The Rambles of Neil Monnery

Another pointless voice in the vast ocean that is the interweb

On the radicalisation and the ‘us’ and ‘them’ nature of modern politics…

without comments

Depressing.

That is how I describe modern day politics all over the world. Can it be just eight years since a black man was first elected as the leader of the free world? That win was born out due to both hope and disappointment in the other choice. A landslide victory in a two-horse race doesn’t solely come down to people liking you, but in people liking the alternative less. We are seeing the same thing happen in the States now but instead of two politicians going at it, an angry man is fanning the flames of hate in an attempt to gain power and whether he’s ultimately successful or not, the fact that he’s in the race in the first place says everything.

Here in the UK we don’t have a two-party system but the truth is people are becoming radicalised and instead of progress they want change. People who want change think that the game is fundamentally wrong and the only way to change it is by doing a complete u-turn. For generations the major party closest to the political centre has won because that is where the majority of the voters lie and here’s the kicker, they still do but the activist bases are increasingly moving further and further apart.

Jeremy Corbyn has essentially won the soul of the Labour Party by tapping into this base of people who think the game needs to be changed. The game is rigged against them they think and he’s the man who speaks up for them. They are supercharged and energised to fight for him and for what he believes in. They do not believe he can do anything wrong and wherever he’s erred according to the media, it is the medias fault for highlighting it. By vetting him on his actions it proves that they have bias against him so goes the logic. It just dumbfounds me.

The people in Labour should rally behind him and back him. If they don’t like him as leader then they should get out. Yet when it is pointed out that he himself rebelled against his previous leaders more than any other Labour MP during the 1997-2010 Labour government, it is stated that he is principled and fighting for what he believes in. You can’t have it both ways yet many believe that you can. You can call Jeremy principled for standing up for what he thought was right under a previous leader because he is just one man but when lots of people disagree then that is just plain wrong. You have to laugh.

As a sidebar anecdote, as many of you know who read this I am hilariously unattractive and one of the worst human beings on the planet in terms of potentially forming a relationship with (true story) but I potter around on dating websites from time to time and on around a third of the profiles I click on on OkCupid, they’ll be some form of line saying something like ‘don’t message me if you are a Tory or ever voted for them’ or ‘Tories are evil’ something along those lines.

Now I’ve never voted Tory nor ever considered voting for them but if I found an amazing woman who had voted Tory or even still did, would that automatically mean that I wouldn’t want to date them? Hell no. That type of shallow shit is furthering the ‘us’ and ‘them’ narrative that I fear is taking over many people’s thought process.

This goes to another issue that I think has helped causes this division between people. The social media era. I got involved in a Facebook thread last week (which I try not to do because they are a distraction from the important things in my life – MasterChef Australia) but one thing I brought up that people disagreed with was that in this social media, we can talk to many more people than we would before it and we tend to talk to people who broadly agree with us. People who we find we disagree with regularly we tend to block or disconnect with. We don’t like to have our opinions questions, we prefer to have them confirmed.

I firmly believe that if you surround yourself with people who think like you then you are bound to become more cock-sure that you are correct. Most of us will have friends on Facebook from school who say voted radically different to us in the EU Referendum. We’ll have been shocked by it and wonder where they went wrong. Back in the day when you went to school with them you won’t have cared that they had differing political views than you. Some won’t care now. Yet I bet you a significant number of people who are extremely politically motivated will resassess those friendships with those who thought differently to them on such a passionate issue.

As people we want to be right and if we are to be right then those who disagree with us must be wrong.

The problem with that sentence is of course that if we are to believe that then we have to believe that everything is a black and white issue. Right and wrong. In reality that is very rarely the case in any form of life except facts. An opinion can never be wholly right or wholly wrong. The thing is the ore we surround ourselves with people with the same opinions, the easier we’ll see our opinions as facts and fall into groupthink.

Across the world we are seeing radical people and voices rising us because they feel emboldened by having their views re-enforced by others on social media. It is more accepted to have a strong view that goes against conventional wisdom because you can easily find many more with the same view. Donald Trump is pretty clearly a misogynist and a racist. Put those two things together and you can’t see how he’d ever gain political traction but yet here he is. He has gained traction because he is exploiting those fears that the Leave campaign exploited in the EU Referendum. Emotional fears based not on facts but on opinion. With more and more people being able to share opinions, the groupthink net widens and voila, here we are.

In the Democratic nomination process Bernie Sanders would likely have won had he not had such a slow start. Had he been able to gain traction say two-three months earlier or at least put together a real plan that he’d run a year or two before he did then he likely wins. It is because party members want it all. They don’t want compromise. They want to be 100% right.

Bernie of course also did very well with independents because he appealed to those who thought with ideals instead of electability. The middle ground is no longer a safe place politically (bugger) because you are right or you are wrong. Had the Republicans nominated John Kasich against Hillary Clinton then Kasich would have likely won in a landslide. He was the candidate that people wouldn’t have to hold their nose for, would have appealed to the broad independent base and even Reagan Democrats. He was a slam dunk winner but remember, political leaders aren’t voted for by the electorate but by the membership.

That is what Labour here in the UK have to understand. Yes Corbyn has won two internal elections of Labour members but does that automatically translate into a wider electoral success? No it does not. If there was a vote within my own family as to who the person was who’d make the best next England manager, I would win in a landslide. If I open up that vote to include non-Monnery candidates then I think I might struggle. That is of course an extremely analogy but winning an internal vote amongst people who are energised by you does not equate to winning over the larger electorate who are deeply sceptical.

Yet if you speak to a Corbyn (or a Trump) supporter you’ll often make them saying very similar things. The media is out to get them. Their man is right and everyone else is oh so wrong. They don’t see nuance and they don’t question their leader on any level. The extremes of politics say exactly the same thing regarding their electability, they have exactly the same excuses when they get negative press and they both not only worship their leaders but also believe anyone who disagrees is not only wrong but also a bad person who they don’t want to associate with.

The extreme left and extreme right aren’t very different when it comes down to it. They both want someone to blame and someone to hold up as the gold standard. The more politics (and indeed society) goes down the route of ‘us’ and ‘them’ the more the human race goes back to a period I had hoped was in our past. I wrote a few months back that the older I get the more I realise that life is less black and white than I thought when I was younger. I fear that for many the opposite is true and that is not good for anybody.

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Written by neilmonnery

September 27th, 2016 at 2:26 pm

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