Oh hi there! It’s been a hwee hwhile. The last thing I wrote a little over a month ago was lending relative praise to British politics when compared to US politics as they were in the midst of the shut-down crisis, which was itself comprised of so many farcical elements that I haven’t the energy to go through them again now. It turns out this was a little ironic, as within days, if not hours, I descended into a murk of cynicism regarding all forms of politics everywhere, at all points in time, past, present and future. Eloquently I say, I stopped giving a toss.
Thanks to Twitter I even have a record of how exactly this happened, my various tweets prior to this sophisticated number, “Temporarily lost all interest in the world, politics and society. Total cynicism attack. Socialists, liberals, conservatives… #suckmyballs,” telling me that it was the Tory party conference wot did it. Or at least, the last of several apathy inducing conferences that served to me precisely the opposite effect of being politically energised. Add a dash of Richard Dawkins taking another pathetic jab at religion completely devoid of intellectual value and the looming final of the Great British Bake Off, and one can see why I might have switched off from matters of import.
There’s just too much diatribe sometimes, whether it’s fronted by big dick intellectuals, warriors for justice, cold and robotic government suits or populist ranters, and that’s hardly not the case at present. Strange that I’d wade back in now when a month ago I was even getting completely sick and tired of my own cognitive involvement in whatever bollocks it was, Miliband vs Cameron vs the energy sector vs the people or Greenwald and the Guardian vs… Christ, everything it seemed at certain points. As a side note, and although I do profoundly care about security services acting wildly beyond the brief, the less I see of Greenwald’s endlessly and eminently affronted person, the better.
So along comes Russell Brand, encapsulating precisely the reason I think I shut down in the first place, with another impossibly unanswerable dilemma for us all to chew on. Nothing so well contained as the Big Six making us choke on our winter porridge as we digest our energy bills, or the issue of the NSA or GCHQ or whatever, but actually the dilemma of… everything. It’s all crap apparently, the whole system and all of its enablers, and we ‘the people’ are in dire need of a wake up call to arms to turn it all on its head in, I kid you not, a “utopian revolution”.
I’m not going to go off on one against this bewildering comedic figure and all of his loquacious eloquence, that’s just kind of tired and Mr. Robert Webb and a thousand other commentators already had a fairly well-rounded crack at criticising most of Brand’s semi-constructions of politico-socio-economic dissatisfaction in his interview with Jeremy Paxman. I won’t even comment much on the “live chat” that Brand had with The Huffington Post’s Mehdi Hasan last week or his various articles penned lately, as it was all essentially more of the same thing, eliciting more of the same kind of varyingly disapproving or admiring sentiment.
What makes me grind my teeth more than any commercially golden posturing (if you choose to see it that way, the Brand brand is growing increasingly lucrative with so much attention) is the broader complaint of the global movement that at least here in the UK has temporarily and slightly unwittingly anointed Brand as its guru. Not just the Anonymous hactivists with their trite Guy Fawkes mask, (references to V for Vendetta aside, the history behind Fawkes and his movement speaks very little to the desires of these people today, Papist Catholic hegemony I’m sure not being the intended destination), but also Occupy and the entire anti-establishment family.
It’s not that I don’t sympathise to some small degree, my own aforementioned disillusionment being hypocritical otherwise, it’s just that the conclusions these folk reach and their employed means of promoting these conclusions are just so… f@cking immature! Just because the system isn’t currently working for them, or us, or indeed many, many people, is the practical response really to want the whole thing to come tumbling down? Really? Are you going to rebuild it? With your masks and twinkling fingers of democracy? Oh that’s nice of you, because there for a second I thought you were all full of shit and couldn’t provide the change you seek even if you were endowed with the power to do so. Why? Because there isn’t a fully fledged concept among you to speak of, beyond your points of criticism, rampant as they are.
To quote a representative of the Million Mask March, regarding the weekend’s slew of anti-establishment demonstrations across the globe, “It was a march against many things; political corruption, capitalism, the global dominance of the financial services industry, austerity, the democratic deficit in people’s lives, the assault on the welfare state, soaring bills and falling wages.” Flipping hell… while in this fully loaded statement are the fractured pieces of the narrative that the majority of people in the world aren’t adequately reaping the benefits of global systems, they, the protesters, heinously fail in forcing these elements to coalesce around a single actionable goal.
