Friday, 11 December 2015

Left-Right or Sunny Anarchy


What on earth is this left-right political stuff?  It's not policy, otherwise the Liberals wouldn't see themselves as left. And why do they get so upset when people disagree with them?  

I was always someone trying to make things work.  Ideas had to be tested.  Facts were sacrosanct.  But were they really true?  All the time? In every circumstance?  Or did they depend on something I hadn't thought of?  I've never been good at being certain.  A little ditherer – holding back until someone else starts the ball rolling.

However, one thing I did understand was that the 1960s Trade Unions in Birmingham were heedless of the consequences when they downed-tools in wild-cat strikes.The father of my friend, Carole,worked night shifts at the Longbridge car factory and loved to regale us 14 year-old girls with tales of the goings on at work – playing cards during working hours while saving the actual work to do during overtime – at time and a third.  Meanwhile, I looked around the council house with all it's luxurious fittings, kitchen equipment and electrical goods.  They were supposed to be poor people, with their cheap council rents.  While my Dad, a Legal Clerk working for the council, was supposed to be better off.  But there we were, buying a record player 2nd hand.  No car, no fridge, no washing machine, and a tiny old TV.  Meanwhile, another car company was going bust, and the Government asked the Longbridge owners, BMC, to look after them as well.  I didn't for a minute believe Trade Unions were interested in anything apart from their own members getting the better of everyone else. 

By the time I went off to university, I knew I was on the right of politics.  So why, you may ask, did I choose to go to the most Left-Wing, controversial university in the land?  It was because they had a Mathematical-Physics course and my English teacher had neglected to teach me how to pass the English Lit exam, which prevented me from going to Cambridge. How was I to know my understanding of Jane Eyre was "unusual"? And that I wasn't supposed to sympathise with Shylock?  I loved his speech "Prick me, do I not bleed".  That's how I used to feel an awful lot of the time.

I was at Sussex University when I had another political lesson after Enoch Powell's "Rivers of Blood" speech.  One day, I joined a gaggle of girls pouring over the Sunday paper. I'm the sort of person that notices all the bits of "one of my constituents said" and "a little old lady told me".  As they read from the paper, I was saying "I've heard tales like that".  Of course, these days I know that gossip is about what people are afraid of, not what's actually been done.  I'm not sure I knew that then. Nevertheless, I dived in, trying to explain why, when non-white people moved into the street, it quickley became all non-white. 

"It's 'cos people can't stand sleeping on curry-smelling sheets", I'd venture.  With no washing machines nor dryers everyone's sheets were drying outside and most of us had never smelt curry before.  I knew a lady who said it made her feel sick.  Or, "the West Indian lads have parties all night keeping people awake".  Or "Some of them have never lived in brick houses before and do things like knocking down a weight-bearing wall" – this had happened to a sweet old lady down the road from my school.  The result was that I was told I was disgustingly prejudiced.  But I knew that I treated people of all different skin colours exactly the same because I was close friends with Indian and Jamaican girls. It was how folk behaved, that counted with me.  Just as they say about marriages, it's the little things that make or break.

Whereas the other girls hadn't met any non-whites at all.  Just the one Arab prince at University that they were warning all our friends against, because he reckoned only slags wore mini-skirts.  So when I returned after the next vacation, I brought pictures of my friends back to Sussex and pointed to my best friend, Pauline.  She used to proudly proclaim that she had 12 different nationalities in her; and looked mainly Indian, with a broad nose.  Nobody believed me.

That taught me that prejudiced, ignorant people don't believe the truth when they hear it.  And there's nothing you can do about it. Which, of course, makes me even more reticent than I naturally am.

When I got to voting age, I thought about the issues and what may or may not work.  By this time, we'd had Harold Wilson and his Labour Party in office for a while with Trade Unions joining him at Number 10 for sandwiches and tea.  Still disliking Trade Unions, and being deeply unimpressed by the Labour Government, I didn't have a choice of who to vote for.  There was no point in voting for the Liberals with their tiny share of the vote. I did want my vote to count.  Everytime I looked at issues, I thought the Labour plans were more likely to make matters worse than better.  There were also quite a lot of unpleasant, agressive, shouty, Trade Unionists in the Labour Party whom I was suspicious of.  At University I'd gleaned that Left politics were based on Marxism, Maoism or Trotsky. And that they have a weird idea of human nature - you'd never think we were the result of an evolutionary battle; for example, evolutionists postulate that altruism is an emergent trait from the time when humans lived in families and tribes. And is not something that members intentionally set out to do.

