Pop!

It’s Trump -2 days until The Elephant’s Nelly (throwback: 1, 2) is anointed leader of that shining city on a hill.

How do you feel? Exultant? Depressed?

Normal?

[apoplectic.me’s been a little stroke-lite recently. Not today, though. And there’s a stroke special coming next week…]

Normal most of the time, probably. Is that right? I mean, there’s laundry to do, groceries to pick up, meals to eat. And abnormal events are normalised quickly in this fast-moving world.

PEOTUS isn’t even POTUS yet, and I’m looking for silver linings. I mean, I like the idea of a Keynesian public works policy, and the Dems would have been terrified of pushing that.

But, when I watched Charlie Brooker’s 2016 Wipe before New Year, it was A Good Thing to be roused from the assumption of normality.

That clip was less distressing than the undoctored footage of The Donald being racist, , ableist, sexist… You got an -ism, yo, he’ll push it.

As Brexiteer Michael Gove’s Times interview with The Donald was published yesterday – Good god in Govan, was that only yesterday?! TOO MUCH NEWS!! – there was much mutual backslapping  regarding Brexit and the presidential election, while Angela Merkel got a good kicking for flying in the face of populism.

Hey! Another 'ism!
Yes, Govey. You’re a journalist. Course you are. And an elected MP. ‘Member?

“Populism” has been the BBC’s buzzword to explain everything of note, more or less, that happened in 2016. Prince Charles popped up on Thought for the Day to warn against the rise of populism. (Man Chosen by God to be Head of State Rails Against Populism Shock!) Radio 4’s World at One rounded off the year with a round table discussion of what populism is, and how it had defined the past twelve months.

It was notable that the participants had some difficultly in defining what populism is. Douglas Murray, an associate editor at The Spectator magazine, said the word is so debased in reality that it only conveys one impression:

When I see the term ‘populism’ used, I know the author is referring to a movement the author he or she doesn’t like. That is what it does. It signals to the listener that the thing they are deprecating is to be deprecated.

But Elvis Costello likes it.
U2 – Pop. Widely considered a misstep.

Well, Auntie Beeb certainly spent much of the time around Scotland’s Indyref describing the Yes movement as populist, so we can safely assume the term is pejorative. But is there anything else to the “populism” it that supposedly binds together Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn, Nigel Farage, and Nicola Sturgeon? After the turn of the year, Radio 4 continued to examine the phenomenon, broadcasting John Harris’s The New World, Us Versus Them.

Harris is a journalist, writer and critic who’s managed to monetize daft hair and an obsession with Britpop and The Dark Side of the Moon. Mrs Stroke Bloke is probably looking up his number as I write.

You plonker!
All while looking like Rodney Trotter – Chuffed, mate.

Well, I don’t really have time to listen to Us Versus Them right now – laundry, groceries, etc. As Harris himself writes in an article accompanying the programme

[I]ndividual lives are surely more scrambled and complicated than they have ever been.

So I turned to the article including that quote, which purports to explain that what is going on is that  populists – whoever they are – have grasped that communities are struggling to cope with upheaval and intricacy – and have exploited the backlash.

Snidely Whiplash – do keep up!
No, BACKLASH, you naughty populist!

There perhaps was a time, he continues, when the idea that increasing complexity would benefit most people just about held true: the 1990s maybe spring to mind.

I remember it well. In European Institutions Law, we would talk about how, yes, immigrants would take everyone’s jobs; but that was OK, because the pre-positioned populace would all get great, super-advanced education and training and get even better jobs, more fulfilling and better paid.

I can see my house from here!
Edinburgh 2017, seen from Edinburgh 1996

Of course, now the robots are coming to take everyone’s job –  Japanese insurance firm Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance is making 34 employees redundant and replacing them with IBM’s Watson Explorer AI – and because only half of that promise in European Institutions was fulfilled, we’ve skipped the awesome bit between the wars.

But one thing that’s not changed between the nineties and the present is that cutting through complexity with an easy-to-digest message that promises something better is going to be a vote-winner.

Billy Bob Thornton and Natalie in Love Actually
“Nothing’s changed, Sexy.”

And what’s also not changed is that once you’ve got the resulting power, you can use it as you wish, not matter how “populist” or “elitist” the message. The GOP labelled the Affordable Care Act Obamacare, so anyone who wanted to give the perceived liberal establishment a kicking and Make America Great Again could vote to abolish it.

Mike Pence, the Vice-President Elect, is gleefully predicting the repeal of the ACA – which has provided 22MM previously-uninsured people with health insurance – will be the first order of business – job one – during the first hundred days of the Trump administration.

NEE-NAW, jerkoffs!!
ARIZONA, APRIL 30 – Ambulance drives pregnant woman to hospital.

I was fortunate enough to have health insurance when my stroke struck in the States. But I also got to see the retail cost of my treatment – around $600K. John Oliver has recently examined the effects of people being forced into inescapable debt by healthcare costs, and it can be brutal. But as I’ve noted before, one of the key things about universal healthcare free at the point of delivery has been pointed up by George Monbiot:

[I]t helps instil the belief that it is normal to care for strangers, and abnormal and wrong to neglect them. Conversely, [i]f you live in a country where people are left to die, this embeds the idea that you have no responsibility towards the poor and weak.

Yeah! Up yours, Delors! If that is your real name!
“I don’t need any help! I’m fine!!”

A Theresa May’s latest Brexit speech pushes the Red Cross’s assertion that NHS England is experiencing a humanitarian crisis, maybe it’s time to ditch the world “populism”, indulge in some plain-speaking and call a spade a bloody shovel.

Easy, fella! It's the same root. Apparently.
“No, Erasmus, you bloody fool! Don’t call a *bowl* a shovel!” – Plutarch

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