Dating in the time of Covid

COVID as we all know is not a spectator sport, we all have skin in the game. If life was a night out, then the music stopped suddenly,  the lights came up, and our options suddenly vanished. It became apparent that our status, be it married, single, kids, no kids, our job type, was brought suddenly to the fore, and we were given ample distraction-free time to ponder how we got here. Right now, one the more visible casualties of COVID is a night out. And it is the single among us who feel this loss most acutely. I suspect I am not the only one pining for a time when I could walk into a bar or nightclub, loosen up with a few drinks and let whatever happens happen. Although internet dating has been around along time, it always lacked the spontaneity of meeting somebody in bar. Anyone who has spent hours swiping faces will come away with an empty feeling with the sterility of it all. Romantic it is not.  And now it’s all we have. The bars positively discourage mixing and getting close to people and the nightclubs and interiors, in general, are now health hazards.

The internet date is a leap of faith at the best of times, armed only with some carefully chosen snaps from god knows when, and small talk via text, you must go meet this person, and see how it goes. Fast forward an hour your sitting across from someone who is about as sexy as a parking ticket, trying to drink until she’s shes good looking. You can’t even play it cool because you are in a painstakingly created scenario, initiated on the sofa during the week. God made a wise choice when he put women in charge of sex, but he also endowed men with a high pain threshold when it came to chasing it. It would be true to say in most cases that, if that if a woman agrees to sleep with you, without money changing hands , then she likes you. The opposite is not the case, however. And women keep this fact front and center in their thinking when dealing with men. Putting out and being blanked is to be avoided at all costs.

The addition of booze into proceedings is crucial from here on in and it is no surprise that it has been civilizations drug of choice for the past ten thousand years. It is when you hear the words, “I don’t like to be drunk, I’ll just have one”, that you know you are now trapped in a death spiral only the most devoted womanizer could escape. You sit back take a drink of your now almost empty pint and think of the goddesses of the past, those fun sexy, crazy girls, who could drink like a sailor, and were spectacular in bed, all in a time before Covid. Then your back in the room,  looking blankly across the table at this buzz vacuum sucking the last possible of hope of getting laid out of your life.

If the death of flux, and chance and uncertainty is to be the future then this puts a huge dent in the conception of a night out and courtship. My advice to men would be to establish some ground rules before meeting anyone. Mine are as are follows, I like drinking so you better too, I want to meet in a pub, and no I do not want to go a walk in a park or up a mountain, a pub! so I can get so we can get drunk as quickly as possible. I am also pro drugs and am generally up for anything. I want to meet my female equivalent, preferably a few years younger.

Once we have established common ground in a post-sexual relationship.
I am fully open to walks in the country, shopping and other such shite, but until then, treat me and other men would some respect and don’t put us in positions where we have to pretend to be interested in the trees and birds in a park near your gaff. The despair comes in waves, I hope this finds you all well. To Victory!

The story of black lives matter.

People talk about gut feelings, that sixth sense when something doesn’t sit well with us, about a situation or a person. They also describe people and places having a good vibe. These intangible sensations run like a river through our consciousness, every day, we can make ourselves feel miserable, just by thinking, or being subjected to negative situations. As Dale Carnegie once wrote, “We are creatures of emotion” 

We, all of us, experience this, it’s part of being a human being. We assess situations with emotion and reason jostling in the balance and try and make sense of whatever reality is being presented to us. The ability to get to the truth of an issue, and to react appropriately is a highly desirable quality and will insulate, those lucky enough to have it, from manipulation, and bad decision making. People who have these skills, who are known to behave with good intuition and intentions, who make wise decisions, are rewarded with respect and often status. The reality we all share, on planet earth, is based on perception for sure, but there are objective truths, if there were not, story would not be possible. Without a shared understanding of life, and shared values, justice, a sense of fairness and morality, for example, how could a writer ever hope to emote a reaction from a crowded cinema or a theater? By the same token, humans, as they get older, become aware of the many shades of grey within human behavior. But perhaps, to be a mature adult is to understand that good people do bad things for a variety of reasons. Equally, there are people who are just plain bad, and this, in the minds of moral people is hard to understand. However, once we accept that there is more that unites us than divides us, we have a starting point, from which to discuss reality. But do not make the mistake that truth is the fundamental arbitrator of human behavior.

Story is the most powerful tool human beings have to organize their societies. This is not to say the stories need to be true, however. Western Europe was dominated by a religion, left behind by the Romans for reasons of expediency, for centuries. Communism promised people the chance of collective happiness and killed millions. History has shown that a large society can be controlled by small elites, using a story. And it get’s more complex when you consider many of those in charge, who saw first hand how corrupt things became, never lost faith in implicit goodness of the message themselves. From Stalin’s Ukrainian purges to the Spanish inquisition, people did unspeakable things, convinced of their own righteousness, inspired by clearing the way for some imagined utopia. The enlightenment was crucial in reducing the power of dogmatic religious structures, and brought democracy, science and reason to the western world. Niche declared God dead, as the 19th turned into the 20th century, and shortly after that, the most advanced continent on earth began two wars of annihilation based on various ideas some no more complicated than nationalism, others all together more vicious. And so history has shown us time and again, that people can be controlled, motivated and destroyed by lies wrapped up in a great story. 

The truth matters but less than you think, and finding it, sharing it and reaching a consensus on it, within the realms of the subjective, and in an ever-increasingly frantic media, is fracturing consensus on many issues. There is no doubt that social media, and the destruction of the barrier to mass publishing has changed everything. But this is not to say that before social media, the established media was not engaged with telling stories.

