Fear and Loathing in Great Britain: The Real Legacy of David Cameron

4It’s totally normal that when a person is nearing the end of a job, they would want to leave knowing that they had some kind of impact. Barack Obama is clearly thinking of his time in office. I’m sure Zayn Wotisname from that boyband my little girl likes did the same thing. Our illustrious leader, still with four and a half years of premiership left, is clearly doing the same. After all, he said even before the election he would be stepping down after this term in office. He clearly wants to leave the impression on the world stage that he created a “Greater Britain”, yet as I sit here now, I can see David Cameron’s legacy as British Prime Minister will be one of scaremongering, manipulation and segregation (and to a certain degree, swine based debauchery). He believes in a country that cares nothing for its own citizens. He believes in a country more concerned with money than with humanity – a country that he is turning in to a corporate playground with little hideaways for tax evaders. Now you could probably say that this is just the angry rant of some anti-Tory leftie who doesn’t respect the democratic process. You’d be wrong. I accept the result of the General Election. What I deplore is the lies Mr. Cameron told to win that election. I have no problem with the Conservatives. I know many Tories and they are genuinely nice people. What I question is whether the party in power is really a Tory party, or is it like it is in America, with the Republicans being infiltrated by the infamous Tea Party? Now I’m not quite sure what our version of the Tea Party would be called, but I’m pretty sure it would still begin with a ‘T’. Heck maybe it’s UKIP, I don’t know. Either way, if you look at the actions of our six month old government (not the lies we have been told), they do appear to be very similar to a small section of our American counterparts.

2David Cameron’s new Conservative party claims to be the party for working people; that they have the UK citizens best interests at heart. This years Conservative Party Conference seems to suggest otherwise, with every major speech or claim made by a senior Tory minister expertly dissected, derided and more often than not, dis-proven.

1Theresa May stated that we need tighter controls on immigration, repeating the claim she made back in November 2010. It was seen as nothing more than an attempt by the Home Secretary to lay blame on the (apparent) state of the country on people from other countries; people whom, as it has been proven time and again, make more of a contribution to our society than they do a drain. (A full dissection of the Home Secretaries claims, and evidence to the contrary, can be found here). Her speech, whilst trying to make clear that there needs to be a difference between refugees seeking asylum, and “economic migrants”, still left many, including myself, in doubt over David Cameron’s pledge to take 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. This renewed demonisation of migrants, which is “almost devoid of a single factual accuracy”, coupled with the governments increased attacks on the low paid, hard working families, public sector workers and the disabled goes completely against the “cohesive society” soundbite that the Home Secretary coined, with great futility.
imageThis leads neatly in to George Osbourne, as he continued on his austerity journey by announcing he will cut tax credits, despite Mr. Cameron promising before the General Election, that no such cuts would be made. The Chancellor has also gone to great lengths to ignore serious human rights violations as he negotiated trade deals with China recently. A step that even former Tory party chairman Chris Pattem described as “lax” and describing Mr. Osbourne as “very far from traditional Tory instincts”. Showing support for China, as well as Saudi Arabia in a recent back-room deal that saw the worlds dominant oil producer gain a place on the UN Human Rights Council also calls in to question our governments feelings on human rights in this country. This remains a concern as Michael Gove continues to work on repealing the Human Rights Act – a fact that was carefully swept under the Party Conference carpet but is due to progress in the Autumn. It remains to be seen how much the public will find out about this step from the government directly, but I suspect little will be made by them of our links with countries that flaunt human rights to secure multi-million pound trade deals for oil and arms.

1jeremy-huntAnd then there was our trusted Health Secretary and rhyming slangs best friend, Jeremy Hunt. A man who has made no secret of his ambitions to be Tory party leader once Mr. Cameron steps down (Mr. Osbourne and Mrs. May are also considered contenders). A man who treats the country’s health service, its employees and its patients with such contempt you have to wonder if keeping Cameron around as leader a bit longer is the lesser of two evils. Mr. Hunt has had a busy month; from insulting Junior Doctors with an enforced (non-negotiated), unworkable, immoral contract, (a story I will be looking at in greater detail in my next piece) to insulting anyone in this country with a pulse by saying they need to work harder, like the Chinese. I’m all for hard work, but that alone isn’t enough. You need investment as well, plus recognition that there are those that are physically unable to work. What happens to them? This poisonous rhetoric of ‘survival of the fittest’ spouted by Mr. Hunt and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Ian Duncan Smith (or IDS as he’s become known, which doesn’t at all sound like an expensive treatment for infected hemorrhoids) is just another spit in the face for those who struggle, who need help. People who genuinely need a welfare state that is being ripped out from under them. Never mind this being un-British; it’s inhumane.

