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Send in the clowns?

New Forest Mark and Hugh offer a rather more serious commentary this week, on current events  

Mark and Hugh signoff 600x400Introductory note: This week Hugh and Mark would like to offer an apology in advance. As Mark says: "For the past weeks the dastardly duo has managed to steer clear of the dreaded ‘C’ word. We feel that you’ve suffered quite enough on the topic, every blasted evening! But this is too much. Whilst scientific advisors are having to make very unpopular decisions based on hard facts and thorough research, certain people who really ought to know better are chipping away at the foundations of this work. We say shame on them."

 

Homework, you know you don’t want to but you know you ought to

I used to work at an oil refinery and during a shut-down it’s all hands to the pumps. The company wants the unit up and running as soon as possible. Twelve-hour shifts are grinding and relentless. If you’ve worked all night you hope and pray that your road stays relatively quiet as you sleep the following day. It’s punishing. I remember one night shift when I climbed about one hundred feet up a tower; it was three in the morning and bitterly cold. I chuckled as I saw what someone had written on the tower cladding ‘I wish I’d worked harder at school’. This truism obviously written by one with bitter and long-lasting regrets. I suspect that our teaching brethren are presently enjoying a moment of schadenfreude.

Home work is horrible. There’s no other way of going about this. Getting home from school, having supper and then having to get the books out again! Well, for most of us it’s just too much. For some who were rather more determined, home work was like meat and drink and they revelled in their time. They were consistently top of the class and, brother, had they worked for it. In school these types were roundly mocked as being ‘geeks’ or ‘boffs’ but their time would come. They shone through college and then university, eventually specialising. When you see a technical expert on the television, consider that you are getting the benefit of at least thirty-five years of experience and hard-earned knowledge. These experts did their home work.

Empty vessels make the most noise

Today we find ourselves facing the greatest threat to public health since the pandemic of 1918.  Doctors and nurses are struggling to serve the public. Despite all this we have the unedifying sight of people in elected positions behaving badly. Can you imagine anyone in such a position making a statement with no scientific basis simply in order to garner popular praise? Surely not. I mean, what kind of moron would publicly suggest to his electorate, on television, that they inject their own veins with bleach! (Privately I hope and pray that nobody actually did). If you like to imagine that such idiocy could only originate from across the pond, think again. Such silliness is everywhere and we have our own clowns. They might not wear oversized shoes, have red noses or a rosette that sprays water. They might not drive cars that fall to pieces at the touch of a button or throw buckets of confetti at their constituents, but they are clowns just the same.

The rules, protecting us from ourselves

There are speed limits to protect our children and grand-children as they are driven home from school. We don’t want them to die at the hands of a speeder or a drunk. We have laws to govern public behaviour for the common good. Members of Parliament are people that we rely on to uphold these standards and judgements. Love him or loathe him Mr B Johnson is the Prime Minister and he and his colleagues are trying their best to implement advice from leading scientific advisors. That’s right, the advice given to us comes from scientists and these clever people are in many ways the antithesis to the average politician. The have no interest in popularity or polls. They crave a challenge, a puzzle. The target of the epidemiologist is invisible to the naked eye; these people live in an alien world, one of baffling complexity. Compared to the average scientist most of us are naive. Try to imagine the frustration of these experts when MPs mount their own challenge to the Prime Minister? As if the job of getting us all to grudgingly obey these teeth grindingly frustrating rules wasn’t hard enough, certain MPs feel they have to publicly voice their own baseless opinions. Such is their vanity that these uninformed Trump-a-likes scramble to the nearest camera lens then use their fifteen seconds of fame to pander to public frustration. Dear reader, they aren’t concerned with you, they have only themselves in mind. This is self-promotion over public health and it is shameful.

Let’s put this in a simpler way. Imagine you need a new roof on your house, would you ask a plumber?

If you needed walls plastering, would you ask an electrician?

If you sought advice on the best measures to take during the deadliest virulent attack that this country has suffered for many years, would you listen to a clown?

