New series of Derek begins

Ricky Gervais as Derek

Ricky Gervais’ comedy/drama Derek returned to UK television last week, this time for a full series. The pilot had apparently been controversial for some, but I just remember being pleasantly surprised by Gervais’ kind but coarse treatment of delicate issues such as disability and the care profession. He did so in a way that was both heartwarming, without ever becoming saccharine, and simple, without ever being boring. A lot of critics seemed unconvinced, but I think they were missing the point, assuming that Gervais was either taking cheap shots at vulnerable people, or that he was attempting some sort of ‘clever’ post-modern ‘so-shit-its-cool’ maneuver.  But this is a sitcom only in the loosest definition of the term, and the only people Gervais is deliberately mocking, are those who get offended mainly as a cover for their own thinly-veiled prejudices. I read a rather scathing review of Derek in The Daily Telegraph today. Nuff said.

The first episode had me laughing out loud a few times, it is definitely very funny – but as with the pilot, the new material is as much to do with empathy as it is to do with cracking jokes. Maybe this is where some of the show’s critics are left wanting. They don’t seem to understand that Gervais is taking the piss out of them. He’s having a go at how, when we see someone we perceive to be different to ourselves, we feel the need to categorise them, and that that category can stop us seeing them as real people – with interests, passions, quirks, humour and emotion.

Coupled with his genuine love for the character, it is palpable that Gervais has created Derek in order to get across his statement about society’s attitudes. When the pilot of this show aired in Spring 2012, a lot of people (critics and newspaper columnists in particular) speculated that the character is Autistic – something which Gervais has denied in the press previously (stating in an interview with The Sun in March last year, ‘I’ve never thought of him as disabled’) and which he brazenly referenced towards the end of the first episode of this series. When a Council representative visiting the retirement home insensitively questioned Derek as to whether he had ever been tested for Autism, Derek offered a stream of questions about what would happen, should he be Autistic, such as, ‘Would I die?’, ‘Would I have to go into a hospital?’ and ‘Would it change me in any way as a person?’. Having received a ‘no’ to all of these queries, our eponymous hero simply said ‘Don’t worry about it then’. In this small dialogue, which lasted no more than a minute, Gervais perfectly summed up his feelings: so what if Derek is Autistic? Can’t we just enjoy him for the unassuming, kind-natured person he so clearly is without questioning whether he has a disorder or not? For Gervais to reply to his critics so concisely through the mouth of Derek was perfect and ingenious. From: http://uktvreviewer.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/derek-episode-1-1-review/

Gervais isn’t scared of getting political either – the main theme of the first installment is public sector cuts. The care home is threatened with closure due to shrinking budgets, and Gervais does a very good job of humanizing this modern problem. It makes for compelling viewing and a very effective strike against this current trend for passing the world’s economic woes onto those who struggle to look after themselves.

All of the characters in Derek represent those at the very bottom of the modern economic food chain –  low-paid public sector workers, the disabled, the elderly, the poor and the unemployed – sections of our communities that have been hit hardest by the Tories’ austerity drive, and subsequently demonized by politicians to justify the attack. Derek forms a much needed antidote to this insidious propaganda, and does so simply by being gentle and honest.

Derek is by no means perfect, and some of the criticisms that have been made of it in other reviews are justified – but I would counter that by noting many may be slamming it because they don’t like the politics. Empathy may be a dirty word now in Tory Britain, but this show is chock full of it – which is exactly why I like it.

Check the first episode out here on 4od:

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/derek/4od

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Protest Report: A Future That Doesn’t Work

Unison at the TUC march 20th October

Protestors at the TUC's "Future That Works" march

24hr General Strike in UK?

Tories OUT!