Truths can be dangerous and sometimes better left unsaid. After the Holocaust, for example, the catholic church was compelled to tone down the Jewish involvement in the crucifixion story. As children, we were told that the Germans murdered millions of Jews because they were brainwashed by the Nazis. But this of course does not explain the persecution of the Jews all through history, and by countries such as Latvia during the war, whose people were not listening to german propaganda. 

I have often watched a film, found it unsatisfying but could not quite put my finger on what I didn’t like about it. Then, later that evening I would read a review on it, the writer would accurately describe the failings of the movie. There would be an Aha moment. It dawned on me, that while I could not articulate what was wrong with the film, somebody else could, they described why the film didn’t really work, and I was happy they did! Sure, we just shared the same opinion but for me, it rang true. In the political sphere, this is what compelling leaders have in common, the ability to articulate their views, and make a point that resonates with their audience. Most recently, with the use of social media, and brilliant speaking, Nigel Farrage was able to convince millions in the UK to take a leap of faith, which could take a generation to resolve. But the underlying reason they leaped was of emotion, not rationality. There were enough people motivated by a general sense of disillusionment with life in the UK. The Brexit movement threw seeds on fertile ground, with a new story. A story of leave, a story of independence and going back to an England that has long since disappeared. 

The great stories, the classics, strike a chord with what it is to be human there is drama, characters, emotion. Harmony is to be discovered not invented, symmetry and balance exist without us, our finest writers at their best, work all of nature’s principles into the story, and in doing so create art that resonates with people. This is the gift of the writer, the speaker or even the comic, they tell us things we already know but couldn’t quite put into words. They create meaning. 

But meaning does not have to be based on the truth. 

Fiction is of course just that, we know before the lights go down in a cinema that what we are about to see is not real, this is a fabricated fictional story, designed by humans, acted by humans to entertain humans. We know this and yet it is the job of the storyteller and filmmaker to make us forget this pronto, and our brains are only too willing fall under their spell, more than that we pay to be to be placed under that spell. 

When viewing actual footage of people in real life doing real things, with real consequences, it is no less compelling, but our brains can generaly tell the difference. This does not negate the fact there is still a story here, cause and effect, hero’s and villains, and however muddy the water, there are reasonable deductions that can be drawn, there can be sense made out of it, however unpalatable. 

And so when I saw George Floyd, with his face pressed against the concrete, as the knee of Derck Chauvin dug into his neck, my first reaction was not one of mixed feelings. For me and the vast majority of people, the urge to shout get off the guy! you’re killing him, was all that went through my mind! The witnesses mirrored my thoughts, and can be heard pleading with the cops to let him up. Besides the sheer cruelty of the act, the breathtaking stupidity must also be taken into account. How could the cops involved not know this could go badly wrong for them, and in the year 2020, in not very much time at all. And so, kicked off the latest and greatest incarnation of black lives matter. The irony being that, Floyd’s killing was probably one of the few moments of consensus in American media since Trump was elected. Republicans, Democrats, Fox, CNN, and Trump himself condemned the killing and demanded justice. The Mayor of Milwaukee who has subsequently shown to be weak as piss, dithered initially before charging all cops with varying degrees of murder/ manslaughter. Needless to say, they were all fired as well. 

The rest, as they say, is history, mass protests fueled by boredom and social media, sprang up from Melbourne to Madrid. Black Lives Matter they shouted! Enough is enough. And now the power of story shows itself again. Those who protested, were motivated by a sense of rage against such a brutal killing. This is understandable, but after a few days with protest after protest, I had that gut feeling, this is bullshit feeling. 

I needed to be honest with myself and my own prejudices first though. I see black lives matter as just another group on the far left, along with Antifa and Trans rights groups. They are a vocal minority nurtured on college campuses in the last 15 years who seem hell-bent on tearing down much of the established norms of the west. Black lives matter, are a leaderless rage machine that springs into action as soon as an event suits their narrative of white systematic oppression of blacks. George Floyd was the perfect martyr in this tale. This is what I believe to be true. 

As somebody whose age has moved me towards seeing more grey than black and white, I was amazed at the simplicity of their message and how it was gaining traction. Black people are being, deliberately killed by the police who in turn is an instrument of racist governments. This is despite the USA, for example, being a federal system with 52 separate state governments and mixed-race police forces. And what’s more its not just happening in the USA it’s happening in the UK as well, and Australia while we’re at it. They marched in London, looted and burned in the New York and some media outlets, excused their behavior as justifiable, because of pent up rage after years of subjection under the whip hand of white institutions. 

