Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hating politics

This post is cross-posted at Common Endeavour

This post, in which Steve Goodrich asks 'why do we hate politics' over on the Compass website is a bit of a classic of it's kind.

It starts off identifying a fairly well-fleshed out thesis - that the consumerisation of politics has resulted in an increasing disillusionment and disengagement.

It then offers a thin denunciation of this line - but one that doesn't address any of the reasons why the problem - as he's sketched it out - exists, apart from asserting that politicans haven't done everything that Steve wishes they would do:

"The problem lies not within our demand for politics per se but in the failure of politics, or to be more specific politicians, to supply us with reasons to give them our support.

This is not surprising considering the government's current performance. Their attempt to stabilize the banking system has provided mixed results, yet more fundamentally it has done nothing to reassure us that they are working in our interest. Promises made for job creation look fanciful and far-off, whilst staggeringly high amounts of money are pumped into the black hole of our decrepit financial system. Workers are laid off in their thousands whilst at best their plight is met with unconvincing, rehearsed showings of empathy and understanding by ministers and opposition alike.

To top it all off the common line throughout the past six months has been that matters are out of their hands. ‘The economic crisis is a world crisis' does not instil trust in their ability to tackle the problems at hand. What makes it worse is that there is little substantive difference between the parties as to how this can all be resolved with minimal harm to us, the victims."

It all sounds very consumerist to me. THEY haven't managed to come up with the right product for US. And for a post that is so fixed on identifying the problem with politicians (THEY haven't adopted Steve Goodrich's particular prescriptions, it seems), there seems to be no defence of politics, no outline of how it can be done properly, and no questioning of how far the quality of democracy can provide a cause for these problems.

David Aaronovich doesn't make the same mistake in this excellent article in The Times:

"...if you don't have a liberal democracy, everything else goes to hell. And it does strike me that, right now, we are in a nasty phase of attacking democratic politics and its inevitable representatives, the politicians, for their deficiencies and taking refuge either in populism, legalism or magical thinking.

Any of these are dangerous, but doubly so in a time of potential depression. The populism is expressed in the casual, jokey bracketing of politicians with fraudsters, the influence of potty-mouthed right-wing bloggers on some political journalism and an impatience with foreign workers and other minorities. The legalism is evident in the suggestion that politicians should hive off their responsibilities to technocratic bodies, such as an “independent” NHS. The magical thinking comes in imagining wheezes that would somehow save us from the messy business of having, joining, organising, funding or voting for political parties.

It always amazes me - and it shouldn't - how clever adults seem to believe, against the evidence of their own experience, that the governing classes in our democracy inevitably mess everything up." 

Aaronovich concludes:

"So how depressing it is that there are Grand Conventions in defence of liberty and none in defence of politics; that we count cameras but won't join parties; that we obsess about biometrics and databases and refuse our support to the democratic politics that is the real safeguard against authoritarianism or chaos."

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