10 October. I stayed up last night to watch the second presidential debate. That was a mistake – I’ve been severely depressed all day. What a disgrace to America that man is: a fool, a knave, a liar and a sexual predator to boot. That he should have been able to make pile of money – backed up as he was by a very rich father – is not inconceivable, especially in the US; that he should be taken seriously as a candidate for the presidency, however, leaves me incredulous.
And shit scared.
Even if Trump loses (and that’s still an ‘if’), the fact that he’s come so far is calamitous. It tells us that the USA is not healthy, that a significant proportion of the population are truly stupid, and that the country cannot be relied on to maintain anything resembling a moral compass. During the first debate, Trump undertook to respect the result of the election, win or lose, but unsurprisingly he’s backtracked on that, and all those rednecks who’ve found an identity in his message will have to be pandered to.
Stepping back a little from Trump (and who wouldn’t? – I bet he wears too much aftershave), I cast Brexit in a similar light: a misinformed public unable to see through the bluster. Looking further afield, in terms of climate change, the Australians are the reddest of rednecks as far as coal is concerned – more Anglo-Saxons. Europe is streets ahead of the rest of the world in terms of CO2 emissions reductions, both achieved and planned. China is fast catching up and remains the only country to have announced a date for peak emissions. India is struggling: they have the same population problem as China but don’t have the ‘advantage’ of an authoritarian political system. Nonetheless, they’re investing heavily in renewables, with a 100GW solar complex due to come on line in 2022 (by way of comparison, the whole of the French nuclear park produces 63GW).
12 October. In short, it’s the Brits and their spawn who are fucking up the world. And they really have no excuse. I was astonished to come across these quotes from Margaret Thatcher the other day on Peter Sinclair’s invaluable climatecrocks.com (if you don’t have 11mins go straight to 6:40). “The [climate] change in the future is likely to be more fundamental and more widespread than anything we have seen hitherto. […] It’s comparable in its implications to the discovery of how to split the atom.” The lady was a chemist after all, she understood the danger and she spelt it out with admirable clarity. I confess I have no memory of that whatsoever, but then climate change was not yet a part of my search pattern – and anyway there was no Internet. I can’t remember stuff I never knew. All in all a good example of our generation’s insouciance… or should I say, more kindly, ‘ignorance’? It was incomparably more difficult for Joe Bloggs to acquire reliable information ‘in the old days’ – virtually impossible in fact. Scientists were not much better off: the current fruitful flourishing of inter-disciplinary studies is the result of specialists’ being able to consult sites like ScienceDaily to get a quick overview of what’s going on in other fields.
13 October. OK – I’m rambling. I’m miserable and I’m drinking too much. Let me try to draw the threads together.
Those Thatcher quotes make her something of a paradox: the scientist that she was understood what was at stake; but her corner shop economics led directly to deregulation, the globalisation of predatory capital and the acceleration of global warming. Dogma over data. To be fair (me being fair to Thatcher?) there wasn’t a lot of data available at the time. Thatcher must have gleaned information from the specialised journals she read and she made an accurate judgment. The science was sufficient to convince the experts that there was a nasty-looking trend, but it was insufficient to mount a full-scale, public attack on Reaganomics. The market and the politicians still believed in trickle down. What – I wonder – might Margaret have said to Ronnie if she’d known then what we know now?
23 October. Ten days later. I’ve been, er… HS (hors service) – “out of order”, as in vending machine. I came back from Ruffiac this afternoon after a week of cocooning at Marga’s, and it was with a certain pleasure that I took (or rather accompanied) Sam round the village and watched her checking out all the local points of interest.
Meanwhile, however, the second and third presidential debates have left the rest of the world either reeling in shock or rolling gleefully on the floor. But a significant proportion of the US population are still committed to Trump’s fascist, simplistic inanities. He and Clinton were pretty much level pegging in the polls till that tape of him bragging about his groping rights emerged, after which his numbers dipped. But not by much. Today Clinton is about 6pts ahead, but that’s far too close to the margin of error for my liking. Trump continues to up the stakes and, by questioning the validity of the electoral process, he’s become a threat to the democratic system itself… which – let’s face it – was already pretty wobbly in the USA. And all those rednecks are wound up and raring to go. In fact if Trump had set out to create the conditions for civil war he could have done no better.
