Thoughts on the British Election 2017

So things get weirder and weirder. We wake up to find a hung parliament and the Prime Minister Theresa May seeking coalition with the DUP of Northern Ireland. We are in a strange no-man’s land like the day after a party.

As a life long leftie the defeat of Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party almost felt like a victory. I have grown used to defeat. The British Left usually shambles along, edging further and further away from socialism into the  over-crowded centre ground. We are all resigned to it. Politics is as dull as ditch water presided over by men in identical suits who all look like estate agents. Then suddenly along comes Jerermy Corbyn to lead the Party. He is that rarest of things – a real socialist. He has principles and everything. He doesn’t believe in nuclear war; he thinks dialogue is the way to solve problems; he believes in decent housing and a living wage; he wants to save the NHS from oblivion.  He is Gandalf leading us out of Mordor back to the shire and the 1970’s or the 1950’s. The press said he was unelectable and would consign Labour to the wilderness. The pundits attacked him at every opportunity. He didn’t quite get elected but he nearly did. He was just a few seats short. He was brilliant on the campaign trail, making rousing speeches and connecting with people. It was glorious. I woke up to the news and felt almost elated. After all I had been expecting total defeat, such is the lot of the long suffering Leftie.

People have had enough. They want something different. The young were actually roused from their slumbers and went out and voted. This alone is an incredible achievement.

Theresa May is limping on but for how long? I almost feel sorry for her. She proved on the campaign trail not to be a very nice person, hiding from the voters, making personal attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, refusing to debate the opposition. She cut a bizarre figure scurrying from one rented hall to another addressing the party faithful almost in secret. It was like Marie Antoinette avoiding the baying, unwashed mob. She was as a Headmistress of an ever so nice girls’ school, pretending to be lovely but underneath all scrawny hatred and frustration and bile. This is middle-England in all its vileness. I have met so many of the type.

So here we are. Not quite entering the socialist utopia with equality for all but almost. Aslan is on the move at last. Be afraid arrogant Tories.

Be humbled.

Thoughts on the Manchester Attacks

It has taken me a while to be able to write about the recent terrorist attack in Manchester and just as I was about to do so another one happened in London. I want to just concentrate on the Manchester one in this piece.

I heard it first on the morning news as I had gone to bed early. It seemed the most despicable thing you could think of: going to a concert full of little girls and teens to blow them up in the name of Islamic Jihad. It takes some getting your head around. Indeed you can’t get your head around it, not ever.

I know Manchester well. I lived there for years right in the heart of the inner city and I taught in schools. As the police raided areas where the terrorists had lived it was like a roll call of my old stamping grounds. Inner city Manchester is very mixed. There are traditional white working class among third generation Asians, Carribeans, Africans, Chinese and newer waves of immigrants who are often refugees from war zones. The schools have ever changing populations. I thought of the terrorist who turned out to be the British born son of Libyan immigrants living in Fallowfield. This was a typical Manchester boy, nothing would have seemed out of the ordinary. There are so many like him.

I taught a lot of Muslim boys in my time in Manchester. Some from Pakistan, some from Somali, and no doubt lots of other places. Usually, they were quite easy to teach. They could be cheeky and mildly mischievous but usually buckled down quickly enough. They didn’t mind my discipline. Maybe they were used to it from the mosque or from home. They were certainly usually more amenable than the Carribean boys who I always struggled with. It is hard to think that one of these harmless boys might grow up to be a suicide bomber.

Inner city Manchester is multi-cultural. At school they all rubbed along together but the communities really kept themselves separate from each other. There wasn’t much mixing of friendships. I was aware of some racial slurring between the groups. It was a harsh place with lots of poverty and little green space. It seemed to kind of work. I met some good people and though I have mixed memories I did have some very good times in the clubs, bars and restaurants of such a varied city.  A Rusholme curry was my favourite go to comfort food. It is a long way from the coddled Home Counties upbringing of much of the London chattering classes who decide things about our country.

How could it happen? A boy who has grown up in the city, gone to school, attended the mosque in the evening, watched TV, played football in the street…then decides to go and kill some of the people of this very same city.

