Changes

I apologise in advance that my blog’s become a bit political. It might last, or not, it will depend on how angry I am and how long it takes for this extraction to heal. Both are fuelling unhappiness, only one can be cured with salt water gargles and time. For the other, therefore, controlled venting will release some pain.

Corbyn has written a piece in the Guardian that frankly I don’t want to read, simply on the strength of the headline. In this world where engagement is key, and the first fifteen seconds of words in your face define much, this headline’s a joke:

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No, Jezza, you didn’t. If you had ‘won the argument’ I’d have woken up on Friday to red everywhere and the rich bailing out of this country en mass. In a straight race between stupidity and you, tens of thousands of people undoubtedly changed the habits of a lifetime before voting to become sacrificial lambs. The fact you’re able to write this stuff and believe you won is a lot to do with why the Labour Party has finally imploded.

The reaction of people such as Mr Galloway up there is, undoubtedly, the means by which grief will be dealt with going forward. I may know squat about political history, but really… ‘Blue’ Labour or a Workers Party is not the way you fix this. It’s not about thinking that somehow, class is the problem. It really isn’t. You know what all the issues are, and if you don’t over the last month you’ve not been paying attention.

I’ve seen the polling: nobody likes Corbyn. Rachel Riley achieved her objective, as did everybody else who made this election about divisive, dangerous labels. Antisemitism, nuclear weapons, devolution, nationalisation… ‘broadband communism’ was the tip of an iceberg that nobody thought was going to sway voters in places where they can afford broadband, and a night out a week, plus a decent holiday if the travel company don’t go bust.

If you want a label to work on, use ‘wealth’ as your baseline. You’re taught from birth to dream big, aspire, be whatever you want to be… and so you try, and then if you succeed you become the aspirational benchmark for others. Then comes the day when you have enough money to eat and live well, and as more people reach that point, business invents more ways to take that money back and keep a chosen few in gold plated toilets.

It is not enough to tax billionaires, or regulate pharmaceutical companies, or fine petrochemical companies for driving humanity to extinction. Until you stop telling children that wealth equals success, nothing changes. Until society, as one, is prepared to abandon consumerism, the planet will disintegrate. Doesn’t matter how many cows you don’t breed, or vegans you create. Except no-one would dare stifle an individual’s right to free speech or aspiration, or choice.

Except, at some point in the future, it has to happen.

I read a piece on Medium yesterday which suggests we’re seeing the ultimate demise of Western Society: starting with the US and the UK. There’s a lot of truth in the concept, I think, based on how arrogance and greed have begun to alter the very fabric of societal interaction. It’s all well and good if you’re able to escape the gravity of poverty, but increasing numbers of people can’t and won’t. This is fundamentally wrong.

The answer is not a political party that represents the diversity of the ‘working class’, it is a political party that doesn’t use labels, or need to say it represents a certain ‘type’ of people. We need politics to challenge those who feel they are above the law, who manipulate information for their own ends, who destroy natural resources in the name of progress. People who want to help fuel real change can be rich too. Many are.

It is not your accumulation of wealth that ever matters where money still cannot buy you the ability to live forever. That irony, that the rich will survive as the planet burns, or be the ones who become the space-faring pioneers is an irony that in generations might result in humanity ceasing to exist. Without diversity in nature, extinction is inevitable.

Embracing all of humanity in your political party should really be a given.

Reality Bites

This isn’t what Britain has become. This is what it has always been. After a decade where the ordinary, hardworking people of the country were punished by a select few spending money that didn’t exist (and in many cases still doesn’t) they are the ones who have suffered. Their community centres, libraries and public spaces have been sold off and shut down, whilst the super rich just get wealthier.

Brexit, like it or not, has become realistic change. It represents ‘better’ in a place where everything else is so dire and horrendous it’s easier to just stop thinking. After years of watching a bunch of people argue over the best way to do something nobody really knew how to accomplish in the first place, the country devolved responsibility to the charlatans. This way, in five years, they’ll know EXACTLY who is to blame.

