Sunday, 16 October 2011

Occupy Nottingham

Arboretum 16th October 2011
Life is full of contrasts, like beauty and the beast co-existing in space and time. One day can be a reminder of this, and today was such a day.

The Arboretum was looking glorious in the beautiful autumnal sunshine. Mallards were frolicking around the fountain in the pond (do Mallards frolic? I can't be bothered to look up the full meaning of the word, but I do hope that they do); members of the crow family were engaged in what seems like a perenial battle with magpies over who should occupy a tree. Of hundreds of trees in the park, there was a battle over this one tree, it was a bit like one of my previous blogs long ago, "That's my seat (tree)". Squirrels in abundance were busy looking for food among the fallen leaves, only occasionally looking up for safety, so used are they to the presence of humans - mind you, dogs see them scuttling up the nearest tree. Nature in the Arboretum was wearing her finest clothes, and it was good to be alive.

Broken down tram 16th October 2011
I know that I'm a creature of habit, and I never pretend to be exciting. Habit provides a comfort zone, where you're at ease with yourself and your surroundings.

When I go to the Arboretum, I catch the bus to Fletcher Gate, then the tram to Nottingham Trent University stop, which is only a short walk to the park. Arriving at Fletcher Gate, an announcement said that there were no trams operating between Old Market Square and the Forest because of a broken down tram.

My equilibrium was disturbed; a new plan was needed; I would have to walk. No big deal, as the tram ride is only about five minutes, but that wasn't the point. Sad as it sounds, this was an irritation, and the cause of the irritation became apparent as I was walking down Goldsmith Street; there was the broken down tram, causing all of the disruption. My reader will be right in thinking that this is all so petty, but hey, there's beauty and the beast in us all.

Do you find that little things can irritate you? Oh do please say yes. Like that fly that is intent on landing on your nose; no amount of swatting will get rid of it; you know that it will win, and it also knows. Or that wasp that has set its heart on landing on your food, and frantic arm waving seems to make it even more determined. Little things, but so irritating, and how useful it would be to be a Buddhist at times like this, but I'm not. So irritation disturbs the equilibrium.

People can be a bit of an irritant at times as well. Sitting on a park bench this morning, idly watching the birds and squirrels in the early afternoon sunshine, a man plonks himself down beside me. There were at least four other empty benches nearby, but no, he had to sit on mine. Fair enough you might say, he had every right to do it, you're just being petty again. Listen, this is what irritated me. He was a drunk young man, and he was still drinking. His body language and vocabulary was aggressive, so I felt the need to put on a hard face, that said, "don't even even think of messing with me mate". Unfortunately, it never works, as I always think that it gives the impression that I'm constipated. I just can't do hard, but one of us had to weaken, so I moved. Such a little thing to throw you off balance.

I don't know what it is about me, but I've really lost count of the number of new clients over the years that started our relationship with asking me if I wanted to fight them. I remember one man who came in and who I felt was slightly psychotic, and he had a machete, which I had to take off him. "Do you want to fight me mate?" This coming from a well built maniac with a machete. Who did he think I was, Steven Seagal? But I did get the machete, without having to fight him for it. But I digress as usual. Today was a day of contrasts, which if my reader is still with me, will see the thread running through this blog.

Peaceful Protest 16th October 2011
Some of the irritants mentioned are pitiful when placed alongside the issues that matter most. Outside the Council House today there was a peaceful protest called, "Occupy Nottingham". I would have been proud of the hyperbole, as the 'occupation' only covered a few square metres of Market Square, right outside the Council House.

However, there were about two or three dozen people, with around ten tents and a brazier, protesting about the UK debt, and the cuts introduced to reduce that debt. There were posters and notices highlighting some of the personal impact that cuts were having on people. Some people may well have passed by saying, "bloody hippies", and give no more thought to what was happening. But they would be wrong to dismiss such people, and to assume that everybody there was somehow part of a homogeneous group. One person had written how many O and A Levels they had; how they'd sent off 300 CV's, and never received a reply to one of them. These are people trying, but without success.

There's no doubt that most of us feel powerless to affect Government, and to bring about change, and that the only thing we can do is to get out on the streets and protest. Some take it to the next level and involve themselves in direct action, but Occupy Nottingham was a peaceful protest, from people who are frustrated and angry; they believe that is was politicians and bankers who caused the massive debt problem, but it's ordinary people who are being asked to suffer to clear up the mess. They have my support.

Peaceful protest is a vital part of a democratic society, and has a very long and respected tradition in the United Kingdom. What is not generally known is that there has never been a "right" to peaceful protest. This only changed in 2000, when domestic law incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights, where Article 11 gives the "Right to Peaceful Assembly". When I see the effect that the 'debt recovery plan' is having on so many people, it fills me with rage; I also feel a sense of impotence, and the only thing that can be done apart from direct action, is to engage in peaceful protest.

David Davis
The protesters in Old Market Square are assuming that those they are addressing with their grievances actually care about them, and what they say. I don't actually believe that the majority do.

Following my recent blog on "We're all in this together", my friend Tony sent me a comment that he said would make me even more apoplectic. He was right.

At the recent Conservative Party Conference, David Davis was speaking at a fringe meeting, and said that it is a Conservative principle "to have no limits on how low a person might fall". My friend called this Dickensian, with shades of the workhouse, and this is why I say that we're talking to people who really don't care. Because they will be alright, as beautifully captured by the Guardian, which said of David Davis, his "well heeled audience, with all their money, influence and connections would never have to live the principle themselves". I don't object to people having money, but I do expect those in Government to care about those who don't, and who are bearing the brunt of Government cuts. Perhaps the fact that people don't seem to care should be the focus of the next peaceful protest.

Yes, life is full of contrasts, all co-existing together. How to keep our sanity and our equilibrium is the important question.

The answer will be different for each of us; coping mechanisms come in all shapes and sizes, and for me, even if it might sound a bit strange, the Arboretum is a place that provides sanity (in spite of the presence of the occasional aggressive alcoholic) and a perspective on life.

However, there is one thing that I will always be passionate about, even obsessional about, and David Davis and his ilk need to know this, that it does matter how low a person might fall.

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