Yes, of course he’s entitled to his opinion, and yes, to his vote. But he’s not entitled to our respect. But let’s be clear who he actually is: he’s not The Voter Who Voted For Someone You Disagree With. That’s healthy, that’s democracy.
No, this guy is worse. This is the guy who listens to Trump, and knows what he’s saying doesn’t make sense, but it makes him feel good and so he votes for him anyway. Who hears a presidential candidate call on supporters to beat up opponents and thinks “Well, he didn’t tell them to beat up me, so it’s OK.”
Or she, on seeing Bernie getting defeated by Hillary, vows not to vote in a tantrum to “teach Hillary a lesson”. Because Trump will defend the rights that Bernie wasn’t able to?
Or votes to sabotage an EU-Ukraine trade deal not because they care about Ukraine one way or the other but because they just want to lash out.
These are the people who let the darkness in. The political plate spinners who look at all the broken crockery around them and always have someone else to blame. The people democratic theory fails, because it assumes that people will always vote in their own best interest.
These are the Jews who voted for HIM because he was really tough on the Communists, and when other Jews asked them have they not heard what he says about Jews they go: “Meh: he’ll get rid of the Commies. Then we’ll worry about it.”
These are the people who go back to the firework after the fuse goes out, because it hardly ever goes off.
We must work WITHIN the alien’s human eating system to achieve change!
His father had been a socialist utopian in his youth, marching in his long hair and droopy moustache For a Marxist Paradise. He grew out of it, of course, and now keeps an eye on his pension portfolio, but there you have it. What’s the old saying? If you’re not on the left when you’re young, you have no heart, but if you’re not on the right when you’re old, you have no brain?
Our hero is worse. He has no soul. From the moment he joined the party’s youth section, he was a trimmer with a wet finger in the air constantly turning political direction. He wants to be in politics, but has almost no interest in politics. Ask him what his political values are, and he comes out with phrases that sound like they were tested by a focus group in 1998. He talks about how he is “proud” to be a member of a party, like a 1980s Japanese salary-man singing the Toshiba company song.
Where’s the rebelliousness of youth? Where’s sticking it to The Man? He doesn’t do that. He works with The Man, confidant that The Man will recognise his pragmatic loyalty to the party and reward him with a nomination in the forthcoming local authority elections. Put him on the telly and he wears his confirmation suit and tries to parrot what the party grown ups say. There’s nothing, NOTHING more mortifying than watching a 15 year old come out with stuff like “what young people want is fiscal rectitude and a cut in Capital Gains Tax.”
Remember that old TV series “V”, about the giant lizard mouse eating aliens disguised as humans, who came claiming friendship, and then set up a Nazi youth style organisation? He would have signed up. “We must work with our Alien masters, and as minister of state for Human Consumption I look forward to…”
And most of all, he’ll read this blog posting and think I’m writing about him.
He’s a new type on the block, and governed very much by the credo of “My enemy’s enemy is my friend”, and the Kremlin loves him.
Not because he’ll sing the praises of the Putin regime, because that would be just too weird, even for them. Instead, he’s big into drawing parallels between the Russians and the West. The Russians have a leader who is willing to stand up to the West, and the West doesn’t like it, that sort of thing. Putin is far more popular with his own people than Obama is, he’ll casually announce, which is certainly more achievable if you can actually ban your opponents from TV or purely coincidentally live in a country with a curiously high casualty rate amongst journalists critical of the state.
He’ll be quick to dismiss NATO as being as bad as Al Qaeda, or that there’s no difference between Russian and Western democracy. Well, that goes without saying. After all, we’ve all had to stay up late on election night in Russia to see who has won. I wonder what party will win the next, say, three Russian presidential elections?
And that’s just the lefty ones. Then there’s the ones on the right, who twenty five years ago would have been shouting at pro-Russians to “go home to Moscow!” Now, Russia is a country that isn’t afraid to be patriotic and “traditional” (i.e. beating up the odd poofter), and so what if they refuse to mollycoddle blacks or Muslims or Jews like we do in the West. At least he’s listening to his people, they’ll declare, using pretty much the same argument the old segregationists of the 1950s used to use.
And of course don’t get him started on the EU, or the EUSSR as he blurts out with a smile at his cleverness. Every time Putin has a go at the EU our friend feels a stirring in his nether regions. Of course, if the EU announced it wanted to show the same “strong leadership” over Europe that Putin has over Russia he’d be the first to the barricades banging on about democracy.
They’re easy enough to spot. Just watch them retweeting stuff from Russia Today. Which they say is Russia’s version of the BBC. Because, as we know, no British government has ever been criticised by the BBC, or indeed tried to stop the BBC doing things. Ever.
Polonium? Never heard of it.
