Tuesday, 18 October 2016

A Question of Scale

One thing I've been wondering recently is whether our perspective of scale is starting to work against us, By that I don't mean that our ability to see in three dimensions is failing or anything, but that we aren't as flexible and able to see the world as we think we are. We are limited by our essential primate nature, and by the complexity of the world. Standing at one point, or being in a particular place means that we lose sight of another part, whether that's the inability or very rich people to realise that there are places, in their own countries, where families are surviving on very little money, or for citizens in the UK (for example) to see empathetically the plight of Syrian refugees or of flood survivors in Bangladesh. There seems to be a point where we cease to be able to see the big picture effectively and fall back on gut instinct and tribalism.

This may be the same impulse that makes us opt for the simplest solution where we can - even if that's not something that will work in the long run. Take the flooding in the Somerset Levels a couple of years ago, there were a lot of online commentators calling for more dredging, simply because it was the simplest solution to the problem. They overlooked the fact that in the long run dredging wasn't going to fix the issue. Staying with flood plains, the fact that the UK is building homes on them seems incredibly short sighted, a quick fix for a problem that exists and which will only spawn further issues in the future as climate change takes hold and sea levels rise. Our natural tendency to seek the quick fix and to operate without all the facts has historically already landed us in hot water (take your pick of circumstances) and in many ways what we call progress is simply the process of setting up the next crisis. I don't mean we should stop doing anything, only that rather than succumb to our monkey urges, we should take the time to consider what will work in the long term, rather than what's easy. The fact that we don't, I believe, is connected to the issue of scale. We see what's immediately available, without considering the bigger pictures, because we literally can't focus on that without nudging our behaviour towards effectively doing nothing. If we start to consider the widening gyre of consequences that might happen because we, for example, don't build on the flood plain, we risk stagnation.

Socially, something I think is slowly being recognised is that social media aside, we aren't endlessly connected and able to make connections. Most of us know somewhere between eighty and one hundred and twenty people, and that includes television characters, Dot Cotton is as likely to be part of your tribe as your next door neighbour. In social media, we collect 'friends' but then prune them out of our feeds to keep ourselves from being overwhelmed, it's pretty much the 'notches on the bed post' version of friendship, and doubtless that's something that Facebook and Twitter et al are relying on, tapping into the competitive nature of humanity to accrue more connections, even if they're ephemeral. It does speak to something else, of course, which is that we are dependent upon other people for touchstones, the reason why Britain's election campaigns have become more focused on the leaders of the various parties, often in the most bizarre ways (I point you in the direction of the bacon sandwich incident),

To bring this to more recent events, I believe that one reason that the UK voted (by a small margin - lest we forget, 52% of the population is not the huge landslide that the May government now attempts to paint it as) to leave the EU is that the scale of the world has grown too large. The EU seems too remote to a lot of people, too alien. The popular press chose to paint EU laws as directives handed down from on high as if Brussels was a God, not a deliberative assembly. At times Westminster chose to do the same, shrugging Parliament's shoulders in a 'don't look at us guv, we don't see a problem with the existing light bulbs/bananas/other things that that the EU has supposedly thrown its teddy out over'. This is why 'take back control' seemed so attractive, it created the illusion that the UK would break free of a set of chains and be able to strut its stuff. The fact that, if we want to trade with the EU, we'll still be bound by the bloc's rules, and that if we want to benefit from the Single Market, we'll have to have some sort of freedom of movement for labour (as ever the ability for capital to move isn't in question - money can go where it likes, and damn the consequences) seems to have been overlooked in the rhetoric of independence. In a fashion true to the Daily Mail, and to an extent, Christianity, the urge to Leave pulled issues down to a personal level underlining the ways that a lot of people in the UK felt isolated and alienated and pointing to the EU and migrants as the cause of their malaise. The bigger picture got lost, the scale worked against us.

