Friday, 11 November 2016

Thursday's journey into night

So I did it more or less right by my own hard-to-keep standards on Wednesday, sticking to a vow not to read the news or listen to the radio, and - as described in the previous post - the personal good took over. Not only that; an evening at ENO witnessing Wigglesworth's last fling in the magnificent Kentridge-designed and -directed Lulu proved not to be the heavy weather I'd expected, but a rigorous and ultimately exhilarating focus on what you can achieve by working through a score like Berg's to the very highest standards. I'm going again on Saturday and taking godson Alexander, down here from Scotland on a visit. Pictured below by Catherine Ashmore, another artistic take by William Kentridge to set alongside the Maleviches which have served me well.

Yesterday, not so good. Started fine by trying to get my teeming thoughts on Lulu into order. But then I gave way not only to reading The Guardian but getting involved in commenting on LinkedIn articles. For God's sake! Do I never learn? I kept away from Facebook and Twitter exactly because of this intemperate desire to sound off. And of course when it comes to talking about Trump you're going to come up against the semi-literate trolls. This one can string a sentence better than many, but oh, the instant insults come so easily. Indulge me while I reproduce the exchange, under a piece by Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament which also brought forth such lovely comments as one recommending the purging of  'libtard pollutants' and another opining that 'an execution of a couple of assholes ie bill n hillery [sic] would be a good start'.

David Nice
Writer, lecturer and broadcaster on classical music

Can we just stop using the word 'respect'? It was inappropriate for the Brexit referendum result and it's ludicrous to apply it to Trump.

Contributor at American Patriot; OurCivics; American Thinker; LinkedIn

imbeciles like you need to go to your safe places so that you do not get your feelings hurt, cream-puff. At least have the intellect to not support scandal ridden criminals if you are going to even mention respect.

DN: Well, well. We can expect a lot more of this filth now. This is clearly a thread to avoid. Of Turkish origin, Mr [redacted], as your name suggests? Then all the more shame on you for supporting a racist and a xenophobe.

KO: Trump is neither a racist nor a xenophobe (heck, he is married to a foreigner, moron!).  Advocating for a nation that respects its laws (immigration included) is no xenophobia or racism.  He never said all Latinos were criminals.  He was talking about the 35% of our prison inmates that happen to fit that bill.  Basic intellectual honesty demands that one see that much.  As you comprehend nothing of the business world, learn how business people think so that you do not buy in to idiotic talking points.[...]

DN: Big assumptions there, Mr [redacted] Please don't talk of intellect or honesty. Or have the disrespect to call someone else a moron or a cream-puff. And now this cream-puff is going to float away...

And of course there's always that option. I should have taken it sooner on one other thread, but I was curious to see if I could have a dialogue with someone who thought differently. I made the mistake of asking a young woman advertising herself as an 'Environmental Scientist' what she meant by some organisational jargon which meant nothing to me and oblique talk of sheep and elephants (turns out Democrats and liberals like myself are sheep, Trump's people the elephants, supposedly in a good way, though of course pachyderms on the rampage cause a lot of damage).

That was like talking to a person who appears sane but then says something so outlandish that you suddenly realise he or she isn't. In this case I got back the reply 'Enough with donkey empathy, your [sic] a victim of feigned political diligence and you have never have to watch an oversight committee get canned for something really important. You are a sheep that has never stood for have never had a cause, you have never really followed politics, you have never cared enough to get involved.'

Much she knew about me. Another nice person jumped in with 'Allyson will...grind you up' and as an articulate afterthought just put up one word, 'punk'. I congratulated those two and a third for taking a leaf out of Trump's rulebook of classic bullying and left. This, like the catalogue of much direr abuse catalogued in the twitter page of Day One in Trump's America (admittedly not all of it verifiable), has the imprimatur of Trump's encouragement to express hatred. We can expect much, much more of it in the years to come: the Brexit licence to abuse 'foreigners' multiplied infinitely and extended of course to the LGBT community (a regular contributor to Parterre noted how he was walking down a New York street and out of a car came 'hey, faggot! How do you like your new president?')

You'll see I manage not to put up that unbearable visage, and much as I approve this German headline I have to cut off the picture below it.

Worth having on link-record, though, the list of 'the 282 places, people and things Trump has insulted on Twitter' in today's New York Times.

