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
In the 1960s, the successes of the Civil Rights movement in the
A European euphoric moment in the mid-1970s was the death of General Franco, which was rightly seen as heralding the return of
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
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
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.