This missed the fact that, as ever, things are more complicated. A lot of the issues that affect our communities are not down to politics, be that Westminster or Brussels, but economics. The fact is that automation and the lure of the Far East in terms of being able to treat labour like dirt have meant that a lot of businesses have simply pulled out of the UK altogether. Those jobs won't come back post-Brexit unless something changes in the UK to make us attractive again (and do you want to see even more of a sweatshop economy grow up over here - Sports Direct and Amazon are bad enough without encouraging more companies to go down the same route). Worse, it now looks as if automation, the march of the machines if you like, will start to effect administrative posts adversely too. Corporations are starting to pose a threat to democracy, not simply in the way that TTIP and CETA would/will allow them to sue governments if their profits are threatened, but in the fact that there have already been court cases in Germany, where the German government was sued for their decision to stop using nuclear power. Business is getting bigger, it's ruling more of our lives and we are its willing victims, perhaps because a lot of businesses don't have figures that we can identify with - our person to person connection which drives so much of our psychology, fails us and business becomes just more 'stuff', in the same way that the actual messy bits of politics and law do.

In the UK we've seen rules bent, at the very least, to benefit supermarket chains, something that can destroy communities, taking down not only local shops but also their supply chains. We don't seem to mind this, despite the fact that, logically, if we're talking about jobs and so on, that's just as debilitating as migrants entering an area can be. Again, our person to person connection fails and we miss it because it lacks personality.

I'd like to say a few words about why I think this disparity of scale, and the retreat (as I perceive it) to a smaller scale world, is wrong. For me, the big threats of the 21st Century are truly macro - they're big and they're difficult. They include climate change, automation of work, terrorism and so on. I feel they're also best tackled at a bigger level, even a global level, and the smaller nations are, with the power of corporations to work against as well as the power and interests of other nations, going to have less power and influence over negotiations and proceedings. While larger organisations may be unwieldy, the fewer groups at a table, the fewer exceptions will need to be made and the more progress will be made, ultimately.

By isolating ourselves and insisting that we are special, we won't achieve anything because the problems are too big, and too interconnected to everything else for us to make any traction. The choice, for me, is whether or not we 'man up'* and get to work or if we just allow ourselves to splinter into ever smaller groups.

*I hate that phrase but I can't think of a better one at this time.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Pictures of Cats

Because sometimes what you need is to just post pictures of small furry psychopaths.

I was emptying my phone... I seem to have taken quite a lot of pictures of my kitties...


I'm planning to do a metric ton of posts about politics, social media, feminism and the world n general, so you've got that to look forward to in the next few months.

First, though I thought I'd throw some random facts up on here to see if anything takes your interest.

To make it truly random, I thought I'd throw dice to decide how many facts you're getting, and I videoed it.


I don't know if that video is working but I rolled a ten on one dice and a six on another - using a pair of standard d10s.

I also decided to roll dice for categories of what to admit to, and the categories are as follows:

1 History
2 Culture
3 Personal
4 Nature
5 Politics
6 Travel
7 Favourite Things
8 A Thing I Dislike or Hate
9 Oddness (something weird about me)
10 Um... I ran out  of things to choose from - so I'll leave you to ask me things for those three...

So.... Anyway. Let's get started, shall we?  I have sixteen things to tell you (the 0 is a 10 on those dice).

1) Politics - I've consistently voted Liberal Democrat, Green, and Labour in elections. In future I'm likely to vote Green, as I think they're the only party with the vision needed to guide the UK through this century.

2) A Thing I Dislike or Hate - Online comment facilities on news sites, as most of the people who comment there are full of bile and unpleasantness and I find them depressing. I'd like to give a nod to the commentators on Charles Stross' site (I know that's not a news site) for always having lively but interesting and balanced debates).

3) Nature - My favourite dinosaur is the Triceratops, for reasons I'm not entirely sure of. I just think they're cool. (Related, my favourite Transformer as a child was the unfortunately named Slag, whose not a robot form was a triceratops).

Image result for triceratops

4) Personal - I really, really don't like the way I look and haven't done since I was a teenager. I think I look ugly - which is why I use the chibi Galactus as my picture on Google Plus rather than putting my ugly mug up here.

5) Travel - I really want to go to San Francisco. I want to see Alcatraz, go to Haight Ashbury and the Folsom Fair, as well as go Goth clubbing.

6) A Thing I Dislike or Hate - People interrupting, especially if it's in the 'oh I have to tell you this' category of things. It always just feels like they blurt out something which could have waited.

7) History - One of the people I admire most in history is Chevalier D'Eon the transvestite spy, statesman, and fencer, who Britain recognised as a woman during zir stay in the country and was reputed to be the best French fencer alive (and who is meant to have retired to live with zir male lovers). More information about hir/zir can be found here.

