Tuesday, 24 January 2012

In the land of the arse-kickers, the three-legged man is King

I find the notion of 'common sense' fascinating. How often do we hear such general sentiments as: 'they should bring back hanging... bring back corporal punishment... humans are selfish by nature... students are smelly, lazy bastards...' I could labour the point by throwing in the odd 'young people today have no respect for their elders'. I could but I won't, as far too many surly pre-Cambrians have walked through doors I've held open and not registered one decibel on the acknowledg-ometer. Given much of the trollop that passes for 'common sense' in the sphere of politics, I think it's an area that could do with some exploration over the coming weeks.

The strange death of Western liberal democracy

The reason I raise this issue is because of a particularly pervasive common sensical baguette which has pretty much bitten the dust over the last month or so. And this baguette is no trifle despite the lack of real analysis   in the news and in more 'serious' newspapers. Mixed comestibles aside, at a personal level, the removal of two prominent European political leaders has been a bit of a Christmas spoiler. You might be asking 'My dear chap.  Given your obvious political leanings, why are you showing such concern for an obviously conservative type as the naturally dark haired Mr Berlusconi... a chap like you would surely be celebrating his demise? You might also be wondering why I should dwell on such a matter for this, the first posting of the new year. Well these events got me to thinking which as regular readers will know is nearly always a bad thing. You see I spent a large part of the holiday period pondering long and quite hard the concept of liberal democracy in the 21st century, in light of the manner in which both leaders were ejected from their Prime Ministerial positions. Events in Europe had instilled within me a deep concern and for very good personal reasons.

A heavy investment in the system

Some might already know that I've spent quite a few years studying politics and history in an official capacity - as a sort of student type. The recent political developments on the European front brought forth an apparition which like Dicken's famous spectre Jacob Marley, was almost too horrific to endure without a second bottle of Glenfiddich. I felt a bit cheated. Like many other British subjects, I'd been scrupulous in voting at every general election during the last thirty three years. By my calculations and using my excellent powers of recall, I estimated that I'd voted in precisely eight general elections. Even on my gnarled and twisted fingers I could work out that I'd invested heavily in parliamentary democracy. At three minutes a vote (the time it took to walk into the voting station and place a cross expertly on a ballot paper and walk out again) I figured that the political system had consumed twenty four minutes of my time which I'd never get back. It was rather irksome. Yet even then the ramifications of what had occurred hadn't properly sunk in. I knew there had to be another reason for me being sweaty. It dawned on me on Boxing Day.

Back to the drawing board? 

It concerned how Mr Berlusconi's resignation would impact upon the elemental validity of my undergraduate degree? Question after question raced through my pyretic mind... was it now more worthless? Would former students now bereft, organise themselves into an errant commonwealth called the 'quite disgruntled' and seek to collectively realise the scrap value of the paper their degrees were written on? The possibilities seemed endless. At a personal level, I found myself reassessing my period as a knowledge apprentice. Was my time spent at university reading, researching, debating, and engaging in something called 'political activity' a complete waste? What about that tortuous process where one spends days and weeks... even months writing up their research producing dissertati and doctoral thesi of the highest quality and originality? Was this nothing less than a fools errand best undertaken by a chap dressed in a harlequin suit with bell-infused headwear?

The games of the mind

But there was something niggling away in the back of my withered consciousness that like a fear that dare not speak its name, dared not speak its name. Drawing deeply from the large glass of 12 year old single malt, I girded what was left of my loins and lay bare my most apocalyptic anxiety... would I forthwith be receiving a letter from a Deputy Vice Chancellor stating that in light of these momentous European events, I would be required to resit the manifold politics exams I'd taken as an undergraduate? Moreover, would he be stipulating that there'd be some expectation that I'd also be required to comprehensively re-write all those expertly written and plainly interesting essays I'd produced during my three years as an undergraduate, essays that had promoted so much conspicuous pleasure among lecturers in the past?

The author of a series of fine political essays prior to
finding out they were in fact shite

The Quill and the Quotidian

The thought of resurrecting my quill appalled me. In my mind, despite lacking the most basic personal hygiene skill-set, I pictured myself as a revered essayist with sideburns. And those essays had clearly been procured from the depths of my innermost methodological sanctum. It wasn't pleasant down there. Drawing forth such cerebralatorious sagaciums had proved personally taxing on many levels, most of them personal and all of them taxing. I found it difficult to conjure up from my extensive lexicography an appropriate simile. I could only liken the deleterious consequences of even considering reproducing such intellectual chef d'ouevre to maybe the barren efforts of a once consummate literary Onanist on a downward Viagran spiral with an arrested urethra.

Persona non grata

At the most primordial level, and considering my status as persona non grata, would I be able to find a geodetical interlocutor with a taste for human sacrifice worthy of peer-worship, one who would even consider giving me a mark over 60 percent? In the circumstances I found it hard to remain objective. Was I being too optimistic? Could it be immeasurably worse than I was trying to imagine? The wider ramifications of Berlusconi's fall from power, like a stone cast into a pond, splashed a bit. Had all the official texts on politics so cherished by undergraduates, now been rendered obsolete by events? Were 19th century Fourdrinierists eagerly lining up to secure the contract for the mass rendering of tens of thousands of tomes like so many chicken bones into the environmentally friendly bouillon destined for the manufacturies of moist anal wipes?

The inevitable consequences of a severe
lack of attention to detail in humans

Empty shelves?

A series of midnight sweats ensued, induced by fear and copious handfuls of Pseudoephedrine. It did little to help, invoking an unholy trinity: erectile disfunction, pulmonary palpitations and a peculiar dream-like state where an imagined tracking shot in staggered slow-motion captured sepia-tinged reminiscences of pregnant bespoke shelving, attended by leagues of desirous savants with pretensions towards melancholy. Almost immediately the image dissolved offering the viewer a counter-tableau of academial abhorrence. In this inflamed immateriality of unawakened contingency, where once was poised a proud university library teeming with a variety of political and theoretical discourses, now stood an anachronism, a materiality of bricks and mortar, reduced in form to a choleric penury more reminiscent of post-reformation priest's occasional wank-hole.

Down in the cellar

On waking, I decided to forego my New Year's eve celebrations and instead try and see if there was anything worth salvaging. I dug out the bundle of essays I'd written well over a decade ago. Thumbing through them, I was immediately struck by their brilliance. It confirmed the correctness of my original decision to put in three 100 watt bulbs and bugger the consequences for the environment and my pocket. I had the feeling there was some form of redemption buried away somewhere in this pile of perspicacity. I recalled that somewhere lay a fine piece of work with the words 'interesting' scrawled on it by professor of some renown. As I leafed through the ream of dusty, yellowing essays, I drew out the substantial dissertation and pondered the typed words on the crumpled page, I mentally kicked myself.

Yes, if my memory served me correctly, I remembered how I'd made the ineffable decision in this final killer essay to eschew a comparative study. Instead I chose to put all my physical energies into more empirical approach; analysing a political system that was opaque and moribund, where the involvement of ordinary people was negligible, where strong leaders were chosen by a tiny unrepresentative, unelected, privileged elite, backed by a subservient press and media who accepted and reported their decisions uncritically?

Reading the words ten years later, I realised that my anguish through the Christmas week had clearly been based on some form of diabolical personal imprudence. And hindsight's a wonderful thing with hindsight. Gazing over the typed paleology I breathed a sigh of relief as I reaffirmed my original correct decision to write about the British parliamentary system.

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