Sunday, 9 October 2016

I am rubber; you are glue . . . and other thoughts about the Presidential election.

While reading a recent online discussion about the American election, there it was: two old-enough-to-know-better adults were going at it about the demerits of each other’s candidate and having abandoned all pretext at civility or decorum, were down to name calling and the online version of sticking their tongues out, culminating in the childhood taunt of: I'm rubber you are glue, your words bounce off me and stick to you.

And while this could be seen as very entertaining, it did cause a shiver of dread when I remembered that these people will get to vote in an election that has enormous impact on the entire population of the planet – existing and future.

I have no dog in this fight and have long ago lost any hope for the electoral process. For me, it is no more than divisive and mean-spirited reality TV at its worst. And my issue with that is that, for most part, it divides rather than unifies people. 

Add in the fact that it is also a massive advertising campaign where money dominates and you might begin to see things the way I do.

As we all know from our daily lives, money doesn’t come cheap. Those who “invest” in candidates have agendas that rarely surface during what passes for debates and are never scrutinized by analysts and experts who form many of the opinions of those who go off to vote.

It has been a long downward spiral to this particular election. In recent years we have seen processions of ‘Gee-Shucks’ cardboard cut-outs trying to out-Jesus each other; new and improved versions of smooth, slick, salesy types saying nothing and denying all that they previously might, or might not, have said, and visionaries who will lead us to Promised Lands where we can live free of all those who are not like us.

The Election industry has created a toxic environment where efforts at the reasonable debate of complex matters have long been abandoned in favour of cleverly tailored sound bites that are repeated like jingles.

Not surprisingly, elections for the most part have become less and less about intellectual civic exercises and more and more about emotional venting and the rejection of the ideals of people we hate, fear, or envy.

A compelling and recent example of all of this was the British referendum and I follow the resulting gyrations with a mixture of amazement and trepidation. There, a majority of voters followed leaders who, on winning, resigned and in doing so forced the country to actually begin to discuss what it was they had done.

Similarly, in the first American Presidential debate, the matter of Syria did not merit a mention.

Regardless of your views on the horrible war in that country – and finding a clear picture in the haze of misinformation is a particular challenge – surely a future president’s views should be examined and understood? Or are we to wander into a new world war without even the pretext of political rationale?

Perhaps it is the only logical way after the farce of the great WMD issue when the Coalition of the Willing, made up of the democratically elected governments of the free peoples of the world, attacked and destroyed countries that now seem to have had little or nothing to do with 9/11 – and all in the name of defending our freedom and democracy.

Not that any of that matters if we are all transfixed by the circus this election presents. Never mind that the world is being brought to rack and ruin by the privately plotted actions of State and Corporate interests, let’s get enraged about what the other candidate may have done or said, or looks like. Then, in place of real debate, let’s all turn on each other and call each other names, and worse.

As stated, I have no dog in this fight and, while one candidate is probably unfit to be allowed out in public and the other has the lingering odour of shady deals, I would be far more concerned with who is paying for all of this and what their real agenda might be.

It is one of the great flaws of democracies that so much of what is done in the name of the people is done behind closed doors. You can cite security, confidentiality, or whatever, but how can it be called the will of the people when they have no idea what is really going on?

Sure, many of us are happy to be sloughed off with media information from the sources that we trust implicitly, but that, at the end of the day, is little more than going through the motions so that we can pay lip service to the principle that democracy is supposed to enshrine: that “the informed voter is the sword of democracy.”

I began to question that long ago and now find myself more aligned with the great wit, Oscar Wilde, who has been quoted as saying: “Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.

Yes, it had been a long and torturous slide to where we are now and, far from being the shining light of freedom and democracy, this election may well be the beginning of the final act in the tragically comedic story of the decline and fall of human civilization.

And yes, I do have ideas on a better way. I might even get around to sharing them one of these days so if you are interested, check back in a while. I’ll be here, thinking about things.



Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Watching the Euros

I admit it; I am a football fan and this year I have the added incentive of watching games on Portuguese television – to improve my knowledge of the language.

I am not sure how well that is working but, as we all sit on the eve of the Brexit (English for Trumpism?) it does a tired heart good to see the fans in green.

The Irish teams, and there are two, N.I. (Northern Ireland) and R.O.I. (Republic of Ireland) are both here and while the former has acquitted itself rather well, the latter is a poor team of less than stellar talent.

But it is the Irish fans that are the talk of Europe. There is nothing these boys and girls in green can’t do; serenade pretty blond French women, serenade nuns, sing lullabies to babies and the French police, hold impromptu dance-offs with Vikings, change flat tires, and clean up after themselves.
Their mammies must be fierce proud of them all.

Ireland was one of the countries singled out for austerity and took it on the chin. And while there are those (mostly Irish politicians) who crow about being the “Poster Boys of Recovery” – when once they crowed about being the “Poster Boys of European Success” – they reality of the cuts has been severe, and at times brutal.

Hard to believe when you see the travelling Irish fans.

Neighbours here in Lisbon, who know I am Irish, stop me on the street to talk about them.  The Irish, they say, are always so jolly!

Now having spent time in some dark and dreary times and places in Ireland, I have to stop and look it from the outside. And, having lived two thirds of my life as an emigrant, I am getting better at that. Europe, and the rest of the world, needs to get jolly more often.

In no way am I discounting the plight of refuges, or the mass shootings in Orlando, nor am I going to pretend that the story of humanity isn’t littered with the most brutal and horrifying acts, but come here ‘til I tell you: there is more to humanity than the sum of our cruelties and petty divisions.

We are, in the eyes of whatever created us, all the same and any one telling you otherwise is up to no good.

We have the ability to get together and do what has to be done in a civilized and cooperative manner. We do it every day, everywhere, even if our media chooses not to focus on it.

Besides, if we are on the road to Armageddon, then why not go with a bit of class and enjoy the ride.

Enough of the psychopaths that would have us tear at each other. Here in Europe we have done far too much of that. Let’s be more like the boys and girls in green and be jolly in the face of all our problems. Others will come and behave like their leaders – and never forget that example comes from those at the top – but we will enjoy the good that’s in the day, and when it’s all over, let’s keep it going.

Our civilization is very flawed but it is far better than the anarchy of war. Let’s keep together in this, and extend it. Yes, the rich will always be a gouging lot, but there are more of us than them and, as our mammies often told us: we can set a good example.