Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Emily in La La Land

From the Telegraph we hear :-

Trident renewal: Labour MPs tear into Jeremy Corbyn's defence tsar Emily Thornberry as being in 'La La Land'
Emily Thornberry, shadow defence secretary, openly heckled by Labour MPs following suggestion that nuclear deterrent could be updated, not replaced.

La La Land indeed. It's a bit rich coming from Labour MPs, but I wonder what Emily has in mind for the update? A lick of paint or something more substantial? 

I have dark and unworthy suspicion that Emily has no idea what she means, particularly if it involves missile technology, nuclear physics, submarine technology, military strategy or anything else beyond fluffy words. Although she may have been referring to Jeremy's idea about a nuclear free nuclear deterrent

Monday, 8 February 2016

Changing course

Conventions and traditions, I suppose, work blindly but surely for the preservation of the normal type; for the extinction of proud, resolute and unusual individuals.
Ford Madox Ford - The Good Soldier (1915)

In the medium to long term, does it matter who is elected to lead the world’s major democracies? Is it the case that certain leaders are able to change the course of events in a way which favours the led? Or have we run out of suitably proud, resolute and unusual individuals? Or perhaps they have merely given up on us.

Political enthusiasts seem to believe not only in the rightness of their allegiances, but in the ability of some remarkably limited leaders to justify those allegiances. A degree of political confidence which seems to be sharply at odds with the flow of global integration. It does not fit with the reality, with the ever tightening webs of law, treaty and common standards. Instead, modern political life is like trying to change the course of a river. The flow may be slowed but cannot be turned back on itself.

Does it really matter who US voters elect as their next president? Does it matter if the UK Conservative party manages to take advantage of Jeremy Corbyn’s obvious lack of political nous? To a degree it does because riding the flow of events can be made more painful than it need be by political incompetence and that seems to be the key.

Without those proud, resolute and unusual individuals we may need a change in outlook, a shift in our expectations. It is not so much the ability to manipulate events which we require because that is no longer open to us, if indeed it ever was. Instead we need leaders who allow us to adapt to the flow of inevitable events having first identified what they are and how inevitable they may be. 

Continued membership of the EU may not be inevitable, but tighter and tighter global integration may be. In which case the EU referendum may speed up or slow down the course of events, but that is all. In the medium to long term it may make little difference either way. Admitting it politically is a different matter, but it need not be. Political dishonesty is not compulsory. 

Or perhaps it is.

Sunday, 7 February 2016



Decided to try a folk remedy this morning. Woke up with a very mild sniffle so I tried nipping it in the bud with a raw garlic sandwich before breakfast. One slice of buttered bread sprinkled with a a large garlic clove finely sliced then folded over to make a sandwich.

Quite tasty it was too and milder than I expected. Of course I realise there may be people out there who eat loads of raw garlic but I've never tried it before even though we use lots of it in our cooking. 

My mistake was to munch it up before breakfast because toast, marmalade and coffee all tasted strongly of garlic. By mid afternoon the sniffle seems to be fading, but was it the garlic wot dunnit? Somehow I doubt it. If garlic was all we needed to ward off colds we'd know for sure by now. Makes a tasty sandwich though. 

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Mr Smith

Imagine someone who voluntarily cut themselves off from the modern world. No TV, no computer, no phone, newspapers or magazines, no cinema and no interest in the modern world. Could be male or female but I’ll assume our modern hermit is male and his name is Mr Smith.

Mr Smith doesn’t live in a cave, tent or any other form of traditional hermit habitation. He lives in a house, holds down a job and doesn’t shun personal human contact. What he does shun is the clamour of modern life, the celebrities, fads, fashions, memes and narratives. He relies on what he already knows and what he sees and hears in daily life – little else apart from a personal philosophy gleaned from old books and a sceptical nature. 

