Category Archives: Morality

If it won’t last forever, then what

Coronavirus must have a lifespan. It can’t last forever.

However, its consequences could be far-reaching. We cannot go back to how things were,  with an endless fixation on economic growth in the Western World. The planet will not sustain it, and we shall all be plunged into catastrophe on a biblical scale.

Don’t just take my word for it. There are plenty of others who think the same way.

Thankfully, we have begun to rely less on fossil fuels, which must run out sometime, and we have seen that a sense of community – rather than the sense of ‘me’ – has taken hold, at least in the UK.

All this leads me to believe that we shall emerge from this so-called ‘crisis’ in better shape to deal with the future than we were before it emerged.

I hope so, anyway. But if the politicians in suits are left to their own pocket-lining devices, I doubt it. Their outlook and beliefs will last forever.

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A game that’s been rotting for ages

Footballers seem to be getting it in the neck during these coronavirus days. Some are prepared to take a wage cut; others aren’t.

When some of them earn (?get?) as much in a week as some people get in a lifetime, it’s hardly surprising there’s a difference of opinion.

But what does anyone say about the poor supporter? Nothing much. At least, nothing much that’s worth listening to.

There are 22 players on the pitch, trying to win a game between 11 and 11. And there’s a referee and at least two other ‘officials’. Yet there could be as many as 55,000 watching on from the stands, and no one seems to listen to them.

Footballers are both sportsmen and entertainers. But to be paid what they are to entertain as many as 55,000 is absurd. It’s out of all proportion. A man or boy on the terraces can only dream of the riches afforded to one of his favourite players. Yet he – or even she – gets no voice at all.

It has ever been thus, sadly. Footballers have always been heroes, doing something that the rest of us wish we could do.

But surely, in these straightened times, the players could remember what they are doing? Playing a game so that others can watch them, not taking home wads of cash for a comparatively easy week’s work. They should think about what it must be like to be a toolmaker, or to work on a production line doing the same thing hour after hour.

Then, perhaps, we might see something that hasn’t been rotted by money, and a game that is played for its own sake not for wads of cash.

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At last …

The British people have voted. The general election result is known. But what are we to make of it?

What we do know beyond all reasonable doubt is that the Conservatives, led by Boris Johnson, now have absolute control over Parliament. That suggests an extended period of austerity rather than a much-needed spend and borrow programme as set out in the Labour manifesto. I know which I’d rather have!Ballot Paper Cross 2

Of course, we don’t know for sure what an administration under Johnson will actually do. But, if the pundits and opinion-formers are to be believed, nothing Johnson’s administration does will go far towards healing the broken feeling that is so evident across much of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Are our country roads’ potholes to be fixed? And what about the dropped drains to be encountered almost everywhere? Will my car have to suffer many more knocks and blows to its suspension?

Will someone tell us what’s going to happen to our National Health Service? Will parts of it be sold off to some private enterprise so that they can make money out of it? Or will the new administration find some way of making the whole thing viable instead of ‘in crisis’, as we are so often told it is?

What’s going to happen to our schools, many of which are a disgrace to anyone who believes that a fair education can lead to a fair, well-paid career?

And what about our police force? It seems to be very short-staffed at the moment, all over the country. I can’t remember the last time I saw a local policeman or policewoman ‘on the beat’.

As to the nation’s social services, they seem stretched beyond belief. People are sleeping on the streets of our cities, because there is little or nowhere else for them to go. Others are suffering from severe deprivation because the system cannot cope with their physical or mental health problems.

As you can see, the election result seems to raise more questions than answers, all of which are relevant to a broad society that includes the less-well-off as well as the comfortable rich.

I live in a retirement area, so I probably won’t see much of the horror that seems about to be perpetrated on our nation. My pension and investments will shield me from the worst of it all. But I can’t help feeling that we – the liberal-minded community – are in for a rough ride over the next little whiles.

Let’s hope that Boris proves to be more of a “one nation” Tory than his recent election performance suggests.

Let’s also hope that he is less in the pocket of what looks like his hard-right cabal.

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I’ve never seen anything like it!

The scenes in Parliament when Boris Johnson made an appearance after he’d returned from America were awful.

MPs shouting at each other. The Speaker almost unable to control them. Some jumping up and down from the benches, waving their fists and wagging their fingers at the others on the other side of the House and yelling. It was, to quote one of the more excitable of them, “disgraceful”.

I’m all for a properly representative Parliament – one that reflects the true nature of the people of Great Britain – but not for one that behaves like a group of people gathered in a pub for an argument. And all of them – well, most of them – dressed as if they were going to church. It’s as if putting on a suit will make them respectable. Jacob Rees-Mogg has a lot to answer for.

