Monday, March 20, 2017

National Lemmings Day - 29th March!

Image result for pompeo batoni lord north

Frederick North, Second Earl of Guilford. (1732-1792)
Portrait of Lord North (1753) by Pompeo Baloni (1708-1787)

So, National Lemmings Day is to be the 29th of March. 

This was decided by the party that brought you the second Earl of Gilford, Frederick North (1732-1792) whose indolence and idiocy lost us the American Colonies and British prestige and influence, just like another of his later party hacks whose fear of a repugnant group of narrow minded, right wing extremists allowed him to think only of the Conservative Party and not worry about the larger country that he was supposed to be defending.  

Though even the possible loss of Scotland from the Union is small change compared to that other Conservative inspired disaster – Brexit.

So, our unelected Prime Minister, she of the “tin ear” when it comes to real discussion about the impending catastrophe, has decided to start the process of disengagement from our continental neighbours on the 29th of March.  And God help us all!

It is at times like this that I turn to the 1948 speech of a fellow countryman, Aneurin Bevan who, when talking of the Tory party said, “So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.”  I wonder at his moderation!

So far as I am concerned personally, I am shocked at the level of racist comments from sections of the British public and an acceptance of the most distasteful right wing populism.  The fact that UKIP is still a force to be reckoned with is a continuing insult to what I used to think was the basic morality and decency of the British voting public. 
Let’s not get carried away.  Although I despise the Conservative Party and find their basic assumptions and policies repellent, I do not regard them as fundamentally anti-democratic.  They are antipathetic to virtually everything that I value and their contempt for the working class is only matched by the loyalty of those sad working class Tories who vote for them through thick and thin.  But Brexit changes everything.
Brexit is not merely a different view of generally accepted policies, it is also a dramatic reworking of decades of generally positive international co-operation.

So far, and let’s remind ourselves that nothing has actually happened yet, my pension (which is paid in pounds sterling in Britian before being transferred to Spain after British tax has been deducted at source) has lost 20% of its worth with the fall in the value of the pound.  I know that I am not going to get much sympathy from those in Britain for retirees beside the Med, sipping Sangria and basking in the sun, but I have had a substantial drop in my annual income because, because . . . well, because of what precisely?

I can well understand people who have little job security in areas where the industrial infrastructure has been decimated feeling disgruntled with the powers-that-be for not listening to their concerns.  I can well understand a feeling of dislocation (to put it mildly) from the political classes in Westminster experienced by those same people.  I can well understand the feeling that ‘they’ need to be taught a lesson, be taught to start listening to what ‘real’ people think and want.  What I can’t understand is taking the Brexit route to do this.

I would be the first to admit that the EU has its faults – what system of government does not?  But to cut oneself adrift from an economic, social and political grouping that has kept the woefully dysfunctional continent of Europe from instigating yet another World War is something to value.  Yes there have been disgraceful and bloody conflicts, and yes, the economic situation was criminally mismanaged, but there is so much more positive than the obvious negatives that the right wing press so gleefully parades.

Still.  It is done.  And the 29th of March will be the beginning of the . . .

Well, I am not going to add ‘end’ to that sentence.  I still have enough belief in my fellow countrymen to believe that somehow or other we will make a go of a situation that looks so very negative.  

As a retired teacher I know from past experience and the idiot pronouncements of successive Ministers of Education that whatever asinine educational rubbish comes out of politicians’ mouths hard working teachers can, have and will make stupid policies work for the benefit of the kids.  Sometimes it takes stupendous effort to square the educational circle, but, if there is a way to do it so that education survives, teachers will find that way.  I am trusting that the way that teachers have worked throughout the years with unsympathetic political interference will be the way that the country works so that Brexit is not the inevitable disaster that it looks to be.

And, to go back to the justly maligned Lord North; some historians have suggested that although there was a real loss for Britain from the result of losing The American War of Independence, there were real advantages as well.  In hindsight, the increasing problems attempting to retain the colonies if we had ‘won’ would have demanded more and more resources in an geometric progression of difficulty in trying to maintain our position.  It would have been a dangerously large drain on British resources which could have been even more catestrophic if the break had been delayed.  

