Reality intrudes

Regular readers will know that this blog oscillates between fairly frivolous virtual-world and cultural commentary and weightier posts about the state of the world. The former have been predominating recently, partly because I’ve not been too busy this last month or so, and thus have had more time to waste online, but mainly on account of events in the real world being just too depressing to think about. Still, we have pretensions of seriousness here, so I guess we should try to acknowledge that there are things going on beyond our immediate preoccupations.

When we last wrote about the Libyan situation it looked as if a lengthy civil war was brewing, which was tragic enough, but the subsequent intervention by NATO has made things even worse. Now that neither side has any motivation to negotiate, and the airstrikes have, unsurprisingly, failed to halt the fighting, the pressure for an escalation of Western involvement will only grow. Our own dear government have been the biggest cheerleaders for war so far, but I suspect even they know that the public won’t support an Iraq-style invasion, so it seems likely that some sort of covert-operations-plus-arming-local-forces strategy will be put in place. We’ve been down that road before of course, in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and look how well that worked out.

It’s surely more than a coincidence that this latest war has broken out just as a cut in the defence budget was on the cards, giving the generals another chance to warn us that we will all be murdered in our beds by rampaging [insert current focus of xenophobic paranoia here] unless we keep handing blank cheques to the military-industrial complex.

The defence cuts may end up being reversed, but the government shows no sign of backing down on its plans to slash other areas of public spending, despite half a million people turning up to register their opposition last weekend. (The event was rounded off by the now-customary police riot, allowing the cops call for an immediate reversal in police budget cuts, else we will all be murdered in our beds etc). Government ministers continue to tell us the cuts are regrettable, but necessary, as the public finances are totally shot, despite the growing body of opinion that says that the economy isn’t actually in such bad shape, and that in fact it looked worse for most of the last two centuries, during which Britain managed to build an Empire, defeat the Nazis and found the Welfare State. The Tories’ claim that the country will be bust unless all public employees take a pay cut, work to 75 and settle for a miserable pension is being exposed as a threadbare cover for their ideologically-driven agenda to privatise the whole public sector, for the benefit of their cronies, who will be given free rein to make us poor suffering citizens pay through the nose if we want the most basic of public services.

See? Pretty much a downer, huh? And I haven’t even touched on the nuclear catastrophe in Japan, the war in the Ivory Coast, the assault on organised labour in the US, or the myriad of other reasons to believe we are collectively headed to hell in a handcart.

Are there any reasons for optimism? I’d like to say that the left is resurgent as people wake up to the reality of the system, but it doesn’t seem that that is true. There is a lot of anger about the cuts for sure, but not much organisation, and there is a sort of learned helplessness around, a feeling that our opponents are just too strong, and we can only keep our heads down and try to ride out the storm.

I might be too pessimistic. I’m just a tired old man in a tired old country; the young comrades seem more up for the fight. The London demo was encouraging, as is the pro-union campaign in Wisconsin, and of course the masses in the developing world are already showing us the way. I guess I’ll keep doing what I can, but I suspect I’ll feel the need to escape to a peaceful fantasy world more often than ever.

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