New Year resolutions are playful diversions in those grey, hollow days period after the Christmas splurge. You make promises you will never keep because they really don’t matter. Or because the pledges are made in jest, just for a laugh. This time, however, millions of Brits will not be so trite and jokey. For those of us who are liberals, lefties, cosmopolitans, internationalists and egalitarians, 2016 was one of the most depressing and disquieting years ever. We were thrashed, and did nothing. We were too damned polite, too respectful, too decent. We yielded to our scornful opponents. We even acceded to and recycled their insults and insidious indictments.
Reactionaries took over over much of the world, including GB, one of the world’s most enduring and mature democracies. Nigel Farage became GB’s true messiah, aided and abetted by the BBC, populist radio stations and tabloids. But it was the millionaire backer Arron Banks, who enabled the leader of a fringe party to become the defining force in British politics. Probity, checks and balances, the safeguards to protect our electoral system were all demolished by the brash , crass and insanely ambitious.
Between 2014 and 2016, democracy – often flawed and always fragile - was manipulated, exploited, then seized by strong, narcissistic males. Farage, Boris and Trump, Modi, Erdogan, Putin, the neo-imperialists who control internet companies and social networks and vast global corporations now own the world’s money and votes, humanity itself. They direct the way people think, have power over what people know, command individual and group behaviours. This week in India, claims were made by some hyperactive trolls that the ruling party encouraged them to harass and intimidate public figures who voted for the opposition- including some stars of Bollywood. (As a remainer and vocal opponent of Ukip, I too am hounded for my views. Sometimes you just want to give up. That would be giving into the bastards.)
The mentally enslaved remain either oblivious to their enslavement or have no will nor desire to fight against the takeover of their lives and souls. In part this is because the new masters of the universe have effectively incited the masses to go after softer targets: elected representatives, spry urbanites, migrants, females, minorities and equality activists .
Those thus ostracised seemed to lose the will to resist the calumnies. Conscientious and virtuous men and women have lost their voices and meekly accept the heavy burdens of guilt heaped upon them. Since Brexit and the Trump victory, diligent journalists, public intellectuals, MPs and Peers – perhaps terrified of being branded ‘elitist’ or ‘enemies of the people’- have been flagellating themselves over their failure to ‘understand’ inchoately furious voters. Oh how many times do we have to apologise for the ‘metropolitan elite’, the ‘Westminster bubble’, ‘the forgotten people’ and other such tropes?
Even seriously good thinkers are falling into this trap. Listen, Liberal by the distinguished American columnist Thomas Frank, for example, castigates the Democrats and voters from the professional class for their ‘righteousness’ and more still for ‘losing interest in working people’. It is indisputable that in this century of globalisation, the poorest have been left to rot in the US and UK and the emerging economies too. But hey, Obama created more jobs than Clinton, Bush Snr or Bush Jnr. And even those who grew to despise Tony Blair because of the Iraq war, must admit that his social policies truly lifted many of the most disadvantaged. Since the coalition government, there has been a slide back and once again, the poor and helpless are maligned as ‘shirkers’ and left destitute. So why are centrists and those on the left attacked by their own as well as their ideological opponents? Such unseemly self-flagellation and submissiveness further validates those millions who now believe it is morally right to be bigoted and savagely intolerant.
We must find fortitude, passion and moral courage. This is no time for humility and niceness. Remember tens of millions of people do not back megalomaniac rulers and big businesses. We must robustly uphold good values, a good society, never let bigotry walk by, carry on defending the EU, be proud of educational achievements and expertise, not be scared off by social media thugs, stand up for migrants and refugees, for diversity and London, the heart, the super-engine of this dynamic nation. As the bold columnist Matthew D’Ancona writes: ‘ ….soft liberalism doesn’t cut it any more. Time to try the hard variety’. Previous generations had to confront Nazism, two world wars, Apartheid, racial discrimination in the US and UK, Vietnam. In these pre-Fascist times, It falls upon us to take on the new hard right. Onward comrades. In 2017 either we fight back or the enlightened world dies. It’s that serious.
Edited Version 29/12/16