I have no answers. Nobody seems to have any answers. Those of us on the Left can point to British foreign policy, bombings and invasions which have stirred up resentment and anger. This isn’t enough though to explain such brutal act freely chosen. We could point to the fractured nature of our society where so many feel alienated. Still not enough.

We have no answers.

As a spiritual person I always struggle with the problem of evil in the world. It seems to be there in the warp and weft of nature and in people. How can God let this be? I don’t know.

As we learn more it seems that the signs were all there. Trips back and forth to Libya, reports from the mosque goers of support for Jihad from the perpetrator, a possible ISIS flag draped from the bedroom window, reciting verses from the Koran in the street. We imagine he was on some kind of watch list.

I always come back to the possibility of mental illness. It seems the only way to explain such actions yet the media virtually dismiss this and concentrate on ISIS as the explanation.

It does not seem within the spirit of any religion to commit senseless acts of violence like this. I have read the Koran and nowhere does Mohammed condone such actions but it is full of violent actions but usually in the context of war. The Old Testament also has such stories. There are no Christian suicide bombers I know of.

ISIS seemed to have perverted Islam into some kind of death cult whose brutality reminds one of the Nazis. It is impossible to understand in any rational way. But then people are not rational.

I wonder what was going through his mind as he walked to the Manchester Arena with the intention to kill and be killed. Did he really believe he would be welcomed into Heaven as an Islamic martyr? Maybe he does.

Old as I am I can remember the IRA bombings. I did think there would never be an end to them but then somehow through dialogue and compromise there was a ceasing.

How do we deal with ISIS? Is it possible to negotiate with an organisation like this who want an Islamic caliphate across the world? Or is the answer to destroy them, wipe them from the face of the earth?

I have no answers but we pay our taxes to those who tell us that they know better than us, that they will protect us and our way of life. They have failed to do this. They seem to have no answers either. Their platitudes do not help. The well meaning vigils and candles are lovely expressions of humanity but they are not an answer. We are told to keep calm and carry on. We are British after all. The Blitz is referenced often. Yes we will do that but while the bombs were raining down on London in the War there were men doing the same to the enemy, doing the unpleasant things we don’t want to think about but which need to be done to keep us safe.

We need to listen, we need to learn, we need to understand but we must also act.

We need an answer.

Labour Leadership Election

As a member of the Labour Party soon I will have to vote in the Labour leadership election. There are now only two candidates: Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith.

I am totally at a loss. I don’t know who to vote for. I voted for Corbyn originally. Now I am not so sure. I think he is a good person with decent values. He still believes in socialism. He wants a fairer, more equal society. There is nothing wrong with this. However, even though he has massive support from the rank and file membership the Parliamentary Party will not support him. They have been busy mounting coups and stabbing him in the back while resigning from their positions. These MPs say Corbyn is unelectable but from where I’m standing they have made the party more unelectable by creating so much division. It all looks like a total shambles. If Corbyn doesn’t have the support of the MPs it all looks impossible. Even though I think he is a man of integrity I am not sure any more he is the right person to lead. He doesn’t handle the media well and he ducked out of the TV debates.

Up against him is Owen Smith. I have never heard of him until this past week. Who knows what he believes. I read that he used to lobby for a pharmaceutical company. This is not giving me hope. He is a Blairite. We have all had enough of Blair. We need clear water between the Tories and Labour, not Tories and Tory Lite which is exactly what we get with the Blairites.

So I am back to voting for Jeremy Corbyn.  I wish the whole party , MPs and members, could really get behind him, unite and build a social movement. It could be fantastic. I am not sure they are going to. If Corbyn wins and the MPs don’t want him I fear for the end of the Labour Party that I have supported all my life.

We live in dangerous times.

 

 

Theresa May and the myth of women’s equality

The elevation of Theresa May to Prime Minister of the United Kingdom should make feminists happy. There is a woman in the top job. I notice most of them are not because she is not a lefty. There seems to be a school of thought that all real feminists are left wing. I remember Margaret Thatcher. She certainly didn’t seem much of a feminist. She liked power for herself but I don’t recall her doing much for the advancement of women. I am trying to be hopeful about Theresa May. She has made all the right noises so far but who knows? Politicians always say the right things at the beginning.

