I Don’t Often Comment on American Affairs, But…

I do have to say this:

President Joe Biden is too old.

I say it in a non-political way, because I have previously been advised that I don’t know enough about American politics, and I have no wish to offend those who do, but can a man who apparently gets lost on his way to the end of a sentence be competent to conduct the orderly withdrawal of forces from a remote tribal hunting ground like Afghanistan?

President Biden was born in November 1942.   In November this year he will be 79.   Just in case you think I am making a political argument, can I also point out that his most likely rival in the last race for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, is also 79.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump is 75.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives (have I got that right?) is 81.

Nancy Pelosil.

As a quick comparison, I offer Boris Johnson (UK Prime Minister) at 57, Emmanuel Macron (French President) at 43, Angela Merkel (Retiring German Chancellor) at 67, Vladimir Putin 68, and Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, 49 (I know, he dyes his hair).

Boris Johnson

There are things I would like to know, as a small cog in this giant wheel of the ‘Free World’ and my reason for wanting this knowledge is vested interest:  I want my children to stay alive.

emmanuel Macron

In total, how many grams of statins, Bisoprolol, Irbesartan, Rivaroxiban, Fuorosimide or similar are required daily to keep these extravagantly senior politicians functioning?

Angela Merkel

Is there some controlled environment solution for their rest periods, those times when they are away from the public eye (I understand about three days is the average)?  I think back to Michael Jackson, although he was much younger, of course.

Who really pulls the strings?  You see, I can’t believe it is the will of the American people that they should be represented by geriatric wealth magnets who presumably accumulated their fortunes by leeching off them for generations.  The job of President does not seem to be a sinecure, therefore unless you believe its incumbent is fully capable, somebody is doing the work.   If I were the American voter, I would feel entitled to know who that is (or ‘they are’ – see how conspiracy theories can grow?).

Justin Trudeau

It would be disappointing to discover that the cut and run from Afghanistan without regard for the lives it would waste or the pleas of allies it would ignore was truly at the centre of American thought.  It would be preferable, and more plausible, to believe the shambles of withdrawal was at the behest of a congenial old man who, if you discovered him loitering and confused on your doorstep, the charity in you would demand you call the Nursing Home, at the very least.  Will you extend that charity, though, when you have it in your power to reconcile him to a contented old age and keep him away from the nuclear button?

There are so many challenges to this generation – so many pivotal issues.  The balance of superiority is poised to topple towards the East, and there are those of us who do not wish that to happen.   Climate change, internal strife and ‘human rights’ in all their various guises are not restraints that inhibit the ambitions of the Chinese, the Iranians, the newly-emergent Russians.  South America will spill over, not matter how hard or high we build the walls.

In this humble British view, America needs to rediscover the dynamism and vitality of those in middle years who have wisdom enough but also energy enough to recognise and manage change.  Has the political class of whatever colour so fortified itself against the needs of its people that it can’t be questioned or allow its structure to be examined?

Ever since the inception of the nuclear solution it has been hanging there, increasingly accessible to more and more primitive people.  No-one has yet introduced the final spark.  Isolation and confrontation are the flints ready to strike, yet I tend to follow the notion that the trigger to the fatal conflagration will be more likely a tragic accident – a hand in panic, or a mind not fully engaged.

These are very dangerous times.

© Frederick Anderson 2021.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content.

 

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.

Out of Darkness?

“Round to your left, please!”

There are ways of saying ‘please’, which vary from earnest entreaty to thinly-disguised threat.   This is the latter.

“Did you order online?”

She stands in command of her little empire of plastic bollards and fake crime tape, stockily built, belligerent and enjoying the anonymity of her paper mask.

“Do you have documentation?  In through this door and go to station 2.”

The image of state authority passes through my mind as I obediently follow the painted lines on the floor.   “Your papers!   What is your destination?  Why?”

Inside the emporium, I am told to remain standing on a yellow square.  I do so, making a mental note to never use this ‘click and collect’ service again.  Probably, I will avoid using this store again.   I have the possibly illogical notion that if I am ever to catch the benighted virus, it will be here.   It will float into my respiratory system on a cloud of vitriol.

‘Station 2’ Comes up with my merchandise and allows me to collect it from the counter while ‘Station 2’ hides behind her perspex screen.   The items are loose, four little germ hives that rebuke me for failing to think of my rubber gloves.  I depart.

“That way!”

“Yes, dear.”

Retreating to the safety of my car and my sanitizer, having run the gauntlet of a purchase that the retailer was so anxious I should make, I reflect that the traumatising nature of the transaction is not so much the fault of the retailer as it is the fault of staff who would rather not deliver this so-tight-the-pips-squeak routine, who, in fact, would rather not be there at all.

This is an outlet for a big company, of course; a concern with branches nationwide.  Edicts are issued from on high, executed (i can think of no more appropriate word) by those who see themselves as minions and to whom the paper mask has afforded the benefit of disguise.   

As I drive home I realise that I have been privileged to witness the death of the ‘retail experience’ as we know it.  The end of the Mall, of the High Street with its punitive overheads, its regimentation.  Lockdown has given us all a freedom which, having experienced, we should be anxious to preserve.

Here’s the tragedy.  This authoritarian solution is likely to become distinctly a big company drag shoe administered from well-heeled boardrooms with no appreciation of the latent enmity that exists between staff at floor level and their customers.  Now there are masks.  Now any element of personal contact has been eliminated.  Now we can say what we THINK!  It is not a philosophy shared by those dwindling ranks of independent retailers who have a genuine interest and would like to offer a friendly, warm avenue of communication with those who walk through their door; but they are the ones who will suffer most from the collapse of ‘Retail Therapy’.   

High Streets and Malls, gang-raped by the big corporations, were in trouble long before COVID came to call.   Malls do not make money.   Pillaged by rents and business rates they are the biters bit.  Recently those on the High Streets have done no better.  Only banks can be relied upon to make profits.

Of those who have passed their isolation working from home, four out of five have expressed their preference for continuing to work from home.  The removal of restrictions should mean a mass migration back into the town, a human tidal wave of relieved shoppers grateful the siege has been lifted.  It has not.   Apart from essential travel, we seem reluctant to return to the bean-can life.  If a vaccine is not quickly found, perhaps we never will.

A personal opinion?   We could be standing at the threshold of something massive.  There is clearly a need for some centralisation, but not as much – a need for towns (cities) – but not as many.  Maybe the twentieth-century commute is a thing of the past, the big office no longer an eight-hour prison sentence at the hub of each day.  Does the nursery belong in the home, rather than at some converted church hall or school?  And are the icons of the education industry ripe for scattering, now they are so much a source of foment for rebellion and unrest? 

Photo credit: Joe Stubbs on Unsplash