Saturday, 12 May 2007

Cheer up - or else!

The Government – which increasingly seems to live in an entirely different world to the rest of us – is making disapproving clucking noises about the amount of depression prevalent in the population, which they doubtless consider entirely unjustified in view of all the blessings of cackhanded administration they shower upon us. Schemes are afoot to provide thousands of hastily-trained therapists [all of twelve weeks!] to remedy this situation; and not content with that, we are now being regaled with proposals to incorporate ‘lessons in happiness’ into schools!

Just how miserable and worried people can be coaxed, commanded or dragooned into being jolly and carefree on the say-so of government ministers and bureaucrats escapes me. If many people are becoming increasingly depressed these days it is just possibly because there is plenty to be worried about. And not only worried, but frightened. In fact, I cannot remember a time since the 1930s of my childhood when people were so preoccupied and dismayed about the world situation and its possible knock-on effects. Even during the Cold War, with its recurring crisis points such as Suez–Hungary and Cuban missiles, feelings that impending doom is a likely possibility were not nearly as widespread as they are today.

Yet our Walter Mitty [“I did it My Way”] retiring-at-a-snailspace Prime Minister – one of the most self-deluded characters ever to have occupied 10 Downing Street – tells us that Britain is “a country comfortable in the 21st Century, at home in its own skin, able not just to be proud of its past but also confident of its future”. If he believes that, he would believe anything. The trouble is that he does believe whatever he chooses, against all the evidence. This, presumably, is a quality of mind bestowed upon him by the ‘gift’ of Faith.

Blair’s policy of ‘liberal interventionism’ smacks of hubris even more than the wild-eyed religiosity of William Gladstone. Practically everyone – even those who still won’t admit it – knows that his cosying up to the wacky Bush-wacking Administration’s Iraq adventure was a near-disastrous mistake whose consequences will be far more lastingly adverse to Britain’s best interests than the mere withdrawal of our troops will provide an adequate remedy for. Our former prestige in the Middle East, and especially in the Arab world, has been irretrievably lost, and not surprisingly we are now regarded with bitter hatred not merely by Islamic extremists, but by multitudes of hitherto amenable Muslims who, rightly or wrongly, see what is going on in the region as a Christian-Zionist crusade and conspiracy against Islam. When Blair warns us that the war against ‘terrorism’ will go on for decades, what he really means is that we have lost the trust and genuine friendship of the vast majority of hitherto peaceable Muslims. It is a sombre scenario – especially with millions of them now living amongst us in Britain and in Europe.

Before the attack on New York and Washington in September 2001, few non-Muslim British people gave more than a passing thought to Islam. We regarded any tensions with our immigrant and native-born Muslim population as being hangovers from outdated racist and cultural prejudices which would soon be smoothly dissolved in the warm all-inclusive multiculturalist broth which we were assured was the 21st century destination of British society. For many reasons this has proved to be delusive, and the task of peacefully accommodating differing world-views where on some issues compromise does not seem to be on the agenda is likely to prove long and complicated.

As a consequence of what many of us regard as the government’s misguided - and sometimes deliberately misleading - approach to these and many other matters, there has been a sharp erosion of trust: between citizens and government, between different sections of the community, and often between individuals. The air is filled with harsh and strident voices talking past each other and shouting one another down. This itself is dismaying. I cannot remember a time when public discourse and argument was more irritable, and often downright bad-tempered, than it is today. This alone gives the lie to Blair’s fantasy of a ‘comfortable’ country.

The fact is, people no longer feel as secure, in their own lives and homes, as they used to. The government does not help by continually issuing fleshcreeping warnings about the high risks of terrorist attacks – or by its unprecedented onslaught upon our traditional and hitherto much cherished civil liberties [“yesterday’s concept”, as the Prime Minister airily dismissed them]. Ostensibly to ‘protect’ us against terrorism, the Blair government has ushered in a snooper’s society in which we are continually watched by umpteen CCTV cameras, are apparently soon to be assailed by the amplified voices of invisible watchers ticking us off if we drop litter in the street, and in the not far distant future are likely to be compulsorily fitted with ‘smart chips’ so that our whereabouts and doings will be ceaselessly monitored.

I for one find this prospect not only highly alarming but deeply depressing. I don’t want or need to talk to a quarter-trained ‘therapist’ about my perfectly realistic fears and indignation: I want a political sea-change which will bring about a U-turn in these imbecile antics of our ‘rulers’.

Any hope from Gloomy Gordon? Don’t make me laugh. But cheer up – you’d better, or they’ll slap an ASBO on you.


trousers said...

Thanks for that anticant. There are times when I think its just me who feels depressed and dismayed at all the crap that is to be contended with at the moment. Which I think is telling in itself - we've become so atomised that the initial response for me is just to keep it in and not communicate it to my friends and peers.

The bit about Blair's speech which really stuck in my craw was when he talked about a Britain which is comfortable with itself. Which Britain is that exactly? Cos its not the one I can see.

You've given a good and balanced analysis here. I'm having to consciously curb the temptation to be optimistic about the prospect of Brown's leadership - its purely on the basis that he's not Blair. Which is as sturdy a base for optimism as voting for Labour these days on the basis that "at least they're not the Tories".

anticant said...

Never despair, trousers. I'm heartened by Yellow Duck's wise reminder that the political weather can change very quickly. And I remember the 'Dunkirk spirit'. The time is coming when lots of people are going to start saying loudly that enough is enough.

Have you ever thought that there might be a case for voting Tory next time on the basis that "at least they're not Labour"?

After all, ten years is ample time for them to hang themselves. Why give them any more rope?

trousers said...

Well as I've said before - I DO despair - but I'm able to be heartened as well.

I take your point about voting Tory - but I don't think I could ever bring myself to do it. I may well be resistant to such a notion beyond all reason. Which means I'm left voting for neither party - rendering my vote in itself ineffectual. Perhaps a price worth paying for retaining some level of conscience about my vote.

Yes ducky is right of course, and so are you. I'd never be so apathetic as to not vote at all, and come the right time maybe it can be put to good use.

anticant said...

I wouldn’t vote Tory either [haven’t done so since Suez!] because, quite apart from whether or not they are any better as a team, too many of their policies are wrong.

Fortunately we have a really excellent LibDem MP here - Sarah Teather - who is first class on civil liberties, free speech, etc. even though there is a big Muslim vote in the constituency.

In fact, as regards responsiveness to contituents, Sarah is the best MP I've ever known - she writes back personal letters [sometimes several pages] when you approach her for her views or for help. Very impressive! Pity Ming Campbell has turned out to be such a lacklustre leader, after his excellent performance as foreign affairs spokesman in the early stages of the Iraq war.

trousers said...

A good MP is like having a good GP - one who listens rather than going through the motions!

I agree about Ming - whatever his merits as a politician he's not exactly inspiring as a leader. I'll still vote for his party if the other alternatives are unacceptable though.

1loneranger said...

"Before the attack on New York and Washington in September 2001, few non-Muslim British people gave more than a passing thought to Islam."

Yes, and now we're all bloody /experts/ on Islam, the Koran and Muslims' values and morals.! 'Right/. It just gives the random pudknocker something new to hate.

I'm not depressed, I'm pissed. And in no way am I "worried" about some 'dark-eyed camel jockey' storming into my house and slitting my throat or blowing up the bus driving by my front window right now.

What I /am/ afraid of is not being able to have a conversation with one of my Muslim brothers at the grocery about the weather because the media and most of the uneducated world has built up a wall of fear and loathing betwixt us!

Now goddamn it! Where's my Soma?

anticant said...

What I'm afraid of is not being able to have a conversation with ANYONE at the grocery, or in what used to be the privacy of my own home, about the weather or anything else without it being eavesdropped on by Big Brother.

ranger said...


Jose said...

What happens? Here in Spain it's becoming extremely difficult to express one's own political views lest you are verbally attacked by others dissenting from your views.

The opposition party, formerly government under Aznar, was a staunch ally and supporter of Bush's strategies. Now after they lost power they resort to any kind of lies and dirty tactics to try to make the present socialist government resign, they attack without any respect any kind of state politics which should have their entire support - such as terrorism.

And this opposition is being little by little being transferred to the street.

Worrying, indeed, but it seems the strategy today is making citizens confront one another. For one reason or another.

And Nicolas Sarkozy is entering the stage in France. His behaviour so far does not seem to imply the problems in his country are going to be solved. He is sheer right-wing.

An excellent exposition, Anticant.