Many people tell me that women have achieved equality in the work place. We have equal pay and supposedly equality of opportunity. I am not sure this works for many women in practice though.

I only have my own experience in teaching to go on. It may be the same in other professions. It may be different. I always thought of myself as a feminist even as a young child. I hated the way my mother was deferential to my father and skivvied round after him. I could see inequality with my own eyes. It was true we were treated equally with boys at school. We could take what subjects we liked. I was one of only three girls doing Physics O level as they were then. I could see that I was more intelligent than many of the boys from my test results. I was just as good as them, if not better. It was noticeable that they had an arrogance that the girls did not have.

At university I started to see that things were still sexist. The arts subjects were awash with women and the sciences and engineering had much fewer. In my naivety I had not realised that this was because the scientists would command higher salaries in all likelihood. Nobody had told me about pay differentials in what people earn. I had absolutely no idea about it. Of course there are opportunities in the arts but they are fiercely competitive and often precarious. There are lots of people going after the same thing. Still I was never any good at Maths so I stayed away from those areas. I saw sexism from some of the academic tutors who seemed to have a dismissive attitude towards their female students. It was the first time I had come across this. it began to dawn on me that the world was more sexist than I realised.

I made the stupid decision after university to become a primary teacher mostly because there were so few jobs at the time due to economic implosion post-Thatcher ism. I encountered real sexism in this profession. There were few men but the men that there were were groomed for promotion almost from the get go. I saw some virtually useless male teachers promoted to positions they were not suited to. There seemed to be some kind of unwritten rule that women just wanted a little job. They didn’t want to be head teachers. The men did. Of course some women broke through but they were usually of a type: hard, nasty, sharp elbowed and ruthless. Male leaders would come in all personality types and the more avuncular ones were often the most successful. The weirdest thing was that  most women would take part in their own downfall. They would not push themselves forward. If a fresh faced young male graduate joined the staff he would be fawned over and told how wonderful he is at every opportunity. It was sickening. I was told more times than I care to recall that I should just give up and have children, even from one person that I could never be a fulfilled woman until I had done so. I don’t recall seeing my mother being particularly fulfilled. I was once told by my Headteacher I was too nice to be promoted. I did try to emulate the hard bitches but it never worked for me. I just wasn’t really like that I suppose. Myself aside as maybe I was passed over because I wasn’t any good I did see many many capable women in the same position.  As a result of all this I don’t believe that women have real equality in the work place. They face more barriers to getting on from both men and women.

As far as men in the work place go there are some real male inadequates in teaching. Seeing a strong woman as an intstant threat they would veer between calling you a misandrist and a lesbian to low level sexual harassment. All of this is unacceptable. I noticed if a woman made a mistake she would be vilified but if a man did excuses would be made for him. Everyone makes mistakes but in this profession only women make them.

So I don’t think women have achieved a real equality at all. There is still a long way to go. These days I seem to have lost my feminist credentials along with my career. I stay at home and write a bit like some Edwardian lady. I am not proud of myself or my total dependence on my spouse. It has to be said in my defence I couldn’t have tried harder to build a successful career for myself. I felt barriers at every turn.

So Edwardian lady hobby writer it is them. You must excuse me. I have some roses to dead head. Good luck Theresa. I wonder how you did it. Let’s hope you don’t turn out to be as nasty as Mrs T.

The EU Referendum Result – Thoughts

Britain has voted to leave the European Union. I still can’t quite believe it. I couldn’t write yesterday because I felt too upset but today I have managed to marshall some thoughts. When I first found out, looking at my phone yesterday morning I was in total shock. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.  I was crying on and off through the morning.

Part of my new regime is not to let things get to me so much so rather than crawling back to bed with a bottle of wine as I might have done in the past I put the dog in the car and drove to Felixstowe for a beach front walk. Everything had changed but nothing had changed. Pensioners and mothers were out enjoying the fine weather. As I walked along I actually felt good – feeling the sun on my head and the wind in my hair. Everything was ok. It did me good.The world had not ended – it was still spinning on its axis.

