Double standards

Like many people, I find the fact that so many children have died from gun violence in America a frightening testament to the double standards we keep hearing about from America. The only problem is that it’s not just America, is it? Granted, gun violence is a particularly American problem, but double standards are everywhere. I have yet to find anyone, myself included, who is not prone to double standards. Our problem starts to get very serious when we try to deny the fact and even justify our decisions with a moral argument.

On Twitter, I saw someone holding up a poster that said, “Let’s think about the sacrifice our children are making to ensure we can own guns.” That’s sarcastic and I’m sure it was meant to be, but isn’t that a mentality that seems to emanate from the American media? I can’t watch any more American crime stories because they are so repetitive, but also because they exemplify idiotic deception and callous disregard for the loss of human life. Just count the number of dead bodies that pile up in average crime stories, not to mention “action” movies where so many bullets are fired that it’s a miracle anyone is still alive at the end of the movie.

I remember not too long ago, people were protesting that old western movies were still being shown. There were several reasons for this; one was the portrayal of Native Americans; another was the theme of white supremacy and the underrepresentation of the contribution of the black population to the rise of America. In comparison, the number of Asians or Semitic people regularly killed in action films is far higher, but this does not elicit protest. These films normalize the use of weapons, some even glorify it. Hardly a wonder then, that particularly in America, people flock to guns shows.

In other countries, people had to give up their guns because a police force was set up that had the sole right to bear arms. This had an immediate effect, and the number of homicides dropped drastically. To this day, the countries that have implemented this policy have far fewer deaths by firearms compared to America, where the right to bear arms is enforced almost religiously and the gun industry financially support politicians at will to keep the situation from changing. The curious aspect of this is the fact that evangelical Christians belong to the groups of people who are almost 100% in favour of the right to carry firearms.

The problem with just looking at it and getting upset about it is that we ourselves have a double standard that probably doesn’t have the kind of impact that firearms have on society but undermines the free society that we all cherish. In the name of freedom, we allow things that hurt people; in the name of inclusivity, we ignore the dangers that exclusivity sometimes protects us from; in the name of free speech, lies, slander, deception, and fraud are allowed in through the back door. This undermines the trust we need to maintain a society in which freedom is guaranteed.

There is, for example, the protection of minorities, which is undoubtedly important. However, when those minorities include the few people who harm others, and their protection actually puts them in places where they can do harm, there is always a victim. An example is a prison service that now has to accept that a male prisoner who “identifies” as a woman (whatever that means), despite having no discernible differences from a man, can be moved to a women’s prison. Women do get raped and/or pregnant in prison because of this, but that is somehow considered collateral damage. Some say that they are “just criminals,” whether male or female, which is a callous assertion that just illustrates the insensitivity of the situation.

Since the proliferation of social media, which allows anonymity, we have become even more of a verbally abusive society. Anyone can have an “opinion” that is limited only by laws that prohibit incitement to violence. Certain words or phrases are banned on platforms, but a quick look at Twitter or Facebook shows how people get around that. I am myself sometimes appalled by the behaviour of public figures and could easily lapse into the use of profanities, but I try to limit the use of such expressions, whether on social media or in conversation, although I am not free of it. Some people just take advantage of the opportunities they are given and attack anyone they can find. The problem is not just the bullying and mental health issues some people suffer because of it, but the fact that it has become normal. We’ve become so used to the fact that populist politicians can claim anything these days, and claim things that are clearly untrue, and we accept it as “banter.” People who have a real problem are told to “man up” and “move on.” It is ignored until someone actually dies, and then everyone is surprised.

Social media has also become the platform for radicalising young people, and so we come around to the issues I spoke about at the beginning of this piece. It doesn’t matter what the group is, whether it is political or religious, whether in the name of activism or protest, whatever the cause, people have become radicalised on social media. It doesn’t have to be a mass murder in a school, or a beating up on the street, it could be ‘cancel culture,’ whereby people are denounced to their employers, or their publishers, for saying something that isn’t regarded as politically correct. This has a taste of a time when people were denounced for being “agitators”, just because they were Jews, or in the communist regimes for being counterrevolutionaries, because someone wanted their jobs. Really, anyone who has a problem with someone else can make their lives uncomfortable by denouncing them as an undesirable for some reason. Too many people have already become victims of this behaviour – especially amongst academics.

This has something of mob behaviour, when employers, publishers or even friends and acquaintances withdraw from someone because they are accused of something that is not even criminal in itself, but because it is deemed unacceptable. People have been hanged by mobs because no one had the courage to stand up to it, for fear of joining the victims hanging from the tree. Is this the way we are going, back to times we thought were behind us? Is this the society for which people in Ukraine are fighting and dying? Is this the society that can make the moral claim against other countries?

The trouble with nursing

I have been in contact with several people in nursing in Germany, who seem disappointed and hurt and wondering why they should continue to use their life energy for others. I understand their disappointment because I have been through the same thing, even in management, and I could do little to change the situation. It is indeed the case that nursing in Germany, in which reliability and compassion are important qualities, has been made into a profession like any other, and in the process the authorities overlook (or ignore) the complexity of the task as well as the strain on the body and mind. This is especially the case when it comes to caring for people with degenerative diseases. These seems to be a problem internationally.

Many young people enter this profession and find that the little bit of extra money they earn as a Licensed Practical Nurse over the auxiliary nurse is not motivation enough to take on the stress of the task. In my experience, the demands of the profession are assessed academically, even though the vast majority of professionals are not academics. The problem is not keeping sick people satiated and clean, that is basically the easiest thing to do, but the problem is caring for them appropriately. By appropriate care I mean holistic nursing, taking into account all their needs – which is a very difficult task. It’s not just manual work, or writing extensive care-planning, it’s also relationship work, and for that you need time and tact.

From my experience, if you want to fulfil this task, you have to accept that you cannot provide optimal care in the full sense of the word, because the conditions are not optimal. So, an optimum is not a benchmark, but a goal to strive for. In order to achieve this goal to some extent, it is necessary to have coherent teamwork and a division of tasks that respects the special role of the registered colleagues. Auxiliary nurses must take their cues from the licensed nurses and work towards their declared goals, and these should in turn value that work, without which they achieve their aims.

