Sunday, 18 December 2016
Michael Sheen says he is leaving acting to become a full-time political activist and fight the good fight against – wait for it – the rise of the far right. This will, necessarily, involve rubbing shoulders with some of the country’s great malcontents. He will spend time in the company of militant vegans, foul feminazis, crazed conspiracists and especially in Port Talbot and its environs, disciples of the church of Anti-Thatcher, whose sole contribution to the debate is that it is all the fault of the woman who let their grandparents buy their council house.
It’s a curious thing, yer actual human; the most resourceful species on the planet and also the most miserable. Gloomy pessimism is so central to human nature we’d die out without it. Expecting the worst prepares you for it, so, in the event of anything less, you are ahead of the game. But you can take a predilection too far. Dreading failure is one thing; actively engineering it is quiet another and the current mood among the malcontents, stoked up by the fervent imaginations of the perpetually aggrieved, is destructive in the extreme. Whole swathes of impressionable children – and I include Sheen in this collective – are being swept up in the hysteria.
Once upon a time in Europe the Black Death claimed significant slices of the population; many never reached their teens, let alone their twenties and an old age pension, had one existed, would have had to come into effect before your thirtieth year to have had any recipients. In an age which pre-dated politics for the masses, survival was a matter of chance and how the dice fell was left to the church to explain, a task it performed spectacularly poorly. It all comes down to information and how you use it. Then as today, ignorance disguised as divine insight perpetuated the notion that somebody else was to blame; it’s the pessimists’ mantra.
In the early nineteenth century, when machines promised great efficiencies, the hand-weaving Luddites, instead of embracing this progress and using it themselves, destroyed what they saw as the instrument of their redundancy and in doing so hastened their own demise. What they fought against was inevitable and part of a progress that would continue to bring greater prosperity to all, admittedly at the expense of a few. ‘Twas ever thus; despite all the portents of doom, despite all the forecasts of abject poverty and inhuman treatment we live in times of unprecedented ease and plenty
And one of the most plentiful resources is information. The trouble is that our ability to process it dispassionately has become severely hampered. Whether it is poor critical thinking skills or a lack of general education or simply a prolonged infantile attitude which makes hard reality much trickier to grasp than fancy folk tales, the Luddites are back and this time the machines they are fighting are themselves. By the careless use of social media, the acceptance of fake news as true and a general appeal to puerile identity politics, the protesting classes have convinced themselves that the quiet ballot-box revolt of ordinary people is somehow an orchestrated uprising.
Mr Sheen... notice how the duster is in his LEFT hand!
So, Michael, people too stupid to understand have been manipulated to vote against the forces of globalisation? People ignorant of the facts have been organised into rabid lynch mobs to racially abuse immigrants? Gangs of incredibly thick peasants have been duped into ushering in the agents of their own destruction? These stupid, stupid, stupid people have somehow managed to ‘overthrow’ your desired order by exercising their right to one man, one vote? The rise of the right? It is nothing more than the rise of the right to have your views known. It strikes me that the ignorance, the mobs, the mass protests and the rabble-rousing are still pretty much the preserve of the left. Going to help make everything clean, Mr Sheen? Good luck with that.