Thursday, 2 February 2012


Nigh-on unbelievable garden variety conservatism in The Guardian today:

People are fatalistic. Once they get used to the initial shock and fear of hard times, it seems, they hunker down and find that life, generally, carries on tolerably well.

My guess is that life carries on tolerably better for salaried Guardian journalists than it does for the 12% unemployed in the north-east. Perhaps this sort of thing isn't so surprising, but the vast self-centredness and anti-reformism of the liberal establishment is really fucking me off right now.

Looking forward to reading Stephen Harper's book on the subject, which should thankfully be arriving any day now.


Anonymous said...

"There is no credible socialist alternative nor any growing support for it. Green politics, the great hope of some, remains even more marginal. Nationalism, as Paul Mason suggested, may eventually be a bigger gainer from the current global economic turmoil, with wider consequences that are hard to predict. Religious fundamentalism has nothing that approaches a widespread hold"

I don't know, I think the above quote from that Guardian article reflects the attitudes of the 'average person' more than you'd give it credit.

It's the impression I get from the majortiy of the people I know on around the average wage, your average office worker (towards the bottom end of that pay scale) etc in the north-east and the south. They might protest specific things (banker's pay, NHS reform) but the reasons behind aren't coming from a 'radical' place (see vast majority of NHS reform objections, which aren't about the principle, but the fact that it'll lower care standards in the short term/ generally fuck things up).

Basically, I'm probably seeing more conservatism in attitudes, even if there are more objections to government decisions.

Sometimes I think this is all part of a voluntary filter bubble, where you bounce off the views of friends, links, blogs, (zero) books + whatever else to give yourself the appearance of a shift, then its all deflated by a guardian comment piece that articulates what you think people in your office believe ...

(also don't forget the highest unemployment rates were in England were in Tower Hamlets in London as well as Hull and that the highest rates of unemployment are in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which probably help with the nationalism).

Alex Niven said...

I don't disagree that there is no widespread popular tide of radicalism now, but the extension in this piece into an argument about human nature is a profoundly conservative move. I just reject utterly the idea that this guy has some sort of insight into a popular British psyche. Again, this is a classically conservative thing to do, make sweeping statements about the "common sense" and "realism" of the "average citizen", the silent majority, the average joe, whatever.

Of course people are fatalistic, but unless you're a conservative, you don't think this is eternally inevitable, but because of specific material conditions that can be changed by, amongst other things, a left culture that tries to argue for and point the way to alternatives rather than taking an aggressively anti-reformist line like this piece did.

And re. unemployment, of course it's not just the north-east that's suffering, it's just an example I know about from friends who are not carrying on "tolerably well", rather they're angry without having anywhere to channel it: no political representatives fighting their cause, no-one in even the "liberal" press offering a shred of sympathy.

David W. Kasper said...

There's no such thing as British psyche, but there is a mainstream British ideology. One that cuts across voting habits etc. Most people do want to conform as much as they can with official 'normality'. This is how what's unpalatable to one generation becomes acceptable to the next. Hatred of the poor & unemployed has always been 'there', but it's expression as a popular sentiment has really grown since the 80s. The idea of the NHS as unaffordable and wasted on the 'undeserving' is rapidly gaining ground. I expect it will become as demonized as unemployment benefits are within a generation. The key to it is actual history vs. 'pop' history - like how the 70s are 'remembered' as a time of nightmarish crisis that needed sorting out. Or more recently, how our current wars are rebranded into being 'about' something different to what they were ten years ago.

Alex Niven said...

Sure, but accepting these trends as inevitable is basic conservative fatalism. I'm just increasingly horrified by the sheer apathetic keep calm and carry on mentality of the liberals. Perhaps expecting any different was naive but the number of Guardian journalists who are closeted (or not so closeted) Cameronistas is shocking.