Both sides of the Atlantic, in Britain and in the USA there is a widespread feeling and a pretty commonplace observation being voiced regularly by anyone concerned with politics; that the people, those of us who vote and so collectively put politicians in power – or keep them out – are disenchanted with our political representatives.
In UK high numbers of abstentions from voting at national and local elections are cited as being evidence for this disenchantment. The politicians who are daring enough, foolhardy enough, to go out and meet their constituents and so meet those who will be deciding their political fates are reporting back that voters are ‘outraged’ and ‘angry’ and often other voters are said to have voluntarily disenfranchised themselves, by them failing to register to vote. Thier names then do not appear on the electoral rolls.
In America and in Britain the political upsets going on at the moment and those new civic phenomena they are throwing up are unsettling these nations. There is a heavyweight slogging match going on between Trump and Clinton; and in Britain there is going on a constitutional wrangle about whether the British Parliament gets opportunity to scrutinise any terms which the UK government might propose so as for it to push through a Brexit.
Trump and Brexit are strange-bedfellows; but they are indeed bedfellows; one of them being a reflection of and a mirror upon the other as political phenomena. They have in common a fundamental fact that they both arose to prominence – and perhaps to success? – as a result of great dissatisfactions with the political rulling classes being felt in the populations.
The success of the Brexit cause has left our UK politicians reeling. Even the now-powerful political winners who successfully urged Brexit on a sonambulist nation do not know what to do with their poison chalice of success. It’s as if they really did not expect to win the day. It’s as if they have and have had no after-strategy, no moves after an opening gambit gave them more advantage on the board than they can cope with.
The media commentators along with the politicians who discuss the people’s lack of satisfaction with politics and politicians, at least here in the UK, to a man (and to a woman) they speak out always holding as a precondition that the people are always right to be disenchanted, disengaged, and disgusted by the ‘antics’ of the political classes. They are right to be angry and right to speak their anger, and right to be vociferous and sometimes to shout down or jeer publicly oppostions made to their views.
I don’t want to get bogged odown in the meaning of representative democracy and other legalistic rigmaroles; I want to ask a few questions about our ways of life and how they have brought about such situations as Trump in America and Brexit in Britain and Europe. What these messes represent today.
Electorates estranged and antipatheitc to their political representatives – what is this all about?
Well firstly I’ll deal with the types of citizen who just don’t take part, who are not Mr Angry or Mrs Disgusted about things, but who are simply in a mode of life that tells them that a) it’s OK to ignore the wider world because the local and personal social world and their goings on in it are more fun, more engaging, more pleasureable; and b) who cares anyway about the larger world. The latter attitude can be illustrated by an observation my wife made today.
A guy in a truck took a roundabout at a road junction without braking but at a moderate pace. He had no rightof way and ought to have stopped and let prior traffic through before he went. He was holding a mobile phone in his hand and was taking the turns of the roundabout with a single hand on the wheel. He was pretty laid-back and unconcerned, not fully aware nor caring.
Yesterday a truck driver was sentenced to 10 years in jail here for searching for tunes on his mobile phone when he ran over and killed three members of a family. There had been a closed circuit video going in his cab and images taken from footage were oin the front on most daily newspapers yesterday.
Now the guy at the roundabout either had not seen the images or not heard the news, or else he just didn’t care about that news. If he didn’t see or hear about it he is probably a voluntarily disenfranchised couldn’t-care-less hooray henry of the lower classes. If he did see it and it didn’t make an impresion upon him he is likely to be one of those who feel it is OK for him to carry on as usual because ‘it will never happen to me’ or ‘it’s nothing to do with me’.
These are the freewheelers. I must stay on this subject of traffic and driving a minute. Here in the city where I live a major motorway runs through the heart of the place; carrying not just trunk road heavy vehicles but daily masses of commuting cars between the South Wales industrial areas where the car occupants earn their livings. The motorway is at peak times heavily congested and traffic on it does not slow and take caution as it ought. Hence nearly every week here there is news of yet another fatal crash – often a person taking a chance or being too cocksure or too much in a hurry – but they often take with them in their deaths many persons in vehicles who just happened to be in their ways. It makes me angry because people around here know the score, they know the road is a black spot, but so many of them have that stupid unshakeable belief that ‘it will never happen to me’.
And this is the life lesson as taught by those who prefer a life of ‘doing as one likes’ before a life of doing what one can to look out for others. That it will never happen to them. And this is the mindset, the philosophy, if that’s not too great a word, of the people who ignore politics and world affairs because themselves ‘they’re doing OK thanks very much’.
