Bristling Brock speaks out...
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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 !
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There seems to be a general consensus that life after COVID will be different, that the experience - albeit an ongoing one - will re-focus our values, beliefs and ways, and will in some mysterious way make us all into better people, more understanding, community spirited and, on an international scale, more aware of the geo-political seismic shifts that are occurring. Bristling Brock could say something salty about this but will settle for a gentler expression, 'What a load of tosh !'
At a local level, the visual reaction to eased social restrictions is one of 'Whoopee, I can do what I want from now on...' (though we might excuse an initial burst of euphoria) and this is evidenced by hordes of folk on beaches, in parks and other gathering places, by hugely increased traffic volumes alarmingly racing along just about every road, fly tipping on a disturbing scale and a general acknowledgement by police authorities that save for any mass gathering incidents that threaten public order, they are powerless and potentially indifferent to policing. What an extraordinary state. The police blithley telling us that the constitutional role of the elected authorities and their delegated agents - in this case the police - cannot uphold the laws of the land. Having already withdrawn from any attempt at tackling many other crimes is this going to be the beginning of some dystopian new world we might wonder ? If so, we'd better hope for the old one to make a comeback. Yet the police are just one facet of this social upheaval caused by COVID and BB is using them just as an illustration of the chipping away of our social institutions where scenarios akin to this are taking place - from Church to Defence - and collectively reducing the effectiveness and meaningfulness of infrastructures around which many of us have lived with for lifetimes. Change is endemic and we should all welcome well thought through shifts in style, emphasis and purpose in all manner of ways, but there is something different happening here, almost a national complicity in the dilution and disbandment of a regulatory strata in the national order of things (and whether we like it or not, we all need some level of regulation). The really worrying part is that this could well be acceptable if new stratagems were in place to take over, but there is little evidence that these alternatives actually exist. Let us hope Dystopia is not around the corner.
Internationally, we have also seen the police becoming further reviled in the US, the Brazilian government in a state of absurd denial over COVID, the increasing fragility of the EU's economic gameplan and, above all, the eventual realisation in Britain (and hopefully elsewhere) that China isn't going to be the friendly world neighbour we'd like to imagine. There's quite a lot going on in the stew-pot around the globe. One thing that tickled BB in the recent global outlook was the arrival of SpaceX at the ISS and the new astronauts giving an interview extolling the comeback of American space-travel. The faces of the two Russian crew-members was classic - arms folded, grim expressions and an air of indifference to what was being either deliberately or unintentionally beamed around the world.
The experts tell us that the world is becoming more polarised, with national interests making more of a play than collaborative alliances. Perhaps COVID has had something to do with that or maybe it's a shift in political thinking about priorities and roles as the 21st century unfolds. The West harbours views of those that are aligned with its views and those that aren't. The rest of the world is no doubt thinking the same about which geo-political camp it either wishes to be or be included in, but the net result is an increase in tensions, suspicions, and global uncertainty. The 2020's has all the ingredients building up to become an explosive decade....'Tin hats on, everybody !'
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This seems to be an ongoing theme in the multitude of commentaries being bounced around as corona related measures are tweeked, yet it may tell us a little about what we are, what we've become and upon our attitudes to societal behaviour.
There is a broad presumption that societies anywhere have evolved into a superior and more civilised state since the long-ago days of history. That presumption derives, in part, from the general rise in wealth and well-being throughout Western societies in particular over the last century, better healthcare, better nutrition (?), better education (?) and better socio-political awareness (?). It's an over-arching presumption that belies the gaps and chasms that most of these Western societies have inbuilt within them and which still nurture an almost universal under-class that sub-divides and fragments our communities between those that have and those that do not. It's an eternal condition - that all societies evolve, at whatever stage of their history, into privileged, comfortable, needy and forgotten groupings. Add to this how wealth and education leverage better life circumstances than those who either cannot or do not wish to pursue these pivotal springboards (although there are many without these advantages that have leveraged their own 'elevation') and we see how divisions within our communities still persist. When the government then suggests the use of common sense on how to interpret relaxed lockdown measures we inevitably see these groupings expressing that broad sentiment in a multitude of different ways. The result, of course, is somewhat chaotic behaviour by thousands - all of whom are justifying their own individual behaviours as being considered as common sense.
The conclusion we might reach is that there is no such thing as common sense, or of any sense of considered and well judged behaviour throughout all the social groupings we might identify. What some see as thoughtful, logical and considered, others will not see but will relate to a completely different set of values and beliefs which they think are appropriate. Humankind is, if anything, a very varied and unpredictable species.
Bristling Brock's interpretation of all this is that our evolution as a society is that we are not so different to our our Medieval ancestors; in short, our level of evolution is slow, very slow. That maybe not be so surprising when you think that humankind is but a mere 100,000 or so years old. Our forebears were around a good deal longer - but they did make some remarkable societal advances during their tenure. Perhaps Homo Sapien will improve with time.
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