Laugh, cry – or hope

7 September, 2015 (20:38) | All articles | By: Stuart Fraser

I DON’T know whether to laugh or cry. Really. When I saw that photo, of the dead little boy face down in the surf, what could I or any parent do but cry? I was as moved as anybody, moved to rage and frustration.

But the ensuing, developing reaction to that photo? The Diana-like hysteria? Suddenly I feel ambivalent.

It’s great that growing numbers of people want to show their shame and disgust at the casual cruelty of our government and its little-England supporters, and welcome refugees in need with open arms.

But how could they not compute the situation before the picture? When the news, for the last few years, has shown moving and still images of dead, wounded and dying children, did they think it was a video game?

I think the answer is that we’re hearing from two halves of a very divided England these days. That divide used to be geographical, but now it’s generational too.

On the voxpops on the news, turning away from the bombs and burning hospitals, are the people who voted this shameful cowardly government in – the people who say we’re full, the people who say ‘we can’t let them all in’, the people who say people are fleeing Syria for the good life living on benefits in a back street in Hull.

Joining the ever-growing tide of outrage at this moral crime are:

  • The ever-growing numbers of people who realise that this country was cheated at the last election by an over-mighty southern English generation of over-60s who ate up all the freedoms they could get their hands on, freedoms they want for themselves and nobody else.
  • The ever-growing number of people who realise what fools they were for not getting involved in politics, because politics matter, because if you don’t vote you get… this. You get Cameron turning his back on children, the lying liar Iain Duncan Smith investigated for human rights abuses by the UN for his policies on welfare for disabled people.

In the air is this ever-growing outrage, expressed in what I’m beginning to dare to believe may be a generation of hope, not hate – a generation like my 87-year-old father’s who fought for and voted for social change and social justice.

It’s in the youngsters packing public meetings to listen to Jeremy Corbyn explain why public utilities should be a service provided to people, not a business run for the profit of the few. It’s in the Germans and Austrians making the letter ‘w’ for  ‘wilkommen’ on social media. It’s in the Hungarians handing out food and drink to the refugees marching on foot to Europe. It’s in Syriza and Podemos and all the European movements expressing revulsion at a continent that will get together to do anything it can to help out bankers and corporations, but will turn its back on the helpless, as happened in Greece.

It’s a long and hard road, of course it is. There will be many setbacks, starting with the southern English media-led campaign of hate lying in wait for poor old Jeremy Corbyn, and with another election defeat for the side of good in 2020.

But one day the generation and system that has failed this country, that bought and sold this country, that sates itself on the riches won for it by better men and women, will be out of the way of hope.

Of course this is all generalisation, but that’s what we zeitgeist surfers do.

We’re looking at undercurrents here and of course they’re not universal. At soccer matches we may see ‘refugees welcome’ banners but they are flown by idiots who support the sickening obscenity of greed that is the Premier League and its hundreds of millions in transfer fees and its hundreds of thousands a week in wages to overpaid fools who haven’t the humility to thank the fates for their extraordinary good fortune.

For every welcoming hand, there’s a tattooed thug with a pit bull on the end of a leash; for every Corbyn there’s somebody to utter the usual inanity – ‘he’ll drag us back to the 70s’; for every act of kindness there’s a scratched car in the supermarket car park. It’s hard, having faith in humanity.

Which brings us back to laughing or crying. I could cry at the gushing, trite sentiment sparked by that photo. I could laugh at the irony that a picture can change the way a continent thinks, in an age in which journalism is daily cut to the bone by owners who value photojournalists as highly as they value morality.

Mostly, though, I’ll neither laugh nor cry. I’ll hope.

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