When frenetic British ministers and MPs were extended a deadline until 31 October by the European Union to deliver Brexit, they did what all dedicated civil servants do when granted much-needed time for a complex issue, they went on holiday. Holidays concluded, they immediately immersed themselves in selecting a new prime minister. From the time on Wednesday when that newly anointed PM visits the Queen to “kiss hands” and is asked by Her Majesty to form a government, he will no doubt require a time of “settling in.” And July will beget August and August will beget September and before you know it it’s Halloween and our frenetic folk will once again require an extension on the Brexit deadline.
It’s part of the conceit of British politicians and, let’s face it, politicians everywhere, to think of themselves as celebrities first and public servants second, and to keep the gap between appearing to care and actually caring as wide as they can get away with and still get re-elected. Something as critical to the health of the country as breaking away from the European Union, if break away they must, should be done with desperate attention to details carefully crafted to minimize harm, especially done with careful concern for the poor and voiceless, who always manage to suffer the most when big egos refit national borders to accommodate their bottomless hatred of foreigners.
Such considerations are scarcely in their thoughts, of course. A man like Boris Johnson is more interested in keeping his hair, and hence his image, deliberately tousled, than he is in the people he will indifferently crush on his way up.
Nor does Britain have a monopoly on this kind of scourge. Forget about Donald Trump for a moment and let’s take a long, careful look at our own people and what they are up to.
It ought to be clear by now that of the twenty or so egos vying for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States, only four or five of them have a prayer of actually getting it. So while the rest of them waste our time and drain away precious, much-needed funds required to fight Donald Trump, what do those who remain have to say about global climate change?
The answer is not enough. The top contenders these days are probably Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and, the man without whose efforts in 2016 we wouldn’t have Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders. It can probably be said that, all things considered, Warren and Sanders have proven themselves strongest on climate change, barely, but in all four cases the topic simply isn’t as important as it ought to be. In fact, everyone should be baffled about why human survival isn’t their number one topic, and the reason for this is probably down to you and me.
Politicians are going to do what they have to do to get elected. So if we don’t require them to talk very much about climate change then they won’t. Climate change is a topic about which there isn’t any difference between not giving a shit and pretending to give a shit. The end result in either case is we will all be dead.
The cute little memes about how hot it’s getting this summer, memes that include pictures of flip-flops made out of ice cube trays, ought to give you an idea of how apparently unworried we generally are. These politicians are no dummies, in the sense at least that they know how to get elected, and they’re going to focus where we do and nowhere else.
I don’t know about you, but the only cold thing I can find these days is my blood and how it runs that way when I see someone getting misty-eyed over these political drones. None of them have proven themselves, and yet we seem too ready to anoint them with political sainthood. It’s a national sickness, the handing out of presidencies on the strength of so little proven merit. I think Megan Rapinoe is a fine and courageous soccer player, for example, but to suggest she should be president (and yes, I’ve actually seen the proposition mooted) is beyond absurd, particularly now when we so desperately need a leader to get us out of this mess we’re in. Of the four leading Democratic candidates, none of them have proven themselves worthy of the task, and we are running out of time.
We should be hearing things from these candidates like climate change is the most important problem we have ever faced as a species, and drastic measures must be taken to eradicate it. Donald Trump and his entire cabinet should be impeached and we should start today. A radical, systematic four year program to get us off of fossil fuel dependency should be laid out by all serious presidential candidates, with a detail-specific program for its implementation. Climate science denialism promoted by public figures should be made a federal crime with a statutory limit of life in prison without possibility of parole. The Republican Party should be declared a terrorist organization and outlawed. And much more.
Too far, you say? Talk to me again in ten years. In the meantime, as the song says, the time to hesitate is through. We need to light a fire under our indolence, before the fire of global climate change does it for us. And it will. Time is running out.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.