2010s: A Decade that invited the next Great Depression

2010s: A Decade that invited the next Great Depression

I once asked the question: why did I join Tumblr? The answer is probably for post likes this. The sort of post that is a personal reflection of something a wider audience doesn’t expect (or want) on my main site (but they’ll probably get anyway). The sort of post that looks back at a year, and then a decade. The sort of post that does so with a somber mood.

The Great Depression started in 1929, by then the world had seen one World War and was heading toward another. The turn of the new millennium has at least avoided this fate. It has followed history in other respects. The rise of the far right; anti-Semitism becoming commonplace, first with language and then actions; the poor being left further behind by the rich. 

Okay, we’re not heading to the sort of depression that was incorrectly labelled as Great. It’s a different type of one. The last decade — so devoid of colour it doesn’t even have a moniker like the swinging sixties or even the bland noughties — has invited a collective mindset to emerge that prays on fear and insecurities.

I wasn’t a massive fan of being a teenager, it’s apt that I’m not big on the decade with the teenage years in its numbering. The Tens (that’s what I’m going with) saw us accept the reduction of aspiration. We can thank austerity for this. If after years of being told there’s no money, a tightening of the belt required, it permeates into the collective mindset. Even for those that have disposable income.

Most of us ended up in houses we wished were bigger, working more hours than we’d like, mixing in shrinking social circles, watching others lead perfect lives on Instagram while being old enough to complain about it all on Facebook. Or in my case, not even bothering with the moan on Facebook because I can’t stomach the trawl through people’s dinners or exercise regimes.

It was a decade where Coldplay became the biggest stadium band on the planet. Now, I’ve been to several Coldplay gigs in the last decade so it’s safe to say I’m a fan but think about that for a minute: Coldplay are the biggest draw the globe has to offer. Coldplay.

They should be a great side act while generation defining entertainers shape the mood of the day. Instead, we see all acts from all decades converge via YouTube into every popular music venue around the planet. The time of today has become unstructured. Nothing defines The Tens. It was a place for compilation moods and the new blood was lacking any telling contribution.

Justin Bieber — a man with staying power and a massive fanbase — made the news in 2013 for not getting in a Manchester nightclub. A true global superstar that epitomised this decade could not enter a club incase he tarnished its image. That’s a club that no longer exists but were right at the time.

Of course, music is one aspect of a decade’s image. Politics is another that’s already been touched upon. The division will last another ten years unless a true centre-ground leader can unite the nation again.

Sport was better from this Man City fan’s perspective. Boxing saw some great fights and new household names emerge. It also saw some sports enter a beige state that’s indicative of the decade. Formula One hasn’t thrived since being sold to Liberty Media. It faces another year of purgatory before rule changes take effect.

Football is being damaged by the poor introduction of VAR. Real fans are becoming disillusioned with the clamouring to corporate types while the working class struggle to keep up. All the time, TV revenue rises and so do subscriptions. 

All this comes from a negative perspective. I’m sure there’s further evidence that less people are in poverty (on a global scale), there are less wars than ever and the standard of living has risen over the last forty years. It could be the forty year mark that has made this mindset appear. Hitting the big four-O creates a period of introspection.

The last year would be rated 4/10 if IMDb existed for dates and not movies. There have been personal achievements and life changes that viewed from the outside would make people expect it to be at least a 7/10. But the end of an average decade has been decidedly below average. Perhaps this is a natural decline in the order of things. My sister told me I was entering the Winter of my Life when forty came around. It was a joke with substance. 

The previous decade did appear like summer in comparison.

This is where a younger person will (rightly) complain about hearing the old “it was better in my day” line. For teenagers and young adults right now, I’m sure they can list many pop culture instances that — to them — match my own from yesteryear. They need to remember, this is my winter (or a very cold autumn).

The younger people also need to appreciate this decade is going to be remembered as the Snowflake Generation. It’s a time when people melt before your eyes with anything that slightly deviates from the clinical, politically correct handbook. Humour has been replaced with self-righteous application of impractical moral codes.

We all should respect one another. There should be fairness and equality for all. We shouldn’t stamp out any non-malicious viewpoint because of how it makes us feel. Comedy notoriously — and quite rightly — toes the line between offence and laughs. If you can’t laugh at something a comic says, it means you kinda have some intent when laughing along with other edgy jokes.

It’s also created a sub-culture of conditions. Everyone no has one. When I get depressed, I am depressed. It’s incredibly difficult to share that with anyone (99.9% of the time, I don’t). The “It’s okay not to be okay” campaigns have been great for raising mental awareness but over time they have been hijacked by those looking for the next fad.

