Monday, 25 July 2016

Bursting Bubbles

Here in my little right wing bubble – actually, strike that, make it vicious, hateful, far-right wing, murderous fascist bubble (may as well get all the accolades in) – I never hear dissenting opinions with which I simply could not cope. Emotionally, I mean. When I hear somebody suggesting we should all live together harmoniously I just want to go to my safe space, curl up in a ball, hug my knees and let out a primal moan (screams are just so violent) to the universe. If somebody suggests we should help the poor and sick I feel nauseous and I have to breathe into a paper bag until it passes. And when I see images of cute kittens on the Internet I feel an urge to self-harm, then disinfect all my possessions and put them all in alphabetic order.

Oh, sorry, wait. I’m getting confused, what I meant was: As a loathsome right wing troll I am driven to seek out offence wherever I can and then relentlessly tweet at the offender until merely ignoring me no longer works. Unless I am reported to the police for hate crime and banned for life from all social media my existence can have no validity. Actually, no, let me have a think and get back to you on this... Right, here we go. I’ve had a good look at myself, in accordance with the unsolicited advice given me by lefties and it turns out it’s not really me who has the problem at all.

As a righty – by which I mean a worker and taxpayer in receipt of no state handouts and needing no help to maintain a sense of self-esteem - I tend to crack on and do the things that need doing. Obviously, I can have no friends, because right-of-centre beliefs have become verboten, so my only social life must be on Twitter, where the interloping of offence-seeking inadequate presents itself mostly as a form of entertainment. Who needs to parody the left when they do such a good job of it all by themselves? But if you were to parody such a person here’s a useful formula on which to base your impersonation.

Start by joining a conversation quite late, preferably with a mildly insulting and slightly off-target interjection containing what you imagine are pejorative comments such as “this is how the Nazis started”. When you are ignored, vie for attention by this time replying to the tweeter you imagine you are ‘targeting’ and then, when that person replies – usually with a mild “Sorry, who are you?” block them without further ado. Alternatively, you can carry on tweeting increasingly graphic abuse long after everybody else has left the thread. But what do I know, maybe they find it therapeutic?

Now I will admit to bias here. I am biased to be more inclined to tolerate those who have no need to demand special recognition. Towards those who stick up for themselves but don’t quickly try to provoke violence or seek offence. Towards those who are contributors, not those who would extract tithes to pay for their own indulgences. I am broadly for the freedom to live the life you wish without insisting that others make special provision to accommodate you and particularly without fomenting a sense of hurt and injustice every time you hear something with which you disagree. There’s even a phrase for this allowing others to do and say as they wish... if only we could all remember it.

The easiest way of dealing with life, especially the bits you find not to your taste, is to simply shrug and get on with it. If others don’t conform to the way you think they should behave you are perfectly free to point this out. But why bang on about it to the point where it is clearly harming your case? It’s funny as hell watching a leftie self-destruct in public but it’s an unedifying spectacle. Have a bit of dignity; at least think of the children – do your kids follow you online? Yikes.

It's the religion of peace, religion of peace... peas...
How to cope with social media

Meanwhile the roaming packs of ‘lone wolves’ who have nothing to do with islam are prowling around Europe stabbing and slashing and shooting their way into the less prominent pages of the press where it is dearly imagined they have far-right sympathies and/or mental illnesses. Talking of mental illness, cognitive dissonance is a rocky road to Unwellville, but the left seem to have developed a natural immunity. Failing that though, just find a safe place, squat, clasp your knees and hum...

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Loopholes

Jeremy Corbyn is under siege from all quarters. He seems like a decent cove, albeit the slightly unhinged one who will nurse a half-pint in the corner of the public bar, patiently waiting for the chance to educate the unwary about how he would build a better society. But at least he has convictions and many people support him for his unyielding adherence to those principles, too, it’s just a shame that they are invariably unworkable. Lawyers have said that Corbyn’s pledge to make companies publish pay details can never be implemented and is simply an unrealistic policy.

While it seems like a great idea to those who stand to gain from it, as Maggie Thatcher said, "The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money". Plus the law of unintended consequences has a habit of surfacing and inevitably hurting the very people you try to help. Free movement of people, for instance, has given us record rates of employment but has also depressed wages so that there is no incentive for people to come off welfare to take a low-paid job. The safety net intended to help out in times of need has become a way of life for millions and worse, for generations.

Bring in a minimum pay law and the lawyers will soon find a way round it, such as making employees declare as self-employed, taking care of their own holiday pay, sick pay and other payroll benefits and often tax-dodging into the bargain. Headline rates go up while real pay drops and less tax is collected. Make pay rates transparent and all that will really happen is that the onerous conditions of earning that published wage will be concealed from view. The only ones to gain, ultimately, will be the employers and their expensive legal advisors

Heath Robinson style, when you pull the lever to make one thing better a whole series of unexpected mechanisms are engaged and for every apparently positive outcome a dozen aberrations will occur. The success of legislation to change behaviour is generally measured at a level which ignores the detail, so something like minimum alcohol pricing does appear to lower overall alcohol consumption. But those who are dissuaded from buying are mostly the marginal consumers anyway; the hard-line alcoholics remain uncured and the market for counterfeit tax-free hooch booms.

