Blog Archive

Thursday, December 1, 2016

First Thoughts on Trump, Don't be too Liberal, I am re-applying to join the EU, Quotes

First thoughts on Trump Victory on November 9th 2016

His acceptance speech was very conciliatory, praising Hillary Clinton and talking about representing all of the American people. My immediate thought here was that the election campaign was all about media appearances and manipulating the media to his advantage with what appears to moderates as shocking tactics and messages. But Trump of course is the master of the media, with his own shows and decades of experience. His acceptance speech sounded like a different man who had switched off the campaigning media tactics and switched on the ‘important job to do’ button. ‘We owe Hillary a major debt of gratitude’ is what he is saying now no longer ‘she’s a criminal, she should be in prison’ as he repeatedly said before. That seems to be the difference between Trump the TV campaigner and Trump the President. Let’s hope so anyway.

Why did Trump win? I think a lot of the recent and future surprise right wing outcomes are explained by decades of liberal do-gooders (and I say that in a nice way as I am talking about people who genuinely want to help) giving advantages and benefits to the most needy whilst the just-about-managing (jams) look on in disbelief feeling ignored and feeling not quite poor enough. One of the best examples of this is demonstrated in this piece by a US journalist following Trumps’ victory:

“One Clinton supporter I met while making my radio documentary, The Unswayables, did understand. Bonnie Cordova, a retired schoolteacher, and I were both watching the second presidential debate at the Bohemian Beer Garden in the New York borough of Queens. I asked her afterwards if she understood why people might vote for Trump. She did. "I taught in inner city schools for 30 years," Cordova explained. "I was passed over a few times for promotion for a really good job because I wasn't a minority and I was working at a school where the kids got free dental and optical treatment because they were immigrant children and I was having trouble affording it for my kids." She acknowledged that made her resentful. "That's a flame that can be fanned into hatred. You have to rise above it."

There are millions of Bonnie Cordovas throughout the rich west. For many of them the flame does get fanned into hatred and they end up so resentful they vote for the far right.

Don’t be too liberal

However liberal you may be, too much liberalism ends up delivering the far right, as ordinary people feel they are being ignored by the elite rulers in favour of immigrants, the very poor and benefits cheats. Beware the JAMs and don’t alienate them.

So the lurch to the right demonstrated by the June 24th Brexit vote in the UK and the inability of researchers to predict the correct outcome was repeated in the US presidential election. Next weekend, the Italian referendum could potentially trigger another Euro disaster. Polls are forecasting that Matteo Renzi may lose his referendum which could trigger a run on the under-funded Italian banks and the start of another banking crisis which could make the Greek one look like a walk in the park. Let’s hope the pollsters are wrong again. If not the EU will be put to the test like never before. Next Spring we now know that the centre right candidate in the French presidential elections will be François Fillon. Given the disaster that is François Hollande, the socialists will probably be knocked out leaving Fillon to contest the final round against Marine Le Pen of the extreme right National Front. Fillon should win but that can’t be guaranteed and based on recent events we could well see another upset which would probably mark the end of the EU and a return to nationalism and protectionism not seen since the 1920s and 30s. That’s not nice.

I am re-applying to join the EU

Following the Brexit vote, I decided to apply for French nationality so that I can remain part of the EU with all of the benefits it brings (so long as Le Pen doesn’t win of course). Last week I had to sit some language exams to determine if my French is good enough to be admitted. It was a humiliating experience. At age 54, I had to climb to the 5th floor of a building in Kensington and sit at a school desk in a classroom with about 25 other people. The examiner then explained the procedure in a manner designed for 6 year olds and switched on a very large CD player from a previous century which spat out 29 questions which we had to answer in 30 minutes. There was an accompanying leaflet with pictures and answer options for each question. Answers were written in black ink on a multi-choice sheet (a, b, c or d for each) which would then be scanned by a machine. 

On completion we were told to go back down to reception to see which room our oral exam would take place in. I was the first to do an oral exam and as we were running late, by the time I went back down and then back up to the room designated on the paper in reception, I was at least 10 minutes late. I entered the room and said Bonjour and was asked why I was so late. The oral was in three parts. First I had to introduce myself (3 minutes), next I had to ask 3 minutes of questions from my imagination to my examiner who was pretending to be a transport employee in Lille (do you have trams, how many metro lines, how much to hire a bike) and lastly I had to spend 3 minutes talking about gender equality in government (the Scandis do it better). The whole experience was artificial, contrived, embarrassing and humiliating as I struggled to find something relevant to talk about and was constantly asked to keep talking. If only we could have had a proper decent conversation. It will take them 3 to 6 weeks to mark the papers at which point I will need to go back to collect them as they won’t send them. And they charged me £130.

Quotes for the month

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Leonard Cohen who died in November, from his 1984 album Various Positions

“The Cuban model doesn't even work for us anymore.” From a Jeffrey Goldberg interview with Fidel Castro in 2010. Castro died last week, aged 90.

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