Next stage


I’m working from home today because most of the office has taken the day off the day before the Melbourne Cup, and there’s no point me being there. I’ve been busy, but working from home is always pleasant.

About the time I’d usually be getting ready for work I lay in bed with a fresh-made coffee and read. Something I read caught my eye. It was something about how, when people hit a certain age, they suddenly stop to reflect. They’ve reached the stage where the life they’ve known is transitioning into something different. The kids are grown up maybe, or the house paid off, or maybe they’ve reached the limit of their ambitions. They begin to consider where to next? What do they want now?

This hasn’t happened to me, but probably because my life has been disrupted. I’ve been so busy scrambling to catch up and fighting for what I have that there’s not really been the time to think of that. I can’t afford the luxury, regardless. Had none of the adventures of recent years occurred then chances are I’d be sitting back in the next few years mapping out the next phase of my life. I’d have money in the bank and property in my name. I’d be comfortable enough to feel a little indulgent, knowing that I was pretty well set-up. The reality is totally different now because of those adventures, but so be it. Inshallah.

I read and it didn’t worry me because I’m well reconciled with what happened. I’m busy trying to make good at least fraction of what I lost, and that’s been my focus. Reclamation. That’s going to take a while and so I hardly think of other options but very vaguely – dreams I might write a best selling novel mayhap, or notions that I might branch out and take advantage of the gig economy. Just notions though, nothing concrete, and nothing in the immediate future.

But then I read this and it struck me that I’m at that age, too, even if my circumstances are unusual. And sure, I have to be pragmatic and hard-nosed, but does that stop me from being bold in my personal choices? It’s a narrow road I’ve set myself. Pretty Calvinist, and though I can be dogged, I’m not of a puritanical mindset.

Translated, it means I’ve got to keep my nose to the grindstone but maybe it’s time I become more expansive in my personal life.

Touch wood, I think I’ve got work sorted now – I’m on an upward path, I’m re-building my network, I’m well regarded and have people looking out for me. I reckon it’ll look after itself and I expect my salary to steadily increase. Without an act of god I’ll never get back to where I was, but I can repair a lot of the damage in the next ten years.

That leaves the life of my mind and heart. I finished my second novel yesterday. By this time next year, I expect both will be in the market and to have made a start on a third. My social life is improving, though not a shadow on what it was. I don’t know if I want that now anyway, but I wouldn’t mind eating out more. I’ve got to travel again, but not yet. Gee, I miss it, though. Have to be financially circumspect still – no can do.

Two top things on my list then – a better place to live. This is well located but small. And I have to get amongst it again. There are women that like me. Some are married, so cross them out. Another is keen but I’m unsure of her. Maybe I should try her. But then there are the little flirtations I engage in before withdrawing. Maybe I should be going for those. You second guess yourself, though. You don’t have enough dollars. Or maybe you think you’re too old. Maybe that’s true, but if they’re willing, why shouldn’t I be?

In the end, it’s a state of mind. The old me didn’t think twice. He just went for it. It was a natural thing as it isn’t now. I’m too Calvinist 😉

It mattered less then because I had plenty of time and lots of everything else – family, security, fun. Now there’s less of everything, but it makes it more pressing, I think, and maybe more precious.

They’re timely considerations. Reckon it’s time to press down on the accelerator.

Then one day it’s gone


One good thing recent protests have done is to draw out the government. After the protests last week Morrison made a speech condemning their actions and questioning the rights of the protestors, further suggesting that legislation may be required to limit the damage of boycott action by basically making it illegal.

It’s laughable in a way. How do you police that? If I choose not to buy one brand of beer or jeans or choose not to shop at a particular shopping chain, then what’s the difference between freedom of choice and a political boycott? How does the Gestapo make that distinction – or is guilt simply assumed and applied en masse?

Of course, it’s ridiculous but much more than that it goes against our democratic principles. I’m putting a lot of faith in that statement – our democratic principles – for while I believe they remain true to the people, and intrinsic to our democratic history, there’s real doubt that the government of the day cares for it at all.

