Avoiding “Fusterclucks” needs a new form of politics
During recent parliamentary discussions on Brexit Liberal Democrat MP, Layla Moran, raised the BBC corporate blood pressure a notch by telling a reporter that Brexit was a “Cluster Shambles”. It turns out that enough MPs agreed with her, that Mrs May was now able to claim a record… `the biggest voting defeat since the 19th Century` – defeated 432 to 202. Wow – just WOW!
One report said that the decision was “Decisive”, but, strangely, despite the huge numbers going through the anti-government lobby it was actually rather less decisive than may be thought! There was another story about two young people, one brexiteer and one supporter of a People`s Vote (PV) standing outside parliament to listen to the result of the vote. On hearing the news, each thought the vote meant they had won the day.
The `brexiteer` decided the vote was so large that the inevitable result would be for the UK to jump over the cliff of having a “No Deal” Brexit. The PV supporter was completely reassured that the inevitable result would be the suspension of Article 50 and an ensuing People`s Vote. As I write these words, we do not yet know which is the more likely, but anyone who has read my blog posts will know which I prefer (for any NEW readers let me be clear I want to STAY in the EU and make it a much better more environmentally-friendly place.)
For my part, I think Layla would have increased her profile threefold if she had not used the euphemism “Cluster Shambles” and it may even have gone up fivefold is she had used the Spoonerism version “Fustercluck”. As you can see that is the version I have favoured for my sub-title today.
Anyway it set my mind thinking and the thought that occurred to me was that there seems to have been an increasing trend (over a VERY long period by the way) towards politicians living in fear of telling truth to power and the ones that do still manage to tell the truth to power should be listened to with more respect than they often get. I include in this band of political heroes Layla Moran of course, David Lammy, Caroline Lucas, and Anna Soubry with respect to Brexit at least.
When I was still a teenager it was probably still close enough to a real World War for the Cuban Missile Crisis to be seen as a Real and Present threat to world peace and I recall a very real feeling of fear that we may need to buy lots of brown paper bags to cover the windows in case there was a nuclear bomb dropped nearby – we lived not far from the V-Bomber air base of Waddington.
Not many years later the Israeli Six Days` War represented another possible source of conflagration when we really thought it would be necessary to hide away under the stairs for a few days until the radiation had declined enough to go out and hunt for tinned food in devastated nearby towns. The fact that – in these cases – the worst did not happen is part of the trend to which I referred above, leading me to the heading for this post.
Since I had to look up the actual and real meaning of these words, to make sure they meant what I understood them to mean, it may be helpful if we check those definitions over…
Apocalypse – An apocalypse is a disclosure of knowledge or revelation. In religious and occult concepts it is usually a disclosure of something hidden, “a vision of heavenly secrets that can make sense of earthly realities”.
Apostasy – the abandonment or renunciation of a religious or political belief.
Let me approach my position, my `argument` perhaps, that people in general have somehow abandoned the view that something REALLY bad might actually happen, when told that bad things are threatened. I have said before in these columns that I am definitely an optimist, so let me also reassure you that I have not changed this habit of a lifetime. I am still an optimist and that remains my underlying reason for being involved in politics – I always believe there is a better way. In the words of the current Liberal Democrat branding we should “Demand Better” from our current politicians. But back to my argument…
One of the things that perhaps led to, or at least contributed to, Apocalypse Apostasy was the collapse of the Russian experiment with Communism in the late 1980s from the 1917 revolution until the fall of the Berlin wall. For years and years and years we had been threatened that Communism was THE threat to Capitalism and then the Iron Curtain became flimsy and suddenly it just collapsed. And in 1989 the People just climbed onto the WALL and started knocking chunks out of it.
Just on a personal note it has always been one of my minor regrets that we did not go to Berlin and at least symbolically help to take it down. I recall saying to my wife Tricia, as we watched the evening news, – “Hey – let`s go to Berlin. NOW, let`s just do it!!” There were probably several sensible reasons why we shouldn`t or couldn`t, but now I just look back and think we could have and we should have.
So, then people started getting very worried that Y2K would be the end of the world. If you are not old enough to remember, someone somewhere had identified that because computer software programmes typically referred to years with only two digits (i.e. either 77 or 98 for 1977 and 1998 respectively) then there may be a distinct problem on December 31st 1999 when the two digits had to roll over to 00 – the “millennium bug!” Computer systems would suddenly collapse with all sorts of problems occurring, not the least of which was that airplanes would simply fall from the sky.
Needless to say, now we know, but that did not happen. Most people assume it did not happen because it was all about people making a fuss about nothing, but a very large part of the reason it did not happen was because many, many dedicated IT professionals went through all the systems believed to be most at risk and ironed out any possible bugs to make sure it DID not happen.
