CROSS PARTY SUPPORT FOR LOVE ACTIVISTS’ PROPOSALS

When Love Activists Met Brighton & Hove City Council

Love Activists Brighton recently delivered their petition in support of the Solution Based Proposals to End Homelessness to their local council. They were invited to speak at the full council meeting held in the chambers of Brighton Town Hall, Thursday 28th January, 2016.

The solution based proposals were developed in consultation with the local community, prioritising feedback from rough sleepers. You can read the proposals, the rationale for them and sign the petition here.

Over 800 people have signed the petition online, while over 1000 handwritten signatures were gathered by people living on the streets. The petition is still gathering signatures now.

LAB_petitionA4

I livestreamed the full council meeting meeting from the public gallery on bambuser, (22 minutes in). It was also broadcast on the council’s website in higher definition (44mins, 34 secs in).

For the purposes of this project, the Love Activists have suspended their righteous cynicism about the democratic deficit, in order to give the council the opportunity to prove them wrong.

Ree represented the group and in her allocated 3 minutes she addressed the council respectfully, but firmly. She gave voice to the grief and anger we are all feeling, without becoming upset or angry. The Love Activists are at pains to remain non-party political and non-combative. Their intention is to inspire the council to actually implement the proposals, not to play the blame game with them.

Continue reading CROSS PARTY SUPPORT FOR LOVE ACTIVISTS’ PROPOSALS

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Love Activists Meet The Council

I’ll be livestreaming from outside Brighton Town Hall today with Love Activists Brighton, who will be delivering their petition in support of the Solution Based Proposals to End Homelessness to the full council meeting.

The council will hear the Love Activists for 3 minutes and debate the proposals for 15 minutes.

People will be gathering in support from 3.30pm outside Brighton Town Hall, Bartholomew Rd, BN1. The meeting is scheduled from 4.30pm.

I’ll be livestreaming updates on my bambuser channel.

The council will be webcasting the meeting, here.

#NoMoreDeathsOnOurStreets

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#HomesNotHandcuffs Interviews: 20/1/16

I livestreamed from Love Activists’ #HomesNotHandcuffs demo outside Brighton Law Courts yesterday, 20/1/16. There was a good turnout and a warm reception from the public and passing motorists who were encouraged to honk their horns in solidarity with the homeless.

Love Activists Brighton gathered another 50 signatures in support of the Solution Based Proposals to End Homelessness petition.

Here are some interviews which I broadcast live from the demo – thanks again to everybody who spoke with us.

Mo, Anonymous Opsafe
http://bambuser.com/v/6050623#t=376s

An anonymous individual
http://bambuser.com/v/6050740#t=357s

Ben, 25 year old homeless man – fined for eating a chicken sandwich in a public place
http://bambuser.com/v/6050780#t=35s

Ree, Love Activists Brighton
http://bambuser.com/v/6050804

Lionel, who was arrested and prosecuted for begging
http://bambuser.com/v/6050843#t=29s

Esme, Love Activists Brighton
http://bambuser.com/v/6050854#t=194s

Liam and Dave-O
http://bambuser.com/v/6050884#t=140s

Hannah
http://bambuser.com/v/6050910#t=25s

Ree, Love Activists Brighton
http://bambuser.com/v/6050924#t=13s

Paul, Homeless Student
http://bambuser.com/v/6050943#t=27s

Dave-O – BHCC homeless strategy
https://bambuser.com/v/6050968

If anybody knows the html to embed bambuser video on wordpress please let me know eh?

Cheers.

#HomesNotHandcuffs Love Activists Brighton – Arty Stuff

I helped design some more placards for Love Activists Brighton‘s demo against the criminalisation of homelessness and begging, which I’ll be livestreaming from 12-3pm today.

HomesNotHandcuffsPlacards

I made this fedbook banner to promote the twitterstorm: LAB twitterstormbanner

I devised and scheduled 50 unique posts from the Love Activists Brighton fedbook page, which is linked to their twitter account.

