Monday, 18 October 2021

COP 26 so far

Article in the Guardian 18th Oct '21 re COP 26:

Cop26 corporate sponsors condemn climate summit as ‘mismanaged’

 Well, why are we not surprised? Surely this is a trademark of all things that Boris Johnson's Government tries to manage. The Covid vaccination program suceeded because they let the management of that one go, and gave it to experienced outsider Kate Bingham, recruited admittedly by Johnson who knew he had to get this one right, so too important to let the government handle it. 

It's a different story with the arranging and managing of COP 26. It's big, it's vital, it is our last chance saloon. But it is not, despite all that, going to make any difference to the future of plan Boris. No matter what happens, he may well sail on to another term yet as PM, muddling through disaster after disaster with his big words and tattered metaphors and rumbustious style, blah blahing and bragging and touting his vanity in a "look at me" hair assemblage. If the outcome makes no difference to our headlong rush over the cliff edge of global warming, Boris will blame everything and anyone else, and the mesmerised and duped will still admire and respect him. We will be treated to news items on TV with members of the puplic in Anytown being interviewed and saying "He's doing a great job".

Perhaps Johnson is gambling on the fact that relationships with the sponsors won't impact the talks themselves, nor the decisions and the actions following them. Big people will come with their teams and get the business done. That is the style of Johnson-think. Look at the blustering confidence with which he talked up Brexit. The Northern Ireland conundrum which had sunk Theresa May was simply brushed aside by talk of oven ready deals and simple arrangements which Boris signed up to either  knowing it would all blow up later or blinded to by his own rhetoric. But given the thumping majority that Johnson enjoys, Anytown mainland UK tory voter doesn't care. What matters is steady supply of coveted goods on UK shelves, fuel in our filling stations, and prices for electricity and gas that won't cripple the best of the blue voters, even if the poorest and most vulnerable have to go to the wall. You can almost hear the riposte: there are enough well paid jobs for all. What are these so called poor people doing about it? Presumably sitting on their backsides and moaning and claiming benefits. So issues that threaten government popularity in the short term will be tackled with a vengeance, and as for the rest, well who really cares? The people whose livlihoods and homes that climate change is destroying mostly live far away, and don't get to vote in British elections. The poorest and most vulnerable Brits don't, won't or can't vote in a way which will loosen the tory grip on our land. The rest aren't convinced that Starmer will really cut it. Wise up people. Anyone else would be better.

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Football and the Super League

 I first got wind of a storm brewing through hearing phrases like "it's just pure greed",  "it's all about money" "it's disgusting and selfish" made on the news in connection with the word "football", and then as I listened, I realised that these comments were being made in connection with the announcement that the top English clubs and some European ones were intending to form a new exclusive "super league". Of course my heart sank as I knew then and there that Perth St Johnstone would never be part of this exalted club. But apart from my moment of despond, as I listened, my confusion grew at the clamour of protest and indignation against this idea. You see, I thought it was always about the money. Vast sums paid to managers and players at the top of their game. Rapid sackings of managers not, and the disposal of players who were beginning to lose their edge. Moreover the fanatical, sometimes hysterical behaviour of some fans has never made sense to me, as has a fan base in places far removed from the teams' own homes. 

Having listened now for over a whole 24 hour period to this issue dominating the news I am frankly none the wiser. The proposal it seemed to me was for this "super league" to play midweek, thus not interfering with week-end fixtures. The fact that the league would be exclusive seemed no different from many institutions which we tolerate and even admire at the moment. Exclusivity is always conditional on something, whether it's money, status, celebrity, intelligence, performance, talent or cultural background. Eton may have some free places for sure, but basically it's an exclusive educational club. We've just been mourning the death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, the late member of one of the most excusive clubs in the world, the British Monarchy, closely tied to that other exclusive club, the British aristocracy. I don't hear too many cries of condemnation for those. Even to be a republican is slightly off mainstream. You can be sure that any club facing financial disaster will quickly lose its status as a valued member of the "super league" . But everyone is jumping on the bandwagon of criticism and hostility towards this move. Apparently it's going to ruin "the pyramid system" which is how players move up the ladder, as well as clubs which aspire to joining leagues above them. I get the fact that they might not be able to aspire to the "super league" but they still could be playing against the top teams in the premiere league, since these teams had intended to stay there too. Quite frankly the whole mad scene of professional football has become a demented pack of people and institutions scrambling after hideously large amounts of money involving things as mean as changes of strips often enough to bankrupt the average fan family, never mind the ticket prices. 

Mind you, you could just call me jealous. I vividly remember becoming rapidly bored watching live football, so that my attention would wander, usually just as that goal was being scored. I used to feel like I had just wasted my 1/6d (if had paid it that is, and not wandered in through the big exit gates when they opened 20 minutes before full time!) I like the abbreviated, edited showings we get on telly. The amount of time they save by just giving you the entertaining bits suits me just fine. Perhaps there is a place for something like "Cricket 20/20" in the beautiful game......"Goals plenty plenty" or some such version of the game. Now that might get my vote.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

That Interview

Before anything is said or any opinion passed, when something of impact and potentially damaging impact at that is voiced, we need to bear in mind the Biblical wisdom of Proverbs. Chapter 18.17 reminds us that the one who states their case first seems right, until another comes to cross question them. Proverbs 10.19 tells us that when many words are many, sin is not far away, and that the one who restrains their lips is wise.


