Friday, May 01, 2015 

Altercations.

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The Sun Says: Vote SNP, get Tories.

If I was running Scottish Labour's campaign, and let's face it, I could hardly do a worse job, I'd spend the next 6 days doing one thing and one thing only: ensuring that absolutely every voter has seen the juxtaposed front pages of yesterday's Sun and Scottish Sun.  There, encapsulated, is the lie of the SNP's progressive ideals.  The same voters who have decided that now is the time to reject Labour over its shift to the right can reflect on the knowledge that just as the Sun backed the New Labour project, so today it deems the SNP to pose so little threat to the paper's values, Scottish edition or otherwise, that it can back the party without fear.

Murdoch in truth has long flirted with the SNP and especially Alex Salmond.  Salmond for instance went as far as to lobby the UK government over News Corp's attempt to swallow Sky whole, as the Leveson inquiry heard.  As this week's Private Eye also noted, prior to the Sun's endorsement hitting the streets, the SNP's manifesto had nothing to say about levels of media ownership, while the party's support for a splitting up of the BBC into its constituent regional parts is exactly the kind of thing Keith yearns for.  The Indie's report that while in town Rupe demanded more attacks on Labour for daring to suggest they might now do something about his stranglehold on the media meanwhile tells its own story.  Murdoch and the Sun are not so much coming out for Cameron, utterly bizarre and really creepy IT'S A TORY front page or not, as trying their darnedest to keep Labour out.

Supporting the SNP in Scotland therefore makes perfect, cynical but not contradictory sense.  The English edition can rage and moan about Nicola Sturgeon giving her sister's doll a savage haircut, proof if any were needed of her ruthlessness and dedication to shafting everyone south of the border, while the Scottish one can declare the same person A NEW HOPE, despite this new hope having been in power for just the past 7 years at Holyrood.  So long as it works against Ed Miliband, seen as the real threat to business as usual for Murdoch, what does a little thing like consistency matter?

That Sturgeon has backed herself into a corner over locking out the Tories does seem to have finally dawned on a few of the less boneheaded SNPers.  Ed Miliband's remarks last night on Question Time were nothing more than a repeat of what, err, both Sturgeon and Salmond have been saying about doing a deal with Labour.  A coalition isn't on offer, nor is confidence and supply, leaving only a vote-by-vote basis relationship.  If Sturgeon means what she says, then she has little option other than to support a Labour Queen's speech and budget regardless of how little there is in either designed to mollify the nationalists.  All the talk about Scotland never forgiving Labour if they let in the Tories by refusing a deal is equal parts guff and bluff: the onus is on the SNP to support Labour, not the other way around.

Besides, at this point Labour has absolutely nothing to lose in Scotland precisely because, err, the polling suggests it's going to lose everything.  It can't get any worse; Labour could spend the next week saying everyone intending to vote SNP is a traitor and still not end up doing worse than many now expect.  More likely is the party will manage to hang on to between 5 and 10 seats, still an utter disaster, but considering the total landslide the polls imply will be regarded as akin to a miracle.  In such circumstances, putting the prospect of another referendum centre stage is just about all Labour can do.

In his interview with Russell Brand, Ed agreed this time people didn't want euphoria but rather a party that means what it says.  Voters in Scotland might one day think back on that, just as many of those who voted Lib Dem last time ended up doing.

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Thursday, April 30, 2015 

A return to Savile row.

All but buried by election coverage and the news from Nepal, yesterday saw the publication of the long-awaited report (PDF) into the allegations of sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile at the Duncroft approved school.  As you probably won't remember, Duncroft was where it all began: it was the investigation by Meirion Jones and Liz MacKean into Savile's visits to Duncroft for Newsnight, a report that editor Peter Rippon spiked for lack of evidence, that eventually led to ITV's Exposure documentary helmed by Mark William-Thomas.  Everything that has followed since, Operation Yewtree, the claims about Bryn Estyn, the Elm Guest House, Dolphin Square etc essentially began with Duncroft.