Protestors of all ages attended the march

Rally in Hyde Park

Disabled protesters out in large numbers as cuts hit the most vulnerable

We attended the TUC’s Future That Works rally in London at the weekend, to stand with those that oppose the Tories’ relentless austerity measures, and to take a few photos of what went on. Hampered by injuries and fatigue, we maybe weren’t pumped into our usual revolutionary fervor, but I couldn’t help but notice it wasn’t just us that seemed subdued. There can be no doubt that the turnout was good (estimates range from 100,000 to 250,000 participants), there was a lot of good drumming, placards and chants – but that’s where it seemed to end. It’s not that the mood was defeatist, it was more that the methods were conservative and the aims watered-down. While there were many calls for a General Strike amongst protesters on the street, there was little in the way of direct action, anger or real dissent. I’ve noticed that TUC rallies tend to me more populist and ‘middle-of-the-road’ than Occupy and UK Uncut et al, maybe necessarily so, but the real revolutionary contingent seemed missing this time around. What with Ed “One Nation Tory” Milliband speaking at the rally, with what basically amounted to a watered-down version of the Condem’s view on cutting the deficit, and a march that seemed more like a procession – it did appear that the movement had lost a little momentum, and was beginning to settle for ‘the lesser of two evils’.

This seems particularly strange in the current climate, as austerity begins to bite across the globe, with riots, general strikes and murmurs of revolutionary ideas beginning to appear in Greece and other European countries, my initial thought was maybe there just isn’t an appetite for that sort of conflict here in the UK.

But, on doing some reading when I got home, about what went on running up to the march on the 20th of October, it seems that the TUC were complicit in making the march as passive as possible. Read The TUC collaborate with the Met to sew up October 20 for more info on this. Further commentary on how the TUC handed the Met a list of 150 “violent activists” – from Libcom.org

If the trade unions are pushing to get Labour re-elected, and want to improve their image with the powers that be in order to do so, then this sort of conformity is to be expected, and their ‘Future that Works’ amounts to nothing more than ‘we’ll shut up for a promise of slightly less austerity’.

Another good post from Libcom.org, on the ‘state of the movement’ seems to confirm my suspicions that the right wing of the left was laying down the rules of engagement on the 20th of October. Read it here.

redeyewitness

Protest Report: Occupy Westminster Bridge

Protesters block the bridge next to the Houses of Parliament
It's our future David. Hands Off
Crowds on Westminster Bridge
Block the Bill: Symbolically, St. Thomas Hospital lies across the river
Protesters don scrubs and surgical masks
Our NHS!
Public Assembly held
Public debate and civil disobedience
Anarchist Soundsystem
Down with this sort of thing
People of all ages and from all walks of life get involved
Don't Cut the NHS
Hands off our NHS
The closest thing to democracy Big Ben has ever seen
Walls of Police look on
Peaceful protest despite Black Bloc contingent
Protester dons the V for Vendetta mask under the Anarcho-Communist flag and the London Eye

Protest thins out after the first hour
Mark Thomas and Josie Long talk to the crowds

Awesome percussionists
Wake up! Occupy your world
The battle for democracy begins
I’m beginning to get a bit fucked off at the mainstream media in this country (and the rest of the world for that matter). The BBC may as well rename itself the Tory Propaganda Network. The Occupy movement in the USA is still going largely unreported, and now British protesters are getting equally ignored. I would have thought thousands of people illegally occupying Westminster Bridge, right under the noses of Parliament, would have been worthy of a news report. A small footnote at least. Especially when you consider the protesters are trying to save one of the UK’s most precious and important institutions (the NHS), which is in practically everyone’s interest. The news is being filtered. Fact. Why aren’t they reporting these protests?

As far as I am aware, Channel 4 news was the only program to feature proper coverage of this event – please feel free to correct me in the comments section if I am wrong (I hope I am). Their report claimed only 2000 thousand people were on the bridge during the “Block the Bridge, Block the Bill” occupation – it seemed at least treble that to me, but of course it is hard to judge these things from the ground. Suffice it say when we first arrived at the bridge it was full. From end to end. Admittedly, within an hour or so this number had dropped considerably.

Still, a significant number of people stayed all afternoon, and it was a great occasion by all accounts. The atmosphere was positive and defiant and the tactics playful and imaginative. A large assembly was held where anyone could speak out and get involved, and this was followed by comedians and live music on the bridge. Spirits were high for the whole event, and the police were wise enough to let it all happen without confrontation. More protests and occupations were planned for the near future and everyone was home in time for tea!

But what will come of all this? Will the protest go unheard? Is the NHS doomed to privatisation??

