Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Post-Election Hangovers

Let me start with a tale which will probably be uncomfortably familiar.  Occasionally at home, I'd be up in the morning feeling dreadful and the following interaction would happen with my parents,

ME:  I feel so ill, my head.  I think I'm going to be sick!!! 
MOTHER:  You drank too much again didn't you?  Haven't I told not to have so much, you'll get a hangover, but you didn't listen did you?
DAD [Getting in on the act]: No, he didn't 

Never-the-less, they'd still give me a glass of water and paracetamol if I needed it.

This was in those awkward early twenties.  I loved alcohol.  I was such an introvert who struggled with social situations, like many of my peers.  I'd go out together, we'd start drinking, and we'd feel more liberated.  Surely the more we'd drink, the happier we'd feel right?

Morning the next day brought that delusion crashing down.

And she was right, she did warn me.  In fact I was often reminded of the scene from The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy,

“You know," said Arthur, "it's at times like this, when I'm trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was young."
"Why, what did she tell you?" 
"I don't know, I didn't listen.”

It's true though, and it sparked a conversation with my friend Violet back in 2007.  My parents tried to bring me up well, and they gave me a lot of advice.  And it was really good advice, and well meant advice.  Advice that was there to stop be hurting myself.  I just didn't listen.  Why oh why didn't I listen?

And I dare to find any child who hasn't done this to some degree.  Part of growing up is initially accepting the framework your parents give you, and then at some point when you're adolescent, you feel the need to challenge that framework to work out things for yourself.

So no amount of advice about hangovers was going to equal the actual dreadful, messy experience of actually having too much to drink one night and experiencing it for myself.  With your head stuck down the toilet if I'd really overdone it.

And even then, you'd think a lightbulb would go off, and I'd realise my parents are right, and that I would rationalise my behaviour over drink.  But still it doesn't work like that - some of us are thick headed and stubborn!  You still want to drink, and to drink a lot, but you remember how bad the hangover was so maybe,

  • I won't drink quite as much
  • Gav told me that having a kebab at the end of the night soaks up all the alcohol and makes you better
  • Wayne told me you need to have a bit of hair of the dog in the morning

All of these are half-hearted measures which cling to a desire of "I really want to get blotto".  None of these really work, and it was only when I was in my late 20s after many, many hangovers that I accepted the truth of my parents advice, and enjoyed my alcohol, just made sure I didn't drink as much.

Indeed, if you meet me at conference, you'll see I count my drinks, something Lisa Crispin's husband Bob observed at Agile Testing Days at Potsdam.

[By the way if "drinking too much" doesn't trigger for you - maybe it was "don't eat so many sweets you'll be sick", "don't go out without a coat you'll catch a cold", "don't eat that it's a week out of date", "I know that car looks like a bargain, but it's a brand renown for maintenance problems".

If this still doesn't feel like something familiar to you, let me remind you adolescents "test boundaries", so do testers.  I'd never hire someone I'd not felt had committed mischief at some point of their life!]

Now you might be laughing at my young adult stubbornness and plain stupidity in action there.  Then I remind you where we're heading thanks to 2016.

Politically, 2016 had a lot of disturbing trends.  Most of all was the way in elections like Brexit and the American election of Trump, we had a lot of experts warning us of what would happen if we voted for either Britain to exit the EU, or for Trump to become the next President.

There was a lot of logic and advice laid out.  These things had historical parallels, "look and see where similar actions led us to in the past.  Look, look at the evidence!"

The problem is much like with my parents sound advice on alcohol we don't listen.  We dismiss this advice with a "bah - experts".  The logic usually goes "aren't these so called experts disagreeing all the time, yesterday they told me sugar was bad for me, today they tell me artificial sweetener is bad for me".  And that's a bit true, we sometimes have scientific studies jumping the gun, and we're overloaded with changing facts as science learns more, and we change our position.

So there's been an increasing tendency to not listen to experts, to dismiss their advice, and make a purely emotional decision.  We really like emotionally what either the people behind Brexit or Trump are offering.

They promised that if you vote for them, you will see the following happen,

  • There'll be more money for the NHS (so much so you put this as a promise on the tour bus)
  • No more immigrants - will mean more money for you!  You'll be able to afford your own house and not have to wait for hospital appointments because we're overloaded!
  • We'll make America great again
  • More jobs for all
  • Less tax
  • The status quo is corrupt, you can trust me

You can't help but see the appeal of such statements to ordinary people.  The problem is the people who doing all the promising don't have a very good track record.  I'd say they have a habit of lying, to which they might retort "but what is truth anyway".  So let's not get tangled up in that!

But much easier to prove, they're constantly contrary.  They say one thing, then soon afterwards will claim "I said no such thing".  Which makes it very hard to make them accountable.

