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It’s all up in the air and staying there

My sermon today covers ground far beyond that of my normal brief and in one sense that probably justifies today’s topic (and with bells on) anyway.

At some point last year in one of my Rust columns I announced that, post the election and inauguration of US President Donald Trump, I was considering contributing less to this organ than previously because – to be direct about it – when events in political and current affairs real life become more surreal and bizarre than anything I could possibly complain about, point to the absurdity of, or attempt to create an outrageous satirical gag out of, then to all intents and purposes it felt to me like a nailed-on case of “My job is done”.

Well, either that or alternatively (and more worryingly) that my one-trick pony rantings on the theme that – despite claiming to draw justification for their actions from their supposed sacred and eternal servant-like submission to ‘the will of the people’ – de facto the world’s (political and moneyed) Establishment elite gives, and always has given, the notion of democratic accountability about as much respect as I do a ‘30 mph maximum’ roadside sign when there is no vehicle within a quarter of a mile (behind or in front of mine) on a dual carriageway and I am fourteen and a half minutes late for an important four course lunch … have effectively become superfluous.

I say that because it seems to me that by this summer of 2018 there is nothing on the geo-political stage or indeed any specific national domestic front that surprises the average citizen anymore.

It all comes back to that time-honoured chestnut that – perhaps bar in the fields of the pursuit of the sum of human knowledge and leading edge scientific research – the overwhelming proportion of principles and disciplines via which human society ever organises itself are based less on proven fact – or indeed any notion of seeking ‘the greater good for the greatest number of people’ – than collective/subjective perception.

And in this context those skilled at ‘persuading’ and/or judging the mood swings and motivations of others in their daily lives – leaving aside for the moment how of why they do this – are always the key movers and shakers in the game of power, control and the route the human world is going.

Let’s begin by taking a facile example:

The essence of the advertising and marketing industry is all about persuading the public to buy a product, without regard to whether they need it or already have one.

One might even suggest that, for inhabits of the marketing/selling world, the biggest ‘adrenalin rush’ joy is always to be had from persuading ordinary members of the public to buy things they didn’t even know they needed.

How cool is a sale in those circumstances?!

Consider such iconic advertisement slogans as “A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play” or “Go to work on an egg”.

Sound positively whacky today, don’t they?

And yet in the 1950s and 1960s they persuaded millions of British people to buy Mars chocolate bars rather than other examples and then eggs by the galore for their breakfasts.

Great for the owners of Mars and also the Egg Marketing Board, of course, but all this was just about totally ignoring whether chocolate bars – or indeed eggs – were actually scientifically good for the human body or not.

And, if you think about it, quite possibly with the influence of random chance and ‘opportunity’ to the fore.

Why Mars bars and why that slogan?

Why didn’t the British public fall in love with Picnic bars, or Crunchie bars instead: was it because of the quality of the Mars slogan, or the fact the Mars marketing department had a spending budget three times that of Rowntrees and its other competitors?

Or simply complete chance?

Perhaps we shall never know.

But no doubt the agency, its senior executives – and even perhaps the poor sap way down in the ad department that actually came up with the slogan “A Mars a day …” in the first place – all got rich and went on to lucrative careers on the back of it. When (presumably) some similar slogan by someone else quite easily might have made Picnic bars the Number One … and left Mars metaphorically on the bottom shelf forever.

You can argue both sides of this on any subject.

Arguably Western democracy is not the best way of running a country – its defenders might even admit that and yet shelter behind the modesty skirt that it’s the best we’ve got and/or perhaps the least worst.

Why should a leading intellect with a sky-high IQ have only the same single vote upon matters of politics and the nation’s economy as someone with learning difficulties living on benefits whose life’s motivation centres exclusively upon where he is going to get his booze and fags for the day?

Two answers to that: firstly, why the hell not?; and secondly, there are plenty of very intelligent people who possess little to no common sense and/or capacity to interact socially with other people. Or whose ideas about the world are borderline crackpot. Or are just evil and totally self-centred (ask almost anyone).

If you’re going to disqualify people of low intelligence from voting (or having the same power of voting as others), then where do you stop?

Disabled people – ginger-haired people – racist people – feminist people – members of the Flat Earth Society – supporters of Crystal Palace football club –  people who believe in capitalism … or alternatively people who believe in socialism – ‘Right to Lifers’ … or alternatively proponents of ‘A Woman’s Right to Abortion On Demand’ – people who believe in God … or alternatively agnostics or atheists?

The list is potentially endless.

What is Fake News and what is not? Or is it just a case of “My news is real and everyone else’s is not” … or should that be “May not be”(?).

I’m stepping into the unknown here with no qualification but surely even President Trump must believe what he’s saying at the point he’s actually saying it? [Well, let’s put it this way, we’re in real trouble if he doesn’t!].

And that applies even if he says today the opposite of what he said yesterday. (I’d guess he refer to the latter as “Yesterday’s news, and probably fake anyway, so what does it matter?”).

Looking in on – and reading about – the goings-on at Westminster over the past year, never mind the last few days, reminds me of some sort of recurring bad dream.

Yet in the Trump era, somehow the cheap dismissive jibe “You couldn’t make it up!” just doesn’t cover it.

You could absolutely make it up … and someone, somewhere, quite possibly has!!!!!

Overnight the media has been reporting the latest findings of research scientists that – 99% certain – the Turin Shroud is a scientifically proven fake from the 14th Century.

To be honest I personally never doubted this, but over the course of my lifetime (and tens in succession before that) there have always been counter-arguments from scientists and Church/religious believers claiming it is genuine.

And also those of the latter persuasion who claim that – even if the Turin Shroud is a fake – this need do nothing to dent any believer’s faith in God.

So that’s all right, then. Fake or not, as long as you believe, salvation is at hand …

About Simon Campion-Brown

A former lecturer in politics at Keele University, Simon now lives in Oxfordshire. Married with two children, in 2007 he decided to monitor the Westminster village via newspaper and television and has never looked back. More Posts