Tag Archive | Austerity

Bonfire Of Promises 

On a night when some people celebrate the capture of Guy Fawkes with celebrations and firework displays I take a slightly different look at bonfire night. I do this by  taking an alternative look  at the issues of austerity and the homelessness it can and does to lead to. In this poem I explain why I believe the I’m alright Jack mentality has resulted in a culture of apathy in which people are content for others to suffer so long as the suffering doesn’t reach their door and this allows the more reactionary Conservative forces within the UK establishment to have a bonfire of promises. It is with this in mind I have titled my poem Bonfire Of Promises I hope you enjoy the read. 

Bonfire Of Promises 

As I stand in the cold

watching fireworks explode

 a cavalcade of colours

light up the evening sky

like a rainbow

but with no pots of gold at the end

I am lucky when the evening concludes

I will return to the shelter of my flat

after time spent with friends

enjoying the warmth of their company

as the weather turns colder

I walk past a homeless girl

checking my pockets to see if change can be spared 

on this occasion only goodwill can be shared 

and that won’t fill empty stomachs

or remove hunger pains 

in a world where nobody listens

and politicians feed the public a diet of slogans 

designed to blame others for our problems

scapegoating is the road to ignorance

and acceptance of rules

made by others to tighten their grip 

on us and our circumstances

till we believe change is no longer possible

and as long as we’re alright everything is going to be fine 

all we need to do is shut the door

on the outside world

and pretend it doesn’t exist 

but there is a warning in my words 

if we do take this road it will be the vulnerable who suffer 

as we start to view minorities as others 

and allow governments to make

a bonfire of promises

 © Gayle Smith 2017

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Democracy Matters 

On day 20 of NaPoWriMo I tacke the media made myth that Scotland’s voters and getting tired of voting and may be have a bit of voter fatigue. This is exactly how Ruth Davidson and Kezia Dugdale  want you to feel , it represents by far their best chance of even limited electoral success as they know that a politically motivated Scotland is not in their intersts These people who are no  more than branch office managers for their respective Westminster parties are really keen for Scotland to be quiet and go back to sleep so they can do what they like and no-one will notice or even care. It is therefore fair to say that apathy is one of the most important weapons they happen to have in their quest to keep Scotland subordinate and that’s why I’ve tilted this poem Democracy Matters. I hope you enjoy the read. 
Democracy Matters. 

The drip feeding has started on TV and in the press

as the establishment suggest 

the voters of Scotland are fed up with voting 

 you’ve  got to be  joking 

I never tire of defending my hard won rights and liberties 

I’ll campaign hard but I’ll do it with dignity 

you see I’ve been involved in too many fights 

for too many causes 

to ever even think of giving up on democracy 

so when I hear people say 

I don’t do politics 

I say a prayer for the apathetic 

and hope they remember their words 

when someone they don’t like gets elected 

and their rights are infringed 

I’ve had enough of this cringing 

it really is time for them to stop their whinging 

or shut up and never raise their voice in anger  again 

as for who wins the race to number 10 

God forbid  the Tories will be re-elected 

though I think they will 

I like some Labour policies 

but voting for them would be 

 too bitter a pill to swallow

their still toxic to me 

I voted yes to independence 

and will do so again 

I’m scunnered with Westminster

and their heartless austerity policies

I want to live in a country where democracy  matters 
where our rights and liberties are respected 

