About the best bit in the three hour long but nonetheless rather fun repetition of what Wilfred Owen called the Old Lie - itself now something of an old lie too, I suspect: nothing that prompts schools to show you episodes of Blackadder could not have ascended to the status of myth, I think - that is A Bridge Too Far is a kind of self-overcoming of that understanding of the point of martial virtue. Good old Dickie Attenborough is commanding troops holding one end of the titular bridge, totally out-numbered and out-gunned by the implacable Hun, who, coldly rational as ever, sends over a messenger to ask if the plucky Brits feel like they've been slaughtered for long enough now and might consider a surrender. Attenborough turns to one of his officers, telling him to tell the Germans to go f*ck themselves, more or less. The officer, utterly deadpan, shouts across the no-mans-land at the end of the bridge that they'd like to discuss terms, "but unfortunately we haven't the proper facilities to take you all prisoner". Consequently, more or less all the British get killed, including Attenborough's rather eccentric junior, and Attenborough, along with the remainder, gets taken prisoner. In real terms, a total bloody - literally - disaster, but as a cinematic moment, absolutely brilliant.
Until the last month or so, for the last six months that was kind of how I felt about domestic politics: whatever one was doing, it was at best gestural in that kind of way; at its heart was an acknowledgment that it couldn't possibly be doing any real good, since the forces aligned against it were so strong, but out of sheer bloodymindedness you ought to do it anyway. The Tories might be miles ahead in the polls and making all the kinds of subtle nasty party noises you'd expect, Labour's programme might consist of mostly making the benefits system increasingly punitive for anyone it thought The Daily Mail disapproved of while lacking the balls to even appear to actually do much else at all but flounder, but at least I was still pure of heart. However, now, although the Tories are still miles ahead in the polls, everything else seems to be running the right way: clearly global capitalism hasn't collapsed and we're not about to enter the proverbial socialist utopia of milk and honey, but some serious readjustments in the distribution of threat advantage have occurred. Not only do free-market ideologues seem to have lost their balls, the centre-left(ish) in power looks like it might have got them back and decided to make use of its ability to, you know, actually do stuff. Even the Fed has had to not only buy out banks but accept some political consequences for doing so, and still Americans are probably going to elect a black man as their President. I mean, a global recession is of course pretty awful and all that, and doubtless we're not going to see the complete end of attempts by finance capital to dominate political proceedings, but it warms the cockles of your heart.
So, from a much more politically dubious source, a new motto. In Como, on the lakefront, there's a really rather hideous fascist-era war memorial, cod-futurist and vulgar. Its inscription provides the title of this post. Of course, it's Owen's Old Lie without even the veneer that comes from obscuring one's meaning in a dead language: it's brash and unbelievably stupid, a moral horror really. No coughing like hags and cursing through the sludge whilst drunk with fatigue there, but instead the brazen promise of not only glory beyond imagining but also a warm bed. Like I say, a moral horror. It has a kind of fit to my mood though. One doesn't have to be resigned to the fact that politics is the art of the possible anymore; one can be hopeful that it is now, because the boundaries of the possible seem wider than they did even a couple of months ago. A stupid hoping beyond hope seems appropriate. It's maybe just as irresponsible as it is on the war memorial - a global recession is after all a definite price to pay, and it's not as if secret cadres of Rawlsians have now overtaken the commanding heights of both the state and the economy - but I suppose hopes is always in a certain sense irresponsible.
Postscript: For example, take this (via). Waiting for the great leap forwards!