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Hope in the time of Purposeful Amnesia

todayFebruary 26, 2016 69

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In the summer of 2015, Jeremy Corbyn was the odds-on favourite to be the next Labour leader, with an audience rating of 84.3% after a TV debate with other Labour candidates. He was duly elected with a huge majority. To a friendly Martian, observing us from his spaceship, this all seems quite sensible. Here’s a man who looked good on TV, was saying the right things, and people responded with their votes.

But now we rewind, to just a few weeks earlier. The Tories and the Greens were so overjoyed that Corbyn had entered the nomination process for leader of the Labour party that quite a few non-Labour activists and even MPs bizarrely managed to join the Labour Party and voted for him as leader!

Why were they overjoyed? For this we again rewind, a few weeks earlier still. Everyone felt at that time that Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Labour would guarantee that the Labour Party would be unelectable. Why would that be? Because here was one of the most hard-left MPs around. He had defied his own party over 500 times. He was the chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, funded by some very questionable sources. He freely met with IRA and Palestinian terrorists and members of the Iranian militia and considered Hamas his friend and also mixed freely with known anti-Semites. He was a throwback to the days of Michael Foot, another Labour leader who was demonstrably unelectable. If you are from the USA, just substitute Donald Trump, the principal is the same, if not the politics.

We have been manipulated, coached and seduced by very clever people, (we call them “spin doctors”) who know how to press the right buttons to affect public opinion. They can do this because these people know the big secret … these days we mostly have the attention span of a goldfish. We respond to whatever we have been fed in the media. Because we have lost our sense of history, even the get-up-and-go to check out things for ourselves. The French historian Bloch said “misunderstanding of the present is the inevitable consequence of ignorance of the past.” The past just seems to be another country for most of us, like one of those exotic holiday destinations that’s always just beyond our grasp.

Another example. One of the most long-lasting hatreds in sport is between West Ham and Millwall football clubs. There’s a historical reason for it, but I doubt if present day supporters are aware of it. It goes back to something that happened in the 1920s when they were neighbouring clubs in the Thames docklands and it was a spat over a dock strike, which I won’t go into.

The point I am making here and my observation on the default mindset of Western man (and woman) is that we have lost our sense of history. We are post-Christian, post-modern and, if there was such a term, post-certainties. We have no back-story, our past does not interest us. We are a pic ‘n’ mix society. We take what we need and discard that which is of no use to us, in the sense of disrupting the flow of our daily existences. This is living in a cocoon, feeling safe for the time being but always with that nagging thought at the back of the brain that the future is probably not as nice and predictable as we would like it to be.

Which brings me back to hope. Most of us are too busy living for today to think too much about what lurks beyond the horizon. What does concern us is the steady flow of food and drink, competitive petrol prices, next-day delivery through Amazon and ready access to doctors and the police when life is disrupted. Basically, most people are just getting on living their lives, good lives full of love, charity, ups, downs, triumphs and disasters. Hope doesn’t necessarily enter the equation when all is going well, when the pattern is not disrupted, when the unpredictable is kept at bay. Our lives in the West generally fit into a groove of pattern and predictability, we are cushioned from disruptive influences through our civilized society. Yet, what if, suddenly, that begins to crumble? History is full of examples, even in recent times. There’s nothing built in to today’s World to make us an exception to this. What if the worst happens? Could you cope if our certainties were taken away? These are worrying thoughts for some, for others there’s no point worrying about the unthinkable.

Written by: Miriam Emenike

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