I don’t know why this is on my mind tonight, and it doesn’t really have anything to do with what I normally write about. And yet it does, since politics affects us all whether we pay attention to it or not. I’ve been thinking a lot about the events of the last few weeks – haven’t we all – and there’s one thing that I keep coming back to: why isn’t anyone demanding justice over the lies from the people we’re supposed to trust to lead us?
The few people I have spoken to about the fact that I am angry that voters for the EU Referendum were lied to from so many sides that even intelligent, interested people walked into the polling stations still unsure of what to vote, have all said the same thing: That’s what politicians do.
So, a few weeks have passed, xenophobic attacks have died back a little, angry people are still smarting, but life goes on, and we’ve had other things to worry about, so we’re not sitting stewing as loudly in our disappointments – or victories, for those who wanted Out.
But I’m stilll sitting here wondering why the owners and editors of newspapers that emblazoned lies in capital letters aren’t held accountable. Why politicians and people speaking on behalf of them aren’t held accountable. Why people – all people, both sides of the vote – aren’t in uproar over the lies. Aren’t furious that interviews that ‘came clean’ weren’t held the day before or the day of the vote rather than the day after. Aren’t insulted at being taken for fools. Aren’t livid at how powerless we really are.
I’m fairly certain that if I applied for a mortgage, say, and supplied misinformation and blatant lies, I could be ‘done’ for fraud? I’m equally certain that if I dressed up in a police officers uniform and grabbed someone’s car claiming ‘police business’, I would still be ‘done’ for theft or at the very least impersonating a police officer – even though I never actually said I was a policeman.
So where is the accountability? Why is there one set of laws for them, and not for me. How do I teach my children wrong from right if they can’t even see it in the pinnacle of leadership in our country? Why aren’t people furious about this?
I’ll tell you why:
Distractions Distractions Distractions
6 Ways To Kill A Revolution
1. Give the people a common enemy
My daughter asked me this morning “what does ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ mean? I don’t even know where she heard it, but it got me thinking about this. Give people a common enemy and they will draw together, even if only for a time. Give generally decent people from both sides of the vote a common enemy aka the ‘indecent’ people – the bigots, the racists, the haters – and they’ll put aside their own differences to fight their common enemy. Or all those people who voted ‘out’ simply to protest vote against Cameron and his government – even a lot of people who were gutted after the results were announced saw his resignation as a relief. Enough of a relief to not demand answers?
I’ve written frequently enough about my experience of growing up in a country at war, and one thing I knew as a nine year old child was this: give people a common enemy and they band together. That new unity becomes a temporary distraction.
2. Create a media frenzy
Conversely, and without going too far into a conspiracy theory wormhole – there’s not enough tinfoil in the world – just type “Stories you missed while distracted by the media” into Google. Things happen in this world, and we should be furious about them. We should be livid that politicians, governments, humanity, could get away with some of the things we do. We should be up in arms about (to pull one example out of that Google Search) Over a thousand migrants lost at sea or Female Genital Mutilation Kills Girl in Egypt but people were too busy slating each other about a gorilla being shot (tragic though that was).
The fact is that the news we need to hear is out there, but it’s so very hard to find among all the noise.
3. Put on a major sporting event
The same as point one, really, but friendlier.
Olympics, UEFA Cup, Commonwealth Games, World Cup Soccer, Rugby World Cup, Asian Games, European Games, Gay Games… is there a year that there isn’t some major sporting event going on? Keep people distracted! Even the Romans knew – put on some games in the Colosseum and people don’t complain so much about being hungry! Marcus Aurelius’ tutor Fronto famously said, “The Roman people is held together by two forces: wheat doles and public shows”. To the Romans, the Games were political. 1.
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4. Hook everyone on mindless entertainment
I love GoT as much as the next guy, but really? It’s what Big Brother used to be, back in the beginning. I love my Amazon Fire Stick and am a Netflix original customer and have a shelf full of DVD’s and my 4 year old can navigate YouTube like a boss, so I’m not casting any stones here, but we are fed entertainment on a conveyor belt, so that we can be distracted. So that we don’t have to think too deeply about the horrible, horrific, stressful things that are happening around the world. Never mind around the world, I found out some hair raising facts about my own area recently. So that we don’t grow tired of the corruption and the greed and actually get up and do something about it.
I quote The Hunger Games way too much in real life, I know this, but it’s so apt sometimes. The Capitol residents – so alike the early Romans – are spoon fed death as entertainment from childhood, so that it is ‘normal’. If we really sat and thought about the reasons why people are dying in droves around the world, we’d quickly feel sick to our stomachs. Once we realise that we are all cannon fodder for rich old men (and women too, probably), but that there are many more of us than of them… well, the people with the real power, whoever they are, couldn’t have that.
5. Keep people hungry
For hungry, read poor. Read struggling to make ends meet. Read working hard every day just to pay for the roof over their heads. Read taking care of a sick child because there is no village to do so. Read whatever you want. We’ve already cut out community. We already fight for support for the most vulnerable (see point 1). Keep people hungry and they will be so busy trying to stay afloat, they won’t have the energy to revolt. Keep them so tied up in keeping alive, they won’t have the motivation to fight. Our most passionate years, our most energetic years, are also our most vulnerable. You read about great martyrs for their causes and we might think they are brave, and we might admire them, but living their pain, losing their families, being locked up for 30 years (for example)… those are great personal losses that are easily glossed over in the story as a whole. It’s hard to choose to risk your family’s security, your life with your children, your own future comfort and there’s a lot we’ll put up with, for a hope.
6. Make people think that they are free, or that they have a choice
We are not free. Maybe a few people here and there, but most of us, are not free. But we’re given elections, we’re sold this story about democracy, we’re told we have a choice. We have freedom. Our freedom is hard won.
We are not free. But as long as the powers that be can make us believe that we are free, they have some modicum of control. What is free, even? I’m not sure that the concept truly exists. Our cages might be gold plated and have beautiful beaches and involve wonderful trips to amazing places, our cages might even look like a beautiful life, but how free are we really? We are owned by banks, by bankers, by corporations who control our food, by corporations that control our entertainment, and with it a lot of how we relate to the world (have you sat around a table with everyone discussing the minutia of something you haven’t watched?!)
It’s scary to think about – so we choose not to, and distract ourselves with another episode of a story that has a hero (see point 4). So we can ride the high of someone else’s sacrifice-turned-victory.
So? What can we do?
The truth is that we’ll probably never change the whole world. The roots of greed and power lie too deep for mere mortals to ever make that much of a difference. But we can change the world for one person, or one hundred people. We can all do little things that make a ripple.
We can be aware. When the internet is dividing itself into factions and tearing itself out at the heart, take a step back, and see what you’re missing. Support your sports team and revel in their games, but be mindful of what’s going on in the rest of the world at the same time. If there is a real enemy, focus your attention there, not on the skirmishes that detract from it. Have a screen free night. Have a screen free week. See what your mind does when it’s given the freedom to think and feel.
Allow yourself to feel your emotions. Don’t dull them in an attempt to relieve the knot in your stomach, or distract yourself from your own personal fears and concerns – only you know what they are. Learn to be happy with less. Learn to live within your means. Empower yourself – if that’s growing your own courgettes or owning a small-holding or giving up social media, do something that empowers you. And utilise those things that no one can take from you: your thoughts, your soul, nurture those, so that while your home might still belong to the bank, or the landlord, your freedom can be found in doing something that matters, if not to the whole world, then at least to your place in it.
- http://www.historytoday.com/keith-hopkins/murderous-games-gladiatorial-contests-ancient-rome#sthash.tidYyEgh.dpuf ↩