This phrase has been bandied about a fair bit in politics and the media lately. I confess every time I hear these words I can’t help but start singing melodic London punks ‘Rivalries’ tunes. Damn catchy band. It’s been ages since I’ve seen them, or Tommy or Quinn for that matter. Bumped into Vince who I don’t really know at a Trade Union march fairly recently though (he is involved with one of the minor Socialist parties, I forget which). As for Neil Sutherland he played solo in Bristol when I was there recently but in a pub I’m barred from, (another story for another day) so that was that. That’s all just me thinking aloud though. When we speak of things being ‘built to last’ as well as thinking of their (Rivalries) songs I also often muse on on how all technological ‘advances’ are seemingly without question lapped up by many sections of ‘progressives’ and modernisers not to mention an increasingly docile public. It’s odd. I am no Luddite or Environmentalist who would call stop and seek to police all scientific experimenting and industrial technology but it seems to me that these days things are specifically built to fail in order to maximise profits. This is an insult to both scientific and technological progress not to mention undoubtedly immoral.
My mother’s 60s oil fired Rayburn oven still works like a dream, (this is no modern trendy thing was in my home before we even had radiators or any other means of heating the place, this is Stroud district), whereas today people pay thousands for oh so great Laptops and phones and barely keep them a year, something fucks up, and they resign themselves to buying a new one. ‘Oh well, these things happen.’ Or so the line goes. But it’s bollocks. Obsessive free market/open trade dogma and apparently unending globalisation relies on this key feature- built in obsolescence. A purposeful creation of products that deliberately fail and fail quickly. This is our post-Thatcher economic consensus. That this is somehow viable. What’s laughable is that it is actually the antithesis of true conservative (small c) values yet the modern Conservative party are either too thick to notice or too selfish and power hungry to care (it’s both). Ruthless unchecked companies produce crap products and our shameless media encourages the wasteful consumerism eating it all up and so legitamising the state of affairs. Conservative? What are they conserving? Nothing at all. There is nothing conservative about it. And they don’t care.
Meanwhile the Left should counter this with strong democratic Trade Unions and a focus on building lasting decentralised community institutions. Worker’s control, democracy in the workplace, proud communities and fighting for better pay and conditions. Instead, however, many modern lefty types focus on their perverse extreme social liberalism (which to me is useless egocentric individualism). Obsessing over ‘legalising pot maaaan’ ‘it’s my body I do what I want’ and non-stop identity politics based in modern obscure feminist ‘trans’ and queer theories. Campaigning around getting ‘gender neutral toilets’ in Universities or changing the ‘sexist’ lyrics to the Canadian national anthem are seen as legitimate ‘struggles.’ That’s before you get them started on banning the greyhounds or horse racing.
All manner of strange hysterical campaigns focusing on things which affect a minority of people and afew middle class sensitivities abound. These liberals who claim to be on the ‘left’ essentially argue things like a tiny amount of people being uncomfortable with their gender (however awful that may be) is a more pressing an issue than the elderly and homeless freezing to death or the selling off of public services. This is all combined with the doctrine of totally open borders or no borders which I have come to realise actually contributes to the commodification of labour and the individual and the viewing of humans as mere interchangeable pawns in the bosses global market. The reality of immigrants being horrifically exploited for cheap labour and many hard up natives left on the scrap heap is ignored by modern (often very affluent Liberals) and student wadicals alike. I wonder why?
So overall we can see the extreme social liberal parts of the Left in fact merely add to the problems of the new Rights (neo-liberal) economic devastation. The left-liberal focus on everyone being recognised as unique snowflowers is then somewhat fruitless when they cannot afford to put food on the plate and the bailiffs come a knocking. To my mind acute economic and social liberalism feed off each other, both are decadent and nihilistic forms of selfism. The destructive ‘me me me’ religion. Their greedy personal license in fact negates true individual liberty, but in their vein self-absorption they see it not. In the immortal words of John Milton, “None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license.”