There other obfuscating factors at work in all communication too, and these are the factors of context and fulness of truth spoken or revealed. I know that if my children had chosen to marry someone of a different race from them, I might well have expressed curiosity in a benign and wondering way about the appearance or skin colour of their children, particularly if a baby were on the way. This is neither sinister nor racist but simply human curiosity. But such curiosity could well be misunderstood and or misrepresented.


Sometimes it is easy to see or hear something and let it feed into one’s own prejudices or one’s own bad experience of a certain issue. My wife and I were picking up stones from the shore of the river and throwing them up the bank in order to fill a hole on the earth path which had been gouged out by flooding. A fisherman on the opposite bank who obviously was employed to keep the fishing grounds in good order called across “I just mowed that bank this morning”. He thought we were simply throwing stones into the grass. It was an easy conclusion to reach, because that is exactly what he saw when he glanced up.


Many of the words in the interview will be suffering from the same malaise. Too little context, too much assumed. This is often not the fault of anyone, although where this occurs in a professional interview one might not be blamed for suggesting that the interviewer could have sought clarification using better methods than Oprah did. (Yes I know she took pains to seek clarification on several contentious headline points but this was by way of repetition of the headline, not by way of digging in to it.)


Finally the silence or brief reply that may well follow on the part of the monarchy might be judged negatively too. But where are they to go with all this? A long-winded response interview? The public don’t like long-winded pros and cons anyway. The politics of Boris and Trump have shown this. We like headlines. We like solid statements that reek of blame, accusation or triumph. We like shockers and headlines.


There were some things revealed that were upsetting to hear, like Meghan’s confession of suicidal feelings. This does represent a failing somewhere of inability to hear and to act. But again it would need a careful analysis of what was available to her and what she expected by way of response in order to come to a good understanding of this. It is clear that conversations were had within the family that touched on difficult things, but again, what one person said may not have been heard in the way that they intended it to be heard. Harry talked about history repeating itself and parallels with his mother’s story. He did say that unlike her Meghan was not alone, and that she had him by her side. So not quite a parallel, but a story with one glaring similarity – that of a hounding by the press.


The other great controversy of these days is the Salmond-Sturgeon one. Again it will be a case of who said what and when and where, and how was it heard and why wasn’t it recorded?


Net result in both controversies? A lot of pain and damage.


Monday, 25 January 2021

Lessons from 2020

 What could we learn from 2020?

1.To act faster in the face of a pandemic. Not yet learned if you study the Govt reactions to new turns in the story.

2. To bear down harder on Israel with Barriers to Trade, Sanctions and Disinvseting. No. Too many vested interests in keeping Israel "strong" and onside.

3. Vaccines are not the way out of this Pandemic. No we haven't got that yet. The news media are so full of telling us that they are the way out that the majority will get high on it. The Corona virus is with us to stay, like the 'flu, only if you get Corona bad, you die. 'Flu tends to have a higher mortality rate only in the already very ill and or very old. Maybe total population vaccinations on an annual basis will keep more of us safe and we will be able to view it in the same way as we view the 'flu - out there but unlikely I'll get it. Maybe.

4. To plan much more meticulously for major economic events like Brexit. Ha ha. Dream on.

5. We need to be much more vigilant about the rise of right wing nationalistic movements and start to address the deep problems of poverty, unemployment and a sense of injustice that gives them their energy. If only.

6 The climate crisis can be contained with much more energetic and united global action. With the best will in the world we know this, but we can't seem to make it happen. 

7. Interfere with another country's domestic situation with violence and you open a can of worms. I doubt whether we will ever learn this, as long as we have our own selfish agendas to pursue and interests to defend. Agenda laden interference is a dead end.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

The Storming of Congress - a metaphor for Donald Trump's relationship with anything he doesn't like or disagrees with.

 Did you see John Sopel's face last night as he reported on events on Capitol Hill for the BBC?  I've never seen him so filled with emotion about the subject of his report. This normally urbane objective reporter of the American Scene had his heart on his sleeve as his mouth and eyes told all. And what an "all" it was to tell. Like him I was filled with horror, dismay and anger as I watched the storming of "The Hill" and listened to Trump's petulant whining and stirring of his mob to march down there. 

Trump can't accept the result for one simple reason. He doesn't believe he could possibly have lost the election. There is no way he could not be a winner. There is no way the American electorate would have rejected him. That is truth, fact, reality for Donald Trump. Everything else follows from this. Lawsuits, claims about election rigging, ineligible votes being counted etc. Of course votes which were not for him would be ineligible. The logic is impeccable and legitimises every means used in order to subvert or overturn the result.

