Article 50 & Brexit Reflections

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Last year the people of the United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the European Union by a small majority. This immediately divided the nation in a number of ways and plunged the UK into a complex crisis, not least constitutional. These divisions seem to have deepened and there are ominous signs pointing to a potential breakup of the United Kingdom. The UK government also seems to be pursuing a ‘hard’ Brexit, that is leaving the single market in addition to the EU. I voted for the UK to remain in the EU, believing that to be the best way forward for the country and Europe as a whole.

One thing that concerns me is that such a huge change could be carried through by only a simple majority. Surely something so far-reaching should gain acceptance on at least a 60% threshold, or possibly even a two thirds majority? With the UK split roughly 52/48 (and then not geographically evenly) there was bound to be division and tension with such a slender majority.

But worse was to follow the referendum. There was an immediate political vacuum, with no plan for what a post-Brexit UK (or disUnited Kingdom) would look like. In addition to this, it emerged that politicians (especially in the Leave campaign) mislead the population with promises from which they backtracked.

Many will say this was the democratic will of the people, but there is more to this than meets the eye, and more than I have the time or inclination to go into. Suffice it to say that many voted Leave for a variety of reasons (some simply as a protest vote) and some regretted the decision, not realising we would actually leave (unbelievable, but true), or became concerned for the negative consequences – for which we were warned.

One of the most worrying concerns of Brexit is the increasingly negative atmosphere towards immigrants and refugees which has resulted in increased hate crimes. We can all do something positive to help by reaching out in solidarity and respecting everyone.

I write as a concerned individual, seeking for ways to be positive and working together with others to make our land and continent a better place for all its citizens, especially our children and grandchildren. Despite my reservations, and as Article 50 is triggered by Prime Minister Theresa May, I believe there’s hope for our nation if we and our political leaders work for the common good of everyone. Ultimately, we are where we are and have to make the best of it.

Updated Wednesday 29 March 2017

Living in a social media bubble

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Oxford Dictionaries decided that the word post-truth (or is that two words?) should be Word of the Year for 2016. They define it as an adjective ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. Two major news events of 2016 illustrate how untruths (or should I just say lies?) were an an illustration of this; namely, the debate prior to the UK referendum vote to leave the European Union and the campaign that resulted in the election of Donald Trump in the United States of America (even if he didn’t win the popular vote).

Many people were surprised by these two events, and one explanation is the so-called social media bubble. This is a phenomenon which links us to like-minded friends and others; sharing and liking similar news stories, views and opinions. The algorithms of Facebook (and the like) decide our friends for us, those with similar views. Yes, this goes on in the everyday world, but the effect is magnified by the very nature of the medium. Many were surprised by Brexit and Trump because they weren’t aware of many people who favoured them, they just weren’t in their circle of friends, or possibly kept quiet. Add to this the problem of hoaxes, fake news and unreliable quotes, and things can get quite quite messy. What is truth in a post-truth world after all? Falsehoods are easily spread by people unwilling (or too busy) to make a simple check of their veracity – Google can be your friend, or possibly your false-friend in a post-truth world, who knows anymore?

In the space of the last two days I’ve heard both Brian Eno and Laurie Anderson speak about the feature on Amazon that shows what other people bought after you’ve made a purchase. Another example of the bubble effect? Wouldn’t it be better to have a reverse filter suggesting what they didn’t buy? Shouldn’t we be reaching out those with different opinions to our own and seeking to understand? Just my recent reflections, but what do you think? Do you possibly disagree with me? That’s OK, right?

Favourite Albums of 2016 Part 2

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In any normal year The Ship by Brian Eno would be my favourite album of the year but for three outstanding albums released in 2016 which top it.

All my top three albums deserve the number one spot, and each of them have been number one at some time in the last few weeks. So I’m going to bottle out and give all three joint number one status, listing in order of release. They each have qualities that make them deserving of being number one.

David Bowie‘s twenty-fifth and final studio album Blackstar was released on his 69th birthday Friday 8 January 2016, two days later his death was announced. Blackstar is his swan song and parting gift. It’s a remarkable piece of work and the track Lazarus is my favourite single track of the year. The picture is imagery from the album simply because, of the three albums, this is the most significant.

Radiohead‘s ninth studio album A Moon Shaped Pool was released in May with minimal promotion, namely two songs and associated videos the week before. Several songs date back a number of years, one right back to 1995. It can be described as an art-rock album, notable for acoustic guitar and piano timbres and some wonderful choral and string arrangements.

The third album in my top three is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds‘ sixteenth studio album Skeleton Tree, a follow-up to their excellent 2013 album Push the Sky Away (my favourite album of that year). The album is not an easy listen, but worth the effort. Most of the album had been written at the time of Cave’s son’s death, but several lyrics were amended by Cave during subsequent recording sessions and feature themes of death, loss and personal grief (Wikipedia).

Let me know what you think of my choices, and why not share your favourites?

Favourite Albums of 2016 Part 1

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Widely regarded as a return to form, Dystopia by American heavy-metal band Megadeth is my number 10 album of the year. Back to their roots, and number 9 in my top ten, Blue & Lonesome by The Rolling Stones. Soulsville by the wonderful Beverley Knight comes in at number 8. Atomic by Scottish post-rock band Mogwai is number 7. A progressive rock marriage made in heaven, Invention of Knowledge by Jon Anderson & Roine Stolt is number 6 in my favourites. Sadly taken from us this year, number 5 is You Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen.

My top 3 will feature in a separate post. In any normal year the final album here would probably be my number 1, but for 3 outstanding albums released in 2016 which top it, so The Ship by Brian Eno is my number 4.

Reasons to be cheerful in 2016

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2016 hasn’t been a good year for many reasons, not least the large number of high profile celebrity deaths; from David Bowie to…..I hesitate as it’s only the 30th December as I write. There’s been war and terrorism, famine and a refugee crisis. There was the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America; both events marking a rise in right-wing populism, intolerance, fear and hatred. But my main reason to be cheerful in 2016 was the birth of my beautiful daughter Matilda, what’s yours?