The Beaumont Society, which supports transgender people, cross dressers, and transvestites, takes its name from D'Eon.

8) History - I find the fact that Byzantium ran on the labour and skills of eunuchs fascinating, and that the culture they had sought to promote the mystique of the Imperial Family by using secret passages throughout the palace, fascinating. It feels so alien to the things we have been told are right and true in the West, and yet Byzantium was the last vestige of Rome. It makes me wonder if we actually understand the Romans at all.

9) Politics - I'd favour the adoption of a unicameral system - abolishing the second chamber entirely if safeguards to control the power of government were put into place (making the decisions of select committees binding enough to be voted on, abolishing the Whip system entirely, etc). I'd like to replace the Lords* with a group of Law Lords/Top Judges whose job was to make sure that the laws Parliament passed actually fitted into our constitution and didn't throw the baby out with the bathwater (so to speak).

* I don't see the point of having an elected second chamber because I think it would just repeat the problems we have with the House of Commons, creating a two-tier system that pretty much did the same thing.

10) Personal - I have eight piercings, four of which are below the neck and one tattoo which is on my right arm, which is the caduceus like symbol from Full Metal Alchemist. I would post a picture, but I can't find one.

I would like to have more tattoos, in particular, I'd like to have an Egyptian gods themed half sleeve.

11) Culture - I love the art of Roger Dean, and have done for ages. His website is here.

12) I rolled a 10 - please feel free to ask me something.

13) Personal - I have a fear of medical stuff and of biology in general (despite loving nature and finding genetics fascinating - especially stuff to do with eye colour, since I'm basically a mutant because I should have brown eyes (they're actually blue)). I can only think about how my body works by envisaging it as a city and had a panic attack in the brain bit of the Natural History Museum's Human Biology section.

14) Another 10 - chuck us a question, Squire? *shakes tin cup*

15) Another one -ten that is. Please Sir, a question for the guy?

16) Last one, and it's 'Oddness' (which I like to think is said in a deep booming movie trailer style voice). - I had three Septembers in a row where I had to have big, proper, surgical procedures. First, I had to have some teeth extracted, then I had to be circumcised as I had phimosis, and lastly I had to have a hernia operation (back in 2012).

That's your lot!

Please, do feel free to ask me for the three missing things - there are a few things I won't answer (if its too personal, for example) but otherwise, shoot.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Tory Conference

This week apparently saw a sea change in British politics, as the Prime Minister's key note speech  at the Conservative Party Conference heralded a lurch to a more protectionist, older footing of the ideology than the one that has dominated the UK's politics for the past forty years. This 'Mayism' has elements of both the 1950s and the 1930s and shows a clawing back to national borders and to the idea of the nation-state. It is virulently not only anti-EU but apparently anti-globalisation and, opposed to the corporatism that has beset public life at every turn. The day of the 'weightless state', so beloved of Mr. Cameron is apparently over and we are marching towards the safer territory of ,flag, faith, and family'. Mrs. May's ideas seem like a confusing mixture of Left and Right policies, a lurch one way on immigration, and the other on things like executive pay, workers representatives on boards, and most of all on tax evasion on the part of corporations. This is the most surprising aspects of what she said, and the part I'm least convinced will have any substance, simply because six months ago there would have been a lot of hot air about how making large companies and by extension, the rich, pay their taxes would lead to them leaving the UK. At a point in time when there are already Japanese firms warning that Brexit may mean (and at present I think we can infer that 'may' means 'will', here) that they relocate to the EU, it seems almost suicidal to bluster and make threats about tax avoiders being hunted down, even if it is a more just policy to pursue than simply closing our eyes to the problem. For that reason alone, I suspect that these promises were crowd pleasing homilies, probably designed more for the press and the audience at home than the people who actually went to the conference. 

Beyond this 'anti-business' cant, there is nothing new about what May was promising, of course, These are the core ingredients of Conservatism, as baked into the recipe as the desire to maintain the past and keep things as they are, rather than gallivanting off on hair brained schemes like democracy or rights for women. In common wth everything in public life this year it has that feeling of 'marching into the past, while extolling the value of the future'. 

