Monthly Archives: March 2013

I Voted for the Other Guy, Unfortunately He Sucks As Well!

Originally published at The Daily Touch

Typically in Britain there is culture of, to put it lightly, mild dislike towards our politicians.  The mere mention of the word “politics” can spark a list of reasons why many of them, again putting it lightly, can shove their head up somewhere irregular. Why is this? Are we a nation of citizens disillusioned with our politicians, and if so, what needs to be done?

Switch on your  television, open up a newspaper or fire up the internet and you will be knee-deep in political sleaze. Stories of money being exchanged for honours, unelected influence, or spent on replacement toilet seats, duck ponds and hotel room pornography. Some of those who did not require state-funded pornography engaged in less than appropriate sexual relations with co-workers.

It does appears that there is no end to the stupidity of some politicians. As I am writing this it has just been announced that former cabinet minister Chris Huhne and his ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, have been jailed for attempting to pervert the course of justice. In a cunning plan devised by the pair Vicky Pryce would take Chris Huhne’s speeding points, thus allowing him to continue his career unabated by the fact that he is a complete idiot; because that is the intelligent thing to do really. It is this kind of ingenuity from British politicians which reinforces the belief that our economy is in safe hands.

“Bonk” – This is Chris Huhne for all those interested. Not much point remembering this face though, he probably won’t be around much anymore.

It is not just their short-sightedness and immaturity that leaves people grating their teeth over the morning paper. Money talks and the newspapers talk about money. Political scandals are almost always followed up with figures on how much it has cost the taxpayer. Chris Huhne’s prosecution process cost a total of £117,558. To put that in perspective, that would buy you 107,851 packs of Rich Tea biscuits (or 59,074 packets of Duchy Originals if you are Chris Huhne). This is the kind of information that will infuriate the public, who are busy struggling to pay gas, electricity and water bills. No-one wants to hear in the midst of an economic crisis that the money from their wage packets has been spent slapping a politician across the wrist.

So what can anyone do? Surely we, us individuals, are powerless. How about voting? Well we only have three parties to realistically choose from, and one of those, the Liberal Democrats, have now become a synonym for the word “unreliable”. General Election turnout figures seem to suggest that a huge proportion do not regard voting as important. A massive 35% of the country did not bother to vote in 2010. Depressingly this was a better turnout than the 2005 election, where 39% of the country decided that their vote was about as strong as Nick Clegg’s spine.

Maybe though, we can take some comfort in the fact that politicians caught up in scandals are torn apart in a fantastic display of public scorn and media fury. They inevitably lose their job and end up the butt of every joke until the emergence of the next scandal. Yes, it is disgraceful that many of our politicians can’t help but spend tax-money on candy bars, visiting Nazi fancy dress parties and generally make fools out of themselves. I will truly start to worry however, when the public is not outraged by such things. So long as the public demonstrate they can be angry, they are emotionally engaged, and whilst they are emotionally engaged they can make a difference.

That was all a bit depressing. Here is a photo of Boris Johnson throwing a small red ball to make you all feel better.

What Makes John Steinbeck a Literary Icon

I have come to decide that writing about a personal hero or an influential figure is something quite scary. I do not know how I can convey the messages, emotion and joy I have received from reading this particular author’s work. It seems simpler to urge you to go out and read them yourself. I have however suggested this to various friends and acquaintances and in light of my successive failures I wish to at least try and explain why I love this man named John Steinbeck.

I use the term love, suggesting I have some kind of connection or relationship with him. In a sense I do, but so do millions. When we read an author’s work we are, in many cases, reading an essay about that particular person. Some form of treatise on their soul. A read through Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley creates something that feels close to a personal conversation. His thoughts are described with relatable depth, each one accessible and beautifully philosophical, conveyed as if the travel memoir was written for you and you alone.

What is special about Steinbeck’s work is the use of language to portray people. Personalities seem clear. Unique qualities, both good and bad, are drawn to the surface. Take the psychopathic character Cathy Ames in East of Eden who stokes a hateful fire deep within the pit of your stomach; or Ethan Hawley in The Winter of our Discontent, a portrait of an affable human-being disillusioned by the hypocritical process of financial success. Both these characters are defined by the loathing or empathy you feel towards them. This is how all characters in Steinbeck’s works are developed. A whole medley of personalities are invented, all of them believable. The only sign that they do not exist is that you have not met them yet, however this is not strictly true. One could quite easily find a Cathy Ames within their community, or even a George and Lenny from Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck’s characters seem so human because simply put, they are human.

Not only does he have the ability to paint accurate representations of people, his brush is also cast across nature. The opening chapter of East of Eden is dedicated to a sprawling painting of the Californian Salinas Valley where Steinbeck grew up. In the chapter the valley is made to feel almost tangible. Seasonal descriptions of flowers and foliage give the valley a colour, descriptions of weather a climate, and the mustard fields even give it a taste. He mixes and manipulates his words into paragraphs the same way Van Gogh spread paint on a canvas, creating both bold and truly beautiful scenes.

I admit again that nothing I write here will accurately or even appropriately describe the delight you will find reading Steinbeck’s work. Instead I am going to leave you to find out yourself, in the hope that this may have helped you do so.

salinas

Salinas Valley, California