Saturday, March 17, 2018

Thinking about the 312 Tory MP's who voted to end free school meals

I'm thinking about the 312 Conservative MPs who voted to take free school meals from one million poor school children.

And did so knowing that malnutrition among school children is a growing and intolerable problem.

We know this used to be a terrible scourge in Britain. Hungry malnourished children. Presenting with rickets and other utterly preventable diseases.

We live in one of the wealthiest societies in the world and I thought such things were gone for ever.

I'm thinking of the prison warders in a California jail who strapped a man to a chair for 46 hours. Every so often they came in to move his arms and legs, as regulations demanded. He was not allowed to go to the toilet and so peed and shat himself in the chair. When the smell became unbearable they moved him to another cell.. They left him on the bare floor with only a blanket. He covers himself with a blanket. He appears to suffer from tremors. He stands up briefly, then collapses. He stops breathing.

Paramedics enter to try to revive him, while a couple of sheriff's deputies idly watch. Laughing and chatting.

His name was Andrew Holland. He had been in jail since 2015. He was known to suffer from schizophrenia.

We know that in the 18th century mentally ill people were neglected and tortured and that their sufferings were thought of as entertainment. I thought such mistreatment had gone for ever.

Forgive me for distressing you if you have read this far.

It seems to me sometimes that our societies are in a state of regression. That we are returning to the brutalities of an earlier age.

We need to know this. We need to be aware. We need to resist.

I am not condemning the perpetrators of these crimes. What these events have in common is a lack of empathy. These criminals have no empathy for others and in the end they have no empathy for themselves. So it is no use condemning them because they already condemn themselves.

And, a little to my surprise, their actions do not leave me feeling angry and helpless. Life is too short for me to spend overmuch time on that. I have to focus on what I can do. However small it seems.

"Remember kindness" I wrote in a play once. I forget which one. I know that everything in the world connects. I know that our actions have consequences that we cannot know.

So I will try to show empathy and compassion in my work and in my living. I will fail. I will try to forgive myself and then I will go back to trying.

And perhaps something will come of this. I don't know. I cannot make any claims. But I think it will lead to something. Whether it does or not, there is really nothing else to do.
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