I was really wedded to an idealistic version of the EU. I liked the idea of nations joining together, sharing common aims and values, working for peace and prosperity. I liked the idea of free movement and the fact I could settle in any of the member states if I chose to. I thanked the EU for the peace we have enjoyed in Europe since 1945. I liked the way they seemed to provide a brake on the worst excesses of the Tory government. This was why I was so sad to hear the news that a majority of the British people had voted to leave.

It is hard to know the reasons for doing so. Much of the media has blamed working class racism. Others have said it’s not really about that. I am from a working class area in the north. Some people certainly were racist when I was a child. Asian people arrived in some numbers in the late 70s. They were universally referred to as “Pakis”. Nobody would live next to them. If they moved next door people sold their houses. This ended up with a kind of voluntary segregation. I don’t know if attitudes have changed as I haven’t been back for years. Probably they haven’t. Since then there have been plenty more waves of immigration – refugees from war zones in Africa, Eastern Europeans looking for work, Asians looking for a better life. Looking at the north of England vox pops on Channel 4 news most people mentioned immigration as the number one issue in the referendum. I am not sure why they are so worked up about it. Maybe they think the immigrants have taken their jobs, or driven down wages or taken up housing. It could be these things. It could be that they see their own culture declining. I have never quite understood what British culture is. I am not sure that a lot of people have one. Anyway, worries about immigration seem to have played some part. This does not mean that all those who voted Leave are racists as some on social media have tried to make out.

It may be a kind of protest vote. They feel neglected and powerless. Their areas have been in decline for years. Politicians of all stripes ignore them. This was their chance to stick it to the Establishment and they did. The media don’t seem to understand working class communities. Journalists seem well bred, public school educated types and I grow tired of their simplistic takes on areas they don’t understand. Many of the media are blaming “the poor” for Brexit with an undertone that they are too stupid and ignorant to understand the issues. This is divisive talk. They had their reasons, whatever they are and they should be listened to by the elites, not dismissed.

What has largely been ignored in the many newspaper articles I have read is that wealthy swathes of southern England also voted to leave. They are not poor, not dispossessed but doing very nicely thank you. Why on earth would they rock the boat and leave the EU? I have absolutely no idea. It is these people that I can’t understand. I currently live in a prosperous market town. It voted to Leave.

We are entering uncertain times. The pound is in free fall, the markets jittery, businesses are threatening to pull out. It is all scary stuff. What terrifies me is that Gove, Farage and Johnson et al will get what they wanted: an unfettered free market where they can treat the workers like dirt without a worry about European Union regulations. It will be like Thatcherism gone mad: Maggie on and acid trip. It is horrifying.

But hey this is the new me. The me that is not going to get depressed right? That means I am not going to wallow in worst case scenarios or mope about the result.

The people have spoken. They want to leave the EU. Fine. Let’s get on with it.

So what’s the plan? How do we stop the ultra right from getting what they want? By making the progressive Left stronger. All partied on the Left must join together to defeat Boris and his ilk. We need co-operation and understanding. We need to listen to people and  to understand their concerns. We need decisive action and decisive leadership. Maybe Corbyn can do it. Maybe he can’t. Someone must.  We really could take this as an opportunity to build a new Jersusalem. We could build a country to be proud of based on egalitarianism and equality of opportunity for all. We could face out to the world instead of facing in and make trade agreements with Africa and Asia. We could strengthen bonds with the old Commonwealth and find a new community of nations to belong to.

Comrades let’s work for a truly green and pleasant land. We will be so great Europe will be begging for us to come back. Does that sound like a plan?

 

Death of Jo Cox MP

A British MP, Jo Cox, has been gunned down in a British street. I can’t remember this ever having happened before. MPs have been killed before by the IRA but this seems different. Residents of Yorkshire villages are not used to people being shot on their doorsteps. Britain is not a gun culture. This is a highly unusual event.