It might then surprise you that the report detailing Operation Outreach's investigation amounts to a whole 17 pages; some of the reports into a single allegation of abuse by Savile have been longer.  It might equally surprise you the report confirms that Savile did not start visiting Duncroft until 1974, a mere 9 years after one of the women claiming to have been abused by Savile said she was attacked.  Indeed, the report in effect makes clear that the vast majority if not all of the allegations against Savile that would have been featured in Newsnight's pitched investigation are unsubstantiated.

The report does however set out the allegations made about Savile after 1974, up until 1979 when he stopped visiting.  Except these are not allegations; per the report from the NSPCC and the Metropolitan police, Giving Victims a Voice, Surrey police have not so much investigated the accounts given to them but accepted the information provided in interviews and statements as fact, or rather "not unproven allegations".  This is despite their now accepting that the allegations made to Operation Yewtree about Savile at Duncroft prior to 1974 were, for whatever reason, false.

It also stands in contrast to the account provided to the Anna Raccoon blog by Susan, the girl who effectively introduced Savile to Duncroft.  Susan was 15 at the time, and met Savile while helping her mother at a party just before Christmas 1973.  She maintains that as soon as she informed Savile she was 15, rather than 18 as he believed, as well as how she had taken a small amount of LSD prior to meeting him on her own for the first time, he immediately put a halt to the way their meet-up was progressing.  Anna Raccoon was herself a pupil at Duncroft in 1965, at the same time as Savile was meant to have visited and abused a fellow pupil, and it was her incredulity at the allegations and apparent failure of memory over this celebrity visitor that led her to question so much of what was being presented as fact.

There are further reasons to doubt some of the accounts given about Savile at Duncroft post-1974.  Karin Ward, who while not featured in the Exposure documentary was in the BBC's Panorama on Savile and Newsnight, is being sued by Freddie Starr over the allegations she made about him.  According to Anna Raccoon, Ward made contact with a group of women on Friends Reunited who helped to jog her memory on what went on at Duncroft.  Ward's subsequent online account of abuse, which named one of her attackers as "JS", is likely to have been one of the threads picked up on by Meiron Jones.  Also of note is the forged letter, supposedly from Surrey police, which claimed the investigation into Savile had been dropped because of his "ill health and senility".  This was in the possession of Fiona, featured in the Exposure documentary.  How this letter came into existence is a mystery.  The CPS for its part, as the report itself sets out, decided not to proceed with a prosecution against two of the Duncroft staff some of the victims said they had informed of their abuse.  This was not though as a result of the police or CPS coming to the conclusion anyone had "given a false account of offences" against them.

Jimmy Savile was without question a serial sex abuser.  The real quandary remains over just how prolific he was, and whether there are any lessons to be learned from how he so successfully exploited the power and authority he gained from his position at the BBC and at Stoke Mandeville hospital to name but two institutions where the allegations against him have been substantiated.  Accepting every allegation made as "not unproven", regardless of its veracity, as the various inquiries into Savile have so far done is not the way to go about doing so.  Yesterday's report proves without doubt that for whatever reason, and it is not necessarily because the people in question have lied, not every account of abuse can be accepted at face value.  Some of the girls at Duncroft were without doubt damaged further by their time there, while others like Anna Raccoon say it in fact helped them put their life back together.  Memory plays tricks, and trauma can be such, as we saw with Steve Messham, that mistakes can be made.  


While it is certainly the case that many historic allegations of abuse cannot be proven to the standards required by a court of law when the accused is dead, or in case of Lord Janner, incapacitated, to accept every accusation as essentially true is not just to besmirch the reputation of the dead, it affects their surviving friends and relatives also.  The last few years have demonstrated that victims have at times been ignored or wrongly had their complaints rejected, yet to go wholly in the other direction purely because the person accused can no longer answer for themselves goes too far also.  Whether a balance will be found by the Goddard inquiry remains to be seen.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015 

The party that cuts off its nose to spite its face.

