The Ministry of Silly Walks

Two days ago the British government announced a strategy to stop people feeling lonely.  In a time when public services are being cut down like enemy soldiers in Rambo III, it seems utterly preposterous that the government now intends on spending money in an effort to identify precisely why people are feeling lonely.  It does not require twenty million pounds to realise that human contact is the cure for loneliness.

When I first read an article about the strategy for loneliness prevention I thought it was a joke.  In one article it made reference to the minister for loneliness I could not help but laugh.  It could not be true, so I thought.  A few minutes later google confirmed that the UK does indeed have a minister for a basic human emotion.  It troubled me on many levels.  First and foremost was the name.  If the minister for health was responsible for making us more healthy, and the minister for trade for making more trade, surely the minister for loneliness was meant to make us more lonely.  Would she travel the country executing our spouses and telling our friends that we secretly hate them?  The second and most troubling thought was the fact that the government are looking to minister our emotions.

Loneliness has not been the only somewhat peculiar topic on the agenda.  In the same week the government has announced a minister for suicide prevention.  Granted it is a significantly more appropriate name, and yet it also left me with a sense of disquiet.  When the two new ministers are considered together it becomes apparent that the government has become acutely aware of a mental health crisis across the UK.  The pertinent question is whether there is a genuine crisis or is this a case of a government encroaching on Big Brother territory.

In 2017 there were 5,821 suicides in the UK.  In a country of over 65 million people it sounds like a drop in the ocean.  When you look across Europe you find that although it is the fourth highest total in Europe, it is also the fourth lowest suicide rate in Europe.  Therefore, it seems strange that the government has chosen to pursue these two policies in a time of austerity, whilst slashing so many other services.

It is evident that across the country the budgetary cuts have played merry hell with mental health services.  It perhaps would be wiser to give the services that are in dire need of more funding the money earmarked for figuring out why people are lonely.  The fact is a lack of access to therapists and counselling, as a direct result of a lack of funding causes loneliness.  Overstretched mental health departments having to prioritise people’s problems causes loneliness.  Stupidly long waiting times for people suffering anxiety and distress cause loneliness.  Worst of all is that all of these problems, if fixed, would likely contribute to a lowering of the suicide rate and save actual lives.  It is not rocket science, it is basic human empathy.

If you like me are feeling exceptionally lonely, feeling isolated by a government that throws money at identifying the problem with people, rather than the problems caused by the system, feel free to contact our minister for loneliness.  I’m sure she will do her best to help…

Brexit and the Santa Clause

Seldom in my life have I witnessed a social event as cataclysmic as the #Brexit.  In every day life very little has changed.  Life goes on as normal.  And yet the moralistic puritanical outrage that has been released by a vote that has, at this time of writing, changed absolutely nothing, has bordered upon the fanatical and been nothing short of absurd.

The idiosyncrasies of such behaviour are evident. This referendum brought the highest voter turnout in a quarter of a century. Over 2 million people who never vote found the ballot box.  Suddenly people were talking, reading and arguing about politics.  They were interested again. If this were any other social issue people would be celebrating this event as a hugely important moment in history.  Instead it has become a bitter, banal argument where 2 million people have forged a petition to try to get the votes of some 17 million people disregarded in a crass demonstration of contemptible arrogance that can be at best described as lamentable ignorance

This preponderance of abject denialism is reminiscent of a child first learning that Santa Claus does not exist.  Even though on some level they recognise that what they are hearing is right, their heart won’t allow them to rationalise their world view into a position that fits outside of their logic.

Recently I found myself in a discussion with someone I shall name ‘Remain Roger’.  Roger has a degree in economics and works in London.  Whilst conversing upon the stupidity of a nonsensical petition he accused me of voting leave on account of my continued defense of the referendum result.  I am a British citizen, a resident of the Netherlands, I have a Polish wife, sell records in Poland, books in the UK and pay tax in the Netherlands.  If you knew those things about someone how do you suppose they would vote?  SANTA IS REAL SANTA IS REAL SANTA IS REAL SANTA IS REAL!!!!!!!!!!

Now recently ‘Remain Roger’ is in a state of despair, whether it is due to the extra workload caused by working in an industry dedicated to propagating impossible rumor, or domestic problems of sorts, I don’t know.  What is clear is that his inability to comprehend that people are capable of independent thought has rendered him impotent.  Poor Roger has started suffering from rage syndrome, lashing out all over the internet about all manner of topics, including more recently a joke meme about the youth that voted remain playing Pokemon.  Perhaps this should have served as a warning.  However, as a keen bipartisan cultural anthropologist of sorts I was keen to engage Roger.  Sadly, Roger lost his temper.

Roger

This felt somewhat awkward given that 1. It started with a Pokemon joke.  2.  Social media means that everybody knows exactly what you have been doing since you left school 3. What the fuck has any of this to do with 1 or 2.  It was the umpteenth example of fallacious reasoning from what I thought was a very well-developed mind.  Oh and number 4.

Fallacious reasoning is defined by Wikipedia as:

A fallacy is the use of invalid or otherwise faulty reasoning, or “wrong moves”[1] in the construction of an argument.[2][3] A fallacious argument may be deceptive by appearing to be better than it really is. Some fallacies are committed intentionally to manipulate or persuade by deception, while others are committed unintentionally due to carelessness or ignorance. Lawyers acknowledge that the extent to which an argument is sound or unsound depends on the context in which the argument is made

A perfect example of a fallacious construct is the statement ‘The Brexit is a mistake’.  In its most exact sense, there is no way you can possible argue that seventeen million people inadvertently ticked the wrong box.  Nor can it be a concluding opinion, as there is no way, short of using a time machine to prove that the statement itself is evidential in nature.  Every single political campaign is a shitstorm of fallacious charts and statistics intended to frame facts in a manner to support an argument.  To believe that either side of a political campaign are morally superior returns us to the Santa Claus analogy.

It has occurred to me that the reason the #Brexit has proven to be so divisive is a direct result of ideological bias.  The real reason why the result appears so shocking to people is that we have been an irreligious nation for generations, our politics abandoned the working class decades ago and we have had very little to blindly argue about other than football. We have lost the ability to articulate intelligently, to conduct discourse in a manner befitting of intelligent adults, and worst of all we have lost sight of ourselves.  Once again we find ourselves an ideologically challenged nation, faced with an uncertain future, a future decided by the majority of us.

What matters now is that we abandon ‘the Santa Clause’.  That we stop assuming that belief equates to truth.  It is a vile notion aflame in the weakest of minds.  It is the fuel to scores of conflicts throughout the history of man.  The fact is belief bears no relation to truth, and is actually the twin brother of ignorance.