Monday, 8 September 2014

We know, you know?

I don't read a daily newspaper. I used to but, truth be told, the only reason I chose that one particular paper to purchase was because it contained a crossword that I enjoyed. It was a broadsheet and, for a good chunk of the time that I read it regularly, I worked on building sites. My peers would ask me why I was reading such a publication and would point out that there weren't even any pictures in it. They were, of course, referring to the lack of naked breasts and cheap titillation that they themselves enjoyed. I would point out that my colleagues, to a man, read the Sporting Pink and that there were even fewer images of airbrushed and air-headed models in that particular publication. But still, every lunchtime, I was branded as a posh, boring and somewhat pretentious prick whilst sat munching upon my corned beef and brown sauce butty as my tea stewed in my mug and my mucky boots resting upon a spare seat.

Nowadays I use the newspapers as nothing more than a source of reference, an anchor, somewhere to go when I want to know more about a particular piece of news that may have caught my attention. I glean most of my news from the World Wide Web and, shamefully, I've found that Twitter provides me with breaking news long before the warm papers arrive at the newsagents or that particular nugget is spotted scrolling across the bottom of the screen on one of the many dedicated news channels that populate our digi-boxes.

And there are boobs on it. #Winwin.

I don't think I'm unique in the way I select and gather my news from the world around me and, in these times, I don't think there's any shame in it. We're evolving through technology, fumbling our way out of the darkness and becoming, in our own small way, part of the bigger picture. We can choose to investigate further, to learn the true truth, from countless sources. Reputable sources line up alongside eye witnesses. If we're lucky and quick enough sometimes we can learn the true truth before the establishment have managed to put their own spin on the tale, before the mucky smudges of inconvenient truth have been polished away to reveal the glossy glister of the official version, before we are told what to believe.

All of us that use our iPhones as our window on the world will have come across any number of fellow Twitterers who are only really there for the boobs. Others are there to converse with like minded people, to persuade un-like minded people that they are wrong, to spread hatred or lies, truths or kindness, or to find a damaged and miserable individual with low self esteem who is prepared to share intimate photographs in a desperate attempt to find a reason to believe that they may be able to find someone to rescue them from the Hellish existence in which they've found themselves. It takes all sorts.

Last week a story broke. Unless you've spent the time since an unnamed individual employed by a hospital trust made an emergency call to report a missing patient buried beneath a rockfall in the Trossachs, you will be very aware of the details. I refer, of course, to the Ashya King fiasco.

The patient in question was a child. Obviously, although any missing person is a matter for concern, a missing child, helpless and vulnerable, is of particular concern. An international manhunt was launched. But wait... ah, we see, it was the child's parents that took him. Phew.

"Ah, but, look..." screamed the media, "...This kid is ill. He's dying and the parents that have taken him are Jehovah's Witnesses." Immediately almost all of us made a connection. Don't those people deny themselves treatment on religious grounds? The baying mob chasing the fugitives across the channel got the bit between their teeth. 

"No, look..." Said the father of the missing child via Youtube and associated social networks, " is my son. Look, he's fine, we brought all the equipment with us."

"Noooo..." Lied someone at the trust, "The batteries for his equipment will be spent in a few hours, the child will starve to death."

"Actually," Said daddy, "we've fled to Europe, not the depths of the Peruvian jungle, we can just plug it in and recharge it." We were all so relieved.

So, he's safe, still receiving the care he was receiving in the hospital and in the loving arms of his religious, and not at all fanatical, parents. To all intents and purposes the little boy, though very poorly, is simply on a road trip. Not only that, but the road trip will be via Spain to collect a large amount of money before travelling to the eastern side of the continent to receive a treatment that, although used by the NHS in England, was deemed by the NHS in England to be unsuitable in this particular case.  What could he be doing right now that'd be more exciting than that? And all paid for out of the pocket of the family. Not costing you or I a penny.

Until the call to the emergency services to report the missing child. That's cost us all a pretty penny.

The family are guilty of nothing but, possibly, throwing their own hard earned money away on a futile attempt to help their gravely sick child. But what if that waste of money buys the child just one more day? If the treatment, as apparently expected, doesn't cure the child and he passes away then we won't know if that wouldn't have happened a day or two earlier. We'll just never know. But maybe it did help, just a little. Let's face it, if a doctor tells you you have a week to live and then adds "...but take this pill and you might live one extra day" you'd take it, wouldn't you? A day is nothing, until it's your last.

