Job hunting


It’s been a year now that I have been seeking the ideal work situation and my enthusiasm for the process is definitely jaded. I go through a gamut of feelings: starting with the dissatisfaction with the status quo; then the hopeful trawling through the ads; quickly replaced by disgust at the paucity of opportunities to suit my unique set of skills – and be under no illusion, although I’m a quiet, retiring sort, personality wise, I do have a well adjusted sense of my own abilities.

Eventually a vacancy will attract my attention, followed by a flurry of days of research, updating my CV, submitting my application to meet the deadline. The days waiting for notification of making the short list are days of suspended peace, knowing I’ve done what I can and nice though a new opportunity would be, at least I have a job, so i’m not a state of desperation. 

The phone call, answered with measured eagerness, I want to appear bright and enthusiastic without losing my sense of self preservation. Another flurry of activity days, mentally preparing for the inevitable questions about what motivated me to apply; how do I deal with stress; how do I cope in conflict; what are my strengths and or weaknesses. 

I well know the answers they are looking for, the trick is to provide a personal anecdote illustrating an appropriate scenario. I know they’re looking for team players with just the right amount of initiative to fit in, progress their enterprise, but not rock the boat. It’s a bit like a complicated dance: step together, step back, twirl, and hop; the knack is to not trip over one’s own feet.

“We hope to make a decision by the end of the week.”

How long is a week, what decision takes so long? But I know in these security conscious days, referee checks and police checks are standard. So I wait, each day heart stopping for every sound alert on my phone, knowing that if it is an email it will be a reject, so hoping for the call that hasn’t come yet. Two days down.

By day three, my referees haven’t yet been contacted and my hopes are starting to wilt. Friends endeavour to allay my self doubt by recounting how long they waited to hear about their jobs. It’s these days of limbo, neither accepted or rejected, that I find the hardest.

Day five and I’m reconciled with knowing that I’m not the chosen one, but my heart still gives a leap of hope when the phone rings and the voice on the either end pronounces the outcome. Regretfully, kindly, but still a no; they were very impressed with my presentation and enthusiasm and if they had two vacancies they would definitely have offered me one, but….

I thank them, say goodbye, take a deep breath. Some rejects hurt more than others, especially when I’ve felt that it really was the job I’ve been looking for. 

A day of licking my wounds, raging, despairing, then I throw myself into some hard physical work – the house might receive major clean, or the weeds in garden may be brutally torn from the ground. Exhausted, I feel better about myself again. 

Back to the daily task of scanning the situations vacant, maybe next time.

Barbarians still


Lo, it is nearly 350 years that we and our fathers have inhabited this most lovely land, and never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race, nor was it thought that such an inroad from the sea could be made. Behold the church of St Cuthbert spattered with the blood of the priests of God, despoiled of all its ornaments; a place more venerable than all in Britain is given as a prey to pagan peoples …’. Letter from Alcuin of York to Ethelred, king of Northumbria, 8 June, 793.

I’ve been catching up with the TV series, Vikings, watching series 1 and 2 all in one week. Like many others, I had been brought up to consider the Vikings as the epitome of barbarism. My Anglo-Saxon ancestors, no doubt, having some sway in that prejudice.

As a child I loved the Norse myths as expounded by Roger Lancelyn Green, and have fond memories of my father reading to me the exploits of the gods, Thor, Odin, Freya, dwarves, dragons and heroes; and to complete my initiation into the romance of the Norsemen, I would sit on my father’s knee when he was listening to Wagner’s Ring Cycle and follow the words of the libretto. Heady stuff for a six year old.

MGM and the History channel’s version certainly perpetuates the myth, while adding some human love interest and gentle family interactions in between the betrayals and factions; and of course the brutality is not spared as the actors seem to relish the fight scenes. It’s well done with a convincing authenticity.

The Viking invasion of Britain took place from 793–1284, the last of several waves of invaders, over a thousand years ago, and I asked myself how has the human race progressed in that time. I wondered how many lives have been lost in battles for land, for religion, and tribal internecine strife.

