Friday, 7 December 2012

Let's take heart - it could all be so much worse!

As 2012 draws to an end, and 2013 looms, and the weather is dull and wet and cold, and the Recovery From The Recesson seems endless, it's easy to feel downhearted.

I have not the slightest doubt that most families in the UK have wanted to cut down on spending this Christmas, just to stay on top of all the ordinary bills. But the usual pressure to lash out on presents for everyone, and the wasteful food and drink frenzy of a more affluent decade is so hard to resist. It almost seems that Government Policy is to get us all into the shops, as if Buying Stuff were a matter of National Economic Survival. Do your bit for Britain! Empty your savings account, ramp up your personal debt! Every successive Christmas in recent years has been measured by shop sales. I'm really wondering whether the Traditional Christmas of old has now had its day. It's arguably a ruinously expensive anchronism. Life has changed.

It is desperately annoying to know that global financial irresponsibility during the 2000s is to blame for the current Austerity measures. Bad planning at the top, unrealistic forward predictions, fictitious asset-creation, lax controls, reckless incentives, cynical mis-selling, a tidal wave of easy credit for those who had no prospect of repaying it - all brought us to this. The financial institutions abandoned prudence, and governments stood by as the inevitable tidal wave appeared on the horizon, then got closer, then washed over. And only when the appalling destruction could be seen did they do anything. And we, the ones they were supposed to care for, who had to take them on trust, are now suffering. We are the fall guys. We foot the payback. No wonder people have become distrustful of politicians' policies and promises.

And these people don't go away in shame and retire. We still find ourselves electing the same old duffers again and again.

Standing back, I can't see an awful lot of difference between the parties. There is good and bad in all of them, and some reasonable ideas, but plenty of incompetence and weakness, and the party hue hardly seems to matter. Why don't they all work together? Why is it all so confrontational, and not a model of co-operation? Why are so many planning predictions wrong, or subverted by political expedience, becoming expensive mistakes that benefit nobody?

Who in fact really knows what they are doing? Or what's just around the corner? The next crisis coming up? Sometimes I think that the people in charge are either naturally blind, or have made themselves so.

However, it could all be much worse. Somehow I got onto the subject of dystopic futures recently. Visions of how the world might be within a few decades, if things go a bit wrong. Not post-apocalyptic visions, such as how it would be if there were ever a global nuclear war; just what might happen if we go down certain paths, and disturbing things become dominant.

In this vein, what's coming up?

Well, if we think of films set in the near future, 2018 will see the world of Rollerball arrive. Do you remember it? Global social control by corporate means, the individual reduced to an insignificant spectator of brutal sport.

Then in 2019 we might have the world of Blade Runner, in which everyone who can get away has bought a ticket to a new life elsewhere in the solar system, leaving behind only the poor and the very rich (who run gigantic corporations). It's still a stylish, consumer-orientated world if you have the money, but no fun if you have nothing, or are on the run. High-tech mixes with eerie crumbling apartment blocks, and bio-engineering has produced artificial humans who can kill you. It rains all the time.

On to 2022, just ten years off, and it's the world of Soylent Green, in which pollution and over-population have run out of control. Basically the world is an overheated and partly-sterile mess, in which descent into irretrievable destitution is always a short step away. Life's ordinary little luxuries like real meat and strawberry jam are strictly for the very rich. Nearly everyone lives on soya or plankton derivatives, and thereby hangs an awful tale.

Thank goodness, none of these dystopian visions from the 1970s and 1980s are likely to become reality. Any more than the darkness of 1984 came to be. I don't rule out the social breakdown and tribal savagery of the Mad Max films becoming reality at some point (oil wars, nuclear attacks, ruined cities, basic survival living), but we'd all have to go seriously off the rails for anything of the sort to happen.

I'm confident that in the year 2100 the UK will still be mainly brick houses and bungalows, ordinary blocks of flats and shopping centres, and trains and buses, much as we know them today. No doubt domestic interiors will look different, more minimalist than now perhaps, and stuffed with discreet electronics. And parked outside will be a car that doesn't run on petrol or diesel. Towns will be larger, but not out of control, and the beauties of the countryside and coast will be rigorously preserved. But it will seem like Canada or Scandinavia. I fear the weather outside will be frightful, even if the warmth indoors will be delightful. It won't be utopia, it'll just be comfortable suburbia endlessly repainted and proofed against the worsening climate. You won't be able to escape off-world, but then neither will you have to eat 'Soylent Green', nor watch Rollerball instead of footy or cricket or tennis or snooker. 

But to have a reasonable income, and pay your bills, you won't be retiring till you're 80, maybe never. And they'll still be making predictions about when the Recovery will really get under way.


  1. I see you are beginning to think much like me when it comes to Christmas. As you know I do not celebrate the festival mostly because it has nothing to do with Christ and more to do with consumerism. Your views on politicians are pretty much mine too, why don't they get their heads together and forget party politics? After all they are running the country on our behalf. I do not share you views on the future though Lucy, I think it will be far different than you imagine.

    Shirley Anne x

  2. You've probably seen reports like this one from Think Progress? It points out that George's Austerity Policies aren't working, and can't work. But, typically, he's doubling down on them because, hey - if something doesn't work once and you try the exact same thing again, it's gotta work! Right?

    On the other hand, I've heard the world will end in a few days, anyway. The Mayans predicted it, so it must be true. It's either that or they ran out of stone to carve their calendar on. :-)

  3. Lucy, whilst everyone remembers blade runner though probably the poorer directors cuts rather than the original with voiceover which I preferred, few surely remember Rollerball though we all feel like we have been playing it for a while!

    I remember a christmas where I had cheese on toast for my main meal, I kow that was extravagant having both a skim of butter and cheese but it was christmas...

    No overspending here.


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