The wonderful Jonathan Calder has published my piece on what Europe’s oldest poem, the Iliad, can tell us about hate addiction.
How can Liberals argue with people who are getting a kick out of hate?
How can Liberals argue with people who are getting a kick out of hate?
#Europe, my country
When I was nineteen, Paula and I went inter-railing around Europe. The Berlin Wall had come down just the year before.
We splashed in the fountains in front of the Eiffel tower, then took a train East, chatting all day in English with a young man from Iceland. We stayed in the Ruhr and then in a small castle in Bavaria that was full of Yorkshire Terrier puppies. But we had to carry on East because Prague was the place to go, the recently uncovered jewel.
Being vegetarians then, all we could eat in Prague were white bread rolls, plain yellow cheese and the sweetest, most pungent tomatoes I’ve ever tasted. In the old town the statues of heroes on horseback, and the shutters and curtains decorated with hearts, recalled to us our own childhood fairytales of gingerbread cottages and earnest princes.
We wandered in grand nineteenth-century cemeteries, peered into dynastic shrines where brown and white photos showed familiar old-fashioned costumes – fluffy beards, cravats, monocles.
A history teacher and his wife and teenage son had us to dinner and spoke to us in broken English and broad smiles of delight that we could all be there together. After dinner the couple withdrew to the sofa to watch TV and cuddle unashamedly. We kept in touch with their son Jan by post-card for some years.
Paula and I took our picnics of white rolls, cheese and tomatoes to benches in the wide squares. Around us the middle-aged and the old walked slowly, almost gingerly, out from their apartments to sit on benches and talk, softly, casually, about this and that, the pigeons, the children.
We were told this was a great new pleasure for them, that they hadn’t been able to do for forty years.
The women were stout, with knotted nets of varicose veins around their calves.
Taking the train back we passed leafless forests, where smoke from soft coal had burned away the leaves.
We saw the wound and we saw it starting to heal.
When Leo sits down with his Toy Story jigsaw puzzles a cold hand grips my heart. Sunday evening, I want to feel cosy, and he brings out those garish, creepy figures.
But there’s no escape. ‘Come, Mummy,’ says my two and a half year old, extending the beckoning hand that can’t be refused.
Added to the first horror of sorting out four jisaws that have been jumbled together, I then have to pore over every limb of these gruesome zombie like objects: the corpse with the drooping eyelid (Leo calls it ‘baby’); the giant locust crossed with the Incredible Hulk (Leo calls it ‘green man with yellow pants’); the sickly pink fluffy monster (‘teddy bear’ to Leo), the leathery octopus, the eight-eyed monster…. I want to hide these four jigsaws (once we start we have to do them all) in a cupboard, but his favourite babysitter gave them to him for Christmas, so it wouldn’t be diplomatic.
I wonder if this is how Ukippers feel about the European Union: weird alien creatures they don’t want to understand. And I sympathise.
But I have to learn from Leo who assumes that everything around him is animate, and in some way connected to the world he already knows, and so he can relate to anything. The doll is a baby, the eight-eyed monster is a different kind of frog.
Maybe even Farage is just a different kind of frog.
Maybe we can relate to the Other without losing ourselves.
Market Bulletin from St James Place Wealth Management shows clearly that investors think a stand-alone UK is pants. Read here:
Leo is two and eight months and still hasn’t noticed skin colour. He knows his colours, and he’s got no qualms about making personal comments, remarking loudly on beards, moustaches, moles, hats, shoes and walking sticks. Very occasionally he talks about hair colour. ‘I’ve got brown hair. Mummy’s got brown hair. Daddy’s got…. grey hair!’
On Saturday we were coming back from the big Quaker meeting in Friends House in London and Albert pulled up in his car to talk to us. Albert is from Trinidad. After the chat, Leo asked me, ‘He’s a boy?’ ‘Yes, he’s a boy. He’s a man.’ ‘He got a willy?’ ‘Yes.’ With that cleared up, Leo went back to talking about trains.
Adventures in Tory Land: Democracy in Middle England, by Katie Barron and Asbjorn Gundersen, is available as an ebook and paperback through Amazon and in Waterstones St Albans. Yours for £2. For a laugh, click here! http://amzn.to/1GpXY1F
Imagine if I went into the Bakehouse in St Albans, handed over a fiver, got my mocha and my change, and then started shouting, ‘They’ve taken my fiver! They’ve taken my fiver! They’re bleeding me dry! It’s so corrupt! Why do they need a manager? Look at that bowl full of tips! And all the rules! Have to go to the toilet marked ladies – so bossy – Why can’t I go in the gents? Or right here if I fancy? Have to sit at a table, supposed to sit at an empty one, not allowed buggies here, not allowed dogs there, for gawd’s sake! And look at that five pounds I just gave them! It’s monstrous! What are they doing with it all?’
I find this a useful website for facts on our contribution to Europe etc:
Adventures in Tory Land: Democracy in Middle England is available as an ebook and paperback through Amazon and in Waterstones St Albans. Yours for £2. For a laugh, click here: http://amzn.to/1GpXY1F
Our dear old local UKIP candidate John Stocker is still talking about Common Sense with every breath, just as he was in 2010.
I have to admit I use it myself quite a lot, usually snootily (shame) about parents who ‘have no common sense’. Why don’t they use some common sense? etc.
But I mean something different from John Stocker. I mean, ‘It didn’t work last time so why are they doing it again?’ ‘So and so NEVER does X, so why do they keep banking on their kid doing something he/she never does actually do?’
Yes I know I’m being obnoxious but at least I’m rational. When I talk about common sense, I’m talking about using past evidence as a guide to one’s plans, one’s ‘policies’. I’m asking for evidence-based policy.
But Stocker means something else. Common sense for Stocker means taking his daily life as a paradigm, and assuming that his personal experiences in his life will be a good guide for an entire nation’s policies. This is not evidence-based, because he doesn’t present evidence that a nation is the same as a household – the same as his household.
Nations are more complicated than households – which are complicated enough! I want policies based on what nations and governments have done and experienced, not on what J Stocker has done, even though I know he has lived an interesting and varied life. So I’m afraid there have to be some experts in there, such as economists, preferably arguing with each other, and public health researchers, dare I say it a sociologist or two….
Adventures in Tory Land: Democracy in Middle England, tales of the canvassing trail, is available as an ebook and paperback through Amazon and in Waterstones St Albans. Yours for £2. For a laugh, click here! http://amzn.to/1GpXY1F