and no-one needs to live in fear 

because of who they are 

or what  they are perceived to be 

stereotypes don’t do it for me 

my politics will  never be 

 about giving people different coloured triangles 

this is not 1933 

I wouldn’t be here if it  was

a trans woman with physical impairments 

who supports the Trade Union movement 

I’d have been a cert for the final solution 

my only saving grace would have been

having so many labels 

the Nazi’s wouldn’t have known 

where to place me or what box to tick  

though no doubt they would have got me on something 

trust me I’m not bluffing 

this country is facing a very stark choice 

if we don’t use our vote 

The Tories will claim we’ve made our choice 

more families will be forced in to poverty 

more disabled people will die 

but the top one percent will thrive 

and the media will spin it

 that we’re doing well 

they’ll talk of prosperity and dig out a few selective examples 

as proof of their point 

giving no further thought to consequences of their actions 

or the trail of devastation they leave in their wake 

to be apathetic to this heartless government 

is a risk I’m not willing to take 

If you say we’re voting too often 

that’s your call 

but if you fall for this trap 

 don’t say you weren’t warned 

when your nightmares become reality 

and  one by one your rights die 

at the dawn of a true blue Tory kingdom 

united in your name

 by your apathy and your ignorance 

© Gayle  Smith 2017 

Till Santa Delivers Equality I Would Sooner Wear Pink Than Be Pitied. 

Hey Readers

On day 3 of Blogmas, I take a step back in time to move on to a better future. I promise it will make sense when you read it, so with that in mind let’s journey back a Sunday in mid October and the final day of this year’s SNP conference 

Featured Picture Me (Gayle) and Bemis spokesman, and fellow Celtic Connections regular  Danny Boyle at the SNP Equalities Conference October 2016. 

Picture (1) The Picture Shows The Headline So I Can Tell The Story

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A couple of months ago on a calm autumn Sunday I attended, the SNP equalities conference. It was a very enjoyable day where I listened to a variety of speeches from a number of contributors both from within the party and from spokespeople representing a range of campaign groups who are united in their aim in fighting for a fairer more inclusive Scotland so why you may ask did I wait till now before talking about it.

Well there is a simple and honest explanation namely that this was a day when I learned not only about campaigns and causes it was a day I learned about myself and what I learned and will reveal on this international day of disabled people will shock and even anger some people but as someone who is both a disabled person and a transsexual woman I have no hesitation in saying that given the choice to identify as disabled or trans I would choose trans and I would do it every single time.

Now before some disabled people completely lose the plot let me say that having to make choices of identifying with one part of me over another part of me is something I should never have to do. As someone who worked as a disability equality trainer I recognise the value of a united equality movement working together to achieve a better society for our people.By this I mean a society that values everyone whether it be Women, People From Black And Minority Ethnic Communities, Disabled people, Trans people and values them equally

This however is I regret to say not the case at the moment and on this particular day the disabled members forum was meeting at the same time as the LGBT members forum and superwoman though I try to be even I can’t be in two places at once. So on the grounds everyone who was at the disabled people’s conference was a disabled person but that trans people and especially trans woman are underrepresented in politics I thought it was important that my voice was heard at the LGBT conference which was excellently hosted by Kirsty McAlpine and the Right Honourable Stewart MacDonald MP see picture below.

Picture 2 Stewart MacDonald MP gives his opening address to SNP LGBT members conference with Kirsty McAlpine looking on

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Taken in isolation one might think I am saying to declare as trans rather than disabled was a spur of the moment decision relevant only on the day of the conference but believe me this is not the case. So why do I think that my trans identity for all the difficulties trans people face is more positive than identifying as disabled person? Well I’ll tell you why it all comes down to preconceived assumptions which in turn lead to stereotypes which have an impact on wider society. In other words, it really is in the words of Robert Burns about seeing ourselves as others see us.

You see as a trans woman though I may experience some transphobic abuse as I go about my daily business I believe I still have a far better quality of life than I would if I identified only as a disabled person. Now I realise this isn’t fair and for some people it will make very uncomfortable reading but facts are facts and can’t be changed just because some people don’t like them. You see the truth of the matter is that disabled people are unfairly viewed as a burden on society.

This view has always been a popular myth within society but it to has to be said that aided and abetted by the right wing Conservative press it has increased dramatically since the climate of austerity become the accepted norm in UK politics after the 2010 General Election. The idea that that somehow disabled people are on the make and are making false claims on the benefit system has to a large extent gone unchallenged by the UK political mainstream as with help from their friends in a compliant media they have established this discourse as part of a national narrative which seeks to demonise anyone who is viewed as in any way different.

Be under no illusion it is fair to say that trans people are to a significant extent also viewed as other. In spite of this and the fact that we do experience a degree of hostility from some of our less enlightened members of society I honestly believe that disabled people get far worse treatment than the trans community in early 21st Century Britain.

