After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers’ Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
I don’t think anybody has written better about anthropomorphic personification than Terry Pratchett. In his Discworld books, they occur when people believe that a phenomena or a concept has a personality, and thus the personalities become real. One of Pratchett’s best characters is DEATH, but there are others.
Within his books it seems that the more belief there is, the more likely the personification is to exist. So Jack Frost really does paint windows and the Sandman creeps round with his bag of sand sending children to sleep. Belief is what matters.
So I was a little perturbed when a couple of days ago, I saw pasted to a litter bin, a sticker bearing the immortal words, “There’s no such thing as the dog poo fairy.”
This wouldn’t normally be an issue, but given the lack of trust in authority in this country at the moment it might become one. After all, if ‘they’ say that something doesn’t exist, and ‘they’ normally lie, then obviously the dog poo does exist. We’re more likely to believe in something if ‘they’ tell us not to. Hence I’m expecting to see the dog poo fairy with her red hair and white dress giving TV interviews in the not too distant future.
This lack of trust tends to manifest as contempt.
Q “How do you know when a politician is lying?”
A “Their lips move.”
The problem is that contempt seems to leak into other aspects of life and I don’t know about anybody else but I’m getting worried by the amount of contempt there is in politics at the moment. You see one extreme in Thailand where the country’s urban elite refuses to be governed by a party elected by the peasant majority, accusing them of taking power by bribing the peasantry (whereas previous governments took power by bribing the urban elite?)
It looks pretty bad in the US. A friend of mine described his country as “The place where the ‘liberals’ aren’t liberal and the ‘Christian right’ isn’t Christian.”
But what is it like here in the UK? When you look at stuff people post to their Facebook walls, what strikes me is the visceral contempt they, (or the people who create the ‘witty’ memes they post) appear to have for those who don’t share their political viewpoint.
It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with regard to the UK Independence Party. It’s notable that at a high level both the Conservative and Labour parties have been backing away from the extreme rhetoric. Indeed they’ve stressed that they don’t regard UKIP as racist.
At the moment the local election results are coming out, and already people are trying to make sense of them. One quote I thought was interesting,
“Some academics say Ukip’s base these days are those “left behind” by New Labour: generally older, generally male, generally less likely to have degrees or other academic qualifications, generally more rural, generally home-owning. (Note, yes, generally.) They feel, the theory goes, like they no longer recognise or like modern, post-immigration Britain and cannot trust the political elite.”
The big difference between London and the rest of England is also interesting but then a lot of people outside London don’t regard it as part of England anyway.
I confess that I’m waiting with some interest to see the results of this Euro-election, or at least the UK results. I’m not so much bothered by the actual result as what sort of comments we start seeing on Facebook about them.
Will people be willing to accept the choices of their fellow citizens or are we going to see the sort of vitriol people have poured over political parties poured over those who voted for them?
One thing that worries me about the US is that they seem to have taken this level of contempt for fellow members of the electorate even further than we have. Certainly I’ve seen comments, from this country and from the US along the lines of “Anyone who votes for party X is too stupid to deserve a vote.”
It’s amazing how rapidly people forget that we’re supposed to be equal. My vote, your vote, and the vote of the person who just voted for the party you loathe are equal, just as we are all equal.
If we’re to remain a democracy, it’s something we just have to learn to live with.