Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
Like an Italian tank at El Alamein, Mrs May has several reverse gears that she’s applying. Her much trumped ‘Brexit means Brexit’ is starting to sound profane. She was never in a strong position, either in Europe or as Prime Minister, and now has a distinct lameness in her gait.
The EU, which always held all the negotiation cards, is digging in. Talks are going nowhere as attitudes harden. The 2019 deadline is fast approaching without any movement. Mrs May’s much-trumpeted speech in Florence proved a non-event. Except for one hint; she let slip a tacit threat to the Brexiteers. Transition arrangements could stall the whole process.
In short, Brexit does not go ahead. Now, that will infuriate the Brexit headbangers. Rational debate has never been their strong point. Brexiteers came to the issue motivated by protest and frustrations. Thus, Mrs May can get away with masking her true intentions.
Yet, the question remains whether Mrs May can remain in power. Her enemies at home are circling. Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are in an unstated alliance that has Mrs May in a pincer movement. They came coming in from the right and left flanks.
Johnson, the British Foreign Minister, is in full maverick mode issuing his own agenda. Within the last two weeks, he has twice gone off message in what is a clear challenge to Mrs May. He’s calculated she is so weak that his position is safe. And in any case, should she fire him, he’d become the locus of an alternative agenda.
Johnson has a Churchillian complex. His grandstanding ways are direct from Winston’s playbook. Unfortunately, Johnson lacks the gravitas of Churchill. He alternates between playing the clown with occasional bursts of rationality. Uttering colonial poems in a Myanmar temple is indicative of his poor judgment. Under all this, he is an unapologetic opportunist. He wants to be Prime Minister. Although he doesn’t want the blame for the coming Brexit mess. Thus, Boris is playing a sniping game. He keeps his profile high, whilst stepping back from the final push.
Joining Boris on the right flank is rather odd posh-boy MP Jacob Rees Mogg. His honesty and straightforward manner have earned him a cult status. The Brits always had a soft spot for toffs who use big words whilst pontificating. I suppose its part of the class culture and our forelock-touching ways. In recent weeks Mogg’s rock-star standing has slipped a tad as his more extreme views emerge. As a devout Catholic, he’s damaged his brand by letting slip distasteful sentiments. His attitudes towards the poor and women are medieval. Nonetheless, he appears to be an undeclared candidate for Mrs May’s job.
Coming in from the other flank is Corbyn. The old lefty is enjoying a good run with his rebranded Labour Party ahead in the polls. He’s managed to keep the young voters onside with promises on education, zero-hour contracts and other reforms. How he intends to pay for this doesn’t bear scrutiny. He and his mates have never been good with numbers. Much of his current popularity is a response to the god-awful Tories fiscal policies. The National Health Service and other public services are in a permanent state of crisis. It’s debatable whether Labour plans will stand up to serious scrutiny. But for the moment they have the momentum.
All this confusion and uncertainty is bad for business. Sterling is already down 15%. Credit ratings are slipping. Compared with remaining in the EU, there will be higher trade costs with the rest of Europe. That accounts for about half of all U.K. trade. In turn, this will mean lower trade and foreign investment. Ultimately this reduces average U.K. incomes. Brexit’s supposed benefits such as less immigration and trade deals with non-EU countries, do little to offset these losses. It seems that voters were not aware of these issues at the time of the vote. Who misled them? Boris can accept some blame for that.
The economic experts are clear. The bottom line is simple to comprehend. Under all likely scenarios, Brexit will make Britain poorer. Delaying Brexit with a transition allows more time for the U.K. to come to its senses. Don’t forget it was the older folks who voted out, thus with the passage of time that cohort reduces. Then rational heads may prevail before more harm gets done.
Baron Christopher Francis Patten joined a long line of FILTH*. After introducing the poll tax and becoming Tory Chairman, by 1992 he was so toxic he lost his safe seat. The constituency of Bath, a conservative seat since 1931, fell to the Liberal Democrats. The good people of Bath punished Patten for his stout defence of the divisive poll tax. Although, in typical politician style, Patten later reversed his stance. He asserted he’d disagreed with the tax. None of that was evident in his tireless efforts to push it through parliament.
As a consolation prize, he gets sent abroad to be the unelected governor in Hong Kong. After returning from exile in mid-1997, he headed a commission on policing in Northern Ireland. By all accounts, he did a decent job there. The Royal Ulster Constabulary ceased to exist. It transformed into the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
By 1999 he was at the European Commission dealing with foreign policy matters. There he presided over the failure of Europe to come up with a unified approach to the Iraq war and its aftermath. This contributed to the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Not something he talks about.
In 2004 a nomination for the post of President of the EU arrives. With strong objections from Germany and France, his candidacy failed. Soon he was back in the UK, accepting positions at universities. Then came an episode that would expose him to considerable criticism. The weight of which still means many in the UK consider him a much-diminished figure. Appointed Chairman of the BBC Trust, he faced many challenging issues.
Then a story broke that top BBC presenter Sir Jimmy Savile was a serial rapists and child sex offender. Patten sought to defend the BBC. Instead of immediately acknowledging the BBC’s manifest failings, Patten dithered. Only later, when the extent of public’s outrage became clear, did he cave into criticism. Then claiming ill-health, he resigned.
It’s important that Hong Kong people, who still rave about ‘Fat Pang’ understand this. He came here in 1992 because he was toxic in the UK. Since returning to the UK his standing suffered again. His actions in defending an organisation that shielded a serial rapist did not play well. I know I’m harsh. Yet, you cannot deny there exist a morsel of truth in this.
I’ve met Patten on several occasions, including over a long lunch at the Police Tactical Unit. He was seated next to me. It’s 1992 and he’d recently arrived in Hong Kong. He was doing the rounds getting to know key units in the Police Force. His bagman challenged us on the use of CS smoke to control riots. Asserting it was indiscriminate and disproportionate, he questioned our methods. A quick lesson on tactics and the merits of CS as against beating people with batons followed. The bagman soon shuts up.
I may have mentioned the inability of the British Police to control riots in any pro-active sense. Standing behind shields, allowing mobs to throw stuff, does not constitute effective tactics. Anyway, within months Patten and his bagman were back at PTU. They came to praise us for handling several Vietnamese camp riots. No more questions about CS.
Patten always struck me as a decent chap, who was out of his depth in dealing with Beijing. He covered this with his eloquence, wit and ready charm. Cultivating with careful crafting an image of common sense, coupled with painful politeness. Lurking below the surface, you sensed a ruthless nature. Unfortunately, he overestimated his ability to influence Beijing. Displaying a hubris that left him blind. Beijing is not London. The rules of the game are different. With his judgment scuttled, he blundered around. Plus, truth is, he arrived too late on the scene.
Of course, his open style of engagement with the Hong Kong people was a winner. They’d never seen a Governor so ready to talk to ordinary folks in such a direct manner. No post-1997 Chief Executive has had the courage to emulate that.
My main gripe with Patten is this. When it went wrong, he could take the boat out of here. Thus, beyond his reputation, he had no real investment in the place. Hong Kong’s not his home, nor did he intend to stay. Then you can’t ignore the fact that he sought to massage the facts over what happened in the lead-up to 1997. With books such as ‘The Last Governor’ history was contorted.