I also made a couple of Spock memes:

We Can’t Ignore the Homelessness Crisis Anymore

Personal Blog: 16-1-16

#NoMoreDeathsOnOurStreets

Late last night, I was walking along on the phone with a friend who was worried about a homeless comrade who’s been having suicidal thoughts. Talking and walking, I passed a bloke dead or dying on the pavement. A man and a woman had stopped to help him. She was calling an ambulance – he was down on the ground with this bloke. I waited around til an ambulance arrived.

The most horrific, surreal aspect of it all was how commonplace scenes like this have become and how numb to it we all seem.

I couldn’t sleep last night, it was fkn freezing, even though I was indoors.

This morning in my prolefeed, there is a story about a homeless man dying in a car park in Swindon; a homeless soldier dying in Salford after being evicted from a squat he was sharing with 12 other ex-servicemen; and the news that homeless people are being used for target practice by a gang with crossbows in Cambridge. Tonight I’m off to try to help yet another friend who is suffering depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

Horrible things happen on the streets. Homeless people are extremely vulnerable human beings. Homeless people are not the problem. The way we think about the problem is the problem. The narrow parameters of debate around the problem are the problem.

WHAT HOPE? 

In slightly brighter news, there has been a terrific response to Love Activists Brighton’s petition mission on the streets over the last few days. Hundreds of people have signed the petition to persuade the council to support the SOLUTION BASED PROPOSALS TO END HOMELESSNESS.

I filmed this interview with them:

http://bambuser.com/v/6039524

Alternative Media List

From the outrageous conspiraloonies on Above Top Secret, to the earth shatteringly credible revelations of Wikileaks… Independent Bloggers, Vloggers, Authors, Citizen Journalists, Researchers, Photographers, Film Makers, Philosophers, Politicians and Livestreamers.

Individuals and Organisations, working together to reclaim our reality from the corporatocracy!

This list is by no means comprehensive. Keep sending me recommendations, and I’ll keep routinely updating.

Cheers.

Last updated: 10-8-17

political ladvisory

Continue reading Alternative Media List

HOMES NOT HANDCUFFS: Stop Criminalising Homelessness and Begging

PRESS RELEASE by LOVE ACTIVISTS BRIGHTON

Public Demonstration

  • Wednesday 20th January, 12-3pm

  • Outside Brighton Magistrate’s Courts, Edward Street, Brighton, BN2 0LG

stop criminalising homelessness

CRIMINALISED FOR BEGGING

Increasing numbers of homeless people are being arrested for begging in our city and around the country under the archaic Vagrancy Act 1824: [1] In 2013-14, 2771 people were arrested and prosecuted for begging in the UK. This was over 1000 more than the previous year, a 70% increase. [2]

People are being sent to court, facing fines which they can’t afford to pay without begging, which risks further arrests and fines.

Begging, to pay off fines for begging

This approach is of no benefit to the community. It is a waste of tax payers’ money and of police time. More importantly, it is an added stress for vulnerable individuals who already have enough difficulty struggling to survive on the streets or in temporary accommodation.

 Controversially, begging was made a recordable offence in December 2003, as part of the Government’s drive to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. The move was strongly criticised by the homeless charity, CRISIS who warned at the time that:

“The alleged proposals to make begging a recordable offence and  tackle it through the criminal justice system are inappropriate,  ineffective, costly and will not work as they do nothing to tackle the  root causes of begging.  This is not the first time that enforcement has  been tried and it will not be the first time that it fails”. [3]

Recently, when a magistrate asked why the police were arresting so many people for begging, the clerk in the court room replied “because begging gives the city a bad reputation”. This is completely unacceptable and precisely the wrong headed approach which has allowed the problems of deep poverty and homelessness to go untreated for so long.

 

CRIMINALISED FOR BEING HOMELESS

 

People who are homeless are consistently ‘moved on’ from public areas, especially from the central streets of Brighton. This uncompassionate, odious responsiblity falls to the police, who apply Section 34 & 35 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Act Dispersal Orders. [4] Asking someone who is homeless to ‘move on’ when they have nowhere else to go, is like asking someone to walk through a brick wall, as has been described to us by many homeless people. It’s not just unfair, it’s unusually cruel.

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We would very much like you to join us outside Brighton Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, 20th January in solidarity with homeless people who are being discriminated against and criminalised. We want to raise awareness of this issue. We want to stand with those most vulnerable in our city who are threatened every day with the enforcement of immoral laws when they deserve compassion and support.