This is not news, though perhaps it’s only now that people are waking up to it. The statements by Morrison have been condemned and rightly seen as an attack on our right to free expression. This attack has been building for years, and the truth of it is that today we lack many of the rights that we had a decade ago. Government policy has become much more intrusive and repressive, all of it justified by contrived threats on our national security. Today the government can read our emails and track our movements. I was reading yesterday about facial recognition technology being used in some schools. There’s a push to have a national database of identity drawing on all states data and, most importantly, the photos taken for various licence categories. We’re but a hop, skip and a jump from being a surveillance state.

Add to that a generally inept media which is, nonetheless, constrained from reporting so much in the national interest because of government restrictions – witness the recent raids on journalists by Federal police. Then there is the absence of laws to protect whistleblowers, who are more likely to be prosecuted by exposing corruption and fraud than be rewarded for it.

Much of this has happened by stealth – an opposition too afraid to oppose, and generally a media either compliant (News Corp) or inneffectual, means that the interrogation of these policies hardly occurred. There was little of it made in the press, and even less that disturbed the general torpor of the Australian electorate. And that’s how it happens. Little by little, you lose your liberties until one day you wake up and find you have precious little left.

It suits the government because they control the narrative then. These are politically motivated. If you can shut down the avenues for free expression and identify the dissidents then who is left to oppose you? With a feeble media and an enfeebled middle class, where does the resistance come from?

I remember I was embarrassed when Tony Abbott became prime minister. He was everything I didn’t believe in, but I recognise now that at least he believed in something. Then Turnbull came along, a great hope for those of us passionate about society. Here was an intelligent, decent man, who also turned out to have no idea what was happening behind his back. What a disappointment he turned out to be. Now we have Scott Morrison, and I’m not sure, but it’s possible that I hate him most of all.

I don’t know that Morrison believes in anything but his own personal god. He is pure politics. A cynical Trumpian. He governs only for advantage and isn’t a leaders arsehole. There’s something particularly soul-numbing about people like him. He likes to get around and to be seen as a man of the people, but the reality is that his sole ambition is for power. He leads a do-nothing government more intent on wedging the opposition Labor than developing policy, more intent on serving his industry donors than the Australian people. (As I’ve been arguing a long time, we as a people lack true representation. It’s the opportunity that Labor are too timid to grasp – break the nexus and do what is right rather than what is merely politic.)

Then there’s Peter Dutton in the background pulling all these strings. I reckon the average man in the street has a better idea of Dutton than his party colleagues do. This is a man fundamentally lacking in moral decency. He’s a despot in waiting. I have no doubt that he has his eyes on the top job still, and if ever he achieves it, then Australia will become a tyranny.

People are objects in his world-view. They are tools to be exploited. He has the rigid perspective of a dictator – anyone who isn’t for him must be against him. It’s an attitude that informs recent calls by him that the unemployed found protesting should have benefits stripped from them. Here combined is the vision of a society where surveillance is so pervasive that one can’t protest without being identified, and so punitive that to do so is to have your rights denied. That’s effectively a police state, and a senior minister is saying it. How does this opinion go unchallenged? And yet, more or less, it’s gone unreported.

The scary thing is that this is the man who runs Homeland Security! A man like this shouldn’t be in parliament, and he should certainly be nowhere near running our security agencies. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so terrifying.

We’re the frogs in the pot of water. For years now the water has been getting warmer, but we’ve become acclimatised to it. What would have been shocking before is but the temperature of the times now. I wonder now if finally, we’re starting to feel the heat? I hope so. As a humane, open society, we can’t survive much more of these oppressive policies. Time to make a noise.

How not to protest


For most of the week, there have been quite violent protests at the Convention Centre where an international mining conference has been in progress. Hundreds of protestors have picketed the place hurling abuse and accosting attendees, upset at the impact mining has on climate change. Dozens of police, some with horses, have wielded batons and pepper spray fending off the protestors.

Right from the start, let me say it’s protests of this type that give me a sick feeling. I’m sympathetic to the cause and believe our politicians, and many of our industries are climate criminals. However, I think protests of this type are close to imbecile.