Those of us who have sat in a left wing echo chamber for the last month or so are beginning to grasp that change for us is so far out of reach that nobody currently is capable of achieving it. No political party exists for us to vote for who embodies the radicalism that is undoubtedly required to save humanity, because that is the situation we find ourselves within.

A teenage girl has made everyone look foolish, and rightly so.

She’s not just the person of the year, but a benchmark for the next ten.

Watching sensible, rational people thrash about on social media over the last 48 hours, trying to find someone to blame, is a waste of everybody’s time. We’re to blame. Nobody thinks like us, or provides for us the answers required. It isn’t because they’re an anti semite, or xenophobic, or anti Islam. It’s not because they’re pro Christian or anti Gay. All of those things existed before all this happened. None of them explain failure.

What they do is highlight difference, diversity, a celebration of the world around us that has singularly failed to grasp that we are not everyone else. The assumption, arrogant that it is, that just because you know someone’s a lying cunt means everybody else must see the same. It makes you… well, a stupid cunt. Trying to then blame someone or something else for that failure of comprehension achieves nothing long term.

What will help, right now, is not devolving responsibility, but looking for who needs help.

An American friend of mine has started using the phrase ‘look for the helpers’ and although some might consider channeling Mr Rogers largely inappropriate under these circumstances, there’s a ring of truth to it. Maybe this is the moment you realise all this bad shit’s been happening a lot longer than ten years before getting off your arse to do something about it.

It can be as simple as when you’re shopping to buy half a dozen items to stick in the food bank basket at the supermarket. Dispose of litter responsibly. Stop using outdated racist language. Become more tolerant. There’s no way you can reverse the events of Thursday throwing bile and vitriol at the people you think fucked it up for everybody else. This will not work. What WILL work is if all of us start thinking more and reacting less.

Of course, you shouldn’t have to do it. Of course everything is broken and yes, it’s horrible, but you will not fix anything if your mindset assumes it is damaged beyond repair. All those superhero movies you watch that tell you HOPE IS WHAT MAKES US HUMAN are not just mindless entertainment. Listen. Learn. Adapt, and survive. Maybe, along the way, you can inspire others to do the same.

There’s an irony too, that a speech which was given by a man who now makes me feel physically unwell, is in fact what needs to happen. I need to get over my issues and find better ways to help others and my planet. I don’t need to spend weeks sitting, looking at social media, dissecting the truths that existed long before Thursday happened. This country is fucked nine ways to Christmas: Brexit was not catalyst, but consequence.

Populism is a concept that now underpins so much of modern politics, which this country has singularly failed to adapt to on the political left. The political right, however, is very good at doing just that… and it really doesn’t matter anymore whether they’re lying or not, if their leader’s an unqualified buffoon. This country has altered, as have so many others to the idea that ‘better’ does not mean either ideal or best.

As long as nothing actually changes that much, it’ll be fine. Of course, with Brexit, that is not necessarily going to take place. As long as the rich stay rich, who cares? Survival of the fittest will no longer depend on genetics or intelligence, but how much cash you earn. The problem, of course, as certain high profile rich blokes have discovered, is that having cash doesn’t make you attractive. 

There’s some dystopian futures at play here my writing brain does not wish to entertain.

If you’re still thrashing about on Monday looking for other people to criticise, it’s time to move on. You get this weekend to be angry, then begin the process of grieving. For those who did this when we voted Remain and were rudely awoken from our stupor to the real reality of the UK’s endemic failures, that’s already happened. We’re already mobilising, and could do with you as additional help.

Everybody, everywhere, needs to #Resist and push for actual, meaningful change.

Games People Play

The world is changing fast. Some of it is still glacial, but with the amount of melting water around the planet right now we’ll probably need a better metaphor soon… and within it all, so many wish desperately to be right, above all else. There are reasons why laws exist, going back to the days of the bloke with the tablets came down from a  mountain. Human beings are fundamentally flawed. There needs to be a means by which this behaviour can be highlighted.

Law is fundamental to current existence, like it or not.

Without law, #MeToo doesn’t change women’s rights. Serious assaults are ignored, historical abuse condemned to memory. Major companies and organisations, more and more, are finding it impossible to circumnavigate climate change regulations, emissions standards, deforestation… and the list goes on. You can’t say laws matter for one thing but then they’re insignificant somewhere else. Good or bad, this is the Social Contract we all signed up for.

