Opinion: War on Weltschmerz

A Liberal Youth training sessionWhen friends have lost their belief in religion, they usually describe not the freeing of bonds, but the emptiness left without a moral compass to guide them.

My youngest daughter popped in after work today looking rather sad. When I asked her the problem she described herself as feeling weltschmerz. Never having heard of this before, I got her to elaborate. She told me of the alienation, the resignation and the overwhelming sense of the cruelty of the world. This is not a woman prone to melancholy, but rather one who is working hard in a well paid job at the same time as studying for a PPE with the Open University. She had lost her belief in the way the world works and her ability to do anything about it and her friends all felt the same.

The financial crisis followed by the depression have laid waste to the country. The divisive attacks on shirkers have turned people against people. The institutions that we trusted have been exposed as being built of straw. Foreign policy seems to be based on endless wars justified by lies. Vast numbers of young people cannot find work and those lucky enough to go to university are saddled with enormous debt. Politicians give a very good impression of not noticing the public, let alone listening to them. No wonder that young people do not vote.

Just as austerity is being exposed as a neoliberal lie, we should now turn our attention to the weltschmerz of the young. They, after all, are the real future of the country and we need them to reach their potential to meet the challenges of our age.

The Liberal Democrats are the only party capable of doing this. We are idealistic, we have a strong sense of right and wrong and, above all, we believe in people.

Let us renew ourselves as the party of hope. Let us invest in our young people with a decent education system and remove the burden of debt from our brightest. Let us invest in technologies where our young can work and become world leaders, such as alternative energy and nanotechnology. Let us have foreign policy based on ethics so that we can be proud to be British. Let us campaign for integrity in public life and rebuild our public institutions so that they are strong enough to face future challenges.

Let us forget the divisive War of Terror and commit ourselves to a War on Weltschmerz.

* Anthony Hawkes worked mainly in the oil industry around the world. Since retirement he has become a Human Rights Activist and joined the LibDems to start fixing the world. He blogs at Crustry Old Codger.

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15 Comments

  • jenny barnes 29th Jan '13 - 2:05pm

    She had lost her belief in the way the world works and her ability to do anything about it and her friends all felt the same.

    Yes. I’ve felt rather like that ever since the party joined the Tories. What, after all, is the point of conventional politics if all that campaigning achieves precisely the opposite of what you hoped?
    Austerity exposed as a neo-liberal lie? Has the LD leadership noticed?

  • Richard Dean 29th Jan '13 - 2:45pm

    Let us also try not to exaggerate!

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Jan '13 - 3:28pm


    The financial crisis followed by the depression have laid waste to the country. The divisive attacks on shirkers have turned people against people. The institutions that we trusted have been exposed as being built of straw. Foreign policy seems to be based on endless wars justified by lies. Vast numbers of young people cannot find work and those lucky enough to go to university are saddled with enormous debt. Politicians give a very good impression of not noticing the public, let alone listening to them. No wonder that young people do not vote.

    Well, ok, let’s try and tackle this, bit by bit.

    The financial crisis is the fairly inevitable result of the economic policies government of both major parties have been inflicting on this country since 1979 – and getting praise and support for doing so. It was Margaret Thatcher who decided nasty dirty industries where people do work and gather together in sufficient numbers to be strong enough to demand decent conditions could all be closed down, and we would get by through selling houses and shares to each other. Till this day, this is praised almost across the political spectrum as having brought Britain upwards from the decline it was supposed to have been suffering in the 1960s and 1970s when lumbered by too much state control and welfare we, umm, had much more economic growth than we have now.

    The divisive attack on shirkers – still seems to be very popular according to the opinion polls. Unless those shirkers are people who sit back shirking while making money through owning housing and shares – well, then it’s the “politics of envy” innit?

    I’m not quite sure what those institutions were we ever trusted. Further elaboration please, but ” Foreign policy seems to be based on endless wars justified by lies”, sorry, nonsense. The days of regularly marching in on colonial exercises are over. It was a huge mistake, yes, to try and go in and overthrow one of the world’s cruellest dictators in Iraq, but see how now we are being accused of being bad because we won’t intervene in the overthrow of his political soul-mate in Syria?

    On “Vast numbers of young people cannot find work and those lucky enough to go to university are saddled with enormous debt”, I do think we need to realise that universities cost what universities cost. If they were paid for from the money tree, that money tree is actually government debt, so the next generation would STILL be lumbered with it.

    On “Politicians give a very good impression of not noticing the public, let alone listening to them”, actually they seem to be obsessed with focus groups and the like, trying to find out just what it is they can do that will win them votes. However “No wonder that young people do not vote” maybe answers the previous part – if young people won’t vote, is it any surprise the politicians concentrate on the policies older people find attractive?

  • Paul Holmes 29th Jan '13 - 6:29pm

    I have never, ever, felt the need of a belief in a supernatural deity in order to have a moral compass.

  • David Allen 29th Jan '13 - 6:32pm

    Good article.

    Let us not listen to inspiring rhetoric, and respond with “Huh, who needs to hear this stuff? I can quibble with some of the details, so, the article goes in the bin.”

  • Nick (not Clegg) 29th Jan '13 - 7:35pm

    “The institutions that we trusted have been exposed as being built of straw” That sentence, applied to the Liberal Democrat Party is about the only part of this article with which I can agree. Rhetoric it may be; inspiring it isn’t.

