No wonder I’m confused!

The years go by and things change at an amazing rate. (I hate the word amazing used too much). But in this case, amazing means what it has been, mind-boggling, confusing, and dazzling.

Everything from politics to gender definition,  privacy, communication, you name it, things have changed.  What was once great, say The British Empire, is now held in contempt for the evils that were perpetrated along the way.  Slavery being the principal wrong. There were many others, institutions, and empires, where progress was defined in ways that would not be tolerated today.

The Church as I knew it has all but vanished, and the ascendency of other religions usually in the extreme form now grab all the attention and cause mayhem in the complexity of Middle East and throughout the world.

Capitalism has its fair share of detractors, and though I never believed it possible we see liberalism highjacked by the luny fringes leading to what amounts to an attack on the basic freedom of speech. Extreme liberalism is anything but, extremists use social media to shout down alternative viewpoints. Hence the birth of fake news and growing polarisation away from the consensual center ground

The history of many cultures is being re-examined in the light of modern (some say) thinking. Nothing is sacred anymore.

Yet the world still has enormous diversity not only climatic and racial, but cultural and political. I guess in the West we still cling to the idea of liberal capitalism but the EU is manifestly failing to sustain the great experiment, trying vainly to aggregate the views of Poland, Hungary, and Austria versus France, Germany and the bemused and bankrupt southern European states.  Populism, as exemplified by PORTUS Trump knows no apparent moral or legal code. Authoritarianism reigns unbridled in Russia and China, Corruption still reigns supreme in the developing world.  In short, the world is in a mess.

How are we to define progress?  What is progress?  A safer, cleaner kinder world would be a reasonable proposal. However, with such distrust and deviance of rational thinking, we are a long way from a move toward these noble aims. The UN remains hamstrung and useless because of the Paranoia of Putin, the indiscipline of Trump, the greed of many of the developing world leaders and the bemusement of the old guard. Still, a talking shop is better than no talking shop and it’s all that have.

No wonder I’m confused.

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Brexit, it’s not about fish – entirely.

AS Britain staggers toward the exit from the European Union I am constantly amazed that people in general, have lost the plot. Getting out of the European Union was never  about fishing, or silly regulation it has always been about the Federalism (exemplified by the unworkable Eurozone) which is totally alien to the British people.

The idea that the UK should be part of an organisation driven by unelected bureaucrats that rules rough shod over its so called sovereign members is and always will be untenable.  Evidenced by what has happened to Greece and the Iberian economies the EU still drives toward a federal state.  The cost of running the EU is enormous and I have yet to see a statement of the resultant value set against the costs of this sprawling bureaucracy.  UK has been a net contributor for the last four plus decades and whilst their has been ‘value’ the pendulum has swung well past the reasonable cooperation in trade and law toward to hugely catastrophic juggernaut which has lurched towards the elitist  idea of a federal Europe.

Yes, we knew that the Brexit negotiation means just that and it would be and remains difficult to project the results, but that is the nature of the beast.  Mrs May has been hesitant to draw red lines because I think she knows that getting out and resetting the agenda for a free UK is almost beyond value.  Balancing the short term interests of the economy with the long term interests of UK is intensely difficult particularly when the EU has such complex and unclear objectives of neo federalism.

Getting out is right, the future beyond that exit is surely uncertain, but at least the UK will be able to steer its own democratic future.

Messrs Major and Blair were instrumental in not halting the aspirations of the euro mini states and the likes of  Messrs Juncker and Tusk, who have been propelled into power they must only have dreamed of.

Release from the petty puppets of Brussels is worth some cost, the longer we demure the higher the cost.  So, Mrs May, I wish you the best, but don’t be bullied by left or right, remember we are fighting for the right to remain an independent democracy and that’s surely worth a lot.  We can argue interminably as to what that value is, but it will always be too much for some.

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Diversity the secret of success

I have been lucky enough to spend a good part of the British winter in warmer climes.  I walked almost unconsciously into a foreign culture quite unprepared to ‘integrate’ or make any other concession.  I was immediately struck by the welcome and kindness of the Thai people and realized for once that it was me that was different,

Recognising ‘my difference’ is hard to do.  I am so used to being the one looking out at others, making judgments and I very seldom if ever,  think about how I appear to others.  We are, like everyone else, the center of our own worlds. We tend to judge everything from the perspective of our own existence and experience.

Hence if you are rich you find it difficult to appreciate the problems of poverty, if you are white you find it impossible to imagine being black. All we can do is empathise as best we can. We have to want to understand what makes others tick though few of us do.

This lack of natural empathy is exemplified by the Rhodes issue at Oxford.  Some see the history of Imperial Britain as an ambitious exploration that brought progress to the empire and the world at large.  Others see the history of Britain built on slavery and thus created wealth on the backs of enslaved nations.

It is not long since the Christian missionaries of Europe tortured and killed in the name of Christianity. Today we have factions of various religions that have zealots and extremists who have lost sight entirely of their true religious roots. They are plainly evil but see themselves as soldiers of their perverted causes.

All these evils are brought about by our natural resistance to see ourselves as others see us.  In truth our diversity is wondrous and we have a collection of talents that could make this world a happier place. If only we could look inward and see ourselves as others see us .  Diversity then would flourish as the greatest gift of mankind.



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What do Trump and Putin have in common?

It’s now over a year since President Trump took office, and what a year it has been.  I argued then that perhaps his lack of orthodoxy might prove innovative in many ways and this, in turn, may prove of net benefit.

To some small extent, you could argue that this turned out to be true, in the case of North Korea.  But not in many other areas, either at home in the US or abroad though POTUS would claim otherwise.

