Monthly Archives: July 2016

Trying Times

If you think that we live in trying times, you are probably be right. Indeed, they are times that challenge even my fabled optimism. And, yes, there are things about these times that are especially worrying; not least climate change, religiously inspired terrorism, nuclear weapons and a much harsher world for the next generation. Yet you have only to look at our history to see that, for most of us, life hasn’t always been easy.

After all, the generation that preceded mine fought the Second World War just a few years after their parents fought the first one. Can you imagine what they felt when they woke up, in September 1939, to discover that they had to do it all over again? Nor that it would last six years and that, according to some historians, what they were actually about to embark on was unfinished business from the last one. Going even further back, the 14th century was dubbed “the worst century ever”, with climate change, a reduction in crop yields and an environmental and social crisis which enormously increased the gap between rich and poor. Then along came the Black Death which led to a near 50% reduction in the population of the country. In short, half died, drastically changing the continent.

So, yes, we do live in trying and extremely worrying times and there are no easy answers. However, you can do something. For a start (and I’m aware that, in this, I’m preaching to the converted) but don’t read the Daily Mail and The Sun; by definition, they aren’t “news” papers. On a more practical note, try not to let it get to you. I know it’s difficult but going about your day to day business with some humour can help both you and those around you. If you should doubt the validity of this, I can only suggest that you look at my history. As I, occasionally, have to remind myself, many years ago, I was an unemployed single parent on benefits. Yes, it got me down and there were time when I was extremely worried about money. What I tried not to do, however, was not to let it stop me. So don’t let these trying times stop you.

Greetings from Planet Earth

I like to think that, as you get older, you gain more of a sense of perspective; something, in my case, that I hold to be true. I also look back to a more gentle and caring society and can’t help but feel that the one we live in today is more judgemental, punitive and uncaring.

I also feel that we are currently governed by an alien race who, having these characteristics themselves, assume that the rest of us do. They are, of course, in the main supported by newspapers who promote these characteristics; ones that are based on our vices of greed and avarice. The problems is that, if you keep spewing out bile and lies, enough people might actually believe you and you will get a society in which what fuels its engine are those vices. No wonder then that these prevail. Except, of course, in the world that most of us inhabit in our day to day lives among our families, friends and colleagues.

Now, in my experience, most of these indigenous people would prefer a society that that is based more on sharing and caring and using these virtuous qualities to fuel its engine. The resultant society would, of course, be a very different one. That Real Big Society that our, soon to be, former Prime Minister extolled just six years ago; one which utilises the “vast amount of untapped talent that exists in this country” (Jesse Norman, MP, author of “The Big Society”). Should you wish to read what that big society could be like, one that we were working towards, with a degree of success, you could always read my own book, “The Real Big Society and my part in it”.

Planet Earth signing off.

By Your Friends Shall You Be Judged

I have worked in each of the sectors of the economy from dogsbody to Director and, along the way, have met thousands of people. In my last incarnation but one, I worked in the voluntary sector for 30 years and, in that time, helped people who were, shall we say, not in the most ideal of circumstances. Indeed most of them were unemployed and many were homeless. In the main, I found them not to be a class apart from the rest of us. They were, first and foremost, people; they just happened to be in the situations that they found themselves in. And, just like the rest of us, they had hopes and fears, dreams and aspirations. Some built new homes for themselves and their families so they certainly weren’t shirkers. Which brings me to my point.

You see, whenever I hear politicians, mainly those on the right of the spectrum, speak, it’s usually with a punitive attitude towards those less fortunate than themselves. Moreover any problems, that those that they are talking about have, are considered to be largely of their own making. This being the other side of the coin to the argument that those who are at the top of the pyramid got their through an innate talent and sheer hard work without any consideration of their family circumstances. If only life was that simple. Still, it’s always easier to blame others because that absolves decision makers from having to do anything constructive about the situation.

In the case of many who seem to believe such nonsense, this is reinforced by the similar views of those that they mix with.  It’s called “group think” and it’s something that I’ve written about in my book, “The Real Big Society and my part in it”. Used to justify why, for example, there are few women in board rooms, it is self serving nonsense. Which brings me back to the title of this blog and the question, “After the shenanigans of the past few weeks, would you want any of them as your friends?”

There’s Still a Long Way to Go

Well, 10 days have passed and we’re still here. In fact, with the main political protagonists having gone to ground, you could almost say that we are being managed by an unelected bureaucracy in the form of the Civil Service. All I can say is that it’s a good job that there’s someone to keep the show on the road otherwise we’d have anarchy; defined as utopian society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom without government. Sounds good to me. Still, less of the dreaming and back to the real world with all its inherent difficulties. Just for the record, however, when I was at the Ministry of Defence as a lowly squaddie, for 5 years, I worked with civil servants and formed quite an admiration for their institution.  So my views are based on firsthand experience and not headlines in the tabloid press. Still, why let the truth get in the way of a headline? Which brings me to my point.

This is that, like most other people, I have my own beliefs and prejudices.  Many of these I rationalise but I always try to never let them get in the way of the facts. That’s why I prefer science over religion. One starts with a predetermined answer while the other looks for answers. That allows me the luxury of changing my opinion if people can prove that the evidence doesn’t support my beliefs. It’s also why I rather like that old quote, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?”

So, in regard to the referendum, I voted with my head and I’m embarrassed that people at the head of the other camp, having failed to win the economic argument, reached into the gutter. So, will I just roll over and play dead when people say, “Give up, you lost”? No I won’t.  And, as I keep saying, “There’s a long way still to go”.  Watch this space.

The Morning After the Night Before

So, as with all binges, euphoria hasn’t morphed into glad new morning but, rather, OMG. The only satisfying aspect is that those responsible have turned to infighting and backstabbing. Given their appalling lies and general behaviour during the referendum, why should we have expected it to be any different? There was no Plan B, in fact there wasn’t even a Plan A; that much is obvious. The problem is, where do we go from here? Well, I still see cause for optimism, albeit of a pretty tenuous kind.

The major political parties either face a leadership election or the very real possibility of one. The Lib Dem leader has already talked about a manifesto of staying in the EU at the next election, while the SNP is making its views very clear on the future for their country inside the Union. Furthermore, there is even talk of a referendum in Ireland on the matter. It also appears that most members of both the House of Commons and the Lords back the idea of Britain being in the EU as do many of the countries within it.

This all against a background of self inflicted economic damage on an unbelievable scale. As one American commentator is reported to have said, “Why would you commit economic suicide?” Whether he is right or not, the future for our young people is now likely to be a less secure one than they had a right to expect. Lastly, I believe that our country is a far more liberal and decent one than the xenophobic bile of the past few weeks would have you believe. After all, did anyone feel anything other than sheer embarrassment at Mr Farage’s rant at the recent EU meeting? Is that what represents any of us? I think not.

For those who think that it’s all cut and dried, I would point out that one of the real surprises has already happened. After all, did anyone expect a certain Mr Johnson to back out at his moment of greatest triumph to be replaced by his former best friend who always said that he wouldn’t stand? So, the unexpected has already happened.

So, I would argue that there is a long road ahead. Moreover, one for which, not only is there no map, but that it is one that will be built as we travel along it. Some years of further economic bad news and the resultant social problems may make anyone not want to make a definite decision. Who knows what will happen when the dust starts to settle; other than that a clearer picture will emerge. As it does when you get over the hangover from the night before.