This is a great story! but how can anybody in their right mind not see it is a simplistic fiction. Yes there are elements of truth to it, slavery did happen, and racism does exist, worldwide, and between other races, but the story is just far too simple to be credible. The story of race and empire is the story of the creation of the modern world. The middle east and the Chinese both took their turns being the center of civilization in the last 5000 years. But it was Europeans from 1500 onwards who created the modern world as we know it today. They set up colonies in the new world, wiped out the existing populations, mainly with germs, and set up a vast infrastructure of global trade. This required an abundance of cheap or free labor. The origins of slavery owe as much to economic necessity as white supremacy. The trade was, inhuman, cruel, and was ultimately ended by pressure from good people of all races. But again the truth of Slavery bad, whites bad, is too simplistic for a world this nuanced. Firstly there were black people actively complicit in the sale of black slaves. Secondly, it was the riches from slavery and the accompanying trade that build the magnificence of Europe. From Dublin to London, to Lisbon to Madrid these majestic old cities with there, beautiful buildings and squares were built on the backs of slavery and empire. This is an inconvenient fact, and one to be considered. Those wishing to tear down statures might consider the large buildings surround them as well. And this is not to say European empires reserved their exploitation of workers to just the black race, the Indians and the Asians where both exploited and treated with racism by the British and the Americans respectively. This reveals another uncomfortable truth for the simple narrative of BLM. Slavery with all its cruelty and immorality had positive consequences for the descendants of the slaves, and for the descendants of the slave owners. Without Slavery, would the African populations have willingly sailed across to the North and South American and built colonies alongside the Europeans? would Africa have become a center of learning and innovation like northern Europe? The answer is almost definitely not. And so generations of black people grew up in the richest most powerful country in the world, and many had a better life as a result. The truth is stranger than fiction. This becomes obvious to anyone over the age of 20. And the truth is without slavery there is no Jazz or Rock and Roll music, there is no rap, there is not Micheal Jordan or Nina Simone, there is no Miles Davis or Martin Luther King. There simply would be nowhere near the level of advanced black, English speaking culture woven into the American 20th century and that would have been a huge loss for the world. So those who point to slavery being pure evil, yes it was, but you simply cannot deny the many unintended positive consequences. 

Europe and American have had migration move to the top of political agenda in the 21st century. Trump is all about building a wall, and the liberal Europeans snigger up their sleeves at the stupidity of the man. Meanwhile, the EU faces a migration pressures on its Eastern and Southern borders. Many people seem unaware that a wall has already gone up between Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and governments espousing views of cultural conservatism are in power. Meanwhile, Africa, continues to be a continent of failed states with populations willing to risk life and limb to get to Europe. This is painted as a refugee crisis by some in the media, but it is plain for all to see that these are economic migrants. This is what makes it all the more absurd, the spectacle of people taking to the streets to complain about racist old UK, while native Africans and middle eastern men risk life and limb to get onto the island. This fact is not lost on most people in the UK, and I am confident the BLM marches garnered little sympathy from white middle England. 

The specter of slavery is the most commonly weaponized tactic by BLM supporters when rationalizing the problems in the black community in 21st century American. White people are racist the state is racist, Slavery. It is like bringing up the Holocaust to a german, it immediately reduces the argument to a point of binary injustice. But if people cannot move on from the past then grievance weighs the whole society down. This can be seen from Northern Ireland to the middle east, as parents hand down the story of grievance from generation to generation. After the Asortocites of the Spanish civil war, there was a concerted effort the bury it’s history. The story of what had happened was deemed just too destructive for society to move on from it. The various separatist movement still bubbles under the surface, but broadly speaking, Spain has been peace ever since. 

Now I could get into making an argument based on data etc, but that is not the point of this aricle. It is about story, and how powerful a force it is. And black lives matter is a story. When the UK last experienced mass protests for the Iraq war or the poll tax, the protesters had explicit demands, that they could articulate, and that could be delivered by the governments they were protesting against. The black lives matter crowd are against Racism and other abstract bad things, like police brutality and inequality. This is like taking to streets to demand an end to unfairness, cruelty, and prejudice. Things we all good people are against, try to curb in ourselves, and other people, but accept are part of life. How do governments even begin to tackle these issues with policy? This is before you take into account the BLM movement, unrelenting refusal to acknowledge the black communities’ contribution to interactions with police forces in the UK and the USA. Crime, poverty, fatherless homes can all be explained by systematic racism. Again, a great story, deviously simple!. Meanwhile, the western world has made real progress in inclusivity for minorities since the turn of the century. Statistically speaking it has never been a safer time to be black in the USA, and gay people are afforded more equality than ever before. This progress seems to be irrelevant when confronted with the story of black lives matter. 

One truth is that areas of deprivation have higher rates of crime. So let’s take race out of this for a moment and agree that this is accepted by most people. Children of any race who are born into stable environments with access to education and resources will be less likely to pursue a life of crime. This is what makes corporate backing of BLM more galling. From Amazon, to Air b and b, to Starbucks, these corporations who deliberately avoid giving back to society via taxes, are only to eager to jump on the bandwagon of Black lives matter. The sheer cynicism of their position is apparent, as they get behind the low hanging fruit story, and lecture us all on ethical living. What is more disturbing about these self-satisfied corporate drones, is the absolute resoluteness of their position. The reason they flagrantly bring politics into the workplace or commerce space is that they do not see it as a political issue. A political issue would have many different sides to consider and would require, debate and could even cause division among people. Black lives matter, on the other hand, it is just the truth. How could we not get behind this incontrovertible truth? On a recent visit to the website indeed, I noticed the CEO had seen it fit to post an email he wrote to all the staff, telling them how WE at indeed stand behind the BLM story and stand against racism, etc. When did it become ok for a workplace to become a place where politics can be brought inside and shoved down employees’ throats? 

And so, in an empty stadium in Manchester, the premier league in their wisdom compelled all the players and staff to take a knee, and wear BLM jerseys. And no, not for just one game, for the rest of the season. It would have been very interesting to see how a full house would of re-acted to this spectacle. The knee was first taken in a sporting context by Colin Kaepernick an American athlete a mere 4 years ago. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder”. The reaction to his stance was emotive and divisive, as would be expected. He was entitled to make his protest, for his beliefs but way back in 2016 this was not considered to be a man pointing us all toward an inalienable truth. Fast forward to 2020 and the spectacle of this taking a knee is now orthodoxy. 

