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What really happened? No, me neither …

Today I return to the sometimes intriguing and puzzling relationship between reality and subjective perception, a subject that we on the Rust occasionally touch upon with a hint of mischievousness and humour.

As I commence this piece I am listening to a Dotun Adebayo-hosted edition of Radio Five Live’s Up All Night broadcasting a phone-in on the subject of how President Donald Trump has changed politics in his own country – and indeed to an extent, because of the United States’ status as the most powerful nation on Earth, for the rest of us as well.

Never mind that since 2016 the ‘thinking majority’ outside the United States has been living in a state of perpetual shock that it could have ever elected such a weird and (some might say unhinged) person to the highest office in the land, the fact is that it did – and we all have to live with the consequences.

However – maybe, arguably – the arrival of President Trump is a phenomenon that has woken us all up to the way the world is going and perhaps in one sense we should be thankful.

After all, perhaps it is no more than a version of Murphy’s Law, i.e. that if in theory something has the technical capacity to go wrong then eventually at some point it will.

There has always been ‘fake news’ and real, intended – whether failed or successful – interference in the elections of free Western democratic nations, never mind those of countries with less concern about individual freedoms, fairness or governing for the benefit of the masses.

If you think about it, the evidence has been all around us for 400 years minimum.

Maybe none of us have paid sufficient attention to it because either we weren’t alert enough to the danger, or just didn’t think or care enough (or even didn’t ever imagine that human beings anywhere could be so devious, scheming or semi-mad) and – at least until President Trump got himself elected – we were living in a fantasy world and kidding ourselves that someone like him could never end up in the White House.

Well, we’re all somewhat the wiser now.

When someone rips away the thin veneer concealing how the world really works – or can work – then effectively this is the equivalent of pressing the “re-set” button.

In the UK context, whether you’re talking about the Iraq War, Alastair Campbell’s ‘dodgy dossier’, the Coalition Government’s ‘austerity programme’, or just the 2016 EU Referendum and the political paralysis ever since over Brexit, the manipulation of public opinion and the House of Commons procedural conventions and the ability and willingness of the political establishments of both the UK and the EU to frustrate and/or hopefully overturn the expressed will of the people has been exposed to the transparent cold light of day.

And, much as we always knew or suspected it existed (but turned a blind eye to it), we don’t like it. As a direct result, the dial of trust between the public and the political elite is flickering close to the “zero” (empty) mark.

In the wider context, of course, anyone remotely connected to social media and/or living in the real world is all too aware (or maybe not) that their intimate personal information about them is being harvested by faceless multi-national corporations  – and probably foreign powers – perhaps one day to be used against them and/or their interests.

I read in a newspaper yesterday about one chap who has decided to cut out the middle-man and now openly offers his personal data for sale to anyone who wants it. I suppose he’s taken the view it’s better he makes money out of it than some global corporation.

Does any of this matter?

I mentioned earlier that on this organ we sometimes ponder the issue of whether “the sword of truth” – a phrase memorably once used by former Tory MP Jonathan Aitken, albeit in maintaining he was innocent of something he was later proved to a court’s satisfaction to be guilty of –  actually matters.

Is it necessary, for example, that someone writing a review of something (a book, theatre show, concert or movie) has actually read, seen or attended it?

Here are two cases in point for Rusters’ consideration:

Declan Fay confessing that he fell asleep during the climax to the recent Third Ashes Test between England and Australia – see here – as appears today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN

Ironically, decades ago now, a pair of Rust contributors used to write a series entitled Great Sporting Moments I Have Slept Through.

Way to go, Declan!

The Stanley Kubrick erotic but mysterious movie Eyes Wide Shut (1999) is an infamous example of his oeuvre, notable for starring Tom Cruise and his then wife Nichole Kidman.

Here is an excellent piece by Ed Power, written to mark the twentieth anniversary of its release, as appears today upon the website of – THE INDEPENDENT

Now, I’ve never been a fanatical or regular cinema-goer and – though I know of Eyes White Shut and have read numerous reviews and articles about it – I’ve never seen it and never will.

To be honest, I could never be bothered to do so, or just for the hell of it, or even to see what all the fuss was about.

Just like I know plenty about Brit musicians/groups like Blur, Suede and Radiohead … and US artistes like Lana Del Ray and Sheryl Crowe who both have new albums either already launched, or out in the UK, shortly … yet have never (knowingly) heard a note of their new music over the last three decades.

Does any of this matter?

About six months ago I read somewhere that, although as many as 600,000 people may have actually attended the legendary Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 – at which Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, the Moody Blues, Joan Baez, Jethro Tull, Sly And The Family Stone, Emerson Lake and Palmer and Free performed (amongst tens of others) – poignant because both Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison of the Doors died shortly afterwards – the number of all those who think they remember being there now runs into the millions.

Should it concern us whether everybody who thinks they went to the Isle of Wight 1970 Festival actually did so or not? Now we are almost fifty years later, I don’t suppose the memories of those who did attend it – and those who didn’t, but have the impression they did – are actually very different …

I was thinking around this subject this morning when reading about the eightieth anniversaries of the German invasion of Poland and of the evacuation of over a million children into the UK countryside in advance of air raids beginning in earnest upon London as the Blitz intensified.

One has to remember, when reading or listening to the testimonies of those still alive about what these experiences were like, not to set too much store by their recollections.

Firstly, because at this distance in time later their memories may be somewhat hazy.

And secondly, they are remarkable today not necessarily because they are accurate but simply because they are all we have left to us in terms of ‘live’, direct, first-hand accounts on radio or television in 2019.
































About J S Bird

A retired academic, Jeremy will contribute article on subjects that attract his interest. More Posts