We want to persuade the authorities to radically shift their approach. We demand immediate action now, not empty rhetoric about what the council’s ambitions are for 2020.

We will be launching a petition on the day of the demo to Decriminalise Homelessness and Begging: If you can’t make it along, you can participate in the twitterstorm by tweeting the hashtag #HomesNotHandcuffs

This document was written collaboratively by Love Activists Brighton using titanpad.com

You can find out more about our Solution Based Proposals to End Homelessness by visiting this 38 Degrees petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/love-activists-solution-based-proposals-to-end-homelessness

Please read, sign and share as far and wide as possible.

 

 

Sources/Citations

HOMES NOT BOMBS – Reflections on BHCC Homeless Summit

By ANN NARKEH

It would be too easy to just slag off Brighton & Hove City Council’s (BHCC) recent homeless summit and consultation, so I’m going to do my best to resist that natural impulse, but I’m not going to hold back my criticisms of it. The summit was hosted by BHCC last Friday 4th December, as part of their homelessness strategy consultation. The council’s stated ambition is “To make sure no-one has the need to sleep rough in Brighton & Hove by 2020”. All attendees we spoke to agreed that this seemed to be an arbitrary, unrealistic deadline, not based on any feasible strategy to accomplish the objective.

I attended the event with Ree Melody, of Love Activists Brighton. We were there to share our insight and experience with the street community, while lobbying for a series of solution based proposals which the Love Activists have put together for the council’s consideration. The proposals were developed in consultation with the local community, prioritising feedback from rough sleepers at the group’s weekly Love Kitchen.

You can read the proposals and the rationale for them on the 38 Degrees petition, here.

Councillor Claire Moonan, lead member for rough sleeping welcomed everybody and opened the summit with a candid admission that the official count of rough sleepers in Brighton & Hove is inaccurate. She said that a realistic count would more likely be well over 100 people and called for everybody to work together, to innovate, to think outside of the box. Some estimates suggest the true number is well over 200.

According to the council’s own documentation, as of the 14th October 2015 the city has 272 hostel beds and 25 mental health hostel beds which are all full and a waiting list of 126 clients for these beds, 68 of which are considered a high priority (27 women and 41 men).

We heard from a number of speakers, including Andy Winter of Brighton Housing Trust, who was at pains to stress the severity of the unfolding crisis, particularly for young people. He said that without intervention, Central Government’s plans risked at least a further 300-400 under-35s becoming street homeless in Brighton by April 2016.

After hearing all the speakers, there was unfortunately scant opportunity for any meaningful discussion. The event was compartmentalised into 8 tables, each discussing one of the council’s seven different priorities with an eighth table for ‘anything else’.

You could choose 3 tables, with 20 minutes discussion at each. We chose ‘preventing homelessness’ – ‘working with the city’ and ‘managing the street community’, we missed ‘Street Triage’, ‘Improving Health’, ‘Pathways to Independence’, and ‘Safe Reconnection’. At the end of the summit, each facilitator had just a few minutes or so to feedback on one aspect of the discussions they had hosted.

Brighton has a reputation for providing excellent service and care for rough sleepers and the street community, however the scale of welfare cuts, evictions and repossessions have had a significant, detrimental impact on services in recent years. It’s already well beyond crisis point, but the projections for the coming weeks, months and years are catastrophic.

Solutions?

One of the Love Activists’ most interesting, simple and insightful proposals, is that no single local authority is capable of ‘ending homelessness’ unilaterally. If one authority were able to end homelessness, that local authority would risk being overwhelmed by demand from around the country, by what business people call ‘first mover loses’. To actually accomplish the ambition of ending homelessness, we need effective change nationally. This isn’t going to come from central Government so it’s necessary for all local authorities to work together, to agree on and implement practical solutions together.

Everybody we discussed this proposal with agreed that we were absolutely right. In fact, most of the Love Activists’ Solution Based Proposals were popular, but all the attendees deferred responsibility for doing anything about them to central Government. The only really proactive responses came from the ‘preventing homelessness’ table, where we heard how “Brighton & Hove has done some great work with Worthing”. They suggested that looking at regional networks might be the first step towards a national campaign.