There are too many of these in Britain right now. The worst thing is that they feel it is their right to be so – their legitimate choice to be so – and thus thereby pour their derision on all those who have been uprooted, killed, injured, who have suffered across the world because of the political messes we and our leaders have gotten ourselves into. As if like an ostrich these things do not happen when you don’t take part in things. They will say their voice doesn’t make a difference. They will say their voice doesn’t count. They will justify themselves in any way they are able to dredge up and see fit, but one gets no brownie points for not trying; and being content to take the beneifts of a society and to feel it’s ok when one doesn’t contribute is a cul de sac into nihilism.
Then there are the active protestant angry set of political animals. Together with the couldn’t care lesses these are the people jusitfied by their political representatives, who talk of The Supremacy of the People which they always pronounce grandly, and the democratic sanction of the referendum; tand he democratic right to abstain and to not take part; or else to protest. In this way the politicians and the media are doing two bad things. 1. They are condoning, thus giving allowance to the popluace in their lethargies and to others in their piqued protests and anger; and 2. they are encouraging the people to get more laid back or else more angry because their ’causes’ are being consented to by the politicians; whom they would have that they no longer respect; and reinforced by a press and TV which follows the crowd and the money; two items which are becoming more and more the same thing these days .
The thing I do not contest is that the politicians have failed. Never in my life have I seen such a bunch of incompetents in power here in UK; nor seen such a Hobson’s Choice arisen in the USA than it has right now.
So are the people right? No. No. And again No! The politicians and the people are sharing, suffering the same symptoms, and the same illness, which are making civic society so ill here and in the USA.
Poltiticians tell their people they are right about politicians – note again the ‘it doesn’t include me’ attitude, just like the guy on the mobile phone in thelorry and the other guy on the roundabout and like those silly persons whose hazardous driving takes others with them in fatal crashes. ‘Not me, no not me’. Not only does our politicians’ own self-image and egoism tell them it is not them who are part of the problem – their attempting to distance themselves from such disgrace – but they also are positioning themselves so that their voters might believe them and so vote to keep them in office next time around. Pretty spineless. Prety deceitful. Pretty disastrous.
Polticians (and press and TV) tell people they are ‘right to be angry’ they allow this almost carte blanche about anything to do with the dirty ‘p’ (politics) word. Now anger was once considered a sin – in medieval times and by religious persons. It represented to them, and yet still represents, a loss of one’s better judgement, a loss of self-control and a loss of due proportion in outlook. Like a fearsome possession by an evil spirt anger was/is something which took/takes you over and made/makes you do things you regret because you go out of your control. And afterwards you have to pick up the pieces, if that is still possible? And our glowing Brexit vote to leave the European Union was just such a disaster. Many persons in a self-righteous ‘fit of pique’ marched out to the polling stations and voted petulantly ‘so there!- in your face!’ to leave the EU; and them woke the next day with the hangover of many years called Brexit.
I remember being terrified by a teacher at my junior school when he annouced to the class that he was giving us a ‘second chance’ but that ‘in the adult world there are no second chances’. Brexit may well become to be seen to be a part of that fearful ‘adult world’ my teacher conjured up in my little head.
The people are – as Jeremiah puts it in his Lamentations, ‘reeling with drink’. Not just alcohol, but more heady still with a stupid belief that ‘their time has come’ and ‘their voice is being heard’ and that they are ‘privilieged to say anything’ no matter how destructive or harmful. They are democracy’s voice – they think. They are drunk and reeling from years of being told by
- Commercial advertising which woos the individual until it sells
- Movies which adulate violent people and violence; the renegade and the maverick
- Reality TV which has superseded soaps as ‘dirty washing laundered in public’
- Soaps which began as gentle celebrations of common life and which now want to sesnationalise and to give gross gratuitous visceral lurid pleasures
- Education which has centred on the child – ‘child-centreness’ – and not on what is without the child and needs to be within the child
- Universities as being the engines of entreprenuerism and moneymaking
- Wealth, Celebrity, and a host of other superficial lionisations of people of no particular use or benefit
- Talk shows and News Magazine shows which pay peole to talk for a living and to set themselves up as arbiters of judgement. With one eye on the screen career and ratings.
- The priority of place given for years now by governments and business and many people to money and expense when making any kinds of judgements
- The lies of ‘meritcrasy’ – the concept is falacious – and of bandwagons like ‘equal opportunity’ and ‘social mobility’ which are smokes and mirrors. Come to my city and see for yourselves, brothers.
- The deification of sports and of sportsmen and women. The myths of excellence when it is about money money money. The prize goes to the highest bidder.
