Blogging is not going well. Quantity is well down, but more worryingly so is quality. All I seem to be able to dredge up is "I saw this" or "My Wanstead year list is now x" type posts. It's 113 in case you were wondering, but as I'm even beginning to bore myself I hadn't planned on mentioning it. It was a Garden Warbler by the way. Or a Common Sandpiper, did I mention that one? No?
I have no news, which is definitely a sub-optimal way in which to start a blog post. Hmmm. Ah, I know, yes! My dreams of salad self-sufficiency in 2021 are in tatters. Yes, that's much better. If you are reading this in the UK then you will not need me to tell you that the weather in May has been nothing short of abysmal. It is so bad that some of my tomato plants died, and those which didn't are looking utterly dismal. Meanwhile the lashings of rain have encouraged legions of slugs and snails to emerge from wherever they have been hiding and beat a path direct to my tastiest nascent/ailing vegetables. I have hundreds of plants in my garden, how can it be that both I and a million molluscs are only interested in eating the same ones? I am not sure I am going to win this war.
Talking of wars I have other news. I made the mistake of briefly joining the "culture war" and called out somebody on Twitter for a bit of casual racism, as you do. I also pointed out various very basic spelling inaccuracies while I was at it which probably exacerbated my mistake. Anyway, by way of response I am pleased to tell you that I have been labelled a Marxist Communist turd. There is no better sign that I'm winning frankly, although I am curious to understand if one can be a Marxist without being a Communist? Honestly I don't know why I bothered, what was I hoping to achieve. Well I do actually. I knew I would achieve nothing, just like when I confront dog walkers. And like those encounters, this one would probably only end in abuse and indeed that is exactly what happened. Occasionally I make a foray into this unfriendly territory and I almost always immediately regret it. The alternative is stark. Say nothing, do nothing.
I am not a warrior. Far from it. I don't champion causes, I don't go on marches, I don't chant slogans. For the most part I keep my head down and I mind my own business. There are, I suspect, many people like me. People who hate a lot of what they see happening. Either in person or in the press, or, more likely these days, on social media. I - we - despair at the entrenched attitudes prevailing in this country and indeed more widely. I sometimes feel as if I could write for a month without stopping about the current levels of stupidity, greed, self-harm, corruption, lying, conniving, injustice, outrage, persecution, racism, exclusion.....the list just goes on and on for so long that it becomes exhausting even thinking about it. I have other things to do, and perhaps more importantly it upsets me - I saw somebody call themselves a worrier rather than warrior and I knew exactly what they meant. And so largely - and this is pathetic but I hope nonetheless that it will resonate - largely I ignore a great deal of it. Some sections of society will no doubt castigate me for my inaction despite being of the same general ethos. If you're not out at the barricades then you're basically a tool of the State, à la JFK, Burke or John Stuart Mill (opinions vary apparently).
All I can say is that every opportunity I get to make my democratic feelings known on a ballot paper, I take. I vote for whoever I think can bring about change, whoever can dial back the assault on nature, humanity, humility and basic decency. My feeling is that hope lies with young people. The fire burns far more strongly within them and they're the future. If I think about that long list of things that upsets me at the moment, a lot of it is perpetuated by the older generation. Not all of course, but it seems to me that it is a meaningful amount, and to bring this back to birds for a moment, if you happen to chance upon an online argument or (more likely) slanging match about inclusion, diversity and - whisper it - change within birding, then the dissenters are almost certainly going to be old white men repeating the same old tired clichés. I'm generalising of course, it is unavoidable, but the same is true of Brexit, politics, the environment, immigration, migration, COVID - on almost every issue of the day battle lines are drawn with surprising regularity along the same demographic boundaries. I find this fascinating but I think I have written enough for one day, and strayed somewhat from the stated brief.
I would sum it up as follows. The groups of people who want things to stay as they are are the ones who have had their time. The world is moving on - with or without them - and they're upset that their stars are waning. They're clinging on and they know it, and so they're lashing out. That's all they can do and if I get called a turd then so be it. That is not to say that there are not young people who want to perpetuate the status quo, who don't believe in equality or in science, but within my admittedly narrow bubble I'm not seeing that at all and that gives me a lot of hope. The thing I am most afraid of is disengagement, particularly when it comes to politics, and of the amount of time young people spend on vacuous celebrity and image to the exclusion of almost everything else. And on that note, I am off to lecture my kids on some or all of the above.