Bristling Brock speaks out...
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Has the West entered a phase of consuming self-pity ? The military and political withdrawal from Afghanistan has - if we believe the media pundits - precipitated a bucket-full of commentary about the demise of the West, its cultures, its social norms, its influence, its integrity and even its economics.
Governments from the US to the furthest boundaries of Europe would appear to be under the scathing eye of international media. Biden leads the charge (of course), then we have Trudeau - once the darling of the socially aware, but no longer, Johnson isolated and bereft of rudder and objective, Merkel ready to jump ship and leaving a wet imitation of a Chancellor in waiting, Macron failing to recognise his dwindling popularity....and so the list could go on. So, we might ask whether international media pundits have assessed the situation correctly and with insight or are we merely suffering a spate of bandwagon reportage that just makes for good reading and viewing figures ? It's very hard to say, but there seems to be plenty of 'evidence' to support the broad view that the leadership of the West has somehow collectively lost the support of its populations pretty much at the same time and, simultaneously, discovered the can of worms that the Covid pandemic has laid upon them. One could almost suspect some malign Chinese or Russian conspiracy lurking behind it all, couldn't you ? And that may not be as far fetched as it sounds.
Historically, there are some precedents which suggest that this cycle of low biorhythmic performance by the West's leadership has occurred before, but seldom has it been as widespread and contemporaneous as we view it today (possibly because the concept of 'The West' as a unified, common thinking group didn't really exist before the onset of the Cold War). Whatever the source, if the West wishes to remain a viable world influence, then it will certainly have to look hard at the nature of its political and economic leadership...a generation from now without that sea-change will see a very subordinate cultural and economic influence by the West upon the world stage.
Back home, our government seems truly blighted by inaction. The NHS dominates much of Britain's social discourse with arguments ranging from the 'more money brigade' to the 'splitting up into countless quango's brigade' interspersed with plenty of 'don't meddle with the NHS as it's too hot a potato brigade'. We seem to be at a point where the sustenance of the NHS as a treasured institution (irrespective of the service it provides the public) is ranked against those that would push for a complete revamp of the healthcare system. Something in between may be the course we have to take - but that all requires vision, courage and tangible deliverables throughout both its leadership and its constituent parts. And to stimulate that we require a political and economic climate that is unified with some common purpose. Throw all those elements into the goulash bowl and mix it up and there becomes a possibility that reform and modernisation of this lumbering leviathan becomes feasible and possible. However, to get the goulash blending nicely, we also need the sea change in our political and economic leadership that the wider West also needs to take place. But in how many of the West's leading nations can we see that probability ?
It's easy to criticise, isn't it ? Much harder to come up with realistic solutions to countless, interacting problems. But in unprecedented times, astronomical national debt and questionable economic resurgence, the clock is ticking for the collective as a whole. BB doesn't have any meaningful answers, but it seems as individual nation states we have to find a new way forward with new people, new ideas, new values and a bellyful of confidence to make all of these things happen sooner rather than later. We owe that to the generations ahead of us - and, on reflection, we also owe it to generations past. Time is no longer a luxury the West has to play with.
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Corona confusion still seems to be endemic throughout the governmental establishment with no clear strategy other than a 'wait and see' position which seems to rely upon how the public are reacting themselves..."Look chaps, they're all throwing their masks away now - let's make that our policy ! Genius, eh ? A sure vote winner...'
Yet down on the earthy streets where the populace live there is still a mixed bag of behaviours with many shops, pubs and restaurants still 'recommending' the wearing of face masks and many still wearing them as they wander the streets. Those that aren't are looking decidedly smug, almost arrogant in their swaggering displays of bare faces ! What is the world coming to ? There's no simple answer, is there ? We are gradually coming to terms with the notion of Corona being a perpetual, albeit background presence in our lives - it's there, it's not going away - but we've come to a position of accommodation with it - a little like a slightly nagging twinge as we age somewhat, there but liveable with. So why are we hanging onto masks and sanitisers as if they have some talismanic property that will wrap an invisible, protective bubble around us ? The scientific evidence tells us that neither really give us any real and meaningful protection.
It may well be that we have become comfortable with restriction, with a new cultural shift that attributes some sort of virtue to wearing a mask and wringing hands in repeated glutinous substances - yet at the same time we are prepared to jostle shoulder to shoulder with countless other folk in stadiums, arenas, shopping streets and even in popular country spots, many of whom aren't subscribing to that imaginary comfort zone. It isn't logical. It isn't remotely emboldened by evidence or scientific recommendation, it isn't a declared government policy and perhaps most significantly, it doesn't stop you picking up the virus. So why do many of us - BB included - continue to weave our way erratically about the streets dodging bare faces in the ludicrous hope that we are better protected than they are ? It's time to live with Corona is it not and challenge the 'thing' squarely in the face ? Be sensible, yes, but both socially and economically we cannot continue to live with the idea that our every move exposes us to this 'thing'. Humanity has to be bigger than this - it's the only way.
