Saturday, 5 November 2011

Bangs and Whimpers

My father disapproves of today’s celebrations in the UK.  He went to school at St Peter’s in York, as, many years ago, did another young man called Guy Fawkes.  In my father’s opinion, it is pretty poor show to burn an old boy (even if it is only an effigy of him on top of a bonfire) and hence he does not encourage the blazing fire and fireworks which are traditional for so many in the UK on 5th November.  Given the unpopularity of so many politicians and leaders at the moment and the ongoing struggles and fight for democracy in countries across the globe, there is something quite ironic about the bonfires and fireworks that will be lit across the UK, in memory of the Gunpowder Plot and the failure to blow up parliament and King James 1 at the State Opening of England’s Parliament ceremony in 1605.  This is the time of year when it almost seems alright to celebrate terrorism.  Over the centuries we have frequently demonstrated a delight in the salacious details and gory destruction of others. I found the front-page pictures and mobile phone footage of the death of Muammar Gaddafi disgusting – even contemptible criminals and dictators deserve a degree of dignity in death.  The photos and video that were shown shamed the people who had stood and filmed, whilst others clearly committed vile acts, and the press who felt they were fit for public viewing.

I did state that, after my somewhat down-beat post earlier this month, I would try to write something more cheerful.  Given that many of my readers are from the HR community, here is a topical (and HR related) joke to bring a slight smile and to return to the topic of today’s celebrations:
I met a chap in the pub last night and he told me that up until yesterday he was working as a member of a firework display team.  Unfortunately he set some off in the wrong sequence and his boss sacked him on the spot.  He told me he thought it was bang out of order!
There are always two sides to every argument.

As a result, I feel a degree of sympathy for the Greek Prime Minister – although  it is more than foolish to make a proposal that could destroy the hard work, support and efforts of others and have a severe knock-on effect on your neighbours (holding a referendum to determine the Greek people’s attitude towards the EU and the required austerity measures would take too long for the proposed assistance offered to be able to take effect within the required timescales) - I do think that George Papandreo had good intentions when he proposed the referendum.  Enabling public consideration and support for major actions that will impact on people's quality of life has to be the right approach (and he was upholding Greece's place as the Father of Democracy).  He just hadn't thought it through and he would have benefited from consulting with others.  His inclusive approach may yet prove his downfall, as he only secured his tiny majority in the vote of no confidence in him by promising to commence talks with the opposition to establish a power-sharing government to implement the Euro-zone bail-out.  Greece may as yet have to pull out of the Euro (as my son says “Trust the Greeks to make a Drachma out of a crisis”).

There are so many damp squibs and potentially explosive situations across the globe at present; we hardly need to celebrate Bonfire Night.  But I love the glitter and excitement of fireworks and, despite my father’s potential disapproval, I will be standing in a friend’s garden at dusk, eating a sausage with my eyes raised to the sky.  As the great Oscar Wilde once said:

“We are all the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

PS  I would like to make a brief plea to those of you who live outside London and will be celebrating Bonfire Night tonight, please check your bonfire before lighting it – piles of leaves and sticks are a preferred location for hedgehogs and, although I am told that they are delicious roasted, their numbers are in such dreadful decline that we need to do all we can to aid their conservation.

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