I prefer freedom and individuality – as far as possible.  That's probably because I don't fit into standard models (and nor did Jane Eyre – although Oxford's Literature guru, F.R.Leavis,  couldn't see that).

Why do so many people on the Left talk of "Progressive Policies"?  What are they progressing to?  They never tell us.  They seem to be assuming that either you know, or you won't want to go there. They're not open and honest.

They've also been very clever at making it seem that only the Left care, and only Conservative are oppressive autocrats. Yet, I always keep in mind that Hitler started as a Socialist, and probably died one, too.  Stalin was on the Left. As was the Russia we had a Cold War with.  And also China and Pol Pot in Cambodia. Lots of nasty, repressive governments there – nothing to be proud of.  Thinking of modern socialist governments, I note that Chavez in oil-rich Venuzuela bequeathed a bitterly divided people in a bankrupt country.

Yet there are many people who think "I care, so I have to vote on the Left".  Some of them even believe every caring, thinking person would vote Left.  Which just has me gob-smacked.  Why are expensive, sub-standard, government-run institutions worth having?

However, I've often had problems with their individual attitudes.  I remember going for a few days walking with Holiday Fellowship where I was dragooned into joining their evening games – despite having settled myself down with a book, sipping a gin & tonic.  After I'd won the 1st 2 games, they started calling me names to my face.  They'd wanted to give themselves a nice warm feeling of inclusiveness, without actually doing it!

I didn't learn from this, of course.  Ever hopeful, I went to Minorca with Ramblers Holidays.  On the very first walk, a retired GP struck up a conversation about politics and exclaimed "Why don't you think for yourself instead of copying your parents?" The patronising little man knew nothing of me, except that I was a woman in her 30s holidaying alone. His assumptions are astounding!

The papers are full of similar incidents in public life.  For example, two items from today's paper, 4th December 2015, the day after MPs voted to bomb ISIL positions in Syria:-
·         Firstly, a letter from several charity CEOs saying "The British military must minimise civilian casualties and set the standard for investigating any that are caused by British action."  What are they talking about? Haven't they noticed this has been British policy for many years?  In fact, the forces have recently completed yet another bout of learning lessons from previous wars. These CEOs should concentrate on improving their own activities instead of wasting charity money on grandstanding their caring credentials; with the side-effect of running down their own country.  After all, huge amounts of money have been spent on Africa with almost nothing to show for it.  Anyway, we, the public, don't believe in their kindness and generosity because they earn far more money than they need.
·         Secondly, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Leader, pacifist who's anything but peaceful.  He prompts his followers to bully, intimidate and threaten fellow Labour MPs who disagree with him; instead of being open and honest by changing Party policy.  But then, he's incapable of doing hard work the way that Tony Blair did, in recinding Clause 4 on nationalising industry. Jeremy's underhand and deceitful.

It seems that those on the left have rigid values, and don't understand that everything is contingent and understood by, and through, past centuries of history;  that people can't just be dragooned into someone-else's order; nor treated like performing puppets. 

Meanwhile, the rest of us try to consider what works with the population we have, in the world as it is.

I've come to believe that human systems such as family, economics and government, follow the same sort of complex system behaviour that the climate does – chaotic, deterministic and unpredictable. You can make large changes which appear not to change the outcome; and also immeasurably small changes which produce abrupt shifts.

So, nothing is certain in this life; except that humans will continually try to make it so; and will be aggressive towards anyone who challenges their ideologies.

That's Life!!!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

According to Mum...

 At the beginning of the 20th Century, Mum’s Dad was a Jeweller doing very nicely thankyou.  He had a small workshop in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter and commuted the 3 miles to a home in the village of Harbourne (not yet part of the city). He lost his business and all his money.  I have since learnt that B’ham Jewellers used to pool together to hire a ship for exporting their Jewellery to America. Unfortunately, their ship was sunk by the 1st Atlantic submarine attack of the 1st World War. They didn’t have insurance in those days, so 94% of Birmingham Jewellery businesses went bankrupt.  Mum’s Dad was directed to war-work - making munitions.

