Monday, July 13, 2009

Five word meme

Following on from Benjamin Solah given me five words that remind her of me. The point of this meme is to take the five words and “waffle” about what they mean to you. Ben gave me Environment, Elections, Linking, Britain and Party.

  • Environment:
We're all interconnected. Whether we like it or not the things that we do as a civilisation has an unavoidable impact on our habitat and it, more controversially, has an extraordinary impact upon us. As we've moved towards urban living we tend to see that relationship less and less - our food comes from shops rather than the sea, and the land.

I don't pretend to be an expert on most environmental issues but it seems clear that if we don't radically change our behaviour climate change will change it for us - possibly irreversibly, although let's hope not. Every party from left to right now recognises the urgency of the task but few seem willing to take real action to address the level of pollutants the human race pumps into the atmosphere.

Often the environment, which of course is not just about climate change, is an addendum onto people's manifestos without any accompanying action to demonstrate a real understanding that our global society faces a real threat. There are honourable exceptions to this, not confined to any one political perspective, and I try to be one of them - occasionally successfully.
  • Elections:
Elections are the perfect combination of my twin obsessions, stats and politics. For someone who thinks representative democracy is pretty thin gruel I do like to keep my eye on what's happening at the ballot box.

It was a massive step forward for my political development when I started to get involved in electoral politics because it was the first time I really took seriously what mass politics was about. One of the beauties of elections is that you deal in hard figures - you can tell yourself everyone agrees with your politics and you speak for the people but if you get 1% of the vote you have to look yourself in the mirror and say "Maybe I ain't as popular as I first thought".

It's demoralising to do badly in an election, but unless you set your bar high enough to try to win over the majority of people in an area you're just conducting an academic exercise, not fighting for political ideas. Lip service to grass roots organising isn't enough, the best organisers prove in practice that they can win people to their ideas at the ballot box as well as elsewhere.
  • Linking:
The internet at its best is a mass of connections that lead you through a mazes into new and unexpected places. As a contribution to that I like to demonstrate a bit of link love to content I want to encourage. Part of the theory is that if I link to the stuff I like maybe there will be more of it tomorrow.

There's also a manners aspect to it. If I quote someone I try to remember to link to them out of courtesy, even if I didn't approve of what they were saying. As a reader I like to be able to check the context of any quote and it beefs up your argument if you can withstand your sources being scrutinised.

An internet without links would be like toast without marge - edible, but only just. I guess it encourages good habits too. It seems to me that the best blogging doesn't see itself in competition with others but places itself as part of a community of ideas that it is happy to share.
  • Britain:
I've never really seen myself as British, or even English, but from Essex. Nationalism has never been tempting to me in the least because I find it hard to get my head round the whole concept of being part of that abstract entity with a flag, a theme tune and a toff's head on the stamps. It's not a pseudo-revolutionary posture - I just don't get it.

Certainly I'd like to see the political entity of Britain scrapped; I associate it with a poverty of aspirations and endemic inequalities although I suppose if I lived in France, Paraguay or Ghana I'd have similarly negative feelings. Maybe not though.

I'm definitely a cultural product of the UK and many of the national characteristics and habits are deeply embedded in me to be honest, but I've no interest in whether or not some silver spoon wins at Wimbledon just because they have the same colour passport as me.
  • Party:
On a personal level the only political party I could find habitable would be decentralised, unwhipped and ideologically on the left but loose. A party has to be a coalition if it is to be anything more than a religious cult. There is a utility in the certainty of political dogma but it lacks flexibility and self awareness unless surrounded by allies who are different enough from you to be willing to take you to task.

In fact that's why parties need to be able to welcome criticism on occasion and use it as an opportunity to improve. If someone points out to you that you have a terrible policy on (taking an uncontroversial example) policing being able to say "Yes, you're right, we'll have a look at that" is so much healthier than going to the mattresses.

If I want to have that breadth that allows me to be myself it also means that I have to respect in turn that others aren't always going to see things my way. That has occasionally been difficult but in general I'm fairly relaxed about political differences as long as we can all discuss them civilly and take a proper vote where necessary.

For me significant political parties represent a melange of social movements and tendencies - but in a clumsy and specific fashion. They are useful only in so far as they allow the individual to promote their political ideas more effectively and are dangerous when they entrench bad habits and self interest over their philosophical raison detre.

If anyone wants to be tagged let me know in the comments box and I'll be happy to oblige you with five words of my choosing!


Benjamin Solah said...

Excellent responses. Now wasn't that fun? :P

Jim Jay said...

Yes it was - thanks!

Jack Ray said...

tag me! I never get tagged by anyone!

Jim Jay said...

Will do Jack, good to see you blogging again by the way.

Your words are Spain, Liberty, Teaching, trade unions, and protest.


weggis said...

Oh go on then. I'm not guaranteeing a response, But I kinda want to know what the five words are.

Jim Jay said...

This thinking of five words business is quite hard!

Weggis your words are; Community, Green, Blogging, Ale and Humour

weggis said...

You know me so well!

bob said...

?Can I have five? Is that being greedy?

weggis said...

For those with ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder, my reply can be summarized as:

"Laugh Long and Prosper in a Green Community Pub with WiFi access."

Jim Jay said...

Not greedy at all Bob, the more the merrier!

Your five are:

Anti-fascism, Brockley, secularism, immigration and iconoclast

bob said...

Thanks for the words Jim. Will mull and post.

Jack Ray said...

done, eventually. Broke my brother's computer in the meantime ...

weggis said...

I was just wondering whether we are allowed to tag you back with 5 different words?

Left, Justice, Diversity, Choice, Boycott.