President Trump

I resist from being political on this blog, mainly because politics has become something that I despise, despite being in possession of a degree in it. It is just too transparently false. Politicians spend all their time telling us what we want to hear, and never dealing with the issues that are long term: environment and social justice. In that area, the media operates to set the agenda, and the bubble/echo chamber resonates back and forth between outlets. This is what you must think of today. And we do.

The Trump effect, and the Brexit vote of last year, have been part of that nexus, much as everyone likes to convince us that they are sea changes in the way people vote. They are not. They are the reaping of decades of relentless right wing mantras about freedom, privatisation, individuality, and lashing out at the changes that have taken place in our world that people aren’t comfortable with, no matter what they are, or what the actual cause is.

The internet is no better. People say we don’t need the media any more, but after all of the above, those of us who care one way or another largely then go about constructing our own alternate reality on the internet. We follow people on Twitter who we agree with. We read websites, and join Facebook groups of like-minded individuals. Twas ever thus, I think, in my mind’s endless game of devil’s advocate. But this is different. This is now egregious, 24/7, direct access to the brain, swished across our eyes in close proximity by a glowing wand of interconnected hive mind. It is superficially attractive. Like a 2 year old child, sitting and poking away at an iPad, intuitively knowing how to use it. Our brains love it. They are addicted to the prolefeed. This is different.

What makes me wistful is that today is the day we harvest the results of that crop. Today President Obama, a man I placed so much hope in, is gone. We usher in President Trump, a man so vile and so unworthy of such a high office that I do wonder what the point of anything is any more. He has no idea of what it means like to live in poverty, or what racism is, or the scourge of latent sexism that he has again unleashed in people. He’s surrounded himself with a cabinet of billionaires. He will now represent the USA.

But people want this. Just like people want the Brexit – that indeed I voted for – because people want to take any opportunity available now to lash out at politics. The politics that we don’t care about, and, in reality, wouldn’t even miss if it wasn’t there. It’s much more convenient to complain about an unchangeable force. I know it. I’m sitting here doing it now. But it’s because I feel so powerless. We are in this era of nothing, where no one cares, and society has fragmented so much. We have nothing to live for, no greater good, no feeling that we’re part of a movement of change, to tackle impending environmental catastrophe, or international wars and disasters. We can’t do it. We won’t do it.

It’s easier to complain. We have no actual political choice. When one is available (see Corbyn, Jeremy; Foot, Michael) – the institutions of the state and the media make sure they are made to look a fool on a regular basis. Do you know that’s exactly what they do in Russia? A fake political choice is presented. Only one result is accepted.

Trump is not a political choice. Never was. While he was and is a disgusting excuse for a human, he is no threat to the political culture or elite. The media may feign their irritation at being shut out, but they love the drama. The daily soap opera. Brexit is the same. It will not be allowed to change anything too seriously. That is what politics and the prevailing liberal market economy has achieved in its ultimate victory. It continues. The faces may change, but they will never threaten the consensus.

I don’t like making predictions any more, but my main one is this: Trump will change nothing. Brexit will change nothing. If there’s anything I’ve learned in life, it’s that nothing changes. Just different faces, eventually being crushed by the institutions of the State and the media to implement minor variations on the same old nonsense. Capital is power.

Just a shame that this latest face represents a boot being stamped into the face of a human. Forever.

And we love it.

Electoral Fun

My train is rather uncomfortable this morning.

After having to come via a slightly different route, involving one extra change, the net result is still exactly the same. I arrive at the same time back home, and will get there at 11:37.

It’s another weekend where I’m going back home. And I’m really looking forward to this one for some reason. It’s not been any longer than normal. But perhaps it’s just because business has been so quiet this week. I have taken a grand total of approximately £100. Which is clearly insufficient.

It’s been the worst week I’ve had since January. Not sure why it’s gone like that though. Perhaps it’s because I’ve stopped running the advert in the local paper. I didn’t think it was working for me, but maybe it is after all. Well, at least it’ll be illuminating when I run it next time.

I really need to go out leafleting, but with constant trips up and down the country I end up delaying it.

And then there’s the election, of course.

