50 minus 4: Strange thoughts

Posted: 13 August 2014 in media, personal, politics, Uncategorized
Tags: ,

It’s a strange world. Let’s keep it that way.

The quote above is one that pops up in PLANETARY by Warren Ellis, John Cassady and Laura Martin. If you haven’t read it, I envy you only because that means that at some point you’re going to experience enormous joy from discovering it. And if you have read it, well, you know how superb it was.

But the comment itself has been on my mind a lot the past couple of weeks when online life in particular has been unlike any previous time in my experience. I’ve alluded to it more than once, and I think it’s likely that tomorrow I’m going to write about anti-semitism in the UK. I doubt I’ll be able to do it as well as others have done, but in preparation for it, I’ll merely point you to the following at this point:

The Guardian’s editorial: On Gaza and the rise of anti-semitism

Owen Jones’ superb piece: Anti-Jewish hatred is rising; we must see it for what it is

And – behind the Times Paywall – Hugo Rifkind’s masterly piece: Suddenly, it feels uncomfortable to be a Jew

Read all of them if you can.

But more about that tomorrow.

The world at the moment isn’t just strange; it’s interesting, but interesting in the words and terms of the old Chinese curse.

It’s not an easy time to be a politician; indeed, with what’s going on around the world, one might wonder what the point of politicians is. After all, the Middle East is in turmoil; Eastern Europe may have a lower body count, but the danger of escalation far beyond the current chaos is ever-present; and even in western democracies, everything feels like, and is presented as, hanging on a knife edge. And, as I mentioned the other day, everyone in office is someone who managed to convince the voters that they knew how to solve this proble, that problem and the other problem. And then something comes along that proves they don’t.

I’m glad that I’m not in control of the government. I’m glad that my friends aren’t; I don’t think I know a single person who I’d utterly trust to have control over the military, say, or to make choices between which government services are cut, and which maintained. The reason are simple: they’ve either not been trained in that, or would destroy themselves making those calls. I once knew a local councillor, a nice fella; we used to have coffee together on a semi-regular basis. I stopped asking him about the council role when he said that he had to vote that night on whether to cut funding to an old age home or a school. I don’t think anyone would like to have to make those choices in a time of austerity. And no matter what people would wish to be the case, that’s the time we’re in now.

In one way, I feel sorry for politicians, politicians of all stripes; the honest ones, I mean, the men and women who enter politics out of a genuine wish to serve and to do good by their constituents, their country and their honour. Because every one of them is in office because people believed in them, in their abilities, in their basic humanity, in their integrity. And now many of those same politicians discover how powerless they actually are, and what devils’ choices they have to make.

And that makes me think of all the people who have run for office and never made it… what goes through their minds when they think of what is, and what could have been? And how the hell do they not resent the hell out of the electorate?

I recall a comment from an American politician; bloke by the name of Dick Tuck who ran for the Senate in 1966, in California. When the results came in, and it was obvious he’d lost, he said what later became a famous quote:

The people have spoken, the bastards.

I’m sure that many unsuccessful political candidates feel the same way, and probably express it similarly.

Looking at the newspapers and the online news sites only proves to me once more (as if proof were needed) that Warren had it right from day one: the world is a strange place. I just wish that politicians didn’t take that as a manifesto commitment; I’m just not entirely convinced that the world needs any assistance keeping it that way.

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