Thursday, 27 October 2016

If it quacks?

Monday used to be National Sicknote Day, the day when your local GP would glance at the full surgery waiting room but know he would be out on house calls by mid-morning. The genuinely ill didn’t bother dragging themselves to the local practice because it would be standing room only until the cursory examinations were completed by the dispensation of a couple of aspirin and an illegible signature securing a few days off for the malingerers. By the early eighties, Self-certification for Statutory Sick Pay allowed the workshy to diagnose their own twenty-four hour stomach bugs and freed up the doc from providing social security to get back to medicine.

In other countries healthcare is less heavily abused, probably because costs are born by the sick or their insurers at the point of treatment. But in Britain, integral as it is to the welfare state, the NHS is yet another much-abused entitlement whose heaviest users are often its lowest contributors. If you build it they will come and at times a city-based A&E department can resemble the temporary, volunteer-manned mission hospital set up hastily in the aftermath of war and famine in a primitive, flyblown forgotten African state.

Whose job is healthcare really, though? Surely the care of you and yours ought to be very much yours and theirs. And while screening for less visible conditions and early treatment for some is undoubtedly vital, when you delegate all responsibility for your wellbeing to people whose time is necessarily rationed, is it any wonder that the system is regularly described as ‘creaking at the seams’, ‘in crisis’ or that we have a matter of days to ‘save’ the NHS.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has recently identified a number of routine treatments and checks which may have little efficacy and has called for a change of culture in how doctors prescribe treatments. Just because your patients demand treatment it doesn’t mean they need it. The press doesn’t help here, nor does the chattering of the Internet. No sooner does a treatment become available than some people are in the queue for it whether it is genuinely applicable to them or not. If blood-letting were to be reintroduced it wouldn’t surprise me to see leech surgeries springing up in Portakabins hastily set up in hospital car parks.

The NHS was once described as ‘the envy of the world’, although doubts have always existed over whether that was ever actually true. But it has always struggled against the weight of demands for it to dispense quackery for free alongside genuinely life-saving treatment. It could be argued that the gullible demand for crackpot cures and old wives’ social psychology could be provided ‘in the community’ by private providers. To relieve the pressures on general practitioners maybe we should issue vouchers to be redeemed at the local witch doctor ?

Meet Dr Bob Transformer; the lead chair in electrotherapy...
You'll just feel a little prick...

But don’t we already do that by promoting the alternative therapy scene? Reiki, acupressure, naturopathy, aromatherapy, balneotherapy, homeopathy, biofeedback, reflexology... candles, crystals, stones and bones, consulting crones; when will we three meet again? And people willingly turn to these means when conventional medicine hasn’t helped; often because ailments are imaginary, or self-inflicted. Since the NHS was set up it has gradually dropped its universal offerings; eyes and teeth and ears have all gone to private providers; why not do the same for malingering too? Outsource imaginary ailments to the imaginary cures industry and let the sickbay rangers get the treatment they deserve. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

How stupid are you?

Imagine being stupid and actually knowing it. Going through life trying to live up to ideals you can’t possibly attain? Looking in the mirror every day and seeing a great, big dummy; how stupid is that? Of course, people who think themselves stupid have at least the sense to limit their exposure to opportunities to display it... which probably makes them not so stupid after all. Isn’t it all relative anyhow? Compared to, say, Einstein or Steven Hawking we’re all a bit intellectually deficient.

Then again there are those of enormous intellect who would easily pass as stupid were they to try and mingle among those dreadful denizens, ordinary people. Being able to imagine all the atoms in the universe while simultaneously memorising Pi to ten thousand decimal places might be a neat trick at a Royal Society soirée but it’s not going to earn you much kudos at the Dog and Duck during happy hour. There’s book smarts and there’s street smarts, as they say.

But if you want next-best-thing-to-a-vegetable stupid, so stupid you don’t even know you’re stupid, all you have to do is find a Brexiteer. Why, even the daft appellation they’ve claimed for themselves sounds like a dyslexic child’s version of Alexander Dumas’ swashbuckling heroes. A Brexiteer could change his name to Adolf Hitler, have a swastika tattooed on his forehead, collect Nazi memorabilia, join a Hitler Appreciation Society, paint yellow stars on the front doors of Jewish businesses and homes and still not understand why his neighbours call him a Nazi. Actually, strike that, his neighbours are likely to be equally as stupid.

You see they, that white underclass of Nazi sympathisers, don’t integrate with the rest of society. Born in Britain – England, most likely – they nevertheless refuse to become full members of the enlightened multicultural melting pot which marks the British out as the most European of all European peoples. And despite the atrocities committed in their name, you never see a member of the Brexit community standing up for British values, do you? Oh, they SAY they are moderate Brexiteers, but we all know here is no such thing.

