a maze of words leading to …?

Archive for the ‘Current Affairs and Politics’ Category

Trump – Moscow’s puppet?


Trump Puppet

If Moscow does not actually have any blackmail material on Trump – and if he is not thus a puppet of Russia – then he’s not doing a very good job of persuading us otherwise.

Consider … what would Russia like to see? Probably the following for starters:

  • A further breakup of the European Union (EU).
  • Widening divisions between the ‘Western’ democracies.
  • Trade wars between the USA and its allies and neighbours.
  • A return of Russia to G7 membership.

What actions has Trump taken?

  • Encouraged those EU members who either will be leaving (the United Kingdom) or are growing restless about staying. His actions include openly supporting far-right nationalist parties in Europe – especially those in Russia’s former sphere of influence – who want to leave the EU.
  • Sparked an endless series of rows and divisions with his virtually all of America’s allies and their political leaders.
  • Begun trade wars with the EU, Canada, Mexico and others.
  • Recommended that Russia be re-admitted to the G7 … regardless of their invasion of Eastern Ukraine, their annexation of Crimea, their assassination of journalists and opposition figures, their shooting down of a civilian airliner and their use of nerve agents in attempted murders on the streets of Britain.

All in all, we see a pretty close match between what Russia would want and what Trump is seeking to do.

And the US intelligence agencies have already unanimously concluded that Russia did interfere in the presidential election, with the aim of getting Trump elected. This is not Trump’s endlessly repeated claim of ‘fake news’ – this is hard fact: the conclusion of every single US intelligence agency.

Oh, and what else might Russia like to see? That’s easy: a ‘war’ between the US President and his own intelligence agencies. Well, they’ve certainly got that.

And they’ve got an American president who goes around sowing division, distrust and hostility both within the USA and across the wider ‘western’ world.

Another day, another series of insults tweeted to all and sundry … and another round of ‘fake news’ claims to disguise it all.

Vladimir Putin and the gangster-state of Russia – the true masters of fake news – must be laughing all the way to the many banks they’ve plundered.

America (Alt-Right) First


God-Emperor 2   Alt-right

In America First we saw how Donald Trump was working to undermine public confidence in three of the essential pillars of American democracy:

  • an independent judiciary
  • the press & media
  • the voting system

And all this, it was suggested, with a view to turning America into a neo-fascist state: a dictatorship and personality cult centred on the man who described himself (in a phone conversation with the Australian Prime Minister) as “the world’s greatest person”.

He’s since begun to undermine an additional pillar of democracy: Congress itself has now become a central target in his campaign to ‘drain the swamp’.

Draining the swamp:

In July (2017) Trump said that Republican senators “look like fools” (for not doing away with the legislative filibuster). In August he blamed the Republican-controlled Congress for worsening relations with Russia, tweeting: “You can thank Congress, the same people who can’t even give us HCare!” (referring to the failed attempts to repeal and replace the so-called ‘Obamacare’ health policies).

Now he’s taken to targeting individual Republican Senators who have dared to criticise him. Take Senator Jeff Flake, for example, who is seeking re-election but facing a challenger in the primary selection process. Trump is backing the challenger, tweeting: “Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate … He’s toxic!”

His attacks on elected Republicans go much wider: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senators Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Dean Heller and Bob Corker … all been targets for Trump’s ire in recent weeks and months.

All this serves a three-fold purpose: to undermine public confidence in Congress as an institution, to intimidate other Republican members of Congress into avoiding further critical comment; and to try and replace those critics who refuse to be cowed with more pliant Republicans crafted in his own image. (more…)

America First


america-first-2  america-first

America First … hear a distant echo: “Deutschland über alles” …

If you want to gradually turn the USA into a neo-fascist state, assuming that you already hold immense executive power (the Presidency), then first you must undermine the essential pillars of democracy. These include a free press and media, an independent judiciary and public confidence in democracy itself.

Confidence in democracy itself (the fair counting of votes):

When it comes to voting rights, Democrats push voter protection while Republicans shout voter fraud in a crowded polling place. Democrats think anyone who can vote should vote; Republicans think everyone who should vote can vote. ~ Christine Pelosi

Trump and his advisors continue, even after winning the election and despite still not providing any evidence of vote rigging, to try and undermine public confidence in the voting system.

