Monday, 18 February 2008

False dawns

Moments of political euphoria occur once or twice in each generation, sweeping whole populations into a collective orgasm of relieved jubilation. However, all those which have occurred in my lifetime have been more or less rapidly followed by relapse into ‘business as usual’ or something even worse.

The earliest such spasm I can remember was ‘Munich’ in 1938, when prim Mr Chamberlain in his wing collar returned from his confabulations with Hitler bearing not only his customary rolled umbrella, but also a piece of paper which he waved triumphantly saying that it heralded “Peace in our time”. Few believed him, but nonetheless the sense of reprieve which swept the nation momentarily obscured the dark clouds looming ahead.

At the finish of the Second World War, the capitulation of Japan brought an end to almost six years of global conflict, and for a brief while the world breathed more freely. The sombre fact that this victory had ushered in the brooding menace of nuclear war, which was to overhang the international landscape for most of the next half-century, escaped most of us at the time.

In the 1960s, the successes of the Civil Rights movement in the United States, and the excitements of student activism in Europe, which almost succeeded in toppling the wearisome authoritarianism of General de Gaulle, enthused many who looked forward to a younger generation at the helm and a more open society. But the mood of optimism didn’t last long.

A European euphoric moment in the mid-1970s was the death of General Franco, which was rightly seen as heralding the return of Spain to democracy. This has been one of the few more lasting success stories of 20th century politics.

For some, though not all, the election of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in 1979 brought a sense of liberation from stale old Labour trade union-dominated politics. But the not-yet-Iron Lady’s pledge on the steps of No. 10 that she would end strife and heal wounds soon proved to be hollow, and she morphed into the most controversial and, by some, bitterly hated, figure in recent British politics.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was jubilantly hailed as a seminal moment throughout the world, and rightly seen as a harbinger of the end of the arthritic post-Stalinist Soviet Union. This, however, was not followed by a smooth transition to democracy, either in Russia itself or in its associated republics and former satellites. Despite the perhaps too-eager embrace of the European Union, Eastern Europe remains an uneasy bedfellow of the West.

The election in 1989 of Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ government sparked off what was probably the hollowest, because the most groundlessly optimistic, of political euphorias. The nation was ripe for change and the prospect of a new, more open and honest style of politics was welcomed, even by many who were not habitual Labour supporters. In the event, what we got was an even more manipulative, spin-ridden form of government from a ‘God-guided’ control freak who dragged a largely reluctant country into the Iraq war in the wake of a much-disliked US Administration like a tin can tied to a poodle’s tail.

Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 sparked off global shockwaves of rejoicing, and his subsequent election as President of South Africa justified the hopes of all those who had toiled selflessly over many years to end the iniquitous system of apartheid. The new South Africa, however, cannot yet be said to have fulfilled its inhabitants’ aspirations for a prosperous modern society.

In the 21st century so far, there has been little to be euphoric about. The World scene has been persistently gloomy and menacing, and threatens to become even more so. Almost the only euphoric moment was a phoney one: the spectacle of a posturing George W. Bush on the deck of an American aircraft carrier proclaiming ‘victory’ in an Iraq war which has become steadily more bloody and seemingly unwinnable ever since.

With rare exceptions, political euphorias seem to be a dubious blessing and, like magic mushrooms, best avoided.


Emmett said...

Ah, me, here in the land of the round doorknobs "the people," God damn their wormy little pop-cultural souls, are in fact getting all fixed up for another one of these here false dawns for sure, if and when Mr Senator Obama and/or Ms Palid Hillary R Clinton can just get their selves wiggled back into the White House just like so many maggots in an abcess. Whereas the only thing different then about it will be that Them Two Midget Personalities, The Crawford Jackass & That God-Damned Wyoming Screwfly Dirty Bastard will both be out on their baggy old asses...and, the Democrat Party will back in the saddle for yet another agonizing round of THEIR God-damned robberies and hypercredentialist stealing, by the God-damned "helping professionals." "An under-achieving lot of God-damned overpaid sonsofbitches and common parasites!" as my 88-year-old farm neighbor, Mr Juddy Andersen puts it.

[Aunty, you of course may remove this load if you wish; I shan't blame you, as there /can/ be no doubt about, I am sure; that these american neighbours of mine are, to say the least, rather shrill, indeed -- BW]

anticant said...

It's not really my business, as thankfully I'm not an American, but from what one reads and hears the Democrats are even worse than the Republicans, because they at least make the right noises but then do nothing effectively different.

Anonymous said...

Snouts in the same slush funds?

Jose said...

I've just heard the BBC saying that there are studies in South Africa for lands to change hands from Whites to Blacks. Does this mean problems are going to appear again in the SA's panorama?

Excellent post,Anticant.

zola a social thing said...

This sounds like Karl Marx to me.

Emmett said...

AN Authentic curiosity, in western history certainly, is the fragility of tenancy; all of our historical endeavours were, for centuries & especially in the anglo-germanic common law, to entail freehold & tenure: whereas, to-day, your ordinary /apres-moderne/, especially if he a credentialled Trained State Liberalist, /is/ a rootless vagabond; and, precisely, on all fours with "his" clients dwelling under fly-overs. This precariousness of dwelling is the ancyent curse of the white man; and, now, in the far land of the Hottentots, 'tis said this foul jinx bids fair yet again: to rise up once more, to strike this honkey down, in all his ancestral learnt pretensions of 'possession'.