I see two particular problems. The first one is that this is an indiscriminate protest. Had it been a conference of coal miners, it would have made sense. This was a conference of miners of all different types. Now you’d have to be particularly blind to suggest that all mining should be banned. Like it or not, the fabric of our day to day life is composed of materials very often mined from the ground. The cars we drive, the pots and pans we cook with and the plates we eat from, the chips in our phones and watches and PC’s, the planes and trains we catch, the buildings we live and work in – all this and much, much more, rely on our mining industry. I’d suggest every one of the protestors either carried on their person something that had been mined or had something at home. It’s just stupid.

Add to that, not everyone attending the conference was actively digging things out of the ground. I saw one person interviewed (after being abused and harangued by the protestors) revealing that they were actually a sustainability expert. And in fact, that’s what this should all be about. We can’t stop mining; we rely on it too much, and even if we could, the world economy would fall apart. What it should be about is sustainable mining – mining that has minimal impact upon our environment and ecology; and looking to source alternative materials to replace those mined.

So that’s the first thing – it’s a dumb protest. But secondly, how it was conducted was plain stupid also.

Wave your banners, cry out your chants, even non-violent obstruction, absolutely ; don’t, democracy in action. But when individuals trying to go about their business are abused and manhandled and spat on, then that’s a no-go. I may be showing my age now, but save that for the real criminals, not our fellow citizens. It’s plain bad manners, and it plays very poorly in the burbs.

That’s the real stupidity of this. The protestors are probably celebrating today, saying what a good job they did disrupting the event, when, in fact, their real achievement was to drive the wedge deeper between them and middle Australia. It’s all very well to be sanctimonious and be ringing with idealistic fervour, but I’d have thought the purpose of protests such as this would be to send a message to the average Australian that could be understood and appreciated.

If there was a message then it was lost in the general noise of the protest. Many of those middle Australians sitting in their lounge rooms watching the news would have been offended by the way the protest was conducted. Only the converted would have approved, and surely they’re not the desired audience? As someone broadly sympathetic, it’s this woeful stupidity that disappoints me most.

Unfortunately, that’s the flavour of the times. I’m perhaps a member of one of the last generations capable of discerning nuance. By nature, I seek to assess and understand, but few others do these days. Movements are broad tabloid headlines without subtlety or sophistication. They’re emotional rallying calls with scant relationship to the rationale that inspired them. Thus there is violence between opposing forces and very little debate. And so if I disagree with you, I’m not someone who has a different opinion; I’m instead an evil person to be despised and abused. There is no middle ground anymore, very little critical thinking, and bugger all civility.

I have to say this is one of the things that causes me the most disquiet these days. Not only because it is so ugly, though that’s true, more so that it’s virtually impossible to come to a reasoned understanding when we’re so caught up in hurling abuse. Like it or not, change has to be negotiated in a democracy. Make the argument, don’t just state it.

The protestors this week fell into the trap that much of the progressive side of politics has in recent years. It’s why Trump got elected, why Brexit twenty-year-olds for, and why Labor lost the election. The progressive extreme is violent and noisy, and they offend the average bloke. In a way, Morrison and his ilk are right when they speak of the silent majority. They can be persuaded, but they’re over being hectored and abused and told what to think and feel by the sanctimonious left. How do they react? They defy it with their vote, just as they’ll defy the purpose of this protest in their opinions.

Now I’m guilty of this as well. I was bitter after the election defeat here and despised those I thought responsible for it. There are many reasons that Labor lost, and I’ve articulated that previously, but a good part of it was that middle Australia was sick and tired of being talked down to by self-righteous twenty year olds. And it was the same in Britain before us, and States before them. In effect, it was a vote of protest.

If we intend to win these people over it must be through reason, but that’s why I despair, because reason is so scarce these days, and it’s not getting any better.

Romance and tragedy


When I was a kid, one of my favourite movies was Dr Zhivago. In retrospect, it seems a strange choice for a kid when more often boys that age go for action movies. It’s a sweeping, historical romance, gorgeous to look at and lusciously framed. It also deals with an epoch-making era – the Russian revolution – that is confronting and brutal.

It appealed to me for different reasons, I think. The leading characters, and the actors playing them, were very alluring. Both Zhivago and Lara are great characters, but the actors playing them, Omar Sharif and Julie Christie, had their own charisma. Sharif was on a golden run. Before this he had appeared in another David Lean classic, Lawrence of Arabia. He had a beautiful, sensitive face, with the deep brown and expressive eyes of a devoted pet. And around this time I was in love with Julie Christie. I can’t hear the phrase ‘cornflower blue’ without thinking of her eyes.

It’s hard to get into a movie if you don’t get the characters, and that’s particularly true when you’re an impressionable kid. You want to like and identify with the protagonists, even if only at an aspirational level. Lara was someone I could love, and Zhivago was a man worthy of her.

I studied the Russian Revolution at school in year 11. Mr Wolfers was my teacher. I don’t know if I’d watched the movie by the time I went to history class, but I remember being fascinated by the story of the Russian revolution. It was a tale full of drama and vivid characters, it had intrigue worthy of a spy movie and brutality enough to impress a kid learning about the world. It was a tragedy in many ways, combined with realpolitik, and against a backdrop of the First World War.

I was a smart kid, though it didn’t always show. I wouldn’t only accept what I was being told. I’d think about it and wonder – I had a colourful imagination as well as a sensitive nature. One day I had to write an essay about the causes of the Russian Revolution. There were many, and it’s a story rich in incident and drama, but I sheeted home the blame to the Tsar. It’s hard to dispute, but it wasn’t the simplistic answer my teacher was looking for. Without the missteps and misjudgements and general stupidity of the Tsar, the monarchy would have survived a while longer, if not forever. But then without the war, he would have survived too, even with scandals such as Rasputin. But not forever I think, for the times were changing and the seeds of discord had been sown and nurtured by an oblivious regime. Even so, had the Kerensky government been better founded it might never have turned out as it did, and the world today a far different place…

It’s a fascinating era of conjecture and what-ifs without clear precedence. My answer, in the end, said much about me – I disapproved of the Tsar, not just because of his ineptitude and ignorance (he wasn’t an evil person, just very stupid), but because of the system. I doubt I would ever have been a Bolshevik, but having studied the period, I couldn’t abide by a society so lacking fundamental democracy.

The Tsar was near to God, but at the other extreme were the serfs, ‘souls’ effectively owned in a patriarchal society that even when benevolent was fundamentally wrong. Ultimately the lives of the ordinary people were disposable and irrelevant and had been for generations.  Needless and foolish massacres had fomented resentment for decades, and the waste of life in the war against Germany was the culmination of bitter experience. I was 16 when I wrote that essay, and a good part of my outlook was forming.

Dr Zhivago was a thrilling explication of those times. You could watch it as an adventure. As a kid that was probably the temptation, but I saw more than that. It was a terrible adventure. Human life became cheap, and the structures that held society together were destroyed. It was a nihilistic, anarchic period of history in which human individuality was subsumed in the gears of history. This I learnt watching this: that individuality was a precious thing. This is a romantic movie in many ways, but it’s also the tale of human tragedy.

I watched the movie again on the weekend. It’d probably been twenty years since I watched it last. I was curious to see if I would respond in the same way. So often, these days, I find myself disappointed in revisiting old books or movies and discovering that whatever had made them special to me once was no longer special. The difference is me. I’ve moved on. Whether that’s for the better or not, I don’t know, but I feel the loss. Thankfully I found Dr Zhivago just as enjoyable as ever.

What I remembered watching this was what a great film-maker David Lean was. It’s so clean to look at that you could imagine it happening just like that. The vividness of his storytelling reminds you that’s more than just entertainment – this is how things were. If these characters are fictional, then it’s also true that the events depicted were true to type, and characters like these lived and died and were swept under the wheels of time. As an adult, certainly, it hits you. It draws you in, and you find yourself thankful that you didn’t have to live through such a time.