(more…)

Trump: neo-fascist


trump-fascist-salute

Trump Rally

I had previously seen Donald Trump merely as a bad joke – albeit a misogynist, a homophobe, a racist, a narcissistic blow-hard, a con-artist and serial liar.

But I now realise that he’s much worse than this: a disguised but dangerous neo-fascist, leading a large populist movement, intent on undermining faith in democracy, stirring up civil unrest, providing encouragement for post-election violence and an insurrectionary movement of “patriots”.

He says the American democratic system is rigged and refuses to say that he’ll accept the election outcome. He now refers to Obama’s presidency as a “regime” and says he’s going to put Hillary Clinton in jail. He muses about “2nd amendment solutions” (i.e. the use of guns). He’s promised to forcibly deport 11 million people (illegal immigrants) … an act that would require busting in on tens of thousands of businesses and homes, not to mention the establishment of mass camps where these 11 million women, men and children can be herded and concentrated together.

He has spoken of his admiration for “strong men”, citing Iraq’s former President Saddam Hussein and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and has openly encouraged the Russians to hack into the computer networks of both the Democratic Party and U.S. government agencies. He stirs up hatred against ethnic, religious and other minorities. His supporters put out videos like Big Guns, which shows an ex-Navy Seal firing a high-powered, rapid-fire gun, accompanied by ominous voice-overs about the Democratic Party.

trump-star-of-david-2

He has tweeted a six-pointed star, echoing the Jewish Star of David, positioned next to a photo of Clinton against a backdrop of money (see above). At a recent campaign rally in Florida he has evoked fascist symbolism by asking his supporters to raise their right arms and pledge to vote for him (see top of page).

Trump has been endorsed by David Duke, head of the white-supremacist Klu Klux clan, who said: “voting against Donald Trump … is really treason to your heritage.” He has been endorsed by a variety of far right political leaders across Europe, including Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the National Front in France.

trump-lion-guard

In February of this year Trump tweeted a quote used by the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini: “It is better to live a day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.” Soon afterwards, a group calling itself the ‘Lion Guard’ – who use the same quote as their tag-line – launched a web site, seeking to organise his supporters into a militia that is “willing to forcefully protect” Trump from people it perceives to be threats. Some may recall that Mussolini rose to power on the strength of his own militia, a group that also claimed to be “defending” the fascist leader from his enemies.

Trump has instructed crowds to “Knock the crap out of them” if they see a protester at his rallies, and pledges that he will pay the legal fees of any of his supporters who is brought to trial on assault charges.

His most ardent supporters call him the “God-Emperor”.

The list goes on.

Things have come to pretty pass when such a man – a neo-fascist – is the Republican Party’s nominee to be the next President of the United States.

The Party’s Over


Republican Party

The hard core of Trump’s support is white, ill-educated, machismo-fantasist, racist, homophobic and misogynist men.

In their bizarre world – which reflects their sexual insecurities more than anything else – anyone man who opposes Trump is a ‘cuck’ … meaning cuckold, a ‘sissy’ man whose wife/girlfriend/partner is taken sexually and willingly by a more ‘alpha male’.

In their world, women are seen mainly as mere sexual objects to be ogled, groped at will, degraded, demeaned and worse.

In their world, guns and violence are glorified … as are ‘strong men’ like the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

In their world paranoia, conspiracy theories and extreme gullibility run riot. The dangers of Hurricane Mathew are cast as a conspiracy-hyped threat to scare people into believing in global warming and climate change. If Trump loses the election, this result is already being framed as a rigged vote. And the dwindling support for their brand of idiocy is explained by things like:

“Men aren’t men anymore. Testosterone levels have been dropping, and men are getting weaker every generation. Some people will tell you it’s just because they’re pussies, but the truth is the water is polluted. Look into xenoestrogens.”

