A walk in the mall

messi-badSkinny vs. regular jeans is a discussion for which I have nothing to add.

Fashion as a subject, is a bit like quantum physics to me, I know absolutely nothing about it and have even less of an inclination to spend anytime finding out about it.

From the outside looking in I see a dull, gossamer thin, vacant subject populated with airheads, bulimics and self obsessed cocaine addicts. I don’t like its total focus on aesthetics and the implied substance which comes with it; If you look good, you must be.

Of course I am doing a Hillary Clinton here and being grossly generalistic. I am sure not all in the fashion industry belong in the basket labelled ‘brain power of a retarded red setter’ but from my perspective it does seem this way, that’s all I’m saying.

I do know what bad looks like though.

I can tell when someone, or myself for that matter, looks stupid thankfully. Eddie Izzard was spot on when he explained how close super high fashion comes to looking like a badly dressed peacock during mating season.

In sleeping position terms they would be spooning. Think the fashion model walking down the catwalk with an Antelopes arse on her head and a dress made from reinforced concrete. Think Lady Gaga in her meat dress, think Lionel Messi in his red suit. They all have stepped over the line and moved from spoonie to spooner.

Yes, I did just call the second greatest football player to have ever played the game a spooner.

And yes I am that childish.

I also dislike shopping centers. I cant stand them.

The incessant muzak, polished floors, the attempt to create a normality within an abnormal environment. The trees, the water fountains, coffee shops and nail bars. The heady excitement of a purchase, the short-lived joy when the cashier hands over the bag and wishes you a good day. The crowds. The noise.

Yup, I dislike them immensely.

So you can imagine my horror when I arrived in the local shopping mall last weekend and walked straight into a wall of rock concert level noise and equally impenetrable crowds.

They were having a fashion show and the whole of Switzerland had turned up to watch.

Everyone seemed to be having a grand old time watching the pretty young girls and boys stride out on the catwalk.

The models would effuse confidence, stand at the end of the walkway smiling, or not depending on what they were wearing. They would then turn and walk back to huge cheers and some incomprehensible babble from the commentator. They were being applauded for walking and smiling.

I walk and smile all the time (well sometimes), no one claps me.

It did seem like there were thousands gathered around the bright lights, some surrounding the catwalk area and the rest peering down from the other levels clapping and dribbling over the latest C&A autumn, winter collection.

It was my own fault. I have no one to blame – I went on a Saturday, at 3pm.

Ordinarily on the odd occasion when I do have to go, I will go first thing in the morning or last thing at night. I walk straight to the shop I am there for, buy what I want and leave. I can easily be in and out of a shopping centre in less than five minutes.

The key is research.

Twenty minutes spent online finding the item, the correct shop and then mapping the fastest route from car park to shop is time very well spent. Good non-slip shoes help as well.

Don’t take children with you, don’t say hi to anyone, don’t glance left or right at the shiny pretty objects calling out to you and tempting you like Greek Sirens.

And never, never, never stop for a coffee, or visit drunk.

Christmas is worst possible time. Never go to a shopping mall at Christmas – you will die.

Early morning shopping centers are different places altogether though. I don’t mind them then. They are like the more mature, older and more sensible big brother version of the afternoon variety.

They are quiet and mildly pleasant places, very few people, steel shutters half open and the music set at level civilised. You can walk through safely without any fear of being accosted or having to take a detour to avoid speaking with that person you faintly recognise. They are empty and nice.

I was in a Mid West shopping center once and discovered that early morning elderly people engage in something called ‘walking the mall’. And its exactly that.

They stride around stick legged, clockwise, gripping Nordic walking poles and water bottles sticking out of their bum bags ready to hydrate as soon as they reach the Barnes & Nobel halfway rest point.

I sat there watching the caravan of retirees pass me, surprisingly quickly given their clearly well advanced years. I nodded and smiled as they rushed by. Outside it was deep snow and wind but inside, with the palm trees and blingy mobile phone cover stalls, it remained a constant 22c.

I couldn’t help think ‘only in America’ but then it probably isn’t only in America, its probably everywhere, I just don’t get to see it.

What happens when they leave the mall to take their firm leather skinned arses back to the dodge monster truck parked outside? Does the change in temperature or icy wind shock kill them?

I never found out, or rather there wasn’t a pile of octogenarian bodies heaped at the exit, so I have to assume they survived.

Or perhaps they just live there, sheltering from the harsh winter. And exercising.

Shopping centers were designed to be the perfect consumer kill zone. Get them in and never let them leave. Hit them from all angles with offers of stuff they dont need, fill their bags and don’t ever let them escape. Make the exit signs as small as regulations will allow, don’t line the escalators up, make them walk around to keep going up, or down.

Bombard them from the moment they arrive and keep it up until they do eventually manage to crawl out from under the weight of their bags and run back to the sanctuary of the car park and back into the real world.

And this is why I don’t understand why we all love them and keep flocking back most weekends to engage in ‘retail therapy’.

Which isn’t a real therapy by the way. It’s a phrase invented to give some substance to your act of spending money on stupid things, like fashion or a pink mobile phone cover. Just try buying something useful in a shopping center. Try buying a hammer, or a light bulb, or some soap. You cant.

Anyway from now on I’m going to boycott fashion and all shopping malls entirely.

I am going to either shop online, or at my local shop or possibly not at all.

I’m going to keep wearing my stone wash jeans and tie-dye t-shirts for a few more years.

I would invite you all to join me in this protest.

Only then will we set ourselves free from the retail prison we blindly walk into every weekend. The word ‘sale’ will eventually, over time, mean nothing to us.

Only then will we also be free from religiously following the latest vacuous fashion trend.

And once we have broken these chains will we be able to follow the path towards true happiness, and enlightenment.

You might look like shit but you’ll be happier, and have a lot more money.

To spend on nothing.

 

Eating a Turtle

maxresdefaultWhen I was a wee boy I used to be a bit of a fussy eater.

Not one of those dull, modern day invented, lactose intolerant, vegan types, just a common or garden fussy food child. I remember turning my nose up when my mother first put a pizza in front of me, it looked like sick I told her, but she persisted and forced me to take a bite. So I did and then demanded pizza everyday.

At some point along the way this fussiness disappeared though. I can’t pinpoint the exact day. I didn’t go to bed one night and wake up craving liver but it definitely changed. Now I will eat pretty much anything, and I have.

There’s not much I haven’t tried, I don’t think. Aside from the normal meats I have tried some exotic ones like horse, including horse penis, alligator and even a Mongolian marmot but my favourite meat has to be reindeer steak, in my opinion far nicer than even the best hand reared Kobe beef. The only downside is it’s a little tricky to get hold of outside of northern Scandinavia and somewhat difficult to explain to small children why I am eating Rudolf, especially in December. It is nice though, if you haven’t tried it, you should, but be prepared to be disappointed every time you visit your local steakhouse after you have.

