

“Fear does not work as long as they have hope, and Katniss Everdeen is giving them hope.” – President Snow, in The Hunger Games – Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

Of all possible characters in the Hunger Games trilogy, I did not expect to be quoting President Snow! However, I think Suzanne Collins has voiced a truth here that we can hold on to.

prim volunteer hunger games

Fear does not work as long as you have hope. I’m learning this. I’ve been thinking on it for a few days and it’s a message particularly for today. There has been another terrorist attack in Europe, a lorry driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice in France, killing over 80 people. Waking up to learn this, I felt fear, grief, sadness, helplessness, unable to know what to do, seeing nothing I can do to make the hurt and tragedy better for everyone suffering in this. I can’t imagine how afraid everyone in Nice is.

Fear does not work as long as you have hope. Watching the news there seem to be fewer safe places, nowhere out of reach of the hurt and damage that comes from anger, terrorism and extremism. It comes closer to home both in these violent acts and in the people fleeing even further violence as refugees.

Terrorism is designed to take away hope. I cannot do anything to directly practically change what happened in Nice, or at the Bataclan, or Baghdad, or Turkey. But – as long as we have hope. Hope can start very small and very close to home. I can choose to carry out every little action, with care and attention and love. I can choose thankfulness in my day to day life. I can choose to replace an angry response with a questioning one or a loving one. I can’t get back the lives the terrorists have taken. I can kneel and pray with the grieving. Nothing takes away the suffering for those who have lost lives and lost loved ones, but in choosing to place HOPE in God, in love, in goodness, in every moment being an opportunity for us to be thankful and love, I can stop the terrorists also taking over my heart with the fear and hurt and hate they spread. Every time such frightening and destructive things happen, I can try to be a little more conscious of my choice to hold onto hope and my choice to love others around me. And I have to say – Tammi Kale, you inspired me to take this approach in a comment you left on one of my earlier posts. So a big big THANK YOU to you Tammi.

The same applies to the path of recovering from the fear placed in me by my abuser.  What has happened is terrible and letting her have my heart would be worse – by me becoming fear, hurt, rage, or even cold and numb and unable to bring any fruit. This will be a very long journey, I know, because her grip on my heart and my memories is still very great. Strongest is the deeply planted doubt that it was my fault, that nobody would ever believe a child could be so bad but it was all because of me really, and the doubt that pulls me apart when I dare to speak and the voices that taunt me and scream at me and tell me I’m a fake and a liar and ugly and disgusting. I couldn’t have any hope when I started my treatment. I really needed someone to hold it for me. Gradually, I am learning to hold onto hope for myself. I am learning that I can act in love. I am learning that carrying hurt, pain, need, crying, does not make me evil. I am learning that admitting these feelings does not make me dangerous. I am learning that I am not the feelings.

I am learning to believe in a God who is not repulsed or driven away by darkness and failure. My God says the night is just the same as day to Him. My God says He created me – and you – in His image. His image, not evil, is at the centre of my poor heart, although it is small and hurting and I feel very weak. He has placed us here to become more and more like Him, more closely united to Him, and to be His hands to carry His merciful love in this hurting world. In order to do this, I must learn to be loved, first. And it dawned on me that perhaps I do not know how to be loved because the fear planted by my abuser has taken over so much of my heart. This is going to be a long road, as I said. Being formed into our loving God’s image, and learning to be loved, gives a hope that cannot be taken away. Learning to be loved takes away fear.

katniss prim Hope catching fire

Prim – Since the last games, something is different, I can see it.

Katniss – What can you see?

Prim – Hope.

– The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (movie)

[Stills of Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) and Willow Shields (Prim) from The Hunger Games and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire; property of Suzanne Collins / Lionsgate Entertainment. Images sourced from fanpop.com and thehungergames.wikia.com]

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed

The Soldier

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

– Rupert Brooke

Today is the 100th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916; the largest battle of the First World War and the greatest loss of life in the history of the British Army.

It is hard to find adequate words for this day as we remember sacrifice on that scale. I wonder if we think enough on the way and the reasons people gave their lives.

When I was at school we made a trip to some of the Somme battlefields and memorials, including the Thiepval memorial (pictured above*) where the commemoration service was held today. I am very thankful that we went there. We walked some of the tracks over the fields; we made our way through ruins of some of the dug-outs and trenches; we counted names on the huge memorials; we passed through lines of stark white crosses. I remember looking at the engraving of the name of one soldier not yet 16. We could not imagine the horror that was suffered and the lives given in those fields but it did give a lasting impression, just a little more, of the scale of the sacrifice and what we remember.