In Germany, there are many people in nursing who are burned out, and this isn’t just because of the pandemic, which only served to deepen the divide between goals and resources. Often it is not only the tiring work, but the fact that they are under multiple pressures (children, elderly parents, and sometime a reliant husband) that make their lives difficult. I have known many female employees who have (or had) so much to carry in their lives that they no longer had energy for the job. When you carry a life situation like that long enough, you dull down and distribute what energy you have left to tasks.

In Germany, temp work has become widespread, and many licensed nurses have realised that they can have the full pay through temp work, without the full responsibility of resident nurses. Then it’s clear where people are going if they don’t value continuity and a permanent contract. That is demotivating for the professionals in the facilities, and in the end, it can happen that you can only get professionals from temporary employment agencies. This can quickly develop to a facility having to close because it no longer meets the requirements of the authorities.

In a way, you can look at it like this: Basically, no matter what team sport you play or what tasks a team has to accomplish, you need a reasonable game plan that everyone has to stick to. This includes being clear as a team about what the overall task is, what the difficulties are, and how to avoid conceding goals. Of course, it’s also about scoring “scorer points,” but you have to be clear in the workspace what those are. In soccer, it’s easy to define: Putting the ball in the opponent’s goal as often as possible, but the strikers need to keep an eye on the whole game and provide support when needed so that the whole team produces a satisfactory work performance.

With any defined role or task, a team is only as successful as the team effort makes it. It does no good to devise great tactics if no one sticks to them. It’s also no use scoring goals but conceding more of them. If we concede goals, we have to do more unnecessary work. Every member of the team must be clear about their role and do it well, but also follow the “play” and iron out problems with the rest of the team. In our age of individualism, we tend more and more to put our own performance above the performance of the team, but as a team you win and as a team you lose.

In geriatric care in Germany, the residents and family members, as well as the reviewing authorities, are the spectators and referees, and as we know, there are whistles and boos and point deductions when we consistently perform poorly. As in sports, we also get attacked by a sensationalist press when we perform very poorly. We have to perform every day, which makes geriatric care look worse than sports teams that only have to play once or twice a week. Our playing time is also longer than 90 minutes, which means we have to think very carefully about how we perform as a team and look for improvement every day.

Leaders also need to keep a good connection with their teams and not put themselves above the team, but the team also needs to respect the work of the leadership and honour agreements. The moment the process doesn’t work, it’s often the leadership that gets the criticism. This makes it all the more important to clarify what position one takes on the process, what expectations one is overwhelmed with, but also how the team’s expectations can be met. The discussion should be open, but once an agreement has been reached, it must be honoured. It’s better to argue up front than when doing the work.

I believe if you don’t have that attitude towards the task, the job can’t get done, and we all have to work to stay fit for the game. Unfortunately, if you’re not willing to do that, you’re not fit for the task. As in sports, it may be the body that is not up to the task, possibly due to a strong performance in the past. It is noticeable that in nursing there are always typical sports injuries that increase with age.

So, the question is, are you ready to approach the job that way? I wish there were times when these demands weren’t made, but I also know of times when I’ve walked down the ward with my team after work is done and had “We are the champions” on my lips.

The War on The West

Douglas Murray’s book and the interview he did with Jordan Peterson made me think a lot. Every word of his statement in the interview was true. I could tell that he had done very good research for his material, and it was well presented. We live in a time when unreason prevails, not least in the violence of Putin’s war on Ukraine, but also in the conflicts within society where accusations of inherent racism are made, even among people known to have been active in overcoming racism – and have been white. We live in a time when facts matter less than feelings, when mob rule has become respectable and doublespeak normal.

Murray sees a war against the West from within the West. He calls this a capitulation in the fight for freedom of speech, democracy, and a liberal society that can only lead to a worse future for young people. I agree with him. The current atmosphere among young academics is worrisome, and although we baby boomers have been bad enough, the future responsible generation is approaching chaos and anarchy. If there is no group of people in the younger generation willing to implement with their hands what the brains have come up with, everything will dissolve into nothingness, and a vacuum will be created. What will then be sucked into this vacuum will determine the future.

But there is also another side. There are the problems in our Western society that are named by the activists, even if they are perhaps overemphasized. Racism is a problem that will not go away until white people overcome their prejudices. Violence against women, gay people and trans people will not go away until men curb their aggression. There are numerous problems highlighted by activists, and they are the reason for the younger generations’ self-criticism of the West. It is the moral arrogance of the West and its criticism of others that makes it vulnerable to criticism itself. One cannot claim the moral high ground and call for trust if one cannot prove oneself trustworthy. This seems to be the real crisis facing the West.

The problem Murray rightly points out is that self-abuse is not the way to solve the problem. If we tear our society apart, we will have nothing to fight the problems anywhere, and we would prove unreliable to those currently fighting a despotic enemy who wants to destroy any chance of an open, liberal society. It is true that if the West wants to lead people to a better future, it must embody that ideal itself. But the way to get there must be a joint effort by all political parties in a democratic discussion based on truth and evidence for the arguments put forward. Mistakes have always been made and will always be made. The context of actions taken throughout history must be considered, and we must be aware that also our well-meant decisions are likely to be criticized in the future.

As I have said in the past, the importance of credible politics, including the will to defend our society against those who see our way of life as a challenge and are willing to undermine it and even take up arms, as we have seen, cannot be underestimated. The peace marches in Germany on Mayday showed that they lack realism when it comes to cynical people like Putin. They like to imagine that he was “only provoked,” but those who are ready to destroy a country and wipe out a nation do not need to be provoked. His disregard for life, including the lives of his own soldiers, betrays his obsessive character. He hates the West, manipulates the West, undermines the West wherever he can. Every visitor from European countries was cynically put to the test by Putin, trying to cause as much discomfort as possible without it being obvious to the press.

We must focus on the real problems in the world and overcome the loss of trust in our societies. If the people in power are incompetent, they must be voted out. If they manipulate the truth themselves and find illegal ways to keep themselves in power, we must find ways to take power away from them. But trustworthiness must be restored if we are to defend our society against those authoritarian forces in the world who argue that democracy corrodes our values, leads to chaos, and that autocratic rule is better. Otherwise, we just fuel their argument.