If there is such a thing as moderate Brexiteers, why don’t we see them demonstrating against the violence, the ignorance, the small-minded bigotry and all those afore-mentioned atrocities? But we should maintain our tolerance because these people are too inbred and stupid to know better. They are stupid enough to believe everything they are told; as Graham Norton says, we should feel sorry for them, because they were taken in by lies. And as her holiness, Saint Diane knows, they are all just racists anyway.

That is how the media want to portray Brexiteers. Every single, stubborn, intransigent one of them is too stupid to understand what they have done and they must be protected from their own dangerous lack of moral responsibility. In all stories relating to Neanderthal, petrol-hoarding, dangerous dog-owning siege-mounters the phrase ‘post-Brexit’ must be inserted so that we can see the damage they have done. Every attempt must be made to portray them as ‘the other’ and deny them a voice.

Dear Remainers, this is satire. You may wish to do some research.
Is this what you want?

Meanwhile, the rest of Britain, the doctors and lawyers and scientist and politicians and ‘community’ leaders and emergency services employees and charities and university students and the brave, brave children who are the future, must stand up for Europe and demand that the process voted for by the hateful majority be voted down. Don’t listen to the propaganda spun out by the Leavers. You are far too intelligent to be taken in by nonsense like that. There are no grey areas. Remember: Europe good, Brexit bad... or are you too stupid to realise?

Monday, 24 October 2016

Horse Trading

They say that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. All the ideas are in there – tick those boxes - but the fox would be laughing his head off if the Quorn tried to pursue it mounted on a herd of dromedary. Back to the drawing board you might think, but there is a perversity in human nature that makes purity of vision a rare thing and imperfect outcomes of those committee decisions have a habit of persisting whether they work or not.

Consider the European migrant crisis. Despite various ‘summits’ and much tub-thumping and the will of the people being expressed in frustration on a daily and very clear basis, there is still no coordinated approach to solving the problem. The problem is, of course, that all of Africa seems to want to move here. Africa, with all its abundant resources, is incapable of solving its own problems; imagine an African committee designing a horse. No, don’t. The migrants may reconsider their plan after a few months in a British winter. Unlike, say, a Scandinavian winter wonderland we just seem to get all the left over bits of weather – wet, dark, gloomy... maybe some slush.

On the climate committee nobody can even agree what the real problems are, let alone establish priorities with the result that we simultaneously throw £billions at schemes which benefit landowners and foreign manufacturers while ignoring the less sexy, closer to home and ore effective solutions of better energy performance and education. If the windfarms are still standing in fifty years it will be interesting to measure their true cost-benefit performance, rather than just the sometimes fraudulent claims used to attract funding.

Wherever you look, everything is too complicated for governments to solve; too many competing opinions and theories clog up the system and prevent effective solution from being driven through. In education there is the perpetual merit versus equality conundrum; how can we promote excellence while allocating so many resources to controlling behaviour and struggling to achieve mediocrity? Our police forces are failing to tackle what most of us regard as real wrongdoing, but logging like crazy anything which can remotely be described as a hate crime.

Politics, government at least, is supposed to try and solve all this but in trying to accommodate every crackpot principle and leave no group knowingly unoffended, they tie themselves in Gordian knots of indecision. And look at the groups supposed to hold the government to account; Ukip is going through its death throes, Labour appears determined to remain in ineffective opposition for ever, the Greens continue to make no impact at all and the LibDems, despite the illusory ‘Witney surge’ are pretty much done for.

British politics has become that horse drawn by committee. Too many fingers, too many pies, too detached from the people who elect it. We need to throw away the blueprint and go back to the drawing board but as that isn’t going to happen we need to content ourselves with the closest thing to a recognisable government we can find. Love her or loathe her, Theresa May is currently the only horse in this race. Short of turning the country off and turning it back on again we have to work with what we’ve got. 

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Tin hats at half-mast

I see the great people’s choice and oracle Diane Abbott is trotting out her favourite themes again - ‘white people’ and ‘playing divide and rule’ – as if she is entirely innocent of playing the race card herself at every opportunity. In her world view it appears there is a secret cabal of lilywhite puppet masters overseeing our every move, funding this, directing that, with the express aim of keeping her people down. It’s always keeping people down, you notice, never raising people up.

Others talk of Papal plots to dominate and control the christian world, some central force coordinating islamic attempts to overthrow the west, governments rigging elections and a global plan to deliberately dumb down the population into reliable, unquestioning drones to do the bidding of the One World President. Who he, you rightly ask, though answers are thin on the ground. Some posit a complex familial and historical conjugation of royalty and religion, tangled up with the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail. Others see a mysterious, shadowy banker, coveting all the world’s wealth like Smaug in his lair.

I’m not saying people don’t conspire; we do it all the time, at some level, but I’d have more truck with global conspiracy theories if there weren’t so many of them. Everywhere you look people believe that dark forces thwart their ambitions because to believe otherwise reveals some unfortunate truths about the reality of human nature. In the same way believers in intelligent design can’t accept that the simplicity and elegance of evolution requires no contrivance, conspiracy adherents see the hand of Marx, or Rockefeller, in everything.

