I’ll assume you didn’t read the last thing I posted here. Or, if you did, that you haven’t spent the previous six and a bit months fondly remembering it. (Thank you for being here now, it’s really very sweet of you.)
So forgive me for glancing just briefly back. In A Review of 2016: At Last, Power to the People, I set myself a tricky task. In the course of several hundred words, I described 2016 in a wholly sarcastic way. I ‘celebrated’ world events that felt awful, and conveyed a jubilant sort of mood instead of my real one at the time, which was sour and dyspeptic.
Don’t worry, I realize I’m answering a question you never asked. My point, simply, is this: as I think may also be true of you, much of what happened in 2016 was so unsettling and so unpleasant that trying to make sense of it all became an increasingly futile and forlorn undertaking. I didn’t quite know how to think anymore, let alone write. So I wrote something cynical and mean, then shut the fuck up for two entire seasons.
And now, see, it’s summertime and the sun’s out… I’m resolved, at last, to think some better thoughts. No. Not that, exactly. I’m resolved to try and think some better thoughts. My friend, let’s do this thing together.
What kind of a world do we want to live in? In the country of my birth, England, do we want all that “austerity” entails? Do we want its slashing cuts, its dangerous deregulating, its outsourcing zeal? Do we want the burned out shell of Grenfell Tower to teach us, silently, no lessons?
And here in America, where I now live, do we want to sanction and endorse the strange cruelty of the Republican Party, and, at present, its corrosive disregard for the institutions and civic norms that do so much to give this country its essential shape and form? Do we want to tell 22 million friends and neighbors: no, you can’t have access to health care, after all?
Really. What kind of world do we want for ourselves and our children? What do we value, and what do we oppose?
Can we hope to be somehow upright and solid, when so many breaking news stories – and elections – evoke a world that is fearful and uncertain? Why is the UK leaving the EU? Why is America leaving the Paris Accord? Why are the Facebook news feeds of my brother and my sister so floridly Islamophobic?
Are there things among us and within us – hiding in plain sight, perhaps – that keep on keeping us from better and brighter futures? And can we, through individual and communal effort, undermine the conditions upon which these things depend?
The kind of world I want to live in doesn’t distribute its wealth so unequally. Working toward such a goal, can we unlearn the way we worship money? Can we compel greed to become more of a social taboo? Say “ugly rich” instead of “super rich” – and regard excessive, unnecessary wealth as terribly gauche? More simply, can we hurry up and realize that material consumption correlates to happiness only up to a point?
The kind of world I want to live in doesn’t get hot or bothered about otherness and difference. Can we take a longer view of history to see more clearly how the forces of oppression take root, and to rip these roots from our soil? And, in so doing, cool the noisy discord that drives us apart? Can we resist the world-views – and newspapers, TV networks, politicians, preachers, strongmen, and firebrands – deemphasizing or undervaluing the many things we all have in common?
The kind of world I want to live in champions compassion, fairness, and equality – and rejects, on stages big and small, ‘might is right.’ Can we second-guess the fortunes spent on readying all of us for war, and gravely count the cost of other investments never made? How boorish and brutish to stockpile long-range missiles, when so many social provisions are willfully underfunded. Can we learn to live without the aimless drifting of nuclear submarines, and drive, instead, our collective capital – and energy – into schools, hospitals, housing, civic centers, cultural institutions, and other such things which are lovely, welcoming, and helpful?
Alright. You’re surely rolling your eyes at me by now, right? All this pontificating… Perhaps I should simply have written what I often say to my two young daughters: be nice to each other. (Given the future hasn’t happened yet, it might just make a world of difference.)
Today’s post soundtracked by: