The Ramblings of My Brain

Leave a comment

The Oak And The Heartbeat – A Tribute To The Phenomenal Dr Maya Angelou

Thoughts on the passing of the wonderful light that is Dr Maya Angelou

I was blessed to have seen Maya perform her one woman show in Lewisham Theatre in Catford. On stage she was everything I dreamt she would be. This was the days before the internet and before YouTube. We had no easy way to access video recordings as we do now. The auditorium was packed full of adoring fans, inspired by her message of strength, valour, love and hope. The theatre was packed full of love and Maya was the heartbeat.

The show was snippets of her fascinating life story interspersed with anecdotes, poetry, and song and dance. Part performance, part poetry reading, part college lecture and part family gathering. Just like the phenomenal woman herself, the show was a whirlwind of spirit energy and incandescent light and left everyone feeling uplifted, inspired and happy to be in the presence of this wonderful woman’s travelling shoes. Reading Maya recount stories of her much loved grandmother singing ‘I Will Not Be Moved’ lit a fire in me, but then seeing that energy translated onto the stage as Maya channeled the phenomenon that was her proud and strong grandmother actually singing it for us live was quite something else. The acorn clearly didn’t fall far from the oak.

Some few years later she came back to perform at Lewisham again. And once again I went to the show. This time however I left sadly disappointed. The show was essentially the same as the previous performance and yet so seamless had Maya’s previous performance been, that I’d not actually been aware that what I’d witnessed the first time round was in fact pure theatre.

Of course I’d known that Maya Angelou had been a dancer and an actor but the heart of the woman had shone so brightly from every page of her beautifully written books that I’d not realised how wonderfully accomplished she was as a performer. It took me seeing her perform twice to actually see the craft itself – and only then because what I saw was a repetition of the exact same sterling performance.

Of course I’m mindful that nobody would think twice about seeing a Michael Jackson show and expecting the second performance to be somehow completely different.

Many years ago in my early 20s my friend Fiona Quinn introduced me to Maya Angelou by buying me ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ for my birthday. It may well have been my 21st birthday. And what a birthday present! Up til then my desire to read had been stifled by the process of doing English A Level some few years before (albeit at that point it felt like a whole lifetime had gone past between leaving school shortly before 19 and landing there at 21). Such were the demands of analysing the text and reading for the purpose of education that I could no longer simply pick up a book for recreational purposes any more. The simple act of reading Maya Angelou changed all that forever. Such was the richness of Maya’s writing and the detailed drawing of characters and life story that I, like many others before, after and during me, became hooked and spent what felt like a lifetime afterwards devouring every ounce of love and laughter, joy and sorrow, success and failure along Maya’s by now famous life story. And what a story.

I would recommend that anyone who hasn’t yet had the joy to discover Maya’s work goes out and buys or borrows a copy of ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’, settles down in a comfy chair in a quiet corner with a nice hot drink and simply turns the first page. I promise, the journey will move you and inspire you.

Maya has a way of turning life into poetry; a way of teaching your spirit how to levitate far above the weight of the man-made world. A way of liberating your soul from the shackles of perception and helping us slip into the realm of the human.

Bless you, Maya. You will be forever in my heart, my mind and my soul. Without knowing me you reached out and said ‘I know’ and encouraged me to soar as surely as a mother might a child and I will always love you.

God Bless. And Rise! X


Leave a comment

Vote Of No Confidence in ConDem Government

The current Conservative & LibDem Coalition Government led by David Cameron and Nick Clegg and accounted for by George Osborne and a coterie of other angels of doom has repeatedly demonstrated their refusal to listen to the electorate & has reneged on many promises made in their Manifestos.

They are arrogantly pushing ahead with ill-advised & often dangerous reforms in Education, NHS, Welfare/Benefits & the Civil Service; all of which have considerable opposition from respected professionals & the public.

They are taking financial actions which are resulting in considerably worse fiscal conditions, fudging projected outcomes & refusing to take responsibility.

They have done little to force the Banking Industry to atone for its irresponsible actions & yet are actively pursuing a campaign of scape-goating the very weakest members of our society with little regard for the devastating effect their extreme actions will have on communities, families & children.

They have shown themselves to be incompetent & incapable of representing.

