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In praise of negativity

Posted by Richard Monday, October 17, 2005

There was a good leader in The Business yesterday, in a sort of curate's egg way, headed "Power vacuum in West", arguing that the Western democracies have lost their way.

Certainly, in terms of the European Union member states, the lack of any clear political vision is reflected in the absence of distinctive leadership, and the consensual fudge that seems to pervade their politics. Rather than passion, the dominant ethos seems to be a smouldering resentment, jealousy and petty-mindedness.

At the EU level, this seems to be reflected in the absence of "big ideas". Gone are the heady days of the Delors commission when, like him or hate him, Jacques Delors knew where he was going. On the back of the single currency, he was set for full-blown political integration, a proud, assertive Europe with its own foreign policy and national – yes national – identity.

Now, looking at the dull greyness of the European agenda, we seem to be locked into Groundhog day, compounded by Groundhog day – Groundhog day squared, so to speak. Looking at the round-up of events, the news scenario barely seems to change.

We have EU negotiations, or non-negotiations, with Iran, more (failed) WTO trade talks, with Mandelson on the rack as the Frogs spit out their dummies, the Lisbon agenda revisited, relaunched and launched again, while more and more Eurozone economies go down the pan, failing to meet the Growth and Stability pact.

We have the interminable EU budget talks, or non-talks, the formal and informal "summits" that never seem to get anywhere, the energy gap which seems to widen with no-one able to come to a conclusion, accession talks with Turkey, which are going nowhere for ten years and then some, and the constant carping over Israel and Palestine, and of course Iraq.

It is absolutely no wonder that the average person just switches off, blanks it all out and watches Coronation Street, premier football, celebrity Big Brother, or whatever other crap the broadcasters see fit to air. This is so much better than trying to engage with the real world which seems to have no coherence, no theme, no direction… and no point.

If, in all that, there is a bright side, it is hard to see where it is. By common consent, the world is headed for an economic downturn, with hard times ahead. The only law the economies of the world seem to be obeying are the laws of cartoon physics where, by convention, the cartoon hero never plummets to the ground after running off a cliff until he looks down and seeks only thin air. As it stands, the only thing keeping us up is that no one has yet dared look down.

So, if the world – and us with it – is going to hell in a hand cart, why should we be "positive"? We are plagued by inept politicians bleating about being "compassionate", instead of getting to grips with the hard realities of life. We have supine, ignorant media that sees themselves as part of the entertainment industry and are totally obsessed with celebs and personalities. We have public administration that seems to be coming apart at the seams, and a growing police state where "right-on" chief constables seem to regard justice and civil liberties as administrative inconveniences.

Aside from all that, on this Blog, we are the observers. And, if the spectators see more of the game, what we see of it stinks. To say otherwise would be to present a false picture, and be untrue to ourselves. We are "negative" because, in our view, there is a lot to be negative about. When there is something positive to report, we will give it the space it deserves.

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