And let’s be clear: we’re not talking about a small number of nutcases here. No, we’re talking about millions of US citizens, albeit mostly of the stupid male variety. We’re talking about large, rag-bag collection of bible-thumping religious zealots, tea-party hard-cores, white supremacists, xenophobes, gun fanatics, “southern good ol’ boys”, conspiracy freaks, ‘survivalists’, anti-abortion crusaders, biker gangs, machismo fantasists, homophobes … the list goes on.

The tragedy for the Republican Party is that, bit by bit, it has allowed this motley, insular crew to take over large chunks of their organisation. Even worse, it didn’t even need to pander to these idiots because their votes have nowhere else to go except the box marked ‘abstain’ … and most of these people are too driven to go there.

And by its unreasoning, unbending and extreme hostility to pretty much everything that Obama has tried to do, the Republican Party – through its control of the Senate and the House of Representatives – has created a virtual paralysis of government in the USA for the last eight years and created an atmosphere of bile, division and vitriol that has only further encouraged the extremists out of the woodwork and into the world of Trumpism.

And so came the bitter fruits of their labours: the most unelectable, most unfit-for-President candidate in many, many decades, perhaps ever. This swaggering blow-hard, the puffed-up con artist, the narcissist, the crude, mean-minded man of small wit and large insult … the man who actually brags about his ability to sexually molest women and get away with it.

Delivery Drones Delivering Hell


 

Delivery Drone

Forget the prospect of delivery drones falling out of the sky and killing or maiming people. Forget the privacy issues as they fly over your enclosed back garden whilst you perhaps sunbathe naked. Think about the noise …

Many places already have constant background noise from road traffic – road hiss, engines revving and running, horns honking. So do we really want to fill the sky close above our homes with thousands of whirring and buzzing drones?

You need to go to a place like Venice, which has no road traffic except for small area around the train station, to appreciate how deeply wonderful it is to be in a city or town that is free from the constant background noise of motor traffic. People stop and talk to each other much more. You can hear more birdsong, the water lapping against buildings, whispers from across the canals, the sound of laughter from around corners …

Yet, as if the noise from road traffic isn’t enough, some want to fill the very air above our heads with noise – droning noise you can’t escape from, whirring noise overhead to add to the noise that’s already down at ground level.

We already have rising stress levels … and rising levels of psychological and emotional ill-health. Will society really be so stupid as to allow it’s fraying sensibilities to be further degraded and invaded by flying delivery drones?

Don’t let anyone tell you it would be “progress”. Or if it is “progress”, then it’s the same kind of “progress” that’s brought us nuclear waste and seas clogged up with plastic.

And if it is “progress”, then it’s progress on the road to hell.

Islamist dictatorship in Turkey


Turkey Flag

Following the recent ‘coup attempt’, President Erdogan, who won the presidential election by virtue of his governing party taking state control of much of the Turkish media, is now moving to undermine the other essential pillars of democracy, most notably an independent judiciary.

More than 60,000 people have been detained, dismissed or suspended from their jobs. These include nearly 3,000 judges (many of whom will no doubt be replaced by Erdogan supporters), with 140 arrest warrants issued against members of Turkey’s Supreme Court and the vice-president of the Constitutional Court. And a formal ‘state of emergency’ has been declared, which allows the president and cabinet to bypass parliament when drafting new laws and to restrict or suspend rights and freedoms. Already it’s been decreed that people can be detained without trial for up to 30 days.

Meanwhile, Erdogan’s Islamist supporters have been out on the streets chanting “God is Great” … the ill-omened cry we’ve heard so often over the years from a range of Islamic fundamentalists in a variety of countries.

No doubt these supporters were encouraged some years earlier, when, prior to his becoming President (and three years before he became Prime Minister) Erdogan publicly read a nationalist poem including the lines:

“The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers.”

The ‘coup-attempt’ was highly (and suspiciously) convenient for Erdogan, giving him the excuse he’s been waiting for to further undermine and weaken his political opponents. The resultant purge has so far affected the police, schools, the judiciary, the armed forces and the provinces. Using lists that were clearly pre-prepared (the purge began instantaneously, well before any investigation could have possibly identified such extensive numbers of people), nearly 3,000 judges have been suspended, whilst 6,000 members of the military (including more than 100 generals and admirals) were arrested and more than 3,000 dismissed. Around 8,000 police officers have been sacked, along with nearly 9,000 interior ministry staff and some provincial governors.

