Judging by the number of usernames I don’t recognise here, many of you might rightly ask, “Who the Hell are you?”
Well, believe it or not, I’m one of your forum Administrators but I’ve been helping out over at PoFoUK for a few years now and doing a PhD, so I rarely have time to do much here beyond activate the odd user account or deal with a report.
Nevertheless, this is where my journey of political self-discovery kicked off ten years ago and so I thought I might ruminate on where those ten years has taken me.
In some respects, it’s taken me around in a big circle to back where I started!
When I first came to political awareness, in the early 1980s, the ‘choice’ we in the UK were offered was between Michael Foot’s Looney Left and Margaret Thatcher’s Rabid Right. That didn’t seem to me to be much of a choice, so I joined the Young Liberals, mostly on the grounds that they were neither Labour nor Conservative and they were strong advocates for electoral reform, which might put an end to the UK’s political two-horse race – a race in which you wouldn’t bet on either horse.
Twenty years on, when I joined PoFo, my views hadn’t shifted much. I had a visceral dislike of capitalism and a similarly systemic aversion to communism, hence one of my early signature images was this:
Naturally, I therefore caught flak from both sides of the traditional political divide, but there must have been something about my contributions because, within a couple of years, I had been invited to become a moderator and then an administrator. The scales on my sig image were, after all, intended to indicate balance.
Early on, though, I was introduced to the Political Compass. It’s not the best political test out there, but it is the least worst.
Instead of being somewhere around the middle, as my ‘militant centrist’ instincts told me I should be, I found myself firmly in the green, bottom left, ‘left libertarian’ quadrant. Repeated re-tests over the last decade have seen me drift further left and more libertarian. Initially, this caused me some disquiet and internal turmoil, but as time went by I came to realise quite how out of kilter and misleading our contemporary notions of ‘left’ and ‘right’ really are.
Take a look at this, from the Political Compass:
If indeed I am truly ‘left libertarian’, then it’s unsurprising that I recoil from authoritarian leftism, authoritarian rightism and the libertarian right. I really am a contrarian!!
Then take a look at this – It charts the movement of UK parties over the last 45 years, based on their manifestoes:
With the exception of Labour – at certain points in their history, including now – and the Greens, everyone else is way away from my position. I’m not ‘green’ enough to be a Green (I’m a bit of a petrolhead!), which leaves Labour.
I joined Labour in 2013, not long after I had retired from the Armed Forces (political activism is banned for UK military personnel). That was a move based on pragmatism more than anything else. I didn’t ‘like’ Labour, but if our dismal 2-party state was going to persist and I had to make a choice between the (Red) Devil and the Deep Blue ‘C’, my loathing of capitalism and conservatism forced me to pin my colours to the Labour mast.
I resigned from the party a couple of weeks ago.
Now, therefore, I’m back in the political wilderness and almost back to square one.
So, what have I learned in ten years on PoFo? Well here's my top ten…
1. I'm not so much Libertarian as anti-Authoritarian.
2. I oppose ideological dogmatism.
3. I firmly believe that no single ideology offers a 'magic bullet' to cure all the ills of mankind.
4. I oppose division for division's sake.
5. Hence I'm anti-racist. Whatthefuck is that all about? I know many highly intelligent, successful black people and also many thick as mince, feckless examples of the 'Master Race'. Give it a rest.
6. I'm also perpetually bewildered by anti-Semitism; they go to the synagogue on a Saturday and I go to church on a Sunday. What's to hate?
7. I would describe myself as a 'pragmatic nationalist'. One day, Centuries into the future in all likelihood, humankind will come to realise that what divides us is a tiny fraction of what unites us and that we're all just bipedal carbon-based lifeforms on the same ball of rock in space. For now, for most people, that's science fiction so for my lifetime at least I think that my country, for all its faults, is one of the better ones and worth protecting.
8. I object to polarity and adversarialism. Just because I don't loudly and enthusiastically support position 'A', that does not mean I'm a vociferous supporter of position 'Z'. It's a common mechanism exploited by trolls and antagonists in places like this. For example, I firmly believe that people should be at liberty to define and express their sexuality as they experience it, rather than as social authoritarians would tell them they should. However, I don't see homosexuality as 'normal' – whatever normal is. To me (bear in mind I'm a nurse) the purpose of sexual activity is procreation. Any recreation is a welcome added bonus! That is enough in some people's eyes to label me 'homophobic' but, (again, bear in mind I'm a nurse – and mental-health qualified too) I have no phobia against the LGBT community. I would and do fiercely defend their right to be who they are – not who someone else says they should be, but in an atmosphere of adversarialism, my interlocutors will leap upon the chance to make wilfully erroneous assumptions to advance their argument.
9. And to further the linguistic nonsense of supposed 'phobias', I have what I believe to be legitimate concerns about Islam, but as per point 8 above, I reject the notion that I'm 'Islamophobic'. My wife and I spent the first five years of our married life in a majority Islamic neighbourhood of an otherwise nondescript East Lancashire mill town. Our Muslim neighbours were, on the whole, far more welcoming, friendly and neighbourly than any of our 'indigenous' Anglo-Saxon neighbours. Working in healthcare, I have dozens of friends and former colleagues for whom I have great respect who are Muslim. Working in healthcare in the military, many of those friends have taken the Queen's Shilling and served in defence of the UK for all of their working lives. They, like me, have grave concerns about the rise of extremism in domestic Islam, not to mention significant anxieties about 'imported' extremism from our immigrant population. To reprise point 8, the issues raised by this relatively recent development are unlikely to be resolved by sitting on either side of a barricade, throwing rocks at each other. Polarity and adversarialism are profoundly unhelpful in political discourse.
10. Finally many of my views, as you can see, are inherently contradictory. That links in very much with points 2, 3 and 4 in particular. Discussions on PoFo, as well as political activity in the real world, is poorly served by imposition of an inflexible ideology. Inevitably, dogmatic adherence to an inherently imperfect theory (see point 3 again) will lead to reductio ad absurdum outcomes somewhere along the line. It's the law of unintended consequences.
All of which, after ten years of PoFo, leaves me back at the start alongside (according to the Political Compass) Ghandi and the Dalai Lama, firmly in the green quadrant and pretty much opposed to all established ideologies.
Maybe I should start a UK version of Five Star??