30 December 2018
As 2018 ends not with a bang but with a resounding tinkle and we near the start of a year that seems likely to be even worse, it’s a very easy year to summarise: the UK started to realise that a Disunited Kingdom might become unavoidable, both the Conservative and Labour Parties splintered, and America increasingly isolated itself from everybody else, and none of this matters because we’re destroying the world anyway.
But there is good news: accusing Trump of ‘draft-dodging’ may be unfair. Trump’s original medical in his teens classified him as 1A, or “available for service” but his call-up was deferred because he was a student, nothing to do with his Trumptitude, all students were automatically deferred. When he graduated in 1968, he lost his student exemption and had another physical examination in September 1968, less than two years after his previous medical, his health had deteriorated so badly his medical condition was reclassified as 1Y which put him near the bottom of any call-up list.
He claimed last year that the reclassification was because he had bone spurs on his heels (which must have developed while he was playing baseball, tennis and squash at college). He could of course have volunteered to serve his country anyway, but it must have slipped his mind.
However, it appeared on Thursday that, when he was just a child, he might have been involved in the Korean war when one paper headlined an article “‘War detectives’ try to trace soldiers lost in Korea with help of DNA and Trump”. I can get lost without anyone’s help, whether it’s the Drug Nforcement Agency or an American president.
The year’s performances by politicians all over the world have reinforced my long-held hang-up conviction that people who are interested in getting into positions of power are automatically unsuited to be in power and that politicians, local and national, should be elected by lot from the populace to serve for a limited period of, say, three years. I was therefore disappointed to learn that I’m almost 2,500 years behind more intelligent people because the ancient Greeks used a device called a kleroterion to select individuals to serve limited terms as Athenian officials in about 350BC.
This method of selection by lot rather than votes is called sortition and a rather similar process was used by Ireland in 2016 to create a Citizens’ Assembly consisting of 99 people selected from the electoral roll who spend occasional weekends considering, debating and voting on contentious issues. They have no executive power but the Assembly has already been credited with providing the momentum to legalise abortion and recommending radical action to curb greenhouse emissions.
As for 2019, there seems little point in predicting anything since 2018 has proved that the best and only possible Brexit deal will leave remainers and leavers deeply unhappy so let’s just make some wishes: there’ll be no famines, floods, droughts, tsunamis or earthquakes anywhere, England will win the Ashes (possibly back again, depending on who’s got them at the moment), Harry & Meghan’s baby will be black, Angelina Jolie will become America’s 46th president, Mark Zuckerberg will stop passing my personal information on to the highest bidder and refugees will be welcomed because they didn’t cross the channel in small SRIBs for fun (it’s roughly equivalent to crossing the M25 on crutches).
Another of my long-held beliefs is that there are three levels of caring that develop as we grow up. Babies are entirely self-centred: their only interest is in themselves, making sure that they’re comfortable and not hungry or thirsty. As they grow into children and adults, they develop relations with family and friends and become part of a group and help the other members of ‘their’ group.
Not everybody reaches the third level, which involves becoming interested in people outside their groups who they don’t even know as individuals, and then giving up something from their own lives to help them. They may give money to charity, or help someone who’s fallen in the street, or sacrifice a lot of time as well as a night’s sleep every month to answer telephone calls from people in distress, or support their loved ones while they do this (they also serve who stay at home and do the ironing).
Wouldn’t it be nice if everybody in the world spent a little more time thinking about how they could make others’ lives a little bit easier?
Perhaps we should remember it’s not who or what we believe in, it’s how we live our lives.
May 2019 be good for you all.