Posts tagged ‘Brexit’

Brexit – a typical British mess

There is something radically ramshackle about the politics of England whenever an existential threat arises. The government of the day appears to be both unprepared for the threat and in need of outside help to avert disaster.

On a recent Question Time Gina Miller called the government’s actions on Brexit ‘shambolic’. This word I believe applies to every existential crisis that this country has lived through in the past 100 years. For example, look at the preparations for WW1 and WW2. When war started in 1914, the War Office had only 4 months supply of Acetone, which was essential for coating the heads of missiles. They used to buy it from Germany and for some reason that source was no longer available. Now there was none to be had. Unless something could be done, the war would be lost in 6 months.

The government asked a senior lecturer in biochemistry at the University of Manchester named Dr. Chaim Weizmann to try to develop a synthesised version of Acetone. He soon invented a fermentation process that came to be called “the Weizmann Process.” This enabled Britain to fight the war, which was eventually decided by the US adding their men and materiel to the fight.

WW 2 had a different but similar situation. The government of the day was so anxious to avoid a war that it both appeased Hitler and made no preparation for a possible conflict, leaving the country without planes, tanks, guns and bombs to fight against a Germany that had been re-arming itself for 6 years. Churchill spent his wilderness years trying to convince the government that Hitler was a real threat and that appeasement would not work. In the end the US again had to step into the conflict to give the Allies a decisive victory. Both of these potential disasters were averted by the US stepping in, something which will not happen this time. .

The current existential crisis, which at least is not a war, is the question of Brexit. Once again, the government is totally unprepared for the event, and doesn’t seem to understand the nature of the threat. In this crisis the USA will not step in to help, because it has actually increased the threat by starting a new trade war as the aggressor.

This trade war should make it very obvious where the country is heading via Brexit. It is obvious that Trump only respects power, and what we are doing with Brexit is voluntarily reducing our power. The hard-line Brexiteers may believe that going it alone in the world will increase our power and prosperity, but this looks increasingly like an illusion. Leaving the EU will make us weaker economically and in the eyes of the world, including Donald Trump’s. This means we are deliberately making ourselves weaker and poorer. Hard to believe that a country would do this to itself, but then why didn’t anyone stockpile acetone and who thought you could appease Hitler? There is a terrible pattern repeating itself here. Mrs May rushed to Washington when Trump was elected to solidify the special relationship and lay the ground for a great trade deal with the US. We now see how much that is worth. He said America First not the special relationship first.

Let’s do a ‘what if’ moment. What if the US trade war started before the referendum was called. Who, other than hard-line Tory and Ukip Eurosceptics, would have seen the sense of breaking away from our largest trading partners in the midst of economic turmoil. It’s time to wake up. It’s not too late. The country needs to vote again, now that it is becoming clear what an unholy mess Brexit is going to be.

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June 30, 2018 at 1:53 pm 1 comment

Where is Labour’s Brexit Team?

I watched the Leaders’ Question Time programme the other night. I thought Mrs May looked a bit rattled, and uncomfortably stiff and grimaced. Corbyn seemed fairly relaxed and looked like he enjoyed getting into it as time went on. Several of the exchanges made an impression on me. The most important was when Mrs. May remarked that the Brexit negotiations were due to start 11 days after the election. That is a short period of time. If I was a wavering Corbyn supporter or one who was thinking about backing him but was on the cusp, this FACT would get me a little worried. It takes time for a new party to move into power. So my questions would be: With these talks about to start so soon, how will they handle it ? Are they ready for this? Who is doing the negotiations? How prepared is he? How able is he?

So If these are real issues, then I think Labour needs to bring out Keil Starmer fast, since he is the person who can answer those questions, and give people the vision of a different Brexit than the one the Tories have been proposing.   Starmer would also show that Corbyn has a team and is backed by people of substance and character. His abilities would be convincing.

The second issue that resonated last night was Corbyn’s Trident problem. When he told a questioner, “I don’t want the deaths of millions on my hands,” and then added “and neither do you,” it struck home. No one wants to be responsible for mass murder, and Corbyn had explained that he wanted to use all the diplomatic ways to get North Korea away from their aggressive stance. But he didn’t give enough specifics –  such as working with China – or give it a sense of urgency that these talks could take place immediately. So faced with the madness of North Korea, people are not convinced about Jeremy’s ability to deliver this non-nuclear world.

 

June 3, 2017 at 6:48 pm Leave a comment

James Baldwin Quotes

James Baldwin has been almost forgotten by the mainstream media but he was a brilliant and troubled American writer. Being black and gay, the son of a poor preacher, Baldwin had more than enough tsuris in his time. He wrote about the pain that he lived through with a fierce and truthful style.

During this Brexit upheaval, which is showing us examples of racism and hatred, and demonstrating the result of alienation and deprivation, I think some of his quotes are timely:

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.

The most dangerous man is the one who has nothing to lose.

People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned.

Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated, and this was an immutable law.

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.

The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.  

I’ve always believed that you can think positive just as well as you can think negative.

Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.

Pessimists are the people who have no hope for themselves or for others. Pessimists are also people who think the human race is beneath their notice, that they’re better than other human beings.

No one can possibly know what is about to happen: it is happening, each time, for the first time, for the only time. 

There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.