The Premier League, again so convinced of the Black Lives Matter story, compelled their workers to partake, and viewers to witness, this spectacle of something that a mere 4 years ago was a symbol of a highly contested world view. Again, who do these people think they are? The absolute conceit of their position is reminiscent of the puritans. To make matters more absurd, in the premier league black and mixed players are thriving, and this extends up to the England team with a massive over-representation of black and mixed-race players. It is not inconceivable that in the next few years white players will be in a minority. Does this point to a rotten racist system hell-bent on oppressing the black people of the UK? Players such as Raheem Sterling have been active on the subject of racism, it is clear he has a legitimate grievance here. Firstly however it is fair to say that all players get personal abuse from crowds in England, and football has spent years trying to stamp out racist abuse. Yes BLM aims to stop systemic racism, but what has this really got to do with football. The most popular league in the world was naive at best to involve itself so fully with BLM. 

Back in the studio, the panelists, former footballers, are required to applaud the optics and point again to the obvious righteousness of BLM and their story. Then something happened off-script, a ripple of opposition to the prevailing narrative in the form of a little plane flew overhead with a message WHITE LIVES MATTER BURNLEY. Not the most eloquent of protests but it did perhaps epitomize the sheer frustration of a huge amount of people who are sick and tired of having childlike stories shoved down their throats, while they book a hotel, buy a coffee or watch a football match. 

 

Stage 4 Unicorns

In early March, on the cusp of the pandemic, the International comedy club in Dublin, announced the show must go on, and that they will be staying open all weekend. Nobody showed up to fill the tiny little club, that world was suddenly over.

In the western world, the party abruptly stopped. The eye-level centers of commerce that are the beating heart of our cities, closed with stunning rapidity. While most businesses have been effected by the pandemic, the one with the largest question mark over its future is food, beverage and entertainment. While white-collar jobs move online, and grocery retail and its supply chain thrive, opportunities open, and others adapt, it is increasingly hard to see how our many bars and restaurants can survive in a world without a vaccine. A vaccine, most experts believe is at least 18months away.

The slow-moving car crash tactics announced by the Irish government put the entertainment industry to the back of the line, with a proposed August re-opening schedule. It is, however, becoming increasingly obvious that without herd immunity, or medical miracle, the opening of the main facilitators of social mixing would send us right back to square one. As it stands the only place people really mix outside their circle is shops, and then they are being well instructed in a controlled environment. The packed parks are a place where transmission of the virus is again unlikely. If the idea is to drip feed the population the virus, wait for medication, and re-start the economy then the Irish plan might just work, until stage 4.

Put simply the architecture, nature, and traditions of bars, restaurants, and entertainment are simply incompatible with life in 2020. Most Bars and Restaurants have 3 days at the weekend to do the majority of their business, they need packed bars to make money. Combine this with a collapse in tourism and I suspect many will simply not re-open even if allowed too. When one thinks of the crowded thronged bars of Dublin, with the damp warm air and people drinking and shouting over the music, two words spring to mind HEALTH HAZZARD. How many people could be infected by even 5 spreaders on a night out? It is not hard to imagine a scenario where bars re-open , numbers spike, and people either stay away, or bars and restaurants are forced to shut.

There is the option of retro-fitting the bars with panels of perspex and hand wash, but what is does that look like to a crowd of drunk patrons, and who the hell wants to drink there? In post-COVID Ireland, going on a night out is simply the riskiest thing anyone could do. For those young adults living at home, and there are many, there would be a massive risk of coming home infected and giving the a parent the virus. Football matches and gigs carry the same risk. This is not a hard calculation for anyone to wrap their heads around. The Irish government, content with not overwhelming the hospitals, seems focused on kicking the can a few months down the road, but if and when, our population, most of who are uninfected, are rewarded with a return to social norms, then we will see the opening of rich playgrounds in which the virus to feast. It is inconceivable that cases will not skyrocket, and it begs the question of what exactly are we waiting for?

Forget the Past !

The past beats inside me like a second heart. – John Banville

It is, perhaps, hard to put an age on when a human being can be said to have a past. My memories of childhood and my adult observations of children, have led me to conclude that they live very much in the present. This, of course, is a function of a child’s consciousness, but it is also due to the relative shortness of their lives, they simply have not got much to dwell on, they do not have a past. The adult observer might enjoy and sometimes envy the children as they pass these years before moving towards adolescence and the growth of adult consciousness.

A teenager, in transition with an everchanging brain, can not really claim a past either, as their past is of them as children, it is perhaps not until we reach our early 20s that we can fully reflect on memories of events involving a person that somewhat resembles ourselves.

It is then that we experience, and not for the first time all of times tricks. It is, of course, fashionable to be a person who rejects the past and focuses firmly on the future. Social media is full of such motivational wisdom, such coping methods are desirable and exude strength and positivity. And yet the past has a grip on us at all times. We prepare for the future safe in the wisdom that what we do today will lay the foundations for our tomorrow, and yet in that future, we are to reject the painful musings as we agonize over old mistakes and judgments that have led to this current moment. This is hard to reconcile and lays squarely with the pragmatic rather than the rational. Our minds are continually confronted with painful and joyful memories of the past and we split our time between sifting through memories and staring in tentative wonder into an unknown future. We can, of course, through concentration achieve a full connection with the present. And then that pleasant feeling we experience after being lost in the moment thanks us for freeing us momentarily from the rhythmic ruminations of conciseness.

