‘Something positive,’ the editor told me. ‘Give them something to smile about.’
‘Crikey,’ as Bertram Wooster probably never said. ‘That’s a challenge – a lofty demand,’ he might have added, anxious, like his creator, to eschew the hackneyed phrase.
I considered the ed’s request. ‘What’s not to be glum about?’ I muttered inwardly.
Although an incorrigible optimist at heart, I was struggling to find the silver l. within the prevailing nimbostratus of global warming, Trumpery, the inexorable growth of world population, Brexit, the oceans contaminated with plastic, the escalation of antisemitism and the disintegration of public trust in all our institutions , political, spiritual and cultural.
Many Britons feel uncomfortable, too, by being part of a nation which has cruelly hounded a likeable and sincere young public figure simply because he had the courage to marry the woman he loves, despite the disapproval of many around him. This harassment has been encouraged by a venomous press, and journalists who project their own version of the news in order to feed a craving for malicious influence – the same people who whipped up the xenophobia that drove the vote for Britain to yield its place and influence in Europe. It is no coincidence that if you scratch the surface of a Meghan hater, you will always find a Brexit voter underneath. Unlike Laurence Fox, many other Anglo-Saxon, privileged males will have recognised this antipathy for the simple racism that it is.
However, despite the bleakness of the prospect offered by these current maladies, there are reasons for optimism. There are strong signs that newer generations are not complacent and are substantially more aware of the urgency and scale of readjustment that must be achieved if the world is to continue to provide food and water for all its people in a post-tribal era, with compassion and cooperation, without conflict and hegemony. Recognizing that the evolutionary imperative is fundamentally a force for the attainment of perfect adaptation among all species, and that Homo Sapiens, the sole possessor of reason, has the added responsibility of achieving its evolutionary apex only through its own choice, they know that for the species to survive, love must conquer hate; philia must trump phobia. They understand that there must be a coming together – not a sundering – of nations, whose priorities will be co-operation, not combat; consensus not diktat; whose people will aspire to an understanding of the world’s social priorities, the just and balanced distribution of food, water and energy; the value of the arts as tools of communication and a source of joy; who strive to overcome racist feelings and to embrace tolerance and empathy; who celebrate the world’s cultural diverseness; who deplore the prospect of war anywhere in the world. And they will seek leaders who view the needs of the many as more important than those of the elite, and who know that far greater benefits for all humanity will be achieved by forgiveness and reconciliation than by revenge and reprisal.
For those who don’t yet see this as a solution to the very real problems facing the world, it isn’t too late to stand back, to reconsider and to alter perspectives. It’s always healthy to revisit one’s prejudices; indeed, it’s essential if you have chosen to lead an examined life. There is nothing wrong with changing one’s mind; and there’s a lot wrong with refusing to. It was John Henry Newman who famously summed up this concept: ‘To live is to change; to be perfect is to have changed often.’
In the meantime, it is up to each of us to seek out things to look forward to and to hope that the coming generations have the will and tenacity to set the world back on course. And to carry on doing whatever may lead people to look again at their position and change their minds. I was encouraged to see that a week after I took part in a great ‘Public Plastic Unwrap’ at the Ludlow branch of Tesco, the company announced that they are banishing shrink-wrapped multipacks of baked beans, soup and tuna from their aisles as part of a drive to slash their use of plastic packaging. (Unfortunately, Tesco haven’t always proved to be an entirely truthful organisation, so it may not happen.)
More broadly, Remainers can at least look forward to a good helping of schadenfreude when predictions of post-Brexit economic troubles, relentlessly hailed as ‘Project Fear’ by the Faragistas turn out to have been accurate.
For myself, I’m looking forward to the arrival of my first grandchild in March; and I’m enormously enjoying my current day job, assisting that truly iconic sporting figure and majestic batsman, Ted Dexter in the writing of his long overdue autobiography, to be published by Quiller in July this year.