I saw an interview on Channel 5 with a guy in Nashville (Tennessee) whose company makes camouflage uniforms for the military and is one of the few to have survived in the face of cheaper Chinese competition. Where he used to employ 300 people he only has 50 today, and presumably his profits have taken a corresponding hit. He is understandably upset about that, but what he doesn’t get is that out-sourcing and cut-throat competition are the logical extension of American capitalism. Neither does he realise that today more American jobs are lost to automation than to ‘foreigners’. Worst of all, he lumps everything into a dreadful amalgam that sees all Muslims as terrorists.
24 October. It’s all so sad – utterly disheartening. The climate is already going haywire and with the slowing of the AMOC, the North Atlantic heat exchange mechanism which is the very motor of the Golf Stream (see here for the pdf, or here for a 15min video), we ain’t seen nothing yet. The reality behind those terrifying numbers for sea level rise will soon become obvious and undeniable – alas too late. No one knows, no one cares.
(I sent my ad/article to the Dawkins Foundation by the way. No answer came the stern reply.)
25 October. I understand that you don’t have the time to stew over the woes of the world. Between the close links you maintain with your extended family and all your activities, you’re too busy living life to the full. I can make excuses for you because you fill your time with stuff that’s worth doing: you are not fooled by the charade of consumerism or the black pantomime that goes by the name of politics. You give much more than you take, all that you do is admirable and I would be the last to deny that the world needs people like you and yours.
But you are hardly typical of our generation, and tomorrow’s world needs people like me too. People who get up your nose – yes, I’m sure I do: “Oh dear, here goes Roger again, banging on about climate change…”
Andy Beckett has penned a grim piece for the Guardian about the power of the tabloids. It’s a salutary reminder of what we’re up against: i.e. completely unscrupulous demagoguery. A reminder too of the way the real world works. I tend to forget how unreasonable most people are and how easy it is to manipulate them. Silly of me. It’s not as though I’d forgotten how shocked I was in 1982 by the speed with which the British public became a baying horde of ‘Argie’-haters, nor the Sun’s infamous “GOTCHA” headline when the Belgrano went down. Apparently I don’t understand what newspapers are all about. I’m stuck with this ancient and honourable notion that newspapers accept the responsibility that goes with their reach and recognise that not only do they reflect public opinion – they lead it. Indeed they create it. Shameless rags like The Mail use a basic tool kit comprising selective quotes, capital letters and a relentless appeal to the lowest common denominator.
28 October. Brexit and Trump are two sides of the same coin: unscrupulous manipulation of public ignorance. The paradox that (I’m prepared to believe, many) politicians struggle to resolve lies in the fact that a degree of manipulation is right and proper. Governments – elected officials at all levels – have to lead, because most of their electors are woefully uninformed, short-sighted and parochial. Giving the public what it wants can only lead to bread and circuses. Politicians have the thankless task of identifying what the people need and then convincing them of it. Politics is indeed the art of the possible. It is – or one would like to think it is – about what you might call “scrupulous manipulation”.
“What the country needs” is clearly a subject for legitimate debate. But it ought not to be limited to balance sheet options, with fundamental philosophical choices swept under the carpet. Transforming those needs, once established, into medium- and long-term plans and specific projects is another kettle of fish. I venture to suggest it’s become nigh on impossible in a world where the technological options and their balance sheet impact change with bewildering frequency. If I’d had to sign off on a £25bn energy plan five years ago I’d have staked my money – your money – on wind turbines: proven technology which could only improve, source of jobs, and – above all, given the urgency – immediately deployable. In the light of my knowledge at the time it would have been the right decision, but it would have turned out to be wrong one.
Scrupulous manipulation (“ScruMan”?) is difficult because the issues are complex, and evaluating solutions requires knowledge, patience and sheer ‘brain power’ (by which I mean the brute force intelligence which enables one person to handle more variables than another). Joe Bloggs doesn’t typically rate very highly on any of these scales; but you can’t tell him that because he’ll get upset and punch your head – or exercise the psephological equivalent. So the ScruMen have to surround themselves with panels of experts, committees of enquiry and whatever else it takes to convince Joe that “we are acting in your best interests”. The process is fundamentally dishonest and nonetheless essential. Churchill was right about the relative merits of the democratic system. ScruMan’s task is made doubly hard by the fact that he has to convince people to vote for, whereas UnScrewMan only has to keep hammering out, “Say no and break it!” That’s what Brexit said and it’s what Trump is saying. Needless to say, it’s much easier to make people angry than it is to persuade them to be reasonable.
