‘Why bother listening to that stuff?’ asks Kajsa this morning in bed, as my i-Phone radio app (wonderful!) picks up Nigel Farage wildly berating a phone-in questioner on LBC. (She’s asked me to point out that she was only half awake.) Here in Sweden that kind of ‘debate’ would be virtually impossible. The quality of ours genuinely shocks them. Political discussions – even on the Right – are calm and rational. ‘Shock-Jocks’ don’t exist. The media exist to broadcast news, not party propaganda, still less made-up ‘news’. Differences are debated politely. That’s the kind of discussion I should be listening to. Why waste my time with these loonies?
What she doesn’t fully understand, from her cultural viewpoint, or at least hasn’t yet internalized, is that the loonies are a major part of the political debate in Britain, and even more so in the USA, which makes it important for us more rational folks to try to understand what is going on in their necks of the woods. Otherwise we’re going to be taken by surprise by the results of popular votes like Trump’s and UKIP’s; as indeed we were. Machiavellian propagandists, certainly on the Right, are fully aware of the irrationality and stupidity of probably the majority of voters in any election (OK, it’s not their fault), and cynically direct their efforts to them. That’s how they win.
The answer, hopefully, is not to meet fire with fire – certainly not with Leftist lies – but to calm down the terms and language of the debate. That’s what Corbyn has been trying to do ever since he became Labour leader. He has succeeded, to the extent that he almost universally comes over as ‘honest and decent’, by contrast with Farage, Johnson, May and all the rest. Whether that’s enough, in an age where fake news and misleading propaganda are accepted as normal, proto-Fascist ideas of ‘strong’ leadership the prime political desiderata, and ‘decency’ regarded as wimpish, remains to be seen.
In the meantime I still have calm and rational Sweden for my potential bolt-hole, especially when my Swedish citizenship comes through; and could choose to emigrate here permanently at any time. The problem is, I’d miss too many English things. Does anyone else fancy joining me in a project I have in mind, to set up a little English colony in the south of Sweden (where it’s a bit warmer than in Stockholm); a village with a pub, a cricket field and a chippy, with pics of the Queen, Harold Wilson and the World Cup winning English football team adorning the walls, but surrounded and guarded by the Swedish welfare state, rational discourse, and Kurt Wallander to protect us from the notorious serial killers stalking around?
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