Strange memories of a nervous election night. Five years later, six? It seems like a lifetime. It felt like a peak, a summit of sorrow. It was a night built around that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil, the feeling that our energy would simply prevail. It seemed entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash.
There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs, we had all the momentum; a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .. we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .and now, with the right kind of eyes, you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.
That night was Saturday 24 November 2007. It was the Kevin-oh-Seven moment. And for a time it appeared that we had caught the wave and were standing tall. Warm springtime glow from behind the mountain, beer and ice in buckets, bubbly and plastic flutes, and a couple of dozen fellow travellers entwined with hope: we were prevailing.
But not these days, now the cold twilight wind splits the waves’ hair and the grey-wolf sea lies on the sand, snarling, rolled back. I’ve enjoyed the ride, the grey-wolf tamed and licking its wounds. We’ve not stood so tall for a fair while, we’ve not managed the sets, and what might have been a long fine flash is nothing but a pale oxide ash. What joy there was while the flash burned, but under ash a strangled managerialism coloured hope a deeper and whiter grey.
Until it is all white-out: until it is only about seeing the hand on the ballot. The 2013 Election is about the moment of weakness that precedes an impulse purchase. Sign here, click here, tick here, pin here: Get a bit flustered, drive out to a polling place, vote because you have to, choose between nothing more or nothing less, and put it in the box.
Nothing in this election campaign is substantive, weight is risk, and materiality is death: the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but to those who see it coming and jump aside.
I would like to report that this has provoked zeal in me, a rabid and probably delusional belief in the possibility that we were into something good. That it could be made good, that we could make good. Invent it, share it, and grow it. This has not happened. You can’t step into the same river twice.
Instead I read Hunter S. Thompson and his long comet tail of disillusionment stretching out from the Grassy Knoll to Saddam Hussein’s Presidential Palace, as evidenced by my extensive harvesting above. He never quite stopped believing in politics, never enough to simply ignore it. Me either. But the thing about disillusionment is that it’s based on an illusion.
Deep in the later works I found this quote:
I shared a vagrant optimism that some of us were making real progress, that we had taken an honest road, and that the best of us would inevitably make it over the top. At the same time, I shared a dark suspicion that the life we were leading was a lost cause, that we were all actors, kidding ourselves along on a senseless odyssey. It was the tension between these two poles — a restless idealism on one hand and a sense of impending doom on the other — that kept me going.
And the thing to remember about this quote is that, eventually, it didn’t keep him going.