Watching The Wheels

I seem to have lost a month. How careless of me! As you may have spotted from the recent hiatus, I’ve been ill and just didn’t feel up to blogging. They told me the virus would take 6 weeks to get out of my system – and they were right!

Firstly, I’d like to thank all of you who have wished me well, both here and on Facebook. Good blogging friends are irreplaceable! Also, a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who has visited my blog while I’ve been absent. I’ve been stunned by the levels of views, likes, comments and new follows even at a time where I haven’t given you anything new.

So, what have I been doing? The short answer is….not much, if I’m honest. In the early stages the viral infection caused me so much pain and soreness that I didn’t feel like doing anything. I then got into a routine of watching far more daytime TV than is good for anyone’s sanity! If the programmes don’t get to you the adverts will – what exactly does it mean to be ‘so moneysupermarket’ anyway, other than being a total moron behaving inappropriately? But mostly I’ve been a watcher of life and events as they have been unfolding: that poses risks to our sanity too!

We are living in strange, unsettling times. I wrote a piece some months ago about politicians’ need to tell lies to get what they want. Recent events, particularly in the US, have shown how spectacularly I underestimated their capacity for untruths. Or ‘alternative facts’ as we are now informed they should be called. And it seems I was wrong to hope that the Orange One would tone down his views after being elected. But he had record crowds for his inauguration, everyone loves his executive orders, the protests against his ‘it isn’t a Muslim ban’ are orchestrated by paid stooges, so all is going swimmingly well, isn’t it!

One thing I haven’t done during my absence is watch any so-called ‘reality TV,’ as these programmes bear no relation to any form of real life that I know or would want to be a part of. Even the names can be misleading: be honest, how many of the participants in the recent series of ‘Celebrity’ Big Brother had you heard of? It’s not as though anyone from a reality show has ever gone on to succeed at anything in real life, is it? Oh, wait……. It would appear that the American people have elected as their President (or POTUS45 as he is known) the former host of their version of the Apprentice. Please, UK, don’t even think about doing the equivalent of that here! The thought of Lord Sugar running this country fills me with almost as much dread as the thought of the Orange One on his mission to destroy the world in four years or less. And a quick aside: why do they call him POTUS45 yet they try to give the Superbowl a touch of class by listing it with Roman numerals, i.e. Superbowl LI? Shouldn’t they try to give their President some class too? POTUS VL has a certain ring to it, I think. But then again, no matter how hard you polish a turd it’s still a turd…. although he may have given some meaning to what I think it means to be ‘so moneysupermarket’ – see above for the definition!

There have been some good points in my recent absence, though, in respect of this blog. My post Mental Health Matters seems to have taken off like none of my posts has ever done before. I wrote it 4 months ago and it is still receiving ‘likes’ on an almost daily basis – over 90 now. I’m grateful to all of you for this, as it is an important issue. I now have over 500 followers for this blog, and more are joining every day – again, my thanks to you all! This has encouraged me to keep writing about the topic which seems to be attracting most of you – mental health – particularly since the UK Government’s recent announcement of more support for mental health treatments. A post on that will follow in the not too distant future. Spoiler alert: I’m not convinced by them!

My Facebook friends will have noticed that I have been sharing many more political posts recently. No one has unfriended me yet, but I suspect that some may have hit the ‘mute’ button! Taking time out to become an observer of life has filled me with many fears for our country – Brexit means being a poorer relation with a totally uncertain future – and for the world as a whole. Can any of us sleep soundly knowing that the nuclear codes are in the very small hands of a petulant, thin-skinned, childish, bullying tyrant who clearly hasn’t the slightest clue what his new job actually means? In my own small way I’m trying to do my bit against him – I’ve followed him on Twitter and have taken to retweeting his comments with my own added. I don’t know if this will work, but I’m hoping he blocks me as I could wear that as a badge of honour!

I chose the title for this piece from a song by a man who was sufficiently committed to stand up and protest for what he believed in. The anti-Trump protest movement in the US and around the world needs to keep doing the same, or we’ll be watching the wheels fall off, not go round:

I’m off to catch up on all your blogs – I’ve missed a lot in the past month or so! See you again soon.

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On Remembrance Sunday

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They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

(Taken from ‘For The Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon, September 1914)

I have posted these words each year on Remembrance Sunday, and will keep on doing so. They never lose their meaning or their simple power, their power to remind us of the sacrifice made by so many to protect the way of life we enjoy today – above all, our freedom. In previous years I have referred to a failed attempt to disrupt the Day of Remembrance in London by bombing, and the decision by the University of London Students Union to ban its members from attending any commemorations as they “glorify war.” Since then, nothing much seems to have changed, does it? People still use that democratic freedom to make efforts to destroy it, and people continue to confuse a belief that war is wrong with the misguided view that we should not commemorate those sacrifices.