Except more and more, people are doing just that on their own personal platforms.

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Democracy is a hot topic right now, and I’m not going there other than with a couple of tweets and the understanding that there will be people who now believe with 100% certainty that a bunch of posh judges are taking away their democratic right to fuck out of Europe like they voted to. You have fun with that. The reality is so much more nuanced, subtle and complex it’s taken three years for anybody to be in a position to present a reliable version of truth. That’s where we are now.

This is the real future you voted for.

I now have to hope that the people in power who do care about the reality of our future, knee deep in water as it will be, are well aware of what needs to be done. Leave or Remain are irrelevant when you look at the facts. The PM acted illegally in order to ensure he gets a ‘democratic’ vote ratified by any means necessary. I’m sorry, that’s not how this works. That’s never how democracy has worked.

The people in power have shown themselves to be very much left wanting.

Personal Jesus

Here we are, at the start of a new week: already, there is a feeling of cautious optimism. There is a list of stuff I’d like to do before bedtime. That’s it. No stressing or forcing. Before arriving here there was some progress on written projects, a plan for today’s scheduled work and how I knock off the last two pieces of backlog. Arguto gets some love today. However, that’s not what I’m here for. Today, I want to talk about guilt.

Every so often you’ll see someone who’s catapulted to prominence have a hater go digging back though their tweets to find summat to smear them with. With over 200k’s worth of stuff to my name, that’s gonna be a fun ask when the time comes… but yeah, there’s probably a lot of regrettable stuff buried in all of this. In fact, should it ever come down to that situation, that might be the moment to start again. If you want to know after that, go look in the Library of Congress. They’ll have it all saved regardless.

Then I look at this, the story of a woman who has made her name attacking people and things she does not like in public, and increasingly finding that those actions damage her own existence, to the point where she’s now personally in financial trouble. I’m not sure if the fact her kids are protected from her shortcomings is really a redeeming action, and I certainly don’t possess Jack Monroe’s generosity of spirit. This is the perfect example of ‘actions have consequences’ and the warning anyone in the public eye should be using to think twice before ANYTHING stupid gets tweeted in anger.

So, does anybody really learn from Social media? It is hard to believe that’s the case when certain individuals continue to tweet hate-filled diatribes. Those who go to the other extreme and want only love and compassion might also find themselves in a bit of hot water if they’re not 100% watertight on the persona. That’s the thing with an abundance of data: at some point, somebody will test the waters. Spotify is the latest online giant being questioned by the media but honestly, wherever your data is shared, this is now a very real possibility.

There’s an answer, of course, to all of this. Just be yourself, and be honest. If yourself is decent, mostly fair and tries to be kind as often as possible? Really, not an issue. If you’re a racist xenophobe, well that could still be mostly okay because there’s 40% of the UK right up there with you. At least you won’t feel alone, but there MIGHT come a moment where you end up being challenged on those beliefs, and you never know. That could cost you a job too.

Some days, personal shortcomings are the least of your problems.

Your Cheating Heart

The national side progressed easily into the last sixteen of the World Cup last night, but they didn’t do it properly. There were no magnificent scenes of victory. Nobody punched the air, except the Belgiums. A newspaper this morning calls this a ‘basic misreading of hypotheticals’ like that phrase means anything to begin with. A manager, for the first time ever, looked at the game after the one they’d be playing and made decisions based on a long-term outlook. Football fans can’t look past the next game, we all know that. If you’re not living in the moment, you’re dead inside.

There is a fundamental problem here that needs to be addressed.

I had a conversation with my daughter on the way to school this morning about how the fine art of thinking about shit is being lost. In the clamour to be noticed in a World that increasingly values the cheap gag or the funny meme above actual facts and logic, a valuable resource is being squandered. My opinion on last night’s game is valid, but as I am not Gareth Southgate how the fuck do I know what his plan is? I have no right to question his tactical decision making now, I don’t get paid to be England manager, yet millions of fans like me feel they somehow now have a voice, because Social media gives them a stage. We stop thinking, and start ranting, and then everything goes Pete Tong.

