A political minority report

Two days ago I cast my vote for the Town Commissioners (council). I have now done my bit as a responsible citizen until 2020, when the next full set of elections rolls around.

To be honest, I am really not sure it was worth it. But at least in turning up and placing my “X” against one candidate’s name I did more than 84% of the eligible townspeople.

Yes, a mere 16% made it off their sofas and into the polling station – which was within easy walking distance of just about anyone, and so homely that all the voting officials knew all the voters by name. Just over 900 votes were cast in total, with the winners scoring 301 and 248 respectively.

No wonder Manx democracy is such a joke. This election certainly was.

The town is split into two wards, which makes no sense in a tiny ‘burb like ours. There was a vacancy in both, the two premature resignations which forced the elections being due to (1) a serial sexist throwback lowering the civic tone once too often and (2) his co-retiree having achieved all the kickbacks a few years of secretive (toy) town hall committees can bring.

The sad thing is, both half-decent candidates were in the same ward (mine, as it happens), and both total wastes of space stood in the other. So the town is saddled with yet another electoral deadweight until at least 2020, while a new candidate who might (just) have made a little difference cannot.

My nominee, a baby Green, got just 169 votes. Being young, he may well try again, and even succeed. On the other hand, his successful opponent – a local youth worker – seems decent enough, so probably not all lost.

The funnier thing is, it was only after voting that I learnt that my choice is actually a trainee accountant – a profession I totally distrust from years of having to work with the blighters. I guess not all eco-witterers can be public sector busybodies, but I begin to see a pattern here.

Even the chair of the local Greens is an associate at a rather, erm, “interesting” law firm. Just a few months back, for instance, Private Eye noticed that the firm’s London office employed as a “consultant” the UK politician who liases between the Manx and UK governments. But perhaps they separate their waste, so probably no need to worry.

Still, between an apathetic public and a choice of candidates where all a voter can ask is “Who would do the least damage”, we do need to worry about Manx politics.

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Culture bores

It is almost a tradition that at this time of year I blog about the Tynwald Day Ceremony – the Manx national day (increasingly of desperation) on July 5th, when the island’s patriots and scoundrels gather in a big field to – well, you know what national ceremonies are like, so…….. that, but smaller and often wetter.

Anyway, I was there as usual, and yes, I noticed a few things.

As it’s a national occasion I go along and do something vaguely useful for humanity for a few hours. Nothing annoys me more than do-gooders and prod-noses, so I try to neutralise this irritating bourgeois concept of guilt. But when the entire Manx nation is now out for itself and stepping on the faces of the losers, the least I can do as a good contrarian and social irritant is the opposite. Altruism for the hell of it, if you like.

Which is why each Tynwald Day finds me on the Amnesty International stall, highlighting the plight of someone who is having his fingernails pulled out or something for – well, having the temerity to think and breathe mostly.

Thankfully, due to the hypocrisy of our “government”, we have to do this well away from the Colonial Clown Show itself.

There is actually an official field behind the main ceremony site for “charities”, but this is carefully vetted to ensure nothing resembling a humanitarian gesture can spoil the general impression. So a few years back, we folk whose (fake) charity field application always got “lost” decided to set up our own field, The Global Village, on a site down the road from the ceremony. More recently, thanks to a rare friend in government, the village moved to a national garden down the hill from the fake charities and is now more like a global small town, complete with a “street” of international food vendors representing some of the hundred plus nations where our island’s current population have roots.

So, how hard is it to do the right thing when a few metres away is a Jamaican food stall pumping out dub where I can get a steady supply of chocolate cake soaked in rum? Babylon might have most of the power, but we have all the good food, music and vibes, so no contest really.

In the interests of objectivity, I did take a brief look at the Fake Charity Field, where the main smell was the diesel fumes from greasy spoon burger vans and the main attractions militaristic propaganda, plus drab folk dancers allied to the increasingly desperate attempts of government to push Manx “heritage”.

By the way, I can save you the trouble of exploring this pseudo-historical blind alley. There isn’t any. As intimated above, over 50% of our population weren’t born here, and unless that figure rises nobody else will be in future.

Masochists who really could not get through Tynwald Day without Manx dancing are circulating the obligatory You-tube clip of some sort of mass circle dance on the main field, speeded up to allow for all the groups to join in one by one. Presumably, folk were supposed to be impressed by the strength of pride and interest in “our” cultural sewage ( sorry – heritage). But to be honest, imagine a Benny Hill chase scene (but with longer skirts and the blokes keep their trousers on) and there’s nothing new to find, see and snigger at.