There are certainly some very difficult elements to the policies being proposed, particularly on immigration. With the focus on international students (cracking down on two groups the British seem to hate in one go, immigrants and students), I can only imagine that universities will be looking very hard at how they conduct business in the UK, and would not be at all surprised to see them seek to become more international in the next decade - possibly establishing Chinese and Indian campuses, rather than franchising courses. The truth of Higher Education is that the sector is almost desperately reliant on international student fees, as universities rely on international fees to make up the shortfall between the money they receive from domestic students fees, and what they actually need. I suspect we may see a sharp contraction in the numbers of Higher Education Institutions within the UK, and possibly the growth of 'merged' institutions, to form H.E. Conglomerates. (Also, remember the Knowledge Economy? What happened to that? ) That being said, prediction is an art for idiots, so I may be, and hope, that I'm wrong. In addition, Ms. Rudd's speech did smack of a much greater in state surveillance of foreign nationals, and all I can say is that I hope the same rigour will be applied to groups like Britain First (a member of which began his trial for the murder of Jo Cox this week).

Let's move on to other problems with what's being proposed. The first is that, in many respects, it's nonsense on stilts. Once again, we see people trying to put the genie back into the bottle. Brexit and everything to do with it is just another exercise in nostalgia, and nostalgia is an unhealthy feeling because it means that rather than dealing with reality, we're daydreaming of a better past (not a better future). The other thing is that while Mrs. May's daydream is one of small village life, of grammar schools and the like - almost an updated version of John Major's speech,

"Fifty years on from now, Britain will still be the country of long shadows on cricket grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and pools fillers and, as George Orwell said, 'Old maids bicycling to holy communion through the morning mist' and, if we get our way, Shakespeare will still be read even in school.'"

in other parts of the country, the good times will be interpreted as the times of large heavy industry projects, when the mill or factory employed thousands, days long gone because technology has moved on. Even with the lagging footsteps of British industry, where technological change is resisted in favour of cheap labour, those days will never return. Whichever way you spin it this is the equivalent of Trump's 'Make America Great Again' rhetoric and it is just as empty. 

It also ignores technology's influence, that just as the car and television have killed the good old fashioned 'community', the internet is killing borders, capitalism is killing national identities, just as it has largely killed regional ones - you find the same stores wherever you go. Ironically, it was mentioned at the Conservative conference that we face higher immigration because people have mobile phones and can see what good lives everyone lives in the West. It seems odd that it doesn't show them the amount of hate speech directed against immigrants as well, doesn't it? 

The fact is that technology is a much greater shaper of society than politics or economics could hope to be. I don't see how we can have technology that's forever pushing our borders open, and at the same time hold them firmly shut. It simply makes no sense, especially when there are so many dire warnings about the effect that trying to shut ourselves off from the world will have on the economy. It feels a little too extreme to invoke the Black Shirts but it does feel very much like it's the sort of contradiction that's inherent to that sort of thinking. 

While I don't believe it's sincere, May is at least abandoning some of the ancien regime 'let them eat cake' attitude that has encapsulated the last six or so years. This means that she is at least trying to address normal people, which it never really felt as if Cameron did.  

In closing, while the speeches were pretty, I do think they were filled with nonsense and that we should be wary of the course we're being steered down on as a nation. This sort of future has no future, it isn't fit for purpose. We need new ways to face the challenges that this century will throw at us, and we need them soon. 

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Running Deep

So I'm running quiet at the moment and have stepped away from social media. In truth, my anxiety is playing up, as a result of a number of things (the world apparently going to hell in a handbasket isn't helping, either politically, economically or in terms of our environment). I'm also just feeling tired of the sheer weight of humanity at the moment, social media is great in some ways but at the same time it feels very needy, very much like it's just people shouting out 'look at me, look at me'. I've done that too, of course, and grown tired of feeling like it's all I do. Even this blog feels a little like that. I'm tired, too, of feeling like I'm always in the wrong (which I realise is a) a sign that my anxiety is playing up and b) that I'm probably just being a massive child).

Image result for urban fantasyAnyway, the long and short of it is that I'm stepping away, shutting down my world a little to focus on things that I hope will make me happier and healthier. At present that means writing a novel, an urban fantasy piece set in Birmingham and focusing on a set of 'gutter mages'* - magical practitioners who use their own idiosyncratic styles of sorcery. I've had a blast writing the characters so far and very much enjoy looking at the city I live in and finding magic or things I can make magic, lying there under the surface of the city. The first short story is ready to go out and one thing I'll do today is looking for a publisher for it.

