On the Introduction of ‘Alternative Facts’…

I live in a free country.   A part of citizenship of a free country is freedom of speech.  This is an essential component of a democratic system, and a subject not to be taken lightly, or in any way conditionally, by its subjects.  It is a cornerstone of a thinking society: without it, we are living in a new Dark Age.

When an issue of which we disapprove is placed before us, we must argue our case on the basis of reason, even if we find the opposing argument abhorrent.   Only by listening to views that outrage our own values can we put our case convincingly when we need to defend it.  Otherwise our point of view will degenerate into a hysterical mantra.  Manipulative people are always poised to feed from such narrow thinking, more than ready to change us from sentient human beings into sign-waving tools of their ambition.

Of recent years terms like ‘hate speak’, ‘no-platforming’, and ‘political correctness’ have become prevalent, depressingly mostly among the young, and unforgivably, embedded in university culture.  Any minor infringement of these ‘etiquettes’ is trampled beneath the twittering feet of  the appropriate zealous army.   Judgement by Facebook is rapidly becoming socially what the judiciary system is to the common law.

And this is dangerous.  Why?  Universities have been, historically, not merely places for the ingestion of scientific certainties, but for debate and the development of free thought; in short, forums for progress.   In today’s world they are arguably the only such forum.  There are none-too-subtle distinctions of meaning between developing and directing, so if university society sees itself in the latter role, our prospects for the future must be bleak indeed.

This is not new, of course.  Fear of the truth has always been a valid reason for concealing it, and nothing serves like a rabble-rousing, simplistic mantra placed in the minds of young idealists to achieve the thickest smoke-screen.   Witness the Hitler Youth of the 1930’s for the most powerful recent example, although there have been many other, lesser causes since.   It is why the thinking that withholds enfranchisement until the age of eighteen is entirely right – young minds need to seek maturity and balance before they make judgements.

What brings me to say this now?  I have lived long and seen much.  I have often despaired of the human condition, but never so much as I do today.  The proceedings of the last five years, especially, actually instil in me a real fear for my children’s future. If we are to proceed upon the great decisions of our future on the evidence of gossip, bias and malice, we deserve that doom which is closer now than it has ever been.

 

 

Two Households, Both Alike in Indignity

Well, I watched it.

Trump, prowling around the stage like a caged lion, large and intimidatory.   Incoherent in his analysis of any specifics, vociferous and boisterously ready to rip and tear whenever another rag strayed into his jaws.

Clinton, unintimidated and disciplined, delivering her party line in practised prose- a consummate political professional who occasionally referred to policy, and cunning in disguising that not one item of policy was hers, but a declaration of her sponsors’ shopping lists, ticked off one by one.  Why, when I look at her face, is her mouth the only thing I see?

Anyway, my thought was (because I’m British and it is not my problem)  who the hell do you vote for?

I do not count myself among those who smugly dismiss Trump as a fool.  That camp has been wrong on so many levels.   I believe that in the face-off with Russia that must inevitably happen Trump has the necessary steel – he’s no JFK, (although his womanizing tendencies might suggest otherwise) but then Putin is no Khrushchev.  He had the common sense to avoid being embroiled in the Syria issue, too, and a great proportion of the art of diplomacy is knowing when to stay out.  I’m also persuaded that he will at least try to resolve America’s issues at home with something more than rhetoric, although that must be dependent upon his support from his fellow Republicans.  His stance on law and order, though, restricted currently to a few sound bites, intrigues me.   How exactly does he intend to resolve the ‘problem with our inner cities, with Chicago; it’s terrible’?   And oh, his stance on the Second Amendment!

Clinton, on the other hand, is a woman who proudly proclaims her record in public service; and that would be okay if her record was spectacularly good, but from an outsider’s standpoint it seems average, possibly even a little self-indulgent.  I tried to pick through Hubby Bill’s testimony (at her inauguration) to her fabulousness; and certainly she has had a very active political life, yet did I discern a long series of ‘she attendeds’ and ‘she worked fors’ without too much emphasis upon the things she actually achieved?   The conclusion I reach is of someone who has had thirty years to become politically tired, who has built up so many associations in the political class she has no hope of extrication, or ambition left for independent decision-making.  That’s probably wise, BTW, because there is evidence her judgement is not always that good.

If Hilary succeeds in becoming President,  I see her uneasily enthroned in the Oval Office, under constant siege by Iran, blackmail by the Sauds, and bullying by Putin, Assad, and Xi Jinping in turns.  Her heels will be riddled with bite-marks from Kim Jung Un and clawed by Rodrigo Duterte – in short, I don’t believe she has the strength to deal with a world of which a strong President is a vital component.

Should Donald find his way to that chair, however, what then?   A whole spectrum of wonderful – some might say frightening – prospects will be unveiled.   His quixotic nature coupled with his blunt terminology is capable of delivering him into a scrape or two, isn’t it?  But I am more perturbed because when I watch him all I see is his latent anger, and that, I am certain, could place half the world in peril.