- The religion of science and of scientists as saviours of the world, of the economy, of the future; when science has done more damage than have all of history’s erroneous religious persons and their religion have ever done to the world and its life species; and science is likeliest to be our mutual destruction as a race. The next gadet! The next gadget!
- The arts world is a world of defacements of beauty. It is a big big part of the money merry go round – commercial to the gunwhales – and aritsts are happy to be destructive, nihilist shocking and debauched and to say it’s art. True it does give us ‘the very form and pressure of the times’.
- Here may you part company with me if you are offended and stumbling over this block put before you – we have defaced and mired our most precious possesion in our lives, in all and each of our lives – not just ditched it but also trodden it into the dirt where we let it lie relinquished. We are so mightly cock sure that we know better than our fathers and mothers did, we are so blind with ego and infatuation with trivia and silly pursuits, so full of ourselves that we have no room no cognisance of Jesus the Christ. You might laugh or feel I am unhinged. But you do not see that here everywhere there is mysery and wonder. How can a thing like our wolrd, the universe, lives, just happen? How? How? How? We are so drunk we can’t get to grips with the fact. The new gods are money and power. These are what we worship. Our aspirations are to be rich, to be famous, to be able to tell others what to do. Imperial Rome.
And were we to get to the top, as we see in our terms the top to be , how lonely, heartbroken, disenchanted and forsaken we would feel. No-one, nothing more to aspire to – now you are The Man – and The Man wishes he wasn’t.
In pop music we see this kind of entertainment attempted to be raised to a height of culture it cannot sustain and does in no way warrant. In writing we see bookshops and magazine racks filled for yards and yards and containing nothing to read. Bread and circuses only. TV is innundated – even in many ‘serious’ programmes with their ‘hidden agendas’ or else their sheer voyeurism. We have our causes like feminism; whereupon the women who espouse it merely want all the goodies for themselves that the men have monopolised for centuries – power, acclaim, wealth, influence, fame. Nothing revolutionary there at all. We have the sexual orientation liberalisation – so we get self-enamoured hetrosexual couples seeking equality with gays by demanding Civil Partnerships; and there are other absurd antics. We get beligerent gays using litigation to further an attrition of revenge aagainst various fancied shibboleths they think they see and owe a smack at. There are other ‘fancies of the month’ we are enamoured of lately for a short while; but they will be like the refugee childwhich passed like an afflatus through the media a year or so ago.
We are like children in a toyshop. And all this has bearing on why Trump and why Brexit. Baldly stated we have too much – to much money – too much freedom to run amuck – too much self-consideration – to much goods and services – too much pride and cocksureness.
The contention I want to put is that unless there is constraint somewhere freedom is no longer freedom. Law constrains us in order to allow us freedom. Likewise our standards of behaviour, our deepest beliefs held most dear, all constrain us so as to allow us to allow others freedom. A free-for-all as we are binging on now is not freedom at all. Like our polticians’ Brexit after-sales strategy, which is non-existent, a disaster, we also have so much choice and so little sense of direction that we just have no plan and don’t know what to do withour lives other than take the roller coaster till bedtime. Life as a Theme Park. Life as a succession of as many ocean cruises as one can afford. It’s all wholly unsatisfactory, and all is means to put off thinking about the evil day – and it also puts off thinking about those for whom the evil day is here and is today.
I received today in the same envelope by British Royal Mail a wad of leaflets advertising goods and services. Four or five out of six were from chartitable causes home and abroad. Some dreadful shocking things were photographed on the covers of the charity leaflets – I remember a lad in Bangladesh who worked for a living cleaning out sewage holes by hand – and the offer to me was to provide money to get him a rubber suit to wear whilst he is doing it. The one item which was not a charitable item was a leaflet offering goods for sale, a catalogue of British Museum gifts and fancy goods. Yankee candles, filigree letter openers, reproductions of Raphael tapestries and so on. Nothing in that British Museum catalgogue should have been manufactured let alone offered for sale – and certainly not in the same envelope as the Bangladeshi guy’s plight.
Yet it’s an everyday occurce here such dreadful juxtapositions. We sit in Costas and Starbucks sipping expensive coffee grown in relative squalour reading comicbook newspapers and magazines in the piazza under a sunblind and on the back page beyond our notice is a picture of a guy about 14 years old up to his waist in water in a loincloth under the shadow a guard with a gun and mining out rare earths for our mobile phones so we can phone a car for a lift home afterwards.
Do we know we are born here? I don’t think so.
