Another year of political chaos, with three prime ministers, war in Ukraine and a cost of living crisis. It has been a lot. Instead of returning to relative stability, the ripple effects of lockdowns have continued to have a huge impact and will likely reverberate for years to come.
There’s a phrase I keep coming back to which was included in an issue of the excellent Garbage Day newsletter- weaponised nostalgia. It strikes me this has been the defining imposition of the year, an enforced yearning for a simpler time that in all likelihood didn’t ever exist. Politicians are deliberately exploiting this desire to mask horrific crimes, like shipping refugees off to Rwanda instead of allowing them into the country.
It’s influenced almost every political move this year. The Conservative party line is a return to normality now the pandemic is ‘over’, a shift to consume as much as possible and go back to growth. With the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the forced memorialisation reached fever pitch. The funeral felt like pomp and circumstance from a different world, a glimpse of Victorian tradition somehow featuring in the twenty first century. When Liz Truss resigned, there was even a brief period of time when the press were pushing a narrative of nostalgia for Boris Johnson, who had only left power six weeks earlier.
The war in Ukraine could be seen through this lens as well, with Putin invading to shore up belief in the mighty Russian empire, which hasn’t existed since the Tsarist times. Putin is using nostalgia to justify a brutal and unnecessary war, literally weaponizing it to try and claim territory that hasn’t been part of Russia for a long time.
If there’s any good news in this chaos, it is that the tactics of the political elite do not seem to be working. The Tories have screwed things up so much the media has deserted them, This winter in Britain has seen the largest strike movements since the 1970’s, a mass mobilisation of people resisting terrible conditions and pay. It’s not just the pandemic or the cost of living crisis that have caused these strikes, it’s twelve years of Tory austerity, it’s wages not moving much since 2008 despite prices going up and it’s the public services like the NHS being brought to their knees. Thanks in part to the government’s greed and mismanagement, we are now entering a major recession and life for most people is going to be more of a struggle. The only Tory response to this is to cut services again, and not listen to the millions of people who are suffering.
We have had callous and cruel sociopaths in power for too long, people who treat the country like a personal piggy bank, withdrawing as much as possible for their own amusement while never giving anything back. People are tired of the economy and the country being mismanaged. Even the war in Ukraine hasn’t worked, with Russia not expecting so much fierce resistance from Ukrainians and being pushed back.
This is the problem with using nostalgia as a weapon- it is only of limited use. Politicians pushing the narrative that everything was better in the past are ignorant to the world as it is. The pre-pandemic world has gone and now we need to deal with the new world, with all it’s new challenges and contradictions. Instead of attempting to go back to another time, we need to face the world we are in with clear eyes and deal with the situation as it is.
It’s clear to me that our current leaders are no longer useful for the world we find ourselves in. We need new solutions. We need new systems. I hope in Britain and across the world we are on the brink of real, systemic change. Last year, in my year in review post, I concluded with:
I just hope we can keep the momentum going and demand a better and fairer world, one not ruled by the greedy, the rich and the self-interested but one that works for the most amount of people.
The glimmers of that better and fairer world are just beginning to appear. It’s hard to change a society, like steering a ship away from an iceberg. The turning circle is slow and wide. But I think things are turning. This is the direction we need to be continually heading in, away from an imagined past that never existed and into a better future for everyone.