Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Field notes on the Character of the Ukip

With elections on the horizon there has been much chatter in the publishing houses of London about the rise of the Ukip. Rumours were flying that they were massing in the East, forming an army ready to threaten the Pax Europaea. Regretfully, this idle speculation over afternoon gin and tonics has not been accompanied by much practical research, so it was with this in mind, and the spirit of adventure in my heart, that I embarked from the students union at the crack of dawn on Tuesday the 20th of May, Year of our Lord 2014.

Ukips have few transport links, with only one perilous route into and out of most of their communities, but I heard there was the occasional train, so decided to chance my luck. Every carriage taking me further from civilisation was more dilapidated than the last. By the end of my journey there weren’t even phone charging sockets, never mind wifi access. I disembarked at a settlement called Skegness, a windswept place looking out over a great grey ocean.

Here I met the man who was to be my guide. A proud, moustachioed fellow, wearing pinstripes and a pocket square. It struck me how some elements of Western dress had spread even this far. The impersonation, however, is not perfect. It is as if the Ukip wishes to mimic aspects of our appearances, perhaps as a status signifier, but his view is distorted, a reflection of a reflection of a reflection. He told me his name was Roger, and it soon transpired he was some sort of community leader.

The Ukips, I learned, practice a strange form of democracy, comparable in many ways to South Pacific cargo cults. The oldest, greyest and most racist men are chosen and placed on a list. This list is then sent to far away gods they refer to as the electorate, who decide how many are to ascend to Brussels. This ascension is both an honour and a sacrifice for Ukips, in spite of the riches it offers, and Roger had done just this.

My guide informed me we were to visit a local drinking establishment, apparently the heart of their society. They encouraged me to imbibe a strange liquid, brown and lukewarm, which made me gag. In the corner stood a strange machine covered in flashing lights. Occasionally a Ukip would wander over it to it, gesticulate wildly and offer up some coins, in what I can only surmise was some sort of religious ceremony. As the night continued, I noticed some similarities between Ukips and the lads one sometimes meets on a night out. There was something more primal to the rituals though, a lack of self awareness, this is a people completely oblivious to our notions of irony.

The female Ukip is rarely seen, typically spending their days cleaning obsessively behind the fridge. Contemporary western notions of gender roles are almost absent here. At first I interpreted the society as strictly male dominated, but subtleties soon emerged. I discovered that on occasions the Ukip woman, one past child rearing age, may undergo something of a metamorphosis. They take on the exalted role of the ‘battleaxe’, a terrifying figure, looked upon by Ukip men with a strange mix of fear and sexual desire. I tried to engage several in conversation about this, but we shared so few cultural references dialogue proved impossible. Nobody had even heard of Judith Butler, though I left a few copies of Undoing Gender lying around, a token act of missionary work.

While it may seem to the untrained eye as if the Ukip is an uneducated savage, there is a certain nobility in their cultural poverty, and I learned a lot during my time with them. Before I left some Ukips even allowed me to take photos with them for my facebook profile, the memory of the innocent smiles on their faces will stay with me forever.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

A Smug Hipster Twat’s Guide to Voting

Election time. Your vote is worthless. I won’t insult you by explaining why. I’ll make a quick detour to laugh at those who think we could change this, but that’s all. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t vote. Voting is expressive, we enjoy feeling important, even if deep down we know we're not. We also vote to show we’re members of a particular group, and so that other members of that group will like us. You’re joining a tribe, with all that entails. Obviously we could just lie, tell everyone we voted for a party, and actually just stay at home masturbating, but the guilt would probably outweigh the minor effort of bothering to go to the polls. With that in mind I present my guide to the election-

Option 1- Don’t vote. Depending on your cultural capital either makes you look very stupid, or very smart. Don’t fool yourself into thinking this puts you above anyone else though, you're still playing the game. Also, the tribe of educated non-voters is small, and mainly made up of economists and extremist weirdos, but it’s a tribe nonetheless. In many ways it’s the political equivalent of normcore. People trying too hard to look like they aren’t, and assuming their blatant privilege marks them out as different from those they’re ostensibly imitating.

