Friday Morning Coming Down – Was It Ever About EU?

This seems to sum up how I feel.

Robinince's Blog

It is probably an ill-advised gesture to write about feelings that occurred on Friday morning. I have typed it and hastily reread it, but I am sure there will be errors in grammar and logic. I post it rapidly before I lose faith in it. Hopefully this is clearly not about all campaigners on one side or the other, but with so much read into everything on the referendum, I am sure some will take offence where it is not meant. 

I have woken up cross, bothered, bewildered and worried after elections, but I’ve  never had the same sense of confusion as I had when I woke this Friday after the referendum. I was in the same place where I had fallen asleep, but the territory felt utterly changed.

It was the increasingly pungent stench of snake oil that made the last few weeks of the BREXIT campaigning so dizzying.

Not…

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The next day

I think I’m lucky, I don’t have anyone crowing on my social media feeds. and I don’t have anyone being aggressive or using bad language. A little tetchy, perhaps, but people are understandably bruised by this. Mostly I’ve seen contemplative stuff, interspersed with a little clutching at straws, and a bit of black humour too. I have better taste in friends than I would have expected!

I’ve seen calls for calm. Saying we need to calm down and pull together as a society. But some of us need to lick our wounds. The pain is real, if not physical. We need to accept and move on, but it will take more than 48 hours.

Some of the worst elements of our society were exposed, and the country nearly pulled itself apart. The worst part of it was seeing the thoughtful and caring were at times treated as part of the problem, as if we were just as bad as those yelling “Out! Out! Out!”. We need to be the solution. It’s plain that none of the leave campaigns had a clue as to what happens next, but we can sit back and let the politicians work that out, just keeping a quiet eye on them. For the rest of us we need to work on rebuilding our society.

52% voted to leave. So many have said “It’s not about X, it’s about Y” “It’s not about Y it’s about Z.” If I felt all 52% were raving bigots I would be making plans now to leave the country. I don’t believe all 52% voted out because they have a problem with “mass” immigration, free movement, muslims etc. I don’t believe all 52% are paranoid about “Frau Merkel” wanting to control and dominate us. We need to rebuild our society, not by accepting small mindedness as just another point of view, but by ensuring it has not place in a post-EU Britain.

Sarcastically we amended “vote leave” to “vote love”, just as we need to hold Vote Leave to their promises that we won’t loose jobs and investments and they will spend more on the NHS, we need to try and live by that one.
 

 

No, it isn’t honesty, it is problem behaviour.

OK, the moment has passed for this post too, but I’d better write it anyway.

A couple of months ago there was an incident on the internet. Someone upset someone with their behaviour, and were banned from participating in a particular forum until they apologised. So far, so commonplace, so dull.

It’s the fall-out that was particularly worrying. The thread surrounding this trivial incident spiralled out to over 100 contributions. Two things struck me- one was someone trying to claim that bluntness and abrasiveness isn’t rudeness, and another describing bluntness and abrasiveness as “honesty”. Of course, it doesn’t necessarily follow that being nice, measured and thoughtful is dishonesty, but it does feel like a slight to reasonable, kind people to describe it as such.

I feel there is a problem, not just on line but in general, where a certain level of background aggression being seen as normal or “having a personality”. I mean I can understand people, get annoyed and passionate, it’s a sign they care, but there seems to be a level of excitableness that people treat as normal, rather than merely understandable. People who write in a mature, reasonable and non-aggressive tone are misjudged to be snotty and condescending.

In politics things need to be done. Abrasiveness and aggression are necessary evils- we need people to achieve things, and that isn’t always going to be achieved by being nice. Tolerance of abrasive personalities, and respect for what they achieve is often blurred to the point that people fail to acknowledge the problem nature of those personalities. Sometimes abrasiveness goes too far and those who either take a stand, or lack the coping skills to deal with it properly are often misdiagnosed as the problem, rather than the person suffering the problem.

Kindness, diplomacy, intelligence and thoughtfulness are also necessary and useful traits, these need to be valued too. We need to recognise these as positive traits, and far too often in politics they are dismissed as mere differences, or even worse weaknesses or negative traits.

Taking a stand

This is a post that I should have written long ago.

About a month or so back, I posted a link to an xkcd cartoon. It was inspired by an incident around that I was going to write about. However every time I tried to write the article another incident came back to my mind, and threatened to swamp the piece I was trying to write. It’s obviously something I need to get out of my system. I keep alluding to this incident time and time again, so I think it’s time I got this off my chest.

I’m going back ten years now. I was a member of an association within the Liberal Democrats aimed at improving the use of information technology and the internet. A key committee member of this group was a problem. The person would respond to any perceived slight against people who lacked IT skills with a level of aggression that was totally inappropriate and out of proportion to what he was responding to. In addition he would be incredibly snide about technically skilled people, seemingly thinking clever people needed taking down a peg or two. I put up with it for a while, but the constant sniping got too much.

Firstly, I tried politeness. I sent a kind and friendly email, pointing out that he was being a bit over the top. I received an unexpected response, “Are you always this nasty”. Shocked that my tone had been so badly misinterpreted, I pointed out, that no, I wasn’t being nasty, I was trying to be helpful. More aggression. I called him publicly on the group mailing list over his behaviour. I was threatened with legal action for standing up to him!

