Welcome to The New Twenties

Now I was going to say that it must have been another year since I managed to actually get a blog post put up, but in the meantime another new year has come and, due to particularly superlative procrastination on my part, gone. Not just another year, of course, but another decade. Once upon a time it was thought that this would be a perfect time to revive the Old Twenties and all don our flapper dresses [1] and dance the Lindy Hop[2], but as someone, somewhere joked, what we actually got by way of a revival was, in fact, the stock market crash and pandemic aspects. [3] As if Australia being literally on fire and Britain being flooded out again wasn’t bad enough.

Of course the one thing that has been forgotten in the COVID-19 (coronavirus) madness is probably Brexit, which finally “got done” at the end of January, calling for some… very zealous and common-sense-challenged people to be asking if local councils were holding official celebrations despite the fact that there were (and remain) so many who were still opposed to the idea of Brexit and no doubt many more, the silent majority I’ll bet, who simply didn’t care. Following this, was to be the entry into a somewhat confusing transition period where we would technically be out of the EU but still subject to some of its rules, in order to have time for a trade deal to be hashed out. The whole thing felt like they were two sides insistent upon having all their demands met no matter what, with such irreconcilable differences unable to be overcome in a mere year and no deal inevitable. After all that some sort of vague deal managed to be hashed out with very little time for business, it seems, to really prepare, and causing all manner of problems with supplying goods, first to Northern Ireland then, it seems, Britain itself. And a skills shortage, possibly. Whatever, it doesn’t look like being the perfect thing some Brexiteers imagined it would be, but neither the total clusterf**k some zealous Remainers thought would be the case, yet.

Another thing which, whilst not having lost its prominence entirely, was somewhat less of an issue in UK politics was the resignation of Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour Party and the election of his replacement following a particularly disastrous (for the party) win for the Conservatives. It might not go without mentioning the possibilities as to why last year’s General Election went so well for the Conservatives and so badly for Labour. Whilst I will leave the analysis to those who have the ability and patience to do so, I think that Brexit, the public perception of Corbyn and his close associates (if not the man himself), and a manifesto which seemed to be an unachievable, jam-pakced wish list (even if it is not quite as bad as its detractors make out), would seem to be among the key reasons. Now I neither want to pretend that more people than I would like are so pro-Brexit to the point of thinking that the Labour Party has somehow betrayed them or democracy, and were so desparate to “get Brexit done” that they will vote in any government that can promise it but I do think more people than they would like to admit were probably just sick of the process dragging on endlessly an Parliamentary gridlock turning into a farce, when there were other issues they actually cared about. That plus the fact that some people, for any number of reasons, simply felt that the Labour Party and its representatives had lost touch with them. People who identified as working class were supposed to be who the Labour Party were supposed to represent, but seemingly, a lot of them felt it wasn’t. Perhaps these might have been older people, some of whom are still clinging to the “working class” identity out of upbringing even if they are no longer quite that, some might be doing so without paying heed to such bizarrely Marxist deliniations such as “proletariat” and “petit-bourgoisie”[4], which perhaps unsurprisingly is seen by some[5] as just the preserve of some university educated metropolitan elite or what-have-you. It could be to do with over-zealous Corbynistas and over-zealous EU-philes[6]. It could be simply that they feel that their local council or local MP doesn’t seem to be respecting their wishes. It could even go back to the Blair era. If you look at the stats, it’s quite clear that it’s not just Corbyn and not just Brexit[7]. (Not exactly as if Brown or the “wrong” Miliband were winning elections, or Blair did so without a much-reduced turnout post-1997.) Whatever it is, somehow a contingent of people seem to think the Tories, or whatever Nigel Farage is doing these days, is the lesser evil. Even if I think they’re daft, they obviously don’t.

On the other side of the Pond, US-Americans had their own polls. Given the Great Orange Swamp Monster’s performance in the current crises and the kind of person he generally is, I’m surprised people support the man at all, but it is fair to say that Biden is no great shakes either due in part to being the establishment man, some of his past record on things involving race relations, and seeming a little on the senile side. He is, ultimately, same old same old. And yes, Kamala Harris is black and a woman, which is ground-breaking in its way, but apart from that…? As a leftie I might have preferred Bernie Sanders, but then, in some respects he is the American Jeremy Corbyn. Either way, I think Biden is in, and Trump is out. That the latter was trying to resist every effort by dubious claims of fraud on the former’s part looks like an act of desperation, either to try and nudge the Electoral College in his favour or simply because it would look bad to his supporters (and his ego) to admit defeat lightly, was a ridiculous waste of time. Some of his supporters alas took that to illogical extremes, in their sick-joke storming of Congress dressed like comedy Vikings and, sadly, getting people killed. Lest I look like a Trump-hater, yes, I’m sure the man has done some good things his opponents are not prepared to admit, but then a proverbial broken clock is right twice a day, and generally a man with zero political experience who doesn’t even seem to be all that good a businessman, whose morals are if not better than a lot of career politicians at least openly awful and (as the post election fraud claims and that phone call seem to be proving) a tenuous grip on reality (which, admittedly, many people seem to have these days) is not in any way qualified to be president. But ultimately, that is for America to decide. Britain has its own political craziness to contend with.

