MEANING

And so it begins.

The world affecting circus that is the Donald Trump presidency of the USA creaked under way last week and bumbled directly into a problem driven by the facts of a situation.

After showing an almost rabid desire to have the highest numbers on almost everything you could imagine (even down to pointing out that The Apprentice viewing figures for Arnold Schwarzenegger were smaller than they’d been when he’d been the one firing people) day one saw the delight continue. The number of people who were actually in attendance to see the inauguration and those who were watching on TV.

Now on it’s own, this point is nothing. In the grand scheme of things, the number of people who attended the event is an utter irrelevance. If Donald Trump is able to oversee world peace and be the driving force behind everyone coming together for the good of humanity as we start to explore the stars, he could have had no-one turn up to begin with and there wouldn’t be anyone who’d care.

The issue came that his ‘people’, despite evidence to the contrary, steadfastly clung to the party line of there being more people there than at any other presidents inauguration. Regardless of the facts, the decided line was going to be what they wanted it to be. To compound this they defended what was said with the soon to be immortal phrase, “alternative facts.”

Alternative facts as an idea scare me.

Information can be interpreted in different ways but if there are one hundred thousand fewer people in attendance of an event, you can’t spin the fact to be anything else. Facts are facts and as such aren’t subject to the whims of people wanting to say the opposite. Indeed there was no such concern with alternative facts when the result of the election was decided.

As a writer, I deal with words all of the time and there are examples where words can be used in many different ways which can be at odds, wicked being  both good and bad depending on context. But truth is more than that. Personal opinion on any given point has to be up for scrutiny and if the facts show the complete opposite, your opinion is wrong.

Literature has many, many examples of the use of ‘alternative facts’ by systems and people trying to do something despite the truth. One of my favourite books is 1984 and the existence of doublethink within the story showed clearly how truth can become nothing more than a hindrance to what the ruling power wants, changing as is required.

I hope that Donald Trump and his team  are able to prove all of their doubters wrong and deliver for the good of the country and the world at large but even now, so very few days into the job, there are already clear examples of an almost dictatorial obsession with everyone agreeing with what he wants to be the truth. Is truth going to be lost along the way amidst alternative facts?

How many lights do you see?

GOOD THING, BAD THING?

When I wrote The Circle of Duty, one of the main points I wanted to hold up to the light was the idea that an act in itself isn’t good or bad, rather it’s the context of that act which bestows the value.

The point that seems to have been looked at more readily is that of the bad deed done for the good reason. An example would be having to commit a murder in able to save a thousand lives. Murder is a bad thing but saving all of those lives is a good thing. Wouldn’t that ultimately mean that there was a net positive? All those people saved just for the loss of one?

I pondered this question when I was speaking with people at a recent convention and I received many different answers as people fell on both sides of the possible ethical dilemma. So we look deeper. Is it still a good trade if the person to die were a nun for example, and she were dying to save one thousand rapists? Would it still be bad if a rapist were to die to save a thousand nuns? Very quickly the water begins to turn a little murky.

So what of the other side of this moral equation?

If I were to do a good thing but for bad reasons, then what?

The reason I ask was driven thanks to a certain thank you speech given recently. Tom Hiddleston gave his speech at the Golden Globes and made comment about his charity work but rather than those words coming as a plea for said charity, they instead became a form of self aggrandisement at the positive effect he  was having for said charity. Now I can certainly believe his response when the world pointed an accusing finger at him, that his words were inelegant rather than deliberately rude but what if he’d actually been bang on the money with what he was saying? What if he had meant every single word and felt that he was worthy of particular mention for all his hard work?

How often do we see celebrities making heartfelt pleas for support of whatever monetary form or another? What if they were only doing said pleading for the positive effect it could have for their career? Is the act of giving somehow diminished due to the knowledge of that person only doing it for their benefit?