We were being told what to believe. Not so very long ago we'd have had no way of knowing the Kings were acting in the best interests of their son, but this time, and for possibly the first time, real public opinion was based on both sides of the story. In this case there was a clear right and a clear wrong. For a short while, at the beginning of the whole, sorry debacle, the authorities panicked. Someone told lies, pointless pieces of propaganda were pedaled, the trust blamed the police, the media rubbed their hands and the politicians didn't want to know. And all the while a little boy with a terminal condition and his family were punished for nothing more than simply reminding the state that, in some things, they are, quite rightly, impotent. They could, or would, do no more for the child. The parents both could and would. Embarrassing as it is for the authorities, sometimes the parents are better parents than the state. Some people can be trusted. Most people, in fact. Almost all of us.

This post is nothing to do with the case I just highlighted. Nothing at all. I'm prone to rambling, as I'm sure most of you are aware, but hopefully what preceded this section will help make sense of the ramblings that follow.

North of our border a battle is taking place. A very twenty-first century battle. A political battle. A battle over the oldest question in the world... "Yes or no?".

Fortunes are being spent on convincing those people lucky enough to live in the prettiest portion of our island to leave the Union, while a similar amount is being spent on convincing those same people to stay with us. They, and those of us Sassenachs who are interested, have been treated to television debates, news reports, polls and posters. Lies and half truths from both sides muddying the waters. Both sides, through self interest, trying to paint a picture of a gloomier future should the other side prevail. The Scots will be bankrupt, businesses will flee, there'll be no where to keep the nuclear deterrent, troops will man the borders, yah-de-yah-de-yah. It's all, every bit of it, bullshit.

Maybe the Scots will be allowed to keep the pound, maybe not. Someone, somewhere, actually knows the answer to this, but that someone is neither of the someones that are telling you what they want you to hear. One side is right, one side is wrong, or maybe both are right or even both wrong. That's the thing with sides. In this case, even time wont tell. Whichever way the vote goes and whichever side was wrong or right, in the words of Mr Marley, everything's going to be alright. Most of us, those that don't live in mansions or employ drivers at any rate, won't even notice. Things are shit already.

Maybe troops will line Hadrian's wall, turning back Glaswegian hen nights en route to spend all their money in, and partially destroy, the hot spots of Blackpool, maybe they wont. The don't line the south coast to turn back those that threaten our nation or try to illegally breach out borders, why would they bother 'oop north? I'm pretty sure that, given separation, our two nations would still hate each other as much as they ever did, and that they will still manage to keep a lid on their simmering hostilities enough to avoid an invasion. And, either way, it'll be alright.

Why would the rest of the world refuse to trade with Scotland? There's an easy answer to that, they wouldn't. That's just ridiculous.

We have plenty of places to park our Trident wielding submarines south of the border. If it's a dockyard near you and you would like to complain about this then please note, complaints on this matter should only be accepted from those that didn't want them in the Clyde either. 

As for Scotland suddenly being without the nuclear deterrent, they wouldn't be. Do you think that any situation that led to someone, somewhere, launching nukes at Scotland would be none of England's business? Messy stuff, nuclear war. Devastate Scotland, devastate England. The Scots voting for independence are ensuring that they remain as safe as they ever were whilst no longer paying for the privilege.

So, it's all as clear as mud. Maybe Scotland will be better off without us, maybe they'll be worse off. Maybe England will suffer, maybe it will flourish. You won't even know after the votes are counted. Whichever way the cards fall there will be negatives. There has to be. When those negatives become apparent then those that had voted in the minority will shout "we told you so" and take great glee in their own suffering safe in the knowledge that they were right.

But they won't be right, and neither will you. 

In war, the victor is the one that was right, however wrong he was. In a referendum, it's those that lose that are "proved" right, the shortcomings in their own plans are never revealed simply because they weren't given a chance to.

Don't vote for what you're told you'll get, you will not get it. Don't vote for the man that speaks the slickest or the man that stands the proudest. You know what you want. Vote for that. Know that the future holds dark hours, whichever future is decided upon, then lower your expectations. Don't believe staying or leaving will make things better, it wont. Either option will make things worse, at least for a while, just choose which worse would you'd prefer. 

The Devil you don't know might be a lot nicer than the Devil you do.


Postscript : For what it's worth, I'd vote "yes", I never give no for an answer.

Post-postscript : If you lot do go it alone, take me with you, please.