It tends to be a given that most works of fiction which imagine the future usually offer an exaggerated vision of the times in which they were written, reflecting the hopes and – more often than not – the fears of the here and now. Numerous elements of a book such as ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ become more worryingly prescient the further we travel from the Cold War nursery that inspired it, though its source material is still unmistakably 1940s Europe. Equally, whilst Anthony Burgess ingeniously kept ‘A Clockwork Orange’ relevant for each generation of teenage hoodlums by inventing slang for his gang of Droogs, their actual genesis was in the moral panic that accompanied Britain’s original adolescent bogeyman, the Teddy Boy. Trying to second-guess what will happen next involves observing the most concerning present day developments and projecting them forwards, imagining how their progress will continue along a similar path, morphing into even more horrific manifestations of their contemporary incarnation. I guess today there are several schools of thought that maintain this tradition, depending upon where one stands on the pressing issues.
For example, by now we’re accustomed to the relentless Doomsday prophesies of the more extreme wings of the climate change lobby, and their forecast rarely varies from the worst case scenario; then there’s the Covid branch of the soothsayer’s union, who only ever seem to see the virus in terms of how many bodies their fevered imaginations can picture; and, of course, there are those who envisage the control of the individual by the State moving closer to the Chinese model as our civil liberties are eroded by successive legislation cloaked in the guise of benign intervention. It goes without saying that images emerging last week of people unable to leave Guangzhou due to the Chinese authorities remotely switching their Covid digital QR passport from yellow to red ought to serve as a warning of what can happen when the individual surrenders the majority of their autonomy to the State; and it’s easy to foresee the leaders of the West pushing for the same powers in the not-too distant future. Then again, every gallows has its humour; after all, it’s hard not to laugh at the utter absence of self-awareness in a risible figure such as Justin Trudeau, declaring his solidarity with protestors in China whilst failing to discern parallels with the way he took back control from Canada’s truckers by first demonising them and then freezing their bank accounts.
If, rather than looking forward, one were to momentarily look back perhaps seven years to December 2015, the pattern of events that brought us to where we are now is easier to discern than predicting the pattern that will take us to December 2029 – even though we instinctively know the direction of that pattern will be a progressively darker one; the feeling is all-but irresistible, yet who can blame us after what we’ve been through over the past seven years? Can anyone seriously argue the world is a better place in 2022 than it was in 2015? One might even come to the conclusion that things have only got worse every year from 2015 onwards. Mind you, what’s interesting is that anticipating the next seven years as something even more awful than the last is far from being the pessimistic prognosis of a wannabe Nostradamus in the wilderness; it’s pretty much become the consensus. The future is now only sold to us as a negative, with a daily roll-call of crises-to-come that hardly make getting up in the morning something worth waiting for; it’s no great surprise so many children are terrified that the Earth will be reduced to a barren wasteland by the time they come of age. Optimism in the future no longer sells.
I think I tried to convey that in a recent post titled ‘Heart and Soul’; this was inspired by watching an old ‘day in the life’ primary coloured-portrait of London from the early 60s called ‘All That Mighty Heart’; it’s the kind of film short that sticks rose-tinted spectacles on the viewer without the viewer’s consent, yet if one can manage to avoid being seduced by the naive nostalgia the film radiates, there’s still no getting away from the fact that it oozes a wonderfully refreshing self-confident optimism in the future – optimism in better homes, better living and working conditions, better roads, better transport, better public amenities, better leisure facilities, and a better life. I suppose the era in which it was produced, long before the ambitious Utopian visions of town-planners collapsed into the rubble of Ronan Point, give it that joyous energy; a generation who had fought the War and a generation that had grown up in the shadow of it took a quick glance over their shoulders and then understandably saw the future as a better place than the past. And they believed it was within their powers to make it so. Maybe that’s why this kind of film can seem such a breath of fresh air when looked at today, a time when we’re so worn down by the MSM generating nothing but negativity when it comes to the day after tomorrow.
Okay, so we overcome one crisis; give it 24 hours and there’ll be another to keep us in a state of agitated anxiety, perennially worrying if it’ll be the next virus that kills us or if hypothermia will beat the virus to it or if the planet will burst into flames and incinerate us before we even get to cannibalism. The cost-of-living crisis is currently being marketed as though it’s the first suffered by a wide cross-section of the British public since the 1970s, though whether we are going through boom or bust there will always be people who are struggling to make ends meet, just as there are always those who are doing alright, Jack – like the landlord of Matt Hancock’s local. Yes, some did indeed have a ‘good pandemic’. Fair enough, he might have had to settle for a knighthood rather than a PPE contract in a brown paper bag, but Chris Whitty is now warning us that this winter’s annual ‘NHS in crisis’ story will consist of multiple deaths arising from all the life-saving diagnoses for cancer and other fun diseases that were sidelined by diverting resources into the likes of empty aircraft hangars called Nightingale hospitals; whose fault was that, Professor Mekon?
Ditto the alarming deaths of children from Strep A; the reintroduction of social interaction in the school environment is being blamed by ‘experts’, yet perhaps if the kids hadn’t been unnecessarily kept away from each other and clad in masks by paranoid parents in thrall to Project Fear, maybe their immune systems would have been sufficiently developed to resist the bacterial infection. Yes, all of these upbeat headlines skimmed from a cursory glance at our beloved news outlets at least bear a relevance to the general tone of this post; but to get back to where we were a few paragraphs ago, what’s all this about December 2015? Well, I didn’t select December 2015 as a random date; the eagle-eyed and long-term amongst you may have realised the Winegum debuted seven years ago this month as of Tuesday just gone (incidentally, this post was ready and waiting to be posted on the actual anniversary, but ongoing ‘internet issues’ prevented me from fulfilling the bloody deadline). Anyway, I struck gold beginning this enterprise when I did; from a purely writing perspective, I couldn’t have wished for a more turbulent time to be documenting and commenting on; it has certainly been a remarkably eventful period of our recent history, and I recognise good fortune when I see it.
Had the last seven years been materially comfortable, culturally static, politically stable and free from drama on both the home front and the global stage, they might not have added up to much in the way of either writing or reading. I suppose if I can put often-unpleasant personal experiences during that timespan to one side and reflect on 2015-2022 solely in terms of ‘art’, I have absolutely no complaints. Duran Duran once infamously claimed they wanted to be the band the people were dancing to when the bomb drops; well, if you’re still up for reading the Winegum Telegram in your cave as you shelter from your plague-infected friends & family, shivering in the perma-winter or sweating in the perma-summer of tomorrow’s killer climate, I’ll keep buggering on.
© The Editor