THE HARDEST JOB FOR ANY COMMENTATOR IN 2016 IS PERSUADING PEOPLE THAT 1961 IS NO MORE
It’s a funny old business this blogging lark. Apart from there being about fifty different types of it (not all of them equally useful) even within one blogsite we find ourselves in different roles on a daily – even hourly – basis: thinker, agitator, comic, forensic researcher, interviewer, censor, networker, marketer, journalist, campaigner and sympathiser.
Like most of my ilk, I started off with grand principles about not censoring anything, but soon realised that those who can do, and those who can’t troll: sometimes because they must, occasionally because they get paid to, and always because their sad life is a perpetual sneeze of snotty superiority. Trying to reason with them is like teaching a baboon to play Bridge; and although I may be guilty at times of being holier than thou, I sure as hell am holier than them, so I don’t lose sleep over it. If one is genuinely convinced that one’s trying to put something back and/or maker things better, then those out to destroy one’s mission can yell as much as they like on Speakers’ Corner: but I draw the line at them pooing on my favourite Azerbajhani carpet.
Quite often though, one gets negative comments that are clearly made in all sincerity. Missing from these are the insults about one’s IQ, dick size, paedophilia, grudge against Tories, grudge against Labour, insanity, naivety, second sibling syndrome and any other entrail of bigotry the troll-gonk can summon up to make life locked in the attic bearable.
I don’t include in this category, by the way, the arch and usually dishonestly feigned shock when one speaks plainly about a cultural, sexual or social practice one considers to be something to tolerate rather than celebrate. On Twitter, these usually begin with “How can you even think such a thing?” (the ultimate Orwellian attempt at thought control) and “I distance myself totally from your sick comments” (an outlook that was made flesh in the USSR by committing all régime opponents to mental asylums). These folks – and yes, they are more commonly found on the pc Left – are also impervious to the arguments of anyone whose mind roams free from the rigid catechism of anal priests.
I think mainly what I’m referring to here is what one might call the denial to not yet disappointed spectrum. They’re nearly always MOR conservatives or democratic liberals – note the use of small letters there. And the sole difference between them and me (a whisker of a difference in my view) is that their hearts are firmly in the right place but their heads are a few beats behind the music.
Genuinely open minds shock people. This is one of those rules to which there are very few exceptions. When the Duke of Wellington conceded to the need for electoral reform in 1832, he angered almost every member of his class; but without the Wisdom of Wellie, within forty years Britain would’ve strung up every useful middle and upper-middle class mind from the nation’s lampposts. When Bob Dylan moved firmly on from duffle-coat folk to electrifying rock during 1964-5, he was booed wherever he went; had the purists prevailed, we would’ve lost at least five breakthrough albums – Blonde on Blonde, John Wesley Harding, Slow Train Coming, Time out of Mind and Modern Times.
I didn’t make my open mind, it was there when I started to speak. Some might say it was (and is) an Open Mouth, but as Yusouf Islam (né Cat Stevens) once sang, “From the moment I could talk, I was ordered to listen”. Yes, I had a tough time being heard when I was a kid – but it took no courage whatsoever to be that way, because I couldn’t do it any other way. One wants to be protected by the pack, but one can’t stop telling the pack to FFS stop being so terminally daft. The two desires create a tension that never leaves the teacher in me.
The people I described three paragraphs ago are what I’ve called in the past The Decency Tendency. I empathise with them because, on the whole, they prefer pragmatic common sense to petrified ideology….and because by nature they would rather tolerate than terminate. But they’re behind the curve at the minute because they still have this long-nurtured belief that those in power want the best for us.
Why should they not cling to that reassurance? The vast majority of them are over fifty-five and so – having been born at the latest in 1961 – they were socialised into First World cultures wherein (compared to Africa, China and the USSR) organs of the State were almost entirely benign.
The macro problem is that, when a change takes place very, very gradually, it’s easy to be persuaded that there hasn’t been any change at all.
The micro problem for pillocks like me is that I have a tried and trusted instinct that says all those who aspire to lead the West lack the clothes necessary to disguise their over-excited genitals. Be they Hillaries or Camerons or Trumps or Hollandes or LePens or Merkels: I have seen the future these people will bring, and it will not work. It is based on the shifting sands of old mores, not the solid ground of practical creativity.
I was lucky enough to be able to retire at 52. It enabled me to stop worrying about the brand strategy on Safeway, Spillers petfoods or Rover cars, and start writing instead about baby booms, political incompetence, the obsessive worship of money, the emergence of China – and a world as I see it in the grip of four dysfunctional ideologies – socialism, neoliberalism, Islamism and commercial colonialism.
The Decency Tendency perceives that not all is well; indeed, to some extent it accepts that bollocks purveyors in every walk of life are desperate to cover up the reality. What continues to perplex me is that they still think, on the whole, this is being done for our own collective good.
By contrast, I am certain that it is being done for the benefit of less than three people out of a hundred….and that it is neither good nor collective.
I think a Left/Liberal spectrum reaching out to doubting US Republicans, confused UK Tories, well-meaning Scottish Nationalists (and others across Europe who value community growth above supraState hubris) would reap a bumper harvest of opposition to the peddlers of Might is Right globalist materialism.
But the Left doesn’t reach out. Worse still, the doubting decency lot see a world full of violent placards demanding we smash this and kill that…and all the placards are branded Socialist Worker or Occupy.
Let us return for a second to that achieved by open minds, but analyse this time what the closed minds sowed: the English ‘Divine Right’ Stuarts, the French ancien régime, the Romanovs, the Nazis, and the Soviets.
Two factors allowed things to become insoluble in all five cases: a lack of united opposition, and a total deafness on the part of the élite in relation to the consequences of an unsubstantiated belief incredible to most ordinary citzens.
The soi-disant ‘democratic’ West currently displays all the mortal danger signals: small Establishments able to retain power over a majority divided by angel-on-pinhead debates.
The people for whom I feel most affinity are those of the Left like Nick Wilson. Nick is trying to persuade the mainstream that high level Cabinet- HCBS-BBC-banker-copper corruption scams are not the exception: they are rife, and they exist as part of the everyday cynicism of rank bad governance in the United Kingdom. But I feel an equal affinity for the Peter Obornes from the Right who defend the needs of minorities ranged against humbugs like Zac Goldsmith (another huge disappointment) but who at the same time dismiss false accusations of racism as so much drivel.
If Nick and Peter met, they would disagree about all things but one: that things have changed, and not for the better. And they would agree about nothing except one goal: it is surely in the final analysis about achieving the greatest fulfilment of the great majority of citizens.
The political positions we have in 2016 divide more or less equally….and are thus divisive rather than conducive to some form of democratic consensus.
I think the uniting factor here is that of mutual respect for an opinion expressed…where the only agenda is the common good. The task, surely, is to persuade the passive acceptors that – if the currently dominant trend continues – we are heading for something uncommonly bad.