At the End of the Day

There’s been much talk of, and writing about, aftermaths today. I can’t help feeling that what we need is an extra helping of beforemaths. As in, is it worth rubbing out one washed-up terrorist, when even the world’s doziest dingbat knows this one worthless life will be avenged by 80 innocently suffered deaths within weeks…or even days?

Politicians (and an awful lot of hacks) can only do the aftermath and the postmortem. They are like economists in this sense: towers of bestselling books and calm columns about how 2008 happened….but hardly any of them saw it coming.

Beforemaths would tell anyone with an ounce of commonsense that the Egyptian opposition was likely to be Islamist, a marriage between Cameroons and Fluffies could only end in tears, Barack Obama had nothing much of any substance to say, and deregulating bankers was slightly less dangerous than deregulating brain surgery. But all we have to show for the last twelve months of disaster is after stuff, which for some reason always precedes any before things. It’s not supposed to be like this.

Even the aftermath gets segmented this way and that. The Guardian says Clegg is diluting the Left, and the Telegraph says he’s diluting the Right. But beforehand, the Guardian enthusiastically told us to vote for Nick, and the Telegraph opined that Cameron would be tougher in Office than he had been in Opposition.

The hindsight in all of it massively outweighs the foresight. I blame 24/7 news for this: the focus on what is has completely blurred what is likely, and become a sort of que sera, sera. Except that ‘what will be, will be’ has media-morphed into ‘what will be is what we’d like it to be’.

What an odd melange of cynicism and naivety our media set is these days. Lots of soi-disant ‘quality’ newspapers being measured, and most tabloids being immeasurably optimistic. But somewhere between the deadpan Opeds of the former and the braindead headlines of the latter is a place where the rest of us live.

In that place, most people have been resigned to some form of slow-mo disaster for months. In that place, people are chasing interest rates, cutting household bills, stashing money away for long-awaited rainy days, and quietly laughing at all the financial castles in the air being designed and described by the central bankers of five continents. In that place, cuts v spending, EU bailout v EU exit, QE v rate rises and Left v Right might just as well be United v City as far as real people are concerned. We’ve had a party, now is the hangover, and next comes the bill.

It’s such a shame that not a single politician anywhere respects the People enough to say beforehand what the aftermath is likely to be.