 

Poverty Developers

 

In the council’s documentation, distributed prior to the summit, there is an acknowledgement that “Relationships with specialist private landlords need improving”…noting that “Private landlords also need help and support”…One of the Love Activists’ proposals is to impose social rents on private landlords and property developers. “Where are they?” One brave soul asked. Private landlords, evictions and repossessions are the lion’s share of the problem, so really, they would need to be involved in any solution for it to be effective.

Somebody mentioned how most of the homes recently built on Brighton Marina have already been sold to ‘foreign investors’. (This turn of phrase has been forced into the collective consciousness by the 1% media. Substituting the word ‘wealthy’ with the word ‘foreign’ is a snide way of tricking us into blaming foreigners rather than 1%ers).

In the absence of any focus on the poverty developers; central Government, austerity, welfare cuts, private landlords, the bankers, their housing crisis – the council’s strategy seems to focus on how to persuade homeless people to take ‘responsibility for their own lifestyle choices’. The homeless themselves being the problem, rather than their homelessness.

Such is the power of this propaganda, more than one person at the summit expressed a belief that people become homeless intentionally, or even because street life is ‘fun’. The council’s literature describes reports of ‘lucrative’ begging spots.

 

Street Link

At the ‘working with the city’ table, there was excited talk about Homeless Link’s new ‘Street Link’ app. Homeless Link say Street Link is a way to ‘help’ rough sleepers, by reporting them.

David Steele, who was representing the faith community was interested in what happened once such a report was made. “It gets added to the database”. Is there any contact made with the individual, do they get any actual help? “they send someone out from St Mungo’s to ‘confirm’ the report and then we add them to the database”.

Ree had street tested the ‘service’ before the summit and found it to be distinctly lacklustre. The rough sleeper who she called the ‘service’ on behalf of was eventually contacted around 30 hours later. “You’ve got to understand, it’s not an emergency service”. Well, shouldn’t it be? Personally, I’d call having to sleep rough an emergency.

Matt Harrison, CEO of Homeless Link has said that once a report is made about a rough sleeper, Homeless Link’s Street Link app would “put them in touch with their local authority and see what can be done to help them”. Unfortunately, this means that street link is little more than a signpost pointing nowhere – to services which don’t exist, or possibly to an arrest, an ASBO, PSPO and/or a court date to be prosecuted and fined. Begging is not a prisonable offence, so beggars don’t get representation in court. Central Government have stumped up £250, 000 towards the street link app, which invites you to help ‘end homelessness’ by shopping every beggar you see to an Orwellian database for processing.

I asked whether homeless link, (being a national charity representing 500 other homeless charities) might be able to help with connecting local authorities up, or with lobbying Central Government for more meaningful action on the crisis. After a brief acknowledgement that they probably didn’t really want to ‘rock the boat’, and some uncomfortable silence, the conversation quickly returned to the virtues of the app. “We can get a bespoke ‘Brighton’ version” and “it’s got a donate button”.

Ree asked, “Where does that money go”? Silence, blank expressions followed by stuttering noises which meant; “We don’t know”. It bears noting that thirdsector.co.uk recently conducted research into escalating pay for the UK’s leading charities’ senior executives. The overall average pay across the top 100 charities was £208,000 to £217,000. The median pay level for all UK charities’ top brass was £165,000. http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/charity-pay-study-highest-earners/management/article/1335060

 

Oh dearism

It quickly became clear that our proposals were going to be well received, but thwarted by what Adam Curtis has described as “oh dearism”. Curtis proposes that “oh dearism” is a socially transmitted disease. We wring our hands at injustice, but resign ourselves to it. Rather than take action, we describe our resignation as ‘being realistic, or practical’ and so fall into the trap of believing that the point is simply to agree or disagree with things. When we relate to the world in this state of resignation, we inevitably repeat the same patterns, excluding the possibility of creating new realities or changing our circumstances. We ‘like’ things on social media to agree with them and troll things we disagree with, precluding any action to meaningfully change anything.

The summit was mostly focused on discovering whether people agreed or disagreed with ‘the 2020 ambition’ and with the seven priorities that the council had put forward.

