UKIP and Greer – The Second Tragedy

As Oscar Wilde once observed, there are two tragedies in life: one is not getting what you want – the other is getting it.  As an astute profiler of human nature, Wilde saw clearly that human beings can go off the rails just as often by getting what we want as we can when we don’t get it.  Sometimes we’re like a cat that asks to be let out, only to sit and stare at the open door and wonder what to do.  We pine for liberation, but when we get it we don’t know what to do with it.

Such is the case with UKIP.  Though they had other campaigns under their umbrella, they were basically a single-issue party set up to push for exiting the EU (as the process was then called.)  And they won – and now they don’t know what to do with themselves.  Instead of disbanding – or staying around just long enough to supervise the terms of Brexit – they have begun an internecine squabble which has resulted in them electing four leaders in the space of one year:

Basically they don’t know what they’re for any more.  They got what they wanted and now they don’t know what to do.

A similar thing happened with Left Unity, a party set up as a response to Ken Loach’s film ‘Spirit of ’45’ in despair of the (then) Labour Party ever doing anything to defend public services:

But when Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader most of us switched back to regular Labour (having found Labour Lite utterly unsatisfactory) and it was thought by many that Left Unity should disband and throw its weight behind a Corbyn-led Labour Party.  But once set up, things have their own momentum (pun not intended) and people are often reluctant to let them go.

It is in this light that I am struggling to understand the recent behaviour of Germaine Greer.  As one who was hugely influenced by ‘The Female Eunuch’ in the ’70’s, I cannot comprehend the person she seems to have become, making statements that seem to wholly contradict the stance she took back then.  OK so she wants women to be strong and to fight back, but to dismiss the #metoo movement as ‘whingeing’ is just plain wrong, as is her insistence that in the old days:

“there were movies – the Carry On comedies, for example – which always had a man leering after women. And the women always outwitted him – he was a fool.”

I have to say that’s not my recollection of the ‘Carry On’ genre at all.

There’s a lot to this debate and this article deconstructs it much better than I can right now:

Kirk out

Ugh! Knackered In Paris? UKIP if you want to…

Ugh!  Horrid awakening this morning to find out that our worst fears have been realised and UKIP have won substantial slices of yummy electoral cake.  I’m sure 90% of it is a protest vote which won’t translate into winning at a general election but it’s not good all the same.

On the other hand, considering that Left Unity have only been going officially since November, they did pretty well where they stood.  They got nearly 9% in Wigan and 3-4% of the vote in other places.  That’s not bad for a party barely six months old.

But what really drives me crazy is apathy: the people who declare, often proudly, that they ‘can’t be bothered to vote’ or that they ‘aren’t going to vote because they’re all the same.’  The point is, whether or not politicians are all the same, or all out for themselves (and I don’t believe they all are) they are going to make decisions which will affect your life.  Like Sartre said, whether or not you concern yourself with politics, ‘la politique, elle, s’occupe de vous’ – politics concerns itself with you. *

He’s right.  Politicians will make decisions in your name whether or not you vote for them.  And the one hold we have over them is the fact that if we don’t like them, they’re history.  Thatcher made the mistake of thinking she could do whatever she liked: she pushed through the poll tax, and she paid the price.

It’s all we have – and it’s not negligible.  Consider countries where people can’t elect their leaders – or, more importantly, get rid of them.  Think about what kind of society we’d have then.**  And then consider what others went through so that we could vote.  This is particularly significant for me as a woman, and I often think about what the suffragettes suffered, just so that I could put that cross on a piece of paper.

And as for saying ‘my vote doesn’t count’ – what if everyone said that?  What if everyone said, for example, ‘my money doesn’t count’ when they’re thinking of giving to charity or, say, buying fair trade goods?  History has been changed by such actions.  Journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, as they say – and frankly, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

Bit of a rant today, I’m afraid – but if there’s one thing I would like to stamp out, it’s apathy and cynicism.

Hang on.  If there are two things I would like to stamp out, they are apathy and cynicism.  And greed.

The three things….

We could do this all day.

Kirk out

*I’m sure he said that – I quoted it in a number of essays, but I can’t find a reference to it.

**Although what concerns me more now is the selling off of public concerns and the amount of power global corporations have.

UKIP if you want to

Now, I’m not a fan of  UKIP on the whole; they’re a bit ranty and their stance on immigration is too uncompromising for my taste: however I think Rotherham Council were way out of order in taking non-white children away from their foster-parents just because they were members of UKIP.  UKIP is not the BNP and to say they are, is to fudge the boundaries between out-and-out racism (not acceptable) and a legitimate debate on immigration.

It’s difficult to raise the subject of immigration without being accused of racism, and yet we have to: clearly immigration cannot be limitless because our capacity to absorb new populations is not limitless.  Just as clearly, immigrants make a huge contribution to our society.  Without immigrants Leicester would be spectacularly dull and monochrome; we wouldn’t have Yesim’s with its lovely people and music circle; we wouldn’t have Saardar’s or Mirch Marsala or the mosque or Jak’s stationers or the Hindu temple or Diwali or Eid or any of the million and one things that makes Leicester what it is.  And yet – and yet in embracing immigration we are in danger of neglecting parts of our own population; we are also in danger of creating overcrowded ghettos.  We need a debate.  And it needs to be a sensible debate, not the usual mud-slinging between ranty UKIP-pers and well-meaning Guardian readers.

One person who was not particularly enlightened in this regard was my Grandfather.  Though unenlightened rather than positively racist (he called black and Asian people ‘darkies’) he was in other respects delightful and irritating in about equal measure.  That was my adult view: as a child I loved his eccentricities.  I’m writing a memoir of him for a magazine and was talking to Mary yesterday and trying to recall some of his sayings.  ‘Very um-jum-jiddy’ was one – applied to food and meaning ‘delicious’  – ‘orf keps!’ was another, from his Navy days and denoting a slightly ironic show of respect.  He had loads of these sayings plus other habits such as talking to himself – this included a lot of swear-words when he thought no-one was listening – greeting a long-dead neighbour over the fence with a wave and a ‘Hiya Mr Ford!’ and speaking Yiddish to the cat, Monty.  As a child I thought Yiddish was the exclusive language of cats.  He died at the age of 91 and refused till the last to give up his bungalow, though he did come to us in London for the winter every year.

RIP Bert.

So: today I shall be mostly… going to the Guides’ and Brownies’ Christmas Fair and then to Peter’s for yoga.

Kirk out

PS  In writing a tag for this post I’ve just been reminded of the song ‘My Grandfather’s Clock’.  Mary and I used to sing this for hours on end: