Wednesday, 31 January 2018
When Johhny Rotten sang about anarchy he was about twenty and in his own estimation ‘an ‘orrible little c*nt’. Now he’s over sixty and appears in butter commercials. There in a nutshell, the trajectory of man in the west: Mewling, puking babe in arms, snotty-nosed kid, smelly teenager, angst ridden youth, student political activist, job, kids, responsibility... Those few who resist the ravages of age and unwished for wisdom are variously old hippies, new age charlatans, Jeremy Corbyn or Keith Richards. And unless you’re the latter it really isn’t cool.
So, imagine my delight yesterday on being confronted by a self-declared anarchist.
Anarchy /ˈanəki/ noun, absence of government and absolute freedom of the individual, regarded as a political ideal
Sounds great, doesn’t it? But who mends the roads, polices disorder, collects the means to build the hospitals and heal the sick? Who pays for the clean-up operation after they’ve all kicked off, as anarchists are wont to do? Who, even, does the washing up? Even at a basic family level you have an automatic hierarchy and the most simple of human societies – all animal societies – have order; a form of governance.
He argued, lamely, that Spain had an anarchist ‘system’ for three years up to 1939. Leaving aside the obvious oxymoron, the simple absence of a government is not the same as choosing to live without one. And in any case, Spain’s anarchy had a long history of failure and several different and competing forms, which all ended up organising into ersatz governments, as they have to do if the principle feature of anarchism is to be contained, namely:
‘a state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority or other controlling systems’
But my little interlocutor had his dander up; to be fair I did provoke him by suggesting that he still lived with his mother and probably had homework he should be getting on with. But that’s par for the course on The Twitter. He began searching back through my timeline, grasping at anything at all to prove his predetermined thesis about my character. And evidence was there plenty: I had retweeted a news story, thus I was gullible. I had been disparaging about so-called anti-fascists, therefore I was a fascist. And I had more followers than he had, therefore I must have bought them; in fact he seemed unduly fixated by this last point.
Impressed by his research techniques and critical thinking skills I fed him a few bones, shared him around a few of my – obviously purchased – followers and sat back to watch. He rapidly veered off from a conviction that anarchy was a noble and achievable aim and a perfect model for society and began trashing the place. He invented fictions about those he was attacking and then embellished them further and then, bored with it all, he drifted off, no doubt to record another Carpenters song on his YouTube Channel. I take it all back; maybe he is an anarchist after all.
Tuesday, 30 January 2018
In 2016 we had a vote. The question was simple: did we want to remain in the European Union or did we want to leave? David Cameron’s government caved into decades of pressure to hold such a ballot. He went to Brussels and came away with nothing, even with this threat in the air, because none of the analysts believed the outcome would be as it turned out. To be clear about what was at stake the government spent a lot of money on a leaflet which told us how awful it would be if we left, but that whatever the result the government would implement it.
Waking up on June 24th it was clear that things had changed forever. Despite a relentless Project Fear, predicting the end times, it seemed we were too stupid to grasp what we had done. But true to that leaflet we would henceforth make preparations to leave the union in accordance with the considered wish of the electorate... or would we? The trouble was, it was the wrong electorate; they had asked the wrong people. And just to underscore the point, Cameron promptly fled the stage.
Right from the time the result was known the motley alliance of remain voters began to behave like very bad losers. Leavers had been misled, they had been lied to and were thick enough to believe those lies. They had thoughtlessly sold their own children’s futures down the river and had voted to diminish the United Kingdom and its influence in the world. Most of all they had not-known-what-they-were-voting-for, the poor, uneducated, ignorant, old fools.
The madness took hold. As Remainers tried to rationalise the result they began to concoct conspiracy theories and imagine themselves as brave resistance fighters, saving the country from some fictional fifth column. Democracy was relabelled ‘populism’ and branded bad. Patriotism became nationalism and nationalists meant Nazis... in actual name! Remain zealots began to campaign and recruit and they told themselves that they were the righteous and thus they could only have lost because of some malign power, doing its evil in the background.
They invented reasons which denied Leavers their agency. They were some sub-class of citizen; they were selfish; they wanted to destroy all that was good. They were angry – oh, that’s good. Yes, that’s it, the poor fools were angry and helpless and were lashing out. The fact that none of this made sense, the fact that most Leavers were far from angry, didn’t matter; the denial ran deep and delusions arose to fill the cognitive void. I’m worried about Remainers because from this, calm and largely happy side of the fence they look very much like a rabid zombie horde.
As time has passed those of us who voted Leave have watched and seen much of what we expected to see; a political class in turmoil, an EU in turn cajoling and chastising, occasionally threatening and a concerted effort to thwart our departure from the bloc. All of this has just served to reinforce our long-held belief that our island nation is better governed from within, by people whose sole interest is that of Britain and its people and not in thrall to the possibilities of furthering their own ambitions on a supposedly higher stage. We have in mind more than just usurping the EU; we want government that knows it is a servant, not a ruler.
Sane in comparison...
