If you’d called my home a rat hole last week, you’d have wounded the dignity of fleas. I was a disgrace, and one with no memory of ever uttering the words “Tawny Port”, much less of Tawny Port’s ingestion. Still, the archipelago on the kitchen floor could have been formed by no other wine, and no other person but me. When two independent parties agreed that yes, it was Tawny Port, I had no choice but to conquer this, and all other islands of filth. I cleaned house for two days, then, with bleach and port all gone, I spent a third day aiming to chuck the least of my books.
This work, as you probably know, is pointless. I find a passage of such resonance so quickly, I stop tossing. I praise myself for acquiring such a rich collection, forgetting that (a) I still own an awful lot of awful Margaret Atwood, and (b) the resonant passages were not resonant, nor were they found by chance. These were passages marked by my teenage thumbs.
“Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.”
“Wow,” I said, before accepting that this bit of Nietzsche resonates only in my memory and not in any adult head, with the likely exception of this one. Uncut pessimism is only for the emo teen, and/or Clinton supporter. In 2017, we grown-ups must see some glow in the abyss, or give up on human history.
There were very few signs of light in the West this year, but, in the effort to grow up, I figured I could spot three:
1. UK election
Yes, the Tories cling to power, but much in the way Mark Latham clings to a conviction that he’ll ever clock more views on YouTube than my 12-year-old niece’s unboxing of the PlayStation 4 Pro. To be fair, my niece is much more telegenic than The Outsider, and far livelier talent than the UK Prime Minister. Then again, the box in that unboxing video is more compelling than May, who is unable to convince voters she is either an empowered Spice Girl Thatcher “I Don’t Need No Man” type or a sentient human.
Let’s set aside the failure of May and her party to stand for anything but an austere past and mediocre present. Let’s consider the figure of Jeremy Corbyn.
It is, perhaps, no secret, that your reporter is a fan. Give me any chap who can make his own jam, any politician who can utter the name “Marx” without dry-heaving, I’m basically gone. Give hundred of thousands of young Britons a basic tutorial in their economic history, however, and history will change, whatever I have to say about it.
It is true — for the leftist, at least — that Corbyn’s prescriptions are more Keynesian than commie. It is also true that he has liberated politics from the parliament and pushed it to the place that most of us agree is rightful: with the people.
I do not buy very much at all of what was sold by the Yes campaign. Those claims that marriage can cure the mentally unwell, pacify malignant homophobes or legitimise relationships already recognised in law were shaky. Those corporate endorsements made me nervous — will the state only listen to a “grassroots” movement when it comes with the approval of our biggest banks?
But I guess I don’t get to say that hundreds of thousands of young people are marvellously engaged if joining UK Labour, and just a bit dim if they enrol to vote for a principle that doesn’t excite me at all.
The point is, they were excited. And, now, they are triumphant. My historic hope is that this mass of kids becomes very used to getting its own way, and when it’s time to tell the policy class to shove its avocado moralising and make with the wealth equality, they’ll do it very well.
3. Donald Trump
No, this is not that thin argument advanced by some celebrities that a bumbling nativist could bring forth revolution. You don’t need to be Nietzsche to see such hope as torment.
You might be one of the better authors on an old bookshelf, though. Antonio Gramsci’s old advice for changing history is usually written as, “Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.”
Trump accelerates not just the crash-landing of American Eagle spirit, but those market-friendly policies both Democrats and Republicans have built since the death of FDR. The change was once so gradual and politely explained. Now it is acute, and plainly vulgar. It leaves a trail, and it is my evil hope that this will be recognised by the many as history.