Wednesday, December 07, 2016

What does Brexit mean?

What does Brexit mean?

Brexit means Red White and Blue because, you know, the flag and that.

Brexit means Cricket. The EU is just not cricket, whilst Britain is and literally invented cricket. This should be a self explanatory reason for leaving it. The EU is more like petanque or Korfball.

Brexit means British self determination. That's right no silly French or Belgian people and their soft smelly cheese will start telling you what shape your bananas will be anymore. In fact you will have no representation in European affairs at all! Who can be bothered with boring MEP elections anyway and the hideously undemocratic EU commission? No instead everything will be checked over by our wonderful House of life-term Lords and the hereditary monarch as it always has been. God save the Queen!

Brexit means Exacting control over our borders. That's right! No more can immigrants come and exploit soft touch Britain by stealing our jobs and claiming benefits at the same time. No more Europeans coming here and stealing our healthcare! Although it seems that the rest of Europe has universal healthcare too, but you can never be too careful! But still despite paying taxes when they work here we can block them from claiming any benefits. That'll teach them for being foreign!

Brexit means dig for victory! Like our plucky grandparents during the Blitz we're going to have to grow our own fruit and vegetables because we sure as hell won't be getting any from stupid old Europe. Oranges could prove a challenge.

Brexit means Exit. From the EU of course. Finally now Britain can stand tall uninhibited by such restraints as free trade, freedom of movement, EU subsidies, zero tariffs on exports and imports, access to a crisis relief fund etc.

Brexit means Independence. That's right now the EU may not be a state as such but by leaving it we want a special day with colourful balloons, fireworks etc like they have in the USA and Latin America. I know most countries now celebrate independence from us but we want balloons and a parade too!

Brexit means block up the Channel Tunnel. What can I say, the people have spoken and quite a few favour this. Sure immigrants might then take to using boats but we can probably build a wall around the south coast. Walls are a popular immigration control today. After all we've got all those old World War II forts just sitting there doing nothing.

Brexit means Bulldogs. Yes that's right bulldogs, tottering wheezing inbred national animals of Britain that they are.

Brexit means the Blitz! We showed Jerry what for in 1941, so we can do it again. How dare they insist we play by the rules of their club! We withstood the firebombs of the East End, so we shall endure their crafty German negotiation. Oh  and we beat Germany in the world cup in 1966! Never forget!

Brexit means street parties. Because Britain loves a good street party. Let's hope the council don't mind, but I fully expect the civil servants after being freed from EU red tape will transform back into the life loving productive and helpful characters we remember before 1975. Right? Because they were different before we joined the common market? Weren't they?

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The people have spoken. Does that mean they're necessarily right

Having worked in PR and  before I've seen a lot of liberties taken with statistics. "100 people say this." "10,000 people can't be wrong," etc. Suddenly when you add a number bigger than 50 that takes on a suddenly more statistical credibility, whether or not its right or not. I think this group forget 11,339,446 voted for Hitler, 17,410,742 voted for Brexit, 59,000,000 voted for Trump (ok I'm not saying Brexiters or Trump supporters would have voted for Hitler, well not a large majority of them anyway) which is significantly more than the average PR story sample but in these cases we're often met with a coverall excuse to implement the tactic. The people have spoken.

Let's put this into context.

Democratic engagement is huge within social media and online polls. Sure they are open to abuse if not managed properly but they are showing more and more of an idea of what people in a certain group actually think no matter how biased or socially undesirable that might be due to anonymity. For too long what was once a mythical goals the 'real thoughts of the public'. While public opinion is starting to be understood better whether we like it or not, there is of course a darker side.

What started with trivial things like Ed Balls on Strictly come Dancing and Boaty McBoatface has gradually escalated into a Neofascist baby being elected to the White House and an impossible request from the British electorate for a more sovereign country (I'd like to remind people Parliament is already sovereign in the UK) out of the common market which somehow makes as much if not more money, oh and to run everything just as well and cheaper without any immigration. Huge numbers voted for this but does that mean that they're right or justified in making this kind of decision or wrong but in an earnest way.

People have been used to getting exactly what they ask for in the media for a long time and it's become the expectation. You don't like someone you vote them out the big brother house or Xfactor or jungle or whatever. However it's done impulsively for instant gratification, with entertainment. And yes now I am comparing voting for Trump and Brexit as a way to get instant gratification.

We don't let children vote because they'll vote for someone who'll promise them ice cream for every meal. We all know that wouldn't work out well in the long run but if someone is promising you something you want right now the temptation is very high. Also there is no consideration that the person might be lying. What worries me is that a lot of people seem to be doing this although of course not for something as crude as this example. There's also desperation where a group has to vote for something bad because there is no other choice which is a big confounding factor.

So if the people have spoken, do they fully know necessarily what they are asking for? Now this is where I have to add a caveat. I have supported direct democracy for a long time and I have been taken a little aback by how quickly things have moved in that direction in 2016 and at the erratic results, although I still remain optimistic that this is the way things will work. However there are conditions to how this should go.

Firstly education. To vote on important issues you need to understand the subject inside out. No, just reading the papers is not enough. Understand biases and try to see things from the perspective of the other where possible before making your final decision. Critical thinking is important.

