Update: I’ve heard back from 90% of the people who donated to #LettingGrow, all of whom have said they don’t want me to ask Cancer Research to return their donations. Given how overwhelming the response has been, and the difficulty of getting a refund for people, I’ll only now do so if asked specifically. I hope that’s OK!
It is with huge regret that I announce that I cannot continue with my #LettingGrow campaign. I had fully intended to not cut my hair or beard for the entirety of 2013 but, for reasons personal and professional, I shaved my hair and beard last night.
I am looking into ways to refund everyone who so kindly donated to Cancer Research UK. However, JustGiving makes it extremely difficult to do so:
Online Giving – we run and maintain a website that processes donations on behalf of the charities featured on it. For this service, and the support we provide to them and their supporters, charities pay us a transaction fee of up to 5% on the donation. Because we promptly pay donations to charities, we regret that we can only refund a donation if the charity expressly requests it, and they can pay us back. Please get in touch with the charity first.
During the period of growing my hair and beard, I learned many things about myself and others, not least that:
people are much more likely to strike up random conversations
international travel is a lot more difficult when you look significantly different from your passport
I should have talked through my plans my nearest and dearest before taking the plunge
A sincere and heartfelt thank you to everyone who donated. I pledge to refund everyone who donated, even if it means it coming out of my own money.
TL;DR version: I’m raising money for cancer research in 2013. I’ve shaved my head and beard and won’t be cutting either until 2014. You can donate here: justgiving.com/letting-grow(I’m aiming to raise £7,866 – or one pound for every Twitter follower I had on 01/01/2013!)
We’ve had better Christmases.
The week before the big day our one year-old daughter tripped, fell and gashed her head. We rushed to hospital, got it bandaged up and she had to have stitches under a general anaesthetic the next morning. The doctors and nurses at Newcastle RVI were fantastic.
Then, on Christmas Eve she vomited. And then kept vomiting every half an hour. Then my son got it. Then my wife. Finally, I got it – although (mercifully) not nearly as severely as the rest of the family. We’re all just recovering now.
When you’re ill with something like a vomiting bug it’s comforting to know that in a few days you’ll be back to normal. It’s a temporary thing, something to endure for a short period of time. What the experience brought home to me, however, was what the festive period must be like when you don’t have an end in sight. When you don’t necessarily know that everything’s going to be OK. And, to be fair, even for those who are confident that their chemotherapy is going to work, undergoing it is an ordeal far worse than we experienced.
Let’s beat cancer in our lifetime. Let’s raise some money for Cancer Research.
Usually I trim my hair and beard about once a week. But in 2013 I won’t be cutting it at all. Symbolically, I’ve razored it all down so there’s no trace of hair anywhere on my head. It’ll grow steadily over the course of the year and by the end of it I’ll probably have to tie it back.
Every time I write a blog post I’ll update the photograph of myself here as well as my avatar on Twitter. There’ll be a constant reminder in both places to donate to Cancer Research. Even if only one in ten of the 90,000 unique visitors who came to this site last year gave just one pound we’d raise £9,000. That’s more than the £7,866 target I’ve set – one pound for each of my Twitter followers as of 01/01/2013.
So, if you or someone you know has been affected by cancer, please do what you can:
As a nation England is pretty good at raising money for things it deems worthwhile. So donating time and money in aid of people affected by the tsunami that hit islands in the Pacific ocean in 2004 or the earthquake and tidal wave that hit Japan earlier this year are OK. After all, goes the reasoning, that wasn’t their fault.
What we’re not so good at is rallying round when people are in need because of human agency. So fighting in Darfur or the Congo? Best avoid donating towards that. It could end up prolonging the conflict, couldn’t it? We struggle to separate the results of tragedies from their causes.
Last week’s riots in English cities were a wake-up call to middle England. There are people in this country who need our help. And not just on the level of donating a couple of pounds to homeless people, but on a systemic level. Don’t see it? Open your eyes:
I said elsewhere that I’d often wondered what happened to the 13 to 20% of kids who walk away from school with no qualifications and very limited numeracy and literacy skills. many of you assumed those are precisly the kids I used to teach, but I taught the ones who scraped through with low grades and went on to vocational courses, or who were resitting their GCSEs in the hope of doing better. Each year’s 13 to 20% largely end up on benefits or in jail or in the grey area between the two, claiming what benefits they can and supplementing that income with criminal activity. This is not a recent development; those kids at the bottom have always been there. I know the stats for the last thirteen years only because I’ve been a teacher for the last thirteen years. These kids often have virtually no social skills. By that I mean they literally cannot sit in a room and hold a conversation with someone other than those in their peer group. That doesn’t matter. They don’t have the skills to fill in a job application form, they have nothing to put on it if they did, so no one is going to sit them in a room and give them an interview, unless that someone is in a blue uniform, and they are recording the interview.