It seems there is hardly a day goes by without politically motivated story appearing in the less erudite sections of the tabloid press labelling disabled people as lazy, workshy, benefit cheating, scroungers who aren’t really disabled but who are in it to milk the system.

This is hysteria, pure and simple and yet the British government have the nerve to wonder why more disabled people than ever before are being targeted by hate squads and many are choosing to end their own lives rather than take this daily torrent of abuse from those who are too narrow minded to see they are being played by a Westminster elite who would sooner spend billions on weapons of mass destruction than creating the conditions for genuine equality.

So why are disabled people the new acceptable scapegoats which allows them to be treated in ways which if it were a BME citizen we would be screaming racism or a woman we’d be shouting misogyny. Personally I believe it’s all about perception and disabled people are still perceived by some people as being less able than they are even when the facts don’t support this line of thinking. Many less intellectually able members of our society believe that disabled people are weak, and possibly even stupid and they believe this line of argument without anything to back it up except for the pre historic opinion that physical strength equals intelligence. Surely if this was the case then I as the first disabled person in my family would not have been the first university graduate but I was. 

It does however have to be said that in spite of many examples which disprove this outdated theory  it is a popular myth which has been around for hundreds of years and has been  carefully socially and culturally constructed over time to find a place in the national pysche. This attitude annoying though it is will not evaporate overnight and even now we are seeing disabled people being pitied and patronised rather than treated as equal citizens and it with this last comment you can begin to see why I would sooner identify as trans than as a disabled person.

Speaking from the heart and as a trans woman, (trans men can speak for themselves ) I will explain why I take what some would see as a challenging stance on this issue. For me my justification for this viewpoint is that it really is all about equality. You see as a trans woman I am never even on my most difficult days told what clothes I can wear, where I can travel or socialise or what time  I can get up or go to bed. Yet the basic right to make these and other choices are denied to disabled people. This to me is obscene and though being trans is not without it’s problems as I know only too well I say again what I’ve said throughout this post which is until Santa delivers real equality for all I would sooner wear pink than be pitied or to put it in even more brutal terms I would sooner declare as a trans woman than I would  as a disabled person

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X 

Marching Backwards

Hey Readers

It is my considered opinion that there is something very wrong with politics in democratic nations. With regards to the UK, there has been a disturbing rise in the number of racially motivated attacks in the aftermath of the Brexit vote and there have also been a significant increase in transphobic and disability related hate crimes.

Whilst not everyone who voted to leave the European Union is a racist and many decent and honourable socialists voted to leave for a completely different set of reasons but there can be no denying that post Brexit Britain has unleashed a very unhealthy strain of right wing British Nationalism which if unchecked could see Britain more divided than at any time since the 1930’s.

As a supporter of Scottish independence some people might say this should please me but those who make such wild assumptions do not know me and will never know me. I may be a member
of the Scottish National Party but I was raised an internationalist and I will hopefully many years from now die an internationalist. So believe me when I say I take no pleasure in watching this horror story unravel and the recent victory of Donald Trump will I fear drive this right wing agenda still further. It is with this division and politics of fear clear in my mind I have written this poem entitled Marching Backwards I hope you find it a challenging and thought provoking read.

Marching Backwards

Good morning Britain

I am now going give you a wake up call

ignore it and one day you will be

welcome to the UKKK

an insular xenophobic
small minded island

led by a right wing authoritarian regime

where a very privileged few
will fan the flames of fear

Who needs the facts when you have cheerleaders

like the BBC and 90 per cent of broadcast media.