And all the while Boris (whose suits look as if they were made for someone else and whose hair looks as if it should be growing on a blonde Dennis The Menace) has a stupid expression on his face which seems to suggest that, once his ‘turn’ is over, he’ll revert to being a serious person again. If that’s possible.

I’ve no idea who should take Johnson’s place. Gone are the days when more thoughtful men like Ken Clarke could hope to take charge and be the figurehead for a well-behaved bunch of people.

As it is, all of it beggars belief.

What next, I wonder

I’ve just finished reading The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes, former speech-writer and latterly confidant to Barak Obama, and I can’t help thinking that we shall come to see something of Obama in Theresa May, now that they are both former world leaders.

Obama was dignified, principled, full of integrity and was succeeded by what some folks would recognise as (and others believe is) a charlatan.

Against my better judgement, I believe May was all those things – though she did lack some of Obama’s charm and principled behaviour and was equally stubborn, among other things – and has been followed by a charlatan.

Alexander ‘Boris’ Johnson [to give him his proper name] was never my choice of Prime Minister – not that I know who should have been – but he was the outright choice of the Conservative Party members.

What happens over the next few weeks, months and even years is anybody’s guess. We may all be glad he’s in charge and that, instead of mind-numbing inactivity, decisions are being acted on unthinkingly, if not swiftly. Or we could all be wringing our hands, wishing and hoping that he won’t, or even can’t, be around for very long.

What’s certain is that it will not be easy. Those in work will find themselves worse off; those looking for work will find it even more difficult to come by than it is now.

As someone who’s retired from work – and from looking for it – I am not hopeful; I anticipate taxes and the cost of living will rise; that I am likely to be worse off than I was before Donald Trump took charge in the US and Alexander Johnson did the same in the UK.

It doesn’t look good.

What if …

Big BenWhat if the British Government was competent enough to, and capable of, managing the economy and bringing an end to austerity?

What if the same government was capable to negotiating a smooth transition from European Union membership to political and economic independence from the EU?

What if the same government could manage the NHS and its care services without thinking that ‘NHS’ was just a set of letters and instead realising that it means ‘National Health Service’?

What if the same government could solve what is often called the ‘housing crisis’ and give young people a degree of independence  and a chance living away from their parents and grandparents?

What if the same government could do something about Britain’s infrastructure and fix the potholes in all the roads?

What if the same government knew about life outside the ‘Westminster village’?

What if the same British government could find a way of operating without fighting itself?

Fat chance.

 

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Going, going nearly gone

It’s nearly gone. The sky can be seen, and clear light is in the area. The views are changed. Way over in Hammersmith, the Novotel is visible from West Brompton station.

Earls Court is almost down, and with it our hopes of ever seeing this part of London look as it does are down, too.

With them, all of them, goes part of our identity. It’ll soon be the case that it won’t be enough to say to anyone from abroad that one lives in or near Earls Court, to explain whereabouts one comes from in London – ‘in London’ meaning anywhere from Harrow to Hayes or from Woodford to Weybridge. Too many times one will have to answer something other than simply “London” when one is asked where one’s from. Before too much longer, the understood rider of “Earls Court” will mean nothing at all.

Of course, the developers will be glad to see the back of the unsightly old lady. But will those of us who have lived in its shadow for years be as glad? Would we be as comfortable if we were living with the ‘deconstruction’ of Whitehall or the Houses of Parliament? And yet, people live in their shadow, just they do here, in the shadow of Earls Court.

For now, the illusion lives on. Even on the trains – overground as well as underground – the announcer still advises travellers to ‘alight here for the Earls Court Exhibition Centre’, when there hasn’t been an exhibition at the centre for ages. Indeed, the ‘centre’ hasn’t been there for ages. It’s being ‘deconstructed’.

The developers will be glad to see a a new ‘district’ emerge. But how long will that take? And how many of us want to live in its shadow? The old Earls Court was good enough to entertain many of today’s, and yesterday’s, most popular acts. How many will flock to see who perform at what in the new ‘district’?

Earls Court was a good place to be, years ago. Now it’s becoming the same as anywhere else in London. It never had much of an identity, but now it has even less.

The sky may be clear, but the future – at least round here – is somewhat murky.

 

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He’s at it again

It’s hard to believe, but last week he put his foot in his mouth again.

For one who supposedly wants to be leader of his party, George Osborne is making a pretty poor go of it. And it gets worse and worse.

His Budget last week was, in itself, a bit of a mishmash of old ideas muddled with new thinking. He had trailed some of it already. Not much of it came as a surprise. He continued to favour the better-off in British society and failed to help those less able to help themselves.

As result, the present Cabinet has lost one member – Ian Duncan-Smith, for whatever reason – and may lose more before his Master, it’s chair, David Cameron, decides enough is enough and retreats to whatever ‘retirement’ he choses.

Meanwhile, George seems to think that all he has to do is grin and we’ll like him.

