Why should we feel hope over fear?

Now that Donald Trump has been confirmed to come to the UK on Friday 13th of July, Sadiq Khan of course had to Tweet to showcase his virtuous credentials, posting: “If he comes to London, President Trump will experience an open and diverse city that has always chosen unity over division and hope over fear. He will also no doubt see that Londoners hold their liberal values of freedom of speech very dear.”

It is an irksome statement in many ways, not least because it is anti-diplomacy. 

Khan’s worst offence, though, is his love of ‘liberal’ platitudes; the usual guff we have become accustomed to hearing… “hope over fear”, “unity over division”. 

Much of these terms have been said in the wake of terrorist attacks and other violence. They do little to solve either of these dangers, which loom over us all the time. They are a means of suppression, in a sense; a way to delegitimise people’s natural concerns while London goes down the bin.

Khan is currently on track to become one of London’s most hopeless mayors ever, because of his obsession with cheesy soundbites. Too often he sounds like he wants a job at the Guardian, rather than to be a tough London mayor.

As everyone knows, the biggest crisis Khan has to solve is knife crime, which mainly affects young men. To be fair to him, it’s a tough one to fix – mainly born out of socioeconomic circumstances – and the mayor is trying.

Even so, he is so distracted trying to please left-wing feminists, censoring bikini outfits and the rest. All the while, people keep being stabbed to death.

These dangerous times are why Khan is wrong to lecture on “hope over fear”, which he says to divert attention from his lack of ability to solve violence. “Hope” has ultimately become a synonym for “I don’t know what to do”.

Moreover, this idea that we should choose “hope” is utterly daft. Being fearful or hopeful is not some sort of decision; fear is sometimes a reasonable response to an unreasonable situation. It’s an evolutionary reaction that drives us to take action. Were leaders more fearful, perhaps we would have solved the housing crisis, knife crime and much more right now.

There is another flipside to fear, too, which makes Khan wrong to ridicule it. Fear is something that politicians do need to instil at times. 

One of the UK’s biggest problems is that our politicians are not strict enough. They sound more like sex therapists – “love not hate”, “let’s hold hands” – than leaders. 

The result is that the public becomes unruly and undisciplined. This explains why we have so many protests these days driven by crazy millennials. It may even partially explain rises in violent crime. There is no sense of authority around.

The public has ultimately started to wield power over our politicians, even using Twitter as a democratic tool. They create the fear instead.

I don’t want Kim Jong-Un in charge, incidentally, but we do need firmer leaders. They must act more like the teacher at school you respected; who was strict, but right.(Remember, the teachers who were too nice always got bullied.)

Leaders who continuously spout “hope over fear” messages are ultimately not respected.  They are not inspirational, either, because they are not talking at an individual level. 

If you ever watch motivational speakers, they say the word “you” a lot. This wakes people up; they think “who, me?!”

But I digress. Khan cannot simply go on spouting cheerful soundbites, and expect this to please the public. Not least because there is no “hope” if you are dead from knife crime, or lying in a hospital bed with a slashed stomach.

Frankly, Khan should look to London’s own problems, instead of lecturing Trump on Twitter.

There are a lot of reasons I can protest the American president. I didn’t like how he pretty much molested Macron last week, for starters. 

But because I choose “hope over fear”? No, no. I experience fear. 

And until the mayor does something radical, who can say they feel anything otherwise?


Left-wing, free pass to abuse

Comedian Robert Webb has spent the last year lecturing all and sundry on gender stereotypes, which he says are very bad in his book How Not To Be a Boy. So grave are his concerns that he has cautioned his young daughter to be wary of the patriarchy – ‘the trick’ – as he calls it, and warned everyone not to use the expression ‘man up’, lest it damages men’s mental health.

With all of these modern sensibilities, it did strike me as out of character of Webb when he called the journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer a “thick Oxford twat” on Twitter yesterday. I confess it is something of a rule of mine to avoid blokes who describe women – let alone anyone – as “twats”, but maybe I just need to man up.

Hartley-Brewer had been involved in a debate on education. She had addressed the question of whether going to Oxford University was the result of privilege, or something else. In typical Hartley-Brewer style, she said the wrong answer; that she had won her place due to being “clever”. Feminist Webb did not like that argument very much. Clever? Woman? No, no, no. He Retweeted her adding: “I didn’t go to Cambridge because I was clever. I went because I was a white male from a stable family who encouraged me to work hard at an excellent state school. That’s all privilege. All of it. You thick Oxford twat.” This post – a masterclass in left-wing bingo (“white male”, “privilege”) –  received 12,000 endorsements at the time of writing.