If we try to find the truth they’ll ban the internet especially Wikipedia

they may deprive us of our human rights

but they’ll do it under the guise

of keeping us safe at nights

whilst numbing our minds

by remote control

EastEnders and Coronation Street

are light family viewing

not manna for the soul

but this is their strategy

they want you to talk about some fictional characters

having problems with their sexuality

this will prove how liberal you are

to friends and neighbours in your street

and your drinking companions at the bar

providing nobody like that lives next door to you

that would to be too much to handle

in this new fantasy land

where the only scandal is getting caught with your morals down

It just isn’t right and all those Muslims and other foreigners

frighten granny’s in Gloucester,

though she won’t say that when visiting her Syrian doctor

or her Bosnian care worker

In this land of strivers and shirkers

her Polish bank manager is always so nice and eager to help

but in this gray unpleasant land

she and her fellow Brits tell anyone willing to listen

this is their United Kingdom

so everyone else has to look , think , speak like them

they see 10 Downing Street
as the epicentre of civilisation

believing that Jesus once walked in their nation

claiming foreign fields as forever English

forgetting or dismissing the fact Scotland Wales and at least a small part of Ireland

are still for the moment part of the United Kingdom

they talk about only when it suits

meanwhile as union flags, flutes and Nazi salutes

are dismissed as harmless fun

tabloid Tories like The Sun, The Mail, and Daily Express

make me proud I voted yes in the independence referendum

and if they think I’ll by led like sheep to Armageddon

they must be living in an alternative reality

televised trivialities will not stop me

 pursuing my vision of a better world

where inclusion and attainment are not dirty words

and aspiration is viewed as normal

not dependent on a formal by which I mean private education

we must remove walls not build them

to keep others out

this isn’t what progress is about

nor is it about labelling, demonising, or stereotyping

to provide the few with silver linings

at the expense of everyone else

this mind thyself attitude

which puts Britain first

is the refuge of the cursed

the curse which if ignored

could see the wolf enter through the back door

and wreck havoc if unchecked

this is supposed to be
a nation of fairness and respect

where all lives matter

but the shaven heads who hold their flags

and chant Rule Britannia

don’t agree

these poster boys for the BNP
Britain First

and others on that side of the political spectrum

are the kind of Brits who don’t contest elections

this type of subject has no time

for anything as complex as choice

only wanting one nation one voice, one race

the world will be a safer place
they claim

point the finger of what they see as shame

at any group they don’t like

disabled people, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender

people of different ethnicities

these people are not truly British

according to their way of thinking

as the sinking ship austerity

brings their ideas into the mainstream

if this poem doesn’t make uncomfortable reading

we have not learned the lessons of history

and will be condemned to repeat its mistakes

by marching backwards to the right.

@ Gayle Smith 2016.

Birthday Wishes To A Private Citizen

Hey Readers On this day an old woman celebrates her 90th birthday and the British press and media are whipping the people in to frenzy as we are ordered to commemorate the birthday of one Lizzy Windsor otherwise known as Her Most Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen of the United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland. So this is my birthday tribute to a woman whom I have nothing against on a personal level but despise the institution she represents. I have given it the title Birthday Wishes To A Private Citizen I hope you enjoy the read.

Birthday Wishes To A. Private Citizen

As a rich old women reaches 90
I am told this is cause for celebration
to unite the nation
commemorate all that is best
about being British
we are informed we should send  the Queen birthday wishes
Now pardon me if I don’t think
a woman born in to privilege
and entitled inheritance
is worth the attention
the Royal family are a media invention
to distract us from the real problems
like crime, unemployment and the  poverty
so many of her subjects live in a united kingdom divided by income and wealth
where the culture of mind yourself and yourself only
runs in contradiction to the pooling and sharing
so favoured by the elite
as Labour and Tory compete
to see who can drive us further
in to an abyss
with the ultimate kiss of betrayal
personally I have nothing against Elizabeth Windsor the private citizen
but private citizen is what she should be
I want Scotland free from the robes of ermine
the uniform of self serving subordinates
I deplore the institution of which she is a part
there are people who haven’t reached half her years
before defeat saw them broken  dying in the streets
it is an insult to democracy
that such poverty is allowed to exist
in a so-called civilised land
as a woman with a very clear vision
of the world  I want to live in
I understand the steps we need to take to achieve it
and you better believe I will fight with all I have to make it reality
I have no time for trivialities
and I scorn those who trade in selling souls
by remote control
to keep in with the in crowd
I am not proud of this Britain
I am ashamed
that’s why I campaign to change it
rearrange it
from one united kingdom
to four sovereign nations
who seek ideas and inspiration
from each other the way that real friends do
where we create a culture based on real and genuine respect
and all elect our representatives
with no peerages given to politicians and their friends
the Britain of the class divide
is a means to an end
which couldn’t exist without the patronage of the crown
and the fawning sycophancy
of those who bow the knee
this in my view is a disgrace
one of the most compelling reasons I voted yes
to independence
was to create a more caring and socially sustainable country
so the ugly politics of Westminster
could no longer set an agenda
in which our interests would always come last
the days of monarchy
belong in the past
so forgive me if I say
on the day I send birthday wishes to a private citizen
I hope the old Jacobite prophecy
comes true
and what came wi a lass
will gang wi another

