Cultural Amnesia revisited: Liberal Democracy the only hope

I have just finished reading Clive James’ Cultural Amnesia for the third time (and the first since Mr James died). This is almost unprecedented; I have only read the Dune Trilogy more times……there are simply too many books I haven’t read to routinely re-read books. Admittedly, immediately prior to this I read the complete current ouvre of William Gibson, some 13 books. The restrictions of the Lockdown pushed me into reading fiction, which I don’t normally tarry with. Neuromancer was the first of these – and the rest of that particular groove was easy to fall into. William Gibson makes you think differently, with invented words and predictions of where our world is heading – and his writing style is fantastic. 
Cultural Amnesia is similar, in that (although focussed in the past) it harrowingly shows what could be the future if we don’t cherish liberal democracy, and begin to fight for it: the totalitarian state (of the right or left, it doesn’t much matter). It does this by telling some of the stories of a large number of cultural icons of the twentieth century; it wasn’t possible to live in that century without being impacted by totalitarianism, and always in a bad way. Man’s easy inhumanity to Man, even in the face of learning and Science, is the painful take away from the twentieth century – Utopia is an unconvincing dream, with no hope that it can materialise. 
This is an important lesson we have to learn. As such, we should regard politics as a serious necessity, with consequences that impact us all. The last century clearly demonstrated that only liberal democracy stands a chance of dynamically evolving society to adapt to world wide change. The Pandemic offers us a serious current challenge to our understanding of this.


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