I read somewhere, or saw a documentary, or someone told me that one of the main reasons the giant sea turtle was hunted to virtual extinction was on account of its taste. It was so nice apparently once you have tasted it you cant go back to Aberdeen Angus or whatever the steak of choice is in the Galapagos islands. Even nicer than Reindeer or so they say, but I doubt a Galapagean (just made that up) has ever eaten Reindeer so I will reserve judgement on that one.

Yes ,so their downfall was their wonderful taste, which rather puts paid to the adage if you want to preserve it – start eating it. It might have worked for cows, chickens and sheep but clearly not the giant sea turtle….yet.

I would like to taste a giant sea turtle but will wait until they figure out how to farm them first before I do. Even I, with my couldn’t-care-much-about-what-I-eat carnivorous attitude, would struggle to internally reconcile the morality of eating such a beautiful and highly endangered species.

I would and have eaten Halal though and based on what I read, this would appear to be seen in a similar light.

Barbaric, medieval, monstrous are a few of the printable comments I keep reading from people I have never met and oddly some people I know very well. They are complaining about the religious slaughter of animals, and more specifically the Islamic method of slaughtering animals.

Its strange but it doesnt appear, on the face of it at least, that these people hold animal welfare concerns high up on their moral radar.  I could be wrong but it appears to be a thinly veiled attack on Islam rather than concern for the animals themselves.

Decide for yourself – here are four random comments I pulled from a Britain First post relating to Halal meat;

Must not upset the Muslim way! makes me so angry and despondent, if the government don’t care, why can’t we arrange groups of heavy people who do care, to prevent this happening, at any cost at slaughterhouses across the country’

‘Possibly the cruelest savages that ever walked this earth , I will strive to never buy or eat halal meat or products . Why does the government bend over backwards for these people , create some laws concerning it and enforce them !’

‘Islamic community need everything special, they do opposite to rest of world…..they never want to modernize..but use all modern stuff. .. they are evil on earth….’

‘Time for the British people to stand up and if by force….evict all muslims from England. The government will not do it.’

The last one made me smile the most, why would the British people stand up to remove all Muslims from England, and not Wales or Scotland if they feel so strongly about it?

Also you have to forgive the typos, spelling and grammar here, -I copied and pasted directly without any edit.

So assuming I am right and this is an obvious Trojan horse approach to attack Islam and then what? Cut off their food supply? Starve them out of the country?

It could work, but before Britain first or any other stupid group start pushing their animal welfare credentials they should be a little careful.

Please be aware that a few other religions insist on the same approach to the slaughter of the animals, one of them happens to be Judaism.

Also if the reason you want to ban Halal is on account of the cruelty involved lets be absolutely certain that the non-Halal animals are treated and slaughtered in a way which we would consider humane. Have you ever visited a non religious abattoir or a battery farm?

And finally do you really understand what Halal, or Kosher slaughter actually involves?

So yes, it could work but its unlikely because at the very least you will need to ban a whole bunch of non Islamic meat and piss off a lot of people you don’t want to in the process or at worst ban meat entirely.

Britain First, and your supporters, come up with something better please.

Something which is difficult to refute, something which isn’t laughable and something which doesn’t show you as the religious intolerant, ill thought through, bigoted group of Neanderthals you actually are.

Maybe then you might actually start getting taken more seriously and maybe your supporters who feel so strongly about supporting you from behind the safety and relative anonymity of their laptops in their bedrooms might stand up and do something about their beliefs.

And then, if they do, they might just realise how ridiculous they all actually sound.

Unfortunately though I would bet there is a higher chance of seeing a succulent and sustainable giant sea turtle landing on my dinner plate before this actually happens.

But, based on what I’ve been told, I’ll take that consolation prize every time…

 

The Gruffalo

UntitledWhat matters more, feelings or facts?

A week or so ago I turned a corner and forty years old disappeared from my rear view mirror, looming ahead of me front and center is fifty. I don’t feel forty-six. I don’t even know what forty-six should feel like which probably makes me wholly unqualified to deal with the big five-zero when it arrives.

I just don’t feel it, I still feel twenty-five, but I also don’t dispute the fact that I am.

2016 is hardly a momentous year for me. It’s not a milestone in my life. If I was to look back on my life I doubt 2016 wouldn’t stand out much. It’s been a pretty good year though and I keep my fingers firmly crossed for the final five months.

It wouldn’t stand out if I was the only person on the planet but I’m not and given everything else which has happened this year, and continues to happen, I do think this year will stand out, but for all the wrong reasons.

I’ve said it before and will say it again that its difficult, if not impossible, to see events properly whilst they are occurring. You need to be able step back and gain some historical perspective to see how things affect or interact with each other and their knock on effects. The other thing about historical perspective is that time tends to get condensed. Take the twenty-one years during the two world wars. Aside from Germany it would seem nothing of note happened anywhere else. Of course it did, its just the historical lens only allows us to see the events which have an impact on the subsequent events and then it basically ignores the rest. The interwar years tend to be reduced to a few paragraphs and only to act as the bridge or to show cause and effect between WWI and WWII.

So are we living through an inflection point in history or just some dull nothing of note period?

To answer this properly we would need a flux capacitor, 1.21 Giga-watts and a DeLorean. We would then need to go speak with our grandchildren and ask them what they think. I cant speak for them but I think we can be fairly sure they wont be that happy with us for this year, regardless of its overall place in history.

We, and I use ‘we’ very generously to include my generation (x) and the baby boomers (my parents generation), are the generations who make up the majority of the worlds population today.

We are the generations who have had the opportunities which were handed to us by our grandparents. They were the generation who fought and died to give us the life we have today. They weren’t fighting for themselves, they were fighting for us. We did nothing to deserve it, we were just fortunate enough to be born after 1945, that’s it, and every year quite rightly we thank them for it.

So lets now jump back to the future to today and if we use our retrospective historical perspective lens what have we done with such a gift?

We have grown comparatively wealthy, we have educated ourselves, we have pushed innovation to such a rate its hard to keep up. We have advanced the world through science and medicine, we are rapidly rejecting faith and have lifted everyone’s welfare up a few notches. We have significantly more ‘stuff’.

What else? Can we say, like our grandparents could, that we are handing over the world in a better state than it was when we inherited it?

How have we handled ourselves this year for example? Have our decisions this year done anything to improve the baton in preparation for us passing it on in the coming years?

There has been one decision already taken this year, the EU referendum, and another one coming up, the US presidential election. Given we are still the majority both these major decision have been, and will be, taken by us.

The next generation will have their say but they are still the minority, for now.