It always happens.  Just when you think a point of no return has been reached, something comes along and proves there are always new depths to be plumbed.  Yes, politics really has just got even stupider.

Why it surprises each time is a mystery considering the way politics has been conducted over the past 5 years.  As Paul Krugman in the Graun today set out, the entire defining media discourse of the last parliament has been based on assumptions that don't stand up to scrutiny.  Yes, the deficit does have to be reduced, but the time to do so is the boom, not when the recovery has barely started.  Britain has never been in a position even remotely like Greece's, nor is it any danger of being so when we control our own currency.

By the same measure, the Tories' entire pitch to the country is built on a lie.  They claim to have rescued the country from Labour's Great Recession, and yet as yesterday's GDP figures made clear, the recovery, such as it is, has been built mainly on continued consumer spending rather than the rebalancing away from financial services originally promised.  Despite record low interest rates the economy has not bounced back in the way it has from past recessions, suggesting this time might be different.  This could be partially down to said austerity, or it could be what has been called secular stagnation, where the economic growth we were previously accustomed to becomes all but impossible due to various factors including a decline in the working age population and technological advances no longer leading to improvements in productivity.

Either way, to be proposing now is the time for "colossal" cuts as the Tories are, especially when growth is threatening to come in lower than forecast is at best daft and at worst positively dangerous.   Up until today most economists and commentators had concluded they didn't, couldn't really mean what they say.  It's to keep the hardliners onside.  It's to be negotiated away come the talks on forming a new coalition.  Osborne relented once he realised austerity was having the precise opposite effect to the one he claimed it would.  It would be impossible to make the "savings" they're proposing without putting up taxes.

Only, such is the apparent Tory desperation at how their message doesn't seem to be getting through, now the promise not to put up VAT, income tax or national insurance will be enshrined in law if they win the election.  This is so completely deranged it takes a while to sink in.  We've previously had Osborne trying to "trap" Labour by legislating to cap benefit increases for those of working age to 1%, and they've since put in law the very outline of their spending plans.  This though is something else: quite apart from how it seems to be the Tories admitting there's so little confidence in their ridiculous sums they need to make it illegal to not follow their pledge to get people to believe them, it leaves Osborne with next to no room for manoeuvre in the event of another crisis and closes the door totally on much in the way of alternatives to the mooted cuts.

Laws can of course be repealed, but that wastes time that might be of the essence in a genuine emergency.  As a gimmick, which is exactly what it is, it's a self-defeating one.  The obvious assumption is it would be something else negotiated away in coalition talks, which again raises the question of why you would make such a promise only then to drop it at the first opportunity, exactly the sort of move that invites cynicism.  Are the Tories that panicked by how the polls still aren't shifting, with the most likely outcome remaining a minority Labour government into thinking something, anything that convinces a few more people of their sincerity is worth it, regardless of the all the downsides of such a bill?

Apparently so.  Why though do such a thing when it finally looks as if the Tories' bluff on their proposed £12bn in welfare cuts is being called?  The IFS, as exasperated at the main parties' lack of candour in their manifesto as it ever gets, outlined to get anywhere near that figure (PDF) at the same time as protecting pensioner benefits would mean the absorption of child benefit into universal credit, which would save £5bn, while requiring housing benefit recipients to pay at least 10% of their rents could save a further £2.5bn, still leaving a £2.5bn shortfall.  Labour, in what has been a pitifully underreported press conference this morning, overshadowed somewhat admittedly by Miliband's soiree with Fey Guevara, put out their own take on where the axe would fall, deciding cutting tax credits was just as likely, saving £3.4bn along with the aforementioned child benefit cuts.  Tonight Danny Alexander in an apparent valedictory move ahead of the likely loss of his seat to the SNP has given the Graun Iain Duncan Smith's "Welfare Reform Quad Summer Reading Pack" from 2012, when the coalition was arguing over whether to carry on with Plan A.   Again this focuses on child benefit, with IDS having suggested limiting it to two children, removing the higher rate for the first child, removing it altogether from 16-19-year-olds, and finally means testing it, which all told would save £8bn.

