Posts Tagged ‘choices’

Housekeeping Note: In case you were wondering what happens to the blog after 31st December…

Well, the current plan is to run the blog through until ‘2022 plus 08‘, then there’ll be the usual anniversary post about Mike…

…and then both I and this blog take a break. The single Thursday in that ‘2022 plus’ run almost certainly won’t have a piece of new fiction. This Thursday’s is intended to be the last new fiction on the blog for 2021.

When I return — I’m currently thinking of the start of February, having taken the remainder of January off — I’ll have have think about what I want the blog to look like in 2022.

Now, unless something huge happens, January’s posts until the ‘plus 08’ will be light fair, with maybe more fiction from the vaults than usual. I’m not sure.

I do know that when I’ve tried to run the blog through into a ‘plus’ run, intending to keep it going for ages, I get to around eight or ten days and then burn out completely, taking months and years off.

I don’t want to do that again. So, I’m trying this.

It’s not exactly news that politics, that public opinions, that expressing a view on anything the past few years has run into a bit of a problem.

No, it’s not the ‘cancel culture’ thing; most examples of so-called ‘cancel culture’ are nothing more nor less than ‘consequence culture’. People complaining loudly that they can’t say [this] or [that] anymore without facing consequences for saying it. Tough fucking luck, pal.

What we should be angry about is that they’ve faced no consequences in that past, not that those expressing racism, antisemitism, homophobia and transphobia are facing consequences now.

It’s a truism to suggest that freedoms of speech and expression have never been freedoms from the consequences of that speech and expression, but in many cases, too many cases, those consequences haven’t been faced.

But no, this post isn’t about the specious argument that ‘unless i can say whatever I like, whenever I like it, wherever I like it without facing consequences of any sort then I don’t have freedom of speech’. And no, it isn’t about the conflict between differing rights and which should have primacy.

No, this is about something else: the absence of nuance, of any grey areas, of the contraction of debate into binary alternatives. And furthermore, the polarisation to the point of there are only two alternatives, and you much not only choose one of them to fanatically support, you must also obsessively denigrate the other.

It’s been around in politics for a lot longer than is sometimes suggested; I certainly remember it being around in the 1980s, and I’m sure it existed long before that as well.

But it reached its apotheosis once social media made it easy for everyone to reply to everyone else in what should have been the world’s greatest debating chamber but instead became the world’s biggest and drunkest pub crowd five minutes before closing time.

Take the further restrictions some are suggesting are necessary to control the spread of the omicron covid variant. The vast majority of online commentary, and that of politicians, seems to be

yes, we need to have them, and anyone who says otherwise doesn’t care if a) the NHS is overwhelmed and/or b) people die!!!


Over my dead body! Totally unnecessary and those calling for them are authoritarian fascists who don’t care about people’s mental health or their right to be free!!!

The attacks not only on the contrary idea but on those who are making it… angers me.

It’s back to the “once upon a time, those who differed were ‘good people with bad ideas’; now they’re bad people with worse ideas”.

Me? I’ve thought from the start of any restrictions that it’s both personally and perfectly reasonable to loathe the restrictions while reluctantly accepting their complete and utter necessity.

Sidebar: I’m quite self-servingly selfish about one part of lockdown, but I’m happy to admit that I’m quite self-servingly selfish about it.

As I’ve mentioned before, I live alone, and I’m not in a relationship. So the only people I saw on a frequent basis were friends who I stay with once a week in Richmond, and my ex-wife.

I went through the first lockdown having been deprived of both of those. By the time of the second lockdown, the government had at last recognised that it ain’t particularly healthy for people who live on their own to see… NO ONE for months on end. So they introduced ‘social bubbles’, whereby a household could invite someone who lived on their own to form part of that household for the duration.

My sole wish, if lockdown, or something like it, is reintroduced is that they reintroduce the bubbles. I really don’t want to have to lose that personal contact again.

A friend once described me as ‘dangerously content in his own company’. That’s probably fair. Or at least it was. Before covid. Because enforced solitude made me at first tire of my own company and then actively resent it. I really don’t want to subject my mental health to having to do that again.

OK, self-servingly selfish bit over.

I truly wish I could believe that we’ve come through the worst of the polarisation; sadly I don’t even believe we’re close to the peak.

The assumption of too many, on all sides of the political divide, not only re covid but re so, so, much else as well, is that any disagreement with the position they hold can only be malicious and in bad faith.

Years ago, a penny dropped for me when considering how the Tories and Labour regard each other, and why Labour’s assumption of inherent moral superiority in their position rankles so much. (This was way before Corbyn’s apotheosis, when it became blatant, and me and mine copped out as a result.)

