Bristling Brock speaks out...

 

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We'll start today with a little look at Trumpland and the build up to their November elections.  It's an infinitely tedious process of fundraisers, rallies, speeches and travel as the two candidates parade themselves amidst their adoring supporters in a positively vulgar and egregious style - so much so it's enough to make the blood of an Englishman curdle.  As for the supporters themselves, it is sometimes hard to grapple with the imbued narrow mindedness of those that the media tend to pick out for comment.  It's very tribal, very introspective and, unfortunately, it is a glimpse of a society that remains fractured, disparate and in many respects dysfunctional.  We in Britain might have a different dynamic to political elections but we should not look entirely at the US with our noses in the air, for we also have cadres of political support that are immune to reasoned argument, rationale and progressive change.  But let us stick with the US for a moment or so....

The John Bolton revelations of insider White House chit-chat reinforce the view many in the non-US West see as typical behaviours and practices within recent American politics.  It has risen to a crescendo of insult and counter-insult, sackings intended to silence non-conformists, of ludicrous diversionary outbursts and cringing displays of political savvy and technique.   Yet whilst some traditional supporters of Trumpism have clearly begun to waver - perhaps they are actually thinking now - there are many that are cemented firmly in the Trumpist, right-wing camp.  The real peculiarity amidst this bizarre political circus is that some of that right-wing, off-the-page theatre has actually worked, not least in the case of the US economy.  Admittedly, the corona pandemic has messed much of that up - as elsewhere - but the underlying truth is that the US has uplifted itself and performed way beyond previous era's to be the only realistic economic challenger to China in the West.  Was that due to Trumpism or circumstance - we'll never really know, but the none too shy President is quite happy to take the credit.  And a force against Chinese economic and cultural influence is surely a necessary strategy in a world where the exploitation of a neighbours weakness has become commonplace.   Bristling Brock is no advocate of Trumpism, but grudgingly the rest of us need to concede that we all need that bulwark against invasive Chinese meddling; which raises that other spectre of Russia.   Quietly watching, undoubtedly active beneath the radar, and waiting for the moment when Western weakness is at a tipping point...and we've seen a few indicators of that in recent weeks.

Back home, we're still gripped by the risk of COVID-19 refreshing its assault upon us.   Perhaps the biggest mindset to change in all this is that COVID isn't likely to disappear, with or without a useful vaccine.   There is every probability that it will remain endemic amongst us.   So that requires one key thing to acknowledge - the acceptance of risk.   We have nurtured an almost universal risk-averse culture, one that seeks to mitigate any perceived risk whatever.  The reality, of course, is that risk is as endemic as COVID might become - it cannot be eradicated entirely.  So we need to come to terms with the fact that whatever we do in response to COVID in particular, we'll be taking risks.  Proportionately, they are the necessary risks to be taken in order to get economic activity functioning satisfactorily again and these are weighed against the risks of a continuing and active presence of this virus and the effects upon our communities.  The bald truth is that both the virus and a non-active economy will kill us.  So we have to make a judgement call.  Do the economic factors now outweigh the medical ones ?   And the undeniable response to that is an emphatic 'Yes'.  Unless we work we'll suffer more privations in the future, more susceptibility to disease and social disorder, more chaos (perhaps exactly what China and Russia hope for) and a disintegration of that which has taken a thousand years to nurture.   Risk is inevitable.  We just need to recognise that. 

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There are times when our own national short-sightedness, self interest and often patent stupidity come to the fore.  Now is such a time.

Let’s start with the recognition that COVID-19 has played havoc with just about every governmental strategy that pre-dated the pandemic.  With no precedents, contradictory scientific advice based upon flawed evidence or interpretation it is doubtful any government could have got the response right.  Mistakes galore have been made, but we should remember that government is just as human as the rest of us - flawed since time began.  What is unforgivable in the present climate is the gratuitous taking advantage by certain pressure groups of a government distracted by the impacts of a pandemic upon both social and economic structures, those groups hugely and freely infiltrated by anarchic and mindless ‘rent-a-thug’ elements.   Nobody denies the right to peaceful protest but let us be in no doubt that the very bedrock of a democratic society is its acceptance and compliance with the rule of law.  If you don’t like the law then campaign to change it - that’s another tenet of the democratic society - if you don’t like the government, vote for a different one - yet another tenet of free democratic rule - if you believe justice is not being delivered then campaign to change it.  But do all of these things peaceably and within the essential behaviours of democratic society.  

Generational change also changes behaviours, values and what Mr Churchill’s grandson termed ‘Britain’s moral compass’.  Life and behaviour now is a world away from what it used to be 50 or 60 years ago.  Some of that wasn’t so good but there was a general understanding that the authority of institutions and governments were there for the greater benefit of the majority.  Now we have a free-for-all approach where everybody’s peccadillo’s are subjected to mob scrutiny by a rapacious media and particular social groupings that believe their cause is greater than any other.  Government has been reduced to spectatorship and authoritative institutions such as the universities and the Church have fallen into such a state of moral confusion that they offer no meaningful responses to popular outcry's.

