Sunday 20 September 2015

Back to the Future - Great Britain in a timewarp

As I lie in bed this morning reading The Sunday Times, I cannot help but be struck by the fact that it appears the country has entered some sort of a timewarp and somehow transmogrified itself into a hellish remake of 1981. Those on the left used to howl about Margaret Thatcher, but if you actually look what the Cameron government is doing and proposing, Thatcher would stand out as a Wet in this cabinet. As to what the right wing press are saying about Jeremy Corbyn, this ,makes the treatment given to Michael Foot look positively friendly. The front page of The Times details how army chiefs are claiming they will not cooperate with Corbyn. Since when did the army and the intelligence services have the right to dictate to elected governments?

But it is not only politics. Page 36 of the paper announces "love with robots will be as normal as love with other humans". For some reason this reminded me of the 1980's Classic Blade Runner. Another very 1980's headline on page 39 is "walls are going up all over Europe thanks to Mother Merkels kindness". Many of us thought that with the fall of the Iron Curtain walls in Europe were a thing of the past. Another story with 1980's Echo on page 43 "Republicans prepare to be rattled as Pope awkward flies in". In the 1980's it was Pope John Paul II rattling the Soviet Leadership with his support for Polish Independence. Now his successor is rattling the rich and powerful in the U.S.  with  his message of decency and tolerance.

Page 25 details how there is talk of a flood of defections from Labour to the Lib Dems, reminiscent of the formation of the SDP in the early 1980's. There is even a story on page 29 "RAF squadrons will double to face Isis and Russian threat". Page 43 tells us the travails of a maverick republican Presidential candidate, seen as lacking in credibility and gravitas, but loved by the ordinary Joes who actually vote. The echoes of Reagans campaign can't be ignored.

There was a point around 2000 when it seemed as if the 1980's were a different planet. Blair had vanquished the left, the old Pope was seen as a sad anachronistic figure and even Blade Runner and its world of human like robots was viewed as a rather weird and wonderful period piece. The walls had come down, Europe was marching ever closer to full political union and the SDP seemed like a sad vanity project by MPs who made a lousy call. Russia was viewed warmly as a friendly nation. Clinton was president and even the U.S. seemingly had moved on from the 80's. New Labour was getting on famously with the military bosses and Blair was plotting all manner of military adventures.

How strange that fifteen years later, we find ourselves back in the world of 1982, where a couple of changed words in any of the newspaper headlines would make them fit right into the time. Of course those words you'd change are also part of the story. Isis didn't exist, Pope John Paul II was revered by Republicans, and the walls in Europe are to keep people out, not in. The robots in Blade Runner were killer androids, not sexbots designed to satisfy the lustful desire of  those incapable of forming relationships with other human beings. It is perhaps ironic that we perceive robots as a threat to humanity because they may turn against us, if they become sentient. The sad truth is that the real threat is we may simply loose interest in procreating, because robots give us a more satisfying sex life. Maybe Darwinian evolution will do for us in that way. Of course, sadly half the world will go to sleep tonight worrying about whether they'll eat tomorrow. For them the world of sexbots is a different dimension almost. Therein lies the reality of the world we live in. The UK is part of a very small and priveliged bubble. For the vast majority of citizens, the challenge today is the same as the challenge in 1982. Not like our complex stresses, for them the worry is whether their family will eat.

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