Saturday, 30 July 2016

Merkel for the chop? Well, for about five minutes or at last as long as it took you to read a recent Daily Mail story. And ‘the will of the people’: just how bloody inconvenient is it going to become?

Browsing as one does — OK, ‘as I do’ — browsing as one does the Daily Mail online website, I came across this story and it occurred to me I should, perhaps, try to put it into context.

(Incidentally, ‘One does/I do’: I’m still hoping to persuade the many doubters that I do, indeed, have a college degree, though an ordinary MA awarded by Dundee University in 1972, not the Honours degree in English and philosophy I sat for, I did so appallingly badly in English, but (I’m told) so reasonably well in philosophy that when the English department insisted I would get an Honours degree over their combined dead body, the philosophy department countered that insisting that I should get a degree of sorts as I had, at least, done them proud. So the compromise was an ordinary degree. Oh, and the Scottish MA is the equivalent of the English BA.)

On the face of it and going by the Mail’s story you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that one Angela Merkel can expect her P45 in the post any day now and will have to reconcile herself to taking up a supply teaching post in chemistry in Baden-Baden or whatever it is sacked German chancellors do. The truth is most certainly a little different and tells us more about the working practices of our esteemed Fourth Estate than the mood of the German electorate. (Later: here is a more recent story. Obviously the newsdesk apparatchik responsible is getting into his/her stride.)

OK Germany, too, has its nutters in the form of Pegida (Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes) and, latterly, the AfD which has become far more right-wing and rapid since its original coterie of rather more restrained
academics and sensible businessmen and journalists was ousted several years, but they still form a rather tinier proportion of Germany’s movers and shakers than the Mail’s headline and story might seem to indicate.

The story goes on to cite the ostensibly startling statistic that 83 per cent of all Germans would like to see duskier fellow citizens shown the door with a flea in their ear and the stern admonition not ever to be seen again on European soil peddling their tales of famine and genocide, but even that, apparently copper-bottomed fact should be taken with a pinch of salt.

For example, if I had the money to commission a survey on, I don’t know, the abuse of toothbrushes, and consulted the usual random sample of 1,100 folk willing to be approached by a stranger with a clipboard, I reckon I could prove at least 25 per cent – a 'startling one in five' sounds more dramatic - believe that ‘toothbrushes get a raw deal and it's time the government did something about it’.

The modus operandi from here to the outer reaches of the solar system is simple: as a rule news is inconveniently erratic and makes the job of a paper’s news editor and his staff a trial. It is, for example, only now and again that some nutter drives an artic through innocent holidaymakers on a Nice seafront promenade or takes a Glock pistol to the nearest Munch McDonald's and tries to kill everyone in sight. On those days when nutters around the world haven’t obliged, news has to be ‘developed’ and this is what I suspect went on at Mail Online.

The word went out to some stringer or other in Germany to go out onto the street and ask as many folk as you can whether they think in view of her more charitable attitude to refugees and Merkel is a total loser shitbag and should be shot. Oh, Mr Stringer will be told, and take your camera and ask the prettier ones whether you can take their picture. Assuring them - the prettier ones - that their photo will be displayed on a leading newspaper website accessible from anywhere in the world and you're in there with a chance.

Hence the story: ‘Angela, your time is up’. That should keep the readers in ready-made opinions for at least a day, and don’t be surprised if when you mosey down to your local tomorrow and are buttonholed by the leading pub bore he – it’s always a he, sadly – assures you that ‚‘that Merkel, she’ll be gone by next week’. Then with a sage wink, he’ll tell you why Ian Botham was the greatest cricketer ever to play for England, and, yes, he will have another pint, thank you very much.

So what is ‘the truth?’ Well, I don’t know and nor do you. The fact is that in a matter of about four months the western world and its certainties has been turned well and truly upside-down, and things are really not looking very grand at all.

To put things in perspective, a little common sense is necessary: about one million folk have arrived in Europe from the Middle East and North Africa over the past 16 months and, putting aside whether you think they are entitled to come or not, whether they are genuine refugees or merely folk doing what the rest of us are continually being exhorted to do, namely to make the best of things and to get on in life. In our case — for us white honkeys, that is, all, no doubt, descended from a long line of stout-hearted folk from Devon/the Black Country/Northumberland/Derbyshire or wherever, getting on as a rule comes down to kissing the right arse or schmoozing the right town hall functionary. (Some also get on in life through intelligence, hard work and natural ability, of course, but let’s not cloud the issue unnecessarily.)

In the case of the refugees it has meant uprooting yourself, your and your family several thousands dollars to pay some scumbag for a place in an overloaded lilo, then heading off into the unknown many thousand miles away in the hope of a better life, one where you aren’t periodically hit by famine and hunted down by genocidal idiots. But at the end of the day they are just doing what countless folk have done throughout recorded history and earlier. And I for one can’t blame them.

Undoubtedly quite a number, maybe 500, maybe 1,000, maybe 3,000 wrong ’uns joined the trek to Europe with evil on their minds, but a as proportion of the total number of migrants their number is infinitessimal (i.e. ridiculously small. I thought I’d better add that because I’m not too sure how to spell infinitessimal).

Then there’s the pertinent point that not the Nice murderer, not the lone gunman in Munich and not the two teenagers in Normandy who stabbed to death a priest were ‚‘immigrants’. But that will not mean very much to the several thousands who are just waiting for an excuse to vote, for example in France, for Marine Le Pen. That will mean very little to the millions in the US who are just itching to vote for Trump ‚‘because he’s not a politician‘. The will point to the goings on in Europe and how a million folk have arrived from the Middle East and North Africa and tell themselves ‚‘Yes, of course, we should build a wall to keep those bloody Mexicans out‘.

. . .

The big dilemma for us wet liberal types is, of course, the ‘will of the people’. It makes sense for we wet liberal types to applaud democracy as the will of the people when ‘the people’ do the right thing according to our wet liberal principles, but we find ourselves in an awful pickle when the will of the people contradicts them.

Turkey is a case in point: the nutter Erdogan (who is, of course, not a nutter at all but a very astute bastard) has substantial popular support. Sadly, that support is not among the metropolitan elite in the smarter westernised suburbs of Istanbul and Ankara where wet liberal principles feel well at home, but in the poor rural districts and the poorer parts of Turkey’s cities.

The comparison has been made, not least by me in a previous post, of the democratic rise to power of Erdogan and the – more or less – democratic rise to power of one Adolf ‚‘Moustache of the Month’ Hitler. It was the will of the people who put them both in power. It might well be the will of the people who put Trump in power and next year Marine Le Pen. It was the will of the people which decided that Britain should get the bloody hell out of the EU.

Is there a moral get-out clause which says the ‘will of the people’ should always be paramount, but only until it decides to do something which we wet liberals disagree with and must then be discounted? Is an immutable principle only an immutable principle while it suits us? To put it anotehr way: can a women really, in some circumstances, only be a little bit pregnant?

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