The Powers

This last week I was sat in a meeting with several maternity service users and a splattering of health professionals and managers of varying sorts. We were talking about the enormous deficit that is in our health budget and therefore some of the difficult options that are ahead of us. The government likes to call these options “efficiency savings”, everybody else knows that we are talking about cuts to services.

I always start my presentations by talking about the difficulty we find ourselves in, how we got here (a massive national debt, which all nations are in because our entire economic system is built on debt and none of it is real and they just keep on printing more money to solve it, made far worse by people who get massive bonuses and a >£2billion reorganisation of the NHS that no one wanted or asked for, which had we not had, we would now not be needing to make so many cuts!) and what our options now are.

I then offer a revolution, and other than a few smiles and the odd chortle, no one seems to think this a realistic or viable option….But, if we didn’t reinvest in Trident, or if we did charge greedy corporations appropriate levels of tax, then we wouldn’t need to cut services in the NHS.

Anyhow, I then talk about the fact that no decisions have been made and that we are genuinely in a process of listening (something the government really didn’t do before inflicting this reorganisation on us) and wanting to come to a place of collaborative agreement. But I am fast learning two things. The first is that nobody wants the thing they really care about to be cut or refashioned in any manner. They understand that safeguarding their piece of the pie means that others will miss out, but they don’t actually want to make any sacrifices – I understand that. I also understand more clearly that isolated health budgeting doesn’t work……more on this anon….

The second and starkest realisation I’ve had though is just how dreadful the new legislation voted in by parliament really is.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-26531807

You see, the Secretary of State for Health now has new powers, never had before to close any services or hospital he/she deems fit, not if they are performing badly, but if it makes better financial sense to do so…..And this is where the rubber hits the road in our public consultations and discussions with patients and service users. If we don’t come up with a solution to cut our services (oh sorry, I mean make efficiency savings – memo to self – stop referring to “efficiency savings” as “cuts”), with the public in some sort of agreement (although they won’t be, because who wants their services cut?!), then what will happen is the government will simply do the following:

They will tell us our sums do not add up, they will tell us that savings/cuts must be made, they will get rid of those of us who are trying to reach a point of agreement with our service users and they will bring in their own board aka Monitor. Monitor do not have to consult with anybody, they will simply cut/burn/slash whatever is deemed necessary and their decision cannot be challenged or overturned!

This is nothing other than bullying. It is what Georgio Agamben talks about when he refers to ‘The State of the Exception’ and with this grim stick of threat held up behind us, it makes our work of trying to reach a collaborative agreement on the redesign of services completely impossible. What are we to do? The challenge is here: how do we subvert the system, making it absolutely clear that we do not play this game, and yet submit back into the system so as to allow love to win the day.

The Powers have shown their strong arm. But they have forgotten that there is a power far more ancient and far more beautiful…….life laid down love……love always wins and it will win in the end in the face of all oppression.

An Open Letter to Theresa May, Home Secretary

Dear Theresa

I hope you don’t mind the informal greeting, as I’ve never had the opportunity to meet you, but I believe in a level playing field when it comes to communication and I find that titles can get in the way of that. I also wanted to use your first name, because it is somehow more human and I want to appeal to you as a fellow human being, before addressing you as our current home secretary. There is a very high probability that you will never read this, so I thought I would write it as an open letter to engage others in a vital conversation.

The reason for my letter is to appeal to you on behalf of the hundreds of people you are currently detaining in any one of the 11 Detention (Immigration Removal) Centres located throughout the UK. There have been several reports of the dreadful treatment of fellow human beings, people we call our brothers and sisters, in this wide and varied family of humanity. Even your chief inspector of prisons calls the conditions ‘appalling’. Many of these people have been victims of torture and abuse from which they have fled only to be treated in a simply disgusting way in this nation. You are even detaining pregnant women and children (141 children that are known of in the last 5 years). These beautiful human beings are treated in an altogether sub-human way.

Georgio Agamben writes of the ‘State of Exception’. I’m sure you are aware of his writings, but if not, this ‘state of exception’ describes how a human being can be both simultaneously bound and abandoned to law. It reveals what really undergirds a nation; that which we are willing to put aside to maintain the status quo. The detention of people in this way reveals a vile underbelly and a rotten foundation to this nation state. These detention centres are our very own example of Guantanamo Bay, where people are held without hope of a fair trial, justice or human kindness. Essentially, by keeping people who are deemed to have failed in seeking asylum in these detention centres, you “erase any legal status of the individual, thus producing a legally unnamable and unclassifiable being.” (Agamben, State of Exception p7). To treat any person who does in fact have a name and a face in such a manner, is altogether inhumane and utterly wrong.

In our house, we try to live with the following kind of philosophy:

In this house

As home/house secretary, I wonder if you think the home/house we are creating in this land is reflected in these removal centres? I know you will argue that this land isn’t their home, which is why we are sending them back to their country of origin (which I doubt they could really call home or they would not have fled it). But there is something so very wrong about how you are allowing them to be treated. You know fine well from serious case reviews that terrible errors have been made in sending people back to their country of origin, leading for example to the death of a lesbian woman in Uganda. You know there have been and continue to be atrocious abuses of basic human rights in these detention centres. You know that people are being denied access to vital medical treatment (www.medicaljustice.org.uk). You know that at least one person has been unlawfully killed at the hands of your profit making making friends, G4S, who run these centres for you. Yet you are allowing it to continue. Theresa, how is this loving? How is it kind? How is it human?

I am sure your job is filled with complications and difficult decisions, and I am sure that there are some who may well need deporting to another land, but do not let the office you hold become separate from your humanity. I appeal to you as a fellow human and I appeal to you as the home secretary to do an urgent review of these centres.

I would like to suggest the following:

1) Please would you spend a day in each of detention centres and simply hear the stories of those you are detaining there. Then please look them in the eye and justify your decision to allow them to be treated as sub-human.

2) Please remove G4S from the management of the detention centres, as they have demonstrated a recurrent lack of love or concern for human welfare.

3) Please consider that detention centres could be managed instead by asylum charities, who have a far better understanding of the needs of those they would be caring for and can ensure that they are given appropriate access to legal help and medical intervention. This can be backed up with security if needed, but by changing the environment and approach of how we ‘detain’ people, I imagine we will have less security issues.

Thank you for taking the issues of human love and justice seriously,

Yours most sincerely

Andy Knox