Thursday, November 10, 2016

In the absence of Bobby Ewing...

... What a few days. We're undoubtedly entering a dark time - the election of Trump is likely to be a tipping point, not the bottom of the pit we find ourselves in. But to counter it and perhaps begin the long journey towards a more progressive, equitable society, we need to face up to some harsh facts. First, we cannot do this without trying at least to bring everyone along. It's perfectly legitimate to look beyond the racism, mysogny, homophobia and general hatred out there to see at the centre of many people's lives are common feelings we all share: fear, despair, a sense of being left behind. The establishment - and like it or not, but Hillary Clinton was a major cheerleader for it - is now losing its grip, and while other establishment figures (Trump in the US, Brexiteers on this side of the Atlantic) have tried to cash in, they don't really understand who they represent. Over the next few years we'll get to see first hand what happens when these figures struggle to make good on the vague, grandiose promises they made in order to get their way.

They won't go away easily. They'll revert to type: pointing the figure at whichever convenient scapegoats dare to wander into their sights. They did this to get elected or win the vote in the first place, and they'll continue to mine those rich seams of "the other" in order to distract people from the fact they're the ones who can't deliver what they promised.

So how do we counter this? First, and let me be crystal clear on this, it doesn't mean accepting bigotry, in whatever form it shows itself. This means standing up for our friends and neighbours and - if necessary - shouting down the racists, homophobes, nationalists and mysognists. It also means trying to focus people's minds on the people in power - consistently reminding them that the Brexiteers, Trump and whoever else (Tory government, Republican legislatures) have all the tools they need to deliver on those promises, and calling them out when they try to deflect attention. This is clearly not a simple task, as people are easily distracted by the most attractive (and usually easiest) targets. But it must be done. People's focus must be trained on those in power - the ones making the decisions. Power comes with responsibility, and part of that responsibility is owning the power - if your decisions don't work out, look to yourselves instead of trying to blame everyone else (such as "metropolitan elites", eh Jacob Rees Mogg? You're the privileged one, don't try to shift the focus elsewhere.)

Second, it means acknowledging the current system is broken - and that it needs change. The trickle-down economics of the last generation have taken money away from the poorest and given it to the richest - that has to stop. Each alternative system will have its proponents, but it would be nice if - for once - we could find the best blends of all systems to come up with something that works for all. Somewhere between Thatcherism and socialism lies a system that could work for all - but it means sacrifice from all of us. Something that forces us to think ethically - do you really need a new sodding phone every single year? And if so, what's wrong with upgrading rather than buying a completely new model? And if you have to buy one, could you at least make sure the old one is properly recycled for your next phone instead of having its valuable minerals extracted before exporting the problem to a third-world country? The system should demand as much from its people as it gives in return - it should instil in people a sense of responsibility for themselves and what's around them, from their neighbours and employees to the planet.

And then maybe,  just maybe, we can start to fix our problems, and embark on a new voyage of discovery. Do you want to know what man is capable of? Look at the moon - we went there 40 years ago using computers less powerful than todays' calculators. That's what we're capable of - but it doesn't happen without hard work and sacrifice. And that's something that should apply to all of us.

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