A dire year, but it won’t last

I want to end this year on a positive note. It has been a truly awful year: a year which saw the return of a form of fascism; a year which saw Britain voting to leave the european union and a complete psychopath elected as president of the united states. New Year’s Eve finds the world in a very dangerous situation. Yet, believe it or not, I feel kind of upbeat. I know this can’t last – it is a flash in the pan. For one thing, I don’t think we will end up leaving the EU. As others have noted (here for example) it basically can’t happen because the brexiteers want two mutually exclusive things. They want to stay in the single market, but not to have to obey the unions laws. But you can’t have it both ways – it simply doesn’t work like that. Brussels won’t allow it because it would make a mockery of the entire project. Outists try to tell us that they will be forced to give us our cake and eat it, as ”they need us more than we need them”; but that’s utter crap. There is no way they’d let us keep all the privileges of being in the EU while freeing ourselves of the responsibilities. It would set too much of a precedent; other countries will start demanding the same, and the whole project would descend into farce. Thus, faced with a choice of remaining part of the EU or completely fucking our economy by having to withdraw from the market, we’ll have no choice but to forget this moronic referendum ever happened and remain.

As for Trump, He won’t last either. I give him ’till summer, at best. By then the imbecile will have fucked up so royally that everyone will be demanding a proper, qualified president. The man has no idea what he is doing – he can’t run a country. His election was a joke which, sooner or later, everyone will get tired of. Then the arrogant buffoon will be forced to go, probably protesting bitterly. America will be embarrassed ever to have elected such a joke; fresh elections will be called, and hopefully a proper politician rather than an overprivalaged reality tv host will be elected.

Thus, even if we find ourselves in a dire situation right now, I don’t think it will last. This current storm will blow over. My faith in humanity is too much: I cannot see this stupidity prevailing for long. A dire year it may have been, but sooner or later, things will be back to normal, mark my words.

Happy new year everyone

What populism really is

Fascism has failed. As an ideology it has been totally rejected in the political discourse as humanity has embraced liberal, tolerant ideals. The vast majority of us now find fascism utterly repugnant. Yet it took a foothold again this year in the only way it could: by disguising itself as something else, called populism. These populists parade theirselves in front of us, drinking beer and wearing baseball caps, claiming to be men of the people, railing against ‘elites’ who they say run everything. In truth, they are the elitist people of them all – white, male and vastly wealthy – and seek to demonise an intelligencia which has rejected them. These are people who would like nothing better than to see state mechanisms designed to make society fairer decimated, the welfare state torn to shreds, high-rate tax slashed and to ensure power stays in the hands of the privileged few. They don’t want people to trust those who advise against the folly of what they say, so they call them elitest and claim to speak for ‘the common people’. This is the only way they can sneak their essentially fascist views back into the political discourse without them being totally rejected. And as more and more people are fooled by this rhetorical con trick, all we who value equality, tolerance and international cooperation can do is despair.

As a community humanity had been slowly coming together. Relishing cultural differences, but gradually learning to work as one. We were beginning to accept the idea that a border is but a line on a map; and that to solve our problems we must work as one. But this year those steps toward a brighter future have been undone by dissembling populists; fools clinging to concepts like sovereignty, which ultimately mire humanity in an ‘us and them’ mindset. We had been functioning as part of a bigger economic bloc which allowed this country to punch above our weight, and hold our own against china and America; but now that is lost. we are alone – a petty, inward-looking island nation whose citizens were duped by populists armed with slogans about ‘taking back control’, and spinning yarns about giving more money to the NHS.

Thus a form of fascist nationalism returned to the world this year, not just in this country but elsewhere. We thought it had been banished, and that people were wise enough to recognise it – how wrong we were.

A visit to Catford

Yesterday was a very nice day indeed. A few days ago, lyn told me that she was planning to go see her old friend Mark today, and asked if I wanted to come. He lives up in Liverpool, but is down visiting his mum in Catford. At first I was in two minds about going, not wanting to intrude on Lyn’s friendships; but she said it was up to me, and in the end I decided it might be nice. I’m now glad I went: we had a lovely afternoon, talking and laughing. Most of all, I was intrigued by Mark’s communication system: he uses eyegaze technology, and communicates by looking at letters and numbers displayed on a computer screen attached to his wheelchair. Of course, I had heard about such systems, but had never seen one being used, in person, before yesterday. Using it, Mark told us his news: he too had an assessment with the ‘fit to work’ guys.

