Thursday, 30 June 2016

Shock exit of Boris Johnson

How is it that the champion of Brexit is now ejected onto the compost heap? I frequently write about knowing oneself and standing up for one's convictions and it seems absolutely terrifying to me that Mr Gove betrayed the person he was intent on supporting. I find this quite horrifying. Would I trust  a man who is swearing on his mother's life that he would not do one thing only for him to conduct a 'volte face' to suit his own ends? Reading Ms Vine's now ignominious 'email', Julius Caesar comes to mind as it was he who famously declared that 'Caesar's wife must be beyond reproach'. Samantha Cameron was in many ways the perfect political wife, if she had views of her own she kept them private.

As for Theresa May, she was completely silent in the run up to the referendum which leads me to believe that she is also duplicitous. Again, where are those convictions if they are kept hidden?

I feel for Boris because I liked him, mostly because of his intelligence. Anyone who has an extra large vocabulary is to me insanely attractive since the majority appear to be limited to 250 words or less. But Boris had big ideas and convictions he was prepared to shout from the rooftops- that my friends, is a dying breed. If anything, this referendum has shown us that politics has become debased, self-serving, debauched and bordering on corrupt. Aristotle must be turning in his grave.
Photo copyright SvD.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Brexit versus the young and clueless

I wrote about my reasons for wanting to leave the EU in a blog published here well before the referendum. When I went to bed on Thursday night I felt a tremendous sense of dread that the result would either be A) rigged or B) overwhelmingly pro EU. When I woke up on Friday, I honestly sensed that as usual, nothing would ever really change. I immediately burst into tears at seeing the wholly unexpected win for Brexit. My pride at being British is immense- I cannot think of a more exceptional, liberal-minded country in the world. To be British is to love the rain as much as we hate it and therein lies the rub.

Much has been said about white, old bigots who ruined the vote for the younger members of our society. The truth is far different: turnout figures prove that on the contrary, had more young people bothered to vote, Remain would have won. Furthermore, the Londoners protesting in the streets, again young and woefully misinformed, would have us believe that northerners are backward, illiterate racists. That also could not be further from the truth. I live 'up north' and can honestly say that every person I have spoken to in the run-up to the referendum never mentioned 'nasty, horrid free-loading foreigners'. On the contrary, the refrain here and which really gets them foaming at the mouth, is the technocrats in Brussels deciding their future.

I lived in prosperous Surrey and commuted into affluent London for nearly twenty years. I've even lived in France more than thirty years ago as a student and also in recent years (and know all too well their punishing tax regimes). I know therefore from first hand experience that London may as well be on a different planet to the rest of the UK. I have seen the 'embarras de richesses' in London when I worked in mega-rich Kensington, Holland Park and the City. I have dealt with clients who were on the Sunday Times Rich List. I have met innumerable traders and high fliers in the City, many of them young Brits, who live in an almost parallel universe. These city types don't know their GDP from their RPI and Adam Smith means nothing to them. Money is their God and they are intent on making it regardless of whether some poor sod in the grim North will lose his livelihood as a result. This win-at-any-cost mentality is driven by greed. Young people today would rather seek out careers offering the possibility to make a lot of money fast and as a result, eschew traditional, slow learning curve vocations. Who can blame them?

The young today with their improbable first names, mandatory smart phones and addiction to an immediacy in all things, don't in my view, have the capability of differentiating between what is important from what they want. They have grown up in the post-Thatcher era of accessing any and everything at a whim. Their parents eased out of being reviled for their lack of social nous, to sharing neighbourhoods with the great and the good. Britain has become a seamless society where everyone can fulfill their social aspirations if A) they work hard and/or are savvy enough or B) shag a footballer (or C win a daft TV show). Is there any wonder that this clueless generation have no backbone at all? They would wet their pants and wail like a baby if they were faced with real adversity. With everything handed to them, is it any wonder that they're all suffering from peanut-bloody allergy?

Why are the younger generation so intent on being part of the EU? All I've heard so far is that their future has now been messed up by Brexit winning the referendum. What is it that they're so concerned about losing? The chance to go to Magaluf on a whim and behave like degenerates? Are they objecting to the fact they may need to get a visa in future? Oh and no surprises that those young people are almost all entirely in the London and the plentiful South East. Not in the grim north where as much as the salt-of-the-earth types would like to advance in life, they're not exactly spoiled for choice. I used to be an intolerable snob and would denigrate anyone who didn't have a job, pay tax and make their way in life. But I've come to understand that not everyone will excel and not everyone is cut out to make sensible choices that would secure their futures. Ironically, since moving to the Midlands. I have been amazed at the politeness and friendliness of most people. It is customary here to say 'good morning' when you pass each other in the street. And everyone is very matter of fact and direct. Perhaps they're not educated enough to distort the truth for their own gain but it is refreshing to talk to people who call a spade a spade.

