Friday, 6 March 2009

"In the end/ Everybody wins/ As long as we remember there's a reason for incredible wealth/ Incredible luck"

(From Seaguy, by Grant Morrison & Cameron Stewart)

In case anyone hasn't read it yet, here's an excerpt from Charlie Brooker's recent rant about the state of British politics:
It's all over. The politicians have finally shut us out of their game for good and we have nowhere left to turn. We're not part of their world any more. We don't even speak the same language. We're the ants in their garden. The bacteria in their stools. They have nothing but contempt for us. They snivel and lie and duck questions on torture - on torture, for Christ's sake - while demanding we respect their authority. They monitor our every belch and fart, and insist it's all for our own good.

Straw wrote, "If people were angels there would be no need for government . . . But sadly people are not all angels." That rather makes it sound as though he believes politicians aren't mere people. Maybe they're the gods of Olympus. Maybe that's why they're in charge.

Thing is, they could get away with this bullshit while times were good, while people were comfortable enough to ignore what was happening; when people were focusing on plasma TVs and iPods and celebrity gossip instead of what the politicians were doing - not because they're stupid, but because they know a closed shop when they see one. But now it looks as if those times are at an end, and more and more of us are pulling the dreampipes from the back of our skulls, undergoing a negative epiphany; blinking into the cold light of day.

There's more righteous anger at the link above.

Also well worth reading is Millennium Elephant's response, which I found via Andrew Hickey. The Elephant moves beyond Brooker's perfectly expressed rage and starts pondering what this means for those attempting to do something different from within a political party (for the Elephant, the Lib Dems).

The Elephant also takes a shot at Brooker for expressing these concerns in the pages of a newspaper that supports the Labour government. This is a sticky question for me, because I do agree that the media are complicit in maintaining the fantasy of THE WAY THINGS WORK*, and this complicity makes me groggy with rage. That said, for all that the comparison between dissenting media types and dissenting backbenchers is brutal and cutting, I don't find it entirely convincing in the end. In both cases, I can certainly empathise with people trying to work against the dominant pull of the organisations they work in. It's easy to mock those who claim to be "fighting the system from the inside" (Ghost World does this so well that I feel no need to compete), but (1) I'm Scottish, and I know far too many bewildered Labour supporters who're still trying to comprehend how far their party has strayed from their values, and (2) I think the responsibilities of a published essayist and a politican are by necessity different. The country would be far healthier if those disillusioned Labour supporters & politicians moved beyond the Labour/Tory binary (and a great many Scottish voters have, hence the election of an SNP government in the Scottish Parliment!), but if anything I'd rather more essays like those written by Brooker and the Elephant appeared in newspapers that generally support the British Labour Government. Indeed, as far as I'm concerned this sort of dissonance in the mainstream media could potentially increase the perceived feasibility of SOMETHING DIFFERENT, which seems to me to be a potentially worthwhile endeavor. (See, also: K-Punk on Channel 4's adaptations of David Peace's Red Riding novels.)

I've went on about this more than I meant to, and I don't want to give the impression that the Millennium Elephant's post made me angry as hell or anything. The point of view I've spent the last 200-odd words articulating is brought up and dismissed in the Elephant's post, and I simply found myself thinking that there might be more value to it than that piece let on.

*Which is to say the belief that only two British political parties are electable, that none of the various lifestyles and attitudes the Elephant mentions are permissible for "serious" politicians, and that politicians are free to work free of public inquiry because these other two points make them the only players in town.


While we're venting about THIS MESS WE'RE IN, I really have to point you to RAB's blog, which is currently hosting both the above image and a reprinted Philip Pullman essay on modern liberty. It's a great piece, as lofty in style as it is in sentiment and all the more affecting for it:
The sleeping nation dreams it has the freedom to speak its mind. It fantasises about making tyrants cringe with the bluff bold vigour of its ancient right to express its opinions in the street. This is what the new laws say about that:

Expressing an opinion is a dangerous activity

Whatever your opinions are, we don't want to hear them

So if you threaten us or our friends with your opinions we shall treat you like the rabble you are

And we do not want to hear you arguing about it

So hold your tongue and forget about protesting

What we want from you is acquiescence
Once you're done reading that, be sure to give Future of the Left's 'The Hope That House Built' a blast, just to keep you nice and focused. While most FotL lyrics read like punked-up Pythonisms, this song comes off like an art metal protest song. Shit, actually, it sounds like an art-metal protest song as written by Ringo Starr, which basically means that it's too unlikely to ignore.

Finally, as a counterpoint to all the doom-mongering in this post, here's a clip from Armando Iannucci's In The Loop. The movie is a shaggy spin-off from The Thick Of It, the TV show that made the correlation between petty office politics and national politics painfully clear, and it looks brilliant. NOTE: do not watch this if you have an aversion to nonstop, grade A swearing!

If this just makes you even more depressed, then try to think of King Mob's speech in volume 2 of The Invisibles:
That's why they can never hope to win. Chaos sneaks in every time.

They can cover the world with cameras, but they can't stop the guys in the monitor rooms from jerking off or playing the fifteenth sequel to "Doom" for the hundredth time.
Which is to say: the problems with the dominant media and political systems are very real, but it's important to remember we're dealing with stupid bureaucrats here, and stupid bureaucrats are anything but unbeatable.

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