Oh dear. I feel at this point that I should reiterate, I am doing my level best not to slag anybody off. I honestly believe that the vast majority of people who were in that room are sincere, good people, with the very best of intentions. However, they also seemed to be suffering from a corporate state induced pandemic of ‘oh dearism’, combined with the effects of 21st Century McCarthyism. Despite this, most of these human beings do amazing work under impossible conditions and they all deserve our respect for their service thus far. The frontline staff in particular, receive a pittance or have volunteered for no remuneration, yet they are the ones who consistently innovate under the radar to stretch non-existent budgets and perform miracles.

The literature produced by Brighton & Hove City Council for the 2020 plan does not do these people or their work justice. It is neither innovative, nor ambitious. It retreads the same tracks that have been tread since before anybody reading this was born. Some of the euphemisms might have changed, but the core message remains the same. Blame, shame and vilify the victims, cosy up with their abusers. Get the tramps ‘moving on’ to somewhere else to ‘reconnect’. The rhetoric says ‘blue sky, out of the box thinking’, but when faced with genuine innovation, like all bureaucrats, they flinch.

Politicians and councillors flinch because they have a healthy fear of central Government and neighbouring local authorities. Public sector management flinch because they’re told that they are under the thumb of central Government. Corporate management flinch because they know that effective solutions might hit their balance sheets. Frontline public and corporate service workers flinch, simply because they don’t want to risk their salaries and careers by ‘rocking the boat’.

It’s a curious metaphor in this instance, because the homeless sector’s ‘boat’ has become a massive industry, providing employment and subsistence to so many people, wasting so much money, while the people it was originally built to help drown in a rising tide of corporate tenders and oh dearism.

From the boat, those captains of industry charged with rescuing them sympathise with the landlords who threw them overboard while worrying about damage to the boat’s reputation. Spinning the investment in a national database of homeless people under the auspices of empowering the community to ‘help’ rough sleepers. By shopping homeless people to an Orwellian database for processing.

 

Homes Not Bombs

One of the final comments at the summit came from a brave doctor who explained how he has treated at least 50 rough sleepers who have died in the last three years in Brighton. The situation is the same or worse all over the country. It should be a national scandal, but the national media are preoccupied with party political pantomime and xenophobic warmongering.

The scale of the crisis requires immediate action, but local authorities defer responsibility to Westmonster, who are too busy flogging off public services to fund mass slaughter in the middle east to worry about the 9,000 ex servicemen and the hundred thousand children and the hundreds of thousands of people with no permanent home, struggling and dying on the streets of the UK.

In the shadows of COP21 and the rise of ISIS/Daesh, what used to be our homes have become ‘investments’ for the 1% to gamble with on the world’s financial markets. These same markets enable industrial scale pollution, bombs and guns.

The bombs and guns kill people in faraway countries while the streets kill people in the UK.

The resulting pollution, both material, intellectual and spiritual is killing the whole planet.

 

What Next?

 

The council’s strategy to end homelessness by 2020 thus far is led by seven ‘priorities’ which most people present at the summit agreed are not adequate for the scale of the crisis we face. Love Activists have seven solution based proposals which most people seem to agree would be quite a good start.

The council are consulting until the end of December. If you live in this city and care about the issue of homelessness, I urge you to participate in their consultation and share your thoughts and ideas with them: http://consult.brighton-hove.gov.uk/portal

Love Activists hope to gather 1250 signatures to force the council to debate their progressive proposals to end homelessness at a full council meeting.

The 38 Degrees petition to support the Solution Based Proposals is here.

You can find out more about the Love Activists’ Solution Based Proposals by visiting their fedbook page: facebook.com/loveactivistsbrighton

(This article was originally published as a note on Love Activists Brighton’s fedbook page on Thursday, December 10th, 2015)

It’s Bleak, But…

By ANN NARKEH

We are living through a crisis of biblical proportions.

This is the 6th great extinction.

Most of us have been distracted from the fact that our lifestyles are killing the planet by dark forces brewing an unholy, apocalyptic war.

