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January Middle. Not Great. Toon Traveller Gets What He Expected From 2024... Not much

January Middle. Not Great.

Toon Traveller Gets What He Expected From 2024... Not much

by Toon Traveller, Travel Correspondent
first published: January, 2024

approximate reading time: minutes

Two weeks into the New Year, I'm already questioning the value of predictions. My own, barely a month old, already reveal blind spots.

The calendar flips to another day, and with it, the usual drumbeat of hyperbole: a "Beast from the East" poised to drop a "Snow Bomb" and send the "nation slithering to a halt." We've endured years of these overblown promises: "fantastic customer-focused service," "exciting, innovative solutions," grand pronouncements about revolutionising our lives. Don’t know about you, dear readers, I'm at the point of saying, "Give it a rest, pal."

Two weeks into the New Year, I'm already questioning the value of predictions. My own, barely a month old, already reveal blind spots. This is a crucial year, with recession looming economically, the "we're too late for 1.5°C" chorus growing louder environmentally, and muscular nationalism resurgent across the "Western democratic world."

Putin is still firmly in power, despite the quietest whispers of his demise from optimist delusionals. The Ukrainian war remains in a stalemate, despite the UK's aid package and lingering suspicions of a potential sell-out. Ukraine's allies seem to be slowly drifting away, leaving millions to face potential Russian retribution. War is exhausting the allies. And to get the allies back on board, what are we hearing? "If Russia wins who's next?" That's a pretty grim place to be isn't it?

Climate change targets get pushed back, the UK drills for more oil (seriously?) housing standards get endlessly debated and invariably never greatly improved if at all, and electric car fires become the new scare story. It's no wonder the UK declares, "We are moving from the period of global warming to the period of global boiling." Dramatic? Perhaps. But it feels all too accurate.

Interest rates and recession dominate the airwaves, papers, and screens, with endless speculation about inflation and economic decline. Government debt accrued during the pandemic, previously at low rates, now faces higher costs and refinancing. The likely result in the UK, sadly, is a return to austerity measures, with welfare services feeling the brunt of the impact. It's tempting to think a change in government might alter this course, but for those hoping for dramatic shifts, any victory for Labour, Conservatives, Lib Dems, or even a patched-together coalition may offer more of the same: similar agendas, familiar solutions, and the same vulnerable demographics targeted as scapegoats.

This sentiment is reflected in the subtle shift I've observed in our free press, from "stop illegal economic migrants" to questioning the presence of 750,000 LEGAL migrants. Similarly, the focus on cutting mental health and vulnerable adult services reveals an easy targeting of those often perceived as "other." But let's remember, these are our family, friends, and neighbours, and the consequences of these cuts will impact us all, perhaps sooner than we think. The groundwork for this scenario is already being laid, just a couple of budgets away.

A longer-term worry looms across the Western world: the abandonment of social welfare and the rise of far-right populism. Parties like France's Front National, Germany's Alternative for Germany, Spain's VOX, and the Freedom Party in Holland are gaining traction, exploiting anxieties and offering simplistic solutions. Here in the UK, the embryonic Reform UK Party echoes these sentiments.

It's easy for us Baby Boomers, with our memories of street demos and social liberalism, to dismiss these movements as the "last gasp" of an older generation clinging to outdated ideals. But there are plenty of young people who believe their place is in the streets or the mob now, that will soon be dressed in suits instead of boots and be popping up on Question Time. Fully integrated into the mainstream politico system. We remember "Land of Hope and Glory" and "Britannia Rules the Waves," but the times are a-changing. The answers won't be found in flag-waving nostalgia.

Instead, a growing tide of disillusionment is sweeping across generations. Many under 30 are increasingly frustrated with our "intuitive politics" and yearn for something different. This isn't just a UK phenomenon; it's a global trend with potentially dangerous consequences.

In the US, deep-seated disillusionment might re-elect Trump. In the UK, a close election and continued political drift could pave the way for a resurgent Reform UK Party, inspired by Nigel Farage. While support for extreme right-wing policies may not be widespread, there's a growing sense of "anything's gotta be better than what we have now."

Recent scandals like the Post Office fiasco, PPE failures, Partygate, and issues with social housing, healthcare, and water management fuel this narrative. People are connecting the dots, seeing familiar patterns of excuses and cover-ups. A dangerous sense of mistrust and cynicism towards politicians is taking root, leading to apathy and withdrawal from the political process.

This is not the tipping point we need. Instead of ushering in a new era of political engagement, it risks pushing us further into a darker world. We are witnessing a worrying trend of cynical withdrawal across nations, leaving the field open for those with harmful agendas.

Whoever wins the upcoming elections will face the same monumental challenges, armed with the same ineffective solutions. This can only lead to a further decline in trust and participation, breeding hopelessness, resentment, and anger.

This may not be the most optimistic outlook for 2024, but it's a necessary reality check. We must acknowledge the dangers of populism and disillusionment if we are to find a way forward. By engaging in constructive dialogue, holding our leaders accountable, and demanding better solutions, we can still build a brighter future for all.

Main image by Erik Mclean from Pexels

Toon Traveller
Travel Correspondent

Born - happy family, school great mates still see 7 / 8 in year, degreed, beer n fun, work was lazy but usually happy, retired. Learning from mum and dads travel exploits.
about Toon Traveller »»

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