We are creatures of emotion, some more than others, and phycologists will often point to the hugely damaging effects of rumination. The memes we read on social media urging us to stay present and create a better future is well-meaning but paint an incomplete picture.

The idea of linear time is, of course, a human construct and bares no resemblance to the actual mechanics of time in our vast universe.

Our conciseness is actually more in tune with the truth of time then our 365-day callendar. It is part of our humanity to dwell on all of the time dimensions. However, as we are cloaked in our thoughts all we can do is try to control them or suffer. This, of course, is an ancient battle and the peace that can be gained from conquering the wanderings of the mind is present in many ancient religions.

Joyful memories will be replayed, and achievements lay brick upon brick behind us, but pain lives there too. Depression is often a mind trapped in some trauma of the past. The great rock singer Kurt Cobain never fully escaped his childhood, the traumas were too deeply ingrained in his phycology and he could never really shake it off. His wife Courtney Love found a man who was handsome and talented and yet could not escape his past, with tragic consequences. It is valuable insight when applied to one’s own life as you look back and look for reasons why you did or didn’t act in the right way, usually, after examination, your life up to that point holds the answers.

But the messages sent from the past are not all bad. I play guitar to be present to reach what the greeks called “Gods time” when my mind is fully focused on the activity of the now, I play because I learned, in the past. I am alive because my parents met, by chance in a bar, in Ireland. I am white and live in the affluent west for the same reason. The past defines me, utterly. To casually relegate the past to an “it’s over” mindset is brutal, pragmatic but also fails to acknowledge how life works.

I live with the past for good or for ill. I live there maybe too much. There is no doubt a live well lived is a busy one, to avoid too much thinking.
James Joyce’s famous short story “The Dead,” tells the story of women who loved deeply a man who died when she was young. It was defining love and she spent the rest of her life unfulfilled as a result. Joyce examines the reality that people do not really die until the last person who knew then dies as well. They live in our minds and cast very real feelings from love to grief, to shame over us in our waking hours. The power of human emotion itself is fueled by the time a grievance or a love needs time to grow and then lives in our souls even if we seldom think about it.

On the subject of love, some if not all of the greatest art created on this subject was crafted through the lens of reflection, a story told of lost love or a painting or sculpture commissioned by a grieving partner. The greatest songs are seldom sung about some imaginary future, they dwell on lost loves and romances that exist now only in one’s memories.
Indeed see the tombs of the great graveyards of Europe with their elaborate tombs to commemorate the lives of loved ones who live now only in the minds of those they left behind, and then only in cold stone.

Yes the present is all we have but the present is merely the skin coating the body of the past, we walk and breathe it, and it is human to do so, it is defining, and powerful and must be treated with respect. There is a fatalist view that we have no choice in any of this of course that we are merely living lives mapped out already, and the older we get, as we run out of road the more we forgive ourselves for the past and enjoy the time we have left.

Women on the Panel

Thing’s change, times change, society changes, but that does not mean we should not analyze the cause and drivers of this change. And so with much trepidation, I will grasp the nettle on this one. Why are there suddenly women on premier league soccer panels?

Only a few short years ago the panels of professional soccer was an exclusively male preserve then, then in the last 2 years, we see women appear. No man, or indeed woman would have failed to notice this when they first tuned in to watch a match on Sky or BBC. Many however would be very careful with their reaction, as to even pass a remark on this change in tradition would incur the wrath of the diversity generation.

But I, in full honesty was thinking why is there a woman talking about elite football on my television for the first time? and more importantly, why does this get on my nerves?

To make an argument about who should be on football panels is to first ask who is not on football panels. Taking Match of the Day as an example, the show has been anchored by Gary Linear for some years now. Gary was a professional footballer who played at an elite level for club and country. The panelists down through the years can boast similar credentials, and they were never picked from outside the playing pool of the premier league or the old first division. Managers sometimes made an appearance, but again elite credentials were mandatory. And so the formula was in place stretching back as far as I can remember.

Now just because they were great players does not make them experts on football, in fact, many great football brains were never great players, and indeed the army of soccer journalists from around the world were not great players either. But journalists were never invited onto the panel, and managers were a rarity. The formula was men with experience of playing at an elite level commenting on other men playing at the same level. This was the unspoken contract, a current professional will be lauded or criticized by fellow pros, who went through the same process.

So we come to the later part of this decade when gender, race, and identity have become something that permeates social and corporate structures throughout the western world. What started on American campuses as striving toward equality and inclusivity has become a frantic drive to level all of our gender roles into some sort of last century irrelevance. The fact is lots of women watch and enjoy sport, and lots of women know plenty about it too, but so do lots of men, and they are not invited onto panels of “experts” because, under this format, to give your two cents, you need to have played the game at this level.

So why are there women on the panel? without stating the obvious, there is no comparison between women and men’s football. Yes, they are playing the same game but at vastly different levels. It’s like comparing Jimi Hendrix to a session musician.

To follow this to its logical conclusion, would a man who played for a semi-professional team in England’s lower league reality be taken seriously if he was giving his opinion on elite professional football, on the TV, on the panel? course he wouldn’t, Graeme Souness and his pals would laugh in his face! How the hell would you know what it’s like to play mid-field in top-flight football?

