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November 20, 2014



> From feminists calling out a guy for wearing a dodgy shirt to Ukippers demanding free parking and a return to the 1950s, we see a demand that everyone defer to one's own wishes.

Nail on the head. Democracy has become "voting for what I want". It should be "voting for what is best for all.

Perfect example is the remorseless boomers+ with their unassailable democratic majority all voting for enslaving the young for their benefit. They jeer "go and vote".

This is simply mob rule. It's little more acceptable than any majority physically coercing a minority into slavery.

Age of self is also spot on, great program. Something went utterly wrong in the 1960s that frankly created a generation of narcissistic bastards who have no pity.

I wonder how far they will go before they have even a flash of regret in their eyes? It certainly would be far after the point where boomers+ ride the young like horses around town.

The young are like the new blacks/Irish. They are simply dismissed as stupid and lazy. Nothing to do with an unfair system. It's a great example of daemonising a minority even though they are their own flesh and blood genetic attributes are given to them that don't match the parents. Insanity!


Robert Wyatt also sang 'Amber and the Amberines' (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZasOktoDtSQ) with the refrain: 'Everone needs to feel at home/Nobody wins who fights alone'. Labout could do a lot worse than have that as a slogan.


Absolutely. it's about mindless tribalism; take offence first, think later. The speed that social media works at allows Twitterstorms to gain prominence quickly and for those on the receiving end not really having any opportunity to deal with them in any rational way. Individually, they're rational, together they're a mindless zombie horde, regurgitating the same lines.

There may be a reasonable point to be made, but it's completely drowned out by this wall of noise. Gamergate's also a great example of this.



I don't think it's tribalism. It's selfishness, which isn't the point of democracy.

I wish it were tribalism at least there might be some ideology in there.

Typical example. Older voters get lots of freebies because votes *will* change sides.

* Politician from PartyA offers free travel.
* Politician from PartyB offers free travel *and* triple lock.

Both these options should be met with the question - who will pay for that. Answer: the young

What happens? Greed takes over, PartyB gets in.

It's an auction for votes paid for using the young. How to fix? Only if people grow a conscience can this be changed. PartyA can't change it because if they fail to match PartyB then the latter gets in and the former can't influence events.

Luis Enrique

people may have turned away from the substance of politics. I don't think Cameron and Milliband have turned away from trying to win people over, even if they are surprisingly bad at it - I mean Milliband, come on, you let Myleene get away with saying £2m only buys you a garage in London.

just by the by, I found myself talking to (non-UK) people who witnessed Cameron's involvement in the UN development process (he co-chaired the SDG panel) and they all said he was tremendously impressive, really on top of the material, very persuasive, a great political operator. Which rather stunned me. So I asked some left-wing DFID friends and they said the same thing, noting it was ironic Cameron is completely unable to boast about it because his party hates aid. Odd to think of Cameron impressing observers, maybe we all look at domestic politicians through a warped lens?

Igor Belanov

Very few people have ever voted for 'what's best for all'. This could be regarded as a shame, though it is difficult for an individual to actually identify the common interest, if indeed it actually exists. Let's just say it would be better if there was less unthinking selfishness.

What is clear, though, is that selfishness is not a phenomenon restricted to post-1960 politics.

gastro george

"Something went utterly wrong in the 1960s that frankly created a generation of narcissistic bastards who have no pity."

I think you're referring to the 80s.

The late 60s and 70s were an era of reputed "freedom", but it was very wide-ranging. Everything hardened off in the 80s.


George. Watch Century of the Self. It puts forward a theory that the 1960s "freedom" was the "freedom" to express your individualism through consumerism. He has this as the start of the rot that went into over-drive in the 1980s.

IMHO now voters outwardly admit they will vote in their best interests alone as though this adds up to the best interests for the UK. They are not even ashamed it's simply they think it's interchangeable as they haven't thought about it much, as one tends not to when looting.

Dave Timoney

I'm amused that a post on how politics has been overtaken by narcissistic tantrums should prompt a comment blaming the baby-boomers for being "bastards who have no pity", riding around on their graduate ponies.

The political change in society did not occur suddenly in the 60s but was a generational shift between the 50s and 80s. Where previously people saw their individual (i.e. selfish) interests best served by collective action, by 1979 enough of them believed their interests would be best served by individual "liberty". This reflects a change in material circumstances and perceptions of power, not of ethics.

It is always foolish to imagine that human nature changes much, even over long periods of time. If we are selfish and narcissistic today, then so were our parents and grandparents. What does change, in line with material circumstances, is the prevailing ideology and the corresponding self-justifications we devise for our actions.

Where once we vaunted collectivism as the product of altruism (the left) or patriotic self-sacrifice (the right), now we vaunt individualism as a form of craft authenticity (the left) or robust common sense (the right). Consequently, politics takes on a personalised form in which we express our "values" by deploring emblematic individuals, from Ched Evans to Russell Brand to Ed Miliband.

