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A Man for All Seasons, Talking ’bout my Generation and Looking Ahead to 2014

December 19, 2013 Leave a comment

Death of a Hero

There’s not much more to be said about the death of Nelson Mandela. Was he man of the Left, the political Centre, a Conciliator, a Revolutionary? It’s apparent that he was and is all of these things. While it is, to paraphrase Peter Mandelson on Margaret Thatcher’s support for Pinochet, ‘galling’, to hear Tories and Republicans of the US variety heap praise on someone they wanted imprisoned or worse, the global reaction to his death could not be imagined for any other political figure. Mandela may have failed to bring revolutionary change to the living standards of most black South Africans but he achieved equality at the ballot box when the odds were against him. It shows how much you can achieve with right on your side; we all admire Mandela for how he reflects the best of ourselves and also how he seems to mirror our own political persuasions and beliefs. How someone can be a hero to Corporate Captains of Industry to a Washer Woman in Soweto can only be explained in these terms. Which of us leads a life where our integrity is never in issue (honestly now?) and where we can stick to our main goal throughout our Life? Mandela lived enough lives for seven or eight lifetimes and the scale of his achievements may never be matched. All we can do is be grateful that his path crossed with ours and how we were able to see how one man, albeit a great one, can really make a difference. The World lost its First Citizen – in a translation of an old Irish saying, we’ll never see his like again.

A Chastened Cohort

‘Generation Gulp’ is perhaps the best description for those of us in our late 30s, 40s and 50s. According to a recent report from the UK based Institute of Fiscal Studies, most British people who fall in this age category will be relatively speaking worse off than their parents were at that age. If the study is true, and many of that cohort are feeling a severe pinch if not stagnation of being unable to get a foot on or move up the property ladder or having their wages frozen, then the notion of the American Dream writ large across the World, that each generation is lifted by the previous one, is under severe threat. The radical left would argue that there are the seeds of revolt stored up in the failure if market capitalism; people surely can’t accept decades of austerity and declining living standards can they? While the seeds may be there, the primary shaper and in many ways controller of popular opinion, the media, shows no signs of ceasing as cheerleader for the wealthy rather than an advocate of the 99% (to use a phrase, and a cruelly dismissed one by many at that, borrowed from 2011). This is a generation with choices; the structural problems may seem insurmountable, but by voting according to interests, real change can be activated. The Progressive Left has many critics – not radical enough, too accommodating etc, but by pushing the needle on the political compass to the Left, we can change not only our lives for the better, but the lives of other generations too. Things may seem bleak for ‘Generation Gulp’ right now but they don’t have to remain without hope.

New World Order?

The end of the year is always a good time to prognosticate about the political world – what are the trends and what could happen in 2014? Will Barrack Obama see his political capital drain further away over the next twelve months as he slips into ‘lame duck’ territory or will he fell embiggened, (thank you Simpsons, again) and throw caution to the wind? It’s clear that he does not like or trust Benjamin Netanyahu – whether this can be enough to embolden John Kerry to seek a meaningful and workable solution in the Middle East remains to be seen. The sceptics would look to previous US indulgence and support of Israeli occupation as a harbinger that real change is not on the cards. But Obama has nothing to lose now – there’s no third term to run for. Then there’s the Euro. Will there be another crisis or has ‘kicking the can down the road’ turned out to be this century’s equivalent of Asquith’s ‘masterly inactivity’? Nobody on the Left can feel comfortable with the European Project since the currency union; the benefits for business have far outweighed the pluses for the citizen. Barring possible natural disasters, where will the next big political crisis come from? Will technology and the rise of the machines still set the agenda in the West? The Forest Gump slogan is never more apposite than when it comes to international affairs; you just never know what you’re going to get. World leaders will pretend as always but the can only manage the world so much.

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