Random Thoughts

Random Thoughts
Simply whatever comes to mind. Probably about St. Helena but not always . . .

Friday, 12 August 2022

Um, y’know?

I first started listening regularly to the BBC World Service around 40 years ago, when I was living in Sweden.  In those pre-Internet days it was the best way to keep in touch with what was happening “back home”.  I actually had the times of “News about Britain” – a program that seems to have passed into history - written up so that I wouldn’t miss it.

And in those days, if a World Service presenter had said “Um” or “Y’know” they would have been instantly dismissed and quite possibly also executed.

Scroll forward to 2022 and it’s everywhere.  Presenters “Um” and “Y’know” their way through news, interviews and all the other content kindly delivered to us on SAMS Radio 2.  Many are pretty good and only do it occasionally, which I notice but can tolerate, but I’m sure there are some cases where the “Um”s and “Y’know”s actually exceed the real words in the item.  And then it drives me bonkers.  I find myself shouting at the radio “if we know then you don’t need to tell us so f@$k off!”

I was discussing this the other day with a friend, much younger than myself.  He did not have a problem with it, but then he grew up in the “Um” and “Y’know”  Era so, like everything you grow up surrounded by, did not even notice it was there.  If you grow up next to the coast you don’t notice the sound of the waves.  If you grow up by a busy road you don’t notice the noise of the traffic.  He initially said “Um” and “Y’know” were no more significant than pausing for breath.  I countered that “Um” and “Y’know” were noise-words that conveyed no meaning whatsoever and you might as well say “wombat”.  “Well, Brian, wombat, it was a game of two halves, wombat, and it could only have had one, wombat, ending.”

But then we discussed it further and realised that, actually, “Um” and “Y’know” DO have a meaning.  It’s roughly the same meaning as that little whirligig that comes up when you are trying watch a video online at a higher resolution than your internet speed can cope with.  It means “I’m talking faster than my brain can handle so I need to pause while my thinking machine comes up with whatever it is I’m going to say next”.

Back in 1984 reading the news took five minutes, and it was read at a measured pace with two second gaps between the stories.  Today it takes two minutes. In this high-pressured world presenters have to gabble to get all the information across within the 30-second attention span of their audience.  If anyone paused for two seconds the audience would tune out.  So it’s hardly surprising that their mouths are forced to operate faster than the human brain can keep up with (and some human brains are clearly more challenged by this than others).  That being the case, the “Um”s and “Y’know”s are entirely explicable.

But for me that still does not make them excusable.

Thursday, 11 August 2022

A squandered opportunity

I want to put on record how sad I am that such a great opportunity for St Helena is being squandered by the wholly unnecessary rush to rebury the bones of the “Liberated Africans” in Ruperts.

We should be making an international event of it.  People with an interest in the history of enslavement – and there are many - would have come from all over the world to attend the event.  Slavery is a very hot topic in America at the moment, as it is in Britain, the Caribbean and – of course – Africa.  The international media attention could have been enormous.  The world’s media would have been delighted to talk about St Helena.

In my view we should have delayed the event until March/April/May next year.  By then the rush of Saints coming home for Christmas will be over and there should be the availability on the flights to get people here.  If the event was well enough publicised it might even be possible to charter a flight to bring headline-grabbing big-name interested parties here, and there are plenty of them.

The worldwide attention it would have given to St Helena could have re-launched our tourism industry after the ravages of Covid-19, and the additional income to the island – to our government and to our tourism-related businesses who have suffered so much recently - would not have gone amiss either.

If nothing else, the weather would have been warmer; much better suited for an essentially outdoor event.

Yes, I know the bones and artefacts of these unfortunate people have lain abandoned for fourteen years in the Pipe Store, disrespectfully stored in cardboard boxes, poked and prodded by scientists.  At least now they are respectfully stored in a place that would have been familiar to them during their brief time here.  In my opinion, another six-to-nine months would not have made a whole lot of difference and the respect shown by having a large international attendance to witness and celebrate the event of their reburial would have more than made up for it.

So why just rush them into the ground now with nobody present except the few Saints who will turn up on a (probably) cold, wet and windy August Sunday afternoon at the peak of fear of Covid-19?  I cannot see any logic behind this.

It is perhaps ironic that the reburial is being planned in a way that seems to actively oppose all the reasons these people were dug up in the first place – to encourage tourism by building the airport.

