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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

I see this comment a lot, and I’m tired of it:

“People don’t care about [public sector/higher education/benefits cuts/strikes/protests] because [group implicated] have it so easy. They should stop complaining!”

This is the biggest single obstacle to genuine change. It isn’t Labour MPs scabbing, it isn’t the Tories gleefully slashing at the bellies of the vulnerable, and it isn’t the tax avoidance of the very rich. It isn’t even the specious reasoning that ‘cuts have to happen.’ The biggest problem of all is the self-absorbed and cruel attitude of a significant part of society. “Sod these people trying to change things, I’ve got it hard and so should you!”

Who are these people? They seem to be omnipresent on the internet, filling up Guardian comment pages with the spleen of tiny-hearted misers. Everyone’s a scrounger, everyone wants something for nothing, everyone’s a thief and a liar and a violent thug– everyone else, that is. One can only assume that the commenters in question are hard-working, upstanding members of society.

This is what decades of capitalism and consumerism have wrought: a culture obsessed with a perpetually out of reach image of success, which we are told is attainable if we just work a little harder and behave ourselves a little better. And because we don’t live the life of ease that capitalism and advertising have promised us, the taste left in our mouths is the bitter ash of being hard done by.

Now, we could take this sense of injustice and turn it against the people responsible: MPs who have no qualms about campaigning on an issue and then backtracking once they’re safely elected (that is to say, pretty much all of them); employers who violate labour laws and get away with it because taking action against them is risky; the very rich, who profit from a system designed to exponentially expand their wealth; the police, who murder and assault with near impunity; the middle classes, who don’t gain as much from these institutions as the rich but still manage to hold onto their comfortable standard of living by stepping on everyone beneath them.

Instead, what appears to be the case is that society wants those who are already suffering to suffer a little bit more. They want the poor to starve, because obviously if they’re poor it’s their own fault for being lazy and on drugs. They want the working classes bound and gagged to prevent them from striking, because how dare they inconvenience more important people! No word on why disabled people are also expected to starve– their fault for not having magical healing powers, I guess.

This is the problem with our society. It isn’t teen mums or drug use or benefit fraud or divorce; it’s a culture of sadism. It’s not ‘reason’ or ‘sense’ or ‘sustainability’ or ‘value.’ It is, quite simply, the urge on the part of the privileged to make other people suffer as much as they can. It is sadism.

The urge to punish someone for things being fucked up is understandable. What isn’t understandable is the cultural equivalent of someone kicking the dog when they get home because they’ve had a hard day at work. I’m sick of it being rationalised and justified. Stop it.

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Up until now, I’ve been hesitant to write about this because 1) if I think someone is desperate for attention, I don’t want to give them any more of it and 2) I’d rather be writing about things I like. What’s finally made me do it is not just my intense dislike of Laurie Penny and her warm and fuzzy faux radical romanticism; it’s also the habit she’s getting into of getting snippy with people who have the nerve to call her out on her poor standard of work and her bratty, self-absorbed attitude.

Like her tweet from this past weekend (now deleted) which went thusly:

I misjudged yesterday’s demo. It’s not the movement that’s fizzling out – it’s me, my energy, after working without a day off for 4 months. As soon as I realised that, I turned round, walked away from the protest with just my coat and phone and got on the first train to the coast.

Melodramatic much? I’m sure all of us have little cinematic fantasies that we set to poignant music in our heads. But not all of us are foolish enough to post them on the internet, particularly in the context of a huge political movement. The only thing more pathetic than the initial self-involved tweet (now deleted) is her response to people calling her out on it. Watching Penny respond to her critics is like getting a lesson in How Not to Argue on the Internet 101. One of the chiefest signs that you don’t have a leg to stand on is when you try to be an interwebs badass and sort of vaguely threaten people. Laurie Penny apparently does not know that, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg that is her stunning lack of self-awareness. (more…)

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