I started to write these Chronicles 17 days ago with two objectives. The first was to give myself something to do at a time of year when I am more or less imprisoned by the bad weather; and the second was to show the world that even approaching one’s 90th birthday, there is some life left in the old dog yet, that I could write such dazzling insights into the state of the world as would astonish the two or three people who might stumble upon them.
It is as to the second of these objectives that the jury is still out. In fact, to carry on the metaphor, I think I could say the jury is not only out, but has virtually disappeared into the mists. All those imagined dazzlements, those brilliant and daring insights, have remained annoyingly elusive. What has replaced these imaginary and desired wonders has been a stream of reminiscence of the most commonplace kind.
But, as has been said before me, wot the hell, wot the hell, toujours gai, toujours gai, a saying that has become my mantra in my old age. This was invented by a newspaper man, Don Marquis, who in his 1916 column in the New York Sun created the characters archy the cockroach and Mehitabel the alley cat, who, after the family had retired for the night, would jump on to the heavy old typewriter, and astonish the readers with their satirical analysis of the current world. At my age, I find Mehitabel’s injunction to archy provides me with an adequate defence against the imperatives pressing on me from the outside world. (archy has no capital because the cockroach could only move the keys by jumping up and down on them, and since the shift lock required two keys, he wasn’t able to manage it.)
There’s a certain amount of self-analysis involved in writing these chronicles, or self-criticism, as my political self would call it, and one thing I have noticed in recent years is that I have developed a tendency not to read stuff that I know in advance I won’t agree with. Does this mean I have become, or am becoming, bigoted in my old age? I tell myself self-righteously that I know all their arguments off by heart, and it would be a waste of time to listen to them one more time.
The result has been that, politically speaking, I tend to watch only programmes, and to read only commentaries that fit neatly into my preconceptions. In relation to the evil Trump, for example, I have never had any doubts from the get-go that the man is narcissistic to an extreme degree, full of bloated pomposity, a serial liar to boot, and unfit for the office to which the mistaken Americans have elected him. No question about all that, for me, and I am always astonished when one of his partisans is asked for their opinion, and they deliver a ridiculous paean of praise for his every great idea, his distrust of Moslems, his hatred of blacks, his insults against Mexicans and women, his obsession with building a wall to keep them all out, as if these were all minimal requirements in the defence of the great US of A. Yea, verily, make America great again! Madness! Eventually, a more sober voice might arise who will say he is handling his office brilliantly, keeping everyone of his detractors off guard, fulfilling his bizarre promises, one by one, and could certainly be heading for re-election in 2020.I regard these people, especially those who might who show a modicum of sense, as either totally corrupt, or bordering on insasnity.
Well, there is no point in pretending otherwise: I am lost, totally lost, to those arguments. I worry a little sometimes that perhaps I am accepting too easily, too uncritically, the presumptions of, say, Noam Chomsky, who, for my money, is the American above all others who knows what is really happening in this benighted world, and who has the courage to describe it, loud and clear.
So, the global issues line up for me without a scintilla of doubt:
* the Palestinians have been illegally invaded and oppressed by the Israelis
* the State of Israel is on a suicide path than can only end in tragedy
* there is only one cause for the rise in tensions with Russia: NATO has broken its promise and moved their troops right up to Russia’s borders
* capitalism can admittedly produce more goods than any other economic system, but it has become a full-blast oligarchy
* it is scandalous and unacceptable that wealthy countries like Britain, the United States and Canada should have so many poor people, so many children going to bed hungry. But this is inevitable in a capitalism world
* with the money wasted on space travel and various other scientific marvels, every child in the world could be fed and go to school
* our governments are controlled by the wealth owners and their corporations, who pay for politicians to win elections, and thereafter have them under control
* the main threat to world peace is the United States, with its 840 military basses scattered round the world
* it follows, therefore, as the night follows day, that Canada should do everything possible not to act as a lapdog of the US.
I have not a doubt about the truth of any of these propositions, and frankly, I am not interested in hearing the rationalizations put forward by the minions of the enemy.
As to the specifics by which these controlling powers are to be reeled in, I am ready to hear argument. But basic to all policies should be the public interest, not the public interest about which the corporations are always prating, but public interest as represented by public ownership of essential services, such as water, electricity, clean air, publicly provided affordable housing and health care for all, public ownership of banks and insurance companies, a far-reaching public interest to be represented by public ownership of, to use a now discarded phrase formerly used by formerly social democratic political parties, “the commanding heights of the economy.”
This is not to say that every corner store must be publicly owned: we have learned enough from the last century of communism, socialism and capitalism competing against each other, of how each works and where each fails, to realize that such draconian interventions can bring an economy to seizure.
Yet one thing is sure: the major problems confronting our species today cannot be solved by private ownership of production, or even by the nation state. We need to think of ourselves as citizens of the world, collectively responsible for ensuring our Earth’s survival.
A good start would be to get rid of anthems and flags.