We missed out on the opportunity of Napoleon’s Bicentenary (in 2021) due to Covid-19.  We will miss out on the opportunity from the reburial due to bad planning.

I am immensely disappointed. 

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Tactical Voting

 I have been asked if I plan to vote for Andrew and only Andrew.  The answer is NO.

 

While my voting for Andrew and only Andrew might increase the chances of getting him elected, it would also make it easier for the “same olds” to get themselves re-elected.  However much I want Andrew to get onto Council, my overriding imperative in this election is to get a change – to get rid of the old guard who have got us into the mess we’re in today and get in fresh, new thinkers capable of digging us out of it.  Andrew cannot do this alone!

 

So I will be voting for up to twelve candidates.  Andrew will be one of them.  I haven’t finalised my list yet but I already know that only a very few will have been on the last Council.

 

I hope Andrew gets elected but for the sake of the island we need an almost complete change of Council, with or without him.


Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Sabotage!

 

Anyone who knows me will be aware that I despise violence.  I’ve also always felt that vandalism and sabotage are regretfully negative ways to approach any problem.  But I’m beginning to understand why people might resort to destroying things when they feel they have no alternative.

Take the island’s fishing community.  They have just been told that they have been earning too much money from fishing (yes, really!) and that they should be happy to pay more than twenty five times as much to get their fish processed for market by the new fish processing business.  They may no longer be able to make a living.

However patently ridiculous this may be, what can they do about it?

They can’t just give up fishing.  Apart from the money they have invested in their businesses, our economy (if that’s the right word) is such that jobs for Saints are few and far between.  Unless you are one of the privileged few you face what we all face – prices keep going up (including, it would appear, the price of fish, on which so many families depend) and incomes do not.  You cannot simply find another career.

The Governor certainly isn’t going to do anything to fix it because he is the one who concocted this great fishing sell-off in the first place.

Most of our current councillors are not interested in the problems of the fishing community.  Some of them are behind the outrageous arrangement that has created this problem; most of the rest are too busy sucking up to the Governor so that they will get their BEMs and OBEs; the few who might speak out are in the minority and get ignored.

The staff at the FCDO in London don’t care what happens here.  As long as the Governor keeps telling them everything is under control (which he doubtless does, even if it isn’t) they are happy to ignore what’s actually going on down here.

Complaining in the local media does no good.  People read it; people agree it’s wrong; but nobody actually does anything about it.  Protesting on Social Media has exactly the same lack-of-effect.  The UK press is too focussed on Covid-19, Brexit and who’s going to win Come Dancing to care what happens in a place that half their punters couldn’t find on a world map.

Someone could organise a protest march, but we all know from recent experience that such events generate a lot of noise but no actual change.

We know a petition is useless.  1,191 signatures for the last one was deemed “not a significant number” (although, apparently, 336 votes was enough to implement the new governance system).

What else can you do?

I can neither advocate nor support anyone resorting to vandalism or sabotage, but if somebody does now do something destructive it would not surprise me in the least.  The saboteurs might argue “What else can we do?” – a question I would find hard to answer.  Looking at what makes news in the second decade of the 21st century it could certainly be concluded that the only way to get anybody’s attention is to destroy things.

I hope it doesn’t happen but I can’t be certain that it won’t.  I’m saddened that St Helena has been brought to this.

Friday, 16 April 2021

Mad Kings

 

Thinking about this week’s Governor-stopping-Saints-installing-solar-panels debacle got me wondering.  Maybe we should not blame our Governor personally for his abuses of power.

 

I have only met the man for about ten seconds when he first arrived so I have no idea what he was like personally at that time, and indeed whether he remains the same now.  But there’s an old saying: “power corrupts” to which is usually added “... and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

 

Give anyone the amount of power that our Governors have and trouble will inevitably result.  Even Boris Johnson and Joe Biden cannot arbitrarily decide to implement a new rule just because they want to; they both have to follow a parliamentary process which, while far from perfect, is designed to stop “Mad King Syndrome” from setting in.

 

“Mad King Syndrome”?

 

It’s where someone in charge has unlimited and unquestioned power and it goes to their head.  King Cnut (“Canute”) trying to stop the tide; Roman Emperor Caligula arbitrarily executing people because they didn’t laugh at his jokes; King Henry VIII making the whole country Protestant because the Pope wouldn’t give him a divorce; and just about every Dictator everywhere throughout history. 