The IFS was far from complimentary about Labour's own failure to outline cuts that would save money as opposed to the equivalent of pennies in government spending terms, but then Labour's plans are such that as the IFS has said, they've left themselves enough room for manoeuvre as to barely cut spending at all if they so choose.  The Tories have now had 2 years to come up with something resembling an outline of where they would make their savings, only to respond every time they should be trusted to do so based on their record.  Their record, as we've seen, has been to sell the country the biggest of lies.  That they've gotten away with it, while an indictment of Labour and a servile media, only makes it all the more remarkable they've now been reduced to one of the most idiotic and cutting off their nose to spite their faces gestures in recent memory.  It will be nothing compared to the effect on the country if we end up with a Conservative majority that governs as it says, mind.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015 

Me and Stephen Hawking we laugh.

You can't help but be struck by the Tories' lack of serendipity.   The economy is meant to be their trump card, their "jobs miracle" an unquestionable fact.  Of course, the recovery they stalled for two years would be put in jeopardy if Labour were to get in and rack borrowing up again, whereas there wouldn't be any negative effects from the Conservatives front-loading their proposed cuts in the first years of the next parliament in their quest for a surplus.  You know all this.

How desperately unfortunate then that the GDP figures for the first three months of the year are so disappointing.  They are just a snapshot, based on incomplete data and may well be revised up.  All the same, that without the boost provided by the drop in oil prices and corresponding low inflation the economy would be all but flatlining is not the news the Tories were expecting at this stage.  Their response, the only possible one, however counter-intuitive, has been to say this just proves the last thing needed is a change of government or the instability of an inconclusive outcome next Thursday.  Clearly what's needed isn't just the certainty of a Conservative majority, but the impact the further austerity proposed would have on growth.  This is assuming the Tories mean what they say, which is open to doubt considering Osborne slowed the retrenchment programme in 2012 when the economy was double-dipping (since revised away to mere stagnation rather than a second recession), in spite of all his denials of adopting a Plan B.  We can though only go by what they say, rather than what a government not hell bent on an ideological shrinking of the state would do in such circumstances.

The further evidence this was precisely what the Tories weren't banking on is this is their designated "economy" week.  They would have known all too well today would see the ONS publish the latest statistics, and so clearly went ahead presuming their boasts of having rescued an economy on the brink would be further reinforced.  Oh and dear.  

Not that it will likely make much difference when actual news is the last thing on the mind of a press that has long gone past the point of embarrassment when it comes to serving up what's given to them by the Conservatives: the Mail today dredged up a two-year old story on Miliband somehow being a Stalinist for daring to suggest more use of compulsory purchase orders to help get more houses built.  The Times meanwhile declared there are 10 days to save the union, just as there were however many days in the past to save the pound, save the NHS, save Jennifer's ear and so on.  Considering the Conservatives have been going out of their way for the past two weeks to suggest a vote for the SNP is somehow illegitimate, with the two parties almost in cahoots in their attempt to squeeze Labour even further in Scotland, it's an odd line for Cameron to suddenly take.

Equally strange is Cameron feeling entitled to say who his opponents should or shouldn't be interviewed by.  Considering Dave's idea of an interrogation is less Paxman and more Philip Schofield, such is his preference for the sofa of This Morning as opposed to the rigour of appearing on say the Today programme, not to bring up the whole avoiding anything resembling a debate that wasn't a waste of time, it's a bit rich to declare Ed Miliband a joke for agreeing to an interview with Russell Brand.  Apparently Cameron hasn't got time to hang out with Brand, although he did find room in his schedule for the chuckleheads at Heat magazine to ask him a few truly important questions, such as whether Sam prefers pink or brown.

