Build me up, don’t get me down, weather the storm, because life goes on.

“This band behind me’ll tell you that that trophy means more to me than owt else in the whole world. But they’d be wrong! Truth is, I THOUGHT it mattered. I thought that MUSIC mattered. But does it bollocks? Not compared to how people matter. Us winning this trophy won’t mean bugger-all to most people. But us refusing it – like what we’re going to do now – well, then it becomes news, doesn’t it? [flurry of press camera shutters] You see what I mean. That way, I’ll not just be talking to myself, will I? Because over the last ten years, this bloody government has systematically destroyed an entire industry. OUR industry. And not just our industry – our communities, our homes, our lives. All in the name of “progress”. And for a few lousy bob. I’ll tell you something else you might not know, as well. A fortnight ago, this band’s pit were closed – another thousand men lost their jobs. And that’s not all they lost. Most of them lost the will to win a while ago. A few of them even lost the will to fight. But when it comes to losing the will to live, to breathe, the point is – if this lot were seals or whales, you’d all be up in bloody arms. But they’re not, are they, no, no they’re not. They’re just ordinary common-or-garden honest, decent human beings. And not one of them with an ounce of bloody hope left. Oh aye, they can knock out a bloody good tune. But what the fuck does that matter?”  Click on the quote for Pete Postlethwaite in his full glory.

Well, it’s been quite a week hasn’t it?

I can’t say I was particularly confident of a major shift towards something that I would have seen as more positive than the last government, but, as I believe was the case for many of my friends, the last thing I was expecting was a Conservative majority.  I am saddened, I am disappointed, I am angry, I am frustrated, I am filled with dread with what is to come.

I have mixed feelings about my national identity.  I am both English and British.  I was born in a cottage in Buckinghamshire.  I have one Scottish grandfather who died 10 years before I was born and one Irish great grandfather who died 75 years before I was born.  We’ve traced branches of our family tree back over a thousand years and, as with many English people, our family has come from all over Europe – France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Norway, Germany, Turkey, Hungary – and that’s just the people we have records for.  When I was abroad I think I ended up saying either depending upon how I felt on the day.  I haven’t visited Europe recently so I’m not sure how we are currently being perceived over there.

I have real struggles with national pride and nationalism.  I can see why people want to have a sense of pride of where they come from.  People can be house proud, proud of their hamlet, village, town or city, their county, their region, their country, that’s fine if it brings them some happiness.  What I really hate is when that is then used as an excuse to say “I’m this, so I’m better than you!”  Just because you were born in this time and place doesn’t make you better than anyone who wasn’t.  Perhaps you are a better person than someone else, but that has nothing to do with an accident of birth, that’s to do with how you speak to people, your actions and your intentions.

I don’t think I am really built for national pride – perhaps that’s because I don’t feel that the things that the things I am supposed to be proud of are particularly to do with me.  My heart doesn’t swell at the sound of the National Anthem, I don’t feel that I’m part of any sporting achievement.  I’m pleased for the people who have worked hard to get those Olympic medals or other shiny things.  I can’t take credit for that.  It’s nothing to do with me.

There are things that Britain and England have done over the years that I’m proud of and things that I’m ashamed of. I’m proud that people donate to food banks to support others that don’t have enough to eat, but I’m ashamed that we have people who need to rely on donations from food banks when we are one of the more well-off countries in the world.  I’m proud that someone who has a medical problem can be seen by a doctor or a nurse without having to pay upfront or worry about how they will pay for their treatment because we have a National Health Service that covers those costs. I am ashamed that we have wealthy politicians who believe that profits for private companies are more important than people and that bullying sick people back into work is in the public interest.   I am proud that we have a democracy in which men and women can vote for the representative of their choosing in an election without being threatened with violence towards themselves or their families for having a voice of dissent. I am ashamed that people are abused on social media and can have their lives threatened for having a different viewpoint or for voting for a different political party.

