Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Political v Apolitical

Brexit and Trump seem to have stirred up a belated realisation that third-rate won’t do. Clinton was the answer to a question nobody asked, the EU is a mess and perhaps even Meryl Streep really is overrated.

One way or another we have to claw our way at least to second-rate. Trump and Brexit may not lead us there but business as usual was never a viable option. The great political illusion of a left/right spectrum has been criticised on numerous occasions, the trouble is it is just too convenient. Yet we need a far better handle on political realities than left versus right could ever muster.

It may be worthwhile to make a distinction between political and apolitical rather than flog the left/right illusion to death. That is to say our political death.

A political outlook includes traditional left and much of the modern right, both of which make a moral god of government, devalue cultural achievements and see change as the predictable consequence of decisions.

An apolitical outlook sees the power of government as limited, values cultural achievements, and accepts the evolutionary and unpredictable nature of change.

The UK has seen a steady decline in the apolitical outlook as the function of government has come to be dominated by politics over pragmatism, being more concerned with what is politically correct or politically expedient over what works. This trend seems to correlate well with a rise in the professional politician wedded to an entirely political outlook. For the apolitical pragmatist there is no natural place in UK government nor in any of the main political parties.

Yet reactions to Brexit and Trump seem to betray a covert horror that an apolitical dragon is out there and awake, hungry for soft bodies. Things may be changing. Second-rate here we come.


Clacket said...

What I like about your estimable blog is that you allude rather than conclude. I’m a little more forthright – even if not actually right. So, for instance:

Surprisingly (to me anyway), I think Her Maj is actually quite a good old stick who has done the very best she can in all the vexing circs. It will likely count for nought, but she has actually led a life of, and ben an exemplar of, narrow rectitude. Not at all easy, even if one only tries it imaginatively. One has to respect that, as far as it goes. In a hundred years’ time, her debased successors will truly be good for nothing beyond opening fetes and posing for selfies, if they are very lucky. Reassuringly, money tends to talk over generations, so hopefully that will be the worst that happens, but you can never account for folly, jealousy and greed.

Trump and Brexit are just great, and seismic. And well overdue. Of course, by some measures they will disappoint. The fact is that the alternatives are yet more awful, and the eventual payday, without this relieving hiccup or belch, would likely be even worse.

I would posit that the great theme henceforth for a little while at least is not left/right but more the tension between the emboldened individual and the dominant state. Not at all sure how that one is going to work out, but expect it will be messy. Lots of people will die or lead blighted lives, but whatever. We ‘won’ the argument. Sort of.

Truth is, I haven’t got much of a clue. This must be the blogger’s paradox. Just saying something a lot doesn’t make it true. Could well be. There again, might not.

Anonymous said...

Very good points.

I saw an article recently that claimed (more or less) 'politicians use words for their effect on people regardless of whether the words amount to anything realistic. Implementors use words to describe accurately what they plan to do regardless of their effect on people'.

A K Haart said...

Clacket - thanks - I think 'estimable' is a first for me! Forthright certainly attracts interest but as you sort of imply, it isn't easy to be forthright and right. One way round that is to aim for soft targets and fortunately the mainstream media still supply us with plenty of those.

I like your idea about tension between the emboldened individual and the dominant state. There is a lot of it about already and what constantly impresses me is how many people there are who ought to have a bigger voice in the public arena. To a very limited degree they now have that voice, but as you suggest the consequences will be messy.

Roger - thanks. I'm sure using words for their effect on people is much closer to the social norm than we care to admit. That's why it works politically. It even allows flimflam merchants to fake the language of those who actually accomplish something. The word 'workshop' springs to mind.