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Political naivety

I watched the inauguration yesterday and felt...a sweetness and a kind of envy in all that belief.
The waving and the Paternoster, faces full of hope, praying, really wishing. And I wondered about us.

I suppose one might argue that the cynicism, the weariness endemic to British politics stems from it being a much older political entity than the States. We've seen it, we know it doesn't work seems to be the attitude. Maybe we're right. What we have done though, is absolve ourselves from the effort of trying. Our great art is the Comic Whinge. And sport.

I remember attackers of socialist doctrines telling me that socialism just can't sustain itself. And now apologists of capitalism are saying, 'Well of course capitalism can't work on a stand alone basis...nothing does!' So it was bad when socialism couldn't work by itself, but it's not bad, it's only to be expected when capitalism fails in the same way. I spy the covering of bottoms, beeeeeg bottoms...

I see what happens when greed goes insane, the evils of laissez-faire, the truth that the market does not regulate itself, it becomes a feeding frenzy for sharks. In the end everyone suffers cos there's always a bigger fish.

I see the warnings of Orwell regarding socialism, the overlegislation, the erosion of civil liberties, nulabour = nucrimes for all. Try anything and see what happens. IDs and databases, someone somewhere's got to keep an eye on you, the government knows what's best, so eat what's good for you, be abstemious, be a good role model, don't say nasty things, be good. Fuck off Nanny, I'm down the pub with a swearword on my tee-shirt, a pint in one hand and a rollie in the other (possibly somewhat extreme, I don't even smoke) it's somehow hard to take the dangers seriously because our politicians are a bit funny looking. How can Crash Gordon be dangerous, looking so lumpy and absurd? But he is.

Are the alternatives any better? David Cameron seems full of ideas. But the grass root members are the same bunch who voted in the disgraceful legislation of care in the community and other ways of cutting money to the dispossessed, aka probable non-tory voters. My abiding memories of the Thatcher years are the beggars suddenly flooding the streets of London, 13 year old kids selling their arses around Piccadilly at midnight, and the cardboard box towns under railway bridges. Even if Cameron isn't the spawn of Baroness Davros, his party's track history worries me.

The Lib Dems seems so nothing right now. What are their dynamic policies? Where are they? I don't see them.

I suddenly envy America its new hope; we could wait, sour and knowing, for the messiah to show his feet of clay, and quote endlessly the corruption and callousness of American life perceived by us, in stark contrast to the American Dream.

But what's our dream?


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 21st, 2009 11:36 am (UTC)
Wow you put into words so well what motivates me. I fight the fight not because I think we can win (yes I belong to the socialist party proper no nulabor) but because we are diminished if we don't try. It is an attitude I try to take into my Trade Union work too, I might not win but I try to do my best for the employees I represent.

I worry about where we compromise as a nation now. As you succinctly say we have disavowed the poor and sick and every time we do it we get given a good sounding reason and a false promise that they will not be any more disenfranchised.

I wonder if I truly believe in the real causes that the Socialist party espouses - I'm not sure that renationalisation is the way forward. However I am quite sure we have a problem in our generation whereby we spend too long trying to accumulate things for ourselves and not enough time trying to be socially responsible for those who need it.

This has really made me consider carefully what I believe and think - thank you and sorry for the torrent of consciousness in your lj
Jan. 22nd, 2009 12:26 pm (UTC)
Please don't apologise, I want to hear your thoughts!

Neither capitalism nor socialism satisfy me today.

Society must look after the poor and the sick, the old or disabled. There are some people who will always require looking after, with dignity, respect and comfort.

But these things are expensive. So...

Those who create wealth must be encouraged, so that the balance of tax and personal gain is never so punitive they lose heart and leave, taking their skills and cash with them.

But neither can the system be so loaded in their favour that somewhere far below them, in sweatshops and on streets, waits a huge underclass with no hope of joining those who make money and enjoy it. These must have the chance to aspire and succeed. For that, they need homes, education, opportunities, healthcare.

Again, expensive. So, those who can sustain themselves must do so, surely, as a matter of principle, or our society ends up as some kind of halfwit vampire biting its own wrist in the hope of sustenance.

And you think your words were stream-of-consciousness!

Edited at 2009-01-22 12:27 pm (UTC)
Jan. 21st, 2009 12:51 pm (UTC)
We actually have a fine old tradition of something else that may swell up again - riot and civil disobedience.
When government impoverishes the people and fails to work for an increasingly disaffected electorate with little or no belief in the existing political system or faith in the motivations or ability of its politicians the only recourse is to smash things up a bit.

What we currently have is a whole parliament full of politicians who listen to business interests only because they a)still cling to the belief (shown by the credit crunch to be completely erroneous) that business knows best and is well motivated for the good of all and competent, and b)know they can get nice cushy jobs that make them millions when they leave politics with those same companies they have been working for.

