Well for some reason, that my rather drowsy brain does not fully understand, my body decided that six o’clock was a good time to start the day on this bright and sunny Vienna morning. This never ending conflict between mental and physical processes was as ever resolved by the bubble and fizzing of the coffee machine. So settling down with my favourite Austrian coffee, Meinl’s ‘Jubilaum’, has given me the unexpected opportunity to catch up on the news, FB and Twitter, before I join other fans of Austria Wien on the train to Salzburg.
I’ve been following the posting on Vote Clegg, Get Clegg FB site about a rather nasty racist and the subject of freedom of speech. Personally, I have and will defend the freedom of speech of right or left wing loonies, religious fundamentalists or any other bunch of nutters in society, even if I detested their views. However, in this particular case (based upon the limited information I have) the concerns of those expressing worried about his freedom of speech seem to me misplaced. This individual was in the first instance using verbal aggression and physical presence to deny freedom of speech to the family he was abusing. Secondly, having some racist thug verbally abusing you and your children can (in particular situations) be as bad as actual assault. Many years ago, on separate occasions, I experience both violent abuse and physical assault from such thugs. I can’t say that I found either experience any less traumatic than the other and oddly both were as stress inducing.
Recently I added the word liberal to my TweetDeck search. An interesting by-product of my tracking of liberal tweets has been the reminder that in different parts of the world and for different groups of people the word indicates a position from far left to right wing, as well as a term indicating progressive or used as simple abuse. In the UK at present it has definitely become a term of abuse for some students who rightly complain about the broken pledge on Tuition Fees by the LD’s, but forget that Labour introduced them in the first place and would themselves had increased the fees had they stayed in power. The entry into a coalition with the Conservatives, by what the Daily Telegraph refers to as the most left wing of the main parties, has once again opened up the debate about where on the political spectrum the British Liberal Democrats sit.
At the Liberal Democrats spring conference Nick Clegg spoke about not being left or right but being Liberal. As a sound bite I rather liked it, along with his line ‘…we are a party of fairness, freedom, progress and reform’. Wasn’t so sure about his comments regarding the Party being the radical centre, when I googled this I found lots of references to Tony Blair’s third way (which is not what I think Nick was talking about or wanting to be associated with) and to a website/manifesto for ‘Centriods’ on the http://radicalcentrism.org/ website (again not quite what I think Nick was getting at). I’ll watch with interest Nick’s future statements but for now I’ll stick with the slightly clumsy Radical Liberal lefty/green for a description of myself.
With all the events unfolding in Japan I have found myself in some interesting discussions with H. My liberal parenting skills have been put to the test as I seek to provide my eight year old with a balanced, factual, and understandable explanation of nuclear disasters, nuclear power, climate change, tsunamis and earthquakes. The stimulus for this had been a discussion at school and I was rather impressed with the time and interest she put into researching and understanding the issues.
H has inherited my interest in history and is currently working her way through the BBC’s Horrible Histories series of books. At the moment we are reading the ‘Terrible Tudors’ which along with the Romans is one of H’s favourite periods and makes for interesting discussions. We have, however, just finished the books in the series relating to the First and Second World Wars which also had the additional dimension of addressing more sensitive periods in H’s Anglo-Austrian cultural heritage.
With natural disasters, wars and uprising changing the world and being brought instantly into our homes through 24hr news and the internet, day to day life can sometime feel a little surreal. Whilst people fight over race, religion and history (amongst many other ‘causes’), my daughter spends her days talking and playing happily in German and English with friends from a whole range of cultural backgrounds and faiths. She spends part of her evening on the internet talking with her old class mates back in England and living in a world where geographical boundaries have little meaning. I wonder what people in a hundred years will make of some of our issues and priorities today?
Some Austrian friends of mine sometimes complain that living in Austria feels like living on an island (or on top of a mountain), a backwater cut off from much of the excitement of the rest of the world. Selfish at it almost certainly is, given the horrors facing others, I have to admit that in the last few weeks I have appreciated the ‘quietness’ of this backwater and am particularly grateful for the mundane which can be everyday life.
So now I will head off to the railway station and join other Austria Wien fans for the trip to Salzburg. We are currently top of the table and a win today will strengthen our chances of taking the league title in the clubs 100th year. It will also cheer me up after Leicester City lost their game yesterday in the English Championship. Small things and big issues make our live what they are….