I’m so depressed these days that I find it hard to understand how everybody else in Britain isn’t depressed too. Apart of course for those who are selfishly profiting from the present situation; and I should have thought that even some of them might feel a few shivers of apprehension about whither this may be leading us all.
Personally, I have no substantial reason to be depressed, apart from the usual old-age infirmities, and the fact that my latest book seems to have been superseded by events and sunk like a lead balloon. (I pleaded with the publishers to bring it out earlier, but publishing has a dynamic of its own.) Both of those setbacks I’m pretty well reconciled to. I’m not yet seriously affected by rising prices or the demolition of the welfare state, apart from not being able to see a doctor any more (vide supra). I long ago lost my libido, which was a tremendous relief. (No more lusting after women. I could appreciate them for who they were.) I have the love of a good woman, of a dog (it loves everyone), and of my children (I like to think). I have a bolt-hole to escape to, in the much more politically congenial environment of Sweden, although from what Kajsa tells me that congeniality may be under threat from the Swedish Right soon. (They’re aping Priti and Suella over the immigration of refugees, of which I consider myself to be one – a refugee from Brexit. If I hadn’t got my Swedish citizenship three years ago, I might not be granted it now.) I can always move there for good, and leave the toxic UK behind. So, there’s very little to depress me in my personal life. I’m one of a uniquely fortunate generation, country and class, with just enough money to get by on, and no wars that I’ve needed to get involved in: except to protest against. That’s half the trouble: I feel guilty for feeling like this when I have nothing to feel like this about. And that makes me even more depressed.
Concerned friends ply me with cures for my depression: medicines (currently I’m on Fluoxetine – it doesn’t seem to be helping), or healthier food, or more exercise, and in one case ‘magic mushrooms’. (I gave that a miss.) I’ve even tried psycho-analysis – for about a week. No relief.
But I’m beginning to feel anyway that this is entirely the wrong approach. It’s predicated on the assumption that depression is an illness, a malfunction, something that has gone wrong in my body or my psyche; whereas I think it may be normal. It’s the happy and untroubled people who are ill. I get irritated by pictures of people looking cheerful, and by anyone joking merrily on TV. The fools! Don’t they know?
We currently have a crazy, malevolent and incompetent government. The popular Press are lying to us. The Russians are coming. Capitalism is about to implode. Britain is in danger of going full-on Fascist, before the earth roasts to a frazzle, and (eventually) plunges into the sun. The Left is powerless, in the face of vested interests, rich capitalist propagandists, and public ignorance. And all folk can do is obsess about royalty (who don’t really matter), football, soap opera stars, and ‘reality’ TV. Or about gender, racism and ‘wokeness’ generally, for the rather more serious. – But just look around you. We’re doomed!! Isn’t that enough to make depression the normal and only rational way of reacting to our situation? From which it follows that cheerfulness and apathy are the real ‘illnesses’ of society.
Or is this just for now, when the American mid-terms look ominous, Cop-27 seems bound to fail, the British government is packed with proto-fascists, even Sweden is sliding into reaction, the weather (in Hull) is cold and damp; and I’ve simply got out of bed the wrong side?
As an oldie, I look back fondly nowadays to the 1950s and ’60s, when – whatever our privations, and the threat of ‘The Bomb’ – we at least had hope. (I wrote a piece on this for the Times Literary Supplement, 23 December 2016; republished in my Britain Before Brexit, 2021, chapter 11.) That was under the Labour governments of Attlee and Wilson, and the only slightly less progressive Tory government of Macmillan. Capitalism was tamed. Colonies were winning their freedom. We were about to enter a partnership with our new European friends. Gays were about to be liberated. Things were getting better, for everyone: even workers and women. A sunny future for all beckoned, under social democracy.
It’s this – the loss of hope – that I think is getting me down these days. There seems to be no cure for that. Hence the Black Dog. I hope this post doesn’t spread it to others. That would make me even more depressed.