We saw a great many celebrities pass away during 2016 but a telling fact to come out in a few cases has been the vast amount of charity work which was undertaken without the need for the wider public to know. These people had been involved in countless causes and had been able to use their wealth and efforts to do good without the need to shout it from the roof tops. Does that make these people better? Did they ensure the truth came out after their passing to ‘pump up’ their legacy? Were they manipulating in their own way?

All in all, we have to have broad ideas of what is a good thing and a bad thing but just the examples I’ve waved about here could show that the reality really has to be considered on a case by case basis. Everyone and everything will have specific reasons to make the choices they do so I think it just shows that we can’t be too black and white when we look at what’s going on.

ALMOST OVER

For this post I only have a single point to make.

I feel that after the 2016 we’ve all witnessed, where division and anger seem to have exposed the gruesome heart of the human race to the light, I open my arms to everyone out there, regardless of all those defining characteristics we all cling so very tightly to, and which seem to be always pulling us apart, and say to each and every one of you,

“Let’s celebrate our humanity and do what we can to make the lives we touch every day a little bit better. Let’s make sure 2017 is the perfect antidote to what we’ll soon be leaving behind us.”

Have a good ‘un all.

THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK

In any given situation, do you believe the best of people?

If someone tells you something, do you accept what they say without question? Do you expect them to lie? How do you assess what you’re told so you have the best chance to weed out the lies in the pot?

Every day we all have to make these assessments when we read, hear or watch anything but one story, despite it’s truth or otherwise, is only as good in the first instance, as the mind of the person who’s hearing it.

Do you know someone, or are you that person, who will just treat everything they’re told as something to be suspicious of?

Each and every one of us is the product of all of our experiences with all of the days of our lives adding up to create a way to look at things. We build opinions based on things we’re told but things we experience as well. If we have a continuous outcome every time we experience any given event, that’s going to colour how we behave the next time we have that same event. We all have that one friend who is distrustful of new relationships after having been the one to be dumped every time any of their previous couplings came to an end. Over time they’ve come to the conclusion that every time they enter a relationship it’s going to fail.

I get told all manner of stories when I’m at my non-authoring work. I deal with a large number of people on a daily basis and I have to admit that after the years of doing what I do, I have become more and more sceptical when I’m told all of the reasons why people can’t come to work. Granted there are several examples which are only one very small step above the dog ate my homework, but that doesn’t mean that each and every person who is explaining the reasons for their absence is automatically lying. I try my best to remain optimistic that the people I speak to aren’t just full of it and that I’ll be able to help those who need it but there will always be those who want to push the boundaries. Indeed, I’ve been told by someone that they’d had keyhole surgery on their knee, removing cartilage, the day before, explaining their absence, but said they were fine to get back to work, walking about, now. They seemed shocked when I pointed out that I’d had that op myself and asked to compare scars as it took me weeks to get back to work, and eventually admitted that they’d just overslept.

In all stories, the characters have been shaped by their own experiences. When I started to write The Circle of Fire I was keen to make sure that there would be reasoning why the characters do what they do. There would always need to be a build up of detail behind the mind set of those involved rather than just having them as being two dimensional cut outs. How do these people view the world but then how would they then interact with each other? I wanted there to be conflict but to have a constant physical battle is impractical, and if everyone is pulling in different directions then the story can’t get anywhere. The result is the smaller alterations of view. The disagreements are what make things interesting but we can’t had everyone at loggerheads all of the time.

Cynicism or optimism create a flavour to the thoughts of all concerned. We all have our own way of reviewing things and we can’t ever forget that those things are uniquely ours. Very often, people can get caught up in the opinions of others and it’s conceivable that the political landscape of this past year has been shaped by just that fact. We all have to be open to the opinions of others but that doesn’t mean forgetting where we came from.

But maybe don’t always think the worst. Maybe the dog did eat the homework after all?

HARD TO KEEP IT UP

I’m sure that everyone like me has had to go through this at some point. Surely everyone has the horror of dealing with this issue at some point and I’ll bet that if we were all more open about the issue, it would become a much less powerful concern.