At school we also studied the poem above. Most of the analyses of it focus on Brooke’s patriotism. Yes, of course that love of and gratitude for our homeland is strong and passionate. But the way I read it, it is not an isolating, insular love of our country. It is a generous love. As England blessed The Soldier, so the Soldier is giving himself for a better world, and looking forward to the peace of the pure peace of heaven; he “gives somewhere back” the good that he has, in his life and in his death.

The sacrifices of these soldiers seem all the more poignant to me this year, given the current uncertainty of the future for the peaceful Europe we fought for, sparked by our exit last week. They also remind us that we have come through far worse times than now, and that we have so very much to be thankful for.

– We will remember Them. –

Ginny xxx

*With thanks to somme2016.org for the image

PS – for some reason my blog has decided not to let me insert hyperlinks in my post above tonight 😦 To read more about the 100th anniversary commemorations, you can visit: http://www.somme-battlefields.com/centenary-somme-centenary-14-18/commemorations-2016-countdown-has-begun 

(Br)exit this way…

(Br)exit this way…

[Note: I began writing this Friday 24th June]

Today is a strange day in the UK.

Yesterday the people voted in the referendum on Britain’s future in the European Union and early this morning we heard the results – and we have voted to Leave. Just after 8.00am our Prime Minister announced his decision to resign (you can listen to his speech here); by the Conservative Party Conference in October he will have handed over to a new Prime Minister who will begin to negotiate our exit from the EU. There has also been a vote of no confidence by MPs against the leader of the Labour Party.

I don’t normally write about political matters and I somewhat consciously choose to keep them out of this blog. It isn’t what I want the focus to be. In any case I never feel sufficiently well educated, informed and aware to make a view and comment (I know that’s not a good thing and I’m trying to change it). There was certainly no shortage of conflicting messages in the run up to the vote with each side foretelling disastrous consequences of “leave” / “remain” respectively. Another aspect of politics I find very difficult to get my head round is how the explanation of how our lives will be affected in practice by decisions so quickly gets deeply buried beneath interpersonal and inter-party conflict and attacks. If I listen to a political debate I usually get a clear picture of what each person does not want and who they hate but not a clear picture of what they want to make happen and how it will happen in terms of you or I. The fact I get lost when emotions run high (even when it’s other people’s emotions and I’m just observing) doesn’t help!

I can’t talk about the politics but I can say how it feels. Right now it feels very unstable with lots of unknowns.  I think we’ve made a decision that’s going to have an impact far longer lasting than the choice of a Prime Minister in a normal general election. We haven’t just chosen our leader for the next few years. We’ve made a choice that affects our and our children’s future relationship with the rest of the Union and quite possibly wider than this. It’s a step defining how we want to interact with the wider world and our changed position will no doubt influence how countries much wider than the EU want to relate to us. Already this morning [Saturday] the consequences of our decision are clearly affecting other European countries’ attitude to us, with France among others demanding the immediate departure of Mr Cameron, the choice of another Prime Minister within days (it’s very hard to see how that could be achieved democratically, is it not?) and the immediate activation of the Article 50. In fact in the short term, for all the Leave campaign emphasised the independence we’d get by exiting the EU, these demands seem to suggest we may still be under the influence of the much less open attitude member states will now have towards us.

I switched on the news straight away around 7.00am Friday when the final count had come in. First of all I was stunned. Perhaps that was naive, but I was. I didn’t think the vote would be so close and I thought that in the end we’d vote to remain in the Union. As soon as David Cameron stepped out to address the press, I felt he was going to resign. I was not particularly a supporter of Mr Cameron but I felt real sadness at his speech. Clearly so did he. 

A little later in the morning came a poignant demonstration of the impact the vote has had on people like you or me. A friend of mine is getting married next year and a substantial portion of the money she and her fiance had saved for the wedding and their planned house move was invested. This morning, this money was just gone, just like that, because of the instant effect the outcome of the vote has had on the stock markets. I’m not sure how much it’s possible she will get her money back now the pound is back on the up. As well as hurting for her in the huge blow she’s suffered, I was again stunned. Whilst I had long thought that leaving the EU would be negative economically, I didn’t have a picture of how quickly and how hard it could hit individuals. Was I very unaware? Maybe, but also, I don’t think I’m alone in that. I don’t think there was clear enough information on this kind of impact.

