I’m just old enough to remember the dying days of the Cold War, news reports full of Strategic Defence Initiatives and the tick-tock of the Doomsday Clock as it moved closer to midnight, inspiring nightmares and Watchmen as it went.
Then, in 1989, the whole house of cards collapsed, seemingly overnight but I guess the cracks were showing long before, at least to those with eyes to see. The Bogeyman had fallen and he didn’t even get chance to launch all those nuclear missiles. The monster had been felled.
I wonder if that’s how it felt to all those living at the end of the Second World War, hearing that the spectre who had cast his deathly shadow over the fields of Europe now lay dead in a bunker in Berlin?
Libya was once another such bogeyman, responsible for terrorism and the Lockerbie Bombing. Heck, Libyans are even a destructive presence in Back To The Future. But somewhere along the line, Gaddafi became the comedy uncle of global dictators, at least in the western world that didn’t have to live under his regime.
It was a different story in Libya, of course, and yesterday the revolution that started in February reached something of a climax with the death of Colonel Gaddafi. Another dictator down, another fallen regime.
I’ve said before, probably too many times, that this is turning out to be a very strange year, almost as if 2011 has served notice on the leaders and institutions that are corrupt, oppressive or simply anachronistic. Maybe we felt that they’d last forever, that their power would pass to the heirs and nothing would change. Suddenly that no longer seems to be the case, and it ‘s steange and disorientating and a little scary, but ultimately hopeful.
GK Chesterton said, in so many words, that fairy tales don’t teach children that monsters exist – they already know that – but fairy tales do teach them that monsters can be beaten. And maybe, in some less mythic way, the same is true of protest songs and Twitter. We’ve learned that monsters – Gaddafi, corporations, media corruption – aren’t invulnerable, aren’t immortal, aren’t omnipotent. That knowledge is liberating and empowering and intimidating, because it confers on those who’d succeed a monster the responsibility to do a better job.
And, as 2011 seems to be restructuring the world around us, that responsibility necessarily falls on us all. We are the 100%.