A story from the Guardian/Observer website today got me thinking. It’s headlined:
Rising Ukip star on Roma in the UK, vaccines and racist gardeners
and it’s introduced:
Rotherham is a Ukip target in next year’s general election. Jane Collins tells how she hopes to unseat Labour by being ‘different’
Notice the adjectives “rising” and “different”. A prominent article in a notable newspaper of liberal leanings for a party with no MPs, no policies – and one narrative which, whether we like it or not, would surely lead to a business cataclysm and upheaval of unpredictable proportions. A similar thing, though on a separate part of the political spectrum, is taking place in Spain with the movement (I respectfully resist calling it a party for the moment) Podemos. Plenty of free media attention for something creating interest, it is true – but not with the credentials a careful democracy should perhaps require.
However, let’s try and focus on these dynamics from an apolitical stance. I’m fascinated by the fact – it’s undeniable – that practically all our media, whatever its political opinion, is drawn magnetically to change: in such an environment, it’s hardly surprising that an up-and-down approach to communication should be the rule. Whilst the peaks and troughs of idiotic statements capture the headlines day after day (no longer simple soundbites – more often unruly video exchanges designed to move us, almost assign us, emotionally from one monolithic bloc to the other), alongside the oft-quoted “he said, she said” journalism defining what they think we should think, it’s no wonder the careful, timely and intelligent chugging away of good practice ends up in the sewers of our perceptions.
Change, its aforementioned magnetic effect and practically all our media … yes! This is what captures the agendas of daily politicking. But it’s not only bad for the human race that constancy gets no publicity; it’s bad for those who enter the public sphere with the idea of working via evidence and humane values. In the end, their initial desire to “make a difference by focussing on the universal” gets consumed by all these up-and-down appeals to “listen to me and what I’ve got brand new to say” – which, in any case, is rarely ever even moderately new in an objective and historical sense.
They say that change is inevitable – so get used to it. What they don’t like to admit is change is not monolithic – nor, indeed, as inevitable as they suggest. Our instinct to popularise, promulgate and propagandise around change is extremely common, that is true (as is our habit of arguing that it’s always an opportunity) – but the universal needs of a society of social beings like those of us who form this humanity I describe don’t change half as much as the change merchants would have us believe. And if this we are to change at all in the near future, we need our media – that is to say, at least a substantial minority – to recognise that the chugging away of good practice I mention above is far more useful for that future than unceasingly spurious calls to perceive as positive, and to go ahead and opportunise, all dynamics of so-called change.
Just because it moves doesn’t necessarily mean it’s progress. And just because it’s stable (that is to say, doing its stuff silently behind the media veneers) doesn’t necessarily mean we should proceed to ignore its true worth.
And I don’t just mean within the fields of established politics, where plenty of examples tumble out on a daily basis. I mean also the new guys who claim – this time! – to be making a “real” difference.
Right UKIP, Podemos et al?