Monday, 9 May 2011

Mid-life blues

They say that life begins at 40.  I have always had my doubts as to the validity of that statement.  Unfortunately, in about three weeks time, I will find out for myself as I am staring down the barrel of that particular gun and that date will mark 33 years of living in the darkest place you could ever find – depression.  Some call depression the common cold of mental health issues, a sentiment that only goes to trivialise just how bad depression can be for someone who suffers from it.  I only know that I have lived in what I call “the abyss” for so long that there is no hope for me to ever reach some kind of light at the end of the tunnel.  Recent events have made the situation worse for me and I can only see the bleakest of futures for myself as I am forced to withdraw from the few people who gave me some hope.

I have begun to continue my spiritual journey that has been on pause for some time because of all the distractions that have presented themselves to me.  The picture that is emerging for me is that I should never have become involved in the affairs of the rest of the human race and should have maintained the position of observer only.  All my forays into the affairs of others has done is to make me feel more and more worthless and used, something that I can ill-afford now.  I must isolate myself from the rest of humanity so that I can be who I am meant to be – a modern-day Cassandra, who can see the terrible future but who can do nothing to stop it as no one believes me.

I can see a dark and terrible storm coming on the horizon for the human race and I must prepare to chronicle it for the future, should there be one.  There are others like me out there who can see the way things are, the way things could be and the gigantic gulf between, and sense that their reason for being is to observe rather than become involved in the events that unfold around them.

From this moment on, apart from becoming involved in things that will, hopefully, make life better for me; I will no longer do anything for anyone.  I will observe and comment on events and situations so that others may act according to their own consciences but I will no longer get involved.  I must now look out for number one and follow the calling of my heart that tells me that I must isolate myself in order to continue my search for my personal truth, return to my spiritual journey that I hope will bring me peace.

I hope that becoming 40 will actually signify the end of my life rather than the beginning as I grow weary of life and long only for eternal peace away from the rest of the human race that has brought me nothing but misery and pain.

Struggling to make sense of life

I am struggling to find any meaning in life at the moment.  I am trying to do the right and proper thing at the few bits of voluntary work I still do but have found myself becoming increasingly betrayed and accused when I suggest something that is in the good of a particular organisation.  This comes at a time when only a few short months ago I was told in an e-mail that they would support me when I made a decision that benefited Thurrock LINk.  Since then, I have been betrayed by someone who I had supported wholeheartedly and accused of making, for purely personal reasons of revenge, a suggestion for an agenda item for the Management Committee meeting later this month.  An item, I have to say, that merely makes clear the responsibilities of the Management Committee to make sure that their elected officers are doing the job to which they submitted themselves as candidates for.

I believe that the Management Committee has a duty to scrutinise the elected officers, something that they have not done in the past, and, as such, Thurrock LINk found itself in a very serious position when revelations about a previous officer threatened the possibility of funding for this financial year, a year that is critical to the continuity of work between Thurrock LINk and the new user-involvement body HealthWatch in the next financial year.  Would this situation have arisen if the Management Committee have done its job and scrutinised the officers at that time?  I have to suspect that it would not have.

I understand that the person who accused me of trying to settle personal scores may have had her doubts as to my intentions but she forgets that whenever a situation has arisen in my other roles that may have reflected badly on Thurrock LINk, I have always sought the advice of the elected officers and/or project manager as to whether I should stand down from my position in that organisation.  I have always done so because I did not want anything to harm Thurrock LINk’s reputation as a wonderful champion for the residents of Thurrock on the subject of Adult Health and Social Care.