A different scenery …

In the days leading up to this week we have been inundated with bad news, and I, for one, was in need of a different outlook, even if the bad news won’t go away, just because we are looking in a different direction. All the same, the drive across the border and through the Netherlands was fortunately uneventful, and we arrived without delay in Bergan aan Zee in bright sunshine. Despite the temperature around 14°C and a cool wind, we had a pleasant walk through the small village and a stretch of the beach, where treading in dry sand was a bit of a struggle. Stopping off in a busy beach restaurant for a Hamburger and Coke, it occurred to me that, whereas in other countries, people have expressed concerns about loss of cultural heritage due to immigration, in the Netherlands, people were talking in various languages, and the waitress reacted with a familiar multilinguistic ability. It wasn’t just the tourists, like us, but those speaking Dutch were visibly from diverse cultural heritages.

This reminded me of an encounter many years ago when I visited the Netherlands and ordered a drink in German. I was immediately reprimanded sternly, though not in an unfriendly way, and told that the waiter knew I was not German, so why was I speaking German in the Netherlands. I corrected myself and said in English that I unfortunately did not speak his language, and was politely served by the waiter, who told me that it did not matter, few visitors did. In his words resonated a certain pride that his language is rarely mastered by foreigners and that he was able to serve the guests in their language. I think that this is an example of a justifiable pride, perhaps it has a certain national aspect, but I experienced a similar encounter in Belgium, where I also found the people there just as multilingual. Obviously, this example has limits, and neither the Dutch, nor the Belgians are so multilingual and culturally multi-facetted that they can compensate for everybody, but they don’t need to. It is already impressive.

Our evening walk was eventful, and we found many attractions, especially for children, hidden in the green area behind the house where we were staying. The houses here are interesting, with unusual shapes that made it clear that we were in a different country. Between the normal houses you see everywhere in the Netherlands, there are many round roofs and buildings that vaguely look like ships on end. Some things also remind me of the coast in southern England, like Devon, where I grew up – especially the dunes and the long sandy beaches.

The whole village is very relaxed and if the temperature had not dropped, we could have sat outside for a while. When you listen to the melody of people talking, you also notice the difference from people speaking in German, and it is more like English. I often listened more to that melody than to the words people spoke when I walked in foreign countries, the hum of the crowds, but also breathing in the smell of the land, which is different even in various parts of a country. The night was pleasant, and we have often slept in worse beds. After watching a few episodes of the Amazon series “Starling” and listening to some sounds around us in the house, we finally slept soundly.

Unfortunately, the temperature drop will remain until we leave, which is something we have experienced on other holidays and led to us leaving earlier. We’ll wait and see how this develops. There are plenty of things to see, and we have sunshine at home, so we’re not looking for a tan.

Protect our Women

Fully aware that in today’s world, especially young people, a white, straight man has nothing to say, I am going to say something that is perhaps increasingly controverse, but which was for most of my life the most accepted norm for me:

Women are adult human females. Typically, women have two X chromosomes and are capable of pregnancy and giving birth from puberty until menopause. Female anatomy is distinguishable from male anatomy by the female reproductive system, which includes the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vagina, and vulva. The adult female pelvis is wider, the hips broader, and the breasts larger than that of adult males. Women have significantly less facial and other body hair, have a higher body fat composition, and are on average shorter and less muscular than men.

The reason this is considered controversial in some places is the growing lobbying by trans activists who claim that anyone can be a woman. The only requirement is a man’s “self-identification” as a woman, without having to meet the physiological or hormonal characteristics mentioned above. It should be a matter of common sense to realize that this ideology brings problems, especially for women. The special rights of women protect them from exploitation and abuse by misogynistic men, but obviously do not protect them enough.

From a fact sheet from the WHO, I judge this to be true:

  • Violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence – is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights.
  • Estimates published by WHO indicate that globally about 1 in 3 (30%) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • Most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Worldwide, almost one third (27%) of women aged 15-49 years who have been in a relationship report that they have been subjected to some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner.
  • Violence can negatively affect women’s physical, mental, sexual, and reproductive health, and may increase the risk of acquiring HIV in some settings.

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women

In the report “Violence Against Women Prevalence Estimates” from 2018, it was found that “Overall, there were 54 countries where the estimates of past 12 months physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence among ever-married/partnered women were above the world average of 13% (UI 10–16%).”

There are also numerous accounts of women endangered by men dressed as women, which can easily be found on the internet, some of which you can find here: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=women+threatened+by+men+dressed+as+women&qpvt=women+threatened+by+men+dressed+as+women&FORM=VDRE

Factors specifically associated with the perpetration of sexual violence include beliefs in family honour and sexual purity, ideologies of male sexual entitlement, and weak legal sanctions for sexual violence. Gender inequality and norms about the acceptability of violence against women are a major cause of violence against women.

Another report states that “Studies of men in Western society reveal marked individual differences in their self-reported proclivity to rape, their sexual arousability to rape descriptions, and their attitudes towards rape. Rapists themselves often engage in other criminal activities, are more sexually aroused by descriptions of rape, and frequently have other sexual deviations. Sadistic rapists are commonly obsessed with aggressive sexual imagery and exhibit marked sexual arousal to descriptions of rape. There is evidence that violent sexual pornography may be conducive to the development of an interest in sexual aggression.” (https://www.academia.edu/55073957/Sexual_aggression_Studies_of_offenders_against_women )

The fact that there are “marked individual differences” amongst men raises the question of why one group of men is receptive to violent images while others are abhorred by such images. The last report suggests that it is a learned behaviour that leads to either appropriate or aggressive behaviour, certainly due to experiences at a younger age, whether in the family or in other settings where the behaviour of elders or “respected persons” influences the attitudes of pubescent boys. Acceptance or toleration of violence in a sexual setting can have both effects, depending on an adolescent’s psychological outlook, and can produce aggressive behaviour toward women.

Unfortunately, individual women sometimes also accept a certain amount of violence, which may be reflected in the behaviour of their sons, but this is not the norm. It is sometimes seen in courtship rituals where women test the masculinity of their suitors, or by teasing the men for not being demonstrably masculine, or suggesting “rough sex,” which would have been considered deeply inappropriate fifty years ago but is now a symbol of liberated femininity for some people.

The widespread availability of pornography, which is decidedly directed at a male audience, is another source of misinformation and influences the factors that cause excitability in young men. Many women find this situation a major influence on the objectification of women and indeed gender dysphoria. As Mary Harrington, who calls herself a “Reactionary Feminist” said in a conversation on Rebel Wisdom recently:

“I have come gradually to the conclusion that in actually gender ideology, in particularly transgender children are being instrumentalized. You know there are some seriously distressed people, who are for all a number a range of different, often quite complicated, personally very painful reasons, deeply unhappy in their bodies and in the world as it is. And I think that is often a rational response to finding themselves in a very in an absolutely intolerable place. Particularly adolescent women who find themselves in a world so saturated with porn, that actually to me, it seems a completely reasonable response to take hormones that make them resemble a male and cut off your breasts. I mean, I would probably be tempted if I were 14 today. So, you know from that point of view you know I have no beef with people who are trying to find some relief in an embodied condition that they find intolerable.”