2 November. Trump’s latest and wildest claim is that Clinton would let in so many immigrants that the US population would triple, which is plainly stupid, yet media thunderings of, “You cannot take this man seriously!” are conspicuous by their absence. Peoples get the governments they deserve? Maybe. Philosophically speaking that’s a moot point. While I can’t deny a degree of Schadenfreude when the Brits shoot themselves in the foot, the very thought of ‘President Trump’ fills me with dismay. UK Remainers can emigrate; if Sarkozy were elected I could emigrate (preferably to a small island with a life expectancy equivalent to my own); but if Trump wins, there’s nowhere else to go.
Then again… I find myself asking, “So what?” All that changes is the timing. It merely brings the onset of chaos forward by a decade or two. For chaos there will be, one way or another, on an unimaginable scale. I don’t see how it can be avoided. As a mathematician you understand better than most the power of an exponential curve. My assumption has been that climate change would be the trigger. Accelerating sea level rise, extensive, frequent flooding and increasingly violent storms, etc, combined with infrastructure failure, lead to a surge in public awareness and media pressure on the fossil fuels industry. At the same time investors cut their losses and pull out of oil and gas which are left dead in the water. The markets collapse, stock trading is halted, worldwide finance is broken and no one has the faintest idea of how to mend it. The first power outages bring chaos and death on the roads in cities deprived of traffic lights, shopping malls close, Joe Bloggs panics and before you can say I-told-you-so there are troops on the streets, trying and failing to handle mass rioting, looting and arson.
6 November. But, even a year or two ago, who could have anticipated Trump? The idea that the end of capitalism could be brought about by one of their own is not without a certain irony. But it is a distinct possibility. Trump is patently unfit to be president. Everything we’ve seen over the last six months shows that he doesn’t have the knowledge, he doesn’t have the skills, he doesn’t have the breadth of vision. He does know how to lie and cheat and bluster, and he’s proved (as though proof were needed…) that, if you have enough money to start with, those qualities suffice to make a whole lot more. But his world view is that of an individual, arrogant, chauvinistic, privileged, white male – and it goes no further than the end of his dick. His world is divorced from reality. “We are going to put the miners back to work!” he claims. Oh yeah? And how’s he going to sell the coal they mine when renewables are so much cheaper? Presumably by taxing renewables, because all that climate change crap is a hoax! I ask you…
8 November. America is voting and I’m still shitting bricks. Clinton needs to win by a convincing margin if the US is to avoid civil war. If the result is close, all hell will break loose. Even, say, a 55-45 win might not be enough to convince the public that the election is over. Paradoxically, 60-40 might be worse, because the rednecks will cry “Foul!”
I shall be up at five tomorrow morning to watch the start of the first day’s play of England’s 5-Test series against India, in Rajkot. England have chosen to blood a 19-year old opening batsman, Haseed Hameed (see Dobell’s article for Cricinfo), which surprises me because Ben Duckett seemed to be bedding in well. England are the underdogs, India having won all their home Series over the last couple of years without – I think – having lost a single match. England’s top four – Cook, Hameed, Root & Ducket – and their makeshift spinners will have to step up or it could become quickly embarrassing. The toss is likely to be of paramount importance.
9 November. 01:00. On my way from Marga’s bed to mine. A mouthful of Sancerre, left over from Sunday’s oysters, goes down a treat, and I’ve added a big log to the fire, hoping that will do it till I get up in four hours’ time. I’ll have the cricket on one half of the screen and the Vendée Globe on the other. Will I dare to look up the election results? Sooner or later I shall have to.
05:00. Cook won the toss. 25-0 after 6 overs. The bowling has been excellent but the Indian slip cordon have put three catches down! Cook has been pinned on the crease several times and his footwork is non-existent. Young Hameed looks impressively unimpressed by the occasion.
Oh fuck! Trump has won Florida.
42-0 after 12 overs. Cook has got his feet moving and Hameed has just produced an absolute peach of a cover drive. Spin from both ends now. DRS is available, by the way.
47-1. First ball after drinks. Cook given lbw and doesn’t ask for a review. Missing leg by a good two inches! Enter Root.
Trump has won Iowa too. This is looking desperate.
76-2. Hameed lbw to Ashwin. Root told him to review but that was plumb. He made 31. A satisfying début. Enter Duckett.
102-3. Exit Duckett on the stroke of lunch. Excellent slip catch, diving forward, an inch off the ground.
278-3 after 80 overs. New ball available. Root/Ali partnership worth 178.
But who gives a flying fuck any more, with Trump in the White House and Republicans holding both Senate and House?