We no longer live in a democracy, we live in an oligarchy run by corrupt business enterprises and paid off politicians. We wont have our 'Obama moment' if we look to our current choices because everything in our current system fights against it. We have no core set of ideals or constitutional principles to unify people with except resentment and fear. We desperately need to find real principles to unify people, but in effect I think that now means the creation of completely new political entities - a breed of politician willing to make personal and financial sacrifices for the good of the nation themselves, to sever any connection between politics and business so that the voice of big business and the markets in determining government policy is silenced. We need politicians that know what its like to have to turn their heating off in the middle of winter and buy the cheapest food they can find, not ones that stuff themselves at business dinners. We need a new vision and a new political will to build something good and enduring and throw out every single one of the tired useless and corrupt lot we have now and do something new. Out with hubris, in with vision...

I suspect the whole point of the ID database etc is that deep down our politicians know this. They feel it in their bones. It has nothing at all to do with terrorism and everything to do with a growing fear of the reactions of their own people.
Jan. 22nd, 2009 12:03 pm (UTC)
My mother, brought up in Franco's Spain, was charmed and astonished by the ease with which opinions could be heard and publically acknowledged here. Speakers Corner was always a thing of wonder to her, and I know for a fact she has been one of those placard holders outside the houses of parliament. Of course, they move them along as swiftly as they can now...

After a few years here, she said that the right to protest was very cunning, because while people felt they could shout and affect, they wouldn't actually revolt. It is helplessness that makes people riot. But we are poor indeed if we look to violent protest as a specific tradition; any folk of any nation will do it if they feel they must and smashing shops helps no-one except looters. Great protest should be a warning to leaders (i.e the poll tax riots) but it often turned into pro government propaganda (i.e the miners' strikes) so it is very much a double edged sword.

Civilisation of the kind to which we aspire must meet the needs of the people long before such a state.

I totally agree that we don't seem to have any underlying senseo of principles or ideals. I certainly think state funding rather than private funding for political parties would change a great deal. But can we afford it?

Money is not evil - no business equals no money, equals no NHS or roads or schools - but it is not a moral principle. Gain is not God.

Edited at 2009-01-22 12:04 pm (UTC)
Jan. 22nd, 2009 01:07 pm (UTC)
The right to protest is only relevant if you have people in power who are willing to listen. In theory the strength of a democracy is that politicians are easily replaced, but in my view it only actually works if you are lucky enough to have politicians with integrity, humility and vision. How many are there like that? The problem becomes that you end up choosing between the lesser of evils - one useless or corrupt politician against another.
So far as I can see it the message of Obama's campaign was that so long as someone with those qualities is willing to stand, if people really want change and back it, it can and will happen. Without that the only I can see to at least limit political abuses is to sever the link between politicians and business - deliberately uncompetitive salaries for MPs (say based on the pay of nurses), making any and all perks illegal, and having a blanket injunction on all lobbying and mps being 'retired' after service into some sort of state pension and a permanent bar on taking any other form of paid work. State funded parties is a good idea as well- and also effectively levels the playing field in elections. They would hate it, so of course it will never happen because they would have to vote the approach in...

Where our tradition of protest is concerned-sometimes it has been peaceful, other times not. The Peasant Revolt, English Civil War (which would have been wonderful had someone promptly killed Cromwell) and the Chartists spring readily to mind, but of course there are others. A democracy should encourage peaceful protest by responding to the voices of the people, because if it fails to do so it does tend to open itself up to riot and disorder eventually.

The classic example of a bunch of English getting fed up with not being represented or listened to is, of course, the American War of Independence. We forget all to easily it was a very English revolution... perhaps the validity of giving a forceful push lies with the founding fathers of America. I hope it does not though.

Where money is concerned I agree-its not evil in itself, and capitalism isn't all bad either. I do think that a totally free market is a terrible idea though. The function of government is to seek the best for its people and to safeguard them, but generally business interests look purely to profit these days and are not the best of lobbies for politicians with a duty of care to the public to listen to. Perhaps a different attitude in government would ultimately also encourage business to use alternate models such as co-operatives and profit sharing schemes more often?
Jan. 22nd, 2009 02:26 pm (UTC)
We are seeing now what the Free Market achieves without some sort of watchfulness:-( One massive illusion has been dispelled at least. We have learned that left to its own devices capitalism does not 'naturally' incorporate self regulation now for the sake of improved profit later, that mercantile commonsense is not a given, even among the oligarchs who specialise in it and rely upon it.

Re non competitive salaries for MPs, I don't believe in non-competitive salaries for anybody - the best want to be paid, and paid well, for what they do.

