For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

About passion and politics - an answer to Graham Stuart's comment

Graham Stuart commented on my previous post:
Really good piece and thank you for your kind words. In my defence I didn't criticise emotion I just suggested that Neil's letter had more emotion than insight. It was passionate and angry, which is fine, but seemed (to me) to allow that to obscure the need to fight off the immediate threat from Balls' plans.

Perhaps on a separate note I think we do have a functioning democracy which we should treasure and appreciate especially as so many others are subject to oppression and lack what we should hold dear. Of course it's not perfect but non-participation starves our democracy of what it most needs which is more good, honest people who will ensure that we remain a humane and decent society that can respect minorities including home educators.
My response to that comment was so long, that I thought I'd better blog it as a separate post:

Graham, I realise you weren't directly criticising emotions, the mentioning of them just triggered something in me. "Being emotional" has been used against home educators by e.g. Badman, Baroness Deech, Coaker, and others.
Good that you mention passion. That's what I recognise in you. Passion is what drives me and it's the reason why a lot of home educators can do what they do, in spite of all attempts to stop us.
Passion and good old fashioned raw anger are a healthy breeding ground for creativity, for constructive development. I recognise the passion with which you want to make sure Balls et al don't return to office, and I applaud it and would not want to obscure or stand in the way of that. I think you do what you do - being a politician - with a passion and I wouldn't dream of telling you to stop doing it, or even to do it differently.

I didn't sign the petition at the time. My signature - much the same as my vote - represents me, and me is all I've got to give. So I don't give it easily, and certainly not thoughtlessly. I very much believe in living in the moment and I try as much as possible to stay away from "what if" discussions. At the time of the petition I was left with too many questions and doubts. Also, I was - and I still am - of the opinion that politics is not the only answer to problems. So my decision at the time was to not sign. I still think that was the right decision to make, at the time. But I also think the petition was a massive success and raised a lot of awareness about EHE amongst politicians. I can live with the fact that I am not always (*wink*) contributing to the good and successful things in society, in life.

At this moment I do - contrary to you - not see a functioning democracy. I of course base this on my own, limited, knowledge and observations. And it has everything to do with what I hold dear, such as mutual respect for people's uniqueness and autonomy, equality, compassionate care for each other and the world we live in, freedom of choice, freedom of education, freedom of religion, etcetera.
This to my mind incredible process of the "wash up" denies and ridicules all principles of democracy. It would of course be wonderful if the CSF Bill disappears in the wash up, but it will have disappeared for the wrong reasons, not as the result of a fair democratic process. And who knows, maybe it goes through, or partly goes through. I have my suspicions there. At the same time things might go through that shouldn't go through.
And can you explain to me what is democratic about "whipping"? Or about MP's who have their party membership suspended, but are still expected to show up for whipped votes? What about a review or a consultation of which the results are either ignored or purposefully twisted and used for a predetermined outcome?
These are just a few things and I could go on for a while. But even on the basis of what I've experienced in this whole EHE affair alone in the past year, my conclusion is that democracy is a farce in this country, at this time.

Yes, I agree. There are countries where people are oppressed and have no rights at all. But at least the regimes in those countries don't pretend to be democratic. And whereas I would like for everyone to have those basic rights and freedoms I was talking about before, I would never see the fact that other people don't have them as a reason not to stand up for my own.

Also, I do not consider what I do - and what Neil does - as non-participation. On the contrary. Wouldn't Balls et all be delighted if we would really non-participate? I would consider myself to non-participate if I would do what others tell me to do, without questioning why, without awareness of their or my own motives, without consulting my own conscience.

The Dutch Prince Royal, Willem Alexander, recently said in an interview that he raises his children to not only ask questions, but to always be mindful and critical of the answers and never stop asking questions until the answer truly satisfies you. I like that. I have tried to raise my own children in a similar manner. And I am trying to live in that way.

My biggest question to politicians in this country at the moment is:
Give me one reason why I should trust you to make decisions about me, my family and all the people and principles I hold dear.

I have not yet had a satisfactory answer.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

So, what's wrong with emotions?

I was genuinely surprised by the starting lines of Graham Stuart's initial response to Neil Taylor-Moore's open letter, where he said "it may contain more emotion than insight".

Watching him argue the EHE case in both the SC and the House of Commons, I've often thought how he stood out from many of his fellow MP's, and especially the likes of Ed Balls, Diana Johnson etcetera. I have my own private little conspiracy theory about the latter ones, as I am convinced they are not born from human parents, but produced in a secret robot factory, where they were fitted with a rather limited text programme and NLP-based software to direct their body language and facial expressions. Their manufacturers have made sure these replica human beings know how to manipulate human emotions - specifically fear - but lack any ability to feel or process them. Ears obviously had to be installed, but can only be made to listen with very specific plug-ins - not available to the general public.

