Another Month of Blendsdays

Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it.

You know those mornings when you wake up more tired than when you went to bed?

Before the holidays I was scraping the bottom of my proverbial barrel of fucks. I took some time away from work and, like many of my colleagues, came back feeling not the least bit refreshed. If I was scraping the bottom of the barrel before, at this point I’m digging furrows in the barrel head.

I need to do something about that.

In other news… well, there’s very little other news. We remain healthy, and aside from a sometimes overwhelming sense of cabin fever, mostly sane.

It was Dawnise’s birthday a couple weeks back. I found a west end hotel (The Chesterfield Mayfair, for locals who might be interested) that was offering afternoon tea home delivery.

We’ve acquired most of a tea set (minus a multi-tier stand, which are very pretty but almost never really useful and always a pain in the arse to store) in a V&A Alice in Wonderland pattern – so we broke out the fine china and made an event of it. I put on a shirt and coat. Finger sandwiches, scones jam and creme, and a selection of patisserie containing more sugar than anyone should really consume. Oh, and tea, of course.

In another welcome break from the sameness, we got a dusting of snow last Sunday. We got bundled up and went for a walk. It turned into rain later in the day, and by the next morning no trace remained.

On a positive note, vaccination progress in the UK is a ray of light through the omnipresent gloom, and an all-too-rare example of competence in an otherwise lackluster and uneven government performance through this crisis.

But the pandemic, as they say, ain’t over ’till it’s over.

And just as when I wrote a month ago, an American, throwing stones on the subject of government dysfunction seems a bit like claiming a shiny new ocean liner is unsinkable.

It’s 2021, and I need a haircut

My memory of the pandemic will be punctuated by haircuts.

Dawnise and I had just come out of our local Waitrose and she noticed the barber across the street was open, and seemed not to have people waiting.

“You should get a haircut” she said.

I started to demur – wanting to help her home with the groceries and figuring I could “do it later” – but a little voice and her side-eye glance won out, and I walked over to get a haircut. “Cut it a little short,” I said – “no telling when I’ll be back.”

That turned out to be the last day barbers were open for a while.

When restrictions were relaxed I went back to the same barber and had him reprise his performance.

The next lock-down was a bit more telegraphed, and I made sure to get in before the curtain came down, and I went back again when it came back up.

When London was abruptly put into Tier 4 just before Christmas I missed my attack of opportunity*.

So… I could use a haircut, but given the case counts, and their trajectory in London and the south of England, I’m betting it’s going to be a while before I get a chance.

In other news, as of this morning the UK is “really, really out” – split from the EU. Boris and his government did ultimately “get Brexit done” – the deal coming down to brinkmanship and 11th hour negotiations, which should surprise no one. The UK had precious little leverage, and both sides seemed to recognize it, though both sides were careful to limit how bluntly they’d say it aloud.

This emergent power dynamic wasn’t a foregone conclusion. When the referendum happened in 2016 I think it’s reasonable to say that the future state of the EU was “hazy,” as the Magic 8-ball might say. Over the intervening four years the EU seems to have stuck together, while the UK has fractured under stress. I’d give 6/10 odds that Scotland holds a referendum to leave the UK in the next few years. And 4/10 odds that they in-fact do. Watch this space.

Since at least the run-up to the referendum it has been nearly impossible to unpick underlying economic and government sovereignty arguments from the falsehoods, misrepresentations and xenophobic fervor. Yanis Varoufakis’ Adults in the Room helped to convince me that there were absolutely legitimate arguments to be made in support of breaking ties, but I continue to believe that teams are stronger than heroes – and think while the UK exiting the EU diminishes both, the damage to the UK will be more severe.

Time will tell.

Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy.

And as an American at this moment in history, I’m not picking up any stones to throw.

In 20 days it’s highly likely (>9/10) that Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States. And a significant number of Republican elected officials, and several million Republican voters, will reject him and his presidency as illegitimate. They’ll continue to believe in systematic and wide-spread voter fraud, despite a lack of evidence so preponderant even Trump’s toadying Attorney General decided he couldn’t say otherwise, and coincidentally “stepped” down shortly thereafter.

None of the evidence, or lack of evidence, matters. We believe what we believe, often without even fully knowing why – and we wrap those beliefs so tightly around ourselves that they become us, so we react in self-defense when our beliefs, and thus our identities are questioned, or threatened.

All this often gets wrapped up in a phrase like “identity politics” which, like gerrymandering, sounds almost cute – and utterly fails to capture the toxicity of the concept.

It’s hard to change a belief or opinion about something when that change threatens your sense of self – who you and others think you are.

There’s a quote, oft attributed to Lao Tzu (but maybe it was Buddha, or perhaps even Margaret Thatcher):

“Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.”

Regardless of who said it, seems they were very nearly right. But when they said “character” they meant “self.”

Another of my favorite quotes is this exchange from Dogma:

Rufus: …He said that mankind got it all wrong by taking a good idea and building a belief structure on it.

Bethany: You’re saying having beliefs is a bad thing?

Rufus: I just think it’s better to have ideas. I mean, you can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier.

Looking for a new year’s resolution?

Maybe try holding your identities up to the light, and being deliberate about which ones you keep.