Boris Johnson, Brexit, Brexit Negotiations, David Bowie, Donald Trump, EU Referendum, Fake News, Happy New Year, Hillary Clinton, Human Genetic Modification, Illustration, Jo Cox MP, Lord Stuart Rose, Paul Knoepfler, Pokemon Go, Quote, Review of the Year, Rishi Pelham’s “Pizza Delique.”, Tunisia, Tunisia 2016
Bowie might have been the alien and the androgene to everybody else but it looks like to me, although I’d never quite appreciated it, he was also as much part of my childhood home as the pictures on the wall and the wee stone dog on the hearth. That’s what the trembly-lip stuff is about really, about family and home and happiness.
And well, maybe that is a bit sentimental and sappy. Maybe it’s quite self-involved and not really about the man himself, but it’s not such a bad thing for him to have brought to the world.
Quite a nice way to be remembered, I think.
The Flying Rodent “If Nobody Has Any Objections” (January).
Stuart Rose is the doyen of capitalists, a former CEO of Marks and Spencer and an immensely experienced businessman. Here is a summary of his current economic assessment:
* We should not leave our caves because of the risk to our security.
* Leaving caves, and moving on to a new and uncharted “herding sheep” stage of our development, would create profound economic uncertainty. Countless jobs depend upon remaining in caves, huddling around fires, and daubing on the walls.
* Supporters of agriculture cannot even tell us what this will look like. There are many unknown risks. Herding sheep is an impossible fantasy – playing games with our jobs and futures. People might get sunburnt. It is childish and irresponsible.
* We must remain in caves.
“Fatalism and the EU.” (January).
“Arthur’s Seat” (January).
The evolution of the human race could be no longer determined simply by the random couplings of millions of people. It could be instead consciously planned in laboratories, by scientists who want to “edit” certain diseases out of the metagenome, “improve” the species with gene editing, or even clone deceased humans. And Knoepfler doubts that the public is fully aware of the powers which scientists are steadily obtaining. Our society might not be yet democratic enough for there to be authentic majority control over the future usage of these powers. The destiny of humanity could be decided over the coming years and decades, by people who you have never heard of, let alone voted for.
Hardly anyone can name political grouping in the European parliament and in most instances, unless there’s a juicy drama like the Greek crisis, it is often second rate news or treated as foreign news. To all intents and purposes the EU is a government yet it is not reported as such. Pan-European politics doesn’t exist.
There is no single common European identity, history or language either. The European demos is a construct that simply doesn’t exist in the same way it does for a nation like the UK. We have an island story, a shared history, a common language, a national character and a shared identity. That’s a demos. Whatever concoction the EU has fabricated is less a demos as a political partition.
Peter North Politics Blog, “Call it what you like, but it ain’t democracy” (February).
“Excuse me, but what are you doing?” A lady was frozen startled at the back door with a sack of rubbish in her hand. A floppy dog bounded ahead of her. She stared up accusingly at Pablo.
“Madam, I am the Named Person,” Pablo proclaimed magnificently. “I am conducting an investigation.”
“Oh goodness, I’m sorry to disturb you sir.” The lady ran and hastily squashed her rubbish into the bin and then retreated in a rush. Her dog bounded after her.
“The Named Person Mysteries: The Case of the Teetotal Teenager” (March).
The problem when Nicola came to this bit of the speech is that she had nothing to say. As I say, what has the SNP achieved since 2011? Few, even of the most devoted of Nats, could maintain that health or education provision are better than they were five years ago. At best, they are, arguably, no worse…
… people don’t join political parties to advocate boring but competent government. If that’s what they’re into they would join the Civil Service.
Ian Smart, “Boring for Scotland” (March).
“Democracy on Trial Artwork” (March).
I find it altogether easier to imagine debauched Romans with wine on their lips cavorting around the statue eighteen centuries ago than I can the gunfire in the museum last year. The gunmen would have torn about hysterically, like out-of-control spoiled children, whilst the statues and mosaics of Neptune and Virgil and Augustus glowered down at the disturbance. After the gunmen’s suicide belts had failed to detonate and they had egged each other on to be cut down by police bullets, they must have realised how cool and aloof those ancient nobles look. You are just a ripple on our ocean of history, the emperors would have mused. You have only a few minutes left – what can you possibly do which will make your names live on, as ours have done, for millennia?
Yes, the Bardo must be the unwisest available venue in which to stage your flimsy political stunt. All around it will be measured against entire empires.
My hosts promise me that many Tunisians like to party. Indeed, they claim that the section of the educated class in Tunis which likes to drink is frighteningly uninhibited, and lacking even in a British teenager’s cursory education about alcohol consumption. We go out driving around Tunis and Carthage on a pub crawl. What follows is a brief recap of this, along with some other bars in Tunis that I have visited…
“Tychy’s Tunis: Partying in Tunisia” (April).