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There will probably be no Extra Terrestrial saviour. It’s unlikely that God is coming to save you. Good science could have saved you, but good science has been bought off by ecocidal, multinational corporations. The Governments of the world almost certainly aren’t going to save you.

There is no way out. There is no quick fix to the problems we are facing. Nobody is coming to save you. It’s down to you, your friends, your family and every living being on this planet. We have to start working together, to save what’s left. To prepare for what is coming. To keep love and hope alive.

Terrorism

The 1% media have been in overdrive sensationalising the attacks in Paris. The City is in total lockdown, with 10, 000 troops on the streets and curfews in place, following the recent atrocities. Far right groups have sadly been quick to respond with predictable hate, anger and violence, directed at all Muslim and non-white people. The French Government have dropped yet more bombs on Syria, doubtless creating yet more terrorists.

The overwhelming majority of Muslim people deplore ISIS, in the same way that most Christian people deplore the KKK, or the Westboro Baptist Church. Muslim people all over the world have taken to social media under hashtags such as #NotInMyName and #TerrorismHasNoReligion

Russian President, Vladimir Putin claims ISIS was created by the West as a proxy, just as many people, (including former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook) believe that Al Queada was created before it.

Some people have pointed to the fact that Benjamin Netanyahu had openly threatened France not to recognise Palestine, which the French Parliament did just days before the attacks.

Others point to the upcoming 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris, the latest global climate summit, COP21. Huge numbers of activists from all over Europe have been planning to converge on the capital to lobby world leaders for meaningful action on the climate crisis. Negotiations between French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius and campaigners ended without reaching an agreement. COP21 marches, protests and demonstrations are scheduled from 29th November for a fortnight of direct action.On Wednesday, the French Government announced a blanket ban on public demonstrations around the conference following the attacks.

The 1% media has been broadcasting that ISIS is basically refugees and anybody who’s not white – provoking yet more violence. The bitter irony of accusing people fleeing terrorism of being terrorists and thereby making the case for denying them asylum is difficult to express. It bears mentioning that the number of refugees currently arriving in Europe is higher than the 2nd world war, yet is still a tiny fraction of the staggering numbers of displaced people in the world today. This again, is an even tinier fraction of the numbers expected to be displaced by climate change in the coming decades.

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Tragedy Hipsters

People mourning for those killed in Paris were confronted by what Jamile Larty described as ‘Tragedy Hipsters”. In a long and insightful series of tweets, Larty discussed why activists and the left should avoid attention-hijacking.

“..the impulse to say in effect “yes Paris was bad, but why didn’t you get outraged about Beirut/Boko Haram/Garissa/etc” walks dangerously close to the #alllivesmatter attempts to mute real and specific black suffering and grievance.

“Some commentators today honestly sound like tragedy hipsters, “Bro- I care about suffering and death that you’ve never even heard of”

“We of the left are required to centre the experiences of marginalized people in response to the global, systematic devaluing of their lives. “

We are all preconditioned to respond to events which we don’t understand with abject fear and panic. Mindless shock. Paralysis, followed inevitably by a the irrepressible force of righteous anger. That anger prevents us from thinking clearly and divides us into ever decreasing ideological echo chambers, thereby conquering us – IF we allow it to.

The 1% media and their more nefarious minded colleagues in the corridors of power are steering the collective consciousness towards xenophobia, which is polarising western Europe and already leading to violence on the streets. As Waleed Aly reported on Australian TV show ‘The Project’ – this was precisely their strategy in Iraq – to drive the Muslim communities in western Europe into the arms of ISIS.

White Privilege

Our cultural conditioning teaches us that privileged white people are entitled to roam the world freely, littering defenceless countries with bombs and death to maintain our dominance over them, their labour and their natural resources. Whatever you think about the moral implications of this, it has become the elephant in the room with most of our political discourse, which is an extremely dangerous blindspot to have, however you think about it.

It is a horrific fact suppressed by our own subconsciousness, so dis empowering that it must be compartmentalised away for the sake of our own sanity.  I am struggling to articulate this phenomenon now, because I’ve been conditioned not to think or talk about it like this, but I think it’s important to share – to show that I’m not afraid of my own thoughts and I shouldn’t have to be. It’s important to show myself, UK Gov. Plc, and anybody who’s interested, that it is possible for us to be sane and calm in spite of all the insanity and chaos around us.

