The musician suggested that a tumultuous 2016 wasn’t the beginning of some new dark age, but the end of what he believed to be a slow 40-year decline. Pointing to Ayn Rand, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, Eno said this process grew out of an individualistic ideology that “sneered at social generosity and championed a sort of righteous selfishness.”
Along with undercutting employment opportunities, workers’ rights, education and health care, as well as providing an opening for xenophobia and “knee-jerk nationalism,” Eno wrote that such “unrestrained individualism” ultimately created vast economic inequality and acute wealth concentration. And the benefits of “trickle down” economics, promised by Thatcher and Reagan, never came to fruition.
“No wonder people are angry, and turning away from business-as-usual government for solutions,” Eno wrote. “When governments pay most attention to whoever has most money, the huge wealth inequalities we now see make a mockery of the idea of democracy. As George Monbiot said: ‘The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the purse is mightier than the pen.'”
While this anger led many to grab “the nearest Trump-like object and hit the Establishment over the head with it,” Eno suggested a quieter revolution was taking place. “People are rethinking what democracy means, what society means and what we need to do to make them work again,” he wrote. “People are thinking hard, and, most importantly, thinking out loud, together. I think we underwent a mass disillusionment in 2016, and finally realised it’s time to jump out of the saucepan.”
Eno closed with a call to action that went beyond “tweets and likes and swipes” and focused on “thoughtful and creative social and political action.” He touted the importance of giving direct financial support to good journalism, reclaiming education from “ideologues and bottom-liners” and even simply playing taxes and getting rid of tax havens. “And if we want thoughtful politicians, we should stop supporting merely charismatic ones,” Eno added.
In closing, the musician wrote, “Inequality eats away at the heart of a society, breeding disdain, resentment, envy, suspicion, bullying, arrogance and callousness. If we want any decent kind of future we have to push away from that, and I think we’re starting to. There’s so much to do, so many possibilities. 2017 should be a surprising year.”