Brave old world

We’re in the era of Trump.  We’re in a moment, that moment we can breathe in, before we jump into a new, strange world.  Post referendum, we’re in that moment in Britain.  Waiting until we jump.

It’s actually an OK place to be.  It’s a place where we can understand how we feel.  We can regroup. We can make personal structural policy about how we go forward.  Becoming old has given me a sense of the world that is so very different from the world twenty somethings see, or thirty somethings, or even forty somethings.  I look at Trump and think – I’ve seen it all before.

Yes, he has risen on a tide of rightwing populism after an austerity crisis: a trope taught for seventy years to anyone who scratched their heads in wonderment at the rise of a Chaplin lookalike with a funny moustache.  Why didn’t the Jews rise up? is another question we all asked when we were kids. And, look.  Look at the ‘Day One’ posts.  Women being texted by their mothers to please not wear their Hijab, swastikas on walls, the liberal use of the ‘n’ word in graffiti, women being sexually harassed because that’s the behaviour the President elect has modelled.  Yes, people are being silenced, and are worried about their resistance.  But this is a world where we watch each other.  This is a world where – for every moment of propaganda from the candidate, there is a moment countering it.  For every vile media outlet – the Daily Mail – spewing their poisonous fumes, there is another shouting them down.

I remain optimistic about the world.  I’ve seen it all before.  Trump is Reagan.  I remember my bitter anger about the two term Reagan.  I remember the getting up at the crack of sparrows to march the streets of London against him and Mrs Thatcher.  If I look back at him now – well, hindsight is a marvellous thing. He seems fairly benign.  He seems as damaging as the movies he made in the 1950s.  A small frisson in a history book.  A laughable oaf of a man.  He seems now, to be nothing more than a dyed hairdo with an ambitious wife.  Toward the end of his second term, there were rumours that his wife’s astrologer was making the major policy decisions for the United States, and that, my friends is what I remember of Reagan.

Trump, similarly to Reagan, will surround himself with people who will try to push through his agenda in the first years of his first term in office, and on finding that the excesses are impossible, he will learn on the job, perhaps grow up with the strain of actually having to do something serious, and become a moderate.  This will anger his more virulent supporters who may not even vote him in for a second term.  He will split the GOP, and they won’t recover for at least a decade.  From my mouth to God’s ears, right?

Meanwhile, we will all continue to live in our brave old world.  The great thing about extremism is – it brings people together.  It is a catalyst which causes activity.  On Saturday night, we went to see Hassan Akkad speak in Stroud.  He is a Syrian refugee, who fled his country after being tortured in prison for protesting against the regime.  A production team gave him a Go Pro camera to film his journey.  On the same camera my 15 year old daughter used to film us jumping off rocks in the Med, Hassan filmed himself take the journey from Turkey to Greece, in a flimsy boat which failed and began to let water in.  The films he made of his journey were then edited into the TV series ‘Exodus’ which was aired earlier this year on the BBC.  If you haven’t watched it, I urge you to.  It is perhaps the finest TV I have seen this year.  It is immediate, and effective in its ability to churn up our own thoughts and attitudes.  It asks us to understand our attitudes to the refugee crisis, and to our fellow man.

I remember thinking – what is this articulate, good looking, finely boned, moral person doing in the Jungle?  What is this guy even doing getting on and off boats in the Med, fighting to get to Britain?  I remember thinking – to my horror and shame – why does he need to come to Britain: surely he can find a way to live in Syria?  The kick is in the tail end of the show.  Watch it to the end.  I cried – sobbed, in fact.  I won’t spoil it for you.  But there he was on Saturday night, answering our questions.  He said this truth that he seems to have stumbled upon, during his journey.  A guy at the front asked a convoluted question about Trump and hatred – he asked Hassan this question, and I thought – what can he imagine the poor guy will say? – I mean, he’s 28 or something.  But his reply was brilliant.  He said: ‘It’s all about telling stories.  That is how to fight hatred.’

The Daily Mail spews the poisonous fumes – but if you follow that metaphor through, they are driving their vehicle into oblivion.  Their stories are biased and untrue.  People – the majority of the people – like true stories.  They buy truth of emotion, truth of a moment.  They don’t buy manufactured story.  The Hollywood movies that sell are not always the ones whose producers have spent millions on.  I mean, I’m sure the millions help.  ‘I, Daniel Blake’ was packing out audiences across the UK in October.  A film about a brave, small man fighting a labyrinthine system, struck deep and beat many more expensive movies.

We must keep telling our stories.  It is incumbent upon us to reach out and understand the stories, to read them, to retell them to each other. It is morally important for us all, and for our brave old world.  If we can tell the stories with a smile on our faces, all the better.  If we can laugh – well, we’ve won.  We are here. Breathe in. Tell the stories. Laugh. Carry on…

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