Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Kipling: assessing someone in another time

It is right and proper to use the values of our own time to assess someone in another time. That is natural, and it is also essential.

However we must ALSO try to understand the person in the context of their times.

It is right and proper to use the values of our own time to assess someone in another time. That is natural, and it is also essential.

If we did not do it how could we condemn our Celtic ancestors for head hunting? child sacrifice by Aztecs? Victorian values of slave blacks and women? the beating of children in the 50s?

However we must ALSO try to understand the person in the context of their times. Is their attitude to another class or race standard in their times? Then they are just normal at that time. the exceptional person who did challenge what we now see as injustice might be particularly honoured.

But the person who did not should not be condemned. They should simply be noted as passively part of their times, on that issue.

They might be admirable on other issues. Kipling had a very independent, intelligent response to Church narrowmindedness for example.

Let's accept that we do not live in a timeless zone. People should be judged by the standards of BOTH our time, and their own.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Cameron's Tory voluntary work

"On a more local level [Camron's policy] would publish booklets giving advice on how a local community could organise on behalf of itself, whether it is parents setting up schools or tenants forming more active associations."

I am not hostile to this, far from it. It would be grand.
But it would need far reaching changes to back it up.

At present people are working far too long hours, are heavily stressed by unjust and corrupt companies and councils. Bullying is epidemic and so is its twin, depression.
If not working long hours people are being cut adrift into the hopelessness and lethargy of unemployment as jobs are cut, debts cannot be serviced, bailiffs become brigands, repossession stalks the land.

I know from bitter experience that organising volunteers in today's climate is almost impossible. People are too exhausted, time starved, depressed and despairing.

More factors need addressing.

Women, who were always traditionally the backbone of the voluntary sector have been pressed into far more paid employment than they actually want. That's the property bubble. It's not going to get better soon as legacy debts still have to be serviced.
In fact a large part of voluntary work lack, desert estates, feral young, is lack of mothering.

People, both women and men, have been de-educated out of working in groups. In trying to run groups I've found it almost impossible over the last decade compared to the previous two decades. People have little or no idea how to put a group beyond individual "complaint." That has been steered so that action groups don't form, and problems are reduced to (weak) individual complaints.

Finally the restrictions on voluntary work by the unemployed are destructive especially in a period of high unemployment. The more voluntary work the better but the huge army of the unemployed is actually prevented from maintaining their morale and contributing to society.
I can't see why the puritanical powers that be couldn't allow a long term unemployed person to stay on benefits given proof of satisfactory voluntary work. It's contributing after all and at a cheap cost.

Anyway reviving and expanding the voluntary sector is going to take a LOT more than encouraging leaflets, and funding. Ken Livingstone and the GLC did just that but those were very different times without the exhaustion and despair, with a pool of women available, and a strong cooperative group ethos available.

Looking at Red Ken's early projects in the GLC would help Cameron a lot. One important lack in that period was long term advice to projects in how to use their funding. Some schemes were simply unrealistic, embarrassingly so. Too many used it to create jobs that when the tap turned off, collapsed the whole project because it had become dependent on those paid workers. Funds need to be used instead, to recruit and coordinate volunteers, to find and renovate cheap ramshackle properties etc that will serve the project even if politics whips away the funds.

It's going to need a lot more than leaflets and funding.

Thursday, 5 November 2009


I have been a barefooter all my life - I'm 60 now.
My mother, now 86 was also one and her mother and brother too. I can tell you that my mama has always been exquisitely elegant in Paris type clothes, perfect make up - and gorgeous toe rings and ankle chains.

The family tradition continues with my huge 18yrs son who has never worn shoes for more than a couple of hours very occasionally for a high formal event like a funeral.

Sigh. We got the constant stupid ignorant question "Can't you afford shoes?" This goes back to the snobbery of the early 20thC when only the well off could afford shoes every day.

Barefooting is not unhealthy, dirty or unsafe.

Read about it and make up your own mind.

Barefooting is not unhealthy, dirty or unsafe.

In fact it's far healthier than wearing shoes which cramp and distort feet creating all kinds of health problems including bad backs.

My son was always far better balanced, better at climbing, and even calmer than other kids in shoes. Shoes HURT when you're not used to them which applies to all small kids.
I watched my son climb Cheddar Gorge around 60ft up - at 8yrs. Perfectly safe, he was like a tough little ape. It's also stood him well for martial arts where he's a demon fighter mostly due to strong sure balance.

Barefooting not dirty. Skin does not make dirt stick like dead skin (leather) or plastics do. The dirt drops off much quicker as you walk into a building so when oters are still tracking it in, you're not.

Bare feet don't get put on tables! or anywhere offensive any more than shoes are.
As for the common question on stepping in muck well you don't. Within weeks you learn to scan without being aware you're doing it. You step in it far less than shoe wearers who tend to be careless where they put their feet.

Bare feet don't SMELL! Sweat doesn't build up, soak into sock or shoe and go stale. It instantly ventilates and the foot stays dry. (This is an important issue for teenage males.)

Barefooting is safe. The skin on the sole rapidly toughens - it takes around 4 - 6 weeks. In fact it becomes tougher than many shoes. In summer when I barefoot more I don't even think about glass, splinters. I can just walk on 'em! and they drop away.
I did wash my son's feet when small in salt water every few nights just in case of tiny cuts but I was probably being overprotective.

Regarding chemicals etc there is very little protection from flip flops either. Liquid splashes in between the sole of sandal and sole of foot.
So most bio- or mineral-hazards are fenced off places, if serious, and only closed in shoes or boots are adequate. same as a building site or science lab.

There ARE a few hazards. Don't walk barefoot at night in the park because of rusty metal sharps, and dirty needles, for which ditto city centres. Don't walk barefoot in tropical countries because of parasites that lie in the earth there.

Otherwise FREE THE FEET!
While getting used to it, do it for longer and longer periods, like breaking in new shoes. Wash in salt water till the skin hardens. Expect to take around 4 - 6 weeks to learn to automatically scan the ground for yuck without noticing you're doing it.

Enjoy the massive sensuality of it. Ground textures are amazingly varied. The strength in bare feet travels up the spine so it's good for posture. Release those poor battered toes from potential bunions and corns, ingrown toenails. Gain a beautiful sense of balance as you move about.

If nothing else do give up shoes indoors. It saves your carpets or flooring because it's so much cleaner than tracking dirt in on shoes: and you get a lot of the benefits from part of each day barefooting.

Shoe manufacturers make a FORTUNE out of the damage you're doing your feet.

Free the feet - or choose not to barefoot.
But at least now you know a bit about it so you won't say (or think) incredibly stupid ignorant things about it.

Link - stunning pic of girl barefooting in snow!

Link Society for Barefoot Living