I remember in my early twenties I read the book by Boris Pasternak. It’s an excellent book. I would read the book and relate it back to the movie, which was quite faithful to it. In particular, the young man I was, I was drawn to the relative tranquillity of Yuryatin, where for a while Zhivago the poet lived in a kind of idyll separate from the conflict consuming Russia. It’s beautiful writing. As a young man, maybe half a dozen years after leaving Mr Wolfers class, and full of hope and ideas I was drawn to the poetry of it myself. Amid despair here was the sensitive life lived with hope. Simple, good things, and hope. That’s all you needed in a pristine world. You could believe in that as a romantic, as someone bent on pure ideals. It was but an interlude, though, and the brute world has the last say. There is no pristine world.

Romance and tragedy in a nutshell. That’s this story.

Mind and body


I’ve been quiet for the last few days because I’ve been crook. At one point, I was heard to say that it was the sickest I’d felt for years. Maybe, but statements like that are easy to make when you’re miserable with it. True or not, it wasn’t much fun.

I felt it coming on during the grand final on Saturday, around the time most GWS supporters would have been feeling sick. It was in my head and throat, my nose and chest were congested, and I just knew it was going to be a bad one.

I slept poorly because of it, which made it worse. I kept a low profile Sunday, and on Monday too – which was just about the worst of it – which I’d taken off as an annual leave day.

Sleep was a big problem. I was all blocked up and found it hard to breathe, and through the day would bark a hacking cough out every minute or two. And I was running hot. I knew I wasn’t going to work on Tuesday, but ended up going anyway.

Don’t know what it is, but I don’t like giving into these things, and staying home when I should feels, in a perverse way, like giving in. So I went in yesterday morning feeling pretty wretched, and looking (and sounding) it too, by all accounts. The excuse was an important meeting I had to attend. I left afterwards at the urging of my colleagues.

Today I feel better, though not completely. I dosed up before I went to bed last night and had the best sleep for a few nights, and that makes a big difference. I’m still sneezing. I still have a deep bass voice. I’m still coughing, though not as much, and not as painfully – I coughed myself raw previous days. There’s the odd coughing fit, and I’m not in a state where I can share an office with others, but I feel much better in myself than before, when all I wanted to do was curl up and forget about everything.

I actually went out for breakfast this morning. It’s a beautiful, sunny day and I sat outdoors eating a couple of poached eggs on toast. I watched things go by. Notwithstanding my health, I felt fine.

I’m in a funny place. For the moment I feel more together than in recent times, though I’m still aware of something untethered within me. It seems to me that before I was inside of life and I flowed with it without thought. It was easy, and I was easy, and sometimes I felt commanding as if nothing was beyond me. The world spread out before me.

Then things happened, and I was thrown out of that world and was very aware suddenly that I was now outside of life. It makes sense in a way, and it’s one of the things that people who have a comfortable life don’t understand about those whose life has become disarrayed. There’s a lot of obvious difficulties when you become homeless and/or unemployed, but it’s the sense of disconnection that goes unseen.

I think I believed that would pass once I got my life back on track. By most measures now I’m officially ‘back’. I don’t feel it though, not even when I get back to doing the things I would when I was inside of life. I was out last Thursday for pre-grand final drinks. It was a big night starting at Union Electric drinking cocktails and ended at Punch Lane drinking wine. I was in my element, and in good form, it was a fine night – but it feels like an outlier. Not part of my life, but a diversion from it.

I wonder if all it is is a state of mind. Maybe I just need to decide that I’m back inside life and the world is my oyster again? What makes that difficult are the little crimps that remind me it’s not as it was – the limitations of my authority at work that run counter to instinct, the financial inhibitions that exist still despite increased salary, and so on. I realise in saying that I was spoilt before, and had it better than most – I should just accept abbreviated circumstances. It seems churlish not to. But actually, my public utterances are that I don’t need to do what I did before. I don’t know if I have the appetite for it, let alone the attention span. I say that, but I sometimes think it’s my insides that are geared to something more. My reflexes. Like I said, my instincts. I get into a situation, and it’s natural for me to take the next step, to propose or do something, to assume leadership, to speak up.