The decade’s been so grim, people have been giving themselves faux conditions to be on trend.

That last remark will undoubtedly offend some people but it’s just my observation. It hasn’t been a collective time of improvement but one of whining. The Brexit situation comes to mind. People moaning about what is wrong rather than working to make it better (I’m aware of the irony this post represents here).

Big pressure on 2020 to step up to the plate. It’s got an uphill battle. 2019 left it in the shit. An impeached President, Boris Johnson the saviour of the British working class and Rod Stewart top of the album charts.

I remember Mad Dog 20/20. The idea of 2020 itself back then was futuristic; flavoured alcoholic drinks a little juvenile. The mad dogs are now here and everyone is necking more varieties of gin than a shelf of early alcopops could have ever dreamed up. 

Does this indicate a return to headier times? I’m going to buy some Hooch, just in case.

The Brexit General Election: A Blueprint for Dystopia

The Brexit General Election: A Blueprint for Dystopia

A lifelong Labour voter, a left-wing liberalist and a hardline Remainer all go to a Polling Station. They each take a ballot paper and place a cross next to the Conservative candidate. As they leave, they all pull faces of distaste at the right-wing nationalist entering the booth. The latter votes for the Brexit Party. They all knew their choices would lead to a Tory government.

It sounds like a bad joke. It is a bad joke. It is also the reality of Britain’s 2019 winter General Election. Boris Johnson kept it simple with “Get Brexit Done”. In these divisive times, it became a unifying message. People couldn’t face another period of an ineffective government. Those who voted Leave and Remain started to wonder why they voted in the first place and lost the passion for either argument. Not all the people, but we’ll get to them in a moment.

Another hung parliament would have been a disaster so some decided to take the lesser of two evils. It shouldn’t be surprising that the same MPs who spoke down to the public, were condescending and ignored their wishes for three years, would suddenly be able to reconnect during campaigning. They had made their beds, the British public were prepared to sleep uneasy by making a painful choice.

For many, like those that propped up The Red Wall, the acceptance of a Tory government was something painful to stomach. Actively seeking it would, under normal circumstances, seem impossible. Labour has placed the entire blame on Brexit. Corbyn detractors blame his extreme socialist manifesto. There is some merit to this idea. No one quite believed the sums behind the promises. The Diane Abbott factor didn’t help.

As grim as some try and paint this Tory victory (others, of course, have rejoiced) how does it link to the blueprint for dystopia this article’s title suggests?

Literature and film is full of not-too-distant futures where recognisable countries have fallen to facist regimes. The most obvious, due to its London setting and strong political undertones, is V for Vendetta. Like all such set-ups, the viewer accepts the basic premise. They get fed a bit of backstory setting up the proposition and the rest of the film sees the heroes try and fight for freedom and justice.

Every time I’ve seen V for Vendetta, there’s always a moment where the suspension of disbelief is removed and the chances of it occurring are analysed. (If that doesn’t make me sound like the most exciting cinema date, nothing ever will.) Could Britain ever really fall foul to a facist regime, especially with its inherent pride of defeating the Nazis in World War Two?

It always seemed highly improbable. Then Brexit happened. Then the post-Brexit divide created the sort of environment to nurture extremism. It’s clear now that for a country to turn bad at the top, it doesn’t need a majority of its citizens to make ignorant, evil, or poor choices. You don’t even need to mislead them too much. The bad eggs will always exist but their numbers will never grow to the size required to swing a General Election.

Nor will the do-gooders ever multiply in vast quantities to fend off a facist uprising. The battle is won and lost in the centre ground. To be more precise, those that sit to the left and right of it. Ask Tony Blair. His 1997 landslide was all about making that massive part of the population believe in him. The far-left in his own party didn’t, they just accepted it was preferable to further Tory rule.

Now Boris has secured the vote of the same people. But there’s a difference: they don’t believe in Boris like they did Blair, they voted with fatigue and fear. Fear of more uncertainty. Fear that the opposition was inept. Fear that they were out of time and choices.

In dystopia, the keys of power are always legitimately handed over. Once in power, the rights and freedoms slowly retract. The Emperor in Star Wars didn’t take the galaxy by force (no pun intended). A council voted in his explicit rule during a time of uncertainty.

An evil chancer getting the hot seat isn’t enough in itself for dystopia to take hold. The centre left and right need to be subdued further but that can only come once they see no other choice. Enter the disenfranchised left-wingers. They are the unwitting secret weapon of the far-right. During the election campaign, and the anti-Brexit movement that preceded it, they recruited more people for the Conservatives than any Tory MP or the Prime Minister, any fraudulent advert or piece of misleading information.

