Overcoming Hostility: Holocaust, Windrush, Work, Health, Education, Social Media…and Football…

Like you, like all of us now, I feel my eyes are under siege with media, media, social media.

We’re required to up our heads NOW and look, look, look. Like dipping hens or nodding dogs or the humiliated going up and down on a ducking stool, there’s always another truth about social media and computer screens.

Sitting at, using screens, does one simple thing: it demands primary gaze fixing and that is physically harmful to our eyes. Not only that, it’s also harmful emotionally, psychologically and socially.

Fixing your gaze also means you’re stuck.

These systems only value the people who own them, then diminish and discard their users. They need minions, not collaborative partners. It’s a monoculture that pretends to be interested in diversity but is terrified of it. A closed monocultural environment is by its very nature suspicious, hostile, even predatory so its use of tools will always be iterative and reiterative.

This protection of power: this ‘locking down’ if you like of the actual potential of cultural tools privileges the form of things, their appearance, at the expense of their actual content. Remember, to ‘lock things and people down’ is a social, political, economic and cultural decision first made aeons ago by one type of social relationship: the top down, feudal, military economy and the serf or slave.

Work by Geoffrey Shaffer at the University of California to rethink world trade tools for a richer more integrated social economy is something we need now as well as a Bill of Rights.  

After Brexit we need something more than the ain’t half hot school of export, hostile and oppressive relationships with employers, landlords, and institutions.

We need freedom.

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Above: Foreign Policy’s Warner Brown and Ed Johnson used this stereotypical mapping based on chinese search engine searches to look at how social media is used as a self educator but without real world accountability it can humiliate and diminish us.

The purpose of social media could be debated fully, broken up into locally accountable and malleable entities by local people and it could be the beginning of the ending of the hostile environment against anyone who believes in evolving social rights and many ways of living, earning and learning. 

Just a footnote on football: rights are always contested.  In 1921 53,000 people came to Goodison Park to see women playing football. Their rights to play were taken from them by the Football Association. I watched a programme last night called Speechless. by documentary maker Richard Alwyn. The documentary unfolded the massive impact of stroke taking away the ability of people to speak and the therapy they need to recover.

But as I watched it I realised that whatever your illness, if you’re empathised with, cared about by the medics and physios then you will recover. In the new era of social media, reduced and algorhythmic decision making, what if your medic or physio just ‘doesn’t get you’, can’t empathise with you because of their unconscious (or conscious) bias.

I think your chance of recovery will be limited.

One of the participants was a former premier football league footballer 37 year old footballer Junior Agogo

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After the programme I looked him up and was surprised to discover that it was only this month (Jan 2019) that  Zamalek, top Egyptian team  paid him the back wages they’d owed since 2008. It had taken them eleven years to pay him the wages he was owed. He’d fought that through his stroke and got his

£341,469 back.

I wonder if when we look at his ‘stroke’ whether we need a more robust, social and cultural diagnosis. Was it this hostility, where the team’s association with the Ultras,  a part of his everyday playing that gradually wore him down and then, for the team not to pay him? What was that about?

Now, on the topic of the football supply chain, I remember talking to a chauffeur about the corruption in football but from a different angle, that of the young, would be players coming to the UK from all over the world…

Everyone knows about FIFA corruption and the english football scandal exposed by the Telegraph investigative journalism team, headed by Claire Newell but you only understand these things when they connect to your own life.

The chauffeur, who came from the Ukraine, explained how unhappy he was when he was asked to drive young footballers to and from their digs regularly over a year and then when they were leaving, to the airport and back from the airport.  The conditions that apprentice footballers from overseas endure, quality of visas, how they’re treated like chattels and discarded at the end of a season. Recent stories of young footballers dying of heart attacks make you wonder.

It’s much, much worse than this: it’s where young footballer’s lives are predicted for success or failure by the forms of relationship that pick them up knowing that they will only be used as fodder for elite players to train on/with. This is a form of slave/gladiatorism unfathomed by ordinary sport spectators but fed by aggressive hooliganism that is really, quite cynically managed.

What is going on there? They’re lied to and promised the earth and worked to death then sent home but do they get home? What happens to them afterwards? Are they trafficked? Do they become drug mules? Sensational, perhaps, but what’s feeding the corruption and hostility in the wider game? What are we hypocritically accepting in our high moral ground hostility in our institutions and technologies?

Lack of honesty, lack of empathy, lack of equal rights. Another iteration of the same old, same old hostile environment that we should be ashamed of in 2019.

The hostile environment of the Ultras in the football stands is something that no NHS neurological consultant or physio should experience, nor should,  in their day to day interaction, or ill people, or patients. In my opinion, if we accept people, we accept their life and will them to live. When we’re socialised by fear, populism and aggression to reject them we mentally and emotionally harm them and ourselves.

Watching the programme I noticed a real emotional and empathy gap between the care given to the first man and the care given to the second. I think it was because it was about stroke when there was another documentary about the hostile environment in football and its supply chain, greedy and feeding extremism.

The revolution of love, kindness and new ways of thinking, living and being won’t be televised or mediated I think. We will just do it because it’s just.