When you reach my age, the nearest and dearest occasionally find it entertaining to discuss Alzheimer’s in front of you. Of course we all know that alongside mad professors and eccentric aristocrats, the people most associated with battiness are the old and the ageing. Now I will admit that I have been known to leave the odd ham and cheese roll in the sock drawer, and have bored the grandchildren to tears by endlessly reminding them how Great Aunt Milly used to make opium tea. (One would have thought they’d be grateful.) But I rather feel that such events are small beer beside the collective Alzheimer’s one finds amongst the young, the relatively young, and even the middle aged nowadays.
What a year it has been, what a memorable year. In the space of roughly twelve months ordinary folk have learnt an awful lot about money and wealth generation and greed; about the haves and the have-nots, about the users and the used. A number of ne’er-do-wells spewed forth during the meltdown – they always do - and we saw businessmen and ‘role models’ and elected representatives cast in a new light.
Remember how taxpayers felt when the bankers who’d been coining it for years required a bailout? In the old days we might have seen ruined investors standing on window ledges and humbled bankrupts pleading ‘buddy can you spare a dime?’ Now it was ‘Stand and deliver. Give us everything you’ve got, or else the economy gets it.” Being understanding folk, the British people responded: “Of course, if it’s an offer that our beloved Prime Minister cannot refuse, then grudgingly, here, take everything.”
Soon after this, people learnt that the beloved Prime Minister and his ilk in the Houses of Parliament had also been taking everything and had been doing so for quite some time thank you very much. During the ‘boom years’ many MPs had evidently decided, ‘We’ll have some of that.’ Some of them, it emerged, were earning more money from their flipped homes than many ordinary folk do from their salaries.
Remember the resentment that was felt towards these greedy fellows – the politicians, the bankers, the businessmen – who, whilst feigning stewardship of the economy, had actually been cynically plundering it? Remember the sense that this could not be allowed to happen again? That the reprobates must go?
Well that was a long time ago (albeit only a year). Bankers are trading exactly as they were before the meltdown – and coining it - and the politicians are looking for new ways to water down expenses reform. So why are people not up in arms anymore?
Of course at the beginning of this article I referred casually to collective amnesia (or Alzheimer's to be precise). But I do realize that people still have access to newspapers and television, however bad their memories might be. The information is all there, laid out, day by day in the media. It is not subject to totalitarian blackout. The truth, let’s face it, is still accessible. So you will no doubt ask, what is it exactly that people have forgotten?
It appears that the people have forgotten how to feel, how to behave, how to react, that’s what. They live in a world of fleeting experience, of passing sensation, of instant gratification. Nothing lasts, nothing matters for long. Consumer goods, their possessions are obsolescent at point of purchase, and, as for what they find on the internet? Well, nothing could be more ephemeral.
And such is their mindset, when they contemplate the nefarious deeds committed in trading houses, or mortgage brokers, or the Mother of all Parliaments. The information will always be there at their fingertips, ready to access, ready to digest, ready to outrage. But it will always be – and will always feel – rather like all the other information that overloads their weary, strung out little brains: electronic, ephemeral, fleeting… hard to fathom, impossible to care about... at least for longer than it takes to re-boot your Dell computer... Bit like blogging really
By guest blogger Lord Trencherman of Furmity