All the other stuff aside for a moment, I find it extremely hard to find sense in the Universe when the decision to put the item I suggested on to the agenda lies with the elected officers who the decision affects.  Would they submit to scrutiny willingly, knowing that the answers may have a detrimental effect on how they are perceived by the Management Committee?  I somehow doubt it.  So how can there be any meaning or sense to life when trying to do the right and proper thing can be negated in such a way?  I am struggling to find the answer.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Why I voted 'Yes' to AV

Yesterday, I took part in the referendum on whether to change the current first-past-the-post electoral system to the Alternative Vote system.  I was obviously one of a very select number who did, as there are mentions in the press of only a 10% voter turnout on the issue and the predicted result is a resounding ‘No’ to the change.

I, however, voted ‘Yes’, not out of any love of the Liberal Democrats or of the Labour supporters of the change nor out of any animosity towards the Conservatives, but I viewed the options and believed that a ‘Yes’ to any form of electoral reform.  The AV system was described by Nick Clegg as a miserable compromise and, in that respect, I totally agree with him but I disagree with the idea that we should have voted ‘Yes’ because any change to the electoral system is better than nothing.  The electoral system is in dire need of change, I just don’t think that the Liberal Democrats asked for a big enough change.

Major stumbling blocks for the ‘Yes2AV’ campaign were that the whole debate became too politically partisan, which deflected attention away from the facts of the subject, and the fact that the Liberal Democrats have made themselves so unpopular in their support of their Conservative Coalition partners that the very fact that they want AV, even if it is just a compromise from what they really wanted, made the whole campaign too toxic to support.

So, why did I vote for AV?  Well, I weighed up the arguments for and against, some of which I will cover below, and I will summarise my thought processes now.

  • AV means that some people’s vote will be counted twice.  Actually, that isn’t true because a person’s first choice vote is discounted if their chosen candidate gains the least amount of votes.  Their second choice candidate then becomes their vote, their single vote.
  • AV will lead to more coalition Governments.  This may be true but just because this coalition isn’t doing that well and is relatively unpopular, that doesn’t mean that coalition Governments can’t work.
  • AV will give more power to far right extremist voters.  Sorry, that doesn’t fly either.  Most political parties would be unattractive to people with extreme far right views and, unless a new British Nazi Party or UK Fascist Party comes into being, there are no other logical choices for people with those views.
  • The first-past-the-post electoral system has served this country well in the past.  Wrong.  The current electoral system has meant that a candidate could be voted into office by as little as a third of the votes cast in the election.
  • AV will result in an added expense.  This was the only point I had no real information on.  It could be right.  It could be wrong.  But isn’t it worth the one-off added expense to make our elected representatives more representative of the electorate’s wishes?
  • AV will make politics more homogeneous as candidates will be chasing the second choice vote in case they don’t have enough support to win outright.  I prefer to look at it this way – if the candidates aren’t popular enough to win outright then there’s a reason for that and it would be better for the electorate if they had to work to be more representative of the people they wish to represent.

  • The first-past-the-post system is not truly representative.  If a candidate can be voted into office with less than a third of the votes cast in an election then it really isn’t, is it?
  • AV will make candidates work harder for your vote.  This is true, in that, candidates must make themselves appeal to a wider audience than the one they currently do now (or preaching to the perverted, as I like to say).
  • AV will give less power to far right extremist voters.  Without any real logical options open to them and the fact that the major parties would not countenance views of that nature, voters on the extreme right will find themselves devoid of influence.  It may even put the final nail in the coffin for those parties that espouse those views.
  • AV means less wasted votes.  Currently, people have the choice of not voting, voting for a candidate that has no hope of winning the seat as a means of protesting or spoiling their ballot paper.  Protest votes usually end up going to waste or, even worse, go toward electing candidates with extremist views – not a good use of the vote.  AV, on the other hand, ensures that voters can weigh up the relative merits of the candidates on offer, rank them in order of preference and feel that their vote is still worth something without having to protest in the ways I have previously described.

I know I have left out some arguments, both for and against, and that there appear to be more arguments against AV but I feel that I have countered the arguments against AV quite well.  In the end, however, voting ‘Yes’ to changing to the Alternative Vote system felt right to me, deep in my gut (although it could have been indigestion).