But they can’t let it go. Some Leavers, yes, are a bit tin-hat; a bit swivel-eyed. But listening to Anna Soubry in the Commons yesterday and reading the increasingly hysterical pronouncements from A C Grayling, Alastair Campbell et al they look decidedly level-headed. We are not witnessing measured, reasoned debate from the Remain camp. I offer this beauty from unelected Remoaner-in-Chief, the ironically monickered Andrew Adonis: “We don't 'accept' that the 'war is over' because IT IS NOT OVER! The fall of Singapore was not the end of the war: when the Brits emerged from the bushes, they went on to win. Thank God. BBC has been captured by Brexiters & is in breach of its charter in its reporting.” If that isn’t somebody awaiting the men in white coats I don’t know what is.
Friday, 26 January 2018
I don’t know, with the level of snowflakery around today I hardly dare leave the house at times. I can’t turn on the television because I know ‘they’ are monitoring my every move. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they have installed eye-tracking technology into the screen so they can check out where my gaze falls. The other day I saw a brief excerpt from an old Kenny Everett show. I had to quickly switch sides when Hot Gossip came on, but that was even worse because I found myself on something called Celebrity Shove-it-up-yer-Bum Island or some such.
Off went the telly, quick-sharp. Then I had to lie down in a darkened, lavender-scented room for a while, although I expect even that retreat to solitary will be somehow brought up at my trial as evidence of deviant male activity. It could be suggested that trying not to think about short hemlines and matching knickers with high heels is almost as bad – if not worse – than actually forcing myself upon some hapless waitress. Okay, my bad, I confess; I once ogled a girl in a bikini on a beach who wandered into my field of view. It was only fleeting but, yes, I understand how this is practically rape nowadays.
Far from wondering whether you might be causing offence it looks like the direction of travel is towards having to report daily to demonstrate how you have not caused offence... which I find a tad offensive – or I would if I was really bothered about such things. I’ve thought about it and I genuinely don’t care; take me as you find me. But I am fascinated by this joyless road towards conformity and dull, dull uniformity of speech and thought. Fuck ‘em though; I will continue to speak my mind and if you’re offended the door is over there.
High jinks masquerading as sensation seems to be the news of the week as the President’s Club fundraiser continues to spread alarums and rebuttals. The Great Ormond Street Hospital and others are talking about returning donations made, which they now believe are tainted by association with, what by some accounts are satanic rituals up to and including virgin sacrifice. A number of goats were interviewed after the event, but none of them wanted to press charges, afraid their kids may be affected.
People have resigned from the organisation, which has raised millions for good causes. Members of Parliament present at the dinner have presented themselves to the Star Chamber to be stripped of all privilege and paraded in the press. Reputations have been ruined and the behaviour of all men everywhere is now under scrutiny; unless, of course you happen to belong to a ‘community’ protected from prosecution by the catch-all excuse of cultural sensitivity.
Next year's approved look...
Make up your own mind about it. In this morally relative world it is variously a sordid and sinister tale of astonishing depravity, a rare opportunity for men to let their hair down, an exercise in damaging male privilege, tantamount to sex slavery, less offensive than many ‘Ladies Nights’, a scandalous confection of fake rage, or of no interest whatsoever. Or, as I see it, a mild curiosity and an exemplar of the hysterical instincts of a small sector of the morally outraged to anybody – especially any male – seen to be having fun. Don't have a nice weekend.
Wednesday, 24 January 2018
I have been heard to say, often, that were I King I would begin my reign with a cull. It might be politically incorrect to say it out loud, but by god it’s a popular sentiment. The right-on Social Media Justice Mob will pretend to be horrified but they are not averse to wishing for or celebrating the death of their own hate figures; and given the means and opportunity to sterilise every Tory there is hardly a Labour activist in the land who wouldn’t tacitly, if not openly, endorse the sentiment.
Ben Bradley, the Conservative’s newly promoted Vice Chair for Youth, has been under fire lately for some blogs and tweets he published when he was a callow youth himself (not so long ago). He suggested that those who can’t afford children should think twice about having them. He dared to write: "Sorry but how many children you have is a choice; if you can't afford them, stop having them! Vasectomies are free," Cue the righteous outrage from the usual suspects. Eugenicist! Burn him! Jordan Peterson is dead right; it is but a short step from espousing these views to enacting them.
Today, eugenics is – like many past ideals – excoriated as an inhumanity. But it was once at the forefront of progressive thinking; the most applauded thinkers of the day dreamed of an improved human race. After all, what’s not to desire – a healthy, intelligent, long-lived, low-disease population is an indisputably high aspiration. And we still quietly do it by social means; education, encouraging family planning, discouraging those with hereditary disadvantages, emphasizing personal advancement. In short, coercion to ‘do the right thing’.
But a certain German Chancellor – among others - put paid to wholescale societal planning by trying to accelerate the process. Nowadays, those pesky human rights, which include the right to reproduce, get in the way, although I’ve never been convinced by that supposedly basic imperative; I’ve never felt the urge and I’m sure it could be controlled. If you are a walking cauldron of the genetic soup and mental capacity to breed and rear untermenschen maybe your greatest gift to the furtherance of mankind would be to voluntarily make yourself an evolutionary cul-de-sac.