Brand, it cannot be said enough, is a gimp.  He goes after the easiest of targets, has no interest in anything beyond the shallowest understanding of what he talks about, does so in the most infuriating way imaginable and has, up to now, undermined any good he has done by supporting causes like the Focus E15 mothers and generally raising awareness by telling those about to shafted the most by a Conservative government not to vote.  As soon as he gets bored or gets a better offer than spending his days making money from Google via the YouTube partners programme for the Trews channel he'll be off doing something else.  

For Miliband to agree to be interviewed by Brand is nonetheless exactly the sort of thing he should be doing: he has absolutely nothing to lose at this point, and, if as the Graun is suggesting it's finally got through Brand's thick skull that not to at least offer a suggestion as to whom his viewers should vote for if they're going to would be a betrayal, then all the better.  Moreover, detest Brand's way of expressing himself as I do, I'd much rather listen to him and Miliband having something resembling a normal discussion on how to tackle tax avoidance than the cringe inducing falseness showcased in Labour's abominable "Ed Miliband: a Portrait" political broadcast.

Still, if tomorrow's front pages are anything to go by, we've reached the stage in the campaign where cries of anguish about what supposedly isn't up for debate, as exemplified by the Mail last week having the gall to claim immigration was the great unmentionable, have given way to straight ad hominem attacks.  Do you really want this clown ruling us, asks the Mail, the paper owned by the non-domiciled Lord Rothermere.  Oh for the chance, the mere possibility, of being able to say it was the right-wing media wot lost it.

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Monday, April 27, 2015 

Can you feel the passion?

Election fever has finally reached my humble rotten borough.  Not in the form of canvassers obviously, as the place was written off as Tory bastion many moons ago, although UKIP may well have made some recent inroads.  No, with the delivery today of a leaflet from the Green party candidate, we have now received literature from all of the big five parties.  This is an improvement over last time, when I don't recall getting anything from either the Lib Dems or the Greens.  Considering the wider constituency could be just about said to be marginal, in that on a very good day Labour should be taking it from the Tories (Labour held it from 1997 until 2005), that you could quite easily pass through the area without seeing anything to suggest there's an election on ought to tell you the nation's mood hasn't exactly been captured by the campaign thus far.

This isn't exactly surprising considering just how controlled and traditional the approach of the main parties has been.  No chances are being taken of either a Sharon Storer or Gillian Duffy moment occurring, despite all the evidence suggesting that Gordon Brown's description of Duffy as a "bigoted woman" had absolutely no impact whatsoever on how people voted.  If they could both Labour and the Tories would conduct all their set-pieces for the cameras in hermetically sealed temporary constructions, accessible only to friendly media and the activists/extras recruited to act as background props, and then only once they had been carefully disinfected.  The other slightly different approach, the one George Osborne has been stuck with, is to do a Hugh Abbott and spend the entire campaign touring friendly businesses.  Any unpleasant behaviour by employees, such as asking questions not provided by Osborne's advisers and minders will no doubt be noted and reported back to the person who invited them in the first place.

Cameron, responding to the criticism of how he's spent the campaign thus far in a barely interested torpor, has duly rediscovered his passion.  Passion to David Cameron is getting slightly flush in the face and saying the same things only louder.  Only with the odd vaguely rude word thrown in.  It's also pretending that what really excites him is not just how much more time he'll have to chillax once he loses the election, but getting that all important childcare place, that workfare placement, that bedsit.  If you want excitement, go to Greece!  If you want showbiz, go to Essex!  If you want Boris, go to Barking!  If you want insincerity, you've come to the right place!

