‘I find that faith is the stiffening of the mental starch that ought to be applied as liberally as possible- E.M.Forster
Over the past month or so whilst I was in the depths of revision for my university finals I took to visiting the common room of the Arts building on campus to escape the oppressive air of the library and the distractions of my room. On one occasion, I was distracted from British imperialism in the nineteenth century by a conversation I overheard between two members of the university youth wing of a political party that shall remain nameless about the previous week’s local election. They were discussing their disappointing poll numbers in our local area and wondering what they could do to drive them up. One of them said he hoped it was raining next polling day because then it was less likely that the proles would turn out to vote and with a reduced turnout they may be able to squeeze a majority. They also commented that the upcoming Jubilee celebrations and the Olympics should ‘distract’ the public away from economic troubles to improve poll ratings.
Now I do not want to cast aspersions and say that the reason these two men were flying in the face of the democratic tradition was because of the nature of the party they belonged to. I think that active members of parties on opposite ends of the political spectrum are just as prone to sacrificing principle for power. However it is a shame that the rot has set in so young as we are supposed to be the idealistic ones who want to convert the masses to our case, not to just push them out of the way.
The problem here lies in the fact that these two men, like thousands of others involved in party politics, have become too wedded to their ideology. I am all for party political activism but it runs the danger of becoming divorced from the supposed benevolent reasons people go into politics in the first place.
Whether or not you agree with the politics of the two men in question is irrelevant. What this demonstrates is the readiness with which those too wedded to the party line are willing to ride roughshod over the rules of political engagement in order to gain power. Instead of convincing others of your cause, it is far quicker to almost trick them into acquiescing so you can implement the policies you believe in ‘for the greater good’.
Similarily, Tony Blair was quoted yesterday whilst giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry before his first election in 1997 as saying ‘I see it as my mission to go out and win. I know that sounds unprincipled but I see it as my role in life’. This reflects the lost of innocence amongst the hardcore sections of young people involved in politics. Instead of being interested in promoting and debating the cause itself, they are more interested in its implementation because they have too much faith in it to question it.
This is what Forster was saying in the above quote; if people get stuck on their ideology too much they run the danger of divorcing themselves from reality and the consequences of their actions. They can become so swept up in following their beliefs to the letter than cannot always see the path of destruction that can follow in their wake.
It is therefore, far better to have a ‘set of ideas and beliefs’ than an ideology. To believe in a political cause and want to see it come to fruition is normally a good thing (depending on what they’re proposing of course) but it cannot be sealed off from all forms of criticism. This is why I have always tried to challenge any sense of hero worshipping with this blog. This does sometimes involve playing devil advocate and taking standpoints I do not necessarily agree with but feel the point must be raised anyway.
The world of ideas and reality do not make happy bedfellows. To have a system of political beliefs on which you build your vision for the future is all well and good but it is important not to get too carried away with it and forget the little people you are building it around.