Bristling Brock speaks out...
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As the UK rather reluctantly, but with a resigned sense of it being necessary, goes back into a slightly less severe COVID lock-down there is an expanding recognition that this pandemic may not actually go away or move on but remain as a constant backdrop to our ability to manage the presence of this virus and live alongside it. That may seem a rather well worn assessment - haven't we all along thought that COVID would be a long-term presence around our lives ? Seemingly not so, for it would appear that a significant number of our populace have expected it to somehow eventually evaporate and disperse and that everything would go back to 'normal'. At best we might see that as naivete amongst that segment of the population, at worst a signal of a poor level of government communication as to just how invasive and damaging this predator has become ? Much criticism is levelled at government as to how and when it communicates to the wider population - and a good measure of this criticism is valid - but notwithstanding that, isn't it remarkable that there are still significant numbers out there who haven't yet grasped the fundamental dynamics of how COVID-19 is behaving and the consequent behaviour of those folk in the way they ignore or generally flout the social boundaries we now have ? Is Bristling Brock really that surprised ? Regrettably not.
The approach to Remembrance Day has become a disputed bit of territory in the national psyche. With the new lock-down, public events are being kept minimal and as sparsely populated as possible. Few will physically attend any ceremony. Yet Remembrance Day has a presence in our national culture that defies the logic of this minimalism, especially when other aspects of lock-down are viewed as being contradictory and illogical. This is a special moment in the nations life, it is symbolic, it is an emotional few minutes that touches most and reminds us that whatever tragedies have befallen the nation the sacrifices of many to uphold the continuance of what we fundamentally believe in is a sacrosanct matter to be respected - in full. Let us hope the government will realise the need for an exceptional exemption - it would be a gesture that shows there is a compassionate element to even the most dire circumstances.
The US is taking political theatre to the extremes of our imagination. With claims, insinuations and outright allegations of wrong-doing we observe a real-time flow of bizarre and often unsavoury insights into American divisiveness and social discontent. With gun-toting 'bands of brothers' roaming around without any evidence of law and order being applied we allegedly see an election process that hardly marks their nation out as being a paragon of civility, freedom and tolerance. Admittedly, the media always favours the unsavoury, so we should not be totally swayed into imagining America is still the Wild West everywhere. Clearly it is not and millions of decent, proportionate and civil Americans must be seeing this circus of an electoral process as being the worst possible window to the world that they are being viewed through. It is not an edifying moment in the political arena but it will pass. But it'll no doubt make a few in high places wince with disapproval and wonder about the future.
Back in Britain we are exhorted to take some daily exercise during the lock-down restrictions. The streets are one thing, but the open countryside peppered with suspended plastic bags of dog mess and discarded face masks, plastic water bottles and other detritus doesn't reflect upon us well at all. It's hard to imagine quite what the perpetrators of this unpleasant and unnecessary discarding of mess and rubbish actually think about when they are doing it - but in truth, one doubts whether these folk think about anything other than themselves. What a sad society we have become.
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COVID has created a multitude of varying opinions - from experts, pundits and populace - which have led us nowhere substantive in terms of managing and controlling this viral assault.
At a governmental level, we theoretically put our trust in the political entity that wins a democratic election; that is supported and counter-balanced by a parliamentary process that pits the Opposition against the government to assure the appropriate scrutiny of legislation before it lands upon the general public. It's a well tried mechanism - until a crisis presses emergency powers to be invoked and Draconian legislation passed through the machinery. Sometimes, such measures are necessary, popularly supported and common cause fought for. With COVID, the assault has been such that extraordinary curtailments of movement, activity and socialisation have been launched against the country (and many others to boot) but there being no physical enemy to coalesce public support against this viral attack has split and divided our national perception of threat, of response and, of course, the best dynamic with which to whip this thing into a cage.
COVID, of course, cannot be caged. It looks as though it will be with us for lifetimes to come. So we have to live with it under as good a measure of control as our science and technology will permit. There will always be a proportion of the population who just don't get it - the idiot interviewed on national TV boasting he'd travelled out of a Tier 3 area to a Tier 2 area so he could visit a betting shop and a pub, return back to his Tier 3 zone and then remark that 'rules are only for breaking, 'ain't they ?' is a clear example of the stupidity of some amongst us. It nevertheless also represents the divisions of opinion about the best response to make, their likely level of success and the fairness to all sectors of the society. How do we gauge healthcare and welfare against economic damage ? How do we allocate a reasonable and proportionate response ? How long can the State afford to support a restricted and only semi-active society ? This is the dilemma of government - when doing the right thing is a calculated risk and a gamble with no certain outcomes other than social and economic damage along the way. Nobody can be envious of those empowered to make such choices and decisions. These are unimaginably torturing conflicts of action - do this and we damage that, do the other and we lose this...the right thing is so unclear as to be literally a gamble, a flick of a coin, opting for the lesser of all evils. We should be under no illusions that those in government (any government) have a straightforward task in this. We trust in the application of considered and informed facts and trends - but when the advice is as varied and contradictory as it is over COVID then our leaders have to make the most difficult choice of all - the 'who will we allow to die' choice. And that is most decidedly unenviable.
