New Year, and a Life in Captivity

So the New Year is striking off on a down-beat note.   Differences from the celebrations of other years could not be more marked, at least if we obeyed the conventional wisdom and kept our seasonal conviviality strictly to ourselves.

The which we did, self and memsahib, bingeing on Netflix and scarcely bothering to note the passing of the midnight hour, Or the hour before, the hour this sceptred isle finally thumbed its nose at the European Union.

On this particular day of the New Year’s birth (snow outside, temperature a stimulating 1⁰ C) it’s fashionable to review our past year, looking back on its highs and lows, and that’s so unutterably boring in my case I’ll go for ten years instead…

If the first ten years of this century are to be remembered as ‘The Noughties’, the second should be referred to as ‘The Wokies’.  This was the decade when I learned that ‘coloured persons’ were ‘persons of colour’, actresses were actors, and after expunging all the words that were no longer ‘appropriate’ from the Oxford English Dictionary it could be reprinted as a 35-page pamphlet.   On the ‘up’ side, I could ‘identify’ as any sex I wanted from a Sears Catalogue of around 250 different styles.  ‘News’ became the new Gospel, embellished by writers and presenters alike with ever more emotive language.  Of course there were days which lacked ‘news’. Like all good journalists on such days they wrote their own.  

Plaintive complaints of ‘no platforming’, terrified screams at ‘cliff edges’ and tombstone-voiced predictions of Armageddon assailed me so I spent my ‘Wokie’ days with loins permanently girded for a ten-year hurricane of wokeness – but was the journey worthwhile?  Well, personally I feel like Christian upon discovering the Slough of Despond is just a theme park and the real Vanity Fair looks an awful lot like Cambridge.  I dressed for a scourge when I could have got away with a lounge suit.  No drama!  Two General Elections, a referendum and the severance from a super-state all passed with not a hint of apocalypse.  No falls from cliff tops, no carbon monoxide seas wherein to drown, not even a pothole to interrupt the smoothness of the road.   The only consequences of the stultifying ‘Wokies’ for me are a complete loss of any sense of direction, and the inescapable conclusion that all signposts have been removed.  

So here I am, on the threshold of 2021, with no idea of where I’m going next!  But that doesn’t matter because I’m not supposed to go anywhere.

We’re told to stay in our houses.  Don’t travel, don’t socialise, don’t ask any more questions.  It’s a pandemic, gettit?  This is only temporary, until our Greaters and Gooders have made all the money they can extract from it, then you’ll be set free.  In the meantime, if you feel like suicide, or murdering your kids, or even learning Welsh, we have people you can talk to – they’re just a helpline away.

‘You’re call is important to us.  Continue to hold and one of our advisors will..’.

A bit like Joe Biden, I don’t really know where I go from here.  I don’t know what the next decade has in store. I joined the last one in expectation of great adventures, and in the event the adventures weren’t so great, but maybe the ’21s’ will be better. At any rate I must shake off this malaise.  I might go out and demonstrate against the slave trader guy whose statue dominates the town square. It isn’t a very good statue so I might help pull it down.  He won’t mind, he’s been dead for two hundred years.  While I’m in the mood for demonstrating I could join the movement for saving the planet, which apparently involves stopping traffic in City Centres and lying down on motorways.  It’s a little cold for that right now, though, so I’ll just write another post for this blog instead…Happy New Year, everyone!

NB: This was the decade in which I retired…I felt the world deserved a break, at the time.  Now I’m not so sure.

The Public are cautioned not to feed the Sharks by Hand

 

Scandals pepper our history.  Those in public life daily run a gauntlet of falsely conceived accusations of impropriety, as well as some genuine ones.   The media, or hitherto the gutter press, has feasted eagerly on the carcasses of the luckless and the guilty, while those most adroit in the art of escapology survive.

Bad news, people.  We are all ‘The Media’ now.  Escapology is a science of the past.

A couple of centuries ago, the old lady who made the blacksmith ill by concocting the wrong herbal remedy would once have been able to start afresh in another village;  now she faces a lynch mob of millions.

There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.  The internet has given the vultures wings, and no crevasse, no shield of politics or faith can hide you from the rip and tear of their beaks.

Lynch mob?   Witch hunters?  Whatever soubriquet you give to those who get ghoulish pleasure from seeing their quarry squirm, they are very much among us.  And the severity of the crime or the reliability of the evidence is of no concern to them, when it is set against the warped satisfaction of bringing their victim to ruin, without ever really questioning either the morality or the dire consequences of what they do.