But the Right will continue to lie that their free reign hippy market economics will solve all the problems and the Left will pretend that radical social liberalism is self-evidently good as it gives people what they want as individuals and indulges their self-asserted ‘rights.’ Both the Right’s laissez-fair economics and the Left’s totally permissive social outlook maximise the enduring ‘libertarian’ individualism of ‘do what you want,’ negating personal responsibility, societal solidarity, humility, community, honour, faith and duty (this last word particularly is seen as stupidly fusty, out-dated and as silly and unnecessary as petticoats). Edmund Burke was right, “But what is liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.”
It truly is the age of unadulterated selfism, the utter ethics of vanity. I repeat. Extreme forms of economic and social liberalism feed off one another. The first has nothing to do with traditional conservatism and the latter nothing to do with the genuine socialistic Labour and workers Trade Union movement. But no-one will admit it. Both new groupings think they are the real deal ‘Right’ and ‘Left’ but are infact a bunch of poorly educated ahistorical wasters who despise everything that is great about Britain.
Both groups have so much in common they should be openly embracing each other (and are of course in the form of the modern ‘Conservatives’ party and the ‘opposition’ New ‘Labour,’ at least the latter is beginning to transform). But the foot soldiers of each clan laughably think of themselves as enemies. Slimy suited business men who are vulgar ‘libertarians’ and their adolescent ‘anarcho’-capitalist well-fed counterparts (Ayn Rand lovers) are the new Right. The new liberal Left on the other hand is comprised of New Age hippies, green squatters, Marxist cultists, crusty ‘anarchists’ and overpaid public sector bureaucrats. Both side believes it is opposing the other when really both are two heads of the same narcissistic beast, two faces of the same worthless coin. And the silent majority of hard working people and families are brushed aside while these ignorant egos collide.
But back to technology and things being built to last. I wrote a piece on here calling for public ownership of the railways recently. In this rant I mentioned how the profits made currently are put into gimmicks such as electric doors, excessive and unreliable ticket machines, TV screens on the back of chairs and how for one this all contributes to the atomisation of society not to mention lowers employment considerably.
Tuesday 5 November last month marked twenty years since John Major’s government passed the opportunistic and short-sighted Railways Act, which permitted the breaking-up and selling-off of our beloved railways. I encourage looking at this- “Since 2009, Bring Back British Rail has been working hard to ensure that the history of our once proudly publicly owned railway is not forgotten. With a fast growing network of supporters, the campaign aims to popularise the commonsense idea of re-nationalising the ludicrously over-priced and over-complicated system, which the people of Britain are now lumbered with after twenty years of privatisation – demanding a re-unified national rail network run for people not profit.”
Meanwhile here is an interesting online comment I just read about political tribalism: ”Amongst friends in my home town, if the discussion ever turns to politics and the Tories especially, most indignation (and rightly so) is reserved for them over the treatment of the miners. But if I mention that more mines closed under Wilson, or that the unions directly helped facilitate the closures through their own stupidity, and that under 13 years of New Labour nothing at all was done to reverse this decline – then I’m immediately accused of being a Tory – which I’ve never been. Similarly, on the question of abortion or evolution, because I object or question much of the polemic I’m then accused of being a religious fruitcake – when I’m not even religious (as they know). The same is true from people on the ‘right’ when I favour a basic safety net of welfare or control of the utilities. In short, it is much easier to avoid thought and discussion as to how one arrives at their conclusions, and simply revert to binary tribal accusations. I wouldn’t mind if there was any truth in this phoney left/right dichotomy between the 3 main parties – because there isn’t if you pay attention to what they ‘do’ and not what they ‘say’. And people say we live in an enlightened era of reason. Yeah right !”
This got me to thinking about the ways those who worship ideology amusingly complement those who they often claim to oppose as outlined above in my opening rant. This comes from the retreat from ideas to dogma when decisions become difficult and require more thinking, life experience and reading. It is unbelievably common amongst the University educated ‘open minded’ (so much their brains appear to have floated away) liberal classes. What I think happens is that people get ‘into’ politics for the right reason, they want to make society better and make this world a less savage and uncaring place to be so they throw their hat into the ring. So far so good. Many join parties, pressure groups, marches or protest groups or whatever and start to think of themselves as a ‘libertarian’ ‘capitalist’ ‘socialist’ a ‘liberal’ a ‘conservative’ an ‘anarchist’ whatever label they believe fits with their political wishes/program blah blah blah. Again not necessarily a problem as such as long as ideas are being explored rather than a narrow tag employed that the user falsely believes is all encompassing.