Two households, then, both alike in indignity; both allegedly dishonest, neither prepared to deliver a cure to the inequalities that are at the root of  America’s ills, and neither really bent upon tackling the gun laws in any meaningful fashion.  I don’t think we should require our leaders to be superhuman – on the contrary, the greater the leader, as history has proved, the greater their foibles.  We only ask for the ability to lead, and to instill faith in we who are compelled to follow.

That is, of course, only my particular view.   If I were an American voter this year, I think I would be inclined to stay at home on polling day.

Referendum

I can’t avoid it.

All talk in UK this week is concerned with a forthcoming referendum vote – a choice to ‘remain’ with the European Union, or ‘leave’.   Still, at this very late stage, there is a thirst for information from those who want the element of chance eliminated entirely from their decision, which suggests there are large numbers who want to vote to leave, bbanker 2ut daren’t.

This nervous indecisiveness is, of course, prime meat for the ‘remain’ campaigners, who wade in with dire warnings of financial Armageddon, forfeit of international influence and a variety of other terrors lurking in the black chasm that awaits a friendless UK, condemned to wandering in outer lands.

Why, they reasonably plead, take that chance?  Why leave the safe harbour of your European friends and brothers for the sake of an experiment;  why follow where the inexperienced shepherd leads?   Is it not safer, more prudent, to remain obediently within the fold, where nations may work together for a brighter future?  The EU will progress, will improve and prosper, with you or without you:  why sacrifice your part in that process?

It’s a challenge I can’t resist.

Let’s question the position if the ‘remain’ argument prevails in the vote.  If UK stays Brussels sees all 28 member nations coming under the umbrella of a federalist alliance which must, eventually, mean one government for all (presumably in Brussels, BTW) and one currency for all.  Otherwise any major step forward will be lost in a quagmire of conflicting interests.  28 separate governments, all with their own electorates to appease, already provide plenty of ready examples of this.

The UK is a major culprit.  The Westminster government has exemptions essential to its national interest in many matters, including that vital component, free movement.   The UK will not surrender the pound sterling, nor will it agree (it says) to the admission of further member nations.  Thus it is, in a sense, already halfway out.   It occupies precisely the ‘offshore island’ position Brussels has threatened it will have if the ‘leave’ vote holds sway.   And that is a position that would be untenable anyway, if the federalist plan comes to fruition.

But there is another pivotal question:  just how stable and secure is the EU?   Terrorist activity is on the rise, government response sluggish.  Growth within the EU is negative, decision-making is ponderous, its government unrepresentative of its people.  Greece, Italy and Portugal are treading close to the edge of liquidity, and the cost of living, especially in Greece and Italy, is prohibitive.  Unemployment, especially amongst the young, is outrageously high.  The immigration issue is seriously destabilising, with no prospect of diminishing in numbers in the immediate future.  To grasp the immigration issue the EU has to renege upon Schengen, to resolve its financial imbalances the Franco-German Alliance has to consent to a very much smaller slice of the cake.  Neither of these are feasible without the collapse of the EU.  So, how ‘safe’ is an offshore island tethered to this leaking hulk?  How long, indeed, will it stay afloat?

By contrast the UK scores highly in its ability to trade.  Unemployment is low, growth is positive, and where diplomacy and guile will secure a new market, or negotiate a lucrative deal, the British will succeed:  this is their history as one of the world’s great maritime trading nations.  Although the playing field may have changed, those innate abilities are never lost.  The UK also harbours one of the world’s great financial centres – liberated from EU constraints, its banking sector faces a profitable future.   So, fiscal chasm there is not: a process of levelling, maybe, a lot of sound and fury, maybe, but ultimately signifying nothing.

In making this case I have not emphasised the UK’s status as the EU’s largest trading partner, a market they will be unwilling to forgo.  Nor am I, despite your thoughts, a ‘Little Englander’.  I don’t harbour dreams of national glory, or seek to relive the days of Empire.  I do remember times before the EU, though, and I have some perspective upon all the UK has lost.   With others of my age (I, too, was young and optimistic once) I enthusiastically declared myself a ‘European’ when the clarion call came, and even absorbed gladly the sudden rise in the cost of living that came with it.   But now?  No.  For too many years I have watched various European interests – mainly French, German and Spanish, and more recently Eastern European – rape UK’s assets for their own advantage; and I have watched as the UK gave way, too many times.

The nation has a chance to begin to reclaim some of its own resources.  Maybe it can regain some of its plundered fishing industry by reasserting its territorial waters:  maybe it can subsidise and remodel its agricultural policy, begin to police its borders properly, deport the foreign criminals it is forced to detain here by EU law.

I am all for breaking down the insularity of nation states, all for the ideal of a united world.  I also see these are ambitions that can only succeed when component nation states refrain from using them as a tool for conquest, and show respect for the needs and views of people, rather than their own financial gain.

With regret I have to say of the European Union;  this has not happened – it will not happen – here.