And yet this same semi-professional player and his average third division team would comfortably beat the best female teams in the world. Now the reason for this is again, obvious, but how can a woman who plays professional soccer in ladies league really give an opinion on a game that is light years ahead of the one she plays every Saturday.

If her opinion is equally valid, and if we have ripped up the old system of male pros on male pros, then why not get a journalist or lower league players involved. But this is not what this is about, this is about gender and politics, and diversity and corporate culture, that is distorting common sense all over the place.

The reason why there are women on the panel for the first time is that there were no women on the panel. It’s really no more complicated than that. And up until recently the reasons for this were perfectly understandable, but not in this new world.

Greta is coming to America

This week Greta Thunberg will travel to the USA to attend the latest in a long line of climate summits stretching all the way back to the early 90s. She will tell us about how bad everything it is, again, and we will listen, again, and again we will ponder, well what do you want me to do about it?

What does Greta Thunberg want? What does extinction rebellion want? We know what it doesn’t want, it doesn’t want humans to go extinct, well guess what? nobody does, and yes it wants humans to start respecting the planet and to take steps to tackle climate change…great, we are in complete agreement. Now can we admit there is a climate emergency? sure thing, let’s do that, in fact, let’s get all the politicians and all the celebs and the 1 percenters to put this front and center as the thing we all must do something about. Great, we’re there. NOW WHAT? Let’s promise to go carbon-free by 2050 that sound’s like ages away and we can get back to our lives and that will shut these hippy’s up…but what’s this they want action now! ok, what action do you actually want?
Lets put some meat on the bones here. Anyone with a brain knows we have to do something about climate change, but exactly what do Greta and the kids want? I suspect they want a world that looks like the one we live in now, minus climate change. You know that one, the one with power, supermarkets, clothes, transport, heating, medicine, music festivals, the internet. I highly doubt they want the one that we had before we started burning fossil fuels, you know that one, the one where living past 3 was your first major achievement in life.

The problem with ER is that they are a movement with morality on their side and sod all else. There is simply no version of this civilization that can survive without energy and materials provided by fossil fuels. The technology simply does not exist. They aim to tell the truth, well you’ve just heard the truth. This notion that we can quickly transition to renewable energy to power civilization is science fiction. Even if it was possible and we mobilised in a WW2 style effort, it would still take decades. Windmills that are far from carbon neutral, and solar are not the answer and account for 1 percent of global energy production.
Then there is transport, the vast majority of cars run on petrol and production is ramping up in India and China. Then there are trucks.
Trucks, the big ugly noisy things they keep out of cities, are the hidden worker bee of our civilization, everything you consume was brought to you on a truck, and they are all powered by fossil fuels. One week without trucks and international trade would collapse. Carbon neutral is a myth. Greta can go to New York on a pink unicorn get a clap and call for change but she might as well be asking for and end to war and famine and injustice. This remember, is a country, whose democracy was bought by corporations years ago, its a country that turned healthcare into a profit engine, a country whose legislature is powerless to do anything about gun crime, and whose citizens are getting systematically fleeced by a small corporate elite. They, the elites will do nothing, unless they are forced. And that’s the plan, Gretta and the green movement will force them, and let’s say they do get these most despicable bunch of bastards around a table of love what do you propose?

The inaction on climate change is not and never has been based purely on greed and ignorance it was and is based on the lack of a realistic alternative to fossil fuels. Oil is the lifeblood of modern civilization as we know it, to turn away from it will kill the patient. Rebel! against who? reality? Tell the truth.

ER are right we are killing the planet, but they are asking us to transition to some fuzzy utopia where complex societies somehow transition away from the integral systems on which they operate. This type of change could only be forced on humans, and the type of force necessary is I’m afraid blunt force trauma. No democratically organized society is going to vote itself back to the middle ages, it simply ain’t going to happen. Humans adapt, that’s what we do, remember there were people on this planet that faced climate change before, we are not the first, but then there were millions of humans, not billions. At a time when the world has never been more connected globally, our shared crisis has arrived, and we are beginning to wake up to this fact. Even in the depths of WW2, there were places on earth that went untouched. But this is different, we are global now, massively interdependent, the largest most sophisticated house of cards every constructed all connected to wifi.

I suspect the 2020s will be the decade of consequences, the rate of physical change to the environment is astonishing, with literally billions of tons of ice being lost in Greenland this summer alone. The last of the coral reefs will surely be dead, the loss of biodiversity will continue, and on top of this with the 10 year lag of carbon yet to be released into the system, we should hit 2 degrees by mid-decade. The artic will be gone by then too, in the summertime, according to the Harvard Professor who identified the hole in the ozone layer in the late 80s. This will intensify carbon and methane release in the tundra regions, which will dwarf man-made emmsions.

It is entirely possible that the United States as a construct will not exist in 2030, if climate change really kicks in and hits food production hard then it would not surprise me if social unrest with armed citizenry will gather their resources and reject the federal system. If this seems far fetched remember the world, we all lived in pre-2008, it ended quite abruptly, and suddenly the madness seemed so obvious, and let’s not forget the world where Donald Trump could not be president of USA.

I want to be optimistic, and I want to get behind change, but if at a march somebody shouts What do we want? and the answer is….well this, but without all this climate change. Because honestly, that is what we want, we want power, we want hot water, we want to fly and eat, and go online, we want to look at nature through a window at night, all cosy in our heated homes, because it’s cold out there. Modern life for all its problems is wonderful. However the ten thousand ton elephant in the room is this version of civilization, is a cod, we marvel over our technology, our smartphones and razor-thin TVs, but the simple truth is our means of power remains the same as in 1850 more or less. Fossil fuels are a drug and humanity has been at a huge party fueled by them, but the party is coming to an end and the kids know it. It will end sooner rather than later, and it won’t be a global movement that ends it, it will be the unavoidable debt being called in by mother earth.

