Yesterday it was the 20th anniversary of Tony Blair’s historic Labour landslide in 1997, for many of us it was our first time voting in a general election, also the Tories were all we could remember, they had (it seemed to us) been there forever.
I remember a couple of weeks before the election and a friend said in the pub “I still reckon that some how those unscrupulous Tory ******* will some how get back in!”
Yet here before our eyes we saw history being made, as seats bluer than Bernard Mannings joke book became New Labour Scarlet, and many of the giants of the Tory Party were felled by the voters.
I have heard people say that the biggest killer is apathy, but my generation wasn’t particularly apathetic, I voted first thing in the morning as soon as the polling station was open, and at work the next day many of us were bleary eyed from staying up until about 3ish -“did you see Portillo?”
Britain was changing and would never be the same again.
For us, we saw that our vote changed things. That change was possible. That what had looked like it was set in concrete wasn’t. More-over the mistakes of our parents generation (not that my parents have ever voted Tory I’m pleased to say) could be rectified, this was a generation forging its own future with a new set of values.
I remember the song that was the Labour Parties Election theme “Things Can Only Get Better”, I remember being struck by the message of Hope, bill-boards said “Labour: Class sizes will get smaller” or “Labour: wages will increase”.
Fast forward a few years and I remember 10 years ago Barak Obama getting elected the first black President of the United States, the same message of Hope, “YES we CAN!” -in fact Obama called his autobiography “the Audacity of Hope”. It is incredible to think of a black president of the United States of America when as recently as the 1960’s Blacks and whites weren’t even allowed to sit together on buses.
I remember reading “Rosa (Parks) sat so Martin (Luther King Jr) could walk, Martin walked so (Barak) Obama could stand, Obama stood so our children can fly”.
The idea that we are making history and the world a better place for our children is a compelling vision.
Yet fast-forward to today.
Sadly the achievements of Labour were blighted by the Iraq war and the global recession and they are back in opposition, the Tories look unbeatable again.
Young people who probably have seen both Labour and Conservative in power probably think “why bother”, and ask does my vote change anything.
Obama’s “YES we CAN” has been replaced by the world asking of America “They Can’t Can They?”
This election is not fuelled by hope but fears.
“Things can only get better” is not the mood of the country which is more fearful than I can remember in a long time.
So, is this blog about my political viewpoint? well no, actually it is about something far deeper, it is about not letting a dream die.
It is easy to say “wasn’t that good” or be nostalgic for the good old days, easy to set a moment as a ‘golden era’ never to be equalled let alone excelled, it is easy to think that the hopes of our youth have matured as we have become more jaded, cynical and our defeatism can have an older sounding rhetoric.
It is amazing how quickly we forget that things can and do change.
It is amazing how quick we can feel disenfranchised again, how discouraging circumstances stop us dreaming those big, crazy audacious dreams of a different world.
More over if we stop dreaming that a better and different world is possible, we wont bother to fight and achieve it.
Take hope out of our hearts and we are lost.
The Tories are saying they are going to defeat Corbyn with a landslide, and is a clever tactic because if people give up before the start then we have lost.
If you don’t play to win in sport you nearly always loose.
Battles that are fought are won or lost in our minds.
Some one once said “do events happen to us, or do we happen to events?”
It is amazing how the radical revolutionary sinks back into the mire of the despondency.
Imagine for a moment the earliest of disciples, locked in the upper room for fear of the Jews, hidden away, and when the Holy Spirit came they were filled with boldness (which is a fruit of Hope) and this small group of uneducated artisans went out speaking to the people and changed the world forever.
Yet despite seeing thousands come to Christ, soon persecution happened and things went badly wrong, and yet despite their change in circumstances, the challenges and the opposition they kept on going…
Here is Paul talking about his recently Missionary endeavours “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers” 2 Corinthians 11. Yet Paul never gave up.
So, as we approach this election, as we are in very different circumstances in a time that feels very different, my message to myself and to anyone who reads this blog, is don’t let discouragements and oppositions burst our dreams of making the world a better place for our children.
In fact the world seems a darker place than 20 years ago, but when it gets darker the light shines more brightly.
when times are at their most challenging and depressing we need the dreamers and the prophets more than others.
Anyone can be an optimist on the mountain top, but it takes bravery and courage to be an optimist in the valley.
we may live in a very different time, and the world may feel very different, but lets “not grow weary in doing good for at the right time we will reap a reward if we do not give up!”
In the film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves Robin is fighting in the water and he shouts to Azeem his friend to ask hat to do, and Azeem tells him to “get up and keep fighting”. I think that is a message for all of us who maybe feel a bit weary and battle warn, when maybe Hope feels more like a distant memory that a present reality.
I’ll end wth a quote from CS Lewis who said “You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream” -So let’s keep dreaming and fighting to turn these dreams to reality.