5 things about this week (1 Jun 2018)

by Stephen Tall on May 31, 2018

What I’ve been thinking…

Has the centre of British politics really run out of ideas? It’s the kind of casual remark which will get wise politico heads nodding in agreement. But I’m not sure I go along with it. After all, it’s only 3 years since David Cameron’s won a shock election victory thanks to an explicit promise to maintain the status quo:

That’s conservatism for you. It was also unabashedly centrist in its pitch (albeit more so with hindsight than perhaps seemed apparent at the time). So centrists can win.

The problem isn’t a lack of centrist ideas. At any rate, no more of a lack of ideas than afflicts either the contemporary Conservatives (in thrall to its right-wing Brexit obsessives) or Labour (in thrall to a hard-left cult with no political imagination beyond state ownership).

No, the problem is simpler than that: neither of the two current party leaders are centrists. That’s why there’s a crisis in centrism — there’s nobody to actually get on with doing the centrist thing (ie, trying not to bugger up the economy and making sure there are enough decent hospitals and schools).

What I’ve been tweeting…

Actually, I haven’t been. I’ve been gradually weaning myself off Twitter over several months. I’ve never been a natural at it — I’m better at paragraphs than epigraphs — and I dislike its gravitational pull towards negativity and outrage.

I’ve had to mute friends who I reckoned I might not want to remain friends with if I kept reading their tweets. And though I’m careful who I follow I still end up seeing idiot-tweets from the professional controversialists as normally sensible people decide to “call them out”, aka giving them exactly what they want: attention.

I’ve been struck by the comments of a couple of people recently.

First, from the brilliant Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (in a wide-ranging Guardian interview well worth reading), who said simply, “there’s an ugliness about it”.

And secondly, from this interview of Jaron Lanier by Danny Fortson in this week’s The Times about Lanier’s new book, Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now:

Over 160 pages, Lanier uses the term “asshole” 126 times. Indeed, the title of one of his 10 arguments is “Social media is making you an asshole”. … Now, you may not feel like you match that description, but stop and think about that snarky tweet you sent to a stranger, that joke you made at someone’s expense on Facebook, the stolen minutes you spent reading the negative comments beneath a YouTube video. It is a subtle but unrelenting process, like climate change, Lanier argues. But instead of melting the ice caps, it is chipping away at your humanity.

Twitter has been chipping away at my humanity for too long. I’m consciously uncoupling from it. Which, by the way, is why this blog has been revived.

What I’ve been reading

I’m midway through the second of Edward St Aubyn’s semi-autobiographical Patrick Melrose novels, Bad News. I loved the first, Never Mind. This one I’m struggling with a little more because (1) I’m not on holiday now, and (2) because needle phobia.

What I’ve been listening to

If you’re expecting music recommendations from me, forget it. Having kids has utterly destroyed my interest in music — nothing to do with time, it’s just I’ve learned to enjoy silence. I can just about cope with choral music. That’s it. Though my Alexa would have you think I listen to an awful lot of Justin Fletcher singing nursery rhymes. And truth be told I do love his rave version of What Does the Fox Say?:

What I do listen to a lot more is audiobooks — to while away commuting, housework, DIY — and I’ve just finished an Agatha Christie; my favourite of her books, in fact, ‘Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case‘. It’s deeply ingenious, with so many twists, deftly done; also both psychological and philosophical, with discussion of Othello, euthanasia and eugenics.

What I’ve been doing

20180524_173123I’ve reached the end of my 3rd week of shared parental leave (of 8 weeks). In short, it’s great. If you get the chance to do it, do it.