It’s an interesting one, almost as if I’m out of sync with myself. And maybe that’s what I need to resolve, though I don’t know how. For me, it comes down to a question that has been present throughout my life: what is true? What is right?

Through the eyes of others


So, I was pondering the sense of futility that seems everpresent these days. What is the value of what I do? What is the point of this existence? But then, on Thursday night, we had a work function after work when we went to the same bar I went to a few weeks ago with JV. Drinks were laid on, and tapas and the atmosphere was convivial. I had 3-4 drinks and spoke to different people, but more most of the evening was in conversation with my new manager.

I’ve mentioned before what a lovely bloke he is. He’s a cracker. He’s a couple of years short of 60, originally a Malaysian Chinese who’s been living here for about thirty years, and about a foot shorter than me. We’ve always got on quite well, but now our relationship has changed. I find him a straightforward and decent person to work with. Judging by our conversation on Thursday he’s quietly fascinated by me, and quite chuffed to have me on board.

When he interviewed me first, he hadn’t seen my CV, but obviously, he’s caught up with it since. He began to ask me about aspects of it, commenting on what interesting experience I’d had, and how strange it was that I had experienced both senior positions, and junior – I’d confessed to him how I’d started out there working on the phones.

It was not the time or place to give him the full story, so I skimmed over it, but it was enough to intrigue him more. As an individual, I’m very different from him. He’s always been the modest, hard-working family man, whereas he sees me as quite the adventurer – and approves of it. At the same time, he’s obviously excited to have me join the team. He realises that for the price of a middle-ranking role he’s got an experienced, and competent senior candidate. I’ve opened his eyes to possibilities, and suddenly he sees opportunities ahead.

It was almost endearing to see how enthusiastic he had become. He was like a kid believing in Santa Claus again. He’s encouraged me to do my thing from the word go, and the results are fascinating to him – almost as if he’s been made to think another way, and it’s revitalised him. To be blunt, I think he sees me as a bit of a meal ticket, though not nearly mercenary as that. He’s happy to ride in my wake and, as I’m always am when given my head, I’m happy to forge ahead. It so happens, as he is very conscious off, that with the senior Digital Manager leaving things are in flux, and the chance to stake out new territory is there.

I went home that night on the train reflecting on that. It was flattering to be seen in such a light. I knew I was capable of what he hoped from me, but it seemed particularly ironic considering what I had felt just the night before. I struggle to find meaning for myself, but here I am with my manager finding meaning in me.

Then yesterday. When I interviewed for the role I ultimately had to knock back, there was a woman involved. I hardly knew her then, but am now working close to her, though we work in different areas. She’s a lovely lady, kind, and obviously very smart, and takes every opportunity to be friendly to me. Yesterday we happened to be in the kitchen together at the same time. I don’t know how it started – perhaps she asked me how the job was going. Anyway, she said she thought it was a really good fit for me and that I’d be good at it – she’s like that. But then she said, “you’ve got a very interesting CV”. She said it positively. I was surprised and murmured something about having sought variety. “Variety is good,” she said.

So, in the space of 24 hours, I’ve had two different people basically validate my professional self, and express even how interesting that self is. It made me think about what I want. Did I want for me what my manager hopes what I can enable? The answer always is yes – I always want more, because more is interesting, and because it is better than less, and because what I never want is the dull, old status quo. But do I really want those roles? My ego does maybe, and probably my bank manager. I don’t need it, though.

What I want, I realised, is the room to be myself. I’ve been denied that, here, and in years leading up to this, but in the years before that was the source of satisfaction. I could feel myself, could be myself, without constraint, so much so that I took it for granted. My step-sister always said she’d never met anyone as comfortable in their skin as I was – but I felt that too, without knowing it.

My life was comfortable then. I’d achieved a level that made things simpler, but while there was comfort in that, the joy of it was not in the achievement, but in the freedom to achieve. I was given space, and I took it. Maybe the secret then is the doing, not the being. And maybe, judging by what others see in me, there’s another journey in me.

