Political Fury

Last night we learned of the murder of Tory MP Sir David Amess. No murder is acceptable, of course, and I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but my gut reaction was to note that I struggle to feel pity for people who champion greed and selfishness; who campaign to ensure the rich dominate the poor, and that the weak remain subservient to the strong; who find it just that historic inequalities remain unchallenged, in order that they and their wealthy friends can live as they always have, while so many others are left to suffer. The fact remains, however, that a man was murdered just for doing his job. Whatever your political beliefs, surely that cannot be tolerated. A man who had a family, who are now left to mourn.

Of course I feel pity for them – what human wouldn’t? Yet I struggle to divorce this man from his party, and the political from the human. The problem is, I’m not alone: since 2016 and since the advent of social media, people are becoming more and more furious politically, more and more partisan. People are increasingly forgetting that politicians are people, and reducing them down to what they and their party advocate – beliefs they may vehemently disagree with. When that happens, we see horrors like the one last night.

Upon hearing of this crime, my reaction was to see Amess as a tory more than a man. I could not forget, even for a moment, what he and his political party are doing and stand for and the suffering they have caused. I am ashamed to admit that, but it’s true. The problem is, when we are bombarded day after day with news that gets us ever more furious, how can one not feel that way?

Royal Opinions

As much as I have a soft spot for the queen, and as much as I’ve obsessed about her meeting with 007, I really don’t think she should be getting involved in politics. Apparently, she has “appeared to suggest she is irritated by people who “talk” but “don’t do”, ahead of next month’s climate change summit.” Of course she is as entitled to her opinions as anyone else; yet as astute as they may be, I don’t see why those opinions should be payed any more attention than anyone else’s. The queen is, after all, an unelected figurehead: nobody voted for her, so she represents nobody but herself. I thus have trouble with the fact that her overheard opinions are being given so much weight in the media. In a democracy, aren’t we all supposed to be equal, or are some people more important than others simply because they were born into certain families?

Why is this still happening?

It horrifies me to read that things like this are still going on these days. “An investigation has been launched into “organised abuse” at a special school in London after CCTV was discovered of pupils being physically assaulted and neglected…. The videos, found by staff, show pupils being mistreated in padded seclusion rooms between 2014 and 2017.”

Now, as I’ve said on here before, I grew up going to a special school, and I have to say I never saw any hint of such abuse. Educationally, of course, things there weren’t really up to speed, and we weren’t pushed as hard as our able-bodied peers might have been. We were entered in for five basic C to F GCSEs, but nothing higher.* Yet that was due to a variety of factors, not least the fact that most of my class of about eight pupils knew they weren’t going to live past their twenties – if that – and didn’t see learning as a priority. It’s pretty pointless trying to write essays when you can barely lift a pen. Nonetheless, the fact that staff at school were more concerned with making sure pupils there were happy and comfortable than pushing us to achieve academically does not constitute the kind of abuse being reported in this article.

I never witnessed any hint of what is being reported: kids being actively mistreated, shut away in ‘seclusion rooms’. Of course, the crucial difference is, whereas I and my classmates had physical disabilities such as CP, Muscular Dystrophy and Spina Bifida, the conditions these abused students have are more likely to be neurological or behavioural. If we screwed up, we probably just needed a good telling off, but that doesn’t always work with kids with things like severe autism. I know from my voluntary work at Charlton Park Academy that these kids often need time and space to calm down, so seclusion is sometimes necessary: when some of these young people get over-stressed and over-stimulated, they sometimes become violent and dangerous.

It would seem, however, that at some schools, such calming methods are being over used and lapsing into abuse, and that’s the problem. Not being an expert by any means, of course, I can’t offer a solution. Some so-called activists might use this story and those like it as another reason to argue for the closure of all special schools, but I fear that would make things worse: there is no way a child with severe autism could cope in a comprehensive. Some kids need the support they can only get at a special school. The problem is, at such secluded, quiet, out of the way places, catering for young people who often can’t speak out for themselves, abuse can go unreported all too easily.

*I did higher level GCSE english, going to lessons in a comprehensive school next door.

Giving No Time To Die a Second Viewing

I vaguely remember my old film lecturer Alan once quipping that to only watch a film once is forever to watch the same film. Thus this afternoon I went to watch No Time To Die again: I wasn’t really satisfied with my first viewing as I think I missed a few plot points. It was a spur of the moment decision, my curiosity having been growing for a couple of days. Now that I have rewatched it though, I’m very glad I did so. What I found myself watching this afternoon was a real bond film which reminded me why I love the Bond franchise in the first place: contrived plots, nefarious antagonists, great music. Most of all, I was blown away by Daniel Craig’s performance this time. I really think he stole the show this time, with an almost Shakespearean sense of tragedy which had overtones of George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He was still the cold brutal killer Bond should be, but he also had a humanity and complexity to his character which this afternoon I found myself taken with. What at first seemed like defects because they didn’t quite fit with the usual Bond story arc, today felt well justified, bold and fitting.