You may have a different view; it would certainly be a crappy, dull world if we all thought alike.  I voted on the issues rather than the mud slinging, backbiting, name-calling partisan politicking that obscured the heart and soul of the matter, tried to look beyond all of that to what I felt would be best for the country and how many others can say that?

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Thurrock local election running commentary - The Final Conflict

And so Election Day is here…

It should have been a wild ride of doorstep debates with eager candidates vying for my vote; instead, it’s been the quintessential example of apathy on the part of the prospective candidates.  There has only been one visit to my residence by the Labour candidate and two leaflets pushed through my letterbox, also by the Labour candidate.  I may as well call Val Morris-Cook (no relation), the Grays Riverside councillor as it seems to me to be the inevitable conclusion of such a lacklustre campaign.  If it weren’t for the Voting Card in my in-tray, I wouldn’t even have realised that there was a campaign going on at all.

Grays Riverside is, and probably will remain in perpetuity, a Labour safe seat.  It will remain so until the rival candidates get up off of their gigantic behinds and actually do something to change it, to make people believe that their vote is worth casting.

Democracy in Grays Riverside is little more than a word used when election time comes around but means little else.  It is only when all the candidates make the effort that democracy means anything because then people can make informed decisions on who should represent them on the council.  Low voter turnout numbers are not the fault of the electorate; they are the fault of the lazy candidates who refuse to work for our vote.  The people who fought and died for our right for democratic elections must be spinning in their graves.

As for whom I will be voting for tonight, I will not be voting for anyone.  My Voting Card will be left discarded and unused yet again, despite my enthusiasm to actually participate in a meaningful way rather than the protest votes I have cast only three times in the past on General Elections.  I could have voted for Labour but that would not be right and proper, as I have had no option to make an informed choice as to whether she is the right candidate from the ones on offer.  I could also go to the Polling Station and spoil my ballot paper but then my vote would be wasted anyway so I may as well just not vote.

I will, however, be voting in the referendum on the Alternative Voting system although I am still in two minds at the time of writing this blog.  Tomorrow, I will be posting my decision on AV and my reasons for it.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

It doesn't pay to try to do what's right!

People wonder why I don’t want to get involved with the rest of the human race and I usually give the answer that getting involved just complicates matters.  I can think of no better example than what happened this morning.

I went to the office of an organisation I volunteer for, Thurrock LINk, to ask for an item to be added to the agenda of the next Management Committee meeting.  It was for a scrutiny session for committee to make sure that the elected officers, the Chair and Vice Chair, are doing what is in the best interests of the organisation.  I must say, at this point, that I have an axe to grind with the Chair and think that the person in the post of Vice Chair is the wrong man for the job; however, that does not have any bearing on my request that the two men be put under scrutiny as my reason is a sound one, not influenced by my feelings towards them.  My reason is this – it is the Management Committee’s responsibility to ensure that the organisation’s elected officers are held to account and that they are doing the duties for which they stood for the roles.  I am the Community Co-opted Governor for Thurrock Adult Community College and, as such, I know that the duty of the Board of Governors is to ensure that the senior management are doing what is best for the college.  This is the role at Thurrock LINk that the Management Committee should be holding.

When I put my suggestion for the agenda item, I was accused of trying to settle personal scores with the two officers.  Nothing could have been further from the truth as, despite disagreeing with the decision of the members on the Vice Chair and having a personal disagreement with the Chair, I have always maintained that the officers were democratically elected and that the result should stand.  I do, however, believe that, now they are ‘in post’, they should be scrutinised to ensure that the organisation is not lead from the positive path that it was on prior to the election.