Then there was the grand finale of the Conservative Party Conference, where David Cameron stood up on stage and performed the biggest work of modern day fiction over seen in a party conference. From describing Jeremy Corbyn as “a threat to national security” by cleverly quoting the new Labour leader but removing any context, (you can see Mr. Corbyn’s full thoughts, in context, here) to proudly declaring that his policies are helping the country’s poor when the opposite has been proven, he has shown nothing but barefaced contempt for the people of this country through twisting facts and figures, or just outright lying to support his own self/friends serving narrative.
imageMr. Cameron has this dream of turning the UK in to a country of “high wage, low tax and low welfare”. In theory this is something that I’m in favour of, well two-thirds anyway. I mean what family doesn’t want more money in their pocket and less to go to the tax man? The thing is that we have tax for a reason; to fund our schools, our hospitals, the upkeep of our roads and waste disposal services etc. This government, as with several before, have gone out of their way to demonise tax when they should be relying on it, championing it. People want more money, obviously, but they also want to live in a country that is kept functioning properly, You only need to look at a survey showing that a vast majority of people in this country would back a tax rise to support the NHS. I honestly do believe that if we could see our tax money in real action, making a difference to our country’s infrastructure instead of just lining politicians pockets, then we would have no real problem with it, but to live in one of the highest taxed countries in the world and to have the problems we have is just plain negligence, It is the reason why we are losing our welfare state and our other vital public services, and it’s clear evidence that the government is not listening to and does not represent the people of the UK.

3There is also the divisive subject of national defense, in particular Trident. Now I totally understand the need to defend your nation’s borders against external threats, but you have to ask if nuclear weapons are really the way to go. Mr. Cameron has gone on record as saying that he would have no problem pushing the button, and that Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to commit to such a stance undermines national security. Be in no doubt, this is scaremongering at it’s best. Firstly, if David Cameron were to press that big red button first he would be nothing more than a highly paid murderer. Secondly if the Trident missiles were to be launched in retaliation it would not have been that much of a deterrent in the first place. We are constantly told that the biggest threat to our national security right now (current Labour leader excepted) is So Called Islamic State. They don’t have nuclear weapons, they have propaganda, ideology. There is more chance of an IS member already in this country getting in to the Trident system to launch the missiles on our own soil than there is of us needing to fire them off to Syria, Iraq or any other middle eastern country our government has a vested interest in. It makes no sense. Trident isn’t a nuclear deterrent, it’s a political one – something our government can shake to make themselves look big in front of other countries.

5It’s the same argument as in America – calls are growing louder for stricter gun controls because of multiple mass shootings this year alone, yet the trigger happy faithful believe such a move will strip them of any defense against ‘the enemy’, constantly invoking their second amendment right to carry fire arms – an amendment that was invoked in 1791 when muskets were the weapon of choice, not semi-automatic rifles. Times have changed, war has changed. I wish I could say war will stop one day, but I can’t honestly say that, simply because we’re so damn good at it. We always find an excuse to pick a fight, and as we all know, nothing drives the economy faster than war. So why would we stop? The way war is fought has changed – much more divisive, much more guerrilla-like than ‘the good old days’ of the Cold War. Trident is irrelevant. Even military spokesmen have said this, saying that funds would have greater effect being used on weapons and equipment for soldiers on the front line, the ones in all the conflicts we have our feet in around the world. We sit here and berate the Americans for their stupid, antiquated, 200-year old guns laws, and yet we have exactly the same problem here with Trident. The governments priorities are totally out of touch with those of the people.
wpid-img_20151007_175119.jpgDavid Cameron’s legacy will speak for itself when the political dust has settled around his tenure as Prime Minister. The facts above will break through the spin and innuendo that this Conservative government relies so heavily upon, but by that time it will be too late. Austerity will have pummeled those already in financial hardship. Our hospitals will be run by profit hungry conglomerates rather than care providing doctors and nurses. Our children will be packed in a hundred to a room because of the 50% reduction of teaching staff.