We stayed for two or three hours, at least. It was a great afternoon, and I feel I have made some good friends. We had some delicious trifle, kindly fed to me by Mark’s PA, Greg. Dom met us there, and we got back about eight. I really hope we can see those guys again soon; as I suggested to L last night, perhaps we could go up to Liverpool to see them.

I still love this country

I still love everything I’ve always loved about this country. Over the years, it has served me well, and it has brought about some truly awesome events – things so incredible that the memory of them still makes me squeal with glee. Events like the 2012 olympics, or Monty Python Live. There are things about this country, in terms of it’s culture, history, geography or whatever, which I adore, and always will. I love the British countryside: it’s winding lanes and fields; it’s small woodlands and charming little villages. I love it’s mighty capital, the greatest city on earth, so full of life and variety. Nothing can change that.

Yet this hellish year, things did change. The people of this country let theirselves be persuaded by liars and cheats into voting for something utterly mindless. This country took a step towards xenophobia and fascism, and it felt as if the place I grew up had been taken from me. How could I love anywhere which was so inward looking? Which seemingly shunned the wider world in favour of petty nationalism? There was a time I thought I hated this country, for it had allowed itself to be taken from me by idiots.

Yet all the things I loved about this place are still there; memories have not been changed by events which followed them. The 2012 olympics were still a triumph for this amazing metropolis*; I still count watching Python Live in 2014 to be among the greatest privileges of my life; I still adore Bond films. After all, they all happened before this year, so how could the referendum change or taint their memory? Don’t the rivers still flow, and aren’t the fields still green?

Nothing has changed.

Only, on another level, it feels like something has. While the past remains unchanged, I no longer like where this country is heading. I still love this country, but this year I feel it has been tainted. It has become somewhere darker and more inward-looking; it is no longer the bright, welcoming, upbeat place I loved. Something I valued dearly has been taken from me by liars and fools, and I want it back.

*London, of course, had the good sense to vote Remain by a considerable margin.

The entire universe

I must just say how good I thought The Entire Universe was last night. It was a lovely little romp through a subject that intrigues us all, and it was good to see Eric Idle still has that kind of piss-taking charm we love him for. Only Idle could do a show on cosmology as a musical, and do it so well. I love how they constantly took the piss out of brian cox. Of course, having seen Monty Python Live, I knew idle and cox have a history of working together – they are actually good friends. Indeed, I was wondering whether last night’s show would include The Galaxy Song from Python (given the subject of the program, it would seem an obvious choice) and indeed it did, at the end. It was a pity they couldn’t involve Steven Hawking a bit more, but I really liked the inclusion of warwick Davis in this. It was a great little show though, and I think I learned quite a bit. For example, I now have a marginally better grasp of just how big the universe is, and indeed I now know that there might be other universes beyond our own. I thought it was a lovely little romp through spacetime, at the same time silly, informative, profound and very entertaining.

Something to hit

Given today is boxing day, perhaps I should be using Lyn’s gift to me. A few days ago, a very large package arrived. I was, of course, instantly intrigued: the bloody thing was taller than me, but when I asked what it was, I simply got told to wait and see. Lyn had that glint in her eye which always tells me she is up to something, and in turn I felt like a five year old eager to find out what new toys Father Christmas has delivered.

Well, yesterday at last I got to open the big box. To my total surprise I am now the proud owner of a full-sized punch bag. Lyn smiled at the look of bemusement which spread across my face. She said it was for when someone like Farage appeared on tv and I needed something to hit. We laughed, but in all honesty it is a good idea: like everyone else, I am powerless to do anything about the current situation; all I can do is yell at the t.v as we slide further and further towards fascism. Something like this, which I can thwack without damaging anything, might help me release pent-up feelings. I daresay it was Lyn’s way of telling me to stop getting so worked up about things.