1. You, and everybody else, has a right to offend and be offended. Too much freedom of speech always trumps too little.
2. Everybody has the right to keep their money as much as you have the right to keep yours.
3. Before demanding someone have more power over someone else, imagine giving that power to your worst enemy, and see if you’re comfortable with that.
4. The validity of an argument is not increased by how strongly you feel about it.
5. It is possible to disagree with someone’s politics but like them personally.
6. Everybody minding their own business is the solution to far more problems than you think.
7. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a compassionate welfare system. There is something wrong with thinking that basic maths has nothing to do with it. Every euro spent has to be taken or borrowed off someone else.
Berlusconi. Putin. Erdogan. Farage. Le Pen. Wilders. What do all these names have in common? All have built a cult of personality on a platform of authoritarian nationalist populism. But another factor is that each one of them has built a movement which will suffer a serious, possibly even fatal blow, if one of the above were to die suddenly.
It’s a curious feature of the hard right, the centralising of power around a key figure. As Franco, Mussolini and others proved, pull the keystone figure away and the whole structure could collapse in a way that democratic centrist parties just don’t.
If Farage, Berlusconi or Putin in particular suddenly passed away in the night there’d be a actual chaos in their organisations, a genuine vacuum and lack of clear succession that could destroy the whole enterprise in a vicious struggle for power.
Just a thought.
She doesn’t like paying higher taxes any more than anyone else, or having her public services cut. But she’s rational, and calm, and irritated by the emotional hysteria that seems to pass for debate in modern politics. She hates the masochistic delight that some wallow in over The Banks, like the Vikings and the Brits and the potatoes before them, something out of our control to point a finger at and wail and scream at and blame for our shortcomings.
She knows that every extra euro somebody wants spent on Special Needs Assistants or A&E has to come from somebody else’s pocket, and that’s not right wing or Thatcherite, that’s just sums. As it happens, she is quite left wing on social spending, and that’s why she quietly fills in her standing order to various charities, but that costs money too. But she makes that sacrifice because she knows that things cost money and how strongly you feel about something doesn’t change the basic maths.
That’s why, if she could, she’d vote for the Troika. For calm rational technocrats who look at spreadsheets and tell you what you can afford and can’t. Sure, if you want to increase education spending by X, then you have to increase taxes by Y.
She can’t watch politicians anymore, with their time-eating pre-packaged inoffensive “hard working families” and “investment” and “resources” and basic refusal to tell voters that no, you can’t have your cake and eat someone else’s cake too. Don’t get her started on the angry hateful faces “in the audience”, the witchcraft denouncers of the modern age, wrapping their consumer fuelled frustrations with their own lives into a tight ball of bile and directing it at the cowering, stuttering spineless half-men of Irish politics who just sit and take it like scolded dogs. She watches the cyclical nature of Irish politics getting shorter, with opposition parties making promises that have to be broken sooner and sooner in office.
She thinks she’s alone in her anger, and she’s not. The problem is that there’s a groupthink, where 30% of big-mouths get to tell the rest of us that this is a terrible country (it isn’t) and nothing works (it does)and the health service is Third World (no, it isn’t) and all politicians are corrupt (no, they’re not) and we go along with their image of the country. She knows this is a country with problems but also a country with great strengths.
Is it so unreasonable for her to look for a candidate that doesn’t dress up what they want to do, that gives a cold credible analysis of what they will do in office? Who doesn’t build a campaign on subliminal promises that are so nebulous that they’ll never be met because we can’t measure them. Is it really that unreasonable to look for that?
There’s a common theme in many science fiction stories of humanity making great sacrifices to ensure the survival of the species. One of the most prevalent features of such stories is the creation of a vessel or bunker to ensure that a group of highly skilled humans survive whatever the imminent catastrophe is. As stories go they’re wonderful tales of Man at his most noble, sacrificing himself so that the great idea of humanity itself can survive.
It’s all, of course, absolute bollocks. The reality is that humanity would be incapable of dealing with such a situation. Supposing, say, the US Government announced that it had detected a massive unstoppable asteroid heading towards Earth. The right would deny the science and announce that it was just a socialist plot to raise taxes to build a space ark. The left would say it was a conspiracy by the military-industrial complex to divert money from social spending. Iran would blame the Jews. Someone would blame the gays, and so on.
Even if both sides did finally agree that the destruction of Earth was imminent, picture the blazing rows of how we’d choose who was to go in the space ark. The fights over sex, religion, colour, gender, transgender and that’s before Russia and China’s best and brightest nominees just happen to be from the most powerful families in their respective lands. In the west we’d have endless debates. Why should those fancy scientists get all the seats, the vox pops will say? Why are we sending a load of nerds into space and not J-Lo? Why not a TV show where the public and minor celebrities can compete for seats? I’m A Celeb Get Me Off This Doomed Rock? Picture the reaction of Americans and Europeans when they see a crew that resembles humanity, made up mostly of Asians and Africans.