As far as I can gather from reading the papers and watching the news the gunman was a middle aged man who had long had mental health problems. There is some speculation that he had an interest in far right politics though this is not clear. Jo Cox was his MP and has taken an interest in world affairs, is pro-EU and an advocate for refugees. She used to work for Oxfam. Eye witnesses could not seem to agree if he had shouted “Britain First” before the attack. Britain First have distanced themselves from the incident.

When I first heard I felt profound shock. Details emerged about what a lovely person the MP seemed to be, full of energy and conviction, committed to a better world and to equality for all. This seems to make the tragedy worse. I feel the need for a period of mourning as a nation and indeed the campaigning on the EU referendum has temporarily stopped.

What I am surprised at are the number of people using the death as a way to score political points. On Twitter and in the papers some commentators are placing the blame squarely at the feet of the Leave campaign. This seems grossly unfair. Polly Toynbee’s article in today’s Guardian is a prime example. She is ramping up the rhetoric of hate, comparing Gove and Johnson to Oswald Mosely and Enoch Powell. This is utterly ridiculous. I am for Remain but smearing all my opponents as racist is not going to help matters. Toynbee is responding to a hate crime with more hate. As many sages have said, wiser than me, you cannot drive out hate with hate.

Jo Cox should be remembered with love and in her memory we should all try to be loving towards one another. I shall try to use her as a role model, to try to be more like her, to love more in an attempt to remove the darkness that sometimes resides in my heart. I can feel her death as tragic but I can also feel compassion for a mentally ill man, struggling with unemployment, feeling rejected from a society that bore him.

All the facts have yet to unfold and many will change their views no doubt as we find out more.

Let’s hope we can honour a life well lived in  a civilised fashion.

 

 

The Orlando Tragedy: Some thoughts

So we are all reeling in shock at the news of yet another mass shooting in the US. Many column inches have been written, tweets of condolence have been tweeted, facebook profile pictures have been changed. Politicians have pontificated. What is going to change? It seems like a breaking point has been reached. Something must be done. Will anything ever be done?

The facts of the case have opened up lots of cans of worms among the political class. Everyone is quick off the mark to say their piece depending on which tribe they belong to. Everyone is trotting out the usual platitudes.

It seems to me that lots of people are not willing to call a spade a spade. Coming from the north I have always been used to plain speaking. Sometimes I think it’s not that much of a virtue and sometimes can be seen as hurtful and rude. However, over the Orlando shootings we seem to have reached peak political correctness. This is otherwise known as bullshit. It is time to stop lying and call things as they are.

Arguments are ensuing about what is the cause of the attacks. The gun control lobby says it would not have happened with strong gun control laws. This is blatantly false. Criminals can obtain guns in the most repressive of states. The Paris and Brussels attacks took place in countries with strict gun laws. It may have been ridiculously easy for the gunman to obtain a weapon in the US but he could have got one anyway if he was determined enough.

Some say it is to do with mental illness. From what I have read this may be a partial truth. Omar was violent and had mood swings according to family members. However he does not seem to have been under psychiatric care. He was not restrained in a mental health unit as a danger to the public. He had a job at G4S. He was able to function in society. This does not sound like someone dangerously mentally ill. If he was, what can be done to prevent such shootings in the future? It seems there is a need for a much better mental health care system. Vulnerable individuals need to be flagged up and taken care of? Why aren’t they? Nobody seems to care until it is too late.

Some say it is a homophobic attack. This also seems a truth at least in part. The gunman chose a well known LGBT club. He had made homophobic remarks in the past. In this interpretation, he is seen as a lone wolf full of hate. He has a revulsion towards gay people which he must act out on. Possible. I don’t think this is the whole truth though.

Some say it was an Islamic extremist terrorist attack. The Islamic State has taken credit for the incident. His links with the Islamic State seem at best tenuous. He acted alone. He was born in the US. He was a Muslim and he attended the mosque. He may have been radicalised on the internet, connecting with IS through websites and social media. Is it all do do with Islam? Is it nothing to do with Islam? Is it something to do with Islam? This depends on who you speak to.