Political nerds like me find elections stunningly wonderful things. And this one in particular is pretty exceptional. I have been absorbing almost all the coverage I could find. Watching interviews, seeing all the debates, reading endless articles and writing my own. Because I do have a political blog out there now, which I won’t link to. But it’s good. No one ever comments on it, but at the moment I’m getting a couple of hundred visitors a day.

It’s at times like this that I really feel like I’ve missed my “calling”. I still don’t think I’d enjoy being an MP, having witnessed it at first hand, but my mind is filled with so many ideas about political ideologies, political strategies and arguments about X, Y, and Z. I hardly ever end a real political discussion without either convincing someone that I’m right, or that I need to amend my views based on their experience. Thinking critically and analytically is so normal to me. I should be using it more.

But I know that when the inevitable happens, and the British public once more vote for the same old rubbish, I will be depressed about politics again and vow never to get involved in it. And if the British public do indeed vote for more of the same tired old politics, they will probably deserve it.

Not a good attitude for someone who might want to go into public service one day. But I’ve always been a cynical bastard.

The one good thing about life in the South? The weather. It’s been glorious now for weeks on end. It’s about to end next week, apparently, but it’s been fantastic for early spring. I can’t wait for summer. I’m hoping for a good one this year. In every respect.

Tick Tock

Time advances forward once more – and there is a surprising amount to report. How rare.

The major development is that last Sunday I was convinced by a friend to take part in his 28 mile “Yorkshire Three Peaks” challenge that he was doing with three friends, until one of them dropped out. I, foolishly perhaps, decided to step into the breach. The challenge is one week today, May 15th, for charity, of course. I’m a little bit excited, but also nervous. I’ve hiked before, but never that far…

So to try to prepare myself for the challenge I did a 5.3 mile round trip walk yesterday. A walk which went nowhere, but at least the weather was OK for it. By the end of the walk my feet felt a bit sore, but strangely they only started hurting as soon as I stopped. This morning I feel fine, which is a very good sign. Some time early next week I will have to do a 10 mile walk. If only I was actually going somewhere interesting rather than walking around urban sprawl. I suppose I could get the train out into a more rural area, but that has two problems: a) I’d probably get lost, b)  trains cost money!

After discussing all of this with my friend, we then moved on to the thorny issue of work. He has recently been made redundant from his job as a web designer and developer. I discussed the possibility of us working together on a business venture. He’s interested, but we really aren’t sure what the overlap is. I can do some web coding, but I’m nowhere near good enough. Meanwhile, I’m good at fixing and making PCs, and he doesn’t really do that kind of thing. In the end, it’s very likely to be a case of “so near and yet so far”.

In any event, we will try to discuss something during our 12 hour excursion next Friday. But for now, he has at least supplied me with a small profit as I made him a new top-of-the-range PC. And comparing it with the offerings from PC World, he still saved about £100 to get the equivalent. Custom PCs are where it’s at if you go to the right place…

Talking of business, I’ve actually had a few customers the past week. The bad news is that none of them came through the classified ad I paid £33 for. An error that will never be repeated. Google Scamwords isn’t much better. In fact, it’s worse due to its zero conversion rate. But at least I’ve covered the loss from customers elsewhere, most of which come through referrals of friends or off my internet site, both of which cost me nothing. Hmm.

Though next week I intend to try the final strategy of putting flyers through letterboxes in this local area. It could work. I’ve been told by a friend who ran a similar campaign that he got nearly all his customers in that way. Fingers crossed. It won’t cost much either as my parents have kindly volunteered to do some of the photocopying in work. Good stuff!

And then there is a new front I’ve tried to open up – something else to do. At first I thought a part time job would be good. But now I think I’ll put that one on hold, at least until I’ve completed my return to the world of politics. I’ve, perhaps stupidly, volunteered my services as admin and general dogsbody for the local campaign of the political party I’m a member of. At least it will get me out and about, mixing with other people (potential customers?) – even though most of them are old fuddy duddies. And, you never know what doors it might open…

That’s enough for now. Time to resume staring at the clock.

