Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Your timing is way off


'Shortly before Christmas, I posted an item in the Corner called “The Conductor’s Podium as Political Platform.” This drew an unusually big response, from readers. I propose to examine that response and see what it tells us about our political culture today — or about our culture plain and simple.'

Relatively weird piece about importing politics into daily life when it may not be appropriate. I have a big problem with the central thesis: that its not polite to talk about your politics at dinner parties and public engagements. Why the hell not? Unless you have some raging phobia about disagreeing with people about anything and/or a phobia of being in conflict, why should politics be out of bounds?

And at this precise moment, when a controversial Republican president is being replaced by a controversial Democrat president, it is an extremely foolish thing to be seen to suppress the public expression of political preference. A certain amount of triumphalism and catharsis is inevitable at the end of a long political reign.

I vote Conservative (more than anything else) but in 1997, I voted straight Labour. I did so because for eighteen years the Conservatives had been more or less in the driving seat, and at the end of that period had become extremely jaded, lazy and disinterested with the rigors of ruling. They needed to be kicked up the arse. I felt extremely relieved, bouyant even the morning after the election, feeling that a tired and shabby bunch of people had been replaced by a vigorous and dynamic one. I'm sure many many Americans have the same feeling right now, probably many of them on the right.

What comes across strongly in the contributions sent in by people is the feeling that no matter how controversial or out-of-place the remarks liberal people make in a public gathering, they won't say anything themselves in response. How timid and pathetic is that? Why don't you boo? Why don't you stand up and shout 'George Bush rocks!' or 'Republicans are the doooooooooooods' or anything really? If its a public space, and people are declaring their political preference, I'd assume everybody gets equal time. Certainly you can act as if you do. Just sitting there quietly getting all steamed up makes you a victim. Do not be a victim.

I work in an industry absolutely crammed full of centre-left and far-left people, most of whom hate America (and often Britain too). I am not phased. I will happily go a few rounds with any of them, and do so on frequent occasions about their shibboleths and mine. Many of them are rubbish at argumentation, don't know the facts, and can be quite easily induced into ludicrous positions, so I often have an easy time of it. They then usually get personal and very occasionaly violent. But thats fine. Its a free country and I haven't lost my job, nor recieved any permanent scars. Quite a lot of my colleagues dare not discuss politics with me any more because they just lose, which is fine. And the ones I still discuss politics with tend to be the more knowledgeable ones, whether lefty or righty. So I win in every direction.

If you've ever read Tom Sawyer, you will remember the airs and graces and faux gentility which Toms aunt put on. It is exactly that Victorianish petit bourgeouis attitudinising which I believe underlies the harrumphing of these people about 'impertinent' politicising. Get over it people. Where is the Andrew Jackson tendency these days? Sigh.

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