When thousands demonstrated against tuition fees, politicians were distinctly disquieted by the sight and sound of real people, real angry people. They seemed affronted by it. It was confirmation (as if we needed it) of the disconnect between the political class and the electorate.
It’s very easy to communicate decisions that cause pain and misery through the impersonal megaphone of television and radio, to play with people’s lives to gain political and personal advantage, but when the consequences of these decisions get ‘personalised’, when real people appear on the streets, politicians start to twitch – and well they might.
When bankers are gifted ‘light touch’ regulation they do what all people do when the boundaries are blurred, they take advantage. So it is with politicians who, gifted the trust of the electorate and under the guise of ‘democracy’, they too take advantage. The interests of the people who elected them become secondary to personal and party advantage. They see self-advancement and self-enrichment as a right. Political decisions are made with political advantage in mind, not the interests of the people – as the News International scandal illustrates all too well.
In America the political process has become so corrupted by money that it’s almost dysfunctional. Normally a politically quiescent lot, the American people – that’s the 99% who have dropped off the political radar – have started to squeal. The ‘Occupy Wall Street’ campaign is a middle class action and it’s scaring the hell out of the feral elite. Why? Because it has two strong emotional drivers: injustice and unfairness. Two drivers that could – and probably will – provide a huge impetus to the campaign. Could this lead to American Revolution 2 as one protester postulated yesterday? Possibly, but maybe better if it were a ‘New Enlightenment’.
Isn’t a ‘New Enlightenment’ what we need in this country? The enlightenment thinkers of the 18th century were opposed to the abuses of the state and wanted to use the power of reason to reform society. Perhaps the reform of a ‘New Enlightenment’ should have the aim of reforming the practices of the legislature and the executive, and removing money and corrupt external influences from the political arena. And perhaps it could promote the ‘power of reasonableness’ to bring about a more equal society?
So what could bring about a ‘New Enlightenment’? An ‘Occupy Whitehall’ movement? It might just put the fear of God into our politicians, but whether or not it would bring about change is another matter. Movements need leaders and until they appear and issue a challenge, nothing will happen.