Our Moment Is Now

Of all the slogans that the Obama campaign has, “Our Moment Is Now” is probably my favourite. It encapsulates the feeling of America, if not the world, that it’s time for a change, and that it is a new generation that will be making it. At least, that is my reading of the current situation. Can nearly 200 polls be wrong and there is a McCain “surge” waiting in the wings, undetected by dozens of polls over the past several weeks?

No. I’m feeling pretty confident about it. And to celebrate, I will be staying up all night tonight and following the coverage. The coverage is, of course, not very good here in the UK, unless you have Sky television, and receive all the US news channels. Tonight, I will have to suffer the BBC and ITV coverage. Hopefully, there will be no Jeremy Vine making a total prick of himself. Bring back Peter Snow, that’s what I say.

So a very long night is in prospect. I usually do this to myself every election night, US, UK and even the Italian election that put Romano Prodi back in power, because I wanted to see Silvio Berlusconi go down in flames. Though he did, it didn’t last very long, such is the nature of Italian politics, and now the corrupt “Il Cavaliere” is back in power.

But this one holds so much significance to me.  Probably more than the UK election will next time around. To me, I hope this is the evidence of a generational shift in politics. I hope it is going to prove to us that there is going to be a change in the way politics is conducted, away from the tired old priorities of the past, towards re-engaging society via grassroots organisation. This kind of narrative slots very neatly into American history – because the USA is built so strongly upon local organisation anyway – but I suspect it will not take root here. We are suspicious of localism in this country, preferring instead to take our direction from politicians hundreds of miles away in London.

I have pinned a lot of hopes to Obama, and I know many of them will be dashed. I talked about this last time I wrote about him. But nevertheless, he is still the perfect candidate for these times. I want to believe, I really do, and have allowed myself to be swept away with the hype, just this once.

And so that is why tonight I feel there is so much at stake. I love politics, and I love elections even more, but normally I view them with a critical distance. There is not too much difference between the parties in the UK any more, so it doesn’t really matter that much.

This time, however, I detect a large difference between Obama and McCain. With that in mind, there is only one possible candidate for me to support. And I have to go all in with my support, because any other result would be a disaster, not just for me personally, but I believe the USA and hence the rest of the world will suffer.

If I was an American, today I would be doing everything I could to get out the vote. I would be knocking on doors, delivering leaflets, making phone calls, whatever. This means so much to me, and it means so much to the rest of the world too.

There is a lot riding on American shoulders today. I know they are up to the challenge. I know some of them don’t like Johnny Foreigner getting involved in their politics either. But the only reason we do is because it matters a great deal to us. It affects our lives too. We want to have a say on that, only we can’t.

How do you think that feels to feel so powerless, helpless, disconnected, unable to do anything about the changing circumstances of the world, Unable to have a say on changing the direction of travel?

Americans should feel very privileged that they have, in their hands, one method of changing the world. I beg of you, on behalf of the rest of the planet, please, don’t waste it.

One Step Forward

In the past week or so I have been fortunate enough to have been kept occupied with at least some work. It’s not work I love getting up for in the morning, but it is still nice to have something to do.

And yet, it’s work that I have always been able to do, that I have done since I could do it, and at one point thought that it was going to be the right choice for me as a career.

Computers. Love ’em or hate ’em, they have a terrible habit of breaking. And even more so now than ever, thanks to the internet, insecure operating systems and web browsers, and generally more and more clueless people using them.

The thing is, now that computers are so easy to use, it means that people with less computing knowledge and getting stuck into the wild, virus laden world of the internet. Generally, people click on links with reckless abandon. And it is the links saying “Your computer is infected! Click here to install Honest Dave’s Spyware Annihilator!”

Naturally, these programs are all fakes and just excuses to put tonnes of tracking software on your computer that serve up ads, hijack search engines and generally fill the computer with nastiness. But people install them anyway. How are they to know that they are rubbish? In fairness, some of these things are very hard to spot, whether you’re a seasoned computer pro or a complete novice. They use pretty vicious tactics to fool you into downloading their malware.

