Apologies to Malpoet who I know has already heard this story. Before I left home it got to the point where I was refusing to discuss 'anything serious' with my parents. Part of this stemmed from their general hostility towards 1) logic 2) objective truth and 3) being disagreed with on anything, ever. Anyway, one night the biological mother comes up with her latest 'policy initiative', a suggestion that the children of all who currently receive tax credits (of whom she was one) should also receive free school meals. I listened to the rather flaky 'rationale' and 'moral case' behind this and patiently waited for my turn, rapidly compiling a list of Paxman-esque questions in my mind.
Now it's the easiest thing in the world to argue that you should be in receipt of even more 'free stuff' than you currently get with no regard to the cost or where the resources for it would come from. What I wanted to know was how this would be paid for, and (perhaps mischievously) what SHE was prepared to lose elsewhere in order to find that money. Of course, turkeys never argue in favour of Christmas and likewise the biological suggested something silly like "tax the rich" as a way of raising the required funds. I ended up calling out the obvious, namely that she thought it was a wonderful idea because she personally would gain from it. And for no other reason.
Predictably enough, this didn't go down too well.
I spent years working with a fella who I found myself in disagreement with about pretty much everything. Maybe I'm being unfair but his worldview seemed to be shaped by 1) regular chats with pub racists and bar-room bores 2) Jon Gaunt's radio show and 3) the editorial of the Daily Star. I remember us having quite a heated argument about the war in Libya (he and his mate were well up for it, I thought it was insane at the time) and he said something which became a constant during any instance of differing perspective "see Daz, you're not used to dealing with people who live in the real world are you?". It was a clear ad hom and I was taken aback by it.
I asked what he meant by "real world" (as opposed to the, er, surreal one?) and he told me "house, kids, filling the car, all that 'normal' stuff". Well, not being the owner of a car or the father of any kids I know about it's unlikely that I could ever inhabit my friend's 'real world' but it's something that stuck out and I felt the need to reflect upon for some time. This fella liked to present his 'worldview' as if it was something coherent, logical and well thought out but it was really a set of prejudices rather than a belief system of any significance or meaning. Even the gentlest cross-examination found more holes than Swiss Cheese and 'real world' was his way out of dodge.
Another former sparring partner from social media used to use the term 'real people' to describe people who saw the world exactly the way that he did. Given that he was a rabid Nationalist with a soft spot for the English Defence League and Britain First, this left a lot of 'surreal people' out there having the temerity to, er, not agree with this fella about absolutely everything. One day I said some less than flattering things about his beloved EDL and he abruptly terminated our association with each other, leaving a series of 'invisible' (and, I'm going to guess, highly malicious) messages on my wall when I woke up the next morning and found myself blocked.
The tactics people use in these situations reveal a huge amount about their mentality.
I'm remembering all of this because the whole 'real world' and 'common sense' angle seems to be something that is surfacing as an alternative to thought, ideas and any type of philosophy. Both the Toddler Left and Toddler Right follow a type of politics that reflects their 'real world' and a 'common sense' solution to the problems that exist within it. Both reject the presence of an objective truth, the concept of 'ideas' or anything whatsoever to do with philosophy or values in favour of fixed lists of 'the oppressors' who must be punished and 'the oppressed' who are 'poor victims' deserving of some restitution, as well as 'forced respect' from the State.
In short, 'real world' or 'common sense' politics is retarded politics-by-numbers, designed specifically for people either too dumb or too lazy to think. During the Brexit campaign I was horrified when Michael Gove muttered the words "I think people are rather sick of experts". Well, when my eye test is due I tend to visit an optician and in the event that I ever need open heart surgery then I think getting a qualified surgeon (y'know, one of those ghastly 'experts') to carry out this life and death procedure might be smarter than letting Karen from Telford do it. Of course she's entitled to a view about the state of my eyes or my ticker, but then I'm equally entitled to ignore her.
This misplaced sense of anger and grievance is what lies at the heart of the philosophical 'endarkenment' we see taking place before our eyes. Yes, a democracy means that anyone is entitled to hold a view about any topical subject that they wish, even one that others might construe as ill-conceived, insane and probably dangerous. However, who and what people decide to take seriously is a completely different matter, and every last one of us chooses to ignore opinions in our daily lives on the basis that they might be irrational, built on a false premise, motivated by greed, bigotry etc. We don't all have an inalienable right to be taken equally seriously.
I watched a few videos of the all new party of the future 'for Britain' recently, so that I could earn the right to speak about them from a position of knowledge. Quite apart from being a modern day Joan of Arc who probably dreams of being assassinated, their leader, the quite brilliant (in a way) Anne Marie Waters kept referring to her new party being first and foremost for 'common sense', which should serve as an immediate red flag to anybody who likes to keep their politics on the right side of the psychiatrist's door. The claims that she's some sort of 'actual Fascist or Nazi' are wide of the mark, but their manifesto is up online and, well, it's an interesting shade of authoritarian madness.
They will fail spectacularly for a very, very obvious reason that doesn't even go into the realistic prospect of 'for Britain' being infiltrated by arms of the State. Look, 'common sense' is NOT a philosophy, belief system or set of values that can bind thousands of people together when you're regularly losing your deposit in elections. You need a bit more than 'we hate the EU' or 'we hate Muslims' to remind people what they are campaigning for (rather than against) when all that effort really doesn't seem worth it. That means ideas, it means a clearly stated direction of travel, it means some values and, dare I say it, a philosophy. 'Common sense' is 'anti' all of this.
The notion of 'common sense' or 'real world' solutions to problems is a wholly subjective one which means entirely different things to different people. Your 'common sense' or 'real world' perspective might be my perception of madness and vice versa. Moreover, all of this is limited by the axes of x) conventional wisdom and y) a snapshot of the present. It was once 'common sense' to think that the plague was a punishment from God, that women did not deserve the vote, or that the world was flat. 'Common sense' is hostile to progress, challenge and that guy in the corner of the room with a 'leftfield' idea. It can only ever end in an authoritarian state, and quite possibly a totalitarian one.
Finally, back to my mother's argument:- 'common sense' or 'real world' politics is normally nothing more than crude and cynical self-interest dressed up as some sort of quasi-philosophy or belief system. This is probably necessary in a democracy as a means of re-packaging the appeals of "free stuff for me" as something more palatable, whether it's 'social justice', 'national identity' or whatever. Yes, 'paying our gas bill and keeping the lights on' is important but last time I checked it didn't have its equivalent of JS Mill or Adam Smith who'd written with some eloquence on the subject. That's the cue to think again by the way, as opposed to having a book bonfire.
I'll be back Sunday, perhaps with a case study of Fathers4Justice and quite possibly covering some other topical issue.
In the meantime, I'll leave you with Talk Talk and catch up with you all at the weekend. Thanks again for dropping by.