I was asked if I was willing to be scrutinised in a similar fashion to the elected officers and I initially said no because I am not an elected official of Thurrock LINk and therefore had no need to be so scrutinised.  However, following the accusation of personal score settling, I agreed that I would be willing to be scrutinised.  I have nothing to hide but then I am not in a position of power in the organisation and I do not make any decisions that could positively or negatively affect the organisation.  All I was trying to do was put in place some procedures to ensure Thurrock LINk is being run properly and in the best interests of the residents of Thurrock, which is something the Management Committee should be doing anyway.

This, dear reader, is why I try to limit my involvement with the rest of the human race – because all I ever get is accusations, finger-pointing and, invariably, let down by the people I am trying to help.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

On the assessment ward part 2

Please note: This part of my account is written from memory and not from what was written at the time.  The timeline may be a little screwed up but the facts are right enough.

I will begin the second part of my account of my stay in the Assessment Unit following my overdose last February with a step back from where I left off last time…

I had been escorted to my room where I had my bags emptied and the contents scrutinised.  Before I was taken to the Mental Health Unit I had bought a couple of bottles of Cherry Coke for my stay but as my things were being checked through I was informed that I might have them taken away from me as they might be considered contraband.  This was a big thing for me as I don’t like the taste of water and I don’t like tea or coffee.  Thankfully, they let me keep them but I was left thinking exactly what I was supposed to drink if they had taken my drinks away from me.

The room was cold but fairly spacious with a single bed, a bedside cupboard unit, a wardrobe and a washbasin in it.  The wardrobe had no rail or hooks on which to hang any of my clothes so I merely had to place them on the shelves so any pretence of looking even vaguely well dressed the next day was immediately destroyed.  In fact, there was a distinct lack of anything on which you could hang anything.  The washbasin had ‘buttons’ of a sort instead of taps and there wasn’t even a plug for it.  The windows were protected from being opened by huge sheets of transparent plastic so that, if it had happened to be hot, there would have been no way to open them.  I knew that most of these precautions were being taken to protect me from trying to hang myself or throw myself out the window but it also took away some of the little dignity that life had left me with.

I put my toiletries, such as they were, in the bedside cupboard with my Coke bottles on the top.  I felt like crying as I felt as if I were a convict but, to be quite honest, I was too tired and upset to cry.  Tears come very hard to me at the best of times and this was certainly not the best of times.

I climbed into the bed to find that the only covering I had been given was a single sheet and an extremely thin blanket with holes as part of the design, much like a potato waffle.  As I remarked earlier, the room was cold so my bedclothes gave me little warmth.  I couldn’t sleep because the light in the corridor outside my room was on and I couldn’t help but see the glare through my eyelids.  I had been questioned, violated and then left alone in a cold room with my dark, suicidal thoughts.  Hardly the best thing for someone in such a deep state of distress.  I thought that things couldn’t get any worse.  I was wrong.

The next morning, the inmates of the ward and I were woken up and made to go to the combined dining and activity room where the television was mounted on the wall surrounded by a lockable box to prevent the inmates touching the screen.  Thinking about it, I suppose we were lucky in that the box wasn’t locked whilst I was there but one of the female inmates was jealously guarding access to the television and we were forced to watch whatever she wanted to watch.

The staff, in one of their few appearances outside of their office, served the breakfast through the serving hatch from the kitchen, making sure that everyone had something although there wasn’t really much variety in what was offered.  Following breakfast, the staff cleared away the crockery and locked the hatch, leaving only a bottle of dilute-to-taste squash and some plastic cups for us to have between breakfast and our lunch.

I had woken up with a migraine so I quickly returned to my room to lay down with a cold flannel on my forehead only to find the door locked.  We may have been prisoners but our jailers did the opposite of their prison counterparts, keeping us from our rooms rather than locking us in.  I went to the office to ask for some Ibuprofen for my migraine, only to be told that they wouldn’t be able to give me any without a prescription from the doctor who wouldn’t be taking his rounds until later that morning.  In another bit of good fortune, the nurse I spoke to had pity on me and unlocked my door so that I could take the only measures I could to try to get rid of the migraine on my own.