What I found myself watching this afternoon then wasn’t just a good film but a great one. It might not quite fit al the bond tropes, but it was an outstanding addition to the series: a loving tribute not just to Bond, but also Craig’s portrayal of him, and a fitting end to his tenure as 007. Daniel Craig made an outstanding James Bond – as I once wrote here he was Bond as his creator intended – and this was the tender yet honourable farewell he deserved. Who knows what the future will bring for Bond, but I’m now certain he will return. As for when that will be, it might take a while, but we have all the time in the world.

Blue Origin will launch on Wednesday

Just to follow up a bit on this entry, the beeb just announced that the Blue Origin rocket with Bill Shatner aboard will now blast off on Wednesday. I still find it pretty awesome that Captain Kirk himself is actually going to go into space – possibly second only to Patrick Stewart going up there, but I suppose there’s time for that yet. Of course, I hope the hour long flight goes well, but above all, I really really hope that Shatner gets to set the rocket off with the word “Engage!”

A Sickening Consequence of Brexit

I stopped watching Question Time ages ago, simply because I kept getting too angry at what the politicians on it were saying, but I just came across this appalling news. Comedian Rosie Jones appeared on QT on Thursday, but has since received a torrent of online abuse, mostly concerning the fact she has CP. She tweeted “The sad thing is that I’m not surprised at the ableist abuse I’ve received. It’s indicative of the country we live in right now. I will keep on speaking up, in my wonderful voice, for what I believe in.” Surely voices like Jones’ (and mine) matter more than ever these days. Yet I’m afraid that the fact that people are getting so much hatred just for being who they are and airing their opinions is sadly indicative of the times we are living in. So many morons think ‘winning’ the 2016 referendum means they now have a right to air their intolerant, xenophobic views, as if it somehow proved they were right all along. To some, the fact that Remain lost means that we on the educated liberal left should now just shut up. One of the most sickening social consequences of Brexit is that it has galvanised intolerance, and so we are seeing more and more reports like this.

A Much Needed Visit.

I value my independence a great deal. I love living on my own here in south London, getting up when I want, eating and drinking what I want, going where I want, just with a bit of help from my PA. If you had told me twenty years ago that this is where I’d be in twenty years, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet the truth remains I still need my parents help with certain things: for one, they’re about a thousand times better at admin and paperwork than I am. This morning, for example, they came to visit, and we spent about two hours sorting through my box of unsorted letters, receipts and statements. It had needed to be done for months, but I didn’t know where to start (well, that and I had much more interesting things to do). Joking aside, I am very relieved indeed that I have parents like mine: I may not still be living with them, as I once assumed I would be; but the fact remains that without my Mum and Dad I simply wouldn’t be here.

Is It Time for 007 to Retire?

I just came across this interesting seventeen minute video analysing why James Bond has endured so long as a character. I thought it worth flagging up here not only as a discussion of one of my favourite fictional characters, but also of how commentaries like this, until recently dismissed as the province of fans and amateurs, are becoming more and more academic. Giving an overview of the history of the Bond character as portrayed by Connery, Moore, Brosnan and Craig (the four main Bond incarnations), the guy presenting the vid points out how 007 has always adapted to suit the era each film was made and set in: as he points out, Bond is a ‘blank’ or void, into which we pour our contemporary concerns. That is a point which has been made by several academics writing about Bond, and he cites Christopher Linder, who, rather cooly, I also reference in my master’s. Thus commentaries like this are becoming more articulate and knowledgable.

The question remains, though, where does 007 go from here? If the Bond franchise has survived by adapting, what is it’s next adaptation? I’ve heard it said recently that the Craig films have set such a high watermark, and have redefined the character so drastically, that he will be impossible to follow. Craig was the definitive Bond of our era. Given No Time To Die concluded with such dramatic permanence, moreover, I suspect the only way for the franchise to continue would be to completely reset it; by which I mean it needs to be taken in a totally new direction. Perhaps they should set the new films in another era, such as during the cold war; or perhaps new films should be about one of the other Double-O agents. If they keep casting a straight white male in the lead role over and over again, the franchise will sooner or later stagnate; audiences will get bored, especially in the current climate of so many cinematic mega-franchises. The blank spaces Bond has filled until now have become so vast and vague that they can no longer be filled by one figure: we no longer confront one enemy – Russia, Bin Laden, Saddam Hussain etc – but a complex array of antagonists, visible, invisible, and somewhere in between. While it would probably send the knuckle-draggers apeshit, perhaps it’s time for Bond himself to retire, and make way for a more diverse array of agents, licensed to kill, who would we more suited to fight our diverse array of contemporary concerns.