I know there are quite a few people who have gone to the trouble of subscribing to this blog (for which many thanks), and I’ve become increasingly aware as January passed and now February, that I’ve posted nothing. I’m sorry to those who expect something more.
I’m not going to blame pressure of work, although I have quite a few manuscripts to edit backed up at the moment, have a contract for another book which is largely not getting written and have bitten off rather more than I can chew in terms of online courses recently (the various lockdowns have meant that quite a few people who I want to hear from and engage with are doing more online stuff than they normally would). Yes, I have a number of things I’ve half-written, or in one case maybe 99% written, but none of those has quite got to the point of posting.
No, the underlying reason is that I fear I’m sliding gently back into the depression which basically claimed my life between 2003 and 2013. Yes, it’s situational, which the previous one wasn’t entirely or even mostly. Most, if not all days, I find myself having a little weep over some news item, which is more overt than I’m used to with emotion. Of course, the government’s incompetent handling of the Covid pandemic up to the new Year is a major factor – measures were taken too little and too late from June onward, leading to daily reports of over 1000 deaths for a month and a half (happily now somewhat reduced, but still appalling).
I can somewhat understand the mindset of those responsible, having had ten or more years involved in emergency planning locally, which included considering biological threats; there was there a consistent story in exercises of the scientific advisors advising draconian measures and the politicians feeling unable to ask the public for that much sacrifice. I can understand it, but whereas last year it was an unknown threat and there was no roadmap to combatting it, by now our leaders have the example of New Zealand and even Vietnam to work from – and another 60,000 of us have now died as a result. That is also a sacrifice, but a wholly unnecessary one.
That, however, is not the main factor. The main factor is Brexit. Throughout the last four years, I have felt in the position of someone strapped into a bus seat with a mad driver careering towards a cliff edge, with the diminishing and ultimately vain hope that eventually someone must see sense and stop the vehicle. There were a lot of Brexit solutions which were distinctly short of the “no deal” option which came, insidiously, to be the one which Brexiteers favoured; no one who voted leave wanted a “hard Brexit”, and most talked of something like a “Norway” deal. We could, for instance, have stayed in either or both of the customs union or the single market without being a member state, and I hoped and prayed that we would eventually settle into one of those. This graphic shows the possible options:-
Obviously, there were several possibilities there… and I hoped fervently that the government would eventually settle on one of them as the extent of damage Brexit was going to cause became clearer. Every few days there was some report that yes, maybe they would bend away from “no deal”, only to be squashed a day or two later. And, as they say “hope deferred maketh the heart sick”.
However, by the end of 2020 “no deal” looked like the likely result. I felt unreasonably relieved when Boris came back with an agreement short of the “hard Brexit” I had feared, though I did write that it was only very slightly less bad than the complete demolition of our trade (and thus our economy) which “no deal” Brexit would have meant.
The trouble is, as the weeks have progressed, it has become apparent that the difference from a hard Brexit is minute – I predicted it would be bad, but had underestimated quite how bad. . Yes, we do not have tariffs between us and Europe (hooray!) but we do have other restrictions – certificates of origin for components, phytosanitary checks which need a vet to certify any consignment of food items (or, of course, live animals) – or, indeed, anything which has touched UK soil, notably plants – and an absolute mass of other customs forms which the government have not put in place the necessary support to complete (nor, of course, do they pay for their completion) – and all of this makes trade with the EU for any but the largest organisations unviable, because it all costs. Even transport is costing 2 to 5 times more (if you can find a haulier prepared to do it) because of the huge delays in clearing customs, which is time the hauliers need to have paid for.
Some whole industries have been ruined – shellfish, for instance, on which there is an overall ban except for those purified at this end, as our water quality isn’t high enough (and this is something which is not new; our MEPs voted for it some years ago), and we do not have the purification facilities. Fishing is generally pretty much dead, due to the fact that most of what our fishermen catch, we don’t want to eat – but there was a market in Europe. However, fishermen can’t jump through all the regulatory hoops fast enough (fish has a very short “shelf life”) and/or sell at an attractive enough price when they’ve done that (cost of paperwork again) to keep those markets. This is supremely ironic, because all the noise made by our negotiators last year and, indeed, following the “deal” was that we were improving our fishing prospects…
There was no mention of financial services, either in the run-up to the agreement or in the agreement. The result is the loss by the City of London of tens of billions of pouds worth of trading. Now, fishing is (or at least was) around 0.45% of our economic activity. The City is something more like 20%, and responsible for at least 10% of government tax revenues.
And now there are reports that high-ups in the EU might be proposing some middle ways. There’s hope again, and I confidently expect it will be deferred or dashed.
Against this background, the government tries to tell us that everything is wonderful, and if not, that it’s the big bad EU punishing us for leaving (by following the rules which apply to any nation outside the EU and for which we voted when a member). As the linke suggests, we’re being gaslighted. Most of the media completely ignore this catalogue of disasters; the tabloids spout the government line (only more forcibly), the BBC just ignores Brexit.
And, if I can manage to tell myself not to think about Covid or Brexit for a few minutes, there’s also the impending disaster of climate change and the now overwhelmingly likely collapse of everyone’s economies as a result (and in all probability a death toll which will make Covid look like a minor blip in the statistics). Yes, there’s much more being done than previously, and there are many success stories of countries managing greater and greater removal of CO2-producing energy, but all the indications I see is that this should have been done 10 or 20 years ago to have any reasonable chance of averting disaster.
I try very hard to tell myself, firstly, that very little of this affects me or will affect me personally. I don’t expect to live long enough to see the effects of climate change, I’m a pensioner, so not dependent on a job in the rapidly shrinking economy, no-one I know personally has died of Covid (very few have reported catching it), and I’ve been immunised, so have a decent chance now of not catching it myself.
Secondly, there is frankly naff-all I can do about it. I’ve consistently voted and argued for policies radically different from those which are contributing to the various disasters, and am prevented by lockdown from any direct action (for which I’m too old and infirm to be much use in any event). And what needs doing needs doing NOW, not when the (entirely sensible) restrictions to fight Covid have finished. Indeed, it’s mostly too late. So my sensible head says “accept the things you cannot change”…
And it doesn’t work, because I am not really much concerned for myself, but for my neighbours, my children and theirs, those who will inherit this apocalyptic mess. People like this girl. I can’t turn off my compassion, and I’m suffering a permanent overload of that. I can’t turn off my anger, and every day I’m goaded into a bit more of it by seeing government gaslighting, ridiculous tabloid headlines, Covid-deniers and climate change deniers – and there’s no way to sublimate that anger into action.
Depression has been described as “anger turned inwards”. I have a massive excess of it. I just hope this isn’t the start of another lost 10 years of my life, as 2003-13 were, with a crippling level of depression.
So, I’ll try to put up a few more posts, and maybe not worry so much about them being nicely polished accounts…