THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
238 Years of Common Sense
Of Bonnie Scotland and her debts

Some social (-networking) resolutions

I started The Last Ditch on March 15, 2005 to make serious points about the threat to liberty posed by a relentlessly-advancing British state. It is intended to be a modest contribution to public discourse and I fail when - as I have often done - I deviate from that intent.

I have therefore resolved that I will no longer whinge, whine or bemoan my fate when the ship of state fails to follow my preferred course. Nor will I insult my fellow-citizens when they either urge the wrong course or trust blindly in the judgement of the metaphorical captain. I will say my piece as best I can and then go about my duties on deck.

I will try to remember that any beneficial effect of my efforts is likely to be distant, indirect and undetectable. Over the Christmas holidays, I mentioned on my personal Facebook page a long-ago remark made by a teacher in my junior high school in North Wales. He is apparently still alive and an old school friend who still lives there has said she will show him what I wrote. I hope it makes him smile and reflect that he must have influenced hundreds of others without ever getting such feedback. 

We are all George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life. We must therefore be careful what influence we have, rather than complain about having too little. Just one person tilted towards liberty by one argument here might, in his or her own influence on the world, justify all the hours "wasted" crafting arguments that failed.

I will strive to avoid becoming a mere observer lest my well of personal experience runs dry. This may seem an exotic danger, but if you walk the streets of London with your eyes open and lifted from your smartphone or tablet, you will be surprised how few people are now fully-present in their surroundings.

I remember, years ago, Mrs P pointing out a couple in a Moscow restaurant. They sat side by side, angled slightly away from each other, each texting someone else. She said (and she was right) that they should really each be out with whomever they were texting as they were clearly not there for each other. I have resolved never again to insult my drinks or dinner companion by drifting off to Twitter or Facebook - or even to read an email alert of a new comment on this blog. If I really need to take a call, I will excuse myself and adjourn - just as I would have had to do in payphone days.

Mrs P. also used to complain about my messing about on my laptop while watching movies with her. Often, gentle readers, I fear I was composing posts to you. I thought about that when Miss P. the Younger and I watched The Bridge together recently. I noticed that both of us (unusually) put our smartphones and tablets aside and were fully, enjoyably, "in the moment". It struck me that part of the attraction of sub-titled Scandi-dramas may be precisely that necessary engagement. You can't follow your Twitter or RSS feeds while half-listening - unless you speak both Swedish and Danish.

Have the writers of Sherlock perhaps also realised they are competing for viewers' full attention? Is that why they express the workings of their hero's remarkable mind with graphics and text on screen? It certainly has the same effect and the show is very popular.

I have resolved that if a TV show or movie can't hold my full attention then it's not worthy of it and I shall do something else that is. And while I will continue to share photos and observations about social events I attend, I will not take any time out from enjoying them to do so. There's plenty of time for that on the tube or bus home afterwards. Jeremy Jacobs has made this particular point more pithily by posting this video at his excellent, thoughtful blog.

 

If we went to the pub with friends and spent most of our time ignoring them to talk to someone at the next table, that would be obviously rude and they would call us out on it. From now on I am going to try avoid the same discourtesy with people at the next, virtual, table.

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