And this brings me back to feelings vs. facts.

It seems right now feelings are trumping facts every time – if you forgive the obvious pun. The whole Brexit leave campaign ignored every fact placed in front of them. To me the epitome of the whole campaign was summed up when Michael Gove was asked about some expert opinion and he said ‘Its clear the population are sick of hearing from so called experts’. He knew very well that any learned or scientific analysis of the post Brexit situation would not support his position so with one condescending sentence ignored them and by using the phrase so called undermined their hard won, peer reviewed, credibility as experts without any justification whatsoever to do so. He did it with no shame or embarrassment before immediately directing the discussion back to the rather vague feelings of the electorate, according to him. Another fact bomb diffused.

And it worked. We believed the non-factual statements, we believed the lies and half truths. We believed the sound bite fear mongering about a faceless enemy called Brussels or immigration and never thought to question any of it. We believed it so much that we are now going to pull Britain out of the EU – a decision, which as minor aside, was polar to the wishes of the next generation.

My parent’s generation and my generation have had the benefit of the EU for most of their working and studying lives. We have all enjoyed the freedom of travel and the peace driven by integration. We have all enjoyed free education, social benefits, access to the free market and international study programs.

Now, given our age, these things are things we don’t need anymore. We have used them up so why should these be important to anyone? We are the most important generation right?

The two main items which were top of the importance list for leave voters were immigration and taking control back. Afterwards everyone agrees both items will not be addressed properly by leaving the EU, so personally I am at a loss as to why have we actually done it in the first place? Just to prove we can?

I don’t think I need to go on. What we have done by voting to leave the EU is to ignore the big picture, we have decided to ignore the needs of future generations. We have ignored the facts, we have ignored the truth and focused on our own feelings, basically it was a fuck anyone else vote and yes, that does include our own children. How does this stack up against the generation who were celebrating VE day back in 1945?

I would suggest not very well and can almost guarantee history will judge it as much.

So that’s one decision down, what about the other one coming up in November? Well as far as I can see its pretty much the same situation. Facts being ignored, focus on the fear and rally everyone against the enemy who is always ‘out there’.

And the talking heads keep saying how you should feel, regardless of the reality.

Create an enemy and keep the population focused on them. It’s Muslims or the Mexicans this time around but it could anyone really. Just make sure that they don’t look or think like the majority and you will be ok. If you ever have had the inclination to work your way through the toxic drivel which is Mein Kampf you might be surprised to see this is exactly the approach a certain Mr Hitler employed during the 1930s in Germany. Establish beyond doubt who the enemy is using falsehoods and pseudo-science and then blame all of society’s ills on that enemy. It worked back then, why not now?

The similarities are so apparent to the extent I have found myself having to resort to Godwin’s Law during some discussions on the subject. Facts and normal debate is dead, normal healthy political discourse and challenge seems to be something we can just ignore now.

If you lie, just keep repeating the lie even when faced with absolute proof of the lie and eventually people will just give up trying to talk to you and you can carry on with your baseless rhetoric, unchallenged.

The slogan Make America Great Again got me thinking, when exactly was America ever great? I came to the conclusion, once again, it was 1945. That was the time when they justifiably could claim to be great, a huge industrial powerhouse who had just brought peace to the world and harboured little or no interventionist ideas. It stopped being great some time ago and a lying misogynistic lump of a man with no concept of even the basics of politics or common decency stands zero chance of returning it anywhere close to where it once was.

But what do I know? Perhaps I’m old fashioned but I still believe in a strong opposition and independant press. I still like to have heated fact based debates and up until this year I firmly believed that freedom of speech meant the best argument would always win the day.

Oddly I also believe we should hand over the world to the future generation in a better state than when we inherited it.

Perhaps these concepts don’t apply anymore and maybe this is my problem. Why should I care about silly things like facts, the future or for that matter the truth when it comes to gaining political capital?

Its clearly not that important anymore, but as story goes the more the mouse talked about the Gruffalo the more real he became.

And this, I think, is what scares me the most…

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

13256398_10209966224370330_6639125744515541860_nThere’s something strange going on in Paris.

I’m not sure exactly what it is but its definitely there. Its in the air, or the water. Whether its seeping out of the catacombs or hitching a ride on the excellent city wifi I I don’t know but something’s definitely changing in the city of love. A certain je ne sais quoi.

My first visit to the city was twenty-four years ago. A young man I traipsed all over, excitedly discovering for the first time the world famous landmarks, drinking wine and coffee, binge eating croissants and trying to suck up as much of the culture as I could. It felt like I was drinking from the proverbial fire hose and after a few days I was gagging and looking forward to returning to country where at least someone would say thank you if you tipped them, regardless of its size.

My opinion of the place, and by extension the country, was formed during that visit and it didn’t really change much over the intervening years. That for all its architectural beauty, the arts, the food and liberal attitude to life, Paris is a rude place. Not a friendly city.

This is no more true than it is for the Parisian waiters. Their abrupt unfriendly approach to earning tips is world famous. It’s expected that your change is thrown at you with a scowl rather than handed with a ‘thank you sir, please come again’. When you are sitting cheek by jowl in a bistro enjoying lunch for four around a table barely the size of a dinner plate you should be thankful. Thankful the waiter has deemed you suitable to be allowed into his establishment in the first place without even a basic grasp of French.

Like most British people I am embarrassed to say my ability with languages other than English is woeful and doesnt extend much beyond speaking English slower, louder or even sometimes with an attempt at an accent. As if speaking English in a caricatured French accent will either help them understand me better or at least have an endearing effect.

In Paris it does neither, it just seems to annoy them more, as if I am disrespecting them, their language or in some cases, judging by their reaction, their mother by not being able to speak to them in machine gun speed French.

But after twenty-four years of visiting the city for pleasure and business I had become used to this rudeness. I’ve come to expect it and even weirdly look forward to it. At least you know where you stand with the Parisian waiter. It might be somewhere lower down the pecking order than the stray dog rummaging through the bins out the back but at least you know it.

The city has changed little over the years. Yes there are new buildings, the smoking ban and wifi everywhere but its essentially the same place it always was.

They seem to violently oppose anything which might even hint at a different way. And why should they do anything else? It’s their city after all.

So you can imagine my surprise when I visited last week and had all my preconceptions and biases shattered. Something drastic has happened to Paris since the last time I was there.

It started off innocently enough. A friendly man in a bar who didn’t seem put out by my Allo Allo! accent even to the extent he offered to help me with directions. I didn’t give it much thought, I put it down as an isolated random act of kindness which can occur in the most unlikely of places.

But in retrospect I should have been suspicious even well before I arrived.