And it turned out that the American colonists eventually did quite well.  Though they had powerful allies, the French, not only supporting them, but fighting with them as well.  Where are our allies?  At the time of the American conflict we were fighting virtually every other nation in Europe.  And now, having learned nothing, we are cutting ourselves off from Europe again.  45 (POTUS) in America seems to be a seriously capricious ally (to put it mildly) at best.  And who else is there on our side whom we have not offended?

But, we have always found a way, we tell ourselves. 

Except, of course, when we haven’t. 

That is what worries me.

Thursday, March 16, 2017


The Zulus considered that the greatest honour that they could give to a person was never to mention his name.  I draw this information from my childhood reading of King Solomon’s Mines by Rider Haggard - a book, I might add that I heartily recommend, not for its implicit and explicit racism and colonial assumptions, but rather for some excellent characters like Gagool the witch and for being a damn good yarn.  I, and the greater part of the world, am not Zulu.  Never to mention a person’s name is not seen as an honour, but as a distinct mode of contempt.
I am adopting this approach to the Orange Holder of the Post of President of the United States.  That arrogant narcissist sets such store by his fabricated name (seemingly oblivious to the fact that, in English slang it means ‘fart’) that to deny its use is obviously hurtful to his thin-skinned sensibility.  From this time, onwards I will refer to him as ‘45’ (as the 45th holder of his position) and I encourage all those thinking people who are offended by any or all of his spiteful pronouncements to join me in limiting the space given to his odious name.  You might look here about this attitude:
Thinking about the attitude of 45, I was reminded of the novel Catch-22 (which everyone in the world should read at least once) and in particular his resemblance to one character in that crushingly funny book, especially in Chapter 21, General Dreedle.
He is described as “a blunt, chunky, barrel-chested man . . . His nose was squat and red, and he had lumpy white, bunched-up eyelids circling his small gray eyes like haloes of bacon fat.”  He is also, coincidentally, accompanied by his son-in-law “That bastard” as he complains to everyone, “Everything he’s got he owes to me.  I made him, that lousy son of a bitch!  He hasn’t got brains enough to get ahead on his own.”
The parallels do not stop there.  One of the funniest-unfunny parts involving General Dreedle is when, during an army briefing the airmen start moaning with desire about the General’s astonishingly beautiful companion (!) until ordered into silence by the General, “his great, red domineering face . . . gnarled with perplexity and oaken with awesome resolution . . . his eyes glaring with disapproval”.  A hapless Major lets out an involuntary moan of frustration at something else entirely and the General’s response is to demand, “Take him out and shoot him.”
It is at this point that Colonel Moodus (the General’s son-in-law)
“stepped out diffidently toward General Dreedle with a sickly air of self-sacrifice.  ‘I think you’d better wait a minute, Dad,’ he suggested hesitantly.  ‘I don’t think you can shoot him.’
             General Dreedle was infuriated by his intervention.  ‘Who the hell says I can’t? he thundered pugnaciously in a voice loud enough to rattle the whole building.  Colonel Moodus, his face flushing with embarrassment, bent close to whisper into his ear.  ‘Why the hell can’t I? General Dreedle bellowed.  Colonel Moodus whispered some more.  ‘You mean I can’t shoot anyone I want to?’  General Dreedle demanded with uncompromising indignation.  He pricked up his ears with interest as Colonel Moodus continued whispering.  ‘Is that a fact?’ he inquired, his rage tamed by curiosity.”
Far be it from me to point out similarities between the bellowing of General Dreedle and 45’s fury at the interruption of his racist programme via presidential edict and his ranting against the judges who have a constitution role in the government of the country – but I think it holds. 
45 has no conception of the different strands of government and considers that his powers are directly linked to those of an emperor!  One only hopes that 45 will be restrained from testing his supposed powers to the breaking point!