Parts of the media – those that were not already under state control – are also being targeted. So far, 142 media outlets have been shut down, including 16 TV channels, 23 radio stations, 45 newspapers, 29 publishers, 15 magazines and 3 news agencies. Detention warrants Larbeen issued for 89 journalists and reporters.

The ‘purge’ goes further still. More than 1,200 associations have been shut down, along with 19 trade unions and 35 medical institutes. Even more ominously, the government has closed 19 universities and more than 1,000 schools. It has also suspended over 15,000 education staff, with more than 1,500 university deans ordered to resign and the licences revoked of 21,000 teachers working at private institutions.

All in all we may justifiably surmise that what is essentially happening is the arrest, dismissal or suspension of those known to be (or suspected of being) politically opposed to Erdogan. No doubt there are more detentions and dismissals to come. Suddenly, in today’s Turkey, political opposition to the government is edging towards being branded a crime.

It’s obvious that Erdogan is a man who doesn’t believe in ruling on behalf of all the Turkish people, but only on behalf of those who (supposedly) elected him as President. In this he makes the most fundamental mistake of all concerning democracy, believing it instead to be a battle for the right to supress those who ‘lost’ the election.

Meanwhile he sits in his new presidential palace – bigger than the White House or the Kremlin and costing many hundreds of millions of pounds – and contemplates bringing back the death penalty.

Looking at the wider picture, Turkey can no longer be considered anything even close to being a reliable member of NATO – and indeed is now in serious breach of one of NATO’s stated fundamental objectives, namely to promote democratic values. And the prospect of Turkey being allowed to join the European Union is now further away than ever – decades away at least.

The sad truth is that it’s now unlikely that any truly democratic election will ever be permitted in Turkey whilst Erdogan and his fellow Islamists remain in power: state control of the media and other agencies vital for democracy will see to that.

So unfortunately, and unless the liberal and secular peoples of Turkey can somehow oust Erdogan from power, Turkey will continue its rapid slide towards an Islamic dictatorship.

Brexit mexit win for dumb fucks


Brexit1

So, the United Kingdom (UK) has voted by a narrow majority to leave the European Union (EU): a triumph for ignorance, nationalism, divisiveness, fragmentation and the scapegoating of ethnic and foreign minorities.

One look at the leading politicians in favour of a British exit (dubbed ‘Brexit’) from the EU would have been enough for any moderately clued-in person to vote against leaving: Nigel Farage (leader of the UK Independence Party, where right-wing conservatism shades off into nastier reaches), Boris Johnson (ex-Mayor of London, a populist and opportunist carefully disguised with genial buffoonery), Donald Trump (Mr. Dodgy, right down to his orange, spray-on perma-tan) and Vladimir Putin (Mr. Macho Man, Gangster-in-Chief of Russia).

But hey, folks, we’re not talking about moderately clued-in people when it comes to a significant proportion of the pro-Brexit voters. Hell no, we’re talking about a large number of dumb fucks: the ill-educated, more ignorant, racist, xenophobic and self-pitying.

This is the section of society from whose woodwork has always emerged, throughout history and when opportunity presents, the supporters of authoritarian and fascist rulers – the stern father figures who will look after ‘us’, banish and punish all the ‘outsiders’ (i.e. anyone that the clueless deem responsible for the ills in their lives) and give licence, subtly or otherwise, to the resentful, scapegoat-seeking feelings – violence, hate, intimidation – carried in their supporters’ hearts.

These are the dumb fucks who have now voted – tho’ they knew it not – for:

  • The breakup of the UK (Scotland will now surely vote to leave and so re-join the EU).
  • The renewal of terrorism and violence in Northern Ireland. The Irish Republic is strongly pro-EU, and Sinn Fein, which has MPs on both sides of the border, has already called for a vote on whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK or instead become part of a united Ireland.
  • The ceding of Gibraltar to Spain (the Gibraltarians voted massively to stay in the EU).