I'm also working on a few other things, a cyberpunk story for an anthology (which I hope will be accepted), a Musketeer story, and a few other things that I'm not really up to talking about at the moment.

I'll post updates when I have news, of course (and links and stuff).

Mostly, I'm just hiding from the world, though.

*A term I'm using because I dislike 'wizard' s a word, for reasons I don't fully fathom.

Friday, 30 September 2016


I must ask you to forgive me for this post as it may turn into nothing more than a stream of consciousness howl against the world. The truth is that I am sick of the way things are, and find myself inching towards a position where I wish that humanity would do something stupid and fatal, just to give the rest of the planet a break from our stupidity. Whether it's the news that the new iPhone 7 has been brought to the market by child slavery while Apple continues to make huge profits and to avoid tax wherever it can, or that the elephants' population has crashed by 60% in five years, it feels as if we are just dragging our lives out into a new age of barbarism, stupidity, and selfishness. Add in the vagaries of Brexit, which continues to be a thorn in the side of the British public (as I said in my last blog piece, I'm just bracing myself for the food and fuel crises that will hit once we actually leave the EU and prices spike) and the fact that we now see a campaign to ensure that the deal that's worked out is for a 'hard' Brexit (this is not a porn euphemism), where immigration concerns are placed ahead of economic ones. One notes that the chief fans of this situation, outside of Demented Little Dupes, tend to have enough money that they won't be affected too greatly if trade dries up. And bearing in mind that we won't be able to sort out trade deals before leaving the EU, it stands to reason that there will be a period of time when becoming Airstrip One will seem like an attractive alternative to going it alone.

The problem is, of course, that in just over a month we're going to find out if America commits the same sort of short sighted lurch into stupidity by electing Donald Trump to the White House. I fear they might, if only because the downside of the modern age is that a group of people has had their livelihoods snatched away thanks to economic pressures, and at the same time are being told that they are privileged and should stop whining. It's a difficult circle to square and I'm not actually sure it's possible. Kate Barnstein talks about 'the Golden Gender' in her work 'My Gender Workbook', which generally means white, Anglo-Saxon,  Protestant, Straight, Cis-gendered, and so on. The Golden Gender is also not pierced or tattooed and 'fits in' to the system that... the Golden Gender has created to perpetuate its own power. Falling outside its parameters in any way bumps you further down the pyramid and until finally you reach the great unwashed at the bottom. Assuming that this is true, we have a situation where a bunch of people who would think themselves part of this possibly mythical group who have seen their jobs and benefits evaporate and go to other people, who they have been taught to 'other', to look down upon and not take seriously. To make things worse the reasons for this seem to be largely economic and nothing to do with groups or belongings. So, they cling together and seek authenticity and 'purity'. This is what happened in the UK, it was as much a vote to turn back the clock to a time when it was easy to define what being British or English was, and a move to defend what are seen as the de facto rights and special status of being 'indigenous'. The same may prove true i America, especially as Clinton is such a divisive figure, rightly or wrongly. The issue here is that while Clinton is part of the same Golden Gender that has been affected by these changes,she is also female, and even though (or possibly because of) the fact that she is a continuity candidate - her programme may be more socially aware but it her years of service in the Obama cabinet mean that she's less likely to launch out into the great unknown than Trump is - her sex may repel a lot of voters. And that's before we even get into the Benghazi stuff, and all the other scandals that tag along behind her like a little dog.

I hope she does win (though as a Brit my opinion carries almost no weight at all, and rightly so), if only because Trump does seem like a loose cannon who will do a lot of very silly things in office. He strikes me as being very similar to the Pro-Brexit groups here, very keen to get hold of power with no idea what to do with it when he's elected (beyond build a huge wall and cut taxes - because those are both stategies that have worked so well, aren't they?) I certainly expect him to follow Mrs May's lead in dropping the priority of fighting climate change, because clean air is probably something we should pay for, and who cares if you pollute the natural world with all sorts of crap? Its only the system that sustains life on Earth - let's face it money is so much more important (and almost a religion in some places).