Of course if you were sufficiently aware and had such a conscience, then you wouldn’t be that person anyway; it’s a tricky one, isn’t it? But the problem with trying to influence population from a top-down level will always reside with who gets to make the decision. If Momentum’s Labour Party were in power you could reasonably bet that they would pursue the chopping down of grand family trees while creating entire plantations of future Labour voters. But wouldn’t the Tories want to do much the same?
The latest crop of Labour voters, ready to harvest
It seems that state intervention is doomed to failure. Just as well we all do eugenics at an individual level, even if we call it something different. We choose our partners – what monsters we are! But anyway, the basic idea has never gone away, I don’t think it ever will. These days we try and improve the genetic stock, at least at a uni-generational level, by new forms of medical treatment; gene therapy, gene editing, etc and few people bat an eyelid. Would you like your children to be healthy and happy? Try eugenics! We’re going to need a new name.
Monday, 22 January 2018
So there you are, you have reached the age of majority and now you have to decide which path you will take. Actually, it is highly likely that your future road has already been determined and the first steps already taken. Did you have a paper round, or a Saturday job; or did you have both? Are you destined for the world of work and all the promises it holds? Are you eager to work hard, learn, progress and grow and seek success? We all know what kind of insufferable know-it-all you are, then.
Or have you already embarked on the ship of state, set sail for destinations predetermined and ready for others to decide your future course? Are you already inured to the tedium of daily life punctuated by bouts of hedonistic frenzy, fuelled on cheap booze, smuggled fags and the recreational drugs of your choice and pocket? Do you dream of being on a reality TV show, or winning X-Factor... or, preferably the National Lottery, which takes far less effort?
Obviously, if you are on the great work treadmill you are busily rationing your pleasures, squirrelling away as much as you can for a deposit on a home of your own. Of course, once you get that mortgage you will have to stay in work forever repaying it and all the advances you will need to take on in order to improve the shithole you bought in a shitty part of town. There will be plenty of times it doesn’t seem worth it, especially when you look at people around you who are still in social housing.
Oh yes, you sneer at the mugs, working for a living, as they disturb your mornings with their engines idling as they clear their windscreens of ice. Idiots, going out in the cold to work ungodly hours. They probably have to put into a pension pot, too, unlike you, sitting pretty atop a small treasure hoard of benefits for life. They even have to take time off from work, possibly unpaid, to go to the doctors, whereas all you have to do is pause daytime TV while you hop in a taxi to the surgery a few hundred yards away. And as for having kids...
You have to plan, you have to choose – which one of you packs in work, which one of you stays at home? How many children can you even afford? Decisions, decisions; what about schools? No more expensive holidays. Make the car last another few years. Graft and grind, graft and grind. Taxes going up? You’ll just have to work harder. Get that promotion, climb that greasy pole. Buy a bigger house nearer a better school and knuckle down to investing heavily in your new family.
What do you mean, my kids have been in trouble? It’s the teachers’ job to keep them in line, although good luck to ya; the little bastards run us ragged at home. And anyway it’s no wonder they’re like that. Have you seen the conditions we have to live in? Not fit for animals. Had the Housing Association out ten times in the last month to fix stuff we broke. Sometimes we had to wait days an’ all. Be glad when the bloody kids are off our hands and in their own council houses, although they give ‘em all to immigrants now. Bloody government should do something.
And you both end up the same. Both of you have somewhere to live, both of you have a pension enough to get by on. One through a lifetime of entitlement, the other through a lifetime of effort; which was most satisfying? The worker may not appear any more well off than the other guy; he may even have foregone some of the pleasures the other guy enjoyed. But, as they say, think of the children. One has nothing to pass on; his kids start at square one. The other has at least a tangible asset to hand down, along with a lifetime of observed work ethic.
Depending on others for your living makes you a serf (although at least serfs worked). You have no means to improve your lot. As a way of life this is somewhat beneath the standards of human dignity for those in the west, who have opportunity at their feet. Besides others genuinely need the state largesse which you consume. You want to improve welfare? Start by taking yourself out of it; if not completely, then a bit at a time. You may not make it in a generation, but give your next generation the chance. Forget about the haves and the have-nots; you all have something to pass on - make it count.
Saturday, 20 January 2018
There is a constant background whine of discontent that has been around as long as we have had language; before that even, given that is driven by one of the most basic of all our instincts – survival. In times of scarcity, those who outcompete the others will prevail where the rest perish. It’s what makes humankind the undisputed success that it is, notwithstanding those who blame man for every bad thing that befalls the home planet. But, goes a certain narrative, why can’t we be equally successful? Why can’t I have what he has?
There is an inaccurate but soothing platitude that all men are created equal. Seriously, if you want to believe this then Go You, I guess. But even if you take that at face value and assume that every baby is an equally blank slate, the process of differentiation begins almost immediately. Even if you strip out inherited advantages – money, circumstance, family attitudes, country of origin, etc., the supposed balance begins to tip right from the off. Some will walk, talk, understand, far quicker than others. Some will be overcome by childhood illness or accidents... or suffer trauma at the hands of those who should care from them.