These are the clueless citizens who have voted for the very possible fragmentation and eventual collapse of the institution – the EU – that was brought into being to make impossible ever again the outbreak of war within Europe. After the UK, Greece could well be the first to go … their economy has long been in tatters, defaulting on their massive debts via an EU-exit looks increasingly attractive to many Greeks, and leading Greek politicians have been cosying up to Russia for some time now.

And these – the Brexiteers – are the clueless idiots who have effectively voted for the encouragement of far-right groupings right across Europe:

  • In France, far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen was among the first to hail the Brexit vote with a cry of “victory for freedom!” Now, she tweeted, it was time for a referendum in France and elsewhere in the EU.
  • In Holland, Geert Wilders – the leader of the anti-Islam, anti-immigration Freedom Party – was also among the first to congratulate Britain on its “Independence Day”. He promised that if he were elected the Dutch would be granted their own EU-exit referendum.
  • In Germany, Beatrix von Storch, an MEP for the rightwing populist party Alternative für Deutschland, welcomed the result. “The 23 June is a historic day. It is Great Britain’s independence day”, said Storch, who was recently expelled from the Tories’ party group in the European parliament after suggesting German police might be within their rights to shoot refugees trying to cross the border.
  • The far right Sweden Democrats, who hold the balance of power in Stockholm, tweeted: “Congratulations to Britain’s people on choosing independence! Now we are waiting for a #swexit!”
  • The powerful far-right Danish People’s party congratulated the British people on their “bold” choice, which, it said, was a “stinging slap to the whole system”.
  • In Athens, Golden Dawn, Europe’s most violent rightwing party, rejoiced at the referendum result. Predicting it would further empower “nationalist forces” across Europe, the neo-fascist group welcomed what it described as “the brave decision of the British people” and said it hoped a similar referendum could take place in Greece.
  • Belgium’s Flemish nationalist party Vlaams Belang was overjoyed by the result of the Brexit referendum.

The authoritarian forces outside the EU are also delighted with the Brexit vote. In Russia, Moscow’s Mayor, Sergei Sobyanin noted that “Without the UK in the EU, there’s no one there who’ll so stridently back sanctions against us [imposed for Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea].” Meanwhile ultra-nationalist Russian MP Vladimir Zhirinovsky said the British public “had performed a heroic deed”.

So well done, all you dumb fucks. Your ignorance and stupidity has opened Pandora’s box.

Psychiatry: a failed profession?


Psychiatry.jpg

 

Psychiatry: its origins, how it became threatened and its response:

Psychiatrists are doctors of medicine who have undergone additional, specialist training.

The path towards establishing psychiatry as a mainstream profession effectively began with Sigmund Freud, a medical doctor who famously developed psychoanalysis as a means to help some of his patients. This ‘talking treatment’ approach included the exploration of dream-symbolism and the unconscious self, a focus on repressed (unconscious) sexual desires (e.g. the ‘Oedipus complex’) and the use of free association … where the patient talks freely, without censorship or inhibition, about whatever ideas or memories occur to them. Within this approach, anxiety and depression (for example) were seen not as symptoms of disease, but instead as emotional distress arising from internal psychological conflicts.

The psychiatrists who followed in Freud’s footsteps keenly adopted psychoanalytic theory, partly because it hugely expanded their potential ‘customer base’ beyond the asylums, opening the way for the treatment of patients in private practice.

As the 20th century wore on, however, the effectiveness of psychoanalysis was scrutinised and increasingly criticised … to the point where psychiatry as a reputable profession came under serious threat, partly because of problems over diagnostic ‘fuzziness’, and also because of the rise of counselling[1] as a rival form of talking treatment offered by practitioners who didn’t need to have medical doctorates.

In an effort to protect their guild interests – and to safeguard the very survival of psychiatry – the profession switched direction. It enthusiastically adopted a ‘disease model’ for mental ill-health, a model that fitted well with the medical background of the doctors involved. And with this new model, the treatment of patients became increasingly centred on prescription drugs.

So began the development of an institutionally-corrupt financial relationship with the pharmaceutical industry. And so also began psychiatry’s journey down a deeply unscientific path.