If socialism starts out from a happy place where the talk is of equality and sharing and social duty and all that hippy-dippy loveliness, it invariably ends up in misery and as misery loves company there are plenty of failed socialist states out there to study. And this includes the UK. I mean, look at us: With every year of equalities legislation the inequalities widen. With every anti-prejudice law the prejudice hardens. Minimum wages become maximum wages and attempts to restrict working hours are so impractical we have to have an opt-out.

The naked truth...

One day, maybe, the world will be a fairer place, but that won’t happen until a different kind of human evolves and given that we have succeeded because of our greed and opportunism, that human will probably be an inferior breed. Until that day the best advice you can pass on to your kids is that whatever the rules, when the chips are down it’s every man for himself – as true under socialism as it is under any other paradigm. If there are laws there will always be loopholes and the winners are rarely those who abide by the rules. 

Friday, 22 July 2016

The Weak in Politics

If a normal week is a long time in politics, the week that’s just passed may one day be measured using geological core samples. What, with all the kerfuffle around British affairs, not to mention the serial atrocities across Europe and the sheer intrigue of the Turkish situation, even Kim Kardashian’s arse was relegated to a few meagre column inches in the back pages. But, enough about Kanye... It’s hard to keep up with each new day bringing another you’ll-never-believe-it-but moment. Being in journalism or politics right now is no job for the faint hearted, or weak kneed. Definitely a time for the youngsters to demonstrate that the energy and vigour of their youth is not merely wasted on them.

As for the old codgers - with the possible exception of Jeremy Corbyn - maybe time to move on? With Theresa firmly on the throne, her new cabinet growing into their roles, the old guard, relieved of frontline duties, can fade into the background. One such stalwart decided to take early retirement and announced, albeit to the ether, that he would not be contesting his seat at the next general election. Apart from the weekly surgery he offloaded most of his other duties and prepared to retire to his constituency home.

Still sprightly, in his early sixties, he found a new interest in the life he had little time for during the past two decades and managed to play golf twice a week, relax in the garden, take long country walks and he even began to write his memoirs. He also found more time for the family and could often be seen looking after his grandchildren, playing the elder statesman to his own little dynasty. One evening he took his wife off to an expensive, Michelin-starred restaurant in London to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

During dinner a slender, stunningly beautiful woman in her early thirties came over to the table, hugged the husband, gave him a lingering kiss and whispered that she could meet him later if he wanted. His wife remained silent during the exchange – a politician’s wife knows when to keep a dignified distance – but then glared at him and demanded to know “Who the hell was that?” The old politician said “What's the big deal? Surely you knew I kept a mistress?” The wife was flabbergasted and began to rise from the table, muttering about divorce and lawyers.

“Wait” said her husband “there is nothing to make a fuss about. We all have mistresses here in Westminster. We work long hours away from home and sometimes we just need to unwind. It’s more of a business arrangement than anything.” The wife was still seething and threatening to take him for every penny he was worth. Her husband let her finish then put down his napkin, gently took her hand and explained.

“You want a divorce, you say? Okay, if you’re sure. But keep in mind that I have spent years in the company of the country’s best lawyers. Everything I own is kept in trust, hidden in offshore accounts and sewn up tight with covenants and other legal entanglements. And all these precautions mean that should you sue me for divorce it will cost you a great deal in fees and you will end up with very little in settlement, if anything at all.” She was stunned.

He went on. “This means, there will be no more shopping trips to Paris for you, no more long winter holidays in Courchevel and you can kiss goodbye to the villa in Tuscany. I’m leaving it all to the children and you won’t get a penny for yourself. The Merc will have to go and I’m afraid you’ll also have to move out of the Chipping Norton mansion. But, hey, I still love you and think of the children and how this might affect them. The decision is up to you.”

She got up from the table and holding back the tears, excused herself to the ladies’ room. A few minutes later she came back looking composed, with fresh make-up applied and took her seat again. She told him that on reflection she realised her own interests were best served by not rocking the boat and acknowledged that they were still good friends. She could handle this. He took her hands in his, smiled and said he knew she’d understand. 

Mistress is waiting...

They continued their dinner and the talk gradually became more relaxed. Then she noticed a recognisable figure at a nearby table. “Who’s that young woman with Dominic Grieve?” she asked. The man looked over and said “That's Dominic’s mistress. I told you, it’s normal around here.” His wife studied the couple for a moment then looked back at her husband, tipped him a conspiratorial wink and said, proudly “Ours is much prettier.”

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Generation Ex

Some say Maggie may... yesterday the ghost of Maggie arose, in May. It could have been a one off, but I hope not; we’ve waited a long time for what we might just have seen. Whatever your feelings about the Thatcher years, there was never any doubt that she was very much in charge, until a coalition of the timid stabbed her in the back. And, notwithstanding the extremism of the Erdogans of this world, isn’t firm (but short of despotic) leadership something we have seriously needed for too many years?

