One of the rare benefits of getting older is improved perspective. Not the visual thing with a foreground, background and vanishing points - that usually gets worse - but the ability to take the long view of history; in my case, that's a very, very long time.
I usually choose not to vote in elections - disgraceful, you may say. But there was a time when I would willingly have voted, if only I'd been old enough. In 1960s Britain, after an succession of Conservative governments, a confident, well-spoken, dynamic Labour leader was swept into office on a tide of enthusiam. That politician was Harold Wilson, whose picture surmounts this text. I and my mother (perhaps not father), were smitten.
All the right words were uttered. They were even in the right order. Everyone seemed to radiate hope, faith and optimism - and waited. And waited. And waited. For fifty years of fundamental sameness with superficial variations. Strikes, unemployment, economic downturns, upturns, U-turns, about-turns, and always the politicians with new faces but the same thin veneer of affability and competence, quickly peeling under the glare of public scrutiny, and more or less the same words in slightly different order.
So it is that these days, I take the pledges of politicians as they take office, to usher in a new dawn for Humanity, with a Bonneville-sized pinch of salt. Seeing their faces, hearing their words, anyone with a shorter perspective on history could be forgiven for anticipating great public projects, national regeneration, an exhilarating world of opportunity. But what do they actually do?
Once would be too often, but several times in the last fifty years: War. We'll have Peace, they say, but somehow (who knows how) we get the opposite. What we witness is them settling their quarrels with foreign counterparts - who may have been friends yesterday - by sending troops in to kill, or be killed by, their enemy's troops. And if civilians die in the process - and when have they not? - that's "collateral damage".
Here's a link to an article on all the "P"s in the title. And that's not all. The following two videos express roughly my take on a) politicians, and b) anyone - including them - who promise anything, if it gets them closer to what they want for themselves.
This page revised on: 30th April 2014
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