Why the Democracy Village matters

Join us for a rally in Trafalgar Square from 1pm

"It is well enough that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning."

Henry Ford 

Whatever happened to that fly-by-night group of protesters who created a "shanty town" in Parliament Square over the Summer? You can't have forgotten; they caused quite a stir amongst those reasonable folk who value neat lawns above the freedom to protest about such trivialities as climate change, the banking crisis and illegal war. Thank goodness law and order was restored after Democracy Village lost their case at the High Court; now no politician entering Parliament has to endure the sight of the people holding them to account for their decisions. Really, what sane person in a healthy democracy wants that sort of thing going on?
As soon as the eviction was over Westminster Council erected some pretty fencing around the Square in order to carry out 'essential
maintenance' to the grass, and it is still there even though the grass has grown back. But I'm sure the public doesn't mind a bit paying for a private security firm to patrol the perimeter. The authorities are happy that the completely unintentional side-effect of the fences is that any protesters are kept out and, considering that the official reason for opposition to Democracy Village given by Westminster Council and David Camerson was that the Square looked untidy they must be very satisfied with how it looks now. Yes, it's obvious to everyone that fencing and guards are far more attractive to look at than rainbow flags declaring 'peace'. And the villagers? No doubt the horrid rabble has skulked off to lick their wounds.
Alas, reports of the death of Democracy Village have been greatly exaggerated, because unfortunately for those who wanted rid of it it is very much alive and well. As we declared back in July  the the Village 'was far more than a collection of tents -- it is an idea. And ideas cannot be moved on.' So, the idea that is Democracy Village has been growing, expanding and gaining strength not a stone's throw from Parliament Square in
weekly People's Assemblies held at Victoria Tower Gardens (Saturdays at 1pm if you'd like to join us) and will flower this Saturday, Oct 9th, in a celebratory Democracy Rally in Trafalgar Square. This will be a day of "education, discussion and creative expression" featuring
speakers from many grassroots organizations who share with us a passionate belief in new possibilities. But make no mistake, this is far from a traditional gathering - it is the Idea taking form. And never has there been a more potent historical moment in which to make it happen. After the expenses scandal, the banking crisis, and with unprecedented cuts looming, the ground is fertile for the planting of new seed.

Gandhi said something that is much-quoted: "Be the change you wish to see in the world". It may sound familiar to you, but how many of you understand. much less, embody, its true meaning? This quote is so profound, and its implications so powerful, that if only a fraction of those of you reading this article now were to put it into practice immediately; if only some of you began, without delay, living in a way that reflects your deepest longing for a life without constant struggle and pain then the society you see around you, with all its seemingly entrenched injustices, with all its corruption, all its exploitation and all its violence, would begin to transform at a speed that would astound you. Because all that gives these iniquities their life-blood is your belief that change is not possible. It is your acceptance of the lie that you have no agency, no real
power, that keeps your dreams out of reach. No matter that David Cameron talks of "giving" power to the people, the clue is in his language - he is the source of power and any freedom you have is only the amount the government deigns to give you - the very opposite of the definition of democracy which states that power is vested in the people. Go on, look it up! Therefore, if a real democracy is what we have then power is not Cameron's to give. How can you be given something you already possess?
The only reason he gets away with turning his distortion of democracy into a virtue we are supposed to be grateful for is because we have colluded in the lie. We have allowed ourselves to be hypnotized into a state of helplessness by the few with a vested interest in our paralysis. And what is the swinging gold watch used to put us to sleep? The newest gadget, the latest fashion, the fastest car. This is what we are offered in place of an authentic life in which we control our own destiny. Only the Spectacle, the ravenous beast of consumer culture that is never sated. The beast feeds on the world's rapidly diminishing resources - and it feeds on our souls. It chews up and spits out that better part of ourselves that knows, deep
within, that we are all one community, that we value human dignity, that we respect the natural world and revere the life that shares with us this beautiful planet. How long can we revel in our consumer choices if the true price for them is paid in the currency of human misery and a devastated environment, and in the exploitation of every vulnerable lifeform? The lie is that you are a winner, but the truth is, in this game everyone loses.  Withdraw your cooperation in this deception and your real position of strength will be revealed. 

In the words of Thoreau most of those who sincerely wish to see a more just world "hesitate, and they regret.....and godspeed to the right as it goes by them." Old Henry knew that change only comes through action, through movement! Action is choosing to live each
day in a way which rejects exploitation of all kinds because the truth is, there is no need to wait a single moment before taking the first step towards a better future. The future is ours to make! It is not something to be decided upon by those who know better. And who are these infinitely wise and benign politicians who know better than you do what is good for you and your children? Are they the same ones who took your hard-earned money to pay for their duck-houses and widescreen TV's, and then, with an astonishing sense of entitlement, hid behind legal technicalities to absolve themselves? Are they the very same politicians who allowed, indeed encouraged, the bankers to play fast and loose and then asked you to bail them out while pretending they had nothing to do with it? And are these the very same bankers who are now enjoying
pre-crisis levels of bonuses while those same politicians lecture you about tightening your belt and making sacrifices for the greater good? Are these the people you are still putting your trust in? Wake up! The dream they are selling you is really a nightmare. Start acting like the sovereign citizen you are and beg no more for that which is your birthright.

"All experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."

American Declaration of Independence




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A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear