For a year that began with the death of David Bowie and ended with the election of Donald Trump to the White House the rabbit hole has truly opened.
Some might say that the events of 2016 have answered questions that were posed by the darkness of events in 2001, others that questions for the twenty-first century are only now just being asked, or maybe this is the future now: life down the rabbit hole…
How old you might have to be to regard what has happened in the world over the last twelve months as a historical watershed is a consideration for how to see what has happened in the last twelve months. The much touted middle aged angst about a modern armageddon now in our midst has, on the one hand, satirical appeal and on the other all the bearing of cut-throat nightmare.
But is the election of Trump any more significant historically than that of Ronald Reagan?
A businessman running the world or a B list actor? Though at least Reagan had experience as a governor.
“America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.”
Reagan’s involvement with the middle east set off the emergence of the cult of the suicide bomber, both actively and conceptually. Bush and Blair further developed an interventionist model of politics which the Obama and Cameron years have struggled to respond to effectively. Now we have regime change which has a clear right wing agenda, hardly promising in terms of any ‘New World Order’.
The first black president would have probably wanted his successor to continue his developing agenda, not push it back or roll it up. Trump only follows Obama with any truth in the dictionary. Obama’s legacy alongside that of globalisation has been to produce a neoliberal failure. Obamacare may stagger on in diluted form under Trump, but the inequality continues. It seems absurd that a black man in charge of the US could fail so profoundly with his agenda. The symbolism was undeniable, but Obama’s hands were tied with no swaying power on Capitol Hill to push his ideas forward with any permanence.
There is a parallel sensation when imagining Britain’s first female prime minister and the extent to which she advanced the role of women with any egalitarian focus. Again, a sense of a lazy symbolic success with no real-time consequence.
In the late 1970s the UK electorate narrowly voted in a right wing Tory government that went on to run the country for eighteen long years. There was an initial violent response to the agenda with riots in Brixton in 1981 and the miners’ strike in 1985, events still eulogised and analysed by political writers. There would seem to have been no such response worthy of comparison in 2016, despite the Brexit and Trump Election results.
Does France anticipate the election of a National Front party leader in 2017?
So many years of middle liberal agenda followed by Obama’s opportunities for change which were not taken. Initial responses of despair reflect a failure of effective political action. The right have won this battle it would appear. Whether Trump and the spoils of Brexit can send us on a new path is the concern. The broad left are now mooting the concept of a universal income, an impossible concept made feasible by the impossibility of Trump and Brexit’s success. We are in a world of new possibilities. The status quo is no longer an option.
Folk are getting clued up. Political literature is selling well in Waterston’s. Paul Mason, Nick Srniceck and Alex Williams, to mention three. The Labour Party membership has significantly increased. There is a sense of impossible times bearing strange fruit.
Though there is currently little sign of a mobilised response we do now have something to push against.
Such times require strong ideals and personalities. The world of hope is crying out for a spokesperson and a new agenda and the networked society can offer a mobilisation never seen before. The telephone gave a communist ideology an opportunistic framework for success in Russia in 1917. The Post-Facebook generation are even more effectively networked. The proposed sale of Sky to Fox in the UK heralds the rule of the many by the few where information is concerned, but everyman has his/her own wi-fi connection and is equally capable of creating viral news stories.
2016 showed us that the impossible can happen.
Few on the left would deny that there is something exciting about these times. The neoliberal dream is over. Action is needed before change can truly happen. Berlin was a towering centre of freedom and opportunity in the 1920s; a place that free-thinking young people headed towards. Ten years later it was the birthplace of Nazism. Perhaps the fear of the right wing in 2016 can be re-assessed as a genuine golden opportunity for left wing change and philanthropy for the poor and disadvantaged. Or maybe it isn’t even about the left any more. Maybe this will come to be seen as a new post-political period where action takes over from ideology, and societal change and revolution are a distinct possibility.
1980 ended with the death of John Lennon and the election of Ronald Reagan. Do the parallels begin there or end..?