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A Christmas carol for a divided world

  • 21 December 2018


The ideal vision and version of the so-called Festive Season is that of good cheer, remembrance of the Christmas message of peace on earth, happiness of a self-indulgent kind with groups of mirthful people united around a groaning board. Alas, unity seems to be in short supply.

Wherever you look, there are polarised societies and groups. And the divisions are running very deep. It remains to be seen whether healing is possible: at present the universal crystal ball seems very cloudy.

Analysts claim that the USA has not been so divided since the Vietnam era; some go further back and quote the 19th century Civil War instead. British Max Hastings, a journalist and military historian who has always followed politics closely, also invokes civil war when writing about Brexit: the English conflict was fought very bitterly in the 17th century.

A Greek-American of my acquaintance says: 'We have friends who vote Republican, and we don't know why they do.' And another American friend talks of nasty family fights over the dinner table: her husband is anti-Trump, as she is, but his sisters are Trump supporters. Hastings says the British political climate is so strained 'that it is hard to sit across a table even with friends of long standing who welcome Brexit'.

The polarity is not so much between parties, as between politicians and 'the people,' many of whom feel ignored and neglected, and consider that their concerns do not matter to those in power: climate change is in all likelihood the most keenly felt problem of all. As I write, Paris has had its sixth weekend of protests and riots as a result of the gilets jaunes’ frustration with Macron’s policies, which include price hikes for fuel.

Sociologists consider that Greek society has three strata: politicians, intellectuals, and 'the people'. Here politicians have always been regarded with deep suspicion as being exploitative, lacking in integrity, and deeply dishonest, while Greece as a whole has always been riven by left/right differences. Like Spain, the nation still shows the scars of civil war: such conflicts can be said to be never-ending.

In Australia many are also disillusioned with politicians, and feel that self-interest is their main motivation. But there also seems to be widespread feeling that Australian politics has lost its way, and indeed its humanity: the detention of children on Nauru and the struggle even to get sick ones out of dire situations has shocked large sections