I try to avoid the politics of national elections. I know, I know. I'm well aware of all the arguments about engagement and all that, but when you only have a choice between, as Noam Chomsky put it once, the two wings of the business party, then what's the point?
In my own country I vote in any case. Normally I'll vote Green - always have done. At least in the UK and EU there's a chance your vote will count. I can even get mildly excited when the Greens win a seat or two. Local politics is a different beast. I'm all for local politics.
Anyway, it didn't escape my notice that there was an election in America this week, and that one of the candidates actually won it. It was, in fact, impossible not to notice because there was much rejoicing in Europeland about the person who had won it. On this particular morning I found myself listening to one of Denmark's national radio stations which, between breathless reportage about dancing in the streets in the good old US of A, they played songs such as 'Things can only get better' and 'Wake up it's a beautiful morning'.
America, we were told, had decided to re-elect someone who would bring about an end to the recession, enforce world peace and halt global warming in its tracks. The Messaih, in other words, was having his third coming.
Later, I found myself at work, where some people were still in a state of some excitement due to the news which was oozing out of every iOrifice. One lady was even wearing the stars and stripes over her normal business attire. I managed to avoid all eye contact and banter until I was cornered in the kitchen by one of the copywriters while I was brewing a cup of tea. Isn't the news great? she enthused. Umm, yeah, I responded in flat tones that I hoped were just the right side of neutrality so as not to be mistaken for irony. She looked at me in a puzzled manner, perhaps assessing whether I was a crazed Mitt Romney supporter.
"It's funny how every news channel in Europe is so excited about Obama," I added.
"Well not really, because it means the world isn't going to hell now," she ventured, a little too fiercely for my liking.
"What makes you think that?" I responded, puzzled.
But my question was enough to confirm her suspicions that I was one of 'them'. Without responding she upped tail and walked out, leaving me to strain my tea bag in shameful solitude.
Afterwards, at my desk, I began thinking back to the time when I really thought that the election result in America made much of a difference. Twelve years ago I was on a pretty damned remote island in the Bay of Bengal, sitting on a beach with a crackly hand-held short wave radio, trying to pick up the BBC World Service while a group of other people eagerly listened in. The signal came and went, with voices in a number of languages being stretched and distorted and strangled by eerie alien whining sounds as I angled the antenna to get the best signal.
It was then that a cut-glass accent voice appeared out of the ether like an aural apparition and it said this: "George Bush has won the election in the United States." Immediately after this dinket of poisonous information had been relayed the distortion and whining came back and it was as if the message we had heard had disappeared like a genie set loose from a bottle washed up on the beach. My fellow listeners, namely my wife, an Indian fisherman, a German girl and a Kiwi couple all groaned out loud simultaneously. Here on this blasted strand we learned of our fate. Shortly afterwards several coconuts were hacked open, topped up with illegal Indian rum and the whole lot of us got gloomily drunk.
Back to the present and I'm unable to get as involved with the election result as I used to. There are so many what ifs and what abouts. What about the foreign policies that lock the US and much of the West into intractable and unwinnable wars? What about global warming? What about ocean acidification? Corporate lobbying? GMOs (which also won, with Californian voters giving the green light to be shafted by the industrial frankenfood lobbies)? Obama's drone wars? Topsoil loss biodiversity extinction ethnic cleansing feedback loops? The fiscal cliff?
Some Danish news programmes stated that Obama was going to prevent another recession - just by his sheer cussedness. He was going to make the US 'energy independent', whatever that means, while at the same time tackling climate change and helping the people hit by 'superstorm' Sandy, and make all that debt disappear because it was frankly not the kind of thing that he was into. He was going to stand up for the little guy and he was going to build a world for us where all of our children would have better opportunities and would become prosperous and slim and not feckless and fat. And most important of all, his wife was going to carry on being sassy and wearing different outfits, which is really what everyone wanted to hear.
Things Can Only Get Better.
ps Sometimes it's hard being a sourpuss.
pps At least Mitt Romney didn't win.
ppps My wife: "I hear Obama won the election."
The local baker (a middle-aged woman): "I didn't even realise the old mayor had retired."