Just to let you know, dear reader, at times in this article it may sound like I’m derogating the general situation or decrying a loss of civility in wider society or lame things like that, but I am actually complaining about you personally, as your own behaviour is at the centre of what I’m talking about and it is completely within your power to address it. And, I’m sorry, but if you consider yourself left wing then you really are chiefly what I’m thinking of. We cool? We cool??
If you are left wing, you are (generally, generally, generally!!) concerned with supporting the community rather than the individual but also want the state to make it as easy as possible for a human being to express themselves freely and with a truly equal framework of opportunity. That’s cool and- you know what?- I probably agree with you. If you are right wing you are (generally! Gen-er-motherfuckin’-ly!!!) concerned more with allowing the more successful people as little impediments to their achievements as possible, you think the best state is one that interferes as little as possible, that things like high taxes and overzealous bureaucracy only discourages human potential. You (GENERALLY!!!!) thank that to support the less successful financially is actually just encouraging people to ‘do nothing’ and removes the impetus for them to truly excel. That’s cool. I don’t agree, but we both honestly believe that our positions on society are what’s best for either the good of the community/country/world or just, y’know, yourself and your own family. Maybe the latter’s more important to you. Maybe the former’s more important to me only because it will increase the good of the latter. Maybe we both think that the former plays a part in improving the latter but without the latter being dealt with the former has no chance but without the former being stabilised we don’t even have a latter but then what is the former if not just a larger collection of latters and the latter and the former both need to somehow work in synergy? Yes, that’s probably the one statement we can all agree with.
The reason that I felt the need to continuously emphasise that I was only talking about the two political poles generally is because there is a lot of (wait for it, wait for it, WAIT FOR IT) grey area (BOOM!!!) on either sides that we’ve just kind of forgotten recently. People are left wing because they believe in the existence of a ‘money tree’ that will upset all the joys of unfettered capitalism and they just want to enact Sharia law and abdicate the Queen in favour of some disabled transgendered Muslim. And where was Jeremy Corbyn on 9/11? Have we made sure he has a solid alibi? Because if he doesn’t, we have to assume that he was flying one of the planes, don’t we? I mean, unless we see some concrete evidence otherwise we have to assume Corbyn was bumming Nawaf al-Hazmi and screaming out Marxist slogans as the planes hit, don’t we? And why isn’t the news concentrating on that?! And also, what about Hilary Clinton’s emails, yeah? What about them??
The right? The right?? The right are just Nazis aren’t they? Donald Trump? Nazi. Boris Johnson? Nazi. Fleetwood Town? Eleven Nazis trying to hit balls as fast as they can into a poor defenseless goal that you have to imagine they picture as the Star of Bethlehem that their fascistic balls of authority will smash into obedience! Highbury Stadium? More like… more like… more like Highbergen-Belsen Stadium, ammi right?! Yeah, high five. High five. High five. You too, Jerry. Yeah, high five. High five. You as well, Sandy? Yeah, high f… Hmmm, you’re a bit too far away. OK, air five! Air five. Air five
Here’s the thing. The thing is here. Waiting for that thing? Well, it’s coming up now. We’ve all been conned into this. We’ve been herded into separate sides like particularly docile Brown Swiss Cows. There’s no money to be made, no clicks to be fed on, no outrage to be monetised if we’re all conscious consumers of politics. It’s harder than ever for media to make actual money, so rather than spend time and resources crafting well researched and thoughtful pieces, it’s more important now that news goes viral by spouting as much easily digested and easily shared fucking nonsense as possible. This new low attention bullshit favours horse-race politics and hot-button culture-war issues, plus rapid-fire argumentative “takes”, designed to confirm readers’ existing prejudices, or trigger scandalised disagreement. And now politics is fricking everywhere! When I was younger, in the morning father and I would read in the Mercurius Politicus that Charles Watson-Wentworth had announced that we were at war with The Republic of Salé. We would have the whole day to process, debate and frame the news, over hot Bovril and cigarettes down the mines, or something, before we would hear from Nicholas Witchell on the Six O’Clock News that the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham was actually misheard and it was Bob Marley we were at war against, which we were all in favour of because we were getting really sick of that Don’t Worry Be Happy song. We got news about politics twice a day. We had time to think about it. We could appreciate the grey area. Now, The Republic of Salé Misunderstanding would play out more like:
07:00 Your phone alarm goes off and you’re greeted with the rumour from Politico that we’re soon to be at war with The Republic of Salé.
07:01 Buzzfeed chimes in with 10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Republic of Salé, where you learn that Salé is actually an alright place and we maybe shouldn’t be at war with it.
07:02 BBC News flashes you with the ten politicians who are FOR the war and ten who are AGAINST.
07:03 A Twitter video of Boris Johnson apparently claiming that Salé is a “Full of rantallions, zounderkites and fopdoodles” goes viral and someone sends it to you in a DM
07:04 You are notified of a new YouTube video arguing that the BBC article from 07:02 was actually incorrect, with six of the politicians who are FOR the war actually being AGAINST and seven of those AGAINST it actually FOR and the remaining seven actually being neither FOR or AGAINST because they’re actually Lethal Weapon 3 action figures rather than actual politicians.
07:05 Someone sends you an article on WhatsApp claiming that Salé is only of interest because of its oil reserves, and the seven politicians who are actually Lethal Weapon 3 action figures are actually for it because, dude, what do you think action figures are made of?
07:06 A video of someone claiming that The Republic of Salé hasn’t existed since 1668 starts gaining traction on TikTok
07:07 The Guardian blings you with an opinion piece on how war with Salé would be worse than the Nazis, yeah?
