During my walking around Liverpool as the year has turned I’ve been thinking a bit about what and how I write on here – and about the coming up GeneralElection. Here are a few of my thoughts.
First, about shouting and being opinionated.
This instant publishing on social media can easily lead to positions of self professed importance for us bloggers and tweeters, it seems to me. Unedited by others and not necessarily taking much time to reflect on what we’re saying, we find anyway that the stronger the views we express the more reaction we provoke. So we can get into the habit of never expressing a view mildly and certainly never appearing to have any doubts. Because doubts don’t get ‘likes’ do they? And mild opinions don’t provoke comments. So being strongly opinionated and shouting louder and louder about our opinions is the nature of the game around here, isn’t it?
Well actually, as I get older and having been doing this writing in public for a good while now, I’m not sure.
I think I am sure about some of the things I am. I am a ‘we’re truly all in it together’ socialist. But everyone who isn’t a socialist isn’t wrong.
I am also an atheist. But everyone who isn’t an atheist isn’t wrong.
In fact I’m increasingly finding I love reading about the opinions and discussing the opinions of people who, for most of my life, I’d have had little time or patience. Because it’s boring always reading and talking with people who agree with you. And because I’m not sure. And in discovering the joy of not being sure I am discovering humility.
In the past year, affected by much walking and thinking, by my contacts with the Liverpool Quakers, the deeply thoughtful spirituality of Leonard Cohen’s last couple of LPs and interviews, a splendid day of multi and no faith conversations in Liverpool Cathedral, my own deepening conversations with my friends and new people I’ve encountered. And even through reading the sincerely held convictions of traditional and conservative thinkers I’ve discovered the degree to which I’m not sure. The degree to which human goodness and sincerity can be found in places where I’ve never gone and looked for them before. And I therefore have the confidence to say, more and more frequently, if only to myself, I don’t know. What do you think?
Some of this is about democracy. And about responsibility. What shall we do? What’s best? And saying, I’m not sure. Let’s talk about it. Really talk.
I don’t think it’s about me ‘settling in my ways’ or ‘moving to the right’ – things people are often said to do as they get older. If anything I find I’m becoming more socialist, more questioning and opinionated, whilst at the same time becoming less able to follow particular party lines. I want to talk now. Really talk.
Nor am I saying ‘they’re all the same, politics doesn’t matter.’ Politics profoundly matters. It’s the mechanism we use to decide how we run the places where we live.
And coming up now is the once every five years opportunity we all get in this country for true democracy, our General Election. Yes sure, we do get regular local exercises in democracy, but now most of the money and real power to change things have been gathered into central government, a General election is our only chance to democratically change how the country is being run.
So as we arrive in Election Year and as the Election Strategies begin to be rolled out. And as the shouting starts about immigration and bigotry and the media follow it round, call it reporting…let’s all slow things down and actually think. With the wisdom of generations. And the humility of the newly arrived.
Let’s try out some humility.
The humility to know the generation of humanity we happen to live in is merely part of a continuance. A tradition, if you like. Not something static. But something like the blues, like a tradition that each generation deepens with its thoughts and its experience. If we can only have the humility to realise that humanity did not start and, probably, will not end with us.
Let’s talk. Really talk.
We don’t know everything. In fact, as individuals we know hardly anything. But all together? Imagine what we could do if we could sit down and talk? All of the things I am, to all of the things you are. Really talk in real places. And talk on here, in social media. But with more of a sense of enquiry than we are used to. With more of a tendency to welcome people into open discussions. People who might not have voted before. Because more people voting in a democracy is important, isn’t it? Let’s try behaving like adults.
In quiet humility. Knowing we’re all of us not sure. Let’s spend these next few months really talking and really listening to each other. The way things are we only get a real say in how this particular country is run every five years. So let’s make sure we have a real say by talking.
In Scotland a few months ago we all got the beginnings of a flavour of what might be possible when a whole country really talks. So let’s try it again, all of us this time.
But not with empty hash tagging. Not with vacuous ‘likes’. And not with pompously haranguing people to ‘retweet’ or else. I might be wrong but I don’t think any of that infantilising people works.
You’ll know where I’m mostly coming from if you’ve read much of what I’ve been writing on here these past couple of years. I’m a socialist and I think austerity politics is a grave mistake that can even appear to be a deliberate and cynical attack on most of us, aimed at using a banking crisis from a few years back to change and limit the nature of democracy in this country forever.
But I might be wrong. And so might you. So let’s talk.