His 1994 electoral reforms went ahead without Beijing’s endorsement. All they needed to do was wait, set up a shadow legislature ready to take over on 1st July 1997. And that’s what they did. Patten’s initiative rubbed out in an instant. Chasing his agenda, he stoked sentiment in Hong Kong. This, in turn, created suspicion in Beijing. The resulting tension he left behind had the potential to derail the transition. Such an approach bordered on the reckless. Beijing responded with some undiplomatic retorts … “A sinner for a thousands years.” My favorite insult from Beijing is “Tango dancer.”
Joking aside, this high stakes game is deplorable because Patten wouldn’t face the consequences. Dealing with the aftermath left with others as he sailed off on the Royal Yacht.
On the final day, he played his part well. In the pouring summer rain, with Highland Cathedral echoing off the skyscrapers of Central, he hung his head. In sadness or shame? It was an epic performance broadcast worldwide. Yet, once again the people of Hong Kong were mere spectators or bit-part players.
Back in town this week, Patten acknowledged he relishes “his aging rock star image.” In the UK, he enjoys no such adulation. The old tango dancer loves working the crowds.
* Failed In London, Try Hong Kong.
A disagreeable spat has broken out in Hong Kong. Name calling, threats to kill and celebrations of a suicide. It’s a childish, undignified spectacle, tinged with mutual hatred. With the Occupy movement, a large brick got thrown into the pond of Hong Kong politics. Ripples from that continue to radiate out. Unforeseen consequences tear at our polarised society. A reasoned discussion has halted, replaced by vitriol.
On one side, we have a deluded subset from the failed Occupy movement. They purport to seek independence for Hong Kong. Beyond that rather simple statement, they offer no realistic scenario. How is this to work? Nor do they appear to understand the complexities or realpolitiks of this situation.
As court cases rumble on, those who instigated or drove Occupy are now being held to account. This has resulted in a number getting jail time. It is probable that the current activity is a reaction to that, as the pro-democracy camp lashes out.
In all seriousness, do you expect China, which has sought reunification as a matter of national pride, to give up Hong Kong? Beyond that, is the issue of straightforward municipal matters of water, power and food. Hong Kong is not sustainable as an entity without the largess of the Mainland. One gets the impression the advocates of independence are not in the top percentile of the IQ stakes.
Talking of which, we have the Pro-China groups on the other side. Easy to anger, with unrestrained slogans. They have responded in kind to the provocations. It is obvious, the independence banners and slogans are there to spark a reaction. The Union Flag gets deployed in a similar manner. If you want to get the blood up of the pro-China crowd, that is certain to work.
The locus of the current trouble is the university campuses. This brings into play other factors of significant bearing. Independence calls are being trumpeted as “freedom of speech.” A clever move that ignores deeper issues. In recent years, Hong Kong has seen an influx of accomplished Mainland students. These exceptional students outshine the Hong Kong kids, who now feel threatened. There is little or no mixing between the groups with segregation in dorms.
Local students resent the success of the Mainlanders. With better English skills, a serious work ethic, the Mainlanders leave their local counterparts behind. They sweep up grades and scholarships. As a provocation, this hurts most of all. Hong Kong kids and their parents are obsessed with grades. Getting your butt kicked by a Mainlander is not pleasant. Local students are hurting and marginalised. And, as they can’t compete in the academic arena, adopting other tactics appeals.
But let's not generalize. From what I’m told it is only a small group of Hong Kong students who are agitating. These mainly come from the lesser faculties of social sciences and such. In the hard-nosed science subjects, the kids are focused on their studies with an earnest attitude.
Meanwhile, university governing bodies have got themselves in a spin. As rationalists, they realise independence is a dead-end road. Yet, their liberal sentiments intrude. They can’t bring themselves to deal with this issue in a robust manner. If they saw a child playing with fire, would they hold off? Would they feel it's important to let the child experience the dangers at the risk of burning down the house? They’d intervene. Tough love is sometimes necessary.
Some of the current activity is aimed at garnering international attention. But, again, a fantasy creeps in here. For some reason, the pro-democrats think the rest of humanity cares deeply about Hong Kong. Our “15 minutes of fame” during the handover period played well on the international stage. The whole “moment in history” thing with military bands strutting about made great TV. Next day, the media was gone.
In 2003, SARS generated publicity for all the wrong reasons. It was soon forgotten, although at the time we felt like an abandoned people. Pariahs, ostracised from the world stage. The Occupy movement attained wide coverage as international reporters and TV crews hung round morbidly waiting for a repeat of Tiananmen. When that didn’t happen, they moved on. Occupy left behind a fragmented mess too complicated for them to explain.
So, in short, these days Hong Kong rarely features in the international news. Overseas politicians only take an interest to advance an agenda or garner publicity. The best example of this is Chris Patten, the last Governor. He can’t help himself. In the UK, a much diminished figure over his mishandling of the Jimmy Savile sex scandal at the BBC; the attention he gets in Hong Kong is flattering to his ego. Thus, Hong Kong is a welcome respite.
But I digress. People cling to the idea that international pressure will force Beijing to concessions. They run off to Washington or London to plead their case. Whilst these efforts may get a few column inches, it never sticks. Having said that, the majority of Americans couldn't find Hong Kong on a map. "Doesn't Jackie CHAN come from there? I love Jackie CHAN.” Meanwhile, the Brits are rather tied up with their European divorce predicament.
Step back. Consider the impact that international pressure has had on China’s dealings with North Korea. Minimal. Thus, Hong Kong’s rebel alliance of students and politicians are wasting their breath.
Pragmatism needs to prevail. Those seeking independence are misguided. If they had the best interests of Hong Kong at heart, they’d focus on working to advance this wonderful place.
The British monarchy is no longer a game of thrones. Rather, it’s a mundane game of consent. Interesting fact … countries that have Kings and Queens are empirically freer. They also have higher levels of social justice. That statement contradicts rationality. Yet, look at the freest countries. Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Spain, Luxembourg and Great Britain all top the league. All have high levels of freedom, social justice and a constitutional monarchy. Something is going on. The correlation is unclear - but it can't be a coincidence. I know folks on the left - in particular the regressive left - baulk at this idea. They reject the evidence.
You could argue, as some do, that the monarchy as an institution acts as the national glue. It brings together a people. That argument has some resonance. Of course, in the modern iteration, Kings and Queens are above the politics or should be. Although, the feckless Prince Charles is stretching that principle somewhat.
The monarchy can provide a focus for national pride, a vessel for sorrow at times of strife. That unifying force that transcends the sordid business of politicians. Queen Elizabeth II has played that role to perfection. Plus, the pageantry is wonderful. Even Johnny Rotten (aka John Lydon) of the Sex Pistols acclaims his admiration. But I have to ask, what is the appeal and the purpose of the whole show?
Walter Bagshot, writing in the late 1800s, encapsulated the issue. “The mystic reverence, the religious allegiance, which are essential to a true monarchy, are imaginative sentiments that no legislature can manufacture in any people. You might as well adopt a father as make a monarchy.” Thus, in his view, the monarchy remains beyond rational explanation.
