On or about May 2008 human character changed. This is an age that pre-judges you as a Joker and yet expects you to act like Batman, it is the age of guilt before innocence. We on the left helped give birth to it, forgetting that the cynical right would always be better suited to molding it. The last era killed God; we are close to killing humanism.
The rather strange pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles of Acragas (he believed he was a god, back then in was rare, now all it takes is a Facebook account) argued that all epochs ultimately end up in fire. I think he is wrong, but millions are doing their best to prove him right.
Jacques Derrida believed that we had reached an age where every idea could be seen in a previous idea. That everything had become a reference. Everything was a nod to the past. We see that in our party today. Every idea is viewed on an historical spectrum. If everything has been said before, than you are not acting autonomously, but as a necromancer. Our party has become the battlefield of ghosts. This is a death without realising it. It is the politician as the historian.
Yet perhaps we dreamers of a better world had no choice but to die in an age that did not want us. The left will never win in an age of cynicism. It can’t – after all, at its best, it is far too earnest for cynicism. It is not a pithy quote on a t shirt; it is not a meaningless Brexit means Brexit. It is not a fucking meme. It contains what the deepest faiths have always contained – the ability to see that which is not there. It has the ability to create castles in the air. The cynical age has no need for dreams, it has laughter. It sees seriousness and belief as a weakness.
If you can’t beat them join them, was our poison. This is not a dig at New Labour cosying up to big capital or to Jeremy’s inability to make up his mind on freedom of movement. We gave into their cynicism, we accepted that politics was essentially a game and did not matter. We are still doing it; both Progress and Momentum have given into the overwhelming tide of the age. I see the cynicism in my local council selections where groups are picking candidates obviously unsuited to roles as long as it suits their petty power games.
The calls for a change of leadership miss the point. There is not a single Labour politician in parliament that would win a general election in this climate. This is not down to a lack of talent, we have plenty, but for the same reason Messi would not play his best football in a hurricane.
So is this my essay on the decline and fall of the Labour party? Sort of, but I see a way out. My friends in Progress tell me that they way out of this darkness is to go where the voters are. I no longer think that is possible. I think we must go where the voters aren’t, but where they once were. We must defend politics against the current of the age.
We should not engage in anti-establishment politics or in the mocking of intelligence. We should be the vanguard of evidence and meaning. We cannot afford to mock politics. We need people to believe in it again. We need councilors, MP’s and most importantly activists that don’t want to be the next somebody, but want to prove that political choices matter. Can we do that? That remains to be seen.
Do we believe in convictions, or do we share the squeamishness of them with the age. The right will always beat us in this climate. New Labour is a one-trick deal. You can’t be New New Labour, and Jeremy has surrendered to cynicism. Let’s believe that the ideal can become the actual. Let’s listen to the intelligent, let us not envy the talented, but use their ideas to make life better for most. Let us believe again. Let’s stand up against the age of cynicism and build a better age when it crumbles.