It is because of these that I’ve had something to do lately. Two separate instances, each of which netting me some cash, which have required serious intervention by me to rescue their computers. They have been extremely frustrating, because generally with computers every time you think you’re making progress you suddenly reach the next brick wall which then leads to a further complication, and so on. One step forward, two steps back.

And that is generally the way I feel about computers. For all my life people have always said to me that I should run my own computer fixing business. Even when I was 12, family members used to say to me when I’d go with my dad to fix their computer that the both of us should have our own business. I had grown up thinking that this was a great idea and that I should do ICT for a GCSE, an A-Level and then a degree.

Somewhere along the way that plan went AWOL. I think I decided that I spend so much time on computers already that I didn’t want to do it as a career as well. But this was before computers became essential for virtually every job in existence, making my previous argument redundant. Now there is no escape, I might as well have studied the very thing that I’m very good at, mildly enjoy and could have made me a decent career, whether that’s working for myself or working for any organisation that needs IT support.

So while I work away running spyware scan after virus check, my mind can’t help but wonder if there has been a seriously missed opportunity in my life. Did I pursue the thing I enjoyed but with no obvious career path over the thing that had serious and obvious uses in the modern world?

At this point, as things go from bad to worse in my life, I would say the only answer to that question is yes.

A Political Week

Rather than continuing the job hunt, I have spent most of this week reading political articles, digesting endless blog comments and watching many speeches from politicos across the USA. I might as well make good use of the endless free time I’ve got right now, after all.

And the timing has been perfect, because, naturally, this has been the week of the Democratic National Convention. As a political junkie, something like this is unmissable. This time four years ago I spent an equal amount of time watching the speeches from that (courtesy of the awesome C-SPAN) – and one in particular impressed me.

Yeah yeah, we all know about Barack Obama’s stunning oratical masterpiece four years ago. I watched it at the time and thought – and this is the honest truth – that this man ought to be the next Democratic presidential candidate after Kerry. It was moving and powerful. I have never heard anything so good since, and I doubt I ever will. I feel pretty smart that I jumped on the bandwagon four years ago, a long time before others. And certainly a long time before almost everyone in the UK.

But with that speech four years ago in mind, Obama was never likely to reach those heights. And so, wisely, he picked a different tack, to give the speech more content and more red meat. It worked. And the final third delivered the rhetorical soar that all good speeches ought to finish with.

On balance I would give it an 8.5/10 when compared with all his speeches I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a lot). 10/10 goes to the DNC 2004 speech; and 10/10 to his “A More Perfect Union” intelligent brilliance of a few months back. But in terms of whether it was the right speech, at the right moment, it truly nailed it. In the context of the election, and using an American analogy, he hit the ball right out of the park.

Why do I share all this on a personal blog? Well, largely because an enormous part of me is dictated by the way I feel politically. It would be foolish to deny that my politics has no impact on my outlook of life. In many respects, it is to my shame that it has the impact it does, mainly because British politics has left me so cynical and jaded at the tender age of 23.

But somehow, just this once, I’ve allowed myself to get carried away with the optimism. When American politics is at its finest, optimism and positivity is the thing it does the best in the world. Maybe it will turn out in the future that we’ve all pinned our enormous expectations to Obama, something which he will never be able to live up to. And so we’re all setting ourselves up for a very big fall when reality crashes in.

Just this time, however, I’m willing to believe. But the message of Obama is far more than just what he can achieve. In fact, I would argue that, if Obama is successful, it will not be because he personally made certain actions that delivered certain positive results.

It will be because he convinces people that they must be the agent of their own change, not the government, not politicians or anyone else. That politics is not about top-down. It’s about the community, it’s about high aspiration, it’s about hard work and passion for your cause.

This is why I have a lot of time for the Obama message. It is one of personal empowerment, and that is extremely liberating.

So in many respects it appeals to me personally. It is a message that I could easily apply to myself. That I must stop wallowing in self-pity, wondering where did it all go wrong, but instead to embrace the situation and turn it towards my own hopes and dreams. To put in more effort and to aspire to achieve something bigger than what I was originally aiming for.

While it’s been a fun week politically, it’s been a challenging one personally. What should my next step be? I can but dream…