I think we're alone now...

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Theodore Parker

The adult mind when it finally forms itself at varying ages from person to person, is defined by what we call maturity. Maturity comes in many forms, taking responsibility for one’s actions, respecting others, putting the good of the group before oneself, are some popular examples, but some very mature people down through the years have displayed none of these virtues. Is maturity more just the human who has stopped dreaming and seen the wood for the trees. Is the person best acquainted with the true nature of reality bound to the most success? Hard workers for me are the ultimate pessimists, in that they leave very little to chance, and hard workers change the world.

As I transition into middle age I wonder will I become the one of the men I worked with in my youth, in their cotton work shirts tucked into M&S trousers, turning up to work day after day, grinding it out, before returning to a mountain of bills, and a wife who has become like their best friend they occasionally fuck by accident after a few cans.

I wonder at what point did they realise, yep this is it, I have looked my last on youth, it was fun, but I am not a famous comedian, author, singer, footballer, I didn’t set up my own business and travel the world, this is it. Or maybe you tried, like so many with stars in your eyes you chased your dreams safe in the knowledge that it is possible, of course, it is, it is possible for somebody, but when did you realise it wasn’t going to happen for you, that reality is not like the movies, in fact, that’s the very reason we go to movies in the first place.

You are not special, you don’t deserve anything for being a good sport, your break isn’t just around the corner.

And yet the human mind is designed with optimism to the point of delusion at its very core. At first, a hugely important factor in our evolution from hunter-gatherers to farmers, to artists and engineers. But this inherent optimism was never a respecter of reason and logic, it may have inspired voyages of discovery and advances in science and learning, but it also rendered whole societies captivated by charismatic despots who they believed knew all the answers until they were exposed or died.

But were they exposed by some moral universe? The last just War, as it is known disposed one vicious, charismatic pervert, but this was largely because a by a more ruthless, less charismatic psychopath by the name of Joe Stalin made it happen. Yes, the free west stormed the beaches of France but without the brutality of the eastern front, this was by no means a foregone conclusion. In reality, a brutal flare of up of evil was eventually snuffed out by more brutality in greater numbers, and not by the goodness of free men. If Karma means beating evil to death, then yes you could say this was a just war.

When I was a child our local church was robbed and some money stolen. Who could risk such a crime? I thought, who would dare risk angering God for a few quid. Of course, as the years advanced and maturity set in, this was, of course, the musings of an innocent. But maybe it is relevant.
What stops all of us from acting on our base instincts is our internal morality, our own private church, with its own dictums and doctrine. We all have one, and when we rob our own church we feel bad.

But not all of us have an internal church, some of us engage with reality, and reality has no church, and they know it. They will do whatever it takes to make their reality as good as it can be. And of course, as the world is a cosmic comedy at heart, these instincts have given rise to the greatest most comfortable time for vast swathes of the population of planet earth. Capitalism while enslaving millions has also given rise to some truly great times, all made possible by a devout focus on the material world. The system that so richly rewards the unethical and the selfish, has taken us to new heights as a species. Until of course we get to the Elephant in the room. Balance. Justice, evil, good and morality might be the purvey of the individual conscience but balance certainly is not. Balance is pure brutal physics a binary dimension of yes and no, of life and death with no particular opinion either way.

And so when the ethical people of late 20th-century earth lobbied the leaders of the free world to do something on climate change, it was with good intentions, with maturity, you might say, with right action. They almost swung the balance, almost. Regan’s election in 1984 put pay to any hope this moral uprising would gain the ascendancy and we continued in an inexorable slide into hothouse earth.

I wonder when the last humans roam the earth in despair, over the ruins of their once great civilisations, in this century, will they muse over this bitterest of conclusions. When all is said and done, It was people without good conscience, people fueled by greed darkness that drove us to this abyss. There was no guiding God after all. For all our great philosophers, cathedrals made of stone and glass, golden Buddhas and beautiful songs, it was all really just in our own minds all along. Just the same beautiful optimism that took us from the trees to the fields, nothing more. There never was a moral universe, as much as we tried to find one, there was just balance between love and self-interest, and in the case of one highly evolved monkey on a jewel of a planet, self-interest was always going to be it’s undoing. And when the last human dies, when the last mind who ever wondered about its workings goes with it, will the universe itself in all its vastness just become another tree in the forest that nobody heard fall.

Is this our last world cup?

As northern Europe in general, and Ireland, in particular, enjoys its 8th week of good weather, very rare, we now have the world cup come along and join the party. The world cup, the big boy, no tournament comes near. No other sport can gather such a high standard of participants from around the world as soccer.  Soccer or Football is truely the global game.  This is a feast of nations, it is a global event, global, like the internet, global, like climate change, global.

As the corporations do their best to distract with their moving billboards pitchside, that green rectangle, where all eyes are focused still has the capacity to play out the dramas it always has. It is real and it is organic and it is human. It is wonderful, sport is wonderful. However, the beautiful game is drenched in money, not always for the worse but increasingly I see the sponsor devouring the host.

When news broke some years back that FIFA had awarded Qatar the world cup a collective groan was uttered from most football nations around the world. FIFA now finally had revealed itself for sale to the highest bidder.  The oil rich country with precisely zero football pedigree will host the world’s most important football tournament in 2022.

