DAY 157: The science of prediction.

January 1st, 2016 § 0 comments

Those of my readers who have read my sneery remarks about chaos theory – and, if you’ve read my book, I don’t know how you can have missed them – will know how much value I put on forecasting. (Hint: Not much.) It was therefore with some surprise that I found that my main predictions for 2015 had been fulfilled, namely:

1) The Tories, contrary to expectation, would win the General Election;

2) Jeremy Corbyn would be the convincing winner of the ensuing election for Labour Party leader;

3) On the day that his election was announced, 100,000 people would march through central London demanding an end to borders.

Unfortunately at the time (January 1st or thereabouts) I was unable to find a bookiebookie who was prepared to give me the (certainly astronomical) odds against these predictions being fulfilled. If I had, either I would have been a millionaire or the bookie would have been ruined, or both. Some reference to the ‘butterfly effect’ which was probably responsible for all these events may be called for; I think the best candidate for butterfly is Ros Erera, referred to much earlier, who at the beginning of September wondered why no one was organizing a march about refugees and decided to do it.

These thoughts were prompted predictably (get it?) by the approach of the New Year when we all make a stab at guessing what lies ahead. But then, prediction is notoriously a mug’s game. James Lovelock, who has a track record in it, is saying that in 20 years time, ‘nothing can prevent large parts of the planet becoming too hot to inhabit, or sinking underwater, resulting in mass migration, famine and epidemics’. It doesn’t bother me much, as I have slim chances of still being around. But I suppose I should worry for my children, and indeed my young friends,

hollymany of whom astonishingly write down their age as ’21′ on the coach from Dover to Calais. I hope they will still be around, ripping their jeans and downing their vino, when the planet is too hot  and Britain is sinking underwater.

A week or so ago, I ventured what wasn’t quite a prediction; but an observation that the world had bloody well better deal with two of its problems this year: 1) The Syria war; 2) The ongoing European refugee crisis. I added that – whatever my views might be – nothing that I, ageing  unskilled Londoner, could do would make a gnat’s-breath of difference to the Syrian situation, so I would leave it to the Syrian people and their various friends, oppressors, and enemies to sort out. I can only hope for the best.

On the other hand, the refugees – as readers of these pages will have constantly dinned into them – are another matter. Back from another visit to the Calais complex, I was confronted by a report from the brave and talented Isabella Tomico Ellis in Chios:

Yesterday at 21:15 ·

When you see the great expanse of the Aegean sea from a plane you can only be grateful to be above it, yet with pain you know that many refugees have struggled to reach safety through its treachery. As you begin to see the shore, a mass of orange jackets are strewn everywhere – the headlines appear before your eyes, the horrifying reality of the dark and unacceptable situation of hundreds of thousands of people’s lives. Some make it and some do not, it’s a tragedy of unspeakable proportions.

The Greek Islands are being pounded by snow, high winds and heavy rain – crossing from Turkey is a near impossible task right now, those that do make it are going to be freezing. Four boats from Turkey are missing from last night. 1463438_10153367693328481_128498733729305281_nThat’s near the same number of people that were onboard the Malaysian airlines flight that gripped the news for months – this won’t even manage a days coverage. These lives are just as valuable, they are men, women and children desperate for a chance of a life, with the basic rights and safeties we enjoy.

Even patrolling the shore, hearing the news, its hard to process the thought of four missing boats so it’s unsurprising that people far removed from the situation cannot. But we must, we have to accept the cold reality of what is going on just metres from European shores and we have to act.

Volunteers are here wrapped in all the clothing they have and we are dry and safe, these poor people will be hungry, tired and wet – none of us can imagine. As you go safely into the new year please keep the people fighting for life in your minds and act. They have just as much right as us to be safe, to be warm and happy.


An increasing number of volunteers are going to Chios; and Calais as I have been finding, contains a whole city

Screen shot 2016-01-01 at 20.15.29Warehouse of L’Auberge des Migrants

of volunteers who live a kind of counter-culture to the rules, the norms, the police which define refugees’ lives. (It must be said that L’Auberge des Migrants, which ensures the smooth running of all this effort, this distribution of goods to the needy, is run in a sort of anarchically structured way which is only partly counter-cultural. Don’t be fooled by the fact that everyone kisses you and says that you’re a star – the Cultural Revolution is lurking under the surface.) To a feeble-minded old idealist like myself, both the society of the volunteers and that of the refugees form a kind if utopian vision of a future society – ‘a city built on hope’ said one volunteer. And the refugees themselves, let’s not forget it, will in the end form part of the solution. However the rulers of Europe dislike it, they are not going to go away. As we are constantly saying, it’s better to bring them in with welcome than to hold out against the inevitable.

[A salutary reality test of this kind of idealistic talk is provided by Theo Cokey's gritty blog posting on life in the jungle - whose realities he knows from the inside. To be with the refugees, to stand with them, it helps to know them.]


This, by Olivier Vanderaa, was shared by Virginie Tiberghien,
Screen shot 2016-01-01 at 21.08.31

devoted teacher of the ‘Ecole Laique du Chemin des Dunes’ in he camp:

nous sommes les chats migrants
pas besoin de papiers
nous ne connaissons pas les frontières
nos moustaches nous guident en terre de sagesse
nous n’avons que faire de ceux qui nous rejettent,
ceux qui nous appellent impurs,
qui nous prennent pour des bêtes.

nos antennes cosmiques vous enseignent:
contre la guerre, le mélange,
le plein sur une terre franche!
vos limites humaines vous empêchent de voyager
vous êtes tout au plus des exfiltrés inconscients
en cas de tempête, de guerre
vous êtes tout étonnés d’être jetés sur les routes
des années après, vous êtes incapables de vous en souvenir
nous avons fait le grand voyage
nous savons
nous sommes égaux face à la migration
quand vous cherchez à nous diviser pour nous contingenter,
nos larmes, lorsqu’elles coulent,
vous collent à vos contradictions
& nous purifient la vision.
nous sommes matous à tout crin
chaque recoin de monde est pour nous
les frontières ne sont
que des accidents naturels
depuis la nuit des temps
cette nuit dans laquelle vous errez encore
dans vos clivages religieux
soumis à la pompe à fric
esclaves du pétrole lampant
énergie d’un autre temps
esclaves de préceptes torves, glaciaux & rampants
du trop d’argent
vous êtes seuls ensemble
Nous, nous sommes simplement solidaires
& fondus dans l’univers

© Olivier Vanderaa 2015
Calais dans la Jungle


For my Afghan readers, I’ve found a song which claims to be both in Pashto and in Farsi. I have no way of checking this, or whether I agree with the politics – supposing it has any – but here it is anyway.

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