The distress that the current sexualised situation of young people today causes, is enough to drive an increasing number of them to extreme measures. In some cases, they abhor their femininity, because it makes them vulnerable to advances from men. Mary Harrington also mentioned a friend of hers, Louise Perry, who has recently authored a book about the case against the sexual revolution:

“Her background is as a broadly left liberal feminist, who has worked in a rape shelter, which in fact left her questioning a lot of what she had internalized about what the sexual revolution meant, who it was for, and what it was actually doing. So, she has written a whole book about her perspective on this with chapter titles that I would think would have been, as you say, five years ago very difficult to argue with. Like love and sex is not empowering, people are not commodities, listen to your mother… All sort of fairly sensible, you would think, straightforward statements to make. Somebody within the academy posted the screenshot of her chapter headings today, saying, “this is a real mask off moment, look at this, look at the horrors, which are coming forth from…” the various other sort of imputations of the f [fascism] word. But then received quite a lot of replies to the effect of ‘which bit of “people are not commodities” are you objecting to?’ Really the response was though, “there is nothing here that any of us disagrees with, this all sounds very sensible,” which indeed it does. Love and sex are not empowering, certainly not to women anyway, but what I am trying to say is, there are a lot of people out there, who see this stuff and feel endlessly wordlessly frustrated with this stuff. And they just are not really sure how to mobilize against this stuff, because it is the sort of integrated messaging apparatus, which is transmitting. It seems very well articulated and very all-encompassing, but actually it is not.”

Another well-known victim of offensive behaviour is J. K. Rowling, who is concerned about reinterpreting (or abolishing) the term “woman” and dismantling measures to protect women, such as allowing men who identify as women into their spaces. By saying that only women can bear children, which is the most important criterion for defining a woman, she triggered a landslide of protest from all the probably well-meaning activists who accused her of being “transphobic,” when all she wants to do is protect women’s rights.

We really must get a grip on a situation that is getting out of control, and which the politically left seem to be embracing, and which is pushing people into the far right of politics, because these people object to it, amongst their otherwise right-wing policies. It is also a part of a larger problem, which the conversation entitled “The War On Reality” listed above between Mary Harrington, Paul Kingsnorth, and David Fuller from Rebel Wisdom, points out. Mary Harrington again:

“… there are limits to how much women will tolerate being told that a woman is anybody who says they’re a woman, for example, which is the most egregious and the most “in your face” battlefront in the push for no limits whatsoever. In terms of individual self-actualization or on any terms whatsoever, that is the most egregious front in that particular… There are many others, but it’s also the one which is mobilizing the most sort of cross-party resistance, because if you’ve grown a new human inside your literal uterus, you know what a woman is, and it’s also notable how many of the people, how many of the men who pay lip service to this idea, that a woman is anybody who says they are one, immediately knows what a woman is the moment they want to rent a uterus.

All this stuff is full of slippages, and it is full of bad faith, and it is full of inconsistency, and everybody knows that to be the case, because at the end of the day, it is the liquefaction of everything. I have just been writing a chapter about this actually. The liquefaction of everything does not actually work, because it is premised on the idea that there is no such thing as nature, and no such thing as human nature, and that is not actually true. So, what it does in the end is it successfully liquefies all the norms, or all of these established structures, but because human nature continues to exist, it then simply reframes that, as a set of supply and demand problems. So, instead of having courtship rituals, you have the sexual marketplace, and that is a straightforward reordering of the sex differences between men and women, which had quite elaborate social codes ordered around them in order to balance the interests of men and women under particular economic circumstances.

You liquefy that. You blow it all out of the water and say, no actually, everybody can just do what they want now. But what happens is not that everybody does what they want exactly, because people still have urges, which are not rational and some of those are connected to reproductive roles. They just are. But instead, and because this stuff goes on existing, it just it just gets reabsorbed into the marketplace, and it becomes a set of supply and demand problems. And the same is now happening with biological sex. It is either the desire to be one sex or another, which is being reimagined as a set of supply and demand problems. There are already medical papers out there. We are talking about uterus transplants into men who identify as women. I do not know where they are going to get the uteruses from, but presumably from women who identify as men. I mean, who knows? Anyway, there is this, it is being imagined as a set of Lego parts that could just be swapped, so that they are in the right place, presumably through some sort of marketplace, and the same goes against the babies. Women are still the only people who can gestate new humans, so here again, because we we’re in the process of liquefying all of the norms, but we haven’t in the process successfully managed to abolish the underlying material facts on which those norms are built, we just end up reimagining them as a set of supply and demand problems. So, now if you need a uterus you just go and rent one, but the point is, the liquefaction doesn’t work, and so my sense is, there’s a kind of frustration there among the “automated luxury Gnostics”, because every time they try and get to the bottom, to the point where actually we have just attained full grey goo satanism, it just never quite works, because there’s always another level of materiality, which has its patterns and continues to be what it is. It is a very depressing, very pessimistic sort of a hope, but I do have some, you know. If I have hope, it is in the fact that nature persists, it just is, and it does not matter how many times you try and liquefy, it continues.”

Paul Kingsnorth commented:

“I think that is really a great summary of it all. I‘ve written quite a few times in these essays I am doing at the moment, about the how revolutions effectively – especially progressive revolutions – always clear the ground for the machine. They think they’re creating a utopia, and what actually happens from the French revolution onwards, is you destroy all the customary structures, you destroy the traditions, you destroy the structures from families to community level, structures up to church level, you literally burn down the churches, and you try to destroy the family, and you redistribute the land, and what happens then, is you just create a void, and into the void commerce rushes.

