Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Some Thoughts...

I Wanna Be An American
Barack Obama produced his birth certificate. End of what was a long and non-existent story. I would like proof that Donald Trump's hair was either grown or manufactured in America. I doubt this will be forthcoming. Can we trust an American who can't account for his own hair? Especially one who espouses transparency from the tips of his toes to the top of his strange translucent head blankets. On the other hand, he and whatsisname getting married in England might be in some kind of conspiracy involving people rich in money, but poor in follicle activity.

Publicans at the Gate
Some (long) while ago, Sacha Baron Cohen, in the guise of Ali G, did an interview with someone in the North (Wikipedia tells me it was Sammy Wilson, but hand on heart I could have sworn it was David Ervine). He asked what everyone had against the "publicans". Much hilarity ensued. Of course, it may not have been that funny, but Ali G was a show I consumed after a bellyful of pints in a pub that had an upstairs "niteclub" (a spelling I have always abhorred). I would often be told it was time to go home by men who bore no similarity to my mother.  Wearing their branded tee-shirts and a steely look probably formed somewhere in the army ranks, they were sound enough guys. But couldn't risk any "incidents". Through the threat or use of force, they were willing to preserve the peace of the raucous "niteclub", where punters evidently did not discuss the poor spelling under which their entertainment laboured.
Instead they were drinking and dancing and, probably, shifting away, as I staggered home in my steel toe capped boots pondering the inherent absurdity of that threat or use of force protecting peace and restricting my own, completely rational freedoms. Older now, one sees it percolated throughout any civilised society. Perhaps "force" is too strong a word, but the idea that you can be made to do something you don't really want to (pay taxes, or a fine, community service, go to prison, etc.) does have some element of "force" to protect those who may be victim to the cruel whims of others (excepting, of course, the cruel whims of those in high political power. There is no protection for us against them it seems). All our freedoms must to some extent be restricted at the point where they may infringe on the freedoms of others. Depending on whether it is your freedom being protected or being threatened, we all love or hate this situation. Some of us love or hate it on a daily basis.  All because we can't trust ourselves to be responsible enough to not encroach on other people's freedoms.
Tied up in this absurdity is the fragile idea of hope. Hope, tied up, kidnapped. There is hope because, even though it seems inescapable, we know it is absurd - therefore we know there is either a better way or another way, or some other situation which might not be quite so absurd.  Such were my drunken philosophical meanderings as I wound my way down perfectly straight, properly surfaced roads.
At home, Ali G would be on the TV, perhaps on a rerun, asking difficult questions that were difficult because they were utterly pointless. Back in those halcyon days, we were all about peace on this island. Hold on...
...we still are. Who are these guys standing in their balaclava helmets reading out speeches threatening everyone who isn't one of them? On what basis are they demanding a return to bloodshed and mayhem? Who are they proclaiming to protect or represent? They come across as latter-day bouncers, protecting the revellers in something. But what? Answers on a postcard, please (addressed to 1981).

Labour Get Left
Much commentary over our new coalition has mentioned that Labour have lost their "leftist" credentials. Well, that was a mistake, as they've gone Stalin on our asses now.
Joan Burton has said she's going to cut payments to anyone on social welfare who doesn't take a reasonable offer of work (read: the first job they're offered). Rather than give someone with decades of specialised experience the chance and space to find a new opportunity, they'll chuck them into some low-grade career-starter role, or perhaps a position with no career prospects at all!
The time for all this bullish "cut your benefits" talk was when the country was at near-full employment. When those on the dole - or at least a large number of them - simply did not want to work. These people will always exist, there is nothing you can do about them not wanting to work. But now is not the time to invest money and resources into getting them to work. The situation is completely different now. Most of those on welfare don't want to be on welfare. They are getting close to despair not being able to work - not being able to ply their skills and exploit their talents and experience. They don't need to be forced into jobs. They want jobs. Perhaps they need to be upskilled to learn entrepreneurial skills; or given the tools that will help them sell a service based on their talents and skills. Pushing them out the door could well push them out of the country. And that wouldn't be a terribly smart economy.
On the other side, we have Ruarai Quinn. Before the election, Labour promised investment in education (for the Smart Economy, which now looks the size of a Smart Car), he's now said the money isn't there. But we can improve by simply being better. So we'll have a world class education system for nothing. If only we had have thought of this earlier!