9.17pm here in the UK on US election day. The results should be coming in within a few hours and I am nervous. It feels like a lot of people are holding their breath.
I am taking a step back, reminding myself that being of religious disposition, I believe that the world ultimately is in good hands.
Which is not to say that some things cannot be very painful, for indeed they can as history has shown us. In short, I hope that Hilary Clinton is the next president of the United States. I cannot imagine the insanity of Donald Trump as president.
People can be so nice. When they are in pain over someone else’s troubles, or when they display kindness to someone, people can be so lovely.
At the same time, they can be like a wounded animal with its leg caught in a trap, dragging themselves around unaware of the damage. It is so poignant.
And one of the killers of kindness and appreciation is cynicism and ridicule. And so many people have been aggressive and intolerant over the past few weeks and months. The hungry mob mentality in people has been awakened. There is a tipping point and history has shown that it can tip very quickly.
So against that background, here are few words about something I have thought for many years
It will be a Tuesday, around 11am. He (or she) will get up from his desk in the office and walk out because he isn’t going to do this any more.
He is going to stop the merry-go-round of the office and this way of doing things. He sees the whole structure and he isn’t going to be part of it any longer. There has to be a better way.
He will walk out onto the street and his heart will pound when he sees that many, many people are there on the street, standing like he is standing. They will look at one another, wondering – Where do we go now?
Is This It
People are scrabbling to make sure Hilary gets in. Or they are trying to get Trump in. A few will vote for third parties because they don’t like either of the main choices. Many will regret that Bernie Sanders didn’t make it, because they like the promise that he described. But for most of us, we don’t have time to discuss niceties or alternative visions of society. The prospect of our imperfect candidate losing is too horrifying. The times don’t allow us that luxury.
But if we take the time to think it through once the crisis is averted (as hopefully it will be) then plainly there is something wrong. And equally plainly, Trump is not going to put it right.
I made up a saying that I use for my own reference. It is a shorthand way of describing a reality that strikes me repeatedly:
It is that it is difficult to see that the world is not made of marmalade when you’ve got your head stuck inside the marmalade jar.
What I am referring to here is that neither candidate seems to be offering a vision of an alternative society that gets to the root of the problem. But in the face of the need to make a choice, we must make the best of it and try to move things as far as possible in the right direction.
So what is the problem?
The problem that is not being discussed is that we are living in mass societies geared to consume, divorced from community, living anonymously in urban landscapes knowing that for the most part we are inconsequential to the way the world moves along.
And there is something more.
In the sixties the counter-culture movement sensed there could be a better way. Of course it could simply be that what modern society is doing is exactly that – working towards a better way.
Perhaps we are working towards a society where people feel they are leading meaningful lives. It could be that it doesn’t look like that to some of us because it’s hard work and a messy business.
We know that progress is two steps forward and one step back. But huge corporations, with what seems like an unholy amount of cash and power, makes it feel like its two steps forwards and three steps back. And then we will never move forward.
People will put up with a lot and withstand a lot of privation if they know that we are all in the same boat. But when some are rich beyond the dreams of Croesus and we see them laughing at our institutions and the value of our very selves – then there is no society. There is just a fractured mass of people crying at the injustice.
But there’s something deeper than this that needs to be addressed.
Everyone who claims to be a moral person and who has more than his or her neighbour has to make a daily ritual of justifying to themselves why they are right to deny the claim of their neighbour. It can be as simple as the homeless person begging on the street. It can be as simple as the car I drive and the car you drive.
But we are nothing if not adaptable. We rationalise and create an equilibrium in our minds. And then something comes along to really upset our communal equilibrium. And it is the hundreds of millions people beyond the perimeter of fortress Europe and fortress North America. Those refugees and economic migrants have upset our balance. We feel guilty and oppressed at one and the same time.
How are we going to make a fair society when we know that by accident of birthplace, people beyond the fence are starving?
But equally while we have to start pulling in the net – bringing more people out of poverty and into comfort – we have to do so without insisting that the price they pay is to die slowly in an office.