So, as Mary says, everything becomes commodified and so the result of your grand utopian progressive revolution is not a fairer world, it is effectively a world that is more commodified, more individualistic and more prey to the machine. And that brings us to the point, after about two hundred years, that we’ve got to now, where everything is a commodity, but there are a lot of people who consider themselves to be progressive, who have confused that with liberation. This is really what liberation has come down to, as Mary is also saying, better than me, it is liberation from nature at all levels, liberation from the body, liberation from everything around you, and this I think explains the kind of people who scream about fascism, and the people who are so committed to this, they genuinely think – well, effectively, they’re blank-slateists – they genuinely believe that if you can remove all of the supposed change that ties down from the reality of biological sex, to the existence of family, to national culture, to whatever it is that you think is getting in the way of equality and utopia, then we’re all the same and we can indeed all choose to have babies, or to be men not to be women, or to live anywhere, or to be whatever we want. But that is not true, because we are hefted and we are rooted in in whatever culture, or background, or biology we have and there are some things you cannot get away from – but also you should not want to, because they actually make you human. And that is the thing!

There is this notion that these structures that have in most societies and in most times been customary, from the family to the village, to the religious institution, whatever it is, that they are bad things, which limit us. As opposed to the possibility that they are actually things, which enrich us, and which structure our urges in useful ways, and that is the point. We are going to have to probably painfully rediscover that we built these structures for a reason, and we lived in certain ways for a reason, and however imperfect those ways might have been for lots of people, and they’re hardly unimprovable, they still are probably built on a knowledge of human nature that we’re now pretending isn’t there anymore. And yes, we are getting to the point where we have deconstructed almost everything, and as Mary said, there is a grinning face at the bottom of it. It is not looking good!”

No, not at all!

Germany’s negative Press

In the background is of course the Ukraine war and all its repercussions, and the response it draws from the press, which tends to overwhelm us. The position of Germany is especially highlighted in the current crisis, and its hesitancy in severing ties with Russia completely. The government stresses that such a complete cut off of the supply of gas would have severe consequences for German industry, and not, as implied by national and international press, only on the warmth of homes. Considering its role as leading industrial nation in Europe, this could lead to a even greater recession in Germany than in Russia, which would be self-defeating from the perspective of German policy makers.

Another issue is the supply of heavy weaponry, and the handover to the Ukraine of German Marder infantry fighting vehicle (SPz), a product of Rheinmetall Landsysteme, which was for a long time the main weapon system of the German Army’s armoured infantry. The Ukrainian ambassador Melnyk has claimed repeatedly on television that Germany has 400 of them and yet could easily hand over 100. Inspector General Eberhard Zorn as well as his deputy Markus Laubenthal have said “You have to be serious about this if you want to be successful,” and have contrasted the desirable with the reality: Namely, that there are fewer tanks than Melnyk says or is told by the industry. In fact, Germany has continually neglected the requirements of its Bundeswehr and is at the moment refurbishing its ability to present a credible defence force.

There was another issue involving, among other things, Leopard 1 A5 tanks. However, one thing that was overlooked until recently, even on the part of Ukraine, was that no one knew that the vehicles had little ammunition. According to government sources, Rheinmetall was only able to supply 4,000 rounds of 105mm ammunition, and little more until weeks later. In the background, the German government was asking other nations whether they could supply ammunition: Turkey, Greece, Israel, Brazil and several other countries that drive or have driven the tank. But all of them declined – they did not want to or could not deliver. The same applies to old Gepard anti-aircraft gun tanks, the delivery of which has also been discussed behind the scenes. But again, the lack of ammunition makes the battle tanks useless. The fact that this wasn’t publicly made known is probably down to discretion on the part of the government.

What has been going on?

For the few consistent readers of my blog, I must apologise for the lack of content over the past week, especially since there has been a lot going on, but I was preoccupied with another side of my writing, discussing issues on a discussion forum. What has come to my attention though are a few books that I find interesting.

In which a physicist discusses how to make a universe, of what would you make it? And how would you put together what you need in order to make it? The recipe that she comes up with is very interesting and, as she points out, inspired by an ancient numinous image of the Cosmos that was first expressed in the sacred Indian text of the Atharvaveda and termed Indra’s net. She informs us of a “twenty-first-century revolution [that] is being led by cutting-edge science, [and] its empowering implications will profoundly affect all of us. For it’s about to transform not only what we thought we knew about the physical Universe but also our perception of ourselves and the nature of reality itself.”

Her informed account is spread across a multitude of pages and covers numerous topics that are pertinent to a theory of cosmic reality, and I can thoroughly recommend it.

A Secret History Of Christianity sounds very conspiracy related, but Mark Vernon is making a point of showing how Christianity fits into the paradigm changes of the era, showing how Christ and Socrates had a similar fate due to causing similar irritation amongst the authorities. Their revolutionary way of thinking was seen as heresy, but they were influential because they helped people break out of the limitations of what Owen Barfield (once the last of a celebrated group with CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, the “Oxford Inklings”) called “original participation”. This refers to an attitude by which people have little distinction between what is felt to be inside someone, and what is outside of someone, in the way we take for granted today. He quotes Barfield as saying, “Early man did not observe nature in our detached way, he participated mentally and physically in his inner and outer processes.”

“A second phase away from original participation is marked by what he called a “withdrawal of participation.” It happens when there’s a shift from the sense of being immersed in the life of others, nature and the gods. An awareness of separation, even isolation, is felt. A person will begin to sense that they have an inner life that is, relatively speaking, their own.” Vernon, Mark. A Secret History of Christianity (S.3). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle-Version.

The third phase was called “reciprocal participation” says Vernon, and as he says …

“This is, in fact, standard mystical theology. It follows from the discernment that God is not another being, like you and me, but is the ground of being itself. God is known implicitly as the poetry in the poem, the fire in the equations, the life in the living, the pulse of the cosmos. And it’s a truth that must be inhabited to be understood.” Vernon, Mark. A Secret History of Christianity (S.2). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle-Version.

The book is interesting for its comparison between the traditions of Israel and the surrounding cultures, leading up to Christianity and the time afterwards.

Consequently, with so much reading and discussion, which also implies following through on hints and suggestions, I spent a lot of time at my desk, and (next to the standard chores) the remaining time in the garden, where the weather has been inviting.

The Future of Europe

Europe and the British Isles are the former colonial powers that have lost their status and until recently had survived quite comfortably as industrialized nations in a political bubble called the European Union. The first country to leave this bubble of comfort was the United Kingdom, which believed in the revival of global influence and independence. It looks like other countries may follow, especially now that the EU is facing the challenges posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but also the realization that China, India, and America are not (only) friends but competitors. It has become a question of which alliances can guarantee a continuation of peace and prosperity.