The effectiveness of protest politics is indeed questionable. I lost faith in it myself after the Anti War movement failed to stop thousands being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know many others that felt the same. But the climate is changing. Millions of people are very angry. They are sick of austerity measures, banks and corporations calling the shots, the destruction of public services and the environment. They want real democracy, where people’s needs are put before corporate profits. From Tahir Square, to Wall Street, to Westminster Bridge – people are taking action, occupying public spaces and refusing to leave. A new people’s movement seems to be beginning… not that you’d have any idea from watching the news.

Can we do more to help save the NHS?

What’s next for UK Uncut? 

Channel 4 News bucks the trend

redeyewitness

Block the Bridge, Block the Bill!

This Sunday, thousands of protesters organised by UK uncut, including everyone from Labour MPs to union members, health service officials, doctors, and the angry public, will join together to block traffic on Westminster Bridge, in a symbolic and powerful effort to show the Governement just how angry we are. I cannot think why the whole country wont turn up, there are free coaches to london, so if you are still umming and ahhing, get on it. This is crucial to the future of our nation’s health. Everyone should be there, no matter what their political leaning. We are all subject to illness, accident, to bad luck. Imagine if the cost of a simple operation left you unable to pay the rent? Doctors in York are already telling patients that they must go private for small operations- and this is just the beginning. See details of the event on the UK uncut website http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/ Another excellent article with alot of information about the bill and why this protest is so important is on the excellent website ‘left foot forward’ http://www.leftfootforward.org/2011/10/tim-holmes-uk-uncut-stop-the-traffic-to-stop-the-nhs-being-run-over/

Perhaps a lot of us don’t realize how lucky we are…  In America, a friend of mine was sent home from hospital with meningitis  because she could not afford medical bills. If you check out the tumblr for ‘We Are the 99%‘ , it soon becomes clear that many of those in the states suffering with poverty, illness and debt, are in these situations due to ill-health, where treatment incurs huge costs, where healthcare is for profit. Four years ago my best friend, who contracted cancer in her 20s, was operated on by the NHS, and her life was saved. Though already a massive advocate of free healthcare, I think it was this that solidified my absolute dedication to saving the service. But we all have stories to tell. Anyone who is not panicking about this should think for a moment about all the people they know that might not be around if it weren’t for a free healthcare system. Did you have a problematic birth? Have you ever been to hospital? Even tonsillitis can kill if untreated. Today, I have a broken foot, in need of operation, which has been ignored by my local health service, whose stretched budget does not allow for such ‘unecessary’ operations to take place.

We already have massive corrupt pharmaceutical corporations, and branded drugs, and look what profit has done to that system… Why do we consume so many mind-numbing anti-depressants and tranquilizers these days? They are, of course, heavily marketed. Ever noticed the brand-name on your GPS mouse-mat? Eli Lily perhaps? Seroquel? If the NHS is opened up for profit, then morality goes out the window. It will no longer be a system to care for the nation’s health, but like everything else in this corrupt nightmare of super-capitalism, it will be run for the monetary gain of shareholders. So those expensive chemotherapy drugs you need for your metastatic cancer? Not available, bad for business. As to those unhealthy and unnecessary brain-scans- you will be told you need more, as they can make a huge profit on them. Granted, I see the system of profit as flawed at it’s base. But a healthcare system for profit? The word evil springs to mind. And I take issue with that word.

When the right wing press and the British Medical Association are both disgusted at these changes, with the BMA stating ”the BMA still believes the Bill, as it currently stands, poses an unacceptably high risk to the NHS in England.” we must panic, we must hit the streets. There is so much to protest at the moment, the world is angry, with protests in America, Greece, the Middle East, all over Europe. We must stay strong and show our power, peacefully, but loud as we can, and in unforeseen numbers. We ARE the 99%. 99% of nearly 7 billion people is a crap-load of energy, a mass of voices, a mass of labour, of potential ‘money’, that if withheld will bring down that one percent of amoral cunts who believe they can play with our futures like this. We dd not vote for this. Hell- the majority of this country actually voted for left-leaning parties! Flaws in our democratic system aside- these reforms were NOT in the manifesto of either the LibDems or the vile Tories. In fact, we are happier with our health service then we have ever been. Big business, once again, is proven to own our governments. The conservatives stand to gain from this sell-off, with rich owners of private health services donating to their party. Surprised? I wasn’t. But I am certainly angry.

I will be reporting back on Monday when I return. If you have the time, and you aren’t going yet, get on it. Your lives, the lives of your loved ones, are at stake.