I am the stupid type of person who maintains loyalty in the face of indifference. For over 30 years I have banked with Lloyds and, in that time, have seen over £13,000,000 go through my various accounts. The measure of my stupidity can be judged by various incidents which have occurred. The first was the manager who did a deal with a liquidator to close a company of which I was a shareholder. We wanted to close the company. We owed £750,000 and had assets of 800,000. After the liquidator mismanaged the affair, there was just over £100,000 left to settle with the creditors. Surprisingly, the fee the liquidator awarded himself was just over £100,000 and so there was no money for the creditors. And still I persisted.
When I offered Lloyds £500,000 in assets against loan of £200,000 for a building project the computer said no. In mitigation I would say that it was 2009 and they probably didn’t have any money to lend, and so I stayed.
Move on to 2017 and a call to them to enquire about an account for a small company I own. After 20 minutes waiting on phone I gave up. I tried again. This time the call was answered after 12 minutes but I needed to be transferred twice so it took almost 30 minutes before I was finally connected to the right person, who then told me that, because I was on a speaker phone, they couldn’t speak to me.
On the recommendation of my accountant I called a different bank, a comparative newcomer to the UK. The call was answered in just over 1 minute. I was immediately given the details of my closest branch with name and phone number. I called him, immediately was answered, and arranged an appointment. This is looking good and I will report further when I meet him next week.
And did I mention NatWest? My little company banked with them handling a £ and a € account. What they didn’t tell me was that when I wanted to make a payment from the € account, I had to write a letter to them, put it in the post and wait for them to act on it. Just like it was in the 1970’s!
The vaguely liberal, vaguely centralist consensus under which we, in Europe, have lived for the past 70 years looks like coming to an end. The rise of so called “popularism” which is perhaps better termed, the rise of the ignorant, will see to it.
Increasingly I blame the internet – and I’m only half joking. The gift of anonymity has freed the population from any of the social restraints which once operated. Now, anything can be said anonymously which gives us look into the darkness which is, for many, the human soul. Just read any of the discussion comments on newspaper articles to see the venom and bile which seems to be the motivator. As liberal, socially conscious people, we are at a distinct disadvantage. We limit our actions through consideration and thought. The others have no such constraints. So obsessed with the “rightness” of their cause they would take any action, make any statement to further it. The Nazis didn’t burn down the Reichstag for fun, they did it as a means to an end, the end justified the means. For the charismatic confidence tricksters, the puppet masters of the new reality, the aim is power and in pursuit of that, any thing goes, and anything can be said. Their foot soldiers are the voters seeking simple solutions in a very complex world. The thoughtful and rational stand a good chance of being defeated.
On the bright side, it looks like Trump is willing to stand up to China. Their claim to the South China Sea is reminiscent of, again, Hitler. “our territorial ambitions extend no further than the Sudetenland”. And we all know where that ended.
And on the bright side again, I have, of late, been suffering from extreme tiredness. I had considered that it might be a sort of lassitude as precursor to death but last night I had a revelation. I think the problem is the statins I have been taking to reduce my blood fat levels. Checking the internet (yes, it is good for something) I find that, indeed, tiredness is a possible side effect. I feel better already! And so I say now, to borrow the famous lines of Winston Churchill, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender”.
If you thought that Brexit was over think again. For one company, owned by a friend of mine, the consequences are very real. Employing 21 people, the collapse in the value of £Sterling has seen a dramatic increase in costs. The business must contract to survive. Now of course this collapse of Sterling was well forecasted by experts but, as the pro Brexiters said “what do experts know”. One of those Brexiters is employed in the Company and so it seems to me that he should be the first to lose his job.
This is a very real case though size and gender have been changed to obscure the actual company. In any event I doubt that person in question will understand such a complex issue as this, Brexiters like it simple. So, should he go or should he stay? You decide.
Around Vienna one often finds brass plaques set in the pavement recording the names and dates of birth of citizens who ones lived there but we sent to extermination camps to die. In fact one such plaque is set before the building next door but one to where we live. There, incised into the metal is the name of one such victim, Ella Klein, initially sent to the Lodz Ghetto before final murder. Since my daughter’s name is Ella, my immediate reaction was to tell her about it and show her. On reflection I rejected the idea. At 10 years of age the enormity of the topic which the revelation was bound to open was, I considered, too much to contemplate. Closely following this, whilst clearing a book shelf, she picked up a book of photos of the second world war and opened it on a picture of a 14 year Russian girl hanged by the invaders for insubordination. “How can this be?” she asked. I have no ready answer. Years before my daughter was born I asked a friend who had two young children how one could possibly explain the holocaust to them. He had no answer then and I have none now.
Yet the potential for such inhuman crimes is still present. Charism and the ability to enthuse an audience and set them on a destructive path can still be seen in many politicians. Finding an “enemy” from which to defend the nation is an all to common ploy on the path to power. And that of course is the purpose. To gain power is an end in itself and maintaining it at any cost, a price many seem willing to pay.
It is unfortunate to say the least that many see the Nazi cause of racial purity as a purely German matter. The problem of course is that many none Germans joined them and willingly participated in the crimes carried out. Britain and the USA were spared this and can proudly point to their record of fighting the good fight agains evil. Yet it s abundantly clear that given the right circumstances, almost anybody can fall prey to the poison of “superiority”. After all, there are many Israelis who espouse the racial superiority of God’s chosen people.