ISIS is a consequence of many things, but broadly what the 1% media calls ‘meddling in the region’ – which is a euphemism for brutal warmongering and centuries of exploitation. If you terrorise people, they terrorise back. If you continuously and maliciously antagonise, marginalise, demonise and terrorise a community of people, they will eventually become so disempowered and desperate that a minority will choose to resort to violence, which will only create more violence.

The world’s anger should rightly be directed at the corporations, banks and Governments perpetuating this cycle of violence, but in Europe it has been misdirected at the domestic Muslim population and refugees at the borders. It is my opinion that we privileged white people have a responsibility to speak out and to defend our non white brothers and sisters. We have a responsibility to challenge the root causes of our culture’s islamophobia and the structural violence which enslaves us all, one way or another.

Intersectionality

All of our struggles are interconnected. The struggle of the downtrodden British working class is directly related to the struggle of the slaves who made their clothes in Cambodian sweatshops. The struggle of the middle class is directly related to the struggle of the slaves who produced their quinoa and muesli. All of our struggles are interconnected with the struggles of workers in factories with suicide nets who produced the shiny gadgets we’re using now and with what’s left of the planet we’re destroying to power them.

It’s bleak, but if I as a privileged white person can recognise this concept, which some intellectuals have called ‘intersectionality’, then we are all capable of recognising it.

I can’t imagine being a refugee fleeing Syria, or Iraq, or, Afghanistan. I can’t imagine being born in Palestine. I can’t imagine what it must be like for a Muslim person living in a western European country right now, but I know that it’s important for me to try to.

I think we all should.

Together, we can take collective responsibility for the state of the world. Together we can find effective ways to fight the rhetoric, hate and violence with conviction, love and peace. Let’s not just #PrayForPeace – let’s make it happen.

Be excellent to each other.

(This article was originally published on realmedia.press, 19th November, 2015)

SOLIDARITY NOT CHARITY: Let’s Get Real About Homelessness.

Yet another young homeless bloke has died on the streets of Brighton.

Casey was a colourful character. I got to know him while volunteering at the Love Activist street kitchen and at the homeless unity camp. Often wearing a onesie, often off his head on various substances, affable, lively, full of fun and life. Casey was also an absolute fucking nightmare sometimes, his proclivity to indulge himself in substances did frequently make him a liability to himself and others – but he was almost always funny as fuck with it.

casey

Casey needed the sort of complex, specialist care that one of the richest countries in the world should be able to provide. According to Brighton Housing Trust, we used to offer incredible care in Brighton, before the economic crash of 2008…(or before the Tories, whichever way you look at it)…

Casey’s death is a symptom of a growing problem which we have all been blinkered away from for far too long now.

He’s not a front page spread, he’s a number. A deafeningly silent statistic, beyond the purview of UK Gov Plc or the country’s leading national charities (despite record breaking six-figure salaries for their top CEOs).

Casey joins a long list of human beings who have perished on our streets recently, surrounded by mostly warm hearts with the very best of intentions and a few cruel bastards out for themselves.

I’ll be honest about it – I found it quite hard to like Casey, but I offered him unconditional love, respect and forgiveness. I don’t think he liked me very much either but he respected me back.

I liked Bill a lot. Bill was a legend – sober as a judge, compassionate and highly intelligent with a great sense of humour. He had gotten used to street life and spent his time looking out for people. His nickname was ‘Grandad’. Everybody loved him. He was one of the most inspiring and proactive members of the street community in Brighton.

Bill died last year. Walked into the sea apparently.

I miss Bill a lot.

Bill

As I’m writing this, I have just discovered that Gareth, the Big Issue seller whose pitch was outside Waitrose also passed on New Year’s day.

How did it come to this?

People in this city and around this country really care about homelessness. We care about homeless people. We give, we volunteer, we donate, yet we seem to have more people working and volunteering in ‘the homeless sector’ than we have rough sleepers. How did it get so mixed up? How have we managed to get it so wrong?

