By MICHAEL BLACKBURN.
THIS YEAR HAS been so full of political excitement that it has now become tedious. Brexit, followed by the endless stream of resentment from its opponents; the departure of various party leaders; the swift replacement of one Prime Minister with another; the descent of the Labour Party into a circus of fighting clowns; the rise and triumph of Trump, accompanied by the decline and fall of Clinton, it’s just been one damn thing after another. And now the death of that colossus of international statesmanship, Fidel Castro. I’ve gone past peak excitement.
Before I get too blasé about all this, it’s worth having a laugh at a couple of figures who will go down in political history as fluff-brained lightweights compared with El Commandante (as those of us who never met the great Fidel like to call him).
Justin Trudeau, poster-boy PM of Canadian decline, said “Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century.” Larger than life, yes, I think that’s unarguable. But serving his people? No, the opposite: the people served him. Just because your dad “was proud to call him a friend” and you met him yourself is no excuse to come out with this drivel.
Then there’s the inevitable “Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.” I suspect these much-vaunted improvements amounted to little in the practical scheme of things and probably meant the people of Cuba received just enough healthcare to keep them alive long enough not to find any use for the excellent education they’d received because they lived under an authoritarian regime that denied them freedom of speech.
This healthcare and education blarney is obligatory for all leftists. It’s a Pavlovian response. So, of course, it pops up in the encomium delivered by our own El InCommandante Corbyn: “He managed to bring good quality health services to all the people of Cuba, good quality education to all the people of Cuba.” Woof woof, good little dog.
However, Jeremy adds a little extra to our understanding of Fidel (he once cycled round the island, don’t you know): Castro, he said, has “seen off a lot of US presidents”. Amazing. Seen them off, did he? As in drove them away personally? Or just didn’t have the minor inconvenience of democracy those pesky presidents had to deal with? As for the executions, arrests, suppression of human rights and all that boring stuff our Jeremy admits “there were problems.”
“Problems.” Just when you think these people can say nothing more to demonstrate their utter vacuousness they take it to another level of dumb. It’s got the stage where the left is pastiching and parodying itself all the time. Just today I read an article in the Guardian (I know, I shouldn’t mock the afflicted) in which “Anonymous” describes how the Alt-Right’s “online poison” almost turned him into a racist and a bigot but he was saved, mirabile dictu!, at the last minute. Top trolling there, Anon, but you’re supposed to troll other people, not yourself. If this sort of article turned up once or twice a year it would be entertaining. As it’s now a regular thing it’s lost its ability to surprise. It’s like watching a whole group of people suffer from a collective madness — and madness, my friends, is boring.
So what else could happen to break the ennui? Theresa May comes out of the closet? Jeremy Corbyn says he identifies as black? Russell Brand converts to Islam? Putin quits his job, leaves Russia, emigrates to Sunderland and applies for British citizenship? Yeah, whatever.
After a six-month sabbatical of nothing happening, however, and any of those would be exciting.
Currente Calamo columnist, poet, writer and lecturer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire . From 2005–2008 he was the Royal Literary Fund fellow at the University of Lincoln where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent collection is Spyglass Over The Lagoon. A selection of his Fortnightly Currente Calamo columns, Sucks To Your Revolution: Annoying The Politically Correct (US), is available as a Kindle ebook.