 

If you give people absolute power, a lot of them go nuts.  Not all, but far too many.

 

So perhaps the problem is not Dr. Philip Rushbrook personally.  For all I know, if you get to know him you find him a nice, kind and caring man.  I strongly suspect the problem is the role of Governor.  It just has far too much unfettered power.

 

As I have said many times before:

St Helena needs three things:

 

1) The role of Governor should become purely ceremonial with no power (and, probably, the silly hat should be re-instated for the benefit of the tourists);

 

2) All power and decision-making should be vested in our democratically elected representatives, operating in an open and transparent way; and

 

3) Saints should be able to vote for an MP to represent their interests in the UK Parliament (possibly in conjunction with the other Overseas Territories).


Monday, 22 March 2021

The way forward

 

So it seems we are going to get a “Ministerial form of Government”.  There is no point now in arguing that the poll was invalid and the result spurious because the FCDO has decided and what they say in the Colony of St Helena is final.

 

But what is a “Ministerial form of Government”?  I don’t think any of us is really clear, but from what I can gather it means that some of the people we elect as Councillors in August get to be called Ministers, get large pay rises (at a time when most of us are lucky to keep up with inflation) and get “more responsibility”.  And this is the bit that interests me.

 

Some of our current Councillors do not seem to care much for the people of St Helena.  ExCo, particularly, keeps making decisions that are not in the best interests of Saints, presumably blindly following what the Governor, representing the FCDO, tells them to do.

 

Do we want to give these people a pay rise and “more responsibility”?  I suggest not.

 

If we are going to have a new system of Government, I suggest we also need some new councillors to make it work.  In fact, quite a lot of new councillors.  People capable of understanding the complexities of the decisions they are required to take, not just blindly following what the seconded advisors tell them.  People who, in short, put the interests of Saints first.

 

I hope at the August election we will see lots of new names on the ballot paper.  People with the skills to actually do the new jobs they will be given.  People who will stand up for the interests of the island as a whole, not just their own.  And I, for one, will be delighted to vote for them.

 

I cannot see myself voting for ANY of the current ExCo, who have – in my opinion – consistently sold out the rest of us for the proverbial 30 pieces of silver.

Monday, 15 March 2021

John Turner: no votes

 

After careful consideration I have decided that I will not be voting in the sham “Consultative Poll” on 17th March.

 

This is a subject on which everyone must follow their own judgement, but my reasons are:

 

1) obody’s vote will make any difference to the outcome.  The Civil Service has already reorganised itself around the “Ministerial Form of Government”.  If people don’t vote for that, do they expect us to believe they are going to un-reorganise?  However people vote, we are clearly going to get the Ministerial Form of Government.  If the conclusion has already been decided why should I bother turning out to vote?

2.       The Ministerial Form of Government is what the FCDO wants.  They have wanted it since 2004 (it was rejected in 2005 by a completely valid poll).  The FCDO funds St Helena and expects to get what it wants, so has charged the Governor with the task to “make it happen”, whatever Saints want.  This is why the whole process to date has been undemocratic and maybe even unconstitutional: selecting Professor Sarkin, a friend of the Governor, to “study Governance” and recommend the required solution; ignoring the inconvenient recommendations of the Sarkin Report; the governor’s personally selected “Governance Commission”; failure to answer any questions about costs during the “consultations”; and now a “poll” with no stated process for deciding if the verdict is meaningful.  The whole process has been fixed from start to finish to deliver the desired result.

3.       SHG only accepts public opinion when it suits it.  As quoted in yesterday’s Sentinel (p8), SHG accepted fewer than 100 positive views expressed in the Governance Consultations as “public opinion”, but ignored the fishing petition (1,191 signatures).  They clearly don’t actually care what the public thinks.

4.       When they declare that the Ministerial Form of Government is the “will of the people” (which they will, whatever the results of the poll), a few Saints will get richer and the ordinary Saints will either see no change, or will lose their jobs to pay for the new system, the costs of which have not been disclosed (it has been asked many times; it hasn’t answered).  I will not be party to this travesty of democracy.

If you do intend to vote I’d be interested to read your reasoning below.