I don’t want to get into a debate about pacifism, but am very clear that I find war abhorrent. However, that does not stop me from marking my respect for anyone who has ever taken part in a campaign to protect my freedom. I will observe the official silence in my own way, and will give them my silent thanks. Official commemorations began in the UK in 1919, after the end of the First World War, and have since developed to include the Second World War and service women and men from other campaigns. Last year, for the first time since 1919, there was due to have been no official parade through the town of Epping, where I live, as the police had decided that it would be too expensive for them to provide the required traffic and crowd control. In common with most towns in the UK we have a war memorial, and I was greatly heartened to see the people of this town turn out in large numbers despite the police’s decision, to mark the usual commemoration. Common sense prevailed, and the normal procession through the town took place, as it is far too important an event to be forgotten and cast to the mists of history, just because of funding cutbacks for the police. With every passing year, fewer veterans of the Second World War remain, and I think it disrespectful to them and their fallen comrades that political and economic considerations interfere.  I hope that all towns in the UK will see their usual dignified, respectful commemoration, as unsullied as possible by politics, finances or by any hint that Binyon’s words about not ‘condemning’ those who died are being proved wrong.

Wherever you are, however you do it, I hope that you will be able to spare a moment to give thanks for those who have died to protect your way of life.

Who We Are

Congratulations to American voters on making Vladimir Putin the second-happiest man in the world today. And they are owed a debt of gratitude by the British Government too: no longer is there a need to worry about how to manage our departure from the EU, when the new US President will have blown up the world before Brexit has to be enacted. But, as Chaucer said (well, kind of) many a true word is spoken in jest, and I’m only joking. Aren’t I?

To my untutored, inexpert eye there are a number of similarities between the US election vote and the UK referendum. The main one is that both seem to have been used by their electorate to register a protest vote against the status quo, against a perceived ruling political class that has moved away from supporting the ‘hard-working people.’ Be careful what you wish for! Many politicians are vain, self-seeking creatures, interested primarily in their own ambitions, and the next four years will tell how little Trump – who is a businessman with no political experience at all – actually knows or even cares about the disaffected people whose vote he has conned out of them.

It happened here too: commentators have remarked that those who ran the Leave campaign in the UK referendum didn’t expect to win, and there remain doubts about the motives of many of them. Do you seriously think that Boris Johnson chose to support Leave after many years of being pro-Europe simply because he thought it was right? I don’t. But they did win it, in an outcome that surprised them as much as the rest of us. Is Trump now finding himself in the same situation? Only time will tell, but if he governs along the same lines on which he has campaigned, it won’t only be the US that has reasons to be fearful.

What concerns me most about both election campaigns, as well as all the lying and bullying, is the appeal to a part of the human psyche that is deeply worrying. In the UK, the vote was won, to my eyes, on two key lies: firstly, the mythical £350m per week figure that the Leave campaign claimed we were paying the EU, and would add to the budget for the National Health Service, and secondly the unsubstantiated fear they engendered around the prospect of ‘mass immigration,’ the fear of foreigners. I don’t recall them calling foreigners criminals and rapists, but they didn’t stop far short of this. What this did was to bring out the far right from underneath their moss-covered stones, and enable them to feel in some way empowered, to feel that people shared their abhorrent views. A bit like the KKK endorsing Trump’s candidacy. Sadly, enough of us bought this view, and the aftermath of the Referendum vote was a huge increase in the number of racist incidents that were reported, even a racially motivated murder in the town I used to live in – a man was set upon just because thugs overheard him speaking his own language, not English. You only have to watch one news bulletin to see how much nastiness and hatred there is in the world, and I don’t just mean the nasty, sneering way that Trump interrupted Clinton in the debate to call her ‘a nasty woman.’ Pot. Kettle. Black. I really hope that in the forthcoming months Trump surrounds himself with people who know how to govern, and who won’t be as thin-skinned and extreme as he appears to be. It isn’t as though the American people can point a finger at him and tell him he’s fired, is it. Not till 2020, by when I hope they have all been blessed with perfect hindsight.

With the likes of ISIS/Daesh and Boko Haram, on the one hand, together with the rise of racist far right parties like AfD in Germany and the Front Nationale in France (and to a lesser extent UKIP in the UK), it is evident that extremism is becoming an ever more integral part of the 21st century world. That the political parties who espouse such causes can garner significant voter shares is terrifying. Are these voters all so disaffected with mainstream politics that they are prepared to ignore what these parties stand for? Or, worse, are the parties tapping into a racism and nastiness in us that has lain dormant until it was in some way legitimised? What kind of world are we living in? What kind of people are we? Are we really all so racist and insular, so protective of what we believe to be our birthright that we won’t allow others to share it? Are we really all so uncaring about others who may need our help? Is this really ‘who we are?’

I know that the picture I’m painting here is very negative and one sided and this is intentional, to make my point. I don’t like the way political events are turning out, and I suspect that many others don’t either. From my blog and the interactions I have here with people, and from the many blogs I have the privilege to follow and read, I know that there are many out there who do all that they can to help others and to spread a message of love and care. I just wish the world was run by people like that!

The title for this piece is a song by Imagine Dragons, which kind of sums things up for me today. It was included in the soundtrack to the Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie and later added to the deluxe versions of their album Smoke + Mirrors:

As they say in the song, it’s all uphill from here.