As for Trump and Biden, there seems to be no clear benefit from either of them winning the Presidency - plus's and minus's everywhere, yet we seem to have our media on the edge of their seats in a state of obsessive rapture over the way this bizarre contest may run. For us in Britain, there is little point in us getting hot around the collar, we have zero influence in this matter and we'll have to learn to live with the outcome. There are far more pressing issues for Britain to engage its attention with than the outcome of a foreign election that will have only one principal tenet - Republican or Democrat - and that is that the outcome will be exclusively geared to the benefit of the US. Don't be deceived by the clammy hand of friendship here - that's very much the Shylock grip - and we should all recognise it as such.
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It possibly takes a pandemic or an environmental disaster to suddenly shine a light upon how - in our Western world - the relationship between the citizen and the institutions of governance show a different and often fractious level of synergy and understanding. The divide between the two would appear to widen as the impact of the external pressure - pandemic or environment, for example - creates priorities and urgencies that differ to the point of civil disobedience and ultimately rebellion by one party in the face of instructions and limitations imposed in good faith by the other. It's a very fine line is it not, that is drawn between the collaborative and obedient behaviour toward the national guidelines and that which pushes the citizenry that inch too far to create a push-back and resistance to institutional strategies. Maybe that is what our long fought for freedoms are essentially all about, the acceptance of governance and guidance to a point, beyond which the co-operation and dutifulness starts to whither and the push-back begins.
Does this process work in other contexts, we may ask ? Are there issues that impact upon government through minority pressure groups and lobbying influences which have directly moved the dynamic of public policy (unwittingly or wittingly we may ponder on) and about which citizen action, initially passive - for we Brits are essentially a passive breed - has begun to turn to a more concerted counter force as an expression of rejection and will by the majority ? Bristling Brock would argue that such a counter force is beginning to swell on the subjects of 'wokeness' and political correctness, initially seen as being made up of moderately fair and reasonable tenets but subsequently pushed by excessiveness and politicisation over that fine dividing line to the point where there is now a noticeable body of public opinion railed against the very concept of those two emotive name tags. Not least in this category stands a certain Mr Fox, a theatrical professional who has seen it necessary to create a political party that stands up for a sensible and measured look at our cultural heritage, our history and the logic of how we got to be where we are today as a nation. The argument is quite simple. We are who we are because of our heritage. There is no merit in denying our often bloody and turbulent background, for from those times have come the building blocks that created our peerless concepts and practises of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, tolerance and patience with those less well imbued - the French, for example. That those building blocks had to be re-arranged a few times along the way does not spoil or eradicate the process of heritage and culture becoming formed - and even within the embattled UK today, for the English, Scots, Welsh and Irish are a disparate collection of cultures in themselves, there is an underlying need and benefit from recognising and cherishing that background, history and base culture. As a nation these are vital, structural and societal values that are vital to preserve.
Wokeness or political correctness are phases of a disenchanted set of minorities who happen to have loud voices. The time to push-back against these impositions is upon us. Well done, Mr Fox.
Who do we Brits want to win the US presidential elections ? Who do we believe most, or conversely, who do we think lies the least ? It's a hard choice for a country like ours who has no say in the matter but who will be directly affected by the outcome. Some argue for Trump as being a supporter of Britain, others think Biden, the infinitely quieter of the two contestants, whilst not an overt fan of Britain will recognise the values of partnership and trade as being mutually beneficial. But, as the saying goes, nothing will be decided until the fat lady sings. Bristling Brock has never had any illusions about the one-sidedness of the so-called special relationship - for it has never really existed other than for the benefit of the US - yet in a post-Brexit Britain it will be important for us to have a broadly scoped trade arrangement with as many nations around the world as possible (I'd nevertheless most decidedly exclude Russia and China from this list). The outcome of the US election, for us, is therefore a matter of economics and commerce rather than of political unity. Let us be under no misconceptions though - whatever deals are about will only happen if Uncle Sam is perceived by Uncle Sam as the principal beneficiary. Friendship and democracy only go so far.
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