I am sick to the back teeth with the absence of nuance I am currently witnessing. I shouldn’t have to state, once more, for the record, that the extremes of any political viewpoints are full of frothing at the moth morons who have arrived where they are by a mixture of jaw dropping idiocy, a knuckle-dragging absence of curiosity and a shoulder-chipped belligerence in the face of truth and beauty.
Let us take, by way of an example, the story of our most recent act of self-abuse: Brexit. I follow commentators from both sides of the debate, as I am someone who claims to believe in a moderate path. Both sides make me want to bang my head against the nearest brick wall, such is the deficit of comprehension I have for both of their points of so-called view. They are shite-peddlars.
The die-hard Remain folk have been calling for a rewriting of the vote since the results were called. The fact that we have now reached an impasse does not make their case any stronger; in fact the case for any sensible course of action, for instance a second referendum, is devalued by the simple fact that they have been calling for one for so long. They view anyone who isn’t with them lockstep as a moron, and a racist. While many may well be, dissent is no reason to treat people like children.
The die-hard Leave folk have been crowing about a glorious future set to be taken from them ever since the vote was so narrow no conclusive decision about the preferred direction of travel of the British public could be ascertained. They are another group of people for whom the very concept of dissent is anathema. I have even been called a “traitor to democracy” for suggesting that any new vote should not be taken on the same basis as the first, lest it devalue any democratic value it has.
I sail a path down the middle of the two camps. On one hand I am disgusted by the ability of the British to embarrass ourselves on the European stage as often as we have, for as long as we have been part of the European project. From dithering about on the edges of Europe, to demanding a veto and a rebate and a rewriting of rules, we have been nothing but a waste of space at the table.
On the other hand I see the free movement of people, goods and services as something which has benefited us immeasurably over the years. I have flitted my way across borders throughout the Schengen area for the whole of my adult life, and I have revelled in the bliss of all things Norwegian and Swiss. I am committed to the peace and the prosperity brought about by the European project.
I have a small Border Terrier dog, called Bob. Bob is a terrified terrier: he barks when he is scared; he barks when he is excited; he barks when someone is walking past the house; he barks when people park in the same street as we live in. He’s a crap indication of whether we are actually in any danger whatsoever. He reminds me greatly of the extreme ends of any political debate; he reminds me of the bored, lonely, irredeemably stupid people who post on news message boards all day, every day.
In the same way that Bob will see anything and everything as a threat to be defended against, the result of which is a tirade of barking, a cacophony of volume which turns the whole house upside down, the nutters on Have Your Say and the like will go off like a rocket whenever there is a vague whiff of a story which could possibly offend their views. And they’re usually from the right wing.
The idea of BBC impartiality; the idea of thin-skinned millennials; the idea of religious, sexual or any kind of cultural freedom: all of this threatens them and appals them in equal measure. It is self-evident – in their view – that the influence of moderation and respect is corrosive and divisive, and anyone who does not agree with them is a “Brompton bike riding middle-class liberal”. Idiots.
However, the notion of the thin-skinned millennial is as real to me as the much discussed bigfoot: I have heard much talk, and I feel much contempt, but I see no direct evidence for their existence. I see plenty of evidence of hipsters ruining all of the things I enjoy – either avocado or coffee, not a combination of the two, please – by making everything cost too much. I don’t think they’re exactly the same thing, but they are both equally as hazily defined, and as frequently reviled as far as I see.
What I do see are condescending celebrities with far too much time on their hands promoting the same causes – using your vote and loving the NHS at the brilliant end of the spectrum; repeating the same lazy criticisms of the same lazy politicians and pointless infighting at the less brilliant end of it all. Their bland self-congratulations turn off the left and infuriate the right in equal measure. They are as guilty of the use of dog-whistles as any of the white supremacists we hear too much from.
I understand that this is a fairly febrile moment in human history, with many people feeling that we are on a certain path to the end of days. That is no reason to stop listening and to start abusing each other; it is no reason to loop the same three half-baked notions every time the internet allows it.
The lack of nuance in this country’s political debate has left so much of what we have rotting away to dust. Our ability to stifle debate, just so that each and every one of us can have our own fifteen minutes of fame bewilders me: in so many areas, we could have progressed, but we chose instead to shoot ourselves in the collective feet, and complain that the doctor wasn’t mending it fast enough.
The NHS has been used as a political football by successive governments, leading to the waste of many billions of pounds of resources on botched computer systems and the bureaucracy of complex layers of administrative areas and hierarchies of non-clinical management. Care has come second.
There has never been a sensible debate on the place recreational drugs have in our society; even the Americans have proven less puritanical and afraid of pillory-by-press than we are about this issue.
The country is demonstrably safer than ever before, yet the rhetoric is that of fear, intended to keep us in our homes. We are afraid of a non-present threat, and levels of fear are escalating all the time.
The anger of the extremes – the most certain in the least tenable of views – are the ones who have put us in this position. I am sick to my stomach that they are still able to wield so much influence.