Bristling Brock speaks out...
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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 Having already withdrawn from any attempt at tackling many other crimes is this going to be the beginning of some dystopian new world we might wonder ?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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Bristling Brock periodically listens to James O'Brien on LBC - periodically because he is such an opinionated and virtuous soul that it's hard to measure up to his 'wonderfulness' too often. That apart, it is clear that he has a political stance on most subjects - and he is very erudite and expressive in that - but occasionally he touches on a theme that resonates with our current times. Common sense is the one BB will pick on for today.
It's a quality that's not very obviously on display, partly, no doubt, because many of the sensible in the population are still abiding by the corona virus restrictions - something we don't see. The smaller proportion of the wider population that have chosen the slight relaxation of the lockdown to just suit themselves might well be collectively put in the 'lacking common sense' bucket. But there are degrees of common sense, we might assume, for there can never be an entirely risk free outcome to this pandemic - corona virus is with us for the long haul and we must establish ways and habits that allow as much sensible activity as the common good requires. It is all new territory though, nobody in government, science or society has seen the likes of this pandemic before so the responses to it will, inevitably, have created a degree of chaos and misinformation and throughout the population there are strata's of thinking that range from the manic to the passive in response. We are, by definition, a very diverse nation.
As such, the notion of 'common sense' being applied universally to assure the 'common good' is whimsical. With the diversity of our national thinking there will never be, cannot be, a unified position on what response to eased lockdown conditions is and it is probably quite naive for the government to broadly state that everyone should behave in a universal way. There are those that will do what suits themselves - both during lockdown and after the limited relaxations of late - and there are those who will comply - our culture and national life-style have developed into this polarised and often disagreeable state. Fear, the desire for everything being risk-free, and virtuosity are plaguing this country - but it's all pie-in-the-sky outlook. Fear is conjured up by the unknown and the uncertain, risk is as endemic to our society as is corona virus, and virtuosity is a self-bred condition that our polarised politics and social manoeuvring of the last 30 or so years has resulted in. The stark reality is that we either succumb to the fear of corona and hunker down for ever more (ignoring the fact that the economic means to survive such a hunkering will quickly run-out) or we face up to the reality that it is there and we live with the risk and its consequences - as we do when we cross the road. Economically and socially, we need to get up and moving again. Within that simplistic statement there will, naturally, be those that abuse it and those that respect it - it has ever been the case in all matters. Common sense for the common good is a lofty ambition with a population mired in political, economic and social division but whatever words are used to describe such an needy ambition, we need to face-up to corona and get our society and economy working again.
Trumpy, predictably enough, gets testy when criticised - especially by former presidents - and responds with childlike vitriol to justify himself. And yet everything that embodies the extraordinary political bubble that America represents these days suggests that Trump has popular support. And that support is quite possibly genuine - or as much genuine as anything in La La Land can be - fueled by a broad swathe of poor, rural and weakly educated citizens who see Trump as something of a saviour, someone who can tote for them and their under-represented points of view. We shouldn't condemn this position or description too much, for there is much of this that is mirrored in other Western societies, ourselves included; it is, perhaps a huge global montage of how the Western species of socio-political animals has become ever-more divided, ever-more trenchant and inflexible in their views and expressed opinions, ever-more lodged in their inescapable environments.
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