Arguing the toss, spiked style

This week: why bother with politics when it’s impossible to change the world?

Why do you bother?

With these conversations? I do wonder myself.

Thanks. No, why do you bother with spiked?

What do you mean?

Well, you claim that the point of spiked is to change the world, right?

It’s a small ambition, but a good one.

But you must realise that there is absolutely no chance of that happening.

I don’t agree. Sure, I know that the kind of fundamental social change that has happened in the past isn’t on the agenda at the moment. But if I didn’t think that politics could make a difference, I’d do something else.

You know, I understand where you are coming from. I read the newspapers and think about the world. Sadly, it’s the bovine masses that are the problem.

Bovine?

People are just stupid, aren’t they? They watch mindless TV programmes, listen to mindless music, read trivial bullshit online, then go out and mindlessly buy consumer crap.

Really?

Yes! Would you put those people in charge of society? I don’t think so. They really don’t know what’s good for them.

That pretty much sums up one major barrier to social change. The barrier being you, that is.

What?

I have a lot more faith in humanity than you do, clearly. I believe that people are basically rational and are capable of creating a better society than we live in at the moment. Unfortunately, the political ideas of the past have been a failure, the ideas of the present offer no solutions, and so most people have not unreasonably concluded that they need to muddle through and do what they can to make the best of a bad situation. The answer is better politics, not name-calling.

No, people are just stupid. They are helpless morons hypnotised by the appeal of consumerism and they will lead obese, unhealthy, miserable lives bringing up the next generation of obese, unhealthy, miserable people unless those who know better step in to help them.

Wow. Do you have a lot of friends?

I have a lot of friends. We sit around after dinner parties worrying about the times ahead while everybody else is overwhelmed by indifference. And the promise of an early bed.

Presumably, after you finish cooking up the risotto, you cook up more ideas about how to control the bovine herd?

Pretty much.

Well, like I said, I think politics can make a difference. But before that can happen, we need to try to create the conditions in which politics might flourish again. And that means a resolute defence of the individual as a rational being who does not need to bow down to the state and its endless interventions in our lives. Take free speech for example.

Now, you see, we actually agree on that. I think for many people, free speech is a good thing. Not everyone, obviously.

It’s not free speech if it’s not for everyone. Then it’s just privileged speech, for the ‘right’ people. And that’s my point. If you think speech should be controlled, if you think that some ideas are too dangerous for people, then you basically rule out social change straightaway. So that’s where we need to start, by demanding free speech and other basic democratic rights. If people are convinced that even ideas need to be controlled, then we can never get anywhere. On the other hand, if you do have free and unencumbered debate, you never know what sort of dangerous ideas might emerge. Like the fact that your life is not mapped out by your genes, your parents’ child-rearing skills, the wiring of your brain, or anything else. Like the fact that we don’t have to bow down to Mother Nature, Gaia, or anything else because we can transform the world to make it better for humanity. Like the idea that your destiny is in your hands, and society’s destiny is in all of our hands.

Nice speech. I think I’ll stick to the risotto.

Whose recipe do you use?

Jamie’s. It’s so easy and tasty.

You mean Jamie Oliver, the one who produces cookbooks that everyone buys and is permanently on TV? The guy who has chain restaurants coming out of his ears?

Yes…

Who’s ‘bovine’ now?

Rob Lyons is associate editor at spiked.

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