As it stands at the moment, the leader of the winning party in an election travels to see a 91-year old woman. She then invites them to form a government. Convention dictates that she must invite. Further, the leader can’t form a government without having had that invite. All rather farcical.
Further, it is only through Elizabeth II’s signature that laws come into existence. But she only signs what her ministers ask her to. She can't act in a unilateral manner. Moreover, none of this is written down. Convention and practice prevail. This has progressed over time as Parliament asserted itself, with the Monarchy in gradual retreat. In that sense the monarchy evolves, it morphs with the times, adapting. Which is odd because the monarchy's role is continuity, that connection to the past.
Although the Queen has no direct political power, in theory, she remains able to exercise the royal prerogative. She could decline to sign a bill or order parliament to close. Of course, such a move would provoke unforeseen consequences. That could include the end of the monarchy. So her powers are held in check.
In the past, Kings and Queens fought for power, in the process they slaughtered their opponents. Jealously guarding a blood-line. These days soft power prevails. Real political clout surrendered for the right to be consulted. Yet, the motivation remains the same … protect that blood-line.
The PR machine that controls and contorts every image we see of Queen Elizabeth II and her family is a slick operation. It manages all opportunities to greatest impact, never missing a beat. In 2013, Prince Harry sat outside a tent in Afghanistan, giving an interview. Then by serendipity, the scramble alarm sounds. He sprints for his combat helicopter. It’s an image straight out of the Battle of Britain… another young man in a war zone fighting for freedom. The nation gasps in jingoistic delight. Strange we never see the helicopter lift off nor what carnage our prince wrought on the nasty enemy. But the impression lingers. “Harry the lad” is doing his bit. All good stuff you may conclude.
Survival depends on convincing the British public the monarchy is relevant. In this regard, the role of heredity, so scorned by the Republicans, has one distinct advantage. It settles once and for all the issue of who gets the job. There’s no political fighting, no contest. A smooth seamless transition assures stability at a time of potential crisis.
Having said that, a monarchy that exists by consent is fragile and not without inconsistencies. Great legal minds continue to debate the monarchs exact powers and reach of those powers. Nothing remains settled, it's all a muddle and compromise. For all that, Queen Elizabeth II has kept the ship balanced and on an even keel in some choppy seas.
In recent times the only real threat came in the shape of Saint Diana of Harrods. Diana took on the Royals in a PR battle that in bold moves canonized her in the public’s mind. In the process, Charles gets demonized, whilst the Queen Mother takes some flack.
The Windsor PR machine was on the back-foot. Fighting a rearguard action against a wronged woman. Organisations can be slow to change. But a dynasty that has survived hundreds of years wasn't nimble enough on this occasion. Hence, when Diana died in that Paris underpass, the Windsors failed to comprehend the new sentiment game. A paucity of solemn condolences drew swift and unrestrained public bile. The target was the Queen.
Her absence from London, sitting remote in her Scottish Castle, didn't play well. Whilst the nation mourned the public conjured up images of some dark Shakespearian episode. A ruthless Queen, hiding away, deaf to her nation despairing wails. Bit part players included a young ardent Prime Minister. In the shadows a sulking Prince skulked around, fearful for his own life.
The Windsors fell short because the front woman failed to read the mood of the nation. Folklore has it that only the intervention of the Prime Minister brought about a change in heart. Eventually, the Windsor PR machine fired up its engines. The Queen co-opted plans for her mothers funeral to roll out all the public-appeasing pageantry. It worked.
Some of the blame for this episode must rest with the inept Charles Windsor. A man sitting out the longest apprenticeship in history. He’s made some daft decisions that threatened to scuttle the whole enterprise. And for that reason, I suspect his Mum is holding off letting him have the top job.
Except for that one slip up, Queen Elizabeth II is beyond reproach. She’s kept a steady hand on the helm. She reigned through thirteen UK Prime Ministers and a hundred plus Commonwealth equivalents. Her insights are large. No one in history has had that breadth of exposure. Of course, we don’t know her personal opinions nor should we hear these. Sometimes discretion is a virtue.
Aside from the Diana saga, she has suffered occasional bad press. At times accused of being aloof and cold. I heard one anecdote that refutes this. A surgeon who’d served in a war zone invited to the Palace for lunch gets seated next to the Queen. The poor chap is suffering post-traumatic stress. He'd seen terrible things, including amputations on children. The pressure of the event got to him as he started to shake. The Queen immediately called her dogs over. She produced treats from her pocket for him to feed the dogs. She encouraged a dog to sit in his lap. Calm returned. These are not the actions of a heartless callous person, but someone who’d recognised a fellow human in distress.
I was also struck by the way she conducted herself in a visit to Ireland in 2011. This state visit topped the reconciliation process that began with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The next year in Northern Ireland she greeted a man who’d likely had a role in the assassination her uncle. Shaking hands with Martin McGuinness, she transformed the situation by normalising relations. That was a profound moment of rapprochement that signaled things had changed. A politician undertaking the same act could be a cynical gesture. She brought gravitas to the whole process by having no public agenda.
When King Farouk of Egypt was removed from his throne in 1952 he remarked that “soon there will be only five kings left”. The list consisted of the kings of spades, diamonds, hearts and clubs – and the King of England. Only time will tell.
The monarchy will be in a precarious position when Charles takes over. His wife does not enjoy wide support with the public. How this plays out is anyone's guess. Consent to sit on the throne is by no means certain. Fickle public sentiment could again swing against the House of Windsor.
Winston Churchill famously said, “History will judge me well.” When challenged about this assertion his reply was “It will judge me well because I’ll write the history.” And he did. His prolific works shaped our worldview, with Churchill held in high regard. This is despite his many poor decisions and failed ventures.
Hillary Clinton is now in the same game. Her book “What Happened” reads more like an autopsy. I’d always kinda had the impression that it's not prudent to do your own autopsy. That message didn’t get to Hillary. It’s also evident many other messages didn’t get through or register with her.
The main thrust of the book … she can't believe she lost. Whilst she gamely blames herself, that mea culpa looks like false modesty. As the book unfolds everyone else is at fault. The self-entitlement, layered with obtuse righteousness, pours forth. The presidency was hers, she owned it. Some nasty guy took it from her.
Sexism was at play in the vote. According to Hillary, as a woman, she faced misogyny throughout her career. It’s odd that she should adopt a feminist stance when her track record reveals a darker set of principles. At the height of Bill’s troubles with ‘the ladies’ Hillary became his attack dog. She sought to destroy her husband's accusers, deploying formidable resources. The media, federal agencies and good old-fashioned misrepresentation. She had no solidarity with her sisters. A simple, ruthless self-interest reigned. The fact that her husband did have ‘sexual relations’ with these women is irrelevant. It’s all about power.
She came up with the idea of hiring private detectives to investigate Bill's accusers. Gathering information for the purposes of defamation was the aim. This is her usual modus operandi. For year she’d kept files on political opponents. Any salacious gossip was welcome. Then she exploited her own daughter in photo-ops designed to garner public support. Never in the history of the White House has a child been in such an awkward position.