Even if none of those things happened – or if they happened equally – once attaining the age of responsibility, some will work harder, smarter, faster, longer than others and begin to open up a lead. By their mid-twenties most people have set the groundwork for what follows. Of course, some fall by the wayside, but the mindset is pretty much established and it takes a mighty effort to shift it. Some plough all their energy into the next generation, some – selfishly, you might decide – continue to invest in themselves.
Either way, the world roughly splits into the haves and the have-nots and only the boundary is blurred; at what point do you have ‘enough’? At what point do you decide you don’t? And then, whichever camp you sit in, how do you account for it? The ‘winners’ continue to slap each other’s backs and congratulate each other for their hard work (even those who have inherited every penny) while berating the ‘losers’ for their indolence. The ‘losers’ can do no such thing, so construct a narrative of privilege and class from which they are excluded by some unfair process.
Both narratives have a certain basis in actualité, but one side has no desire to redress the balance; they must be compelled to do so. Thus, the class struggle is the attempt by the have-nots to loosen the grip of the haves on the keys to wealth and power. And replace it with what? An egalitarian, ‘equal’ society? Don’t make me laugh. Those who agitate for the left have their eyes on the prize of power for themselves and this manifests every time a socialist administration is ushered in on the tide of votes of the have-nots, hoping for a ‘kinder, gentler’ politics.
Even if you nominally divided fiscal wealth equally – that which you could seize before it was squirreled away – there is still the issue of influence and favour and pretty soon a hierarchy will be established in which it is secretive alliances which convey power, not the open acquisition of material things. When rich people screw up they become poorer people and suffer the ignominy of public ridicule. When nominally equal party apparatchiks screw up they either get given even more power or they disappear.
Maybe you prefer that version of society – conform or be removed – where your success depends not on your individual efforts but on how much you further the aims of the ruling committees; on how closely you resemble everybody else and how uniform your actions, speech and thought. Because, if you want an ‘equal’ society, this is where it it is inevitably headed, with all differentiators removed. But regardless of how far down the communist road you with to travel, your imagined fair society has to begin with answering one question: How much of what other people have produced do you believe you are entitled to?
To be continued...
To be continued...
Wednesday, 17 January 2018
The theme of my thought for today is competence, or lack of it; a topic which never stops giving and deserves of an entire library of study. As barely evolved tool-using apes, it’s a minor miracle that the majority of us can hold down a useful job at all. As a general rule humans are barely adequate most of the time, often lacking knowledge, skills and insight and rarely exceptional. If you can’t think of anybody in your little tribe who is lazy, lacking in drive and generally incompetent then maybe it’s you.
There is much hand-wringing and blame-flinging going on over the Carillion collapse. It’s der gubmint wot dun it, cry The Labours; not us, replies the government; and certainly not us, plead the company directors. It turns out – and there will be much more to come – that the audits on which decisions relied were not searching enough, that contracts were inevitably awarded to the lowest bidders without due diligence and that warnings were not heeded. In summary humans are to blame, lots of them.
Is it ‘the system’? After all, if rigorous supervision isn’t in place where’s the incentive to do more than simply turn up and collect your salary? I can hear you protesting that this doesn’t apply to you, that you go above and beyond and that you are worth every penny. But so goes the plea of the crashed driver, the disgraced surgeon, the jailed accountant. I say again, the default human condition is general incompetence. We come into the world knowing nothing, with basic instincts to feed and avoid pain, the ability to learn and a certain acquisitive bent... and it all goes downhill from there.
Nature gives us those gifts, perhaps enhanced in some, but it is nurture which teaches us how to use them. We are taught and in the process we are moulded; religion, circumstance, politics, tragedy, triumph and formal education all add to the mix and make us what we are. How sad then, that most of us are, frankly, rubbish. We struggle and strive and imagine we are doing all we can and then, when we don’t get the reward we believe is ours by rights, we mostly stop trying to be the best and settle for mediocrity (though convince ourselves otherwise).
We see others apparently rewarded for failure, we see leaders followed by blind acolytes and we form a set of beliefs from which it is almost impossible to escape. Each side blames the other and is unable to see their own complicity in the complex realities of human life. A couple of nights ago, I heard a segment on LBC whereby the caller’s litany of Tory failings was refuted by the presenter using generally easily verifiable arguments. Every accusation was met with an easy answer and in every case that charge was dropped without comment and another wheeled into battle. It didn’t matter what the truth was, she was not going to be dislodged from her firm position that the Tories were responsible for every evil in the land.
But the most astonishing holy tenet was that Jeremy Corbyn would somehow right all the wrongs, nationalise – and thus cure – all essential industries and spread bring joy and peace and fairness all around. Presumably on the seventh day he’d take a nap. It seems that people are not only incompetent in themselves, but incompetent in grasping reality. And desperate in their need for others to be competent where they are not. Carillion is not the fault of any individual; its collapse was through the collective feeble endeavours of too many people not being quite capable enough. To err is human? Too right.
Monday, 15 January 2018
When I snap my fingers you will awake. One, two, three... So goes the old stage hypnotist spiel, whereupon the supposedly mesmerised stooges will act out their rehearsed business and the audience will be amused for a few minutes. And then the audience gets to go home and think about the act of gross deception they just participated in. Were those subjects really unable to resist the will of their puppet-master, or were they just going along with it so as not to spoil the show?
