Sunday, 25 January 2009
Cynicism 101 - Even Easier Than Hope for Beginners
Okay, well I suppose it’s time to confess why I haven’t written about Obama’s inauguration, despite a self-confessed obsession with politics and current affairs.
It’s simply that I feel no one really needs a naysayer at this point, especially as we have Fox News still spreading fear and hate in a way that only they (and many ultra religious types) can.
Am I happy he got elected? You bet. It was exhilarating to be in New York when it happened. A night for hope, naturally. Was I thrilled to watch the inauguration on tv? Of course, even if I knew that the musicians were miming – I have some experience of live cello sounds and that microphone was waaaaaay too far away.
Do I think anything will change? Well, let’s break this answer down. Yes and no. The window dressing in one of humanity’s biggest department stores will look much more appealing for the next 8 years, hopefully. Closing Gitmo is already a fine example of doing the right thing, sending the right message. I applaud it.
Will anything of substance change? Nope. And here’s why. We’ve ceded control of all the mechanisms by which we change society to other powers, namely that of the market and private industry. The same market forces that have failed so dramatically over the last few months.
Will Obama nationalise a bank, or the car industry or transport? Nope. No more than Gordon Brown will. Will he (we) bail them out, continually? Yep. I’d like to pose a question at this point: can anyone name a private finance initiative in the UK that was actually completed successfully with private money? There must be some? One? Here’s an article I read a while ago: http://www.accaglobal.com/publicinterest/activities/research/reports/accountability/rr-084. … if you don’t have time to read it, here’s the conclusion:
"PFI is an expensive way of financing and delivering public services that may, where public expenditure is constrained, lead to cuts in public services and/or tax rises. In contrast, we suggest that the chief beneficiaries are the providers of finance and some, but not necessarily all of the private sector service providers rather than the public sector."
It happened with Wembley, it happened with the Channel Tunnel, hospitals, the road and rail network, and boy-oh-fucking boy is it going to happen with the disastrous money pit that will be our risible attempt at staging the Olympics.
Put simply, there’s nothing any government can do without private investment, because the war for the middle ground of politics is fought in the everyman’s land of low taxes and small government. No one will raise taxes for the masses or take on the expensive responsibility of actually running anything.
And now is when massive things need changing. Obama couldn’t achieve it in 80 years, let alone 8. Do we need those dramatic changes, yes. Will we vote for them? No. Do we want alternative energy initiatives? Absolutely. Will we have used every last drop of oil before we actually vote for it? Absolutely. Especially now there’s a recession and we’re all watching the pennies. Organic free range chicken anyone?
The recent global financial crisis (which, by the way, they call a “crisis” in America, but in quaint-old–tabloid-moron Britain we insist on calling the “Credit Crunch”…. like it’s a character in a Mr Men book) is firm proof if any were needed, that no one is actually in charge of anything.
This Blair/Brown government made the Bank of England independent, established the Financial Services Authority (a body which makes Myra Hindley look like a good baby sitter), and has quite blithely taken credit for the boom years without knowing what the fuck was going on. The same is true of Bush. They encouraged the system that has failed so drastically. We all know all this. I know I sound like a stuck record (for younger readers, a record was a thing that music came on and meant something to own) but these things have been bugging me amidst the euphoria of the last week.
Will Obama effect a radical re-ordering world affairs? Nope. Because he cannot implement the changes necessary, because there is no functioning alternative to free (and by free I mean wildly out of control) market economics. The steady growth all governments long for is an unsustainable myth (especially when our trade laws don’t allow third world countries to develop into viable competitors - but we still insist on ironically referring to them as “developing nations”). The best any future government can do is to manage a planet in decline. Like a chief executive officer winding up the affairs of a bankrupt company, these are the last days of the world as we knew it. Even now a non-existent god is cashing in his last shares, collecting his bonus for fucking things up spectacularly, and heading towards his next position as consultant for the parallel universe just over the event horizon.
When South Korea – among others - is buying up tracts of land in other countries (Madagascar and Tanzania, as well as parts of South America) with which to feed its own population, you get an idea of how much trouble the world is in. But that doesn’t make the front pages, naturally.
You want to scare yourself? Forget global warming and the countless wars raging round the world… go read about Peak Oil. That’s the thing that will define all government policy for the next 20 years. Think Gazprom only has an issue with Ukraine not paying? Wait a while, we’ve run out of North Sea gas, it’s all coming from the Middle East and Russia. Both fantastic suppliers to be quite literally bent over a barrel by.
Will it be nice to have an intelligent, literate, erudite man in the White House? It’ll be lovely. Will it make me feel better about the state of international affairs, as the world descends into fuel and water wars? Nope. Not one bit. Iran has its own agenda, Israel could give a fuck about world opinion, the UN is the lamest of all lame ducks. More people were listening to my goldfish than to Ban Ki-moon over Gaza. And I don’t even have a goldfish, that’s how fucking impotent the UN is.
This is why I haven’t written about Obama. I will be following his first hundred days with enthusiasm, wishing the best for him and for us. I hope he proves me wrong. I suspect Gordon Brown will be long gone before Obama’s potential second term, probably ousted by moronic voters who think a) that they can play a part in democracy and b) that anything changes when the figureheads of government are shuffled like so many old playing cards, the faces worn thin and indistinguishable. This wouldn’t be me if I didn’t work in playing cards somewhere, right?
I hope I’m wrong. If god existed I would pray to him/her to be so very wrong that when Obama leads us all to the promised land, I will offer myself to be cooked and eaten in a ceremonial meal of contrition, as a sign to all future party-poopers. McRae-fish and rocket sandwiches?
The Italian philosopher, thinker and political theorist Antonio Gramsci (whisper it, a Marxist) called for “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will”, and that is for years how I have chosen to live. It’s how I live now. But alas I was christened Jeremy, a derivation from Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet of doom. I guess you can change your name but not your nature.
And that, in a word, a long, dull, tediously predictable Tompinion… is how I feel not so much about Obama, but the world problems he has inherited, and how much I suspect will actually change. And all this on a weekend when Man Utd beat Tottenham. Imagine how I’d have been if we’d lost.
But it’s Sunday. I hate Sundays. Maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow. Everyone feels better on Mondays, right?