Part V: Hopefully the last General Musings
xxFelicitations for the new year: many are saying they’re glad 2016 is over. I fear it may come to be seen as a mere prelude. But we can still hope, can’t we?
xx“If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about the result.”
xxYes I bloody can! If you do vote you are implicitly saying, ‘I agree to abide by the outcome’. It’s you who can’t complain.
xxApparently, not to mention obviously, we live in a post-truth age. Not only is reasoned debate no longer a part (if it ever was) of political deliberation, but sarcasm, slanging matches, invented ‘facts’ and misinformation are the order of the day. I have been maintaining here and elsewhere that what Brexiters and Antitrumpers (not to mention liberals all over Europe and the World) should be doing is not moaning, not trying to force recounts and reruns, but winning the hearts and minds of their more reasonable opponents to create a groundswell wherein a huge majority wants that second chance — or decides the right decision was made after all (much as I doubt that).
xxI have also long argued that what we need is a Socratic reasoner, someone who will confront the ‘other side’ with the charisma and skill (both of which I spectacularly lack) to ask questions until the victim finds themselves exposing and thus facing the contradictions in their own position — but always with a mind open to the possibility of finding their own position challenged. But maybe here I just suffer from what I call ‘Benn’s Fallacy’, named after the late, great Tony Benn, who seemed to think that if one explained socialism patiently enough to anyone, they would inevitably become a socialist. But as Spike Milligan said, “After all, if Albert Einstein stood for a thousand years in front of fifty monkeys explaining the theory of relativity, at the end they’d still be just monkeys.”
xxI have no inclination to think of people as monkeys (no, nor to make cracks like ‘most aren’t that smart’), but I do realise and neuroscience confirms that minds can close when confronted with things that make them uncomfortable. I even intend to visit this idea in more depth in a future blog — I bet you can’t wait!
xxI’ve often felt that general elections are won and lost more by people voting against parties than for them. In the Sixties, Home’s UK government fell as much as the effect of Profumo as ‘thirteen years of Tory misrule’, and both outweighed anything the people thought Labour had to offer. Election propaganda reflects this. Saatchi’s Labour Isn’t Working poster crystallised dissatisfaction with over a million unemployed to the extent that people voted in a Tory crowd committed to tripling that (so as to weaken the unions and create a mass of people prepared to work in meaningless service jobs for a pittance: great for the economy of course, but only in the sense that it makes bosses richer — maybe one day enough folks will finally realise the trickle-down effect rushes in the opposite direction).
xxAnd after all the sleazegate shit of the Nineties, there’s a hollow ring to the Blairites’ crowing that it was their lurch to the right (or would they prefer ‘centre’?) that made them a winning party. One could argue that Labour could have won even more convincingly, had John Smith lived — and even managed a hefty majority if led by a rabid, three-legged dog whose main policy was to eat every tenth baby — or even by Jeremy Corbyn (who had been my MP, before I moved upmarket to Glenda Jacksonville; just for working on his election campaigns my then girlfriend’s sister got her phone tapped by the guardians of ‘our’ security).
xxOne-party states can be democratic, if the people elect their representatives to the party. Multi-party states can be anything but, if the partes can’t be told apart and are all in the pockets of an effective plutocracy.
xxIt has been said that the Terror after the French Revolution was the inevitable consequence of centuries of brutalisation under despotic monarchies. Even in a ‘democracy’ (though perhaps less spectacularly), an undereducated, underinformed and exploited populace will eventually turn against a system that gets too distant from their real needs and feelings. But when they snap, those conditions mean they will be susceptible to other powerful interests seeking to exploit their dissatisfaction for their own gain. How odd it seems to the chatterati that multimillionaires like Trump, Farage, Murdoch and Arron Banks can whip up such strong feelings of support from people whose interests they do anything but represent. Proving that Turkeys do sometimes vote for Christmas, if you keep them in the dark about the part they are to play in the festivities.
xxAt the risk of sounding all Winston Smith, from Nineteen Eighty-Four, if there is an answer to this, it must be in direct engagement at grass roots level. Podemos in Spainland and ΣΥΡΙΖΑ (Syriza) in Greeceland have some success on that basis (but obviously electoral success has to be followed with effective action, if they do play the ‘democratic’ game, or they could fade as quickly as they appeared). But when most of your populace sit watching X Factor or soaps from the domestic sofa, rather than going for a blether down the pub or workers’ club, where and how does one engage with them?
xxIf Brexits and Trumpery lead to an increase in racial tension and violence (as they seem to be and I’m sure some hope they will), surely this is as much taking a cork out of a pressurised bottle as it is a process of insidious ‘otherisation’.
It cannot be enough to introduce hate-crime and equality legislation and even education, and assume the hearts and minds of the great unwashed will either follow in time or, worse still, remain hopeless cases.
xxTrue democracy is when the people come together, reason (and thrash) out their differences, and take control of their own lives. The mechanisms of law and state, if any, should be there to facilitate this, and as a fallback when conviviality fails, not the starting point for all interaction.
xxJames Burke ended his 1985 TV series, The Day the Universe Changed: A Personal View, by saying that the coming communication explosion (the world wide web had just been dreamed up and the internet was still a baby) could be a means of increased surveillance and control by them powers what be — or could indeed allow for a more anarchic (ie ungoverned, unmediated, convivial) flow of resources, services and ideas.
xxSharing and services pages, community sites, freecycling and so on already provide versions of this. Perhaps the ability of all people to offer their abilities and make known their needs will begin the withering away of the state that hardline, centralised Marxism never could.
And that will do (for now). Have a great year.
Hugs all round.