Psychiatry as pseudo-science:

The American psychiatric ‘bible’ is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of Mental Disorders (equivalent diagnostic manuals exist in Europe and elsewhere). The first DSM edition, published in 1952, contained 106 categories of supposed mental disorder, including homosexuality as a “sociopathic personality disturbance.”

Fast forward sixty odd years: the recently published 5th edition (DSM-5) now lists well over 600 categories of supposed mental disorder … a nearly six-fold increase compared to the 1st edition. This is, of course, excellent news for the business and commercial interests of both the psychiatric profession and the pharmaceutical companies.

Thus, egged on by vested commercial and guild interests, almost every type and incidence of emotional, personal and ‘mental’ problem or distress has been turned into a ‘disorder’ or ‘illness’ or ‘syndrome’ or similar type of stigma – to be treated (of course) mostly by means of prescribed drugs.

In what way has this process been driven by pseudo-science? In what way is the bio-physical ‘disease model’ adopted by psychiatry so profoundly flawed? The main answer is simple: after all this time, after decades of research, there is still a complete absence of any biological markers for – and biogenetic causes of – ‘mental’ ill-health.[2]

Take, for example, some of the more severe forms of ‘mental’ ill-health. Dr. Lucy Johnstone (a psychologist) has written:

“We have known for a long time that terms such as ‘schizophrenia’ are scientifically meaningless. They are not actually ‘diagnoses’ in a medical sense, since they are not based on patterns of bodily symptoms or signs. Instead, the criteria consist of a ragbag of social judgements about people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour.  The people who are so labelled may well have difficulties and be in urgent need of help, but this is not the way to help them.”[3]

Or, for further instance, take so-called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). As one of the more enlightened psychiatrists, Dr. Sami Timimi, has written:

“ADHD is … ideally placed as a convenient diagnostic ‘dumping ground’ allowing all of us (parents, teachers, doctors, politicians) to avoid the messy business of understanding human relationships and institutions and their difficulties.’[4]

Or as John Shlien, Professor of Education & Counselling Psychology at Harvard University, has written:

“Diagnosis is not good, not even neutral, but bad. Let’s be straightforward and flat out about it, it is not only that its predictions are flawed, faulty and detrimental to the relationship and the client’s self-determination; it is simply a form of evil. It labels and subjugates people in a ways that are difficult to contradict or escape.”

The good news, however, is that the crisis of psychiatry has now reached the point where even the authors of diagnostic manuals are starting to finally admit that psychiatric diagnoses are not supported by evidence.

So where to now?

The reform of ‘mental’ healthcare is a vast subject and contains many needed elements (not least, under the heading of ‘prevention’, a priority focus on children and young people – see here, for example, ‘Bad Education’). But we can identify at least three of the main strands without further ado.

  1. Recognise that ‘mental’ healthcare is largely misnamed. The real focus should be emotional healthcare … because emotions (e.g. depression, anxiety, fear, guilt etc.) are the core experiences of most so-called ‘mental’ health problems.
  2. Abandon the disease/medical model and replace it with a contextual approach in which problems do not exist in isolation, but arise from, and are connected to, each person’s unique self, life story and life circumstances. Instead of asking people ‘what is wrong with you?’, we should instead ask ‘what has happened to you?
  3. Hugely reduce the emphasis on drug-treatments (treatments which stem largely from the misconceived disease/medical model) … and hugely increase the provision of counselling services.

The upshot of these is that psychiatry, as a profession, becomes largely redundant … at least in anything even remotely resembling its current form.

Of course the majority of psychiatrists – and the drug companies whose profits thus become threatened – will loudly protest. But when it comes to emotional healthcare, the truth is that the majority of doctors do not know best.

[1]     A profession effectively begun by Carl Rogers in the 1940s.

[2]     As used here at least, the term ‘mental ill-health’ does not include conditions – such as dementia – that are caused by bio-physical factors and involve a loss of brain function (e.g. memory).

[3]     Dr. Lucy Johnstone, www.madinamerica.com 2013.

[4]     Dr. Sami Timimi, Making and Breaking Children’s Lives, PCCS Books.