Her handling of these issues goes to the question of character. Lets face it, Hillary was an accomplice in Bill’s activities, no innocent victim, nor the good wife. She evoked the church to suggest that Bill’s meetings with a female intern were a form of ‘ministry.’ I know the Catholic Church delivers the healing hand in odd ways, but as a Baptist is that the norm? Thus, it’s a bit of a stretch to portray herself as a feminist. There is not a shred of evidence she sort to use her position to advance feminism beyond rhetoric.
Hillary was a willing accomplice in the “Slick Willie” roadshow. All the accusations against him dismissed as “a vast right-wing conspiracy.” She orchestrated the stone-walling that held off the special prosecutors. Ruthless, manipulative and driven in her intent to protect the Clinton brand. If innocent women and their families got burnt in the process, so what!
Next for a kicking is Uncle Bernie Sanders. He should have conceded earlier, he should have done this and should have done that. He should leave the field open for Hillary. The arrogance of these assertions circles back to the whole self-entitlement issue. Bernie had every right to keep fighting. That’s the game. Hillary’s undignified moaning has an ungrateful tone. Once she got the nomination, Sanders campaigned with relentless vigour for her. He gave his time and energy. Still, he gets a kicking.
Of course, the FBI head, James Comey, is the Machiavellian hand who did the most damage. As she put it “He generated additional headwind” with his release of details of her email issue. The timing, 11-days before the election was, in Hillary’s view, designed to scuttle her. Again, forgotten is the fact she opted to use a private server in direct breach of the rules. The FBI was doing its job. Granted the release date was unfortunate. Yet, there was no good option. Revealing the information after the election would have drawn attacks of concealment from Trump. Comey was between a rock and a hard place. He opted to release early, I surmise, in order that the voters could decide.
It’s true that Trump’s team spun Hillary as the “Evil witch” prepared to lie and break the rules. She cooperated by providing the ammunition for that. The server issue looked like deceit. An own goal that gave the conspiracy crowd an anchor for all their theories and stories. Then we have her statement of arriving under fire in Bosnia. Bullets pinging off the tarmac ... she dashed for cover. The reality was a greeting from a child, who proceeded to read a poem. Not a sniper in sight.
Her dealings with Wall Street bankers exposed ample flanks. Given that bankers get held in the same regard as paedophiles by the populace, she misjudged that one. Having taken vast sums from the bankers, she saw no issue with it. Here again, poor judgment or self-entitlement? Both I reckon.
Its said she made a pact with Bill. She’d serve him, then in turn he’d help her get into the White House. That pact crashed and burned when Trump rewrote the rules of the game. I suppose what galls her the most is defeat by someone she propounds to be her intellectual inferior.
At least it cannot be said she wasn’t ready for the job. I concur she is one of the best-qualified candidate in history. She had a front row seat for her husbands two terms. The lady knows the systems; the complexities of the role, with all its dimensions. Unfortunately for her, a good part of the American public didn't care. For them, this experience marked her as part of the system, another Washington insider. She reinforced that opinion with her clumsy attacks on Trumps supporters.
Her book has whitewashed many of the inconvenient truths about her role as Bill Clinton’s greatest supporter. Like Churchill, she’s getting her version of history out there to implant a message. None of that changes the truth we know.
Finally, she did win the popular vote. But that's not what matters. She lost the race. In the end, enough of the US public recognised her as the manipulator she is. She pandered to the left, but delivered for the right. She flew the feminists flag, but trashed her sisters. This is a driven woman. Given her messiah complex, I suspect we’ve not heard the last of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
You always feel the pull of home. Even after 37 years living overseas, 6000 miles away, the siren call is there. But it’s a home seen through a prism of nostalgia. I grew up in Hull in the 1960s and 1970s, a time of industrial strife, power cuts and the ever present cold war. Even as a teenager I understood we could all die in a flash of light. And yet, the memories that linger are of long summer holidays, walking the Yorkshire Moors. Even the hum of RAF Fyingdales early warning radar couldn't detract from the majesty of the moors. Then Spurn Point with its big Holderness sky on one side and the North Sea on the other. An endless strip of sand for exploring. Halcyon days.
I benefitted from the best years of the comprehensive system of schooling. Full funding, passionate teachers using the modern facilities given us. Chemistry labs, workshops, a full-size theatre, swimming pool and sports grounds. My school wanted for nothing. I reckon my cohort of students was amongst the luckiest.
This was before Thatcher slashed funding. Before the politicians started playing their endless games with exams and assessments. I left with a decent clutch of ‘A’ levels, also a sense of purposes that I could take on any challenge.
Yet, even then many in my school faced bleaker options. A good number left as soon as they could. Some to work and others to loiter at the gates. Lost souls. By the age of 15, I was witnessing girls go, because ‘she’s got a bun in the oven’. Talented girls who’d done better than me in language class, who’d excelled in drama. Then in a sudden, it's all stopped. She’s now a mother to be. Nine months later these girls hung around the school gates with their bairns. You sense their frustration. It's palpable, hanging in the air.
So it's sad that this summer, as I cycled through my old estate, the same forlorn girls are still pushing prams. The clothes aren't much different. Track suit bottoms or tights and an upper garment shielding any remaining dignity. These days a mobile phone joins the apparel. That’s about the only thing that references the modern world. O yes, the prams are now jazzier and some even double decker. Vicky Pollard incarnate, without the laughs.
Also in tow, is a dad. Well, dad to one of the kids. Baseball cap, tracksuit bottoms topped with football shirt. The uniform of the urban chav. He’ll probably also have a few poor quality tattoos. He’s perfected that ‘Liam Gallagher’ walk … lean back slouch and arrogant posture. Of course, he doesn’t have a job. Never had one. He did work at Asda once but got laid off for nicking stuff.
It’s depressing because girls who have a teenage pregnancy are twice as likely to live in poverty. Plus teenage pregnancy is associated with higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse. Then we’ve got the whole missing father issue linked to juvenile delinquency and crime.
What strikes me, is that despite decades of social policy, nothing has changed. These people are locked in a spiral. Shifting and absent fathers, with progeny of doubtful origins. Something is not working. We know that your parents influence how you grow up. Given this situation how do we break the cycle? I’m struggling on that one.
I found even having an honest discussion about this is difficult. Any suggestion that these people need pull themselves up draws roars of criticism. There victims, who need to be molly-cuddled with support. Of course, as an affluent white man, I’m immediately classified as insensitive or worse. My credentials improve when I mention I'd grown up in a terraced house with an outside toilet. In a single bed shared with two bedwetting brothers, I opted to sleep at the shallow end. Then I crash and burn because as an ex-cop I’m a fascist. That’s the level of the debate.
Now on my travels, I don’t see the same issue of teenage mums perpetuating social decline. Japan, Singapore and South Korea have about eliminated teenage pregnancy. But rates of sexual intercourse before marriage are high. So the kids are having sex but not getting pregnant. The Nordic countries have low rates, Italy and Spain do well. Whilst the United States and the UK have teenage pregnancy rates amongst the highest.
