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Friends and neighbours, we cannot go on like this

24 Sep 2023 5 minute read
Russell Brand leaves the Troubabour Wembley Park theatre after performing a comedy set. Photo James Manning/PA Wire

Ben Wildsmith

There are 10 types of people in this world: those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

In the thuddingly tedious, infantile hellscape of UK politics, you can distract yourself from deepening shame by playing a simple parlour game. It goes like this. Find out what someone believes about a random news story, then use this information to predict their views on every unrelated topic.

This week, for instance, we are all required to have opinions on two matters: the sexual opportunism of an overheated vaudeville act with philosophical pretensions, and how quickly you should be able to drive through Ferndale on your way to pick up your wife from the bus stop outside Tylorstown Welfare Hall.

In saner times it was permitted to hold opinions on these matters which were independent from each other. I can’t remember the debate over compulsory seat belts being coloured in any way by people’s stance on Frank Bough’s efforts to reposition knitwear as the libertine’s garment of choice.

If, however, somebody offers their opinion that YouTube’s decision to demonetise Russell Brand’s videos is a sinister curtailment of free speech, you can safely run to the bookies and bet the farm on them being opposed to the 20 mph speed limits here in Wales.

If your co-worker admires Meghan Markle’s approach to marriage, you can safely assume that they are accepting of climate science.

And, just to maximise the Twitter abuse I receive this week, if your butty reckons, like me, that our rugby team should replace the three feathers on their jerseys with a dragon, then don’t get them a Jeremy Clarkson boxset this Christmas. Not if you’re expecting an affectionate time on Boxing Day.

Confected bilge

Logically, these matters have nothing at all to do with each other but let’s face it, logic went out of the window some time back.

When the heavy axe of the Brexit referendum splintered everything asunder in 2016, every conceivable facet of human existence fell on one side or the other and began drifting in opposite directions.

Since then, the polarisation of political opinion has become so absolute and all-encompassing that we don’t really need to develop positions of our own.

To save time informing ourselves about the confected bilge that is pumped our way in the name of current affairs, we need only to see what the other side thinks before taking the opposite stance.

Oh, apparently Russell Brand is being cancelled because of thus far unproven accusations about his private life. What does Toby Young think about it, and just to make sure, Darren Grimes? They’re urging caution. In that case, he must be a wrong‘un and deserves everything he gets

Or, if you clung on to a different piece of driftwood in the post-referendum Titanic re-enactment.

What’s that, particulates in the air from older vehicles cause demonstrative harm to the developing lungs of children? Surely then, we should encourage a reduction in the manifestation of this public health menace… but hold on! Sadiq Khan believes in this science so, by definition, it must be wrong…

Friends and neighbours, we cannot go on like this. Firstly, next to nothing is getting done by our politicians. LBC’s James O’Brien, whose intelligence is eclipsed only by his delight in his intelligence, likes to characterise the tribal nature of current politics as ‘footballification’.

Cheapened and commodified

That suggests, though, that an actual game is being played. What’s really going on is a UK full of spectators wearing shirts whilst the players perform pitchside interviews without bothering to kick a ball.

Andrew RT Davies I’m looking at you.

There is a general tragedy inherent to this, as we all watch our standards of living decline by the month without any apparent democratic redress.

More particularly, though, the people whose lives are genuinely affected by the daily ‘issues’ these shysters exploit find their personal heartbreak cheapened and commodified by a system that is supposed to protect them.

Rape complainants; children with poorly lungs; refugees; motorists on their way to shitty, underpaid jobs; junior doctors; trans people; female athletes; all of us in the end are being fed into a meat grinder by people whose only ambition is personal attention.

As Rupert Murdoch retires, we need to recalibrate our political machine to nullify the malignant division that he has sown in our communities.

The seductive, binary satisfaction that ruined our consensus in 2016 needs to be replaced by voting systems that force our politicians to seek agreement and eject those who refuse to try.

There are only two types of people in this world: those who care, and those who don’t.

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8 months ago

They should add a system of scoring points to BBC Question Time, to make it a proper gameshow.

Hywel Davies
Hywel Davies
8 months ago

A beautiful piece of writing. How did we drift into such a hate filled void ? Brexit, Covid, Trump, Twitter have made idiots of us. It is laughable in every sense.
The sleep of reason brings forth monsters .

8 months ago

Lovely writing. A pleasure to read

8 months ago

The right has developed the whole culture war as a means of circumventing having to come up with intelligent, coherent arguments. Once you persuade people to choose one ‘side’ or one ‘team’ you can then feed them any old mad garbage which they’ll lap up because – hey! – it’s “their” side, and all that’s important is “beating” the other side….

8 months ago
Reply to  Grimble

By proclaiming the right as ‘baddies’; do you consider yourself a left leaning individual? And if so, does that make you a ‘goodie’? If this is indeed the case, aren’t you guilty of practicing what you’re complaining about?

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