I’m certain that at some point, all of us out there will have been struggling to keep it up.

Whereas previously we were filled with the kind of energy and unbridled ‘oomph’ that would have carried us onwards on the crest of a wave and we would have been perched atop said wave, surfing it with an almost wild abandon, now the waves are no more and our ability to make the most of the swell is a painfully distant memory.

We know what we have to do. We’ve been doing it for ages and it’s never even been something we’ve ever had to think about. Everything just worked without any effort in the good old days but now in the painful present, we have to confront that brutal fact that that which once came easily is now slipping beyond our grasp.

All of us writers have had the terrible moment when we have to accept that the promotion and associated fun and games which accompany the act of writing books sometimes feels like trying to run through treacle.

I was in Hull over the weekend just gone at a convention where I had my stand set up and my wares displayed. It was a good convention and seeing what was going on was really enjoyable. Tonight I was in Swansea doing a talk and a reading from some of my work and this weekend I’ll be in Derby at a literary convention taking part in all manner of exciting stuff. That’s a load of miles to be driving around the country and as much as I enjoy driving and seeing family in the midlands it can be remarkably draining maintaining all of the events, blogging and associated extras which orbit the central planet which is writing. At some point along the way, you find that you can’t get the energy levels up in the same way you once had. For whatever reason, it’s all ten times harder than it had been before and you just have to batter on with all of the energy you can muster to get over the line.

I really enjoy all of the added extras which come with spreading the word of my books but as I was driving back to South Wales yesterday I was feeling really tired and the knowledge of going to work when we’re really busy and the thought of then having to complete all of the book stuff on top of that was really tough. It really makes you appreciate all of the time off you have.

Really made me want to get writing.

Also,

If you thought that I was talking about a specific medical issue at the beginning of the post, shame on you.

DID SOMEBODY FART?

The world is changed.

The same as everyone else, I have my opinion on the result of the US election. Earlier this year I watched on as the referendum in the UK to leave the EU was decided and I had many friends who fell on both sides of the divide.

I saw the same situation unfold through the magic of the internet as the election took place last week and terrifyingly, the same situations which plagued the aftermath of the Brexit vote were far too rapid to unfold across the pond.

Now I’m not going to try to rip apart one side over the other in terms of either election but more than anything, the violent rhetoric which came out during the campaigning and then the acts of xenophobia and practically every other phobia you could imagine after the results became public were an incredibly telling sign.

Regardless of the merits and flaws of either side, the biggest thing that came out of the whole sordid affair was the almost careless abandon that those up for election were ready to throw out blame and to so often throw it at those who didn’t actually deserve it.

We all know that we have to tell the truth. We’re told from a very early age that we have to tell the truth and that we can’t lie and say that someone else did something bad if it wasn’t actually them. All kids have to be told these things because without the constant reinforcement of the need to be a part of a fair and functioning society they’d make sure that the blame was shifted all over the place.

The issue which has been raised this year is the feeling that victories were bought not with the facts of any given situation but with the scapegoating of people for all of the ills of the country. The giant, truly bus sized, slogan from Brexit was to break away from the EU and instead spend the hundreds of millions of pounds which the UK sends that way, on the NHS instead. It wasn’t even double figures of hours after the result had been announced that the U-turn came.

The same seems to have happened in the US. Immigrants were an easy target for the ills of the country and the election system was pointed at as being corrupt and rigged all the way up to the result coming out one way and then the message of fraud quickly went away.

Now I appreciate that there ae so very many more facts and figures involved in the political landscape which surrounds us and I’m not trying to say that Clinton would have been any better or worse than Trump, if she’d been better at campaigning she would have been elected, but I do find it odd that there have been so any similarities between the two winners of the voting in the UK and the US. Blame has fallen into the centre of what they’ve been spreading at the expense of real solutions.

