Monday, 30 January 2017
It’s a phenomenon I have been observing for some years now, the propensity of a good and growing number of the population of this sceptred isle to seize upon victimhood, rally round a cause – any cause will do – then convince themselves of the veracity of their intelligence, as opposed to the clear evidence of their own eyes. The Tory Party is secretly engaged in a war against the little people, selling off parcels of the country’s infrastructure to private enterprise for the reward of holidaying on Branson’s island, or partying on some billionaire’s private jet. They are the conductors and guards on the gravy train, packing in ever more paying passengers and stealing their luggage. Yes, Tories will do anything for money and they, literally, skewer babies for sport. We know this because people like Owen Jones tell us it is so.
Did you ever tell ghost stories round a campfire? If you didn’t you missed out on a vital developmental experience in understanding the separation of fact from fiction. A ring of glowing faces lit by firelight and beyond them, the impenetrable dark. Open-mouthed and barely breathing you listen to the tale-teller, seeing nothing beyond your closed circle of sameness; all part of the same Scout troop, identi-kit proto humans. The narrator intones the sacred passages, passed from teller to teller over the years, until you get to the part about the lunatic escaped from the asylum and in your mind you all see the severed head as it is gently tapped on the roof of the courting couple’s car.
But then, in a moment of climactic horror, your heart leaps into your mouth as the assistant scoutmaster leaps into the circle with a blood curdling scream. The jolt both intensifies the horror then brings relief as adrenalin floods then leaves your system. It was just a story, no matter how much you were bound up in it; just a story. The bogey man has left the scene and normal life resumes, the only bit of fiction left, a vestigial fear to instil the occasional blurred nightmare.
But imagine if you weren’t in a story. Imagine if your town changed its character in a single generation and the incomers began to oppress and threaten its citizens. Imagine if the traffic was stopped by people reciting the memorised but dimly understood passages from an ancient manual of supremacy while sticking their arses in the air. Imagine the early morning peace being shattered by the garbled and distorted wailing from tinny loudspeakers. And imagine areas that are de facto off limits to whites, women and homosexuals, enforced by the threat of violence. See then, the leering faces of ugly old men in beards appearing all over your television channels to tell us that islam intends to dominate and then subjugate the country. Imagine all that but not being able to wake up, because it's not a story, it's not a dream, it's real.
If you were to sit around Owen Jones’ righteous campfire you wouldn’t see any of that. As they told each other stories of their goodness and light – the true fictions of today – you could look in but they couldn’t see out. You watch as they enact their own rituals, each signalling to one another until this virtuosity comes full circle. Trapped in this self-affirming cycle, this ‘universe of me’, they invent their own demons, secure in the knowledge that as long as they stay in the bubble they can believe.
But there’s good news for the rest of us, awake in the real world. While the counter-Trump demonstrators are self-flagellating in the cold winter rain today they might like to reflect that decades after the ban-the-bomb marches we still have the bomb. Following the never-ending referendum rejection protests the UK is still on course to leave the European Union. And tomorrow morning Donald Trump will still be the most powerful man on earth...