One would think that one would have left the horrors of studying, textbooks, revisions, burning the candle at both ends and exams once one had found a steady and stable career. That is what I thought anyway. till I had a daughter.

About 8 years my daughter, Maelo, woke me up at about 1am one night and asked me explain Schumpeter’s theory to her again. I had introduced her to it during dinner and she had been fascinated by it. When she woke me up and asked me to go through it again I knew that if I didn’t undertake some form of higher level of learning I would become unstuck as her questions grew harder. I resolved then to do a postgraduate qualification. Austerity was introduced soon after and my financial circumstances became severely constrained. I had to wait two more years before I could afford further education.

Eventually I signed up to the University of London and LSE programme to study International Relations. I chose this field given our interest in politics and it was a wide ranging Postgraduate course that covered topics such as political theory, the economy and national security.

It wasn’t easy. During my period of study I had to defer my exams because my husband had a stroke and, in the following years, was diagnosed with cancer.  When I picked up my studies after two years I was doing it under harder circumstances. Working, running a home and studying is a rather tedious and difficult way to live. By this time Maelo was a full-blown teenager. Need I say more!

My final paper was on Nationalism. It has to be the hardest subject that I have ever come across and I do ready widely. Nationalism pervades almost every aspect of people’s lives. The social and political boundaries of the subject were limitless and the analytical lens applied was as wide as an Eagle’s eyes. Trying to distil the concepts down was hard enough given the plethora of theorists who have advanced their own views on it.

Vince Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, has been an ardent supporter of adult education and he is right. So much had changed since I last attended university decades ago. I had to grapple with the use of the internet for my study and learn to search for obscure articles. Also, it gave me an insight into the modern challenges that young people like Maelo face at university. Formal study is bloody difficult at any age but doing it in later years is much harder. However, it did stretch my brain.

My result came through today. The hardship has been worth it. A very special thanks to my personal tutor and mentor, Dr Mark Boden, who slogged the years getting me through it all.

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I am about to board my flight back to London. I have spent a week in New York talking to people, watching the news and, generally, taking things in. If I came looking for an explanation as to why the world is profoundly being changed by Donald Trump then I think that I have partly found the answer. To put it succinctly, the President has absolutely no regard for the country or his peoples. None of this will be news to people back in the UK. What we, perhaps, don’t see so much in the UK is the amount of time and energy that is spent in the USA dissecting his views, Tweets and policies. Almost the whole of American life is taken up by people either opposing him or supporting him. There is no middle way.

During my week I have  photographed people, places and objects which I think in some way represents the fiasco that is America.

The photo below was taken from an exhibition at the Museum of New York Historical Society.

Marilyn Monroe still graces American society. If she were to be alive today would she say to Trump, “You sir are no JFK”?

This image below says it all

More to come when I get back to London. The wifi in Newark Airport keeps dropping out. But if I can finish on one point it would be this. Race politics is pervasive, heated and is constantly being stoked. Just today the news is about Omarosa’s sacking which, seemingly is due to her being black, and the White Supremacist marches around the country one year on from Charlottesville. While Britain has a tradition of following America’s pathways, I hope this is one that we will not be treading.

Bye y’all. Over and out.

 

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I spent most of my flight to New York reading ‘The Despot’s Apprentice’ by Brian Klaas. If a Liberal was hosting a dinner party this close to the US mid-term elections, this is a book that would be guaranteed to serve up a delicious topic of conversation. Brian Klaas has forensically analysed Trump’s actions and provides evidence to back it up too. It is a book well worth reading but for the purposes of this blog post, it is the concluding chapter titled ‘How to save democracy’ which is pertinent.

Within the ravages of despair it is the human condition to look for ways to fight back and reclaim what one thinks is lost or is being lost. While I don’t live in America it is quite evident that politics in the current Liberal order of Western countries is tilting towards ill-Liberalism with Donald Trump at the helm as a reckless captain of a careering speedboat. Britain often follows suit where America leads.

Delve into recent history and recall how Margaret Thatcher had an almost simpering like relationship with Ronald Reagan. After that we had Tony Blair who was quite happy to follow George Bush into war territory over Iraq. Latterly, we have had Theresa May literally cosy up to Trump (handholding and politically by rolling out the red carpet).

This is my strong point of interest and a reason why I took the opportunity to visit New York and experience the politics here. My corresponding interest is in the fight back. What do we Liberals do?

Brian Klaas offers a solution by separating Trump from American nationalism. He writes: “Loyalty to America does not mean loyalty to Trump. He is acting like a despot’s apprentice, borrowing tactics from authoritarian leaders I have seen elsewhere. It could happen here. Trump has put our democracy at risk, and in this moment of democracy in peril, he reminds us that we must sometimes fulfill the most important and, often, the most difficult duties of true patriots: to dissent and oppose”.

Michael Moore, the famous left leaning documentary film maker,  seems to have taken up the call to oppose via a documentary to be released on 21 September titled ‘Fahrenheit 11/9’. The title is a reminder of the date and month in 2016 when Trump won the Presidential election. In an interview given to the Huffpost Moore says that, “Donald Trump is an evil genius. He has no intention of leaving the White House…Once we come together in beautiful harmony, the Trump crime family will be prosecuted…The revolution is happening in the most unlikely of places. The resistance-the true resistance-is not coming from the Democratic Party or fro the liberal establishment…there is a real insurgency taking place…I don’t know if it will succed or not it might be too late…Hope is passive…We don’t need hope, we need action”.

