The Chinese proverb, ‘May You Be Born In Interesting Times’ is often applied to a period of economic, political or social upheaval. Yeah, but tell that to the people of Tibet, or those poor buggers who work night and day making trainers for obese Westerners to wear around the house. My point being, context is everything and life is at best ambiguous; at worst it’s a bad mutha with an attitude problem.
Let’s take politics. Yeah, I know, sleep city. But it does matter because the people in power are making decisions every day that affect the like of you and me.
The new coalition government is definitely at the ‘tail end’ of the honeymoon period, still screwing the country day and night, even if the country isn’t really in the mood. Pretty soon the country is gonna feel sore and empty, and want to just cuddle for a bit. Then it will start demanding changes. Small things to begin with – more jobs, better healthcare, a greener economy and some hope.
Naturally, like the new boss of a department, this government plans to ring in the changes. Promises have already been made to adequately equip the troops and to downsize military personnel (might these two objectives be linked…). Elsewhere, the government scrapped the plan to replace NHS Direct with a ‘111’ information service, staffed primarily by trained call-handlers instead of expensive nurses. That word ‘expensive’ is likely to rear its head frequently over the years to come, along with that other much loved term, ‘value for money’.
The capitalist model is based upon profitability, but whether everything can be made to run at a profit (state healthcare, utilities and rail services to name but three) remains to be seen. Certainly, under Labour, it never quite came together.
So we’re in a state of flux, past the shock that wasn’t so much a shock to some, but more a disappointment. It’s still early days in the relationship and lots of promises are being made. Every new government defines itself, at least in part, by earnestly telling the electorate what it is not. And it’s always the same basic song-sheet: we are not the last load of bozos who messed everything up.
One thing that’s perhaps different this time is that, thanks in part to the proliferation of 24-hour media content, the electorate is much more aware of the impact of world politics and global economics on a nation or sovereign state.
Having started this piece with a Chinese proverb, it seems fitting somehow to find another piece of wisdom a little closer to home. As the French say, ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.’ For the non-Europhiles among you, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same.