Silly me, why should it when you can just launch a few fireworks at Buckingham Palace, hug Russell Brand and go home feeling like you were a part of something. You were a part of nothing, I’m afraid, you are not organised enough, you are not disciplined enough, not concise enough and no where near representative enough of the sort of changes that most people would be happy with, which are largely simple and achievable. Living with some degree of comfort, as far removed as possible from the economic desperation that many today feel. Forget sea-changes, revolution or uprisings, most of us aren’t so contrived as to call for anything that grand.
The most important aspect, however, of the miserable failure that is or will be this movement, is the fact that its constituents have situated themselves squarely outside of, and in opposition to, any recognisable manifestation of the establishment they want to change. Beating on the windows or doors as loudly or as violently as you care to won’t change the fact that you’re out in the cold while the grown-ups are inside making all the decisions. This may indeed appear to be a symptom of exactly the problems you are railing against, but in truth the only way to have a reasonable impact on the conversation is to be a legitimate part of the conversation. That is, short of breaking down the doors and causing the sort of drama that no-one should ever wish for (see the details of… every genuine revolution that ever was).
Mr Smith went to Washington and stayed there, he didn’t rock up, shit on the doorstep and run off to high-five his mates, or start taking heads for that matter. While it would clearly be delusional to hope that in real life one would ultimately claim victory with something akin to Paine’s climactic mea culpa, the point stands that we already have this wonderful mechanism for change called elected government that is only further neutered by calls to reject the system, (allowing the corruptible, invested and entitled to dominate affairs) instead of becoming involved and enriching it and being a part of the change you want to see.
Don’t tell me politics are just an inaccessible bastion of hereditary elites, as despite whatever lingering strain of that we still see, politics are in fact just about open enough to those who are passionate and committed to them. It’s defeatist to claim otherwise, a guaranteed lease of life for this status quo that you find so terrible. Simon Jenkins threw down the gauntlet to Brand. Serious about your own message? Why, there’s an upcoming race for Mayor of London, what a perfect opportunity to enter the system in a substantive fashion. But I doubt it will be seized upon. When offered the chance to support his critique with some solutions, Brand has simply said, “It’s not my job.”
Whose is it then? The people he wants chucked out of the doors of Westminster and onto the streets… what’s wrong with this picture? It seems to me that a surge of fervour for the current system, as it should be, would take us further towards desirable change. Active democratic participation is actually what makes politicians serve you. Younger voters get a raw deal because they don’t vote and political jobs aren’t threatened by ignoring their interests. How on earth can we expect the government we want if we’ve only just in 2010 crept back up to 65% eligible turnout after 2001’s pitiful 59%, and are already hearing calls to reject voting altogether?
The Liberal Democrats provide the best case I can think of for putting the shaft up that argument, having inspired some of the spike back to a lukewarm turnout and then appearing to consummately betray or fail their base with anything from tuition fees to social welfare reforms and much more. But then being on the verge of a hung parliament that forced the current coalition dynamic and all this unsavoury compromise is itself a symptom of democratic laziness and indecisiveness. We’re waiting for the political class to serve us up with something fresh, getting all worked up in a huff for not getting it, when all the while that something has to come from us.
This is a democracy, the political class is us, you, me and everyone who resides on the Isles. The sooner we remind ourselves of that fact and inject some enthusiasm back into the system, rather than embracing anything so Brandian* as saying, “Bugger it all,” the better. As disenfranchised as I felt this past month, which is a perfectly acceptable thing to feel from time to time (we can’t all have one eye on the state of affairs all the time), it is beyond important that we occasionally renew in ourselves at least some sense of constructive involvement in our political process and never reject it wholesale.
Also ironically then, I could perhaps thank Brand for providing what to me are some heavily objectionable opinions and for forcing me back to the keyboard. At least one of his stated goals in all of this was to get people thinking and talking, which I daresay he has achieved to an impressive degree. I just hope people are thinking practically and independently enough not to prescribe to the other specific points of his strain of wisdom, or rather the strain of wisdom that is prevailing among certain circles.
And by the way, if you didn’t hear much about the Million Mask March, it’s probably just the corporate media conspiracy keeping it all under wraps, but don’t worry. The established media is to be the next target of ire for these masked crusaders, further proving they have less focus than an addled puppy that can’t choose between eating dinner and licking its own balls. I would say to them that the established media probably lost interest in their ilk back in 2011 when the best they could elicit from the grimy hippies of Zuccotti Park were statements of lesser cogency or coherence than the aforementioned addled puppy could provide.
Methinks the protester doth protest too much. Or too painfully ineffectually. Right then, enough. Fin.
*Brandian, phrase coined courtesy of Suzanne Moore of The Guardian, who shall be paraphrased to provide the definition of, “endlessly see-sawing between braggadocio and yoga-ed up humility”