Bad Education


education

 

The key problems:

Three-quarters of people who have mental health problems in working life first experienced symptoms in childhood or adolescence.

For children and young people, there’s not just exam pressure and insecurities around body image, but also the risks of social media … not to mention the bullying and harassment that occurs outside of a social media context. Research from a respected mental health charity (Mind) suggests that one in five young adults in the UK will end up crying in any given week because of stress and anxiety.

It’s therefore no surprise that when the UK Youth Parliament recently voted to choose their priorities for the year ahead, nearly one million young people chose ‘curriculum for life’ and ‘compulsory mental health education’ as two of their three most important aims.

Of course the best way to prevent the escalation of mental health problems into acute and/or chronic conditions is to identify and work with these problems early, and to teach children and young people the emotional and psychological skills and knowledge that can greatly help them to maintain their well-being.

Yet currently, one in four people will suffer a mental health problem at some time in any given year (with anxiety and depression being the most common), not least the more than 53,000 people in Britain – the highest number ever recorded – who were detained last year under the Mental Health Act.[1]

Moreover, the majority of bio-physical illnesses are caused by obesity[2], smoking and excessive drinking: lifestyle problems which (together with other addictions) stem primarily from underlying psychological factors. This is why attempts to tackle them with advertising campaigns or taxation (or a combination of both) have met with only limited success.

But the inter-related problems in focus here don’t just centre on mental or physical ill-health. In England and Wales, 30.0% of women and 16.3% of men have experienced domestic abuse since the age of 16: around 4.9 million female victims and 2.7 million male victims?[3] And a recent study found that 11.3% of young adults in England aged 18-24 had experienced sexual abuse during childhood. Yet more, for the year ending March 2015 the latest estimates from the Crime Survey for England and Wales show there were 1.3 million violent incidents – including homicide, violence with injury, and violence without injury – in England and Wales.

The questions:

In the face of all this – the sheer scale of mental ill-health, lifestyle-induced physical illness, domestic and sexual abuse, the violence in society – we are entitled to ask:

  1. How is it that so many children exit from our school system, after 10 years or more of full-time education, so lacking in the social, emotional and psychological skills and knowledge that would greatly help them (and those around them) throughout their life?
  2. How is it that so many children exit from our school system, again after 10 years or more of full-time education, to become the teenagers and adults who commit such violence, or live such unhealthy lifestyles, or engage in domestic and sexual abuse?

The answers:

Clearly the vast majority of children receive a bad education – one that singularly fails to teach them what they really need most of all to know and be able to do. Instead, the school curriculum (the key issue here) largely centres on things – reading, writing and basic arithmetic apart – that most pupils don’t need to know and will never ever use.

Children in our schools learn far too little about the understandings, skills and areas of knowledge that would prevent many of them – even despite the difficult family and domestic backgrounds which some must endure – from becoming mentally ill or turning into anti-social and/or violent characters. And they spend far too much time in school learning about things that little benefit society (and themselves) when weighed against the huge societal and personal burdens that result from mental ill-health, physical ill-health (that which is caused by psychological factors), and abusive and violent behaviour.

The cosine of wasted time, the algebra of trivial information. Months spent on calculus, scant time given to schooling empathic imagination. Years ransomed to teaching foreign languages, yet many can barely grunt in the dialect of relationships. A decade or more given over to studying facts and information about the outer world, with barely a glance at the inner worlds that will affect them, their lives and the people around them so much more.

When was the last time you, the reader, ever really needed or used a knowledge of chemistry or physics or geometry?

In contrast, when was the last time you felt depressed or anxious or isolated?

And when you’ve answered these questions, here’s another one. Did you – did any of us – really get a good education?

 

[1] “Britain’s Mental Health Crisis”, BBC Panorama, October 26th 2015.

[2] According to Prof Nick Finer, from University College London’s Institute of Cardiovascular Science, obesity is now “the most pressing health issue for the nation”. He says that “estimates of the economic costs of obesity suggest they will bankrupt the National Health Service.”

[3] 2012-13 Crime Survey for England and Wales, Chapter 4 – Intimate Personal Violence and Partner Abuse, Office for National Statistics.

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