Why not give the middle east a go you say? Fuck the middle east I say! these lands that time forgot. They make worshiping a book authored by a paedophile warlord the focus of their reality and are mostly intolerant of the values of the modern world. This, of course, is just the start, Qatar a country where institutional racism is par for the course will spend as many lives from its subhuman workforce as needed to build the stadia. This is before we mention the heat, June and July in the middle east is brutal.  So it is planed that the players and peoples of the world will gather in air-conditioned stadia in June 2022, or maybe not, maybe it’s Jan 2022, or is it ? who knows maybe we can disrupt the seasons of every European and South American League.

The more I try to picture this scene the more I find it fanciful. This oil world cup will also be the largest, as FIFA dilute the competition evermore, to, in their words, unite the world, but clearly its dollar bills again. I think it no more fitting a place for capitalism to finally unravel then in the fossil fuel factory of the world. I don’t want this to happen of course, I want the party to continue, but it can’t, no more then a footballer can play forever, time simply waits for no man, and the laws of the universe are coldly and quietly imposed as they always have been. This party is getting more raucous by the year, and it will end, the lights will go up and the needle will leave the record.

Every 4 years we meet then, as a globe, and play football.  But 4 years is a long time as those of us who have been watching have discovered.  The icecaps are hemorrhaging ice, the great barrier reef is withering and dying at rates barely imagined only 2 world cups ago.  What would wake the world up to the seriousness of our plight, the cancelation of the world cup. 80 years of tournaments, running in tandem to the great expansion. We know it won’t last forever. I don’t want it to end because when it does, it is never coming back. But can I see team lining up in air-conditioned stadia in Qatar in 2022, for some reason, I can’t. I hope I am wrong.

 

Sergio Ramos and the reality fish.

I recently discovered the music of Dua Lupa a beautiful young English singer, she was born to  Albanian parents in London in 1995, as war ripped through the Balkans.  1995 is a year I remember well and so I am late to the party when it comes to Dua, but I can be forgiven for not being down with kids as I approach middle age.  Her star has now risen to the point when she warmed up the crowd in the champions league final on a balmy Saturday night in Kiev.

This introduction of music into the final is the latest in the follow the yanks agenda within the powers that be of Uefa, who are intent on ripping the last vestiges of authentic character out of the game of football.  However, I don’t blame Dua as she did her best in a faintly ridiculous routine in front of people there to see a game of football. I don’t blame her because I like her. She is a beautiful, talented, and well-spoken girl who radiates what I can only describe as niceness.

Not everyone is lucky enough to reach the age of 22 with a soul as intact as Dua, at her age I was wearing out my radiohead cds, getting drunk, and shouting at the TV.

I watched several interviews with her now and my opinion is that this is a lovely down to earth girl who while beautiful, has another light that shines from behind those looks, which makes a welcome change from the vacuous, nothings posting to Instagram from the beach or harping on about what they had for dinner.  The girls got a nice personality, and personality goes a long way…but do not for a second think that rule only applies to nice personalities.

Mohamad Salah has a nice personality, he is liked by his teammates and fans alike, he plays with a smile on his face, and has been bringing joy to the western and Arab world for a full season now.  The whole Liverpool team in fact have, even by rival clubs fans been described as likable, they are a team that played with a smile on their face,  with a joy, and with an honesty.  But alas on Saturday night, with the world watching, life in all its calm cruelty put called the cops and broke up this little party.

Because you see life doesn’t give a fuck about your happy moral narrative, not one fuck does it give about, karma, and justice and all the other lovely human inventions that we have bestowed upon the universe. The universe is vast, and silent and cold, and on a little patch of grass in Kiev, on a little blue planet ,one man knew that more than anyone else, and that man was Sergio Ramos.  Sergio you see is a scrapper, he knows that we are all the descendants of scrappers and in nature, in harder times, it was win or die. Sergio Ramos, who knew exactly what he was doing when he arm bared the best player in Europe. He knew as he gave him a hug, when Salah knew his race was run. He knows now as he heads to bed for a long uninterrupted sleep with his 4th champions league medal framed and mounted.

He knew, and in doing so he deprived the entire world of the spectacle. There’s a new kid in town, after 10 years of Messi and Ronaldo we have a shiny new player, who seems nice , and pours tons of his own money into making his home town a better place his countrymen. He’s a breath of fresh air in his prime, playing in champions league final on the cusp of a world cup, he deserves this, we deserve this. You deserve nothing! With Salah dispatched to his ruined season,  Karius did the rest.  This was the final of the champions league, to play in one is a moment of supreme timing and good fortune, you have but a brief window, for your body to allow it, and then you will face every obstacle from every other player vying for your place in the final. This is not just about tonight this is about life, opportunity, it’s about all those nights we missed out, and consoled ourselves that our chance would come again, and sometimes it does, but often times it doesn’t. We forget in time, but there always that ache of what might have been.

It is with this knowledge that people mature, the floating nature of our 20s sharpens into focus in our 30s as we feel the sands of time erode our flesh and alter our minds.  Hard work is not a product of people thinking it’s going to be ok. We will never be able to escape our primal need to place story, structure, and morality to our lives,  we will always dream, and so we should, but know that people like Sergio Ramos don’t dream they will things into existence devoid of conscience, and sleep soundly that night. This is how the modern world was created, and I think we all got a nice reminder of that on Saturday.