Escalation Breeds Escalation

Sunday 31st August

There is a theory of aggression, where each stepping up of aggression results in a corresponding increase from the other party.  In animals, especially in the mating season, one of the (usually males) surrenders at a point before serious damage results.  However in humans, (the most dangerous animals) increased aggression often simply  results in more and more aggression.

Nobody can dispute that the situation in Ukraine has got out of hand.  Whose fault it is depends on who you believe and which media you are subjected to.  Russia insists it is simply defending a Russian speaking minority which is being persecuted by an ultra-nationalist Government.  Ukraine says it is being invaded by Russia which is intent on annexing more and more bits of land.

The West has responded like Pavlov’s dog by slapping sanctions on Russia and increasing them with each new perceived act of Russian aggression.  But it has now got to the macho stage of politicians leap-frogging each other in stating that Russia has declared war on Europe in more and more violent language.  Russia has responded by banning imports of food and drink from the EU.

The trouble is that Putin is not Saddam Hussein or Gadaffi.  He is the leader of still one of the most powerful countries on earth.  Surely no-one wants to return to the Cold War years.  And yet our leaders are taking up more and more intransigent and aggressive postures.  Someone is going to have to back down and I don’t expect for one moment it will be Russia.  Talk to each other for Christ’s sake…..

The Long Journey Home

Saturday 30th August

Well, the summer holidays are over and so is my summer in Eymet.  Yesterday we drove back almost the whole length of France and got back to London at 9.30.  So sad to say goodbye, not only to the town but to quite a few new friends.  Last night was another Gourmand evening in Parc Forestier with live music.  Lovely to be sitting out at ten at night, the weather still warm and drinking rose wine and laughing with friends while music plays in the background.

We set off at four in the morning and were chased by thunder and lightning almost to Limoges.  We stopped for a few sleeps and walking the dogs and coffee and croissants along the way.  Paris was fine, we slowed for a mile or so but really once over the Seine we sailed through, planes landing on the runways that pass over the motorway at Charles De Gaule Airport.  Our only real problem was that in England the M25 was stationary and the Blackwall Tunnel had huge reported delays, so we fought our way across South London and got through the Rotherhithe Tunnel okay. An hour later than planned.

So, back in England again and suddenly France seems like a dream, or is this nonsensical life we live here the dream and I wake up in Eymet?  Not sure, but it won’t be long now before we retire and spend a lot more time among the vineyards and sunflowers and plum trees of the Dordogne.

My M. P. has defected to UKIP

Thursday 28th August

I am writing this later than usual on Thursday itself; big party last night.  And waking up to the news that Douglas Carswell the M.P. for Clacton (and Walton) has defected to UKIP.  Not only that he is forcing a bi-election, which should be interesting.  You have to hand it to Nigel Farage, he is very good at keeping UKIP in the news.  There was a danger that the UKIP vote would fade away without the lifeblood of publicity, and the polls have certainly reflected that.  Now a bi-election with a defecting and quite popular Tory switching to UKIP means the news and press will be all over them.

I will of course be voting for Labour, where if (and a big if) there vote holds up they could slip in between a man and his former party.  I expect Carswell to win for UKIP, because the public love this sort of thing, and the Tories will be spitting feathers.  Just thinking , wouldn’t it be a hoot if Boris stood for the Tories.  He really has very little to lose.  And hooray, this news item has knocked the boring Scottish Debate form the headlines.  You cannot say that politics is dull for long.

The Danger of Referenda

Wednesday 27th August

We exist in a half-baked sort of a Democracy.  It was designed, or evolved at least a couple of hundred years ago, and actually came from long before that.  It started with Kings having a sort of council of barons; a collection of the most powerful men in the land, who both allowed and limited the power of the king.  Over centuries this was diluted until we have now what is known as Universal Suffrage, where everyone over the age of 18 can vote.  But vote for what exactly – almost always a party candidate who while in theory is supposed to represent the views of his or her electors almost inevitably will toe the party line.  Occasionally an Independent or individually minded MP will be elected, but they are getting thinner on the ground than ever.  So we are basically voting for a party which may or may not attempt to carry out its manifesto, but which you are supposed to more or less trust to make the right decisions on your behalf.  You give away your say on anything so that every five years you can say, ‘well done mate’, or ‘get lost you, were useless’.

