by John Ward
The only way electorates can get what they want RIGHT NOW is for the political class to change what happened BACK THEN. This explains why legislators resort to plebiscites among the ignorant. Down this road sits dictatorship, patiently awaiting our arrival.
Here’s a dilemma to fox even the most nimble mind. We live in a culture where the length of time between expectation and realisation has become shorter and shorter; but the solutions to most of our problems require delayed gratification on the scale of at least half a generation….and in some cases, two generations.
Half a generation I think of as around fifteen years. The lifetime of a UK Parliament is meant (hahaha) to be a fixed five years – of a US Presidency, four years. So politicians have to stand for reelection, and show that real progress has been made – ‘Change you can believe in’ as Uncle Tombama’s 2008 election posters claimed – within at best a third of the time slot required.
They never manage to demonstrate this, and so they lie. And people believe the lies because they lack the skills of independent judgement that only longterm changes to our educational approach can bring. Now go back to the first paragraph, and start again.
You see where I’m going on this? A wicked combination of material wellbeing, belief in “my rights”, and techno-driven access to immediate credit has resulted in electorates assuming that they can have Utopia in roughly the same amount of time as it takes the latest must-have G5 android to come to market.
And yet, time and again those hopes are dashed. The history of British leadership since 1970 has been one of sweeping promises by new brooms that proved to be made of straw. The only things politicians can rely upon, however, is short memories and new generations: so they obfuscate the failure and then – over time – gradually just lie about it. Then an older generation dies, and a second new one comes along that doesn’t remember long contracts, employee benefits and free dentistry on the one hand….or Hungary in 1956, the Prague Spring of 1968, and Trade Union bullyboy tactics on the other.
In truth, over-expectation has been largely cancelled out by robotic educational approaches that discourage questioning – and technology that exacerbates attention deficit disorder. Put simply, in 2017 there is far less considered thought and discernment than there was in 1977.
The bottom line is that, in a media environment bloated by asinine content and infantile choice, almost anything gets forgotten far too easily. Thus, the likes of Jeremy Hunt and Peter Mandelson, Alastair Campbell and Rebekah Brooks, Boris Johnson and George Osborne, Nick Clegg and Alex Salmond, can all get away with crime, corruption and mendacity on a grand scale.
Ergo, the longer it takes to do something, the more easily the electorate will forget that you probably never even tried to do it.
But it gets worse, I’m afraid. Because – expanding on yesterday’s Slogpost – if your belief in an ideology or direction or God is total, then lying and cover-up get excused as being For the Good of the Cause. Even if your level of hypocrisy in policy conduct is so outrageously antithetical to the Cause that a backward gnat couldn’t miss it, there are always spin doctors to explain that no no no, in fact all is well, and actually quite consistent when you think about it. By which they mean, if you don’t think about it very hard.
Allow me to elucidate by example.
It would not surprise me at all if, at some time in the future (mercifully, after I’m dead) a thing is formed somewhere called The Islamic Socialist Republic. This is not as daft as it sounds: both sides believe in one global belief system, both attract the poor and the stupid, and both believe that Unbelievers should be smashed.
To the believers on each side, however, this would appear on the outside to be a concept facing some serious logistical issues: chiefly, how Islam’s barbaric treatment of women by men would be rationalised alongside feminist Wimmin who’d prefer it if there were no men at all. Mahmood dun B’Headdin would, when asked that question, answer as follows:
“It is written into the constitution of the ISR that all men are equal and all women are equal in the sight of Allah. The perfection of the equality could not be clearer than that”.
Now let us take the ridiculous a little further. I propose that at some point in the sleazy geopolitics of Tomorrow, neoconservative energy policy might require the formation of a buffer State called Greenpeace, wherein two cultural approaches are present: first, an abhorrence of red meat on moral and health grounds; and second, out and out cannibal survivalists.
The good news would be that everyone would be cool on the subjects of self-reliance, a greener planet, hatred of the military-industrial complex, and detestation of corrupt Big State politics. The bad news, of course, is that one side thinks eating people is wrong, the other that eating people is yummy. Asked by Sixty Minutes how the Government of Greenpeace proposed to deal with that dilemma, Dr Alice Klar replied:
“It’s really very straightforward. The mantra of our country is that it is injurious to health to eat things with four legs, but on the whole this is untrue of things with two legs or less”.
The point being made here is very simple: if the followers of an ideology are dense – or bright but ignorant – their gullibility means that every belief system can be perverted beyond any recognition of the original form.
This made it possible for the Nazis and Soviets in 1939 to sign a non-aggression pact….and take most of both sides’ supporters along with them. In 1941, the German alliance with Japan was rationalised by the Nazis by the declaration of the Japanese as honorary Aryans. Aryans are pink with blue eyes, and the Japanese yellow with brown eyes. Once belief is total, all empirical discernment ceases to have any role in the thinking process.
One curious (and in my view, highly pertinent) feature of those who Beeeleeeeve in something ludicrous is that, on the whole, they don’t travel.
So for example, 80% of those who say God Bless America and sing of America the Beautiful do not have passports. This means that the State Department, mass media, White House and top Generals in the US can put forward any old shit as a motive for some insane action, and most Americans will nod in agreement.
The same was true of the USSR while it lasted, and still applies to China today: a key need for every totalitatian power is to stop people travelling ‘abroad’….and thus discovering a different world to the one they’ve been told about. Rigid ideology and physical Earthly existence are so at variance, the flock blindly following neoliberal or collectivist claptrap must never be exposed to what Is.
Among those in the West who long to live under the protective canopy of unswerving belief, there is (it seems to me) a denialist self-discipline that insists on eschewing the obvious route of visiting their preferred Paradise. Shortly after the EU Referendum campaign, I carried out a small-scale research project among those among my friends and acquaintances who voted Remain.
The result was that none of them had ever worked and lived in the eurozone as residents, none had visited Athens during the worst periods of Brussels bullying, none had visited more than four EU countries for longer than two weeks, none spoke more than one foreign language with any degree of fluency, and none had ever been to to Poland, Slovakia, Hungary or the Czech Republic at all.
In other words, these yelling their certainties about all Leavers being “Little Englanders” were guilty of exactly that syndrome themselves. Or put another way, their use of field research to test the viability of their unchangeable convictions was at best risible – and in general, nonexistent.
One of the more cynical contemporary abuses of democracy is to forbid all direct uses of it until the Political Class has boxed itself into a corner of prevarication….at which point, the electorate is handed (as a sop) an issue about which it is woefully uninformed. This allows Party political onanists to obviate responsibility for an impasse largely caused by their own anti-social machinations – and then to campaign for a rerun if the result is not what they expected.
Plato famously wrote that stable democracy is only possible with an electorate that is informed and undistracted. Neither of those requirements were present during the EU Referendum. The Remain and Leave camps must share the blame for that: as citizens, we have the right to expect that elected officials will tell us the truth based on solid data and experience – for this is what we pay them to do.
They failed on all counts. Naturally.
But we who voted to Leave are now carrying the can for Whiteminster failure. And its failure in turn to negotiate a good post-Brexit deal will, you can be sure, handed to us to approve or disapprove….so we can once more be blamed.
The Establishment really does have us all trussed up. Twas ever thus.