@ Gayle Smith 2016

A Story Of The Poet With The Made Up Family Name Sent Me On A Journey To Happiness (A Review Of If Your Happy And You Know It Take This Survey By Agnes Torok)

Hey everyone On Saturday I returned to the fringe for the first time since my unplanned visit on Monday night. Having only a limited budget I decided I could only see one show and on this occasion the show of choice was Agnes Torok’s one woman spoken word tour de force If You’re Happy And You Know It Take This Survey.

In this manic but magical hour Agnes examines the idea that happiness can be quantified or significantly measured. A gifted poet she questions what the happiness experts tell us and asks what makes them experts anyway.

As we began our journey Agnes tells us happiness is personal. She tells of Struggle Songs and why we all have them and why they make us stronger. She then shares six interesting facts about herself and unlike some people the facts she shared actually were interesting. My favourite amongst this collection of jewels was that her surname or as I prefer to call it hour family name is in fact completely made up.

You see her grandfather is originally from Hungary but he grew up Jewish at a time when being a jew in Hungary wasn’t so popular. In fact, it could lead to a place in the concentration camps. So Agnes’s granddad being a smart man changed his name to Torok which is the Hungarian word for Turk. This seemed to have the desired effect as when Russians came to his town looking for jews he said his name was Torok so they just said oh he’s Turkish let him go. Needless to say he was delighted about this and needed no second invitation headed for Sweden at the first available chance. It is thanks to that decision that he was able to live a normal life in a new if slightly cold country. It was thanks to that change of name and nation that his eldest son had a daughter who turned out to be a poet whose thoughts we were enjoying as her take on happiness unfolded.

Agnes looked at the way we as a society view happiness by doing what it said on the tin or at least in the title of her show and asking people a series of questions with regards to certain statements. As dutiful members of her audience we had to take part on a mini survey on we view our own happiness, this gave me more insight into myself and state of mind that Ms Torok will ever know and I found that certain aspects of my happiness index have room for significant improvement.

I should I think be a bit kinder to the one person whose happiness I want to improve and by that I mean me I stop judging myself on girls who have longer legs, bigger boobs, better toned thighs, hunkier guys, a better house, a better figure realise chocolate and thinner don’t necessary go together. I should just stop judging myself and like what I see in the mirror.

Anyway as Agnes said happiness is personal and on that front I think I am actually doing ok. I will say however that no-one unless your Tony Blair can be happy all the time it’s not normal and that’s why he can be happy all the time,because he is far from what is considered normal for most people in this country.

Talking of normal, most people would consider that your health is one of the most important things in regard to your quality of life and you need good health to make you happy. Agnes challenges this tradition of established thinking by introducing the idea that if happiness is social then health may not be so important to happiness as just living in the moment. In her poem The Ladies Of Ward 10, Agnes gently illustrates that it is those little things you share with others which can bring about the greatest moments of happiness.