But the biggest surprise was the absence of the uber-uber Manx hardliners, Mec Vannin (“Sons of Mann”), whose grumpy presence is a tradition almost as old at the ceremony itself. For years, their stall was the first thing you see as you enter the Fake Charity Field, like that doom-mongering relative at weddings who says “I TOLD you it would rain”.

It mystified me for years that while genuine campaigning charities and community groups could never get a place on the increasingly commercial field, Mec Vannin (which historically preached independence to the point of flirting with Irish and Scottish paramilitarism) always could. From what an MV main man once told me, they didn’t even have to put in an application.

This year, it appears, the civil servant organisers of the field actually did their job. When the pitches were marked out, MV, instead of being just inside the entrance as usual, next to Manx Heritage (purveyors of plastic patriotism to the ignoranti), were allotted a spot further in. MV’s traditional spot went to PAG (Positive Action Group, which has run numerous genuine community campaigns for social change), simply because, as PAG’s rep told me, he’s so worried about being knocked back that he gets his application in before anyone else on the island. So MV threw their toys out of the pram, big blustery posting on their increasingly rabid Facebook page (think English Defence League in kilts) explaining why Manx civilisation as we know it is now in meltdown.

I suppose their activists spent the day at home, drinking, watching Postman Pat in Manx Gaelic and texting ever wierder rants to each other – much as they do the other 364 days of the year. Almost a pity there isn’t a direct feed really. If you want real Manx culture it would be far more accurate than any of that twaddle they put on for American tourists down at Cregneash folk village.

Day of the Living Dead – Manx style

The year’s biggest, most pointless, waste of Manx energy took place yesterday. An uber-conformist twit-fest that makes lemmings jumping off a cliff en masse seem like joyful, spontaneous acts of individuality.

The Parish Walk is an annual mid-summer event engaged in by the island’s dimmest citizens. Several hundred of them try to walk right around the island on a course that takes them through every church parish, and necessitates physically touching a spot on each church wall to prove it. Something like a religious pilgrimage, but where all the pilgrims are zombies with numbers on their chests.

There is no point in asking why. People like this probably break paving slabs over their heads or drink battery acid “for a laugh”.

The good thing is that most competitors will (at least temporarily) be too crippled to attend work on Monday, so at least they can’t brag to anyone of more than room temperature IQ until about Wednesday.

The bad thing is that employers generally let them get away with it, particularly as claims of charitable fundraising are rife, with both government and the finance sector in particular need of all the pseudo-humanitarianism that can be generated.

Apart from the environmental issues involved in so much needless generation of heat and hot air (not counting the pollution caused by an even larger following of “support cars”), and the disruption to traffic and all working or useful life, one cannot really imagine a stupider way to waste a weekend and damage oneself. Though if there was, we can be quite sure some Manx eejit – inevitably a sport-bore – would have thought of it.

Equally inevitably his or her mates would have competed to out-stupid the originator, and without doubt the local radio would have a running report on it. After all, it’s not like such wastes of space have anything better to do.

All hilarious stuff, but should we brighter few be laughing it off when we court disaster by allowing it to continue?

In a sane society, taking part in the Parish Walk would be sufficient evidence of mental incapacity to disqualify someone from, say, driving a car, operating machinery, holding any public office or being considered a fit person to work with children – for life. The Isle of Man, as regular readers will have gathered, is not noted for sanity, or for responsible public administration.

For these reasons, not only do parish walkers get prizes which actually increase according to their comparative cretinism, but public time and money will be wasted on them.

Surely it would be kinder to just prevent these fools from breeding.

Rank stupidity has never been in short supply here, so the last thing we need is more of it, and we cannot rely on a steady stream of new residents to redress the balance. In fact, as long as islanders insist on celebrating such overblown inanity, it is increasingly likely that nobody else will want to move here.

As I was saying…..

I really must get this show back on the road again.

But where to start?

I certainly don’t want to rehearse the long, miserable train of “real life” events that has kept me away from my “tripewriter” for months. Not just too personal but way too painful.

Anyway, most of that is now safely dealt with. There is nothing I can usefully share about it other than “Carpe Diem”, because you really don’t know what awaits you on any day, or what taken-for-granted element can be lost in a trice – forever.

But when closing an older blog for good to concentrate on this one I vowed that “I will concentrate solely on one topic that interests and irritates me, the creeping neo-puritanism of this island.“ So now would be a good time to do just that.

For example, we are supposed to think the future is in good hands with young people. On the surface, they’re less racist and sexist, sexual minorities don’t worry them, and old class divisions are supposedly vanishing. Glued to their electronic gizmos, the natural borders of countries are invisible, and Brit youth feel as close to some kid in Mumbai as they do the ones they know from school.

