04 July, 2016

Strange Days

Warriors, poets, and warrior-poets: I bid you welcome.  I trust that all is well, with you and yours.  These are strange days indeed, but first, let's fire up the trusty ol' tetsubin before we get down to business.

I'm up before the dawn chorus, this morning, which gives me the opportunity and the means: we have a 2010 Mansai cake from Essence of Tea (nee Nadacha) on the table.  The sweet thrills of this cake rather take me by surprise; I wasn't expecting to be thrilled, at 4 a.m., and yet thrilled I appear to be.  Apricots, dried fruits, humidity, sweetness - I am enthused.

It is my ambition, in the coming months, to write up some of the (copious) notes that have accumulated, as accretion is wont to do, in my journals.  I beg your patience, with respect to their arrival, and your tolerance, with respect to their quality; there is a certain rustiness in my ability to write, but rust can be worn away with sufficient elbow-grease.  Let us grease together.

To say that these days are "strange" is not quite to do justice to the batsh*t craziness that seems to typify life at the moment.

We have come a long way together, you and I, on our respective warrior-poet journeys, have we not?  When the Half-Dipper was started, I was a humble graduate student; I was subsequently a humble post-doc; then, father to two mighty warriors (one of whom has just finished his first year at school!).  I remain humble.  As of ten days ago, I am "tenured", which is to say "sufficiently knackered so as to be put out to pasture".  My colleagues refer to me as "professor", which is both extremely unnerving and simultaneously alienating.  Even my old boss uses the title, although, it must be said, not without irony.

A few days later, my countrymen voted themselves out of the European Union.  Much ink has already been committed to this subject, and I will not bore you with my own opinion, suffice to say that literally every single person in my life (personal, professional, adversorial) is of the same mind on this subject, which appears to be on the other side of the argument from the majority of people in the country.

Imagine the Republican Party and the Democratic Party suddenly having no leaders, nor firm idea of what should happen next, and you have some insight into the substance of these recent times.

Balliol lunch
after the referendum -
sauerkraut noodles

Friends, let us shoulder our lances and our quills. It is time to drink some tea - surely, this is the only cogent response to these Strange Days.


Curigane said...

Maybe this isn't the right place but i would actually like to hear your thoughts more in detail about this strange times. As an EU foreigner in the UK, I feel uneasy lately.

Hobbes said...

Dear Tiago,

Since you asked! We are where we are, with regard to leaving the EU. Immigration is the largest perceived problem in the UK for many people; the majority of this (in my experience) is not racist - it is simply a response to the Government's inability to cope with immigration (schools, NHS). While I do not have children being educated in the state-maintained education system, I am keenly aware of the statistics (OECD) that show how most schools are increasing in size, while funding is not; a recent study (also OECD) showed that approx. 70% of this increase in class sizes was caused by creating places for the children of immigrants. Immigration might not (perhaps) have been quite the subject it currently is if the Government had managed to respond appropriately, in terms of public services.

Certainly, among those people to whom I've talked across the social spectrum (university professors, young professionals, rural populations), immigration and, more critically, the stretching of the public service has been one of the main concerns.

Free movement of individuals via the EU is great for the economy, for research, etc. in terms of access to the EU free market and Horizon 2020 (the EU science fund) - however, most people don't see these returns. They see only the stretched state-maintained schools and failing hospitals.

The debate concerning remain / leave was mendacious on both sides, but my reading is that the result reflects the desire of the UK population to retain a certain quality-of-life which they see as being threatened: not by immigration itself, but by the Government's inability to provide sufficient investment to cope with immigration. I don't agree with the outcome, but I can understand how it has arisen.



Hobbes said...

P.s. Please don't be concerned about your status in the UK! Even framed in terms of naked national self-interest, the UK absolutely depends on "skilled" immigration. Framed in terms of slightly more palatable terms, the UK has had immigration for many centuries; I firmly believe that there is nowhere more "global" than London, for example.

Curigane said...

well... I think i'm dealing better now with this topic. I do disagree partly of what you are saying, regarding the streching of public services. It is interesting that the places that voted in are actually the placed with more EU imigration. I also feel that that point is so unfortunate. I pay taxes every month to pay for those services (that I personally don't really use) as most EU nationals and then what we see is people being outraged because we also want to have our kids in school and use a health service. Also worth noting that placed abandoned in Wales by the UK central government, with no immigration and that have literally received millions from the EU voted leave. How misinformed some people are.

Anyway, it's a mix. A mix of ignorance, racism, people that see services streeched (yes I can understand that), populism, anti-european feeling, manipulation but honestly i think actually the main motive is dispair. Most people in these areas (i live in one btw) have been for too long unable to actually have a decent living standard and someone offer them a solution. It's the EU to be blamed. And a lot of people bought it.

I was sad with that. I'm not worried about my legal status but more with being seen as unwanted.

Oh well...

Keep drinking, keep posting :)

Hobbes said...

The difficult genius of the "leave" vote was, of course, that it combined so many actual approaches to leaving - many were mutually exclusive (e.g., "leave entirely, with no freedom-of-movement from the EU" vs. "leave partially, while retaining access to the EEA"). Given the import of the decision, my preference would have been for a general election, in which each approach would have to be detailed more carefully, to avoid these mutually exclusive camps winning the generic "leave" vote.

Drinking some tea always helps. :)



Anonymous said...

Glad to see a new post and looking forward to the ones to come!

Allow me, as a citizen and resident of Norway, to welcome you to the non-EU neighborhood of Europe. It's not as bad around here as people will have you believe. While I'm sure a lot of the "leave" voters will be left disappointed by the actual changes that are to follow the "Brexit", I'm equally confident you'll do pretty well outside the union too.

I, for one, wish to see a peaceful disintegration of the union in the long term, and so the result of the vote was to my satisfaction. But that's a topic for a different pot of tea (and probably a different teahouse too).

Hobbes said...

Thank you for the comforting words :)

miig said...

Hi Tiger,
thank you for your new text. I'll be looking forward to your writings. You're so right, these really are confusing times. So many things went into this crazy vote, and we'll see what will come of this. With a bit of luck, the British will be seen as the people who have given a stalled Europe its direly needed wake-up-call.

Take care, and good luck to those elbows.

Squaretooth said...

Brexit comments aside, welcome back. I'm definitely looking forward to your upcoming reviews. It's because of your reviews that I've learned about and purchased many a bing puercha. Welcome back Hobbes!

Hobbes said...

It'll be fun to write :)