I know that instability and the reaction to the instability is inevitable when there’s a big change and that is not a reason in itself to steer away from a change. But this time I don’t see a clear path of what we are going towards. I won’t go on about the arguments for and against because they’ve been gone through at such length in so many sources already.

One thing that does worry me is that a petition has been raised by supporters of Remain [in the EU], demanding a constitutional change, which would mean that votes with less than a 60% majority and less than 75% turn out of voters were not valid and had to be repeated. This change would then be used to render Thursday’s  referendum result invalid and to call another referendum  (with the objective of an outcome favorable to Remain).

Now, in some ways I can see their point. It is sad that less than 75% turned out to vote on such an important matter. This may not have been because of indifference or even people feeling unable to choose how to vote – there may have been practical impediments, for instance, there were severe flooding and storms on Thursday afternoon which prevented a significant number of people racing the polling stations. This is most unfortunate. I don’t really know quite how it could be organised but I can see a case that we should have found a way to enable these citizens to cast their vote and have it counted. Still, I don’t know that this would have swung the vote the other way. The problems were not so severe as to account for anything near the 25% of British citizens who didn’t vote. Most of the flooding problems were around London, where locally Remain won the vote anyway.

I find the purpose and basis of what is being asked for in this petition to be very wrong.  It has been raised by persons who are not happy with the outcome of a democratic vote in the hope of getting the outcome they want. They are refusing to accept the fact that the majority of citizens voted Leave. I wanted us to Remain but I accept that the majority choice was Leave. We are proud of our democracy. We can’t ignore the outcome of a democratic process just because we don’t like it. Before the vote, it was not stipulated that there had to be a certain percentage majority for the results to be valid. There was plenty of time to consider and apply this if we had wanted to. Again, the petition is calling for it to be introduced after the event to invalidate the democratic results because Remain supporters don’t like it. Plus, introducing a new regulation after the event and then using it to invalidate the previous event seems bizarre and unfair. The law doesn’t work like that. If a new law is introduced, we don’t retrospectively arrest people who “broke” the law before it existed. This should be the same. The only place it would be right to declare the results of a democratic election invalid, in my view, would be if there was reason to think the voting process was not democratic – if people were manipulated, personally threatened or coerced. We risk taking a leap into the territory of trying to control how people vote and manipulating results.

Another rapidly emerging feeling I observe is young people and young voters (teens through early/mid twenties maybe) angry and frustrated towards what they perceive as the older generation who they consider have messed up the future for young people who will have time live with the consequences of our exit the longest. I do not agree and do not think this view is very well founded at all or the accusation fair, but it is powerful. Even in my small circle on social media and at work, this anger is taking hold and turning to hate and angry, accusatory comments. I do not doubt it will soon go beyond comments and real division will be caused. Together with the fact that views are polarised between England and Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland, it seems we could be heading for a less-United Kingdom!

For me I think it’s clear we have made a lot of decisions based on fear – fear of uncontrolled immigration, fear of losing our identity and independence,  fear of the future when so many people struggle materially day to day. For me, the past week has ensured I’ll work harder to understand what is going on in the government of our country rather than avoiding it feeling too intimidated by the acrimony and extreme views and scare stories that surround it.

Ginny xxx

Slipping through our fingers

There have been several cases in the news recently, in particular two this week, of children suffering unfathomable cruelty at the hands of their parents / caregivers. Much has and will be made of the failings on the part of social services and social workers. How could the horrors and suffering go unnoticed and why were concerns not followed up, staff nor taking a more joined up approach, so the children could slip through the net?

I don’t doubt that there certainly were failings in the services. I’m not denying that. I can’t imagine the guilt the workers involved in those two cases are feeling right now. I’ve suffered myself and so did my mother and so have several other people I care about, because of failings in the organisations that should give support and protection, which let us fall through the net without intervention in times of crisis and without promised follow up or communication across different services. Sometimes the services involved have seem totally unaware of the harm this causes and unwilling to take responsibility. That hurts even more. Fortunately I have never suffered anything approaching what the children in this week’s cases did.

I’m not trying to deny that there were failings and I don’t want to hurt anyone who has been through similar experiences. However I think the somewhat understandable jump to publicise the blame attributed to the social workers and agencies masks some important points.