Whether policy propagates this situation is hard to say. In the UK girls with kids get homes and state support. I get the sense that politics rather than the practicalities of life take priority. No body wants to criticise, people are victims of their circumstances. Thus not accountable. Having said that, they must accept some responsibility for contraception. Why boys and girls can’t be told about contraception at the age that urges start is beyond me. It’s evident to me that a failure to communicate effectively, to be honest with kids, is part of the challenge.
I had the discussion with my two girls at an early age. I pointed out that condoms aren’t 100% effective, that's why I’m here (Sorry, Mum but I had to share that). And then we covered the fact that even one time is enough to get pregnant. I insisted on meeting their boyfriends. Usually, I’d have my revolver on the table for cleaning. I’d mention that in our household we believe in the barrier method of contraception … and I’m the barrier. Joking aside, have that conversation. The kids will squirm. They will hate you for it … at the time. Later, they will thank you.
How do I end this? Well, someone has got to have a conversation with girls to empower them to protect themselves. Having a kid as a teenager is not usually a great idea. The evidence suggests it doesn't have good outcomes. Abstinence is not going to happen. Christopher Hitchens best-captured what is needed. I leave it to him.
A recent article in the South China Morning Post caught my attention. A so-called defence expert claimed his techniques will put some steel in the Police Force. Judging from the statements of this 'expert' his real-life experience is limited. Further, he appears to have no law enforcement background. Coupled with that, is no apparent understanding of legal matters nor the constraints placed on the police. He does, however, have a high opinion of himself. He makes liberal mention of 'special forces'. The virtue of this guy's utterances is the light it reflects on people's ignorance.
A warped reality gets implanted in the public's mind by movies and TV shows. Violence is always clean, poetic and slick. In real life, it's messy, distorted, disjointed with unpredictable outcomes. The cops aren't all poster boys from a gym, but men with families some getting on in years. Against this stark truth, the assertions of gym warriors are banal. Hell, real life is complex.
Governing the ‘use of force’ in common law jurisdictions like Hong Kong is procedures and the law. These have evolved over the decades. Then you have oversight by official bodies such as the IPCC. Added to the mix are the media and every citizen reporter with a smart phone. None of this gets attention in the simplistic world of the gym warrior.
One suspects that such self-styled experts have never faced an angry man on the street. Their clever ideas don't pass muster. Also, it's wise to remember what Mike Tyson said 'Everyone has a plan until you get hit in the face!’
Now, I'm no expert. All I have is 35 years of policing under my belt, the majority serving in Kowloon. What I can say is that fancy techniques don't work. Moreover, fighting is hard and something cops will seek to avoid at all cost. It requires mental toughness, physical stamina and control. After years of shift work, coupled with disrupted sleep and stress-filled days … your average officer is somewhat fatigued. Some may be more concerned about inducing a heart attack.
Then we come to the fraught subject of knife defence. In my experience the nearest most of these ‘experts’ come to a real knife is in their kitchen drawer. It’s nonsense and dangerous to suggest a few swift moves can disarm a knife wielding criminal. If you’re lucky it might work. I managed to disarm a lady threatening to kill her child with a knife held against the throat. We distracted her and fortune smiled on me. But, I’ll be honest, it was a close call.
A couple of things happen when a knife appears. First, you crap your pants. Next, the adrenaline surges through you, as your heart rate races up. Your field of vision narrows. Believe me, nothing you do will defeat the ‘flight or fight’ reaction. Nature programmed us for this. It's time to engage or run. In these no duff incidents, when threatened by a knife, drawing your revolver is the best option. If you don’t the consequences could be terrible
Having seen and participated in a few street fights during my career, I can attest to a couple of things. Your energy drains away in seconds. If you can sustain yourself for a minute in full fight mode, you’ve done well. The smart moves you perfected in the gym will fall apart in the real world. You slip, bash yourself, try to avoid colliding with innocent bystanders... it’s all going wrong. But if you overreact to use too much force, expect months of misery. A detailed examination of your every move by investigators. If a bystander recorded it, you’ll be on YouTube with armchair critics, SJWs and cop-haters having their say.
Now, I can also have my say. The fantasy of these so-called experts may impress naive journalists. It does not impress the cops.
These days the investigation of ‘use of force’ incidents is a specialised function. The processes around this subject are increasing in sophistication. Also, missing from the media coverage is that the majority of incidents involve people with mental illnesses. It never plays well when officers get heavy-handed with such people.
Current police thinking evolves around the ‘force continuum’. This approach has an escalating use of force as the situation merits. And don't forget, most officers never fire their guns, draw their batons or use force in their careers. These incidents are an infinitesimal fraction of the millions of contacts between police and the public. I'd suggest a sense of proportion would help here.
Decision-making models for officers to apply is something that is entering the discussion. These systems have officers assess threats taking into account policy, the law and likely outcomes. You then decide on the best course of action. All this done in accord with ethics, values and the proportionality test. Underpinning it all is the sanctity of human life. And by the way, you've got seconds to make that assessment. You are out of breath, it's hot, people are yelling. Then the situation flips. As I said, it's not easy.
Officers train to de-escalate incidents. Get physical separation between folks, then engage them with some chat. If possible distract them, then seek to lower the tension. When appropriate avoid adopting an aggressive posture that may inflame matters. Yet be ready to respond. As I said, it's not easy.
One simple technique I learnt was to get the subjects name. The first name is best. Keep talking, inserting the name into the sentences.
“Come on, Simon, talk to me. Let's sort this out, Simon”.
The repetition gets their attention. With luck, you can make a connection and then communication can start. For reasons I can’t explain it works.
Unfortunately, the feeble SCMP article adds to the entanglement by perpetuating misperceptions. That coupled with a gross over simplification makes the article laughable. One thing is certain. The self-important expert needs to brush up his marketing skills. It’s generally not a good strategy to slag off prospective clients in the media. Just saying.
What to do about North Korea? Frankly, I don’t have a clue. Ok, I do have one idea. Bomb them with iPhones. Use drones to deliver hundreds of thousands of iPhones. Have these linked to transmitters placed along the border. In a matter of days, the population would get to see the outside world. Soon they realise North Korea is a dystopian hell. Preload loads of pop music to get them hooked. No Justin Bieber. That would be an infringement of their right to sanity.
Send in the iPhones with chargers. That should over-load North Koreas limited electricity supplies. It’s got to be a viable option, plus cheaper than conventional bombing. Don’t forget each Tomahawk missile cost about $832,000 (£667,000). That will buy you about 2,800 iPhones. So for the cost of ten tomahawks, you get 28,000 iPhones. Using second-hand iPhones it would be cheaper. You know it makes sense. The alternatives are too frightening.
We could ignore Kim, but I suspect he will keep throwing his toys out the cot. Sanctions aren’t working. China and Russia have no appetite for the potential consequences. A worried China sees that a huge influx of refugees could be destabilising. It’s also not keen to see a reunited Korea in the US sphere. That could mean US troops on its border. I guess the US wouldn't be keen to have Soviet troops in Mexico.
Taking out the regime is also a risky option. Any military intervention has unforeseen consequences. With the North Korean military on hair-trigger alert, Seoul will be on the receiving end of a response. Even a short salvo would have terrible results for the civilian population. Unless you can guarantee a knock-out blow .… beheading the regime in one swift action. Even a non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse weapon would have limited impact. North Korea is a low-tech country. Thus, such a weapon wouldn't even register with the majority of the population.