Do I think hypnotism is a crock? Pretty much, in that environment; the idea that certain people possess the power to almost instantly induce a trace state in their subjects is clearly risible. (Having said that I have endured some of Ed Miliband’s speeches.) Do I believe that in a controlled environment people can be induced to relax and enter a waking dream? I guess so, if they want to. Can hypnosis create Manchurian candidates who will kill on a command word? Hell no – far too many people took far too many drugs in the sixties.
I have a low regard for the soft pseudo sciences, especially those whose title ends in therapy: psycho, aroma, chromo, hypno and so on. And especially those whose claim to be a science derives from their name alone. It’s not that they have no place at all; after all the placebo effect is recognised, measurable and can be surprisingly strong. It’s just that even after their snake oil salesmen practitioners have been revealed as charlatans, the weak-willed still feel the need for a magic cure.
Magicians often hide their distractions in plain sight, misdirecting their observers with dazzling displays while the mundanity of the trapdoor allows the ‘volunteer’ to vanish. But we all – by the age of majority, you’d hope – know that what we are seeing is a show and not reality. Spend money on a hypnotist to stop you smoking and you will be taught practical strategies, displacement activities, to get you over the craving. It isn’t the hypnotism that is stopping you smoking, but having bought into it you will convince yourself that Mr Mesmer did the trick.
Look into my eyes...
The above, however, seems to be utterly negated by the Trump effect. Whatever else he might be – madman, liar, crook, psychopath, bully, paranoid power freak – all of which he has in common with many who have held the office before him, he has the left mesmerised to instantly react whenever he appears. And that is a bloody brilliant act. As the blond bouffant hoves into view you can barely take your eyes off it. And then off they all go, wildly strutting about the media stage, clucking like hens, fighting off imaginary threats and helplessly dancing to his tune. When Donald Trump snaps his fingers... One, two, three...
Sunday, 14 January 2018
It’s that time of year again, the time when the Fabian Society members get together under their ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ emblem, stare the collective onlookers in the eyes – into the eyes, not around the eyes - and try to convince them that their aims are only benign. The Fabians are, of course, the Momentum of their day seeking to shape the debate and push an agenda as misguided as it is elitist. If only the masses would accept the warm embrace of better people who have only their advancement at heart. (I leave you to interpret that last sentence how you deem fit.)
I sometimes think all political clubs put on special, extra-strength, metaphorical blinkers before conference. The principal speakers should at least, you would think, be capable of looking beyond narrow partisan faiths and open their eyes to the reality that just because they believe it, it doesn’t mean it is true; or that it is the only truth. If anything, the fringe events are worse – if the main audience are in the bubble the fringe speakers should be wielding pins.
No doubt much hot air will be released over Shitholegate and the terrifying – to them – way in which the President of the United States of America has continued to eschew the guarded lexicon of diplomacy in favour of the language the rest of us use. ‘Third World’ has long been a euphemism for ‘people we don’t want to be like’ while International Development Aid is shorthand for ‘throw the dog a bone’, or ‘please try to be more like us’.
Let’s have no more talk of ‘developing countries’ and ‘deprived areas’ when we really mean shitholes and lawless estates. Those who hail from these origins are rarely under any illusion that they come from a rich, vibrant culture; they are just grateful – those few who do escape – to be given a chance in the west. They aspire to western successes and willingly adopt western values. But the people who speak out at gatherings like the Fabian Society seem to believe that it is we, instead, who should adapt.
This is a double kick in the face; they would impose hardship on the host nation and fete the new arrivals as exemplars of a bright, multicultural future, while depriving the donor nation of its best and brightest. But forget about the future; all our experience shows that mass importation of incompatible cultures is parasitical on the host. And all our experience shows that no matter how much effort is expended over many decades on overseas charity, the problems are rarely alleviated.
If the Fabians et al genuinely believed in social justice, why don’t they consider actively deterring mass immigration and insisting that once educated, the doctors, engineers, scientists and lawyers must return to their country of origin for at least, say, ten years and work on its improvement? I think most ordinary people would support that sort of thing. Oh but wait, ‘most people’ implies some form of democracy and the elites do hate a democracy.
The Fabians - a little reminder...
So, what have we learned today? The Fabians would rule over us, for they know better. They believe that open democracy, which they denigrate as populism’ would turn the country into a shithole. Better, they will conclude, that the running of the country remains in their trust, insisting as they do that they know so much better than the masses. And the solution to all this shithole-threatening populism? Import yet more of the uneducated masses from shithole countries... just watch.
Wednesday, 10 January 2018
Well, I confess, I have no idea what is going on any more. Toby Young steps down from his appointment to the OfS, falling victim, not to a few off-colour comments that would go unremarked in the average workplace, but to the indignant mob of bien pensant robots, programmed to fly off the handle at the merest whiff of Tory insobriety. It would sit easier if, for instance, the same sort of treatment was meted out to the odious Keith Vaz but the oily little boy-renter is still an MP and continues, Teflon-like to shrug off all charges.
