The thing about MPs respecting “the will of the people”

The general will of a people is considered by some and desired by others to be that which is conducive to the common good; the national interest. Inasmuch as it can be measured, it reflects, at best, an assumption that everyone agrees on a point or points of principle. Principle, not detail.

In the current context of Brexit, it certainly cannot be discerned by a near fifty-fifty referendum vote. This is neither “the will of the people” nor the entirety of ‘public opinion’. Not even where and when politicians cite their constituencies as expedient justification for the fact that they are very likely sacrificing the long-term common good to a short-term effort at self-preservation, on the back of a pre- and post-referendum campaign of wilful ignorance and manipulation. The result of that referendum wasn’t representative of ‘the People’ but a collection of leanings based on a spectrum of individual understandings and expectations versus another collection of leanings based on a spectrum of individual understandings and expectations. But one side’s will and opinion is not to be countenanced, apparently. It is as if Remain were not of the People but an irritant for which the solution is to try to ignore it.

The thing about MPs respecting “the will of the people” and being led by public opinion is 1) that it does not follow that said will or opinion is correct or directed towards the common good; 2) that it is simplistic and cynical to assume that a majority or even just the loudest voice automatically represents either collective will or opinion; 3) that MPs, themselves, collectively, are usually behind the curve, not with it and rarely in front of it; 4) that the public is no better generally or singularly informed than the medium of the message and each individual’s capacity for critical thinking and the time and opportunity in which to use it. And 5): As the Brexit debates show, though MPs are best-placed for access to facts and well-informed opinion, they often start with no more understanding than the rest of us because they are no more expert, intelligent or open-minded, than the rest of us, either. Because they are not a special species of Human. They are just us. But, that they are elevated, voluntarily, to a high office of public service means they have a civic and moral duty to the national interest and our common good. Our, not a narrow selection of their. Parliamentarians are part of that rising tide that is supposed to lift all boats. They are also the planners, architects, builders and providers of boats.

Besides, all too often, the loudest voice of influence on the governing class is not the electorate in general but the most arbitrarily muscular newspapers and best-scheduled television and radio broadcasters. They can lead, reflect and project opinion far more effectively than any other demographic. One might reasonably question, then, which will and what opinion it is that MPs are really respecting. At the moment, “the will of the people” is merely a disingenuous and dangerous demand for narrow political patriotism. One might wonder if there is any such thing as the former and why on earth there is such a demand for the latter. If only there were ways by which to know…

Bleedin’ despots, comin’ over ‘ere…

When selecting which ‘Will of the People’ to thwart
Politicians give plenty expedient thought
And whatever Theresa believes she has bought
Big Bad John says the Don is unfitted to talk.

Speaker Bercow opposes the government ranks
Who with desperate haste in their Brexity tanks
Have so shamelessly pimped out the pomp of the Realm
To a monster addicted to taking the helm.

As expected the Brexits are all apoplectic
‘The Art of the Deal’ is their feel of the day
And the U. S. of A says they think we’re forgetting
They’ve just put that Churchill bust back on display.

Behold! Brexity Britain, integrity stripped
By a hopium Blighty with mob-handed grip,
Where to step out of line is the new imposition
And those who oppose brave uncommon position.

But John Bercow’s line is a dignified wall
Between Trumpet the sump pit and Westminster Hall
And as Donald is fickle and dumb and uncouth
He is favoured the better, forbidden of proof.

 

BBC News, February 7th, 2017: “A matter for Parliament

BBC ‘This Week’ April 2nd, 2015 – Big Johnhttps://youtu.be/x-XAOCHPXgs

The whole world wrought

What are we?
Who are we?
What have we become?
What have we done
But that we strut and curse
With Human ignorance
And hubris?

We sew pockets of hell on Earth
And fret when it’s too late
And still yet tell ourselves
That any fiction is infinitely better
Than to fess up; than to face our
Reaping

Wide,
The World weeps bloody tears
And suffocates under fractious clouds
That wreck and reek to retching

Sick, the planet heaves,
Clamouring for more glamour
And belief’s cold sweats

Adrenaline free-falling
Out of disconnect

Selective fear and fury
Horror
Paranoia
Stalks the Psyche
Trammels
Into frozen thought and feeling

The whole world is reeling
Dancing to discordant tunes

Tectonic Titans crunching
Crushing
Scraping scraps with blades

All is percussion
Gluttonous
And crashing

World made glass and straw
And poisoned shores
In hearts and thoughts
Polluting souls

The whole world wrought
To overwrought and overwhelm
And all for nought.

