I have a love-hate relationship with politics.
It’s important stuff that shouldn’t be trivialised, and it affects every aspect of all of our lives in a way that Russell Brand seems incapable of recognising. Voting for your leaders is the thing that separates us from animals more than anything else apart from speech, clothing and line-dancing.
But I also recognise that politics is a nonsensical soap opera, and a big part of the fun – if fun it be – is hitting MPs with a bladder full of piss whenever they do something stupid.
The problem is: we fail to spot the really big stupid things until 100 years after they happen.
A really big stupid thing is happening right now, and this little blog is my take on it. But first, and because I like incongruity, let’s discuss bison.
A bison is a massive, hairy, aggressive, powerful one-ton cow with huge horns and a fearsome mothering instinct; it can run at 20 miles an hour for 20 or 30 miles, and it lives in huge groups which have the potential to form an impregnable wall of horns, muscles and overwhelming strength.
And they get eaten by wolves all the time.
On David Attenborough’s recent series there was a spectacular sequence showing 3 wolves, each weighing 40lb, managing to take on a biomass of Bison weighing several thousand tons, scaring the bejesus out of the cattle, and killing the weak.
Now, dogs are pretty stupid, but not as stupid as cows. If bison had any brains (or maybe some vocal cords or WhatsApp ) they’d agree not to run and scatter. Scattered, they’re all vulnerable. Combined they’re indestructible, and only idiots who leave the safety of the pack would be killed. If wolves ran at 1000 tons of angry bison, and 1000 tons of angry bison turned to face them and growled, we’d see a lot of wolf tail and absolutely no blood.
This is a neat metaphor for today’s global economy. 100 years ago, nations were like bison in a land without wolves. They competed with each other, and had fleas, and were subject to plague; but nobody was picking them off, so it made no sense to have agreements. Eat your cud, keep your head down, cooperate with nobody.
But today, the world is different. International finance and corporate giants – whilst a fraction of the size of most nations – are wolves picking off the weak. National laws have no effect on international companies, just as they have no effect on international criminals (in most minds, these amount to the same thing).
So to return to my earlier comment: the stupid thing we’re doing right now is wasting air on a massive debate about which way to run, like each nation is a bison, and we can’t communicate or join forces to mount a defence.
What we should be doing, of course, is recognising the reality and joining forces to make a shield-wall of horns and muscle against predatory capital, to prevent anyone being destroyed.
Of course, in this biomass there would be a lot of mess. We’d all have to wade through a lot of shit before we work out the toilet facilities. We’d have to learn to live together in ways we didn’t before. We’d have to work collaboratively to walk to the watering hole en-masse, and have proper health and safety rules that prevented anyone falling in.
But wolves wouldn’t kill us. And we’d prosper.
And this – in its confused, bureaucratic, inefficient way – is what the EU is attempting to do. It’s not perfect. It’s not clean. There is shit underfoot, and we haven’t figured out a way to get to lush green pastures yet. Lots of people are bitching about the cost of health and safety (although they’d stop bitching if they saw what it’s like when someone falls into the pond). But the EU is protection in a world which is – like it or not – ruled by wolves which will kill us all, given a chance. It’s not great protection. But that’s mainly because we’re not yet great at collaborating.
And this is my intellectual opposition to UKIP. They fail to realise that alone, we’re at the mercy of killers. They’re too busy moaning about other bison standing too close and nudging them while they wee to recognise the truth: that proximity to neighbours is better than having your throat ripped out by lupine psychopaths. UKIP ignore the fact that the problems of globalisation aren’t globalisation per se. The problem is that only the killer corporations are global. The nations are still, well, national, and therefore vulnerable.
We can’t put the Internet away, or stop progress. All we can do is recognise the new vulnerabilities progress exposes us to, and find ways to fix them. And the only rational fix for supranational finance is supranational governance.
Not only should we stay in the EU (which must, I agree, reform fast). We should also work towards more and more global agreements on tax, workers rights, ecology, power, military and more.
Otherwise, we’re little better than idiot cows running away from each other to be slaughtered in the bushes.