What is obvious is that POTUS has undermined US influence worldwide as Trump has tried to emulate Putin as an authoritarian bombast.  Happily, the US constitution has mitigated against this but that has not deterred the president from tweeting his unruly thoughts that he obviously believes to be ‘tablets from the mountain’. (I will leave the psychological analysis for others more qualified.)

What Trump fails to understand that the USA is a democracy and leadership of a democracy carries inviolable demands including consensus and cultural respect and tolerance.  Trump has been just about restrained but he is leading his country into a dangerous direction of authoritarianism as exemplified by his pal Putin.

I guess that very few of those who voted for Trump have any idea of this, but this is a facet of populism which is oft ignored.  Many political regions of the world accept authority rather than democracy and it would be fair to say that liberal capitalism has much evil to answer for.  But beware authoritarianism as an alternative where, by and large, one election win, usually lasts a lifetime.

So now Trump and Putin are in this together, they believe they are the right leaders of their nations, they believe only they know the way.  I, for one, don’t share their views.

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Birdsong and banality

I have been off-watch for too long.  I have laid down my pen and sat back watching the predictable and the inevitable, hiding away as if it were nothing to do with me.  I’ve been ‘chilling’ with other fat cats avoiding the brutish northern weather, lazing my days around the pool and the bars and restaurants of lovely Hua Hin in Thailand.

Thailand is about one third down the economic street and seems almost entirely fueled by the tourist trade.  The Thais are very good at it, they are charming, polite and obliging.  The service is always excellent and given with sincerity and so it thrives.  One of the features of the Thai people is their handsome features and their diminutive stature.  We are less than charmed to see so many young Thai women with European men of considerably more seniority than the ladies.  I might be wrong and these guys are being sensible and generous sharing their money and time with young women.  Then again I may not and believe that here is an example of the economically well to do exploiting the poorer neighbor.

Last night as I sat with my wife we saw large numbers of traders selling all manner of things from counterfeit watches to sad little bunches of flowers.  The traders varied from healthy and confident to very young (almost babies) and some severely disabled.  Here was enterprise, here was exploitation, here was desperation.  In the hubbub it is easy to wave away the trader, to ignore the sad amputee, the tiny begging child.  The fat cats, like me, turned a blind eye and few of us found a penny for the poorest.  I felt saddened that here in the land of sunny dreams such poverty exists.  Despite this, the Thai people plough on, smiling and greeting more sweetly than any group I have ever known.

In the backstreets, the immensity of industry, as everyone aspires to make a dime is everywhere, from thousands of restaurants selling meals for a shilling or a dollar, traders selling shirts and textiles for next to nothing.  It is amazing the sheer ambition to survive through one’s own efforts. I am full of admiration for these lovely people.

In the mornings the sound of birdsong fills the air.  The birds of Thailand are strangers to me, but their song is a new and wonderful experience. So tuneful, so expressive so diverse, these lovely creatures wake us to a stunning dawn chorus the like of which I’ve never listened to before.

Being a fat cat is not so bad, and being here is a great privilege.  I hope my fellow travelers share my joys and sorrows.



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From Nobel Prize to Genocide. Please help!

Aung San Suu Kyi has stood by, whilst her military sidekicks murder, pillage and rape the Rohingya people in one of the great outrages of the twenty-first century and there seems little doubt that these actions constitute genocide. The deliberate attempt by the powers of the Myanmar Government, civilian and military, to eliminate the Rohingya people, and at the very least to have killed tortured and raped tens of thousands of men women and children in a planned and deliberate action that has so far has gone unpunished.

Everyone is being frightfully ‘correct’ even the Pope avoided the obvious and in so doing gave succor to ASSK and her rapist colleagues.  Wasn’t the example of the Nazi concentration camps enough of a horror for us.  Yet the world stands idly by while Rohingya are routinely burned to death, children are beaten to death and women forced to watch their men being murdered before they themselves are raped in front of their parents.  And the UN remarks that all this is ”probably” Genocide.

I am inclined to curse at this point. In the mane of mankind, there must be just- cause to rescue the Rohingya from the criminals who run Myanmar.  NOW! –  not sometime in the future when the perpetrators are brought to justice. (if that is ever to happen.)  The free world challenged Hitler and the axis powers, yet we stand idly by because the Rohingya have no wealth to defend, they have no voice at the tables of power, they have no rights because we all choose not to give them rights.

We should be ashamed, all of us.  Go shout at your political leaders to do something, and while we fill the Christmas stockings, children in Myanmar will see their daddies murdered their mothers raped and their siblings cruelly maimed.

Enjoy your Christmas, but please, please, be a nuisance and hound the hell out of those who maybe can shorten these days of carnage and genocide, even by a day.




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Counterpoint- looking in the mirror.

How racist am I?                  How welcoming am I to strangers?

Am I quick to anger?          Do I listen and hear what my adversary has to say?

Am I dismissive of those outside my social class?  Am I generous to those with less than me?

Am I mean?   Do I share with someone less well off, even a little bit?

Do I hold a grudge?         Do I forgive easily?

When push comes to shove do I care about anything except me?         Do I love, really love, someone?

These are some of the intuitive counterpoints we all carry around with us.  The problem we all have is keeping these opposites alive and to the front of our minds and hearts. Living in harmony with our fellow men is always a matter of degree.

We all have our prejudices, and we allow them to grow unchecked until they define us one way or another.  Is it time for us all to have a real look at ourselves and review the balance of our prejudices?

It is easy in cold print to see how we should be, have we the courage to see how we are?

Happy Christmas, have a happy day whoever you are.


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