    To be positive, ‘though, I agree with Jenny Barnes and Paul Holmes And I certainly did not feel any sense of “emptiness” , nor loss, when I concluded that there was no evidence to support a belief in religion.

  • Anthony Hawkes 29th Jan '13 - 8:59pm

    I am in agreement with Matthew Huntbach’s description of our economic demise. In the interests of fairness we should add the names of Ronald Regan and Milton Friedman to that of Mrs. Thatcher. Not forgetting of course, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

    On institutions, I would class things such as newspapers, Parliament, the police and solicitors, all of who were once held in high regard, but through criminality and lies, have lost the confidence of the public.

    On the money tree, I see things slightly differently. When the economy is in a prolonged slump, as today, there are literally trillions of pounds’ worth of idle people, factories, buildings and purveyors of services. That’s where government borrowing comes in. Unlike private credit-card debt, public borrowing can improve a depressed economy’s performance.

    When government borrows, it should invest in projects that cycle right back into the private economy. These are usually things the economy needs anyway, that make it more productive or are necessary services curtailed by the recession, like education, technology, house building, alternative energy and the National Health Service. Today, the debt keeps going up because the economy is underperforming. Get unemployment rates down and growth back up, and more consumers and business pay more taxes. The ratio of the public debt to overall economic output (gross domestic product) starts coming down in a healthier economy.

    The idea that the debt inflicts a burden on our grandchildren and depresses their standard of living has it backward. What is destroying the prospects of future generations is our failure to generate a recovery with decent jobs that need a decent education in the first place.

    Join the War on Weltschmerz!

  • Matthew Huntbach 29th Jan '13 - 10:24pm

    David Allen

    Let us not listen to inspiring rhetoric, and respond with “Huh, who needs to hear this stuff? I can quibble with some of the details, so, the article goes in the bin.”

    It wasn’t inspiring, it was defeatist. One of the biggest reason our country is in a mess is because of defeatist attitudes like this. All this “Don’t bother, you can’t do anything, politics is all evil” stuff plays into the hands of the political right. It’s the way they’ve managed to win power – persuade all those whose activity might combat the power of wealth that political activity isn’t worth it. So the right wins by default because they don’t need mass membership, they’ve got the power and influence to push what THEY want.

  • Nick (not Clegg) 30th Jan '13 - 8:59am

    “he war on weltschmerz!”: as vacuous a phrase as “the war on terror” but, hopefully, less likely to catch on.

  • “She had lost her belief in the way the world works and her ability to do anything about it and her friends all felt the same.”
    This should be a wake-up call. Sadly, those in charge,(or think they are in charge), as still asleep.

  • Fomer Lib supporter 30th Jan '13 - 10:17am

    “Let us campaign for integrity in public life” says Anthony Hawkes.

    Right, start with the LD;s who reneged on university tuition fees once in government. . You will find it hard going to win back support from young people, if the views of my grandson and his friends (in 6th form) are anything to go by.

    On another matter, I would have liked to have seen the LD’s vote as a whole against THE measures being taken against the [poor and needy, rather than on politcal one-upmanship as witnessed in the constituency changes vote.

  • this article lost me at the first sentence, which describes precisely the opposite of my experience. Rather be hopeless and struggling but free than happily caged by conformity here, sorry.

  • Michael Parsons 30th Jan '13 - 12:27pm

    I thought it an excellenbt comment. The fact is that givcen an oligarchic political system run by money, steered to catastrophe by the bankrupt financial system (not by “economic” crisis) we can’t do much about it. Determination to rebuild better is needed – a rethink on the nature of money and its creation and control, a focus on real econ omic development and life chances of our citizens yes; and a new vision of our relationship to Nature and each other with the growth of new scientifiuc understanding. As for ther ob jection that “future generations will be “lumbered with massive debt” if we revive our welfare system, that is as nothing compared to the bankers’ debts we have been wrongly lumbered with, and would yield econonomic and social gains rather than help the 1%

  • Michael Parsons 30th Jan '13 - 1:19pm

    Jennie

    Perhaps not a matter of being caged by conformity, but a need for a new Weltanschauung? The world seems to be more like a heat-engine that is cooling down than a happy playground designed by God with us in mind. When you set your coffee-cup down to cool, the heat energy is lost; there is no coffee cup heating up somewhere else capturing it. You too will cool and cease utterly. We can look into a room and say”There’s nothing there” But of course there is – carpets, chairs and so on. But the nothing that you will become is as if a hole opens up in the fabric of the workd and you fall through, you become absolutely nothing – “there is nothing there”.
    I once set the feeling out in a sonnet:

    Losing what I never had

    There is darkness in the heart of things,
    A blank unknowing borne not by despair
    But by wise certainty that numbs our care;
    We find life’s sowings bring no harvestings,
    Our desert fields reveal our trumpetings
    Mere boasts; nought echoes in that void’s dark air.
    Search as we will, we will find nothing there,
    No ground for feet nor voice that comfort brings:-
    To stasis through disorder atoms run,
    No sight, nor touch, unless we think them there,
    No warmth, nor scent, nor sound, nor good, nor bad,
    Nor out of empty space can new things come.
    When through annihilation’s gate we stare
    We dream we leave a world we never had.

    Mike Parsons
    Perhaps that helps understanding? Only the young live like gods, careless of fate, but perhaps we need to design social policies that restore that initial joie de vivre to more?

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