I can remember Aunt Ede (who was my Godmother)  talking about the time when the family had to send her out to work at the age of 18 – making cardboard boxes for Cadbury’s. It was a big shock to her after being brought up to play the piano, paint a little, and do delicate sewing & embroidery.  All the other girls used to sneer at her “People like you’ll be in the offices in 6 months”.  I think she had a difficult time at that point. But the girls were right & Aunt Ede did better once she was in the office.  Cadbury’s had a college doing evening classes which all their employees could attend.  Aunt Ede studied for the Post Office exams and after a year or two went to Pershore as Sub-Post Mistress where she met and married the local Police Seargent, Uncle Chuck, who was a widower with one son.  They stayed there until Uncle Chuck got thrown out of the police service for taking bribes of a rabbit or two from local poachers.  I assume this was during WWII when even wild rabbits were logged and ‘owned’ by the Government due to the severe lack of food. They moved to Sutton Coldfield where Aunt Ede ran the local Post Office & took in sewing to make ends meet; while Uncle Chuck had a small-holding growing vegatables, pigs and hens.

Mum was 20 years younger than Aunt Ede.  The Cadbury’s had kept an interest in Mum’s family.  The factory was run by 11 brothers, cousins and uncles while their women-folk did the social work.  They included trained midwives and nurses. Mum was what was known as a ‘Cadbury baby’.  Cadbury ladies attended Mum’s birth at her cottage with their own coal, water and linen.

At the end of WWI all the men required to work on munitions were sacked. Grandad never worked again.

It must have been after this that Grandma went to the Poor Board for money.  Before doing this, they had to sell all their belongings apart from one dining table, one ‘sit-up-and-beg’ dining chair & mattress for each person living in the house.  But at the Board meeting, Grandma had worn her best hat which she was told to sell – no money!  Grandma wouldn’t – only her best would do for church.

Mum attended the local village school, walking 5 miles to & from school each day. She passed the scholarship to Grammar School, but was not allowed to go because what little money they had had to go towards paying for her two brother’s apprenticeships.

 School leaving age was 13, but her mother “kindly” allowed her to stay on and teach the little ones for a year.  After that, her Mum kept her at home to help with the housework for a year.  By then, Mr Austin had started his car factory at Longbridge and as soon as she was allowed, Mum got a job there.  She stayed there until after the war when she was pregnant – rising to Spare-Parts Clerk over the years.

During her teenage years Mum used to hang around the village green with the boys (including one Peter Jones who later married Ann Haydon) while telling her Mum she was attending Evening Classes.

During the 30s she joined the local Harbourne Tennis Club and went to Health-and-Beauty classes.  One day, a Tennis Club friend asked her who she fancied the most.  “Frank Jones” she replied. He was one of 4 table-tennis players (which also included Bunny Haydon – Ann’s father – and Johnney Spiro) who used to tour the tennis clubs of Birmingham.  A foursome was arranged, and the romance blossomed.  They got engaged before the war – a 7-year engagement because he was apprenticed to a solicitor in Wolverhampton.  If Mum had got married or pregnant she would have lost her job, so they had to wait until Dad was earning enough money for them both.  Dad was a year younger than her.

Mum was adventurous for the times e.g. going on holiday to Switzerland with her friend Dot – no adults to keep an eye on them!  I think that was 1936, the year that Dad won the B’ham Open.

When WWII came, Dad was not required to join the full-time army as he was a student at Birmingham University.  But when his solicitor ‘debunked’ (as Mum put it) to America, Dad was given war-work at Hawker-Siddley.  He had to work 5 days at the factory, and one day at University.  Dad found it almost impossible to keep up with his studies, so decided to take up the Government’s offer and defer his remaining studies to after the war and so put in for the army.  He was called up with 6 weeks notice just before Xmas. So Mum and Dad got married 20th December.  His future didn’t work out as expected, because Dad had missed some lectures during the 6 weeks after ‘call-up’, so the University didn’t have to honour the Government pledge. They refused to take him back after the war on the grounds that he was over 30, which was too old to be able to learn.  Dad never talked about this, but Mum told me he felt badly let down. 

He didn’t talk about the war, either.  He told Mum a fair bit after he came back – just the once – & never mentioned it again.  The incident Mum remembered well was when, in France, he & his corporal were accosted by German soldiers and Dad couldn’t pull the trigger.  He saw the German soldiers as largely just people doing their duty, like he was doing his.  After D-Day, his job was to put an overcoat over his uniform and seek out the French targets up ahead for his 3 tanks to aim at (he was a sargent).  As a consequence, he spent a fair amount of time behind enemy lines with quite a few telegrams of “Missing…” sent home.  Unfortunately for Mum, the army didn’t have Dad as married. The telegrams went to Dad’s Mum, who used to crow that Dad felt his Mum was ‘home’ – not his wife.