I was born into an age where a slap on a woman’s bottom was neither condoned nor condemned, where there was no such thing as a chair person. We laughed with black and Irish comedians who weren’t just self-deprecating, they were perpetuating the racism we now find totally unacceptable. Homosexuality was illegal. Equal pay wasn’t even a policy, never mind a reality. But we got free health care and there was an extensive stock of council housing. There were soup kitchens for down and outs but no food banks for working families. We were still celebrating our victory over Nazi Germany, the civil rights movement was cutting its teeth and the mighty British Empire was being dismantled.
There wasn’t a great deal of money around but there was hope. There were real opportunities for working class people (albeit mainly for white, heterosexual men) and the wealthy and successful had no choice but to feed back into the economy. The post war economic model not only gave rise to unprecedented wealth across the nation, it provided a seed bed for social reform. The great struggles of the 19th Century were finally bearing fruit.
My predominant memories of news broadcasts of the time were the anti-Vietnam protests. All those students who should have been getting on with their studies were out on the streets of London, clashing with police and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Of course I didn’t realise how significant this was with Pete Seeger singing “We Shall Overcome” over in the US and the Beatles telling us that all we need is love. The old paradigm of white privilege and unchallenged respect for the establishment was being exposed for what it was as democracy took hold.
But as we were enjoying the spring of a new era, the establishment were biding their time. Our mere 2 decades of Keynesian prosperity under Clement Attlee and FDR would quickly give way to the monetarism of Thatcher and Reagan. The lie of trickle down economics (it’s no myth) saw all the wealth generated by the 98% trickle up to the 2% and stay there. Through the 80’s and 90’s we were awash with money but little did we appreciate how we’d mortgaged the wealth that was ours to reinvest. Instead of being satisfied with our daily bread we bought the cake. We could have had the social reform along with economic prosperity but now are looking to lose both.
The nightmare US election ended up as a contest between the [liberal] establishment that has cheated us out of the wealth we created and the [fascist] beast of self-interest. It was a choice between the bad and the ugly and we got the ugly. We know who the casualties will be. It will be every section of society that has gained ground over the last century as the powerful play out their Olympian chess game, regardless of who the players are. They don’t care whether its Trump or Clinton – either will do.
While sexism, racism and all manner of ugliness has found a ‘respectable’ stage over the last two years, these are the pawns. Only behind the rooks of economic stability and bishops of reason can our freedoms and liberties march forward. In Trumpland freedom means being able to say what you want and discriminate against who you want with impunity. But what was the alternative?
The North Dakota Access Pipeline is near completion and despite the UN being on the ground; despite the brutality of the police against peaceful protectors being seen by the world; despite the oil company publicly declaring they will flout the law, the current President is sitting on his hands. The Bundys, who effectively declared war on the USA, walk free while Native Americans are being shot, tear gassed, falsely imprisoned and criminalised for camping on land that is legally theirs. Hillary Clinton is cut from the same cloth as Obama. There will be more Flints and North Dakotas while these corporate lackeys remain in power.
We need to call Trump what he is: a fascist, bigoted sexual predator and con man who should be behind bars, not in the White House. The world should not recognise him as President, as the USA has so many times not recognised democratically elected governments and planted fascist murderers like Pinochet in their stead. We need to condemn his misogyny, racism and fear mongering but at the same time understand that the big players who brought about this disaster simply have new trolls to do their bidding.
Bringing Trump down and putting a woman in the White House will just paper over the cracks. Just like Ghandi broke the will of the great British Empire and Martin Luther King confronted the American establishment we need to demand real change and not settle for compromise. We want to see more incremental positive change like we have seen over the last 100 years but we need a political climate in which our liberties can thrive. Trump has got to go but so has big money in politics. Wall Street and the multinationals need re-regulating, the media moguls need to be made irrelevant.
We have our own monsters in the UK but we have a common purpose with our friends across the pond. Its time for neoliberalism to crawl back under its grubby stone.