They would rather maintain their faith, with all the hard work that entails, than accept the simpler truth that conspiracies are such hard work. Keeping secrets is difficult, maintaining the lie is difficult and justifying every twist and turn that doesn’t accord with the imagined master plan is tortuously like trying to explain why your god allows floods, famines, earthquakes and terrorism to happen. It’s so much less contrived to just accept basic human naivety, fallibility and a yearning to explain the inexplicable.

The very idea of a planned society is attractive at some level. We all bring to the table what we can and we all take what we need; isn’t that the basis of socialism? To a struggling population this sounds completely fair until, of course, you feel that you are putting in more than you are getting out. Equality and fairness; don’t judge, accept everybody, embrace diversity. Again, it sounds wonderful until you realise some are accepting their favours without passing it on. And education; it is far easier to allow the slow drift downwards than to apply rigour, which looks too much like an authoritarian past.

Of course, sooner or later, society has to introduce legislation to enforce what started out as egalitarian ideals, but it just gets out of hand. Think though, if it really was a massive plot we wouldn’t have access to information sources like the internet and all our news output would be strictly controlled. Instead we have unprecedented oversight of everything happening pretty much everywhere. And what do we do to explain everything, when the chaos of human interaction is laid bare? We create even more conspiracy theories to address ever more specific themes.

Social evolution, not planning, has thrown up the mutations of feminism, black lives matter and all the many factions and splinter groups of the various gender, race, sexuality, equality and fairness movements. Occupy, Corbynistas, Nats, Cons, Neo-cons, Greens, Trumpettes, Hillaryites, Ukip, Charlie Hebdo, Pride... all supposed answers to various perceived problems. Which of them survive will ultimately depend on whether you can, metaphorically, breed from them!

In all the hubbub you could be forgiven for being confused.; for clamping your hands over your ears and shutting out the world. Which cause to follow; which to despise? Making choices is hard, it’s something we humans are notoriously poor at doing, which is probably why most people don’t become activists and just get on with living. But if that melee of competing demands for attention sounds like a conspiracy to you then maybe you are still looking for the intelligent designer solution; good luck and don’t forget your tinfoil hat.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Banging on...

The press is full to bursting with precious, self-fulfilling depictions of hate. All around us, Britain has ‘suddenly’ become a terrifying place to live. Brexit is to blame, they say, because until June 23rd 2016 Britain was ‘the most tolerant society on Earth’, welcoming with open arms the glorious diversity of multiculturalism. Then, overnight, the brownshirts took over, looting Jewish businesses, painting yellow stars on the front doors of Jewish households and herding the Jews into labour camps under armed guards. Oh, wait...

The usual suspects have been writing for months now about fictitious surges in hate crime, to the point where this fable has gained traction. And now every naïve occasional contributor to the Guardian-led morality press has his or her story to tell about how they have personally observed the extremes to which our society has been dragged by the ignorant, racist, seething Nazis of the Brexit-voting underclasses who have tried to sabotage a thousand years of civilisation brought to us, of course, by the French. Without Europe, Great Britain is just an island of wode-wearing savages to them.

In painting this picture they are assisted by various EU officials, doing their level best to threaten punishment on our disunited kingdom and suggesting that negotiations be carried out in French to maximise our disadvantages. And as Canada concludes that the EU is impossible to deal with and other countries line up to offer support for the simplicity of trade with the UK, more and more worms crawl out from the wainscoting of our own mother of parliaments. They are, it seem, frit.

Both sides have their own narratives, of course. On the Leave side it is one of subjugation to a foreign and unfriendly power and subsumption to a future uniculture celebrating nothing so much as uniformity and conformity and supressing free expression. But even in seeing the EU as an evil empire, we wish it no great ill, indeed the more prosperous, the more they will spend with us. You see, we are pragmatic; let’s leave and settle our own affairs without having to please many masters.

But there is something in the mindset of those susceptible to socialism that needs to be fed with dread. They cling onto stories which tell them of the small-mindedness of Brexiteers and how those feeble intellects must resort to violence and hatred of the other. And they really believe this guff, as they tell tales round their campfires in fashionable suburbs where the Union Flag never flies. But it is all bollocks, isn’t it?

They should travel with open minds to the regions lost by the British long ago. To the former industrial towns which now in parts resemble the downtrodden wastelands of the third world. They should view with de-rosed spectacles the migrant ghettoes where integration was never even considered, let alone attempted. They should speak – and listen – to the deep-rooted local inhabitants who have found themselves displaced by the ideology of diversity. And they should check the timelines of these events.

Set course for Little Britain?

Far from there being any sudden change, this creeping rejection of Britishness and national pride has been deliberately supported for years. And those leave voters you despise so much have been side-lined for the best part of half a century, without any meaningful incentive to adopt the EU ‘solution’. There has been no sudden rise in hate; it’s been simmering away for decades. So before you decry this imagined explosion of bigotry and loathing and try to blame it all on Brexit, don’t forget, you started it.