Don’t mention the B-word

July 23, 2021

It was never going to be freedom day, the slogan of choice for the Express. Even the PM has sounded increasing notes of caution as the proclaimed day of liberation approached…

As the media-claimed day of freedom approached, it was becoming increasing clear we are heading for seriously difficult waters in a ship that seemed to be holed somewhere below the waterline.

Just as liberation from Brexit day was to to leave unresolved legacy issues, so has freedom day. Even Brexit could not be completely banished by government edict (‘don’t mention the word Brexit’ Boris Johnson in Basil Faulty mode instructed his cabinet, shortly after the bongs for Brexit rang out). 

Now, even the invocation of the sacred vaccination figures is not enough to dispel fears that freedom remains a noble aspiration rather than lifetime change for the oppressed.

There may be other ways of dealing with Freedom day. I became aware of the way I have become possessed by an all-consuming project. It has become an unthinking way of life involving early morning scan of the newspapers, regular monitoring of news bulletins and political discussion programmes, dnd (since Covid 19 arrived) recording salient statistics of infection cases and mortality figures.

Once I realised what had happened to me, It took a split-second to break free.  I don’t need to do those things slavishly. I have a choice. I could end documentary evidence on the symbolically significant day. In that sense, it is my very own freedom day.

So what will I do next?

To be continued …

Cultural appetites: A new treatment of an old problem

July 7, 2021

In the run up to the England Germany Euros football clash,  a critical incident changed the way I had been thinking. It connected up a large number of problems of fake news, leadership behaviours, and what I had been seeing as dysfunctional social and political trends which have tended to be dismissed as naive popularism or maybe psychodrama.

Unusually, I can trace precisely how the idea of cultural appetites came about. In the tabloid media in the build-up to the match there had been outbursts of anti-German sentiments in the tabloids. The match itself started with vituperation against the German National anthem, and against the gesture of ‘taking the knee’ by both teams, as a gesture against racism in football, including against their own black team members. I witnessed a voluble minority of jeering fans acting as if impelled by events that happened before they or even their parents were born. Some form of inter-generational hatred was being transmitted. 

The Critical Incident

The critical incident for me came when I came across a tweet from an English ultra, immediately the match. He was exulting at the transmitted image of a 10 year old German fan in tears at her team’s defeat. He presumably expected he was echoing shared patriotic beliefs. The force of his expressed venom against a child’s anguish triggered an idea. I was watching a cultural appetite for cruelty against the innocent.  So there I had it. A new label for outbursts of irrational anger against perceived enemies. I could immediately see other examples I had come across . Recent examples were the so-called ‘woke’ wars, outcries against statues, and against the protests against statues. There were also the more complex sets of behaviours of entrenched advocates be it for or against Brexit, vaccination and individual freedoms such as the protests culminating the the tragic end to Trump’s presidency against what his supporters believed was ‘the big lie’ that was stealing the presidency.

In the first days since that football match, my initial reaction continued to survive scrutiny as one of those moments of creative insight I used to teach about. Sometimes, they lead to something valuable. In which case, as I was fond of quoting,  apparent inspiration needs to be accompanied by lots of perspiration for it to survive. 

[To be continued]