As for the nature of the roughly 25 per cent's 'revolution'*, I'm having problems with my anger when friends parrot the 'disenfranchised lashing back against the elite' as the chief cause. For me, this liberal self-beating-up is one of the reasons why we are where we are. Let's say an unthinking 'lashback' may be a contributing factor - ironic that in the cases of Brexit and Trump, the vote was for a far worse 'elite' than the liberal one - but a breakdown of the demographics doesn't show anything so simple. The driving forces were racism and xenophobia pure and simple (though of course there are social reasons behind that). I'd like to see more in the press from the psychological perspective. But foreign correspondents do politics, not psychology. And since I'm not a politician and don't have to be diplomatic, this is about the gist of it for me.

That and an astonishingly prescient comment from H L Mencken in 1920.

That seems to be not quite the original quotation; I wish he'd written the 'narcissistic' bit but it seems not. Here's the full context: 

The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

Anyway, back to black Thursday. Things brightened much later in the day with the mother of my young viola-playing friend Andrew Lavelle sending me a soundclip of him playing Bloch in a Juilliard masterclass. Here he is again - the original context comes in this entry - from a spontaneous mini-recital after one of my Frontline Club opera classes.

Andrew and Amanda were two people I'd unaccountably left off the list when I sent an email, with several links, to all American or America-based friends I could think of. The young will have their day - but how long, o Lord, how long? I only wish I could have held on to the delusion that half of America doesn't want this. But since a staggering 46.9 per cent didn't vote, it's only a quarter.

So what to do? Ignore social and wider media, get out into the fresh air and go walking, like Hillary with her dogs and the lady who met her while out with her daughter (the photo taken above, which I assume I reproduce with the Facebooker's blessing, is a real spirit raiser, unless you wish Hillary dead or in jail, of course). Then, replenished, get back to not accepting but fighting, find out how to turn anger into power - which, as one civil rights organiser put it 'takes discipline and focus'. And make sure you're in good physical and mental state before you plunge in. I promise a slow drip of nature shots from various walks in the entries to come.

On which final note, here's another shot from Spetses, by day this time, taken like the sunrise image in the previous post only last Sunday (can it be? A week is a long time in politics). And I've only just found out that Hydra, the further of the two islands in the distance, was beloved by Leonard Cohen, whose 'Joan of Arc' just hit me with the force of revelation. Maybe he, rather than Bob Dylan, should have got the Nobel Prize for Literature

*Bearing in mind the 46.9 per cent of eligible voters who did nothing - pointed out lower down in the piece - that leaves both Clinton and Trump on points of 25 per cent each (HC, of course, having the lead by some 800,000 votes to date, with some counting still to go).


Catherine W said...

Horrendous, the LinkedIn thing. But not at all surprising. My sympathies.

David said...

I wonder if it was worth it - just the attempt to see if a Trumpite could be reasoned with. Unfortunately Trumpland is Trollville and it can only get nastier with the sense of entitlement that this has opened up amongst the extreme right and American Fascists.

David Damant said...

I fear that it is "ordinary" people who are fuelling the moves to Brexit, Trump - and who knows on the Continent? Their views were ignored or dismissed, and no doubt this resulted in some decisions unfavourable to them. But mainly I suggest that what people do not like are things which are not susceptible to solution - no one understands how to solve macro-economic problems, questions about immigration are intractable etc etc And nowadays all the problems and uncertainties are presented by the media every hour of the day and night, and magnified and spread by the social media. One barrier to this trend is the House of Commons where decisions should be taken on both policies and leaders. That we have moved away from that as a result of the referendum is pretty disastrous and everything should be done to bring decisions back to MPs. Many people reject this and say that they want to have their say, not realising that that also means that the crowd will have its say under the lead of demagogues such as Nigel Farage.

David said...

That's actually one of the best summaries I've read of the situation, or rather one of the few with which I wholeheartedly agree; however much people don't like 'elites', at the moment they're only going to substitute one a good deal worse for another which at least tried to do the right thing. I personally admired Clinton throughout the campaign, but I can see how the flaws got magnified by the media and the very idea that both candidates were equally bad would never have gained traction without extreme credulity.

Nevertheless we need more Obamas, Sadiq Khans, Nicola Sturgeons. They must emerge. In fact I heard from a Los Angeles architect at lunch on Sunday that the new white hope of the Democrats is a handsome, charismatic and brilliant man, part Jewish, part Spanish, currently Mayor of LA, Eric Garcetti. Note that name.

In the meantime perhaps we should start re-running The West Wing.