Times have changed since olden times.  Communication is instant and there is no logical reason why on every issue every person in the country could vote via the internet.  I suspect however that if this were the case only a minority would bother and there would be huge press campaigns to persuade us which way to vote – so hardly a free and frank discussion leading to a sensible result.  Hanging would almost certainly return, and maybe for quite lesser crimes than previous and there may be pretty bad results for minorities generally.  So, there would have to be a few safeguards put in place, and maybe the 50% majority may have to increase to two thirds to bring about major change.

In the meantime we have Referenda, three in about 6 years.  First was for proportional representation, mooted by the LibDems and part of the Coalition Agreement.   This was of such little interest to the general public (but it should have been) that even the LibDems seemed to give in early.  Now we have the Scottish Referendum, which if passed will mean a massive upheaval for all the former countries of the United Kingdom.  At present it looks as if despite the polls narrowing somewhat the Scots will vote no. So two no changes so far, maybe.  But what about the big one?  If Cameron wins the general election and asks us to vote on an as yet unspecified reformed Europe can anyone be so sure there will be a no change vote?  The press and many many commentators will be so anti-European that there is a big danger that we will be out.  Referenda are so dangerous because there really is no guarantee that the public will vote the right (wrong) way.   


The Scottish Debate

Tuesday 26th August

Well, are we sick of this Scottish question yet?  It has been going on for quite a long time now, and yet like Christmas you turn around and before you know it is upon us.  We have now had the second debate, and yet in a way we know even less than before the referendum was even mooted.  The argument seems to boil down to guestimates about Oil production and whether the pound will be the currency of an Independent Scotland.  Answers to which nobody knows.  It is almost impossible to even guess what would happen in a United Kingdom, let alone two separate countries.  To my mind the economic arguments are both unanswerable and pointless.  The real question is whether Scottish people will feel more contented with a Government in Edinburgh than one in London making some decisions and another in Edinburgh making other decisions.  By the way whichever way they vote other decisions will still be being made in Brussels, Independent or not.  Or maybe not, as if the vote is no and then the Tories win and their promised Euro-referendum votes to leave the Scottish people will be even more at the mercy of Westminster policies.

And actually both Labour and the Tories are offering competing versions of Devo-Max should the vote be to remain with us.  Many people actually suspect that this is the real objective of the SNP, though exactly how Alex Salmond will portray a defeat as anything else is beyond me.

Actually I think that all nations states are rapidly becoming meaningless.  There are wars now in Ukraine, Libya, Syria, Iraq and South Sudan which are all really the aftermath of Colonialism.  Too often nations are not defined by geography or culture but by old administrative regions of nineteenth century Colonial states.  One of the ideals of Europe was to make Nationality redundant.  If we are all part of a United Europe then countries are less and less important.  It seems we have a long way to go.  And the Scottish question is if anything another backward step.



Flying Down to Bergerac

Sunday 24th August

As you read this I will be flying back down to Bergerac for the last time this summer.  And what a summer it has been.  I have managed to squeeze in my work and haven’t let anyone down.  Three days work this week, and one evening – and all so that on my return in a week’s time I will not be too far behind.  Hard to explain really, but in my job there is only me.  If I don’t do my work I have to do my work.  Yes, every key stroke, every e-mail to be answered, each piece of paper to be worked on – they will all be waiting for me when I return.  Nobody will have done a thing.  So, as I will undoubtedly have to put in a couple of four day weeks to catch up, I will in effect have not had a holiday at all.  Even with three visits this August I will have only used two days holiday – and will probably do two extra days to catch up.  In one way none of it matters anyway now that I am heading for retirement.  In a years time it will be a distant memory.

And next week as I catch the last of the summer’s sun I will try to make the whole job a distant memory.  So many jobs I have had since leaving school at 17, and none of it meant a damned thing.  Nobody was saved and nobody died, I didn’t really help anyone, except a few rich idiots to get a tad richer.  All of it quite pointless.  But what else can you do?  In the economic madness we find ourselves in, we can neither be hunter or farmer and so must exchange our labour for food and shelter.  And some of us emerge triumphant and some of us shattered – some never make it.  It is almost entirely a lottery, some are lucky and incompetent but still make it, some are unlucky but competent and also make it, some are neither and fall by the wayside.  A very few are lucky and competent and really achieve something.  Me? I am somewhere in the middle, always a bit too cautious to be an entrepreneur and not quite stupid enough to fail completely.  Have a nice day.

