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Politics will make you mad

by J. C. Greenway
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A couple of different commentators in the same paper today (read it while you can – it is still free!) musing on the possibility of politics not being for the sane. Over here, there is Rachel Sylvester pondering if politicians are born mad or driven that way by the need to pander to the demands of the electorate and over here, David Aaronovitch considering if Obama’s opponents are off with the pixies, reduced to heckling at open forum meetings and concocting ever-more bizarre conspiracy theories:

Why did — and does — a section of the American Right insist that its opponents are not just wrong, but actually illegitimate; not just mistaken, but anti-American?

Recent events could lead to the drawing of an inevitable conclusion that every person involved in politics anywhere in the world is up to no good, things have ever been thus and that nothing can ever change. Yet, that’s not the attitude that got ordinary people the vote in the first place and isn’t the thinking that sees the people of Iran risking all for a greater stake in their country’s future. Instead the question needs to be: what next?

Now that my own idea of heads on pikes on London Bridge and armed uprisings seems to have been dismissed out of hand (you lightweights!), it is both interesting and heartening to see some proper proposals coming forward. I am sure that to most sensible people, the thought of constitutional reform fills them with a kind of dread and horror, but I hope it is clear that if we don’t want to continue being lied to, killed and ripped off, there is little else for it.

As I concur with the thought that wanting to achieve higher office should automatically disqualify you from it, I was interested to read proposals to use lots to select representatives in the House of Lords from two writers, Anthony Barnett and Peter Carty in their book ‘The Athenian Option’. Mr Barnett considers the expenses scandal and its implications in an article on Open Democracy:

You could smell their fear of losing their claim to leadership as the populace howled with derision. Yet they also played for time: we are on your side they said, like all good therapists. Now go back to your “real lives”…

The most difficult problem, the one that demands organisation and invention, is how to bring people together so that each can see that they are not alone, their anger is healthy and justified and not in need of therapy.

It is clear that we are all going to have to get off our collective arses if we are not to find ourselves in the same situation in a year’s time, after a general election in which we have merely swapped one bunch of misfits for another. Unfortunately, no easy answer presents itself, we are going to have to take control.

Real Change is one group attempting to explore ways in which reform could happen. They don’t want to set out some conclusions and have you say yes or no to them, they would prefer you to tell them what you think. So what do you think? Do any of us know? Is it even possible to have that kind of conversation when the political weathervane points ever more firmly towards the ridiculous?

In my cynical moments I think I know the answer, but I want to be proved wrong. I want politics to be for all of us, not just the ones who didn’t inhale, the ones who never had a real job and the ones who are in it to live up to their fathers. A final word, as ever, goes to Joe Strummer:

You gotta be able to go out there and do it for yourself.
No one’s gonna give it to you.

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