The Blog

Love Thy Enemy

Political debate is not like personal exchange, it must, for the stability of the system, rely upon rational, formulated, evidenced arguments to resemble anything like a coherent system.

There's something that's really started to bother me: the vitriol that political leaders receive from their critics.

I went on a bizarre and quite boring journey of self-discovery the other night. It involved listening to world music and reading comments to articles on the Guardian. Internet article comments are the absolute gutter (my articles having a very clean one (cry)) of society - collecting a horrible detritus and showing it off, like a child proud of some skid marks in his tighty whities. Over years of foolishing scrolling down on Youtube videos, and reading the comments on Fox Nation articles, I've been somewhat desensitised to the standard occurrences of racism or other such bigotry.

What really irked me, is when say, 200-hundred comments deep into a thread on the Guardian or Independent, some poster who has hitherto shown relative intelligence or internet eloquence posts something like this:

"What might a world without work look like?

Ask Cameron and his Sloane - or any other member of their vacuous entourage for that matter. They have no need of work and have achieved nothing of meaning in their pointless lives. However, to alleviate the boredom these parasites pursue hobbies - er, sorry, 'careers' - that allow them to ensure their unmerited economic privilege is retained."

Now this isn't jokingly or satirically calling David Cameron a c*nt, as we're all privy to on occasion, or making a point of calling him a lizard for parody. This is a heartfelt, emotional attack on David Cameron as a person, or rather as a parasite who pursued and entered political office solely to oppress the people of Britain. He's achieved nothing in his 'pointless' life. What instantly sprang to mind was that he's married and has fathered children, which is more than I've ever done.

Googling phrases like 'David Cameron is evil' or 'David Cameron is heartless' produces a range of scary blogs, videos, and conspiracy-esque websites, which I am thankfully not required to link for academic scrutiny, which accuse the prime minister of being a sinister 'demon' who hates the disabled and the old and the poor and wishes them all dead.

I don't know David Cameron, or any other top brass Conservatives for that matter. I did once briefly meet Eric Pickles. From what I'm aware of David Cameron's political views, insofar as they are represented by his government's policies, I generally disagree with him. But I am fairly confident that David Cameron is not some loveless, compassionless, hateful individual who wishes only to see the poor die and himself grow wealthier. I think he wants people everywhere to be better off, I think he's incorrect in the way to go about that, in some respects quite staggeringly so - but I have seen no evidence that he is malintentioned.

And why would he be? Why would someone devote an enormous amount of time, and likely personal wealth (which he allegedly covets like the Great Dragon Smaug) becoming prime minister in order to protect he and his friends' vast wealth or to stamp on the very people he hates. Nor is he on some jaunt into politics following a one-hundred and twenty month gap year, as if he was James Harthouse, the ever-bored aristocrat of Dickensian fiction. Unless working as a researcher for an MP after leaving school was part of some long-winded, cynical attempt to become overlord of the plebs.

In addition he is not some bumbling idiot like an incompetent King of old, nor is he idle like some portly Roman Emperor, sat distributing orders at ease. His academic prowess and personal success in a cut throat business which requires ridiculous working hours attest to this. What person, so self-absorbed and heartless could stand to have to engage with 'the little people' so often, listen to their plights and feign concern so convincingly? What psychopath would spend such time and effort nurturing them to be ready for such a role?

Politics is cynical and backhanded, but behind it, behind every lie told, every clever marketing strategy devised or deal made, lays someone who really believes something, who believes that their ideas will make people better off, better than other people's ideas. This is intrinsically egotistical, which is an obvious flaw of any politician. Another is that they're generally quite boring, being obsessed with weird things like politics which is their constant frame of reference for everything, even meeting other people. They find things like policy conferences fascinating. But they're probably not 'evil'. That might be hard to deal with, but it's true.

David Cameron, like many senior Conservatives, is instead, a man who happens to have a distinct view of the world and how to better it, which other people may or may not disagree with. I will not argue that people are not suffering because of it. But the route to change does not lie through emotional ad hominem attacks, or through emotion at all. It lies through constructive discourse on policies and looking at what the best solution really is. It does not lie on populist scape-goating or the incitement of hatred, it relies upon recognition of differences and a calm, measured discussion.

Opponents of David Cameron would do well to think of that, and recognise that whilst they may be motivated and horrified at the outcome of some of the policies; an expression of outrage does not make someone correct. Political debate is not like personal exchange, it must, for the stability of the system, rely upon rational, formulated, evidenced arguments to resemble anything like a coherent system.

People should also ask themselves what sort of people they are, that they despise someone because he thinks in a different way to themselves. Because that's what this boils down to. Edward Murrow, the legendary broadcast journalist, once said it makes one civilised to be able to be cordial with those whom you politically disagree.

Finally, people must also recognise that running anything as complex and intricate as a modern state requires immensely difficult decisions, and that loss of life or welfare for someone is a tragically inevitable result of the trade-offs that come from managing such large transactions. To typify someone as evil for this is ridiculous, people died or became poorer under every leader in history, and describe them all as evil, loveless or heartless would be to render the words thoroughly pointless, wouldn't it?

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