I tried to address the problems directly by writing a philosophical article addressing people’s perspectives toward technology. This was met with public aggression and my conduct was falsely described as abusive.

So I wrote to the chairman of the group, expressing my concerns about the culture of aggression, and disrespect. And was ignored. Friends and acquaintances promised that the problematic behaviour that I was concerned about would be brought up at the next committee meeting. However I never found out if this happened or what action, if any, was taken. I tried to find if there was a complaints procedure for low-level bullying within the Liberal Democrats. There wasn’t.

By now I had a thing about low-level online bullying. I championed the case of a slightly autistic acquaintance who was being given a bad time on a private members forum. Again, the mods I messaged didn’t even acknowledge that I’d contacted them or reassure me that they were on the case.

Things have, thankfully, changed. The Liberal Democrats have introduced new codes of conduct. Not because of me, or anything I have written about here, I hasten to add, but because of more serious incidents of an altogether different nature that have come to light. While the seriousness and the nature of these incidents and complaints was far different to what I was dealing with, the new code of conduct is broad enough to define the sorts of things that I, and those I stood up for, as unacceptable. It also makes it clear that complaints and concerns like mine should not have been simply ignored.

Was the behaviour I stood up to that serious? No, not really. But even though the problem behaviour I experienced wasn’t a serious, it was a real and genuine problem, and I was right to stand up to it. While it was ultimately futile, and has remained with me for far too long, I remain proud of taking a stand.

22/05/2016 Coda:

I had intended this to be “getting the issue out of my system” and to an extent it has. This week I have refreshed my safeguarding training with the Scout Association, and was pleased to see their robust policies regarding bullying. It also confirmed that the behaviours I highlighted in the Lib Dems back in 2005 that went unacknowledged do constitute bullying, at least according to the definitions uses by the Scout Association.

There isn’t going to be an answer

I’m over half way through a masters in renewable energy.

I keep reading or hearing comments like:

“Wind farms are NOT the answer to our energy needs.”

And I think, “Yes you’re right”. No serious proponent is suggesting wind power can in the near future supply all our energy needs. It is theoretically possible for the UK to extract enough energy from the wind to cover our entire energy budget. But there are practical difficulties- not least the fact the balancing of supply and demand. However there are already mechanisms and strategies in place to balance power on the grid, and cope with expected and unexpected spikes. Estimates are that the grid with these existing measures can cope with up to 20% penetration- that is 20% of our total energy use could be supplied by wind.

We are nowhere near that. There is not a rampantly aggressive and uncontrollable drive to build more and more wind farms to the point of our energy system relying too much on them.

The other thing I hear is:

“Wind farms don’t work”.

And I think, “Er in what sense?” Newspapers like The Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph simultaneously complain about how wind power is highly subsidised and that it also doesn’t generate very much electricity. These complaints are contradictory if you’re talking about the same wind turbines. There are financial mechanisms to balance the playing field between old, established technologies like combustion, with newer technologies that have not been around so long that experience has honed the designs and reduced the costs. But these mechanisms, call them subsidies if you must, only work if you are delivering useful energy to the grid. If your wind farm is not working, you are losing money, and the companies developing and investing in wind farms are not in the business of losing money.

The problem is that despite energy efficiency messages, our energy use per capita keeps on rising. And our generating infrastructure is ageing, at its heart is a bedrock of decades old coal-fired generation that must be taken out of service some time soon with little prospect of an economically viable upgrade.

Energy efficiency and responsibility should be playing a key role, but there already a lot of effort spent on encouraging this that falls on deaf ears. Part of the problem is that people read and hear messages on energy use with words like “our”, “us” and “we”, and read it as a lecture from someone using words like “your” and “you” with a superciliously holier than thou attitude. Requests for people to take a little responsibility and care are often received as if they are being asked to make unreasonably herculean efforts, or drag our lifestyles back to the stone age.

Wind power cannot be the answer, it cannot solve all our problems. But it has a role to play in moving us to a more sustainable future.

The most of humanity brigade

I was just thinking right now about a rather odd turn of phrase. It turned up as a comment on an article about gaffes by Prince Philip.

Not gaffes, he is just not a signed up member of the PC Brigade.

Now while Prince Philip’s faux pas tend to raise a smile with me rather than anger or annoyance, I still recognize them as such. It wasn’t the suggestion of support for Philip’s behavior that rankled rather than the phrase “PC Brigade.”

It’s a widespread idiom, calling a group of people a “Brigade”. It usually seems to me to be a turn of phrase used by people describing a nice, positive form of behaviour or viewpoint that they don’t subscribe to. It seems to be an attempt to portray that nice, widespread quality as unusual and problematic. The use of the phrase “brigade” is almost always scathing, and an attempt to portray people that someone doesn’t like as a noisy and problematic minority. The brigade labelled is often trying to deny the fact that the attitude they despise is both positive and mainstream.

As Stewart Lee observes, Political Correctness is just a form of institutionalized politeness. Yes it can be done unthinkingly by idiots, but on the whole it is a positive thing that does more good than harm. Yes, I think there is a case to be made for humour that rises from offensive behaviour. But not for trying to make out that offensive behaviour isn’t offensive, or that those that are offended are kiljoys.

Using phrases like “The PC Brigade” and “The Human Rights Brigade” doesn’t make you look witty or down to earth, it makes you look like a loony and an idiot.