The alliance with America has put the EU in deep water, especially considering America’s exploitation of NATO allies for its strategic goals, including interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, as well as its attempt to play world policeman. World competitors have viewed the role the EU has played with disdain but have done nothing to break the camel’s back – until now. NATO enlargement, which for the former satellite states of the Soviet Union was a hasty search for protection from a potential aggressor, has become a threatening phenomenon for Russia, which has been repeatedly marginalized by the West. Of course, past experience has made it clear that Russia is a potential threat, and from the statements coming out of Russia, they want to maintain that position. However, the armed intervention of NATO forces in other countries has undermined NATO’s claim to be merely a defensive alliance, no matter how repugnant the West found the regimes in those countries.

Germany in particular has misjudged the mood in Russia, and ex-Chancellor Schröder has played a major role in lobbying for Russian gas. The idea that interdependence could secure peaceful relations has proved to be an illusion. The balancing act between East and West was always viewed critically by both sides, and the prevailing illusion of military neutrality was a thorn in America’s side and the stationing of nuclear weapons on German soil an affront to the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union fell, a great sigh of relief went up in Germany, and the ensuing chaos in the East indicated that capitalist states were in the making, which the Germans quickly sought to promote. There were many voices that wanted an alliance with the “new” Russia and not with America, especially after Chancellor Schröder categorically ruled out participation in an invasion of Iraq. It was soon clear, however, that Putin had succeeded in bringing the oligarchs who had come to power under his control. Since then, a new nationalistic supremacist worldview has raised its head.

The situation is more precarious than ever for Europe, because its only strength lies in its cohesion. Europe is dependent on the raw materials of the blocs that now compete in world markets. If it is weakened by the loss of members, it will no longer have standing in world markets, as the United Kingdom is currently experiencing. The former colonial powers are then at the mercy of the whims of the superpowers and could experience a serious decline and loss of prosperity and peace on a scale that most Europeans cannot imagine. The last 60-80 years have softened the resolve of many in the EU, and the challenge ahead could represent a major turning point in world history. The UK has yet to find its footing and, in the worst case, could suffer the same fate as all of Europe. We could see an awareness of this in Boris Johnsons race to visit Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the Ukraine, just after Ursula von der Leyen had been there to initiate the process of acceptance of the Ukraine into the EU. He was clearly attempting to build a reputation by doing this, as well as by delivering extensive weaponry, as an independent single partner.

Not only is the EU in danger economically, but it also lacks credible defences and is reliant upon the NATO-Alliance and the Casus foederis (Case for the alliance) if attacked. The measures declared after the invasion of Ukraine, which are designed to make Europe at least not completely dependent upon America, will take years to implement. It is also dependent on supply chains, which we see faltering even in the pandemic, and more so since the invasion of Ukraine. So, we see that politicians have been very naïve about the future and have relied more on the alliances of the past rather than looking to the future. However, as an aside, it can be observed that those who are against the EU would certainly gain from its demise financially, but they are also the ones able to make sure that in case of a disaster they have the possibility to leave the countries where they currently live. Not so most voters, who will then have to suffer the consequences.

The current crisis has exposed many weaknesses in Europe’s security and has not resolved the remaining disputes. Hungary has emerged as the first possible country to leave the EU in favour of an alliance with Russia. In France, there is an opposition that would favour scrapping the current arrangement, that is gaining ground in elections, and has been favourably disposed toward Russia in the past. So, the future of Europe seems open to what follows. Unfortunately, the changes foreseen by the critics would weaken rather than improve the situation of people living in Europe. This is not sufficiently appreciated.

Values

In these times, as too often in the past, we are embroiled in conflict and misery, where the narrow-minded rule and make their nightmares our nightmares. The incessant cruelty and hatred spreads through the media, poisoning the minds of all who are drawn into the conflict, while those who feel the suffering even from a distance fall into a hole of frustration. Empathy generates pity that helps no one, but which is in fact shame by proxy, the shame of our own destructiveness, but also of our own fear. Each side of the conflict is compromised by its own inconsistencies and hypocrisies that prevent any thought of backing down and finding common ground. Thoughts of revenge render answers monosyllabic, and imagination is blocked by worst case scenarios. Bodies lie about like memorials to the naked animosity and terror that has brought us here, and destruction obscures the coming spring – and the hope it would otherwise bring.

Nature is weak against the machinery of human destruction, but it will always raise a trembling stem in defiant affirmation of life. A single dandelion, a wild rose in a wall, a daisy in a sea of mud. The sound of a songbird perching on a branch of a burned tree, or even the sunrise over a hollowed-out building – they can all move us to tears as we realize the carnage we have wrought. A bloody teddy bear in the rubble testifies to the loss of any dignity we may have had. A portrait on a wall in a derelict house, reminds us of the story that had taken place there, which ended in tears and tragedy. Are we, like nature, able to defy the malice of misguided people? Can we raise a quivering hand for life, risk the smile of compassion, or give an embrace of sympathy? Can we carry each other’s burdens, each a part of the way, until we reach our destination? Or have we lost our source of wisdom, common sense, and unity?

It would appear that we haven’t had a common source of wisdom, let alone common sense. Professor Olga Chyzh, an ethnic Ukrainian, wrote an explanation on Twitter (https://twitter.com/olga_chyzh):

“Why do so many Russian-speakers support Putin and this war? Still. Even in Ukraine (though their number is declining). And in other former satellites, or even Canada and the US. Why? How? WHY? It’s not just the Kremlin propaganda. Let me tell you a deeply personal story.

When Russian missiles hit my hometown of Odesa on Feb 24, my mom jumped on the first bus out of the country. Her obvious destination was Moldova—because of geographical proximity, but also, because our family lived there until 1995 when we moved to Ukraine. My mom has a network of friends there—Russian-speakers who, unlike our family, still live in Moldova. From the bus, she called her old friend—I’ll call her Tanya—who still lives in Moldova, and asked if she could spend the night—she could only find a hotel room for the day after.

Tanya was irritated. It was her birthday, and my mom’s unexpected visit was at a bad time. The Russian invasion shook up the entire world, forcing millions of Ukrainians to walk over the border with Moldova in the middle of winter—and Tanya was having a party! Tanya is not a monster (at least not fulltime)—she is a highly educated woman that plays the piano and casually quotes Russian literature in everyday conversations. But if you ask her about the Bucha massacre, she’ll tell you it didn’t happen. There are millions like her in Moldova, Ukraine, Russia itself, and even in Western countries like Germany, Canada and the US. We call them the “deceived generation,” the last victims of Soviet propaganda.

