Wednesday, 2 January 2019


Truths v Trends
We are all psephologists now – predicting political change and making much of the rise of the far right. The noise of  political commentary is distracting but worse than that it’s amplified by the constant bad press experts are getting.  Do not be an expert. It’s a fake skill. Experts get derided. Opinionated ignorance is the new target. We are all fascinated to the point of going insane in predicting what’s going to happen next. But it actually matters less what the trend is than what the truth is. (Truth like expertise gets short shrift too nowadays).

Alongside truth real values (those immutable values that make us human like faith, hope and charity) can get swamped by the desire to bet on the next winner. But life is not a horse race.

I asked my son-in-law, he’s Managing Director of a flourishing middle sized company, how he saw the future and he said briskly “the economy and our business will be fine plus or minus a few % points in our case plus points – that’s my job…we are resilient enough to withstand problems…anyway”…he spoke a bit more dreamily as he looked over at his children “with a wife, life, family and friendships like I have it’ll always be wonderful”.   Like Clarence the angel in “A Wonderful Life” he set me straight about what really mattered . Truth beats trends. Love beats money.

The dignity of politeness
We live in querulous times. People spend so much time being hateful, angry and rude. Donald Trump and Nigel Farage are prime examples of what, were they footballers, would earn them red cards. We are not a particularly polite society, as it happens, our predominant characteristic being “awkwardness”. It goes back to our driving out the nice Vikings and then in turn being cross-fertilised with Gallic bloody mindedness in 1066.

Currently good manners are exceptional rather than de rigeur. But amazingly when you smile at someone rather like a key being turned they smile back at you. We read constantly about our productivity problem in the UK. I think the manners problem is greater and would probably be the quickest way of improving productivity. Become as EM Forster suggested part of “an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky.

Communities, tribes and self-support
Churches, cinemas, libraries, pubs are all declining  in terms of numbers, users and supporters. As more people move closer to towns in suburbia where there’s no focal gathering point the power and self-support systems we need start to weaken and disappear.

In Brighton being in the Football Premiership has transformed communal spirit. Anyone who’s been part of a church congregation regardless of the depth (or even existence) of their faith will have been impressed by the togetherness (and sometimes like all human institutions the factionalism) that such places create. When people gather in such groups they’re like plants grown under glass. Communities work.

We may like being at home with the door cosily shut but as Paulo Coelho said in ‘The Pilgrimage’:
The ship is safest when it’s in port, but that’s not what ships were built for.”  We are built to commune, to join, to work together. There were moments in 2018 like the Royal wedding  or the Ryder Cup or quite simply the sunshine of last summer when there was a coming together.

There was a film over Christmas which should be called “Marmite” – it’s “Love Actually” - where the song  “Love is all around” binds all our cast together in one big, festive hug (and that isn’t all it does). It’s quite wonderful. (Lead me away nurse I’m melting with too much niceness.)

Part 3 will follow around 10am gmt tomorrow...

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