So why are so many of them fascists in all but a formal party affiliation then?

But is it any wonder? Remember, this is a generation brought up on Hunger Games and other Free Market filmic and literary apologia dressed up as rebellion. You know, “greed is good, look out for number one and never worry when you step on anyone’s face to advance yourself”, so what else can you expect?

I speak from experience. These last two years especially has been like living with the Hitler Youth or Maoist Red Guard in my workplace. So distrustful of academic learning or life experience. So conformist, so ready to please the boss, follow orders and work to the manual. From day one in the office all they know (or care) is that there is a protocol, a script, a five point procedure for everything….and I mean everything.

Deviation from the script, asking “why”, looking at the issue anew and all the things that used to be regarded as good working practice? All that is out the window. Plus, it shows up on the weekly spread-sheets and, as the checking procedure demands, means the automaton assigned to check them ticks the box that says “report discrepancy to manager”.

Being surrounded by such baby drones must be one big wet dream for every thirty-something nonentity who has slimed their way up the modern management pole by …. well, in real terms, doing nothing but ticking boxes.

But if you actually worked to get the chance of higher education, where you were taught to use your imagination, examine evidence, ask questions, form a hypothesis, test it, and put good ideas into practice, then the 21st century office workplace is a nightmare. In it, heretics like that often get tried for witchcraft.

Now I think about it, Matthew Hopkins would do well as a management consultant in any middle sized finance sector or quasi-governmental organisation I have dealt with since the year 2000. Scary but true.

Which is why next weekend I walk away from it.

Well, not exactly walk away – except from the stress of even pretending to share my employer’s worldview. Thanks to the inbuilt design flaws of micro-management theory and the comedy academic discipline known as “business studies”, I have finally succeeded in working my way down to the bottom floor, while retaining a top floor salary.

Right where I wanted to be in the first place, and, of course, the only real place for any dedicated advocate of the low life philosophy.

Bliss. Now I can get some real work done.

If I can’t laugh, I want no part in your revolution

It’s been another odd sort of week.

One in which The Unpleasantness has been – mostly – pleasant, stress free and productive. One in which people I never expect to be helpful, agreeable and like-minded have been and the people I used to automatically assume will be, well… haven’t.

Perhaps more importantly, the major emergency I was caught up in is gradually being resolved, with good long term solutions falling into place, all of which is leaving me free to get back to something like normality.

Then today, tucked into an article about someone else, I found the following quote from Robert Green Ingersoll, a 19th century American humanist thinker.

Happiness is the only good.
The time to be happy is now.
The place to be happy is here.
The way to be happy is to make others so.

Oddly similar to the way I’ve been thinking recently, and about as far removed as it could be from the party line others expect me to toe.

The thing is, I keep spotting signs of empire building in the nearest thing to a worldview I follow, and of rampant careerism amongst key figures who actually make a living expounding it. I suppose I should not be surprised. I have this naïve idea that people should do stuff because they enjoy it or it spreads happiness about.

The idea that they can make a safe living from it, for life, instead of holding down a proper job? Well, guess that always held if what you love is writing, making music or art etc., but making moral arguments, encouraging people to be good citizens?

Isn’t that just what any decent person does? So why expect a fat salary and a good pension just for doing it? Only a politician or a priest thinks like that.

Which is (sort of) my problem. Maybe more noticeable from living in a small community on a small island which one of our bigger neighbours – who used to have an empire – still automatically regards as part of that empire. And the odder thing is, even so-called progressive Brits seem to think like that.

So, an empire of people who supposedly share a non-religious moral philosophy. And where, it is increasingly obvious, the people who push that view from a country which used to run an empire think they should also run this movement. Rather like, say, Lambeth Palace and the Church of England does.

Well, sorry and all that, but I want no part in it. I’m nobody’s foot soldier. I only got into this because it was something that engaged and amused me, and it is no longer doing either of those things.

I have no interest in mass movements or mass anything else, and am definitely not interested in preaching or moralising. I’m an individualist, an oddbod, a libertarian. I like the term Freethinker because thinking for yourself, making your own judgement, finding your own path , even if you stumble about and get a lot of it wrong … to me that’s the whole point of the thing.

I don’t follow, and I don’t look up to anyone. I leave that to religionists and clergy, and/or political activists and politicians. Two species of outright chancers preserving worthless worldviews because they are the only ones in which they can feel important or be taken seriously instead of being laughed at. Long and often.

I don’t do religion. I don’t ape religion. I no more need a substitute for religion than I do a substitute for haemorrhoids.