Pros- You’re above the petty squabbles of the masses, and have a rudimentary understanding of maths.

Cons- Your a dick.

Option 2- Vote for a very minor party. We can split this into two sub-categories, there are ‘novelty candidates’, usually about as funny as this unnecessary rape joke, and the no hopers. Since your vote is astronomically unlikely to matter, if a small party represents a small part of your views, go for it.

Pros- I voted for the Left Market Anarchist Yorkshire Separatists. You’ve probably never heard of them.

Cons- Same as pros.

Option 3- Tactical Voting. This is by far the dumbest option of all. You simply won’t be the decider, no matter how close the election. You might be able to convince other slightly below average people you’re not slightly below average, but where’s the ambition there? Of course, the tactical voter can still tell everyone who they really support, but they’ll be viewed with suspicion, everyone loves a noble loser chasing a lost cause.

Pros- You appear pragmatic, with an even more rudimentary understanding of maths than option 1.

Option 4- Creative ballot spoiling. This would be the ideal option, if only it weren’t weirdly illegal to post selfies from the booth. Still, if you’re going to the count it might get held up, and you can annoy the candidate who kindly invited you by pointing it out.

Pros- Express yourself (you can’t be wrong).

Cons- You have to think of something much more interesting than a write in for Batman, or nobody will care.

Option 5- Wild, bizarre voting. Pick the party that least corresponds to your views, just to show other people how quirky you are. Show up the sheer absurdity of the system by ticking a box completely at random, and trying to justify it post hoc.

Pros- It’s not beyond the realms of possibility Zooey Deschanel votes like this.

Cons- Zooey Deschanel may accidentally become a neo-nazi, and no amount of irony is going to get her out of that hole.

Option 6- Vote for a major party you actually believe in. Maybe in a world of incessant post-modernism, the truly po-mo thing to do is to go mainstream? Maybe you can change them from the inside? You’ve met some of them before, shared a few drinks, a few laughs, maybe they’re not really blood sucking parasites? You met that one MP once, he seemed personable, maybe he’s different? Maybe a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world?

Pros- Choose leisurewear and matching luggage.

Cons- Choose delivering leaflets and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Capital in the 21st Century - Reclaiming the Left for Cishetwhitemen

Thomas Picketty doesn’t understand much about the 21st century. If his book cost a little less than £30 I might have paid for it, and if it lasted a little less than 700 pages I might actually have read it. I managed the first few chapters, skimmed the next few then skipped to the policy recommendations before going back to play racist grindr 2048. Despite this, I’m pretty sure most other people with an Opinion haven’t read it either though, so I’m on relatively safe ground. In summary - I’ve no idea if anything in this book is true, it’s long, expensive and boring, and what it has to say has been said elsewhere countless times since. Review over.

BUT it’s already the most influential single piece of left wing literature of the decade, maybe the century. The reason relates as much to tone as to content. Pikety is calm and rational throughout, almost dispassionate. He’s putting a case forward, but doesn’t hector the reader, or attempt to blame them. This is marxism for the managerial generation, the solutionists who think themselves above petty ideology. It doesn’t matter what the numbers and the graphs are saying, the fact that they’re there at all allows those of a wonkish disposition to open their minds to far left ideas. The reader isn’t encouraged to empathise with the victims of rising inequality per se, but to see it as a problem they can solve, provided they’re clever enough.

For a book from the left to focus so resolutely on economics is unusual in recent years. Since the demise of the USSR and the ‘triumph’ of ‘neoliberalism’, the ground has been almost completely surrendered. Even post financial crash and austerity politics, everything is viewed through a social prism. At worst this can become self obsessed and nihilistic but at best it focuses attention on the lived experience of the worst off, building from the bottom up. Picketttty, on the other hand, has no intention of radicalising the masses, the whole argument is aiming from the top down. There are plenty of soft liberals out there writing on finance, but marketing serious expansions of state power in the same way is revolutionary. It’s left wing thought devoid of identity politics, privilege checking and post modernism, and that’s why it’s succeeding. Though it seems pretty unlikely Pikcettey’s recommendations will happen any time soon, he may have shifted the Overton window of the political classes. If so, the long term impact could be massive.