Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Richard Rorty explains why the Conservatives will not be forgiven

The Conservatives think voters are angry about Dominic Cummings' behaviour. But things are far worse for them than that.

Because voters feel humiliated.

They have made sacrifices. They have put up with not seeing their grandchildren even if they live nearby. They have experienced the trauma of having relatives die alone and unvisited.

The voters made these sacrifices because the government told them to and because they believed everyone was doing the same. We were all in it together.

Now they find that the prime minster's adviser - a spoilt rich kid; a permanent adolescent in a T-shirt who thinks it clever to arrive 30 minutes late at his own press conference - has been ignoring the rules.

And then he offers a ludicrous story in an attempt to excuse his behaviour.

And then cabinet ministers pretend they believe that story is true.

Suddenly the voters feel they have made to look - and feel - fools.

As Richard Rorty said in his Contingency, Irony and Solidarity:
The best way to cause people long-lasting pain is to humiliate them by making the things that seemed most important to them look futile, obsolete, and powerless. 
Consider what happens when a child's precious possessions - the little things around which he weaves fantasies that make him a little different from all other children - are described as "trash," and thrown away. 
Or consider what happens when these possessions are made to look ridiculous alongside the possessions of another, richer, child.
This seems to me exactly right and reminds us that Rorty - uniquely among postmodern philosophers - was a wonderfully lucid writer.

It explains why the Liberal Democrats alienated young voters when they reversed their policy on university tuition fees. They felt they had been had.

And how else did we imagine they would feel?

You can say a freeze on tuition fees was not one of our key pledges, but when Nick Clegg's battle bus arrived in Leicester during the 2010 general election campaign it headed straight for De Montfort University.

The city's voters have not forgotten that. And why should they?

I do not think the behaviour of the Conservatives will be forgotten - or forgiven - either.


Frank Little said...

the Liberal Democrats alienated young voters when they reversed their policy on university tuition fees.

Freezing tuition fees was a personal pledge dreamed up by the NUS which Clegg's election campaign (shame on them) advised all Lib Dem candidates to sign. Clegg and the payroll vote* ratted on it once in power (against the advice of the rest of the parliamentary party and even some Conservatives) for reasons still unknown. The effect was to besmirch the whole party, not helped by the fact that we had no effective separate PR unit until far too late in the coalition.

*with the honourable exception of Alison Willott, who Clegg had sacked as a result.

Phil Beesley said...

There's an interesting Guardian link which provides after thought.


Cummings logic is flawed because The Data (what people think) is constantly changing, and The Observer, Cummings, has swirled it all around and become part of it.

Cummings has pushed emotions at his election campaigns. Can he pull a reputation uphill?

Frank Little said...

Oops! It shows how many people read these comments that nobody spotted that I had confused Jenny Wllott with her mum.