Archive | October, 2018

Disinterest…passivity..indifference. Beware! Big Brother relies on inertia.

23 Oct

Disinterest can imply impartiality; not being influenced by personal involvement. It can imply indifference, a ‘can’t be arsed’ passivity which, when big decisions are being made near and far, becomes a dangerous state of inertia.

In my little Kentish village someone wants to punch a road through the golf course so that heavy goods vehicles can get from A to B more quickly… and they also want to build 400hundred new homes. The locals are punch-drunk with planning application upon planning application from profiteering property companies and greedy landowners. The villagers are losing heart because raging against the machine seems to get nowhere. The ‘local plan’ which was widely consulted upon seems to be a similar piece of paper to the one that Chamberlain brandished after his cosy meeting with Herr Hitler.

The Parish Council are shell-shocked from the many developments which have already pockmarked this beleaguered village. The local council with spurious targets to meet don’t appear, quite frankly my dear, to give a damn.

Today I noticed that the number of objections on tunbridgewells.gov.uk was significantly down on those of previous planning applications. Clearly the buggeritthey’lldoitanyway attitude has kicked in. Protest-fatigue, like Brexit fatigue is, however, a dangerous thing.

Greed and profit lie at the heart of many local developments. I favour reasonable development for the good of the community – that which encourages improved economic activity, supplies affordable (my God what does that mean?) housing and housing association/council accommodation and is sensibly in proportion to the community already there. I detect little nimbyism round here but plenty of battle fatigue.

There was little of this about at the extraordinary march in London last Saturday and yet there remained the feeling that the 700,000 were weak combatants; an army fighting opponents whose troops are on a different battleground. The ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ stickers that were worn with cheeky pride are a slogan for our times. But the machine ignores our name-calling and we have no sticks and stones.

The media coverage in the run up to this extraordinary show of popular sentiment was muted, embarrassed and rather undemocratic. The response during and afterwards was underwhelming. I’m talking BBC here; the organ of the nation.

The evening news gave similar amounts of time to Farage in a pub with twenty mates in Harrogate and a UKIP demo of about six people in London, complaining about the 700,000 who were marching past them. That’s BBC balance for you.

I didn’t see any Ukippers as I was in the midst of the mighty throng of young and old, all shapes and sizes, colours and creeds and ethnicities – and from all over the UK. Chris Mason, the Auntie political hack of the raised eyebrow and boyish intensity, was wandering about seeking to massage this peaceful explosion of public opinion into an edgy confrontation- hence the discovery of a UKIP flag and an argument between a middle-aged Remainer fighting for her children and grandchildren and a purple Farage follower with Little Englander stamped on his forehead.

Robert Peston, freed from his toadying role at the BEEB tweeted his wonder at the show of people-power. He didn’t go overboard but in the spirit of proportionality chose to give no time or space to Nigel making his plans in Harrogate.

Sunday’s papers were underwhelming in their coverage. The Times was more concerned with the internecine dramas of the Tory party. The headline ‘PM enters Killing Zone’ tells us all we need to know about selling newspapers. Creating news is more important than reporting it. Ask Laura Kuenssberg.

If we stop raging against the machine the machines will swarm all over us. Machines don’t have a sense of proportion, only profit. They are indifferent to truth. They worship self-interest and short term gain. They are not concerned with the really big and profound things of life. If we, the great British public, allow our battle-fatigue to spiral downwards to indifference, we will be stuffed.

 

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The Sacred and Profane..

22 Oct

Swearing an oath can be both sacred and profane. What fun there is to be had with the English language! My parents were pretty frugal on the profane front – a bloody or a ruddy escaped every now and then – but the excesses of barrack-room banter did not make their way into the Sorro household. The rise and rise of profanity in the last half century is an indulgence that I’m uneasy about although I can’t claim that I haven’t vented my spleen every now and then with the satisfying invective that is swearing.

I’m a straightforward swearer. The F-word escapes occasionally, the C-word rarely. What initiates usage might be a minor irritation, anger even; a mishap or shaft of pain; company that I keep, the tide of a conversation; the context. I know my audience. it’s either myself or those I judge not to take offence.