Travelling as I was on the TGV during one of their weekly strikes I had steeled myself for the journey from hell. I expected middle of the night cold waiting rooms, a smelly bus or two and a scheduled meeting the following morning barely met. None of this occurred however. I arrived on time having been fed and watered by friendly SNCF staff – it didn’t occur to me at the time that my good fortune was actually part of a larger seismic shift.

The man in the bar smiled as he left and I went on my way, the importance of these two incidents not registering.

And it went on; friendly smiles, warm welcomes, helpful advice, English menus, patience and grateful waiters.

After some time it did register but I have to admit it took me a while. I had this nagging something’s-not-right thing going on in my head but I had to sit down and think hard to really put my finger on what it was.

Paris has become friendly. There I’ve said it. Its true.

Yes the prices are still silly. Yes the traffic is still awful. Yes the airport is still the worst in the world and yes once you have managed to shoe horn yourself into your bistro seat you will still need a tub of Vaseline and a complicated nautical rope and pulley system to get yourself out again, but its all so much nicer if this is inflicted on you with a smile.

It would be an understatement to say they’ve had a rough time of late and are currently enduring a perfect storm, if you forgive the preposterously obvious pun, of floods, strikes and a screaming bright red terrorist threat level a few days before they host the European football championships.

All of this must have had an impact on the psyche of the Parisians but knowing their absolute determination to maintain their ideals in spite of everything, to not capitulate in the face of atrocious acts leads me to believe they have changed simply because they wanted to, or perhaps I have just been unlucky with all my visits there.

Either way, I now genuinely look forward to the next time I am fortunate enough to visit the city. I no longer dread working my way though the almost escalator free metro with a heavy bag or risking my life in a taxi from CDG.

And this in my book is a really really good thing.

I might even start trying harder with the pronunciation.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Well said.

Island Nation

untitledA country with a moat is very secure.

It would take real determination to conquer a nation so fortuitously endowed with such a natural defense.

Ever since Doggerland disappeared 8,000 years ago Great Britain has enjoyed a natural moat, one which has famously not been breached for coming on to close to a millennia. Britain ruled the waves for one reason; it had to, and it did so very effectively. For a very long time.

But in 1973 the country opted to loosen slightly some of its controls and join the European Common Market; a free trading club which had been going on since the end of the Second World War. Back then, as Europe struggled to deal with the utter destruction arising from two cataclysmic world wars, a common trading pact between the belligerent nations seemed a very good idea. To foster good relations and avoid another repeat of the previous thirty years. The integration of Europe was seen as the way forward, the thinking being that anything would be preferable to what had just happened.

Over the forty plus years since Britain joined the common market this exclusive club has morphed from a trade based union to something much more. It has grown up into the European Union and expanded geographically well beyond where anyone thought it would during its inception at the treaty of Rome. Its legislative reach has also expanded exponentially, to the point where politicians are complaining about having their hands tied and even a perceived challenge to the fundamental principle of self-determination has found its way into the everyday lexicon of our modern sound bite media.

So now, for the second time in two years, Britain will be holding a referendum on the question of integration or separation. In 2014 Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom and in June this year the whole nation will be going to the polls again, this time to determine if the nation should remain a part of the European club, or not. The potential for Brexit, as its being called, is starting to gain momentum and in a few months from now the nation will have decided.

If Britain does decide to exit the EU the ramifications cannot be underestimated and I personally find myself in an uneasy situation.

Anyone who knows me knows I have an opinion on pretty much anything. I am very happy to spend time debating the pros and cons of most things. Sometimes I get the odd person who just disagrees with me and being devoid of any good argument simply resorts to Godwin’s law to end the discussion quickly but for the most part its normally good natured debate. I like that, it’s healthy and I am not, yet, so stuck in my ways to not change my opinion should a better argument win the day.

Two years ago I was very much opposed to Scotland voting to separate from the rest of the United Kingdom, I argued strongly and enjoyed the debate. It so happened that 55% of the population held a similar opinion and thus Scotland remained an integral part of the UK.

But now I am having second thoughts, I don’t like to admit it but I am grown up and ugly enough to do so. If I am wrong I will stand up and say so.

Let’s be clear, I still believe Scotland should be part of the UK and I firmly believe the UK is ‘Better together’. My second thoughts are nothing to do with the UK as an entity per se but very much to do with the desires of the majority of the Scottish population, which I believe are very much in favour of Scotland remaining an integral part of the European Union.

So let’s fast forward to June and let’s imagine the UK votes to exit. The current polls show that Scotland clearly, by a large margin, wants to remain with Europe so if this did happen it would be wholly undemocratic for the Scottish people. It would be England dragging Scotland out regardless of the wishes of the Scottish people.

I have, in the past, argued for the principle that we are all in it together when it comes to the whole of the UK being managed from Westminster regarding taxation, defence and most of the normal day to day activities of government.

Leaving the European Union is too big a decision and it flies in the face of this inclusive principle. If the Scottish nation were to be dragged out, not through their own choice, then I would find myself seriously questioning my own opinions from two years ago.

But what would happen next?

Well, I think the answer is pretty obvious and if you think about the consequences of Brexit it will quickly lead you down a Machiavellian rabbit hole.

The SNP also know what would happen if Scotland exits the EU because the majority in England voted for it, but the SNP are campaigning to stay in. Or are they?

This EU referendum is a gold-plated, perfume scented gift which has landed on their laps. They win if the UK stays, they win if the UK goes.

So again, really, how hard are they campaigning?

All the SNP would need is to show the majority of Scottish voters wanted to remain and in the blink of an eye we would see a second independence referendum on the table and this time around I would imagine, like me, a lot of the 55% who voted to remain would be having serious second thoughts.

In short, if Britain does decide to become an isolated Island nation once again I would immediately become a strong and vocal supporter for Scottish independence.

Building walls never helps. There are numerous historical and contemporary examples of this and I don’t need to explain why. Berlin, Gaza to name just two.

The EU is far from perfect, it costs its member states a lot of money to maintain and not every member plays by the rules. We all have immigration issues and we all face the same challenges. Britain has managed to negotiate a number of key opt out clauses through John Major and more recently with David Cameron. But even with these special privileges the situation is still far from perfect. I am fully cognisant of its flaws but the solution cannot be to pick up your ball and walk home, the solution has to be to fix it from within.

Whether in or out, Europe is, and will continue to be, vital to the prosperity of the UK and I would argue if you are trying to influence Europe then hiding behind a wall or a moat is probably not the best place to do it from.

So Britain still has its natural barrier but retreating behind it isn’t the answer and I can almost guarantee the Pandora’s box it will open will be almost impossible to close.

And I for one certainly don’t want to be going down that route.

Again.

Drinks like Richard Burton. Dance like John Travolta.

trump capWhat’s the difference between a pledge and a promise?

