I haven’t read Tony Blair’s intervention on the subject of going back to blowing up pieces of Iraq. I should do but I haven’t. The very idea is painfully tortuous: a medieval rack for the eyes one might argue. An “eye rack” in fact.
It’s not a joke either – even as it makes out it’s a pun. In a world where so much information is now being distributed visually, our poor old windows on the soul are being mercilessly pummelled.
I’ve always considered myself a reader of certain understanding; always felt I was generally good at detecting a hollow thought or an empty lie. But latterly I’ve begun to lose faith in what I considered my former ability to discern the wheat from the chaff. Now, whilst doing so, I feel I’ve begun to keep the chaff closer to hand. The wheat is becoming for others to value; maybe, in the end, for none of us to care about.
Where Blair has been right all along is to draw our attention to the dangers of a post-modernist relativism. Where he’s been utterly wrong, meanwhile, is in his solutions to this issue. Solutions which range from faith schools to US presidential colonialist adventures to an anti-democratically stratospheric body politic. Yet, in a parallel universe, a man of his talents and intelligence and abilities to synthesise complex informations could so easily have – maybe would so easily have – decanted for an evidence-based approach to life, society and the future.
But perhaps in our universe this is just one simple step too far. How much easier it is to stand on the ceremony of prejudice; how much easier it is to act out of historical tablets of received opinion – an opinion as tidily written by one’s compatriots and supporters as any self-serving professional could hope for; how much easier it is to side with an opinion that never gets down amongst the dirty dirty of death, pools of violent blood, maimed limbs, war rape – and endlessly long queues of detachedly, hardly walking, eye-racked human beings.
It’s daft to repeat the obvious any more. But here I go, right ahead, doing it anyway. Politicians have a job; they see this clearly as their job; their job is to do and act out and perform what no one would ever do if they themselves had to get down amongst that dirty dirty. The job of politicians (as seen by the politicians, as seen by those who act as their hangers-on, by those who live by what politicians do, by those who make a living from the actions that emerge from political discourse) is to take decisions that – always, everywhere and every time – are directly designed to damage a huge minority of the people (where not more successfully an actual majority) in the interests of an idea of some idiotic sort or other.
Ideas are such powerful diamond-like things to be turned around in the light. They glitter and shine like daggers to the heart-like parts of humanity. In a sense, then, politics involves the simply enabling of pain: dressing up pain, that is, in calm and collected speechifying in order that those who may suffer the consequences – generally that huge minority I mention above (where not the actual majority I also refer to) – understand, appreciate and more importantly resignedly accept the inevitability of the processes put into place.
Democracy isn’t just an “eye rack” any more; democracy isn’t just a standing on the ceremony of prejudice either. Democracy is a cruel stamping on the everyday bunions of all those low-waged, unwaged, poorly-employed and under-employed people who no longer – even where it was ever the case (which I doubt) – find themselves in possession of the time to properly participate in society.
“Eye rack” is no longer just a dagger to the heart of international relations. “Eye rack” is also what the brutalising effect of sanctioning the legal killing of so many men, women and children in far away places has had on our wider political class and the politicians who form a part of it. When it finally becomes easy – and if not easy then certainly commonplace – to order from thousands of miles away the killing of collaterally innocent people, in the future (though highly unpredictable) interests of supposedly “better” societies, who wouldn’t find it far less of a tiresome chore to commit his or her own people to the simply corrosive violence of austerity?
Attacking the disabled is but one example of this: an example of where a generation of foreign violence has impacted the moral compass of a whole class of political operators to the extent that – as people are forced to take to food banks in their millions – these professional makers and shakers bat not an eyelid when they find themselves in government and with the power to affect circumstance; meanwhile, in opposition – as the counterparts of the first coldly allow such suffering citizens to be used as long-term strategic cannon fodder in two-, three- or even (now) four-way battles – the parties across the floor find themselves similarly unwilling to question the fundamental assumptions that led us here.
Life, humanity and societies are closed systems. It’s mathematical, Mr Blair & Co. And by Mr Blair & Co I mean all politicians, whatever their hue or cry. You push and hurt those at this end; you’ll end up being equally pushed and hurt at the other.
In the end, violence begets violence. Though sometimes the violent at the top of the pyramid get away with it long enough for the history books to end up truly loving them, cementing their positions in such a way that we are reminded more of the splayed hands of Hollywood stars than the concrete boots they’d formerly deserve.
That’s been the lesson of “eye rack” all along. But in what they’ve called an information revolution, nothing has really changed at all.
Well, one thing has.
Violence has now become acceptable for the sophisticated.
Violence has now become a tool for the cosmopolitan.
Violence doesn’t make you bad any more.
Violence just makes you expediently efficient.
And what’s more, violence of all kinds and types and classes has ended up part and parcel of good governance in a way that was never the case before.
Certainly, never the case before this Coalition came along.
This Coalition, you understand, of the