When nurses in Britain were being paid abysmally, many stayed out of sentiment...and many went to other countries where their pay reflected respect for their work. Their places here were often then taken, not by people who wanted to nurse but by those who just wanted a secure job. Some of those people grew into their work magnificently. Some really didn't. A crisis in that industry's standards became very evident.

I honestly think that in any field of work, second rate pay does not attract the truly dedicated, because even these have obligations that cost money. Very generally speaking, second rate pay attracts only those who can't get more elsewhere.
Jan. 22nd, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)
The problem with the philosophy of 'competitive' salaries as it stands is 'competitive to what'? Whose salary?
In the end it comes to the problem that actually we have a totally crap sense of value in our society where money is concerned. People who do essential work-medical professionals, janitors, labourers and the like without whom we have would have a terrible time are effectively considered of little worth-when someone who moves others peoples money around has massive financial 'value'. I just think that if politics is treated with the same 'value' as those essential services things would be better. Instead politicians want to compare themselves in 'value' to company directors. Its based on the premise that people like company directors are massively talented people deserving of huge pay, but as this crisis is showing, half the time they quite simply are not.

I think people like nurses should be paid more, and people like company directors should be paid less, but there you go. My point was really that if politicians had lower salaries and less other financial incentives to go into politics, we would be more likely to get people with a sense of self-sacrifice entering politics, and that ultimately it is a spirit of humble service to the nation that we need more than almost anything else in our politicians.
Plenty of people do actually go into lower paid work because they believe in what they doing, and many people go so far as to give up all their possessions and wealth completely to do so. Im not asking for that level of dedication, just an end to the 'gravy train'.
Jan. 22nd, 2009 04:54 pm (UTC)
I can see what you are saying. A little bit of altruism wouldn't do any harm. And I agree about our values. What is essential and what isn't? Should footballers really be paid as much as they are for what they do, compared to what a teacher is paid?
Jan. 22nd, 2009 05:15 pm (UTC)
Of course the big problem is however idealistic my desire to see a revision of our sense of 'value' may be, it's one of those things that probably will never happen. 'Dirty' jobs are generally seen as low skilled and only for the desperate (who really wants to clean toilets?), jobs that tend to involve a lot of real dedication like nursing get people despite the lower pay because often they are really committed to what they are doing, and high paid jobs tend to involve creaming off from massive profits because they involve activities that are commercially popular even if they are largely wasteful of resources or not very practical.
Jan. 21st, 2009 12:59 pm (UTC)
Boot for Prime Minister.

Previous commenters can fight over the Chancellor ship and whatever they are calling the Home office these days!
Jan. 22nd, 2009 10:27 am (UTC)
Hah! I like your thinking! For the start of my campaign, I am sending you details of the event I mentioned to you. I got the dates wrong, it's March 2nd. Let me know if you're interested in going xxx
Jan. 21st, 2009 07:31 pm (UTC)
For every 'up' there is a 'down'. Mankind has tried every type of government that can be thought of from A for anarchy through S for socialism and of the lot democracy (as Churchill said) 'is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried'.
There always is a bogeyman whether it`s the tribe in the next cave or the country next door. Take the current whinging about 'the youth of today', the Romans were saying similar things two thousand years ago.
The current mess will get sorted, not by some hero riding into town on a white horse as the Americans seem to view Obama at the moment but by average people doing average things.
Give it time.
Jan. 22nd, 2009 10:33 am (UTC)
Hmm...I can't help thinking that average people doing average things leads to average results - if we're lucky. Known mediocrity is certainly our default. Once upon a time we had ideas...was the creation of the NHS (an achievement I think we should be proud of) the result of people thinking average things? Why are we so afraid to believe in the hero? I suppose because heroes are dangerous. I don't think we should blindly follow them but why not be them and really try?
The road to hell may be paved to good intentions, but one can still end up there, without any intentions at all...

I agree with you that time cures much if not all.

One thing I am very interested in. Where has anarchy been tried as a form of government?
Jan. 22nd, 2009 01:20 pm (UTC)
Anarchy tends to work quite well for short periods in smaller communities - it has I believe been tried by various 'communes' throughout the ages and by some religious communities. I can't think of anyone applying it to a nation though.
Jan. 22nd, 2009 02:28 pm (UTC)
Me neither. Hmm *scratches head*
Jan. 22nd, 2009 02:54 pm (UTC)
The root problem always ends up being human nature alas. We are a pretty sorry lot sometimes, though I still hold to a belief that we can also be exceptional.
Jan. 22nd, 2009 10:41 pm (UTC)
Can`t think of a country but it was tried by the Spanish during their civil war, plus I think the Paris Communes?
For another thought -
'The reasonable man persists in adapting himself to his enviroment while the unreasonable man persists in adapting his enviroment to him, therefore all advances depend on the unreasonable man.'
Jan. 22nd, 2009 02:29 pm (UTC)
I agree.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )



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