I think I’ve genuinely lost the ability to be surprised by much that happens any more.
As it stands at the time of writing, the Republican Party is a mere 6 seats away from the finish line. It looks distinctly like hate is going to trump love.
It’s not the first time this year I’ve failed to feel surprise upon hearing a piece of significant world news. That’s not to say it hasn’t shocked and saddened, or even rocked me to my core when I start to speculate on all the knock-on effects that could follow in the coming months and years; I’m just not fundamentally surprised it is happening.
June 24th 2016 was a momentous day in the U.K. and it started for me in a tent in Somerset. I’d awoken at Glastonbury Festival, a place that sees me enjoying an annual cider and rock music infused pilgrimage, tickets permitting. Like most other adults of voting age in an audience of 175,000 or so like-minded individuals I’d cast my postal vote in the U.K. Referendum on Brexit that took place the previous day. In my heart and mind I’d weighed up the two options and reached the conclusion that on balance I was quite happy with the way things were, I didn’t buy into the arguments over sovereignty, control of our borders and our laws and I didn’t see anything to be gained by severing ties with Europe. I also didn’t contemplate any real way the divisive premise of the Leave campaign could bring about such a genuine ground-swell of opinion in the British public as to result in anything other than a decision to Remain. How wrong I was.
Ground-swell or not and however slim the majority was in real terms, the fact is that the result was to Leave. The effects of the decision (whilst not yet enacted) have been significant to the world, the financial markets and most importantly the morale of the citizens of the world since that point.
In a setting that inevitably has left-leaning politics baked-in, it is unsurprising that the sentiment at Glastonbury was one of shock and anger. As the news spread across the site (which at one time not so many years back, was relatively immune to goings-on in the real world, but which has changed as smart phones and 4G spread their reach), voices were heard both from within crowds and from various acts on various stages that this wasn’t the will of the people, that we couldn’t genuinely accept that we live in a world more focussed on separation, exclusion and hate. It was an interesting day, and by nightfall posters appeared around site like the one pictured featuring poetry spontaneously written to try and capture the mood of the festival and, I suspect, the nation in general (or at least 48% of them).
On that day and on many occasions since I’ve spent time thinking about it all and wondering what the lasting effects may be of Brexit for the world, for me and for my family and friends.
One sentiment that I’ve genuinely not felt though is surprise. Nothing really surprises me any longer and I’m worried that much in the same way that medications can suppress anxiety or feelings of doom and gloom, the condition of the modern world has driven out of me the ability to be surprised either for the positive or negative by things I see and hear.
I’ve been an armchair pundit as far as the US election is concerned. It’s impossible for even the most laissez-faire individual to not take at least a passing interest in a process that has been peppered with so many controversies, upsets and sound-bites as the race for the White House.
I won’t profess to have undertaken balanced research on either of the leading candidates and frankly I’m thankful I didn’t have to actively vote in the election. I find it hard enough to reach a position of conviction in any of the UK local and general elections I’ve voted in since coming of age, and I would definitely feel a sense of being caught between the devil and the deep blue (orange) sea if choosing between Trump or Clinton in 2016.
What I thought was blatantly obvious though, what I felt could not fail to chime with the average American voter was that caught between the choice presented, it would make sense to opt for the one who was at least a politician by trade, someone who had at least a semblance of skill and experience in the field, some credibility as a candidate for the job they were seeking?
Instead it seems that America has opted for the wild-card; presumably unaware of any genuine policies or credible plans to implement them (I’ve not seen any, and I’ve been looking for evidence that Trump has real plans to fix the nation in need of repair), they’ve opted for someone who seems intent on building a wall to keep out the Mexican rapists, excluding Muslims from the nation generally and enjoying greater freedom to grab women whenever (and ‘wherever’) he likes.
I am genuinely amazed by this decision, but to be clear, I’m not surprised. Disappointed? Yes. Surprised? No, not at all.
I can only speculate as to why this is. Indeed, the fact that I’m talking about my own ability to feel an emotion may be of little consequence or interest to you. If you’ve made it this far though, stick with me a little longer.
When I see the news footage of refugees trying at all costs to escape war-zones, persecution poverty or famine to reach our shores or those of our European cousins, or even when I hear of the escalating numbers of Europeans wanting to come to the UK to better their lives and provide for their families, I’m not surprised. I am sympathetic to them, I am grateful to the universe that I am not them and I hope they will get what they need. I know that if I were in their position I would be doing the same thing.
When I hear of another mass-shooting in the USA, I’m saddened but I’m not surprised. Whether it is undertaken as an act of terror (inevitably at some point pinned on radical pursuit of religion (usually Islam), revenge against racial discrimination by the police against minority communities or just the act of a lone-gunman, it is tragic. Tragic both for the loss of life and also for the lack of national self-awareness it should (but doesn’t) prompt in America that such events are largely the preserve of nations where gun-ownership is widespread. It is saddening, but I’m not surprised.
When ISIS (or ISIL, or any other terrorist organisation) commits another atrocity in ‘revenge against the evil doings of the western world’, it is shocking in the extreme for the loss of innocent life, the large-scale and wide-reaching impact it brings about, and significant in the lasting impacts it has on the worlds sense of ease in living our lives. It is significant, but alas it doesn’t shock me.
One less-morbid example, when companies such as Facebook return financial results that dwarf the revenues, profits and company valuations of ‘proper’ business that make or sell an actual tangible item or provide a real-world service, through their virtual businesses dealing in intangibles such as knowledge, information and communication it is impressive. It is testament to the changing way that things are done in the modern world and the shifting paradigms of communication, interaction and of getting things done. But it has long-since ceased to be surprising to me.
The half-baked conclusion that I’ve reached this morning as I write this on my way into work is that I’ve lost the ability to feel surprise any longer, as the world has fundamentally changed into something that I struggle to recognise at times.
Nothing is really predictable any longer, things that we used to think of as being reliable in the same way that night will follow day, can no longer be treated as such.
Common-sense can no longer be relied upon to prevail. Truth will no-longer be guaranteed to come out. The only constant is change and unpredictability.
Time will tell as to whether the millions of undocumented immigrants within the USA are to be repatriated by a new branch of law-enforcement promised by Trump, calling to mind for me the thought-police that Orwell warned us of in 1984. Republican voters may or may not have their wish fulfilled to ‘lock her up’ once Trump and Clinton get used to their new roles in life. The wall between the USA and Mexico may or may not be built but I can almost certainly guarantee Mexico won’t be paying for it given the 18% drop in the value of their currency this morning.
All I know for sure is that whatever happens in the world, whilst it may not be what the average person may want or even believe is possible or likely, anything goes. I know for sure it won’t come as any surprise to me, or doubtless anyone else who has managed to come to terms with the world in 2016. As a Brit, I’m in no position to judge America today but all I can do is wish you luck with your ‘Brexit Plus Plus’ as promised earlier this week in a last minute Trump campaign speech. Recent history shows you’re in for a rocky ride just as we’re having right now.
And I’ve just heard on the news that Trump has unofficially been declared the victor after passing the 270 seat finishing line. Not surprised at all.
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