I am sure you will have heard the axiom “ We live in interesting times” whose origins are purported to be a Chinese philosopher but in fact there is no evidence of it being so, in fact a translation of a “Chinese Curse “ translated by an Englishman Joseph Chamberlain is the registered contender.
Well whoever claims ownership of it is certainly true in the year 2016, wherever one looks you can see change of fundamental and mammoth proportions occurring.
You know mankind can award itself a good pat on the back, as he and she have made so many notable advances through time, too numerous to list here. Despite these fabulous advances and the work of those imaginative writers such as H.G. Wells & Jules Verne there is something that continually eludes us, “the ability to go back in time”.
Yet today we are not giving up in our quest to achieve what many think is beyond our grasp that is to go back to a time when things were gentler and easier.
These continuing efforts can be witnessed in three western style countries, The United States of America, The United Kingdom and Australia. All three countries will soon experience a test of their feelings by either a general election or referendum within months or even weeks.
Let us examine what will be put before them:
The once mighty economic powerhouse the United States is close to electing its next president but all is not well in the land of Uncle Sam, serious fissures have appeared in their democracy never seen before. This after a period when the population have been buffeted by levels of pain not seen since the Great Depression. The great American belief that capitalism would always be their saviour has let them down, it seems that model only brings rewards when times are good.
On that occasion only a courageous president (Franklin Delano Roosevelt) who was able to galvanise the country and save it from entering into a dangerous downward spiral but unfortunately not living to see the fruits of his labours.
Division abounds as the whole world sees through the prism of a world-wide media system exposing every crack as it gathers momentum, people demonstrating anger and frustration regarding the political system which they consider to be broken the American dream once held to be sacrosanct in pieces.
Endless television interviews with citizens across the country yearning to go back to American ideals, of economic power, family values and unwavering belief in the certainty of being the best country in the world. The Hollywood image of mom’s apple pie and unspoilt idyllic family life seems to be a distant memory.
At this time in their history it appears no modern candidate has emerged. It was thought President Obama would be that person alas he got tangled up in the web of political bastardy. A man with a good heart but without the skills required to outsmart streetwise political opponents well versed in keeping the status quo and continuing to peddle the myth in people’s minds they can return to days gone by.
Along comes a rich opportunist, a man perfect for the time, charismatic but not necessarily with any substance able to convince people the dream is not dead and can easily be restored, a real life Pied Piper.
(Actually if you watch the movie The American President starring Michael Douglas you might hear some very similar themes with life imitating art). This theatre production has not reached its last act but I fear that paradise lost which is being promised to be reborn is a complete mirage.
It we turn our attention to the United Kingdom (my birthplace) some rather strange things are going on there and as with the USA there are parallels to be found.
Having seemingly achieved the impossible of holding out against a mighty foe over two world wars those victories have gradually been tarnished as the sun has set on their once ever encompassing empire as they stubbornly resist to believe their place in the world has changed .A long line of politicians and society notables have held the line that Britain would never have its sovereignty challenged and taking the lead from Churchill’s famous speech would never surrender on any front and forever bask in the warmth of those bygone achievements.
Famous examples of this jingoistic thinking was the indomitable Mrs. Thatcher who once rebuked the then chairman of British Airways Lord King for replacing the image of the tail fin of its fleet from the Union Jack to some nondescript design which did not reflect the heritage of the nation, placing her handkerchief over the offending model of the wretched innovation. (The emblem was later to revert to the original marque due to public pressure). Who can forget that earnest speech on the steps of 10 Downing Street after winning the Falklands war, proclaiming Britain would be forever great and nothing would ever change that.
Very shortly the nation will be asked to decide if they want to remain as part of a larger economic community or return to a time when Britain stood alone seemingly against the world. Worrying signs that an increasingly amount of the population believe it is time to return to the ideological world of Camelot, a very dangerous assumption given the knowledge that the world now operates on a system of mutual economic cooperation and if it goes wrong the reality is that the consequences could be quite horrific.
Now finally to my adopted homeland Australia, a land of immense beauty and diversity a place where through the decades people have flocked to grab their own slice of piece of heaven in a very beguiling environment mostly sheltered from the rest of the world’s ills and woes. The long held belief anyone could reach out and own that quarter acre block and live happily ever after was accepted as a rite of passage.
The passage of time has almost literally pulled this huge continent closer to the world aided and abetted by global economic change, which has certainly brought riches to our shores but along with the largesse has come at a cost with a more complicated and stressful life. In our case the nostalgic fall back is of tales of “the bush” and how the nation was forged through stoicism and determination in various conflicts, indeed a young but proud history. The chasm between the rates of change we are now seeing and our ability to digest these changes has altered our landscape irretrievably. From a freewheeling anything goes society it is evident the angst and insecurity we are witnessing is being played out in our everyday lives.
So what is the link between the three nations mentioned, it quite simple really it is down to human nature, we are at heart sentimentalists and have an ingrained fear of change albeit the signs coming from the emerging generations suggests otherwise. A darker side to our respective societies has seen the rise of the spectre of immigration always the first indication of our insecurities together with the deterioration of engagement amongst us should give us a clue where we might be headed.
Whenever our lives are threatened we revert in further attempts to wind back the clock. Quoting from the title of a book by American Marshall Goldsmith “What got you here, won’t get you there” hits the spot, we may be proud of our history and achievements but they will not help us to navigate the road ahead.
Which brings me back to those famous writers of yesteryear maybe their musings may yet come true until then we have to work out a way through this seemingly complex life with just our treasured memories rather than constantly looking through the rear view mirror for comfort.
“What got you here won’t get you there” (a book published by Mr. Marshall Goldsmith Amazon.com)