So called political correctness is the current attempt to put an end to such ideas.
We of the older generation often sneer at this seeing it as a rather pathetic attempt to stifle free speech and expression, viewing the classification of some crimes as worthy of extra punishment because they were motivated by hate as just semantics. We were brought up in a different time, when discrimination against any outside the group, whether Black, Irish or Paki was casually perpetrated and frequently the butt of jokes alongside mothers-in-law, women drivers, cripples and the mentally challenged. And looking at the news from the USA, the notion that “all men are created equal”, a founding tenet of the USA Declaration of Independence has, 240 years later still not quite gained traction.
Recently a group of major businesses in the UK engaged a top law firm in London to ensure that Brexit is not triggered without a debate and vote in Parliament. The reason for this is quite simple, Brexit and the Tory Members of Parliament were generally against the referendum to exit the EU. Just in case you quote business organisations which were pro Brexit, I think you will find that these were mostly small businesses with no real interest in cross border trade. And if you quote Sir James Dyson, maker of the eponymous vacuum cleaner as a pro Brexiter, that is easily explained. He makes his vacuum cleaners in Malaysia and his income is global. A devalued pound, which it has now become, makes him richer!
So big business is lined up against Brexit and will use the law (maybe, since nobody knows what the law on this matter actually is – hard to believe but true) to resist it. But then along comes the UK finance minister (or Chancellor of the Exchequer as he is termed in the UK) with a promise to cut business tax from 20% to 15%. Brilliant. That will make business think twice. Maybe Brixit wasn’t such a bad idea.
The cost of this tax change is about £10 billion but no mention as to how the shortfall will be made up. Clearly, like Brexit, the idea comes first, the detail comes much later.
Making fun of the EU is the main sport of the UK popular press, right up there with sex scandals. It is the print media version of what, on the internet, is called click bait, a statement so unbelievable that you have to click to find out more. And every click adds income since it brings a new advertising messages. Harmless good fun you might say but of course, as we can now see, far from harmless. Within the UK this steady drip drip drip of poison has completely destroyed the credibility of the Union. Banner headlines have persistently shouted these message:-
EU bans ads for girl-only lodgers
English oaks banned by the EU
Ambulances turn yellow for Europe
EU fanatics want you to sing this dire anthem (The Sun, 3 February 2004, page 6)
Children to be banned from blowing up balloons, under EU safety rules (Daily Telegraph, 9th October 2011)
Brussels bans toys: Party blowers and other stocking fillers are barred in EU safety edict (Daily Mail, 10th October 2011)
Now Euro killjoys ban children’s party toys (Daily Express, 10th October 2011)
“Holiday snaps breach copyright” (Telegraph),
“TAKING photographs of the London Eye and the Angel of the North could soon be banned if the meddling European Union (EU) gets their (sic) way.” (Express).
The response from Brussels has, in every case, been reasonable and well written, explaining exactly why these scare stories are rubbish. But of course we all know that the motto of Journalists is “never let the truth spoil a good story”. So the truth is never reported, the newspapers just roll on to the next exciting rubbish.
The real problem for the EU is that it is a serious organisation offering well researched ideas to improve the lives of its citizens. But as psychology tells us, people are not motivated by reasonable arguments but by emotion. Agains the emotional outpourings of Boris Johnson or Nigel F F F (sorry I can’t bring myself to write the name) what does the EU offer? Just a string of reasonable people making reasonable statements. They just have no chance at all.
And do you think that any newspaper would print this? Dream on.
Two weeks ago I predicted that the right wing Freedom Party in Austria would not win the election for President. I was right, but it was close, very close. The margin of 31,000 votes out of 4.65 million cast is no cause for celebration by the liberal left. Of course the position of President is mainly ceremonial with little real power. Despite this, the election of a freedom party candidate would have been considered as having great symbolic significance. The problem with the Freedom party in Austria is that it contains within it remnants of the old Nazi style myths, so for most moderates it is irretrievably tainted; and possibly rightly so. Following the precept of “it’s not what they say but what they do that counts” Hofer is problematic to say the least. The party colours of the Freedom party is Blue, the Socialists, Red and the Conservatives, Black. This is significant in Austria as one of my students explained to me. “The Freedom Party (the FPÖ) are called the Zwetschke (Plum) party because, like the plum, they are blue on the outside, brown on the inside”. The significance of this, for those who have failed to study their history, is the Brown was the colour of the shirts worn by Hitler’s first “enforcers”, the SA.
For those perplexed by the lurch to the right in a mostly liberal and well ordered society look no further than the migrant crisis. People are afraid and feel under threat by the appearance of very many dark skinned individuals. Times are changing yet the same old same old political parties which have shared power since the end of the 2nd World War are clearly unable to face up to the problem. After all, if somebody rocks the boat, they might all fall out.
Actually Hofer was for sure the more charismatic candidate, younger and better turned out whereas Van Der Bellen is a rather raddled chain smoking 72 year old. In the Television age, Hofer must have gained votes on that basis alone.
For a more information on Norbert Hofer, check this Guardian article.