Saturday, 26 December 2009

The Nightmare Noughties

So the dust has just about settled on yet another Christmas Day, which means that we can take stock, count our presents, our blessings and our lucky stars and get back to the real world just so we can start the twelve month countdown to the next "season of goodwill." (I had a marvellous Christmas, by the way. I bought my parents the one thing they have never in their entire lives, for a whole host of excellent reasons, bought for themselves, namely, a brand new, top of the range TV. They were surprisingly and gratifyingly thrilled by it.)

But Christmas is Christmas. For me, cynical as I am and, after the communal warmth of a dutiful morning mass had (quickly) worn off, and the postprandial hangover of Boxing Day political reflection kicks in, thoughts turn to the next decade. Fortunately, at least for me, Simon Heffer, who ordinarily these days comes across as a rather reactionary old duffer, has refound his radical voice and framed the "Noughties", from which we have all just emerged significantly scathed, in terms everyone must comprehend. As is my bad habit, I've copied it for you here:

It is customary to find a sobriquet for a decade as it comes to a close – the Naughty Nineties, the Roaring Twenties, the Swinging Sixties – but I can think of none to describe the Noughties that is fit for repetition in a respectable newspaper.

The commanding image of the decade remains, more than eight years after the event, that of the aircraft flying into the Twin Towers in Manhattan in September 2001. The battle of the civilised world against the lunacy of Islamic fundamentalism dominated and poisoned the rest of the decade.

However – and however callous it seems to say it – we should have been lucky if that had been all we had to worry about in the past 10 years.

Sadly, it was not. Both away from the "global war on terror" and, most controversially, inherent in it, was a display of incompetence by a political class which it sought more and more to cover up by obfuscation, a retreat from democracy, and downright lies. We are reminded almost every day that lies were told to take us to war in Iraq, and that is probably so. Yet we hear less about the lies told to conceal the activities and identities of those responsible for the economic collapse in the developed world, which have done their own severe damage.

What happened to global prosperity in the Noughties was just as atrocious, in its way, as the conduct of terrorism and of some aspects of the battle against it. I wish we could have a proper public inquiry into the causes of that, with the persons responsible punished in an appropriately bankrupting way.

We leave this decade poorer than when we entered it. That is the result of having lived spectacularly beyond our means. We have, quite simply, not earned enough to afford the lifestyle we have chosen for ourselves: and now we are paying the price. Yet whose fault was that? Foolishly, many blame the bankers, easy scapegoats in a society driven by envy because of their champagne-stoked lifestyles and their vast bonuses. They also took idiotic decisions that imperilled the savings of their customers and the value of their shares – decisions that depleted the pension funds of millions of Britons.

But how were they allowed to do this? The answer is painfully simple. The same Government that refused to regulate the bankers properly also allowed an insane amount of liquidity to go into the economy, which gave them cheap material with which to play casino economics.

Labour's biggest lie is that America brought us the recession. The truth is that there, like here, the recession was brought to us by politicians, and Mr Brown is the prime culprit. This decade of debt is about to usher in a new one of hardship.

These failures were partly the cause of the advance of mediocrity. Around the world, too many leaders won office because they were good on television, or plausible con men. Too few reached the top because they were able and sensible. We are now all paying the price for being duped.

We shall be foolish if we don't learn a lesson from the enormous mistakes of the past 10 years. They are both social and economic. In the former sense, we must stand up for our right to a way of life as we desire it in this country, and as no one else has a right to dictate to us. Majorities have rights, too. Nor is there anything wrong with fighting to protect them, provided the battle is joined honestly and with democratic sanction.

And as for our economy: we have to close down large sections of the state. We have to get it out of our lives. We have to get our people off its payroll. We have to get our poor out of dependency upon it. In Britain, the decade ahead needs to be the decade of the individual. For it is we, the people, who will revive us, and not the state.

Think about that one thing, apart from all the other disasters: "We leave this decade poorer than when we entered it." Heffer is at his best when he presents to us in clear terms the simple, unhappy truth. He's done that here.

Our job is to make sure the next decade is successful, prosperous and, above all, politically rejuvenating. That's going to be tough, but it can't begin without the total destruction of the current travesty of a (British) government. When Brown's gone, we can begin.

Hope you all had a great day off, btw. I did :)

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