I was going to write about this renewed taste for mob rule, whereby the baying hounds, the self-appointed arbiters of what will and will not be tolerated, can decide who does and does not deserve to be able to earn a living; whose voices will be heard and whose will be silenced, but plenty of far more eloquent others beat me to it. So I will content myself with one aspect of it. In Toby Young’s statement he referred to the caricature with which he had been portrayed and I realised that this reductive discourse is taken far too seriously.
Caricatures, lampoons, cartoons, soundbites, frozen stills of punches thrown, grimaces pulled, eyelids closed and gestures which (if you are so minded) can look a little like a Nazi salute; we use emotive shorthand to convey an image. The great cartoonist’s art is to capture the essence of a personality, an event, a movement in the fleetest of brush strokes, the most minimal of captions and make that thing instantly recognisable and ideally memorable. But is it true?
For those of a certain generation the grotesques created by Peter Fluck & Roger Law for the excruciatingly acidic Spitting Image have taken the place of reality. Who can think of Michael Hesletine without imagining Tarzan; who can only see John Major in monochrome, desultorily pushing peas about a plate? Maybe we kidded ourselves that we knew the difference, but I’m pretty sure that for most of us the cipher is sufficient. Thus the land-grabbing, poor-kicking, cruel Tory is cemented in the brains of leftists as surely as is the image of welfare-scrounging entitlement whores in the brains of Conservatives.
Thus Theresa May’s reshuffle, despite nodding to political correctness and replacing white men with a colourful array of ‘diverse’ options is lazily portrayed in the media as pathetic. Because Theresa’s tag is ‘weak and wobbly’. You wonder what is going on at Tory HQ when they didn’t recognise that a pledge to be ‘strong and stable’ is so easily subverted by the other side. Maybe we have gone too far down this road to turn back, but surely it’s not too late to put the complexity back into our lives.
Can’t we excuse past transgressions as youthful folly and recognise that people do learn and grow? Can’t we ever accept that the ground troops of both left and right ultimately want similar things and consider blended politics? Can’t people reconcile themselves to the possibility that there can be such a thing as a Liverpudlian Tory, or is Esther McVey a riddle too far? And is it just possible that our convenient labels obscure that fact that we are more alike than we allow ourselves to believe?
Monday, 8 January 2018
One week in and 2018 shows no sign of newly turned leaves in terms of the endless social media spats around Trump, Brexit and any issue which divides opinion on roughly left/right lines. Those happy few who cleave to neither creed tend not to use social media in the same way, posting up recipes, family anecdote and pictures of kittens; heaven knows what they must think of the raucous cacophony that rages all around them sitting as they do in the calm eye of the Twitter storm.
Why do we do it we should ask ourselves? Why do we put ourselves up for ridicule, as we all do when we try and use spurious facts and ill-reported slander to bolster our claims? And what are facts anyway? Government statistics; can they be trusted? And opinion polls, what of them? What, apart from trying to prove a partisan point drives people to poll in the first place?
I used to naively believe in facts as indisputable truths, science as unpervertable veritas and the evidence of my own eyes as crystal clear. But no, because one person’s indisputable evidence of increased NHS spending is another’s cast-iron proof of cuts. One person’s free speech is received as hate in another’s ear. And like illusionists performing their tricks even unedited video footage can be used to portray ten different truths to ten different minds.
Add to this the Photoshopped versions, the misleading ‘memes’ and the plethora of fake accounts set up especially to promulgate untruths and propaganda and it is little wonder that – and here comes the ‘L’ word – literally nobody can claim ownership of the unvarnished truth. Even just retweeting something that strikes a chord with you, right or wrong, makes you part of the problem. It drags you into the morass of lies and deceit and simple misinformation that seems to be the only constant across mass communications media today.
What’s the alternative though? Stay silent with all the frustration that not having a voice brings? I have noticed that even only slightly controversial tweets will get a dozen ‘likes’ to each retweet, as if people wish to register approval without drawing attention to themselves. I can’t blame them for it, but it does seem a mite timid when you have the power to nail your colours to the mast and broadcast to the world.
How about applying the reasonableness test? What is more likely do you think – that the Tory government colludes with rich offshore individuals to directly increase their wealth by systematically robbing the poor of what should be theirs by right – or that in creating a business friendly culture which employs millions it incidentally enriches some to an extent that can be seen by some as morally wrong? Or that socialism, in seeking to create a fairer world, inadvertently deters people from becoming wealth creators thus, as a by-product of good intentions, produces bad outcomes?
Comparing political conspiracy theory to simple coincidence is like comparing divine design to evolution. One requires an omnipotence and omniscience so powerful that it cannot be fathomed by humankind, the other a simple theory involving imperfect copies, mutations and millions of years of trial and error. Our understanding of the human condition itself is still evolving and you’d think we might learn from our mistakes but it turns out we don’t. At least not from one generation to the next.
So until we reach that nirvana of enlightenment we will just have to stumble along and make the best of it. Perhaps not being so quick to condemn those who use ‘the wrong facts’ or draw the ‘wrong conclusions’. If a piece of news seems too good to be true, the chances are it’s not. Do you want the difficult truth that life is hard and there are winners and losers, or do you want the miraculous truth that Saint Jeremy Corbyn will cleanse us of all our sins? Do you believe the other side’s delusions are lies and your delusions are true? It’s a tricky old game.
