Any of it. When I find myself asking if the world has gone mad, there's a weird kind of reassurance in remembering it's always had terrible convulsions of madness; that the 21st century, so far, isn't shaping up quite as badly as the 20th. Not in ...
The news is not good. Any of it. When I find myself asking if the world has gone mad, thereâ€™s a weird kind of reassurance in remembering itâ€™s always had terrible convulsions of madness; that the 21st century, so far, isnâ€™t shaping up quite as badly as the 20th. Not in Europe anyway. Syrians might not be quite so sure.
My son asked me the other day if people really did dread nuclear war in the 1970s. I had to tell him that, hard as it is to believe now, it was a taken-for-granted part of the fabric of my childhood. I do remember looking at the leaflets and thinking that getting under a table wasnâ€™t actually going to help that much. But there are times when I want to get under a table now, or at least stay on Netflix, where thereâ€™s no chance of news encroaching. But encroach it does.
Brexit. Nice. Turkey. Trump. What a month it has been. Seismic events occur close to home. The terrible demagoguery that so many nations struggle with, the vicious wars, the fragile ceasefires, the growing numbers of refugees, and of people living under siege â€“ much of this has slid from the top of the news agenda. Instead, the focus is on the way the west is responding to it all.
Both Brexit and Trump represent a collective crawling under the table, an attempt to pretend that the scary rest-of-the-world does not exist. Build a wall. Control a border. Draw a line. Or more of the dangerous people â€“ already right there in Nice, 78 million close by in Turkey â€“ will come to live in our midst, spoiling what, without them, would no doubt be our gentle idyll: honey still for tea and no mustard gas. Repulsive Trump embodies the hateful, self-interested, self-defeating spirit of every pull-up-the-drawbridge age.
And talking of drawbridges, our own age also reminds me of the Tudor period, with people marching behind their leaderâ€™s banner to make themselves feel strong and invulnerable. Henry VIII and his Brexit from Rome, his cultural cleansing of religious beliefs that didnâ€™t suit him, his beheadings. Nowadays, people born and bred in Britain have to travel halfway round the world to get away with beheadings. How astounding it is that people occasionally, very occasionally, choose to make that journey. Psychopaths, demagogues, narcissists â€“ every age has had them.
The followers of Trump, or of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, are people who want to crawl under the table and make sure that no one suspect, no one different, sneaks under there with them. They are so afraid, and so bumptious in their fear. Theyâ€™re pathetic. Yet no one can deny that there is an existential threat to the west. Notice of that was received on 11 September 2001. The annihilation of symbolic buildings represented an intent to commit â€œcultural genocideâ€, a term coined by Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish lawyer who first defined genocide during the second world war.
The 9/11 attack was not just a terrorist mass murder. It was an act of cultural genocide, a statement of purpose in a war not envisaged merely as a means of gaining power over westerners, but of simply wiping westerners from the face of the Earth. Build a wall. Control a border. Or push the places you donâ€™t like into the sea. Any self-styled leader who stands up and tells people that this is the common-sense way to defend ourselves will attract followers.
Itâ€™s a seemingly simple solution to a frightening, complex, intractable problem, a problem bound up with all the fears, resentments and often well-founded feelings of injustice that the whole of human history has generated. Only a fool doesnâ€™t find all this a bit of a worry. Only a fool thinks some heroic single chap can come along to sort it.
The sheer literalism of Trumpâ€™s ascendancy is dumbfounding. US dominance and certainty of power was shattered by the felling of towers built to make money. Of course, a man who builds towers to make money, unabashedly showy and eponymous towers, as the World Trade Center was, seems to the table-croucher like the man who can provide an antidote to Americaâ€™s great wound, a wound both real and narcissistic â€“ again like Trump himself.
Related: Trump/Nixon: the parallels are startling | Trevor Timm
Itâ€™s often said we live in a narcissistic age, one where you donâ€™t have to get Holbein to do you a selfie but can snap it yourself and put it right out there where the world can see. The west is narcissistic. Radical Islam is narcissistic. Every slight or criticism, real or imagined, valid or invalid, deliberate or accidental, sets these two ideologies off. Even calling either of them an ideology, rather than simply the natural order of things if only others could see that, provokes narcissistic rage. Itâ€™s the most frightening of rages, because the angry person is never sorry for it. It is always, to the narcissist, entirely justified, wholly provoked by its victim, self-evidently necessary and cleansing.
Yet being stuck in the past, ignoring the present, isolating ourselves, failing to look ahead, these are the things that will most likely hurt us most. The mention of climate change is a narcissistic wound to the enthusiast for globalised industrialism. The existence of poverty is a narcissistic wound to the wealth creator. The futility of battle is a narcissistic wound to the warrior. The pitfalls of technology are narcissistic wounds to the nerd-king.
The narcissist fashions his own reality, and tries to impose it on the world. He brooks no criticism. He tolerates no dissent. He leaves those who arenâ€™t with him to crawl under the table, where thereâ€™s nothing for them to do but await their doom, whether it everÂ actually comes or not.
Donald Trump,US news,Bastille Day truck attack,France,World news,Turkey coup attempt,EU referendum,UK news