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”.
We have to be very clear about Donald Trump. He would say ANYTHING to win a deal, and that is exactly how he saw the campaign for the Presidency. Another deal to win. So you should forget Hillary in prison and forget the Mexican Wall and forget the end of trade with China. Donald has already forgotten it, and you should too. The problems is of course that a lot of people actually believed him. How will they feel in one or two years’ time when nothing has changed? Who can say. There are a lot of crazy people out there and many have guns . . .
A good test of Trump’s intentions will be what he does with Chris Christie, the crooked New Jersey politician who connived in closing the road access of a town whose mayor failed to support him. It seems that two of his aides will go to prison for this though Christie has escaped punishment for now. He supported Trump’s campaign. If Trump takes him into the administration you can kiss the USA goodbye for the next four years. Meanwhile Nigel Farage has intimated that he will accept US citizenship to serve in Trump’s administration. Perhaps we should start a fund to pay for his ticket.
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.
For those unfamiliar with UK TV, that was the catch phrase of Victor Meldrew, the miserable old man who was against everything. Any slight problem, any action which was less than efficient was met with the response “I don’t believe it”. And just like Victor Meldrew I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that there are 2.2 billion Christians in the world, or that there are 1.6 billion Muslims, or even that there are 1.1 billion Secularists.
For the religious there are two key words, “belief” and “faith”. When I check these words in the dictionary what do I find? Belief: an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof. And for Faith, rather similarly: complete trust or confidence in someone or something. If, when answering the question, “are you a Christian?” (or Muslim) the answer given is yes, you might believe that the respondent had some knowledge of the faith they claimed loyalty to. Regrettably that is not the case. It is rather that the person is what they have been told they are. Thus, being told from childhood that you are a Christian and being brought up on Jewish history (I mean of course the old testament of the bible) and going to Sunday school to hear of the nice stories of miracles is a pretty good way to ensure that the answer to the question “are you a Christian?” will be met with the solid affirmation of “yes”. Of course when pressed to answer questions on the basic principles of say Catholicism, eg transubstantiation, when the bread and the wine miraculously is transformed into the blood and body of Christ, there is often no response. Even the well indoctrinated have trouble swallowing that, if you will forgive the pun.
The same is true for of course for Hindus, Muslims or, with some small exceptions, any faith based group. The fine details which might erode the message are either glossed over or completely ignored. For example, one of the tenets of Hindu faith is “Hindus believe that all life is sacred, to be loved and revered, and therefore practice ahimsa, non-injury, in thought, word and deed. Similarly “Hindus believe that no religion teaches the only way to salvation above all others, but that all genuine paths are facets of God’s Light, deserving tolerance and understanding”. Presumably if you don’t believe that you can’t be a Hindu except of course Hindus in India frequently carry out massacres of Muslims. In the case of Islam, I fail to understand how a religion of peace can be spread by violence. Now religious scholars have made a lot of money explaining how I and other secularists and non-believers are wrong, that somehow we are failing to understand the subtlety of the holy works upon which their particular faith is founded. Some might prey for my enlightenment in sorrowful regret of my ignorance. Others might wish to cut off my head. What they usually won’t do is change their mind. Yet despite all the pressure applied for conformity there is some good news. In 2007 16.1% of Americans identified themselves as secular, in 2015, 22.8% so described themselves. In the face of quite substantial pressure to conform to the concept “one nation under God” this is quite an achievement. Keep up the good work
It seems that the UK is the destination of choice for EU citizens seeking to better themselves. This disproportionate influx of people has been cited as the reason that people in the UK voted for Brexit, though let’s be clear, of the total UK electorate able to vote, only 37.44% actually voted to do so; hardly a compelling majority despite what the Tory press may say. Now it may be that the availability of work might be a compelling reason to enter the country, but I have to ask, is it only about being pulled to the UK? What about the push exerted when EU countries fail to engage with their younger workers effectively forcing them out of their homeland?
There can be little doubt that, despite everything, Britain is a land of business freedom in sharp contrast to most of the EU. Starting a business is quick, easy and low cost. For just over €40, an individual can register a company on line and start working. It is not until the revenue exceeds €100,000 that it is necessary to register for VAT, though it is possible to do so voluntarily at a much lower amount. The regulations for all of this are available on the internet in a form which is quite easy to understand. This is really not the case for much of Europe where costs are seriously higher and require the assistance of an expensive consultant. And the UK system works. It is no good to say that the system in Hungary, Belgium or Germany is better even if it is more expensive. The UK system works perfectly, costs little and does the job.
If that is a pull factor, what is pushing people from home. Let’s turn to Poland, where women have recently been campaigning against an attempt to make all cases of miscarriage/abortion illegal and subject to a five-year term in prison. That this is almost unimaginable in 21st century Europe is clear. That it is proposed is, to my mind, a perfect reason to get out of the country. Is it any wonder that the population is falling or that Polish is now the largest minority language spoken in Britain? Similarly in Hungary, a rather xenophobic country controlled be a right wing “would be” dictator. What bright young person there would not like to spread their wings and experience life under a more liberal regime? Clearly the blight of post war subjugation under Russia has placed a heavy burden on the Eastern countries. With a 40 year deficit in infrastructure improvement and generations conditioned by repressive authoritarian regimes which have been replaced by corrupt ones, it is clear that the brightest and the best would want to try the West in general and the UK in particular, since it is the home of the world’s language business. With a little English it is possible to achieve a lot, which is not really the case for any other European language. And once in the UK, the average immigrant finds that getting better in English is really not that difficult. Again a big pull factor. That even 37.44% of the UK electorate voted to leave the EU still shocks me. But perhaps it shouldn’t. The world and its organisation is complex and hard even for experts to understand. That the average citizen fails to do so can hardly be a surprise, after all, the average IQ is 100. It is really not very bright. Maybe the UK needs the bright young ones from the EU. Their loss could certainly be its gain.
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.