Can we fix it?

I’m sure I’m not the only person who came down with Barack Obama fatigue last week, although it’s deeply unfashionable to admit such a thing.

Don’t get me wrong. I think he is very impressive and there is something reassuring about knowing there’s an intellectual in charge of the US. Of course, he’s got a loooong way to go before he’s as funny as the last guy. But that’s not such a bad thing, I guess.

During the G20 palaver there was a great deal of attention paid not just to what was said, but to the way in which Obama says things. For me, the fatigue began to take its toll thanks to the seemingly never-ending stream of pundits on Radio 4 talking about him. How is he different, why is he different, etc etc.

One thing’s for sure, I don’t need to hear another reprise of his famous “Yes We Can” speech. My oldest son was the right age to get into Bob The Builder a few years ago. Let me tell you, I’ve heard the phrase “yes we can” so often it just doesn’t do it for me anymore.

Mind you, part of me would like to know what things would be like if the new US administration was left in the hands of a claymation builder with a gang of talking steam rollers, cement mixers, cranes and so on. At least they could have played an active part in rebuilding those bits of the world the Bush administration had broken.

G20, fundamentalism and quizzes in Manchester

Most people would like to make a difference to the world they live in – hopefully for the better.

Take the G20 protestors for example; people who believe passionately that their actions are going to help build a better world.

Past anti-globalisation protestors will have had the same ambition, even if some of them have achieved little more than drumming up business for glazing companies and helping Plod earn a bit of overtime.

I have always thought of myself as “aware” in terms of the environment, global poverty, third world debt, animal welfare and so on. I’ve been fortunate enough on occasion to find myself in a position to put my money where my mouth is, like in 2005 when I turned the company I was running Carbon Neutral. But that wasn’t the end just part of the means, as it were. I’m no saint. I don’t think of myself as a role model.

Some years ago I earned my crust compiling quizzes and puzzles for the Manchester Evening News. During this time I remember meeting an earnest young man who was what we would have referred to back then as a Crusty. He was an in-yer-face animal rights and environmental campaigner. When he found out I was writing for a newspaper he spent a good 20 minutes in full flow telling me what kind of stories I ought to be writing. I let the storm blow itself out and then pointed out I was the quizzes and puzzles guy.

He looked at me blankly before saying that one week I should just hand in a piece saying how big business was ruining the lot of the common man (or something along those lines). I retorted that the readers of the double page spread I was filling were looking forward to the brain-teasers I set them every Saturday, and that if I followed his advice I’d get fired and someone else would file the copy in my place.

Unblinking he said that at least I’d have done the right thing.

What a knob. He confirmed the deep-seated mistrust I had (and still have) for fundamentalists, no matter what their calling.

A couple of years ago one of my neighbours had a bomb placed under his car by anti-vivisectionists. Literally hundreds of primary school kids walk past that house twice a day. It makes me shudder to think of what might have happened.

Going back to the story I was telling, I’m not sure how losing my job at the Manchester Evening News would have helped anyone, except maybe the person that would have replaced me. I feel much the same about the ritual vandalism and intimidation that sometimes accompany single-issue protestors.