Then there was the worry about hydrocarbons and the expansion of the Ozone hole over the southern hemisphere. These chemicals were, over a very long period finding their way up to the stratosphere and destroying the ozone layer which was all that kept us from being frazzled by ultraviolet rays from the sun. The problem was first identified in the early 1970s, being taken seriously as that decade moved to a close and an international agreement was reached to phase out the worst culprits. The societal problem was that the chemicals causing the problems were amongst the most useful ever identified and were used in “modern” refrigerators and air conditioning form the 1930s onwards. It is now recognised by those in the know that phasing them out is beginning to be successful and the ozone hole is just beginning to get a little smaller again.
There are still disbelievers, however, who regard the whole Ozone Hole thing as some kind of pseudo-science hoax. Needless to say, perhaps, but I believe they have the same mindset as Climate Change deniers, Holocaust deniers and those people who poo-poo the many “experts” who predicted that leaving the European Union would cause irreparable economic damage.
All of which, of course, brings me to the present day. The Brexit issue may yet prove to be settled without the damage, if the politicians can avoid the Brexit “Fustercluck” and somehow make it work that we can continue within the economically and environmentally beneficial European Union.
What concerns me much more, however, is the existential threat of uncontrolled global warming and the inevitable Climate catastrophe that is unfolding as I write this and you read this! The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report last year actually did an unusual thing for an academically led report. It effectively pressed the PANIC button and told us all that if we did not seriously change our ways within the next twelve years (i.e. before 2030) and keep global warming under the figure of 1.5 degrees Celsius by the year 2050, life on Earth would become untenable for some.
If the Global Warming figure reached, say, 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, then 99% of all the world`s corals would die (even at 1.5 degrees of warming we can expect 75% of corals to die off before the end of the century) massively changing the bio-diversity balance in our Oceans. The World Wide Fund for Nature also reported last year that we have lost 60% of all wild mammals in the last 40 years.
On the optimistic side of the equation a recent piece of research has said we CAN avoid going over 1.5 degrees of global warming – but if, and only if, we stop creating any new fossil fuel burning facilities worldwide. NOW. In other words it is STILL possible we can avoid Climate Armageddon, but only if we act immediately.
But it seems, as I have been building up to in this post, we have a whole series of politicians taking or holding Power in the world who suffer from Apocalypse Apostasy – they have abandoned or renounced the political belief that the end of the world as we know it has been revealed by humanity`s research experts and is a potentially REAL threat.
We have Trump in the USA who is a Climate Change Denier and has appointed Climate Change Deniers to the highest political positions in the land, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA.
We have Jair Bolsanaro elected as President of Brazil, who has appointed a Climate Change Denier as his key Foreign Minister and merged the Environmental protection ministry with the (now more senior) Agricultural Ministry, in the face of the destruction of the Amazon Forest, as the lungs of the world.
And we have a UK Prime Minister still trying to force through a Brexit deal that will reduce our capacity to strengthen our environmental laws and regulations in concert with our European neighbours in the face of experts warning of the dire consequences of so-doing. Aided and abetted, it has to be said by a Brexit supporting “so-called” leader of the Opposition – “What Opposition?” I hear you say!!
We also have a small cabal of media moguls who are happy to keep raking in the money of their media empires by playing to the lowest common denominators of their climate-denying readership who are quite happy to continue ripping off the environment which is destined to look after their progeny.
Apocalypse Apostasy can only be circumvented by a new approach to politics. We saw Capitalism take the upper hand in the world from Communism back in the late 1980s. Perhaps it is time for a new Environmental Economics – a Circular Economy, if you will, which treats all inputs as valuable, never to be “wasted” by casual discarding during manufacturing processes or by unwanted “emissions” – time for Circular Economics to oust straightforward, linear “Capitalism” from the driving seat of our new Green World.
We need politicians with the bravery of David Lammy, for example who spoke so eloquently in the House of Commons recently, speaking real truth to Power about the dreadful effects of Brexit, even though they did not want to hear it; and politicians with the bravery to tell truth to Power, that they were presiding over a Fustercluck, as Layla Moran almost did just a day or two ago.
A scruffily bearded man holding a placard that says “The end of the world is Nigh” has been a cartoon meme since I was a teenager (or longer?), so perhaps Apocalypse Apostasy is a syndrome that is older than I have realised. The problem is that it is rather like the boy who called “Wolf!” when there wasn`t one – nobody believed him when there really was a wolf.
Scientists and experts are now crying “Wolf!” about Global Warming and the Climate Catastrophe and it seems there really is a pack of wolves circling and getting closer. We need to hear these warnings and then actually DO something about attending to them in time for my optimism to find something to be optimistic about!