Something lovely this way comes

The rise of populism is certainly disturbing to those of us on the political left or, as populists like to call us, ‘liberals’. A pejorative word imported from the United States, implying a kind of wobbly and infinitely movable moral centre. Apparently liberals are the human equivalent of cushions, bearing the imprint of the last thing to sit on them.

Populism is not harmless. In fact, it has rapidly become synonymous with the so-called ‘alt-right’, althought I prefer to call them neo-Nazis. Suggesting this to people on the right usually meets with howls of derision, accusations of innate woolliness, or much worse.

Public life is currently alight with talk of ‘post-truth’ politics. Apparently, it is fine to tell naked lies in public provided this wins elections, garners extra support and serves to batter opponents into the dirt.

Linked to this is the far right’s widespread loathing of experts. Lacking intellectual clout themselves most neo-cons seem unable to refute even the most glaring scientific truths on the basis of knowledge or reason, so they revert to name-calling, irrational outbursts or physical violence. Sometimes all three. Either that, or they prefer to couch their views in obscure online tracts.

Scrub the surface of these and you will quickly discover utter nonsense: the gibberings of the unhinged or very stupid. We should not be surprised that the neo-con version of intellectual debate is generally indefensible. ‘It’s okay to hurt people if it serves the greater good of a few elites’. And naturally, the people pushing these ideas either belong to such groups, or they would like to. Brutal aspiration is the downfall of the many for the pleasure of the few.

The far right’s dislike of reason is extremely counterintuitive, given Donald Trump’s love of social media. ‘Trump’s unholy tool’, wrote an Irish friend. I agree, but it would be very hard to create such a platform without expertise or access to a huge collective repository of knowledge. It seems that populists do not practice what they preach. Either that, or they are aggressively disingenuous. In other words, they do not believe their own lies.

It is tempting to stray into speculation at this point. In fact, I plan to do so. Post-truth politics, a visceral disrespect for socially progressive actions and an irrational hatred of human knowledge can be seen as the early death throes of an old, and very stubborn, order. One that will die with the acidic Mr Trump and his misguided hordes of stunned looked disciples. Of course, it will not disappear completely, but shall shrink back into the shadows from which it emerged, waving its ugly tentacles.

We are entering a new era of human endeavour. One which will eventually take us to the stars. I will not list the technologies involved in this, though that is not completely beyond me. I would rather write that coupled to this, we could rapidly see a huge backlash from those of us who value positive human attributes. What are these? Love, compassion, healthy communities, common ground, empathy … the list is very long, because the story of what it means to be human is similarly lengthy. Good for us!

I hint at a second Renaissance. Technological advances are not the whole of humanity, and we should remember that these can be coupled with leaps forward in the Arts. I hear the sound of hooves – can you? Something lovely this way comes.


Arise ye Starvelings!

Should I ever jump into the murky shark infested sea of political discussion, it often ends in tears. If you’re left-wing the same arguments are wheeled out over and over again with relentless tedium.

Here is a selection to help me exorcise my demons. People tend to be less than original with their criticisms.

Utopias don’t work! That’s why Socialism can never be put into practice.‘ – but I didn’t say I believed in them… I don’t in fact. This plea usually falls on deaf ears. After all it’s my job to adopt woolly ideas. But seriously, ‘Utopian Socialism’ is an imprecise term, and it can mean different things in different contexts.

Socialism has failed and no-one can deny the success of global Capitalism.’ – They’re right. Internationally, Socialism hasn’t done well and has failed to find a niche power base. But if you call our current setup successful I’d hate to imagine what failure looks like. I think of Greece, and worry.

If you measure success in terms of how many people on Planet Earth are self-serving and visionless, then modern Capitalism has indeed been a resounding success.

You would say that. That’s the badge you’ve chosen to wear!‘ – Who says I chose to be me? I would argue that it’s hard NOT to see the world from a given perspective based on personal experience and observation.

To counterbalance this, I’ve had some great conversations with like-minded people. And the thing about the political left is, we have a real sense of camaraderie… when we’re not arguing with each other.

The worst rebuttal I’ve had is, ‘So you’re a Socialist. Hitler was a Socialist!!‘ This came from a graduate, suggesting that at least some graduates are a bit dense. Or if not, how about blinkered?

I almost forgot the other regular put-down I’ve encountered. ‘You’re just being nasty, and you don’t have any alternative solutions. I think you’re jealous of other peoples’ success.‘ This betrays a depthless well of ignorance, as very often the political right creates more problems than it solves! It also reveals an unwillingness to think things through

There is plenty of literature out there for the interested – much of it packed with ideas for improving society. ‘But socialism has failed!’ On it goes…

I think any discussion about political values should be based on the truth about various systems. British Socialism is nothing like Russian Communism for example. One is democratic and the other totalitarian. This is obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t want to see it!

And Anarchism (for example) is as much about Order as anything else. That’s why there’s a big letter O around the big letter A. I’m not an anarchist, but I certainly have tendencies that way.

It amused me when I heard a university professor say, during a radio interview, ‘If that happened here we would end up with complete anarchy!‘ Even among academics the word has become a proxy for ‘chaos’. If educated people don’t understand it (they don’t have to agree, just understand) this suggests there’s something fishy about academia.

I remember reading something by the poet, Robert Graves (disliked by many academics – how dare someone have original ideas). ‘An academic is someone who dare not question the dogma of their academy. If they did they would be ejected from it.’ Or words to that effect.

I don’t think there’s an authentic political dialogue here in the UK. Perhaps there never will be. If I tune into TV or radio programmes, such discussions are always about the status quo (Conservatives versus Labour). They never touch on possible alternatives without sneering at them. If they did I suggest those programmes would be taken off the air in a fire-storm of public outrage.

After all, we are a free society. We can discuss anything… Rubbish! We only seriously discuss what serves the interests of the state and the business community. Broadcasters are too terrified to do otherwise.

If you try to think outside of the box many people will try to bully you into adopting their own ideas. This isn’t something I encounter daily – but it is something I encounter all too often, and it can be hard to function under such circumstances.