A lady of my acquaintance

A lady of my acquaintance (Now there’s a telling phrase if ever I heard one. Conjures up all sorts of images, begs all sorts of questions. Such as ‘Lady?’ Your ‘acquaintance’? It raises an infinity of somewhat sordid possibilities without producing the slightest evidence to back them up. Should go down a storm on Facebook.’) But anyway, as I was saying, a Lady of my acquaintance posted the following quote to my wall on Facebook.

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow a very lively debate within that Spectrum.” Noam Chomsky

I think it’s probably true. There are a lot of things that are being discussed but nobody ever seems to get at the stuff that really matters. Take the current Labour party leadership. OK I might be older than most, but I can remember we argued over the stuff that Jeremy Corbyn is proposing in the sixth form in a Northern working class grammar school, back in the 1970s. The others are just rehashing everything that’s gone on since, frantically reshuffling the same old cards in an attempt to get a better hand. Nobody is thinking outside the box.

What would be outside the box? What discussions should we be having?

Well let’s start with this climate change/global warming/whatever. All the major political parties assure us it’s happening. They’re all out there determined to mitigate it.

Right, so if it’s true, in less than a century we’ll have significant sea level rises, amongst other things.

So the question I’d like to see discussed is ‘Why are we still building in the Thames valley? At least at the London end. Given that if these predictions are right, London could be permanently flooded within the lifetimes of people born this year, why aren’t we making the first plans to evacuate the area altogether. Not to do it now, but at least to ensure that there will be houses for people to move to. Build them in northern cities that are high enough up to allow for any flooding. Why bother extending London airports if the people will have to leave?

Another question I’d like to ask is what are we going to do with these people at Calais?

Flicking a glance back at the climate change issue again, if that theory is correct, there are going to be even more refugees pouring our way. But even if it is incorrect there are still going to be more heading our way. Because the Middle East and North Africa are becoming even more unstable; and one reason for that instability is the oil price. I’ve seen articles in the last week or two that calculate that in another couple of years, Saudi Arabia will have run down its cash reserves to a level at which it’ll no longer be able to keep the lid on things. The Shi’a-Sunni war could really kick off with a vengeance. That whole area is likely to become even more unstable. Which means there will be even more refugees.

At some point they will get here. It’ll be chaos. So what are we going to do to pre-empt this? Can we let them in under contract, hold them in decent camps here, make sure they’re medically fit, make sure they speak acceptable English. And then let them start to seek the jobs they’re trained for. After all, with the new living wage, it is going to be an awful lot harder for employers to use cheap labour to hold the price down.

Oh and while we asking the serious questions, the questions that they don’t really want you to think about because the answers would probably mean we had to change things, what are we going to eat?
Ignoring climate change, refugees and political insecurity mean that people aren’t producing food. So somebody will have to otherwise hunger is going to become an issue in a lot more places than just a few third world hotspots.

Noam Chomsky doubtless had his own questions he felt were being avoided. That’s fair enough, no doubt you’ve got questions you feel deserve answering.

Me? I’ve asked mine. But I cannot honestly see anybody standing for the leadership of any UK political party rushing forward to produce answers for them in a hurry.

And why aren’t they asking these questions, why are these things not being discussed?
Simple. The questions mean that there will be changes coming. As far as I can see all these changes will mean that more people are going to claw a place for themselves amongst the rich because they want their share of the goodies.

The poor start wretched, live wretched and die wretched. Change is hardly going to make their situation worse.

But for the rich, things are going to be difficult.

And just remember, if you can read this in your own time on your own device, then almost by definition, you’re one of the rich.





There again, what do I know? Ask the expert.



A collection of anecdotes, it’s the distillation of a lifetime’s experience of peasant agriculture in the North of England. I’d like to say ‘All human life is here,’ but frankly there’s more about Border Collies, Cattle and Sheep.

As a reviewer commented, “This is a selection of anecdotes about life as a farmer in Cumbria. The writer grew up on his farm, and generations of his family before him farmed the land. You develop a real feeling for the land you are hefted to and this comes across in these stories. We hear of the cattle, the sheep, his succession of working dogs, the weather and the neighbours, in an amusing and chatty style as the snippets of Jim Webster’s countryman’s wisdom fall gently. I love this collection.”


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8 thoughts on “A lady of my acquaintance

  1. Marc Nash August 10, 2015 at 1:20 pm Reply

    good post Jim. These & many more ‘issue’ questions. The fact that Corbyn is spouting heard it all before a generation ago stuff is because there have been no new ideologies (apart from perhaps Environmentalism) under the sun. On Goodreads Will offers Corbyn’s economic policies as sound Keynesianism. Good grief. Milton friedman beloved of Thatcher was an updating of Cobden & bright’s Free Tradism of the Vicorian era, while Keynesianism was a watwered down of Marx’s state centred economic decision making meets Scandinavian State Corporatism. None of it is new. And the Greens here showed that while they may or may not be expert to legislate on environmentalist issues, their proposal to limit copyright to just 14 years shows their inexpertise in social & cultural matters. We can react to specific issues and try and ameliorate them, but we seem powerless to have an all-encompassing vision for society. perhaps this is a good thing, but it tends towards pragmatic government and that raises its own series of problems.

    • jwebster2 August 10, 2015 at 2:10 pm Reply

      I tend toward pragmatism, but my pragmatism is along the lines of, ‘let’s fix things that we can fix now in such a way that they’re a decent foundation for the next generation to work from.’
      One thing history teaches us is that we are unwise to second guess the next generation’s problems or their solutions.

  2. The Opening Sentence August 10, 2015 at 3:10 pm Reply

    I was worrying about money, but your final sentence has provided calm reassurance.

    Climate change, oil prices, immigration, all exacerbated by the total collapse of world currencies in the next few years. If someone can sort out the problem with midges I’ll be off to a remote croft in Scotland to live on seaweed.

    • jwebster2 August 10, 2015 at 3:28 pm Reply

      Just going on pure weight available it might be easier to live off the midges! 🙂

  3. M T McGuire August 10, 2015 at 4:43 pm Reply

    Fantastic post. I am a great believer in being as independent as I can, I like to know how to fix a car, I like the idea of solar panels so that when the power goes off I can run a fridge during the day. I’m absolutely with you about Calais, too. All of it. I used to work for a voluntary organisation which worked closely with local government officers. I remember one of them explaining that every two years policy changes, so there’s no point in actually doing anything because if you do and a policy comes in advocating a different stance, your political career is ruined. So politicians spend lots of money and time on research so that by the time anything has to happen, Central Government has changed policy again, and they can drop it quietly. If that’s how our politics is run, what hope do we have?



    • jwebster2 August 10, 2015 at 5:14 pm Reply

      If I quote Plato much more often, he’ll start charging me commission, but he was right. “This City is what it is because our citizens are what they are.”
      Immediate gratification, Amazon guarantees one hour delivery service. What chance of a fifty year policy?

      • M T McGuire August 10, 2015 at 7:16 pm

        It’s weird though, isn’t it, how we all know what to do but when people get into power, nobody does it.

      • jwebster2 August 10, 2015 at 7:30 pm

        I suspect that for a long term view, we might have to be governed by people who do not expect to be re-elected anyway, and who know that they’ll get a small pension when they stand down after a fixed term

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