Sunday, June 26, 2016

Party politics is dead

Party politics is dead; it doesn't work any more. I've thought so for ages. Ideologies inhibit creative thinking and a willingness to compromise. Anti-intellectualism, here and in the US, deters intelligent, professional people from getting involved, so government departments are run by people who haven't a clue what they're talking about. Petty rivalries seem to mean more than actually getting anything done. The biggest challenges we face - climate change, population increase, mob violence, among others - are ignored or given limited attention. Career politicians become increasingly divorced from reality. Middle-aged men dominate everything. Real education is discouraged, because it results in young people who are ready and willing to challenge the absurdities. Hardly anyone has been taught how to think, so can only react. In the vacuum that's been created, nastiness flourishes.

Andreas Whittam Smith thinks there might be a way to sort things out, but that depends on a willingness to do so.

Julian Coman forecast the death of party politics three years ago.

Whatever happens, party politics is incapable of salvaging much out of the Brexit mess. I wish there was some reason to hope things might change.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Gullibility, prejudice and ignorance

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.”
                                                   ― Albert Einstein
Example 1:
After the second world war, there was a housing crisis. Thousands of prefabricated or system-built homes were built, made from sections manufactured in factories and assembled on site. In my area, some of these council houses were falling apart. Made from steel-reinforced concrete, the steel was rusting away, the concrete was crumbling, and they were damp and draughty. There was no point trying to repair them, so a decision was made to sell them for a token amount to a housing association that could demolish and rebuild, providing the tenants with lovely new homes. Some tenants had foolishly already bought their homes through Mrs Thatcher's right-to-buy scheme. I heard that a few had phoned the council when things inevitably went wrong to ask to have them fixed. Told that they were no longer the council's responsibility, they were dismayed. Then, as their neighbour's homes were demolished around them, they were upset that they weren't going to be rehoused too. One or two tried to sell their houses. No one was interested.

Example 2:
During the EU referendum, large numbers of people were convinced that hordes of Turks were poised to join all the other millions of immigrants about to invade our shores. They believed that £350 million was sent to the EU every week, and that we got nothing in return. They believed that the EU acted like a dictator, running our country from Strasbourg and Brussels, though most of them probably had no idea where Strasbourg is. They believed that the EU was responsible was whatever was wrong in their lives, and the Brexit campaigners and right-wing press fed this general sense of dissatisfaction and injustice with lies and more lies. These people weren't necessarily unintelligent. They just didn't use the brains they were born with. Gullibility, prejudice and ignorance prevailed. As the economic and social consequences of their decisions start to affect them, who will they blame next?

Friday, June 03, 2016

Looks aren't everything

“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”
                   ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.
Just been reading about a woman who had chemotherapy for cancer and lost her hair, like Victoria Derbyshire, and how it affected her. I didn't need chemotherapy when I had cancer, I'm happy to say, just radiotherapy and surgery, followed by Tamoxifen for 5 years, but I wouldn't have been bothered about losing my hair and I wouldn't have worn a wig, which sound horribly itchy. I do remember a couple of my sister's friends visiting me in hospital and being surprised that I wasn't bald, as though they'd expected my hair to fall out within days of surgery. They made me laugh, though I was reminded of Madame Defarge, sitting knitting next to the guillotine, waiting for the heads to fall.

I wasn't offered a false boob, whatever they call it - a reconstruction? - so I'm lop-sided, but would have refused. After reading about various implant problems more recently, I'm glad I did. The alternative is what I call my pink jellyfish, a prosthetic breast that fits in a pocket in my bra. These days I only wear that on special occasions. Bras are uncomfortable, and now that my spine is twisted I doubt most people notice as long as I wear loose tops.

A counsellor I know recently told me that the way some women care so much about their appearance is understandable, but I don't really understand it, though I accept that it's about self-esteem and confidence, and that many women lack both. Men may feel the same, though they have the added disadvantage of not being encouraged to talk about it.

Over the years various bits of me have had to be removed, so I have a few scars, but I care more that I'm still alive than what I look like. I hear of women who'll say that they feel "less of a woman" because they've lost a breast or whatever, but what of the thousands of women who are disfigured by birth defects, accident, illness or injury? Are they any less female? Anyone who regarded them that way would, I suggest, be ignorant and prejudiced. Sadly, there are plenty of ignorant people about, but it's they who are lacking, not us.

Click here to read about the Indian women disfigured by acid attacks.