The FCO’s contribution to Tunisia’s recession is not merely an oversight or the result of forgivable inattentiveness when there are so many countries in the world to get right. It is a deliberate government policy which reveals how risk-averse we are and how unscrupulous we can be when there is a conflict between our own supposed values and risk. Tunisia is both the newest and one of the most mature democracies in the Arab League. Our abandonment of this country is absolutely outrageous.
“Tunisia: Getting Down To Business” (May).
“The Return of the Lotus Eaters” (April).
As the world’s fifth-largest economy, Britain has a reasonable chance (to put it mildly) of being able to cut trade deals with countries keen to access our consumers. The worst-case scenario is to use World Trade Organisation rules, tariffs of about 4 per cent. That’s a relatively small mark-up, and the effect would be more than offset by a welcome drop in the pound. And if house prices fall, as the Chancellor predicts, then so much the better. A great many would-be homeowners have been praying for just that… No one — economist, politician or mystic — knows what tumult we can expect in the next 15 years. But we do know that whatever happens, Britain will be better able to respond and adapt as a sovereign country living under its own laws. The history of the last two centuries can be summed up in two words: democracy matters. Let’s vote to defend it on 23 June.
The Spectator, “Out – and into the world: why The Spectator is for Leave” (May).
This attack on a public official cannot be viewed in isolation. It occurs against a backdrop of an ugly public mood in which we have been told to despise the political class, to distrust those who serve, to dehumanise those with whom we do not readily identify. There are many decent people involved in the campaign to secure Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, many who respect the referendum as the exercise in democracy that it is. But there are others whose recklessness has been open and shocking. I believe they bear responsibility, not for the attack itself, but for the current mood: for the inflammatory language, for the finger-jabbing, the dogwhistling and the overt racism.
Polly Toynbee, The Guardian, “The mood is ugly, and an MP is dead” (June).
The wind shrieked and wailed like the sound of pure grief; the frozen desert was cast in almost total darkness. It was a bracing −40 °C though the 80mph winds put an extra nip in the air. At midday Mr Floppy, the chairpenguin of the Penguin Central Bank, slumped out to address the colony.
“I have an announcement,” he honked pompously, smoothing his bow tie with a scrupulous flipper. “Over the last quarter, our rate of economic growth has finally exceeded that of the EU. This means that we are no longer the planet’s slowest economy.”
“Bad News From Antarctica” (June).
So, here’s the thing. This was never a referendum on the EU. It was a referendum on the modern world, and yesterday the frightened, parochial lizard-brain of Britain voted out, out, out, and today we’ve all woken up still strapped onto this ghost-train as it hurtles off the tracks…
It says something about this campaign that I’m no longer at all worried about risking hyperbole or unoriginality when referencing all that Nazi history they made us study in school. I’m just frightened. I’m frightened that those who wanted “their” country back will get their wish, and it will turn out to be a hostile, inhospitable place for immigrants, ethnic minorities, queer people – everyone and anyone who wasn’t included when Farage proclaimed victory for “ordinary, decent people” this morning in front of a posse formed entirely of angry-looking, whey-faced blokes in suits.
Laurie Penny, The New Statesman, “I want my country back” (June.)
1. You need to be on the side of the working class.
You might consider this to be self-evident, but it has so far eluded an awful lot of otherwise alert people. If your chief political allies include a Conservative Prime Minister, the IMF, the Bank of England and the UK’s leading corporate organisations, whilst your foes include the have-nots, the skilled and unskilled working classes, and the unemployed, then you cannot really call yourself left-wing under the wildest definition of the term. You are a conservative – you support the status quo…
“The Verdict” (June).
A £1.1bn nuclear submarine has crashed into a tanker after a Wailord was spotted off the coast of Gibraltar.
The ‘hunter submarine’ was on a routine mission to gather Pokemon, when a merchant ship collided with it. The submarine, which is fitted with ‘world leading sensors’, was unable to see a 55,000 tonne, 200 meter long Chinese tanker.
The submarine’s, Commander Stevie McSubface said ‘The tanker just came out of no where. One second we were in pursuit of a Wailord then next thing we were hit. There was nothing we could do, we couldn’t go over it, we couldn’t go around it and we couldn’t go through it’. When our Flipside reporter pointed out to him that unlike the children’s nursery rhyme ‘bear hunt’, he would have been able to go under it, the commander’s responded with a resounding “Shit”.
Edinburgh Flipside, “Nuclear Submarine crashes after Pokemon Go incident” (July).
In the poem, Mr Johnson implied President Erdoğan was fond of having sex with goats.
Here’s the limerick in full.
“There was a young fellow from Ankara, Who was a terrific w*nkerer.
“Till he sowed his wild oats, With the help of a goat, But he didn’t even stop to thankera.”
The Mirror, “7 reasons Boris Johnson probably shouldn’t be Foreign Secretary” (July).
