At this time of year – when the clowns likely to screw everything up have been rendered harmless by their families and/or overseas vacations – there is very little in the news, and so ageing editor Calum Fillare gets to work issuing his employees with the job of variously reviewing the year gone, and what the new one might bring.
Laced with arrogant hubris and the mid-morning heart-starter in the flask, those with a level of self-esteem far in excess of any objective estimation get to work producing stuff that almost always gives their lack of insight away.
My favourite example of this was Will Hutton, who ended 2011 in the Observer with an article that began, ‘2012 will be the year when the global economy finally gets back into gear and roars back to healthy growth’. I was actually quite friendly with Will at the time, and thus couldn’t resist ribbing him about the gaffe later in the (by then, passing) year. He didn’t take it well. As in, I never heard from him again.
“The future makes fools of us all” someone once said. I agree completely with that, except for the addition of one word – ‘always’; but equally, those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it. So you’d think I’d be in favour of reviewing the past year.
But I’m not: years can be turning points, but years can never be ‘history’ in anything other than the most basic datesandplaces form of it that put most people off when I was at school. The time-span is far too short to make any judgements, and the lessons of the previous twelve months are rarely perceived, let alone learned.
The importance of any one event is almost never understood fully at the time. Some of the best ‘historical novels’ – a genre I normally avoid – make comic hay with this, but most of them don’t. I think One Day performed the feat brilliantly, and so did Catch 22. In one episode, the ITV drama Upstairs Downstairs did too, when it had the Bellamy household footman Edward say to his chum at the outbreak of the First World War, “Oh do come to the Front with us Cedric, it shall be such a lark”. For the same reason, I’m the only person I know who liked Steven Spielberg‘s 1979 movie 1941. Apart from making fun of panic-stricken Californians, it also included a scene where USAAF pilot John Belushi lands on a major highway to fill up with gas. It was achingly funny.
Youth is not wasted on the young purely because of their inexperience: it’s wasted on them because, like everyone else, they never grasp how later events will make the era legendary. As a peripatetic, boozy and bumptious ad-agency bon viveur in the 1970s, I had no idea at all that my lifestyle in 1978 of ‘think on your feet, work hard and chuck plates about in Anemos when not sliding under the table in Bertorellis’ would cause young peepers to expand like pinwheels in 2008. And they in turn don’t know that, in 2038, other wide-eyed kids will say, “You were really at Lehman when the big one hit?”
You see, when one is young, the present is always normal at the time. Only the nostalgia generated by decades of changing values makes it desirable. I think this lay at the heart of Woody Allen’s 2011 movie Midnight in Paris. Dismissed by many at the time as a light frippery, I still think it one of his finest hours.
In short, immediate futures and pasts are of little value as engines of insight. But there is one useful thing a socio-econo-political commentator can do with them , and that’s pick out the Xerox-copier, robotic, bone-idle media repetitions of clichéd codswallop.
So here’s a list of worn-out columnist carpets that lost all their magic in 2016 – if not long before – that I’d like to see expunged from 2017.
And the sting is in the tail.
THINGS I DON’T WANT TO SEE IN 2017
- ‘gate’ as the suffix to a wannabe scandal
- ‘my thoughts are with the family’ as a tweet
- ‘Firefox is not responding’ on my browser
- ‘Something is not right’ on Gmail
- “Let’s be clear about this” from an obfuscating politician
- Scum, fascist, bigot or racist from a saddo Libleft Brexit Remain voter
- Any more self-exculpatory, self-pitying tweets from pensionista Ros Altmann
- Gong winners saying they are humbled
- ‘2016 was the year of Celebrity death’
- ‘We’re all in the same boat’
It’s the last of these I want to focus on in the rest of this piece tonight; and while I know the sinking of the Titanic is also a parallel flogged to the point of small aguilettes of horse flesh, it would be nice to vapourise this cliché once and for all in the context of the Ship of State.
We are not all in the same boat, because most of us are still on the bloody ship.
This is the thing that most of those resisting the bulldozer of citizen rights masquerading as “reform” miss. They miss it because their blinkered ideology wants to blame a single political Party (the Tories or the Republicans or whoever) and all their followers for the situation of 70% of the passengers….ie, still resident on the sinking ship: the one with a big rip in it likely to lead the allegedly impossible submersion of the ship, and the death of all hands.
We must return to the Titanic in order to realise why the facile boat parallel needs to be bunged into the incinerator once and for all. And the thing to look at is the ticket classes on board the ship.
There were in fact four of them: First Class suite ($83,200 today) First Class berth ($2975 today) Second Class ($1200 today) and Third Class ($298 to $793 today, depending on privacy level). I think these are uncannily similar to the neocon ‘economic’ social classes we have going into 2017.
First of all, note that the cost difference between the two grades of First Class is a staggering factor of 29.
You can relate that to the difference between the 3% super-rich and the 10% very well off today.
Next, observe that Second Class was nearly four times more pricey than the most expensive Third Class option, but ten times times more expensive than the ‘steerage’ version of Third Class.
Second Class passengers thus equate quite well to the 40+% who are today a bit stressed and time starved, but on the whole reasonably satisfied with their lot.
And then we have the Third Class. Today, they relate to the retired and unemployed class…and then as now, there was an enormous difference within that spread. Those existing on private plus State pensions are at least two and a half times better off than those relying purely on the State. The passengers raising 300 bucks to be somewhere else were desperate….not an option open to most LTU Neet youths or Waspi victims, who are equally desperate.
The real, telling parallel between these two eras is that – then as now – the different ‘grades’ of citizen were unlikely to come into contact with each other.
Those who got into the lifeboats were almost all First Class women, and their male counterparts able – even in the hour of death – to bribe stewards into letting them exit the ship. A surprising number of the lower end of First Class survived. The upper end males took their medicine. That wouldn’t happen today.
The Second Class passengers almost entirely obeyed the orders of the crew to be patient. They were the duped hangers-on. They most definitely do still exist today. They too went down with the ship.
Separated by money, the Third Class passengers by and large nevertheless met the same fate: some were disgracefully locked below deck by order of a person who remains, to this day, unknown. Others kicked the ice from the berg about joyfully on deck, convinced by the media bollocks that described the ship as unsinkable.
This is where the Western world’s activist resistors have it all wrong. They see themselves as the lone heroes, smashing down the locked grilles in steerage because everyone else is getting away, and thus represents the enemy.
But without the help and support of those who also have no hope in Hell of getting into the lifeboats, they will never break out.
The task for Labour in the UK, Democrats in the US, the PS in France – in fact for all self-appointed Progressives everywhere – is to dump this bonkers idea of ‘it’s Us versus All the Rest’. The focus now should be on persuading as many as possible of the 70% of citizens in the democracies that they too are going down with the ship.
31.7% of those on board the Titanic survived. The 70% who will drown on some tomorrow in the unknown future are not in the same boat, but they are on the same ship. The Left is very good at making enemies; it is rubbish at making friends.