Hilary Clinton tweets that Islam is a religion of peace and love. So to her it is nothing to do with Islam. It is hard to accept this totally. Obviously, most Muslims are peaceful and law abiding. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, is a prime example of this. He has no problem with gay people celebrating life in bars. However, there are some Muslims who do not agree. Homosexuality is condemned in the Koran as it is in the Old Testament. Some Christians and some Jews also condemn homosexuality. However, very few Christians and Jews act on this ancient law. Many Islamic countries do. Being gay in many of these countries is punishable by death. The Islamic state in Syria are throwing gay people from high buildings. This punishment is mentioned in the Koran. I know. I have read it. Homophobia does have something to do with Islam or at least a literal interpretation of it.

Trump tweets that all Muslims should be not allowed in the US. This is too simplistic, knee jerk and is not the answer. It is unworkable even if one agreed with the principle. It would also be a human rights disaster zone.

The Left in Britain, of which I count myself one, has a problem with all this. Everyone is terrified of being called Islamophobic. Everyone loves the cuddly and accepted gay community. These are givens. However, it is not logically possible to be in support of a religion which openly castigates gay acts. Where does this leave the Left? Caught in an ideological contradiction it leads to silence. It leads to not mentioning things that need to be mentioned. It leads to double think and the thought police.

Everyone needs to be able to talk about these things honestly and openly, to dare to say how they feel without worrying they will be expelled from their tribe. I know that some Imams preach homophobia in British mosques. They may do in the US for all I know. This needs to be discussed.

The events in Orlando are incredibly sad. It seems to me we are no nearer a solution. Talk is cheap but what are we actually going to do? We must do something.

EU REFERENDUM – VOTING TO REMAIN

We are getting close to making a really important decision. Should the UK leave the European Union or remain? I am a member of the Labour Party whose official policy is to remain. I have a Remain poster in my window. So I believe that we should stay.

I am not without misgivings though. The Leave campaign is dominated by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. They are plausible and sometimes you almost believe what they are saying. We give lots of money to the EU and don’t get as much back they say. The EU slows growth and leads to stagnant economies they say. Looking at the unemployment rate in southern Europe it’s hard to disagree. The fishermen say the EU has destroyed our fishing industry. Entrepeneurs say the red tape prevents them from expanding their businesses. The farmers seem divided on the issue. Our fields are full of yellow rape because of EU subsidies. As it is not a traditional crop for Britain its existence always irks me. They say we would have money for the NHS and such like if we left.

Are they lying though? Probably. Without being a trained economist it is pretty difficult to sift your way through the business arguments. I have no idea if the economy would be better out or in.

I am basically going with gut feeling and I think this is what most people will do. I don’t trust the Leave campaign. I don’t think they have any great love for the NHS or the needs of ordinary working people. They will say anything to get you to vote their way.

Economics aside I am pro the EU for other reasons. I feel it provides a unifying force in Europe. We need this. The continent has been ravaged by wars deep into the past but this last little while has seen an era of peace and relative prosperity at least for some. The EU forces us to work together, to co-operate. This can only be a good thing. Barriers between nations are lesser. Freedom of movement is greater. Surely this should lead to greater understanding between nations. There is less likelihood of the horrors of the Second World War being repeated. Socialism is about international solidarity and co-operation. The EU seems to be at least in part in the spirit of this.

It doesn’t seem to be a perfect institution by any means. As far as I can see the bureaucracy is bloated and there seem to be far too many people being paid far too much money for doing very little.

I haven’t mentioned immigration as I don’t think it’s central to the argument. However, whenever on the news there is a vox pop in the street people always mention it in the next breath to the EU. The institution seems to be associated with mass immigration in people’s minds. People say there are too many migrants. I live in East Anglia which is traditional farming country. There are quite a lot of Eastern Europeans around in town. They are working on the land or in food processing it seems. Some of them have set up little cafes which are really good. The farmers say they couldn’t manage without them. They say the locals don’t want to do these jobs. I do sometimes wonder if they have ever been offered them. It seems like the employment situation is sewn up by agencies who employ only foreign workers. What does a local school leaver think about this? Are they as feckless and lazy as they are made out to be? I have been looking for work locally and I haven’t got any. I don’t have any great desire to work in the fields but I must say I haven’t seen many of these jobs advertised openly. Perhaps we do need them and they are performing a useful function. Most of them seem to be working very hard. We need to think of our own people as well though.