But as you know from previous postings on denial ...  we start from what we want, what we desire.  If someone keeps saying that they'll lower tax, and lower taxes is what you really want, you'll be attracted to them.  If that desire is strong enough, you'll ignore any evidence to the contrary with a "yes but...".

As you know, both these received enough votes in 2016 where it counted to become reality.  All the advice, facts, logic, warnings couldn't sway the voting public.

Pretty much as warned, once Brexit voted for leave, the UK economy has taken a battering, with at least another 2 years ahead and an uncertain future.  Many voters have expressed regret in voting for leave from this realisation (but it's all rather too late now).

Likewise, President Trump's tenure begins this week.  Under the claim that "America has suffered enough" over the Affordable Care Act, the first measure will be to scrap the scheme.  As a reminder, this is the scheme which provides treatment to people who'd otherwise be told "you have a life threatening condition which is completely treatable ... you just don't have cover".  If you're doing that saying you're going to "relieve suffering", you have a fucked up sense of what suffering is (and yes, that's the first time I've used that swear word on this blog, and I stand by it's appropriateness ... my parents read this blog and will be in contact about my language).

Like the post Brexit "I voted leave, but now..." regret, there has been a little bit of that from Trump voters already.  You'll no doubt have come across several stories such as this of someone who is absolutely pleased that "Obamacare" is being repealed, then horrified to learn that "Obamacare" is a term Republicans have used to describe the Affordable Care Act, which this particular voter depends on.  I'll admit it's hard to know for sure how wide-spread such thinking really is, but it seems to be there floating about on social media and the news.

There's suspicion that anything that replaces it will look a little bit like this,

Ever understanding of the common man, Trump has even stated an idea where people pay for healthcare from savings.  Only a billionaire could come up with that one.

In the end that's a flaw of democracy, sometimes we'll make crazy decisions as a group, but we have to ride through them as best we can.  Sometimes we have to fight them all the way, hoping somewhere along the way people will wake up and have their hangover realisation that maybe that advice they were given was really good, and they need to not follow the same course of action in another 4 years.

I hope that's possible, that people won't just stick with Trump for the full 8 years because they'll have buyers regret, and be sure everything has to get better soon.  I hope people wake up and realise all the change they were promising hasn't come - but it involves being able to challenge a President that if told "why has unemployment risen by 2% in the last two months" feels he can shrug it off with "that's a lie, why there's plenty of jobs out there, just today I heard we created another 100, next question, you with the white hood!".

As a reporter from Russia explained about Trump's role model Putin, holding the leader to account might be harder than expected.

But I hope it's possible.  I'm hope people will wake up and realise how the politics of the far right only services the greed of a small few, and they're not on the invite list.  That people will yearn for real change, which to my mind only more liberal politics can deliver.

But in the next four years it will take a lot to wake people up to the point where they can change anything.  That means a lot of people who are going to die of treatable illness to be told "now had you been diagnosed when we still had ACA".  It means four years of damage to the planet's ecology as people embrace "global warming's just a myth ... but isn't it odd how smog's returned?" (which will also look to include a ban on any research).  It means four years where you're afraid for your safety if you're not white, if you're not male, if you don't identify as straight CIS.  It means potentially four years of superpowers Russian and America working like a vice to squeeze, terrify and bully any country that's between them (and you wonder why Trump doesn't like the European Union).

It's a terrifying four years ahead.  But like the far right who have been campaigning and undermining Obama since he took office, if this is important to you, you need to make a stand lest the whole world follows this path of crazy.  Already around Europe there's been an increase in support for "alt right" groups.  It very much reeks of the rise of Fascism in the 30s, extremist groups looked to Mussolini's Italy, and attempted to mimic it.  We even had a Brexit Leave supporter gunning down a campaigner for Remain, this is how extreme the politics involved are on the alt right side, where the rhetoric of hate inevitably ends.

If the way the world is going bothers you, be prepared to have uncomfortable conversations about politics with your friends.  If you don't, someone else will.  Also, give serious thought to joining a political party, even in a small way.  At the start of the year, I joined one in New Zealand that although I don't agree with everything, I agree with most.  Find that party, and make a change!

Also check out this great article on fake news by the BBC.  I know, it's up to you whether you believe it or not.

Now Playing - "Killing In The Name Of", Rage Against The Machine


  1. My mother was ALWAYS right but it took me a long time to realize that.

    And the silver lining that she didn't live to see today (she would be 92, we lost her in 2013) is that the current political climate and rise of hate would kill her anyway. She was a passionate liberal who watched all the news shows and ranted at the TV.

    I'm calling my representatives to protest killing ACA, I'm marching on Saturday, I'm following the Indivisible guide, I even joined the social democrats, but I don't know if enough people will do these things. Complacency got us Hitler and almost lost us freedom last century. I hope there are a few brave (even if flawed) leaders like Churchill and the WWII-era British populace that will save what looks like a hopeless situation.

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