I think the trouble started when it was deemed appropriate to include certain offences under the law that do not need corroboration.  I am not saying this is wrong, although it is a very difficult area and one which should be applied with extreme care.  The problem, though, is compounded by the inadequacy of the law in dealing with libel, still less with slander.  Accusations that fall within that category, the more lurid the better, can be offered up to the hanging jury of Facebook without fear of redress.  Are you a journalist in search of your Big Story? Have you an old score to settle?  Do you personally dislike someone in the public eye, or are you simply hoping to make some money?  Then start a rumour, begin the daisy chain of innuendo that will bring the object of your jealousy down.

I have always been uneasy with this situation because there is no proportionality.  By aligning a minor transgression, a naïve or foolish misunderstanding with a real crime, some angry or lascivious act which inspires real fear or creates a scar, we demean those who are true victims – even discourage them from coming forward, because genuine people are naturally shy of administering such blatant excoriation.  It is an erosion of free speech, and it is a breakdown in the rule of law.

This week a senior politician resigned from his position as Minister of Defence because he had to admit to patting a journalist’s knee ten years ago.  To the tuneless thunder of other journalists’ feet as they jumped on the bandwagon, allusions to ‘other offences’ have been made, though lacking proof.  Notwithstanding my personal view that any accusation made by a journalist should be discounted, or at least subjected to very close examination, there can be no doubt the man has shown fallibility.  He has been, at the least, clumsy.  But where once there might have been an acceptance that the ‘rules’ have changed in the last decade or so, an apology made and admonition given (even the journalist herself commented that she did not feel threatened and she thought the resignation ‘absurd’), that will no longer satisfy the ravening horde.  Now it must be ostracism and ruin for a very talented man in fields where sexual ineptitude are irrelevant, and who might have had much to contribute.   And now, of course, the pack is loose.

Any politician in the UK Parliament now has to walk in fear, lest a friendly pat or a playful remark made a generation since is brought from its closet and shaken out in the light of this burgeoning set of new ‘rules’ which the feminist movement is writing down as fast as it can think them up.  Many are being accused who haven’t transgressed but that doesn’t matter.  This thinly clothed hatred of the male sex is glaring out from under every stone and it does not care who it hurts, or how.  Our political balance is at a very crucial point.   When this kind of hysteria infects the slow-witted and the fast-persuaded it can have consequences that are extreme.

Meanwhile, the BBC played host on national television this week to a senior female politician from Her Majesty’s Opposition – a party aggressively seeking power – who told a very insensitive anti-Semitic joke.

I have always admired the Jewish community’s sense of humour, especially when they happily direct jokes against themselves; but I do not think any Jewish person I have known would have enjoyed this particular example (and no, I won’t repeat it, although ‘Harriet Harman’ on YouTube will produce what you need, if you must witness it).  Yet there has been no further coverage of the incident on the BBC or, as far as I know, any other channel, despite concerns over the growth of anti-Semitism on the ‘Left’ of Ms. Harman’s political party.  Ample grounds, certainly, to fuel another witch hunt if you have the taste for it – strangely though, no-one has.

So, where are we?   Has the state of the world so altered that a few injudicious sexist remarks or examples of the latest regime of ‘inappropriate touching’ can bring down a government, altering the future for us all, and promoting to power a zealous party of neo-Marxists with an unhealthy hotbed of racism seething beneath?  Is that really where we are?

Look, there are genuine cases – of course there are.  I have been lied about – we all of us experience that from time to time.  I have also been assaulted, compromised, victimised, and so on.  But I am not scarred, not by any of these things.  My scars have more to do with the viciousness of the mob, and its constant attacks on my freedom.  I was once proud of my nation.  Now?  I’m not so sure.

I am beginning to wonder; if I were young and unattached again, how would I set about forging a relationship with the opposite sex?

The answer is, I think, only in the presence of witnesses.

I am Charlie

Black Cross

Allah is your God, my friends.  We all have our God, if we believe we need one, and He is, if He is, probably one and the same:  only the name is changed, only the way we express our devotion is different.

Are there some things on which we can all agree?  Is our God a God of all creatures, did He make our world, is He a God of Mercy?

Or is He a fierce, unrelenting deity who may strike our sinners down?

Allah is your God, my friends, and He may, in your eyes, be a vengeful God, but justice is His to dispense, not yours.  You should know this, because one day you will have to meet Him and explain how you were so arrogant as to believe yourselves His instruments.  Your reward will not be paradise, it will be judgment.

Whatever our religion, we serve with humility.  We bow to humor as a just criticism of ourselves, because even if we find it unpleasant at times, we learn from it.  You alone consider yourselves above learning.  You alone consider your earthly prophet, human as he was, above reproach.

I do not speak to all Muslims, because you are not Muslims.  Muslims are gentle, charitable and kind, you are not.  Muslims do not treat their women like cattle.  You do.  You are monsters, aberrations:  you murder the vulnerable and the weak.  You have no place in civilization.

Charlie Hebdo Magazine, Paris, January 7th 2015.  Rest in Peace.

I AM CHARLIE