About Anthony Davis

British broadcaster, newscaster, podcaster.

State of the Nation

A blog post usually covers one subject. An opinion that can be summed up in a few short paragraphs. With recent world events of such biblical proportions, it seems that no blog, conversation or published work can do justice to the issues that the world is currently facing. Even I have been lost for words, and that is saying something.

With 24 hour media, we have witnessed the plight of the Japanese people who have endured a magnitude 9 earthquake, 40 foot high tsunami and nuclear fallout all in the same day. A week later Britain took it upon itself to go to war with another oil rich Muslim country under the guise of a UN peace mission, and as the media would have it, diverting attention away from coverage of the Japanese disaster, which three weeks on barely gets a mention.

Amongst all this, the British people found time to raise £74 million for Comic Relief charities, and our Chancellor has delivered a recession busting budget, saving motorists a penny on the price of petrol, despite his 2.5% VAT increase in January.

I’ve always found solace in a fresh perspective. Looking upon the world as an entire planet can make our individual problems appear trivial against the backdrop of the bigger picture. But these last few weeks have been exceptional. I’ve found it increasingly difficult to relocate my perspective, when from all angles the world experiencing unprecedented turbulence.

Closer to home, and in the wake of violence after a TUC protest march where 140,000 public sector workers demonstrated in London against Government cuts, the city that I love so much was, in places, smashed to pieces. The Leader of the Opposition tried to jump on the bandwagon comparing the march with that of the Suffragettes, whilst professional anarchist groups compromised the very process of democracy by sabotaging a peaceful event with their own misinformed self congratulatory ideology.

It’s fair to say that March 2011 will be a month noted in history as one not to be repeated. I feel that Britain is ready for some good news, and unlike the destructive power of nature, it is the collective strength of people that will overcome the current temperament of our nation. We must find the confidence to celebrate the creativity, spirit and good humour of every citizen who is prepared to step forward, speak up and play their part.

Youth Unemployment? I blame the parents.

Youth unemployment figures have today risen to a record high, with more than one in five 16 to 24-year-olds out of work. One has to ask how the previous Government got it so wrong? They spent billions of public money on crack schemes to train, motivate and inspire young people into jobs, yet the numbers continue to climb. These schemes will remain in place until the Coalition’s reforms begin in June, meaning that today’s figures continue to support criticism of Labour, who failed to deliver for the very people that voted for them.

As a proud cross bencher (I’ve voted every which way since turning 18), I have in recent months concluded that it’s not politicians that now control this country, but the banks. Banks dictate the economy, and our parents handle everything else. Blaming the state for everything must stop, and social problems must become our problem.

I’ve never taken offence to the criticism levelled at me over the years by callers on countless talk shows, who have accused me one minute of leaning too much to the left, and on other occasions too far to the right. People love to judge and categorise others as typical. Well I’ve got news for you. There is no one size fits all ideology. Hereditary political leanings are history, and it’s time for people to ask questions of the parties their parents voted for, and read between the lines of the policy documents that form the basis of election manifestos. Having left school at sixteen and fended for myself in the employment market as a freelancer ever since, I speak with some authority on why the age old concept of left versus right is fundamentally flawed. It hasn’t actually made any real difference for decades to the jobs market, and maybe it’s about time that we woke up to what’s really happening out there? Remember, successive Governments have spent more on welfare than anything else, yet nothing has really changed.

I stupidly watch hours of live coverage of the House of Commons in session, and despite the hard work and good intentions of the vast majority of MP’s, I must conclude that many lack the eloquence and intellect of the general public at large. I know that Westminster is corrupting, but leaving your brain in the foyer should not be a pre-requisite of taking a seat on the big green bench? Increasingly, the rhetoric of politicians and ministers is straight out of the pages of The Thick of It, and on some occasions I’d rather Chris Langham was at the helm than the blindfolded donkeys, chasing their tails and waving their order papers.

For me, the missing ingredient is instinct. The public have the edge over parliamentarians with their instinctive ability to know if somethings up, is fishy, or on the turn. Whereas the donkeys rely on statistics, which are often collated by heavily biased organizations with Government interests, who often resort to bribery to get the desired results. All parties commission surveys, and whilst their results often form the basis of policy, their accuracy is rarely questioned. Hence why PMQ’s is often a volley of quotes from various polls, spun out to favour the moment, the inaccurate results of which end up on the front pages of tabloid newspapers. Well, I don’t buy it, and it’s damaging our wonderful country.

I often talk to kind hard working people who would say “I know nothing about politics, but…” and then launch into a diatribe of what they think is wrong with the country, often suggesting common sense solutions that, if applied by the authorities, could offer genuine respite to the ills of society. The reason that the ordinary man (species, not gender) has a more focussed grasp of these issues is thanks to the magic of instinct, collated by our subconscious whilst out living our lives.

Instinct is within us all, based upon our life experience, choices and parental teachings. “Don’t put your hand near the fire”, guarantees you won’t get your fingers burned. So, why is instinct not considered more in Parliament?

The unemployment rate is now 7.9%, with youth unemployment running at 20.5%. It appears that our current generation of youth need more help than ever before, but not necessarily by government. My fears lie in the future of unemployable youths, rather than the current trend of youth unemployment. As street fashion, informality and attitude become more prevalent in young people of all social backgrounds grappling for status and identity, it’s corruptive nature denies them real opportunities with employers who value the traditional, the respectable and the appropriate. Britain is increasingly being left behind by European nations for whom failure is not an option.

