Confused of... a ramble
By Parson Thru
I have to come clean and admit I’m confused. I really don’t know what to think anymore. I’m not sure which dark force I’m supposed to be against and which one I’m supposed to be for. All I do know is that if I have learned anything in the last fifty years, it is to be suspicious of simple answers to complicated problems. The problem with politicians is that they do just that – peddle simple answers.
We tend, as human beings, to split complex situations into binaries. It makes us feel better – like we understand something. “There are two types of people in this world…” You know what I mean? The former Soviet satellites and Russia itself are analysed as having those who are pro-West, pro-liberal and those who favour a return to state-ownership. I doubt it’s that simple. I did once have a long conversation with an engineer now selling rabbit-skin hats to tourists in St. Petersburg. Let’s just say it was elucidating.
It’s tempting to break society’s problems down to class. In my youth, the Class War was in full swing. My dad was often on a three-day week – not through shortage of work, but because Ford or Leyland workers were at the barricades, storming the mobile café for a butty.
At the grand strategic level, the Cold War was as bitter as ever and Stalinist public housing was colonising Britain’s cities. But what did the Soviet Union really have to offer other than to terrorize western power elites into yielding improved conditions for workers in order to offset their revolutionary appetite?
Russia at the dawn of the 20th Century was ripe for revolution, but I’m not sure that what followed was a great improvement for the people. Decades of agony after the Bolshevik revolution, workers in the Soviet Union were as alienated as anywhere else. Patronage flourished, corruption was as universal and healthy as the human-loving rat. No lesser person than Orwell rounded on the big lie that was the Soviet Union.
In Britain, a loose assembly of interests under the red banner boiled down roughly to the following: shop-floor and intellectual communism – “self-help” for the worker, riven with patronage and self-interest; or socialism dominated by educated middle-class saviours of the worker. The latter was nice work for professionals if you could get it and had a knack for keeping worker aspirations firmly in check. The Labour Party tried to please the whole lot. No wonder it was repeatedly brought down by those who bore it to electoral success.
None of which is really getting me anywhere. So what is left? Well, the high expectations of “the working class” were not met. That is not to say that conditions for everyone in this country have not improved markedly over the last century. But working people are once more on the back foot. Who is to blame? Greedy capitalists? Yes – they are certainly to blame. But who else? What snatched working people from the high-water point of civilised living? Well, just perhaps it was the behaviour of the very working people who attained and enjoyed that high-water point. But what about those charged with the efficient running of large publicly-owned and private industries in that heady period? Squandered, jointly and severally.
Complicated, isn’t it?
And I really don’t know what to think, let alone what to say. It’s maybe the admission of this complexity, and of an inability to simplify in the way claimed by the great structuralist thinkers of the 19th Century that marks out the postmodern situation. If I think anything, I think an admission of the fact that simple answers are not the answer by those engaged in politics may well be useful.
I've discovered some satisfaction in my confusion. I don’t feel quite so bad about some of my contradictory ramblings. They're not so contradictory if taken in the moment that each was written. Each is reasonably consistent with itself.
I think we are all looking to improve or maintain our quality of life - access to the means of doing so should be a right of citizenship (self-development, that is - a right to work doesn't work). I think we would all like to be able to live our lives unmolested - greater respect for the well-being of others wouldn't go amiss. I think that we all cherish our freedom. Does anyone not?
I think the last thing I would give up before my final breath would be my freedom.
I think that’s about as clear as I can be.