I keep finding myself in a surreal space of late, uncertain of what is real. A project will suddenly vanish or become distorted without seeming cause and another language is suddenly being spoken. I am uncertain if I’m real, or whether others are real. Beaming faces remain on the ads and young people are supposedly realising their goals and dreams at the same time as climate crises occur which shatter the prospect of a future.

Salvador Dali

Frederik Jameson makes the point that at times of crisis, ideologies are repressed, in the same way that trauma can be repressed in the psyche. The dominant ideology is that of entrepreneurialism, ‘the setting up of a business in order to make a profit’ with the entrepreneur ‘the person in control of a commercial undertaking’. This is the way to provide services and to solve problems and there is an obsessive energy attached. A variety of other possibilities are suppressed or marginalised or colonised, for example, the concept of public service, or the concept of ecology. Add to this the new technologies of the virtual and, ‘because the virtual is only the virtual, it can intensify in a mind boggling way’, to quote Baudrillard, ‘moving ever further from the real world and losing grip of any reality principle as the operators transcribe themselves into their own networks and their own codes’. This is of particular concern when it infects bureaucracies, where blatantly obvious solutions to mundane problems become repressed.

For example, in the field of state patronage of arts and culture, the need to democratise that patronage geographically and demographically requires a return to a previous community arts model but that cannot be recognised; instead, virtual entrepreneurial solutions of provincial start -ups are imagined. The nurse and doctor shortage crisis could be solved through providing a free education in this field with a bonding system, as used to exist for teachers, but that is never mentioned. A Labour government introduces a history curriculum which doesn’t mention class struggle or the working class input into our history.

It becomes a curious dictatorship. How does one respond? The technique of the magic realism novelists came from situations of absurdity as the personal whims of a dictator were writ large on a nation and embedded in its bureaucratic systems and fantastic events took place. Only fantasy can respond to fantasy and the novelist’s subjectivity challenged that of the dictator. But the novelist has the discipline of writing a coherent whole object and embedding fantasy in reality. The current challenges to the ‘dictatorship’ from populist impulses like Groundswell and the new conservative parties and the general business of fake news and social media simply add to the distortion and are equally driven by entrepreneurialism.

Beneath the magic realists was a continuing communist party in all its South American variety and that becomes the current political absence.