Sitting on the fence

I’m not good at making decisions. I have to think around every possible connotation – and even then, I’ll know I don’t know everything. My parents taught me not to take things at face value, to see other possibilities. And my science training taught me to question: if someone posits a possible explanation I will dissect it, looking for other possibilities.

In other words, I am scientist and poet, not a politician or a newspaper columnist. I ask questions, analyse answers.

I am a skeptic. It’s not the same as a cynic – though those who are neither confuse the two. I sit firmly on the fence on many things – and, believe me, it’s hard work, all that balancing in the winds of change.

Skeptics are a rare breed. They are, by definition, not pigeonholeable. They argue between themselves – and so they should. They are not a cosy club. Tim Minchin has a song about The Fence. Ben Goldacre and the other Infinite Monkeys also ask us to THINK about the world around us: advertising, political promises, bullshit in general.

When it comes to politics, I’m particularly ambivalent. I have ideals but the question is how to achieve them? If you sit on a fence watching two parties head off in opposite directions you’ll anticipate, knowing the world is round, that they’ll swap over somewhere in Australia and come back on opposite sides. Or, as in Orwell’s fable Animal Farm, “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

Which brings me to this blog by Michael Rosen. New Labour and the Tories: different ideologies? Perhaps. Same damaging effects on our children’s education, though.

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On another note, I would like to say thank you to all the people who commented on FaceBook or messaged me about my blog post About Dying. I’m glad it was positive in some way.

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8 Responses to Sitting on the fence

  1. garylongden says:

    You are on a roll at the moment Myfanwy!
    I share your views here, but would simply add that I make up my mind on things on the basis of the avialbale evidence, which enables me to change which side of the fence i may fall with an untroubled conscience.

  2. Ron says:

    “They are, by definition, not pigeonholeable”, she said as she pigeonholed them as a group called “skeptics”…

  3. Ron says:

    Sorry… forgot the :p

  4. J Oxenholme says:


    From a cynic to a skeptic: I doubt one can be that fair ;)

    I also try to fit into few pigeon-holes – I tend to demolish them, giving their avine occupants cardiac arrests. But that is my view. Others find it convenient to pigeon-hole us, just as we pigeon-hole them. We even resent pigeon-holes, even when objectively they may be fair. I am very happy to be called “British” but loathe being called “English” – even though much of that latter pigeon-hole would be apt. (I ought just add here my ancestry, heart and support lies t’other side of Offa’s Dyke.)

    The renown Irishman, Oscar Wilde, said a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything, yet the value of nothing. Being an economist, I am flattered by that definition.

    Mind you, I think you are a cynic too, Myfanwy, in many ways.(Quote): !the world around us: advertising, political promises, bullshit in general.” In respect of politicians and politics, I trust and believe it in far more than you so, apparently. I think most British MPs are good people, trying to do good public service and achieving that. Likewise with British local politicians. There are many bad eggs but proportionally, there seem to be few. I am not belittling foreign politicians but I know insufficient to make any such judgements.

    There is much to be said for politicians not having any ideologies but being pragmatic politicians. Perhaps long-term guiding ideologies have merit but in the short-to-medium terms I prefer politicians to solve problems, not infuse society with their pet concepts and directions. Save me from Labour’s targets and the Coalition’s academies. I would prefer well-run schools and hospitals, thank you.

    Put another way, if I’m a pig I am buggered when men are in power; if I am a man, I’m buggered when the pigs are in power. Whereas, if the pig-men simply manage the country well, we can all benefit most of the time.

    Pip-Toodle, J.

    • Myfanwy Fox says:

      But I wasn’t rude about MPs, J (for once), just their promises – short term, vote-winning oportunism, all too often.

      Yes, I think most of us would rather lose the time-wasting targets and the faux competition. There are wonderful teachers out there and political interference drives many to despair.

      We need a less point-scoring, longer term approach to things, perhaps.

      Now, how can we arrange that?

  5. J Oxenholme says:

    Hi, M ta for reply.
    err, no, alas.
    Now how do we conduct nuclear fusion in our houses? (would save us from all those ugly solar panels and exploding windmills). Well it might be an easier problem to solve…

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