All in all, this is all making me want to retreat to my dream home in the country, and try to practice self sufficiency.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Doom and Gloom! (Nth edition)

First off let me say that I'm sorry to have been away for so long, I was busy writing (and have the first draft of a novel to start typing up tomorrow, as well as working on some new ideas), and have been neglecting my online presence quite a lot.

Part of that is that I'm finding it quite depressing to look online and see the debate, if you want to call it that, on sites like the Guardian, and even Facebook, around Brexit and other things. Often, it feels as if these are niggardly, mean arguments. It feels as if we are actively setting up the next crises right now. At the same time the new century feels as if it has actually got underway and is starting to establish its own identity, in a similar fashion to the way that the events of World War One provided the 'clear blue  water' between the Victorian age and the Twentieth Century. It feels as if the period of 1990 to 2016 has been a sort of 'downtime' for the human race, as we experienced the anxiety of the Millennium and then recovered and woke up to the fact that in fact the date of the year 2000 meant nothing - there's still no Age of Aquarius or enlightened moves towards a better, fairer society. There were, but we seem to have accepted a narrative wherein we, the people, can't have nice things and where other people are not to be trusted, but to held at arm's length.

I suspect Al Quaeda and IS/Da'esh will be the ghosts of our century, haunting our time. Yes, it will be traumatic and terrifying but in real terms we would do well to remember that so far the Islamic terror groups have caused less loss of life than the IRA, Red Brigades, ETA and all the other terror groups of the late 20th Century did; we notice it more because of the way the media has chosen to report it, the fact that it has been far more tied to the notion of 'otherness' in that Islam is being presented as an alien identity rather than just another expression of our humanity. The fact that the political class in the West has chosen to respond in a political rather than criminal fashion to the terror attacks has not helped. We perhaps should not be surprised by this reaction, in our era, the idea of a nuanced, measured response has become something that seems alien (witness the bewildered attitude of much of the press to Ed Milliband's refusal to back an invasion of Syria a few years ago). I remain firm in my belief that though Islamic terror is a horrible thing, it is not the main event of this century, even as it sits hand in glove with it.

So what is the real 'event' in my opinion?   At present, I would have to answer, 'nationalism'. The new century looks to be divided between the Nation State (which 20 years ago I was being taught was a spent force), everything was evolving away from the local, national level to higher bodies. Government and business alike were becoming globalised. The Brexit vote and the rise of Donald Trump in America is a direct reaction to that, as well as against the perceived 'waves' of immigrants who are fleeing pretty horrific situations in their own countries. I find it hard to fathom how anyone could resent the Syrians given the civil war, the rise of IS and the fact that Turkey stuck a great big dam across the Euphrates, effectively destroying their way of life and starving them (and let's face it, this is the real source of radicalisation and why climate change is making the world more dangerous on a human level - a hungry people with no hope is not in a position to resist the blandishments of well-armed extremists who can feed them).

The real issue is that nationalism and 'nationhood' have moved centre stage, thanks to the failure of neoliberalism, the rise of uncertainty and the rewriting of the past and present by the media to try and create a simple 'them and us' narrative that ignores the complexities of the world. Still, it's good to know that when the worst happens Britons will cling to this rock against all sanity because fleeing to somewhere else would only put a burden on another country's resources and we wouldn't want that. Would we?

Sarcasm aside, I can appreciate the concerns of the people who voted to leave the EU, even if I honestly think it was my nation committing suicide, commercially, culturally and in any other way you choose to mention. Also, horrible liberal that I am, I think immigration is hardly the biggest problem we face, it's just the one that's been pushed hardest by our right wing press. It masks a deeper malaise and a protectionist impulse that has been growing for at leat the last fifteen years. Back in 2001, the Guardian reported the EU states were starting to move towards a more protectionist stance, raising barriers to people outside the union. With Germany, France, and the UK at its heart, this area was starting to use Spain, Italy and the other states as buffer zones against immigration from outside Europe. For example, fruit picking jobs in Spain, which had traditionally been done by Moroccans, began to be done by Polish people, just as they have been in the UK. This barrier has now moved backwards, and for Britain, now sits on our south coast. It will be interesting to see if it moves any further inland as divisions creep deeper into society.