One of my favourite phrases is this: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. So what if it’s from Star Trek that’s how it should be. For so many people that’s how it is. You only need to look at the public reaction to the plight of the Syrian refugees to know that in spite of our own problems, when there are others in trouble we step up to help. Even if it’s just to give a terrified kid a stuffed toy, we step up. Sadly, there is the minority who thrive on secrets, lies, under-hand trade deals and ill-gotten gains. Mr. Cameron and his government has taken that powerful line and changed it to something far more sinister, but appropriate for their view of this world – “The wants of the few outweigh the needs of the many”. Maybe that should be the real New Conservative logo. At least then we’d really know where we stand.

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This isn’t about Doctors or Nurses, GP’s or Consultants. It’s about our Free Health Service

Yesterday morning, the silence was broken. Fifteen days after Jeremy Hunt made his inflammatory speech at the Kings Fund in Central London, giving NHS consultants an ultimatum on working weekends, and describing the rest of the staff as “lazy” and over-paid, the desperate voices of those people he bad-mouthed and those who support them were set free. After spending over two weeks building up in the virtual pressure cooker of social media, traditional news outlets have finally started to take notice.

Twitter

Jeremy Vine used his Twitter feed to break two weeks of silence around #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy.

Jeremy Vine is the first mainstream media broadcaster to openly take notice of #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy. He neither supports nor ridicules, merely highlighting the fact that there is a story here. Whether he decides to take it further and make it part of his Radio 2 show remains to be seen, but the fact that he recognises it, and has put it in the public arena, means that the hard part is about to start.

The public’s take on this is crucial, and the petition to debate a vote of No Confidence in the Health Secretary could be seen as a risky move. What is seen as a democratic register of the public’s view by some can also be questioned for it’s validity – ‘it’s just NHS staff signing’ or ‘people are just bored’. I mean if you can get a petition going to get a flavour of low fat yoghurt back on the supermarket shelves you could petition for anything. The danger with this petition was that the public wouldn’t take it seriously; that it was ‘those doctors whinging again’. Which is sad because that would miss the point completely.

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Reputation is everything in a career, especially in one as publicly scrutinised as the NHS. Mr. Hunts speech, where he (among other things) put the emphasis on consultants and their apparent refusal to work weekends as the reason for higher patient deaths on Saturdays and Sundays (totally wrong), has made a scapegoat of that particular senior role in the health service, while still allowing the Health Secretary to appear to maintain the view that he cares for the NHS. He turned the blame of failure of weekend access on a group of people who, yes, do have an opt out clause in their contract so they don’t work weekends but, as you will be able to read already in the Mirror, and from this weekend in the Independent, “88% of consultants are already working weekends”, based on a survey by the BMA of almost 900.

Independent

Preview of Independent cover – Saturday 1st August 2015

The Mirror starts to expose the lies.

The Mirror starts to expose the lies.

Here’s the truth about doctors, and I can say this because I’m married to one. People don’t become doctors or nurses for a dream working week. They don’t sign up because they’ll have time for lengthy breaks during the day, and they certainly don’t do it for the money. People become doctors because they feel they can help, they can make a difference. They spend at least 10 years training and honing their skills to be the best they can be before they are officially qualified, and even then, throughout their entire career, they never stop honing and training. They spend an increasing amount of time in an environment that never stops, having to tell patients often horrifying/heartbreaking truths, while diagnosing conditions from their encyclopaedic medical knowledge, all the time speaking to patients who may be as nice as anything, or rude and uncooperative.