Watching events unfold, I did wonder when the feminists would swoop in to save Hartley-Brewer. But such expectations were daft, because Hartley-Brewer is right-wing, and right-wingers do not need saving, only abusing. And left-wingers are now given a free pass to say what they like; they are so socially conscious, after all, that even their most demonic utterances must surely serve some higher purpose. This state of play is not only obvious from the anti-semitic abuse that goes unpunished in the Labour Party, but from the media pundits that represent the left. Frankie Boyle regularly writes for The Guardian and has 2.8 million Twitter followers. He also made a rape joke about Katie Price’s disabled son, which he has never apologised for. But don’t forget the rule! Abuse doesn’t matter if you’re left-wing.

Were someone like Toby Young to call a woman a “twat” or make rape jokes, we know for certain it would be game over. All right-wingers realise that some are more equal than others, namely by virtue of their Corbynista credentials. Yes, forget being “clever” or a “white male”; left-wing identity is the real privilege these days.

The British have lost the plot

On a recent trip to Cambodia, I spent a day at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields, discovering the evils of the Khmer Rouge. I stared at photographs of their victims in utter shock; it is estimated around three million people died in the most unimaginably cruel ways. These sort of experiences are harrowing, but also make you grateful for the time and place in which you were born. Truly, it is a privilege to be alive.

The British have forgotten this. While I was away I logged onto Twitter to find that people were arguing about a chicken. On Masterchef John Torode had told one of the contestants, a Malaysian woman, to make hers more crispy. This struck me as a moderately annoying event (it was a Malaysian dish), but certainly not one worthy of the national headlines, nor the outrage it received. It merely convinced me that the British have lost the plot.

After all, these days we do occupy ourselves with the most trivial of matters, which have increasingly been allowed to take precedence over significant news and debates. While women in Iran waved their hijabs, we pondered the moral complexities of an MP sending a text to a female journalist. When President Duterte of the Philippines suggested female soldiers should be shot in the vaginas, our top press reporters were too busy covering the Me Too women in their red carpet outfits. Whether it’s the Twitter history of Toby Young, the offences of a sombrero hat, or something else, there is an inordinate amount of pointless analysis and in-fighting in this country; one in which people have convinced themselves things are very, very wrong.

It seems to me that there is something Maslowian about our current mindset. When people have it all – safety, enormous amounts of socialist protection, liberty and wealth – they tend to self-destruct, convinced that the grass is greener elsewhere. In Britain there is a huge grievance culture, where we are continually encouraged to look for offence or wrongdoing. Complaining is no longer a social taboo, but rewarded. Victimhood is the new supremacy; say you’ve had it hard, and there’s a book deal waiting for you.

The nation’s youth, in particular, has been totally brainwashed – radicalised even – into hating the West, perceiving it as a shackle on their soul. I often wonder if this delusional thinking is the result of teaching hours going down at universities; thus students spend their free time convincing themselves they’re oppressed. It’s just worrying that the adults don’t tell them to get a grip. “Yes, bubzy, you’ve had it hard,” they are told instead.

Britain is by no means perfect – there’s a housing crisis, rising knife crime and homelessness – but it is certainly not the prolifically unjust country its painted in the press, nor the worst place to live on earth – as so many seem to think these days. We are some of the most fortunate people in the world; many will go home to Netflix, electricity, and water, and still convince themselves they’ve somehow got rotten luck. Frankly I think it’s time we all got off Twitter and opened our horizons. Sometimes it’s better to work with, and appreciate, what you’ve got.

Films I watched on the plane

As some of my Twitter followers may know, I recently went on holiday to Southeast Asia, which involved a horribly long flight.

I decided to make the most of this time by watching all the films I have avoided for the past two years.

Generally I avoid films that people tell me are good. I don’t trust other people’s opinions, ever since they told me Star Wars was sound.

But faced with nothing to do other than worry about the circulation in my left bum cheek, I had to take my mind elsewhere – to Hollywood.

I had to try all these films that the media dahlings, and Joe Bloggs, said were so excellent.

Without further ado, here are some (rather breezy) film reviews.

Darkest Hour
I rather liked this one, even though I don’t generally enjoy biopics. I always find myself wondering about how realistic everything is; did Churchill really sneeze like that? Did he eat broccoli? The sort of questions that can be better answered in the blessed art form: the documentary.

Thankfully, Darkest Hour has a real sense of authenticity and avoids any sort of revisionism to please Guardian reader audiences (maybe they can have their own GR rating one day. Then we’ll know what films to avoid). Gary Oldman gives a fantastic portrayal, and it is a film that honours the leader and his achievements.

On a side note, I thought there were modern day parallels with Halifax in the movie, as he comes across as a bit of a pain, repeatedly telling Churchill to talk it out with Hitler. Sort of like the way Jeremy is telling us to chat with Russia…

As the film reminds us: “You cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth”.

