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A few if only’s for 2017 – indulging the inner demagogue

December 30, 2016

I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. But I do have a wish list for the coming year. Most of the items are unlikely to be achieved, but I wish them anyway. Some relate to Britain, my home country. Others apply more widely.

I make no pretence of impartiality, and I doubt if there’s a single person who won’t disagree with at least one item on the list. But what the hell – time to unchain my inner demagogue.

So in 2017, I would like:

To know exactly what hold Vladimir Putin has over Donald Trump. I’m not the only person who has noticed the Walrus’s unwavering support for the Vozhd, while so many of his other “policies” change with the wind, or vary according to the time of day when ;he tweets. We will know someday, and the consequences will be interesting. The sooner the better.

To find a country in the Middle East that is not fighting, funding fighting or being fought over. Hard to do. Oman probably comes closest right now. The region is in a more desperate state than at any time since I started visiting it thirty-five years ago. It’s a miracle that there are any sane people left – yet there are plenty. They need to be able to speak up without fear of persecution.

Nigel Farage never to be seen on our TV screens again. If that happens it will be because he is discredited, or because the British media finds him boring. Either reason will be evidence that the political climate is improving. Unless, of course, he fades away because the media stumbles upon an uberFarage to take his place.

The swift demise of Brexit before it can do further damage to the UK and the European Union. The game has been going on long enough. We are not the only country that is largely dissatisfied with the EU in its current form, but the only one that is preparing to stomp out without giving it time to reform itself.

A rapid decline in the circulation of the Daily Mail. I don’t want to see all those journalists and printers thrown out of work. And hateful though I find it, I don’t want the Daily Mail to be shut down – we are not Turkey. But any newspaper that attacks the independence of the judiciary by describing three of our most renowned judges as “Enemies of the People” deserves to be spurned by its readers. There probably needs to be a right-wing counterpart to the Morning Star, and the Daily Mail fits the bill. But far better that it should have a similar circulation and be equally irrelevant.

Young adults to realise that the only safe space is the one they create for themselves. Deep down, I think most of them know that. If we encourage our youngsters to seek refuge from the real world, the shock they experience when finally entering it will be all the greater. I suspect that in the decades to come the quality that our millennials will need more than any other is resilience, and this is precisely what we are not helping to instil by bubble-wrapping them in illusory safe spaces.

No more laws, anywhere, that dictate what clothes people should or should not wear. That includes burkinis, speedos, religious symbols, Nazi regalia and any other stuff that makes a statement, including wearing nothing. Laws are not the only things that can effectively dictate what people wear. Fashion, taste and culture are equally powerful, and they change over time, whereas laws stay on the statute book until repealed.

More careful use of the words “liberal” and “conservative”. The one is often used as the opposite to the other. But what, pray, is conservative democracy? The sort practised in China and Russia? Liberals are often labelled as bleeding hearts, wishy-washy, weak. When people talk about liberal beliefs, it’s an implied insult to all those people who don’t share them, and are thereby condemned as illiberal. There are liberal conservatives, and conservative liberals. The terms are pretty meaningless, except to those who like putting people into neat little boxes.

The repeal of all blasphemy laws. It won’t happen, I know. But blasphemy law is institutionalised religious intolerance. If just one country turns against criminalising what its citizens believe in and see fit to express, it will be a step in the right direction. If there is a God, surely he will deal those who offend him in his own good time without the assistance of his imperfect servants on Earth.

An end to the death sentence. Everywhere. If you acknowledge killing a person as a legitimate judicial sanction, it’s not hard to expand the penalty for crimes way beyond murder, as is the case in several countries. And it’s easier to defend extra-judicial killing on the grounds that those who are killed deserve it anyway, something that President Duterte of the Phillipines well understands. If we haven’t moved beyond an eye for an eye by now, in what way are we morally superior to ISIS and their ilk?

To decriminalise all drug use. So-called wars on drugs have never achieved their objectives. They have made a small number of violent people very wealthy. They are the source of criminality wherever they exist. If we are allowed to kill ourselves through drinking, smoking, polluting and eating MacDonalds, why not through other chemicals? There are enough laws that sanction those who harm others through their personal habits to cover the use of drugs. The resources we use to control drug crime could be put to far better use – combating people trafficking, for example.

To legalise voluntary euthanasia. Should my life start slipping towards mental oblivion or unremitting pain, I would want the right to call a halt. I don’t understand why it is legal in most countries for a woman to abort her foetus before it has the chance of life, yet illegal for someone whose life has become intolerable through illness to die at a moment of their choice.

A ban on betting ads during televised sporting events. Or any other events, for that matter. Gambling corrodes our society as much as alcohol, tobacco and all those other products that aren’t advertised on our TV screens. Either ban gambling ads or un-ban everything else. On-line gambling is simply an opportunity to lose money faster than you did when you had to go to the bookies. Taking risks is part of life. But doing so when the odds are always stacked against the risk-taker is stupidity.

Every Hollywood superhero movie to make massive losses. Hollywood is addicted to blockbusters. Marvel comics are not the only source of thrills and spills. Life is not about a choice between good and evil. Nor is it about truth, justice and the American way. It’s way more complicated, way more grey. If the studios start losing their shirts on such rubbish, then maybe they’ll start making more movies that appeal to adults.

The successful return of Tiger Woods. Tiger was a great golfer whom I would watch before any other. Watching his life disintegrate was beyond saddening. He may not be the most lovable sporting hero, but he inspired millions. He deserves a second coming.

To save our hedgehogs, ash trees and horse chestnuts. I still grieve for the chestnut we lost a few years ago. Mitigating the effects of climate change takes time, but saving once-common species from extinction we can achieve more quickly. Same goes for bees, whales, tuna, cheetah and all the other species we are threatening through negligence, greed and ignorance.

To celebrate the lives of talented people who pass away. I don’t believe that people die before their time, so long as in their time they achieve the most that they can. If I had a career like David Bowie’s, I’d take his sixty nine years. Few of us achieve anything close to our full potential. But we spend too much time mourning the departure of those who do. Instead, we should rejoice in what they gave us.

Life’s really very simple isn’t it? Just express all your prejudices in a few sentences, and you have the answer to all the world’s problems. If only.

Thanks to everyone who has visited 59steps this year. I wish you love and happiness in 2017. May the best of your dreams come true.

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