Now here’s the thing about medical professionals – none of that bothers them. They will never complain about their job because it’s what they love, it’s what they signed up for. Long hours, no breaks, finishing late – it’s all part of the job, and that includes working at weekends. Doctors accepted this ages ago because of how our modern society functions. Thousands of people working shifts which includes weekends, and the staff at the NHS knew they would have to adapt to that. What staff at the NHS do not appreciate, is their own boss telling them that they are useless, they’re not doing enough and should work more but be paid less. This whole notion of a seven day working week for the NHS already happens because of demand and need from the public, but there is one fundamental question nether Mr. Hunt nor the Health Department has answered – how will this be paid for? For a hospital to be fully functional at the weekend extra staff of all levels are required. Then there’s support teams outside the hospital walls; social care workers, councillors etc. They will all require funding, which the the £8bn the Government pledged in the manifesto will barely touch.

stethoscope

Here’s another thing about medical professionals; we, our society, will always need them. There will come a point where you need to make an appointment to see that nurse, or you need to sit down with a consultant, or you may need to pay a visit to A&E. The thing we are fighting for is how those life-saving services are going to be funded. We live in a capitalist society so all those man hours, knowledge and equipment need to be paid for. Time is money, and that money must come from somewhere. Do we really want to squander a universal free health care system that is paid for through our taxes and end up paying insurance premiums for check ups and examinations that may well be a waste of medical time, but will create a profit?

While I sit here telling you about all this, the National Health Service is being dismantled right in front of us. All this media attack from the government is a smokescreen, to turn public opinion against the ‘money grabbing work-shy doctors’ who in reality are working above and beyond what should be realistically expected of them, working way past the end of their shift to make sure patients get the care they deserve. In the meantime those patients are seeing ‘stories’ in certain right wing Tory linked media saying ‘leg pain is linked to cancer’ or ‘neck ache could be cancer’ or ‘Cancer Cancer Cancer’, (remember all the stories where “my doctor ignored all my symptoms and it was cancer”), increasing fear and therefore demand on medical staff way beyond capacity, so doctors have to not only deal with those who require much needed treatment and help, but also the “worried well”. This in turn portrays the doctors as unable to cope with their job, but don’t worry, here’s a privately run medical company who ‘really know how to do their job’ so everything’s ok. Oh, and what’s your credit card details please?

BBC budgetSince GP’s were forced to take control of the budget of all health services for their own locality back in 2010, they had to commission services on an increasingly smaller budget whilst patient demand has also increased exponentially. This has also meant time taken away from running their GP surgeries and stretching patient care even further, not that the doctors would ever let you see that. This model that the government imposed on them, against advice of medical professionals, was set up for GP’s to fail. It is this situation, imposed by the previous coalition government, that has paved the way for private companies to swoop in and take over. We already have the likes of Virgin Health providing their own service. As soon as patient demand picks up, they will be made to pay for extras and eventually the NHS will be nothing more than a brand name, the heart of its ‘free for all’ service ripped out. The public needs to step in and join the fight. The twisted facts that are being released to the media are nothing more than pro-government, pro-privatisation, anti-NHS propaganda, specifically designed to cause fear and confusion among the public.

The battle lines here are very clear; do you trust a government that manipulates statistics and twist figures to serve their own fictional narrative of ‘lazy doctors’, while many of them have their personal links to private health care companies which stand to take considerable profit at the expense of patient health, and who are conveniently recommended to receive 10% pay rises, or do you trust the diligent medical professionals who look after your loved ones without charge, that never complain about their vocation and are forced in to a pay-cut, while being strong armed to working longer hours, but are now fighting to get back their dignity and respect?

The only common ground that the doctors and nurses have with Jeremy Hunt and the current Conservative government is that they both want a seven day NHS. There is already a seven day NHS. The issue is that the Government don’t want to pay for it, so they are turning responsibility and blame on those who are doing the job. This is why it was imperative that the mainstream media began talking about it. Now, with the likes of the BBC’s Jeremy Vine, and the Mirror and Independent getting the story out of social media and in to the full view of the public arena, we can finally get the voices of these hard-working people heard and understood.

Is The UK Government Banning Mainstream Media From Reporting On One Of The Most Important Stories Of The Year?

5SocialMedia

I often ask myself where our society would be without social media these days. It’s become the way to keep in touch with friends and family, see hilarious (some not so much!) pictures and videos, promote businesses films and music….. Social media has also become an invaluable tool for free speech. Something that the mainstream media (TV, Radio, Newspapers) seems to have lost its grip on a while ago.

In my previous article I briefly talked about how our media is paying little or no attention to the storm surrounding Jeremy Hunt’s atrocious attack on NHS staff. That was over the weekend, and I honestly expected that when I woke up Monday morning it would be the top story on most, if not all respectable news outlets. Boy was I wrong!

#WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy

#WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy

The reason I had such high expectations was because on Sunday 26th July #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy came to life on Twitter. Similar to its predecessor #ImInWorkJeremy, this hashtag was designed to bring together all the thoughts and feelings of the Health Secretary’s latest attempt to undermine our heath service, only this time it was more open to everyone else, as well as doctors and nurses. And boy did this thing come to life! Just one look using this hashtag lead feed showed you exactly what the people of this great country think of a man in charge of the NHS who has no qualifications to be doing so. There was much made of the petition to call for a vote of No Confidence. Awareness was rising. The nation was showing huge interest in this story. As I sit here even now, people continue to spread the word.

So if social media was alive and buzzing, what was the traditional mainstream media doing? Answer: NOTHING. On the radio, TV, websites affiliated with these broadcasters, nothing. And I don’t understand why. Surely the job of the national media and news companies are to report on stories that are in the public interest of this country? I can think of no other story, right now, that is more in the public interest than the future of its health service. Why are they not talking about this?

2LastLeg

Screenshotof The Last Leg YouTube channel, 23:36, Monday 27/07/2015

The only mainstream media outlet that I have seen talk openly on this story was Channel 4’s The Last Leg, where Its host Adam Hills went off on one of his trademark rants calling out Mr. Hunt for his remarks. During this you could practically hear the entire NHS workforce applauding and cheering ‘finally, someone gets it. At last people are listening’. The weird thing is that what usually happens after one of Mr. Hills rants is they are uploaded to the shows YouTube channel. At the time of writing this, that brilliantly succinct rant has not been uploaded.

The biggest disappointment for me in all this has been the BBC. The British Broadcasting Corporation has said not one word. There has been nothing on their TV or radio stations, or on their website. We all know that the BBC has its own issues with the current government, especially ahead of the Royal Charter review, but if a corporation designed to entertain and inform is not going to report on one of the most important and relevant stories in the country right now, then what’s the point of its existence? And I’m saying this as someone who loves the BBC. Sherlock, Doctor Who, Fiona Bruce, Jeremy Vine – these are all regulars in our house, and I dread the day that the Beeb is taken from us. Why they have not reported a word of a story that is practically on their doorstep is beyond me, and if I was a conspiracy theorist I would be saying that the Government is stopping them from doing their job, gagging them. But that couldn’t be happening, not in a free and democratic country, right?

Screenshot of BBC News Website (Health) 00:36 Tuesday 27/07/2015. Also no mention on Top Stories or UK News sections.

Screenshotof BBC News Website (Health) 00:36 Tuesday 27/07/2015. Also no mention on Top Stories or UK News sections.

There has been some signs of hope in all this. The Mirror newspaper has posted a story just recently on Labour Leadership Candidate Andy Burnham, and his intent to pledge a vote of No Confidence in Jeremy Hunt. This is the first national newspaper that has openly mentioned not only the petition, but also the 200,000+ signatures. Interestingly the Guardian have also published a story on Mr. Burnham, ahead of the same press conference on Tuesday 28th July. In their story they make a point of saying that Mr, Burnham, currently Shadow Health Secretary, will be talking on the 70th anniversary of the year that a Labour government that created the NHS came in to power. It then quickly goes on to dissect Mr. Burnham’s role in the Labour leadership battle (which is totally newsworthy) but mentions nothing of the fact that he will be voting No Confidence in his Conservative counterpart when parliament resumes. Once again, a media blackout on the part of the story that affects an entire nation.

Mirror is first national newspaper to talk about petition for vote of No Confidence in Jeremy Hunt,

Mirror is first national newspaper to talk about petition for vote of No Confidence in Jeremy Hunt,

The media will always have an agenda, an angle when it comes to reporting a story. This is something that, as we have become more media savvy over time, we have also come to accept. What is unacceptable is when the traditional media say nothing on a story. When they just keep quiet on a subject like this that is so important to everyone, you have to wonder why. Is there some kind of conspiracy here? Whatever the answer it appears that TV and radio (and much of the printed press) is not up to doing its job, so it’s down to us. We must keep going on social media – our tweets, posts, links etc. are working. The petition is well past 203,000 signatures, and it will only continue to grow if we keep chatting about it. Keep the pressure on, and this Government has to listen. After all, we elected them in to power – we gave them their jobs, they work for us. Not for themselves or the highly profitable private companies they’re chums with, us. These people are our representatives and so far they are not listening to us (Andy Burnham accepted).