There's much comment by all the usual pundits about the Afghan troop withdrawal and the end of American world leadership, the crisis it has provoked in Afghanistan and the advance of an unpredictable Islamic state. All have some relevance and the actions usher in new and heightened fears over terrorist activity around the Western world. Supposedly, we might need to eventually admit that the Western way really only suits those countries that are in the west where culture, tradition and history have a thread of commonality between them, and trying to impose its values upon country's elsewhere has manifestly never worked successfully (most thinking pundits worked this out long ago but governmental ego's and misguided self interest have prevented the recognition in policy matters).
What the UK now needs to consider is its position in the world, how to achieve it peaceably and with friendship and mutual interest. BB has never seen much value to the UK in the so called 'special relationship' with the US - they are takers and very reluctant and selective givers - and with a presidency that exhibits all the hallmarks of a leftward drift and with a president who embodies the spirit of weakness in spades we need to rethink where our focus of interest needs to be. That's not to say that the UK should sever its friendship with the US, but we should certainly and purposefully move away from being the lap-dog in the relationship. We are a small country by many world standards but we have a pedigree of standing tall and creating a world influence far greater than our physical size - and we should no longer blithely do what the US bid us to do without very careful pre-examination of the circumstances and on our own terms. At the same time we see a Europe corrupted by its institutional inefficiencies, its inability to speak with one voice and a blindness to reform and modernisation. So, we find ourselves in the middle between two leviathans that are both exhibiting the characteristics of flailing states or bloc's. We must not be drawn into that malaise - we must create an outlook that is positive and progressive, one that encourages self sufficiency as a nation and one that upholds the values, fairness and hospitality that are still the envy of many elsewhere. This is the time for the UK to stand tall again, to get off our knees and start believing in what we can do as a nation once more. The stage is ours !
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The rarest commodity these days seems to be getting even rarer. The application of common sense in matters of social, economic and political discourse is truly something to behold - when it happens. Yet we must remain optimistic and BB was encouraged by the Archbishop of York's recent declarations - overriding any sense of woke'ism, political correctness, fear of retribution and general condemnation - to assert the national identity of England. In doing so, he clearly and authoritatively ignored the manic hysteria of those that would deny the English have a right to exist or in fact do exist. Swept aside were the crass and misinformed bleatings of those minority elements with the gobbiest mouths who would tell us that we are the source of all things undesirable in their modern world. Thank goodness we have a figure within the establishment who has the common sense to trash the elitist trend to do this country down (one might additionally ask what on earth the other archbishop in our country is up to hiding in his retreat and looking for some divine intervention). Whether the blinkered realise it or not (and one suspects that most of them have absolutely no appreciation of the dynamics of history), England was one of the formative nations of modern civilisation - which had it not followed its historical course would likely have left these wretched souls either non-existent or in a Gulag by now. Then they'd have something to bleat about.
Tom Stoppard has recently entered this debate from a different but similarly minded angle in his quite forthright judgement of how timorous the majority of this country have become (including the government) about their own opinions, thoughts and outlooks on just about everything - for fear of 'offending' some minority. Free speech, freedom of thought and the ability to debate openly on all sorts of 'offensive' matter is the essence of democratic freedom - which may not be perfect but is streets ahead of the restricted and tunnel vision of so many social groups who believe that their way is the only way. And God help those who transgress this elitism - the spectre of being cancelled or outed is as Draconian and distasteful as any event history has thrown up, and is a trend that needs stamping out. Between archbishops and playwrights, BB is with them.
Concurrent with the archbishop's welcome declarations, our political leadership (not a word that really sums up current displays) appears rudderless. Back and forth they squirm on Covid, economic recovery and illegal immigration matters whether they are Tory or Socialist and in doing so diminish their authority to govern. Whilst BB generally thinks the government handled the pandemic as best they could under the circumstances, the task of pulling the nation back onto the rails to get livelihoods, enterprise, innovation and social balance back in swing is being woefully handled on both sides of the political debate. Like it or not, Covid is with us for a long time to come; the sooner that is acknowledged and the country starts working again, the better - it may not be the solution to all our problems, but it is the foundation of being able to tackle them going forward. We need political leadership that will grapple this reluctance by the horns.
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