The epoch of the mass-man


I’m reading a book at the moment called Diary of a Man in Despair. It’s by a German author who recorded his thoughts through the rise of the Nazis and the second world war. His name was Friedrich Reck, and ultimately they caught up with him, and he died at Dachau.

It’s a fascinating, entertaining read. Reck was a highly educated man with distinct opinions and a voice all his own. He’s haughty and derisive, he has a patrician air but is not above the occasional gossipy aside. His attitude drips with a delicious, acid disdain. He deplored the Nazis, as much for their uncouth manners as their politics. He was a proud German who saw decline all about him, and predicted disaster, and was right.

Throughout the book, he launches into scathing dissertations on the state of the world about him, like a grumpy old man, but he knew what he spoke of and describes it in coruscating detail. Reading, I could imagine him in his far ago hunched over his diary inscribing his bitter words. It was the end of everything, he knew, and he wanted to record it.

There are many memorable sections in the book, but there was one the other day that resonated with me. It could be said that I’m a bit of a grump too, and I’ve not been short of a bitter word or two in this blog. I can sympathise. But then I read this section, and I realised how little changes. What appeared true to him back then I could endorse equally today – and have, more or less, but in my own words.

He writes of ‘Mass-man’, who:

“…buys the products of technology in complete mindlessness, without involving himself, or even taking an interest in the intellectual work that made these things possible…

I do not believe this ‘New-Adam’ has the faintest idea of how completely dependent his existence is on the products of technology. I have an idea that at a beginning of the end of world he will want to know how the government proposes to hold next Sunday’s German-Sweden football match on schedule. His fate appears to me certain and unavoidable. The coming Second World War will be the beginning of the end: the end of an epoch in which rationalism was dominant, and the legacy of which – assuming the planet is still capable of regeneration – will be ‘X’, a new mode of life based on the nonrational.”

He wrote that in 1937. Eighty years on the technology has become omnipotent and dominates our life, though clearly, the strains of its insidious influence were plain even then. The ‘mass-man’ he writes of here is pretty much the same as what we see now, and perhaps it has ever been so. The only difference I can see is that he speaks of the end of rationalism, whereas as far as I can see, it’s been long dead in this modern era. But then he goes on to say:

“…the masses sensing they are doomed…will, no doubt, strike out against everything that is not masslike, but is, simply, ‘different’…”

Substitute mob for mass and this is the state of affairs in much of the western world. The mob – the degenerate mass-man – voted in Trump and in favour of Brexit. The low rent appeal of it swayed the election here, and it has adherents in every nation. It takes aim at everything different and not sanctioned by the mob – refugees and muslims, different coloured foreigners and clever elites, and whomsoever they are directed at to despise.

The problem is, we live in an age of intellectual torpor. Our critical faculties have withered. Too much easy living, too many low-bars, has made us soft. Great herds of consumers get carried away on social media over febrile linguistics, on inconsequentialities while the great things elude them. Outrage is the lingua franca of our times. The educated mind that once led curiously on is a rare thing these days, existing only in intellectual ghettoes, under siege from the commonplace politics of populist leaders who see danger in independent minds and urge their followers to the same. In the face of such hostile opposition, intellectual rigour has fallen away. The questions that should be asked are asked rarely, or not at all, lies are accepted as truth, and too much that once would have left us shocked has now been accepted as normal.

It all sounds very Orwellian – and me an awful grump. I find it hard settling in a society where the lowest common denominator rules, and sometimes I wonder how I found my way here, high and dry. Those of us who think similarly have been disenfranchised. We are part of the problem, not the solution – but the solution makes for greed and prejudice and a nation of drones.

Gloomy as I sound, I’m always hopeful that it will change. I’ve always believed that, but more and more I feel as Reck did, retiring to my ‘estate’ as he did, though mine is made up of books and old movies and music and good wine, and the occasional rant, like this. He knew his time was over. Though I know the pendulum will swing, I wonder if my time is done too. I suspect I may not be around when it corrects, when the educated mind is valued again, and independent thought encouraged. Of course, we might all be burnt to a crisp by then…