Secondly foresight. If you make a big decision that changes the country, world or lives of millions you need to live with the consequences. How will that affect you and everyone else (only focusing on your social, political and economic familial group is not enough)

Thirdly not to take every political promise at face value. Maybe they're lying about that £350 million for the NHS? Is what they're saying achievable or feasible despite appealing to something heartfelt that you want? Can they meet this promise?

Is this doable? Right now no I don't think so. We live in the so-called post-fact age where people see following IFLS (I Fucking Love Science) as legitimate science cred despite having the scientific depth of an edition of Cosmo and using Tasty quizzes where they claim to know which tattoo you'll get based on a McDonalds order as something to show off to people about. We have some work to do it's fair to say. However the potential is there. We just have to slow down and accept that making decisions is hard and political decisions have to be less unilateral

Ultimately in a perfect world the people will speak and it will lead but at the moment the people are perhaps making those in charge wonder if asking the people and letting them speak is in their or anyone's best interests. And that surely will lead us backwards.

The Apprentice: Proving grounds of the new elite?

We say we're tired of experts and of people who claim to be smarter than us. So why do we have so many commentators like this and why did we elect someone like this to the White House (I said claim remember).

To put this in context let's look at a couple of examples.

I was thinking about the weird connection between Katie Hopkins and Donald Trump, besides the anti-Muslim rhetoric. Both were in fact involved with the Apprentice a topic I've written about more than once on this blog. A program where cocksure blowhards are brutally put in their place by failing spectacularly at simple but convoluted business tasks, with Hopkins representing an example of a contestant and Trump in fact portraying the big boss. Why have we given people from the Apprentice (a show which openly mocks the big headed bravado of smarmy business idiots) such influential positions in society. Just because Trump got to smack down the ego-maniacal sales-people doesn't mean we should put him in charge of the world's largest economy, just so he can smack down some slimy career politicians, right?  Also we probably shouldn't give Katie Hopkins (a literal embodiment of an internet troll) hotline access to mass media through newspaper columns or mainstream radio surely? Well we have and that's where we are today. Why have we given these big headed although straight talking clowns the highest and most influential positions?

Surely we've proven the most cynical sociologists right by elevating reality TV stars like this. Say what you want about how out of touch and elite academia and experts may be but at least they have a bit of statistical credibility to their claims of expertise. Besides which the other so-called experts, the career poltician class have spent years basically ignoring advice they don't like because it doesn't carry good political currency (David Nutt anyone?)


In fact it's worse than just the irony that we claim to hate experts but then elect people claiming to be experts or learned who have even fewer qualifications than the boring but probably otherwise practical political class we've come to hate. Say what you want about Donald Trump and Hopkins but you'd probably have a more interesting conversation with them than perhaps Jeremy Corbyn, Philip Hammond or Hillary Clinton. Yes you'd be spitting out your drink in disgust at the poorly thought through "common sense" bile they spew but you could probably have a cracking argument with them. The others would probably just not talk to you because you're a member of the great unwashed or would bore you silly. However that's not the point of a politicians. They are there to run the country, state or whathaveyou. This is a boring technical job and whilst charisma can turn the wheels of politics its not enough on its own.

I think when it comes down to it people get frustrated with politics because it's slow and indecisive but now with a lot of governments suddenly thrown into panic by the geopolitical and economic situations, with no time to think through the long term, we are seeing just how erratic people and politicians can be. Surely we shouldn't be promoting people who favour heart over head.

Is looking after our own the only priority in life?

One of the major criticisms of your government taking part in a major humanitarian effort is the common "we should be taking care of our own first" before worrying about the people with severe problems.

I'm going to politely disagree with this idea and argue that in today's world that kind of closed-minded nationalistic (or tribal) attitude needs to give way to a more pan-global world view.

Many countries want to retreat towards isolationism and damn the consequences of the outside world. America does it. The UK does it. Russia most definitely does it. Secessionist countries like Catalonia do it and overall it probably should stop.

To argue that your needs and your families needs are more important than anyone else is a naturally programmed idea. We will all fall victim to this thinking in our lives but this doesn't mean we shouldn't aim to overcome it.

The idea of nation states was really solidified in the 1800s. Old colonies were becoming new countries and occupied countries found a sense of national identity through their occupation. Additionally wars across Europe and the Middle East, as well as far East Asia created the world picture we see today on the map.

Ultimately perhaps we should stop looking within and start looking outwards. The international world has always relied on a bit of interconnectivity and whether you like it or not that interconnectivity and interdependency is growing and isn't going to go away soon. No nation is an island (figuratively! I know my nation literally is an island and this leads to all sorts of problems in cooperative thinking) anymore and if we keep fighting for nationality in this day and age I worry we will only end up destroying one another.

Now of course there is no denying that you or your government should take every effort to make sure that your aid be it money, logistics or even military support is actually going to make a difference rather than destabilise the country or it's economy, or even shore up the personal finances of a dictator. Supporting others isn't without any criticisms as it is true that in some situations it aids corruption or even inhibits self reliance but sometimes the alternatives are far worse.