But this is little different to deploring groups in society (imagined as well as real) as homogeneous bundles of bad behaviour, from baby-boomers to muslim cabbies to jews (or, conversely, to lauding them as homogeneous bundles of good behaviour).

There are always horses and there are always riders. The trick is to identify the categorical difference, not worry about the jockey's silks or the horse's tack.


Perhaps they gave up on paternalism, now its run a focus group, feed back what they want to hear and book ourselves a holiday. Way way back there did seem an element of 'you may not like this, but it will be good for us all'. All depends a bit on what you mean by 'democracy', I suspect a bit of benign dictatorship may be needed from time to time.

People collectively are rather greedy and rather stupid, it is foolish always to pander to their collective wishes but to deliver 'what is good for them' is a heavy responsibility. I am expecting any day a brown OHMS envelope demanding that I stop drinking, eat fewer pies, turn down the thermostat and spend all my savings. I shall of course ignore such advice. Self-interest, greed and stupidity are good for me, Adam Smith said so.

But paternalism is a heavy responsibility - 'what is good for them', 'what is good for the country', 'how best to steer the economy', pity the civil servant charged with answering such questions. Far easier to run a focus group, the last bastion of the clueless marketeer, ticks all the boxes and you are seldom criticised for it - but it is cop-out all the same.

Deviation from The Mean

I think the examples of vilification of individuals is an attempt to get heard in all the noise and affect culture to your way of thinking. This is founded on a belief that the root cause is human ideas and not underlying circumstances. So the whole PC era was built on this, along with legislation to back it up. Racism was reduced in football grounds not because economic conditions changed or that people become less ignorant, it changed because of legislation and a lower tolerance for racist ideas - pushed by authority.

I think this is why we live not in the age of the self but in the age of hysteria.

But it does get results (which is why it is so popular a tactic), even if on a superficial level. Which seems to be enough to satisfy many people.

In many ways it is an attempt to introduce censorship veiled in liberalism, but I just would call it censorship.

gastro george

@Ben I'm a great admirer of Adam Curtis, and it's true that modern individualism can be traced back to the 60s, but it's foolish to say that such individualism is a *result* of the 60s. It makes you sound like Tebbit. This was also a time of mass collective action (how often do you see that today?), and very significant political advances, especially for women, gays, etc. Liberal advances like this may emphasise indivdual freedom, but they arose out of mass solidarity movements.

But much of that ran out of energy towards the end of the 70s. and was suppressed once Thatcher came to power. That enabled "hard" individualism to take over. That's an over-simplification, of course, but you must also be careful about simplifying things yourself.


Deviation - I'd agree with the racism example being superficial. Nu Labour simply banned it with over-the-top punishment. But they didn't persuade people it was wrong.

This is why we see the rise of UKIP and lots of comments on the radio about immigrants. It never went away. It was a superficial censorship.

This will come back to bit us.

Deviation from The Mean

Ben - I partly agree though without wishing to contradict myself new communication technology has probably had a fundamental affect on these attitudes. The move from producer to consumer society has probably played a part, after all, gay people are now a potential lucrative market rather than a threat to decency!

Neil Wilson

I'd call it 'Toddlerism' - extreme individualism without regard for others.

Icarus Green

But doesn't tribalism lead to political theory? This idea that philosophers, and in the modern day, political scientists, live in a vacuum and treat politics like some kind of abstract puzzle is a bit amusing.

A lot of output of political theory for instance exists as a response to the events and environment of the day. A massive chunk of modern political theory deals with the unbridled exercise of arbitrary power. Before that we just got eulogies about how great the king was.

Checks and balances in government, voting systems for parliament, different arms of government, constitutions and independent judiciaries all were proposed to limit arbitrary power. Proposing and even conceiving of this stuff is inherently tribal.

The questions above posited by some commenters are just so bloody boring - should people vote for themselves or the collective interest? Is Magnum dark better than Magnum white? How many stars are there in the galaxy?

The main political question of our time is whether Magnus from the hunting club and his meathead goons will prevail and abolish any real democracy where we can even debate esoteric normative political questions, much less produce policy around it. Whether we don't morph into some sort of Asian sham democracy where a privilaged elite reproduce themselves and silence free thought.

They hate democracy. They hate it so much. They wish they didn't have to go through the whole charade of elections. Of finding actors and PR people to head political parties, that they didnt have to flood campaigns with money to brainwash turkeys to vote for Christmas or set up thousands of think tanks to publish freedom is ignorance papers to influence people, that they wouldn't need to bribe politicians.

This difference in philosophy over whether arbitrary power should be limited or not is the only thing I care about.

Dave Timoney

@DFTM, re "Racism was reduced in football grounds not because economic conditions changed or that people become less ignorant, it changed because of legislation and a lower tolerance for racist ideas - pushed by authority".

