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Wednesday 17 December 2014

Militant Moderate!

English: Political Spectrum Chart
English: Political Spectrum Chart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
European Political Spectrum
European Political Spectrum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 Far be it for me to sing the praises of normalcy. I would view my life and upbringing to be rather outside what mainstream public opinion would consider to be "usual". Take a look at my rather eclectic biography - born to an animal circus family, working in the wild animal film industry, martial arts/self-protection teacher, co-promoter of the UK's extreme pro wrestling promotion, professional performer, writer and so on - and you will see a rather eccentric back-story. My life is also full of paradoxes and contradictions. My tastes vary wildly and without any sense of pattern or rhythm, which is a bit like my attempt at dancing or conversation. I have never tried to belong to anything, but often seen movements to be temporary means to an end. Even "my people", the circus people, live very different lives to me and have done so since I was seven years old. My political ideas are also pretty varied too and I have long hated the left/right compass that many people build into their minds. It creates glaring cognitive blind-spots and strikes a very obvious comparison with fundamental religiosity. From the barely veiled bigotry and paranoia of UKIP to the cartoonish trendy Communism of Russell Brand, I think the individual should be wary.

However, politics, like religion, suffers from the restless frustration that erupts at its fringes. I look at our current landscape, where the UK's middle ground has been fought over since the 1990s, and see dangers at either end of the so-called political spectrum. Ideologies just don't stand up to the harsh and unpredictable scrutiny of life. This is why science distinguishes itself from all other disciplines in accepting no absolutes, is constantly self-correcting and embraces scrutiny, even if some of its proponents are less willing to submit to said scrutiny. Life is too contradictory and society is too complex to be successfully managed, led, cared for or empowered by any one single political persuasion. Therefore, I address every individual issue on its own grounds. As someone once said, "When it comes to the police I am on the right. When it comes to education I am on the left".

English: Nolan chart, 2d political spectrum. D...
English: Nolan chart, 2d political spectrum. Diagonal line indicates classical 1d left-right political spectrum. See license below. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is very different to the way many people in my culture were brought up to see the world. We were told one political party had our people's interests at heart. This was hand-in-hand with one particular religious persuasion. Looking back it seemed so simple, but as time goes on I realize that it was almost as much nonsense then as it is today. I have seen the same party not only contradict many of the ideas I have formed through personal experience but actively betray my people. I have seen similar contradictions occur in their opposing party. I have seen MPs and MEPs take a stance in line with my personal opinion, something I feel strongly and deeply about, but then seen the rest of their party move in a direction far from how I see the world.

If you push the average non-fanatic hard enough you will see that their personal political persuasions are not so "left of Karl Marx" or "right of Margaret Thatcher" as they would like you to believe. The case of Margaret Thatcher is an interesting example of how contradictory politics can be. Loathed by most of those who identify themselves as being staunchly red, she was the exemplar of several causes that are often considered to be left-leaning. Not an obvious friend of the Women's Liberation Movement, she was Britain's first female prime minister, which is a win for feminism if I have ever seen one. This was no token of political correctness. For better or worse, Thatcher was possibly the most formidable and forceful British political leader since Winston Churchill and the longest serving British prime minister of 20th century. Whether it was in the House of Commons or her own cabinet or even in her discussions with other world leaders, to paraphrase her own words, "The lady was not for the turning". Furthermore, tough rise to success and battles at the top could well be seen as examples of a patriarchal reaction to having a woman in power. Notwithstanding the sexist state of politics of the time, all of Thatcher's noteworthy opponents, both in other political parties and internally, were men.
 Although it was never said, you could almost taste the frustration some had with the fact that this woman would not conform to the societal norm of bending to the will of men.

A green grocer's daughter, some have argued that hatred from the left came from the fact that she took much of the working classes away from them. Of course, there is also an argument put forward that prior to Thatcherism, Britain was at an egalitarian high with social classes at their most equal in recorded history. However, this is a discussion for another day. 
Generic multi-axis political spectrum chart.
Generic multi-axis political spectrum chart. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I do have a strong libertarian side and I love the individualistic streak running through Objectivist founder, Ayn Rand's work, particularly "The Fountainhead". However, I don't buy into her anti-altruistic philosophy. I
am probably influenced by the fact that both sides of my family built their businesses on laissez-faire capitalist principles. Circuses in Britain in many ways represent this ideal. However, the culture they contain is as close to liberalism as one could possibly imagine. My ramble, "These are my People" touches upon this apparent harmonious contradiction.  
Despite my libertarian leanings, I support our National Health Service and all our emergency services. The NHS, for all its many, many faults, is a credit to our country and we have a Labour government to thank for its implementation. Yet my people have suffered directly from a government run by this party. 

Usually you will find many who identify themselves as being Conservative with a capital "C", having little issue backing the police. Traditionally the Police and all their predecessors have protected the interests of the establishment. From the Praetorian Guard of Rome to the Bow Street Runners of London and the eventual British Police service itself, which was created by a Conservative Prime Minister, the Police have been favoured by the right. However, the same cannot always be said for the other emergency services. Whenever there has been strike action, typically those with a strong right wing compass will oppose the strikers.

I recall being at a party, where I was politely listening to the hard right rantings of one blustering individual. I was no fan of Blair and so we had some common ground. Blair had critics from the proud "Old" Labour guard, such as Tony Benn and Arthur Scargill, and many from the right saw him as a natural heir to Thatcher. However, my ranter was not so convinced. He was just another red. So, I put my blind right/left compass theory to the test. As he ranted away at "that comedian" (one can only chuckle at what he would have made of Russell Brand), I timed my insertion regarding Blair's then stand-off against the fire service. Matters had got so bad that the army were having to replace the service using outdated equipment and vehicles. I wondered whether my friend's hatred was directed so severely against Blair that he would take the side of the traditionally left unions. Without taking a breath he immediately turned on the fire service, belittling their complaints and condemning their strike action. Memories of the Conservatives battle with Arthur Scargill and the miners of 1980s had possibly left their mark, and as much as he opposed the current government he was never going to take a side against the institution it represented.

I am very wary over any celebrity that takes a political platform. There is nothing wrong with an artist showcasing his other abilities, but if you are going to choose something that has a direct affect on the way people live you have to be prepared to take the shots. I despair at those who find any of his political interviews to be profound in anyway. They all seem like blatant publicity stunts with Brand using his skills as an entertainer to bully and evade reasonable arguments. Respect for this ultimate example in no substance politics just proves how little we want to think.

Brand has effectively promoted apathy to voting as a type of protest. I agree that if you feel none of the parties in your local constituency represent any of your views - and you should really consider whether this is actually true - you should feel a need to vote, but for the sake of those who fought to give the right to make that decision at least turn up at the polling station to spoil your ballot paper.   

Meanwhile, the emergence of a party like UKIP might show a cyclical political journey in the UK. We seemed to have dodged the racist bullet shot by a re-emerging and re-branded BNP only to allow in a similar party that uses an "Old Conservative" Trojan Horse cover. Again and again the party lets slip yet another representative who holds onto anti-gay, racist or disturbingly old fashioned religious ideas. A desire to defend against Europe's influence over the UK is one thing, but the party just seems to be catch-all for prejudice and paranoia.

So as I finish this ramble, I hear the chords of Stealer's Wheel's classic song: Russel Brand to the left of me, Farage to the right. Here I am. Stuck in the middle of a zoo. 

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