The difficulty manifests itself when said people essentially abandon the original intent to actively improve the lives of all humans in the here and now, the wish to make a pleasanter world and instead have fallen so far in love with the *notion* of *being* an ‘anarchist’/monarchist/liberal/republican/conservative/socialist’ etc. that whenever an issue arises they cower in their tribal cave and regurgitate some outdated quote from a boring bearded bloke or give the text-book answer they are *supposed* to give from their chosen clan’s do’s and don’ts. At this point they are no better than a brainwashed cult-head and have ceased to think. No longer do they use reason, logic, fact instead they cling to old dogmas that have failed them and society in general. Society gains nothing from this and nor do the herd that bleat their bollocks continually. It merely makes them feel safer that they know they are the right on enlightened ones and those who don’t use their chosen badge must be inherently evil and have dark motives. The land of the politico-proud is absurdity.
You will notice the kinds of people I’m talking about as they only ever have friends who agree with them on virtually everything and they do not like being properly challenged. They pretend they are in either the majority view or an enlightened minority opinion and others around them are brainwashed. This helps them ignore genuine well intended differing views. When you do take issue with one of their parroted opinions they will instead of answering your points attempt to shallowly besmirch your character, make aggressive base ad-hominem attacks and try to angrily hound you out of the discussion and, finally, failing that they will use violence to silence you. Someone who is comfortable that there views are valid does not need to resort to this juvenile abusive behaviour. Consider your point proven. As Ghandi put it ”First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
When they are not singing from their ineffectual faction’s hymn sheet they are bitching online or behind closed doors about those ‘enemies’ they think they ‘hate’ but actually know nothing of. They are not intelligent enough to respond to what *actually* is being said so must resort to straw man, inventing what they *want* or wishfully *pretend* has been said in order to launch some lame personal tirade against their opponent. Their thickness compels them to judge the other person by measures such as where they are from, what they wear, how they talk, what music they like, what shop they are seen going into or paper they are seen reading. No attempt is made to play the ball and not the man. If so sure of themselves why no willingness to debate? Fear and ignorance.
Rather than call myself ‘left’ then (though that is clearly what I am on one level of understanding, afterall there are true divisions in opinion) perhaps it is easier and more accurate to describe oneself in the concrete tradition ones views fit closest in in the geographical location one is in. If so I am standard British old Labour (the problem here being many ‘educated’ people think this equates to dogmatic Marxism or being a loyal Bennite when it so patently does not) and a trade unionist who has held union cards for his whole adult life. Traditional/old/proper Labour. Perhaps we should say Palaeo Labour. Or if I’m feeling really annoying and do decide to use useless labels, I’ll make them even more convoluted to irritate- a patriotic Syndicalist, a left-wing Burkean, an anarchist who upholds Nations, a conservative Trade Unionist, a reactionary left-libertarian, a Traditionalist socialist, a Christian anarcho-syndicalist, a radical red-Tory, an orthodox Labourite and on and on and on. Blue Labour. As Dick Lucas would sing “you can call me what you like, I’m all and none of these.” Let’s stick with Traditional Labour shall we? Anyway, I am rambling. I suppose my message is to people- If you have strong views on something. Pause. Work out *why* you think this view. Then read up on the ideas you are espousing which you incorrectly think are your own, importantly look into the*history* and development of those ideas, who has conjured them? And for what purpose? You may suddenly find yourself less comfortable singing from certain hymn sheets. The more you read and live the less you will realise you know in one regard. This does not make you a fool. It is a sign of intellectual strength to be able to evolve and refine your views and come to terms with the vast unknown.
Back to what I originally spoke of in this post re strange political allegiances in strange places consider the following article from Left Foot Forward (and even in this I disagree with the basic cross hair ideology map and some of the claims within the piece), but yes, worth a read, and keep on thinking:
“The Daily Mail’s leaking of Mehdi Hasan’s letter to Paul Dacre did not reveal Mehdi’s hypocrisy, merely an uncomfortable truth: these days, if you want to write for any outlet, you will probably have to disregard profound political differences with it while capitalising on the ground you share.