I am fond of a variety of mini swear words but my favourite is Bollocks. It’s such a rich and harsh and muscular and satisfying expletive. It’s so versatile. It’s middle English origin was testicles, of course but it also means nonsense as in ‘You’re talking utter bollocks’. It’s a much better misfortune expletive than ‘Oh Shit!’ when you lock yourself out of your house.

It can be both a savage criticism: That’s bollocks or glowing praise: That’s the dog’s bollocks. You can drop a bollock, freeze your bollocks off, go bollock naked and be kicked in the bollocks. Of course Bollocks lacks a certain inclusivity as on half the population have testicles so pressure groups will shortly spring up to lobby for the banning of such patriarchal, male-centred hijacking of the English language. Even now there is concern  that Michaelangelo’s David may be the target of #MeToo camapigners who have threatened to chop his bollocks off. Certainly I could well be ‘no-platformed’ for being a well-known advocate of bollocks. Bring it on!

As I marched to Parliament Square last Saturday with the other 700,000 despairing souls, I was handed a Bollocks to Brexit sticker. Now I wore the thing quite proudly but I reflected that this might represent a pretty low level of political discourse. Furthermore my somewhat puritanical upbringing kicked in. There were plenty of families ambling along, proudly plastered with Bollocks stickers. If it means that, at least, this wonderful expletive will last well beyond the Armageddon of the next few months and years, well then our youngsters will be grateful that they have a great word to use, daily, to describe misfortune in all its rainbow colours.

Enlightenment…Entitlement…Embarrassment.

5 Oct

The Enlightenment was that period, largely the 18th Century, when the great thinkers of the time, philosophers, artists, scientists and some of the world’s great leaders applied rigorous intellectual thought to the human condition. Liberty and fraternity, the separation of church and state, freedom and equality and the improvement of man’s lot through the harnessing of scientific progress were part of a global blueprint. Benjamin Franklin was humble enough, bright enough and convinced that cooperation in ideas, culture and in science across the globe, was the way forward. Another American, Thomas Jefferson, included some of the ideals of the Enlightenment in the Declaration of Independence in 1776. And so Kant, Rousseau, Adam Smith, Voltaire, Descartes, Locke and all the rest found receptive minds eager to forge brave new worlds.

Watching the Trumpmeister oxymoroning his way through his every utterance – this time over the he said/she said Kavanagh/Ford scandal – I am once again left speechless at the levels to which the great offices of anyone’s state have been reduced. My next mental picture is of Theresa May robodancing to ABBA as she tried to unite the disunited in Birmingham. And then there’s the Rusky piss-taking spy scams. In my little pub in my little corner of the world the locals see all this for massive, laughable bollocks that it all is…but are absolutely powerless to bring the Royal Oak Age of Reason to the table. Further, we locals find ourselves lowering our voices when we get anywhere near those crucial social issues of our time which have spiraled into foam and spittle-producing mania. There was quiet but almost uncontrolled tittering when we learnt that clapping has been banned at Manchester University student events, to make these affairs more inclusive. Jazz Hands, which is the British Sign Language version of clapping will now replace the time-honoured method of appreciation. Tell that to the one-armed weather girl on the BBC, I said. The locals chortled.

The woman who was struck by Brooks Koepka got a little more sympathy for sheer bad luck but not for her calls for blame and compensation. Mind you, the world of top golf is awash with cash so a few dollars in her direction would be a drop in the ocean.

There was general laughter over the Italian physicist who has been drummed out of the brownies for making highly questionable remarks about female physicists. One local wag offered: Why don’t they just laugh at him?

And all of this seems so trivial when the pictures come in from Indonesia. Our powerlessness in the face of natural disasters – and our inability to cope adequately are big issues needing big solutions. We need those enlightened thinkers once again to help us separate wheat from chaff; credible voices to reduce the noise of imbeciles.  We need the bigger issues to be seen by all in a similar light. This requires a greater freedom of thinking, a selflessness and generosity of mind and spirit that is so obviously missing at the high tables of politics and wealth around the globe.

Enlightenment, entitlement, embarrassment. Full circle. Let’s start again with an Enlightenment.

 

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