Ted Heath was an oddball who is best remembered for having to heave his shoulders and perform that ridiculous laugh for the camera. Wilson could hardly wait to get the Beatles round for tea. Jim who? John Major appeared to revel in his ‘grey man’ persona; presumably many thought he was dead until the Remainers shoved him on stage to spread despair and despondency during the referendum. And then came Blair, a bigger courter of affection we have never seen. Love me, love me he cried to the strains of Cool Britannia as a succession of popular entertainers were photographed by his side.

Cameron declared himself ‘heir to Blair’, which tells you much but he did rise to the challenges of his office and carried off his duties with aplomb. After so many years it was good to see a leader who really relished leading, rather than following. I didn’t forget to mention Gordon Brown, by the way, I just thought it was best to draw a veil over that interlude. Anyway, now we have Ken Clarke’s ‘bloody difficult woman’ in charge and if yesterday was anything to go by, it’s going to be a thrilling ride.

Those of us old enough to have benefitted from the privilege of the grammar school, formerly the best state school system in the world, will remember our best teachers. They weren’t the ones who tried to befriend us, or the ones who repeatedly had to call in the staff bully to take back control. The best teachers were the ones who actually made us work for our learning. The subject specialists who brooked no dissent, ruled with an iron rod – and in some cases, the cane – but were relentlessly driven to pass on to us the secrets of the universe. They knew that they were shaping the leaders of the future.

If you think the caring, sharing, cuddly, touchy-feely, wishy-washy, every opinion counts society we have today is a good thing then you need a good birching more than most. We have lost respect for authority in parallel with authority losing respect for us and much of it comes down to the loss of those firm hands. This article in Spiked, by two teenaged Brexiteers says what people of my generation have been saying for decades, that the education system is at the spearhead of all that is wrong today.

Remind you of anybody?

We may yet be a generation or two away from the end of western civilisation – for islam will surely return us to the dark ages – but unless the British regrow the national spine we will have no chance of ever turning back the tide. Theresa May has her work cut out, but the evidence of the last week suggests she is more than ready for it. Call her a Cnut if you like, but at least she has the balls for the job.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The last few straws...

If you chain a baby elephant with a barbed wire snare to a deeply driven stake it quickly learns that to try and resist its restraints brings pain. Soon it submits meekly and somewhat fearfully to its incarceration. The elephant grows but the stake remains the same; its hide thickens but it remembers the pain and never again attempts to escape as the mahout cruelly forces the giant beast to do its bidding. By full growth the elephant is restrained by little more than a toothpick in relative terms, but still it does as bid. Until the day it is pushed too far and, enraged, forgets its chains and goes on a rampage.

The hold that western elites have on their beleaguered populations, forced from a position of relative affluence to a daily grind to just get by, is that toothpick. Where once a working man could support a small family on a single wage, it is now two wages plus tax credits to just stay afloat. Dreams of home ownership remain just dreams, social mobility belongs to the past and the sense of all being part of the same national endeavour has long ceased to register. Rampant consumerism, assisted by poor education and a lack of imagination drives the herd to be complicit in their own captivity.

Meanwhile the ruling elites are themselves in thrall to the cult of the advisor who will tell them, for a fee, magical stories about the economy, climate and ‘what the people want’. Perversely, one of the things that the little people seem to enjoy is to be taxed and berated into further submission: Pay more tax to fix the climate that you broke by demanding all the stuff you were driven to buy. Pay more tax to help the brown people that your forebears robbed to make you so rich. Pay more tax so that we can import ever more poor people here to do the jobs that our own poor people can’t afford to do. Stop complaining when all the new poor people lower your standard of living.

You’re a racist for not welcoming the people who priced you out of work. You’re a bigot for saying you identify as British and not European. You’re an islamophobe for noticing how your cities have changed and for not welcoming the ‘vibrancy’ of the mosques that now dominate your skyline, mysteriously granted planning permission against all the protestations. And you’re just plain ignorant when you question the wisdom of better people than you – it’s the economy, stupid, and furthermore you still owe us.

And to a point they’re right, the elites, as they watch from the lofty perches, high up on the moral high ground, the little people really aren’t very good at looking after themselves. But the elephant in the country is waking up and there is a sense that it may not be able to take much more. Bit by bit the electorate who have always been told they hold the reins of power through democracy are realising that the mahout has no more control of the forces they marshal than they do the weather. Across Europe those national elephants are toying with the idea of going rogue.

The slow death of Europe...

Do as you are told! Shout the mahouts. The whips crack and we shuffle a little and step back into line. But they only rule by consent and gradually that consensus is being eroded, straw by straw. You can always take a little more of the strain; now stand still, they say, while we load you up. Be patient, we’re all in this together... Now we just have this one more straw for you to bear...