The politics of victimhood is a dangerous beast. Whilst UKIP has long practised it in its pursuit of political notoriety, using false perceptions of immigration realities to whip up a casual furore amongst those who feel bewildered by our globalising world’s latterday speed of change, and whilst certain elements in both the Tories and Labour have preferred in a quite cowardly and triangulating way to simply go along with the narrative, in truth it only leads to the start of a banal fascism.
That fascism is already here.
Yet, for the moment, that politics of victimhood I mention seems to be working for the UKIPs amongst us where it doesn’t work for the progressives. I used to tweet at the Twitter account @eiohel; stopped for a number of reasons already described previously on this blog; and then realised, in dawning hindsight, that one of the more important dynamics which drove me finally to let go was that so many of the people I followed on this account were deliberately promoting the aforementioned politics of victimhood – though well within what I am sure most of them perceived as a framework of a left-wing nature.
By saying this, I don’t question their honesty, truth or integrity in any way. I just question whether their strategy – simply summarised as persistently using and exposing, for all to publicly see, their own declining standards of living at the hands of this awful Coalition government – will succeed in winning over hearts and minds outside their super-informed and well-organised support networks.
To my mind, now, after suffering their pain from the outside looking in for a long and unhappy three years or so, I’m not sure it will. For the first time in as many years, the Tories are above Labour in the opinion polls. And it’s not that I don’t approve of Labour’s leadership – quite the opposite, in fact; quite the opposite. But I suspect that where Labour have preferred to also use the same politics of victimhood which is apparently working so well for UKIP & Co, and which they see being used to great (though limited) effect by those very real and yet empowered victims in the Twitter- and Facebook-spheres, for progressives – progressives who really wish to show they are progressive – it is simply not enough to bewail one’s suffering. It is not even enough – not even even appropriate – to bewail one’s suffering and then tack on a
pointed piecemeal process of policymaking. No. In truth, if there is to be a real difference between rank fascism (wherever it is to be found) and a progressive stance in relation to this currently pitiful and intellectually poor world we are both sleepwalking into and actively permitting, then it must lie in how we tell our stories.
Let us not complain how poor we are, how badly treated we find ourselves, how bullied and discriminated against this society does make us. That is the UKIP/Tory way. That does not ennoble us. That sings no different a song to any voter out there.
Instead, if we are to learn from our recent past at all, we need to show that voting Labour makes you smarter, cleverer, happier and more sociable.
Social-ist. Skim off from all this corporate-devised social media the instincts to share, collaborate and act that could so easily make for a better world.
Democracy not as a goal but as a tool. Not as a destination but, rather, a way of seeing.
And leave the politics of victimhood for those who would believe they are to be nothing but the acted-upon.
Not us, though.
So yes. Perhaps the thought will upset you. But appealing to people’s compassionate sides so overwhelmingly as the sad evidence now allows will only create a debilitating fatigue. Labour needs leadership which doesn’t fall into the easy trap of choosing to reaffirm our prejudices but, rather, prefers to go down the route of enabling our ability to draw out the positives in life. And to cross over frontiers of humanity.
In a way, like art itself, like a good kind of mathematics too, Labour needs to be a party which doesn’t gather votes to itself by subtracting from life but – instead – appeals to and facilitates people’s lives by adding all the time. Not a mania for Gove-like change so that bully-boys can demonstrate their ability to thump legislative tables. No. An intelligence which observes and truly learns from what history can teach for the better.
“So stop complaining?” you ask. “Is that what you say?”
Maybe so. Stop complaining, yes – perhaps that is what I mean.
Don’t forget any of what they’ve done, by all means. But do use your memories to reverse – quite as fast as you can – out of personally, and politically, destructive victimhood.