 

[From June, 2014]

promises and piecemeal

Direct Democracy and Devolution sound so grown up, don’t they? Like no-brainers, especially in the 21st Century, where we think we’re all so miraculously connected and enlightened. We complain incessantly that we want more control; that we need it; deserve it. I’m sure we do, in a parallel universe. But, while it is clear that political and civic power are too concentrated in some places and persons, I suspect that most of us wouldn’t have a clue what best to do with more power if we got it. After all, we don’t use what we already have, that smartly.

The People do not always know best. We just don’t. In fact, sometimes we are downright stupid, no matter the consensus that it isn’t good or wise to say so, out loud. For instance: I live in a Cornish constituency where, in the last general election, my shortsighted, albeit understandable hissy fit at the Lib Dems of Coalition merely allowed the Tories to swan back in. It must be really difficult, sometimes, for politicians to feign their respect for the voters.

The human world is a frightened and frustrated place. We can all feel it, or at least see it. The world shook after 9/11 and shifted irrevocably on its axe when the financial crises came to light. Since then, the pace of consequence has accelerated and intensified under our cowardly, short-termist leadership. They – we – build on mistake after mistake. Nearly the whole world is doing the same, on some level. We’ve facilitated ideological hubris and complacency, compounding misery and instability. No wonder there are grassroots collectives pushing for individuals to gain more democratic control. No wonder those who can are keen, or keen to pretend to offer it.

But the People are too busy living, or trying to, to spend 24/7 digesting every connection and implication involved in even the simplest idea. A lot of people don’t even have time to properly absorb a primetime news broadcast, let alone have the inclination to connect the dots around a plethora of single (-seeming) issues and assume direct agency. To participate responsibly, you have to be actively engaged and prepared to contemplate more deeply than on catchy soundbites and echo chambers. In the last general election some people thought they wanted the Conservative Party’s welfare reforms until they realised they had voted for cuts in their own income. Parents opening and running schools sounded like a great idea to a chunk of the populace until they actually tried it and realised how much expertise and time most of them did not have.

We need managers. No matter our sovereignty as individuals, we need leaders and overseers and at least some hierarchical structure of accountable authority to make a Society run. As much as we might feel that ‘’for god’s sake, I’ll do it, myself/could do it better, myself’ impatience, in the face of such overt fecklessness, we are also half hoping that something, someone, will take it off our hands.

Negotiating even our own lives can be more than enough occupation. We want someone else to take care of the other stuff. We don’t all want to have to run schools, sit on every committee, attend every blasted meeting that might affect our lives, keep up with every minute amendment to vote on every policy, engage with every whim and crackpot suggestion, tick-box endless, simplistic questionnaires. Well, I don’t, anyway. It may sound good in the abstract but, in practice, well: observe the EU referendum. Or imagine every category of Labour member having policy input on behalf of the rest of the electorate.

To imagine that the incoherent mishmash of support for Brexit is a thing worthy of unquestionable respect or that, even if Trump’s supporters should not be called out as ‘deplorable’, so much of their motivation clearly is, or that the utopian fanaticism for Corbyn, as the only 21st-Century light around which all the Left must orbit: these are symptomatic of our neurotic times. It took us years to create this anti-intellectual mess. There is no simple fix that can be also universally palatable.

But people tend to cling to hope where they think they have found it. We like to imagine that there must be a magic fix, if only someone would discover it or if we could just make a certain person, the whole country, the whole of humanity see it our way. If only x would happen then everything would be solved. It’s little wonder that idealists and charismatics are popular. They tell us what we should be worried about and who and what to fear and they offer simple yet dramatic fixes with casual and confident ease. This is attractive, particularly to those who think they have nothing left to lose and to those seeking the short-lived catharsis of vitriol.

Still, our leaders are the People, too, despite the quite concerted efforts of some to convey or perceive otherwise. Whether we see those currently charged with shaping our present and future as heroes or villains and all in between, they are merely a reflection of the human spectrum that they claim to serve: weak, sincere, ignorant, greedy, perceptive, compassionate, arrogant, clever, paranoid…

I don’t want ‘Brexit’ but, if we must have it, I obviously want the best achievable version, not an appeasement model for its bulldog fantasists. I want mature democratic reforms but not to serve some partisan agenda and not as a superficial sop to pacify a confused and frustrated populace. The fallout discussions around the Scottish Indyref and Brexit show how the promises and piecemeal of panic and short-term politicking, are downright disrespectful of both the electorate and our constitution.

The awful consequences of decades of causes are threatening, again, to become the new causes for decades of even more dreadful consequences. Unfortunately, a significant number of the electorate does not care and tragically, some have not even noticed.

Live long enough, though and you can feel like you’ve lived it all before. Be careful what you wish for.