Western civilisation can do amazing things. I mean, I look at skyscrapers, the Enlightenment and computers. It has a pretty decent track record.
But it also has a darker, more embarrassing side. War, inequality and Piers Morgan, to name but three. But these problems are not insurmountable - as Steven Pinker argues in The Better Angels of Our Nature, despite what it looks like, war is actually on the decline. Better still, Piers Morgan is slowly fading into obscurity too, having fallen from a prime time chat show in America to picking pathetic fights with people on Twitter. If this trend continues, his career could be completely eradicated in our lifetimes.
But it is this second problem that is proving most vexing: Inequality. While everything else is getting better, inequality is actually increasing according to many metrics. But as luck would have it, I’ve had a brilliant idea to tackle inequality. Not wealth inequality - that problem is far too hard and I’m a few economics PhDs shy of being able to figure that out. But happiness inequality - specifically regarding today, February 14th. Valentine’s Day.
Why do we have a day when couples - who are already likely to be happier than single people - can consolidate their happiness by buying each other gifts and so on - while the single people are left miserable? Worse still, because Valentine’s Day exists, it means that there’s an entire annual cultural phenomenon built around reminding single people how awesome it is to be in a relationship. So essentially, we have a huge inequality problem: Here’s all of the coupled up people getting even happier - while the singletons look on.
The good news is that there is a solution. We need to think less about February 14th and more about October 25th: Valentine’s Day needs socialism.
Imagine if instead of making their partners happy on Valentine’s Day the goal was to instead cheer up their single friends. Forget romantic meals - instead, couples should invite their single friends out for dinner instead and tell them how great they are.
This would be a complete rejection of neoliberal romance, where the happiness stays with the people already at the top, and instead in line with basic socialist principles would see the happiness redistributed so that everyone gets to share. And wouldn’t that create a better kinder, gentler world?
The change-up wouldn’t be that hard. Valentine’s Day is already red for a start - all you need to do is to switch out the word “Darling” for “Comrade”.
Swap the candles for burning oil drums from a picket line - and why send a card when you can send a copy of the Morning Star instead? And switch off Bryan Adams and Whitney Houston - and fire up Billy Bragg, or sing a chorus of the Internationale instead.
Sure, this might not sound very romantic, but Lenin is once purported to have said “A lie told often enough becomes the truth”, and surely this is already the mantra of millions of people who have uttered the words “I love you”?
Let the Valentine’s norms tremble at a socialist revolution. The single people have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Romantics of all countries, unite!