I am voting to Remain. I do think there is a case for reform though. We want to see all the peoples of Europe prospering with meaningful employment, decent housing and safe communities. I am not sure this is true for a lot of people. I am sure we can do better.

Stay in and fight for a better world.

 

 

 

Falling out of love with social media

The internet should be a brilliant thing shouldn’t it? Indeed it is. All that information at our fingertips. The whole world is in there. I have been led to some fascinating articles. I used to love social media. I liked the way you could connect with people from all over the world. I am on Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp.

Recently I have become disillusioned with it all. Facebook in particular is the one I have issues with. I like reading the articles it brings up for me. It is certainly right about what interests me. It is more the personal interaction that is the issue. I am mainly only in contact with family and a few old friends on there.  I live at a great distance from most of them. I begin to realise that most people are being disingenuous. A couple of incidents recently brought this home to me.  The husband of a family member recently went into hospital to have an operation. It wasn’t serious and he came out in a few days. When looking at the feed there was no mention of this at all. Only photos of a recently completed garden project praising the talents of said husband. This strikes me as weird. If one was having genuine interactions with people one would be sharing sorrows as well as joys. Very few people seem to do this. Facebook is life airbrushed. It is for bragging only. Bad things don’t happen in Facebook world. I think this is artificial and dangerous. It is not real life.

Another incident made me think. Another more distant family member recently had a baby. I had felt a part of the whole event through Facebook. I sent a baby hamper through the post via my mother. She told me on the phone they had received it and liked it. No mention was made of this on Faceboook. No small message of thanks. These are people permanently attached to their phones, documenting minutae of their lives on Facebook. A thank you would have been the work of moments. I realise they just don’t think of me as part of their circle. They don’t see me. I am just a Facebook friend. I don’t really exist. This is symptomatic of the whole thing. None of these people are really your friends in any real sense of the word. If they were they would phone you, come and see you, spend time with you. By spending so much time on our phones we are living in a world of illusory connection.

Twitter is different. In many ways I prefer it.  There is less bragging and more discussion of thing that interest me, particularly politics. Often it just descends into a bear pit of trading insults. This can be entertaining if you are in the mood but it is at heart negative. The connections with famous or nearly famous people are interesting at first but you soon realise they just need followers to fawn over them and flatter their egos by agreeing with everything they say. There is no real connection yet again. Some people with fake identities can be very funny and this is entertaining but again often cruel, not coming from a place of love.

I found it useless for promoting my book. Everyone just scrolls past the endless authors touting their wares. I gave that up a long time ago.

I think I must be addicted to it as I keep going back to peek even though I know it is bad for my mental health. I need to get off technology and out into the real world. I know this makes me a luddite. I think it’s the way to go though. Buddha did not achieve enlightenment sitting on his smartphone. I could be like the Dalai Llama or the Pope and just use social media to issue the occasional pithy wise statement.

Today I switched my phone off. I am not sure I am switching it on again. If you want me come look for me on a mountain in Tibet.

 

Book Review Max Hastings The Secret War

I was really looking forward to this book as I love things about the Second World War and the world of espionage is endlessly fascinating. The book is vast and well researched. It covers the work of spies in Britain, the US, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and Japan. Hastings is at pains to play down the glamour of spy work and describes how dull most of it was. He seems to have a predudice against the Soviet Union which he regards as a greater evil than Nazism. Many people at the time did not share this view. The upshot of Hastings’ argument is that spy work did not contribute a great deal to winning the war and has been over-glamourised since.

In spite of this there is a vast array of flamboyant and eccentric characters who are described in snippets. I found this intensely annoying as I was reading as I wanted to know more about each person, have their tales fleshed out. It became like reading the telephone book and I started to lose interest about half way through. Perhaps the fault is within me as I usually read fiction. I could so easily have been enthralled but I just wasn’t.

History nerds will probably enjoy this but for me it needed more skill in the writing and I found Hastings’ patrician, condescending tone irritating.