It was the self-righteous left-wing movement that insisted they knew better than the people. This made the people defy their message. Even after election day, papers like The Guardian and The Independent ran articles that continued the notion people didn’t understand what they had chosen. So yeah, after telling them for three years they weren’t educated enough to understand their Leave vote, they decided to patronise them over the General Election too.

The ignorance wasn’t from the people, it was the self-proclaimed “Good Guys”.

During the campaign, it’s clear the “Good Guys” believe the ends now justify the means. Morality can be shelved until later because for now, it’s more important to stop the “Bad Guys”. The “Bad Guys” in their eyes being the Tories, who should have been easy to make the villains no-one from a Northern working-class background could vote for. 

But people are willing to risk further austerity, policies like Universal Credit and the mistrust of Boris over the floundering, patronising tones of the absent opposition.

In a time where we invite devices into our home that are always listening (Alexa, ask Siri if the government care what I’m making for tea), how we all become guilty of Orwellian doublethink and accept that Diane Abbott really does make 2+2=5 when she’s penning budgets, the malevolent threat of the Tories became safer than the mutually assured destruction born from further indecision. 

And the protests continue. There’ll be no People’s Vote so instead a minority takes to the streets attacking the notion of Boris as PM. They will now fight hard for Proportional Representation even though such a system virtually guarantees endless cycles of hung parliaments, something the British public will never want again.

Their continued and slowly more aggressive attacks will see sympathy from the voters in the centre dwindle further. The police are required to man more marches, using appropriate force. V for Vendetta’s police state then appears on the horizon. Scotland get their independence or get back under Westminster’s unquestionable rule, either way, unchallenged isolation takes hold.

And the remaining “Good Guys” keep recruiting for the regime they oppose through nothing more than their own ignorance. Dystopia creeps in just like this, V for Vendetta goes from fiction to fact, Boris from buffoon to Emperor Palpatine.

Of course, it doesn’t have to go this way.

The Conservative Party may well reinvent itself as something not too dissimilar to New Labour. Boris said he would try and earn the votes he knows are being “lent”. The left may re-emerge with more progressive ideals, a clearer message, and an apology for the air of superiority it has expressed during a time it fell lower down the political standing.

For the time being, Britain doesn’t get the government it deserves but the one it needs right now.

We Need to Talk About Brexit

We Need to Talk About Brexit

It’s been hard to avoid the B word in Britain over the last few years. The sound of “Brexit” has taught me where the exits are in many a room frequented during this period. It’s not that Brexit isn’t important – it is – it’s because both sides are so entrenched in their beliefs there is no “Brexit Debate” nowadays. It’s either a well-rehearsed rhetoric on the virtues of either Leave or Remain.

For this reason, it’s a subject I’ve avoided on social media and never thought would grace these pages. Then a Twitter friend asked for my take. He wanted a genuine insight, not a rehash.

What followed was a measured debate on both sides. Something that hasn’t occurred during polite conversation in this country since the referendum result. For that, we can thank the politicians and news reporters. The take on Brexit has been skewed from the start and has continued ever since. Dazzler on Twitter had found the key to the problem: All I hear is negativity, and I am concerned.

The term Project Fear exists for a reason. This isn’t a cheap trick to throw scorn on Remain from the start. Fear politics is en vogue at the moment. It’s the one fashion accessory every budding politician wants to be seen with. Leave loved Fear in its campaign during the referendum and Remain ensured it didn’t go a day without work since.

All Fear does is give politicians a big out card. There’s no need to solve problems when you can let Fear into the room. There’s no need to present strong, undeniable evidence when Fear’s around. Hell, you can sell feelings and predictions as economic certainties once everyone’s familiar with good ol’ Fear.

But it wasn’t fear that got the Brexit ball rolling with momentum. It wasn’t even Nigel Farage (though his diary probably disagrees). It was the disenchanted and the disenfranchised. For too long, people could see the 1% were swallowing the world’s riches while the majority struggled on. From financial crash to years of austerity, with no end in sight to clear a national debt that meant nothing to them.

Perhaps the EU became a symbol of this structure. Sat pulling the strings of governments to keep its own agenda ticking over. This, of course, doesn’t paint an entirely fair picture but when people feel they’re losing control they turn against those with power. Staying in the EU kept everything the same, with the coffers of the 1% swelling each year.