But I digress.

Watching and listening to Graham, I felt he had actually listened to the people who were subjected to this whole terrible Badman and CSF-Bill exercise, and it seemed to have touched not only his common sense, but also his heart - yes, his emotions.

What is this issue with emotions, anyway? Why is it that whenever people respond against a political or strategic decision, it is dismissed as emotive, emotional - and immediately associated with hysterical, unreasonable and therefore invalid. Emotions are what make us human, aren't they? What is wrong with emotions being part of the equation when making choices or decisions? Or when responding to measures and legislations forced upon us?

It's not as if politicians and their strategists are not aware of the importance of emotions. After all, fear is a very powerful emotion and it is often appealed to in order to get certain policies implied. Need I explain how people are being persuaded to surrender their liberties and personal freedom out of fear for "terrorism" or "global warming", both apparently threatening to destroy our society and our planet?

Recently, I have been reading about what happens when people are being trained to overcome and/or ignore their emotions and their intuition. Their primal human nature. When I expressed my shock and horror about a documentary on French television someone pointed me towards the Stanford Prison Experiment. It is appalling to think what kind of a world we would live in if we did not carefully balance fact based rationalism with emotion and intuition.

I personally think Neil's letter is well balanced, and as a whole provides a healthy balance to the de-humanized and target-driven scenario played out by the government and, I'm sorry to say, the majority of parliament. The way I see it, politicians - for all their undoubtedly honourable initial intentions - are caught up in the Westminster Experiment and have lost, or are at risk of losing touch with reality and real living human beings, complete with feelings, emotions and intuitions.

Depending on what you want the eventual outcome to be, one has to make a choice of conscience, I think. To acknowledge emotions as an essential part of every individual human being and to engage with that would probably require a more intense and probably difficult investment of time and energy. But in my humble opinion it would be constructive and creative, and would - in the long run - lead to a more humane society, with room for individuality and personal freedom.

To ignore and deny emotions would necessitate a de-humanized system to control and suppress basic human nature, with no room for individuality, let alone personal freedom. It would - even in the short term - lead to an utterly regulated society. But by its very nature it would lack creativity, a main ingredient for constructive development, and therefore such a society would - in the long run - be self-destructive.

I am no scientist and I have no other foundation for the above than my personal views and observations, my own life experience and that of the many people I've met, shared and exchanged views with in my life, the many books and articles I've read. I am not very good at reproducing facts, but that doesn't mean they haven't influenced my thinking. I do know who I am, though. And I do know what I value in life, and what I would like to share with my children. True emotions are a large part of that, love the major and most sustaining one.

I will not be tempted into devaluing or excusing my emotions. They are as much part of me as the remainder of my functioning rational brain, and I trust both equally. I will continue to endeavour to keep the two healthily sustained and balanced.

I truly appreciate Graham Stuart's efforts to keep communications going with people within the EHE community. From what I've seen up to now he is willing and able to process feedback and integrate it in his work as an MP and a member of the SC and the APPG. Based on what he has said in public so far, I have no reason to doubt his sincerity.

How and if I would vote if I could (I can't, because even though I live and pay taxes in this country, and my life and family are directly subjected to and affected by its laws and regulations, I am still a Dutch citizen and as such not allowed to vote in the UK) I really don't know. I wouldn't vote Labour, that's for sure. I couldn't vote LibDem, because of their insistence on compulsory registration for home educators. I suppose if Graham Stuart was my MP, I might vote for him, but it would be a purely emotional vote. So Graham might reconsider the value of emotional arguments ;).

Rationally and tactically, I might be inclined to vote Conservative, because I do believe that they will ditch the CSF Bill and I also believe they would not want to spend budget on regulating EHE.

Emotionally and out of principle, I would spoil my vote, and if that would mean another Labour government and their dreaded totalitarian regime, I would welcome, support and participate in revolution and civil disobedience.

But adding it all up, and in all rational and emotional fairness, my trust and belief in British democracy as a whole is non-existent. By voting for any of the existing political parties I would condone and lend support to a system that has been utterly corrupted and has lost all resemblance to democracy.

In the Netherlands, I wasn't prepared to go for the "would you like one leg broken or two" option, and I fought my own small scale revolution by taking on the authorities in a court case. I won, and we moved to the UK, where the law already recognized home education as an expression of basic civil liberties, of which the freedom for parents to choose how to educate their children is a very important one.

The fact that my children are now at an age where they could not possibly be forced into any kind of education not of their choice, does not mean that I will quietly stand by and let our basic freedoms be squashed. I will not quietly stand by when I see humanity taken out of society. For myself, my children and theirs, I will speak up, stand up and - if needed - fight. Again and again.

Because we're worth it :).