I, Tonya
Sorry to upset the myriad, but this film is absolutely dreadful, in SO many ways.

It is far too sympathetic with Tonya Harding, for starters, instead of the true victim of the story – Nancy Kerrigan, whose knee was bludgeoned in order to promote Harding’s competitive chances. Imagine being Kerrigan now; having to watch the woman implicated in this crime get her own Hollywood biopic. How does that work?

The trouble is that people – producers, the public, writers – have a very difficult time accepting that women can be bad people, so much they try to explain it through art. This comes across greatly in this film, which tries to justify Harding’s behaviour through the prism of her misfortunate upbringing.

Yes, Harding had a hard life, but directors should still not portray women as devoid of agency in their choices. Nor intellectualise people being bad or stupid.

Moreover, I, Tonya projects modern day sensibilities onto Harding’s life, as part of its apologist narrative. We are made to believe, for instance, that Harding was awarded low scores as an ice-skater because she was working class and couldn’t buy a nice outfit. Having Googled photographs of Kerrigan and Harding, I can confirm that they both looked equally terrible, as it was the 80s. And frankly, no one cares about class in sports. Medals, though…

On the same spectrum of ‘apology films’ is Molly’s Game.

I did like Molly’s Game, not least because it’s written (and directed) by Aaron Sorkin.

Sorkin’s films are always a fantastic mental workout, full of twists and turns, and multi-dimensional characters.

Molly’s Game is no different. It tells the (real life) story of Molly Bloom, a fiercely intelligent high-stakes poker entrepreneur. I would try to explain the plot in detail, but I don’t even know how to play poker, let alone fraudulent poker, and I’m pretty sure I went cross-eyed trying to understand everything. All I do know is that Molly was a bit naughty.

Sorkin’s screenplay has strange parallels with I, Tonya as it tries to provide explanations for Bloom’s behaviour that remove her agency, and render her sympathetic.

I wouldn’t be amazed if Bloom is on the psychopathic scale in real life. Psychopaths aren’t so much fearless, but aroused by fear, which is why they might like get a buzz out of extremely risky poker games.

This is why it is so strange that we are led to believe that Molly was, in some way, a victim of “the system”, and a lovely person.

Frankly, I think Harding and Bloom are both pretty cunning – in different ways – and a more interesting film might have made that statement.

Three Billboards
I have to confess, ever since I watched Frances McDormand do that laugh at the Oscars I have been a bit wary. She seems like the sort of person you might move a few rows away from on the bus.

In Three Billboards, I’m pretty sure Frances McDormand is playing Frances McDormand. This is a weird movie that I’m seems to be sending some sort of message about Trump supporters, which the baddies all seem to be based on.

McDormand’s character is Mildred Hayes, whose daughter has been raped and murdered in Missouri. Mildred sets up Three Billboards to draw attention to the crime, attracting controversy that leads to numerous run-ins with the police.

This is a film about willpower, empathy and vigilantism. I confess I most enjoyed the violent bits, though I found the ending slightly disappointing; it was a bit meandering, and some of the characters seemed to change personality too much. Even still, I definitely cannot accuse the director of denying McDormand any feminist agency. There is no other Frances McDormand.

I honestly knew this film would be boring because it’s about two people stuck in a room for 7 years. It’s actually intended as a hard hitting drama about a woman called Joy (Brie Larson) who gets kidnapped, then pregnant, before living with her son, in the room, for the next five years. Room is so boring that none of these bits made me sad. I spent the whole movie wanting the son to get a haircut.

The film is just too obvious. There’s a room, and they want to get out of the room, and everyone’s a bit upset along the way. The media dahlings said this was a brilliant movie, but I think maybe there were no other brilliant movies that year, because it isn’t. Also, I can’t help feeling Larson’s acting style is ‘the girl who got your order wrong in McDonald’s’. Not sure what the fuss is. My brother thinks she’s gorgeous, though.

Finally, I get onto Kingsman 1 and 2. Much to my surprise I actually ADORED these films, which made me laugh a lot. They had all my favourite things – cute dogs, camp humour, political incorrectness and Alfie Allen thrown into a mincer.

Kingsman 2 is written by Jane Goldman. I swear she does not get enough credit. She is brilliant and I can only hope I can write like her one day.

When I got home I forced my dad to watch Kingsmen 2, who told me I was deluded and it was rubbish. But sometimes things don’t have to be perfect to make you smile.

So yes, those are my plane reviews. I thought I’d end on a high note, so you won’t go away thinking I’m overly fussy about films. Which I don’t think I actually am. It’s just Star Wars is really, really crap.