If we don’t ensure that this latest attack on our health service is taken seriously, there will come a day where you won’t be able to go to A&E without a credit card. A day when new parents won’t be able to walk out of a maternity ward with their baby without paying a charge at the exit. That’s not us, that’s not what the UK is.

5ProtectNHS

 

UPDATED: Monday 28/07/2015 – 22:00

Not long after this post was first published, at 9am this morning The Last Leg finally uploaded that rant of Adam Hills towards Mr. Hunt. It is unclear why it took three and a half days to do so, but finally more attention is being drawn to the attack of the Health Secretary on the Health Service.

In print the New Statesman is the first publication to openly talk about the feelings of NHS staff since the initial reaction after Mr. Hunt announced his intentions to enforce new contracts, and insulted the entire workforce. #WeNeedToTalkAboutJeremy is highlighted and explains in great detail the reasons why the medical profession is so angry with its boss,

In the rest of TV land, and in all of radio, silence. Thankfully, as we see here, cracks are beginning to show in the media blackout. Word is getting out, people are talking, and it will be a grave social injustice if after everything I have talked about, at the very least, Jeremy Hunt is not removed from his post as Secretary for Health.

When Humanity Rises

humanity2

 

As we get in to September there will doubtless be many looking back over this year known as 2014 and starting to compile their own End Of year Review. You know the one’s, where we are reminded of various events and facts from the previous 12 months, often using a mildly witty and amusing point of view. Thing is, as I look back from my point of view, 2014 could be seen as, well, not the best year we’ve had. In fact I could go on record and say 2014 sucks. Look at what’s happened recently (no, Wonder Woman’s costume in the Batman V Superman film or someone leaving someone elses ice cream out of the freezer did not make the list. And yes, that was a Great British Bake Off reference!):

  • Escalated conflict in Gaza
  • Chemical warfare in Syria
  • Militant uprising in Iraq
  • Race related riots in Ferguson, Missouri
  • Plane crash and invasion in Ukraine
  • Young girls forcibly taken from their schools and still missing in Nigeria
  • A 9 year old girl killing her gun instructor with an Uzi
  • The Ebola outbreak in Western Africa
  • The mysterious missing Malaysian Airlines plane
  • The prosecution of many public figures for abuse charges, and their subsequent convictions. 

In many of these examples, and many I’ve not even mentioned, you could argue that this year has not been humanities finest hour.

Or has it?

I started thinking about this when I saw this recent excerpt from the Adam Hill fronted “The Last Leg” (Channel 4). For those who haven’t seen the preceding clip, a certain extreme church in America (I’m not even going to write their name on this article as they’ll probably take it as some kind of promotion) announced they were going to boycott Robin William’s funeral. Adam Hill was so outraged, he announced live that he would “personally pay for every member to fly first class to Iraq”. And then this happened.

This is just one of hundreds of examples of basic decent humanity standing up to any form of negativity, any form of hate, and turning it around. It happened when Jon Snow returned from Gaza and put his feelings on YouTube which kickstarted a massive outcry for more awareness to be raised. It happened with the #BringBackOurGirls putting social pressure on Nigerian powers-that-be to find kidnapped children. It happened with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which incidentally caused some in Gaza to do their own Rubble Bucket Challenge. Yes it was a blatant sarcastic jibe at the ALS campaign, but at least it proved they still had a sense of humour!

Humanity is flawed – governed by emotions feelings and beliefs that not everyone can agree on, but as we’ve seen through the various awareness and fund raising campaigns, humanity always rises to the occasion. Many of the events in this year have been of terrible, catastrophic, heinous levels, the likes of which should make us ashamed of ourselves as a species. But it’s our reaction to these events, how we’ve been so outraged by these acts and what we’ve done to make even a small difference to the outcome that proves we do care. We want to be better. We want to do better. As long as we can hold on to that desire, then humanity can defeat it’s own inner demons, and when you see the inevitable 2014 End Of Year Review you will know that we are not beyond hope. 

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