The status quo needed to be broken. It isn’t working wherever you sit on the socio-economic spectrum. The rise of far right, and now far left extremists are a product of a broken model.

The status quo has become a breeding ground for hatred.

This ignorance has been perpetuated on both sides. Remainers assume those that voted Leave must be racist, Leave think Remainers have rose-tinted glasses and can’t see a country in decline. And every excuse or assumption in between. The truth is: the majority of Leave aren’t xenophobic and Remainers can see failings at home and in the EU but still believe it’s the best model we have to fix things.

The problem is, it’s been a model in play long enough to tackle many of the issues facing the world today and instead has become part of the problem. Leaving the EU removes the government of the day’s first go-to excuse: we have to because of Brussels. It gives the public a greater degree of transparency over decision making, implementation of laws, the management of change. By turning Brexit into a doomsday device, it gives the next three or four governments a new excuse: we’re suffering the consequences of Brexit. This one can run and run, “We’d love to do what you suggest, but we can’t . . . because of Brexit.”

At this point, it’s no longer about the pros and cons of the EU. That was the debate before the referendum. Talk of a second undermines democracy and the viewpoint of those who felt alienated in the first place. If Remainers are hellbent on discussing the virtues of the EU, they should read And the Weak Suffer What They Must? first. When you see why the EU was formed, how it needs to maintain key surplus to deficit nation strategies, the requirement to recycle debt for its single currency, and the propensity to break its own rules for preferred nations, you’ll begin to wonder if leaving isn’t such a bad idea after all.

Remain claim Leave voters didn’t understand what they were voting for. They did: change. It’s Remain that seems to miss their own point. They are voting to stay in a system that supports a single currency the majority of them would vote against joining. It’s like taking out a gym membership but flatly refusing to use the equipment then becoming incensed with changes at the club.

While we’re doing analogies, there’s another doing the rounds about a man ordering fish in a restaurant. I won’t bore you with the entire play, the brief version is after several arguments involving different chefs and a long delay, the man would like to be asked if he still wants the fish. That’s a fine analogy for a service. But the British public didn’t buy anything; they took part in a democratic vote.

To agree with the analogy, you’re saying to those in power around the globe it’s okay to ignore mandates if you argue long enough and make more noise than the initial majority.

Any argument stating that people have changed their mind as more information comes to light is flawed. The argument against Brexit has been a relentless multi-year campaign. The Leave side became largely inactive following the referendum result. The questions Remainers have been asking now, should have formed their narrative before the vote. Much of the evidence that’s followed is subjective – much like the Leave campaign was.

It’s proven that if you tell a human something enough times, it begins to believe it. The Remain campaign has banged the same tune for over two years, people have listened and logged the Fear. Doubt has crept in and pushed democracy aside, for nothing more than feelings.

There is no hard evidence for what follows Brexit. Economists are making predictions. The same type of voices that failed to predict the 2008 financial crisis. The same people that have idly sat by while personal debts are now higher than 2008. The same experts that bandaged up a fatal axe wound to the global monetary system with a plaster and pushed it out of the door for one last go around.

The UK’s imminent departure from the EU upsets this apple cart. They were prepared for the party to end at some point – and God only knows what they have concocted next – but they wanted to milk the current system a little longer. When the cards come crashing down a second time, they want it to be a controlled explosion.

The truth is, there’ll be no catastrophic event when the UK leaves the Union, any recession – home or abroad – will be down to laziness from those in power. Germany has enough deficit nations it can leach from; Britain isn’t short of countries with free trade deals to explore. Yes, some industries will struggle and others will collapse. This isn’t the sign a bad Brexit scenario, it is a sign of the times that’s always been a factor. Workers have to reskill or look for employment in new areas.

When coal mines shut down in Wales, no one can expect Silicon Valley to relocate. Just as the country needs to envisage fresh scenarios, the individual has to recalibrate their position in the changing landscape.

Brexit isn’t bad, it’s something that requires change. How the country’s ruling party and the people within it adapt will determine whether it’s good. The responsibility is with humans, not abstract terms. The time for mudslinging and Fear has long since passed, there’s only room for positive contributions now to a situation you may personally dislike or favour.

Brexit needs to happen to restore faith in democracy. To force politicians to work for a result and sack Agent Fear. Brexit needs to happen so we can abandon excuses and look for reasons to make it work. And if it doesn’t, learn from the experience and explore the reasons why. Brexit needs to happen so we can prove we’re not xenophobic and wish to invite the entire world to our shores, not just the select members of the EU.

Brexit needs to happen so we can move forward from a messy breakup and learn to think positive again.