Friday, 8 March 2019

Politics without honour

I'm a massive Trek head. I was raised on it. In the Starfleet world the general rule is that whatever it is you're doing, if you have to take moral shortcuts to do it, it isn't worth doing. That's really what the show is all about - the crew finding their way out of tight spots without trampling on their own system of values. It's always a quest to do the right and honourable thing.

This perhaps explains my politics and attitudes to politicians better than anything else. It's why I don't flinch from pointing out the lies and hypocrisy on my own side. This is what has won me the respect of a great many remainers. This is why I find the games politicians play with semantics so utterly repellent. This is why I have zero tolerance for the sort of weaponised offence taking we see.

I'm often told that I might know my stuff but I don't understand politics. I don't agree. I think I get it better than anyone. Frontline politics is, and probably always has been, doing whatever it takes to achieve the immediate objective. That's why they lie, that's why they create wholly fictitious narratives to the point of creating their own parallel universe. Black is white if the objective demands it.

But this is politics without honour. Especially now. Now politics has become a war of attrition - where it's less about objectives as it is knocking out the opponent by any means necessary. Takedown culture. That's why it's turning nasty.

This is also why the details cease to matter. Details are truths, and truths are inconvenient to narratives. And politics is all about narratives. This is why the official record is so very often far out of kilter with what is actually happening. When truth becomes useless, investing time in understanding the facts is a redundant pursuit. Whether or not you are seen to "understand politics" is contingent on one's willingness to participate in their parlour games. I won't.

I am of the belief, perhaps naively, that politics does not have to be like this. I don't expect it to be perfect, but I think it can be and should be better than it is. What's lacking in our politics is a sense of self-awareness. This is very probably the worst facet of the Westminster bubble. For sure, there are a few who act with honour and integrity - but that doesn't seem to get them anywhere. In a system like Westminster there is too much temptation to act without honour.

It doesn't help that our media is similarly twisted. If there is any point to having media, especially a state broadcaster, then it is to shine a light of truth on their sordid little games - to explain without prejudice what is going on and to cut through the bogus narratives. This it no longer does. They are complicit. Each have their own agendas. It's worse now than ever. Journalism has become activism or simply agitation for its own sake. All it does is add to the noise.

This explains, perhaps better than anything, the divisions in the country. Our normal is not their normal. Looking at it from the outside, it is hard to see anything other than a swamp of deceit. When MPs wail about the lack of civility, it is hard to see what is worthy of civility. There is no respect because there is nothing respectable about it. They do not listen; they transmit. They do not ask, they tell. No lie is too big and any lie will do.

For as long as politics is conducted through the prism of that media, centered in Westminster, the gulf between the people and politicians can only grow wider. We have run out of patience for their connivances and chicanery. This is why Brexit is so pivotal. Parliament is now the only thing standing in our way. If they prove once and for all that our votes can no longer change things then a whole new chapter of politics opens up. An ugly one.

We have a parliament who decided to turn this decision over to the people. Powerful forces took every possible action to stop that decision from being carried out. But parliament once again voted to abide by that decision. Now we arrive at that final test. Does parliament respect the verdict of the people? Are we a people with agency who took a constitutional decision or are we viewed by them as hapless dupes who need protecting from our folly? If it's the latter then we no longer have a parliament. We have a partially elected aristocracy. That will say more about who and what we have become than any other test.

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