He shops at supermarkets, travels by bus or train and listens to conversations, visits the pub once in a while, meets up with friends, goes walking in the countryside and spends much of his spare time reading. Mr Smith is far from being socially isolated but he never reads anything about modern life. No analyses of the contemporary human condition, nothing about modern politics, economics, art, music or fashion. No pundits, no contemporary biographies, no kiss and tell.

Given all this, would Mr Smith be ignorant? I’d say yes - in a sense he’d be desperately ignorant. He may not even know the name of the Prime Minister. Although he would have an unclouded perspective untainted by modern narratives and propaganda, he could not apply that perspective to current political situations because he knows nothing about them and doesn’t want to know. To avoid this social limitation he would have to absorb modern social and political contexts, but he shuns them and sticks to his own contexts.

Not a satisfactory situation for most of us, but to my mind there is something attractive about it too. Mr Smith’s judgement is based on his personal philosophy and what he actually sees of daily life. Prices, consumer habits, housing, social conditions, globalisation, immigration, feminism, racism are not issues in the way they are presented to most of us as issues. Mr Smith sees social change through his memory of the way things were compared to the way things are now.

In the past, many ordinary people must have been versions of Mr Smith and even today there may be people who share some of his isolation. A degree of isolation seems to be necessary to achieve some semblance of a non-attached standpoint. The trouble is, one also has to be exposed to the clamour of modern life in order to make a stab at understanding it.

Older people seem to achieve an increasing degree of non-attachment as they are left behind by fashions which do not interest them. This development can begin surprisingly early too, as one becomes conscious that youth and ambition are receding into the past. Perhaps we need to age more quickly.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Modern journalism

A bit silly but it reminded me of modern journalism even though the train enthusiast is supposed to be talking to a minister - I like to see the woman as a journalist.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Future World Populations (2050)

Demographic projections tend to be worth making because to a significant degree, future populations have already been determined by today's births and birth rates tend not to be subject to sudden change. Immigration may be a complex and divisive issue, but at some point small developed countries such the UK may need to adopt much more selective immigration policies as a defence against population pressures.

It is easy enough to be sanguine about global population growth because the Earth probably is able to support the numbers whatever Malthusians may say. However, the risks are political rather than technical. Extreme situations tend to engender extreme reactions and global population growth is an extreme situation. Humans did not evolve within such massively dense populations.

However, on a lighter note it may not matter anyway because prominent climate expert Vivienne Westwood expects a population crash by the end of this century.

"[Fashion] just gives me an excuse to open my mouth. I have credibility from it, and I do use it," she added. "I don’t even talk about the fashion. Mass extinction, only one billion people left by the end of this century — how can you talk about fashion? You’ve got to talk about what we’re going to do."

Not helpful, but that's the perverse standard of debate we have to contend with. Back in the real world it may already be too late to be constructive about global population growth anyway. Unfortunately, the public domain is dominated by a highly active cult of cultural guilt. The cultural ideals and achievements of our collective past have become difficult to defend in a way which isn't isolating.

One is left with the view that too many prominent people in the UK either do not understand or do not care about the harsh realities of life, the need to value and defend what one has against those who would take or undermine it. It is a crude way to look at things, but stripped to its fundamentals life is crude.

In the long run wimps and incompetents do what they always do - they lose.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Men and women

We visited our local branch of M&S recently. I’m sure the floor area devoted to men’s clothing has shrunk while women’s wear has expanded. Not an enormous change, but my visual estimate suggests the floor area ratio is at least two to one and possibly more.

I don't know if there's a connection but I've also noticed a pronounced difference in the way young parents dress in situations where casual is okay. At Granddaughter’s soft play area, fathers usually dress in what to me is casual verging on scruffy. It is a play area so casual is to be expected but mothers manage to dress casually without ever looking scruffy. 

The last time we were there a couple sat nearby and dad looked as if he'd salvaged his clothes from a skip. Mum seemed to be wearing brand new everything. It’s much the same in Grandson’s school playground. Scruffy dads, smarter mums.