At this point it's worth remembering that David Cameron's key objection (beyond his realisation he was on a hiding to nothing) to taking part in the debates was he believed they had overshadowed the campaign last time.  They did, but that's because as we've seen, strip them out of the equation and all you're left with is two sides fighting a battle against the opponents they would like to have.  The Tories are stuck back in an age, if it ever existed, when letters to a newspaper mattered.  Seeing the Mail, Telegraph and Sun act as an adjunct of CCHQ for a leader they and their owners don't really believe in invites pity more than it does fear.  At least Richard Desmond has been honest with everyone on that score.

Unspoken is how both parties have all but come to terms with the fact there's going to be another hung parliamentEven if today's outlier poll from Lord Ashcroft which shows a 6% Tory lead became reality, on an uniform swing it would still deny the party an overall majority by 4 seats.  This hasn't stopped Labour from trying, with the various pledges over the weekend on housing, but there's little to suggest promises that have been made before and gone unfulfilled are going to swing many votes at this point.

Little wonder that whether it comes in the shape of Russell Brand patronising schoolchildren or Nicola Sturgeon promising to end austerity by being less radical than Labour, it's that something different however silly or based in falsehood that cuts through.  The Institute for Fiscal Studies' verdict on the SNP manifesto ought to have been damning: what little difference there is with Labour's plans would be for the worse, the reality being it's Labour pulling the nationalists to the left rather than the opposite.  And yet still the SNP share of the vote in the polls edges upwards, to the point where you suspect some are now saying they're voting SNP for a quiet life, in a reversal of how in the past Tory voters were embarrassed to admit they were going blue.  I still can't quite see how the SNP can overturn a majority of 17,000 in Douglas Alexander's seat when their candidate is a 20-year-old who has twice called no voters "gullible", to take just one snapshot, and yet such is the apparent mood, in spite of everything that should be screaming the SNP are interested in just two things, themselves and independence, it would be a brave person now that bets against a SNP whitewash.

If nothing else, Cameron and Miliband have little to lose from adopting the Sturgeon approach at this stage.  Just turn up at places, don't bring the entire retinue along and listen to some real people rather than bussed in party hacks.  Go off script, stop repeating the same lines we've heard a bazillion times now and Ed, please stop saying "...and let me explain why", as though you're talking to an especially dull and dim child.  At the weekend the ever brilliant Marina Hyde characterised this as the Jose Mourinho election, with both parties waiting for their opponents to make a mistake, indulge in the utmost gamesmanship and most certainly not try and win through expansive flair and attacking dexterity.  No one wants to be Jose Mourinho; not even Mourinho wants to be Jose Mourinho.  As someone might have said, surely we can do better than this.

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Friday, April 24, 2015 

Dead air.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015 

Happiness seems to be loneliness.

Who remembers churnalism, that rather quaint term came up with by Nick Davies to describe journalism which wasn't journalism in any real sense but instead sent over to at the end of their tether hacks by PR agencies and copy/pasted almost wholesale into the next day's paper?  It quickly became all but obsolete down to how so much journalism increasingly is churnalism rather than you know, original content or reporting of events.  Looking through today's Graun, which now costs an eye-watering £1.80 and seems to get thinner each time the price goes up (but hey, at least the free website's the 3rd most popular in the world or something), there are adverts masquerading as stories for Tidal, Pret a Manger, a Greenpeace activist's book, BrewDog and Google Strew View.  There are also reports on research on obesity, the number of nuns, pesticides and dinosaurs.  About the only real news is confined to the international pages.  This is not counting G2 or the sport section.

Why though bother with the expense of paying journalists to do the stuff journalists used to do when plenty of people are perfectly happy to spend their lunchtimes reading all the latest LOLs on LOL Feed (lol)?  Would You Survive "Game Of Thrones"? Are You The Kind Of Person That Is Instantly Suckered In By Headlines Written Like This?  Are We Making The Internet Even More Fucking Stupid Than It Already Is? (Yes).  Am I A Misanthrope And Ignoring How This Is Essentially The Modern Equivalent Of The Sun Attempting To Get Its Readers To Say "Hey Doris! Look At This!"  Most certainly.