Stirring up some kind of internal rebellion appears untenable. Even in the final days of World War II, with his country in ruins, as armies encircled, Hitler remained in place. Like Hitler, Kim has seen off previous attempts to unseat him. In the process, he’s strengthened his position.
Of course, there is an argument to keep Kim in place. He’s a useful bogey man, who can advance all sorts of agendas. Like the monster under the bed, he threatens from the darkness. In reality, Kim is no tangible threat to the majority of the world’s population. His armies are starving, he has limited fuel whilst his overseas backers are growing wearier. And yet, in the West, the military industrial complex stand to gain. Also, the politicians, aided by a willing media, will feed off the possibility of trouble.
It’s certain Trump needs a war. His ratings are in the toilet. Don’t forget Clinton hit a milk powder factory to distract us from his Monica issues. Using that old play-book, Trump can leverage Kim’s posturing to shore-up his flagging numbers. Actually going to war though is a different prospect. This is not Iraq or Afghanistan. This guy has nuclear weapons that he can throw around. His systems aren’t great at targeting. That’s not a concern. You don’t need accuracy. A nuclear weapon is a proximity weapon, get it in about the right area and it will do its thing.
So, the military options are off the table. Sanctions aren’t working and talks look unlikely. My iPhone idea is looking compelling. Follow this up by air dropping refrigerators, air-cons and other household goods. Before long the North Koreans will be consumers clamouring for change.
My final option … send in Dennis Rodman. Get him to play Kim Jong-un at a couple rounds of basketball. All the cigarettes, kimchi and brandy should do the rest.
Freedom of speech is a hot topic in Hong Kong. Likewise in the U.K.
Although, I have you say the dilemmas arising are different. Yet, each raises important questions, whilst demonstrating that life is sometimes complicated. It's a reminder that your rights are not absolute. Plus, exercising them without restraint has consequences.
Words have power, that much is true. But in the U.K. certain words and political or social platforms associated with them are not welcome. New words have entered the lexicon; safe-spaces, micro-aggression, cultural appropriation and toxic masculinity. Invisible, potent barriers are being erected to ensure that people aren’t offended. On campuses across Britain debate is being shut down. Students are being spared views that challenge. The process is ongoing, widespread and shocking.
Safe spaces started as an idea to curtail ‘hate-speech’. These have morphed into places where alternative opinions and positions are not welcome. The safe space shields the students from offence or challenging ideas. Or acting like grown-ups. The result is graduates who are hypersensitive dogmatists. Whilst safe spaces are a stupid idea, cultural appropriation is laughable. This is when a member of a racial group borrows the culture of another. This has led to black students confronting white students with dreadlocks. Take this to its logical conclusion … curry can only be eaten by South Asians. It’s palpable nonsense. But this is what happens when you normalize such behaviour.
Moreover, this nonsense is pervasive. Germane Greer a renowned feminist intellectual was threatened with a ban. Cardiff University accused her of something called ‘transphobia’. Greer's crime was to assert an opinion that a transgender man can’t be a woman. This opinion offended the self-appointed judges of such matters. Last time I checked there is no law against being offended.
Next, we have the strange case of Peter Tatchell. This life-long gay and civil rights campaigner, is suffering the wrath of intolerant students. Again, the label is ‘transphobic’ with a dash of racist. His accusers produced no evidence for these assertions. It’s McCarthyism; make unfounded allegations, start a witch hunt. This is all rather baffling when you consider Tatchell's track-record. This man has campaigned for gay rights, against wars, for animal rights and on green issues. And this makes no difference to the radical new left. His main critic declines to debate him. That tells you everything you know. By the way, she is Fran Cowling the LGBT Officer of the National Union of Students.
It gets worse. Lincoln University Students Union banned the Conservative Society from its social media channel. Why? They had the temerity to point out that the university had a low free-speech rating. You can’t make this up. Next, they'll be burning books. After all, they're already insisting that statues be removed.
The race to be the most left-wing and politically-correct is breeding intolerance. The enlightenment, which brought us the modern world, is being rolled back. Keep in mind that the arbiters of what can and can’t be said are often reluctant to speak in public. They hide in the ‘safe space’ of their laptops firing off barbs. These tactics are illiberal and undemocratic. It amounts to a form of totalitarianism. Further, it's creating a culture of victimhood. Students enter the world of work sensitised to look for signs of micro-aggression or bias. With that mindset, they will find it.
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong student teachers at the Education University are using freedom of speech to welcome a suicide. This week the 25-year old son of an unpopular education minister jumped to his death. His mother was an unwelcome choice for a position in government. None of this excuses the callous and cold-blooded celebrations of her misery. The heartless perpetrators used a so-called ‘democracy wall’ to vent their hateful sentiments.
The student union then sought to defend the posting on the grounds of freedom of speech. In a mealy-mouthed comment, the head of student union made no apology. Common decency tells you the posting is unacceptable. Further, it's got nothing to do with freedom of speech. If you can’t grasp that, you shouldn’t be a teacher.
The backlash has started. It's reported internships for Education University students are cancelled. Headmasters are declaring they won’t recruit its graduates. The truth of this is difficult to discern. Nonetheless, I'll bet student teachers from the Education University won't be popular choices.
An important life lesson is being promulgated here …. actions have consequences. Plus, clouded judgement and distorted thinking are present at both ends of this issue. Freedom of speech is something no reasonable person would curtail. Having said that, this is not black and white issue. Common decency and humanity are relevant. When the students of the Education University are mature enough to reflect on this, I’m sure they will regret their actions.
So what would actually happen if North Korea used its latest nuclear weapon? We can get a pretty good idea from modeling the impact. Sites such as Nukemap do the work for us.
On 3rd September 2017, North Korea detonated its latest device. There is some dispute about its strength. Estimates range from 50 kilotons to as high as 300 kilotons. The event registered as a 6.1 magnitude earthquake. There is also some argument as regards the exact nature of the device exploded. North Korea claimed it to be a hydrogen bomb, whilst others suggested it may be a boosted fission weapon. This is all rather academic as the yield of the weapon is what deserves consideration.
For the sake of argument, let's assume the device yields 100 kilotons. In comparison, the Hiroshima bomb was about 15 kilotons. In terms of impact on the target, the yield alone only tells you so much. The detonation location, on the surface or above ground, plus terrain all have a bearing. To bring home the message, let's make Hong Kong our target. Plus, select an air-burst detonation, say about 150 meters above ground level. It’s 3 pm in the afternoon, on a clear sunny day. The device arrives on a ballistic flight path that took it into low earth orbit. It descends near the junction of Jordan and Nathan Roads, Kowloon.
The detonation occurs. Within a millisecond a massive burst of X-Ray radiation flashes out from the point of detonation. Most of this gets absorbed in the air within a few feet of the device. This massive release of energy generates a fire ball approximately 400 meters across. At a temperature of 5000°C, this vaporizes everything it touches. It incinerates men, women, babies in prams, cars and buildings. It a matter of seconds everything in a 400 meters radius is gone. In the immediate area, an overpressure a million times that of normal surges out.
