It’s fun to play fantasy politics. After all, this is 2016, the year when anything can happen, and mostly did.
Sadly, they weren’t my political fantasies that came to pass. They were the fantasies of some weird guys who somehow managed to persuade a lot of people they have the answers, when in reality they don’t even know what the questions are.
So let’s name the weird guys. Number 1 – Crocodile Vlad Putin. Vlad The Lad can wrestle Siberian tigers, judo throw brown bears, throttle sharks, and every time he dives into the Black Sea, he pulls out a priceless antiquity. So how does he do that? Photoshop, mainly, but it works. Enough Russians love him to overlook the down side. You know, the kleptocracy, the imprisoning and killing of opponents, the total dependence of the economy on oil and gas. And in any event, Vlad’s now gone and pulled off the big one.
He’s Made Russia Great Again. It’s easy when you know how. Provide an enemy, a powerful display of military might, and some friends in the East. The enemy may be a ward full of premature babies in Aleppo, the military might supplied by drones and bombs, and the friends in the East a Baathist dictator and an ayatollah, but that’s all you need for a multi-polar world in which Russia bestrides the world, a Great Power once more.
It helps when you have sharp brains aplenty to devote to the new power of the net. Did Russia buy the US Presidential election for Trump? Who knows? (Probably the CIA, but Trump doesn’t need briefing from them, because he’s a “smart guy”.) Did Russia buy Brexit for Nigel Farage? The question is irrelevant. There will never be a Zinoviev Email on the front page of the Daily Mail.
As for Trump, and the lesser buffoons of the Brexit panto, the Alt:Rightists, and all the assorted types who will have fruitcake, and eat it, they just owned 2016, didn’t they? And we let them.
Why? Why did we let this happen? For this is an epic failure. A failure for democracies, and a failure for the global institutions for peace, and conflict management and resolution.
Of course, as soon as I try to answer my own questions, I realise how mistaken those questions are. ‘We’ didnt ‘let’ these things happen. There is no ‘we’, in the sense of an organised bloc of democrats and internationalists. And even if there was, what agency would we have in the context of a rapidly changing world on which we have no real anchor?
Moreover, ‘we’ are equally implicated. What are the paragraphs above, if not a form of voluntary participation in the real problem of the age – collective psychosis.
We’re all paranoid. We think there are monsters, demons, everywhere. Millions of Muslims with bombs, or with babies, it hardly matters, they are on their way, they are in our midst. Reds are under our beds, and Blackshirts are marching down our streets. Roma are sleeping in our streets. The 1% has stolen our pensions. China has taken all the jobs. There are trolls lurking, so we must check out every profile. Is the posting of action hero pics evidence of fakery? Who’s that girl? Doesn’t look real.
I know I have this problem. The old sense, the thing I grew up with, and took for granted; a feeling that basically the system worked, that you could rely on things, that you could focus on your own life, and then maybe spare a thought for others, but all within a framework of security. That’s gone. It’s gone for me in my warm home. It’s gone for the kid who sleeps outside Sainsbury’s a ten minute walk from here. It’s gone for the steel worker in Port Talbot, and the Nissan assembly line worker in Sunderland. It’s gone for the old lady in a terrace in Wigan, or a shack in Appalachia, and for the meat packer in Skegness or Chicago. Dare I say it, the sense of security has even gone for the superrich in their exclusive enclaves. Why else have bolt-hole homes around the world, unless you fear that one day you might need to flee from your enemies?
We all react differently to this paranoia, of course. Whilst it remains largely inchoate it is dangerous, because, as we have seen, the cynical and powerful can exploit the fear for their own ends.
Will 2017 be the year we finally start to get some honest political prescriptions – and leaders – capable of facing our fears, and offering us constructive ways ahead?
Because we surely need therapy?