There is an interval.
The last time that I had experienced an interval at the Fringe, the building was on fire. The practice is in fact more of a rarity in Fringe theatre than it is to discover a successful horror play. The audience is incredulous and openly annoyed. Everything will pause for fifteen minutes? And indeed the play does, in its own way, pause, although the fourth wall remains standing and the appearance of the restaurant is maintained exactly as before but without any audible dialogue. Almost the entire audience makes a run for it but I alone decide that the play is still in operation. I stay back to keep an eye on this suspicious exercise. What are they all up to? Deliberately or accidentally (i.e. it might just be an interval), the interval comes to harmonise with this play’s characteristic unpredictability.
“Tychy@ the Fringe: Pizza Delique” (August).
“Tychy@ the Fringe Artwork 2016” (August).
And with this, she welcomes the annexation of literature by identity politics. Abdel-Magied even goes so far as to argue that Shriver’s style of disrespect “lays the foundation for prejudice, for hate, for genocide.” To avoid this, we must trade in our right to free expression and unfettered literary creation.
This literary kerfuffle signals the arrival in Australia of the new style of identity politics, imported from the USA. I had thought, with a bit of luck, we could have avoided the worst of it. After all, the fate of fiction is at stake, and that’s not too grandiose a way of putting it. Those who whine about cultural appropriation would kill literature if they could get away with it, or at least leave it sterile and unreadable. The social justice era will not produce a memorable novel, play or poem, unless it’s a satire at the movement’s expense.
Timothy Cootes, Quillette, “A Defence of Lionel Shriver: Identity Politicians Would Kill Literature if They Could” (September).
Now clear your head. I am asking the impossible of you. Just try to imagine that the EU was actually a functioning democracy, and that people from all around Europe wanted to employ its user-friendly apparatus to decide the great questions about Brexit. What would this look like? Would each country elect their own member of the EU’s Brexit team, a conspicuous personage who everybody could lobby about their own interests? Well, you might splutter, would it not be easier to use the Foreign Ministers who are already at each nation’s disposal? You could surely weight their voting influence in some fair, democratic way? Why do we need quite so many representatives?
And with this, the inevitable perfidy of the EU is exposed. The reason why the luckless serfs of Europe cannot tell whether President Juncker or President Tusk, Michel Barnier or Guy Verhofstadt, Angela Merkel or Count Dracula, is in overall charge, is because this calculated anarchy ensures that the electorates remain disempowered and that they keep their noses out of Europe’s future.
“I have met with women who have, toward the end of their pregnancy, get worst news one can get… That their health is in jeopardy if they continue to carry to term. Or that something terrible has happened or just been discovered about the pregnancy. I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions.”
Hillary Clinton, Third Presidential Debate (October).
“An Autumn Leaf” (December).
The only person in Edinburgh who, to my knowledge, has celebrated Trump’s victory is a Hungarian immigrant and a fascist sympathiser. His own news is, in its own way, glorious. In one link that he sent me, the users of the 4chan forum had claimed to have discovered evidence that Mrs Clinton and her closest advisers were a paedophile ring. This was their use in certain emails, released by WikiLeaks, of such tell-tale words as “pizza,” “pasta,” “cheese” and “ice cream.” When the billion-dollar banker Herbert Sandler recounts in one email that, “Lo and behold, instead of pasta and wonderful sauces, it was a lovely, tempting assortment of cheeses,” a paedophile would know exactly what he was writing about. For “pasta” is code for “little boy,” “sauces” for “orgies,” and “cheeses” for “little girls.” I just hope that a copy of Delia Smith’s How To Cook never darkens 4chan’s doorstep – its poor operatives will end up being regaled with visions of unparalleled depravity.
“Donald Trump and the Media – “Awesome Job, Guys!”” (November).
In Brennan’s epistocratic paradise, a twenty-three year old who has recently graduated with a degree in political science and who has passed a civics exam would be more entitled to vote than the Army veteran returning from service in Afghanistan. People with PhDs who call themselves “social scientists” and who use taxpayer funds to write papers on pilates being the embodiment of whiteness and the importance of understanding icebergs from a feminist perspective would have more authority to vote than the common taxpayers who pay their wage.
Claire Lehmann, Quillette, “Stop Calling People “Low Information Voters”” (November).
Trump’s turn towards the camera renders the tone conspiratorial rather than judgmental. There are two images at play here — the imagined power-image taken from the front, and the actual image, in which Trump seems to offer the viewer a conniving wink, as if to say, look at how we hoodwinked those suckers in the front (both Trump and the viewer are looking down on those in front). By subverting the typical power dynamic, Time, in a sense, implicates the viewer in Trump’s election, in his being on the cover in the first place.
Jake Romm, Forward, “Why Time’s Trump Cover Is a Subversive Work of Political Art” (December).
Tychy wishes all readers a Happy New Year.