Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The head and the heart says democracy is best

As much as Brexit is a technical and economic affair it's as much about identity and emotion as anything else. And there are attempts to make this the fault line - the robotic versus the human, the head versus the hearts. The technocrats would have it that the human aspect should be disregarded. I've seen successive economists with a sense of entitlement absolutely outraged that voters would disregard their wisdom come what may.

In this they attempt to pathologise the phenomenon as though it were irrationality bordering on mental illness. It's either that or a middle class snobbery that the identity issues of the little people are quaint and irrelevant. But actually, such matters are far from irrelevant. As a prolific social media user I've noticed that one of the prevailing pursuits of people is to express themselves in order to define themselves. In that regard I am more a citizen of the internet than I am British or European.

Identity governs just about everything we do. From our choice of clothes to the cars we drive and to some extent the relationships we choose. And though I look like I've been dragged through a hedge backwards most of the time, it is to some extent a calculated look specifically to say to the world that your opinion of me could not matter less. I think that's an essential facet of being a blogger.

It is from how we define ourselves that we build the world around us from the local level upwards. It's why there is such diversity in our communities. As a Bristol citizen I notionally have plenty options. I don't because in reality because I can't stand hippies, but if I was that bothered I wouldn't have moved to Bristol. But it's clear that when like-minded people congregate they build their world in their own image with their own codes based on their own morality.

The limits of this tend to be physical barriers. There's a railway line travelling from the city centre all the way out to north Bristol. The two communities either side could not be more different. One is very white working class and the other, well, not so working class. The only real convergence points are where the road bridges are. The districts are largely self defining.

But because we are bound by a common language and a common interest in the city we can have city wide rules which engender their own attitudes. Bristol is renowned as a creative city and is famous the world over for street art. It has its political leaning, and was the only city in the 2012 referendums to vote for a directly elected mayor. Bristol is highly distinctive and it's why I don't see myself living anywhere else in the UK.

But that could all so very easily be broken by removing the right of the people to shape their environment. The council very well could declare war on street art and graffiti and fine people for decorating their wheelie bins (who the hell actually does that??) and we could totally rob St Werburghs of its identity. And it would suck.

It would be cleaner and it the hippies would be miserable so I would love it. But because I hate all that stuff, and I don't want neighbours with dream-catchers and wind chimes I choose to live somewhere else. I live in Filton which could not be more mediocre in every respect. I don't want to partake in a community. I have one on the internet, I don't want to know my neighbours and the only thing that interests me about Filton is its proximity to the M4. Through diversity everybody gets a little of what they need and has a stake, or at least a choice in their surroundings.

And this is why we *should* have local democracy. This is why the people should have ultimate say over where they live. It just works better. But then there is a balance to be struck. In order for things to function well we do need some commonality and for efficiency we have to make some things regular. We regulate.

But what happens when the people don't have a say? Government becomes the master rather than the servant. The regulation is made not for our convenience but for theirs. And in so doing people are robbed of their ability to express themselves and define their surroundings. And when everything is done for efficiency it ignores the very human concerns and social needs. And we see this happening all the time. We see it happening because our "local" authorities aren't very local and have merged into regional corporates. They lose touch with who they serve, where the people are not neighbours and friends, rather they are numbers on a screen.

And when you find taxation drawn into the centre, the spending is often prioritised on fire-fighting - always addressing the most immediate needs. This is how nice areas gradually decay as the parks become deprioritised, the street furniture isn't renewed, the potholes go unfilled, and the road markings fade. And because councils only ever lust after more money, there is a charge for what we have already paid for.

This is the slide away from democracy to managerialism. And while we are seeing it con a community level we are seeing the same dynamic happening at every level of government up to and including the United Nations with similar consequences. Government governs with its own convenience in mind, toward its own technocratic goals and objectives - and to hell with the little people.

And whose goals and objectives are they? Not ours. They stem from ideas injected in at the top. Climate goals being one of them where we are told the sacrifice of lifestyle quality is in the greater good. We are told that ever more invasive regulation of our food is good for our health. Smokers are now robbed of any kind of freedom. Does anyone ever recall being asked?

And it's interesting how attitudes to this have changed. The hippies I so despise would have in 2006 would have been protesting globalisation - protesting the corporatisation and homogenisation of society where the will of the people is not respected. They were right. But after a decade of propagandising, buying off NGO and bringing the likes of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace into the fold, they have manufactured consent for it and we now accept the received wisdom that being managed like cattle is for the good of the planet.

This to a large extent explains why the once radical left are now united in defence of the status quo. The left no longer challenge the orthodoxy because they are the orthodoxy. Or at least part of it. They have given their consent for absolute rule, paving the way for the "neoliberalism" they do nothing but complain about. They have their own way in terms of the sustainability agenda but it's a Faustian pact where their consent is the licence the corporates need to raid our wallets at will. The renewable energy subsidy system is totemic of this.

And so now what we are seeing is the asset stripping our our communities and nations, creating divisions where none previously existed. We have handed over the functioning of the state to the corporates under the guise of privatisation but all it really is, is outsourcing to preferred bidders. Those who make the right party donations.

Except that now, the corporates have worked out that if you go to the top of the chain, into the IMO, UNECE and the likes that you don't even need the consent of the politicians. They can make the rules and have them rubber stamped. They won't let a little thing like public consent stand in the way. And this is why they don't want Britain to leave the EU.

And when you read the patronising analysis from the great and the good - the academics of LSE and the content producers (I refuse to call them journalists) in the Financial Times, they speak of us plebs as underdogs, alienated and threatened by change. And by belittling such concerns they see fit to ignore them and in so doing excuse themselves. To them, the big picture overrules the petty needs of democracy. The ends justify the means and to that end, any lie will do.

But we are not threatened by change. We change all the time. We adapt to it and respond to it and embrace it. Change is part of the human condition. The sentiment behind the leave movement  is not that we resist change. We are just acutely aware that our government no longer seeks our consent and is no longer acting on our instruction. We are living in a society where people passively accept diktats because they have grown used to the idea that we can't say no. We have been conditions through threats and fines not to resist.

But as I keep pointing out, passive behaviour is what out rulers want. They don't want your participation and anyone who wishes to participate is viewed as a troublemaker. They even have labels for us too. They have methods for silencing dissent. Stigmatise, isolate, ignore. It works so well. But this is how democracy dies. For sure we will keep our empty voting rituals and we will change the management from the red tribe to the blue tribe but that's not democracy. That's just gangs squabbling over the keys to the petty cash drawer to dole out goodies to their powerbase.

It's the ideal distraction - maintain the illusion of democracy, keep the decoys in place and allow the plebs to believe they have some kind of control. But we don't do we? All we have is protest. Protest they can control and ignore. We can send letters of complaint and send petitions but we all know how that ends - a corporate-speak ministerial apology telling us that lessons were learned by we will stay the course because it's in the greater good.

But this is why they fear Brexit. This is why every strata of the establishment has been pressed into scaring you to death. They are afraid. They are afraid of us and these democracy dodging whores and their useful idiots are doing everything they can to prevent it happening. Because Brexit is a threat. A threat to them. It upsets their agenda, it reverses the flow of power. It ruins their grand design. It puts the people back in charge of their own lives, their own nation and their own communities. And that, my friends, is the very last thing any of these people want. Imagine that. People being allowed a say in their own lives. To them, it's too horrifying to even contemplate.

1 comment:

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