It’s all too easy to read all manner of stories, in literature but more tellingly in our own history, which deal with societal upheaval and change which deal in exactly this form of structure. Blame is ascribed to people who weren’t at fault and the masses follow obediently in the persecution of those who had no hand in the struggles of the day. Instead of all working together as a society to improve the lives of each and every person in that society, we’re separated and segmented. Those out there who fall into the group now seen as the ones to blame can expect to become outcasts which in turn will make them angrier and angrier at their mistreatment. The pressure will build and all over the world we can already feel the dial turning.

Blame which isn’t earned is far too easy a tool to cast at people. All of us want to believe that we have been doing our very best and the only reason we haven’t reached the dizzy heights of whatever greasy pole we’re climbing is that the deck was stacked against us. That others have been undermining us and it’s all someone else’s fault. If it’s true, the imbalance needs to be corrected but if not we all move from being righteous in our outrage to nothing more than controlled pawns.

Now I know that this post has become quite serious in tone but world politics is something which has to be looked at seriously, but there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel. At every corner of our lives, we must always do our best to find even the barest hints of enjoyment. No matter what else happens from here on, the US just elected a man named after a fart!

FUN?

Now this post isn’t going to be about comedy.

I have my thoughts about comedy which I’ll be unpacking at a future date but this time I want to look at the importance of fun in all of our lives.

How much fun do you have on a daily basis? Do you draw a life affirming sustenance from all of the things you do or do you suffer through each day just waiting for something positive to present itself almost out of the blue?

I’m not saying that we should be running around with a permanent smile plastered across our faces but shouldn’t we be looking to have as much fun as we can?

I used to work in the fitness industry and one of the major points which always had to be kept at the forefront of all the training advice and exercise was we must always do our best to make all the activity fun. Without there being an element of enjoyment people would be all too ready to cast off the program and resume the lifestyle they were trying to break away from.

So when did the fun go away?

Running about, getting up to all kinds of stuff was the day to day life of a child. Left to their own devices, kids can do all kinds of things because they find it amusing, interesting or compelling. Games of make believe, exploring the local area, riding a bike everywhere because that was the easiest way to get about. At no point did anyone suggest that it would be too tiring to do all of these things, we just did them because that’s what we did. It’s only as we age that our games suddenly become more ordered.

Pretty soon we’re playing games with set rules which in turn become being a part of a sports team. Riding your bikes off just to have an explore was now ‘just kids stuff’ as more important draws on our time took over. Homework, sports, music and computer games all started vying for attention. Now I played computer games as a kid but my sporting career quickly overtook my desire to play on a computer. I was having fun out there on the various fields playing sports because I had a level of skill at the sports I played but over time, the game of rugby turned into the match of rugby.

The result was becoming more and more important and there were becoming more and more in depth reviews of how the game had gone, where mistakes had been made and what needed to be done to be able to improve.

Now I’m not saying that I hated my sporting career and that it became a soulless grind of hunting for the desired result, but rather that the pure fun of play had been replaced by the structure of conflict. That sheer unadulterated enjoyment was altered as I grew up to fit in with my more adult mind.

So we see, as adults, our free time is quickly filled with all kinds of needs. We have to do the housework, decorating, gardening, looking after the kids (as they have fun) and a million other things that we all have to do, but so often that can leave us with precious little time to just have simple fun.

Maybe that’s why I enjoy the genres of books and films that I do? It’s a fair bet that my own writing has been driven by the desire for fun and immersing myself into the stories in my head is a really relaxing thing to do. Hell, in the wider world maybe that’s why we can see a rise in adult colouring books? There doesn’t need to be a monumental expenditure of thought to complete the task, instead we do it because we want to, because it’s relaxing and fun.

The world has the potential to be a very dark and unforgiving place where we can, if we don’t stop to recognise the good bits, fall into a chasm of despair. I think we all owe it to ourselves and all those we love to make sure there is as much fun in all of our lives as we can find. Without it, we’re done for.