October 2019

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The above is how I managed to avoid the impending depression that it is now October. I said in last month’s blog that it’s a bit of a cheat, running away, but doesn’t Kos harbour look lovely?

Meanwhile, back in Sheffield, we could grow rice on our lawn. So much rain. Good for mushrooms though. I must go out there and look for some more soon.

We went to see Dave Gorman the other night and, though I’m not at liberty to discuss the content of his show (he makes us all promise not to tell on social media and the like as it will destroy the enjoyment of other people – he’s not wrong), I don’t think it would be going against that promise to say that one of the topics dealt with the amount of fake news that is now around us. DSC06519And not just lying politicians, it’s everywhere from dishonest advertising to photo-shopping existing images to give an alternative or false impression. I can’t remember when all this started but, if I read something that piques my interest, I immediately have to check it out on at least half a dozen other platforms. Even stuff from The Guardian or the BBC website. None of it is trustworthy anymore. I know that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ but we are in danger of losing something precious here. The boy who cried wolf has now disappeared through the looking glass. We just naturally assume that the emperor is stark bollock naked nowadays.

A healthy mix of metaphors there. Seriously though, this sloppiness with regard to factual information works in two directions at the same time. People such as myself who have experience in critical thinking and close reading are annoyed by the clumsy and insulting way in which information is disseminated. But there are at least as many other people who actually believe this shit.DSC06516 Not only believe it but then get angry about it. Very angry. Ben Elton deals with this phenomenon effectively in his last novel: Identity Crisis. A parody of the Brexit process that manages, while maintaining a serious level of comedy and entertainment, to blow the lid on the behaviour of the likes of Cambridge Analytica and our wonderful leaders and their venomous hangers-on. It’s common knowledge that the country is split but it’s more than that: it’s split into two tribes. Tribes that hold each other in utter contempt. Remainers and Leavers are like Celtic and Rangers or Liverpool and Everton or Millwall and any other bugger. I can’t remember anything political ever becoming so emotive, splitting friends and family with devastating efficiency. The problem is: rational argument has no place in such visceral rivalry. Both sides, blinded by irrational honour and passion.

I haven’t personally lost any friends over this but neither have I survived completely unscathed. As a Remainer (proud of what Britain did to shape the EU and our contribution to the laws that everyone seems to hate) I have many Leaver friends. I have no issue with their views (other than thinking they’re wrong, obviously) but given the depths that the arguments have sunk and the extreme abuse posted by both sides, I don’t feel able to engage in debate with them. DSC06515I’m not afraid of defending my views and I’m not afraid of being proven wrong, but I am afraid of the whole thing descending into some level of abuse that we could never recover from. It’s classic ‘ignoring the elephant in the room’ because that elephant is booby trapped! The Leave view defended in as much extreme language as the English flag and the red poppy. To criticise any of these things is likely to invite abuse or even violence. And the Remain side is not much better, coached in expressions of such arrogant language that I’m almost ashamed to identify with those as well. But what really gets me is the way that this binary nonsense came about. Not through entrenched views and opinions of each side but through the creation and then the manipulation of those views by people who can only gain by that aggression.

The Leavers were not chomping at the bit a year or two before the referendum. They might have have views on red-tape and bendy bananas but that was mostly fuelled by the right wing bonkers media preparing the ground. Likewise, Remainers weren’t singing the praises of Brussels and the MEPs that supposedly work there.DSC06517 We were mostly indifferent but grateful that we had medical cover and no roaming charges on our phones while we were over there sunbathing and drinking Cruzcampo. But the likes of Farage and Johnson and Redwood and Gove were only too happy to get into bed with near do wells Arron Banks, Dominic Cummings, Stephen Bannon and Paul Dacre. Along with Bannon’s Cambridge Analytica and platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, they managed to stir up a perfect storm. They must also have known that the effects of their own idealistic austerity program would feed directly into the message they were trying to sell: that the EU was the bad guy and that every bit of pain and anguish suffered by the British working class was down to them and them alone. It’s hard to imagine how they thought it would work but the media are only too aware that if you repeat something often enough then it would slowly become fact in people’s minds.

I could never understand why I was being given a say on something so unbelievably complex that it would have taken a decade of study just to get a handle on how it all worked. But of course, DSC06520 - Version 2I didn’t realise that the whole point of it was that none of us knew anything about it. From both sides. Cameron, in his arrogance, presumed that someone of his stature telling everyone to vote remain would be enough and that he would rid himself of what was left of Major’s ‘bastards’ once and for all. And Gove and Johnson knew that it would be simple enough to convince an uninformed electorate that it was the EU that had been causing them all this pain. That if it was only up to Britain, then we would all be living it up in some imagined utopian nationalistic paradise. The Remain argument was stupid and the Leave argument supposed that we were all stupid. But mostly, the whole thing was designed to split the country in two so that we could all be taken advantage of and would simply blame each other. It’s mostly worked.

Or has it? Blame can be piled on both sides for the current impasse regarding leaving the bloc but the more I look at it, the more I believe that my initial feelings were close to the mark. I didn’t understand why we were being asked to make such a complex decision. I think it is only now that it is beginning to dawn on those who made all of those promises during the campaign that it really is that complicated. I honestly don’t think they gave Ireland a thought and I honestly don’t think they gave the financial or practical implications a thought either. This almost four year delay (three years and seven months by the end of next January) hasn’t come from individuals misbehaving or sabotaging government plans, it’s come about because the whole process is just too damned difficult to do properly. No-one is capable of finding a safe route through all the problems that the idea has thrown up. I don’t know why they didn’t realise this, after all, if I resign my membership at my tennis club then I can’t really expect to retain all the advantages that membership gives me. I would be raving mad to believe that leaving would actually improve on those advantages. It’s a simplistic comparison but I think a fair one. So it might just be that everyone involved is simply positioning themselves for the inevitable failure of the process and trying to paint themselves in the best possible light in order to avoid looking like the incompetent idiots that they really are. One day, this will all be in the past. I look forward to that.

Meanwhile, enjoy a photo of some autumnal windfalls and don’t forget to visit my¬†website!

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