As Birmingham enters the highest Covid tier on Wednesday, there are two schools of thought on the crisis. Whilst one Cabinet minister claims the NHS could be “physically overwhelmed..with every bed, every ward occupied”, others say that, in fact, the Nightingale hospitals remain empty. The general public are increasingly angry. Some say “what’s the point of hiding in a cave for months, as the lion will still be waiting outside ready to attack the minute we emerge again”. Meanwhile, business owners, ranging from Sir Philip Green to every corner shop, see their lives collapsing like a pack of cards. And oldies like me reflect on how we all, as kids, were urged in the ‘50s to build up our own internal immunity by confronting viruses, not by hiding away. When a child caught something, we all went to a ‘sickness party’ to catch it once, then be forever protected. You can’t keep disinfecting the whole world, whilst the economy on which we all need to survive collapses around us. Let’s hope the vaccine side effects aren’t worse than the cure.
Two grim anniversaries this week. A convoy of 100 cars and bikes here marked the 46th anniversary of the Birmingham pub bombings. At the same time, a different community commemorated the 80th year since the Warsaw ghetto was sealed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. We remember that dark time when 380,000 Jewish people were forced into a tiny area of unimaginable deprivations and terror. Over 80,000 died in the ghetto due to starvation, disease and overcrowding. In the Birmingham massacre, the IRA decided that murder was an ‘acceptable’ means to achieve their aims. In the Warsaw atrocity, it was yet another symptom of the irrational, perpetual, 3000 years old stupidity known as antisemitism. It’s now the 21st century. Isn’t it time we all took a look at ourselves and cried halt? Is there anything that decent individuals can do to stop the murder of innocents for another man’s ‘cause’? For me, I write about it so that not only do we never forget but that we recognise its creeping symptoms and stop it in its tracks. mybook.to/themazurekexpress
Cummings and goings.....
The demon of Downing Street is gone, toting a huge, unprofessional cardboard box. Hope it didn’t contain a rival’s head. A huge vacuum is left in the British government just as we enter the final crucial days with EU mandarins over Brexit. The irony is that, across the Channel, Macron has his own croix de guerre, fighting rising Muslim terrorism. He seems alone in urging the EU to reinforce security borders - the main reason Britain left the EU in the first place! Looking west, Trump still clings to power, refusing to concede whilst pictures emerge of the incoming President’s past associations with the IRA. That doesn’t sit well with this (Birmingham) writer when the infamous IRA bombers of The Tavern in the Town are yet to be brought to justice. At my age, I’ve seen it all. Politics is so complex, not helped by a gullible public currently engulfed by a Chinese plague to rival the Black Death, yet always swayed by the media of the day. I need a drink.
Fireworks. Not just our road but the US too. An explosion of joy and recriminations about postal votes. I don’t like them either. Years ago, an immigrant work colleague told me how the ‘head’ of local households would fill in a pile of ballot slips because no-one else in the road spoke English! Nevertheless, Biden it is, so now time to plan a new UK:US strategy. My mind goes back to past liaisons. Churchill/Roosevelt, Maggie/Ronnie, and Boris and Donald. But now? Biden needs to think anew. Don’t follow Obama’s post-Brexit ‘back of the queue’ trade policy. Instead, remember the VIPs at the annual July 4th parties at the Regent’s Park US Ambassador’s residence. Look around and whom do you see? Wall to wall generals, MI6 and GCHQ operatives. Yes, it’s the historic special relationship that counts, Joe, especially in the quest for global peace. As Him Indoors says: Biden’s wife should be called Laura (laura-biden’)!!
As vulnerable over 70s, the new lockdown for us is more of the same: stay home, supermarket delivery, daily walk around the park and hours spent online. But there’s the rub. Social media’s gone berserk, giving bored people an outlet for all their simmering rage. Originally, the internet was built so you could find out where Robert Redford was born, how to lay kitchen tiles or find out the symptoms of whichever deadly disease you were surely incubating. Unfortunately, this soon morphed into the more ‘deadly’ social media disease of spouting anonymous bigotry, hate, racism and targetted diatribes against politicians on the ‘wrong’ side. People felt safe under their invisibility, knowing that the only personal come back was advert targetting. And, because FB tends to select only the posts from your own select group, people were convinced that the majority agreed with their own narrow views. Whilst we can’t do anything about the current lockdown, it’s time social media removed the cloak of anonymity to prevent all this pent-up rage spilling out onto our outlawed streets.
Time for some commonsense, right around the globe. To US voters, whom should you choose? A self-promoting psychopath who sometimes does amazing things like bringing an increasing number of Arab States to sign peace agreements with Israel - something no president has ever before managed to do? A far better contributor to the Nobel Peace Prize than his predecessor. Or, an ageing, muddled, but decent bumbler who espouses elements of cultural and moral barbarism? Here in the UK, a very different politic continues. Constant depression and moaning abounds. Left-wingers, even in the House of Commons, use appalling comments like ‘Toryscum’. Fortunately, this is never reciprocated from the other side, who are generally better educated and more polite. Meanwhile, the government has paid out £192 billion to needy families whose jobs and incomes have been threatened by Covid legislation, more than any British government has done in history. In Israel today, a friend reports on her ‘wonderful country’. My message to Britain: please can we also be more supportive of our own country, which is doing its very best in these difficult times.
In the 1950s my mother took me to see a film called The Jolson Story, an idealised biopic about an extraordinary singer. Jolson, a US immigrant from Russia, challenged the musical stereotypes of the age by converting black Afro rhythms into a format that white people could understand and enjoy. In the film there’s a scene where Jolson tries to jazz up the traditional barber-shop harmonies. After the show, the impressario Lew Dockstader fires Jolson, saying ‘This is how we’ve always sung it and we’re not gonna change.’ 70 years later, in the footballing world, England Manager Southgate - faced with his team losing - refuses to bring on a player called Grealish, a footballer with an extraordinary ability. Traditional, waistcoat-wearing Southgate - like Dockstader - says ‘This is how my team have always played and we’re not going to change.’ In this life, faced with the terrible problems we’re all experiencing, it’s time to confront the traditional and embrace the extraordinary.