Nothing really. Both are commitments to do something and both are not legally binding. One is used more often than the other but they sort of mean the same thing. A pledge does seem to have an air of formality which a promise doesn’t though. For example I would never make a pledge to buy my kids an ice-cream but I often promise it.

During the 2010 UK Election the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party Nick Clegg made a pledge not to raise university tuition fees as part of his party’s campaign manifesto. Subsequently, as part of a coalition government the Liberal democrats did nothing to stop the tripling of tuition fees. In short, the pledge or promise they and he made during the election was broken.

Or to put it another way, and looking at it in retrospect, he lied to get votes.

But this will comes as no surprise to anyone, a politician who lies to get votes is just doing whatever every other politician is doing. Right?

I was thinking about this in relation to the worsening state of the Republican nomination elections going on right now the other side of the Atlantic. For the most part Europeans are watching on with disbelief as the rhetoric keeps being ratcheted up to what would normally represent politically suicidal levels, but oddly as it does the cheers just get louder and the votes keeps coming in.

I am of course referring to the leading candidate Donald Trump and how he is managing, almost single handedly, to turn politics on its head.

He himself recognises it and, not possessing a single modest cell in his body, is also very happy to shout about it.

The old adage; no publicity is bad publicity, has never really applied to politics. If, for example, you were photographed masturbating with an orange in your mouth whilst wearing a KKK smock this would normally spell the end of your political (or other) career.

If it was Donald Trump however he would probably get extra votes from orange farmers and white sheet manufacturers.

The statements of fact about what he will do when he becomes president are clearly un-doable. He is making pledges or promises now which everyone knows cannot be done.

  • Ban Muslim people from entering the US. How?
  • Build a wall with Mexico and have them pay for it? How?
  • Kick the Syrian refugees out. Where to?
  • Shut down parts of the internet. How?
  • Bring back jobs from China. How?

Everyone knows these statements are lies already but contrary to the normal rules of politics people are lapping them up and continue to vote for him. They don’t seem to care if he is telling the truth or not.

For what its worth I don’t believe Donald Trump will become the next president of the US, no matter how popular he appears to be right now. The joke will eventually wear thin and when push comes to shove Hillary will end up sitting in the oval office wondering what else her husband got up to in that very seat.

So is there anything good to come of it all other than a few comedic months before the reset button is pressed?

I think so because I don’t think there is a reset button.

If its possible to put the borderline racist, misogynistic and frankly stupid statements aside for a moment, he is shaking up the established order and this can only be a good thing. I like it because once the hoo-ha has died down and he goes back to just being a bit of a dick with stupid hair someone else could come along, someone less like Trump, who might actually benefit from the change. Suddenly not only is it ok to depart from the party line, it seems to be the way to go.

Most democratic countries around the world have a very similar operating model.

Most countries have one, two or three major parties and a lot of minor ones who will never stand a chance of ruling. Mostly these parties are formed around a fundamental principle or two such as the conservative party or Labour party in the UK. These parties have inherent rules which members must follow even if they disagree with them – the party line has to be adhered to at all times.

What this means in practice is the general population have very little choice. Yes you can vote for the green party or UKIP if you like but deep down you know your party will never be able to put into practice the policies which you hold close to your heart.

Whatever you think of Trump he does appear to be appealing to the broad masses and whether you like it or not isn’t this the point of democracy?

Maybe, just maybe, the legacy here will be that a less offensive version of Trump will come along, a Trump-light say, who can actually give the broad masses what they want without alienating the whole world in the process and when he does the established order won’t be able to stop him, or her.

But back to a pledge vs a promise. How can it be that a party or politician can campaign and promise or pledge everything and when they actually get into power not do half of what was in their manifesto? How can it be that they seem to be continually getting away with it? Conning the electorate that is.

Shouldn’t this be illegal? Shouldn’t the election be annulled or something?

If, for example, Trump was to actually win the election he would find himself sitting on a long list of un-executable promises.

The Mexicans would say go build it yourself. Muslims would just say no when asked the key question at immigration. The Greeks or Turks would refuse the plane(s) carrying the refugees back. Someone would actually point out its impossible to shut down the internet, the Chinese would just keep manufacturing and America wouldn’t be great again.

How would his screaming, dribbling, greasy finger-licking, supporters feel about that?

So if I was to be advising him right now I would tell him to continue being loud, keep the hair and the brashness but promise nothing. Nothing at all, other than promise to hold everyone else to their pledges or promises, and if they decided to do a U-turn they would be fired immediately.

How about that for a novel way to hold our respective leaders to account?

It would never pass any party committee test but if Trump has shown us anything over the last few months this isn’t totally necessary to catch the imagination of the electorate.

And maybe I’m just a bit old fashioned but at the end of the day aren’t these the people who should really matter?

Rainbows & Unicorns

game-of-thrones-recap-dragon-970x546-cIn the TV show Game of Thrones there are dragons. Three of them.

Big scary scaly things which can fly, breath fire, kill anything they want and are notoriously hard to train. The Queen of the dragons in the show can sort of control them, like the mother of a steroid pumped bodybuilder; he might listen to her, or he might not but if you were to have a go at his mum….

So it would take a very brave person indeed to do anything bad to the Queen whilst she has three CGI dragons behind her on a leash. They are a fantastic deterrent to the rest of the made up characters in the show. No one messes with the Queen.

Well so far – let’s see how the story pans out.

What would happen though if everyone else somehow managed to get their hands on a dragon or two? Suddenly the Queen might start feeling a little less secure, her deterrent neutralised. Everyone in Westeros and beyond would be on a level playing field.

If that was to happen then there would probably be a moratorium on the use of the Dragons and I would imagine there would be strict controls imposed on who else have get them. There would probably be unilateral agreements on breeding them and perhaps a limit on how many one could have.

And, of course, there is no way the Dothraki are going to be allowed to get their hands on some…

Now you can’t develop a dragon, however cool that might be. In fact you can’t even breed any because they are, unfortunately or fortunately, not real.

But drones are real.

Unmanned combat aerial vehicles are very real and only a few countries have them. Even less countries have actually used them in combat; US, UK, Pakistan and Israel. A few other countries have them but to this point they remain unused in a military sense.

Drones give the country owning them a clear advantage; controlled from thousands of miles away, no human life put at risk (in the drone that is) and using the most up to date, cutting edge sophisticated technology they are very very effective.

Who wouldn’t want to have a fleet of fire breathing drones at their disposal?

A long time ago a group of people invented the bow and arrow and they instantly had the advantage, they were able to kill the enemy from a distance. Then along came the Steppe people who combined the cutting edge technology of horses with the bow and arrow and they took over the advantage.

