Living In Times Of Lunacy … Or Just The Mixture As Before?


Leaving aside times of war, when all bets are off, are we living through a period of serious and unprecedented social and political turbulence?

A pandemic rages worldwide infecting millions and killing just under 700,000 so far. Covid19 knows no boundaries, is no respecter of governments good or bad. But nothing like this has happened since … well, since HIV, which has, to date killed 37 million. So just how bad is this pandemic? As bad as bad can be for any families who have lost close relatives and friends, but compared to HIV and, going further back in time to the flu pandemic of 1918/19, which killed 50 million, Covid19 is not in the same league. Is this down to better management than was available with HIV and the flu? Social distancing, test-and-trace, better PPE, masks, hand-washing, gels, earlier testing (in some countries, and not all) and better intensive care? How much is really known about the way this virus works when it comes to designing a vaccine? And what the real meaning might be of anti-body testing? So much by way of variables, and so much by way of thinking which can only be described as panpanic? Is this thinking exacerbated by the advent of (anti)-social media which were not there for flu and HIV? Perhaps.

To mask or not. To distance by six feet or three. Or not at all. Have families round for lunch or not. To leave everything in the hands of the state (meaning the nation) or give control to local authorities? Britain creates “air bridges” where quarantines do not apply. Then cancels them. Or did they? The cancelled countries react by tit for tat cancellations, not based on science or reality, but on misplaced national hubris?

Have governments over-reacted in their imposition of shut-downs, or have they been imposing restrictions in order to be seen to be doing something, anything, while actually hoping that herd immunity will solve the problem before long? Or is everyone waiting for that vaccine, which, once ready, will watch the virus mutate overnight into Covid24 or whatever comes next? Has there ever been such a mess of contradiction and confusion? What does leadership actually mean in this situation, and is there either (a) any or (b) any need for any?

Then, Trump. Universally distained and rightly pilloried by everyone except some of the undereducated and politically retarded. When last was there a leader of any nation so catastrophically unsuited to any kind of political leadership, never mind the US presidency? Can the USA — indeed the civilised world, given even the fraying remnants of US influence — suffer another four years of this awfulness? When last did any nation, post Hitler, actually manage to elect such a poltroon — a dangerous poltroon — as its head of everything? Is this orange ego on legs worse than any US leader since WWII?

Nixon? Nixon, the worst until Trump, was simply bent, but Trump is an opportunist cocktail of incompetence, bluster, dishonesty, vulgarity and vocabulary-challenged incoherence. Unless the Democratic Party and Joe Biden develop a winning combination of policies and personality, the world will watch as someone who should never have been allowed to stand for the nation’s top job, is hailed as a two-term Chief. Not a sign of our times which history will consider with anything but contempt and disbelief.

Vladimir Putin, president of Russia for life (not yet formalised, but merely a formality) proudly carries the reeking baggage of a senior KGB operative around the Kremlin and around the world, with everything that the blood-soaked KGB stood for, put into practice and did its very good best to export. Just as the Versailles Treaty was the blueprint for WWII, so perhaps was the falling of the Berlin Wall not the signal to end the cold war but merely a sign to introduce a short interlude while the KGB re-formed and, according to plan, prepared for its man to move to the presidency. Sadly, Mother Russia never had the chance to develop anything better than the worst of the Czars, including Lenin and Stalin. And now, Putin. And never will. Our times are tainted by the ambition of Russia and its cold-eyed president, not even trying to hide an ambition to do what the USSR failed to: export Russianism to the world, but this time do it while the USA is not even looking. The USSR, remember, was just Russia writ large.

China flexes its muscles, mostly in the form of money, and here, too, a megalomaniac Xi Jinping manages to get himself confirmed as life-president, while his nation tears up a treaty designed to keep the peace in Hong Kong, and creates massive concentration camps for the unfortunate Uighurs, while proclaiming with horribly insouciant lies that these camps simply don’t exist. Aung Sang-Soo Chi, once feted as a heroine of patience and democracy, turns into a neo-fascist in Myanmar and supports Buddhist-led genocide of the Rohingya. And I can’t bring myself to type the name of the murderous fish-eyed creep who is the president of Syria, presiding over the deliberate and systematic killing of his own people. With the help of Putin, of course. An intellectually challenged recently-nobody in Brazil is now president of a country seemingly determined, under his “leadership” to turn the Amazon forest into a million square miles of tree-less cow-shit.

And here in Britain, we live with the near certainty that under the cock-eyed Premiership of Boris Johnson, we will be left by the rest of the world to punch well below our weight as we cut ourselves off from Europe and replace it with … nothing of any value or consequence.

I’m not even close to being done. But actually, I am. Enough. I don’t like the times we are living through and I can do little more than vent my spleen and hope that the next era will make it possible for my sons and grandchildren to like theirs.

But am I being unfair to my times and mores? Is it just that the bacterial growth of the mass media has cast a weird light on the world and its wrongs and the so-often worthless unworthies who have floated to the top? Possibly. Not a new thought, not by a long sentence, but having seen what that light has illuminated, would it not be comforting to think that the current crop of un-leaders might wither in the glare, to be replaced by people deserving of the title of leader?




Broadcaster, academic, journalist, columnist, humorist. Show- off contrarian. Seriously centrist politics junkie. British Americanophile.

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Dr John Grierson

Dr John Grierson

Broadcaster, academic, journalist, columnist, humorist. Show- off contrarian. Seriously centrist politics junkie. British Americanophile.

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