Altruism and the British way of Life?

I have been thinking about Jo Cox: what if anything will be her legacy?

Jo Cox – the Labour MP who was brutally murdered on 16th June this year – I hadn’t heard of her until her death by murder in the street was announced on the BBC one o’clock News. The media went all of a flutter. We learned many remarkable facts about this woman, emphasising how much she had a heart for the poor and underprivileged of the world.

As one of her friends wrote (Change.UK website) ‘Jo’s life was one of service. Not lip-service, but true service. She was a humanitarian who campaigned for human rights in Darfur and Syria and a strategist who rethought child protection, world trade and education.’

Her mistake seems to’ve been her universalism, her inclusiveness.  A quote from her maiden speech in the House of Commons included these words: While we celebrate our diversity … we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.” 

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Remember this? Where can we go from war, violence, rape, persecution?

The motivation for her killing appears to have been that fear which takes hold of a person, or people, or a country, when threatened, or rather when they think they are threatened. When it appears to them, or they are persuaded, that their livelihood, familiar culture, homes, will be stolen by aliens, their familiar culture smothered, they will become increasingly ignored and deprived.

Isn’t this just what is motivating refugees and migrants who are fleeing from homelands where they face persecution, rape, death by war or terrorism? Or at the least, starvation and poverty?

Ironies of June 2016

Just a week after Jo Cox’s violent death, our country voted whether or not to leave the European Union. I checked the dates: June 16th – June 23rd, 7 days. Her family had behaved with a quiet dignity towards the media hype. Various of our politicians meanwhile continued behaving with arrogance and extreme unpleasantness as they fought their media campaigns.

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1,000,000 men killed or wounded

Then the next irony: just a week later (July 1st), we held public memorials to mark the anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme (July to November, 1916), which killed many thousands of young British men. And churned up miles of the French countryside, and was one of the worst occurrences of Europe being at war with itself. Indeed the numbers of soldiers killed and wounded, on both sides, is around a million. There surely should be a lesson here.

And, if the EU needs revising – which it does – and if the refugees streaming into the Eastern corners of it are going to survive with lives worth living – then this country will have no say.

Foden relatives
Ancestors … we can’t ‘turn the clock back’ and find security …

You can’t walk out of the family and then expect to influence its decisions.

They are, maybe, people like  us …

After the 1939-45 War, Europe was awash with refugees. Britain’s positive aid response was brought into being and organised by new charities Oxfam and Christian Aid. Both still exist, today working in countries such as South Sudan and Syria, often in partnership with the country’s own help agencies. It’s the kind of work Jo Cox was involved with. Today people are on the move in huge numbers … it has happened before … An article I read today, (by Paul Valentin, International director of Christian Aid) gave these figures about refugees within settled populations:

In Jordan, 1 in 3 people is a refugee

In Lebanon, it is 1 in 4

In Britain, it is 1 in 525

Fear and media hype make people fear being over-run. Fear of otherness may make people unable to accept those whose culture is not their own.

Expressing my thoughts about the motivation of Jo’s murderer, a violent acting out of his fears, another member of our family pointed out that ‘Maybe it did make some people think, maybe it made the vote closer. We shall never know, but maybe some people regret …’

Maybe it did.

But with the divisions of our country clearly delineated, the pound down, the hate crimes up, the government in turmoil … this is a sad, ironic, summer … in which we now hunt for hope … I hope for generosity to develop as the whole country looks back on ‘Brexit’ and the other events of June 2016 … and remembers Jo Cox and what she believed in …

Books and boots .. the next Mullins story willcentre on the teenagers ..

And I go on writing … trying to bring to life life the challenges of living today …   

Upcoming Event:

Monday 25th July 2.00pm (NOTE: this our recording time – I suspect it may be going out later in the day, after 5.00pm and will post on here to confirm)

I’m talking about my books and Indie Publishing, with Debbie Young of the Alliance of Independent Authors and presenter Eve Ahmed, on

That’s Oxfordshire

our local TV station … if you are in the UK – even as far away at Cumbria – try to catch us!

People-Watching: so what would an alien conclude?

Random jottings for the blog – which then became the blog …

Not being Moleskine-notebook person, I scribbled these in a very small, uncharacteristic notebook late at night, a notebook for shopping and to-do lists

I have begun: the first three pages of novel No. 3 (theme: What is Love?) exist outside of my brain. I’ve re-engaged with the characters. So, thinking about what we mean by love, and how is it shown, encourages me to look even more at how human beings think, behave, function towards each other, under a virtual microscope.

Of course, thinking about people is what fiction writers do all the time: we do it by nature, we are amazed, frustrated, delighted, appalled, by people … Observation presents random thoughts all the time: but now, how do they add up ?

Some Examples: is the other person ‘real with needs like me’?
Are you real like me?
Are you real like me?

1. People are weird. No doubt about it. For example, how does another person hear what we say? Through a filter of past experiences. A straight remark can be heard as sarcasm, a word of praise taken as ironic, an enquiry about whether a person is free on a certain day or has a certain skill as the precursor to a demand for that they should help or be available to the speaker. We are afraid each other!

2. People, after what seemed like period of historical peace, are on the move again. Vast numbers of people, displaced and driven out from countries where life is becoming unliveable are taking almost unbelievable risks rather than remain where they were. We joined our local demonstration.

Oxford Demo 'Refugees Welcome' September 2015
Oxford Demo ‘Refugees Welcome’ September 2015

It was maybe March when we  began to increasingly hear about  ‘migrants’ on the News. It wasn’t until late summer, and finally until someone published a photo of a drowned toddler, that the international community began to talk loudly enough to be heard. Yes, these people did indeed need somewhere to be. They were after all ‘refugees’: fleeing for refuge.  Were the demonstrators serious? Or will it soon look like emotion, the sunshine, and a Sunday afternoon out with a banner? I hope not.

A parallel: last year, in about March, supporters of aid organisations, especially of MSF, were made aware of the crisis in West Africa caused by a massive outbreak of Ebola. It wasn’t until  August that the WHO ‘declared the emergency of international concern.’ At last the whole thing sounded as urgent as it had always been. And then, development of possible vaccines and treatments was stepped up … a shocking  example of how tropical illnesses don’t usually receive the same interest and research grants that typically Western disease does.

It’s not a global village: there’s little care or knowledge about people in really troubled places. It is however, very definitely a global village: infection can travel faster than ever. So can terrorists and weapons of war.

How Rules are Applied … is this compassionate?

3. Another scenario: health and safety. So, a patient is admitted to an acute ward in a mental hospital – disturbed, frightened, maybe aggressive, panicking … their cigarettes, on which they depend for comfort, are taken away,  …Basically, smoking is harmful … But, a baby is being left at nursery for the first time: would we snatch away a pacifier or favourite toy, right away?  It’s possible to argue for the protection of the staff from passive smoking: but shouldn’t this ban be explained, later, to the patient, when they are feeling calmer, and able to understand? (My info. source: mental health nurse on acute ward)

We implement rules without applying sensible, but pragmatic, thought to individual situations. It’s so much easier to treat people as things, as a mass to be processed.

Is nothing special now …

or I thought going out was the now way to meet with friends? 

A coffee too ordinary
A coffee too ordinary

4.  Coffee comes in many forms: cappuccinos, lattes, flavoured coffees… we used to get these when we’re out. They were special. Do we really need a coffee machine in the home, which performs all the same tricks? Beans to cup? Steam heated milk included? Going out and staying in are getting so samey? What happened to treats?

What happens to people who have, in material terms, everything? What actually is ‘love’?