The concept of “Tabula Rasa” -- the Latin term for “Blank Slate” -- proposed that a child's mind was like a blank sheet of paper, void of all reason and knowledge. An idea hugely popular at the height of Victoria’s empire, this seems to be current once again, but now we’re all children, and our ‘betters’ are the corporate rich. Knowledge, and especially reason, is not for ‘the likes of us’; the blue collar oiks, the low incomed, the labouring masses. 2016 can be seen as a milestone in social, economic and political history, as this has been the year when knowledge and reason were finally flushed down the corporate toilet.
What was it, all those decades ago, that made us think we could change the world? Was it inspiration from history? Did we look back to events such as the French and Russian revolutions and imagine something similar, albeit scaled down, might be possible? Nazis and fascists were bitterly fought and defeated. The tyrannical terror of Stalin’s USSR and his perversion of ‘socialism’ crumbled with the Berlin Wall. Did we look at America’s Civil Rights movement or the huge upsurge of indignation over the Vietnam war, and later, Obama’s hopeful slogan ‘Yes we can’ and think ‘yes; humanity can progress …’
Those of us much older in the UK fondly recalled 1945 and the founding of the Welfare State and the NHS. Such achievements were social monuments, forever, we imagined, to remain unchallenged. Ghandi took back India from its imperial masters with non-violence. Even Nelson Mandela was freed in the end, after all those incarcerated years during which we campaigned and protested. Yes, we travelled, bought wine, became familiar with better food and naively imagined that the dark clouds of past oppressive decades had been swept away by our imagined ‘blue sky’ thinking.
But darkness has always been more all-consuming and powerful than our hard-won little shafts of light. The darkness stood back and let us fool ourselves. And oh, how we’ve been fooled. Capitalism is like a big garden, and there, in the far corner beneath the bramble bushes, it has allowed us, like little children, to play, to act out our leftie-liberal-luvvie fantasies whilst it sniggered behind our backs as it quietly dug up the flowerbeds, took away our slide and paddling pool and privatised the greenhouse and the garden shed. Now they’ve burned the bramble bushes, smacked us on the legs and called us indoors, never to be let out again. We’ve been sent to our rooms, locked in, the keys thrown away. We have been very, very naughty and as the saying goes, children must be seen but not heard.
It’s time to ask ourselves some hard questions. Did Sting, singing ‘They Dance Alone’ in Santiago bring back the ‘disappeared’ murdered by Pinochet? Did Elvis Costello singing ‘Shipbuilding’ prevent the Falklands War or raise the Belgrano? Has any line of any song by Billy Bragg ever made a difference? Did any speech by any actor or celebrity with a left-leaning conscience ever make a government listen? Did the Clash, the Sex Pistols, Crass, Gang of Four or any other entertainment act produce anything but a faint glow of satisfaction among a narrow band of demonstrators? The Stop the War Coalition, CND, Rock Against Racism, the Occupy Movement … have any of these projects ever improved the world and moved it forward? What has the left/liberal/luvvie ‘progressive’ Guardian-reading Corbynista alliance produced? Very little. We’re a sideshow, something the corporate elite see as a social safety valve. Let them campaign, let them protest, blow off steam. The Establishment’s position is easy: the worse they act, the more greedy and inhuman they become, the more the plebs can shout and march; it makes the world look as if something’s happening.
Well, now something has happened, and it’s bigger, darker and more dangerous than anything conceived even by Thatcher, Reagan, Bush or Blair. Our corporate rulers have put their foot down, cranked up their media hate mill and gone all out to establish the world they’ve dreamed of, a world they last enjoyed in 1933-45. It began with a steady drip-feed of propaganda. It followed a sinister and cynical plan. First, you take more away from the already dispossessed poor, and blame liberal politicians for the result. Then you blame the poor for their own poverty whilst pointing out that some of them still have the goods you sold them - 40 inch TV sets and I-Phones. You demonise these people by broadcasting 'benefits porn' on TV; look at the listless, scrounging poor! Hate them! You castigate them for not having work. The benefits system and the NHS, which the electorate have paid for through tax and National Insurance, is re-interpreted as scrounging and waste. Health care should be a 'business' like any other. Illness should mean profit. As the ill-informed victims squirm under the yoke of austerity, an austerity inflicted with one purpose - to keep the rich rich, and make them even richer, you point out that all this anguish is the fault of governments, local councils, trade unions, in fact any social body which does not exist to make a profit. Because you own 95% of the celebrity-infused vacuous fascism-flavoured media which these hapless dupes consume every day, your message is powerful enough to work. And there is a grain of truth in it. The corrupt political elite which you elect to ‘advance’ society is made up of the very people who propagate the propaganda. Very few so-called ‘politicians’ are in the game to improve our lot; they are passengers on the same gravy train which benefits from the mess they cause, their disaster which the electorate are blamed for. Anyone educated at Eton knows the definition of a nation’s economy; it’s your new toy box now that your Nanny’s been sent home. And if you didn't make Eton or Harrow, don't worry; there's always a corporate directorship or consultancy to add to your Parliamentary salary.
With the irresistible rise of Donald Trump, a man born with a whole canteen of gold cutlery in his rancid mouth, and his chosen gang of horror-show senators, it seems likely that the new landscape of bigotry, deliberate ignorance, aggressive irrationality and racism will become the new norm over the next decade. Aided by rapacious, greed-driven and duplicitous pocket-lining UK politicians from the Tory Party to Nigel Farage, the path is being cleared for the destruction of the European Union, which, with all its faults, has at least prevented a European war since 1945. The Dutch, Belgian and French proto Nazis are on the march. Since Britain’s Brexit vote the population have become victims of the classic right wing law of success; divide and rule. Now 52% of the population who voted leave loathe and detest the 48% who voted stay. It’s OK to hate people, and FaceBook and Twitter lets you do it. Before the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in March 1938, the Jews may have been disliked, but the arrival of Hitler and Himmler gave the population the green light for absolute hatred, resulting in harmless, educated elderly men and women being forced to scrub the streets and clean toilets; because they were slightly ‘different’. Let us not kid ourselves; that same dark undercurrent is now reaching boiling point in Britain.
In 1941 Adolf Hitler postponed Operation Sea Lion - the intended invasion of Britain - to concentrate on his biggest error - the invasion of the USSR. Yet let’s sit back in dismay as his foul philosophy rises from the ashes of 1945 with Marine Le Pen. The Third Reich’s troops only got as far as the Channel Islands, but 70 years on, the esprit de corps of the Waffen-SS is already here; its ubermensch spectre has taken root in the working class. Compassion, rationality and dialogue are dead. Lies are truth, truth is lies. It’s official, because The Daily Mail, The Express and The Sun give the people what they want. Hate is a hungry fire, and requires plenty of fuel. The garden has been burned; we shall now live by a new creed, last seen on the barracks walls of Dachau; Sympathy is weakness.