Religion is the problem. It is a bad mindset, a mistaken way of being and of interacting with the world. So the more I see humanism (or at least its British and American variants) turning into a substitute for religion, increasingly complete with ersatz clergy, the more I think it’s time to walk away and try something else.

Or maybe I’ll just stop taking that seriously too. Because not taking things seriously seems to be all I’m seriously good at these days.

Choose Happy

A while since I’ve posted, so time to get back in the saddle.

Unfortunately, all my time outside of that portion of the day I should devote to my employers has been spent dealing with an emergency that blew up out of nowhere. To be honest, it also ate into work time, and until last Friday my lunch hour actually lacked the lunch.

Somewhere in all that I had a significant birthday, for which I had long ago booked a two day break (and which I had planned to spend home away from everyday stresses and strains). Well, that didn’t happen either due to the emergency.

But the compensation was that other – equally unexpected and far more pleasant – things happened. People who I didn’t know cared (or even noticed me) demonstrated great kindness. Much of the major stress I had to deal with has been reduced, or even removed entirely. And this was done by people who I had written off as anal careerists.

It may just be that my problems were a blockage to “business as usual” or their career plans that had to be dealt with, though there is plenty of evidence that it happened simply because they were worried about me. I really don’t know, but whyever it happened it made the difference, and I am grateful.

All of which means that these days I can wake up feeling full of love for my odd, unique but beautiful family – all of them. To steal the title of a surrealist classic I am reading, a mad love.

Love with no expectance of fair or equal response or reward – the only kind worth practicing. And I intend to do just that.

And to add to all that, a friend who, just before Christmas, had warned us that he didn’t expect to live beyond February now has a better diagnosis. One of those folk whose glass is permanently half-full, and who spreads nothing but good cheer, he met both his original death sentence and his new medical verdict with jokes. He seemed more worried that we would worry than he was of his own mortality.

Indeed, on the very day of his early diagnosis (which none of us then knew about) he sent me an e-mail congratulating me on some random bit of sweetness and light I had just attempted to throw around. It wouldn’t have helped him, but his only concern was to make sure I kept at it.

If I learn anything from all this, it’s that every time there is a choice (and there always is) we can choose to be happy, and choose to make someone else happy.

I don’t care if that isn’t rational. I’ve had enough of common sense and rationality for a while. This year, I take a sabbatical from all that.

Career campaigners? No…. just no

Today, I received a link to a worthy enough online human rights petition to a UK government minister by an organisation whose aims I generally support. I was about to sign it, then noticed a small statement just before the ‘Click and Send’ button. It said:

By signing this petition, I consent for my contact details to be stored by …………… in line with the Privacy Policy and for me to be contacted by …………… in future, knowing I can opt out or change my communications preferences at any time (by logging into the …………… website, or unsubscribing from an email that is sent to me).

So, in essence, any reversal of a human rights abuse would be nice, but the major aim of the petition is to harvest e-mail addresses of folk who might be persuaded to contribute money, thus keeping this organisation’s staff in a cosy, feel-good job.

What a cheap stunt.

This is hardly the first time I’ve noticed such statements in the small print of petitions on human rights issues. That they appear at all is due to recent data protection law, and suggests that the tactic was being widely used before such legislation was toughened up.

You kind of expect that from unscrupulous companies trying to flog you things. But most of us might expect that major charities and non-profits engaged in nominally good works would have higher standards.

Personally, I don’t. I’ve said for some years now that the charity industry is as ruthless as the business sector or professional political outfits. Executives and marketing staff move freely between the three apparently unconnected sectors, and well paid employment, rather than the public interest, is pretty clearly their main (if not only) concern.

That said, you can tell the ethical standards of such organisations from their way of dealing with this required statement. Good ones have a tick box, and by un-ticking it you tell them not to add you to their mailing list. The best ones also have a tick box, but unless you tick it they cannot contact you again.

This particular one did neither. In order for me to support someone being abused, it tried to blackmail me into agreeing they can harvest my contact details for future projects and, from what I see, just allow their marketing guys to hit targets and retain a job longer.

This is an organisation of which I’ve heard other bad reports about empire building and job preservation. In particular, they have a quaint colonial attitude to groups running well targeted, locally appropriate, campaigns on their own turf rather than leaving it to London professionals to run ‘one size fits all’ PR disasters which mean nothing outside of Hampstead.

So, now I’ve finally blacklisted them. I’m a serious human rights activist, but why would I condone invasion of privacy in order to nominally fight other human rights abuses?

If they’re serious, they could always do what most activists do. Get a job to get the bills paid, then campaign in their spare time in their own back yards.

Small groups of people doing this is the way most serious change happens. In fact, as a famous saying goes, it may be the only way it does.