I love that although these recent years have been very difficult financially for people here, as of the 9th of May, Comic Relief has raised £78,082,988 for projects supporting people facing difficult lives in the UK and in Africa. That is frankly amazing. People coming together to help strangers that they will likely never meet and giving money that they may not be able to afford.  We’ve seen similar efforts with natural disasters like the South East Asian tsunami, the earthquake in Haiti and the most recent, the earthquake in Nepal.

So I have choices.  I can despair that we now have a government that does not represent me and my views.  I can chose to live with my despair by grumbling away in the background or I can chose to air my disagreements in a civilised way.  I can sit at home and do nothing or I can join in protests or marches or peaceful demonstrations.  I can complain that no-one truly represents me, or I can represent myself by becoming involved in political groups.

One of the most positive things in my political landscape at the moment is the foundation of the Women’s Equality Party.  I was gutted to hear that Sandi Toksvig was leaving the News Quiz (oh the first world problems!) but when I heard her reasons on Women’s Hour I felt such a surge of joy because at last there was a political party that I felt I could become actively involved in.  I have never, ever, felt that I have wanted to get any sort of active role within politics, but I feel that this is something I should do and have a responsibility to do.

Why a responsibility? Because there are women all around the world who do not have an opportunity to vote, who don’t have access to the education I have been fortunate enough to have had, because there are women who are subjected to rape as a weapon of war, subjugation and control.  Because I live in a country that seems to feel that it has a moral upper hand over other parts of the world and yet I am not seen as or treated as equal to the men in this country.  So as soon as the Sandi Toksvig interview was over I emailed them to offer admin help or something.  I’ve been asked if I’d like to be involved in setting up the Sheffield branch and so I will be.

If you’ve not heard anything about #WE then this is the description from the facebook page:

Equality for women isn’t a women’s issue. When women fulfill their potential, everyone benefits. Equality means better politics, a more vibrant economy, a workforce that draws on the talents of the whole population and a society at ease with itself.

The Women’s Equality Party will be a new non-partisan force in British politics bringing together women and men of all ages and backgrounds, united in the campaign for women to enjoy the same rights and opportunities as men so that both sexes can flourish.

The Women’s Equality Party will work towards such a society. We will push for equal representation in politics and business to ensure women’s voices are heard at the same volume as men’s. We will urge an education system that creates opportunities for all girls and boys and an understanding of why this matters. We will press for equal pay and equal parenting rights enabling women and men to share opportunity and responsibility in the workplace and at home. We will seek an end to violence against women.

We will bring about change by winning—support, votes and seats. We will not try to present ourselves as a party with an answer on every issue and a full palette of policies. Our focus will be clear and unambiguous and we will not stop attracting votes from the other political parties until they embrace and adopt our agenda of equality.

I find it inspiring.

So I find that we have a storm to weather, and what a storm it is likely to be, but I plan to help build things up rather than knocking people down.  Who is with me?

Life Goes On – The Sundays

Build me up don’t get me down,
weather the storm.
Well, life goes on.
Feelings ebb and flow by hour.
You’re up in the clouds,
and then you sink like a stone.

So do you fill yourself with pills
to deaden your ills?
Or are you only one love short of happiness?
And in a picture on the wall
no glimmer of yourself at all.
You’ve let yourself fall away.

Build me up, don’t mop my brow,
weather the storm,
because life goes on.
Missed my only hope right now.
It’s all I can do
not to sink like a stone.

So do you fill yourself with pills
to deaden your ills?
Or are you only one love short of happiness?
And in a picture on the wall
no glimmer of yourself at all.
You’ve left yourself far away.

So do you fill yourself with pills
to cure you of your ills?
Or are you only one love short of the happy days to come?
And in a picture on the wall
can’t see your face at all.
So untie yourself,
because that’s all you’ve got to do.
And I can grab those wings
and I can take up flying
won’t be no crying.
Up in the air, looking back down.
And let me tell you if I talk about gloom
I don’t get out of feeling down.
It strips you of yourself
and splits you from the self that you know.

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