The break-up of the USSR marked the start of nation-building (actually re-building), pitting Russian minorities against the ethnic majorities. After more than 50 years of repression (think Bucha), the ethnic majorities finally got a say in the politics of their own states. This nation-building consisted of downplaying or outright rejecting everything Soviet (read Russian) in favor of national (Moldovan, Ukrainian), and the corresponding change in the distribution of power and wealth. All of a sudden, ethnic Russians who refused to learn the national language, started getting passed over for promotions in favor of those (including ethnic Russians) who spoke the national language. In Moldova where I lived, everything around me—TV programming, store signs, street signs, and ever street names—changed from Russian to Romanian. Other changes included an increase in the hours of Romanian (in schools for Russian-speakers, like the one I attended), as well as the content of literature and history classes.

I was a child, so none of this was a big deal. I quickly picked up Romanian, as children do. For the Russian-speaking adults, however, it was not so easy. It is difficult to learn a completely new language as an adult. But the real obstacle was the hubris. Decades of Soviet propaganda (backed with repression) taught the ethnic Russians about their undeniable superiority over everyone else. Why should they learn some backward language like Romanian or Ukrainian if Russian is the “purest and the most beautiful language”? How and why should they accept a government made up of non-Russians? And anyway, there was no point in trying, because Russia was going to come back and re-absorb all the former satellites soon enough, setting everything back how it was.

I kid you not, these were the conversations I listened to as a kid in our Russian-speaking circle of friends. More surprisingly, these are the conversations I still hear (even from my own relatives) today, 30 years later. These people still hope that Russia will come to save them from the “inferior” national majorities AND give them their coveted Russian pension. These people are still waiting for Russia to give back the money they lost (na knijke) when the Soviet Union broke up. These people did not cause the Russian invasion—contrary to what they think, protecting them is the last thing on Putin’s mind (he doesn’t actually want to pay them pensions). But these people are complicit in the crimes being committed against Ukrainians. Deep down, they know that the Bucha massacre did happen—they just don’t care, because the victims are “inferior.” Just ask them about Russian crimes in Chechnya.”

It appears that the nationalist idea of “superior race” is alive and well, but not only in Russia, where xenophobia has been demonstrated in state media there, it is all over the place. I experienced a similar mentality in Russians who were descendants of Germans deported to Siberia and who had returned to Germany. The xenophobia they experienced in Germany was more of a problem to them than the conditions they had lived in when in Siberia, despite admitting they could never return. Attending a wedding put on by these people, the Russian traditionalism above all was abundantly clear.

Although the views of Professor Chyzh were confirmed by other Russian speakers, members of minorities in other countries, who experienced xenophobic repression for speaking their own language in public, could identify this with the superiority complex of white Americans and Europeans. There were comments like, “In Australia there are those who still deny the British Empire performed a hostile invasion, decimated the indigenous population. They were hunted like animals in some areas less than 100 years ago.” Another person wrote of a “similar experience here with a Syrian expat friend who refuses to acknowledge the brutality of the Assad regime even though her own sister was imprisoned and tortured.”

A German wrote that the statement, “reminds me so much of my grandmother. She was lovely, best Oma ever. But she believed the Wehrmacht was noble, the SS very elegant and the Holocaust had never happened. She lived from 1910 to 2001 and never changed her mind.” An American wrote, “I couldn’t help noticing how this scenario feels very close to the white nationalists here in the US who are in a death rattle because they know their days are numbered as the “ruling” race.” A British person suggested a “wider context: why did so many western European intellectuals in the 19th century support colonialism? … Possible answer: “universal values” depend on educated class who in turn defend that class (however they understand it – eg. Russian) as “special”. He quoted an Article (https://www.parlia.com/a/dickens-defended-colonial-privileges-europeans) saying that “Dickens, like many people of his time, endorsed the British Empire and its colonial aims to conquer non-western nations, and dismissed the cultures of indigenous peoples as primitive and inferior to the British way of life in his writings “The Noble Savage” and “The Frozen Deep”.”

This makes it clear that the sentiments I spoke about at the beginning of the article are overshadowed by mindsets that are nationalistic and xenophobic in nature, and not only do we need to search our own hearts, but reconsider how we see the world. If we want to have a common basis for life on this planet, this is where we have to start.

“Tell your story,” the therapist said.

“Where do I start?” I asked.
“Where do you normally start?” A smile flashed across her face. “When you tell stories …”

Where do I usually start? I often don’t tell stories anymore because I’m afraid I am taking people’s time for my indulgence. I used to tell stories all the time, and I noticed that I sometimes lacked the differentiation between what was true and what was entertaining. I couldn’t differentiate, so I was worried about being seen as a confused personality, or worse, as a liar. It began when I was a child, and I had the invisible friend that children often have. He was always at fault when I did something wrong, but never there to take the blame. My mind was often full of the stories I had read, and they drifted into my talk of what had happened that day, or at a time in the past. I remember telling children that I had seen a cobra when we were in Malaya, but that had been a game we had played when my father had been stationed there, which arose after reading about the mongoose Rikki-Tikki-Tavi in the Jungle Book from Rudyard Kipling.

Many stories came from the Jungle Book, which was a source of imagination for an “impressionable boy” of ten years old. When we returned to England, I imagined the stories of the Jungle Book had happened to me in that great adventure, which avoided the fact that my parents had broken up after misadventure and jealousy clouded our house. I was confused and scared in that situation, and the return to England and confrontation with my maternal Grandmother only deepened the need for an alternative reality in which I took refuge. The reintegration of my father into the family was a tearful affair, in which I was asked what I wanted. I wanted him back, of course, as I say now, but the situation only pushed me further out into my imagination.

When we had moved shortly afterwards, and I had new children with whom I had to cope, my stories received some criticism. I was branded a liar, and it was true, I couldn’t differentiate between the facts and the fiction, which had been a source of comfort to me. New stories had come along when I had been sent to my paternal grandparents, probably due to the caustic way in which my maternal grandmother regarded me. I had read the Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs in a frenzy, immersed in a fantasy world that was even a fantasy for the author, let alone for me. This only complicated the situation, for these stories fuelled even more fantasies about our time in Malaya, and my classmates were right, I was making it up. It was, after all, better than the truth. But it was a time of contradictions. In Malaya, we had also been confronted with naked local children on the beach and mothers openly breastfeeding their children, although they generally covered themselves in response to the staring eyes of British children. My brother and I assumed it was normal to walk around naked, but my mother insisted it was “different” for them and that “they didn’t know any better.” A short time later, there was a magazine in the school, hidden from the teacher, shown by older students: “Health and Efficiency” championed the cause of nudists, publishing letters, articles, and photos in which the genitals were blacked out, but the women’s breasts were visible. I assumed that these people “didn’t know any better” either.

