2017 – Stupid is as . . .

I have hopes for this year but, to be honest not much in the way of overall hope. I’ve never really been an optimistic soul, on balance I prefer to be pleasantly surprised rather than suddenly disappointed. Generally, my hopes are the small stuff of human kind almost exactly like last year’s resolutions with the dates changed. Learn to play the guitar better, take more and better photographs, have more sex, lose more weight, be less paranoid – that sort of thing.

My overall hope level is mired, stuck at well above wellie top level in the slurry left behind from earlier years. I retain a deep mistrust of major political figures – inevitably Donald is high on my list – God save us. Next, Boris, our Foreign Secretary for goodness sake, an astute political operator in the domestic sphere but I don’t think the bumbling public school buffoon act works internationally. Coming up on the rails is Theresa with ‘Brexit is Brexit’ – it doesn’t really matter how much conviction you say it with it’s still as meaningless as a cosmetics ad script. Farage and his fascist ilk I’m truly hoping to discount and God forbid Gove rears his ugly head again – he effectively killed UK youth work in the space of a few months undoing forty plus years’ commitment to the well-being of young people.

Last year I despaired of Labour’s ability to get its act together and lead a coherent opposition – it still can’t. I joined the Greens and I’m going to stick with it. We don’t really have a realistic chance at holding the balance of power but I can at least appreciate the approach to party leadership and headline policies. Yes, there are still the occasional truly annoying hippies hanging about the fringes but even they have more integrity and purpose and act more truthfully than ‘post-truth’ establishment figures.

To maintain the whinge for a while – what happened to the word liar? Did we really have to find a substitute for it – is it perhaps less risky in terms of libel to suggest that an individual is adopting a post-truth stance rather than just lying through their teeth?

Fact-checking social media was always necessary action, one of my previous students was busily denying unsubstantiated rumours of her engagement on Facebook this morning. My problem is that some of the fact-checked stuff is still impossible to believe. We are watching the rise of stupid, not that it ever really went away, we’ve always had the Daily Mail, and for liberal lefties like myself it served a purpose allowing us to laugh at the stupidity of others and the more ridiculous side of ourselves. But, when stupid becomes the new truth where the hell do we go from here?

Truth has always been a somewhat elusive and magical beast. As Pilate wryly observed ‘What is truth?’. My truth is not necessarily your truth, what I believe to be causal factors may be unsubstantiated nonsense to you – e.g. global warming. OK, I get that, but really, believing a promise on the side of a bus that £350 million was going to go on a weekly basis to the NHS was just stupid. I keep hearing the sales pitch of ‘getting our country back’ or just as bad if not worse making it ‘great again’. Whichever way you cut this sort of rhetoric it’s stupid twaddle of the first order. Life never works backwards, not even with a well-equipped DeLorean.

We only get the chance to move forward and whilst I’m sanguine about future possibilities there are some truths worth fighting for. A gay Christian American friend recently Facebooked a Muslim quoting a Jewish holocaust survivor from a Guardian interview, inclusive and international! Speaking about the experience of being rubbished by Trump, Khizr Khan quotes Elie Wiesel:

“We must always take sides, neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.”

God give me the will, energy and opportunity to interfere this year.

Holding Hands

Perhaps it is the way of relationships that they often end in the same way they began. I’ve been processing life for the last few weeks since I sat and held hands with my father as he died. In the meantime, the planet has whirled insanely on without my full attention.

Some of my earliest memories are of my father’s hands, holding on to him as I toddled down the road, being lifted off the small saddle on his bicycle cross bar, helping him prepare food for his aviary of birds, watching him paint and seeing his pottery animal sculptures crafted, painted and glazed.

His hands were kind and gentle, an expression of his person, strong, skilful, warm and trustworthy. Towards the end he was almost totally deaf and incredibly stubborn, the latter a good trait if you are determined to live on your own on a Scottish island. He was housebound towards the end and we were in the middle of sorting out wheelchair ramps and the like when he had what proved to be his final stroke.

He died peacefully in his sleep, without the need for long term residential care or painful illness – for which I am, I suspect somewhat selfishly, grateful. I am by turns overwhelmed and under-impressed with myself and my reactions. I loved him dearly and admired him enormously but I lived over 500 miles and a boat journey away and meaningful communication was often difficult. He hated most modern technology and would have nothing to do with computers, email and the internet. After my brother and mother’s deaths and with increasing age his foci narrowed and his range of conversational topics became limited

Successfully growing up should mean being unlike your parents and I am unlike my father in interests, understanding, career and theology and pretty much everything else as well. None the less I miss his presence enormously it’s as if a restraining influence has been removed from my life. As a child he was the pointer for my developing moral compass and his approval remained an important touchstone of many of my life choices.

His were the first hands to touch me as he helped me into this world – the midwife came late. On that last morning, he squeezed my hand, smiled and pushed it away in a final gesture of farewell. I guess that means I’m supposed to be an independent adult now.