Every conversation I have surrounding the stagnation of society, the crumbling jobs market, welfare dependency and retirement planning, comes back to the same origins of opportunity. Making the most of what you’ve got, and capitalizing on your strengths. It’s these simple virtues that can only be instilled by our parents, through love and by example.

Getting off on the right foot, having your head together, and being prepared to roll your sleeves up is the basis for success, whether the outcome is running a multi-million pound public company or working in Clinton Cards. I consider both to represent success. Having parents whose work ethic rubs off on you, and passing that same ideology on to your children is far healthier than suggesting they vote for the party that you and your parents voted for, just because it’s a family tradition. The past has not served us well.

Since New Labour reared it’s head, party politics has lost all credibility as the line between left and right has blurred. The Bank of England decide monetary policy, and the banks continue to profit. Whilst the Coalition attempt to shrink the state, and Cameron’s Big Society remains misunderstood, real people are increasingly frustrated by the sense of denial that our country is in about how much effort is required to turn things around. This is a team effort, and everyone must play their part, especially the young.

We could start by scrapping the Office for National Statistics, and replacing it with our Mums, who always seem to have the answer.

The Social Network

For too long I have shunned social networks, affording them the same criticism as pyramid selling, or network marketing as it was once called. A process that played on the weak, requiring them to turn their friends into business partners, only to lose them over an invisible profit line. As somewhat of a traditionalist, I have always been of the opinion that great riches are born only of hard graft, and that real friends are nurtured and trusted with old fashioned methods of communication, i.e. the telephone. It’s no surprise I never joined Facebook.

Having attempted to watch the film The Social Network on a flight recently, (a fuzzy 4 inch screen and oversized headphones are hardly conducive to the cinematic experience) I learned how from a small acorn, Facebook has grown into a social tornado, sucking up everybody and everything in it’s path (500 millions users). For me it’s secret ingredient is the relationship status toggle. The movie highlighted the moment when this feature found it’s place on The Facebook page, and the rest is history. It plays on the basic human emotion of hope. Knowing where one stands, or momentarily entertaining the fantasy of relations with a stranger. It’s an aspirational tease, which some choose to exploit, whatever their present relationship status.

I have gleaned from talking (yes, talking) to addicts of this medium, that it’s hedonism that fundamentally drives the machine. Combine that with a large helping of voyeurism, and you have two killer human instincts fueling the biggest virtual phenomenon the world has ever known. Whereas hedonism and voyeurism are considered socially unacceptable in the real world, online they have license to flourish, and it’s the exploitation of this that I find most fascinating. Still won’t be signing up though.

Now of course, it’s not used in this way by everybody, and that is another reason for it’s survival. Many people use it innocently, sharing photos, thoughts and memories between family members and close friends. But amongst this set, are an increasing number of people who use it as a testing ground for a second life, and it’s precisely this that smacks of sinister. As the network grows, so does the thirst for information, with people constantly drawing mental comparisons between their friend’s lives, and their own.

The process of learning, whether social or academic must take time. Time to locate, digest and memorize the facts. The social network does away with this, and replaces it with a never ending stream of visual stimulants, for short term use only, though archived in vast invisible servers. It’s the reliance on these visuals that in my view, undermines the human condition.

The most terrifying aspect of the social network is it’s ability to lull the user into a false sense of satisfaction by simulating relationships. It is actually the guilty party in the encouragement of isolation. Accessing the thread to someone else’s life, for many, removes the onus to actually visit, call and talk. A thumbs up ‘likes this’ by way of a mouse click is enough to satisfy the criteria of affirmation. Every minute, increasing numbers of people are perusing one dimensional data on lives whose narrative is engineered towards a smokescreen of happiness. Is anyone on this planet having a bad day? No, just me then!

And that is where I draw my conclusion. The social network encourages people’s subconscious to collate experiences that only benefit the medium in a positive light, score them virtual friends, and raise their social status. Holidays, meals, celebrations are increasingly captured through the lens of a camera, and not fully enjoyed by the naked eye. Often, it’s only the good times that get posted, and with memories only being recorded digitally, people are documenting their existence for promotional purposes, and for the benefit of hundreds of ‘friends’ they may have never even met.

Whilst manageable in it’s present form, an increasing number of real relationships are being compromised by this pursuit of virtual happiness. With more of us living our lives by proxy, soon, nobody will be going out at all! I’m all for accentuating the positive, but more and more of us are living alone, shunning the family and working too hard. This lifestyle is only set to snowball if we allow technology to replace personality. Couples are now slaves to their smart phones and laptops, and have begun to lead separate lives, even whilst sharing a bed.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be hugged by a human, than be poked with a mouse.

Welcome to the official blog of Anthony Davis

Welcome to my official blog. (A blend of the word web-log, apparently). 

Here you will find weekly musings on the British way of life. Political, social and civil issues, matters of real life, health and heart. You can reply and respond. Hopefully the themes will make you think, laugh, cry, and contact your local council to request a rebate.

Following in the success of Martin’s Money Saving Tips, my blog will aim to offer advice, tips and tricks on how to negotiate the modern world, without falling victim to consumerism. It’s an online conversation, giving us both an opportunity to vent.

I’ve much to say, and plenty of time with which to say it. So please follow this blog, hold on to the Twitter thing and anything else I can extricate from the internet for free for your entertainment.

Here’s to the rest of our lives….