Asks Colin tudge
May 6: A good day for the Lib Dems and the Greens in the local elections yesterday. Not bad though less than decisive for Labour. A bad day for the Tories, though not as bad as they deserve. After Cameron the spiv, May the interregnum, Boris the malignant clown, Truss the star of the sixth form debating society, and now Rishi qua Tigger, and the absolute lack across the party of serious talent or of moral probity, they should have been wiped off the map.
Meanwhile, in the world at large, there’s Ukraine, Sudan, Myanmar, Syria, Afghanistan, the simmering aggression of China, Modi’s Hindu chauvinism in India, and the perpetually bubbling Trumpery in the US. And of course there’s the perfectly legal and richly rewarded but nonetheless destructive machinations of big-time finance and commerce, and the barely concealed pervasiveness of big-time crime, and the vast grey no-man’s-land of corruption between the two.
Yet looked at objectively, matched against the real problems of the Earth, and humanity, and our fellow creatures, it all seems so – not irrelevant exactly because it is all so damaging; but little or nothing more than a distraction. How does any of it help us to deal with the things that really matter – injustice, poverty, hunger, violence, depression, global warming, mass extinction and the general destruction of the natural world? Is any real progress possible in anything that really matters as long as the world is steered by the crude economic doctrine of neoliberalism, which seeks to uncouple the economy from moral or ecological constraint? Yet who in the most influential political parties is seriously advocating economic reform, as opposed to the odd tweak? Keir Starmer is surely a decent man but he does not challenge the neoliberal orthodoxy. Like the Clintons, or indeed Gordon Brown, he represents what is now called the “neoliberal Left”.
Specifically, but crucially, who in the latest council elections mentioned agriculture? No-one that I heard. Not even the Greens. Who in any election ever mentions it? Yet agriculture is at the root of all the world’s problems – ecological, moral, social, spiritual, political, economic; the thing we absolutely have to get right and in many respects are getting most wrong.
And what does Vladimir Putin’s dream of resurrecting the Russian Empire – not simply that of the USSR but of Peter the Great – really matter, except to the many thousands of people he has killed, and the millions whose lives he has ruined, and the further destruction of the Earth? Who will it help? What does Xi Jinping actually want? Or Assad? What do the generals who are wrecking Sudan and Myanmar think they are up to? Why and how do the rest of us – all eight billion of us – allow such fantasists such power? Why are things so out of hand?
But I won’t rant on. I just want to make the point yet again that we, humanity, really do need to ask these questions, and never stop asking them, and act on them. The things that are considered serious in high places and are the stuff of news are mostly damaging or at least beside the point. We have to get down to the roots of things – dig deep through the political ideologies and the economic dogmas to the underlying bedrock principles of morality and ecology, and go on digging until we get down to the “absolute presuppositions” that lie in our subconscious, the big ideas and attitudes that are beyond further analysis that in the end we must take on trust, and belong in the realms of metaphysics (which has largely gone missing and needs as a matter of urgency to be restored).
PS: It’s King Charles’s coronation today. A pernicious hangover from the past, some would say. At best it’s a welcome distraction from the mega distractions of world politics. But other people’s presidents surely provide reason enough to hang on to the monarchy. As Hilaire Belloc warned his young friend James (though not alas until James had been eaten by a lion):
“ … always keep ahold of nurse
for fear of finding something worse”
A pity the Brexiteers didn’t consult Belloc before the Referendum.