Jamie's Notes

Currently browsing the year of 2016 ⤵

Narratives on Power

It is unusual in British politics for both government and opposition to melt down at the same time. Usually one or the other has the capacity or initiative to kick the other in the teeth when opportunity presents. But Brexit changed everything. The Prime Minister resigned on the morning following the referendum, firing the starting gun on the race for the leadership of the conservative party. The official opposition is in complete disarray: a motion of no confidence has failed to rid them of their bumbling but popular leader, as has the mass resignation of almost the entire shadow cabinet. The man who shied away from power for so long now clings to it for dear life – to the incredulity of his peers, the ridicule of the media and the bewilderment of everyone else. Boris Johnson, the presumptive heir to Cameron, has been brutally stabbed in the back by his colleague Michael Gove – who implausibly launched his own campaign for the leadership. Now both of their reputations lie in tatters and many wonder whether there was any point to the referendum at all.

I cannot think of a period in any time of my life when so much has happened at such an unrelenting pace. The political narrative is driven by the conflict between those that wield power and those that desire it and since Brexit the narrative is being written faster than anyone can fathom. Who can predict what the last page will say? We’ve shaken the kaleidoscope, the pieces are now in flux.

Review: Deep Work, by Cal Newport

Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World is Cal Newport’s fifth published book. Cal is thirty three years old, a father of two young children, an assistant professor at Georgetown University and author of multiple academic journals. It’s fair to say that Cal Newport is a very productive person. He attributes this to a single key skill: the ability to sustain long periods of ininterrupted high focus. He calls this ‘Deep Work’.

Cal argues that modern life has created a population who are suckers for distraction. Our concentration is under constant attack from the lure or the twenty four hour news cycle and the never-ending stream of notifications from social portals such as Facebook and Twitter. This fragmentation of our attention and concentration, he argues, leads to a failure to reach our potential at work and home because we are unable to achieve ‘depth’ in our approach to difficult problems. I find Cal a little over zealous in his approach but there is no denying that there is much to learn from this book, especially for people like me who struggle to maintain productivity for extended periods of time in an environment which is prone to interruptions from various sources.

Those that read Cal’s Study Hacks blog won’t find massive amount of new information in this book, but for those that don’t it is a good primer of his philosophy towards meaningful work in a distracted world. The book is aimed at knowledge workers. I’m not sure who this group of people are, but there are plenty of strategies that I can, should and will apply to my own work. Worth a read. I award it four stars.

Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World is available from Amazon for £7.99 on Kindle.

Stronger In 🇪🇺

My country will soon make a monumentus decision. I’m normally for referendums, in theory What purer instrument of democracy can citizens wield? But I don’t like this one. Not one bit. Not because because we shouldn’t ask the question – but because it wasn’t asked for the right reasons. It was offered as a concession to the right of the Conservative Party during an election that they never expected to win. It was a risky play that was lost. It is a sign of how dysfunctional our democracy is.

The ‘debate’ has been a farce. The Remain campaign is fragmented and lacks a strong voice. The leaders of Labour and the Conservatives share the same objective but will not share a stage and they bicker and snipe instead of standing united, still focused on political point scoring. Meanwhile the Leave campaign is headed my a man whose interests lie solely in the job he hopes to gain should he win. It’s a joke. One that would be funny if it wasn’t so fucking serious.

My city is one of the most euro-skeptic in the country. We have massive unemployment, failing schools, poor infrastructure and a high immigrant population. Every year we are beaten into submission by central government which reduces the funding available to us. The population is pissed off and they blame the council, the government, mass-immigration, and Europe. There is no no evidence to support the latter two stances. The actual reasons for our dismal local economy are complex, but Europe has brought our city numerous benefits. The European Regional Development Fund has poured hundreds of millions of pounds into projects in the Humber; regenerating deprived areas of the city, improving our creaking flood defenses and creating new employment opportunities. For years the population was in decline but the trend has now reversed and our population grows again; buoyed by immigrants who have made Hull their home. They have turned shops which stood derelict into thriving independent stores to serve the community. They pay business rates and tax. They employ local people. They’ve stopped us going under.

I struggle to understand the pleas of the nationalist and their claims that we need to ‘take our country back’ and regain our ‘sovereignty’. I’m tired of hearing about immigration. People should be free to move and work wherever they damn well please. This place that I live is just a big chunk of land, surrounded by more land, surrounded by sea, on a ball of rock floating in space. I’m not ignorant of the arguments, and I understand why people are dissatisfied. We live in an unfair world. People suffer. Leaving the EU won’t change that. It won’t stop immigration and it won’t stop terrorism. It won’t magically revive our economy and create millions of jobs. It just won’t. Together we are stronger.

It is almost unimaginable now to consider that there might be major war across Europe, but The EU was born out of the ashes of a series of conflicts which devastated the continent and lead to the loss of millions of lives. Europe’s strength is in the incredible changes that can be made when people work together towards a common goal. Britain leaving would be a selfish mistake of catastrophic proportions that would weaken the fabric of the EU irreversibly and leave the United Kingdom materially and socially poorer. We’re stronger IN.