This wrecking ball of energy topples anything in its path. That’s as far south as Austin Road and as north as Kansu Street. Instant death is now a blessing. Queen Elizabeth and Kwong Wah hospitals are demolished. Fire Service HQ is ablaze and Tsim Sha Tsui Police Station has disappeared. What remains, is on fire.
At a distance of 50 miles, the fireball is visible like a new sun in the sky. Closer in people are blinded. Depending on range from the fireball this may be temporary or permanent blindness.
A cloud of radioactive gunk is now in rapid ascent through 5000 feet. It's spreading out to form the characteristic mushroom shape. Within minutes this monster will reach 10 miles high. Eventually, it will start sucking in air and debris at the base. In the process, the fires at ground level get stoked into one huge conflagration.
The flash and fireball are igniting fires across Kowloon and the north shore of Hong Kong Island. From North Point to Western buildings are alight. People in the open burst into flames, their clothes gone. Tourists on the Peak are on fire. The trees in Victoria Park are ablaze, as are the slopes of the Kowloon Ridge.
The thermal blast extends five kilometers in either direction. Kwun Tong and Cheung Sha Wan feel the impact. Those standing exposed have 3rd-degree burns. These are so deep that their nervous system receptors get destroyed. This is fortunate as they can’t feel the pain. Most will die within hours.
The heat wave is now followed by a shock wave. This has a strength of 20 psi out to 1.5 kilometres. Only reinforced buildings will withstand this blast. Most of Tsim Sha Tsui, Yaumati and Mongkok is demolished. 100% of the occupants are dead, dying or trapped with severe injuries requiring immediate attention. The 108-storey International Commercial Centre on the Kowloon water-front has collapsed. Langham Place is gone. The International Finance Center tower on Hong Kong Island is shattered and alight like a giant candle. Most of its tenants are cut to pieces by the imploding windows.
The air blast continues outwards toppling structures, blasting debris through buildings. Broken gas mains and fuel oil are burning as a huge fire-storm takes hold. Electricity is gone. The blazes in Kowloon and the north side of Hong Kong Island are merging into a huge single entity. Thousands suffocate in MTR stations or on stationary trains trapped in tunnels.
Within 24 hours an estimated 750,000 people are dead. Another 1.3 million are going to die within days. Some 2 million are in various states of incapacity. Burns, blast injuries and shock abound. 146 hospitals and clinics are no more. 165 schools and places of learning wrecked. Five fire stations have evaporated in the blast and fires.
Hong Kong has ceased to exist. Its major infrastructure gone, its seat of government gone; the majority of the hospitals are either demolished or on fire. Of the major hospitals, only three are intact. But with no power or water supplies, none is functioning. The emergency services are beyond helping. The commanders are either dead, dying or so dazed they cannot operate. Fire engines can't pump water to fight fires when there is no water.
Survivors are scrambling to cross into Shenzhen. They are not welcome. The residents of Shenzhen are fleeing, fearful of radiation. Along the whole coast of China, the authorities are struggling to deal with the disorder. Refugees are on the move in their millions. Some survivors have taken to the sea, heading to a hostile reception overseas.
In one sense it's was fortunate the weapon detonated at height. With less debris sucked into the cloud, the radiation impact is more confined. A small concession. The plume of radiation, carried by the east winds, is over the Pearl River Delta. Zhuhai gets a dusting, as does Zhongshan and Jiangmen. The heaviest radiation falls on Lantau across Discovery and Penny’s Bay. The Disneyland fireworks show is cancelled.
Social order has broken down in Hong Kong. The Chinese Government has sought to seal the area. It's left to burn. And all this from a single 100 kiloton device. Have a nice day!
It’s unfashionable to say it these days, you risk the wrath of SJWs and others who cannot abide the institution. But the research is clear, the evidence robust and well-documented. Marriage is a good thing for society, especially for the well-being of children. It’s axiomatic that kids need stability, routine and boundaries. This is especially the case with boys.
Underpinning this is the unstated truism that marriage is not for the married people. It’s for the children. It provides a proper place for kids to grow, to test boundaries within boundaries. It gives them a safe haven. I would argue that marriage ties the ropes of life together, intertwining the strands to provide the anchor for a child. For the parents, it allows sexuality a place to integrate into our lives in a trusting way. Never forget though, that once you have children it’s not about you. It’s about them.
In the West, it's accepted that all families are equal. Barney the Dinosaur even sings about it. I can understand the need not to offend, but, the evidence is clear. Single parent families do not in the main have good outcomes for kids. Especially the boys.
My own interest in this area grew from my interactions with delinquent kids. These were usually boys, who’d committed crime. They came before me for a ‘caution’ rather than make an appearance in court. This offered them an opportunity to correct a mistake without the stain of a criminal record. What struck me, time and time again, is that these kids came from single parent families. Usually with the father absent. Mum was working hard to keep the kid in school, dressed and fed, without a man in the household. On occasion, a Grandfather or Uncle was around. When that was the case the outcome for the kid was usually better.
The research I found supported my observations. Boys need a male father figure. The male figure’s job is to set the boundaries, check conduct, whilst providing a useful role model. The boys without that male figure drifted and some found their way into gangs. With testosterone pumping and no restraint, you have a dangerous cocktail. The gang became the 'father' with frightful outcomes.
If you don’t believe it, look at the data. In the U.S. 71% of high school drop out are fatherless. Then consider that 85% of the youths in prison are fatherless. For runaway children, the figure is 90% fatherless. A recent study found that preschoolers not living with both of their biological parents are 40 times more likely to be abused. In the U.K. 91% of single parents are women. Boys in those families are nine times more likely to commit crime. That's costing the economy an estimated £100 billion a year.
A 12-year study at Yale found that the presence of a father increases a child’s IQ. This is supported by work at Newcastle University, which looked at 11,000 British men and women. It gets more interesting when you consider health. A study of 5,000 young people found a father's absence damages telomeres - vital pieces of DNA that protect cells. Having an absent father through divorce shortened telomeres by 14 per cent, while a death shortened them by 16 per cent. Shortened telomeres have been linked to premature aging and cancer. The so-called ‘Dad deficit’ cripples a young boys chances in life. The data is clear and unquestionable proof of this impact.
The lefty feminists can’t accept any of this. They bury their heads in the sand. Then they concoct weird theories that have no rational basis. On occasions they will go to extraordinary lengths. Denying the science, shouting down alternative views. It's all about sustaining a dogma that damages children and our society.
Within a stable marriage, boys and girls find the environment to grow. In the U.S. roughly 40% of children being raised today are in a home without a father. The effects are staggering. Father absence causes increases in mental and behavioral disorders. Criminal activity and substance abuse soar. On the other hand, when children get raised in a healthy marriage, they see and experience the lasting benefits of a strong family.
Many on the left reject this. Citing their ‘opinion’ that its wrong to label and be judgmental. And yet first-rate scientific inquiry, not second-rate social theory, destroys them. They hinge a diversity agenda on such mumbo-jumbo. In researching this piece I scanned various articles from feminists talking down the merits of marriage. In only one instance did I find a reference to the children. The left is blind to the issue of the impact on kids of single-parent families. In my view this is pure selfishness.
