Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Girl with a One Track Mind

As I mentioned before, whilst camping in Wales I read several Guardians. In one of them there was an interview with “Abby Lee”, the pseudonym of a woman whose name I can’t remember.

Anyway, for the last two years she has been writing a sex blog. Recently she had it published as a book, and she was also “outed” by The Telegraph. She seems an interesting person, and considers herself a socialist.

Today in The Week I read an article that claimed that George W Bush’s Republicans had lost the approval of the South Park Republicans. As much as I like South Park, and agree with their general sentiment, I disagree with the specific “…I hate conservatives, but I really hate fucking liberals…” where their general sentiment is the idea that you’re either a bible-bashing redneck or a self-righteous liberal activist like Michael Moore. I feel sympathy with my fellow disaffected youth across the pond, but why don’t the Americans realise that everything that underpins America is liberal.

For Americans it seems that “liberal” has become synonymous with soft, self-serving (in the sense of personal image, rather than the financial selfishness of conservatives), smug, celebrity driven causes. In some cases it seems that “liberal” is almost seen as being …shudder… socialist!

I know there are probably millions of USAmericans that are liberal and also aware that Michael Moore is the worst sort of propagandist (the ones we all feel we have to agree with anyway), but my overwhelming impression of America is of blindingly stupid (and inevitably old and decrepit) politicians, largely ignorant masses, a healthcare system like something out of the 19th century, and of course George W Bush.

OK. Here’s the problem. Every day people go out into the world in whatever country they live in and try to earn enough money to pay the bills, feed the kids, and maybe generate a little surplus for enjoying the finer things in life. However if we’re going to do this effectively we need to compartmentalise our lives a little. Those of us who read newspapers regularly, watch TV, read blogs, and generally try and retain a feel for the world around us have to build walls between “real life” and “news life” in order to function.

By this I mean that if we were to suddenly realise exactly how lucky we are, and also realise the the existence of and the depth of the suffering and hard work of people in other countries are required to undergo to ensure we have eight different types of coffee to choose from, or innumerate plastic toys shoved into our semi-recycled child's portion meals we know damn well we shouldn't be buying but feel oddly compelled to anyway.

I don't know what we'd do if the repressed masses abroad decided they'd had enough of selfish fiscal policies and corporate-based economic repression, but I doubt it would be very pleasant for us.

Stereotypes are a neat way of compressing all the information that streams into our consciousness (or would if we paid any attention to it) into a nice, clear little labels that mean we can get on with the business of living without having to worry. This kind of mental compartmentalisation is quite important, but can be a problem as well.

The problem is stereotypes are such a damn-fine brain tool that we’re always a little reluctant to give them up.

Somewhat tortuously, this brings me back to Abby Lee. For me, the key flaw in socialism is that is replaces economic tyranny (e.g. the wage slave or the inhabitants of 19th century workhouses) with a different type of control (as in Stalinist Russia or North Korea). I think key to any reasonable socialist state is democracy which, for some reason, always seems to be lacking in radically socialist (i.e. communist) countries.

I would probably describe my own political position as secular, humanist, liberal-socialist democratic. In terms of the less-than-perfect "political spectrum" I'd say I was ever so slightly left of centre.

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