 

 

 

July 2, 2016 at 5:56 pm Leave a comment

A Spiritual Almanack- July – Dispersion (Brexit)

Hexagram 59 – Huan

hex 59

Wind

over

Water

We live in interesting times. But to some people all times are interesting. As the Zen Monk said, Every day is a good day. Therefore every day is also an interesting day, but this week we have been consumed by an avalanche of serious dislocations – changes of far reaching political significance.

There is a potential revolution in the air, and it seems incredible that it has been put in motion by three Old Etonians, two of them members of the Bullingdon Club. How has this happened?. Clearly it’s not deliberate – a thought out policy or a strategy. It’s more likely a failure of strategy, in fact a colossal blunder, leading to an escalating series of blunders.

Lu Tung-Pin writing in the 9th century, put it like this:

Some people appear on the scene when they should disappear, coming forward when they should withdraw; not knowing how to maintain tranquil silence, not knowing how to watch that fullness does not reach overflowing, they sometimes go awry by impetuosity, sometimes go awry by conceit. Heedless of subtle indications appearing, failing to carefully examine changes when they occur, day by day they proceed along the path to misfortune, regret and humiliation, so that the path of humanity is lost.

Who went awry by impetuosity? David Cameron, when he promised his rebels a referendum. Who went awry from conceit? Boris Johnson, whose ambition knows no bounds. These two ‘leaders’ have now put the UK in danger of a recession and the breakup of the kingdom. It would be a farce if it wasn’t a tragedy for everyone who is not rich – ie 99% of the people who will pay in one way or another for the failure of leadership shown by these tin pot politicians.

The I Ching is an ancient Chinese classic that deals with changes. It’s title translates as The Classic of Changes, and it is a tool that assists in the observation and understanding of the anatomy of events. Hexagram 59- Dispersion– deals with a situation like the one we are living through, when things are falling apart. It’s about a time of disorganisation and disorder, when things separate or scatter. What does it tell us to do so that we can survive through the forthcoming chaos?

The hexagram itself represents the elements wind over water. Water represents the deepest part of our body and therefore of our selves, but water also represents danger, as anyone who has lived through a flood or tsunami knows. The wind is something that penetrates into all places and also disperses things to all points of the compass. The strong and deep emotions and thoughts that have been unleashed by the Referendum are all now dispersing widely, reaching more and more people. These emotions are both positive and negative – anger, resentment and selfishness are there, but so is compassion, openness and affection. Which set of emotions will be given power to thrive? In Nazi Germany it was anger and resentment that were encouraged, and look at the disaster that led to. In our day it must be positive emotions of love and companionship, otherwise we are all lost.

We need a leader with wisdom and foresight to help us get out of this chaos and find a stable footing. In a time of revolution, anything becomes possible. New thoughts can be taken up, new ideas tried. We all must know by now that something is wrong with our society and it needs to be fixed. Surely the Leave vote was in part a protest by millions of people against austerity, against a lack of good jobs, against overpriced housing, insufficient school places and fears for the future of the NHS. At heart this is a protest against a ruling elite that is completely indifferent to their lives, that literally couldn’t care less. If we want peace, if we want good lives, and if we want some happiness then it should be clear what is needed. If it’s broken, we’d better fix it or it’s going to get worse. We have to do what is needed, and that means reversing the gross inequality in our society. It is not difficult to do, it just takes political will, but it will be difficult to get everyone on board the project. People will have to be persuaded that this is the only thing that can really save us. And that is why we need a leader who can make that case.

My late teacher Liu Ming wrote this about Hexagram 59:

You are caught in a very vigorous tide of events, but there is no misfortune. Big changes bring no trouble, because the flow of change is a natural (group) event and not the result of personal (selfish) effort.

A miscalculation provides a chance to go forward. In misunderstanding a situation you experience a small loss. This loss creates an opportunity to recalculate and ultimately succeed.

You are rescued from a dangerous situation. A setback becomes an opportunity to establish security and success.

The changes that the I Ching talks about in Hex 59 are not ones we personally make, but huge changes that come at us swiftly and surprisingly and with overwhelming shape and scale – just like a flood. We know that in a flood many of our possessions will be either swept away or rendered unsalvageable. We know there is no option but to go out and get new ones. But first we have to clean up the mess that the flood has left behind. Well, our flood has passed and if we open our eyes we can see the devastation it has left behind. It is now our task to mend things.

What is the best way to resolve dispersal? We find ourselves at a crossroads. To go along the way we have been going- economically and politically – will continue to create inequality and foster anger, resentment and hatred. In this way we will make society worse and encourage all the negative emotions that have been stirred up. The other way is to change how we order our society, to encourage greater equality and to lose the selfishness that has driven our economy and politics. If we do this then the positive emotions that we want to encourage – the fostering of community and solidarity – can lead us to a better society.

It is a matter of acknowledging the truth of the situation, that austerity and capitalism have created an alienated, unhappy and unhealthy population, and the only answer has to be to stop creating more inequality.

Auden in his poem September 1, 1939 said this,

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die. 

Later in life Auden rejected this poem as being untruthful. But 
reading it now, we can see that he was not only prophetic about 
the devastating horror of the 2nd World War (which started on 
September 1, 1939) but also of the environmental 
crisis that will soon engulf us. 

Remember that Quantum theory says the universe starts 
anew in every instant; another world is possible. 

July 1, 2016 at 3:06 pm Leave a comment


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Reflections on an age of anxiety.

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