In no way do I wish to denigrate those single-parents who do a marvelous job. They deserve our respect. Nor do I opine that couples must remain in a failing marriage. That misery can be as bad for the child. I'm asking that people understand the consequences of the choices they make. Never forget, life is a compromise. Plus, the inescapable fact is the greater obligation is to the child you brought into this world.
What is gratifying is to see that schemes such as ‘Operation Breakthrough’ have such a positive impact. Hong Kong Police officers, serving and retired, run this volunteer programme. It engages formally wayward young men and women in various sporting activities keeping them focused and occupied. But more important, and never stated, is that the cops become the surrogate fathers. BJ Smith, Danny Lawley, David Grant and many others provide positive role models. This male influence is so important to developing self-esteem and recognising potential. To date, the scheme has produced outstanding results. Participants going on to serve in the Fire Services and other agencies.
The ‘Breakthrough’ crew deserve our praises for this sterling work. At the end of the day, this is true 'service to the community.'
Is all the turmoil and trouble on Hong Kong streets the result of Joshua Wong’s inability to get laid? Freudian theory suggests that possibility. Freud has sex as everyone's prime motivator. Plus, there are aspects of young Joshua’s background that lend support to the idea. Let's for the sake of discussion weigh what we know.
Joshua Wong has lived a lot for a 20-year-old. He’s currently a resident of Pik Uk Prison juvenile wing. In October, when he turns 21, he will transfer to serve the rest of his six-month sentence with the adult prisoners. Wong stands convicted of organising an unlawful assembly that led to 10 security guards injured and damage to property.
Wong is already the star of a Netflix documentary. He’s appeared on the front of Time Magazine, before US Senate Committees and is the face of youth protest for the past decade. He is the bête noire of the government and its supporters. A hate figure who produces bile from many. At times the Police have had to protect him from crowds intent on roughing him up or worse. By the same token, Wong organised and led protests that saw the Police on the receiving end of violence.
Wong started his career as a professional protester at the age of 14. He led demonstrations against so-called ‘national education’. These caused the government to withdraw the proposal. The previous year, he’d whetted his appetite by joining anti high-speed link rallies that turned violent. These protests aimed to stop a modern rail link giving greater integration with the Mainland. At the core of that event, and later actions by Wong is an all consuming hatred of the Mainland.
Wong’s jailing has produced an outcry. Much of the comment has been irrational, unjustified, ill-informed and simply ridiculous. See my earlier post. One gets the impression that some are hoping young Joshua is on the trajectory of Mandela. The reality is more prosaic.
Joshua is a middle-class kid, a single child with alleged learning difficulties. He is the product of a strict Catholic household. His parents are members of a devout sect. The father is a staunch campaigner against gay rights, who founded and leads a bigoted group. This unapologetic extremist invokes the scriptures to bring hell and damnation to those who cross him. He has the aggressive intolerance of a zealot. Nice man. One can only speculate how living in such a household affected young Joshua.
Let's face it, Joshua is not the most handsome specimen. Geeky in appearance and slight of frame. He is unlikely to attract the ladies with his physical attributes. His critics have seized upon this with entertaining memes. Many have played amateur psychologist to pontificate his motivations, raising the Freudian theory. He's trying to impress the ladies.
Don't forget that Mark Zuckerberg built the first iteration of Facebook in a fit of pique after a college romance went sour. And just about every male rock band in history has built a canon of work on their sexual frustrations.
Certainly, his domineering and bigoted father has some hang ups about sex. Then the whole Catholic guilt thing is thrown into the mix. A single child also. What’s a boy to do? Brought up in a doctrine-loaded home, without looks and struggling to learn. Taking to the streets is empowering … thrilling. Plus, it gets you attention. All conjecture I suppose?
The other theory is that Joshua is not the self-starter of the Netflix narrative. The story goes like this. His mother worked for the Apple Daily. This is an anti-China newspaper with strong links to US neoconservatives. The paper's founder, Jimmy Lai, is close to Paul Wolfowitz. That's interesting. Wolfowitz is the former Deputy Secretary of Defence under Bush II. A hawk with strong neoconservative tendencies, he was one of the authors of the ill-fated Iraq war. That saw millions displaced, hundreds of thousands killed. And for what? At one time touted as a possible CIA head, Wolfowitz fell out of favour because of his sexual indiscretions.
It doesn't stop there. Jimmy Lai’s right-hand man is American Mark Simon. His antecedents are intriguing. Simon served for four years in the CIA. His father had a 36-year CIA career. It's easy for the conspiracy crowd to join the dots. What is certain is that the Apple supports Joshua. Simon’s is very open about his stance, including his links to right-wing US politicians.
Some have suggested that the emergence of Joshua as a champion of democracy must be seen in this context. They infer he's not the self-starter - but a stooge and a cypher. It's an easy allegation to make given the attendant tacit evidence, and yet difficult to prove. By the same, token it's easy to reject because the motivation for those making the suggestion is to damage. So we get no nearer the truth.
None of this, the Freudian theory or the US neocon allegations, takes away from his resilience and fortitude. He’s stood up to some robust criticism, plus a fair amount of intimidation. In that respect, he earns grudging respect. On the other hand, he miscalculated with Occupy. It failed to achieve anything. In the finals stages, he was caught cheating on a hunger strike. The act of a charlatan.
And yes the government has miscalculated also. It's inadvertently given Wong a boost - affirmed his status in the eyes of some - the scrawny David against Goliath. The skinny kid, standing firm against a bully. That's the simple false narrative that plays well in the West.
Joshua has failed to convey a coherent argument beyond uttering cliches that trip rote of his tongue. He's learned a few 'catch phrases' that he deploys to effect. Sounds familiar - another recent successful newbie politician does the same. Beyond that facade, Joshua had little of substance. In fairness, like many young people, his position is unrefined and simplistic. He may yet mature into a more sophisticated operator.
Joshua now has plenty of time to reflect on the past few years. The ups and downs. Mandela was able to shape his opinions and tactics whilst in prison for 27 years. Hitler wrote his manifesto ‘Mein Kampf’ whilst languishing in Landsberg jail for five years. It will interesting to see how this short spell in prison influences Joshua Wong.
In all this, it's arguable that Wong’s actions have put in danger the very system he seeks to protect. This is very bad, because, he’s started a process that has pushed our legal system to its limits. The trouble is even the most purblind apologists for Wong are now in a bind. The courts have passed judgment on his reckless actions, deciding his conduct was criminal. That judgment, well founded on common law principles, taken in an independent manner. Beyond repeating strident opinions, the detractors have no evidence to support allegations of interference in the court decision. So much for them embracing the ‘rule of law’.
One thing appears certain, protesters henceforth know the law will be enforced. It’s a slow process, but people can expect justice. This will cause the rational to pause. They will think about their actions and understand the consequences. Having said that, the radicals will no doubt continue to be unheeding. Thus, they must accept their fate.
On a positive note, it's reported that Joshua has a girlfriend. Let's see if he mellows as a result.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.