While I accept that the European Parliament was a pretty dire, corrupt organisation, I still fear that, in leaving it the UK has isolated itself. Humanity should be drawing closer together, establishing organisations which allow it to cooperate; not putting up ever more walls. These days, whenever the subject comes up I work myself into a rage. I get so angry that stains on humanity like Farage and trump are now on top, and get to dominate the political discourse with their puerile, simplistic and ultimately intolerant worldviews that it makes me want to hit something. Well, at least now, thanks to Lyn, I have something to hit.

Directing you here would now seem apt.

one of the best christmas dinners I’ve ever had

Something incredible just happened. Lyn and I just enjoyed a truly outstanding christmas dinner of succulent turkey, delicious veg and all the trimmings, brought to us from the guys at the cafe in the park,all free of charge. Two or three weeks ago, they mentioned that they were doing a christmas dinner, and asked if we wanted some. Lyn and I said yes. But then, a few days later, it emerged that the small place would probably be too full to fit us in. No matter, they said, we’ll bring yours over. When I asked how much it would cost, he replied ”nothing”. That’s how I just came to be eating one of the best christmas dinners I’ve ever had, made out of sheer kindness and friendship. It’s easy these days to get so cynical; pessimism seems to be the order of the day. Yet sometimes things like this happen to remind you that there is some goodness left in mankind.

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Merry christmas everyone!

Writing about the storm

I was over in the cafe yesterday, drinking my usual cappuccino and double espresso combination and trying to write. No ideas were coming, so, gregarious chap that I am, I thought I would lean over and ask the elderly couple on the table next to me for suggestions. They smiled, thought for a moment, and suggested the weather. The wind was picking up and a storm was clearly brewing, so it was quite a good idea.

I got to work, and trotted out four or five lines about how a storm had been building since summer, and about how we were now powerless to defend ourselves against it. The allusion was frankly obvious. I showed it to the guy, who smiled; I suspect he was surprised that I was aware of such matters. I asked him if he got my metaphor, and he said yes. But then he asked if he could add something. I said ‘okay’, and the guy tapped in a sentence about the storm soon passing.

I didn’t like that one bit. We obviously did not see things in the same way. To be honest, I got a little tetchy – I had an outist on my hands. He added that he thought this could be our renaissance, a sentiment which struck me as utterly naive and quite, quite delusional. Not wanting to let things go too far, though, I quickly called an end to the game; I could feel myself getting rather uppity and argumentative. After all, they were just an elderly couple who wanted to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee. Yet I think this exemplifies the situation we all now find ourselves in: the referendum has divided us all into one category or another. It is on most of our minds, but we either agree or bitterly disagree about it; and if you try to chat with someone about it, you never know which camp they fall into. It’s as if the country has been torn in two, with one side angry at the other. It’s not just me – I’ve heard many others make similar observations. Frankly, I find it a very worrying state of affairs.

Decking dichotomies

Our PA Mitchel, it turns out, is very good at decorating christmas trees. We put ours up yesterday. Cynics that Lyn and I both are, neither of us were that bothered about putting it up, but yesterday the kid in me kicked in and I decided to get the halls decked. I’d asked Dom to get our plastic tree out of the loft the night before, and yesterday we got our front room looking festive. I even tried to sing ”Deck the Halls” until everyone asked me to please stop. It’s odd when I come to think about it, though: I know Christmas is a huge capitalist scam; christ, if he existed at all, probably never erected an evergreen in his front room. Hell, he probably never had a front room, and I don’t believe in him anyway. And yet, yesterday, part of me felt compelled to get ours put up in the corner of our front room. Things didn’t feel quite right without the green plastic and tinsel monstrosity there. I suppose it just goes to show, I’m still a big kid at heart; either that or I’m not as unentangled from capitalist consumer culture as I’d like to believe I am.

Are aliens watching Star Trek?

It might not be very christmassy, but I think this is worth a watch. The latest video from the PBS Spacetime series considers whether an alien civilisation could by now have detected any radio communications from earth. After all, we have been broadcasting them for over a century, so it is possible that a distant civilisation could have picked them up by now. It also considers why we haven’t picked up any signals from space yet, and goes into quite a lot of detail about why this may be. For me, this is one of the most important and fascinating questions facing humanity today: is anyone out there, and are they watching us? I also can’t help but wonder, as the video itself does, whether there are aliens up there right now watching old episodes of Star Trek.