Agnes then talks of community and that if happiness is social then we must all help our communities. This means that some countries which we in the west see as lesser countries because they have only they need and not every single commodity they have been told they need then these countries actually score higher in the happiness index than we in the
so-called civilised democracy’s do
Agnes tackles this issue by saying that these counties value communities and if we value our communities we need to tackle poverty and to that we also must tackle austerity. This gifted young poet who spoke with passion and purpose and a clarity so often missing from the cosy Westminster elites said that she posted an anti austerity poem on you tube which outlines in easy to understand language the real problems facing the developed nations at this time in our history and not surprisingly it went viral. It was also not surprising when she said there were comments, there were lots of comments. Whilst most was nice and supportive there were also nasty not so supportive comments some of which could be classed as hate mail. There were even some death threats. I have say though I really admire the fact that rather than fill her world with angst, rage, and indignation, Agnes chose to invite some close friends round to her home and read the hate mail to them in the campest, most squeaky voices imaginable. I bet they wished they hadn’t bothered sharing their toxic thoughts with her now.

So if as Agnes says communities are important to our happiness in terms of providing the social spaces we need to interact with others and we are not doing enough for those communities then happiness is not personal, or social, happiness is also political.

In her poem Great Agnes who is originally from Sweden takes a not so gentle dig at country which would call itself great and believe me when I say this was and by some distance my favourite poem of the night. In it speaking in mocking tone gives the narrator the voice of some upper class private school half-wit who is talking to or should I say lecturing someone who he sees as being from a less developed country and reminding them why Britain is great and there country is not. This is satire so sharp it bites with all the ferocity of a pack of hungry wolves. This is brilliant. A poetic gem from a true practitioner of the craft

In her next poem in a brilliant show Agnes then moved on to a time when her father was recovering from a serious accident and using some beautiful imagery she illustrates how those who are in the most difficult of circumstances are often the happiest people you’ll find anywhere. This poem moved me perhaps more than any other in the show. Well as regular readers will know this blogger was always a daddy’s girl and nothing else really needs to be said.

In her poem Worthless Agnes looked at the struggles facing students and young people in a society which all too often demonises them more than it rewards them. This hard hitting polemic style poetry works well for a woman outraged by any kind inequality as inequality has a very negative impact on those who are amongst the most disadvantaged in our society be it locally, nationally, or globally. Agnes like myself and many others of the poetic persuasion doesn’t take kindly to the idea of a few rich kids getting all the benefits whilst they label the rest of us benefit scroungers or give us other labels by which we can be judged

So having demonstrated that happiness is personal, social, and political and the fact that it is something which can’t really be measured What is Ms Torok’s solution to the happiness problem? Where does she suggest you look to find it? Well her answer is a simple do art. You see when you are doing art as Agnes suggests you should, you are so lost in what you are doing that you are actually happy to be doing it and I must admit as a fellow poetic practitioner I can’t help but agree with her findings. Maybe this is why i happy to take her survey, but i can’t help but think it was spending an hour with the poet with the made up family name that send me on a journey to happiness.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

Mother Hubbard’s Miracle

Hey everyone I decided to post a  poem is on the subject of poverty. This is a topic on which and many others both in Scotland and in Britain know a lot more about that we’d like to. We live in a very different world from the Conservative government of David Cameron, George Osborne, Theresa May, and Iain Duncan-Smith and as for Boris Johnston I think it could be said that we inhabit a completely different universe or at least I hope we do. These billionaires and millionaires will never understand the hardship that the poverty of zero hours contracts bring or the crumb of discomfort you get when looking in to your larder only to find it in a worse state than Old Mother Hubbard’s or know the unrestrained joy of finding a biscuit to have with your coffee. It was with this in mind I have come up with the title Mother Hubbard’s Miracle I hope you find this poem a challeging and thought provoking read.

Mother Hubbard’s Miracle

On leaving the library

I make the short journey home.

to start my weekend

as I do so I smell curries and fish and chips                                                                            lick my lips at the feast I can’t afford

poverty can’t be ignored

bills have to be paid

as I walk down the lane the smells fade

no longer teasing my taste-buds with aromas of weekend dinners

before long I am back in the comfort of my home

I look at a cupboard which is more deserted than old mother Hubbard’s

finding more empty spaces than a car park on Christmas morning

the government can warn us all about there being no alternative to austerity

let them warn us again when they find themselves in my situation

we not in all in this together we are not one nation

some in our society are far more equal than others

eventually I discover a chocolate digestive                                                               celebrate the fact I can have coffee and biscuits for dinner

@ Gayle Smith 2015