Space ark? We’d have annihilated ourselves in the war over places on board way before the asteroid ever reached us.
Today, in the US, large numbers of conservatives believe they’re entitled to a version of science which matches their political prejudices. In Europe large numbers of left-wing voters believe they can vote themselves early retirement and better pensions and a welfare state without confronting the ugly right-wing reality of how to pay for it. In Ireland, some voters are getting indignant at the idea of paying for water. This is the age where feeling strongly about something is, for many, as legitimate as the rational facts.
Consider climate change: even amongst those people who do accept the science, there’s a reluctance to actually support measures that could prevent further change but would involve anything but the most minor changes to our consumerist lifestyles. We’re not talking about separating paper from plastic here, and we’re doing ourselves no favours pretending it is that easy. If we are genuinely serious about the changes needed to prevent further environmental damage to the planet, we are talking about massive restriction on private car ownership and air travel along with huge reductions in food and consumer product to save the planet for PEOPLE WHO HAVE NOT BEEN BORN YET. This from a society that bitches when petrol prices increase? From a society that objects to mandatory pensions for people who will actually need those pensions in their own lifetime?
Forget it. It isn’t going to happen. Mankind has crossed over the tipping point where emotion and consumer desire triumphs rational analysis. You reading this will probably not see the end of life on this planet. But your grandchildren might.
But that’s not even the scary bit. The scary bit is what I call the Stalin factor. It’s that awkward bit of history we don’t talk about. The fact that in order to destroy Nazism we needed a monster like Stalin willing to brutally command and sacrifice millions of Russians. If Stalin had been a nice liberal democrat Russia would have been defeated by Hitler. Awkward, I know, but probably true.
When humanity faces a life ending event, it won’t be the consensus building Obamas or Merkels or Camerons that will seize power and do what needs to be done, but some monster who will sacrifice millions to save the rest of us. Who’ll bomb the countries that refuse to reduce their CO2 emissions. Who’ll use directed, possibly forced labour and penal taxation to build the vast sea walls to protect us from the rising waters. Who’ll jail the protestors who oppose new nuclear plants and gas pipes and wind farms and vast solar arrays blighting our landscape or try to defend their right to own a family car. Who’ll put on trial the people who secretly try to keep cattle or pigs or even private farmland. Who’ll occupy Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Iran and Kuwait to secure control of the deadly substance destroying humanity. Who’ll nationalise oil and energy companies and force them to develop new technologies and execute the board members and stockholders who try to protect their wealth.
The reality, the awful grim reality, is that when the chips are down it’ll be up to some absolute bastard to save humanity.
Tis’ Pity She’s A Tory!
In another time, he would have made a wonderful member of the Spanish Inquisition, or a Witchfinder General. It’s ironic given his loathing of Judeo-Christian beliefs, but he does share the love of the Inquisition for purity. Like his counterparts in the US Tea Party, purity is all. In his head is a clean black and white (that’s racist!) checklist that all are subjected to, and all either pass totally or are racists or bigots or fascists or homophobes or more likely indeed all at the same time.
Not for him the happy-go-lucky live-and-let-live of old fashioned liberals. He’s not just against bigotry or sexism, he’s against what HE decides is bigotry or sexism. That’s the difference. He will, like the Catholic Hierarchy of old, tell YOU what is acceptable to think and believe and feel.
Nor for him the liberal demand for equal voices debating the issues. Debate is, in his book, a risk. A risk that the simple folk, of whom he claims a desire to speak for, might not comprehend what is the right conclusion to come to. Like a loyal member of any number of authoritarian parties, he’s perfectly comfortable with the use of illiberal methods against the impure. He’s no problem with aggressively denigrating people’s religious beliefs, but how dare anyone write a book debating the welfare state! Heresy! It shouldn’t be allowed!
Yet, like vampires, he has his weaknesses, but the devil is in the detail. Watch his brain go into a malfunctioning feedback loop if he encounters a burka wearing Muslim woman campaigning against abortion, whereas he is quite happy getting stuck into a pro-Israeli gay rights campaigner. It’s all down to the Big Hate: hatred of X will always trump a desire for Y. And the US are always the baddies. Always. If Martians launched an invasion of Earth, he’d blame the Americans for “provoking them”. If Vladimir Putin suddenly u-turned on gay rights, this guy would be hailing him as a Man for the Age.
Real liberals struggle to tell him apart from almost the worse kind of authoritarian. He won’t execute you, but he will jail you for crimes against Gaia or crimes that your great great great grandfather probably committed against the native people of the Americas, or for that filthy Original Sin, being born a straight white man. But the prison tofu will be great.