And then there is that damned pesky virus. I don’t want to go into it more than is necessary as people are mostly sick of it by now, including myself. Suffice to say I think those people who think this whole business is a hoax, or that people should not take it seriously and follow guidelines where reasonable, are not really being sensible. I want to take it perhaps a little too seriously, like “Yes, it’s real. [8] Yes, it’s nasty. [9] Wear a damned mask (if you can). [10] Take a damned vaccine. [11] And whatever you do, stay well more than 2 metres away from me if I don’t know you.” [12] But I can get a little paranoid about the whole situation. And at the same time, the economic costs, the impact on civil liberties should not be underestimated. And the way some Western governments including my own have failed to react all that adequately and the corruption involved in procuring PPE is reprehensible. Any competant government should have at minimum been able to do what Boris and co. have done. And no, I can’t see Corbyn would have done it any worse. Moreover, there are those, suffice to day, who have reason enough to distrust the whole system, who would much rather pretend the whole thing is a hoax and the vaccine is a greater potential risk than the virus. Talking about “misinformation” or taking any approach which gives the mainstream the benefit of the doubt, and engaging in anything that so much as looks like censorship and depravation of civil liberties is, I think, only counterproductive. As is, I have learned the hard way, trying to pretend towards rational argument when you neither know enough about things or, more important, how to be sensitive to people’s particular situations, only makes things worse. Ultimately, people should be able as much as possible to make their own decisions, but certain emergency measures I am prepared to tolerate, even if they are very difficult to endure.

And then we have had racial tensions, statues coming down, the American West on fire, Siberia on fire, the climate crisis in general, Extinction Rebellion and more. Fun times. I may address Black Lives Matter or XR in a future post [13], but really tackling so many difficult topics in one post, much like everything about the 2020, is getting wearisome. I could go on. And QAnon. And on.

And now we come to 2021. We have a vaccine, a rather thin Brexit deal, no more Trump (I hope)… but more lockdowns and no quick end in sight. Oh yeah, and the whole Afghanistan clusterf**k. And seemingly everywhere else on fire. Or flooded. Or otherwise plagued by maybe-not-as-natural-as-we’d-prefer-to-think disasters.

So to cheer us all up, here’s a video of people in the 1920s dancing the Lindy Hop to round off this post. I hope the New Twenties will itself have something worth remembering.

Footnotes:

[1] Or suitable male equivalent, whatever that is. Unlike the Old Twenties, of course, it’s probably slightly more acceptable to don a flapper dress if you are not exactly a young lady, and there’s no accounting for taste.

[2] Perhaps the Charleston might be a better pick since the Lindy Hop seems to have been more popular later, but it sounded better.

[3] Likely referring to the Spanish Flu of 1918-20 and the Great Crash of 1929, both at different ends of the decade. Seems like we’re less lucky than they were in that respect to have both coming along at once, even in spite of higher standards of living, no major wars to recover from, or prohibition, or bigotry…

[4] Which is to say, between wage labourers and the self-employed with their own businesses.

[5] Mostly, though, those on the populist and far right. But it’s easy to convince others thus.

[6] Who are not necessarily the same thing, though there may be some overlap. Tratitionally, leftists such as Corbyn were very anti-EU as being just another pro-capitalist enterprise.

[7] Though on that score, if you promise in your manifesto to “respect the result of the referendum”, and people take that to mean leaving the EU one means or another come what may, then people will take that to mean that not only can’t you be trusted, they can be forgiven for thinking you are undermining democracy itself. You probably aren’t, on account of the fact there probably isn’t all that much democracy in a meaningful sense to undermine in the first place, but I’ll address that in a future post.

[8] Which it is.

[9] Which it can be.

[10] Which is probably a good idea up to a point, but not all masks are as effective as others, it only works if you wear them properly, and the things re damn hard to breath in and unpleasant to wear.

[11] Which probably isn’t a bad idea either, but some people can have some nasty reactions and side effects.

[12] Which is probably overkill.

[13] Which means I almost certainly won’t.