Saturday, 17 December 2011

As Private Fraser would say: We're all doomed!

Today my blog celebrates its fourth anniversary. When I started it on December 17, 2007, I had very little idea what a blog was and, cliched though it sounds, the world was a very different place.

My motivation was to give people, particularly unpublished writers, an insight into what it felt like during the countdown to my first book, in all its excitement, exhilaration and downright terror. It pledged to be a warts and all account, but, of course, it hasn't been entirely transparent; there are some inner fears and conflicts you have to keep to yourself for your own sanity. Yet looking back over 166 posts and four years, it pretty much sums up my life as it has been lived.

The highs have been the books and their launches, the support of my family, the reacquaintance with old friends and the making of new ones: finding a courage and confidence I didn't know I had to walk away from a perfectly good job into an uncertain, but always exciting future. There are more books on the way and the ideas keep coming. The lows? The usual mundane stuff about surviving until the next pay cheque comes through. An occasional feeling of aloneness that is more imagined than real.

They have been four momentous years, but the next four promise to be more momentous still, and for all the wrong reasons. When I look at the world today compared to that day in 2007, the future is filled with threats. Unemployment as I write is the highest for 17 years, particularly among the young, and it will continue to rise, possibly even to Great Depression levels. The lost generation will not just be a convenient political soundbite, but a reality. 

Polarisation between left and right, rich and poor, and north and south has never been greater in my lifetime. Take a look at political forums or the comments on national newspaper stories and the language is ever more extremist. If you listen carefully, even at the highest levels, you can hear the sound of sabres rattling. A week ago, a Conservative MP talked about France using EU laws as "an Exocet aimed at the heart of the City", a deliberate and inflammatory harking back to the Falklands War. Yesterday, I heard a steely-eyed government minister describe with relish how Typhoons and helicopter gunships will be deployed above London during the Olympic Games at the same time as thirteen and a half thousand British soldiers are helping 'secure' the event. Why not go the whole hog and put a Challenger tank on every street corner? It will certainly come in handy when the inevitable riots start as the dispossessed see the fruits of their sacrifice go up in smoke in a multi-million pound fireworks display.

On the one hand we have an immature, elitist cabal who think it's a good idea to target chemotherapy patients for benefit cuts, on the other a leaderless, demoralised sham of an Opposition whose toothlessness opens the way for the champagne socialists controlling the unions to start throwing their weight around. The only good thing about our political system is that one way or the other the Opposition has the ability to expose and occasionally curb the worst lunacies of the lot in power. If there is no opposition where does that leave us? In Scotland, Labour is about to elect a leader who will guarantee Alex Salmond's place as First Minister for as long as he chooses. At the same time, support for independence grows, not because there's a huge appetite to break up the UK, but because the alien, fundamentally selfish, political philosophy currently in vogue in the south is anathema to most Scots. The irony is that we've never needed unity and mutual economic support more.

Time to stop when a blog turns into a rant, but I, like, I suspect, most of the disempowered Centre, am angry and fearful. I make one last prediction. The thing that brings it to a head will be the lack of understanding or genuine care amongst the current incumbents of Downing Street. Understanding of the real terror when you don't know where the next mortgage payment is coming from and your home is drowning in negative equity. Understanding of what it's like to graduate with a good degree and a one in ten thousand chance of getting to use it. Understanding that, when the world is falling apart, people don't need lectures or more pain, they need hope.

Oh, yes, and a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers.


Martin Kielty said...

Interesting take on the independence argument, Doug… I think there IS a lot of "it's the only thing we haven't tried." But bear in mind Scotland was always closer to Europe than England, even up until the 1700s; so we were never "alone". But also, there was a boundary of thought and attitude, which still prevails today, and it existed for centuries before the Anglo-Scots border was pegged out in the 1200s. The theoretical partnership of equals which the Union claims to be ages almost exactly with the era of modern capitalism. I'd like to think that in a century's time capitalism will be viewed as a failed concept created out of an imbecilic understanding of economic forces (because it left out human concerns)… and the union will be viewed in the same negative past-tense light. But that's just me… Ch;M.

Tony Riches said...

On the whole I'm forced to agree with you Doug, although I come from the other end of the 'disempowered centre'. I don't think any part of the political classes (let's face it, hardly any of them have have ever done anything else) have a scooby as to what the country's going through, having conspired to ram it firmly down the plughole over the last fifteen years. And let's face it, politicians don't make the weather, they just get damp when it rains - while we get soaking wet. I won't believe a word a politician of any party says until they do the right thing and let their index linked pensions go the same way my private scheme has...

There's a massive change coming in politics, I suspect, driven by the fact that if we think this is tough, then we're about to find out the real meaning of the word.

Oh, and Martin, as a bloke that lives in England and has spent a couple of years working five days a week in Scotland, a place of which I am more than fond, I think you'll find, whether it's sensible or not, that the average Englishman feels exactly the same.

Doug said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug said...

The theory of Independence is fine, Martin, Scotland was a sovereign state and could be again. I worry though, about the people who are taking us in that direction. Salmond is a fine politician, the best home-based one we have, but I don't trust him to deliver on his promises. John Swinney comes out with these wonderful stats, but none of them stack up. 'Independent Scotland would be the sixth wealthiest country in the world' Does anybody in their right mind really believe that? Becoming Independent would be a difficult, dangerous and irrevocable proposition, don't try to bullshit the Scottish people about it. It doesn't matter if you wander into a minefield with rose-tinted glasses on, it's still a minefield.

I also look at the historical perspective with a bit less optimism. Of the last seven kings and queens of Scotland only one of them (two if you count James V, but he was knackered by defeat at Solway Moss) died peacefully in his bed, and he was king of England by then. Scotland was riven by internal tribal, regional and feudal divisions that weakened us so much that we were easy meat for the English apart from at Bannockburn.

Have to agree that radical change is on the way, Tony, and it promises to be bloody painful.