Suddenly armies which moved at the speed of a walking man were facing armies which moved at the speed of a galloping horse and they were armed to the teeth. Whole continents were razed to the ground because of the advantage this gave them. But soon everyone caught up and they lost their advantage.

Tanks were developed specifically to break the deadlock of WW1 trench warfare. But then the other side developed their own. And so on. History shows that the advantage of such technology is short lived.

And it will be the same for drones and also for whatever the next technological leap forward happens to be, robo-warriors?

How will we feel when Kim Jong-un starts showing off his own drones, or IS or anyone else we think are not capable of using them in the ‘proper way’?

But drones have their limitations, like almost all weapons of war with one clear exception – nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons followed a similar path to every other weapon which preceded them. At one point only the US and the UK had them. And at that time most people were ok with that. Well people in the US and UK were. I would guess the residents of Nagasaki and Hiroshima were less enthusiastic.

But then following the normal course of events others found, stole or somehow acquired the technology and then it became not ok. As we descended into an arms race and the cold war nuclear weapons became the scariest thing we ever invented.

As we all know, what sets them apart from any other weapon is their sheer destructive power. They don’t just have the capability of hurting the enemy, they have the capability of wiping the human race from the face of the earth, and a similar to dragons that makes them very fucking scary indeed.

But this is the point in history where nuclear weapons diverted from the normal course of military technological advancements. They never got used, in anger. Tanks, drones, airplanes, bows and arrows, horses, armour, guns, missiles have all been used. Nuclear weapons not.

We stepped back from the brink and took a breath. The stockpiles of nukes which exist around the world today are primed, pointed and programmed but lie dormant, unused. Even at the height of the cold war, when nuclear annihilation seemed almost certain the powers that be paused and removed their respective fingers from the button. Its one thing to have Russian tanks rolling through Germany in a westerly direction, it’s another pressing a button and in doing so knowing for certain you are setting in motion the mutually assured total destruction of the planet.

And it’s for this reason I would argue the world is a much better place today with nuclear weapons than it would be without them.

No one can rewrite history but try to think for a moment what would have happened had the Trinity tests in New Mexico been unsuccessful and Einstein’s theory turned out to be just the ramblings of a madman with funny hair.

The war in the Pacific would have lasted years longer that is guaranteed. Many more casualties would have occurred than were incurred in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Just imagine the US having to invade mainland Japan at that point in history, it would have ended but it would have been horrific and much, much more bloody, on all sides.

Would the Warsaw pact countries and the West have maintained the stalemate they did without the threat of all round destruction hanging over their heads? I think not.

I do believe WW3 was only avoided because of the existence of nuclear weapons.

Don’t get me wrong, I dislike them as much as the next person. I just believe they are a necessary evil. It’s easy to criticise them, march against them or demand they are not in my back yard but what is the alternative?

Jeremy Corbyn is anti-nuclear, which is understandable. I am too.

But what I keep wondering is, given we know they exist what do we do with them? They are not dragons; they are real so how do we deal with the real world?

Unless you can persuade everyone who has them to dismantle them all, at exactly the same time and then forget how to make them, I’m not sure what other solutions there are.

Jeremy if that’s your solution then I will applaud you and maybe even vote for you if you manage to pull it off but I don’t hear you saying this.

All I hear you saying is they are nasty things and we don’t want them.

The problem is the real world isn’t a nice place. It never has been ever since that girl took an ill-advised bite out of that apple. The real world is full of nasty people and nasty bombs. If one person has a dragon they have an advantage if two people have them then the threat is neutralised.

The nuclear genie was let out of the bottle way back in 1945. Until someone figures out how to put it back in anyone who thinks we can just get rid of them, Mr Corbyn included, are living in a fantasy world of rainbows and unicorns.

It’s easy to criticise when you don’t have the power but that said I still would expect more from elected politicians.

Even one I would never vote for.

Unless he’s got a real dragon that is.

Be afraid, be mildly afraid

ttipI’m not a conspiracy theorist.

I believe they put a man on the moon. Elvis is also dead. Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald and Osama Bin Laden was primarily responsible for 9/11.

I don’t believe there is a shadowy group of people controlling our actions without us knowing, I don’t believe the governments of the world put stuff in the water supply to keep us docile and we are definitely not living in the alternative world of the matrix.

No, I believe most things are pretty straightforward and when it looks like a cat, meows like a cat, acts sneaky like a cat and craps in your garden (like a cat), then it’s a cat. Its not a tyrannical industrialist looking to take over the world by funding patsy politicians to do his bidding – its just a sneaky, nasty, garden crapping cat.

But then suddenly a little piece of my belief system got chipped away. Not a big piece, Elvis is definitely still dead, a small piece. Like the fist sized piece of harling which breaks off the bottom of your gable end wall after a balls been kicked against it one too many times.

I took the time to read about the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership to those of you who haven’t yet taken the time) and now the cat is still a nasty, horrible cat but maybe its become a Chinese one with a billion dollars to spend and a supercomputer to play with.

Why would a dull sounding piece of legislation with the intent of stimulating growth and trade be enough to wobble, albeit only a little, a foundation block of my belief system you might ask?

Well because of the secrecy, that’s why.

I understand secrecy, years ago I had to deal with such things and there are plenty of situations where governments, or companies for that matter, would not want to be 100% fully transparent. Not least when it comes to national security. I understand this and accept this.

I also think, since Edward Snowden showed up on the scene we should all be critical, or at least be questioning the national security related powers we give the people, who govern on our behalf. But I’ve already had my rant on that particular topic.

The secrecy surrounding the TTIP is so intense on the face of it looks like its been lifted straight from a Jason Bourne movie. Tales of MPs being barred from seeing the draft documentation, clean secure reading rooms, single copies. Full transcripts being released only after the deal has been signed, if then, and so on.

And its this which concerns me. Why would something as benign as a trade deal between nation states require so much secrecy? A little perhaps if it involves business confidential information but nuclear code level secrecy?

Well the only answer I can come up with is that what is being negotiated will not be widely accepted by the general populations of the nations involved, i.e. the electorate. I cant think of any other reason, unless they really are discussing nuclear codes and if they are they probably need to think of new acronym.

I am clearly not alone in my concern here, there are plenty of people raising flags and protesting but this specific issue does seem to be happening largely below the radar. The coverage on the news is limited and its only when another radical group decide to march on Downing Street or fill the center of Berlin that it is. The coverage never really seems to address the issues or concerns about what is really contained within the documents being negotiated.

Here are a few facts about the TTIP, which I have managed to glean from trawling the internet:

Customs tariffs to be abolished between signing states, which in my mind is a very good thing. Makes sense you would think, reducing red tape always a popular manifesto pledge and now they are going to actually do it. Hurrah!