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Some would argue it is just easier to get other people to think for you. That’s why we have websites like comparethemeerkat.com, who use SCIENCE to tell you that you can save money and feel awesome (no hang on, that’s the other lot). Except, if all you do is compare figures and don’t look at the ethical backgrounds of companies, is this saving worth the effort? So what if I can recoup £1000 a year? There are far better financial decisions to be made than this that most people don’t want to think about because they won’t consider their own unique circumstances. Having a website tell you to save is all well and good, listening to an ‘expert’ pontificate on what’s best is great… but what if that advice is potentially more harmful than good…?

I didn’t know the possible consequences of a Keto diet when I began it, until my gallbladder finally gave up the ghost and I was forced into surgery to remove it. When I watch people expound on my Social media of the benefits of fat bombs, there’s still a chill that runs through me. My body could have given up at any point, but had I taken better steps to read through possible consequences, a lot of fear and heartache might yet have been avoided. When someone else tells you X has changed their life, just blindly copying them may have its own consequences to shoulder. Thinking through options remains a better bet than simply chopping and changing when someone else tells you ‘this is a good idea.’

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As less people think and just do whatever the fuck they want, the danger of disaster becomes all the more apparent. Handing over decision making to automation will not give us an easier life if our ability to think independently and critically is compromised. Giving people platforms to pronounce opinion has always been fraught with potential disaster, but if these people simply spew hate and anger from LEFT AND RIGHT, nobody wins. Sure, you can get angry, but if you let your hatred colour and pollute everything? There will be consequences.

It is then that we all need someone to cut through the bullshit and say the things we’re all too scared to speak aloud.

Lots of you people genuinely frighten me. If you don’t think Piers Morgan’s a twat, it’s also highly unlikely we’ll have much to say of any value to each other.

The exit is that way —>

If Not for You

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I would struggle, in my group of friends, to find anybody who considers that the current President of the United States is either a) a good man or b) good at his job. This is not a blog post about what is, however. This appeared from the ‘alternate history’ part of my brain a while back, and I feel bears repeating to a wider audience. Even if you live in the world where the Orange Twat can do no wrong, it is undoubtedly the case that his arrival in the White House has caused other things to take place, a lot of them inherently positive long term.

The question I want to ask therefore is this: would the following have happened if the Democrats had won in the US, or is it Trump’s arrival that has caused their exposure to be unavoidable?

    1. Would #MeToo have come to pass in a Clinton Administration? 

      I’ve given this a considerable amount of thought in the last couple of weeks, and it is a tricky subject to balance internally. In the UK, it was a year after the death of Jimmy Saville in 2011, when an ITV documentary exposed his predatory sexual behaviour, before this previously taboo subject became all that the media was interested in for some time. The number of known US offenders that remained untouched by prosecution at that time remained significant. There was insufficient momentum to carry the movement forward, and not enough popular support to overturn the distractive power of money and influence.

      When Rose McGowan took Tarana Burke’s hashtag and changed the entire landscape of US acting, she did so as a direct response to one man who, it transpires, had condemned many women’s careers. That man, yet again, is not an exception in the landscape of entertainment, far from it. However, culture values and ideals in the US were, before October 2017, shielding him from prosecution. It is the same outlook that Trump himself extolled in the famous ‘grab her by the pussy’ video that (presumably) was leaked before the 2016 election in an attempt to derail his path to the White House.

      I have to wonder whether these accusations would have seen the light of day if sexist and misogynist behaviour had not become so critically and commercially unpalatable as is now undoubtedly the case. Would a movie like Wonder Woman have succeeded so strongly were women not looking for strong, powerful role models to inspire not only themselves but the next generation of women? Was the time simply right, or did the placement of a man who advocates treating women as objects shine a light on the inherently unacceptable practice?

    2. Would Climate Change be so significant were not for Trump denying its existence? 

      This issue is less black and white in my mind, but all the more significant. Climate change is not going away but by the Republicans’ decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord… well, it’s like the American’s have effectively wiped their hands of their part in condemning the rest of the World to a slow, painful death. I suspect that had the Democrats come into power it would be less of a story, however, and that’s probably a bigger issue.