Tories observe Labour and don’t understand for the slightest iota of a moment how anyone could genuinely believe in the stuff Labour believe in.

On the other hand, Labour sees the Conservative party beliefs and very well understands how people could believe the things they believe… but Labour people choose not to believe those things.

And Labour therefore thinks they are inherently better people because of it.

Labour’s always had a touch of the “We are Moral and Just and Good because we are Labour (rather than ‘because what we can achieve, and what we do’.)

It was ramped up under Corbyn to “We are Moral and Just and Good and therefore anything we do or say is Moral and Just and Good. Therefore any criticism of anything we do or say must, by an elegant inevitability, be Immoral and Unjust and Malicious.”

That at least has lessened. I fear that it could return at any time, however, and even if it doesn’t, the polarisation in politics will grow still further.

I hope I’m wrong. I fear I’m not.


See you tomorrow, with… the usual Tuesday ‘something else’.



Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 now scarily rapidly approaching.

I’ve signed up to, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

As I’ve mentioned before both here and on going cheep, there are any number of skills I don’t possess. I can’t cook (more than the very basics), I can’t bake at all; I’ve a terrible singing voice, and I have no discernible musical talent when it comes to playing instruments; I can’t dance, can’t act, and although I’ve a working knowledge of HTML, I don’t get CSS at all. 

Of course I make up for all of that by being the life and soul of every party, have the third highest IQ ever recorded and am an better than excellent lover. 

(Anyone who believes any of the preceding paragraph should check their gullibility quotient immediately; it’s letting you down, badly.)

However, I don’t need to be able to play a musical instrument to know when it’s being played very, very badly. Similarly I don’t need to possess a decent singing voice to know when someone’s singing offends me with its awfulness.  

Thing is, though, if I taste something and it’s been undercooked, no one suggests that I shouldn’t criticise it unless I can produce something better. If I think someone’s performed an excuciatingly bad bit of acting, I’m not barred from saying so until I’ve dug out my Golden Globe.

And I don’t need to have stood for election to know when an elected politician is fucking it up. Nor when a government has lied. Nor when a government just… hasn’t made a convincing case. (And yes, it’s never the responsibility of anyone to be convinced; the onus is on the person doing the convincing. Always. I used to use a line at work, when someone hadn’t persuaded me to increase their budget or make an accounting adjustment of some sort: I’m not convinced… and the reason I’m not convinced is you haven’t convinced me.

So, returning to the lack of alternatives I can produce before I’m allowed to criticise something, I’d argue – though this is less certain and definitely less widely agreed – I’m not required to have an alternative policy in mind, fully worked out and peer reviewed by experts in the field in order to justifiably suggest that a suggested by others policy seems to me to be bad, won’t work and/or is just… plain… wrong. 

And when it comes to foreign policy, the requirement seems ever-present. I remain puzzled as to the ongoing and apparently permanent view that complex is bad and nuance worse. That most wonderful of documentaries, erm, sitcoms Yes, Minister and its sequel Yes, Prime Minister made it plain decades ago: the British public likes to know who are the ‘goodies’ and who are the ‘baddies’. Unfortunately, it’s often a case of who’re the least-bad baddies. And even then, there’s no guarantee that judgement is correct at the time; often, only in hindsight do the true facts come out, and not always even then (cf Hutton, cf Chilcott, cf etc etc)  
It’s been very noticeable that both those who support bombing IS in Syria and those who adamantly oppose it have responded to criticism with “well, what’s your alternative?” as if no-one is allowed to criticise a policy proposal unless they have a fully workable alternative ready to go. And despite people protesting that it’s not simple, that it’s compolicated and complex and nuanced and difficult… the moment a side is picked, some idiots reduce your position to simplistic slogan painting. If you’re pro-bombing, then you approve of baby killing; if you’re against the bombing, the idiots say you don’t care if IS blow up half of London. 

Me? I’m entirely undecided (which in the eyes of aforementioned idiots merely makes me undecided as to whether I prefer Syrian civilians or London ones to die). I’m far from convinced that Cameron has made a good case for extending military action, but I’m equally unconvinced that there’s no conclusive case to be made; I just don’t think it’s yet been made.

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

I think, though, that unless you’re as sure as you can be that military action is called for, a vote against is mandated. I’m a huge fan of the old tactic of “if you’ve two choices, one of which is irrevocable and one of which isn’t, and you’re undecided… take the latter choice. Always.” 

Even if you haven’t got an alternative.