There you have it. Keep protesting. Keep taking action. Keep talking to people. Keep trying to change minds.

 

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I am in New York and continue to be intrigued by the politics here that is dominated by stories about Donald Trump. He is the defining factor in American life and it’s not hard to see why this is the case. The man is a reckless and out of control rocket missile. When I previously visited New York the Democrats were in power. The change is, both, scary and intriguing. I wrote about it yesterday.

What we read and hear about Trump in the UK news is only a proportion of what is unfolding in America. This is the scary part – with Britain so desperate to be close mates with America it is disheartening to witness the state of affairs in the country that Britain tries so hard to hold hands with. As an example, just this week Boris Johnson has ridiculed Muslim women. In America, Trump is making plans to penalise legal immigrants.

‘When lacking in substance blame immigrants’ has got to be the contemporary version of leadership. Forget about policy making, attempting to provide cohesion or basing your arguments or rhetoric on evidence and go for the jugular instead. The jugular, in this case, is represented by the immigrants.

Trump is planning on sanctioning legal immigrants who have accepted any form of welfare such as food stamps and public housing. This proposal is being seen as a move to garner more votes from the immigrant hating voters in the November mid-term elections. Trump made hatred of foreigners a mainstay of his Presidential election campaign and has lived up to his promise by consistently referencing the ‘them and us’ boundary. One could say that this is the only thing that Trump has shown any consistency in.

Legal immigrants who are accessing any type of welfare benefit provided by the Government may face sanctions ranging from having the benefit withdrawn to losing their legal status as immigrants. The fact that this order will produce economic suffering is not factored into the political decision making. The New York Times reports that increased legal immigration has led to higher, not lower, wages. The paper also reports that immigration leads to greater productivity in the United States and has a propensity for lowering prices for some goods and services. We have had the same evidence produced countless times in Britain but it is ignored for political convenience.

This proposal is being presented by the administration as an exercise in ensuring that the tax payer gets value out of his/her taxes. Doesn’t this sound familiar to you when put another way – ‘the will of the people’? It is convenient to ignore the minion citizen till the moment of need i.e when you need their vote. Suddenly the minion citizen becomes a valued minion citizen but only for a short amount of time. The ‘minion’ status is ever present though and, post-election, minion citizens are consigned to the dustbin marked ‘political inconvenience’. Till the next election.

I am all the more determined to carry on my fight when back in the UK against immigrant bashing for fear that a slow drip feed by the likes of Boris Johnson will become Americanesque like.

 

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I was last in New York 19 years ago. The opportunity to visit again arose and I grabbed it. The thought of blogging from New York was too good to resist. Another point of my interest stems from the primacy being placed by British politicians on a trade deal with the USA at the expense of strategic relations with the EU. If we are giving up a strategic long established relationship with the EU I was keen to see what it is we are letting ourselves in for.

From a personal point of view, I remembered New York as a buzzy place. The city that never sleeps. A real estate place but with soul. I was keen to experience it again. It was like no other. The Democrats were in power then under Bill Clinton. Fast forward almost two decades later and something has changed.

If I have to distill my perception down to one concept it is this: The American Dream seems to have scarpered and is nowhere to be seen.

The dream seemed to be the anchor of hope for all those people who either already lived here or who aspired to live here. The UK has never had an equivalent self-defining tenet. Yet, you didn’t have to experience the American Dream personally to understand and sense it.

America is now seeing a second-quarter rise of 4.1% in GDP. As is often the case, leaders spout statistics and an upward trajectory is taken as a sign of stout leadership. Donald Trump, the American President, is taking great delight and personal responsibility for this bounce.  What these types of figures don’t show though is the reality on the ground of how people are coping.

The lived experiences of people are the shadow stories that lurk underneath the boasting and gloating of a supposed good news story. People’s battles with inequality through class and race struggles and coping with ensuing poverty are never factored into headlining economic stories. Yet, much like in the UK, their inability to break through the structural obstacles is an inconvenient truth. Listen to the Trump fawning press and you start to think that you are living in a parallel universe.

The level of homelessness is shocking. There are large numbers of men and women. Among the men, it is common place to find some holding up torn pieces of cardboard with handwritten messages telling you that they are former veterans.  Wasn’t Donald Trump going to help the veterans?  A disproportionate number of homeless people are Black. Weren’t these streets meant to have been paved with gold for everyone? Or is that Gold now reserved for Trump Tower?

 

A common nightly sight is of pensioners, often bent from old age, going through recycling bags left outside hotels and restaurants. They collect plastic bottles which they sell on to the waste management industry for 5 cents a bottle. A rather large bag of bottles nets these pensioners $5.

Who really is benefitting from Trump’s promise to ‘Make America Great Again’? Trump’s $5.1 trillion tax cut isn’t quite turning out to be the pot of gold at the end of the American rainbow. According to the New York Times, the ‘initial jolt of the …cuts, mostly for corporations and the wealthy is wearing off’ with corporations buying back most of their shares and spending even less, as a result, on new production methods or wages.  Wealth isn’t being shared with workers. A rise in inflation of 2.9% is absorbing wage increases where these exist. You factor in the trade war which Trump is now fighting against the world and the resulting picture isn’t looking so good.

In parts of New York I struggle to believe that I am not in Athens. Perhaps in the future, post Brexit, I will be pinching myself back in London to remind myself that I am not in New York.

 

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