      Trying to pretend that something does not exist is a sure fire way of making you look stupid. It doesn’t just make the President seem like a twat, that then reflects badly on the entire country when the rest of the World is aware there’s a problem, except the elderly bloke in charge isn’t listening. It is particularly galling when the organisations set up to help monitor and preserve what’s left of the World that’s not been royally fucked are effectively stripped of power and, in some cases, rendered obsolete.Climate change doesn’t go away unless EVERYBODY pulls their weight. I don’t think Trump gets the blame here, but he’s certainly not helping.

    3. Would North and South Korea be talking to each other were it not for the President’s actions? 

      This is my favourite piece of Alternate History, playing out right here. There’s Russia over there declaring it has nuclear missiles that it could target anywhere in the World but there’s more concern in the Far East over what North Korea might be about to throw into the mix as an emergent Nuclear power. Considering how close they are to the Chinese? Yeah, there’s substance to that concern.

      Trump’s actions, especially via Social media, could easily be seen as a reason why the two countries have decided to start talking to each other again and not to the West. After all that détente at the Winter Olympics, and the charm offensive the North waged (and largely won) with the South, popular opinion on the ground is going to matter a lot more than the rhetoric of Washington. The question remains: would it have happened were it not for a man with a Twitter app on the other side of the World dictating policy in 280 character bursts?

      Personally, I think in this case Trump’s actions caused the consequences we’re seeing play out. Whether that’s true, and what the larger consequences will be regardless, are probably the most concerning aspect for me in this whole thought exercise.


    As someone who spends a lot of time considering ‘what if’ in fictional circumstances, playing the game in the Real World is often a quite frightening reminder of how close we sail to complete destruction as a race. These problems aren’t going to go away, and regardless of who remains in power it is up to us to try and find practical solutions that begin in our everyday lives, and in the ways we interact with others.

    What needs to happen is more thought and not less.

Ariel

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Whilst on holiday, we had breakfast in the ‘family pub/restaurant’ next to our budget hotel. The deal was very simple: £X for each person, pick a table, then effectively all you can eat until mealtime was over. This concept is brilliant for large families, and clearly relies on at least some people paying for breakfast via their hotel stay and not taking it. However, this restaurant also allowed anyone not at the Hotel to eat as they wished, and that meant on Monday that there was total and utter chaos for the entire time we were there. An awful lot of people ‘played’ this system, as I watched from our spot next to the food.

I spied one young girl, from the large family who’d walked in and taken over two tables, manage to get four separate serving staff to provide her with the same combination of packet breakfasts and juice boxes, which were all then squirrelled away with efficiency. To the two who were generous and provided double I am impressed, because under those circumstances there is no obligation to offer anything extra at all. From the napkins full of patisserie to the mum telling everyone that they won’t eat again until dinner, everybody had a reason for making the most of what was on offer.

It gave considerable pause for thought.

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Nobody should go without a decent meal, ever. Feeding everyone is a contentious topic in this Western country of ours, and it shouldn’t be, but the fact remains that both adults and kids current go hungry in the UK thanks to the belief that money matters more than humanity. It’s why I’ve felt chastened since Monday, that I can’t change the world, and that I shudder at what other people left uneaten on plates, that portion control is something only a few seem to grasp or adhere to. It has made me determined to think harder about the actual problems the World faces going forward and not bury my head in the sand. Food is a basic right, and yet many people simply don’t consider it as anything other than a consumable.

How this plays out for me is simple: less waste, more thought on choices, less impulse buying. The local supermarket runs a Food bank scheme which I’m going to make sure I contribute to every month. No, I’m hardly going to change the world with my actions but if everybody stopped and thought about the food on their plate, things might. It is tough to change yourself, but this is as important as helping other people or considering positive action to help improve the World around you. It is no different than picking up rubbish or looking out for neighbours.

We should stop assuming that everything is somebody else’s problem and not ours.

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There is a lot to think about going forward, and a belief that if I am truly going to reinvent myself, learning to write better is only part of that equation. It is as much about becoming a more useful member of society than any measure of personal attainment.

The future should not be me, but us.