This said, it's hard not to look at all the photographs swamping newspaper desks that show your average cunt taking a selfie with whichever politician has made a flying visit to their local railway station and think something has come unstuck in the space-time continuum.  When David Cameron, who has spent the entire campaign thus far doing his level best to avoid interactions with anyone who hasn't been vetted beforehand complains that rather than ask questions, most of those he comes into contact with just want him to gurn into their grot-covered personal telescreens it has to be serious.  Are these fucking people that conceited they can't interact with someone vaguely well-known without getting themselves in the frame?  Is this what modern life has become reduced to, the shared experience of sharing pointless crap no one cares about but which has to be liked and upvoted regardless (and yes, I realise the irony)?

So it seems.  There is very little other explanation for 83% of 18-34 year-olds saying they have experienced loneliness, as related by Nell Frizzell and related to her by a survey by Opinium, commissioned by The Big Lunch (yep, this is where the intro about churnalism was leading).  The Big Lunch is one of those brilliant ideas came up with by bastards in an office somewhere that is designed to make everyone living in a street feel better about not caring two hoots about their next door neighbours by having "a big lunch" one day a year where everyone's invited.  According to our Nell, our "constant state of remote social interaction is a twin spear of loneliness", and "When you eat lunch sitting at your desk, idly scanning through other people’s Facebook photos rather than chatting around a table about the canteen’s latest attempt at tex mex, you leave yourself open to the cold draught of loneliness".

Now, it's not exactly clear if Frizzell is being entirely serious or somewhat facetious throughout the piece.  When she relates a story about getting lost in Leeds while looking for Argos and ending up having a conversation with a "woman with a face the consistency of a floured bap about electric blankets", and then says despite it being only 10 years ago it sounds like something out of a Thomas Hardy novel as we like didn't have smartphones back then you obviously have to wonder.  The conclusion to be reached is that neither Frizzell or the people surveyed have the slightest idea what loneliness is as opposed to being alone, although that could be the survey's failings rather than theirs.

Being on your own then is "how you learn to value company".  Well yes.  It does rather depend though on the precise ratio of the time spent alone with that spent with friends or with others. If anything, an afternoon spent with neighbours for someone who then for the rest of the year has only occasional chats with the bloke in the off-licence to look forward to and a television screen and a couple of gerbils for company is probably crueller than no "Big Lunch" at all.

Not to make this personal or anything, as that hasn't been the entire point of this nonsense up to now, but it does rankle somewhat when loneliness features in the same sentence as sitting alongside a flatmate.  You can of course be lonely and have lots of lovely friends on social networks, as the correlation between actual conversations and mere interactions could be massive.  All the same, dare I suggest that loneliness is nearer seeing your best friend about once a year at best as despite only living 50 miles away it costs £30 on the train at off-peak rates, not counting further travel once there.  Texting, Twitter, Instagram aren't a replacement.  Loneliness is still having a fixation on someone you last saw 10 years ago.  Loneliness is wanting to "talk to strangers and make plans that don’t rely on others" and not being able to because you're a social disaster.  Loneliness is realising almost everyone you knew at school is either married, engaged or has kids.  Loneliness is not having experienced what everyone else has experienced.  Loneliness can be incredibly productive, but that doesn't mean the product will be any good.

The quote from Orson Welles is good, if nothing else.  We die alone, regardless of whether we're surrounded by friends and family or breathe our last in a flat filled only with newspapers, bottles of fermented piss and jazz mags.  There is though an even better Welles quote: "Everything about me is a contradiction, and so is everything about everybody else. We are made out of oppositions; we live between two poles. There's a philistine and an aesthete in all of us, and a murderer and a saint. You don't reconcile the poles. You just recognize them."

Or at least try to.

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