07:08 The Telegraph pings you with an opinion piece about how not standing up to Salé now would be like not standing up to the Nazis, yeah?
07:09 Two separate friends share two separate posts on Facebook about how “rantallions, zounderkites and fopdoodles” should totally be the words of the year, and also how they are all really, really racist.
07:07 You sit on the toilet for your first dump of the day, already violently disposed toward a certain side, and you will be out in the streets protesting before Bob Marley is even mentioned.
There’s no time to reflect, no time to process and no time to really form our own opinions. Opinions are what are formed between the notification chimes, and recently there has been next to no space between those calls to trauma. And no side is ever imploring you to ‘sit back, think about this, for fuck’s sake. Also, am I even accurate? Better check that as well, yeah? Just, like, chill out for a second, yeah?’. I work in charity*, and while a lot of people might assume that in the sector we’re implored to HELP EVERYONE ALL THE FUCKING TIME DON’T STOP EVER HELP HIM HELP HER HELP EVERYONE ALL THE TIME AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!! but actually we’re always encouraged to know what our own capacity is. I’m often taking volunteers aside, after they’ve stayed for hours after they were scheduled to leave to try and help some poor refugee solve every problem they have, and trying to carefully explain that they don’t have the time nor the mental/emotional capacity to solve every problem. It’s important that you do your best, but you have to know what your best is. Surrounding yourself with politics is the same, we need to recognise how much (or, more importantly, how little) we need to consume to get what we believe is the best picture. Participation in politics is a virtue in the same way that, for example, staying fit is a virtue? A person who visits the gym occasionally is doing something good; if she goes regularly, she’s being really good. But if she spends every free moment at the gym, so that her friendships and work are starved of attention, she is doing something pathological. That is because physical fitness is a largely instrumental virtue. It is good because it enables you to do other things, so if you do it to the exclusion of all else, you have missed the point. If you do it so strenuously you injure yourself, you have missed the point in a different way: now you can’t pursue fitness well, either. There is a case to be made that our fixation with the news might work the same way. By according political news such centrality in our mental landscapes, we may be squeezing out the very things politics was supposed to facilitate, and simultaneously doing injury to democratic politics itself. Take a breath, cool down, you might start to understand why all those fat, ugly idiots didn’t vote the way wanted. And they might think the same as you. Because, I’m sorry, you’re all exactly the fucking same.
(*Yes, yes, that does mean I am better than you, and in many different ways, but we don’t have time to list them all. Seriously though, I work in charity because it’s very good for my mental health and it’s a sector that especially cares about its workers’ wellbeing. Maybe you prefer a higher risk, high workrate insanity, that’s cool, I’m just essentially a lot lazier. Give us a tenner though, and we’ll call it even x)
And we are all the same! We all vote what we honestly believe would be best for the country or simply best for us and our family/community! There are actual Nazis out there, and I’m not in any way saying we allow them a pass because it’s a ‘difference in opinion’, just that we understand what is and isn’t extremism. Your Uncle Ted voted Conservative, but he’s as likely to be heading down to Homebase to buy a bamboo torch and marching down Chesterfield high street with Britain First as your vote for Labour is going to make you join the IRA. He voted Conservative because he wants to feel safe, and didn’t feel that, when faced with the uncertainty of Brexit, now was a good time for the revolutionary policies suggested by Labour*. He was worried about how the untested cabinet would fare with the economy in such a testing time. He didn’t like Corbyn’s glasses. Maybe he was pushing questions about racism to one side because he felt it was best for the country to ignore such matters for now, which is, of course, completely different to how you’ve treated questions of antisemitism in the Labour party, isn’t it? Yeah, maybe Uncle Ted needs to diversify his media a bit, yeah? Like you, yeah? Because you read The Guardian newspaper, The Guardian website and, ocassionally, The Guardian app, yeah? That’s three different sides! Get over yourself, chat with Uncle Ted, you both want the same things.
(*Also, he’s old, and old people- and I can’t stress this enough- are fucking stupid! OK, sorry, I know, I’m part of the problem. Do I talk about Little Simz yet?)
Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse wrote a brilliant piece not long ago about the insanity of several articles popping up debating how to ‘survive’ Thanksgiving with family members who support Trump. Many even advised that if civil political discussion with MAGA hat wearing Uncle Ted threatened to become too stressful, you should probably just stay home. This is the admission that political commitments are more important than family life, which is, in the words of Jonathan Swift, “Arse over fucking tit backwards, yo!“. One of the main points of democratic politics is to help guarantee the universal enjoyment of things such as a family life. When you’re with Uncle Trump, or even considering anyone who votes differently that you, the point is not to seek agreement or compromise, but to grasp that we are not fully defined by our political allegiances. As Talisse puts it, “in order to treat each other as political equals, we must see each other as something more than citizens”. Boom. Mic drop, etc.
Little Simz though, yeah? (2227 words in) ‘Grey Area’ is an absolutely astounding album, and one that immediately catapulted the South London rapper to one of the most noteworthy artists working today. It’s one of the greatest hip hop albums of the last decade (there, I said it) but it feels ridiculously parochial to encase it within its genre. What Little Simz does is realise the very potential of rap music to craft a stunning musical statement. It’s an amazing album that’s only rendered more amazing through its hip hop element. It makes you realise that music rarely sounds this energetic, this inspiring, this fucking exciting without rap. There are no wheels reinvented on ‘Grey Area’, but it’s as close to a perfect 35 minutes of music as you’re likely to hear. And, I’m sorry, but the somewhat one note and slow Dave album winning the Mercury Music Prize ahead of Little Simz was a travesty.
Don’t play it to Uncle Ted though, you know how he feels about ‘those types’.
Yeah, I know, part of the problem…
We finally break to big 9-0