Let us also be in no doubt that if current mob behaviours continue as they are, then we will progressively ruin the nation that has taken a thousand years to reach where it presently is.  Whether we like it or not, that thousand years have been the very roots and branches of a maturing civilisation that has made this country what it is today.  Those thousand years were turbulent, bloody, unjust and in many ways experimental but bit by bit it evolved into the greatest and freest democracy the world has ever seen.  And we are on the cusp of throwing it all away.  Our present culture does not acknowledge that our history is the very DNA of our nation state, and whilst much in times past wouldn’t pass the obsessive scrutinies of current cultural norms, they were, in their day, the norms and beliefs of the time.  Can we pour blame upon them for doing what they thought was right ?  Apparently, mob rule believes you can blame everyone for everything it doesn’t like or agree with - blaming yourself is seemingly not a fashionable option.  And if you are a subscriber to mob rule then perhaps you should take a leaf out of the history books and compare things that happened before under mob rule with what is becoming possible now.  The outcome is not pretty and, believe it or not, the outcome will give no benefit to those who believe they have genuine grievances.  Only the self-fulfilling mob will claim victory.

Mr Churchill’s grandson is not far off the mark.  We have, as a nation, lost our moral compass, possibly as a result of a sweeping pandemic diverting our attention, but underlying that we have a society that errs toward blame and the diversion of responsibility and accountability upon others, never upon ourselves.  If we are to avoid ruination, then we must hope that the leaders of those groups who seek change recognise the dangers of inviting into their midst, the destroyers, the Goths and Vandals that sacked Rome - the anarchists who believe in nothing but destruction.

 

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Perhaps the most generous aspect of adding on the years is that you can draw wider perspectives, less narrowed by prejudices and popular opinions.   Or so we'd all like to imagine, but at a base level we remain as indoctrinated with our prejudices and bias as ever albeit that we can recognise them as such and, maybe, compensate somewhat for them.

Watching the extraordinary protest and riot scenes erupting all over the US reminds Bristling Brock of the fragility of some of the institutions, frameworks and ideologies that the West has conjured up over the last 75 years to represent its notional ideals of democracy, justice and freedom - all precepts that since childhood we are educated to understand, respect and above all, uphold.  The challenges to these conditions is not unique to the US - though they are perhaps riding nearer the surface there than in most other Western cultures - and we might well reflect on our own burgeoning negative attitudes to government and its related quango-like institutions over the COVID-19 pandemic.    Societies the world over can tolerate so much; most of the time there is a fundamental adherence to those childhood imbued doctrines towards our society, but on those occasions where circumstances jump outside the framework of what we are accustomed to we can see - across the world - how limited societal tolerance and acceptance is.  Rebellion is not an alien condition in the West, it thrives in our very hearts the moment those base doctrines are breached and we react.   Those reactions range in intensity from the written and verbal rejections of perceived official excesses to outright feet on the street, protest and in some instances, violent opposition.  What is happening in the US now is one of those circumstances, ignited by a long-standing seismic fault throughout American society and almost instantly breeding a hostile and violent reaction fueled by an amazingly stupid Presidents inflammatory remarks and comparisons.   As we look on with horror and disgust, some who have the notion that we should be apologising for everything that has been rooted in the past display their mea culpa credentials like peacocks, imagining that that is some solution to the problem and that they, personally, are somehow above the general flotsam of the rest of society.   How foolish these absurd and meaningless displays of vanity are, how arrogant and elitist, for they represent nothing that is substantive, nothing that is representative of the cultural shifts dictated by so called advancement.  But it is a sign of our times, a righteous stance taken by those who believe they can equate themselves with others who have more genuine grievances to show solidarity.   How vain, how completely they miss the underlying message they give out.   It is not the way forward.     

When we look at the desperate measures that are legislated to force adherence to new boundaries and codes of conduct over issues like equality, diversity, racism, religious tolerance, and many other areas of modern life what we are seeing is the attempt of governments (of all political hues) to respond to popular signs of rebellion, ie, they are the reaction to the perceived forces that suggests 'trouble will follow' unless you do what we say.  Some might argue that that is democracy at work, the reality is that in our Western way of life we have become subjected to the pressures and values of minorities, vocal as they are, and our governments have bent to their wishes to avoid the imagined occurrence of civil unrest and disobedience.   This is a reaction very much of the tail wagging the dog with the rest of us hamstrung in just about every freedom we imagine we have.  And therein lies the fundamental problem: democracy demands the people are heard, that their wishes are sanctified within our moral and social codes - codes that are applied to all rather than just those it affects.  And this is a corruption of governance, of the very institution we invest in to uphold not just the wishes of the few but of all.  As some recent political slogan bleated out (for different reasons !) we need governance for the whole of society and not just the agitated few.   It breeds the cynicism and contempt for government and its quasi-institutions - we see it on the streets of US cities and we see it here.   Something of a pot is bubbling.  

Bristling Brock had his faith a little restored this week when watching the footage of the Norwegian Air Force rescuing a dog that had fallen into a pickle when a huge landslide moved his home and other familiar surroundings into the sea.   It was heartwarming to see the fellow brought back to land by kind and thoughtful rescuers.  Well done the Norwegian Air Force !