What I find most scary of all however is that I do not hear a roar of outrage from the USA. Sopel in his piece for the BBC displayed it visually, but there is as yet nothing much out there which seems to match my sense of outrage and fury. I know that Marina Hyde may launch an ascerbic opinion column at these events, but much as I like these opinion columns in the Guardian, I want to see a much larger, united voice of outrage expressed, because it should be! How can any reasonable American citizen of even average intelligence (not linked to Trump in some subserviant dependant way), not be outraged and angered by the events of yesterday? This horrific display should have produced a denouncement of such national proportions that removing the man from office immediately would have followed as naturally as night follows day. The fact that is does not adds huge dismay to my outrage. 

Even Jo Biden's response seemed limp by comparison to the enormity of the deed itself. And Trump's response to Biden's call to tell his mob to go home? Sure he did tell them to head home as in the same breath he claimed the high ground and told his people that they were not to be like "them", and closed by telling his mob that he loved them and they were "special". Who were "them" but the advocates of fair and free democracy and how in any sense were they the ones the mob were not to be like? It was as though thsoe who upheld the constitution and the democratic process were the ones doing the mobbing and rioting and gun slinging. These scenes do not augur well for the future of America right now. Obama must be hitting his head off the wall, Biden blinded in a mist of rage, and millions of ordinary voters dazed and confused. Reason, sense, good will, justice, please prevail!


Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Truth and Reason

 I happened to catch sight of an article on John Le Carre in the Guardian the other day, and saw that he had coined the idea of us living in an age of "mob orators who do not speak reason." He goes on to say that they use their communications to fire people up with anger and nostalgia. This gives them a popularity with the mob which they can then use to control whatever institutions pass for democratic ones in their particular country. So we see for instance the largely meek and aquiescent Tories bowing down to Boris Johnson's madnesses. This idea of truth being "whatever you can get away with", (another of Le Carre's phrases), has of course taken the reigns of power with a tight grip in the States. Joe Biden will have a hard job to get the mob to heed the voice of reason with which he will attempt to speak. There will always be the harsh background white noise of Trump's lying and offensive and provocative tweets, backed God help us by some very powerful Christian leaders.

The viscissitudes of the Pandemic, the Brexit problem back home, the Global Climate Crisis, and the Trump noise will stamp their large print on 2021 for sure, and vaccination or no vaccination 2021 will be a tough and challenging year to navigate, particularly since we all have been hoping to see the end of the tunnel in sharp focus near the beginning of the year. As the Bible says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick".

I should have seen the rise of the mob orators coming. After all, most of the very successful preachers pitch their message to the emotions. Whether this was a pitch to the emotions of shame and fear as in our Free Presbyterian traditions in Scotland, or to legitimise the selfish material aspirations of the congregation in the prosperity Gospel messages, or any number of other angles, these churches have flourished. 

So these times need orators who can harness gentle reason to the emotions, and so bring the mob round, away from blame laying and seeing the differently coloured stranger with suspicion and fear, to an open hearted sharing and a spirit of cooperation. That is a tall order, for negativity is easier to harness than a positive attitude. Moreover, reason needs to speak with the voice of love, otherwise she falls at the first hurdle. Truth can be a harsh taskmaster and a dangerous mantra. Only love can really deal with it effectively. That's why the apostle Paul puts love ahead of the pack in his great paean of praise to love in 1 Corinthians 13. Love however seems always to prefer the low, unassuming road, the appearance of defeat, the humble stable, the oppressive Cross. 2021 will be a fascinating year to be in. 

Friday, 6 November 2020

Election USA

 At this moment the result is hanging the balance. Donald Trump has cried "foul" and "stop the counting". He has alleged electoral misconduct perpetrated by the Democrats. These allegation are as yet unfounded, unsubstantiated, lacking in any evidence. But that does not matter. Trump creates truth by stating things. Millions of Americans go along with his versions of reality, no matter what they happen to be. A quip on the BBC Comedy Quiz show, "Mock the Week", went like this: "It's not that we have underestimated Trump. We overestimated the American voters." His statements are no longer lies, exaggerations, misrepresentations, equivocations or even opinions. They are facts. This is the way the world now is. 

People want their political heroes to be like them, not above them; to be seen to be flawed because then we don't have to trust a sham, a hypocrisy, a veneer of nobility. With Trump you see it all. He is the average voter (who votes for him). If he throws a hissy fit at the prospect of losing and throws metaphorical plates against the wall, then heck, he has a right to defend himself and his hard won position. The noble gestures of the candidates for the White House who in the past resigned as they saw before the finish that the game was up are not for Trump. Those who control their emotions, their words, are doing simply that. Trump says it like everyone thinks it. That's why he is as he says, a winner.

My take? This election will go to the wire, Trump will not vacate the White House and the litigation will wear everyone out and will damage the USA in ways which it will on an optimistic reading take decades to repair. The Chinese and the Russians argue that democracy is weak and you need a strong leader to hold a country together, bring peace, and economic prosperity. Maybe they are right, But these strong leaders do not last forever, nor do their dynasties. The relatively recent history of Yugoslavia that was, and Libya now tell a story of the frailty of holding things together by ruthless despotism. Rome gave the empire a few centuries of peace and prosperity, but in the end, collapsed. However it may be that Trump has bought the strong leader argument, and we will yet see a more horrific scene play out in our time. I've said this before on this blog: please let me be wrong.