Sunday, 7 January 2018
Could everybody stop, for a minute, and just try not to be offended. In fact if you could stop being offended for just one day in the month you might find a way towards the light. Obviously, going cold turkey might be a test too far, but you could, you know cut down a bit. Think of it as an outrage fast; or think of it as an offence ramadan and refuse to take offence during the hours of daylight. Come on it should be easy enough at this time of the year.
One step at a time. Try imagining, just for one day, that the NHS still exists. Or, if that is too hard, try believing that some Tories – not all, I grant you – were not educated at private schools, like their Labour counterparts. Picture, if you will, a Britain where everybody finds Diane Abbott an embarrassment, not just those with a sense of perspective. And put aside, for a few hours at least, your visceral revulsion for all things white, male and heterosexual.
Try not to be triggered, for instance, by the simple fact that our current left-of-centre government just happens to be controlled by the Conservative Party. And remember that Margaret Thatcher died in 2013 and left office over a quarter of a century ago. Dan Hodges makes a fair point when he says: “There was a time when Britain’s motto was Keep Calm And Carry On. Today it’s Take To Twitter And Start A Moral Panic”. Read the article, it’s very good, but do try not to be offended.
Giving up taking offence is not for everybody, obviously. Some are so wedded to the concept of ‘Social Justice’ that they can’t even imagine a world in which every utterance is not intended to cause harm. If you extracted all the outrage from social media you would be left with little more than twee, self-congratulatory messages of joy and pride; and what a tedious world that would be. So, I’m not saying don’t get exercised; getting exercised is an important part of caring and seeking to improve. Just don’t get so carried away.
Just because headline writers use words like ‘fury’, ‘crisis’ and ‘destroyed’ to make you click on the links it doesn’t mean you have to buy into the hyperbole. People’s lives are not ‘ruined’ on anything like the scale you might need to believe; it just makes better copy. The Grenfell survivors, for instance, are in far better shape than they would be had they stayed legally in their home countries. And Lily Allen pretty much brings on herself the opprobrium she attracts.
Just because headline writers use words like ‘fury’, ‘crisis’ and ‘destroyed’ to make you click on the links it doesn’t mean you have to buy into the hyperbole. People’s lives are not ‘ruined’ on anything like the scale you might need to believe; it just makes better copy. The Grenfell survivors, for instance, are in far better shape than they would be had they stayed legally in their home countries. And Lily Allen pretty much brings on herself the opprobrium she attracts.
Giving up an addiction is not easy though and many will relapse, but try it. For some it will be a Trump tweet which leads you to fall off the wagon, for others Corbyn, but take it one day at a time. Then, after a while you might discover that becoming offence-free is liberating, restoring your mental equilibrium and clearing your vision. You will be happier, healthier, less angry, less stressed. But never forget that all these benefits can be lost in an instant; the instant somebody mentions Brexit.
Saturday, 6 January 2018
US President Number 45 has an impressive portfolio of achievements. Of course, if you hate him, an enormous amount of your brainpower will do its best to prevent you from acknowledging any of them. He’s a billionaire? So what, he’s also had business failures. He donated his presidential salary to charity? So what, he doesn’t need it. Have you seen his First Lady? He’s a misogynist, she’s basically a whore. But he was still elected POTUS, wasn’t he? The Russians did it! He lost the popular vote! Yada, yada, yada...
Teetering on the edge of mental illness, even if Trump ended hunger, eradicated poverty, created peace in the Middle East and solved the climate chaos, the brains of ardent leftists would seize on some forty-year old anecdote about a vaguely off-colour joke. So it is of little surprise that the fake story about Trump and the Gorilla Channel was widely reported and lapped up by those seeking to further bolster their righteous indignation at this ‘wrong’ person occupying the ultimate seat of power.
Claiming to be an extract from Michael Wolff’s tittle-tattle compendium Fire and Fury, the story was put out that Trump watched the non-existent TV channel for up to 17 hours a day. It was picked up by ‘blue check’ celebs and foreign news channels and despite the clearly ridiculous fabrication, there it was; ‘proof’ that the president was a sluggish, immature, vainglorious monster who would unleash nuclear hell on the civilised world.
How the right howled when the hoax was revealed and the hoaxed unmasked as the shallow partisan dupes that they undoubtedly are! But wait. What if this is a double-bluff? What if this entire story has been concocted by the left, to ensnare fellow leftists, solely for the purpose of exposing the gloating, cheering shitgibbons on the right for what they are? How much egg do we have on our faces now?
Still the king of the swingers
And here’s the thing; stories like this are planted into the international consciousness for exactly this purpose. Both sides do it. Parody accounts on Twitter whip up storms of outrage on entirely false premises. False comparisons are made, such as Dawn Butler drawing a parallel between Toby Young’s alleged misogyny and John Warboy’s serial rape activities. Honestly, it is so easy to create offence these days when everybody appears to have a hair trigger for outrage and a propensity to join the baying mob.
