So it’s election week in Brighton & Hove, and it’s a double rollover. For the first time I can remember, and I stand to be corrected, we are voting for both the local council and the national election at the same time. Double the electioneering, double the leafleting. Even those who aren’t keen on recycling are beginning to have second thoughts. After all, the bins are still overflowing in these parts.
I have a political affiliation, to the Green Party. I’ll declare my interest straight away. But there is an important point to make- It’s not actually that tribal. In fact sometimes I wonder whether it is a good idea to have a membership at all. This is not because I don’t align myself with the values of the Greens, quite the opposite, they are the closest of all to my own beliefs of governance and human ideals- and I campaign for them. It is because I don’t much believe in ‘politics’. I’ll explain…
The problem with politics is the natural human perception of what it means. That natural perception is governed by influence, and that influence is governed by what we see and hear, or that which we are exposed to. As much as we may claim that we are ‘our own person’ it is my belief that as humans we are mostly governed by experience and indoctrination. Some may argue that experience is something that creates individuality, and it may be in part, but it also something that is often approached or happens in a subjective fashion-so is not entirely fresh. Thus, whether we like it or not, the message of media prays on our understandings, and if not the message the mode.
So basically I’ve just given an elongated explanation of how our lives are beholden to media.
So how does the media present politics ? Well, at the place of the lowest common denominator-which is entertainment. At least since the advancement of technological science took it away from its, slightly exaggerated role, as a public service. News these days has become a competitive experience of drama and pantomime. Even the last bastions of principle and solemnity have begun to oblige. In writing this last paragraph I realise that I am having a thinly veiled pop at the BBC. So be it.
He who holds the gold makes the rules. So in a world governed by the propagators of drama and pantomime the politicians dance and play for our entertainment. Governance becomes about presentation and sound bite, reasoned debate is fashioned to the level of Punch and Judy, and those in command become embroiled in an ongoing Boxing match. But, it’s all for our entertainment. For this reason, I don’t see politicians as figures of hate or bile, just pawns in a higher game of those who control the media channels of the planet. I actually feel sorry for most of them, whatever their political persuasion. They can’t behave-normally. What was very noticeable recently is how the BBC described the election campaign as ‘boring’. There you go again, clearly the actors aren’t following the script, or using the props, as they should…
The reason I don’t like ‘politics’ much is that its structure forces me to make judgements of others rather than reason for my values and beliefs. I believe that the less judgement I make of others, and the more I challenge the relevance of my own values and understandings, the better person I am. The current election campaign provides the perfect example of how informed debate is stifled by the requirement to take sides in the arguments, often for the sake of argument, and is programmed to deny us the opportunity to call for a better way. Drawn by the pantomime, the match, or whatever you wish to call it, we take those sides and lose much of our reasoning power. If you are not for us you are against us, and we become a parody of those whom we mock. The relentless and vitriolic campaign material tells us of what to dislike, and who is for us. Up go the posters (I’m looking at one in my window now) and the battle lines are drawn.
So it’s not just the politicians who play games, dancing to every tune that calls them, it’s all of us. And politics is a reflection of life situations that play themselves out every day. In the home, at work, everywhere. We are political, because reason is too rational, and opposes our fears, our indoctrination, our limited and subjective experience, our ability to reason. We judge first, and only ask questions when the error of our ways is pointed out- if our pride allows us- and it takes a pretty powerful arrow to do that. Take a look at the latest emotional outrage in your Twitter feed, how many people ask questions ? –They don’t, they just offer immediate opinion, often without consideration. I know I do..
Supposing, just for one minute, we decided that there were no such things as political parties. Supposing, just for one minute, the politicians decided there was no such thing as policy documents. Now supposing a group of us, devoid of that crutch, sat down in a room and talked of our hopes and fears of the future. Now in that room no one is allowed to make judgements against anyone or anything. They just speak about what gives them hope, and what frightens them, and importantly, after much soul searching, why. One of my biggest fears would be having to change my opinions, but that wouldn’t be necessary if I set aside my judging nature first. As I said, we seem to be taught to build ourselves upon that we which we despise, it’s hard to let it go.
In recent weeks I have found myself defending ordinary people who choose to sit on all sides of the political divide. I feel much better for it. But it’s no surprise that in doing so labels are attached to me. For speaking out in favour of the character of a Conservative candidate I am branded a closet Tory. My understanding the fears of a UKIP supporter leads me to be fearful of being called racist-and so on. Yet all I try to do is drop my cloak of tribal security and try to understand what it is that fuels people’s entrenchment in a fixed viewpoint, rather than judge them by the colour of their metaphorical rosette.
I know there are politicians who wish it could be like that, being forced to defend the indefensible, wanting to make a difference, and wishing they could say what really seems to be correct at the time for them, for all reason is fluid. I believe that most politicians are actually good people, or at least start out that way. No one loses his or her soul completely.
Maybe just for one minute we should lose our rosettes, our firmly held views, and our tribal affiliation to all aspects of our existence. I bet that feels uncomfortable. If it does, then something inside us is telling that all is not well, that we are constructs of our age, and that those we so vehemently rally against may well be wrong, but they are humans like us. And at our most earthly level there is little that separates us.