Harmonising regulatory standards which again on the face of it sounds like a no-brainer. If a drug is cleared for public consumption in, say, France then it will automatically be cleared for public consumption in the UK or the US, no further ‘red tape’ or silly hurdles to jump through. The assumption here is the regulatory standards of the involved nations are good enough for the others. A move to a higher common denominator, not the opposite I would hope.

So these are the good things but sticking on regulatory standards for a moment, what about food? The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) covers both drugs and food. Recently the FDA cleared the way for the AquaAdvantage Salmon to be sold as salmon in stores across the US. This particular Salmon is not a super fish which they have just found, no this is a genetically modified salmon which grows to ‘market size’ (I love how its market size, not adulthood) in 18 months, instead of the normal and natural 3 years. Basically it’s a super-salmon and its coming to a dinner plate near you soon, if you live in the US that is. If TTIP goes ahead its likely the robo-fish will be landing on a lot of other countries dinner plates as well.

This is just one example where, I would suggest, harmonising all regulations isn’t such a good idea.

What about privacy? Some time ago there was an act (ACTA) which was thrown out of the European parliament because it required ISPs to monitor peoples online activity as a means to curb piracy. The TTIP contains (apparently) most of the central requirements of the ACTA.

Back door anyone?

But its on the topic of Business vs. State where I think the biggest threat lies (if there is a threat at all, who knows?). One of the main aims of the TTIP is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute settlements which basically means a company, an unelected company from another country, can sue a nation state if the legislation they put through could have a negative effect on the profitability of that company…

I don’t think you need to be a genius to think up your own nightmare scenarios here. Think Tobacco, think guns, think Nuclear power.

This, if it comes into force, I would suggest is a direct challenge to the democracy of a country to determine what is right for that country.

In general I am supportive of measures which will stimulate trade, create jobs and help the world continue to move onwards and upwards. But when such huge trade deals such as TTIP are being discussed and negotiated my expectation is that its done in a clear and transparent fashion.

That the normal everyday person is aware and the issues have been argued and agreed upon.

I see none of this here, I just see secrecy and jingoistic headlines about job creation and red tape – ignore the rest its just dull.

And in general we are – TTIP is hardly mentioned anywhere and its certainly not setting the internet alight.

‘Look over there, its Kim Kardashian and a cute cat going down a waterslide on YouTube!’ and we all laugh or go aww.

TTIP is dull – a large famous arse on the internet is not.

But dull as it is, its going on, mostly behind closed doors and it will affect each of us in one way or another.

Without the necessary information, I find it hard to agree or disagree with it so if anyone was to ask me right now if I would vote yes for it. I would probably say no.

But of course thats a rhetorical question because we wont be getting that vote.

And if this isn’t a good reason to start a conspiracy theory then I’m not sure what is…

Being Saintly

screen-shot-2015-12-22-at-10-43-59-amIts hardly surprising that, with the exception of Judas Iscariot, all of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ are venerated as Saints in the Catholic church. I don’t think I need to explain why Judas was overlooked.

But even if you haven’t gone as far as to do something as heinous as betraying the son of god achieving the title ‘Saint’ is still no easy thing.

As you probably know Mother Teresa is currently in the running for the title. The current Pope has just cleared the way for this to happen. Ultimately it’s the Pope’s decision, his and his alone, but she needs to have met certain criteria before even he can say yes, or no.

Now you would think someone like Mother Teresa would be a shoe-in for the title. Born in Macedonia she moved to India when she was 18 years old and devoted her life to the betterment of the dirt poor in India. During her life she received numerous honours, most notable being the Nobel Peace prize in 1979. She is credited with founding the Missionaries of Charity which consists of 4,500 nuns working in 133 countries running hospices and homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis. They run soup kitchens, mobile clinics, orphanages and schools.

In short, and in most peoples books, Ms Teresa is already a saint.

But to become a real, proper, saint, she needs to meet certain criteria, which are in no particular order (according to sainthood for Dummies);

  1. Be dead (check)
  2. Live an exemplary and pious life (check)
  3. Be Catholic (check)
  4. Perform at least two miracles (…)

If the first requirement wasn’t a killer, pun intended, then the last one has to be.

I would suggest becoming a saint today is infinitely more difficult than it would have been say, 500 years ago. The scientific standards have moved on somewhat, and if science can explain pretty much everything then how can anyone, Mother Teresa included, actually perform a bona fide miracle and thus achieve sainthood?

In the good old days a few hundred years ago it would be easy. Your have to remember back then they believed in witches, sea serpents, minotaur’s, centaurs, dragons and unicorns. Probably.

Persuading the Pope you had performed a miracle would have been relatively easy. ‘Look I just resurrected a Unicorn and my mate Fernando saw it!’

The only tricky part would be persuading them it was a divine miracle rather than some form of witchcraft. Get that wrong and things might quickly turn bad for you.

But assuming you do (lie convincingly that is), you only then need to perform one more miracle, live your life piously, make sure you are Catholic (simple enough) and then just die.

So it would appear on the face of it Mother Teresa has her posthumous work cut out for her.

Well, no, not really.

Two weeks ago the Pope recognised the second miracle attributed to her, when she healed a man with multiple brain tumours. The first was healing a tumour in the abdomen of an Indian woman after the ‘application’ of a locket containing Mother Teresa’s picture.

So she will at some point in the future become a saint, and in my opinion this is good. I’m not a man of faith but understand such things are very important to a large proportion of the world’s population. And if anyone from the modern time deserves it, its got to be her.

But back to the miracles she is supposed to have performed. Both have been challenged strongly by doctors and scientists who were around at the time and even some who witnessed the so call miracles.

So if I was a betting man, both miracles were probably not really miracles, but does it really matter?

The Pope doesn’t think so, deep down he probably knows miracles don’t exist, but he has to follow centuries of protocol – he has no choice. And this is one of the many reason why I like him. A lot.

Pope Francis came along after the last one ‘resigned’. He inherited a shambolic church, riddled with scandal and one which was rapidly losing the respect of the global congregation, plus everyone else.

Born in Buenos Aires in 1936 he studied as a chemical technologist and worked as a nightclub bouncer before he began his seminary studies. An interesting start indeed for someone who would ultimately become the Bishop of Rome.

But from the outside looking in, he appears to be a breath of fresh air. He appears to be a man of the people, having no issue with mingling with the common person. He seems to be addressing the multitiple issues facing the church ranging from paedophilia to people of non faith (like me), homosexuality, abortion, contraception as well as the ‘standard’ calls for world peace and the like.

He appears to be addressing these thorny issues head on and in a transparent way whilst continuing to act as a normal person. A good example of this is during a recent visit to the US the Senate had organised a lavish dinner in his honour. He politely declined the offer and spent the evening having his tea at a local soup kitchen.

