Wednesday, 4 January 2012
New Year's Thoughts
Those spectacular fireworks over London at midnight on 31 December said it all. At a time of deep capitalist economic crisis, of accelerating unemployment and inequality, we in England will be offered New Year’s Fireworks, the Queen’s 60th Jubilee and the Olympics to keep us ‘proud to be British’. Or if all that’s not enough, David Cameron may even contrive a new little war - fireworks of a different kind - to add to the media spectacle: Iran, perhaps? ‘Bread and circuses’ indeed; but as bread gets scarcer in the Age of Austerity, so the circuses will get bigger and bolder.
As our Morrisian or Ernst-Blochian ‘principle of hope’ for 2012, we have the Occupy movement; tents in News from Nowhere signify utopian contentment, but for us they now indicate cultural and political struggle itself. If I complain that Occupy is more a question-mark than a movement, that it seems to me to lack strategy, tactics and clear-cut demands, then I reveal myself as the old-fashioned socialist I am; so let me, more generously, be delighted that young people are revealing so much political imagination and spirit of revolt, and let me be as open-minded as they themselves are about where it all might end up.
As for the William Morris Society, I think its own role should become more open too. As we enter the 21st century, so our old 19th century heroes begin to fall some 200 years behind us (as with the Dickens and Browning bi-centenaries this year); and discussion of their lives and works risks becoming an arcane hobby. We Morrisians are fortunate, however, in that our hero is a writer of the future, not just of the Victorian past, and that his greatest work is set in the mid-22nd century, not the 19th. So we need the Kelmscott Coach House to ring out once again with utopian debate about political choices and future destinations; and for starters we might well invite some of the London Occupy people in to set out their vision for us.