I started thinking about barbarity as this is a word that has been bandied around in recent times with regard to the Daesh in the Middle East and their vicious struggle  to establish a caliphate and the battle to stop them. Even the Prime Minister of our country, John Key, has used the concept of standing up against barbarism to justify taking our troops into the battle zone, only to “train” Iraqi troops, of course.

My concern is that our government is buying into a lie and leading our nation into defending actions that are as barbarous as those it decries.

There are no good guys in war, only aggressors and victims. What difference does it make if the violence is a beheading or obliteration by a remotely controlled drone? Lives are lost for no purpose that can be justified.

The Vikings may have been barbarians, but modern man is no better, and at heart has not changed at all.

“They bound Edmund and insulted him ignominiously, and beat him with rods, and afterwards led the devout king to a firm living tree, and tied him there with strong bonds, and beat him with whips. …They then shot spears at him, as if it was a game, until he was entirely covered with their missiles, like the bristles of a hedgehog…When Ivar the impious pirate saw that the noble king would not forsake Christ, but with resolute faith called after Him, he ordered Edmund beheaded, and the heathens did so” Abbo of Fleury, Martyrdom of St Edmund, King of East Anglia.

There’s a whole web page that has compiled the numbers who have been killed in strife over the centuries, it doesn’t make pretty reading, nor does it inspire hope that man learns from the mistakes of history.

Just a few facts to ponder from our more recent history:

“In its report, the UN mission to Iraq says at least 5,576 civilians were killed and another 11,665 wounded from 1 January until the end of June. Another 1.2 million have been driven from their homes by the violence, it adds.

The pace of civilian deaths over the first six months marked a sharp increase over the previous year. In all of 2013, the UN reported just over 7,800 civilians killed, which was the highest annual death toll in years.

The fighting “has inflicted untold hardship and suffering on the civilian population with large-scale killings, injuries, and destruction and damage of livelihoods and property”, the UN report says.

It also documents human rights abuses by both sides of the conflict that may constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes.

The UN said Isis and its allies had committed “systematic and egregious violations” against civilians, including killings, sexual violence, kidnappings, destruction of property and attacks on places of religious worship.”

‘Why the Rise of Fascism is Again the Issue’
John Pilger wrote:
“Since 1945, more than a third of the membership of the United Nations – 69 countries – have suffered some or all of the following at the hands of America’s modern fascism. They have been invaded, their governments overthrown, their popular movements suppressed, their elections subverted, their people bombed and their economies stripped of all protection, their societies subjected to a crippling siege known as “sanctions”. The British historian Mark Curtis estimates the death toll in the millions. In every case, a big lie was deployed.”

Iraq war
“Nearly half a million people have died from war-related causes in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003, according to an academic study published in the United States on Tuesday.”

Total military casualties from both sides 1.475 million
Total wounded from both sides 2.094 million
Total civilian casualties from both sides 4 million

Over 60 million people were killed, which was over 3% of the 1939 world population (est. 2 billion)

The total number of deaths includes about 10 million military personnel and about 7 million civilians.

List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll

When delusion becomes a reality

Science has not yet taught us if madness is or is not the sublimity of the intelligence. Edgar Allan Poe

Back in 1984, a portentous year for sure, someone very close to me had a major psychotic episode. The substance of his paranoia consisted of delusions of mass surveillance on a global scale by secret forces such as the CIA and FBI. The scenario of his terror was that of satellite observation of our personal communication systems, even to the extent of our thoughts; his obsession was to resist such intrusions with all of his being.

Of course in 1984 such Orwellian fears were  the stuff of science fiction and those who believed and feared such fictions were reality were considered mad and dealt with appropriately by compulsory treatment in mental institutions, and thus it was with my dear one.

Fast forward thirty years and the revelations of Edward Snowden and an intrepid band of investigative journalists show that the substance of paranoid delusions are now a reality.

So, are those who suffer from paranoid delusions like  the seers and prophets of old, who had an interpretation of a future reality that could not be understood until it came to pass?

Is the loss of privacy, intrusion into our private communications, our inner thoughts, a deep seated human fear that is now a reality?

Instead of locking away the troubled within our societies and silencing their ravings with drugs, perhaps we should heed their warnings, and question whether the path the agents of secrecy are leading us down is the the path to losing our very humanity.