Monday, 15 May 2017

Alternative Multiverses

Theresa May's Inheritance

It seems like yesterday.  Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher, Churchill redivivus, leading Britain to victory in the Falklands War.  Yet, at the same time for many, it has faded in memory.  What was it all about, again?

It turns out that a major sea change had taken place in British society: in 1979 a Gallup poll had shown the British to be the most pessimistic of thirty-one countries surveyed; in 1983 [just four years later] they were the eighth most optimistic.  If you were going to pick one event, or sequence of events, which turned the tide in popular sentiment it would have been the Falklands War.

Robert Tombs, towards the end of his magisterial, The English and Their History [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015] reflects upon the aftermath of the Falklands War and its impact upon the British people.

The first impact was that it did not unite all.  Most significantly it drove the Left and Thatchers critics into the grounds of extremist sentiment, where many now dwell, ideologically separated from the the bulk of British people.  This group has continued, and are now living in a parallel universe--at least for the present.  Who knows what the end game for them will be.

Tombs describes this parallel universe as it was developing in the eighties in Britain.

The Falklands victory did not, however, mean a new spirit of national unity.  It won vilification as well as praise for Thatcher.  The mainly left-wing minority (with a few dissident Tories and Liberals) who had opposed the war were bitter at what they saw as the whipping up of militaristic nationalism by "an absolutely Victorian jingoist."

(Leftist politician) Tony Benn found it "embarrassing to live in Britain at the moment."  Intellectuals mostly agreed and expressed their feelings in films, works of art and documentaries.  The writer Alan Bennett described it as "the Last Night of the Proms erected into policy."  The historian E.P. Thompson predicted that Britain would suffer "for a long time, in rapes and muggings . . . in international ill will and in the stirring up of ugly national sentiment."  [Ibid., p. 825]
Note that these views were being expressed at the same time as popular sentiment was moving from pessimism to optimism.  Some of the left-wing intelligensia, to the contrary, understood how estranged the Left was becoming from the bulk of the population.  Writes Tombs: "The Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawm thought there had been a sea change, "a public sentiment that could actually be felt" and "anyone of the Left who was not aware of this grassroots feeling . . . ought seriously to consider his or her capacity to assess politics."  [Ibid. p. 826]

In other words, the leftist intelligensia and self-righteous talking heads had, in a fit of elitist snobbery, departed reality to inhabit a parallel universe.  Tombs quotes one Labour activist who saw what was happening:
"Most of the Labour Party activists I knew," wrote one sympathizer, "worked in the public sector and were surrounded by like-minded people, only read the Guardian and were simply not aware that the rest of the country thought we were stark raving bonkers."  [Ibid.]
Most of these people, we might add, lived in London--and still do--in their own echo chambers.

To become aware of this alternative universe, this "other world", is a very strange and unexpected development.  The layman's expectation of the rise of mass media, electronic news, and the ubiquity of social media portals such as Twitter and Facebook, was that the instantaneous broadcasting of information and data would "bring the world together".  In fact, it has created ghettos of the like-minded, where people live in cocoons, in isolated thought communities--even whilst functioning in society.  They operate in general society, but live in a mental ghetto.  One only has to sit on a train, or on a bus, and observe most of the passengers' fixation on a piece of metal and plastic six inches from their noses, oblivious to life around them, to see the reality of parallel multiverses.

We have seen the same phenomenon work out once more in the recent Brexit vote.  It has come as a genuine shock to many in the minority to be confronted with how estranged they have become from the mindset of the majority of their countrymen.  It had apparently never dawned on the Leftist minority that their orientation as citizens of Europe meant they had departed from the culture and mindset of the majority of  British people.  To cope, the Labour Party has moved more and more to the Left--doubling down, seeking security in recitation of the mantras of its parallel universe.

Long may it prove to be the case.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post. My step daughter is living in parallel universe that appears to have been created at secondary school from seeds of hurt at how her father had abandoned her. We are attempting to fix it and so far have spent $900 on life coaching but are a bit frustrated that the people who do care are routinely shouted at because they are wrong about everything while every emotional dead end gets a free pass.

I was going to take her overseas for a week but being in close quarters with a racist, misogynist, Islamophobe, homophobe, chauvinist, generous Christian white guy would be too much for her to endure in her present state so the offer has been withdrawn. Politicians, like step daughters, need to remember the lesson of not biting the hand that feeds you without good reason.