So what’s not to like about the man?

I’m also not alone in my admiration for the man. Time magazine named him 2013’s man of the year, he’s been on the cover of Rolling Stone and Fortune magazine ranked him number one in their list of 50 greatest leaders. The praise just keeps on coming.

Yes, the current Pope seems to have managed in a very short period of time to have resurrected, again pun intended, the battered reputation of the Catholic church. There is a long way to go, but in my, and a lot of other peoples opinion they have the right man at the helm to do this.

And if in the future this doesn’t count as a miracle or two then frankly I don’t know what would.

So having spent a long time conducting a deep and detailed study into the entry requirements for sainthood I have come to the realisation its going to take more than a miracle for me to qualify. I am far from being the Pope or Mother Teresa.

But that’s ok, I don’t and won’t even try to measure myself against these lofty and pious individuals.

I have set myself a lower standard but one I still think Francis would still approve of.

Don’t be evil is Google’s motto.

Now that’s a standard even I think I can live up to, and perhaps everyone else can also..

Buon Natale!

Changing the guard?

Capture‘Whane yew is in ‘merica, we is right.’ came the response.

It was at that point I gave up on trying to explain that the dating convention commonly used in the US; MM/DD/YYY is the exception, rather than the rule.

Or to put it in the fat car hire woman’s vernacular I had been politely trying to explain to her that ‘yew is wrong’. But given she held had my credit card, my driving licence and the keys to the car I needed to complete a marathon 24hours of travel I felt it prudent to shut up.

I should have realised earlier as she struggled to write my date of birth correctly, in the American way, as 07/20/1970. I didn’t though, and avoiding my own advice of always agreeing with someone in uniform, I foolishly persisted in trying to further the woman’s education by explaining to her that there isn’t a 20th month in a year.

I think she then purposely slowed down because it took her another twenty minutes to finish a transaction which in any other country in the world would take two.

But in her defence she was right about one thing. I was in America.

And it’s an odd country.

Founded by a bunch of breakaway Europeans with lofty ideals and an overwhelming desire to start afresh and to break the mould. Their goal was to create something new, something principled, something better.

And they did.

I challenge anyone to read the declaration of independence and not be impressed with the principled statements Thomas Jefferson et al put down on paper back in 1776. Its even more impressive to note, this document was written and signed when the fledgling country was still at war with Great Britain over the minor point as to whether they could be independent or not.

But as we know they did win their independence and started creating a new country from scratch. They did what they said they would. And for about 150 years the United States happily, and relatively quietly, went about its business exploring, trading, improving, inventing, building up a vast industrial infrastructure and remaining generally peaceful when it came to foreign nations. For the most part the US avoided national alliances with other countries and worked on the premise that if you don’t attack us, we wont attack you.

That all changed in April 1917 though when the US entered WW1 and they stepped up onto the world stage, properly.

And they’ve remained there ever since. I also think its fairly safe to say that since about 1945 it’s been the most powerful country in the world. Not much of consequence has happened in the world since then without the US being party to, responsible for, or at least having a significant say in whatever it might be.

I first set foot in the US when I was 19 years old.

My own 1492 moment was in Fort Lauderdale and it happened to coincide with Spring break. Prior to that day my only perception of the country was through the media, the news, the movies and it was generally positive. It was a country full of cowboys, gangsters, rock n roll, Playboy girls, Levi’s and plentiful everything. A meritocracy where anything was possible.

My visit in 1989 did nothing to dampen this positive view – as you can imagine being a 19 year old Scotsman in Fort Lauderdale during Spring break can only lead to good things.

But in the intervening years my perception of the place has changed.

I have travelled there quite a lot for business and pleasure over this time and maybe its age or an increased cynicism but I have started to see the country differently. The girls, the rock n roll, the opportunity and the hamburgers still exist but they seem to have lost their shine.

I now see the country differently.

I see an insular country fixated on itself but with an inability to curb its insatiable interventionist nature.

I see a country unwilling to change and see things for what they are. I see a country not able to step back and try to see things from another perspective. A country which seems to struggle with recognising the illogical from the logical.

I don’t see balance. I see extremes and any extreme whether good intentioned or not, is bad.

Extreme poverty and wealth. Extreme focus on the few. Extreme focus on religion and on certain rights to the point where they start infringing on the rights of others. Lobby groups so rich and powerful that it makes you question if the ruling party is actually ruling on behalf of the people, or the lobby groups.

But it’s hard to say, historically speaking, if we are witnessing and living through a change of empire, from the US to say China or otherwise because none of us have a historical perspective.

It’s like trying to read the time on Big Ben when you are standing two centimetres away from it. You can’t and as with most major shifts like this you need to be able to step back to judge their importance. They very rarely happen overnight. Most great world events are not 9/11 or declarations of independence. The fall of the Roman Empire didn’t just happen with the Goths, it took centuries.These things normally happen with glacial speed with the edges being slowly chipped and worn away.

In 1914 Gavrilo Princip didn’t know he was starting such a dramatic chain of events. When the first cotton spinning wheels were invented in Britain the people living then didn’t know they were kick starting the industrial revolution and changing the world as it had been for a few millennia. They didn’t know this because they couldn’t know this – its only now can we see the impact of such things.

So are we living through another momentous moment in history? Are we unknowingly witnessing another changing of the guard?

I think we are and I don’t think this is a bad thing for the world, or even the US itself.

Today when I look at the US I see a tired country unable to deal with the overreach it has unwittingly or wittingly built for itself. It is barely able to manage itself let alone the rest of the free world, so it should probably stop now and focus on getting its own house in order first.

Also, when I look at the current crop of presidential candidates, none of them really fill me with much hope.

Obama did. I genuinely believed along with a lot of people that he was the bright new light. The panacea to the problems and the bringer of change. But even his shining star got bogged down with the internal bureaucracy and the lobby groups to such an extent that it flickered and died.

He disappointed and now the electorate are looking for something different.

And that something different could potentially be a clown, with the face of Donald Trump.

I cannot imagine someone like Trump being the president of any country, let alone the United States. I can’t, but then I never imagined that George W would win a second term either. I was flabbergasted when he did and it proved to me that logic, reason and common sense are not necessary commodities when it comes to politics. Silvio Berlusconi knows this and I’m sure Donald Trump knows this as well.

Trump is appealing to the segment of the population who, like my car hire woman, don’t know or care much about the world outside of the USA. And if my prediction is right, this is ok.

This is, after all, what Jefferson and the rest of the brave founding fathers wanted in the first place.

It’s probably time for someone else to step up and take over.

‘Whane yew is in ‘merica, we is right.’

And when all is said and done, on this point, I would tend to agree with you.