That a left-wing journalist like Mehdi should admire some of the Mail’s values while loathing others is almost inevitable. For though the model of a simple binary political division between the Left and the Right may have appeared plausible during the 1980s, today it no longer does, and boundaries are increasingly blurred.
In Britain, old-guard Bennite leftists consider it axiomatic that to be left-wing is to oppose Western military intervention. Yet it was Tony Blair’s Labour government that pioneered liberal interventionism via Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq, while much of the conservative right has reacted against the idea of risking British soldiers’ lives to help foreigners.
David Cameron – Blairite in foreign affairs – could not mobilise enough of his own parliamentary party to win the vote for intervention in Syria. Liberals are more likely to support intervention in defence of human rights and popular revolutions abroad, while conservatives often view dictators like Assad and Mubarak as positive factors of stability.
Hostility to immigration and Islam are the principal purposes of radical right-wingers in Western Europe today. Yet they employ the language of class to oppose immigration, and portray a metropolitan elite prepared to sacrifice the culture and living standards of the white working-class in order to have more cheap baby-sitters and exotic restaurants.
They also raise the banners of women’s rights and gay rights to attack Muslims and Islam. Conversely, some on the left are reluctant to criticise sexism, homophobia or anti-Semitism among Muslims for fear of pandering to Islamophobia. Supporters of a niqab ban cite female emancipation while opponents cite freedom of expression; both draw upon liberal principles.
Opposition to the EU is the Tory cause celebre, yet it was a Conservative prime minister, Edward Heath, who took Britain into the European Economic Community in 1973, while ten years later it was Michael Foot’s notoriously left-wing Labour opposition that advocated withdrawal.
British liberals are more likely to be ‘pro-Palestinian’ and conservatives ‘pro-Israel’, yet the former often find themselves aligned with conservative Muslims on the issue and the latter with liberal Zionists. Gay marriage is viewed as a liberal cause, yet the institution of marriage is trumpeted primarily by conservatives.
Conservatives like to claim that the right is inherently anti-state while the left is pro-state. Yet Republican president George W. Bush presided over a huge expansion in the US Federal government, while anarchists are arguably the most left-wing and anti-state of all.
Green politics are generally viewed as left-wing, yet many greens and conservatives share common ground, whether in their dislike of modern industrial society, love of the countryside, idealisation of traditional small farmers or fear of third-world population growth.
Opposition to abortion is usually viewed as a right-wing cause. Yet the US is home to a burgeoning liberal and feminist pro-life movement, while even conservative pro-lifers have taken up the causes of traditionally marginalised groups that are targeted in abortions – not only the babies themselves but also the disabled in the West and women in India and China.
Conversely, supporters of abortion adopt the rhetoric of unconstrained personal autonomy and self-interested choice that echoes the values of the libertarian right.
Looked at closely, there are few issues that are strictly left vs right. In fact, there is only one: the left supports the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor while the right opposes it. All genuinely left vs right questions are derivative of that.
Again, the categories are subverted, as policies generally seen as right wing – introducing university tuition fees; cutting benefits – are sold as redistributing money toward industrious working-class families. Nevertheless, Britain’s present coalition government deserves to be labelled right-wing, as its principal purpose has been to preside over a large-scale transfer of wealth away from the working and ordinary middle classes and toward the wealthy.
Consequently, to be left-wing in Britain today is to side with popular resistance to the government’s anti-redistributive policies; with anti-austerity protesters and striking workers; with those who campaign to defend their public services and welfare state.
This makes the left-right divide an important separation in British and international politics, but far from the only one. Leftists and rightists are as likely as not to find themselves on the same side of a political dispute; for example, to agree over military intervention while disagreeing over spending cuts.
To cling to a ‘left-wing’ or ‘right-wing’ tag may primarily reflect one’s sense of identity and emotional need to belong to one tribe and to define oneself against the other. Yet at least occasionally, every principled and free-thinking individual must disagree with the tribe. (http://www.leftfootforward.org/2013/10/what-does-it-mean-to-be-left-wing-today/)