Who’d have believed it? Donald Trump and all that his election will mean for the World; Brexit (and the High Court judgement), Jeremy Corbyn, the SNP ascendant, the Lib Dems destroyed; David Cameron history, George Osborne getting the Companion of Honour; Theresa May as PM; The EU in crisis; Aleppo being destroyed by the Russians; a humanitarian catastrophe in Mosul as the Iraqis storm it; millions of people displaced and many of them on the move across the Middle East and Europe. It is hard to know when the dramatic events of 2016 will end; impossible to know where they will lead.
There are some who subscribe to a kind of cataclysmic frame of mind, arguing that Trump and Brexit and the rest of it amounts to a seismic disaffection with the Establishment and the world, and will lead to political disaster; they add that the Middle East and North Africa will lead to economic and social collapse across Europe; that the Russians will take advantage of the chaos to test NATO’s resolve, perhaps in the Baltic States; that China’s territorial ambitions are never far away; that Climate Change spells doom for us all and that we are therefore heading for a true Perfect Storm, the consequences of which are too awful to contemplate.
There are others who would ‘pooh pooh’ the gloomsayers, point to our strong economies and argue that everything will be ‘all better in the morning’ as my Mother used to say. Are they optimists, positive thinkers, or perhaps head-in-the-sand nay-sayers? I think I tend to the view that it can’t possibly be as bad as it might be, and as some people are predicting, and that human beings are intelligent and competent and self-interested and that they will not allow the Holocaust to arrive. It’s a kind of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ approach to life.
Whichever approach is best, there can be no doubt that Nobel Prizewinner Bob Dylan was right when he sang ’the times they are a-changing,’ in 1964; and he would be right to sing it today. The World ten years from now will be a very different place. He was right when he told the writers and critics ‘don’t speak too soon, for the wheel’s still in spin and there’s no telling who its naming.” And when he told the ‘senators and congressmen, please heed the call. Don’t stand in the doorway; don’t block up the hall” and that “The Order is rapidly fading.” The world is spinning faster than we can understand it (hastened by the Internet).
Yet Remembrance Sunday reminds us both of the appalling situations we have faced as a country in the past, and survived. It reminds us of the huge sacrifices of patriots for their country and fellow human beings. And it reminds us of so much that is so good about our great country. So it may be that ‘the times they are a-changing.’ But ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ may as so often be the soundest - and most pragmatically British advice possible.