October 27, 2011
Occupy (my attention)
A friend – who happens to be both left-leaning and employed in City finance – sent me a text:
“Not that I’m against it, but what is the stated reason for the St Paul’s protests? Just awareness or do they want something specific? Normally there’s a reason – Uni fees a very valid one – but this just seems like a bit of a moan. The timing seems odd, even if it is jumping on the Occupy Wall Street bandwagon. It’s been two weeks though, who has that much time?”
Recently, I’ve become utterly bored by day-to-day politics. Paradoxically, this has afforded me some insights.
I don’t really know what Occupy London Stock Exchange (OLX) is about. I haven’t had the time or inclination to find out. Because I don’t really care. Because I am uninterested in the repetition and tedium of daily political debate and exchange. I’m interested in politics (hence why I’m doing a PhD in it), but then I increasingly think that’s really something else. What I’m certainly not interested in is the daily outrages and accusations; the ranting; the tribalism; the he-said, she-said; the bla bla bla ad nauseam .
Which itself wouldn’t actually be so bad, if people were quietly conscious that they were being hypocrites and opportunists in pointing out the hypocrisies and opportunisms of their enemies. What I have no time for is the pathetic sincerity of the daily outrage. “Oh, my political enemy has done something nasty and underhand! How outrageous! How shocking! I am so appalled! Something Must Be Done!”
I don’t really know what OLX is about. It seems a bit silly. And that’s an interesting perspective coming from me, given that a year ago I was involved in the Cambridge student occupation, attended quite a lot of demos, and was generally Pretty Interested In Daily Politics.
But it may be instructive, for precisely that past, to observe just how off-the-radar OLX is to me. Somebody busy with their research (which is not much like having a real job). With teaching commitments. With Friday nights. With the football season. With time on my hands. With left-wing views. With a tendency to read the news.
If I don’t register OLX, how much do you think it gets through to people working 40+ hour weeks? With kids? With bills and mortgages to pay? Worried about job security and inflation? Who don’t have time to read the paper? Who aren’t particularly left-wing?
Of my friend’s text, however, what really stands out is his closing line: “It’s been two weeks though, who has that much time?”
When I used to box at a gym in Southport, a post-training discussion once turned to the TV series Big Brother. The general conclusion was that not only were all the contestants freaks, but they were Not Like Ordinary People. Why? Precisely because they could swan off for 10 weeks without worrying about work. For most in the discussion, that was enough to discredit each and every contestant. The BB housemates weren’t from the real world. The world where kids and mortgages ruled out such summer sojourns. And that bred both a fairly obvious contempt, but also an underlying if mild resentment.
Leftist activists might endorse OLX with passion. Many of them are out there right now, proudly taking part, braced against the cold by the sincerity of their views. But activists should remember that goldfish bowls create visual distortions, in both directions. And like it or not, dissimilarity quickly breeds contempt.