One brave doctor at the city council’s recent homeless summit explained how he had personally treated at least 50 rough sleepers who have died here in the last three years. How many more people will die on these streets for our collective inability to innovate effective solutions to the systemic root problem?

Chomsky said the easiest way to control a debate is by defining the parameters of it – or words to that effect. The parameters of the debate around homelessness cast the homeless person as the problem. Without a hint of irony, the view that ‘homelessness is a lifestyle choice’ has become popular among certain ‘experts’ and ‘specialists’.

Nobody chooses to sleep rough and die on the streets. Nobody would choose to live off-grid, if the grid was built for everybody. But it’s not and the grid is shrinking. Rapidly.

To expand the parameters of the debate, awareness of the actual facts is paramount.

Here are some numbers:

112,330 households applied to their local authority for homelessness assistance in 2014/15. Rough sleeping in England has doubled under the Tories.

Soaring social rents, welfare cuts and stagnant wages have lead to the highest level of evictions ever recorded. 37,739 private and public sector tenants had their homes repossessed by court bailiffs in 2013 and the trend is towards more, not less evictions. 11,000 families were evicted in just the first three months of 2015. I’ll update the total for the year when I find it.

There are no numbers for the UK’s ‘hidden homeless’ – sofasurfing, squatting, living in vehicles and so on – though this trend must also be on the rise, given the increasing scale of evictions. Once people become embedded in street life, they frequently vanish from Big Brother’s grid – some by deliberate choice, more simply by being absorbed into the UK’s burgeoning underclass, surviving day to day, hand to mouth. Many go off grid involuntarily through digital apartheid: lack of access to digital banking and thereby other digital life tools and of course, many vanish by virtue of UK Gov plc and it’s subsidiaries vested interest in massaging, or not publishing unflattering data. ( for instance, local, or national homeless mortality statistics – which are extremely hard to find, anywhere…).

Over 100,000 children are currently homeless in the UK.

I do not believe the homeless person is the problem. The broader socio-economic trend is the problem. It is the same problem that means you are either slaving in a bullshit job you hate, or struggling to survive on what’s left of state benefits. Unless we start to get real about this, we are all going to end up living in slums and tent cities, or cannon fodder for an unholy apocalyptic war.

If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people, to quote Tony Benn.

However, despite record breaking six-figure salaries for the CEOs of the UK’s leading charities and the incredible generosity and compassion of the British people, the problem of homelessness isn’t going away. In fact, none of the single issue campaigns are going to succeed without acknowledging the interrelated root causal problem. If we don’t change the way we are thinking and acting about this problem, it is only going to get much, much worse.

The 1%’s propaganda would have you believe that homelessness is an unavoidable problem and/or a ‘lifestyle choice’.

Try to imagine that you are living on the streets and being treated like you chose to be there, or that your homelessness is ‘unavoidable’ because the competitive ‘free market must prosper’. Imagine trying to access services which seemingly don’t exist, beyond their advertising campaigns and lucrative fundraising operation.

Einstein said you can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created the problem. Homelessness is a symptom of the problem, not the cause. The greed of free-market, neo-liberal capitalism got us into this mess and we’re going to have to start thinking outside of the box to solve it.

If all you can do is donate money, exercise some discernment. Research the organisation you’re supporting. How effective are they? What do they actually do with your donation? What difference does your donation actually make? How much of it goes towards actually housing, or helping people? How much goes on glossy media, call centres, chuggers and fundraising campaigns?

Don’t give to the 1%’s charities. Give direct to homeless people, help directly. Stop giving the 1% money to gamble on the stock market which caused this crisis, while they build an employment sector which turns profit by treating another symptom, rather than the root cause.

If you have a problem with the idea that rough sleepers might spend your donation on crack and cider to get them through the night, give them food, time and love.

Support your local Anonymous #OpSafe, Love Activists, Occupy, and any other services or (genuine) charities who are actually helping the situation. If you’re not into joining groups, take direct action yourself, however you see fit. Lobby your MP, if you’re into that sort of thing…

Solidarity Not Charity. Resist evictions. Homes Not Bombs. Occupy The Lot.

R.I.P. Casey, Bill, Gareth and all the other victims we don’t know about because UK Gov Plc gave not a fuck about them.