Age Old Trick


'Comrades!' he cried. 'You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health. Milk and apples (this has been proved by Science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organisation of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink the milk and eat those apples.'
George Orwell: Animal Farm


The trick never grows old. 


...out from the door of the farmhouse came a long file of pigs, all walking on their hind legs...out came Napoleon himself, majestically upright, casting haughty glances from side to side, and with his dogs gambolling round him.  He carried a whip in his trotter. 

There was a deadly silence. Amazed, terrified, huddling together, the animals watched the long line of pigs march slowly round the yard. It was as though the world had turned upside-down. Then there came a moment when the first shock had worn off and when, in spite of everything - in spite of their terror of the dogs, and of the habit, developed through long years, of never complaining, never criticising, no matter what happened - they might have uttered some word of protest. But just at that moment, as though at a signal, all the sheep burst out into a tremendous bleating of - 'Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better!'

It went on for five minutes without stopping. And by the time the sheep had quieted down, the chance to utter any protest had passed, for the pigs had marched back into the farmhouse.

George Orwell: Animal Farm


I do not want to be a sheep. Neither do I want my chance of protest to pass me by. 

Andy Smithyman
Humanity’s loss
When humanity loses a language, we also lose the potential for greater diversity in art, music, literature, and oral traditions.
Between 1950 and 2010, 230 languages went extinct, according to the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. Today, a third of the world’s languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers left. Every two weeks a language dies with its last speaker, 50 to 90 percent of them are predicted to disappear by the next century.


Andy Smithyman
That’s the question
…The first question that the priest asked; the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question. “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” 
That’s the question before you tonight. Not “If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job?” Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?” The question is not, “If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?”
The question is, “If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?”
That’s the question.

(Martin Luther King, Jr: I’ve Been To the Mountaintop)


King's Mountaintop speech at The Mason Temple was delivered on the 3rd April, 1968. The following day, King was assassinated.

I have always been inspired by this speech (full text), especially how he begins. King recounts how someone once asked him 'which age would you like to live in?' He then lyrically goes on a timeline, focusing on the dramatic and extravagant peaks of world history. Red Sea. Greeks. Romans. And on. His answer finally settles on Memphis. Here. And now. 

At first he acknowledges 'that's a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around. That's a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars... something is happening in our world.'

The next part never fails to wind me.


And another reason that I'm happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history.

Owning our time.

Owning our responsibility.

It's a speech of a lifetime. 

Andy Smithymanquotes
Happening on my watch
“Two years ago a woman from Dewsbury called Claire Skipper, suffering from toothache, went into her garden shed, clamped the offending tooth in a pair of pliers, and pulled. Her tooth broke. There had been no vacancies at her local NHS practice and she couldn’t afford private care or the journey to the nearest emergency clinic in Bradford.
A week later, in ‘indescribable’ pain, she went to the Real Tooth Project, a ‘pay as you feel’ dental clinic that had been set up in Dewsbury with the support of DentAid, an international NGO. DentAid’s UK operations began in 2015, providing a charitable alternative to what Stephen Armstrong calls ‘DIY Dentistry’.
In a chapter that’s almost impossible to read without flinching, Armstrong’s book ‘The New Poverty’ tells story after story of individuals forced by the scarcity of public services and the cost of private treatment into self-dentistry, sometimes aided by cheap off-the-shelf ‘kits’ for basic treatments up to and including replacing lost fillings.
Armstrong first came across the phenomenon in Paisley, where one woman, concerned about being fined for a missed dentist’s appointment and apprehensive about future treatment costs, ‘resorted to popping her own mouth abscess with a fork’.
...Poverty is not only thriving, but also taking increasingly sinister forms.” 

(London Review of Books: 22 February 2018) 


I would go one stage further. The ideology behind the Victorian Poor Law is still alive and feeding off the heart of society. It’s hard for me to get my head around how a way of thinking that Dickens so passionately wrote against is blatantly parading itself down the streets. 

The Poor Law had its roots in how people defined ‘moral’ work. The ability to purchase property, goods and security were all signs of a moral and worthy lifestyle. Work hard, and you will be rewarded. Slack off, accept the curse. This shift of thinking impacted the poor. The inability to provide for oneself was a sign of weak morals and questionable lifestyles. That way of thinking condoned the shift in how care services for ‘all’ morphed into services for those deemed ‘worthy enough.’

Today, we have different terms to describe ‘moral work’. But the way of thinking remains. Us. Them. Deserving. Undeserving. Poverty is thriving and taking increasingly sinister forms. 

And it’s happening on my watch.

Andy Smithymandickens
A choice
Did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

(Wish you were here: David Gilmour / Roger Waters)

Andy Smithyman
Be kind, forgive, meet new people and make time matter
Be kind to yourself in the year ahead. 
Remember to forgive yourself, and to forgive others. It's too easy to be outraged these days, so much harder to change things, to reach out, to understand.
Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.
Meet new people and talk to them. Make new things and show them to people who might enjoy them. 
Hug too much. Smile too much. And, when you can, love.

From the journal of Neil Gaiman


A 2015 New Year's wish from Neil Gaiman that is just as relevant for us all today.

Andy Smithyman
In one place, the Newgate of the Workhouse, a company of boys and youths were locked up in a yard alone; their day-room being a kind of kennel where the casual poor used formerly to be littered down at night. 

(Charles Dickens: Household Words)


According to some political viewpoints, these children would not be considered homeless.


Andy Smithyman
Deal in the unspoken
Wilder taught me that what a writer deals with is the unspoken, what people see or sense in silence. It is our job, in nonfiction as well as fiction, to juxtapose words that revel what previously may have been blinked, and provide insights obscured by convention and shame.

(Sol Stein: Stein on Writing)


In other words - smash the frame through which eyes view the world, expose the heart to the reality outside of its edited picture. Not the easiest thing to do, because it first starts with ‘self.’

Andy Smithyman