Friday, May 28, 2010

Talking Loud and Saying Nothing

Exactly. And couldn't the same thing be levelled at the recent election? In the sense that whatever anyone said, however idiotic, bigoted or ignorant, had to be taken seriously by politicians. Not simply out of some slightly misplaced sense of respect for the electorate, but because if someone expresses a concern (immigration, knife crime etc.) then that concern must be legitimate. Because to say, as Gordon Brown did in private, that no, you're wrong, your concern is based on irrational paranoia driven by media exageration, would be to appear, elitist and arrogant.

The 2010 election was characterised by a thoroughly contemporary suspicion of any form of expertise (in this case politicians) and a populist certainty in the relevance of anybody's opinion, however deluded. This is why I can't accept the disenchantment with the two party system as particularly positive. It stems from a combination of "they're all as bad as each other" faux-cynicism with a blind faith in personal freedom denuded of all political or ideological conviction. It's also why the current Labour leadership campaign is so dispiriting, with its assumption that Labour lost because it didn't listen to the 'man on the street'.* Even if the man on the street was talking total crap his fears must now shape the future of political debate.

The powerful convergence of the language of libertarianism, individual rights and consumerism has entirely drowned out rational debate and analysis.

* And this despite the coherent and successful campaign against the BNP in Barking.


richard said...

So I grew up in Britain but have spent the last 15 years in the US, and here the principal problem is that the terms of debate, the talking points, are so neatly delimited that it really makes no difference what you may think about them. Well, it makes a difference to which party you support, and which tribal watering holes you frequent, but it's a long, long way from public politics, from an awful lot of the real business of government. The classic issue is abortion, which has been successfully cast as a binary tribal identifier, supplemented by gay marriage a few years ago. Now "healthcare" is joining them, really regardless of any specific policies involved. Republicans are simply "against healthcare," and trying to get them to talk about anything else is a non-starter.

Charles Holland said...

...So you get a simulation of political debate because no one is going to change their mind? The thing that shocks me about US politics is how the powerful and well off manage to convince the poor and disadvantaged to be "against healthcare" too. There's no logic to this, just an assumed ideological position which has no rational relationship to the facts.

disappointment said...

I don't know. I think it's legitimate to believe Labour just isn't Labour anymore, which means the two party system collapses.

I mean, I don't think "they're all as bad as eachother" is faux-cynicism. I think the actual wording is "they're not as good as they should be so I can't tell them from their opponents."

But that's me. I'm not sure what paranoid neotories think, though.

disappointment said...

Oh, and about the article you link to: believing in things is good. Having enemies and friends is good. But this doesn't mean truth exists - there are any number of linguistic games. But there ARE linguistic games and they must have some sort of coherence, which is the frame within which we have to discuss (why do you say what you say and which implications do I find that to have.) The rest is war, of course.

(don't get me wrong - I hate people who don't believe in anything and who think any sort of actual opinion is "extreme". People such as New Labour.)

Charles Holland said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments...yes, I agree, the strongest part of the The Bomb Party's post is its first paragraph and the exposing of a certain (paradoxical) fascism in the everything's-subjective line of thought.

I'm not sure I agree it's all linguistic games though. That end point of post structuralsim/deconstruction seems, in its eagerness to eject official catagorisations, to chuck the baby out with the bathwater and say that everything is a semantic game. Which to take as a truth in itself is obviously quite ironic and inconsistent with the point being made.

Surely, searching for and attempting to define value does not make one a reactionary. Far from it, as TBP suggests, denying that value exists or that it is all a question of subjective interpretation misses both the obvious point that subjective interpretation is itself a culturally mediated position (i.e. there is no 'natural' reaction to anything) as well as the importance of constructing value to start with. i.e. recognising the mechanisms by which we construct value should not mean that we give up doing it......or having political conviction.

As for Labour, well, I fear you're right, it HAS ceased to exist as a mainstream broadly socialist party and mutated instead into the simulacra of party politics without the politics alluded to by Richard above. All those Millibrand brothers talking about conviction and idealism whilst clearly having none whatsoever is just appalling and depressing in equal measure. One only has to read the dreadful Ed Balls in yesterdays Observer on immigration to see that Labour's response to losing the election is to shed more of its historical convictions and embrace a populist agenda of subjective fears/paranoid bigotry.