B – is for the Beautiful South

Saturday 23rd August

This was always Paul Heaton’s band.  He was originally in the Housemartins but split to create tongue in cheek ‘The Beautiful South’ (he was unapologetically from the North), a collective where all members of the band would share everything.  There were three singers and Paul wrote all the lyrics but was happy to give co-writes for the music.  They released their first album, 1989’s Welcome to the Beautiful South and it was a real breath of fresh air.  Clever pop-songs with catchy melodies and very cryptic words; they were an immediate hit.  It had seemed a long time since such classic pop songs were in the charts “A little time”, “Rotterdam”,“Perfect 10” and many others soon followed.

The band seemed quite fluid but always held together by Paul, even though he was fighting his own battle with alcohol which he documented in songs like “Old Red Eyes is Back” and “Liar’s Bar”

The band split up in 2007, and Paul has since pursued a less popular solo career.  But if you are feeling a bit down, just listen again to songs like “Don’t Marry Her, F%$k Me.”  The perfect antidote to all the rubbishy hip-hop and r’n’b nonsense that parades under the name of popular music.

Muslim Extremism?

Friday 22nd August

We are all so brainwashed, so much victims of propaganda and so dumbed-down by the news and politicians that we believe anything.  Now it is good Muslims (that is those loyal to Britain) and extremist Muslims (that is, somehow perverted and twisted so as to hate us).  And being the simpletons that we are we must always have good guys and bad guys; Churchill and Hitler, Tony Blair and Saddam Hussein, and now decent Muslims and IS.  Well folks, life ‘aint as simple as that.  There are far more than fifty shades of grey; in fact it is all very very muddy indeed.

By accident I caught a documentary on BBC2 about the Stuarts.  Interestingly while focusing on the religious hatred between Catholics and Protestants of 300 years ago, the camera showed modern day footage of enraged Muslims and Evangelical Christians.  So nothing that much changes.  We think that we are tolerant and modern and quite happy for anyone to believe whatever they want to.  Except, we do not attempt to understand the Muslims who are prepared to fight what they consider is a Crusade from the corrupt West into their countries.  Now let me make it clear that I do not support them at all; I am just as appalled by the video (unwatched, but heavily reported) of be-headings; I am just as outraged at the treatment of women as second class citizens and I think that these young men leaving Britain to go and fight for an ideal they barely understand are mistaken and will maybe regret their actions if they live into old age.  But it is only 80 years since young British men and women went to fight and die for their ideals in Spain.

To condemn is not to solve anything.  We must try to understand and to educate and also to change our foreign policy.  It is too late to do anything about Afghanistan or Iraq but these were the breeding grounds which directed the justifiable anger into what we now call extremism.  We must start to really support and help (not bomb) predominantly Muslim countries.  We should have supported Morsi in Egypt (legally elected) and not helped his overthrow by an unelected army coup.  We must stop supporting Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, unless they modernize and start educating women and bring in real democracy.  And we must put pressure on Israel to give Palestine a decent state and stop terrorizing millions in Gaza.  Only then will these young Muslims realize that we in the West are not the Extremists they consider us.

Can the News Get Any Worse?

Thursday 21st August

When I am away we do still watch the news, but here in placid, never changing rural France it all seems such a long way away.  The sun shines, the Boulangeries are full of lovely bread and cakes, the markets overflowing with rich produce and bombs and deaths seem to be beamed from another planet entirely.  But back home somehow the reality hits home harder, this is real, this is happening in our fragile world and being in London seems to bring it all back home sharply.

There are wars everywhere, Gaza, Ukraine, Libya, Syria, South Sudan which go unreported because of atrocities elsewhere hogging the headlines.  Iraq is ongoing and although the latest news/propaganda is reporting that IS is slowly retreating one wonders if this is a strategic withdrawal or if they are really being pegged back by US airstrikes.   What makes it all so poignant is the overarching fact that the ill-fated invasion ten years ago has created the problem.  Can George Bush and Tony Blair really sleep easy in their remarkably comfortable beds at night knowing what a bloody mess they have created?

The riots in Missouri over the shooting by police of an unarmed black teenager have just got a whole lot worse as they have shot another last night.  Everyone calls for calm without beginning to understand the fury and despair of whole sections of society left behind and now apparently picked off at random by trigger-happy cops.

And this morning we are confronted by the brutality of IS beheading an American reporter and posting the video on-line.  Everyone is appalled at the savagery, the lack of any humanity, the pointless killing and yet fail to recognize that in their eyes we have been pursuing a crusade against Muslim nations for nearly two decades now.  And each time we retaliate, each time Israel pours shells into Gaza, each time we pin-point bomb another convoy, each time we ignore the plight of the homeless refugees we simply add to the anger and the sense of injustice.  And worst of all I see no end to it all.  No end in sight at all.