Au contraire. Racist chanting in grounds peaked in the 80s, in no small part due to the NF/BNP infilitration of hoolie firms following the failure of the Oi scene. While the authorities focus on hooliganism helped isolate the firms, the turn against racist chanting and violence more generally was as much down to fashion (Madchester), consciousness-raising (fanzines) and repulsion over Heysel and Hillsborough. This process was accelerated by the shift to all-seater stadia and the increasing embourgeoisement of football.

The authorities have remained laggards in combating racism within football.

Deviation from The Mean

"Racist chanting in grounds peaked in the 80s, in no small part due to the NF/BNP infilitration of hoolie firms following the failure of the Oi scene."

Having attended footy matches in the 80's I am afraid to say the racism was more general and casual than this. Therefore I would reject this claim. I always remember the sight of some middle aged man walking up the steps to the entrance and as he did so uttering racist expletives to people sat in the stand, with no resistance it should be noted (I just looked down I am afraid to say).

"the turn against racist chanting and violence more generally was as much down to fashion (Madchester), consciousness-raising (fanzines) and repulsion over Heysel and Hillsborough."

My recollection of fanzines was hilarious satire aimed at opposition players and managers, especially the rival local teams. Your other examples seem ridiculous to my mind.

"This process was accelerated by the shift to all-seater stadia"

That may have played a part, but that is what I mean by legislation.

"the increasing embourgeoisement of football."

I would love to know what that means.

Dave Timoney

@DFTM, your model of social change implies that the authorities pass laws and we change our behaviour accordingly. The reality is that legislation usually follows and confirms shifts in mood or changing material interests.

The alacrity with which football clubs introduced seats in the early 90s reflected their realisation of the commercial opportunities that had become apparent with the launch of the EPL. A key part of this was attracting more high-spending fans (i.e. more middle-class = embourgeoisement) to the grounds while simultaneously displacing and expanding the low-spending sector via TV.

Legislation reflected the growing social unacceptability of racism. It was an effect, rather than a cause. It's also worth remembering that part of the purpose of law is to remove the burden of responsibility from the individual faced with objectionable behaviour. In other words, when the indifference of the many turns to tight-lipped irritation then the law will not be long in coming.


Individualism/identity politics/anti politics, they all go far wider than feminism and as you say, too often ignore or decry institutional structures. But doesn’t this indicate both the power and downside of non hierarchical grouping? They are easily led. The current tyranny is ideas/truth markets run by corporate journalism. Better than its kin: mega tribalism with a strong man up front may be, but nonetheless harmful to social democracy when it isn’t required to care for value, let alone people, only price. You say Ed Miliband failed to make the case for a mansion tax: well he didn’t ridicule a fellow guest on a TV show for sure, but in parliament, in the correct place, he most certainly did. In the process he ridiculed a prime minister with no other place but Myleene Klass (but the media) from which to defend his position. Making hay? I certainly hope so.

Igor Belanov

As a regular attender at football matches since 1984, IMHO I have been shocked by racist remarks or chanting in the last 20 years largely because it has become so rare. I feel a major part of this has been a steady trend towards tolerance of minorities, and the fact that as the 80s progressed so many teams' best players were black and it would have taken the hardened far-right to appear so ridiculous as to abuse them.
FATE is right about the fanzine culture as well. In the end there were a lot of bandwagon jumpers who formed fanzines just to attempt humour, but it was initially a grass-roots response to reclaim 'fandom' from hooligans, shatter stereotypes and provide a retort to football-haters in the media and the government. I think it was quite successful, particularly when combined with the increased sympathy football supporters received post-Hillsborough. The sanitizing effects of Premier League commercialism also played a less welcome part.


Is this an argument for having lawyers (barristers in particular) as politicians? They spend their time knocking down shit arguments in front of sceptical and ill-informed audiences (judges). Blair, Thatcher, Clarke, Howard, John Smith would have demolished Klass ( or probably Farage).


How politics is run. Suppose Chris could produce an objective, non biased economic policy guaranteed to deliver 'the greatest good to the greatest number over the next 10 years'. A government implementing such a policy would have to take a leftish stance some years and a rightish stance in other years to keep the policy on track. The concept of right and left would tend to vanish, politicians could be judged merely on their ability to follow a policy.

However, coming up with an unbiased policy guaranteed to deliver the greatest good etc is a tall order. Worse still 'the greatest good' may not look all that attractive to many of us. Then what would all the think tanks and lobbyists do, poor things. In any event the policies we actually get seem to be 'how do we muddle through the next 5 years'. Makes you wonder if economics has any predictive power at all.

Doc at the Radar Station

You have been repetitively bringing up some interesting themes lately:
1) Narcissism
2) Hyperreality

Check out a sample of this guy's stuff if you haven't already:

He says that he's a Freudian, but not a Marxist. Maybe you can change his mind..

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