Tuesday, 2 January 2018
One of the most insidious traits human beings possess is an innate sense of certainty. Even when expressing uncertainty, most of us are convinced of the overwhelming honesty of our position. Politicians in particular feel the need to express in absolute terms why their philosophy is better than the other side’s philosophy, why the opposition’s policies are sure to fail... and then they go on to adopt and adapt and rename the other side’s policy as their own.
And having mentioned philosophy, if ever there was certainty in this most uncertain of callings, A C Grayling does his level best to express it to an astonishing degree. He thinks, or at least he tweets as if he thinks, that all who voted for Brexit are country-wrecking, intellectually challenged, mentally deficient thugs. The hysteria with which he presents this viewpoint approaches the point at which any truly sane person would begin to doubt their own mental stability.
Brexiteers are plain nasty, didn’t you know? Take this Guardian article by Matthew D’Ancona, in which his disdain for ‘populism’ shines like a beacon calling all like-minded Remain voters to the temple. In his world, all the spite, all the spitting hatred, all the very worst human ugliness is displayed only by Leavers, who he only just falls short of comparing to Nazis. The ‘lexicon of Brexit’ he seems to suggest, would have made Joseph Goebbels proud.
But this expression of certainty that the other side are the villains of the piece is not just a one way observation. In the Daily Mail Dominic Lawson argues that the Remainers are out of touch deniers of democracy. Oddly, in that very article Lawson observes that Matthew D’Ancona himself said of anti-Brexit group figurehead Lord Malloch-Brown that he is 'the very incarnation of what made people vote Leave in the first place'. Odd how the light occasionally shines through.
Naturally, I enjoyed the Daily Mail piece – which satisfied my own confirmation bias – more than the Guardian one – which raised my hackles a little and comes over as sneering disdain for ‘people like me’. But then this is how humans function; we need certainty in our lives, we like to be agreed with. We want to spend time in our own comfortable bubbles. This Express piece by Owen Paterson similarly feeds me ‘facts’ I like to hear, as opposed to ‘lies’ I don’t want to hear, expressing the certainty of economic triumphs post-Brexit
Dealing with certainty...
It’s all getting a bit too much though and at some time reality surely must bite. As much as I might turn my nose up at his activism, I recall Sting’s lyrics in ‘Russians’: “There is no monopoly on common sense, on either side of the political fence.” And realise that we need to leave room for uncertainty. As I keep saying, nobody knows the future, but what we all should realise is that we are driven by the same instincts. Maybe the other side has a point? Maybe we do all want the same things, after all? There has to be room to express and embrace doubt and to not do so, to paraphrase Sting, would be such an ignorant thing to do, if Remainers love their children too.
Monday, 1 January 2018
Today is the first day of the rest of your life, so goes the old trope, as true now as at any time before. A new year is traditionally when we entertain delusions of reform; we’ll lose some weight, quit something, start something, begin anew. But as we tread through the wintry months ahead, waiting for the light, our own epiphanies fade as the days lengthen. Each day we get a bit more light shone on our weakness. But I like food. I hate exercise. I really enjoyed doing that... and I can start that maybe next year.
But what if we really could change? We are all – absolutely all of us – in thrall to a set of beliefs. Some are pure; hard left, far right, religious fundamentalists, committed vegans – formal convictions come as a package - but most are a hotch-potch of often conflicting values. I have no problems admitting I am a bit of a political mongrel, simultaneously believing we should act in our own self-interest but that we should also help others. I do this by earning as much money as I can and paying tax. (Oh, and I do a lot for charity; on a rollover week I buy two tickets!)
I’ll go further: I think it is wrong that foreign interests control much of our utilities and infrastructure to the extent that I think some of these things really should be in public ownership. But I also grew up when that was the case and partly because of cronyism, partly because of all-powerful unions it didn’t work well at all. Maybe it’s time to rethink and – just possibly – start to imagine that we could actually run public utilities as a public good and not for profit... except we could never afford to buy them back.
As for education, health and housing I see no reason why both public and private sector shouldn’t have a stake. And I think we should build millions more local authority houses, but heavily vet those who get to occupy them. I would far prefer to have the NHS than not to have it, but I am sick to the back teeth of it being used as a political football and recognise that is long overdue for radical reform. State education should be rigorous, excellent and never, ever used for the indoctrination of children to think in an approved way; the NUT needs a massive kick in the nuts. But in saying any of this I am exactly like Jeremy Corbyn – ideas, maybe, but no idea how to make them happen.
Diversity absolutely has to mean what it says; actual diversity, not conformity to a set of eternally left wing ideals, which is what it means now. Diversity should always come second to competence and a good working environment and if that means mostly male or mostly female occupations, so be it. Let it happen organically, not by applying quotas and certainly never by government edict.
But things won’t really change, will they? No matter how tolerant a society we are, some will always be intolerant. No matter how orderly we are some will always use violence to achieve their aims. And no matter how rich a society we become, we will always have poor people and the poor will always get the shittiest end of the stick. So, if you really want change, forget about waging the big wars and focus instead on the little battles; sort out your own life and the chances are everything else will follow. Have a happy 2018.