So to the young and clueless, I say this: grow some balls and convince me of what your convictions truly are. I think you'll find you really don't have any, at least none that are not self-serving. There's a difference between what you want and what's best for this great country.

 'Headless conviction' (seen in the woods today. Naughty Mr Fox!). Photo copyright SvD.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Original Thought: Is This Love I'm Feeling?

Re-reading De La Rochefoucauld's Maxims and came upon this most magnificent one: Il y a des gens qui n'auraient jamais été amoureux s'ils n'avaient jamais entendu parler de l'amour. There are people who would never have been in love had they never heard of love. At first glance, this slightly confusing maxim forces a double take. Is De La Rochefoucauld saying that love is an awakening? Is he saying that love irrevocably is and therefore cannot be denied? We're all familiar with the Hollywood take on love - a compelling force that literally stops us in our tracks and then sweeps us off our feet. We've had the experience too- the sharp intake of breath, the deafening thumping in our chests, the feeling that suddenly the happiness of the other person is all that matters. Love, that breathless sensation, quickly all consuming, becomes our reason for getting up in the morning and our reality.

However reality is truth grounded in fact. For example, let's take the following sentence: I watched an apple fall from the tree. A sentence could not be more unromantic if it tried. 'An apple fell from the tree' is a statement of fact. Love, on the other hand, is an emotion. And emotions from a philosophical perspective are illusions.

In his thought-provoking maxim, De La Rochefoucauld is enlightening us to the following: our reactions to the world we live in and even our emotions are unoriginal. Put another way, anyone who does not question convention or express indignation from time to time doesn't know their own mind. Like Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew, it is good occasionally to declare that the sun is the moon. According to De La Rochefoucauld, original thought is something that ordinary human beings don't possess unless they choose to challenge themselves. And so it follows that if we had never heard of the concept of love, falling in love would never happen. In other words, do we know what we actually think? (Perhaps nowhere else could the answer to that question be more explicit or obvious than in our opinions on the EU Referendum.)

The implications of being in control of one's mind are very far-reaching. We live in an era of great turmoil on all fronts: political, religious, economic and the specter of war is ever present. Being strong mentally creates a buffer of sorts: it can help us cope with uncertainty and also spare us unnecessary worry. But here's the riddle within the enigma: knowing oneself, the journey towards self-awareness and ultimately contentment, takes tremendous courage. In order to learn from bad experiences and choose to either succumb or overcome, demands stores of innate strength and self-belief. Along the journey of self-awareness we form a unique set of convictions borne or good and bad experiences, which will in turn become the template for our future behaviour. Without the determination to know ourselves, life can be a complicated obstacle course, which at times is impossible to navigate. 

When we read De La Rochefoucauld's maxim again, it is a profound insight into the necessity of having a strong mind.  A literal acceptance of anything is a wildly reckless thing to do because crucially, it absolves the individual of all responsibility of their actions and weakens their resolve.

Had we never heard of love therefore, we would be incapable of feeling it. Original thought- the ability to think for ourselves, create ideas that are unique and to establish the parameters by which we define who we are- is sadly becoming a rare thing indeed. Instead of thinking, we react. Just look at the immense popularity of every new fad diet or the confusion that surrounds what is good or bad to eat. It is also becoming harder to find heroes or those to emulate who represent something that is out of the ordinary and who possess a fortitude that is neither self-serving nor for the purpose of brazen self-aggrandisement. In today's world who can we say has incomparable honour and nobility of spirit that is not for sale?

Walk down any high street and you will see people who are the carbon copy of someone else, not merely in their dress or appearance but in their aspirations, lifestyle and crucially, thinking. Put another way, challenge your perception about what you know when you read the following statement (overheard on a train) and consider what's wrong with it: My very excellent spiritual healer smokes and occasionally takes anti-depressants.

I fear we are all becoming narcissists, masters of self-deception and frauds, permanently choosing our reflection over the discovery of who we really are.  Remaining lost in translation condemns us to never finding ourselves and renders us more vulnerable- without a strong mind it is harder to cope when bad things happen and to be gullible, handing the remote control to someone else. Is a man without thoughts of his own of value to society? Perhaps therein lies the conundrum. Or perhaps an absence of thought is the dream of every politician, pharmaceutical manufacturer, health guru, astrologer or other peddler of what we should be thinking.

A study. Photograph copyright SvD.