I was attracted to a girl in my new class whose parents were from India and who had a dark complexion. I was starting to get pale, but still had enough skin colour to attract her attention, but her interest faded with my complexion. As soon as I saw her, she was part of my fantasy world, but she lost interest in my stories, and soon I was sent to a secondary school for boys, and she went to a grammar school for girls. In between, I had moved on to the “Jeremy” books, which were about schoolboy pranks, and as puberty approached, I was quite indifferent to girls, although I struggled with the changes in my body. Of course, I had no one to talk to about it, since my parents didn’t talk openly about these things, and I suddenly had to bathe myself alone. I just read everything I could get my hands on, including the science fiction classics that my father read but wouldn’t talk about. The more I read, the more I was dodging the reality I was struggling with.

At Barnstaple Boys Secondary School, our history teacher, Mr Sam Ellacott, told stories of old England, drawing wonderful pictures on the blackboard of country life, which he had also drawn for “The Golden Hammer Booklet of 1961”, which was printed by W. F. Cole & Sons of Exeter. Our English teacher, Mr Ford, who was also an amateur actor, managed to stimulate my imagination further with his portrayal of literature and eventually persuaded me to take part in a project in which we pupils let our fantasy flow to classical melodies, which developed into a spontaneous dance. We went to see him in a Greek comedy about the gods on Olympus, in which he played Mars, the god of war.

A key experience was a Christian Endeavour camp in Wales, which was an adventure I tried to warm to. There was a variety of activities, building rafts, swimming, shadow theatre in the evenings, and most of all we told stories and heard new ones. The friendly atmosphere encouraged me to read the Bible, and talk about what I had read, which had me thinking about God for the first time. On the way back, I had my first “spiritual” experience. We travelled across the Bristol channel on the passenger ferry from Ilfracombe to Mumbles, and the journey to Wales had been pleasantly unspectacular. On the journey back, however, we were caught in a sudden storm, the likes of which I had never experienced. I stood on the deck in the covering over some stairs and watched in awe as the sky and water turned a dirty brown, occasionally lit up by lightning, and the waves surged well up above the ferry and then crashed into the depths out of sight, only to rise again shortly afterwards. The movements caused a stirring in my belly, but I had no urge to join the multitudes at the railing, expelling whatever they had eaten to the waves.

When we arrived back in Ilfracombe, everyone looked the worst for wear as they left the ferry and joined their worried parents on the quay. I just had another story to tell, and my father listened in a solemn silence but then revealed that he had his own story to tell. My brother, Colin, was in the hospital recovering from a fall from his bicycle at high speed, from which he had a cracked skull, concussion, and numerous other injuries. I understood the silence because my brother had imitated me racing down that same hill, just as he had imitated me climbing trees and had fallen, damaging his spine. We travelled back in silence. Colin recovered, thankfully, but the concept of responsibility was imprinted on my mind.

I remember that the time I spent there was peppered with such episodes, being a typical schoolboy who used his imagination to get himself into as much trouble as possible. I had already broken two bicycles, got into trouble for stealing apples and destroying a haystack to build a den, fallen off the roof of our bungalow, been caught by a farmer running around naked in the fields, knocked over a huge vase that fell on my brother and me, and, along with my friend the pastor’s son, had tried to blow up a tree, which was heard all over town and reported in the newspaper. The countryside invited us to look for adventures, take long walks to the beach and investigate everything we found.

This all came abruptly to an end, at least for my taste, and we were soon on the way back to my grandparents. On the one hand, it was a tearful farewell, because we were leaving the countryside and heading back to a large town. But on the other, I was curious about my cousins, whom I had rarely seen, and who were roughly my age. However, the challenge of adjusting to another school, this time with a mixed class, proved to be daunting. It only helped a little bit that Linda, my cousin, was at the same school, but she was a year behind me. The school was just over a mile, or at my pace, about 45 minutes away, but took me under the metal railway bridges next to the railway works. I was always very hypersensitive to loud noises, especially the grating sounds of trains crossing above me, and I hated having to pass under those bridges. When I arrived, I had to put up with being pushed around for being smaller than most in the class. The school year seemed endless, but I grew very fast in that year, and with weight training, I gained a stature that put me in good stead to stand up to the bullies. In one unfortunate incident on the school bus, a fellow student suffered a broken jaw, and in another incident, a boy who challenged me fell over a bicycle and injured his head on the street. This meant that I was left alone, but the incidents occurred because my stories about foreign countries and schoolboy mischief had attracted negative attention.

When the school year ended, I changed schools again, only this time some of my classmates went with me and the school was closer to where I lived. But the new teachers were a new challenge, and as I hit puberty, the girls became a challenge as well. I was now the second tallest in the class, with only a giant of a boy taller than me. I also had broad shoulders, from swimming, but also from lifting weights. This made me interesting to some of the girls, but I had a hard time adapting, and it was as if they sensed it. No one wanted to listen to my stories, at least not in public, so I also had a problem with my identity. I couldn’t get along in school, and even in German, which I enjoyed, I was told in no uncertain terms, “You’ll never speak German, boy!” Ironically, today I am considered reasonably eloquent in that language.

I started avoiding school after I found a way to sign in and then disappear. After a while, some days I didn’t sign in at all. When the weather was good, I would go out to the fields around town, which are all housing estates now, but still open then, with a few cows here and there. It was quiet there, which I appreciated. When the weather was bad, I would find a café or cafeteria in a big department store like Debenhams, where my mother had worked, and scribble in notebooks whatever came to mind. In this way, I wrote so much that I received a prize for the greatest contribution to the school magazine, although only a short poem was published. When I was caught out, I was sent to the school psychologist, who asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told him that his job seemed a good idea, and he told my parents that the big psychological problem I had was that I had lost connection to school and was bored. As to what potential I had, he said, “whatever he puts his mind to.” When school ended, I only had poor CSE grades in English Literature and Geography, which is not hard to understand.