Personally, I’ve always been a little circumspect about people who grin too much. They seem to be hiding something else behind the façade of friendliness.

Sometimes it’s no more than politesse. At others it’s malice; it could be idiocy.

In George’s case, it seems to be a combination of the last two. He looks like a malicious idiot.

And he did it it again last week.

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Did you make your mark? And how?

I haven’t had much to say of late, but I have been listening.
That’s partly because I’ve been ill.
I was listening and trying to make sense of the cacophony of ideas and comment that filled cyberspace, the radio waves, television and our newspapers as we approached the UK’s general election.Big Ben
Believe me, it was hard. So much noise and so little clarity. With only a week or so to go, no one seemed to be able to predict the outcome.
Too close for comfort
Now it’s all over bar the shouting, at least until September, when The Labour Party has its conference and there’ll be plenty of noise about then.
That’s not so surprising when you think that, for years, it’s been nigh-on impossible to slip a cigarette paper between the two major parties’ policies or their leaders, whoever they may be.
Both leaders banged on before the election about reducing the budget deficit, blaming each other for its existence and the way it was handled. Yet neither seemed to have a credible solution.
Each one swore blind the NHS was safe in their hands while acknowledging it needs reform. But who knows where they might take it? Less than a month later it was deemed to be in trouble again.
And they both had our ageing population’s welfare and our children’s education right at the heart of their programmes. Where is it now?
“Vote for us from cradle to grave”, but what would we get?
Even if you turned to the minority parties, there wasn’t much on offer.
The Greens’ ideas seemed attractive, until you recalled their leader’s February “brain fade” and asked yourself if they’d be able to keep a grip on their day-to-day thinking, let alone the economy.
UKIP didn’t fare too well, unless you were a rabid anti-immigrationist or a simple-minded little Englander.
As for the Liberal Democrats, they seem to have completely lost their way since they were blinded by the bright lights of so-called power sharing as they went into coalition with the Conservatives. Their leader quit almost before he’d lost his seat.
Damaged goods
Aside from their policies, there was also the question of morality or, to be kinder, the whether of whether or not any of our currently serving MPs are fit for purpose.
Even now it’s hard to forget, and even harder to forgive, the business of MPs’ expenses. The infamous duck house enjoys legendary status. The second homes are an indelible memory.
More recently and nearer the election, we had accusations levelled at both Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw that they were willing to accept cash in hand in exchange for a word in various MPs’ ears.
Even the church, which delivered such a well-reasoned critique on the state of British politics early in the year, was accused of hypocrisy for demanding an increase in the minimum wage when it currently paid some of its people less than that.
And then there was the government’s relationship with big business. What were we to make of the half-Nelson administered – and still administered – by some of the huge corporations whose influence paralyses the politicians’ ability to effect change in almost any walk of life?
Could we, in short, have confidence in anyone or any party that entreated us for our vote?
The radical alternative
I don’t profess to have an absolute answer to any of your questions, but I do have a suggestion.
Between now and the next general election let’s try to get something on the ballot paper that allows us to express ourselves properly, rather than having to vote in a way that leaves us uncomfortable just because we’re trying to keep someone out, rather than vote as we feel.
I didn’t vote (because I was stuck in the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, too late to register for a postal vote, and too ill to be allowed out to the polling station).
But had I been able to vote I probably would have spoiled my paper by writing something like NONE OF THE ABOVE ARE SUITABLE across it.
It would then have gone into the pile marked “Spoiled papers” and been forgotten.
Let’s, next time, have a place where you can put a tick next to NO CONFIDENCE.
That way we all be able to vote as we feel, not as we’re expected to.

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The boy who grew too big

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He was always at the centre of things. He always had more hair, his parents owned the biggest yard. He always rode the smartest bike.
Hell, he even had the best girls. He knew how to catch them.
But that wasn’t always the way.
When he was small he was scrawny. Like a little chick hatched out without any feathers.
In those days, the older boys used to run a little wild in the street and he’d want to run with them. But they just left him behind.
It didn’t take him long to fill out, get taller, learn how to run faster.
Then came trouble. Just little things to begin with. Stealing candy bars. Smoking cigarettes, then taking dope.
There was one time he stole a car, just to go joy-riding.
Before long, he had a reputation. Most of the rest of us learned to steer clear of him.
He got in with a bad crowd. People the rest of us didn’t know. People we didn’t even want to know.
Sad to think of it now, but the last I heard he was doing time. Caught in a net of petty crime and drug dealing, he’d been busted by the NYPD and found guilty.
Such an innocent child, just like the rest of us. But grown too fast, too wild and – the law thought – too big for his boots.
He never did let me borrow his fishing net.

One of a series of very short stories you’ll find at Pictures Love Words on the Creative Ampersand website: http://www.creativeampersand.co.uk

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