Pretty much every time I’ve been served a coffee or a sandwich or walked past someone cleaning the streets and noted they were a recent immigrant, I’ve wondered about the 13 to 20% leaving school each year and going straight onto the dole. The last government, with its bold claims of ‘an end to boom or bust’ boasted of our growing economy needing all these extra workers from abroad. Many were coming in to fill gaps in the UK labour market. We kick up to twenty percent of our kids out of school illiterate, innumerate and socially dysfunctional, then we import people to the lowgrade jobs those kids cannot do, so the immigrants can pay taxes to pay the benefits that just about keep that underclass quiet. The last government merely consolidated the neglect of the previous ones. All governments of all hues since the seventies have failed to address this problem; the only difference between them is the narrative they have fed their respective voters about it.
Unemployed people are being sent to work without pay in multinational corporations, including Tesco, Asda, Primark and Hilton Hotels, by Jobcentres and companies administering the government’s welfare reforms. Some are working for up to six months while receiving unemployment benefit of £67.50 a week or less.
The government says that unpaid work placements, which are also given in small businesses, voluntary organisations and public sector bodies, help people gain vital experience and prepare them for the workplace, but campaigners say they provide companies with free labour, undercut existing jobs and that people are “bullied” into them.
A spokesperson for the Boycott Workfare campaign said: “These placements are not designed to help people into full-time paid work but they serve to increase organisations’ profits. They provide a constant stream of free labour and suppress wages by replacing paid workers with unpaid workers. People are coerced, bullied and sanctioned into taking the placements. Placements in the public sector and charities are no better and are making volunteering compulsory. This is taking away the right of a person to sell their own labour and their free will to choose who they volunteer their time for.”
It’s too late to put the genie back in the bottle, but it’s not too late to talk about, campaign for, and act on reasonable, sustainable approaches to the disaffection and marginalisation of our young people.
Let’s open our eyes so that we can see.
The answer isn’t to respond in a reactionary way and threaten to evict the families of those involved in the rioting. That cannot help but make people more desperate and the overall situation worse. What’s needed is restorative justice to put right the wrongs that have happened recently and then to re-establish the social contract that successive governments have managed to rip to shreds.
I had intended, as per my proposal in The new blog order to post another batch of some humorous, light-hearted stuff today. But I don’t feel like it. 🙁
Why? It would seem a little inappropriate given the huge loss of life due to the earthquake in Haiti to do anything else but provide a link to a place where you can donate to help the relief effort. Having grown up through various appeals (Ethiopia, Kosovo, etc.) I used to be pretty much immune to such appeals. Things kind of change, though, when you start a family of your own. A BBC Radio 4 report this morning about injured children sleeping amongst dead bodies did enough for me to donate this time around. 😮
I read Dave Eggers’ book They Shall Know Our Velocity a few months back. In it, one of the main characters talks about the ‘slow suffocation of accumulation’ and seeks to give away a large amount of money. I’ve been feeling that suffocation recently, as I explained in the introduction to this week’s focus on ‘divesting’.
Way back in the sands of time (OK, less than 10 years ago) I was an undergraduate student in Sheffield I and I used to work part-time for HMV. I didn’t actually take home that much money as most of it was invested in DVDs and CDs. I even got 40% off the Sale stuff! I say ‘invested’ as I funded a large chunk of my living expenses whilst I was doing my MA at Durham University by selling part of my collection. Although not to the same extent, I did similar working at various bookshops both before and after university.
And therein lies the rub. I’ve been lulled into a belief that one should own a physical collection of DVDs, CDs and books. As though having a personal library somehow defines you, makes you look more intellectual, or even constitutes some kind of artistic statement. I’ve realised that’s not the case.
As I commented in my introduction to this series [link] I’ve been prompted recently into reflecting on my relationship to ‘stuff’. I’ve realised that, having moved house twice within 18 months, I’ve spent a great deal of time and physical labour moving things I will not watch, listen to or read for a very long time. Yet I’m responsible for it. I’d be upset if it were stolen or I lost it for some reason. Why?
So I’ve decided that it’s going. “What, all of it?” I hear you ask. As far as I see it, there are two approaches I could take:
The over-the-top, ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ approach.
The Pragmatic approach.
Pragmatism is a philosophical approach and method that I’m applying in my Ed.D. thesis. To summarise very briefly and in relation to what I’m talking about here, it holds that for something to make a difference, it has to make a difference in practice. For example, a book may have had a profound impact on my way of conceiving the world and my development as a person. That doesn’t mean it has to sit on my shelf. I may really, really, love a particular album. That doesn’t mean I have to own the physical CD as opposed to a digital version. The same goes for DVDs.
But I need to be careful or I could end up trading one problem for another. In divesting myself of physical clutter I could gain, as it were, ‘digital clutter.’ This is something I shall be discussing and wrestling with later in the week.
What’s my plan, then, to deal with physical media? It’s a fairly straightforward 4-step process:
Anything I can, and feel should, replace with a non-physical version (e.g. CDs, DVDs) I shall do.
Any book I haven’t yet read or DVD I haven’t watched stays until I have done so.
Those physical objects that are collectors items, worth more than a nominal value and fit into one box I shall keep as they are likely to gain in value. I can then sell these when Ben is older to add to his trust fund.