First, the perpetrators of the terrible abuse the children suffered were their mothers, father’s and family members. That’s the greatest horror. It is terrifying that as humans we are capable of inflicting such suffering on another, let alone on one of our own family or our own child. It’s particularly horrific that a mother can do this to her own child. It so negates every good and nurturing thing a mother is. It means no relationship and no home is immune to evil actions and absence of love.

Secondly, that is such a frightening fact and we want to know why. How and why can a person do that? What does that mean about what’s possible? About our human race? That sounds like an overly broad concept really. But I think it shakes us. Can we conceive that our world is one where what should be the safest and most protective relationship, mother and child,  is used to inflict fear and hurt and pain?  We don’t want to. We at least need some explanation. It’s easier to label the failing of a particular social worker or agency, because that we can understand. That we can name. What brought the abusers to use their own children that way, we can’t.

Thirdly – and this is something that’s hard to explain but significant to me as a survivor of childhood abuse – these horrific abuses can and do happen in secret and undetected. Trying to come to terms with what happened to me and questioning over and over whether the things I can remember done to me are true, I’ve often doubted myself and told myself it must have been my fault or I must be mad and inventing it all, because at the time nobody else realised what was going on and nobody intervened and people thought my family was normal (er okay maybe not but they didn’t often suspect the full truth). These two tragic cases in this week’s news show the awful fact that abuse much worse than what I suffered can indeed continue in secret. Therein lies the abuser’s power to control, manipulate and deny.

Fourthly, no more resources are coming for social workers and care and protection teams at the moment. The little glimpses I’ve seen from my work in hospitals, psychiatric services, care teams and so on has shown me loud and clear that there simply are not enough hours in the day and not enough people on the ground to have the contact and communication and time to spend directly with children, families, patients in need,  as well as following the ever more extensive proformas and completing paperwork that is required to meet the rules and regulations (which are supposed to ensure good care is happening but at the same time take you away from doing it).

This is no new or ground breaking feeling. I think most people in nursing or caring services have been saying this for years. But it’s still frighteningly swept under the carpet and denied by those in power. When I worked in a service that supported teenagers and young adults with mental health needs and social support needs, I would take the minutes of clinical team meetings. In one such meeting, changes to documentation for care planning and recording were being introduced, which would require nursing staff to (a) spend much longer away from patients, sitting at computers completing databases and reports and (b) in many cases require nursing staff to spend already limited professional development time on training in IT packages, not in patient care.  Of course, the aim of all these whizz new care planning systems was supposed to be a magical improvement in compliance with regulations about good care. However, nobody could answer who was going to be delivering the care during the time that the already over stretched nurses were completing the compliance paperwork. I wonder whether there’s a box in the risk assessment screen to record the increased risk caused by the fact the nurses and carers are filling in the [expletive deleted] risk screen instead of assessing the patients? 😉 Time and time again there was no answer to this impossibility. In that meeting, one or two nurses directly asked, how in the same shift with the same staff,  were they to fit in their work with their patients, as well as completing the new compliance activities being introduced. How could they do both? Which was to go when the time ran out? In my eyes the response was appalling. The nurses were told that was an unacceptable attitude to display and there was simply no choice and the compliance work was to be done. This came from a senior clinician who I had greatly respected and her response was totally at odds with her usual very reflective approach. Of course I don’t know the history with that particular member of staff who asked the questions and perhaps there was more to it than that, but there seemed a forced denial of the impossibility of continuing to provide good care and the level of presence on the ground with those we are caring for,  which is so important if we are to prevent tragedies like the children who slip through the net where abuse and suffering goes undetected.

I left the service I mentioned because more and more changes were taking clinicians, and support staff like myself, away from being able to maintain the personal contact with patients.  (I’ve since regretted leaving, I’ll admit.) Clinicians left too, at least in part due to stress and sadness around similar issues. They were a great loss to their patients, in my opinion.

A little later I worked a temp cover role as a secretary for the legal team that supported my local county council’s child protection services. Round about this time I thought about training as a social worker. I didn’t in the end. I thought I’d find far too many situations where my hands were tied and too many times bureaucracy stopped me doing the good that was needed.

….

I cry for the children that suffered and for those who so want to be present on the ground to help those at risk but who are taken away and whose voices are silenced when they highlight the lack of resources and impossibility of meeting the demands of keeping children safe in the field, and complying with everything that’s supposed to be ensuring children’s safety. One thing is sure and that’s that it is far too easy to be silenced – again both in the case of the victims and the carers pointing out the shortage of resources to help them. Let’s keep on speaking out.

Ginny xxx