Why I’m Voting Green

Unknown-1My kids love to know who my wife and I are voting for and we want to be a family that talks about this kind of stuff around our dinner table. So we told them “this year, we’re firmly nailing our green colours to the mast”. They didn’t know what that meant, so we told them – “we’re voting GREEN”!

I’ve read a surprising amount of the manifestos of each of the parties this year. Before doing so, I was highly inclined not to vote at all as I feel the political class/system is so out of touch with real life and there seems to be little radical voice in the arena. However, I have become hopeful that the Green party really are standing for some hugely important issues and offering a real alternative.

Here is my summary of why I am voting green:

Unknown-2A New Politics – Caroline Lucas has not been afraid to challenge the status quo. I believe we must find an inclusive, love based politics if we are going to find a new and reimagined future together. I believe the Green party are truest to this hope. I also love the gentle, gracious, intelligent and firm leadership of Natalie Bennett – for me, she was outstanding in the leaders’ debate and held her nerve in the face of the ‘old boys club’. As a feminist, I am passionate about seeing women fully instated in leadership, not just ‘talked-up’. The leadership we are seeing from Natalie and Caroline is of a different order from the brash, bullying, testosterone-fuelled alternatives. Unknown-1

Healthcare – It might surprise some, as a GP that I say this, but for me the Greens have a serious and well thought through health policy. Their health policy is more holistic and more just (for those who need health care the most) than any of the other parties. I have to say, both Labour and the Lib Dems are also saying some great stuff, but overall, the Greens are willing to shift the conversation to where we need it to go – from an illness model towards promoting health and wellbeing.

Education – Our children have become commodities of the economic state. I love that the Greens are talking far more holistically and compassionately about the future of our children. Unknown

Environment – It needs hardly be said, but this issue is actually going to kill us and we need some people in government who are going to help us make some massive changes to our energy supplies and the ways we are choosing to live. Their view is comprehensive and holistic. The raping of the earth’s resources and high CO2 levels are far more dangerous than the threat of terrorism. We must face this hard truth and act now.

Defence and International Development – Here we have a dual policy that makes sense. Stop our own hypocritical nuclear arsenal and make for positive peace by tackling poverty in the developing world.

UnknownEconomy – Huge fresh creation of new jobs in making the world more beautiful through green technologies, massive investment back into the public sector and encouraging those of us more able to be less self-protective and share the greater burden of taxation, rather than crushing the poor whilst the rich get ever richer. I also like that they will hold banks and big business to better account.

Immigration – There are too many awful lies being peddled about asylum seekers and refugees. I believe in open borders and intercultural rich diversity. I believe in interdependence and love, not fear, independence and hate.

Justice – A fresh look at the criminal justice system, with a move towards restorative justice is from my perspective the only way to go.

Voting – I refuse to be told that my vote will be a wasted vote. I am fed up of the arrogance of the system that tells me there are only two alternatives. The old politics is over. We are entering the day of coalitions and finding our way to a wholly different kind of political system. I am voting Green, not to be tactical, not to be pig-headed, not out of fear, but because I believe they genuinely hold the brightest torch for the things that matter the most not for me, but for everyone. We cannot vote out of selfish self-protectionism. We must position ourselves for the future generations and the future of this planet. That is why I am voting GREEN!images

Political Parables – Education as a Revolution

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Paulo Freire

Paulo Freire was an educational revolutionary who saw that the poor, marginalised and oppressed in Brasil, took on the world view (or “social construct of reality”) of those who were their oppressors. More than this he described how the educational system was used like a “banking system” to deposit the world view of the dominant class, (with their wealth, power and privilege), into the hearts and minds of the lower social classes, therefore maintaining the status quo.

He spent loads of time with the “peasant classes”, (after a financial crisis in his own family left them very poor) and learnt that they were certainly not unintelligent and although illiterate, had an incredible language of their own. He went on to devise an educational program which enabled these “peasants” to learn rather than to be taught and in so doing released them to begin a revolution in which the powers were challenged, the presumed ‘ways of being’ were shaken and new freedom was found. Unfortunately, this was crushed by the military coup of 1964, but it left Freire never again to “underestimate the vested interest of political powers in controlling the production and distribution of knowledge through their system of schooling” (see amazing work on his by William R. Herzog II in Parables as Subversive Speech).

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William R. Herzog II

Herzog goes on to draw some extraordinary parallels between Paulo Freire and Jesus Christ, whom he asserts both hugely confront the power paradigms of the day and in so doing bring good news to the poor, freedom for those held captive to oppressive systems, sight for those who had been blinded by the worldview of the ‘mighty’ and light for those living in darkness.

Walter Brueggemann

Walter Brueggemann

Mitchell, in his book, “Church, Gospel and Empire’ demonstrates how Jesus directly challenges the Imperial System of Rome. Brueggemann (in “The Prophetic Imagination”) contends that Jesus (as a prophet and much more than just a prophet) is fulfilling the prophetic tradition of those who have gone before, criticising the oppressive systems and energising a fresh imagination of how radically different a future built on the foundations of (God’s) love could be.

I wonder how many teachers these days see it as their role to teach and train their pupils in the ‘national curriculum’ and the ‘social constructs of reality’ to which we all subscribe? And how many see their role as revolutionaries who dare to allow our children to believe that the world we live in can be radically different in the future; where instead of an economics of affluence, we have an economics of equity, instead of a politics of oppression, we have one of justice and compassion, and instead of a religion of immanence and law, we have one of true freedom (again, see Brueggemann) – I don’t know, but if you’re out there – please keep going!

Political Parables – A Mini Series

UnknownI love reading. For lent this year, my wife and I have switched off the TV and are giving our noses some more book time. There are two books I’ve read this past 12 months which have impacted me deeply: “Parables as Subversive Speech – Jesus as Pedagogue of the Oppressed” by William R. Herzog II and “The Prophetic Imagination” by  Walter Brueggemann. I would seriously recommend them to you, whatever your faith or political background – they are challenging to the core. I want to blog a mini series on lUnknown-1essons I have learnt and thoughts that have provoked me as I have read.

One of the people whom I hugely admire is Mehdi Hassan. I admire his courage to speak his mind, to be unashamed about what he believes as a Muslim and his passion in debate. I have felt challenged by the way he puts his faith front and centre whilst engaging deeply in the political issues of our day. I make no secret of the fact that I am a man who loves and follows Jesus (not very good at it, but hey-ho!). The more I have discovered about Jesus, especially over the last few years, the more I have found I love him. My world view is shaped by his radical love for ‘the other’ and for ‘the enemy’, his prioritisation of women, children, the poor, the sick, the prisoner and those generally hated or ostracised by society. There is no-one in history who has ever brought such a sharp critique of Imperial Systems that commodify human life like fodder to feed an economic machine or challenged the status quo mindsets to the extent that he did. Nor did anyone else release such deep hope of a reimagined future.

And yet, those of us who claim to follow him have so often utterly missed his point and have been more caught up in creating a religion around him that he never intended anyone to build, partnering with empire in the process rather than criticising it and bringing transforming love and economic justice to all of the creation.

I hope this mini-series inspires some good conversation, either online or around some dinner tables about the world we live in and how we engage with it. For me, the parables of Jesus have as much dynamic power to shock us today as they did for his first listeners. Put aside any hang ups about ‘christianity’ or ‘politics’ and let the subversive stories make you think.

 

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