Socially we're seeing something similar, the rise of gated communities to keep out undesirables, the hollowing out of London to exile the poor while huge skyscrapers tear up communities and become homes, ridiculously expensive homes, for people who will scarcely ever live in them. The idea that the country is somehow becoming swamped speaks to a fear of difference, the idea that life is becoming too difficult and that somehow privilege is being threatened (of course that privilege is invisible - privilege always is). That, so far, has manifested itself in racist attacks, but unchecked we'll see a rise in homophobic and transphobic assaults, and I daresay misogynist and anti-alternative lifestyle assaults as well.

On the Left, we're seeing more focus on safe spaces, on trigger warnings and no platforming - this seems to be the other side of the coin, where there's a scramble towards intellectual protectionism. Both sides are doing this, of course, and the internet is helping with that by creating bubbles where we don't see the opposing side's arguments. The dearth of education about politics has been a death knell for thought, (one of my problems with the referendum campaign was that the lack of political education in the UK meant that the campaign was stupidly simple, without touching on a lot of the real issues that needed to be looking at).

On the other hand, while there's a focus on division, splitting us into ever smaller groups all seeking to be seen as the 'true' expression of something, there's also a kick back against the complications of human existence. I remember having a conversation about Conchita Wurst and how to categorise zir. The vast number of ways to look at transvestism seemed bewildering to them (and they weren't even dismissing Trans people as attention seeking, they just wanted it to be simple and binary). I've also seen similar comments about Feminism and other 'niche' beliefs. There does seem to be a real desire to get back to a more simple way of life (I've talked before about the idea that the zombie apocalypse narrative seems to want this too; it's not a new idea). The problem is that this just will not happen, any more than Brexit is going to bring back mass production manufacturing to the UK, in fact it's likely to hasten the end of manufacturing here unless we start to develop strong internal markets.

To return to ttechnology, it's facilitated the growth of  the curve of society, leading it to become too big, neither the people at the top nor the people at the bottom can see each others' lives or comprehend what it's like to be in each other's shoes, something that's not healthy. This may not be new, but the severity of it seems to be growing.  Say what you like about the Medieval period, or even the Ancient World, but the basics of nature created a levelling influence. It's hard to have airs when you only get a better form of rushes on the floor and when you're going to get the same crappy diet in winter because meat is rare. Today, thanks to technology the rich and poor live utterly different lives. Technology has also become a panacea, 'let them have iPads' has become our 'let them eat cake'. The sad thing is that we seem to have fallen, by and large, for the idea that new technology and other material goods will make us happy to the exclusion of everything else, even as loneliness and isolation become more prevalent and hurt more people. This is nothing to do with immigration, obviously, but we are barely addressing either the distribution of wealth or the 'loneliness bomb'.

Britain also seems to be neglecting a host of other issues, my concern post-Brexit is that our food and fuel security will be shot to bits, British agriculture doesn't come close to feeding the population and the old saw that we're a week away from starving is true. In addition, the Soil Association has produced a report recently stating that there are 100, yes 100, harvests left in British soil. Local Authorities are selling off green spaces, which perhaps should be turned into allotments (think of the benefits of us growing our own food, not just in knowing what we put on our plates but also physical and mental well-being). It won't happen of course and we'll just see more luxury postage stamp sized apartments going up, while the air quality gets worse and the NHS is sold off on the sly.

We're looking at a ticking time bomb in other words.

In addition, shortly after the Brexit vote, there were warnings about fuel security and rising prices. I would guess the white elephant at Hinkley Point is in part meant to solve that, but I can't help but think that a new century needs new eyes and new ideas particularly given the push towards simplicity and control over our own lives (why not push for increased microgeneration for example?). It does seem ironic, and sad, that at the same time as we see a huge push towards independence from the world we're seeing an increased tendency to get into bed with oppressive regimes and in particular China. 'Taking back control'? Hardly.

The reality is that we're sitting on a powder keg, waiting for the charges to go off. In some ways the first one has, with the rise of the Right and the reassertion of nationalism. The second, in the form of heightened relations with Russia, might be about to, but they're still small potatoes in comparison to feeding ourselves, heating our homes, and other issues that seem small but are actually more important than the moves within the Great Game.

Sadly, this is situation normal. I just wish it wasn't.