Month: February 2021

Toxic Divide

OK so the last rant was a bit negative and I’m still at a loss but the focus has to be on finding hope. I’ve been reading articles that argue that we shouldn’t be focusing on dialogue with fascists; we have to repudiate them.

For me this has an interesting dynamic. For my sins, since I retired (fired the boss, see last blog) I decided that I’d always loved woodwork cos my father had a workshop, basically focused on his venerable 48-foot plus bowsprit wooden yacht that had the distinction of coming second in a transatlantic race sometime in the past, sorry I was never that interested but all our summer holidays involved crossing the channel and stopping in at ports along the Brittany coast and then sailing back again.

So, here we are in the twenty-first century (blimey, really? seems only yesterday) in 2009 and I decide to make bespoke furniture. Never made furniture in my life before apart from a thing that supported the telly for a long time and – since the telly now hangs on the wall – still supports various hi-fi & video accoutrements anyway this thing was made from MDF painted black and done with very rudimentary tools back in the mists of time…Pasted Graphic.png

My father had, as I recall, one power tool. It was an electric drill, which doubled as a paint stirrer. One of my emotional/diplomatic successes was when I was asked what I wanted for my 21st birthday and I said I would like a power drill please. Subsequently I discovered they were particularly proud of that.

But in 2009 I was introduced to Axminster Power Tools and basically bought the shop – a bandsaw, a table saw, a planer/thicknesser, the H&S stuff and so on and discovered birch plywood which is THE most wonderful material for making furniture.

Oh dear, but this is good background. Fast forward. My husband keeps telling me I need to get a lathe. WTF is a lathe?

Brown and round. And I see the Berkshire Woodturners at various fairs and join them in 2011 and I’m now their treasurer, membership person, newsletter editor and now website updater and zoom host. At last I’d found my spiritual home, a bunch of guys who love their craft and treat me like a real human being.

But in June 2017 I went on the People’s Vote march in London which coincided with a local craft fair we took part in, with a lathe under the gazebo turning spinning tops for the kids. So I help set up on the Saturday and then go off to the march. Then I turn up on the Sunday and get the democracy lecture and with that pall you get when something drops out of your world I realise that these people, my friends, the bunch of guys that I felt safe with, were predominantly Daily Mail readers who ipso facto voted Brexit! They are on the other side of the toxic divide and that makes them, in a very real way, orthogonal to what is obvious to me.

So, what is the way forward? To try to persuade them to change their mind? I can see the activists trying to change the minds of total strangers with facts and figures and cast-iron logic but you soon find that even logic is by no means universal. My obvious isn’t the same as your obvious. 

The truth cannot be spoken. Three-word slogans can appear to encapsulate it but as anyone who watches tabloid headlines will have seen, they carry a value judgement. Value judgements are orthogonal to truth. No dimension in common. I’m screaming into the void: WHAT DOES IT TAKE?

So, while the individual who made the mistake of giving me the democracy lecture will never be forgiven – although I can mitigate his error by the usual (reluctant) ploy of assuming his intellectual faculties are deficient – I have settled on the gentle project of listening, and learning not to intervene when ‘better in my day’ and ‘young people nowadays’ comes up in our zoom coffee mornings. And I was pleased with a success the other day when I ventured that the UK’s vaccine rollout was very impressive. It shows them I’m human. And at the same time I was delighted that someone else ventured that it was good to be rid of Trump and everyone else joined in in agreement.

Whether they will speak for me when I’m taken away is still something that I would not venture to try to establish, but with COPD I wouldn’t last long under torture anyway.

Encounter with Activists

When I landed my first and only Technical Author job writing manuals for telecoms software applications, my husband mentioned in passing that TAs are famously weird. There was a joke that went: a TA rubs a lamp and the genie says you have a choice: you can have all the money in the world, or all the knowledge in the world. The TA hesitates barely a moment and plumps for the knowledge. Well, wouldn’t anyone?

The deed is done and the TA blinks, stunned. The genie asks: well, what have you learned?

The TA says: I should have taken the money.

I sacked the employer, in his capacity as my employer, nine years later and subsequently got the autism label which would have helped immensely at the time.

Where was I? Activists. So one thing you can count on is that a truth-bum ex-TA will be a passionate Remainer. So there’s a pile of pro-EU pages on Facebook and I stick my oar in occasionally. After a while I end up joining one of them and holding a placard saying FULL LORRY PARK = EMPTY FRIDGE in a car park somewhere.

But despite over a million of us turning up in London for what was dubbed ‘the longest Waitrose queue in history’ and SIX million of us signing a petition to revoke Article 50, it is all batted aside. Something that matters, so desperately matters, is batted away with barely a second thought. 

The powers that we are facing will not respond to marching and placards and signing your name here. What we are facing does not respond to the screaming frustration, the searing grief and gnawing anger in the well-spoken Waitrose set (although at least some of us are also patrons of Lidl and Aldi). The point is that the powers that we are facing know very well how we feel and they demonstrate their contempt with comments like ‘They’re now British fish and they’re better and happier fish for it,’  and the canonical ‘Fuck Business’. All in a day’s work and our noses are rubbed in the sheer orthogonality of it.

Orthogonal = irrelevant. Those of us who did a bit of maths at school will know that orthogonal = at right angles, perpendicular. It’s on another dimension that simply doesn’t figure in their scheme of things. Ordinary people are ‘potted plants’. Their suffering can be dismissed in the way that we discard a plant that didn’t thrive. Oh dear, I forgot to feed it. People’s suffering simply doesn’t matter to them.

So being exhorted to write to John Redwood to appeal to his humanity feels like an insult. He bats it back because he can. He doesn’t even try to answer the question.

We are not dealing with people here. We are dealing with something that is deficient, in a way that an autistic ex-TA might understand, but from the other side. I doubt myself constantly. It never crosses their mind. Dunning-Kruger writ large.

So, placards and petitions don’t do it. However well worded, they come from the usual suspects and their susceptible audience, and boy! do the Tories understand susceptible audience.

Because the Tories are the enemy. That has finally been established. Many of their followers may not understand it yet, because of the zombie effect (of which more in another blog). And as a pre-emptive strike, I would point out that if you are a victim of the zombie effect it’s not your fault. You only buy it for the cartoons/sports pages/fashion section/lifestyle/health and recipes/crossword and Sudoku. The shouty headlines are almost subliminal. But what reputable news outlet shouts a value judgement, with underlined words, in the headline? Only one that despises its readers.

So, what do we howling inside, grief-stricken truth-bums do next? Petitions don’t work. Marches don’t work. Placards don’t work. Across the Channel we see the gilets jaunes setting fire to vehicles and they get concessions but that’s not what we’re looking for. We’re not looking for concessions in an existing negotiation. We’re looking for a wholesale review of the process of government and the way it has been eroded and played in the last couple of decades. We need a review of democracy itself, which incorporates a deep understanding of the way social media allows targeted adverts that the susceptible see and the rest of us have no inkling of. We need a re-establishment of the value of truth. And I hear you say fuck that for a game of candles and I’d agree. The horse has bolted. 

So stop sending me emails asking me to ‘add my name’ or ‘pledge some money’. I am simply deleting them.