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…

Alexander vs Osama

alexanderSo they got him – the worlds most wanted man is dead, hurrah!

Some will mourn, a lot will celebrate but most, like me will think good and then move on. Lets face it he was a very bad man and deserved to die but regardless, I feel slightly uncomfortable watching the crowds high 5-ing outside the White House.

A breathless, red faced, Buck Howitzer, truck driver from Minnesota, someone who lives at the bloater end of the portly scale, perfectly captures my unease – “fuck yeh, we got him, God Bless America, Navy Seals, yeh, fucking murdering rag-head and anyone who disagrees with me is a homosexual-liberal-communist, ok?” a thin sliver of saliva runs down his chin(s) as he shouts at the night sky.

Its that same cringing feeling I get when see the Sun’s infamous headline the morning after the Belgrano was sent to the bottom of the South Atlantic- probably a good thing but certainly not a wild celebration moment.

Anyhow, does anyone know who is now number one?

I assume this will be the person who has been rather anonymously sitting at number two all this time but other than this simple deduction I have no idea who he is. I am assuming he or she will probably have a beard, be brown-ish and most likely live in a country ending with “istan”.

Its not really the worlds most wanted man though is it?

Its the US’s (and their friends) most wanted list, I doubt very much Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would subscribe to the same list. He probably has his own list chock full of Israelis, Kim Jong Il ‘s will have everyone squashed into a top 10. You can imagine the question – does a nation of 240Million count as 1 or do we need to create a top 250Million?

No, to be more specific its the FBI’s most wanted list and having just browsed through the mug shots I know know who is number 2 (or number 1 now). Firstly I was very wrong about his colour and ethnicity – its a very white chap called James J Bulger or “Whitey”, yes really, to his friends. He is wanted for doing bad things, a lot of bad things, Goodfella style, back in the 1970s.

Looking down his list of crimes, 19 counts of murder, drugs, organised crime, jail, girls and pasta – its all there waiting to hit the big screen soon. James will be shown as a bad man of course, but with a good heart. He only kills when necessary and only other criminals, never civilian people and never, never women or kids. Yes he has his faults, yes he is a bad man but we will root for him right up until the end when the “good” guys get him or not as the case actually is.

Buck of course will be watching intently, BBQ Chicken Licken sauce dripping off his fingers as he secretly wishes he was running around New York in the 1970s.

I am not, of course, comparing this man with Osama Bin Laden. He was a man to be feared and planned the deaths of innocent people indiscriminately. However I am questioning who or what determines when someone is shown as a hero, anti-hero, villain or monster.

Alexander the Great is remembered as one of the greatest leaders of antiquity, revered even, but was responsible for at least, at least, 250,000 non-combatant deaths – basically that’s women and kids to you and I.

No matter which way I try to spin this I find it pretty hard to shine a positive light on this but somehow Alexander has managed to do so.

Perhaps in time Osama, Hitler and Stalin will be seen in a similar light but I somehow doubt it.

Churchill hit the nail on the head when he said that “history is written by the victors” and this in the long run will prove to be Osama’s undoing – he lost.