Sunday, 3 May 2015

Ajockalypse Now

I'm being treated to a day away from my keyboard so I only have about fifteen minutes to unwrap this morning's news before I have to head for the train.

I've just read Boris Johnson talking about Milband in The Sunday Times and I'm not sure which part of the argument I liked the least. We have more baiting of Scotland with the headline phrase 'Ajockalypse Now', which might make a few people smile but I just frowned. It's more of that tactic we've seen at this election of deliberately winding up Scottish voters so they're even more pissed with the established Westminster parties. The more Tories wind up the Scottish, the stronger the SNP's hold is Scotland becomes and the weaker Ed Miliband's position in Westminster. I'm not Scottish, though my grandmother was, but I still find it shabby and insulting. I have no doubt that Boris would be making similar jokes if the election was going to be decided by voters in the north or the south west, or any area other than the great South East who seem to be the only people that really matter in this and every election.

Secondly, Boris came out with this gem. "Ed Miliband fundamentally doesn’t believe in the market. I don’t believe there’s any aspect of capitalism that he seems to relish or approve of."

Ignore what Miliband might or might no believe. Think instead about the thing that Boris seems to hold as an unquestionable truth. His faith in capitalism sounds almost religious. Why should anybody 'believe' in the market as though the market were some omnipotent being? I don't believe in the market but I can see that it exists. I can see also, in certain contexts, that it works extremely well. However, I can also see that the market is often deeply flawed and that's my problem with the current Tories: they seem to believe that society should be entirely aligned to the market.

Working on something else the other day, I came across Simon Mainwaring's book We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Renew Capitalism and Build a Better World. From the parts I had chance to read, it was pretty gushing about social media but, from my point of view, quite chilling in the way that social media was going to make people's lives indistinguishable from the patterns of consumerism. I'm probably not doing the book justice but I think the argument went that companies should aim to organically intertwine their business with people's every patterns of life. It was depressing but goes to what I think is the root of this election. It goes back to that phrase the Tories keep using and I find so troublesome: hardworking people.

It implies everything that the Mainwaring book pinpointed: that we are merely fodder for the consumerist meat grinder. Tories celebrate 'hardworking people' though rarely does anybody point out how many of the buggers earn in excess of £30,000 or £40,000 a year for just a couple of hours consultancy work each week. Hardworking or 'on a good thing'? I suppose only you can decide. Yet what do they really mean? That we should be happy because they give us mobile phones, Twitter, and a couple of hours a week to do something other than stick doorhandles on a car?

But that's my 15 minutes and here I have to end it. If you want more, I suggest you watch this excellent exchange between Kenneth Williams and Michael Parkinson, in which the subject of sticking doorhandles on a car in central to the argument (begins about the 7 minute mark). In case you're wondering, I think Parkinson is absolutely right.





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