Right. So May’s missive from here on the west coast that berated Johnson for his and the cabinet’s gross incompetence in the face of the Covid disaster was going to be the last for the Edge website. Why? Let’s face it, you can’t really shoe-horn a picture of a semi naked woman into this sort of content. Political and social commentary just doesn’t belong on the Edge website and that’s accepted here as a truism, and it’s just fine.
However, the last 10 days in America have been of such a monumental nature that it feels almost a dereliction of duty not to report on it from ground level. So here we go…
Firstly, for most of the 20 years this column has appeared in the Edge it has resolutely steered clear of personal experience or life events because, well, why would anyone care about what one Chelmsford expat currently residing in California is up to? If I were still in Essex I wouldn’t be interested in me either.
Social media was supposed to provide a blank canvas for an exchange of ideas and to bring people together. Great plan. It’s just a shame about the implementation. What Facebook and its ilk have done is not a joyous worldwide intermingling of intelligence and a mutual education exercise, but two completely different and entirely contradictory results. The first is that it has subdivided people into mutually hating groups. The second is the introduction of a culture that, in essence, screams “Hey everyone, look at me – aren’t I great?” Er, no, mostly you’re not. And neither am I. Sadly the internet has given a platform to a veritable barrel load of semi literate people that have nothing to say but insist on saying it anyway.
Onwards. All that was by way of explaining why there is just a touch of personal experience in what follows because it’s necessary to make a point. The photo accompanying this piece was taken from my balcony last weekend. It was a Black Lives Matter march going right past my place in downtown San Diego. Take a good look. How many black people can you see? That’s right. None. There are white people, Latinos, Asians and in fact there were plenty of blacks too, just not in this shot. But the key thing here is that every one of them is young. And it’s here where we must start our discourse.
Everyone has seen the video of the white cop killing black George Floyd up in Minnesota. The killing itself was one of a whole string of such murders by cops going back decades. There has been outrage in the past but it all calms down after a few weeks and things return to normal. But a confluence of events has made this one different. At least, it feels different in this moment.
And don’t believe what you read in the Daily Mail or Express. There was some isolated violence and looting last weekend but there has been none, repeat none, since then except a small number of incidents where the cops started it. People are taking their kids to these demos now – it’s safe enough to do so and they want those kids, in 20 years time, to be able to say “I was there when it changed”.
So why are there all those military men and cops you see on TV armed to the teeth and in full combat gear? Good question. Let’s just put it down to Trump being a very small man with a bucketful of insecurities but having all those hard men around him makes him feel like a big strong leader. A warrior. A warrior that hides his tiny hands, tiny intellect and tiny courage in a bunker, but hey, a warrior in his own head.
Obviously the nonchalant way in which the cop kneels there with his hand in his pocket, looking directly at the camera and all but saying “yeah, I’m killing him. So what?” is particularly disturbing and in itself would warrant the demonstrations. But there is a lot more to it than that.
If there weren’t more to it than that why would there be protests all around the western world? Why should young people in London and Paris care about one more police killing in a US state none of them are ever likely to visit? Well, how about this. The cry from black America was instantaneous. We’ve had enough. We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired to use a famous phrase. And all of a sudden everyone else all around the world who was also sick and tired of being sick and tired had a cause to get behind. Make no mistake, this is the young of the world saying we’ve had enough of you old white men screwing up our future so that you can live in the past.
These protests are ostensibly about changing policing out here, and it’s long overdue and must form part of where this goes. It is much deeper than that though, this is a cry for systemic change. Systemic change that says skin colour is not going to` be an issue any more. That says the priorities of old white men are not those of the young. That says the world has changed whether you like it or not and our time is now. Move out of the way.
Do the young of America want to ‘Make America Great Again’ in the way the revolting stain on humanity that sits in the White House and his supporters want? No, because what Trumpistas consider ‘great’ is a return to the golden age of the 1950s where men were men, women stayed in a kitchen and blacks and gays knew to keep quiet.
Over there it’s very similar. The young wanted nothing to do with the Boomer’s notion of Rule Britannia, God Save the Queen, Spitfires over the White Cliffs of Dover and all that British exceptionalist crap that led to Brexit. The young saw their future prospects being trashed by well to do people that had had an easy life that was no longer available to any of their generation. They can’t afford anywhere to live, think climate change is real, and would quite like a secure job with a pension. All things the Boomers don’t care about because they’re alright Jack.
But systemic change is not going to happen until the whole mindset of those currently in power is moved. Which given they are old and set in their views ain’t going to happen, so those people have to be replaced. A generational change in leadership no less. You want proof it’s a good thing? Google Jacinda Ardern. Zero cases of Covid in New Zealand. Zero.
It should be noted that there is an added frustration in both countries because of the undemocratic voting systems. Trump was elected despite getting 3 million fewer votes than Clinton, and in the UK Johnson has a massive majority yet got only 47% of the votes. And both are imposing their reactive and oppressive ways on a population that didn’t want it without so much as a nod of recognition to that fact.
Here there is an election in November and assuming we get there without Trump starting a civil war, or worse, a nuclear war, there is an increasing chance that we can be rid of him and his boot lickers, especially now the young are fired up. It’s by no means a certainty, but there is now hope.
Over there sadly we have another four and a half years before there’s a chance to create a government for the 21st century. And just to be clear here, this writer cares not one jot whether the next government leans right or left, just that it be in tune with Britain and the world as they exist now. Not how they did 50 years ago. Britain and world are now multi-cultural, interconnected, and increasingly without hard borders. Many old gits of my generation don’t like it, but that’s how it is. Suck it up.
Another personal note to end on. Since 2016 when we were lumbered with Trump and Brexit it has been a troubling time for those of us that are not afraid of change. The desire by the electorates of both countries to get behind populists who are palpably unqualified to hold power has been dispiriting verging on depressing. They got there by appealing to all the worst instincts of human nature with a barrage of lies, the biggest of all being that they cared about the little people. Does anyone really, truly, think Johnson gives a flying toss about the life of a shelf stacker in Chelmsford? Or Trump a farm worker in the Mid-West?
However, the actions of the last 10 days, also giving a nod to Greta Thunberg for her work, have led to the kindling of a small flame of optimism. Maybe we can rid ourselves of the ugliness and the future can be saved for our kids and grandkids after all.
It just needs us old farts to get out of the way.