We therefore call for a vote of no confidence in their ability to govern and make a call for them to be stripped of office immediately.

Originally submitted to MU London Region for consideration as a motion for the 2013 MU Delegates Conference (unused)

Leave a comment

The petty, mind-numbing bureaucracy which masks a deep systemic stupidity designed to hoodwink us all…

I’ve come to realise how intensely I dislike the hierarchical structures that exist inside most organisations, common-or-gardenly called ‘offices’.

Rather than being the systems to enable, empower and facilitate that they like to think themselves to be, they are in fact the very power engines of what is inhuman and disempowering in our society.

Just like the canteen culture inside the Metropolitan Police that was criticised by the Macpherson report for creating and upholding its institutional racism, ‘office culture’ takes otherwise well intentioned individuals and sucks them into the company ethos, turning them into company robots.

The process it uses to do this is the ‘social life’ of offices. By creating an atmosphere where workers strive to be accepted by their peers, the well-intentioned can easily be switched into pursuing the company agenda, no matter how unethical it may actually be. I don’t think it any coincidence that the escalation of this has coincided with the massive increase of Social Media apps like Facebook which have ingrained themselves so deeply into the social psyche of office workers in particular.

People who work in offices stick together. They don’t question, they just get on with the roles they’ve been assigned; often rigidly sticking to them beyond all reasoning. They literally become automatons; automatically working their way thru their in-tray, unwilling to allow real life to interfere with their workload. …’Simply following orders’ from above without any context or flexibility.

Offices are now so good at churning out workers like this, that it could quite rightly be said to be no accident that this is so ubiquitous throughout the Capitalist (read ‘Western’) world (including all those territories around the world touched by the historic hand of colonialism).

There is a reason that George Orwell singled out bureaucracy for particular ridicule and distain; far from being the fuel that drives progress, it is actually the club which churns out the gatekeepers that hold us back from it.

From Governments to Civil Servants, Unions to Local Authorities, Charities to Health Services, office culture is there to stifle and hold back, to stonewall and suppress change rather than managing and enabling it.

It is office culture which is responsible for the huge increase in the burden of stress that most modern day citizens have to carry. The pointless idiocy of the delivery appointment for goods that never arrives, the refusal to create an appointment at a convenient time, the accounting systems which say you’re in arrears when you’ve never missed a payment, the refunds that never arrive following cancelling a service, the residents’ ‘consultations’ that never take onboard what the residents actually want or ask for, the Fire Safety Committees that lie by saying they have been forced by the Fire Brigade to remove Fire Alarms to ‘avoid tenants panicking’ in the event of a fire (sadly true! Ask L&Q…!)

Literally entangling society in such a relentless onslaught of mud slinging that it’s virtually impossible to challenge or change any of it, regardless of how desperately out of step it may be with actual human need. The petty, mind numbing bureaucracy which masks a deep systemic stupidity…

Our recent Tory-led ConDem Government (my friend Kevin today dubbed it the ‘Demolition Government’) has become expert at this. Led by such grand masters as Iain Duncan Smith, Theresa May and Grant Shapps, they have escalated the art of lying and obsfucation to dizzying heights in order to smokescreen their real agenda and keep the people tied up in an endless, exhausting war against bureaucratic Civil Rights abuses which cover up their far deeper and long-planned Human Rights abuses.

In fact, so successful has this scatter-gun strategy been that it is simply not credible to believe it wasn’t orchestrated. With many deep parallels between Right Wing actions in both the USA and UK, it’s pretty apparent that this has been planned. Literally lighting so many tiny fires that campaigners and activists are so busy stomping out one fire that they miss or don’t have the energy to deal with(!) the one starting in their very back yard.

The deeply troubling thing to me is how a whole army of Civil Servants, previously fixated on customer care, honesty and quality, have been so readily turned into the killer ants so eager to do their masters’ evil bidding.

A disabled friend recently had his benefits arbitrarily stopped. When he phoned to complain, he tells me the person he spoke to kept ‘correcting’ him whenever he mentioned that they had stopped money he was entitled to…

It troubles me that the Civil Servant has so wholeheartedly swallowed the Tory HQ rhetoric of demonising the poor and the vulnerable, reframing them as scroungers unworthy of help and wrong in suggesting they have any legal entitlement to financial and social help.

Deeply troubling times…