The anger of the democratic peoples here, and in USA too often is mere pique, petulance, it is frivolous and vaingloroious and a self-agrandisement and it does not signify as being of any positive value. The disllusion of the democratic peoples is an expression; a cry; from a newly-found foothold set on a general loss of respect for one’s neighbour; on a general sense of self-importance, of being better than the politicians, and of being as well able to judge as any other person, even though no appetite for searching a problem or for being objective about things is available to our dispositions.
It is our freedom to drop out, to protest, be angry, but no, it is our whim, our fiat, our forte, but our right to be and do these things is comensurate with our will to do good and to show a general and generous goodwill; rather than to oppose and so cause a row and play at devil’s advocate. The doing is the thing; saying so is not enough. If you want to do good go out and do it – don’t bang on about it and claim yourself righteous thereby.
I have written elsewhere how we have dispensed with, junked, our history as a nation. We take a false pride in England or wherever you’re from and everything that happened is lit by us in the light of that false pride; and not by a light of enquiry and seeking after truth nor in a weighed and considered view. History made to serve poilitical and commercial ends – even in universities. Few people I pass in the street day by day could tell me much about history – not much more than very lean and bare bones. Not interested. Yesterday has gone. ‘Has no influence on me, on my life’.
Thus the world today in The West seems the apex of civilisation to we peoples; like Job’s friends we feel ‘we are the people and that wisdom will die with us’. Again blissfull in ignorance and cocksure confident in blindness – we expect every year things to get better – by which we mean more gadgets, more goods and services and more money to go out and buy them with. We expect improvement – we don’t hope for it – we almost demand it – and we get angry when it doesn’t happen as quickly as we’d like it to. The result is no one wants the buck to stop with them. No one wants to take a hit on the chin – not quietly and with dignity anyway. Outrage when money is lost in what is essentially a gamble on the stock exchange. Complaints when a wait of a couple of hours when a delay is anounced at Eurorail terminus Waterloo, London. Almost riots when planes are behind schedule taking off taking people on holidays.
These are not big problems. They are the problems one worries about when one has no real problems. In the UK Southern Rail is under a cloud with its commuters. The fares are too high they say. There are not enough trains. Yet their tickets are subsidised by a public money award taken from income tax reciepts of the general public. Southern Rail trains service what is called The Stockbroker Belt of England. Many many of these commuters have more than enough money to pay fares. Indeed. Only the monied complain about money.
In short we are in Cloud Cuckoo Land. Our expectations are too high and to narow. Our understandings are weak. Our aspirations are all geared to profane barbarous trifles – Kings/Queens of the Muck Heaps.
We are like unattended children who have been left without guidance so long that they are in chaos and confusion. Except we are not children but adults whose responsibility, if one is accepting the accompanying rights to boot, is to be informed, to be moderate and tempertate and to discern and seek to make good judgements and honour one another and one another’s persons and judgements.
A guy today onTV was arguing that High Court judges here in UK had rulled unlawfully that Parliament should have a right to know in detail and to vote on the Brexit leaving strategy in detail. The guy couched his mighy grouse in the form of peddling it to his listeners as a constitutional impasse – but absolutely as an entirely separate matter to the matter of Brexit – which was merely incidental- to the mater of the impasse.
Not one of the TV presenters challenged the guy to ask him whether this constitutional impasse he was so heated about and which he had discovered was a view of his which only incidentally coincided with his similar hectic heatedness about Parliament and the High Court Brexit ruling matter itself .
You see the TV presenters took it as a given that the guy would argue in all respects and dredge up any argument he could find to further his Brexit aims; regardless of the colour or persuasion of the argument – everyting subsumed to Brexit for him.
It was considered by the TV presenters of course to be the guy’s natural right and best gambit to do so; so that any attempt at objectivity about the question of the High Court judgement is utterly lost and buried under politics politics poltics.
These TV presenters were presenting on TV to the educated classes of people in Britain today. How, when our educated people swallow such crap is it possible to get anywhere with anything of value in our nation? Thus it is acknowledged even by the educated here that self-interest rules OK; and that is the soup of the day.
How can we come back from such a defeat? No, not Brexit which is just a symptom; but a defeat of honourableness, of equity, fairness, of consideration for others, of goodwill, of toleration, sound judgement, in short of integrity.
I fear and hope it will be by a sudden shakedown. I fear it may be disatrous; I hope it may be salutary. Bringing us back from this abyss opening up before our nations, our culture – what is left of it intact – and ourselves as human beings. How does a people relearn self-restrain and equitable judgement other than by taking some hard knocks. It seems inevitable. The prayer to the Lord God and to his son Jesus Christ must be a plea not to make the hard knocks harder than they have to be to be effective. ‘If it be thy will Father, pass this cup from me; but not my will, but yours’. Amen,. Amen
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