It’s tough alright, in fact it’s a battle

We all know full well that life is full of things that we have to do. Get out of bed because we need to earn money for food. Take the children to school because they need to be taught. Clean the dishes because we don’t want our family to die from food poisoning. Brush our teeth so that we keep our friends. Wash our underwear, ditto. Pay our taxes so that we don’t get banged up. Life is full of tedious stuff. The ‘C’ word is little different. It’s an utter pain in the neck. We can’t see our friends and family; beer lies stale in the pipes and restaurant ovens are cold. The present curtailment of our freedom bites hard; I reckon we’ll rejoice when this is all over and furthermore, cherish our freedoms that little bit more. But for the moment, it is a battle.

If only we knew what they know

To ignore or contradict the recommendations of experts would be as stupid as driving the wrong way down a motorway. Our scientific brethren have devoted their lives to their craft and they live in a world of complexity that the majority could not begin to comprehend, (including your cartoonist and your scribbler). But do we ignore them? Of course not. We respect their judgement and obey their edicts as directed by the Prime Minister. To do otherwise would be beyond petty. Why on earth would a scientist ever recommend a course of action that they didn’t have complete faith in? Any fool can carp at rules and regulations that impinge on their liberty. It’s the easiest thing in the world to criticise, listen to any football fan enjoying a post-match drink. But this isn’t football fantasy, this is science fact. Loathe these restrictions by all means, I certainly do, but keep the faith sister. The boffins will guide us through this horrible virulent maze and eventually there will be light at the end of the syringe.

Emperor’s new clothes

They do say that sometimes it is good to imagine someone pompous and overbearing as naked. This is how we need to imagine these vain clowns with their populist and uninformed views. There is no qualification to be an MP other than self-promotion. An elite scientist however does have qualifications but by contrast has little interest in public image. Alan Turing, the mathematical genius who shortened the war had no interest in his appearance and was somewhat lacking in the hygiene department. His mind was filled with a whirlwind of coding challenges; trivia such as nail clippers and soap were a long way down his list. Now, I’m not saying for one moment that our top scientists have a body odour problem, heaven forbid. However, I am saying that they don’t court public opinion or media attention. In fact, their community would eschew such behaviour. Scientific rigour is their aim; not smiles, hand-shakes and broken promises. Let’s not get mixed up here. Know your experts and trust them.

The House of Commons, send in the clowns

When you watch an MP extolling his populist but ignorant views, imagine him naked. Because intellectually, that’s exactly what he is. He’s whispering in your ear ‘you don’t need to do your homework, watch a bit of telly instead’. Scientists and Mr Johnson are being brutally honest by telling us what we need to know, not what we want to hear.

Think on, there have been many funerals.

cartoon of old painting

 

With apologies to Rembrandt van Rijn, 1606 - 1669

More tales and cartoons for Lymington and the New Forest from Mark and Hugh

If you'd like to read previous articles on diverse subjects written by Mark and illustrated by Hugh's cartoons here they are, click the links embedded in the titles:

Food glorious food
The power of good

Old school, new school, young school
Dreaming of holidays

Miracle or monster? Modern communications

RNLI and Lymington Lifeboat

Happy New Year Resolutions and Revolutions
Merry Christmas 2020
What our cars say about us
The litter pickers of the New Forest

A roof over your New Forest head

Richard St Barbe Baker

Our star, our sun, our salt!
To Lymington or Cuba
The Auld Mug

Seeds of success

Moonlit meeting with cetaceans 

Trees and what they tell us
Cartography and trig pillars

Pony drifts and pannage in the New Forest
A journey from the New Forest via Lymington
The brilliance - and persistence - of Marconi

Equality in the skies
Bees pollinators par excellence 
Cordless home entertainment

The joy of sheds

When the Isle of Wight was just Wight
Bucklers Hard

Salisbury Cathedral 
Pond Life in our Forests 
Bombs Away 
Baileys Hard 
Rufus Stone and Sir Walter Tyrrell
Graffiti through the ages
Freedom of the roads
Heath fires
Lymington Lido
Watch the birdie
Unstoppable momentum of nature
Socially distanced socialising
Calshot Spit, a curse for mariners...

 

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